Saturday, October 06, 2018

A Rant On Kavanaugh And Other Pertinent Issues

(This post is a rant.  If you come here for careful analysis (my usual metier), it can be safely skipped.)

Mr. Shouty McShoutyface (Brett Kavanaugh) is now going to be a (Republican accessory) Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, helping to put the bitches back in the kitchen, the gays back in the closet,  and the money back into the pockets of capitalists.

Aren't you relieved that we narrowly avoided the horrible catastrophe of having that  Crooked Woman™ with her email scandals run this country?  With her paid speeches to Wall Street billionaires, too!  And she acted so entitled!  Not like our Brett at all.

Thank God for Donald Trump, the second coming of Christ (or so it seems, based on some things I have read on the Christianist sites).  He expressed the proper manly concern about how horribly Kavanaugh has been treated.

Is that clear to you now?  It's our Dear Leader speaking, and he, if anybody, knows all about sexual assault accusations.  All the ones against him are false (1), naturally, and fake news.  Because when you are a star they let you do anything to them, grab them by the pussy and more.

But yes, it is a scary time for all those young men who now have to worry about what might happen when they go out with a woman.  Does that sound eerily familiar to any of you, my smart and erudite readers?

And another interesting message from our Dear Leader:

Would it then follow, I wonder, that "a tremendous number of men in this country are extremely sad?  Because they are thinking of their daughters, they're thinking of their wives and their sisters, their aunts, and others?"

Nah.  He means that the sluts lied about Kavanaugh and cannot be trusted anyway.


The Republicans now control all the previously (2) separate three branches of the federal government (first spelled that coverment, as in "cover for getting all the money"), so they and Trump will get their way on everything, at least until the midterms.  

Speaking of Republicans, I adored the statement Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made about the reasons for the dearth of Republican women in the Committee:

Chuckie is sooo smart!  Of course all us girls want to lie back on velvet cushions, eat bonbons all day and then go out to the mall with hubby's credit card.  Of course!

That's, by the way, one of the recurring themes on meninist sites: Either women are fat, lazy bitches staying at home while spending the hard-working man's money OR they are out there, in the labor force, even though they are incompetent, stealing the jobs rightfully belonging to the MRA guys.

But no, Grassley didn't mean that.  He's probably too old to spend time on those hate sites (3).  He just has never had to bother his pretty (?) head about the reasons why there are so few female Republican politicians in power.  So he blurted out the first excuse he could think of:  The little ladies don't want to get their hands dirty or their nail varnish chipped.

Then he walked it all back, of course, what with the need to have at least a few white women still voting for his party.  You gotta respect women, even if you don't think they are quite as good as men.


(1)  I am not making fun of those who have been falsely accused of some sexual crime.  That is a horrible and devastating event.  Probably almost as devastating as having been, say, raped, going to the police,  and then finding out that many people don't  believe the rape happened, and that some of those disbelievers will harass the victim, call her a slut or a whore, accuse her of ruining the life of some upstanding man, and try to chase her out of the town.

In other words, it's important to keep in mind that false accusations of rape, say, while quite devastating, are rare while sexual violence is not that rare.  Times have always been scary for those who are most likely to become its victims, but Trump is not concerned about that.

(2)  Because the judicial branch is now part of the legislative branch.  Activist judges are the new black, because they are now Republicans, and it's OKIYAR.

(3)  And not only the weird manosphere sites.  If you look up the definitions of feminism or feminist in Urban Dictionary, you will find that every single one of them has been written by a misogynist.  Here, for example, is the definition of a male feminists.  It comes directly from the meninist doctrine (do read the example conversation!):

Most often, the males who vociferously support feminism fall under the beta positive or beta negative category within the male social hierarchy. They usually patronize the feminist ideology simply to elevate their status in women's eyes, even though stridently feminist men are almost always found explicitly on the internet (similar to the "white knight"). Regardless of the numerous hypocrisies and double-standards endorsed by most sources of feminism, the male feminist will leap to his armchair, a dedicated keyboard warrior, to defend women against the horrible "profanations" and "vulgarities" people make towards the delicate and faint-hearted damsel in distress.
Person: "Women are clearly less intelligent than men."
Male feminist: "Bro, you're just a sexist douchebag. Lmao, like, go back to the 17th century."
Person: "But under today's equal opportunity, men still dominate every scientific and political field in the entire world."
Male Feminist: "HAHA wow - hey women, not all guys are like this. I'm a man, and I can assure you that not all men are sexist. P-please validate my pathetic existence.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Dig! But Not Where The Bodies Might Be Buried.

That's my interpretation of FBI's Kavanaugh review.  Trump asked the White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II to let the FBI investigate anything they want.  Not so fast, responded McGahn:

Mr. McGahn, according to people familiar with the conversation, told the president that even though the White House was facing a storm of condemnation for limiting the F.B.I. background check into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a wide-ranging inquiry like some Democrats were demanding — and Mr. Trump was suggesting — would be potentially disastrous for Judge Kavanaugh’s chances of confirmation to the Supreme Court.
It would also go far beyond the F.B.I.’s usual “supplemental background investigation,” which is, by definition, narrow in scope.
This is all popcorn-worthy.  So is the interesting and novel question about the integrity of the current Supreme Court.  

I guess if being cut from a whole cloth is integrity, then we have it.   But on the whole  (heh) the judicial branch is today merging with the executive branch.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Three Further Echidne Thoughts on the Kavanaugh Debacle

1.  Mark Twain is supposed to have apologized for a long letter by saying that he didn't have the time to make it short.  That's something I can identify with.  My series about the Kavanaugh hearings, with a focus on getting back to basics, is growing longer and longer, because my thoughts about the basics are still unripe.

But the true message of the first two posts in that series might be this:

Republicans want women to have only procreative sex, while men should have access to any amount of recreational sex they may desire.
The planned restrictions on abortions and even contraception are intended to satisfy the theocratic fraction in the Republican base, and that fraction wants to make it very hard for women to have equal opportunity.  Not to be able to control one's fertility is a necessary for women's second class status.

But the side-effect of that goal is to make recreational heterosexual intercourse less available for men, too, because restrictions on abortions and contraception* will make intercourse much more expensive for women, and it takes two for that particular kind of tango.

None of this is visible in the current Kavanaugh debates, except indirectly, in the arguments that "boys will be boys" and so on.  It is, however, visible in the wider debate about abortion, extramarital sex and so on.

2.  Matt Lewis, a CNN commentator, made a statement which many others have made.  It's about the presumption of innocence and due process and so on.  Here's Lewis:

Brett Kavanaugh is being tried in the court of public opinion right now. His political future hangs in the balance, and I do think that we have these two competing values right now. Either you believe the women or you believe in the presumption of innocence. You really can't do both. I think it's mutually exclusive. And I do -- and by the way, I think that most of the time women are telling the truth. But not always. There are cases like the Duke lacrosse case, there‘s several examples where people do lie. I fear that we are headed in a direction where, if you've got a big TV show coming out next week, or a book's about to drop, or you're about to get elected to something --
LEWIS: -- anybody could lodge a charge against you. And if we just assume that you're guilty, that could torpedo your chances. I don't think we want to live in a country like that either.
First, the court of public opinions is not the kind of court in which the concepts of "due process" and the "presumption of innocence" are defined.  The court of public opinions crucified Hillary Clinton over a period of three decades, for instance.  It's not an objective court for anyone.

Second, Kavanaugh is applying for a job from which it's almost impossible for him to get fired, and in that job he has tremendous powers of affecting the lives of all Americans, including women.  It's relevant to examine his history, to find out what his biases might be.  Indeed, I would argue that we want the most ethical and unbiased people on the Supreme Court.

Third,  if we take Lewis seriously in his argument that you either believe "the women or you believe in the presumption of innocence," then someone will always be sentenced in that court of opinions.  Those who believe Blasey Ford and the other accusers think that Kavanaugh is guilty.  Those who believe that he is innocent think that Blasey Ford is making a false accusation.  So she is then found guilty in the court of public opinions.**

I have always interpreted the plea "to believe the survivors" as meaning that the statements of women who come forward must be listened to carefully and taken seriously.  Those whose job it is to hear them should not have prior biases against all women and should not behave disrespectfully or prejudge the cases. This has not always been the case among the police or the prosecutors, and that's what needs to change.

Fourth, it's awkward, for the purposes of this discussion, that people  judge Kavanaugh's guilt or innocence at least partly on the basis of party politics.  This means that it's the Republicans (who don't want women to have reproductive choice in the first place) who keep bringing up the concept of false rape accusations, the way Bret Stephens does in his New York Times column today:

A few moments have crystallized my view over the past few days.
The first moment was a remark by a friend. “I’d rather be accused of murder,” he said, “than of sexual assault.” I feel the same way. One can think of excuses for killing a man; none for assaulting a woman. But if that’s true, so is this: Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, reputational and professional harms that can last a lifetime. This is nothing to sneer at.
The second moment, connected to the first: “Boo hoo hoo. Brett Kavanaugh is not a victim.” That’s the title of a column in the Los Angeles Times, which suggests that the possibility of Kavanaugh’s innocence is “infinitesimal.” Yet false allegations of rape, while relatively rare, are at least five times as common as false accusations of other types of crime, according to academic literature.

Since when did the possibility of innocence become, for today’s liberals, something to wave off with an archly unfeeling “boo hoo”?

So.  The study Stephens links to finds the prevalence of false rape accusations to be 5%, based on the assessments of police officers***.  That's pretty rare, and it's a statistical average from one study.

But in the Kavanaugh case more than one woman has come forward to accuse him of sexual violence or sexually improper behavior.  What is the probability that all those accusations are simultaneously false?

3.  That angry Kavanaugh face we saw in the Judiciary Committee hearings is the face of the next Supreme Court Justice.  Will Kavanaugh be unbiased on the bench or will he take his revenge out on all American women?  My impression is that Clarence Thomas did just that.

*  See my second post in the series for more evidence that an anti-contraception future might be in the offing for poor women dependent on Title X programs.

**  And this is a major reason why women who have been raped don't come forward.  In the worst cases coming forward amounts to yet another rape:  of one's reputation.

***  The study includes in the false allegations all cases where the accuser retracted her or his accusation.  But those may not always be actual cases of false allegations.  This is an example of a case in which a woman retracted a rape claim but when the (serial) rapist who raped her was finally caught after another rape, he was found to have a video of raping the woman whose claim was retracted.  In other words, claims may be retracted for reasons other than that they actually were false.


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

And What Else is The Trump Administration Up To? On the Environment, Immigration And Contraception

The focus on Brett Kavanaugh is understandable in current American politics, because he is a biased* political Republican activist and would use his position in the Supreme Court to serve only the purposes of the Republican Party.  All this is hilarious (or would be if we were watching it from some other planet where Trump&co don't matter, except as entertainment), because it's the Republicans who have always been preaching against "activist judges."  But now it's just such an activist judge they are trying to force-feed to the country.

Still, it's worth our while to learn what other damage the little busy termites in the Trump administration are achieving while we are all watching the Kavanaugh show:

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

On the Kavanaugh Nomination And Women's Reproductive Rights. Or Back to the Basics. Post Two.

(The first post in this series  can be found here.  This second post is about the reactions from right-wing religious leaders to the sexual violence or harassment allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's most recent nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.)

What The Godly Men Say

What the godly leaders of right-wing Christianists say  about the allegations against Kavanaugh is fascinating when we remember that these statements come from men who view themselves as the leaders of godly people, of god's people.  They represent the people of light and goodness, while others are viewed as the people of darkness and evil.

Here's Franklin Graham, the son of the famous preacher Billy Graham, on why Kavanaugh is not guilty of anything "relevant:"

Well there wasn't a crime that was committed.  These are two teenagers and it's obvious that she said no and he respected it and walked away--if that's the case but he says he didn't do it.  He just flat out says that's just not true.  Regardless if it was true, these are two teenagers and she said no and he respected that so I don't know what the issue is. This is just an attempt to smear his name, that's all.
Notice something interesting about that quote?  Graham hadn't even properly read Blasey Ford's statement!  According to her she managed to escape from the room when Mark Judge, the other boy in the room, jumped on top of Kavanaugh (who was lying on top of Blasey Ford, holding her down), and the pile came apart.  Kavanaugh was never described as having asked for consent or as showing any signs of respect.

That Graham hadn't bothered to learn what Blasey Ford said had happened tells me so much!  What the wimminz say really does not matter to the Evangelical patriarchs.  In any case, it's much more important to get another forced-birth-and-no-gay-sex Justice on the bench. (1)

Another right-wing Christian leader argues that a rape is not a rape if the victim doesn't scream and shout for help:

Rape is having sex with a woman while she screams for help. No scream, no rape according to Deuteronomy 22:23-24. [Christine Blasey] Ford says Kavanaugh held his hand over her mouth so did she scream for help when his hand was elsewhere? After all, it was in a bedroom of a house; surely, one of the other 4 teens could have heard him scream when she bit his hand. Did she bite his hand? Poke him in the eye? Women know instinctively how to protect their honor: screaming, shouting, slapping, spitting, slugging, and stabbing with a finger, pencil, or hat pin. Since she did not cry out or stab him, I will not believe her without a film of the event.”
Bolds are mine.

The argument that a rape accusation cannot ever be verified if the victim didn't scream or fight back very hard is not an unusual one.  It used to be written into the laws of many countries, and still might be the law in some places.

That those who tried to scream and fight back might then have ended in murder statistics (most likely as victims) is not something the above writer worries about.  But then he thinks women have hat pins at the ready in case they need to poke rapists in the eye!

I love the idea that "women know instinctively" how to protect their honor, especially when most cultures discourage girls from learning how to physically fight, but also because this way of thinking comes quite close to "legitimate" rape (2) and the conservative view that only certain kinds of rapes are real:

The victim must be a young virgin, on her way to church, modestly dressed, and the attacker must not be known to her at all.  Even then she probably should have the hat pin ready for stabbing, and it helps if she lost a limb or two in the attack.

So.  Not all Evangelical leaders are quite this outspoken about the irrelevancy of the allegations against Kavanaugh.  Many argued, before last week's Judicial Committee hearings, that both sides must be heard.  But the majority of the right-wing Christianist leaders are willing to pay handball with the demons if that gets an anti-abortion and anti-gay majority on the bench.

The background for all this can be found in the general attitudes about sexuality and about women's rights in the right-wing religious sects (3):

Sandi Villarreal, a former rape crisis advocate while at a Southern Baptist university, told the Fix that some evangelical leaders reject stories such as Ford’s because they disrupt their entire worldview about gender.
“These men tend to brush off the youthful ‘indiscretions’ — of boys,” Villareal said, “Young women, on the other hand, are held responsible for causing boys to stumble or tempting them into sin by the way they dress, how and whether they flirt, really, by virtue of being a woman.”

And, in the context of the #MeToo movement among the Southern Baptists (4):

Within evangelical culture, as I’ve written previously, the idea that women are “supposed” to be the gatekeepers of male sexuality, that male sexual urges are inherently uncontrollable, and the idea that forgiveness is automatically “owed” to any alleged abuser, converge to create a climate in which allegations of sexual harassment and abuse tend to be seen as minor or, at least, forgivable.

Certainly, the evangelical community is already redeeming its own people accused of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo movement. Earlier this month, former Southern Baptist Convention president Paige Patterson — who left his position as president of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary in disgrace after accusations of sexism — returned to public ministry with a pair of sermons that denigrated the #MeToo movement and focused on the problem of false rape allegations.
Patterson chose as one of his first sermons on his return the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, i.e., a story about a false rape allegation.  Given that false rape allegations are much, much rarer than those true rape allegations which never result in any kind of sentence to the perpetrator, Patterson's choice tells where his priorities lie. (5)

Forty-eight percent of white evangelical respondents in a recent poll would have Kavanaugh on the bench even if Blasey Ford's allegations were proven to be true.  That's not too surprising, given that the support of white evangelicals for Judge Roy Moore was not affected by the allegations that he, as a younger man, had stalked and groomed (vulnerable) young girls for sex.

None of this is to argue that many white evangelicals wouldn't fervently believe that abortion is murder and that stopping murder matters much more than stopping sexual violence or rape.  But if the Bible is supposed to be their guide in all this it's worth noting that abortion is not mentioned in that book while rape is (6).

Whatever the overall motivations of the above quoted leaders might be, I cannot help concluding that an important motive for them is the defense of the patriarchal power hierarchies among their communities.  Their fight against abortions and their acceptance of sexual harassment and violence neatly fit into the same scenario if that is what motivates them.


(1)   Just think of the fact that over eighty percent of white Evangelicals voted for a pussy-grabbing president over a (gasp!) woman.  They probably would vote for Devil himself if that would achieve the end of all reproductive choice for women.  (This is the women-as-vessels-and-subjugated-handmaids view in conservative Christianity).

(2)   Todd Akin, a Republican representative from Missouri then,  made that argument in 2012 when he was asked whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape:
“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.
And the woman instinctively knows how to fight off a rapist without herself getting killed or seriously hurt...

(3)  If you have read my earlier post in this series, you may have spotted that this is the religious version of the sexual ice-hockey game.  It's common not  only in right-wing Christianity but also in conservative Islam.  And probably in other patriarchal religions.

(4)  More can be found in part 5 of this post.

(5)  As an aside, a woman was recently sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly "spreading false news" in Egypt:

An Egyptian woman who made a video alleging sexual harassment has been given two years in prison and a fine on charges of “spreading false news”.
Amal Fathy, an actor and a former activist, uploaded a video to her Facebook account in May detailing how she was sexually harassed during a visit to her bank and criticising the government’s failure to protect women.
Two days after the post, Egyptian security forces entered her home in a pre-dawn raid and arrested her along with her husband and young son, both of whom were later released.
Fathy was subsequently put on trial accused of spreading false news with intent to harm the Egyptian state and possessing “indecent material”. She was sentenced to one year in prison for each charge, and given a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (£430) for making “public insults”.
 In another case a Lebanese tourist visiting Egypt was also sentenced for a similar offense:

Mona el-Mazbouh, a Lebanese tourist who recorded a comparable video during her stay in Egypt, was arrested at Cairo airport and sentenced to eight years in prison in July, accused of “spreading false rumours that would harm society, attacking religion and public indecency”.
Her sentence was later reduced to one year and then suspended, before she was deported to Lebanon in September.

This is how accusations of sexual harassment might be treated in a deeply religious patriarchal society, and right-wing Christianists certainly have such societies as their goal.  The silence of victims is a central part of that plan.

(6) From the standpoint of men in a nomadic herding community a long time ago.  But at least it's mentioned as something deplorable.