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January 16, 2023

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Perhaps we should stop portraying this sort of sociopathy as a virtue and this sort of sociopath as some sort of cultural hero?

This.

I mean, we've given up even the fig leaf of hypocrisy that pretended otherwise back in the dark ages when I was young.

I mean, we've given up even the fig leaf of hypocrisy that pretended otherwise back in the dark ages when I was young.

That is a very good article, JanieM. I am reminded of the famous "exchange" as between Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

The GOP worship of mamon goes back to their very beginnings as a political movement. Reaching full flower right after the Civil War, metastisizing into full bloom during the Gilded Age, and has been a reactionary movement aging in its own special vat of social resentment (all other classes are inferior to ours) ever since, reaching its apotheosis under Reagan and Bush and a nadir of narcissim with Trump.

The GOP worship of mamon goes back to their very beginnings as a political movement.

The Republican Party arose (peopled mostly from ex-Whigs) over the issue of slavery. But plantations dependent on slave labor produced cheap cotton, which made Northern (mostly Republican IIRC) factory owners rich. So how is opposing slavery a "worship of mamon"?

BTW, if you didn't already know, classified docs found in Pence's Indiana home.

I was reading something by a person who has been responsible for a considerable amount of classified information over years, who said that the President and Vice President's staffs are historically terrible about proper handling of classified documents. He seemed to believe that if you went through the boxes of documents that were carted out of those offices at the end of administrations, all of them have classified documents mixed in with the other things. Just because that's how the staffs roll.

So how is opposing slavery a "worship of mamon"?

wj,

Anti-slavery was not the only item on the early GOP's agenda.

Thanks for the reply.

A lot of documents that aren't very sensitive get classified. It's also a way of shielding documents from FOIA requests.

bobbyp,
Anti-slavery certainly wasn't the only item on the early GOP agenda. But it was the defining one. You could hold lots of positions on various subjects (e.g. you could be pro-business) and belong to either party. But if you were pro-slavery, the Republicans were not an option.

Also, I'm having a little difficulty reconciling (Theodore) Roosevelt' progressive reforms with the worship of mammon. Could it be that you are so irate at today's GOP, as any sane person would be, that you are projecting that onto the entire history of the GOP?

A lot of documents that aren't very sensitive get classified. It's also a way of shielding documents from FOIA requests.

Another of the things I have read is that the Prez and Veep tend to a "If it's not important enough to classify, why are you bothering me with it?" attitude. Just to cut down on the amount of decision-making that gets up to their level.

I would probably be a terrible President. My expectation for my Cabinet-level officials would be, "Take care of it. If you're uncertain about my opinion on a matter, come ask and then take care of it. Ask too often or cross me too often and I'll replace you. Keep in mind that I didn't hire you to implement your policies, I hired you to implement mine."

"Take care of it. If you're uncertain about my opinion on a matter, come ask and then take care of it. Ask too often or cross me too often and I'll replace you. Keep in mind that I didn't hire you to implement your policies, I hired you to implement mine."

The risk being that someone who takes you literally will be reluctant to come to you and say: "We tried your policy, but it just doesn't work in the real world." People telling the boss only what he wants to hear is a problem anyway. But it seems like this could make it worse.

wj, well Michael did write he'd make a terrible President. :-)

I am in the fortunate position of being able to work just as a senior technical consultant and give any management advice as mere "suggestions." I would hate having to be in charge.

I would hate having to be in charge.

Amen. As far as I can tell (and I have some first-hand experience to back me up), being in charge mainly means that you spend all your time in meetings, rather than doing anything interesting.** In theory, you can think about, and make, policy. But you've pretty much got to do that evenings, weekends, and any other bits of "your own time." That or outsource it, in which case you aren't really doing it, are you?

** I suppose there should be a caveat here to the effect that it assumes you have something resembling a sense of responsibility.

The risk being that someone who takes you literally will be reluctant to come to you and say: "We tried your policy, but it just doesn't work in the real world."

These are senior people, none of who's ego problem is that it's too small. I like to think that I can be more subtle in person that I can be in a blog comment. Sure, bring me the numbers. Just don't let me catch you having half-assed an attempt at doing it my way, then claiming it didn't work.

Biden is kinder than I am. Someone(s) military career(s) would have been over after the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Biden is kinder than I am. Someone(s) military career(s) would have been over after the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Given the short prep time the schedule gave them when announced, some ragged ends would be understandable. A withdrawal being rather more difficult to organize than an invasion. Still, having a withdrawal plan already in hand would have been sensible, since it was obvious that it would be happening at some point.

So yes, even allowing for the fact that it was a rush job, definitely not a shining moment for not only the guy in charge but also a couple of levels down. Plus, I would say, some serious career damage would be warranted for the guy(s) in intelligence who so badly misjudged how robust the Afghan government really was(n't).

He seemed to believe that if you went through the boxes of documents that were carted out of those offices at the end of administrations, all of them have classified documents mixed in with the other things. Just because that's how the staffs roll.

I absolutely believe this. So, in fact, the defining difference now should be between ex-Presidents etc who volunteer info about it, cooperate fully etc, and those who drag their feet, pretend they declassified them, and otherwise lie about it.

Still, having a withdrawal plan already in hand would have been sensible, since it was obvious that it would be happening at some point.

My understanding of what turned up after the fact was that the people who should have done the planning made the assumption that Biden would eventually break Trump's promise and bring more troops back because that's what the planners wanted to do. If I were in Biden's shoes, that would smack too much of the military believing the President should and will just do what she/he's told.

My own opinion is that Ukraine is turning out to be the same problem at the strategic rather than tactical level. The military has spent the last 30 years preparing -- at great expense -- for the wrong war, based on faulty intelligence and assumptions.

The military has spent the last 30 years preparing -- at great expense -- for the wrong war, based on faulty intelligence and assumptions.

"preparing for the wrong war" must be the cousin of "preparing for the last war" -- an adage that was probably invented sometime between the first war in human history and the next.

I get the point about Biden's agenda vs the military's, and I agree with it so far as it goes, but I also wonder if, horrifyingly enough, we might not still need the preparations for the "wrong" war in another part of the world.

*****

In the context of skimming several dKos articles about Ukraine every day plus Adam's updates at BJ, I can't remember where I got this link, which is to a Timothy Snyder lecture in Europe from several years ago. It's a deeply fascinating look at the history of the relationships amongst Germany, Ukraine, the USSR, and Russia, focusing on Hitler and WWII.

I know someone who studied WWII in college, and he's been listening to Snyder's lectures at Yale about Ukraine and says they're amazing. I'm not big on lectures and podcasts generally, I don't take in information very well out loud. But I'm halfway through my second time through the lecture at the link because there's so much to learn in it.

I meant to say that I might even have gotten the Snyder link here, and if so, apologies for the duplication. But even in that case it's worth reaffirming how good it is, and offering thanks to whoever posted it.

Thank you JanieM for that link to Timothy Snyder's lecture! From 2017!

"preparing for the last war" -- an adage that was probably invented sometime between the first war in human history and the next

It seems to have been first recorded in 1929 by J.L.Schley. But he doesn't say when he thinks the words were first uttered.

I do have one question regarding Janie's first link. Prof Snyder makes a big point about how the whole point of WW II for Hitler was to colonize Ukraine. How does that square with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact? Not to mention the invasion of France. Why not just slam through Poland to Ukraine?

wj, maybe his semester-long class has answers for you? (the other link in my comment) Maybe Hitler thought he could walk and chew gum at the same time.

Just a brief OT digression. Tonight is Burns Night, which makes me think of two things.

The first (which I may have told you before, but I love it so much I can't not tell you again) is the story Stephen Fry told about a friend who had gone to a Burns Night celebration in Germany, where the ceremony was conducted in German, and on the other side of the page was the translation into English from the German, rather than using the original. In the Address to the Haggis, Burns's words:

Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race

were translated as

Mighty fuhrer of the the sausage people

And the second thing I wanted to send your way, for anybody who loves Burns's poetry, or a beautiful voice, is this album by the wonderful Eddie Reader, with some of the poems set to beautiful music. This is the third track, a great tribute to a friend You're Welcome Willie Stewart, but there are lots of gems, some bawdy but in (to me) impenetrable dialect:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=or29Q_FUi3M&list=OLAK5uy_lxHIQIfnL2Z_2Cqj_fqnDpSbHypyO_A5U&index=3

Also, I can't resist, such a beautiful version of Ae Fond Kiss

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7fi6AZQUCQ&list=OLAK5uy_lxHIQIfnL2Z_2Cqj_fqnDpSbHypyO_A5U&index=4

wj, maybe his semester-long class has answers for you?

Working my way thru it now.

He has an amusing aside: Constitutional originalism is self contradictory. Because there is one thing that the Constitution does NOT say -- it does not say that is can only be understood/interpreted in the sense that it, and its words, were meant when it was written.

"He has an amusing aside: Constitutional originalism is self contradictory. Because there is one thing that the Constitution does NOT say -- it does not say that is can only be understood/interpreted in the sense that it, and its words, were meant when it was written."

I think Gödel might have a theorem that is applicable here.

I think Gödel might have a theorem that is applicable here.

I am but a humble applied mathematician. There may be true statements that are unprovable, but there are enough provable statements to be useful.

From a political and judicial perspective, I simply observe that pitchforks and torches, or the modern equivalents, provably exist.

Speaking of pitchforks and torches, Snyder's wiki page says this (I am actually starting to hope his later prophecies are not as spot on as his earlier ones):

In a May 2017 interview with Salon, he warned that the Trump administration would attempt to subvert democracy by declaring a state of emergency and take full control of the government, similar to Hitler's Reichstag fire: "it's pretty much inevitable that they will try."[39] According to Snyder, "Trump's campaign for president of the United States was basically a Russian operation." Snyder also warned that Trump's lies would lead to tyranny.[40]

In January 2021, Snyder published a New York Times essay on the future of the GOP in response to the siege of the United States Capitol, blaming Trump and his "enablers", Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, for the insurrection fueled by their claims of election fraud, writing that "the breakers have an even stronger reason to see Trump disappear: It is impossible to inherit from someone who is still around. Seizing Trump's big lie might appear to be a gesture of support. In fact it expresses a wish for his political death."[41]

For those who recall Fafblog,

I simply observe that pitchforks and torches, or the modern equivalents, provably exist.

According to your limited perception.

"For those who recall Fafblog"
..it was the BEST blog.

I simply observe that pitchforks and torches, or the modern equivalents, provably exist.

Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

Remember the days when you could say "I'm from Missouri. That means show me."? With the strong implicit implication that, if you did show him, he would believe. But, no more -- witness Sen Hawley.

I've been following this story for a while, and this latest wrinkle in the story seems like a very fraught one which I think Sturgeon is handling as well as she can.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jan/26/trans-woman-isla-bryson-found-guilty-rape-not-be-held-in-womens-prison-sturgeon

I'd add as part of all this that I think there should probably be special facilities of some sort for criminals with a history of sexual violence, and that all carceral spaces should have safeguards in place to protect incarcerated people of any gender from sexual violence.

Doesn't seem like it should be treated primarily as a gender issue.

Also, I think that Sunak's decision to block the Scottish Parliament's gender recognition bill are going to create serious backlash and push Scotland further towards breaking away.

all carceral spaces should have safeguards in place to protect incarcerated people of any gender from sexual violence.

From what I have (casually!) come across, that's going to take some major reforms to implement. Rape, after all, isn't generally about sex so much as power and control. And prison populations are big on that.

Talk about a class act!
Arizona Republicans exempt lawmakers from the state’s open-records law

One can understand their motivation. Those emails from 2020, when they were jamming thru demands for a recount, were just too, too embarrassing.

From what I have (casually!) come across, that's going to take some major reforms to implement.

Agreed. Make it so.

When Sturgeon says it's important not to imply that trans women are a threat to women, I don't know a single so-called TERF who would disagree. When she says that it's predatory men who are, and have always been the problem, I don't think many women would disagree. The missing piece is the understanding that predatory men will often stop at very little to gain access to vulnerable women, including taking advantage of self-ID, as this person seems to have done. Everybody I know who works in the area of domestic and sexual abuse (and I know many) finds it almost incredible that this is denied, or thought to be a rare, or minor occurrence. A bit like the "a few bad apples" excuse about the police here, which is (finally!) being shown for the nonsense it is, and has always been.

including taking advantage of self-ID, as this person seems to have done.

Perhaps I misread the article (or I'm thinking of another article on a different case). But IIRC the trans individual in this case had already had the reassignment surgery. Which would seem to eliminate the "false self-ID" problem.

Not to discount the false self-ID issue. Just to suggest that it isn't always the case.

Just for reference, this
https://digbysblog.net/2023/01/26/this-trans-panic-is-cruel-incoherent-and-dumb/
is what I was thinking of.

The phantom penis strikes again!

Well, if you are well accustomed to seeing (and getting hysterical about) things that aren't really there, what's one more? It's a core competency.

In the Scottish case, the convicted rapist still has a penis, reportedly.

I fail to understand how a person who identifies as a woman could commit this sort of rape.

In the Scottish case, the convicted rapist still has a penis, reportedly.

I fail to understand how a person who identifies as a woman could commit this sort of rape.

I fail to understand how a person who identifies as a woman could commit this sort of rape.

The issue, I believe, is a person who says that he so identifies. But is just flat out lying.

Pro Bono, what exactly are you saying? That no woman could be violently abusive? If not that, then could you clarify?

Both rapes were committed before she sought to transition. The transition does not seem to be a case of predatory opportunism. She has a history of sexual violence and is being incarcerated as a consequence.

Should cisgendered lesbians with histories of intimate partner violence be incarcerated in women's prisons? Should gay men with histories of predatory violence against other men be incarcerated in men's prisons?

What is to prevent a man, regardless of legal gender, from cross-dressing and impersonating a woman in order to gain access to gender restricted areas?

Doesn't foregrounding the issue of gender and access increase surveillance on trans-women and cut against the anonymity sought from passing?

No denying the thorniness of any of these issues, just an attempt to find the right critical perspectives.

The phantom penis strikes again!

Phantom of the Operation.

[nous got here first, for some value of “here,” but having written this, I’ll post it anyhow. And following on nous’s framing, I would point out that as I suggest at the end of this comment, “increasing surveillance on trans-women” (as nous phrases it) tends to point toward increasing surveillance on everyone.]

Funny how the accusatory, greatly-wronged teenager in the story at wj’s link was from a homeschooling family…but I’ll plow ahead anyhow, if only to illustrate how complicated the world is.

Back when my kids were being homeschooled, I had a conversation one day with a social worker who was a friend of a friend. She flatly stated that homeschooling should not be allowed, because school personnel (who have never in the history of the world abused children, of course) can keep an eye on kids and notify social services if they’re at risk at home, whereas social services can’t get any access to homeschooled kids, and some abusive or seriously irresponsible parents take advantage of that by homeschooling. (It was fascinating how many otherwise polite people felt free to be rude, condescending, dismissive, or even nasty about homeschooling as soon as it was mentioned that I homeschooled my kids.)

The social worker was proposing to take away my right to homeschool because some people abuse that right. Her proposed solution to a problem was to pre-emptively punish a lot of families because some of the families *might* be doing something wrong.

If people mistreat their kids and avoid scrutiny by taking their kids out of school, find ways to solve the problem by all means. But don’t solve it by punishing the rest of us.

The issues raised by the social worker involved a balancing of harms (and a balancing of goods for that matter). To me it looks similar to the balancing of harms involved in the question of what to do about the faking of trans identity for nefarious purposes. If not self-ID, what should we have? Anyone can challenge anyone’s gender identity at any time? That would be fun. Everyone has to get tested and reaffirmed as the gender they say they are once a year, and carry proof for the sake of going to the Y, joining a sports team, or using the bathroom?

I’m sure the proportion of the population who don’t want to wear masks to save their own lives, much less their neighbors’, would go right along with that idea. (No, wait, that idea is for *other* people, the bad people, not for them.) (And that’s not even to mention the existence of non-binary people.)

Pro Bono, what exactly are you saying? That no woman could be violently abusive? If not that, then could you clarify?

I am suggesting that a biologically male person who identifies as a woman would not want to commit an assault using their penis. I think the rapist's claim to transgender identify is likely to be fraudulent. For what it's worth, their estranged wife thinks so too.

But I know little about the subject. You could persuade me that I'm wrong.

You could persuade me that I'm wrong.

I'm not interested in persuading you either way, I just wasn't sure what you were saying. If you had been saying that women aren't capable of being abusive or violent, I would have had to disagree, but that was a wrong interpretation.

Beyond that, what a rapist would or would not want is almost beyond my imagining, much less predicting.

Post-the-arrival-of-covid, I no longer purport to have any notion whatsoever what people want, or that it has any predictable relation to what *I* want.

Going off in an entirely different direction.

I know that lots of folks here are not big fans (to put it mildly) of George Will. But this is worth a read.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/01/28/astonishing-james-webb-space-telescope/

From wj's George Will link:

All the material in the universe, including us, is — literally — stardust ... meaning residues of the explosion.

Back in the days when I was sampling UU-ism, members of the congregation led services in the summer. I once did a summer service called "My Favorite Miracles." One "miracle" I cited was the two ways we're all made of star-stuff, the first of which was the one Will mentions: the elements that make up the actual physical substances that compose us. The second was photosynthesis.

Thanks for the link, wj.

We're made of 3rd generation supernova debris.

Maybe a bit of "neutron star merger explosion" debris also, too.

A friend sent me this link about a man who is quite likely the best violin repairman in the world. She added the question, "What do you practice on before you repair a $15M Stradivarius? A $1M Stradivarius?"

https://www.chicagomag.com/chicago-magazine/january-2023/the-violin-doctor/

To Pro Bono's questions about Bryson's motive for transitioning...

I can see good reason for extra scrutiny in Bryson's case - not because she identifies as trans, but because she is a convicted rapist. And in the end my concern is not whether she is allowed to transition and continue to be treated legally as a woman, but whether or not we need to take precautions because she is likely to commit sexual violence again with whatever tools are available to her. As long as she is not allowed to rape, I don't care what anatomy she has or how she thinks about herself in her heart of hearts. It's not the question that needs solving.

Following on from what JanieM was saying about homeschooling...

I have known at least four people in my life who molested minors under their care as teachers, or as youth ministers, or dorm parents. I do not doubt that the men, at least, chose their vocation in part because it put them in a position of greater opportunity. I don't doubt for a minute that pedophiles and groomers seek access to spaces that give them access to many children and with little surveillance from other adults.

I've read about many similar stories - especially amongst evangelical homeschoolers.

The problem there is not the gender of the offender (however entangled their pathologies may be in some toxic hormonal or patriarchal mess). The problem is how to identify which people are a threat and take away their access.

Otherwise it's just collective punishment for a bunch of innocent people in a false taxonomy.

Once again nous and I overlap, and once again I'll post the comment I wrote before I saw nous's latest. Hard questions, no easy answers, except it would be nice if we (the collective "we") didn't take the lazy way out.

***

I want to go back to nous’s comment from 12:32, which ends like this:

No denying the thorniness of any of these issues, just an attempt to find the right critical perspectives.

The whole comment is worth saving, and after my 12:46 I want to say explicitly that I totally agree with nous about the thorniness of the issues.

Abolishing homeschooling because some people abuse it, or targeting trans people because some people pretend to be trans for evil purposes, are lazy ways to try to solve a problem. First, grab the easiest framing (“it’s about gender rather than violence”), and then, based on that framing, scapegoat an already marginalized group and hurt *them* as a way of trying to avoid other kinds of hurt. It’s all too easy to get people to blame the already-marginalized. Just look at the CRT-hating, book-banning, speech-suppressing efforts of the right in the US at this very moment.

Rereading my own 12:46, it’s easy to see how it could be turned around to apply to gun ownership in the US. Why should responsible gun owners be punished because some people use guns irresponsibly? (And this is not a question I’m just putting into people’s mouths. It has been posed that way explicitly many times.) My answer to that question would go back to the weighing of harms, but that’s as far into that issue as I want to go.

PS Thanks to Michael for the violin article. I passed it along to someone I know who is interested in the topic in a practical way.

I think a big part of the difficulty in discussing trans individuals is that we (collectively: as a society or simply as human beings) are simply not good at doing nuance. We tend to be a lot happier with simple, black and white, views which don't require us to look at the details of a particular specific case.

So. Are there, in fact, individuals who feel that they have been stuck in the wrong body? Yes. And how wonderful for them that medicine is reaching the point where something can be done about that.

Are there individuals who abuse the fact that, for the moment anyway, the only means of identifying a trans individual is self-ID? Also yes. And that can be a problem for both those around one of those individuals, and for legitimate trans individuals.

Are there individual who think they are trans, but actually are not? I would argue yes. Especially in cultures with very rigid gender roles. Suppose you are in one of those cultures, and what you want to do is something that, in your culture, is only done by members of the opposite sex. Now you might decide (as any of us would argue) that the problem is the way gender roles have been restricted for you. But you might well decide that, since only the other sex gets to do what you want to do, you must have gotten the wrong body.

In that regard, the arch conservatives who get hysterical about children being treated (medically) as trans are not entirely wrong. In their social circles, it is entirely possible that children would mistakenly identify the reason why they don't fit comfortably into the prescribes gender roles.

And that's before we get to issues around sports. Does it make a difference, when it comes to sports, what gender you were physically at puberty? Yes, in some cases. If your sport is shotput, someone who was male at puberty is going to have upper body strength (and probably size) that is simply not available** to someone who was female at puberty. If your sport is gymnastics, someone who was female at puberty is going to have flexibility which is simply not available to someone who was male at puberty. On the other hand, there are sports where the critical physical characteristics simply are not sex-linked. (Baseball comes to mind.) So any discussion of trans athletes is going to have to deal with nuances regarding exactly which sport is involved.

Not to say that trans issues are the only ones where our aversion to nuance is a problem. Just that it is currently a high profile one.

** Absent use of steroids, which is a whole different issue.

In that regard, the arch conservatives who get hysterical about children being treated (medically) as trans are not entirely wrong. In their social circles, it is entirely possible that children would mistakenly identify the reason why they don't fit comfortably into the prescribes gender roles.

With the added wrinkle that these people are energized by the suffering of trans people because they would rather those people live lives of despair than that we relax our binaries in ways that give space to those who question. They want to push the threshold high enough that the categories become entirely fixed. The possibility of nuance itself belongs to satan.

See also Iran and head coverings.

I had not previously heard of a biological male who is also a rapist using self-ID as trans to gain access to potential victims. I thought that was a completely made-up up thing by the RW. To see it actually happened is upsetting, to say the least.

This is a circle I have no idea how to square, since doing so relies on things like proportionality, honesty in argument, and weighing actual v. made-up risk factors. None of which humans are generally good at, particularly when large numbers of humans are doing the arguing and deciding.

Which brings up what wj and nous mention: nuance. The larger the number of people involved in an issue, the less nuance there is going to be. "Nuance" - particularly on issues as hot button as these - is entirely in the eye of the beholder. What is nuance to me may be disingenuousness to you, and vice versa.

Sigh. And that's **before** we weight in stuff like outright dishonesty in argument and malicious ingenuousness.

I had not previously heard of a biological male who is also a rapist using self-ID as trans to gain access to potential victims. I thought that was a completely made-up up thing by the RW. To see it actually happened is upsetting, to say the least.

Keeping in mind that we cannot know that this is what is going on here, only that the outcome, whatever the truth of the motivation, puts a convicted rapist in a position of access to potential targets.

Sturgeon's position here is based on the one thing that we can know about this situation, which is that Bryson has a known history of sexual violence.

What is lost by treating Bryson's motives as genuine, but refusing to put her in a position to be a threat to the likely subjects of future sexual violence from her? If she was being insincere, then thwarting her aim would remove the need for that pretense. If she was sincere, then our protective aims are still preserved.

We can be all Schrödinger about this and refuse to open that box without having to put anyone at risk *in this case.*

What is lost by treating Bryson's motives as genuine, but refusing to put her in a position to be a threat to the likely subjects of future sexual violence from her?

Does that mean that she should be incarcerated in a women's prison, but with perfect security to stop her attacking other inmates?

It seems that Scottish prison policy is along those lines, but without the perfect security.

without the perfect security.

Seems doubtful that there's perfect security in the men's prisons either. Which points to the question nous keeps asking or implying: What problem are we trying to solve, or how many problems? A gender identity problem? A prison violence problem? (Btw, it doesn't have to be sexual violence to be a problem.) And my question, or framing about a balancing of harms.

All of it intertwined and, I'm afraid, intractable.

Meanwhile, my attention is being claimed by yet another intractable problem, summarized here.

my attention is being claimed by yet another intractable problem, summarized here.

It seems clear that it is, primarily, a culture problem. That is, a problem of how some (many? most?) police officers see the world around them and the appropriate way to interact with it.

Yes, there are racist cops. Also other kinds of problem individual cops. And it's worth dealing with those. But the overall problem needs a different approach.

I'm thinking that what's needed is some input from some cultural anthropologists** who specialize in culture change. Specifically what causes it and how to make it happen. Because, while the problem is intractable given the ways we have tried to address it, it isn't actually impossible to make changes happen.

** Sociologists tend, in my observation, to have both too generalized a view of social groups and way too narrow a view of what kind of cultures are possible.

What JanieM said.

I think that Sturgeon is right to insist that Bryson can (and probably should) be kept out of a women's prison population for the safety of the other inmates. I also think Sturgeon is right to insist that this should not bear on the larger question of gender identity.

I think it is unfortunate that our carceral systems are segregated into hard gender binaries. Ideally there would be a place for Bryson, and others who are likely to enact violence on the other they are incarcerated with, that was agnostic to gender identity.

In general, I would prefer a more humane carceral system along the lines of the Scandinavian model, where those who were incarcerated were treated as people. I recognize that getting to a place where that was manageable in the US is a long term prospect. What we have has created too much trauma for too long, and that legacy likely has to be worked through before we can get to a place where our prisons can be humane.

Which is why I think the Scottish situation is probably the best compromise that is available in this moment. It addresses the immediate danger while resisting the urge to create collective policy out of it based on a secondary issue.

Currently, our huge brouhaha (long overdue) about the police concerns their institutional misogyny. Literally thousands of cases are suddenly now being addressed of police officers who have been accused of rape, violence, domestic abuse etc over the years, only to have their accusers ignored and their cases dropped. This is only happening in the aftermath of first, the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, and secondly, the final reckoning with the 17 year career of rape and abuse by serving police officer David Carrick, despite many, many women over the years reporting him and detailing his assaults. The culture in the police (not just the Met) is deeply, deeply misogynist, and it is not entirely divorced from the society in which it operates.

I have stayed out of the trans conversation, apart from one early comment on the Scottish situation, because I think my views are well-known here. But perhaps it is as well to remind you that there is a very strong thread of misogyny in the trans-activist world too: trans activists in balaclavas barricaded the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst on the anniversary of women's suffrage, preventing feminist groups from celebrating and placing garlands etc (you can find footage on Youtube), trans activists regularly post threats and insults to feminists (not just J K Rowling, although she is a lightning rod for the threats, as well as the recent hysterical "I'm ten times the woman J K Rowling is"), and, as a woman in her 70s said to me recently "They call me a dried up old cunt. It's so interesting, no woman has ever said anything like that to me, that is a man's insult."

As I have repeatedly said, nobody I know who is concerned with this issue wants to victimise or oppress trans people. The concentration on gender is a red herring: everybody should have the right to dress how they want, call themselves what they want, sleep with whom they want and be called what they want. But women belong to a sex, and one moreover which has been oppressed and victimised on that basis (menstruation, childbirth etc) for eons. Regarding nous's mention of Iran and the headscarf, the Taliban have no difficulty whatsoever in deciding who can and cannot go to school, or must wear the hijab. Trans women and trans men have rights which absolutely should be protected, but not at the expense of women.

Currently, our huge brouhaha (long overdue) about the police concerns their institutional misogyny. Literally thousands of cases are suddenly now being addressed of police officers who have been accused of rape, violence, domestic abuse etc over the years, only to have their accusers ignored and their cases dropped. This is only happening in the aftermath of first, the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, and secondly, the final reckoning with the 17 year career of rape and abuse by serving police officer David Carrick, despite many, many women over the years reporting him and detailing his assaults. The culture in the police (not just the Met) is deeply, deeply misogynist, and it is not entirely divorced from the society in which it operates.

I have stayed out of the trans conversation, apart from one early comment on the Scottish situation, because I think my views are well-known here. But perhaps it is as well to remind you that there is a very strong thread of misogyny in the trans-activist world too: trans activists in balaclavas barricaded the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst on the anniversary of women's suffrage, preventing feminist groups from celebrating and placing garlands etc (you can find footage on Youtube), trans activists regularly post threats and insults to feminists (not just J K Rowling, although she is a lightning rod for the threats, as well as the recent hysterical "I'm ten times the woman J K Rowling is"), and, as a woman in her 70s said to me recently "They call me a dried up old cunt. It's so interesting, no woman has ever said anything like that to me, that is a man's insult."

As I have repeatedly said, nobody I know who is concerned with this issue wants to victimise or oppress trans people. The concentration on gender is a red herring: everybody should have the right to dress how they want, call themselves what they want, sleep with whom they want and be called what they want. But women belong to a sex, and one moreover which has been oppressed and victimised on that basis (menstruation, childbirth etc) for eons. Regarding nous's mention of Iran and the headscarf, the Taliban have no difficulty whatsoever in deciding who can and cannot go to school, or must wear the hijab. Trans women and trans men have rights which absolutely should be protected, but not at the expense of women.

A homegrown disinformation campaign.

Summary:

"Hamilton 68, backed by the German Marshall Fund, Alliance for Securing Democracy, and several other organizations, was a computerized “dashboard” designed to be used by reporters and academics to measure “Russian disinformation”. Twitter was concerned enough about the proliferation of news stories linked to Hamilton 68 that it ordered a forensic analysis, which revealed that the majority of the accounts Hamilton 68 labeled as “Russian influence activities online” were in fact real people from the U.S., Canada, and Britain who had no involvement in Russian activities. The list included not just Trump supporters but also a range of political dissidents, leftists, anarchists, and humorists. The Hamilton 68 list was used for years to drive hundreds of media headlines about supposed Russian bot infiltration of online discussions about a variety of topics, boosting some candidates and political stances while undermining others. After an internal investigation by Twitter and the revelation of a “Russian bot” scandal in the Alabama Senate Race, Clint Watts, one of the founders of Hamilton 68, publicly questioned the “bot thing”. Despite this, news organizations continued to promote Hamilton 68, creating a form of fake news that relied on a confluence of interests between think tanks, media, and the government." —ChatGPT

Matt Taibbi: Move Over, Jason Blair: Meet Hamilton 68, the New King of Media Fraud: The Twitter Files reveal that one of the most common news sources of the Trump era was a scam, making ordinary American political conversations look like Russian spy work.

A ways up thread, someone (janiem, I think) included a link to Timothy Snyder's history course at Yale on The Making of Modern Ukranian. (Available here as a set of YouTube videos.) I got sucked in, and have been working my way thru them.

There's lots of fascinating stuff. But today (Class 16, the first half of the 20th century), I was particularly struck by his mention, in passing, that when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, he (and the German General Staff) expected the USSR to fall in 10 days to 2 weeks. Which is why there were no logistical preparations for a longer campaign, no winter gear for the soldiers, etc., etc. It struck me how totally this resembled Putin's expectations, when he invaded Ukraine, for how quickly he would win. And the (lack of) preparations for anything longer.

Since the part of the USSR where Hitler got bogged down was precisely Ukraine, it's really hard not to think: "Ah, history repeating itself!"

Responding to GftNC's 2:43 comment:

1. Regarding nous's mention of Iran and the headscarf, the Taliban have no difficulty whatsoever in deciding who can and cannot go to school, or must wear the hijab.

I hope I’m misunderstanding what you mean, but it seems like a tacit comment on my suggestion that relying on something other than self-ID to know who’s who would turn into a nightmare of intrusiveness.

Like, if the Taliban know who's a woman and who’s a man, it must actually be easy? (Never mind their horrifying certainty that those are the only two possible categories.)

But again, maybe I'm misunderstanding, so could you clarify?

2. perhaps it is as well to remind you that there is a very strong thread of misogyny in the trans-activist world too

Perhaps it is as well to remind you that this is very like my example of abusive parents who homeschool. I don't believe the existence of such parents has, or should have, anything to do with the question of my right/choice to homeschool. Similarly, the fact that some trans people are unsavory characters shouldn’t have any bearing on a discussion of how trans people in general should be treated, or how policies that affect them (and the rest of us) should be decided.

For that matter, if the fact that some trans people are misogynistic is relevant to something or other, what about the fact that some women are as well?

(This reminds me of Gloria Steinem's famous assertion that "Women have two choices: Either she’s a feminist or a masochist." About which I had better not get going.)

3. “The concentration on gender is a red herring”

Not everyone sees it this way, to say the least. Just sayin’.

A big benefit of file-based media, as opposed to tape, manifested for me last night. I was tasked with getting the Memphis video in to the internal system, waiting for its’ release. I got to download and process files, which except for a brief spot check I did not have to watch, unlike an old-style real-time feed. Because of what happened with the George Floyd situation, management had booked a room for me in the adjacent hotel in case it wasn’t safe to leave the building when my shift ended at 10pm. Completely unnecessary, and as I told them when they first informed of that backup plan, I had no difficulty leaving work back in 2020 after windows had been smashed and a cop car set aflame.

But I packed a few cans of beer in my bag in case I was stuck in hotel room and couldn’t make it to the Yacht Club after work.

“The concentration on gender is a red herring”

Not everyone sees it this way, to say the least.

LOL. As if I didn't know!

My point about the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the mullahs in Iran, is related to the fact that women are oppressed on the basis of their sex, not their gender. Since there are only two sexes in humankind, the one which produces large gametes (female) and the one that produces small ones (male), and almost everybody is a clear-cut case assigned at birth (the statistics for intersex have been hugely inflated by the trans-activist movement to include even things like polycystic ovary syndrome, but are actually something like 0.2%), the Taliban and the mullahs do not stop male persons who feel they are female from going to school or university, nor do the mullahs force such people to wear the hijab. I remember that someone, maybe lj or nous, mentioned that there are some scientists who speculate about more than two sexes in humans; this reminds me of nothing so much as the vanishingly few climate scientists who could be found to dispute the occurrence of anthropogenic climate change.

My point about misogyny among so many trans-activists is that they are the loudest voices in the room. I hope nobody here has forgotten the astonishing phenomenon of the movement of trans women who accused lesbians of not wanting to sleep with them of being transphobic. Many trans people (and intersex people actually) bitterly resent the terms of the debate being pushed by the trans-activists, and the amounts of disinformation they spread.

The thing about self-ID is that it confers legal rights. If you cannot deem a nurse who identifies as female, but has e.g. a beard and male genitals, as anything other than female, you find yourself in a situation where vulnerable women are unwillingly being given what is called "intimate personal care" by someone who seems clearly to be a man, whatever they say. And similarly in the case we discussed before where a trans-woman with male genitals went around waxing salons in Canada insisting on being waxed by the female beauticians, and in some cases where they refused they were put out of business. And of course, self-ID lets trans women compete in female sports. It takes very innocent people to assume that this kind of thing is always being done in good faith.

And, regarding the question of how many of these people are doing it to gain access to vulnerable women, there are several cases in different countries, but nobody on my side of the argument says this is the whole (or even the main) story. There are clearly people with real gender dysphoria, and they need to be accommodated, helped and have their rights protected. But there is also such a thing as social contagion, and the sudden and extraordinary uptick in, for example, autistic girls identifying as trans, needs to be investigated and analysed to be sure that nothing other than gender dysphoria is at work. And as for the existence (hitherto unknown to me) of autogynephilia, where men derive sexual pleasure by thinking of themselves as women, as opposed to having gender dysphoria, this needs to be understood too. It may explain the puzzling statistic of why 45-55% of trans people now say they have no intention of having surgery, unlike the trans people of previous generations who were desperate to do so.

This is a complicated, and yes, nuanced, subject. But assuming the worst of people on the opposite side of the debate is not the way to arrive at an eventual solution which protects as many groups and people as possible.

p.s. I have limited mobility at the moment, so may not be able to respond as fully or often as normal, if necessary. Apologies in advance.

Further to which, Labour is trying to straddle a very difficult line on this issue at the moment, between older women with some life experience (of discrimination, harrassment etc) and young people who have totally bought in to the narrative of the trans-rights activists. I know Labour supporting women (in some cases fairly hard left) who say their vote is in jeopardy because of this. Mine is not, I will do anything to get this appalling, inept and corrupt rabble of Tories out at the next election, but there is no denying that the trans debate has electrified many left-wing feminists to a point where they cannot be relied upon to vote Labour.

But there is also such a thing as social contagion, and the sudden and extraordinary uptick in, for example, autistic girls identifying as trans, needs to be investigated and analysed to be sure that nothing other than gender dysphoria is at work. And as for the existence (hitherto unknown to me) of autogynephilia, where men derive sexual pleasure by thinking of themselves as women, as opposed to having gender dysphoria, this needs to be understood too.

Jordan Peterson agrees with you. :)

Alas, this whole subject has put gender critical feminists in agreement on some issues with people they'd go a long way to avoid.

The trans women in women's prisons story in Scottland gets more convoluted.

Summary:

"The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is facing a new trans prisoner controversy over the transfer of violent stalker Tiffany Scott, who has been repeatedly refused a switch to a women's jail until now. Scott, who stalked a 13-year-old girl while known as Andrew Burns, has been rubber-stamped for transfer to a jail that aligns with her chosen gender. The transfer is planned despite Sturgeon's recent instruction to overturn a decision to house double rapist Isla Bryson at the all-women jail Cornton Vale, Stirling. Critics have called for another U-turn on Scott, citing her history of violence and stalking." —ChatGPT

New trans prisoner storm looms for Nicola Sturgeon over transfer of violent stalker Tiffany Scott: Troubled Scott - formerly Andrew Burns - has been repeatedly refused a switch to women's jail until now. (Source)

there is no denying that the trans debate has electrified many left-wing feminists to a point where they cannot be relied upon to vote Labour.

This seems to be a common phenomena across the political spectrum. Advocates for one position get, or get close to, what they have been demanding. (Stipulate, for the sake of discussion, that what they originally wanted had some merit. At a high level, if not in every detail.) And the promptly start demanding far more, to the point that even many those who were originally supportive run (not walk) away.

It's as if, for many of them, it's not the ostensible goal that matters. It's the fight for its own sake. (See, on the right, supposed anti-abortion activists who, having gotten Roe v. Wade overturned, now demand that Griswold v. Connecticut be overturned as well.)

In short, they refuse to take Yes for an answer, declare victory, and go home.

It's as if, for many of them, it's not the ostensible goal that matters. It's the fight for its own sake. (See, on the right, supposed anti-abortion activists who, having gotten Roe v. Wade overturned, now demand that Griswold v. Connecticut be overturned as well.)

As a general phenomenon I think this is sometimes true. But in the case of Roe etc., I'm pretty sure there's a strong and determined contingent in this country that has intended all along to roll back everything that has been done for the past century in relations to women's rights and sexual freedom. It took a century of patient and determined work in legislatures and the courts to get to Griswold and then Roe, and the people who didn't want them in the first place have been working just as patiently to roll them back, even if they don't confess their whole agenda in public.

The current carefully stoked hysteria about "groomers" etc. is part of the same agenda, the part where LGBTQ+ people go back into the closet (at best). Florida textbooks. Utah legislation banning gender affirming care. Etc.

But hey, apparently we won, so what am I complaining about?

In short, they refuse to take Yes for an answer, declare victory, and go home.

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”Eric Hoffer

Let me reframe my comment a bit. I do think that activists feed on their activism and sometimes have a hard time declaring victory. I think that has nothing to do with what has happened in the US in relation to women, LGBTQ+ people, or sex.

But hey, apparently we won, so what am I complaining about?

Contemporary enlightenment values are a minority opinion globally. Even in the West, getting a majority behind them is often dependent on the economy humming for everyone. We've won some battles. The war, though, is far from over. The war may never be over.

The war may never be over.

I don't think it will ever be over. But at the age I am now, I think we don't live long enough, as individuals, to realize that soon enough... A paradox composed of snippets from Dune, Shaw's Back to Methuselah, and who knows what other shreds of my past preoccupations.

The war, though, is far from over. The war may never be over.

The war may never be over. But the front lines can move. And, sometimes, the move eventually becomes irreversable. Example: it took years for women to get the right to vote in the US. But while there was lots of residual opposition after it happened, it's simply not going away now. And there's no visible effort, even among the most reactionary, to reverse it.

The war, though, is far from over. The war may never be over.

I think this, and in fact the rest of Michael Cain's 01.03 above, is depressingly true. But all one can do is continue to try to fight the good fight.

Since there are only two sexes in humankind, the one which produces large gametes (female) and the one that produces small ones (male), and almost everybody is a clear-cut case assigned at birth...

There's a lot of post hoc mythologizing in this account. None of these schema existed prior to the 1800s, yet humans have long and widespread histories of patriarchal oppression going back centuries before that. The policing of patriarchal privilege does not have a systematic or scientific basis for who gets elevated and who gets demoted.

It's really sad watching marginalized groups go at each other using their trauma narratives while the people who are determined to maintain patriarchy encourage them to tear each other down. And it is so much easer to push trauma buttons and break apart alliances that threaten the status-quo than it is to maintain the shaky coalitions between the oppressed. Solidarity, despite pain and disagreement, is the only way to force change.

I think the problem with activism is that too often activists bring their trauma to the work as a motivating energy to overcome despair, apathy, and burnout. It's hard not to do this because there are so few people actually doing the hard work of forcing change, and it sometimes feels like one does not have the opportunity to take a break and care for oneself, but dipping into trauma anger almost always ends up poisoning the work and damaging the others working with you.

We are seeing a lot of that across the various groups that are taking on patriarchy from different directions.
-----
I'm mostly ignoring CharlesWT's second article because it doesn't bring anything new to the central difficulty. Instead, I'll ask my earlier question again, because I don't see that anyone has addressed it seriously or tried to think through the implications.

Should cis lesbians with histories of violence against other women be held in women's prisons?

Should cis lesbians with histories of violence against other women be held in women's prisons?

Yes, but...

I would say that they should be in women's prisons, but not in gen pop. That is, they should be segregated from the bulk of the population. This is not, after all, a radical concept -- prisoners are segregated for a variety of reasons (including protection from other prisoners). But that makes more sense than putting them, for example, into men's prisons.

In 2021 in England and Wales, the proportion of prosecutions for "Violence against the person" was 82% male, 18% female. The proportion for "Sexual offences" was 98% male and 2% female.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/women-and-the-criminal-justice-system-2021/women-and-the-criminal-justice-system-2021#offence-analysis

(see Figure 8.04)

All prisoners should be protected from violence to the greatest extent possible, which may well mean the segregation of violent prisoners. And clearly, there is likely to be more and more organised provision for this in male prisons, given the stats on male violent crime. There is no reason to accept self-ID of trans prisoners convicted of violent or sexual crime, if they show no sign of having committed to their chosen gender (as is currently often the case, and certainly in the Scottish legislation: very little time spent living in their chosen gender, no necessity for medical or psychological diagnosis, no physical interventions necessary).

There's a lot of post hoc mythologizing in this account. None of these schema existed prior to the 1800s, yet humans have long and widespread histories of patriarchal oppression going back centuries before that.

There's a lot of biological fact in this account. None of these schema may have existed prior to the 1800s (what do you mean, even? Spermatazoa were discovered in 1677), and yet men had no difficulty in deciding which was the sex easy and legal to oppress.

It's really sad watching marginalized groups go at each other using their trauma narratives while the people who are determined to maintain patriarchy encourage them to tear each other down.

It's really sad watching progressive men lecture women on how they should be prepared to give up rights and protections they have fought and suffered for, in the interests of groups who, as well as denying biological reality, publicly spend a great deal of time insulting, threatening and demonising women. Despite the careful reciprocal formulation, and the non-naming of these groups, I do not notice these progressive men (here or in fact anywhere) lecturing trans-activists on their duty to other marginalised groups.

There is a group in the UK called the LGB Alliance. They were set up, and gained charitable status, solely with the purpose of supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual people. A campaigning trans youth organisation called Mermaids has taken them to court in an attempt to revoke their charitable status, claiming that they are really an anti-trans organisation. You might be interested in their website:

https://lgballiance.org.uk/defending-our-charity-status/

https://lgballiance.org.uk/facts/

There's a lot of biological fact in this account. None of these schema may have existed prior to the 1800s (what do you mean, even? Spermatazoa were discovered in 1677)

In 1677 they knew that some men produce spermatozoa, but that does not become a taxonomy of biological sexes based on gamete size until we have recognition of the human ovum and some system for understanding what a gamete is.

Also, we had no system of national identification with a category for gender in earlier times to which individuals were pinned by bureaucratic records.

Which means that patriarchal societies police their hierarchies based on a lot of things and that biological sex just gave us one fairly stable signifier that we could use to help pin down one part of the discussion. But it's just one part of the many different human systems we use to justify and perpetuate oppressive hierarchies, and it is deeply entangled in other such systems.

For the rest, there is nothing productive that I can offer, other than to say that I am listening and considering what people are saying, and doing my best to understand their perspective while I try to work through these collective issues.

Also, I think that many of my comments that were reflective in nature about bringing trauma to activism may have been read as if they are directed at other people. If you are reading my comments about trauma and burnout as some sort of passive aggressive critique, then you are bringing your own thing to them. I have plenty of my own sources of anger, traumas, and feelings of burnout to contend with.

They certainly knew that women did not produce what men produced, whatever it was called. They knew that only women produced babies, and menstruated, and men did not. There still is no category for gender "to which individuals are pinned by bureaucratic records". There is a category for sex, the determination of which is as described in the LGB Alliance website (which also confirms what I realised after I first posted, that the percentage of intersex people is more like 0.02%, not 0.2% as I said):

In 99.98% of cases, our primary sex characteristics, ie our genitals, will clearly indicate which sex we are. In a very small minority of some, but not all, people with Differences in Sex Development conditions (or “intersex”), the sex of a newborn is not obvious.

The term “sex assigned at birth” is only correctly applied in these circumstances where it is not possible to observe and record the sex with certainty. For the rest of us, our sex is not assigned. It is observed and recorded.

Feminists who, for example, have always supported gay rights, are perfectly aware that patriarchal societies police their hierarchies "based on a lot of things", but the first, the foundational thing, is sex. nous, I don't mean to give you too hard a time, because you are clearly a clever, benevolent and thoughtful person, but you do remind me sometimes of the CEO of Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre, a trans woman, who said last year that survivors should "reframe their trauma":

"Sexual violence happens to bigoted people as well," that rape survivors could not heal without addressing "unacceptable beliefs" and that if they sought care at the Edinburgh clinic, they should "expect to be challenged on [their] prejudices." She had previously left the Scottish National Party after MSPs backed an amendment to allow survivors of rape and sexual violence to pick the sex rather than the gender of the person examining them. Author and sexual violence specialist Jessica Taylor remarked, "It is of concern to me that any rape centre would take the view that their clients who access their services at a time of crisis and trauma, would need politically re-educating so they agree with the views of the CEO and centre policies.

nous @05.33: no, I didn't think that. Understood.

There still is no category for gender "to which individuals are pinned by bureaucratic records". There is a category for sex, the determination of which is as described in the LGB Alliance website

I think I understand what most of the folks here mean by the two terms. But if there is a general understanding (in the broader culture) of the precise definitions of each, I have managed to miss it. And I suspect that it is essentially impossible to deal effectively with numerous issues in this area, not just trans issues, without being very, very clear about exactly what is meant by the terms in use.

Instead, I'll ask my earlier question again, because I don't see that anyone has addressed it seriously or tried to think through the implications.

Should cis lesbians with histories of violence against other women be held in women's prisons?

Because your question deserves consideration...

My immediate and continuing pie-in-the-sky response is that our basic problem is that we can't think beyond "men's" and "women's" as categories of prisons. Your question suggests that it might be useful to think in terms of a different dichotomy, the seemingly obvious one of "violent" vs "non-violent" offenders. wj's suggestion of segregating violent prisoners points in that direction, and I wonder why that option isn't obvious.

I haven't followed these stories closely, so maybe it *is* treated as obvious, and I just don't know it. If it's not treated as obvious, is it because mentioning it would take away some of the clickbaity-ness of the topic? I mean, if there's a workable solution, there's no hook on which to hang a lot of outrage. (IS there such an option? Probably not everywhere.)

I'll stop here as well.

wj: sex means biological sex, M or F. What gender means is very open to question. Some people think it is a nonsensical, imaginary invention, some people think it is a "feeling" about "what you are", some people think it is a bunch of exaggerated, stereotyped characteristics (mainly formerly) associated with the two sexes. I don't really have any idea what it is, but I am perfectly prepared to believe that there are people who genuinely and consistently believe they were "born in the wrongly sexed body", and have a condition which has come to be called gender dysphoria: you cannot in fact change sex, although you can change gender. But gender itself seems a very nebulous term, with various different definitions.

And, in the spirit of realising that people can hold differing views yet still have liking and respect for each other, this from today's NYT cheered me somewhat:

It might be the strangest friendship in Washington.

He’s a well-known Christian conservative who speaks out against gay marriage and abortion. She’s a former civil rights lawyer who has spent much of her career fighting to desegregate schools and protect transgender kids from bullying.

Given their résumés, one might think that Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, and Anurima Bhargava, who worked in President Barack Obama’s Justice Department, would be adversaries — if they ever crossed paths at all. Yet, over the past five years, they have managed to forge a bond that transcends politics and proves that you don’t have to agree on values here at home to promote basic human rights abroad.

They met in 2018, when they were both appointed to serve on the nine-member U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a quasi-governmental body of unpaid volunteers that investigates religious persecution abroad. Mr. Perkins was appointed by Mitch McConnell; Ms. Bhargava by Nancy Pelosi. On the commission, they spoke up for the rights of Yazidis in Syria, Baha’is in Iran and Muslims in India. Even after their terms expired in 2022, they kept in touch.

“Wrong things bother her,” Mr. Perkins told me. “And wrong things bother me.”

He knew that they had become real friends, he said, when he started worrying about her and including her in his prayers. He felt that she respected his religious faith, even if she didn’t share it. “I can be candid with her,” he told me. “She knows my motivations.”

What does it mean when a Hindu from the South Side of Chicago joins forces with an evangelical Christian from Louisiana to fight for the rights of religious minorities abroad? Maybe it means that we’re all human, and when we lean into that common humanity, good can come of it. Mr. Perkins, Ms. Bhargava and their fellow commissioners pushed for the release of people imprisoned for their beliefs, including a Quranist Muslim in Egypt, an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan and a Christian pastor in Turkey.

I first learned about their unusual friendship on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after the attack on the Capitol. I’ve known Ms. Bhargava since college — she was my roommate. I called her to process the shock of what had just happened. The country felt like it was coming apart at the seams. One thing that gave her hope, she told me, was “an email from Tony.”

“Tony who?” I asked.

She explained who he was and told me that he had just written her to let her know that he opposed the lawlessness that had unfolded at the Capitol. He wanted to distance himself from the hateful statements that others were spewing and tell her what her friendship had meant to him.

“Based upon our religious backgrounds we have different worldviews,” he wrote. “That said, I respect you and I want you to know that when I am often addressing issues (totally unrelated to USCIRF) which we differ on, I often think of you wanting to state my views in a way that would not be offensive to you because of that respect and friendship.”

He’d treated her with respect from the first moment she met him, Ms. Bhargava told me. He made an effort to learn how to pronounce her name, even as another Republican commissioner refused to do so. They sat next to each other at a dinner retreat in North Carolina and started chatting. He’d once worked in a prison and had witnessed injustices there. His daughter was interested in becoming a lawyer. He asked her advice.

The friendship made her realize that “respect and trust don’t require agreement,” she said.

As they got to know each other better, he told her not to believe everything written about him. In an age of political tribalism, so much gets distorted. She decided not to follow him on social media and rarely brought up topics, like abortion, where they would not find common ground. In 2020, they traveled together on a commission trip to Sudan. It was a hopeful time in the country, when protesters successfully pushed a military dictator from power. The new government repealed the apostasy law and banned flogging for blasphemy. Mr. Perkins and Ms. Bhargava celebrated the good news in the commission’s annual report.

Eventually, Ms. Bhargava invited Mr. Perkins on a trip that had nothing to do with the commission — to the Texas border to learn about the problems faced by migrant children who had been held there. He went to learn more, he told me, but mostly because she’d asked him to go. After he got back, he contacted the Trump White House to talk about “the humanitarian situation” at the border, he told me.

Their bond is all the more remarkable for the fact that his appointment to the commission in 2018 sparked outrage in some circles. The Hindu American Foundation argued that he couldn’t be an objective protector of religious freedom overseas because of “hateful stances against non-Christians” at home. It cited a comment he made in 2007 saying that it was not appropriate for a Hindu chaplain to deliver a prayer in the Senate because it ran against the grain of the monotheistic Judeo-Christian values upon which the United States had been founded.

Rabbi Jack Moline, the former president of the Interfaith Alliance, argued that Mr. Perkins pushes a “twisted definition” of religious liberty that privileges Christianity above other religions. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which considers the Family Research Council a “hate group” because of its depiction of homosexuality as perversion, called his appointment “deeply disturbing.”

But on the commission, Mr. Perkins set a tone of bipartisan cooperation. One of his first acts was to make sure that Tenzin Dorjee, a Buddhist from Tibet appointed by Nancy Pelosi, was unanimously elected chairman. He repeatedly added his voice to calls for raising the embarrassingly low cap that the Trump administration had set for refugee admissions and signed off on a fact sheet that called out countries that use Shariah law to justify executing people in same-sex relationships.

“Tony and I had a long conversation about ‘What should we say?’” Ms. Bhargava recalled.

His name also appears on a commission report that recommended sanctions against a leader in Chechnya for using religion as an excuse to torture lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

When the American left and the right work together to protect vulnerable minorities abroad, they are harder to rebuff. “That’s strength,” Knox Thames, a former State Department official who has also worked as a policy director at the commission, told me. Mr. Thames co-authored a recent report about how promoting religious freedom abroad can help safeguard our national security. It recommends that advocates form “coalitions of the vulnerable” with the L.G.B.T.Q. community to stand up for persecuted minorities abroad. It turns out that we don’t have to agree on whether Christian bakers must bake cakes for gay weddings to unanimously condemn the law that calls for homosexuals to be stoned to death in Brunei, or the burning of Rohingya villages in Myanmar or the rape of Yazidi girls in Iraq.

Such coalitions are extremely fragile. Some evangelicals fear that the commission will have to modify its mission to include human rights abuses committed in the name of religion, especially against members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. Evangelicals oppose such a change, in part because it which would shift religion from victim to perpetrator. Whatever happens, I hope the commission doesn’t become yet another front in the U.S. culture wars.

For the moment, the commission, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in October, is proving that it can be a rare bipartisan success, despite the division “religious freedom” can spark here at home. Thanks, in part, to efforts by Ms. Bhargava and Mr. Perkins, it has largely overcome the partisan infighting that plagued its early years. Christians helped push through the confirmation of President Biden’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom — Rashad Hussain, a Muslim — at a time when other ambassadorships were held up. This year’s international religious freedom summit, which opens on Jan. 31, lists both Samantha Power, President Biden’s U.S.A.I.D. administrator, and Newt Gingrich as speakers.

Mr. Perkins will be there, too. His friendship with Ms. Bhargava hasn’t changed his core beliefs, he told me. He still fights for Bible-believing Christians, whom he views as under attack in the West. But he has changed how he expresses himself. In an age when others write over-the-top tweets just to outrage their political opponents, he chooses his words more carefully and imagines his good friend is listening.

And then it's good night from me.

wj: sex means biological sex, M or F. What gender means is very open to question.
...
you cannot in fact change sex, although you can change gender.

Just to pick away at the topic: Are we saying that sex is a matter of chromosomes? That is, do you have two X chromosomes or an X and a Y chromosome?** In that case, yes sex is unchangeable.

But, alternatively, are we saying that sex is about the ability to procreate without medical intervention? In that case the most we can say is that sex isn't changeable yet.

(I admit, I've probably been reading too much science fiction where such medical interventions are possible. Not, in the stuff I've read, common. But not a particularly radical procedure either.)

** Ignoring, for the moment, the occasional individual who apparently has two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...."

wj: it's been long assumed that 'male' is having a Y chromosome, but turns out there's some *other* genetic bit, not *quite* exclusively on the Y chromosome, that is the cause.

Biology is just incredibly chaotic. A couple billion years of random mutations and sorta-random survival will do that, I guess.

hsh, it's an incredibly complex world out there. That's why I get tiresome about asking what, exactly, we mean by the terms we use. It's just incredibly difficult to have a productive conversation, let alone come up with concrete solutions, when we aren't talking about the same things even though we are using the same words.

FYI, three GftNC comments (one from this thread, and two from the Negotiating thread) have been rescued from the Spam bin. Apologies for not checking more frequently.

In ancient Greece it was assumed that women were merely incubators and that 100% of what we would call 'genetic material' is from the father. It even became a literary topic when in the Oresteia of Aeschylus it is successfully argued before the Areopagus in Athens against the Furies that killing one's mother is not killing a blood relative for the reason named above.
In Rome mothers were not legally related to their own children.
In a way St.Thomas Aquinas put the cherry on the top when writing that women were only defective men and putting the blame for female and deformed children being born primarily on the defective incubating person (although defective sperm could occasionally be the reason too).
The classic metaphor is men sowing their seed into the fertile female furrow (iirc that one was already used in Sumerian times).
The woman only provides the building material while the man provides the blueprint. And whom do we consider the 'author' of a building? The bricklayer or the architect?
So, there is a really long tradition of downplaying the role of the female sex.
Although few went so far as Aristotle to declare sexual intercourse with women inferior to that with other men (He was not homosexual. It was based on his 'intellectual' view of women). Still enough (male) authorities left who wrote absolutely disgusting stuff about female inferiority.

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