Parliament

 To Parliament, for the mass lobby for EU citizens. Most of us there were not British, and spoke up for their own rights. I went to communicate my desire for co-operation in Europe, and treating people decently. After, there was a demonstration against Mr Trump, to coincide with the Debate on our demand to rescind the State visit invitation. 

Parliament is impressive. 

I claim Cromwell for Remainers. He fought for the people against the Moneyed Elites. 

More on this later. I don’t like writing on my phone. 

Trans v Ultra-Orthodox

A judge has ordered that a trans woman should never see her children, because their Orthodox Jewish “community” would ostracise them.

The fact that made the judge refuse contact for the trans father with her children may be that J, the father, still wants her children to be brought up as ultra-orthodox. The judge recognises all the reasons why it would be good for the children to see their father, and the list is heartbreaking. They have an irreplaceable relationship, a right to family life, they want it and not having it will be deeply distressing causing a deep sense of loss; the children will resent the injustice that their community deprived them of contact, and that deprivation is discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment; the children’s sense of identity and self worth will be affected if their father is treated as a sinner, unworthy to see them; they won’t know if J is well or ill; they will not get to know or understand J, as the “community” will denigrate her; depriving her of contact is similar to adoption, cutting her out of their lives; if they have contact now, they might get some experience of the outside world, some chance at being able to make their own choices; they may never be able to choose to see their father, even as adults; contact now means that professional help is available; the court has ordered that the father send four letters a year, but the community may prevent even that. It is an appalling list.

Against the father having contact, the court counts the extreme pressure she has been under, which may make her upset in front of the children. That is Kafkaesque. If they saw her upset, they might see how transition helped her, and how she overcame her difficulties. However the judge says that indicates caution but would not by itself prevent contact.

The father’s lawyers argued that the schools should obey the law. If they did so, teaching tolerance and respect, attitudes might change. The judge disapproves of the schools, and will send the judgment to the Department for Education. I hope some attempt may be made to enforce the law on them.

The judge had hoped that a “warm, supportive” community would support children’s need to see their father. When he pointed out that the evidence had dire warnings of ostracism but no examples, the mother’s lawyers produced statements showing that child victims of sexual abuse had been ostracised. He told them he did not think they could be that monstrous, and they desperately scrambled to prove that yes, they were.

Even though he heard evidence that Jewish law could tolerate trans people, he accepted that this particular community could not. The community is proved to disregard justice, and the welfare of the children. The community all say they will continue their discrimination and victimisation. The father accepts the community is like that, but hope it can be made to change, but even educated people are unyielding and there is no evidence anyone in authority in the community wishes it to change.

The judge recognises that sexuality and gender are not a matter of choice. Trans folk have a right to be recognised and respected as such. “Sin” is irrelevant to law. The children could adapt to their father’s change, but the adults involved could not. The children would be taught in the community that their father was a sinner, and in the outside world that she was an acceptable person. They could never speak of their father to their friends. It would put too much pressure on them. It is too wide a gulf for them to bridge. They would have no support: everyone would take the community line. They might be ejected.

The judge says, I have reached the unwelcome conclusion that the likelihood of the children and their mother being marginalised or excluded by the ultra‐Orthodox community is so real, and the consequences so great, that this one factor, despite its many disadvantages, must prevail over the many advantages of contactThis outcome is not a failure to uphold transgender rights, still less a “win” for the community, but the upholding of the rights of the children to have the least harmful outcome in a situation not of their making.

Orthodox Judaism and trans

You have heard of trans women not being able to see their children. With the difficulty of transition, some of us cannot take on that additional fight. One I knew killed herself after being told her wife would not let her see her children, and at the funeral was erased: she was referred to only by her former name, as if a man had died. Now the English courts have ruled that a trans woman should not see her children, because they would be ostracised by their Orthodox Jewish community if she did. She can write four letters a year to each child.

To write this post, I have read the detailed statement of evidence and law by the judge, but not his own assessment and conclusion. It is clear to me that any child brought up in such a “community” will suffer significant harm.

People in this community are not responsible for their own lives. “Personal decision making is minimal, with all major concerns being discussed with one’s rabbi” [see paragraph 85 of the judgment]. J, the father who has transitioned, [58] knew at the age of six that she was different. She could not speak to anyone, and prayed to God to make it go away. Children in less controlling circumstances feel the same: I did not speak to anyone until aged 18. After fathering five children and twice attempting suicide by taking pills, she began to speak to a therapist outside the community. Broken Rainbow, the LGBT domestic violence charity, gave her confidence to leave. It has now closed down.

The community sees transition as “a defection from core values, and expressive of hostility and disrespect” [106]. The community cannot accept how badly it hurts its members, so blames those who leave.

The court-appointed Guardian accepted that within the community, the children could not make their own decisions about seeing their father [136]. Exposure to the outside world is seen as dangerous to the children, who are taught to see it as hostile to the Jewish community. The mother does not speak of J at all.

Children exposed to “outside influences” may be ostracised. The judgment gives examples of other divorced couples. One mother could not get her child into the school she wanted. “The school would not risk the influences the father’s contact with the child might have on the rest of the student body.” This, note, is the case of a straight parent. In J’s case, her son A’s head teacher said that if A met J he feared A’s religious commitment could be compromised.

In a case where a child was sexually abused within her family and the wider community from age 11-14, she was fostered through secular social services. She was not allowed to talk to friends, whose parents said they could not risk their children hearing about “things”.

J could not bear the thought that her son, aged 12, would be faced with her unexplained disappearance, so she told him fifteen months before that she could not carry on with the marriage, and that she was leaving five days before she did. This is held against her. The pain she has suffered, in being unable to be herself, attempting to conform, finding conformity impossible even though she knew how much it would cost her to transition, and now in transitioning and suffering all that loss, is used against her to show that she should not have access. Telling her son was seen as very bad indeed. Her own needs overwhelm her [120], she cannot prioritise the emotional needs of the children, which militates against contact.

Their interpretation of the Torah is completely against transition. Deuteronomy 22:5 forbids dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex, and Leviticus 22:24 forbids castration. For all religious purposes J will be considered male, will be required to give a Get, or religious divorce, to her wife [93], and as most social activities as sexually segregated would not be allowed to join either the women or the men.

The community fought viciously against J. Having so let her down, they project all their wrongdoing onto her. They threatened violence [61]. They refused to consult her about anything to do with the children, and would not accept maintenance payments from her. They rebuffed all her attempts at contact [25]. They made allegations that she had sexually abused her son aged 4, though the judge says “There is no credible evidence that J has behaved in a sexual manner towards D or any of the other children” [32].

The schools responded particularly badly. Minutes of a “Team around the children” meeting show their priority was to protect the community and enforce its “cultural norms around gender and sexual identity” [33]. The schools’ duty was to “uphold the religious ethos”. Other parents would “protect” their children from information shared by J’s children.

Fortunately, schools are restricted in England from so betraying their pupils. I am horrified that any still persist, but at least one has been shut down. It is unlawful for a school to discriminate against a pupil because of their association with someone transitioning gender [48]. The education regulations include a curriculum obligation to encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the 2010 Act [50]. The school was forbidden to enroll new pupils because it did not enable pupils to learn of the existence of trans people. It must encourage respect of us, and other groups which suffer discrimination. Why the Department for Education is not shutting down other such schools, I do not know.

The law supports contact for parents. It is to be presumed that contact furthers the child’s welfare [38]. Children are entitled to the “love and society” of both parents. Court of Appeal cases on trans parents say children should have professional help to learn of their father’s transition so they can adjust to the change [41]. However the Guardian noted that required “a solid structure of support” for the children, wider than the nuclear family [129]. And yet J cannot see her children.

The eldest son is angry with his father. He blames J. “If he cares, he will leave me alone” [139]. He said his father had done him damage. The child cannot recognise that the damage comes from the Community failing to accept how human beings are, and imposing such terrible control.

You can download the judgment from this page.

Trump lies

Mr Trump cannot be dignified, even when he attempts to imitate a dignified man.

CNN’s report from the time gives the detail. The NYT says that in 2001 Serge Kovaleski reported that the authorities had questioned “a number of people” who were allegedly seen celebrating the attack on the World Trade Centre. He did not report the thousands of Muslims Trump claimed to have seen because that was not true. He did not change his story as Trump alleged, because he never supported Trump’s fantasy.

What is a lie? David Leonhardt points out that some would say “Capitalism has worked better than any other economic system” is a subjective statement. He says it is factual. There is a moment where facts, whose denial is a lie, move into a grey area where there is honest disagreement. There are assertions which are the most accurate we can make, which are nevertheless inaccurate- Newton’s theory of gravity is wrong, but the best possible at the time.

There is also dishonest disagreement. Leonhardt’s second factual statement, Human actions are warming and damaging the planet, is disputed and minimised. It’s just weather, the climate has always changed. The disagreement comes to advance the interests of fossil fuel investors, who make money from releasing CO2.

Here is what Meryl Streep said:

An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, passionate work.

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modelled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

Trump tweeted,

Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….

“groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

Kellyanne Conway said, He has debunked this so many times. Why is everything taken at face value? You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.

Well, what is in his heart? Unquenchable malice towards anyone who questions him, or even inadvertently gets in his way, especially women. Playground insults, no sense of proportion, no dignity, just the arrogance of Idi Amin.

Unfortunately, politics in the US has been pushing the grey area of opinion further and further. No, there are dozens, not millions, of fraudulent votes, but Republicans proceed with voter suppression schemes, requiring photo ID which poor voters may not have. Trump extended their denial of climate change to denial of the ozone hole.

Trump, unsatisfied by big lies, wants lots of little lies. He showed Mr Kovaleski grovelling, he claims, and if his supporters accept his denial of climate change they will swallow that. Some of his lies depend on knowledge of detail: the intelligence services did not decide whether the Russians influenced the election, because that is not their job, but he tweeted, Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched! Before, he had denied the Russians were involved. Enough of the populace will swallow this, happy that their man is winning.

Our shared understanding of the truth is chipped away, and everything is disputed on the battle-ground that is politics. It makes working “across the aisle” near impossible. On The Hill, a commenter said, Babs,baby, haven’t you learned yet that if you hit The Donald he is gonna hit you back twice as hard. Go eat some rare caviar from endangered fish in your carbon spewing mega-mansion, fly around on your private jet while lecturing the rest of us how we are destroying the environment and leave the rest of us alone. Barbra Streisand is on the other side, and that is enough. The anger is so great at the other side that they repeat their own side’s lies as truth, and express self-righteous rage and demeaning insults: another commenter says, Old hags mocking fellow Americans and their country which made them millionaires.

The Hill affects a lordly position above the fray: Trump on Monday added that he had never directly insulted reporter Serge Kovaleski’s congenital joint condition, though he inspired outrage last year by making jerky body motions while criticizing Kovaleski, leading some to conclude he was targeting the reporter’s physical challenges. “Some to conclude”! Oh! But Trump was not “criticising” Mr Kovaleski. That is an obvious false characterisation.

In the interests of balance, here is a video saying Trump never mocked Mr Kovaleski. It has a news report at 2.50 saying an investigator said an apartment full of “suspects” celebrated the 9/11 attack. Not thousands, though, and only allegedly celebrating. “I watched in Jersey City, NJ, when thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” No you didn’t, liar.

Added: The NYT had as its main headline on its digital front page on 24 January, Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers. The article began, President Trump used his first official meeting with congressional leaders on Monday to falsely claim that millions of unauthorized immigrants had robbed him of a popular vote majority, a return to his obsession with the election’s results even as he seeks support for his legislative agenda. No, he didn’t. He told a lie, which he does as easily as breathing, and thereby distracted the Times into obsessing over froth. Trump is not stupid. Do him the courtesy of imagining he intends the consequences of his actions. He distracts attention from the damage he is doing by his executive orders, by diverting attention to his lies. He achieves his goals of coarsening public discourse and thereby subverting democracy; and increasing fear, anger and contempt, so shoring up his base.

Benefits of immigration

Immigration is always a benefit to the economy. There are more people, and the new people are more likely to be economically active. The economy grows, and they can be taxed for public benefit, all the things like health, education, natural monopoly utilities and transport which are better done by society, together. No way exists of using competition to make companies serve the public in these services. Public services get better because of immigration. They have got worse since 2010 because of deliberate cuts by the Tory government. The Nationalist lie that immigrants flood our country and damage our public services, used to get hard Right politicians elected who will cut those services further, is a great evil. Cuts inflame people’s fear and anger, and that anger makes people more authoritarian.

Dancers, flibbertigibbets and butterflies like me are in for a hard time.

My friend asked, but why is it always expressed as “good for the economy”? Is there nothing more important? Yes. Immigration is good for the culture, and for each person.

It is difficult. It causes tension. Migrating to a country can curtail horizons rather than expanding them. Polish or Bangladeshi communities exist where some people hardly go out of that small group, or learn any English. Well, people have to achieve the means of survival before they can self-actualise. Any organism explores its surroundings, looking for what will benefit it, avoiding harm, and once they get time to draw breath and really look about themselves loving, creative and adventurous souls will embrace the possibilities of different cultures. Not me, particularly, if I see a “Polski Sklep” I stay out of it, but I am not adventurous cooking even in English cuisine, and once something becomes mainstream, like Italian or Bangladeshi restaurants, I use it happily.

And I feel it is possible to be too assimilated. I was uncomfortable around an Indian Christian woman. I am not sure why, or what she had done I might object to, or what I would rather she had done, but there is something I can’t quite put my finger on. This is a blog, I would never throw out such an inchoate idea in writing published anywhere else.

And yet for adventurous leaders, whom the community will follow, our possibilities are expanded. Culture widens, we get new ways of understanding, expressing ourselves, and relating to others. We have more options, so we are more free.

We move from a homogenous society in which we can predict how people will be, to a diverse society where we accept difference, and that benefits flibbertigibbets and queers, who really have to curtail ourselves to fit a village homogeneity. But no-one fits that homogeneity, really, so everyone benefits.

Except the authoritarians, the grinches, the know-alls and control freaks who want everyone marching in step to the same martial music. Few people are like that naturally- even Mr Farage seeks his own freedom, as he seeks to deny it to everyone else- but people can be forced into that mould, by inflaming and misdirecting their anger and resentment. Diversity is our best defence against totalitarianism.

louise-catherine-breslau-a-young-woman-asleep-in-a-chair

Fake news

You may have seen this graphic. I was looking for a reputable conservative news source, to see the other side’s perspective. I am interested in Mr Trump’s cabinet nominations- how much damage can he do, and how do his supporters see them? I was glad to see The Hill was “reputable” from a conservative viewpoint, so I went there.

political-stance-of-news-sources

The Left worries about Scott Pruitt heading the Environmental Protection Agency. We need to prevent global warming. The Hill publishes an article by Benjamin Zycher, the John G. Searle scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who says Scott Pruitt is precisely the right person to clean the EPA up. Commenters say things like Roll Train, Drain the Swamp or Drill, baby, drill, as well as longer, mostly derisive comments.

Zycher testified before the Senate Finance Committee that the EPA analysis of the costs of carbon emission was “the most dishonest exercise in political arithmetic” I had ever seen produced by the federal bureaucracy. The EPA benefit/cost analyses… literally are bogus. In the article he gives one example to back that up.

The EPA has published estimates of the effects of its greenhouse-gas efficiency rule for medium- and heavy trucks:

The results of the analysis, summarized in Table VII-37, demonstrate that relative to the reference case, by 2100 … global mean temperature is estimated to be reduced by 0.0026 to 0.0065 °C, and sea-level rise is projected to be reduced by approximately 0.023 to 0.057 cm.

The EPA then states that “the projected reductions in atmospheric CO2, global mean temperature, sea level rise, and ocean pH are meaningful in the context of this action.” And so we arrive at the benefit/cost conclusion, given in all seriousness:

[We] estimate that the proposed standards would result in net economic benefits exceeding $100 billion, making this a highly beneficial rule. 

Can anyone believe that a temperature effect by 2100 measured in ten-thousandths of a degree, or sea-level effects measured in thousandths of a centimeter, could yield over $100 billion in net economic benefits?

How is that possible?

23 to 57 thousandths of a centimetre, or in other words hundredths of a centimetre. That detail shows shallow dismissiveness, a bias. But it is worse: I looked at the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles; Phase 2 Proposed Rule Document. It is very long, and there is no contents page, but CTRL-F finds Zycher’s quotes. The savings are not stated to arise from a temperature effect or sea-level effect, but from three ratios of cost effectiveness:

  1. Total costs per gallon of fuel conserved.
  2. Technology costs per ton of GHG emissions reduced.
  3. Technology costs minus fuel savings per ton of GHG emissions reduced.

The saving arises from projected reduction in the use of fuel of 75bn gallons. That is a cost of forty cents per gallon saved.

There are conservative arguments that these matters should be left to manufacturers rather than government. The upfront cost of technology will be passed on to buyers of trucks. However, 40c per gallon sounds good to me. Zycher has not bothered with the arguments, but with a deliberate distortion. My quote is five paragraphs before his, so he will have seen it. Experts might dispute the EPA’s statistics or calculations but I only needed a few clicks and a few minutes to refute Zycher’s statement.

There are free marketeer arguments as well: regulation of trucks in the US is a “non-tariff barrier” making it harder for foreign manufacturers to export to the US; but inhibiting free trade might please those commenters.

This is not fake news of the “Pope endorses Trump” variety. Older language will suffice- Zycher is lying. That is wrong.

Has Mr Pruitt denied anthropogenic climate change? Greenpeace’s evidence is sparse, but he wrote, Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. CO2 in the atmosphere has increased because of human action. This warms the planet. This is not disputed except by science-deniers and obfuscators.

Interest has moved on, by now. Most commenting ended three days ago. Chris Stone, a horrible man who trashes Environmentalist arguments- “Try to keep up.” “Are you always this stupid”. “Scurry off, hug your tree and then go to your cry room, moron”- said the EPA Falsely Tied Hydraulic Fracturing to Ground Water Impacts, citing this press release from climate denier Senator Jim Imhofe. Does fracking pollute groundwater? A study by Acton Mickelson Environmental, Inc. in Wyoming found that there is gas in the drinking water, but that The potential contribution of gas seepage along gas wells versus natural upward migration of gas is undefined and would be difficult to quantify– the gas might have been in the water, even without fracking- and total dissolved solids exceed drinking water standards or comparison values in almost all the samples. It is not as clear as Senator Imhofe’s press release implies. There should be Continued evaluation of surface pits for potential contribution to water-quality issues.

What non-experts can do is limited. I am satisfied that Zycher is lying. I don’t think Stone has reason to be satisfied the EPA’s connection of fracking to ground water impact was false, let alone deliberately so, and if false it could be only one mistake, so that most EPA activity is still in good faith and reliable.

I have not shown that Imhofe is wrong, or that the Wyoming report admits fracking pollutes ground water. I have made selective quotes from the executive briefing. I disbelieve Imhofe because of his climate denialism. He lies about one reason why fossil fuels should not be extracted, so I cannot trust him on another alleged reason. I see from the Wyoming report that the gas, and the fracturing, is much deeper than the deepest well, and it might seem reasonable that something so deep might not affect water hundreds of feet above, but I really don’t know. If it were my drinking water, I would want to be certain it was safe.

We need to be careful of what we believe, and hold sites like The Hill to account for disseminating falsehoods. One deliberately deceptive article does not mean The Hill is never reliable, but it cannot be taken for granted.

Benjamin Zycher attacking the EPA.
The Proposed Rule document.

Rules for survival

How might we survive the new world order? In the UK, we are six months ahead into the darkness the US is entering.

Maria Alexandrovna Gessen would know, having lived under Mr Putin, and left Russia in 2013 because she feared as a lesbian that her adopted son would be taken from her. The day after the election, she wrote her rules.

1. Believe the autocrat, when he says something ridiculous or vile. He may lie as he will, pretending to consider more sensible views. He met Mr Gore before appointing Mr Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. He met Mr Romney before appointing Mr Tillerson. He was playing with you. Yes, he means to lock her up. He will twist judicial appointments to that end.

2. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. The world has not ended, and life proceeds; but calamitous change has begun.

3. Institutions will not save you. Trump will work to undermine and control them. Honest journalists will lose access.

4. Be outraged. Maintain your capacity for shock. There are some things which people do better together, through government, than by unaccountable and opaque foreign companies. In the UK market fundamentalism rules, seeking support from Nationalist stoking of hatred of minorities and foreigners- winning support through nostalgia for strong civil society even as it uses its power to destroy it. Probation services should be carried out impartially by the state, as rehabilitation is too important for the grasping incompetence of MTC. The sell-off continues.

5. Don’t make compromises. Trump will corrupt all who work for him.

6. Remember the future. Resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be normal.

The Electoral College will not save you. All those minor Republican electors will vote for Mr Trump, or enough for him to have a majority, despite Alexander Hamilton’s hope in [people] most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. They will not vote for Mrs Clinton, and if enough deserted Trump it would be for the House of Representatives to select a president.

TV drama gives a lead. There is the charmless, endless NCIS, in which the police, trusted authority figures, find awful criminals and put them away; but three new shows seem more realistic. We have seen two episodes of This is us in the UK, and it seemed to me to have sweet outcomes while raising subjects which could end very very badly. Spoilers for those episodes. A woman tells her husband to stop drinking. He does so, because he loves her. A man finds his father, who abandoned him as a baby. He wants to say “screw you” and storm off, but instead invites the man into his home. The father spends all day away- he could be drinking or taking drugs, but instead he is feeding his cat. In each case we get the happy outcome where Love wins, and are left to imagine how bad it could have been. Timeless is hokum, in which a woman is told she has to save humanity by going back in time to thwart a master-criminal who wishes to change the timeline. It could be the good guys, authority figures, a government agency and a billionaire tech genius, saving the world, but already there is moral ambiguity. Already we see we cannot trust them.

And Class, a children’s spin-off from Doctor Who, already shown in Britain Canada and Australia, to be shown by BBC America, has teenagers saving the World, but it’s a darker, stranger world than children’s programmes when I was a bairn. The authority figures, teachers, are not trustworthy, and anyone can die.

Drama matters as part of the national conversation, affecting how we see events. Powerless despite our facebook grousing, I find some hope in dismantling trust. We have to look out for each other.

Masha Gessen.

Anger, truth and politics

Why would anyone create pizzagate memes, anyway? How can we respond?

I had not heard of John Podesta before the RussiLeaks email dump. Some of his emails concerned domestic trivia like getting pizza. Pizza was seen as a code for child sex, and the links between them endlessly elaborated on 4Chan. Why?

Message boards members like attention. Creativity, originality, clever expression and even playfulness bring Attention. Members flock with like minds in echo chambers and hugboxes. Manosphere people, white nationalists and others who hate Mrs Clinton, congregate. If you do not feel you get sufficient respect yourself, you may resent moral injunctions to respect others. Unsuccessful millennial males resent being told to check their privilege.

The hatred and anger is enough. Accusations of child abuse and child murder express that anger- they are proportionate to the levels of anger felt. If no expression of anger is acceptable, then any may erupt. It does not need to be true. So Michael Flynn junior tweets, Until pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. Well, Birtherism, never credible, rumbles on. Pizzagate expresses rage against the “liberal elite”, who the 4Chanists think are so horrible to them (for ignoring or lecturing them): it is as bad as if they were child-sex-cannibals.

Michael Flynn senior tweeted U decide- NYPD blows whistle on new Hillary emails- money laundering, sex crimes w children etc, though that tweet was about false stories connecting Mrs Clinton to Jeffrey Epstein, not “Pizzagate”. The general is a disastrous choice for National Security Adviser, a prolific source of conspiracy theories known as “Flynn facts”, but not a 4chan addict.

The President-Elect expresses such anger. He claims stories of Russia working to influence the election in his favour are valueless, the product of Democrat sore losers: These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That derision is music to the ears of the 4Chanists. Derision is the opposite of respect. Feeling derided, they deride back.

If we feel we have something in common, then we will show respect and listen to the other side. Trump can whip up his own side, with derision and anger, accentuating the divides in society. He is not a fool. He uses it as a weapon to build political support. Lies are his tools to build resentment, rage, and derision, so he may destroy as he wishes, and profit from it.

It is tempting to use anger in response. Certainly, anger can give energy. Charles M. Blow writes, Angry yet? Yes. Good!…This is the reason I write, to remind people of honor and courage; to tell them that their cause isn’t lost, that their destiny is victory. Maybe I am confined by my craft, pumping out polemics that, it is my great hope, help to stiffen the spines and lift the spirits of those determined to stare down the threat. However, I fear that such angry confrontation may make the gulf between us worse.

Can we use truth to overcome Trump’s weapons?

I am a critical realist. I believe there is a “Real world” where we interact and where there is objective truth- but it is too complex for human beings to grasp. It is worth the attempt. The closer we get to understanding truth, the better we respond- but perhaps (thinking it through now) there is an optimum level of truth, for each individual. After a certain approximation, greater effort to be more certain of the truth will not yield proportionate returns. If the truth seems to be that you have no hope, denial and lies may be comforting.

People see things differently. Nietzsche did not say, And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music, though he came close. For Nietzsche, accusations of sickness go both ways:

Even in the German Middle Ages, under the same power of Dionysus, constantly growing hordes thronged from place to place, singing and dancing…. There are people who, from a lack of experience or out of apathy, turn mockingly or pityingly away from such phenomena as from a “sickness of the people,” with a sense of their own health. These poor people naturally do not have any sense of how deathly and ghost-like this very “health” of theirs sounds, when the glowing life of the Dionysian throng roars past them.

And, he wrote, ‘You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist’. That is called “Perspectivism”.

I was fascinated by Jack Maden’s To Be Frank magazine article on the quote, aimed at Millennials. It addresses a complex philosophical question in a simple way. It starts by asking its readers to digest and unpack the meaning of the quote, fearful that they will merely see it, declare it deep, and move on to click-bait, forgetting it; because their attention spans are hurling some real angry, sustained abuse my way: ‘BORED. THIS IS BORING’. Maden summarises Nietzsche: there is a multitude of differing perspectives that are subject to cultural, societal and biological limitations. It is only through combining these different views that we can begin to appreciate a broader understanding of the universe we live in. Against that, he pits scientific investigators, patiently accumulating data and mathematical theorising to create objective explanations. (My answer there- Newton was a genius, explaining the observations through his theory of gravity, and Newton was wrong. 19th century observations demonstrated that.) All human observations are subjective, and have different meanings for each of us. Metaphor dances beyond objectivity.

How do the denizens of 4Chan or Reddit view truth? Their attention spans might not be long enough to consider evidence, preferring the quick hit of a witty allusion- These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It mocks The Enemy, and encourages Our Own Side. Your resentment and anger are Right! You are the Good People! Let me smite your enemies- those who tell you what to do, the Liberal Metropolitan Elites- for you!

They follow the leaders of the Right. No-one says that voter suppression is necessary because they don’t want people of colour to vote, they say it is necessary because of fraudulent voting. Disregard for truth did not start with Trump, it has been happening all this century.

I am glad when people speak up for truth. I hope that people can be taught to value truth, and to see that seeking the truth is worth the effort- but that is not an easy lesson for people in despair, who enjoy the buzz they get from anger. What good will truth do them? Why should they listen to you?

The antidote to derision is respect. The antidote to anger is Love. Love can still be derided, called patronising, and portrayed as weakness, but it is the only way. In the world of Trump and Farage, where centre-right Conservatism bows to the Nationalists, we have a long way to go.

The Charles M Blow article is illustrated with a protestor holding up a banner- THE FUTURE IS NASTY. Women have adopted Trump’s arrogant dismissal of Mrs Clinton as a “Nasty woman”- no more deference! Self-respect is necessary; but the energy of anger must not give rise to an angry reaction, but a loving response.

From Common Prayer- a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:

Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice.  …  A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.

Denial

Here’s Donny on hairspray.

Well, yes CFCs can affect the ozone layer. Gas can leave his apartment, or he would suffocate. It then circulates through the atmosphere and catalyses a reaction, breaking down the O3, causing a 4% reduction worldwide since the 1970s as well as the holes at the poles. That lets solar UV light reach the surface of the planet, causing skin cancer, cataracts, and damage to crops. The gases we used to replace CFCs mitigate the effect.

Reducing CO2 is complex, but replacing CFCs with HFCs was comparatively simple. The treaties are old, and more or less observed. So why deny that reasonable precautions are necessary? Because if you feel you have enough problems, you focus on the most pressing. If someone tells you you can’t use spray cans any more, and you can’t think of an alternative, they are loading more problems on you, and you don’t want to deal with that one. So you say, that does not make sense to me. And they explain catalysis and you don’t want to listen. How reassuring to be told that you don’t have to, that your own instincts- my deodorant can’t damage the atmosphere- are sound.

Donald gives false hope. He reassures. Those people telling you what to do, they’re fools, right? You don’t want to listen to them? You don’t need to! Go with your gut instincts, and don’t let experts tell you what to do!

Saving the planet is a group activity. Countries need to work together. People need to do more, to stop buying certain things, to sort their rubbish out. If you can’t afford petrol, you don’t want to be told that the price needs to go up to reduce CO2.

Warming the planet in thirty or seventy years is overwhelming and distant at the same time. There needs to be group action for the good of all. But the Right does not like group action, it wants everyone to work for themselves, and the market to make wealth gush up to the wealthy- to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance. So oil companies will continue to profit from extraction of hydrocarbons. And voters go along with this. It feels like freedom. Very little benefit comes from one person recycling their milk cartons anyway.

As for me, I like to work on one problem at a time, and if others tell me I should be working on something else, I resent it. Denial is comforting. If a problem is too great, well, maybe it will never happen. We go on as before. If a problem is insoluble, well, I’ve got to die of something.

Working together is ennobling and empowering. In Britain we have great love for the NHS, the symbol of our society working together for the good of all, and the extreme Right used that to get us to vote for them, against immigration, even as they tear it down.

Knowing nothing

I know nothing.

The Rabbi was in the square when the Cossack shouted at him, “Hey! Rabbi! Where’re you going!”

The Rabbi responded, “I don’t know”.

The Cossack got angry. “You’re trying to make a fool of me. It won’t work. You always go to the synagogue at this time. I’ll show you you can’t make a fool of me. You’re coming to the lock-up.”

In the lock-up, the Rabbi said to the Cossack, “You asked me where I was going, and I did not know.”

On my facebook feed I can find an understanding of Mr Trump. He is casually corrupt; he has forgotten any number of campaign promises already- the wall, in many places, will just be a fence, and he is not going to torture suspected terrorists; and he appoints dreadful people to his cabinet, including the racist Steve Bannon, the racist Jeff Sessions, and the climate denialist Myron Ebell. He threatens the end of the Republic as a functioning democracy, and may be a kleptocrat as formerly seen in the Philippines and Nigeria. We must be saved from him, by the Electoral College whose purpose is to prevent demagogues (rather than to give a disproportionately large voice to smaller states) or by Jill Stein’s recounts, though no recount has ever overturned such a large majority.

Unfortunately, other people simply do not recognise this. Lots of people are inspired by hope in him and what he will achieve.

“NW” by Zadie Smith is an angry novel. (I saw the TV dramatisation.) Keisha from the council estate works hard, goes to university, and becomes barrister Natalie, effortless dinner party hostess. She is instructed, not to represent the prosecution but merely to appear as a black barrister in the prosecution of a black man, before a black jury. She downloads a hookup app, and sexually humiliates random men. She stands on the parapet of a bridge over a busy road. An old friend begs her to come down, then walks off, loathing her. In the end she goes back to her childhood best friend, who has not had such a career, who is white, and they slump on a hammock. I was reminded, she cannot be colour-blind, she is always aware of skin colour and its social effect. It is chaotic and episodic, not just the happy story of a woman succeeding against all the odds.

The Investigatory Powers Bill requires every ISP to keep our Histories for a year, to surrender on demand to any number of government agencies, including the Department for Work and Pensions. No doubt the DWP could disqualify any number of benefit cheats, requiring them to pay back any money paid to them, on the basis that their internet practices were inconsistent with being unfit for work, or their eBay activities showed them to be self-employed traders, a conclusion to be applauded by the Daily Mail. Any number of criminals could be unmasked. Religious extremists may also be caught. Parliament Must Debate the Investigatory Powers Bill Again, said HuffPo. It has been passed by Commons and Lords. Perhaps the Queen will save us from it- as much chance as Jill Stein’s recounts.

from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. I find this verse unpleasant to contemplate. I know I am alright for the moment. What I have, perhaps, is false hope.

suzanne-valadon-self-portrait