Spare a thought for Barron Trump

I see everyone talking about how people shouldn’t make fun of Barron Trump, and I’m going to join the chorus.

I’m about the same age as Chelsea Clinton. I remember when Bill Clinton became President, and the media had a field day in bullying Chelsea. Oh yes, it was everyone’s favorite hobby to talk about how ugly the new First Daughter was. Such a great way to treat a 12-year-old girl.

So with that in mind, wouldn’t it be cool if we could now be the country that doesn’t gang up on kids who have to live in a fishbowl? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could choose not to repeat the abuses we heaped on Chelsea Clinton? Wouldn’t it set a great example if we could make the distinction between DJ Rump and all he represents, and a 10-year-old boy who didn’t ask for any of this?

And after 4 years (hopefully JUST 4 years) of DJ Rump’s time in Washington, plus several years more after that of being DJ Rump’s son, suppose Barron grows up to be his father’s worst nightmare? Imagine if Barron becomes the kind of person who can hit back against the damage his father’s done to our country?

Because if that happens, then we’ll be glad we handled him gently when he was 10. If he grows up to be his father’s son, then he’ll be grown up, and THEN we can be vicious to him.

Tradition, Big Weddings and Shitty Parents

There’s a recent post at Captain Awkward in which the letter writer, who seems like a really nice person and deserves better than any of this shit, basically asks this: “My father mistreats me in every possible way, so how do I include him in my wedding?”

Between her letter, the Captain’s answer, and the stories being shared in the comment section, there are some things I want to talk about today. One is that the letter writer is a great example of a grown daughter who should have cut her father out of her life years ago. (Her mother and stepfather are good to her, while her father and stepmother are awful.) I think more grown children should cut ties with their parents, not because that’s a good thing unto itself, but because there are a lot of parents out there who are terrible people and their adult sons and daughters would lead much better lives without them.

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A pro-choice mother is not an oxymoron.

We have the news that Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, is now expecting her first two children. There are some anti-abortion activists who find this really confusing.

The reaction beyond NARAL, however, has been much more complicated, Hogue says. “There is this whole mentality that anyone who fights for the rights that we fight for must hate children and not want to parent,” she says. “So to have the leader of a reproductive rights organization — an abortion rights organization — show up pregnant, it’s just jaw-dropping.”

At one point, she says, she walked into a hearing on Capitol Hill and an antiabortion advocate looked at her swollen belly and asked, “Is that real?”

There’s no good reason why it should be jaw-dropping for a reproductive rights leader to show up with a baby bump. There’s no conflict between advocating for the option of legal, safe abortion care, and having babies. Perhaps the name of the organization (National Abortion Rights Action League) causes a teensy bit of confusion, but I assure that “abortion rights” is not equivalent to “compulsory abortion.” Plenty of pro-choice feminists are also mothers. This is possible because sometimes, people actually want to have children. They don’t need to be forced, and they shouldn’t be forced.

Their confusion over Ms. Hogue’s pregnancy sort of gives the impression that anti-abortion activism is premised on a view of children as a burden, and that people will only become parents if they see no choice in the matter.

I’m sure the majority of anti-abortion activists don’t think this way. I’m sure most see nothing wrong with Ms. Hogue becoming a mother to twins. I sure hope so.

Also: Congratulations, Ms. Hogue! Yay, babies!

Hunger is not a matter of opinion, Mr. Kristol.

Y’all don’t worry about me and my finances; my employer is a contractor, not a government agency, and we are operating through the shutdown until further notice. If the pile o’ crap on my desk is any indication, no one is putting me on unpaid leave any time soon.

Even so, it’s not only Fed employees who are economically affected by the shutdown; among the non-essential functions on hiatus until Congress gets over its tantrum is nutritional assistance, including WIC, which provides targeted assistance for pregnant and nursing mothers and children under 5.

Got that? Making sure small children and their gestating/lactating mothers have food on the table is considered NON-ESSENTIAL. Because of the shutdown, tens thousands of people either have lost or are likely to lose their food benefits very soon.

According to Bill Kristol, however, that’s not really a big deal:

“It’s not going to be the end of the world, honestly, even if you’re on nutrition assistance from the federal government,” Kristol added. “I believe that no one is going to starve in Arkansas because of the shutdown.”

This isn’t about what anyone believes. States are running out of funding for nutritional assistance because of the government shutdown, and many low-income families are losing their benefits as a result. That the funding for nutritional assistance will come back once the government gets running again does nothing for small children and pregnant women whose pantries are emptying out right now.  Try telling a hungry kid not to worry, it shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks before his Mommy can visit the supermarket again. Go ahead, try it.

However, Mr. Kristol is effectively insulated from the experiences of low-income people, so he doesn’t have to see anyone going hungry. And if he doesn’t have to deal with it, then it’s not really an issue, right? Right? Picture some nice charities coming up with food for everyone’s tables, and call it a day. Reality is what we decide it is.

 

The system is fucked. Where are the vigilantes?

Dahlia Lithwick writes about two high-profile rape cases in Slate. One of those cases is that of Stacey Rambold’s non-sentence for his rape of Cherice Morales, but she doesn’t have any new info on that. We do have some more details from CBS News on Judge Baugh’s remarks:

In handing down the sentence, Baugh also said the 14-year-old victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher. The girl’s mother, Auleia Hanlon, stormed out of the courtroom yelling, “You people suck!,” the Billings-Gazette reported.

Baugh told the newspaper Tuesday that he stood by his comments that the victim was a troubled youth who was older than her age when it came to sexual matters. That didn’t make Rambold’s sex with the teen any less of a crime, he said.

“Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,” Baugh told the paper. “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”

and contrast that with this:

“I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it that way, it’s crazy,” Baugh said. “No wonder people are upset. I’d be upset, too, if that happened.”

Yes, Judge Baugh, that is exactly what happened. You assigned a sentence for rape of 30 days. That is what you did, and we are right to be upset.

Also, was it “horrible enough as it is just given her age,” or was she “older than her chronological age”? Just because you make mea culpa gestures at reporters, your “reasoning” doesn’t become any more coherent or less despicable. You’re all like, “Okay, a 14-year-old can’t consent, but since he didn’t beat her up, I’m not actually sentencing him for rape. And she was actually older than 14 in terms of sexual matters. Because…that’s the way I’ve chosen to think of the case.” Keep on digging that hole, Judge! I’m sure you’ll love it when you reach Afghanistan!

The other case in Lithwick’s article is the one in Massachusetts, in which a judge’s idea of a “sentence” for a rapist is to have him engage with the court system to take responsibility for his victim’s child.

The first story comes from Massachusetts, where a plaintiff known only as H.T. has sued the commonwealth in federal court for forcing her into a long-term relationship with her rapist. In 2009 H.T. became pregnant as the result of a rape that occurred when she was 14—in middle school. Her rapist, Jamie Melendez, was 20. Melendez pleaded guilty to the rape in 2011 and was sentenced to 16 years of probation. But the conditions of his probation also included an order that he “initiate proceedings in family court and comply with that court’s orders until the child reaches adulthood.” In short, according to the new complaint filed by H.T., the man who raped her was ordered to “initiate proceedings in family court, declare paternity as to the child born of his crime (paternity had already been determined in the criminal case, via DNA testing), and comply with the family court’s orders throughout the probationary period.”

This forced relationship between the victim and her assailant was judicially mandated despite the fact that the “plaintiff and her mother were adamantly opposed to participation in family court proceedings and repeatedly expressed this sentiment to state officials.”

In 2011 the court ordered Melendez to pay $110 per week in child support. Never having seen the child, he sought visitation and then allegedly offered to withdraw his request for visitation in exchange for not having to pay child support. H.T. asked the criminal court judge to order Melendez to pay criminal restitution instead of child support, keeping herself and her child out of his life, but the judge refused. The Supreme Judicial Court for Massachusetts found that she lacked standing to challenge the sentencing judge’s order. So H.T. filed suit arguing that she wants nothing to do with the child’s father, and that she “be liberated from a state court order that not only imposes unlawfully on her liberty for 16 years, but also obligates her with the unwanted and inappropriate responsibility for ensuring Melendez’s compliance with the conditions of his probation.”

I have more! From the link in Ms. Lithwick’s article:

 If Melendez pays child support, he has the right to request visitation, involvement in the child’s education, and influence where the child lives, the lawyer noted. If the victim fails to show up at any of the family court dates scheduled over the next 16 years, she risks losing custody of her own child.

[…]

The victim, who just graduated high school, never sought to prosecute Melendez, and is focused only on breaking off legal ties between them.

Not enough pinot noir in the world for this.

The judge’s name isn’t in either of the above linked articles, but a little Googling reveals that the judge in question is Thomas McGuire.

Judge McGuire is apparently under the impression that Jamie Melendez’s crime was fathering a child for whom he didn’t want to take responsibility. Whereas we plebes seem to think that he raped a 14-year-old girl.

H.T. and her family would actually be better off if they hadn’t reported the rape. The courts are basically punishing this young woman for having spoken up about her rape, and for keeping her child. She would also be in a better position if she’d had an abortion. I guess Judge McGuire thinks she had the baby because she wants to keep Melendez on a leash? Obviously she doesn’t. Obviously she wants Melendez to stay as far away from her, and her child, as possible. She and her family are not interested in his $110 per week, but the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts doesn’t give a fuck about the girl who’s been victimized and the family who’ve stood by her and helped care for her baby. Nope, they don’t get a say in any of this.

I understand that modern civilizations tend to take paternity very, very seriously, and that society would look extremely different if we weren’t so gung-ho about making sure that every child is connected to the guy who contributed sperm, but there are times when we need to compartmentalize. The victim and her family do not need the baby’s “father” to be “responsible” in the child’s upbringing, they need to keep him far away from them so they can get on with their lives. It is not in that child’s interest to have hir sperm-contributor present in hir life, it is in the child’s interest to grow up with a mentally healthy mother. Forcing your dick into a girl’s vadge doesn’t make you a parent, it makes you a predator. If the court system fails to recognize that, then they can hardly expect women and girls of childbearing age to report rapes. They can also expect all, not some, pregnant rape victims to seek abortions. If this is what she can expect from the justice system, even the most ardently pro-womb-control woman will make an exception for herself.

Fuck this shit. Fuck all of it. We can’t depend on the justice system to deal with rapists, or even to treat victims with a modicum of decency. If some masked crusaders start popping up and murdering accused rapists, let’s not act all surprised.

Here are some other charming stories, if you have a strong stomach, about how predators operate and how the justice system treats victims who have the temerity to report:

Why I didn’t consent. Why I reported. Why I didn’t. 

We call them pigs for a reason.

I am a false rape allegation statistic.

Misery Loves Company: Parenting Edition

Yahoo! reposted this Babble piece by someone named Buzz Bishop, who wants to complain about married couples without kids living in the suburbs.

My best friend is married, no kids. He moved in to his childhood neighborhood, across from his old school which is now closed. It sits empty because too many empty nesters sucked the demand dry. Meanwhile, the edges of our city have kids being bused as schools are bursting at the seams.

If you don’t want to have kids, get out of neighborhoods with schools. Move downtown, or to a chic restaurant district where you need half the space and your “no curfew” lifestyle won’t be cramped by strollers on the streets.

This could have been a valid position. The case could be made that those who have chosen not to have kids should leave more space in the suburbs for those who do, because it’s the families with young kids who actually need that suburban space. He quickly abandons the topic of downtown neighborhoods being more suited to the childfree, however, because that’s nowhere near as much fun as sneering at people who aren’t like him.

As many of us delay having kids until deep into our 30s, and then some find it’s too late and skip the process altogether, we’re finding ourselves with a Me generation of adults, not adolescents.

Yes, a recent study shows that married couples without children are happier than those with, but selfishness will do that to you. Besides, I could just as easily point to a study done a year earlier that says breeders are happier than non-breeders.

If selfishness makes us happy, then perhaps we should all be selfish a bit more often?

If parenting causes people to develop this attitude, then no wonder more people are skipping the process. Dude, I will buy you a ladder so you can get over yourself. Enduring the stress of childrearing does not make you a superior human being.

Really, REALLY Bad Arguments Against Marriage Equality

My attention was drawn to…THIS, today. It kind of makes me feel sorry for the opposition. Maybe, kind of, almost. If I’m inarticulate, it’s because reading this has caused me to lose brain cells.

For Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8, California’s gay-marriage ban, the worst moment of the proceedings probably came when Elena Kagan zeroed in on the most consistent and conspicuous weakness in the anti-gay-marriage case, namely that the unchanging purpose of marriage is procreation. (And in that purpose lies the state’s constitutionally defensible rationale—something above mere animus towards gays and lesbians—for excluding them from the institution.) Cooper had been explaining his side’s concern “that redefining marriage as a genderless institution will sever its abiding connection to its historical traditional procreative purpose” and “refocus” it—away from children and toward “the emotional needs and desires of adults.” Suppose, Justice Kagan asked Cooper, that a state were to pass a law saying it would no longer give marriage licenses to heterosexual couples in which both people were over fifty-five. Would that be constitutional? No, said Cooper. But why not, Kagan persisted, if gay couples could be constitutionally denied marriage rights for the reasons he stated? Cooper mustered a rather weak empiricism: “Even with respect to couples over the age of fifty-five, it’s very rare that both parties to the couple are infertile”; men, he said, “rarely outlive their fertility.” Kagan was skeptical. “I can assure you that if both the woman and the man are over the age of fifty-five there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage,” she said, eliciting the biggest laugh of the morning.

I’m so sorry that I wasn’t sitting next to Justice Kagan. It would have been so, so much fun to ask Mr. Cooper to elaborate.

Dude…are you aware that a post-menopausal heterosexual couple is not HALF-fertile? If the woman can’t get pregnant, then she and her husband, together, are not fertile AT ALL. A heterosexual relationship involving a woman who has outlived her menstrual cycles is not a procreative one. Honestly, young lesbian couples make more babies than 55-year-old straight couples. You see, Mr. Cooper, the role of the uterus in reproduction is absolutely essential and non-fungible. It’s all or nothing, and it’s very costly to the body. Sperm, on the other hand, is not that difficult to acquire!

Shame on you, PGCPS!

This is not the way to teach kids that bullying is wrong. This is, in fact, part of the problem.

Starting last fall, some seventh grade health classes in the Prince George’s County Public Schools system were shown an anti-bullying video that promoted gay-to-straight therapy as an option for LGBTQ youth. When City Desk started asking question about the video this week, the school system pulled it from classrooms. Despite the best efforts of a prominent therapist in the homophobic ex-gay movement who is also a member of the school system’s Health Council, students learning about bullying will no longer learn about the widely discredited form of counseling.

I live in Prince George’s County. I attended its public schools for twelve years. We voted over 50% in favor of Question 6, which means we made a major contribution to legalizing same-sex marriage in our state. Our teachers gave us factual, evidence-based sex ed when I was a student. The school system really ought to know better than to buy into this shit.

Telling bullied children that they need to change themselves—particularly when the changes are to aspects of their identities that aren’t within their control and really don’t hurt anyone—to stop other children from tormenting them is the very opposite of bullying prevention. It tells the bullies that they are in the right. It tells the kids on the receiving end of peer abuse that they deserve it. One might even call this strategy a form of bullying in itself.

ETA: Zinnia Jones brings us a little reminder of just how well ex-gay therapy actually works.

It is not a crime to have boobs in 6th grade.

I want to chase them all out of the building with a baseball bat. From Jezebel:

“It makes me feel like now you are telling me it’s my fault, it’s God’s fault the way he made her. The lady on the phone said they could transfer my daughter and said her boobs were so large she will always get teased. And the only suggestion she had for me is to have my daughter get a breast reduction,” said Jackson.

I had the opposite problem in adolescence, and this still makes me see red.

This is a theme I’m exploring in a Young Adult novel that I have in the planning stages: society says that All Children Must Be Educated. Therefore, the school system has a responsibility to see that the children do not destroy one another. It would be nice to say that the parents are responsible for making sure their children do not engage in bullying, but unfortunately, a lot of parents are not on the ball.

If you are in the position of educating the next generation, and you see some children abusing another because of her body type, and your response is that the bullied child should change her body type? You are not only abdicating your responsibility to the bullied child, you are, in fact, contributing to the problem.

If the school system does not have the resources to deal with the bullies, AKA the children who are actually causing the problems, then they should be given the proper resources. A girl with big tits has just as much right as anyone else to a safe educational environment. If the school system doesn’t know how to make the offending children leave her alone, then they should provide her with a private tutor. Telling her mother to put her daughter under the knife to stop the bullying is the same as telling the girl that she deserves to be tormented because of the way her body looks. It is an unacceptable response. Don’t fucking tell me that everyone is an asshole at that age; they are not. Children who behave like animals every time they see someone who looks different need to be taught not to behave like animals. If they cannot learn that simple lesson, they should not be allowed to run loose.

On the cause of the Sandy Hook shooting…

Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a meme going around to answer the question of why the Christian God did not prevent the shooting.

“God is not allowed in schools.”

I think most of the people getting behind this meme are generally decent people who love their country and respect their fellow Americans of other religious beliefs, including none at all. With that in mind, I want to tell you how this answer looks to those of us on the outside.

You’re effectively telling us that your God could have stopped Adam Lanza from going into that school and shooting all those people, most of whom were little kids, but he chose not to intervene, because the U.S. makes public schools a secular zone.

I grew up Christian, so I know that God is supposed to be extremely powerful. The God that I was taught to believe in would not let a small thing like the First Amendment get in the way of protecting children from getting shot while they sit in their classrooms. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how my childhood church would answer the question of why God didn’t make Adam Lanza use the first bullet on himself, but they would not tell us that those children and staff were killed because of the nation’s decision to make public schools a religion-neutral zone.

To those of us who believe in no God at all, you’re saying that your God is an asshole. You’re telling us that making everyone worship Him is more important to God than saving children’s lives.

To those who believe in different gods, or different ideas of the same God, you’re telling them that they are part of the problem because they want their children to go to school in a non-sectarian environment. You are asking them to think there would be less violence in the world if they allowed your religious traditions to be honored in the public sphere, at taxpayer expense, above their own.

All that said, I think this idea is most offensive to American Christians who respect the separation of church and state, because it’s ostensibly their God that chose not to prevent Adam Lanza from killing all those people. You’re also telling them that they are contributing to the problem by not demanding that their religious traditions be honored above all others.

Most of all, the message you’re sending is that a mass murder with mostly very young victims is a good time to discuss the merits of church-state separation. This may seem fair enough, because a lot of other people are using this occasion to point out the dangers of handguns. However, there is an important difference between God and guns, which is: we don’t need to debate whether guns exist. We can all look at a gun placed in front of us, take it apart, and learn the mechanics of how that gun can be used to kill people. In this case, we all know for a fact that guns were used to enable the killing of many people in a short span of time. There is no faith involved in understanding gun-related deaths. The evidence is readily available to all of us. The existence of God, and especially the supposed role of God in this tragedy, is all a matter of dueling beliefs. So, now you’re telling us that a lot of violence could be prevented if we all started worshipping the same God and in the same way that you do, but where’s your evidence? Why should we believe you over all other faith traditions, as well as the physics of handgun technology, the biology of death by bullet wound, and the sociology and psychology of violence? I don’t doubt that your intentions are genuine, and that you really think what this country needs more than anything is more love of God. The shooting at Sandy Hook was not a crime against God nearly as much as it was a crime against human beings. If you think your religion has a monopoly on compassion for human beings, you are sorely mistaken.