From the category archives:

USA

I’m almost hesitant to share this piece from The Atlantic because I don’t want to send the wrong message. Sexual assault is a huge problem on college and university campuses, and in general I’m strongly in favour of policies designed to believe victims when they come forward and to stamp out assault and toxic rape culture.

But… even an accusation of assault can ruin someone’s life. And sacrificing due process on an altar of doing the right thing isn’t the answer, either.

On too many campuses, a new attitude about due process—and the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty—has taken hold, one that echoes the infamous logic of Edwin Meese, who served in the Reagan administration as attorney general, in his argument against the Miranda warning. “The thing is,” Meese said, “you don’t have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That’s contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.”

Let me be clear: In the overwhelming majority of cases of campus sexual assault, the problem is that the victim is dismissed, disparaged or just plain not believed. Far, far, far too many assailants still get off scot-free or with a slap on the wrist. This is especially (though not exclusively) true when the assailant is a white male and/or the victim is a female person of colour.

Still, the Atlantic has done a good job with this series so far of delving into how complicated these cases can be. So I’m posting this, because I do think it’s a balanced, nuanced article that is worth a read. In our social media era, someone’s reputation can be thoroughly destroyed even before they are proven guilty of any crime, and that’s a big problem.

In an ideal world, the justice system would function much better for sexual assault victims, and there wouldn’t be any need for these sorts of campus policies. But we don’t live in that world. So some of these policies — separating a victim from their alleged assailant, not forcing them to attend classes or live in dorms or attend social events together, not allowing accused assailants to attack their victims’ sexual histories or reputations — exist for very good reasons.

Still, though, in a just and moral society, the idea that a few innocent people would be acceptable collateral damage of a policy designed for the greater good is a profoundly troubling one.

There aren’t any easy answers here. But there are some good questions that we should all be asking ourselves.

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Barack Obama broke his silence that he’s mostly maintained since Trump took office, by speaking out in defence of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or “DREAM” act:

Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.

It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I’m heartened by those who’ve suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.

Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.

Somewhere, there’s an alternate universe in which Obama is still POTUS. No mass deportations of immigrants, travel bans, transgender military bans, Nazis marching in the streets, “fake news” diatribes, or being one tweet away from nuclear war. Just a president who could speak in eloquent, complete sentences and do his job like a goddamn statesman.

Nostalgia. It almost physically hurts.

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On Charlottesville and Trump

08.14.2017

Godwin’s Law doesn’t apply when you’re talking about ACTUAL FUCKING NAZIS. I’ve tried to think of something coherent to say about Charlottesville, and my rage just keeps getting in the way. I’m a white person who benefits from structural racism every single day, and if I keep my mouth shut about it, I’m just perpetuating […]

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Trump bans trans Americans from the military

07.26.2017

There are no words for how disgustingly angry this makes me. President Donald Trump said Wednesday morning that transgender people are not allowed to serve in the U.S. military. A Pentagon directive under the administration of former President Barack Obama was going to allow transgender men and women to start serving in the military over […]

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Trump’s lack of discipline: It’s not a good thing

07.01.2017

Nope, nope, nope. All due respect, Michelle Goldberg, but I disagree with you on 100% on this one. If there is the barest sliver of consolation, it’s that Trump appears almost as miserable and anxiety-ridden as we are. He’s losing the tiny bit of control he had. It’s better for Trump to show us all […]

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Gender and stereotypes: What Obama got wrong in his Montreal speech

06.09.2017

Barack Obama gave a widely-anticipated speech in Montreal today. I watched online and, for most of it, Obama was in fine form: Eloquent, respectful, inspiring. But then there was an odd section, late in the speech, about gender equality and advancing the cause of women. Which included this line: “I did conclude at a certain […]

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WaPo: People aren’t poor because they’re lazy

03.08.2017

This article in the Washington Post really gets at the crux of the difference in outlook between liberals and conservatives: Chaffetz was articulating a commonly held belief that poverty in the United States is, by and large, the result of laziness, immorality and irresponsibility. If only people made better choices — if they worked harder, […]

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How to fight fascism in the US

02.24.2017

It’s time to stop pointing out all the ways that Donald Trump is turning the US into a fascist state at worryingly break-neck speed. Fascism is here. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Let’s look at history to see what has worked to successfully fight fascist / totalitarian regimes.

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Bannon: Cabinet picks were meant to destroy their agencies

02.24.2017

Steve Bannon has admitted that Trump’s choices for his cabinet were deliberately set up to destroy the agencies that they were appointed to lead: In the clearest explanation for why nearly all of Trump’s cabinet choices are known mostly for despising and attacking the very Federal agencies they’ve been designated to lead, Bannon explained—in very clear […]

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USA: Land of the Free, 1776-2016

02.03.2017

RIP, America.  

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