The Zimmerman trial: a guide for the UK Twitchfork mob

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It was depressing, if not surprising, to see the UK’s twitchforking mob out for the blood of George Zimmerman, rightly acquitted under the law in his trial in Florida. The comments and questions made showed that tweeters had not bothered to follow any developments in the trial, and pretty much did not care if George Zimmerman was guilty or not; they just wanted to see him spend the rest of his life in jail.

No part of the media, or of politics here, has covered itself in glory, treating the trial of this young Hispanic man as entertainment, as a glorified episode of “Law and Order”, or as a political sport, where the right lines up behind the Hispanic and the left lines up behind the innocent African-American victim. I have seen today death threats against Zimmerman, his brother, and the six female jurors who deliberated over this agonising case for sixteen hours and who requested instructions for the legal case for manslaughter from the judge. I’ve seen tweets saying Hispanics are all celebrating by “mowing their lawns”. I’ve seen tweets claiming the mixed-parentage Zimmerman was white Hispanic, when the same people would never described President Obama as white anything, despite his white mother.

It is all very depressing, and we should do better. If George Zimmerman had not had a gun, the worst that would have happened here is a fist-fight. If Florida had not had a Stand Your Ground law, possibly manslaughter charges could have been proven.

But for those morons who, without knowledge of the facts, are out tweeting that a young man should go to jail for a crime he has been cleared of, here is just a sample of the facts that emerged during the trial.

No reasonable person, in my view, could possibly have found beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman either murdered Trayvon Martin or committed manslaughter against him under Florida law.
The prosecution’s case was embarrassingly weak. In reality, it should never have been brought – they knew the reasonable doubt standard. There were more holes than a Swiss cheese in this case, and it would have been a double tragedy to add to the senseless, needless death of the totally innocent Trayvon Martin – unarmed and defending himself – with a young Hispanic man jailed for perhaps twenty years of his life. That is just vengeance at best and simple race-baiting at worst.

Just a few of the “reasonable doubt” pillars established by the defence:

1. The forensic pathologist who corroborated Zimmerman’s account of self-defence after he was attacked by stating the gunshot was fired from beneath the victim.

2. The fact that Trayvon Martin’s own father did not identify the screams on the audio recording as coming from Trayvon; George Zimmerman’s father was consistent that they were his son’s, Zimmerman’s, screams. On the stand, Mr. Martin’s father said they were indeed his son’s screams but that did not jibe with his initial police account.

3. The fact that a key prosecution witness, Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend, changed her story time and again on the stand. She could give no coherent account of what Trayvon had said to her when he called her while he was being followed. She stated she had written a letter at that time to Trayvon’s mother describing events. In court, when asked by the defense to read out the supposedly contemporaneous letter, she had to say “I can’t read cursive” and then to admit she had not even written the letter at all.

4. George Zimmerman, fat and doughy, fancied himself as a neighbourhood watch guy and had been doin it for quite some time. He is Hispanic, and the judge ruled that the prosecution could not say he “racially profiled” Trayvon Martin when he followed him; only that he “profiled” him. In Zimmerman’s stupid and puffed-up mind, Martin’s demeanour indicated he was up to no good.

5. There was clearly a fight between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in which Zimmerman claimed he shot Matin in self-defence. There was no evidence to disprove this claim and much to support it (see points 1 and 2). Zimmerman was bleeding from the head. Furthermore Florida has a “stand your ground” law that gives protections from prosecution to those who think they are being attacked.

Now because most people on Twitter (and other political internet forums) can see only in black and white, me vs you, Dem vs Rep, they interpret pointing all this out as either an attack on the character of Trayvon Martin, or his grieving family, or a defence of Zimmerman’s actions in following Martin when a 911 despatcher had told him not to.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Trayvon Martin was the innocent victim of a tragic shooting. George Zimmerman should never have followed him. George Zimmerman should have obeyed the 911 despatcher. George Zimmerman should never have had a gun, and there should be gun control in America. Without that gun, the worst that would have happened was a fist fight. And please don’t point out to me Zimmerman had a legal permit. My argument is that gun distribution should be limited to the military and the police (“as part of a well formed militia”, the words written out of the modern interpretation of the second amendment). Trayvon Martin, once he realised he was being followed, had EVERY RIGHT to attack George Zimmerman in HIS OWN self-defence.

None of that changes the trial and the law. When Trayvon fought Zimmerman, even though he had the right to do so, and I would have done exactly the same in Trayvon’s place, if Zimmerman believed himself to be in danger then he had the right to shoot in self-defence. Do I agree with that, no of course not. But there was ample evidence to support that story; the forensic pathologist; the blood and wounds on Zimmerman; the screaming not initially described as Trayvon’s by his own father; and the history of Zimmerman as a wannabe do-gooder neighbourhood guy who saw himself as a protector.

Reasonable doubt was added to by the prosecution’s key witness imploding on the stand. Changed stories – the girlfriend’s letter and testimony in her witness statement vs the stand, the father’s re: the taped voice – that equals reasonable doubt. The wounds, the pathologist saying the shot was from below – reasonable doubt.

The judge appeared sympathetic to the prosecution. Despite reversing an earlier ruling on drug use based on a doctor saying it might have affected Trayon’s demeanour and allowing it to be examined as evidence, she mostly sided with the prosecution. As it became clear that second degree murder was a giant overreach, she (a former prosecutor) allowed charges of manslaughter to be added in at the last moment. Once, when the defence attorney was actually making an argument before her, without a word she got up and walked out on him and out of the courtroom (it was ten PM). Additionally, she excluded texts found on Martin’s phone referring to fights. She gave the prosecution a fair shake.

Given all of this the six female jurors faithfully discharged their duty. They deliberated for sixteen hours straight. They sent to the judge to ask her to instruct them on the standard of proof for manslaughter. Her answer: “Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide.”

Before the verdict, there was this:

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, said the parents are emotional but doing as well as expected as they await a verdict.

“(Jurors) staying out longer and considering the evidence and testimony is a good thing for us arriving at a just verdict,” Crump said.

It therefore seems that to tarnish the good names and character of these six women as racists is utterly wrong. In the question of both manslaughter and murder two they followed the law. The prosecution did not come close to proof beyond a reasonable doubt and they had no real evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s account of events.

A later blog will look at the breathtaking abuse of government and media power against a criminal defendant not yet convicted, and now as we know acquitted, which ought to shock any decent person whether right or left.

A young, unarmed black teenager is dead because of hateful gun proliferation, a “Stand Your Ground” law that encourages vigilanteism, and a “neighbourhood watch” guy who was too prideful to listen to a 911 despatcher who rightly told him to stay away. But wrongly following someone is not the same as murdering them or committing manslaughter. Zimmerman states he thought Trayvon was acting suspiciously, Trayvon attacked him, he feared for his life and he shot him. It was for the prosecution to prove otherwise and they did not. And the racial politics around this tragedy is simply disgusting. Without gun control, there will be more dead teenagers, children, and other innocents in America with each passing month.

photo by Fibonacci Blue

The Guardian/Observer and the Indonesian Farting God

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Why so coy, Guardian and Observer Weakend?

We all know you pulled your front page splash from the Observer on NSA snooping, after Twitter pointed out that your source, Wayne Madsen, was a grade A nut job.

Today and last night, the apparently real Twitter account @WMRDC posted the following:

The real “fruit loops”: Michael Moynihan, Damian Thompson, “Prof” John Schindler, Louise Mensch, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs.

Me and Michael Moynihan? Charles Johnson? Damian Thompson? Too kind, sir, too kind.

I then went through and had a little look at Mr. Madsen’s account. Apparently it is real, as it has been posted links to his nutjob website since 2009. I thought I would treat you all to a few of his previously posted tweets, all easy to see on his recent stream and available to the staff of the Guardian and the Observer.

UK sex scandal: It’s Bo Jo and Sam Cam (Mayor of London and PM’s wife). More at http://WayneMadsenReport.com 

Was Obama’s mother a secret worshiper of an Indonesian farting dwarf god? Today at http://WayneMadsenReport.com 

Evidence that Cheney had Saddam’s chief banker murdered to steal his money. Today at http://WayneMadsenReport.com 

Is Obama a member of a secretive sect – the Subud? Today at http://WayneMadsenReport.com 

More evidence emerges of Breivik’s links to Israel. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

New 9/11 information points to domestic treason terrorism behind attacks. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Arabic-speaking Mossad teams directed 9/11 “hijacking” cells. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Was Obama’s mother a CIA economic hit woman? Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Murder of GCHQ man fits old British intelligence modus operandi. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Proof: CIA actively recruited at Occidental when Obama was student. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Add Obama’s maternal grandfather to list of CIA family members. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Is Obama a real-life “Manchurian Candidate?” Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

The CIA connections of President Obama’s father. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

The CIA-Mossad-Saudi network that launched Al Qaeda. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Obama’s gay Chicago past linked to murder of Obama’s former church’s choir director. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Wow. Personally, I’m really impressed by the Obamas, aren’t you? They’re like the Corleones, but Hawaian. Or like that family in Spy Kids or something. Mother! Father! Grandfather! Son! All CIA agents! Members of the secret Sudud society! And worshippers of the Indonesian Farting God!

You don’t mess with the Indonesian Farting God, boyeee.

Now according to this impeccable source, The Observer actually had their splash on the first editions of the physical paper on Sunday, but unlike them, I would prefer to actually double check it.

Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) who broke the massively important #Snowden story was clearly embarrassed by this epic journalistic FUBAR. He personally had nothing to do with the story, but it is not good enough to say that the Guardian and Observer are separate. They are clearly not separate. The story was front page on the Guardian website, under the Guardian brand; the Guardian must take responsibility.

The Daily Beast also alleges that the writer appears not even to have spoken to Madsen, his “source”, and to have plagiarised a blog called “PrivacySurgeon.org”:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/01/nsa-nutjob-anatomy-of-a-fake-observer-story.html

And overlooked by those piling on The Observer was the rather significant fact that the paper appears not to have spoken to Madsen, instead mining quotes from an interview he gave to a blog called  PrivacySurgeon.org. (Indeed, some of Doward’s language is very similar to the source material, but why kick a man when he’s down?)

The Guardian’s US Editor responded on Twitter that they had removed the story, to which Harry Cole provided the perfect riposte:

@janinegibson: Observerstory, taken down while editors look at it.” <- They’re meant to do that before you publish it.

So a few questions remain for that beacon of transparency and of getting other journalists locked up, the Guardian:

1. Did your reporter plagiarise his Madsen quotes, and/or language, from a blog as suggested by the Daily Beast?

2. Did your reporter even speak to Wayne Madsen?

3. Did your reporter google or search the Twitter feed of Madsen and if not, why not?

4. Why are you pretending that the Guardian and the Observer are separate when they have the same editor and the story was front page on the Guardian website?

5. If they are separate, why was it @JanineGibson, Twit Bio “Editor in Chief, Guardian US” who responded and pulled the story?

6. Why did “editors look at” a front page story only after the Internet had Fisked it? What is the Guardian/Observer’s practice in terms of editorial checking on major stories? If such a giant story was run on the front page with zero checks or controls, how can readers have any confidence you check any of your stories?

7. Did the story make the printed first edition of the Observer?

Comment is Free was good enough to ask to reprint my blog on privilege-checking; I double dog dare them to reprint this one, and let their own readership hold them to account on “journalism” that goes beyond mere shoddiness to allegations of quote-mining.

Lastly, what are the consequences at the paper for running stories sourced like this?

Assange turns Snowden into a traitor

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How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.

Truly, Julian Assange is one of the most awful people in the world. A rabid egomaniac with a contempt for women and for the lives of others, he is stinking up the Ecuadorean Embassy while refusing to stand trial for rape in Sweden. His speeches full of self-puffery from the balcony never mention the women who are waiting for justice; women his groupies have been keen to name and slander on the internet.

The guy who put the Ass in Assange has voluntarily jailed himself in a small room, to avoid the possibility of jail in a humane and airy Swedish prison.

How I laughed when hearing that Ecuador, having privately peacocked all over Britain, Sweden and the USA through its grandiloquent offer of asylum, is now desperate to get rid of him, so desperate it’s recalling its ambassador. Hahhahahaha. Excuse me. Laughter break. Hahahahahahaaa. I don’t recall a more satisfying moment in news this year than reading the account of the new consul talking desperately to minister Hugo Swire MP: “What do we do about the stone in the shoe?” Swire (magnificently) “Not our stone. Not our shoe.”

Hhahahahaahaaaaa! Hilarious.

Not quite so funny is the unraveling tale and fate of Edward Snowden. In my opinion, he blew the whistle on something important and unconstitutional. An earlier article on this blog asked for a Presidential pardon for him. I believed it was warranted then. No longer.

Snowden was different from Assange. He revealed the existence of an appallingly widespread snooping programme and lies to Congress, but he released only selective data, taking care not to put American lives at risk. Julian Assange, who I believe is as good as a murderer, did not give a damn what happened to those who worked with American forces against the Taliban:

“Declan Walsh, the Guardian’s Islamabad correspondent, recalls one tense evening: “We went out to a Moorish restaurant, Moro, with the two German reporters. David Leigh broached the problem again with Julian. The response floored me. ‘Well, they’re informants,’ he said. ‘So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.’ There was, for a moment, silence around the table. I think everyone was struck by what a callous thing that was to say.”

What a guy.

However, the first alarm bells rung when from Hong Kong Snowden praised Assange. He should know better. But the Wikileaks cabal have money and power, enough to fly him out of the country. Julian Assange (dreadful personal hygiene along with the monomania) then totally overstepped his bounds, strong-arming the supine Ecuadorean staff at the London Embassy into offering him a travel document and giving interviews in which he, Assange, seemed to speak for Ecuador. Hahaha, Correa! You utter loser! You feel clever with all those big interviews now, don’t you? And that grant to the USA for education on human rights! Correa is paying a price for his peacock moment – Julian Assange as his house guest – and he can pay it for the next sixty years for all I care.  He slapped down Assange, did a screeching reverse on America after taking a call from Joe Biden, said his consul had overstepped her bounds, and now Snowden’s Wikileaks lawyer companion is a millstone around his neck.

Because Wikileaks are indisputably enemies of the United States. Assange is more spy than traitor, as he is not an American, but by associating himself with these people, Edward Snowden is betraying his country and becoming an international pariah. Worse than that, he has paid the price for Assange’s troops getting him out of Hong Kong – he has handed over to Wikileaks a complete data dump of all he stole. While he, Snowden, only revealed non-threatening evidence of the existence of the PRISM program, he has handed to a man with an utter contempt for American life all the data he stole. He must now bear responsibility for whatever that weak-willed trial dodger and misogynist Assange does with it.

And Assange, smarting from the slap from the hosts whose welcome he probably outstayed about six months ago, lost no time in threatening Ed Snowden and making it clear that he would dump all the files whether Snowden liked it or not.

There is no stopping the publishing process at this stage.  Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can’t be pressured by any state to stop the publication process.

You’re in trouble now, Edward.

There is only one answer for Edward Snowden. Dump Sarah Harrison, your Wikileaks lawyer. State publicly that Wikileaks is threatening you with a complete dump of materials you were careful to only partially release. Call upon Ecudorean President Correa to expel Julian Assange from its Embassy if Wikileaks publishes one line from the NSA dump (incidentally, Ecuador, this is your get-out-of-jail free card to kick Assange out of your London digs. Opportunity knocks, boys, you can turn a crisis into a drama if you move fast). And having done all that, and partially protected the American lives you have endangered by giving data to Wikileaks, come home to America and face the music and let the truth speak for itself.

After all, if what you have done is whistle blowing, it will stand up in the court of public opinion. But Russia? Ecuador? Assange? These are not good people for you to be associating with.

In the meantime, Snowden knocks around the international lounge at a Russian airport like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, which appropriately describes his chances of getting out of this situation with any credit.

PS: I think Assange should stand trial in Sweden for rape. Then he should be extradited back to the UK to stand trial for skipping his bail. Then he should be extradited to the US for trial for espionage, assurances having been given that the death penalty will not be applied. No European country can extradite to the US if the death penalty is a possibility. But Assange should get what’s coming to him. And like the UK, smiling down at Ecuador right now, the US can be very, very patient.

 

photo by Esthr

Asian Grooming Gangs – where are all the other men?

 

don sutherland1In my Sun column yesterday I wrote in praise of Judge Peter Rook QC, a hero to women and children; a brave judge who ripped up the repellently low sentencing guidelines set by the Sentencing Council and threw them out.

Any serious advocate for sentences which reflect the real harm child abuse and gang rape does should read his sentencing remarks. I warn you now that they are unsparing in terms of detail on what was done to the victims, including when they were 12 and 13 years old.

http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/sentencing-remarks-hhj-peter-rookqc-r-v-dogar-others.pdf

It takes a lot of guts for a judge to tear up the loathsomely small penalties that the Sentencing Council think should be paid for gang rape of children. Be in no doubt that there is tremendous pressure on judges to pass light sentences, because jail capacity is full to overflowing. (the political answer is twofold – to remove custodial sentences where they are not necessary and to build more prisons. This is a capital infrastructure project that Osborne could usefully spend on; it provides a great many jobs, it means humane modern prison conditions, and it reassures the public who are crying out at timid sentencing).

His Honour Peter Rook QC had the necessary guts. He jailed these inhuman beasts for life, with minimum terms of 20 and 17 years etc. At the end of the blog I will excerpt the legalese with which he did true justice from the bench – the first time I can ever remember that gang rape received an appropriate sentence. God bless this judge; he has struck a blow against rape and child rape and torture that Parliament did not want and the judicial establishment did not want.

But let’s turn away from the brave determination of the man on the bench and on to the shabby cowardice of local police, local social services, and Oxfordshire county council.

We know how these children were ignored. WARNING – I am about to quote from the sentencing remarks of Judge Peter Rook to ask this question:

Why are only seven men in court? Why do the police, and Oxfordshire social services and council, not hunt down the hundreds of men who raped these little girls? Why have the phones and computers not been seized, why are the phone bills not being handed over by the mobile phone providers and pored over by analysts and detectives? WHERE ARE THE OTHER RAPISTS?

If we say “we jailed the ringleaders, job done” are we saying it is OK for a rapist of a twelve year old to walk away? It’s OK to receive a video of a little girl being gang-raped, get in your car and drive hundreds of miles to rape her yourself?

Thames Valley Police, WHERE ARE THE OTHER RAPISTS?

Saying “you let these little girls down” doesn’t being to cover it. You essentially colluded in their rape, trafficking and torture.

Let us look at the judge’s remarks on the other rapists:

“From the time when EF was 13 you started selling her to other men for sex. To use her words this happened “loads of times” over the next few years. Sometimes you would take photos presumably to entice further customers. Clearly it was a commercial operation. You would actually ask customers whether they were satisfied.”

Photos of a 13 year old girl. These photos were emailed, were texted. The men had phones and computers. WHY ARE THE RECIPIENTS NOT BEING HUNTED DOWN?

“There came at time before she (GH) was 13 that both of you Mohammed and Bassam Karrar started to bring strangers to have sex with her…many times…she had to endure depraved sexual demands…you, Mohammed, made videos…”

To whom were these videos sent? WHERE ARE THE OTHER MEN, RAPING A TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL, TORTURING HER AND FILMING IT?

“Sometimes there were three or four men…Sometimes as many as nine or ten. GH thought that Bassam was taking lots of phone calls in relation to the Wycombe trips”

WHERE ARE THE PHONE RECORDS? WHY ISN’T EVERY ONE OF THOSE BASTARD RAPISTS BEING INTERROGATED BY THE POLICE?

Two men were convicted at the same time as the five ringleaders who were jailed for life; just two. The names of the pigs are Assad Hussein and Zeeshan Ahmed. For their sexual offences against the victims they were jailed for seven years apiece.

Not one of the men who raped the children in High Wycombe. Paddington Station, Shotover Woods, etc, who paid money to torture and rape them, has been arrested.

No social worker has been sacked. The chief constable refuses to resign. So does the chief executive of Oxfordshire county council.

Where are the rapists? Where are the “customers”? Where is justice? WHEN WILL THE SYSTEM SAY EVERY RAPE COUNTS?

How Hillary Can Have the Last Laugh

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If Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, it’s going to be a case of Barack Who?

Hillary Clinton joined Twitter yesterday in a moment of social media fabulosity that had me thinking @CoryBooker should watch his back.

First, there was the unadulterated awesomeness of her Twitter bio.

“Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…”

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The humour “hair icon, pantsuit aficionado” – the CV “lawyer, women & kids advocate, US Senator, SecState” the humanizing… “Wife, mom” – special props for putting “wife” before “mom” – the history… “lawyer, FLOAR, FLOTUS…” FLOAR is such a nice touch… First Lady of Arkansas… reminding us she’s been in the game a long time, some props to Bill’s home state, deprived and unglamorous. It’s the global victrix’s “Jenny from the Block” moment. “Dog owner” – well, if you hate Hillary you just hate puppies. And the glorious ending, “…TBD…” To be determined.

You know what this is? This is Daily Show, Stephen Colbert politics. And I’m not really even using that as a metaphor. So many Americans get their only politicial fix from those shows that she is heading like an exocet missile for the demographic that matters.

And now let’s move on to the avi. And her first tweet. Which was:

Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe – I’ll take it from here… #tweetsfromhillary

This is a reference to the Texts from Hillary tumblr, the funniest political meme in years. She used their main photo as her Twitter avatar. She checks them for inspiration. She @s them. One of the creators responded with the perfect Onion-esque “Area Tweeter Doesn’t Know What To Do With Himself.”

Why does any of this matter? Well, she’s definitely running. I said as much in my Sun on Sunday column months ago after meeting fundraisers who had been at her house discussing the PAC. Secondly, it shows how she is running. She has used her time away from politics to become a kind of legend. Obama graciously gave her clout, but she kept her distance; when Susan Rice was messing up over Benghazi Clinton just stayed quiet.

I know about the Benghazi scandal; it will be old news in 2016. Old, old news. Attempts to revive it by the GOP will have voters rolling their eyes. Unfair? Sure. But there’s no crying in baseball.

Clinton is using humour and feminism “women & kids advocate, glass ceiling cracker” to show the authentic her; to take away any age-related beefs, because her humour makes her seem the most on-it, hippest candidate around; and to pitch to women, who defeated Mitt Romney en bloc.

She’s going for youth. Traditionally a worthless vote. Not last election. Not this election. And she’s going for women. “Glass ceiling cracker, pantsuit aficionado, TBD.”

I’m dead serious about the Daily Show pitching. When my stepdaughter arrived at a university in the key swing state of Ohio last autumn, they were registering the students to vote the same day they arrived. Youth turned out for Obama last election. First election it has ever really shown up. And that is a sea-change in the electoral mathematics.

I think she will run and I think she will win. And it would be very very hard not to vote for her. Even though I support Governor Christie, and he is the best the GOP has got, running against a woman, and one as popular and competent as Hillary, is a tough, tough battle.

If Clinton wins, she will be the most successful woman in history. Barack Obama slaughtered her in a primary that she was supposed to win at a canter, but none of that will matter if Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman President. His achievement would then remain historical, and vital, but it would be dwarfed by that of a woman becoming the most powerful person alive for the first time in history. Obama’s second term is being horribly tarnished right now, with the IRS, AP, PRISM, and Benghazi scandals, with Eric Holder, and the costs of Obamacare kicking in. When Bill Clinton took the stage for Obama at the DNC during the Presidential campaign he was greeted with more enthusiasm than Obama himself. And rightly so; as good as Obama is, Clinton is galactic distances better.

Hillary lost the primary, the Presidency, and got the consolation prize of State. But if she wins in 2016, she will have the last laugh. It will be her face, and not Obama’s, that defines the modern era, progress, and liberation. And she has the chance to do it right, and to achieve great and centrist things for America, and for women’s rights across the globe. And on the latter point, I believe she’s enough of a feminist to actually do that; to hold the Saudis and others much more accountable.

And even though Michelle Obama kicks major league ass, Bill Clinton will be a much, much cooler First Gentleman.

You go girl.

photo by SSkennel

The Campaign to Ban Rape Porn is Far Too Broadly Drawn

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I have been campaigning, and will continue to do so, for the Sentencing Council and the law to reflect the severity of possessing and distributing child rape images.

Women must also demand far tougher sentencing guidelines on rape and trafficking into rape.

As a reminder, to own large numbers of images of children being sadistically tortured or forced into bestiality, the starting point is one year.

For many women gang-raped daily in brothels in the most serious case, the traffickers got eight years. Out in four.

That’s the landscape on which British law operates, and which we must rise against.

However, over the last week or so campaigners I normally support and whose natural ally I am have launched a petition which makes me nervous and which I could not, in conscience, sign.

They want to ban all depictions of rape in acted pornography.

There is already a requirement in law that such depictions be obviously staged with “production values”. If that sounds comical, it isn’t – it’s designed to catch youtube videos of women being actually raped and assaulted.

Campaigners say they want to prevent or ban the following things; “extreme” rape scenarios featuring torture, pretend incest scenarios, scenarios where actresses who are eighteen are dressed or digitally altered to look far younger.

I think there is a case for banning at least the latter two categories. The law in Britain already makes it illegal to own digitised or altered or traced or drawn images of child rape/abuse (distinguishing itself from the US). This is because of the harm that could arise to children by feeding such fantasies. On the same basis, actresses pretending to be far younger or in incest scenarios are feeding the precisely same harm as traced or altered images of child rape or abuse. So far, an important addition to the law.

But to ban all images of rape itself goes far too far.

Campaigners already say that art or fantasy depictions in movies, books etc would be exempt. Consider many scenes from “Rome” for example. If classified by the BBFC they are not porn.

However, campaigners against rape – which I hope we all are – MUST be aware of free speech and where the line of incitement is truly drawn.

Not too long ago, a most dignified man, the barrister Simon Walsh, 50, was put through a disgraceful obscenity trial for owning pictures of violent pornography consenually taken, including “fisting”. He was cleared, but not before public humiliation at having his private life and sexuality exposed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/08/boris-johnson-aide-extreme-pornography-cleared

This is not a scenario feminists should campaign for as it affects other men and women. Pornography of rape that is clearly dramatized, and consensually made and shot, and does not involve imagery of children or incest, is not necessarily an incitement to actual rape. This campaign would criminalise all those indulging in consensual BDSM pornography. Yes this is embarassing to blog and talk about, but it is a lot better than having somebody like Mr. Hughes go through the dreadful national humiliation of his pornography trial.

Rape fantasy is an incredibly common female fantasy. It is VITAL that we distinguish this fantasy from rape apology, rape excuse, or anything to do with real rape. Psychologists have various explanations for the prevalence of rape fantasy in women, from its being a way for strong women to surrender control to the simpler variant of the woman who wishes to think of herself as a quote-unquote good girl, a virtuous woman, and in her dreams is simply overpowered so that sexual activity is not “her fault” and her “virtue” remains intact. In these fantasies the rapist looks like Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones and the woman finds it an enjoyable experience – it could not be more different from supporting or wishing for an actual rape in real life. Women are not stupid, and they can draw a perfectly clear distinction between fantasy and reality. The women who purchased 50 Shades of Grey – and no, I am not one of them – did not really want to be hurt by an aging billionaire.

It is important that in protecting women and children we are quite clear about what actual rape is and what incitement to hurt children is. Legislation to criminalise a community of fetishists is not right. I may not share their fetish nor am I in the same boat as Mr. Hughes, but adding ordinary, filmed, and consensually dramatised rape scenes – even involving, as in his case, some consensually undertaken depictions of pain – the government should NOT ban it, and as a feminist and one who will be concentrating on rape sentencing and the judges and quangoes who minimise it, I cannot support the campaign as it is written. It is illiberal and wrong and tramples on sexual rights.

photo by Rocketeer

Obama Must Pardon Edward Snowden

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It is a sign of hope in the world that a brilliant African-American could be elected President of the United States and re-elected four years later.

I am a Republican but I salute and admire President Obama. How can you not?

He is a courageous and charismatic man and a brilliant politician and organiser.

I support universal healthcare, coming from the UK where the NHS makes us all feel safe and secure against poverty and disease. Obamacare has major problems and should be reformed, but the principle is sound.

I can’t find much else I like about the President’s platform, other than progress on gay rights.

That said, I believe him to be a principled and honest man and I admire him.

His presidency has been tarnished by a series of scandals. The Benghazi CIA/State Dept scrubbing during a Presidential campaign. The IRS targeting conservative groups to the point where it asked one congregation to “describe the content of your prayers.” And the AP getting its phones tapped, and a Fox News reporter put under surveillance.

The line from the White House has been that the President had no personal knowledge of the above.

This seems to me fantastical, but I want to believe it; and there is no absolute proof to the contrary.

Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian has come up with the biggest scoop since Watergate in exposing the extent, breadth, depth and overreach of the PRISM programme. He must win a Pulitzer prize, there can be no doubt about that whatsoever.

Tonight he published an interviewer with the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who has fled to Hong Kong. A fairly lowly IT guy who could listen, as he said, to your wife’s phone calls with no problems at all. Snowden comes across as a genuine patriot. Although he praises Bradley Manning, unlike Manning he has put no American asset at risk, exposed no soldier.

President Obama does not pretend he did not know about or authorise the PRISM program. He will now have to answer Snowden’s allegations that the NSA routinely lied to Congress about the tools at their disposal; if that is true, the President also knew.

But one thing is certain. If President Obama wants to stand for hope and regain respect, he will not banish this whistleblower for a life on the run, fleeing to Communist Chinese territory against the democracy that is his home and birthright.

Edward Snowden is no Manning. If President Obama wants a “debate” (at the least) he can show his bona fides by issuing a Presidential pardon to Edward Snowden – who should come home and testify in full to Congress.

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