defrog: (Default)

As some of you know, I don’t really buy into the meme that Donald Trump is a fascist dictator. However, I’ll admit he – or at least the people he surrounds himself with – has a tendency to hand a lot of free ammo to people trying to make the case that he is.

Two recent examples:

1. The DOJ – headed by General Jeff Sessions – prosecuted Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz for laughing at Jeff Sessions (or, more accurately, laughing at an introductory description about Sessions during his confirmation hearing while he was in the room).


2. The FCC is pondering an obscenity charge against CBS after Stephen Colbert said “cock holster” on air in reference to President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

FCC obscenity law is one of my pet hobbies, and I find this one the least worrying of the two – pending a result, at least – for a couple of reasons.

One: I don’t think there’s any direct evidence the FCC opened the investigation because of who Colbert was talking about. The FCC generally will investigate obscenity if enough people file complaints – and between conservatives who are furious that Colbert said that about the President (an office for which they demand everyone respect as long as there’s a conservative holding the office) and liberals who are furious that Colbert said something they consider homophobic, I’m sure the FCC got enough of an earful over it that it decided to check it out. I seriously doubt Ajit Pai got a phone call from Trump telling him, “Get Colbert.”

Two: I also seriously doubt the FCC will be able to put together a case. The FCC’s own rules make obscenity very hard to prove. They might have a stronger case for indecency, except that the broadcast in question happened during safe harbor hours (under which indecency is allowed), and CBS bleeped out the offending word.

So under normal FCC procedures, I would be very surprised if the FCC found a case for obscenity. Granted, these are not normal times, and this particular FCC could potentially come up with an off-the-cuff interpretation of what counts as obscenity that suits the purpose of penalizing Colbert via CBS. But again, I think it's more likely that the FCC will decide there’s no case.

The Sessions/Fairooz case is more troublesome.

It’s worth stating a few facts about the case up front:
  • Fairooz was officially charged with disorderly conduct and “parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds”
  • That included the laughing bit, as well as her allegedly shouting a few slogans and holding up a sign while she was being escorted out by the police
  • Fairooz was convicted, but not for laughing – a couple of jurors have said anonymously that they did not accept the argument that her laughing constituted disorderly conduct. But as she was charged with the other actions as well, they had little choice but to convict her.
So technically, if Fairooz goes to jail (and she hasn’t been sentenced yet), it won’t be for laughing at Sessions.

However, the fact remains that it was her laughing that got her arrested in the first place – and the prosecutor argued that the laugh counted as disorderly conduct, even though by most accounts (including actual video of the hearing) her laugh didn’t interrupt or disrupt the hearing in any meaningful way. So she may not have been convicted for laughing, but she was certainly arrested for it. And rather than just settling for escorting her out of the room – which essentially solved the alleged disruption problem – the DOJ opted to spend taxpayer money charging and prosecuting her to the fullest extent of the law.

Just think of it.

Of course, we don’t know for a fact to what extent Sessions personally had to do with any of this. We know he didn’t have her arrested because he wasn’t AG at the time. We don’t know whose idea it was to prosecute her, but clearly by then Sessions was AG, and surely he at least was aware of the case. If so, he could have ordered the case dropped, if only because any idiot could see that prosecuting a case like this wouldn’t look good. Maybe he figured the law is the law and we can’t let politics or appearances influence how we carry out law and order. And he’d technically be right. Or maybe he knew who Fairooz was – and her political activities – and decided to make an example of pinko protesters who hate America, and if it takes the equivalent of jailing Al Capone for spitting on the sidewalk, then so be it.

I don’t know.

Still, the fact remains that Fairooz is facing a jail sentence because she LOLed at a speech praising the guy who was about to become AG.

Which is perhaps a significant development in the context of a POTUS administration that is reportedly looking at ways to alter libel laws as a way to deal with “fake news”and holding media accountable for reporting fake news. Let’s remember that libel laws already protect public figures from false statements about them – the problem is that you have to prove they’re false, which presents a problem for Trump since his operational definition of “fake news” is “anything that questions anything Trump says or makes Trump, his cabinet, his family and friends look bad in any way whatsoever”.  Also, Trump tends to make all kinds of accusations without offering a shred of evidence to back it up. That's not going to cut it in a libel suit. 

Some people will tell you that all this is evidence that the fascist crackdown on dissent has begun. But most of the same people have been saying that since Trump won – heck, some have been saying that since Reagan won – so I don’t take them too seriously. I don’t think the Colbert case is that serious (yet), and the Fairooz case may be a one-off. It’s not like we’re seeing liberals rounded up and stuck in re-education camps or anything. As Reason points out, whatever designs Team Trump may have on the 1A, there’s a huge (YUGE) gap between WANTING to alter/abolish the 1A and actually doing it. It’s not a unilateral action, and the courts have already demonstrated in no uncertain terms that they will not stand for the POTUS telling them what they can and cannot decide.

And, as Reason also points out, the desire to unilaterally decide what counts as free speech and enforcing it with laws, constitutional amendments, overturning court decisions or – in extreme cases – a sucker punch to the face isn't exclusive to right-wing fascists (see: Citizens United, hate speech, whistleblowers, speaking gigs at UC Berkeley, Richard Spencer, etc).

In fact, coming back to Colbert, the cock-holster joke is an interesting example of both conservatives and liberals getting bent out of shape over the same speech for entirely different self-serving reasons: liberals think Colbert should lose his job because he said something homophobic (which is debatable, but I’m running out of space here), and conservatives think he should lose it because he disrespected the President (also debatable, not to mention disingenuous given the respect many of the same conservatives afforded Obama).

Of course, criticism is not censorship, no matter how often Fox News commentators claim it is. But when the criticism includes the proposition that you should not be legally allowed to say what you just said, then yr basically endorsing the same principle that Team Trump is pushing with the whole fake news/libel laws meme – you just have different criteria.

So while I don't think Trump ordered the FCC to punish Colbert, there are an awful lot of people who would fully support such a notion. That’s important. One of the biggest dangers to the legal concept of free speech isn't chumps like Trump who want to change the law so they can suppress speech they don’t like, but ordinary schmoes who cheerfully support such efforts under the delusion that it will only be used against their enemies and not themselves.

One other point – it’s interesting that both the Colbert/Fairooz cases have one key element in common: humor.

So maybe Patton Oswalt was right.

Don’t make me laugh,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

And of course right after I post about Trump’s War On Media, he goes and escalates by having Sean Spicer cancel a scheduled press briefing and replace it with an informal off-camera briefing – for select media only. Among the not-invited: CNN, the New York Times, Politico, Buzzfeed and the BBC.

And of course everyone’s freaking out about the 1A and free press and democracy, and as usual the reaction – while understandable – seems overblown to me.

This Vox article has a good explanation of what’s going on here – namely, there’s a definite strategy in play here, but it may not be the one you think.

To sum up:

1. Informal off-camera press briefings with select media is nothing new.

2. Furthermore, while access is important, what those media outlets are mainly missing out on is an hour of Spiceworld spinning answers and saying something ridiculous. It’s not exactly the same thing as putting journalists in jail for reporting bad things about you (which is what actual dictators do).

3. That said, you don’t usually change from an official briefing to an informal one at the last minute – unless perhaps yr trying to make a point. Which is what Trump seems to be doing.

4. Trump’s war on the media is motivated by a number of things, starting with the vast number of leaks in his own admin. NO POTUS likes things leaking – President Obama didn’t like it either, and he was pretty harsh on whistleblowers – but Trump is taking it personally, and instead of blaming the leakers, he’s blaming the media – partly to discredit negative stories (or as Spicer calls them, “false narratives”), but also because he thrives on fighting with the media anyway. His fans eat it up and he enjoys giving them what they want. He needs a punching bag, red meat for the base, a distraction from his admin’s problems and someone to blame for them.

5. As Vox points out, the real problem with this strategy is that while it might help Trump please the fans, it won’t help him get anything done:

Picking random fights with the media won’t help the White House get anything through Congress. It won’t make FBI investigations go away. And it won’t help the administration’s arguments in the courts.

Another problem is that if the administration destroys its own credibility by waging a war on the press, it could have a hard time getting its message out later when it truly needs to — say, during a major crisis of some kind.

6. One thing I’d add is this: if the strategy of barring certain media outlets is intended to stop the “false narratives” and “fake news” that upset Trump, it’s kind of a stupid strategy. Those stories are already being written outside of the official-briefing context. Put another way, if these stories literally were “fake news”, then banning media outlets wouldn’t matter because they could just stay home and make up whatever crap they want – which he has already accused them of doing.

7. For all the dithering of this being the beginnings of dictatorship, I think that’s going to depend on what happens next. As I’ve said before, lack of govt transparency with the media has been a problem for a long, long time, and access to a spin-doctoring govt official isn't the same thing as access to the truth. And there’s no actual legal requirement for the POTUS to talk to the press. The real problems will begin if the Trump Dynasty starts actively pressuring media outlets not to run stories, or puts them in jail for doing so. The latter is a grey area when it comes to publishing classified material, but the former is a direct violation of the 1A. 

And sure, we don't want to wait until it comes to that, so it’s good to put pressure on the White House and warn people of where this could lead. I just think it’s important to explain the situation factually rather than resort to OMG hysterics. That’s just me.

I hear you knockin’ but you can’t come in,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I’ve had a project in mind for awhile now to rank the presidents – specifically, the US Presidents that have served during my lifetime (which in my case would be from Lyndon Johnson up to Barack Obama). But of course I had to wait until Obama’s terms were up before I could add him to the list, which has given me a great excuse to procrastinate. So yr not going to see that list anytime soon, is what I’m saying.

But now that Barack Obama has left the building, I can at least get his entry out of the way and address the burning and traditional question every POTUS faces after leaving office:

So, how’d he do?

That’s not an easy question to answer – partly because most people rate POTUS performance along party lines and pet issues. And in these days of hyperpartisan polarization, too many people have emotionally invested themselves a particular extreme political narrative. For most liberals I know, Obama was the best President ever. For most conservatives I know, he was absolutely unequivocally the worst, most inept, dishonest and tyrannical POTUS ever, and probably not even an American, and pretty much wrecked the entire country so badly that they actually trust Trump to try and fix it.

As you might imagine, neither opinion holds much water with me. The liberal rating tends to be primarily based on select accomplishments (Obamacare and legal same-sex marriage, and Obama arguably should only get credit for the former) and the fact that Obama was charismatic and likeable (as was his whole family). Conservative assessments of Obama are generally based on vitriolic party-line batshit conspiracy nonsense.

Of course, my own assessment isn't necessarily objective either, so if you happen to fall into the above two camps, there’s no reason to take this post seriously.

For my money, rating Obama’s overall performance should take into account a few important caveats:

1. He inherited a terrible mess – the worst recession in decades and two foreign policy quagmires that made the Middle East in particular even harder to deal with than it already was. In terms of difficulty levels, Obama entered office with the bar raised considerably high.

2. He also faced one of the most obstructionist Congresses in history. Republicans simply hated him and refused to cooperate with him on just about every major issue. They blame that on him, because of course they do. But no, it’s pretty clear to me that the GOP demonstrated a public and unabashed determination to ensure that Obama got as little cooperation from them as possible.

3. The metrics of success shifted considerably before or during his presidency. On paper America’s economy is far stronger than it was when he took office, and yet almost half of voters seem convinced that it’s far worse. I suspect it's at least in part because the metrics don’t reflect the reality on the ground for many people. It’s great the unemployment rate is down, but if yr working three part-time jobs to make ends meet and you still can’t save money, you may not feel as though things are getting better. At a guess, this might be one of the consequences of the growing wealth inequality gap – those metrics tend to be better news for the rich than for everyone else who has to work for a living. Or it just might be the consequence of everyone being more poorly informed by hyperpartisan media bubbles. Point being, this has an influence on how Obama’s legacy will be assessed by many people.

4. Given that many liberals I know complained quite a bit about some of Obama’s decisions over his two terms (note: contrary to GOP propaganda, he was NEVER the socialist liberal that actual socialist liberals desperately wanted him to be, and they made that clear by channeling that disappointment into supporting Bernie Sanders), I’m reasonably sure that the people glowing over Obama’s legacy are being partly influenced by the horrific contrast of his successor. Next to the Trump Batshit Reality Show, even George W Bush looks reasonably good, so of course Obama is going to come off looking awesome.

So … given all that, I would rate the Obama admin thusly:

Overall I think Obama did okay with what he had to work with. But it is something of a mixed bag.

I don't have the time or space to go into the details, so you can read some good assessments at these links:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/03/barack-obama-president-legacy-policy-issues-wins-fights

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/09/opinions/obama-legacy-opinion-roundup/

http://time.com/4632190/historians-obamas-legacy/

http://reason.com/blog/2017/01/12/obamas-foreign-policy-legacy-an-embrace

http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21712062-barack-obamas-presidency-lurched-between-idealism-and-acrimony-some-his

To summarize all this into some convenient oversimplified bullet points:

1. Obama’s economic policies generally worked, at least by traditional metrics. Even his unorthodox remedies (i.e. the temp auto industry takeover that Republicans offered as proof of his radical socialist agenda to destroy capitalism) ended up working. But that didn’t seem to translate into economic and employment security at street level, though I’m not sure how much of that is directly Obama’s fault. Either way, the growing wealth-inequality gap widened considerably under his watch, and that’s arguably at the root of some of the discontent.

2. Obamacare was a nice try, but it was also a long-term play, so if the GOP finally gets its wish to repeal and (maybe kinda who knows) replace, we'll never know if it was ultimately workable or not. I don't know enough about the healthcare sector to rate it fairly, though I can say I’ve heard healthcare professionals on both sides of the aisle say good and bad things about it.

3. Obama’s big weak spot has been foreign policy. He did have some successes – his dealings with Iran and Cuba, getting us out of Iraq, etc, and generally making the world not hate America as much as it did under GW Bush. He was less successful with Syria, Libya, ISIS, et al. And while he did end combat ops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he replaced them with drone warfare that isn't necessarily more ethical than boots on the ground (though I guess it is cheaper and ensures that only non-Americans die, so … great?). Again, though, I think his realistic options for action were limited to an extent by the policies of his predecessor.

4. Where Obama really went wrong for me was his failure (or unwillingness) to fix the civil liberties violations institutionalized under the Bush admin. Okay, he got rid of torture, and he only failed to close down Gitmo because Congress wouldn't let him. But in terms of mass surveillance, indefinite detentions, assassinations, etc, Obama turned out to be not so progressive. And I don’t think he should get a free pass on that, partly because I think they're important issues that speak to the core values that America is supposed to stand for, but also because look who has the same powers at his disposal now.

5. In terms of character, he was a pretty inspiring as a leader (at least for the choir – conservatives kept bringing up Lenin, and we all know about him) – he was smart, charismatic, gave great speech, and was a dedicated family man. Republicans will claim he was divisive, but given their outspoken unwillingness to cooperate with Demos under an Obama admin, I don’t take that claim seriously. He also got through eight years without a single major personal or political scandal, which is impressive. (If yr going to bring up Hillary’s emails and Benghazi, save yr breath – those are only Obama scandals in the alternate universe that Trump conservatives seem to live in.)

So yeah, overall I would rank Obama as one of the better presidents in my lifetime – again, within the context of the caveats stated above (and relative to the competition – when you look at the POTUS roster of the last 50 years, you’ve basically got three strong contenders, after which there’s a pretty big dropoff in quality). He didn’t get everything right, but then no POTUS ever has. But what he got wrong is also serious enough to overshadow a lot of what he did get right.

If nothing else, I’d say he was probably one of the most “presidential” presidents of my lifetime – someone who looked confident in the leadership role, put serious thought into his policies, and did his best to inspire.

Usually the key question in assessing any POTUS is: is America better off now than eight years ago? In some ways we are – in some ways we aren’t. But most of the latter has to do with the hyperpartisan Batshit Reality Schism and the general breakdown of civility in political discourse. And honestly that’s not on Obama. That’s on the American People™.

Done and dusted,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
So this happened:
  • Trump is inaugurated.
  • Not a lot of people turn out for it.
  • People post tweets showing photos of empty stands during the parade and comparing the National Mall crowd to Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
  • The media report this.
  • Press Secretary Sean Spicer spends the first White House press conference scolding the media for reporting fake news on purpose, because in actual fact it was the biggest turnout in inauguration history, period, and why are you reporting divisive fake news like this when you could have been reporting Trump’s address to the CIA, and storms off without taking a single question.
Welcome to Trumpville, losers.

A few comments from the bullpen:

1. To be totally fair, when I saw the photos of empty stands on my Twitter feed, I took them with a grain of salt, because I’m aware that the anti-Trump crowd has a tendency to latch onto any meme that makes Trump look bad and/or evil and tweet the hell out of it as though it’s undeniable fact, even when it’s not. And let’s admit, it’s more than possible to take photos out of context and claim they represent something they don’t. And there’s always Photoshop.

2. However, the real issue isn’t whether the photos were faked – it's that this is what Trump decided to open with during the first-ever White House press conference: not with policy matters or plans or what he’s done with his first 24 hours in office (such as his executive orders regarding Obamacare), but with his PressSec slamming the media for reporting the lie that Trump isn’t that popular and then refusing to answer questions.

3. Which is as well since the first question (hopefully) would have been: “Do you have any evidence you can show us that the turnout was record setting? Perhaps actual photos showing stands packed with people at the parade or a photo of the National Mall jam-packed with supporters?”

All Spicer offered were some Metro stats that were debunked in less time than it took for Spicer to deliver his speech. Also, it’s amusing that he complained that the press should have focused on the CIA speech when Trump spent most of his speech saying what Spicer had just said.

4. All up, Spicer’s first press conference did seem designed to send the media a message – don't expect us to play ball if yr not going to cover us the way we want you to cover us.

5. People are already making comparisons to Goebbels, but I think that's both ridiculous and lazy, starting with the fact that Trump – like everyone else in the world – is under no legal obligation whatsoever to talk to the press if he doesn't want to. It might be politically inadvisable, but it’s not illegal, and it’s doesn't mean yr a fascist. Not talking to the press is not the same thing as literally controlling it and telling them what they can and cannot write.

Also, as I’ve said before, the WHPC is in many ways a glorified steno pool that reports whatever the POTUS or the press secretary say, to include their spin-doctored answers to questions. You get only what the POTUS wants you to get. I highly recommend this tl;dr article explaining how WH pressers work, and how some presidents dislike them because they prefer direct communication with the people (fireside chats, town hall meetings, talk shows, etc) over having the WHPC as a filter. The latter is interesting because Trump clearly prefers rallies and Twitter as his direct channel, for better or worse.

So honestly, I’m not too concerned over Trump’s refusal to play ball with the media on their terms. Even if Trump allowed CNN to ask questions at his press conferences, the answer he’d give would be the same self-aggrandizing bigly bebop blather he’s been spouting for the whole campaign (and really for much of his life as a public figure).

6. It’s also worth mentioning that despite my remark above that it’s politically advisable not to antagonize the media, Trump currently has no political incentive to heed that advice. His base is probably loving the sight of the LameStream Liberal Media having their ass handed to them, and they probably assume that the inauguration photos are all faked anyway. I get the feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot of this in the next four years, if only because it suits the Trump narrative that the mainstream media is all a bunch of biased lying liars who lie. Trump is already crowing over how he totally caught them lying and called them on it publicly, and his fans are eating that up.

7. That said, the real issue with the Spicer incident isn’t how Trump feels about the media, it’s how he’s reacting to it and why. The fact that he’s going to war with them over something relatively minor (and something that is also basically true, unless he can produce credible evidence to the contrary, which he hasn’t) speaks volumes about his motivations. So does Spicer’s performance.

Overall, the whole thing comes across to me as a thin-skinned egotistical blowhard who can't take criticism sending his press secretary out to throw a tantrum for him.

Looking forward to the next WH presser, in which Spicer will claim that the Women’s Marches were fake and only attended by a dozen lesbians. Ugly lesbians. Not the kind you’d fantasize a threesome with. Sad!

Beat the press,

This is dF

EDITED TO ADD [same day]: After writing that, I saw that Kellyanne Conway has introduced to us the concept of alternative facts. As in facts from the alternate world that Team Trump live in, I suppose?
defrog: (Default)
I don’t watch cable TV news, and I don’t spend much time on social media, so I do miss out on certain trends that are all the rage in American sociopolitical discourse.

Like the sudden popularity of the word “snowflake”.

Which – as most of you probably know, but it’s news to me – doesn’t refer to actual snow, but people who are emotionally sensitive and/or easily offended.

In other words: liberals, PC enforcers, SJWs, and other labels that conservatives – particularly Trump supporters – like to slap on anyone who says D.Trump is kind of a jerk, or that nuclear war isn't such a great idea.

The Guardian has a good write-up here on the emergence of the “snowflake” trend.

But while the article describes it as a recent thing that has sprung up during this particular election year, to me it’s really just another variation on a long-running conservative theme – that it’s a virtue to be tough, manly and invulnerable to insult.

Pansy, pussy, sissy, candy-ass, bleeding-heart, libtard, snowflake – it’s all the same, really.

Ironically, I do happen to agree – to a point – that political correctness and safe spaces are ultimately detrimental to both personal development and free speech. You can't really say you have an informed opinion about anything if you can’t rationally evaluate other points of view – and that means having to listen to them. It’s not enough to be able to say (for example), “racism is wrong”. You have to be able to explain why it’s wrong. And you have to be able to do that because actual racists have a long list of reasons why they believe their views are right. Screaming at them that they are evil stupid people may make you feel better, but it doesn't make the case against racism or solve the problem of racism. Neither does pretending they don’t exist, or denying racists a platform to speak.

The current furor over Milo Yiannopoulos and his upcoming new book is a good microcosmic example of how zero tolerance for the kind of stuff Yiannopoulos says all too easily leads to censorship and stifling of debate – and also tends to work in favor of the person being censored.

That said, however, the “snowflake” mentality isn't really about that. Conservatives who whip out the “political correctness” or “snowflake” label to defend what they say aren't interested in opening debate – they just want the right to offend people (intentionally or otherwise) without being criticized for it. It’s kind of the reverse mentality of the PC groups but with the same basic result: I get to say what I want, and you have no right to contradict me.

If a “snowflake” is someone so thin-skinned that they can’t take criticism or even a joke, then Donald Trump is President of the Snowflakes. Trump and his fans are basically arguing for the right to insult and mock groups of people they hate without getting crap for it.

Also, as this column points out, the term “snowflake” – much like the term “politically correct” – has already become so overused as to become meaningless. It started out as a specific reference to certain people who demand the right to not be offended – now it’s a catch-all term for anyone who criticizes Trump et al on any point whatsoever.

So the term is already both hypocritical and pointless name-calling.

But that’s how we debate things in 2017 I guess – say whatever you want and scream down anyone else who says things you disagree with.

(NOTE: Given what I’ve written previously about Yiannopoulos and his Twitter behavior, I should mention that I see a difference between abusive behavior on Twitter and expressing unpopular and/or offensive ideas. I realize that tends to be a fine line with Yiannopoulos and people like him, but Twitter is a different venue from writing a book or giving a speech. There are different rules of engagement in play. It's the difference between me writing a book about my political opinions and me coming up to you and screaming them in yr face and harrassing you for not agreeing with me until you cry.)

Let it snow,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Way back in the early 90s, I read Philip K Dick’s The Man In The High Castle, his classic alternative history that imagines what life in America would be like if the Axis had won WW2.

Nowadays, it seems a lot of people are taking a sudden interest in the book – or at least the TV adaptation of it – in part because they think it's a preview of the Trump admin.

While I remember liking the book, I didn't remember much about the story. So I decided to re-read it to see if it really is a vision of what Trump’s America will be like.

In a word, no. Here’s why.

1. For a start, of course, the America in TMitHC has been split up between Germany (east coast) and Japan (west coast) as a result of winning WW2. So it’s not the same scenario as a POTUS rising to power and implementing a nationwide fascist regime identical to Nazi Germany.

2. Also, the story takes place in either the Japan-run West Coast or the neutral buffer zone in the Rocky Mountain states. So it’s more of a depiction of life in those areas rather than the Nazi-controlled East Coast and the South.

3. The book does mention what life in the Nazi section is like, and it is what you’d expect – no Jews, no blacks (apart from slaves, as slavery is back in style, much to the delight of the South), secret police, banned books, totalitarian fascism in general, etc. It also mentions some of the atrocities the Nazis have committed with their insane ideology (such as literally wiping out every black person in Africa).

4. However, I seriously doubt that any of these things will come to pass under a Trump admin. The fact that actual Nazis (who would love to see these things implemented) voted for Trump doesn’t count. Whatever you think about Trump’s proposed policies regarding Muslims and immigrants, and whatever fascist tendencies he may have regarding the media, law enforcement, violence at rallies, people who criticize him, etc, I really don’t think that life in America under his command is going to become the fascist totalitarian state that Nazi Germany was and that the east coast of TMitHC’s America is said to be. It won’t even be close.

5. Sure, a Trump admin is not likely to be pleasant, especially for Muslims, LGBTs, racial minorities, etc. In fact, one slightly accurate comparison is that in TMitHC, some American characters express sympathy with the Nazis in terms of anti-Semitism, racism, establishment of public order, etc. Those attitudes aren’t as prevalent today as they were in 1962 when the book was published, but they do still exist, even though the targets of bigotry may have shifted.

But as I’ve said elsewhere, (1) Trump is no Hitler, (2) an authoritarian leader does not equal an authoritarian state and (3) the majority of the country did not vote for him, and doesn’t support his most extreme policy ideas. Granted, many people may be indifferent to them, but I think that’s in part because they didn’t take his rhetoric seriously in the first place.

6. So overall, no, TMitHC isn't what Trump’s America will be like. It’s a lazy comparison by people who think Trump is literally a Nazi (or at least actual Nazis voted for him, which apparently is the exact same thing).

7. I should add that I have not seen the TV version of TMitHC, so I don’t know to what extent they run with the “life under Nazis” aspect. I mention this because I suspect some people referencing TMitHC as a Trump preview may be thinking of the show, not the book.

Stranger than fiction,

This is dF
defrog: (Mocata)
We have a new type of rule now. Not one man rule or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decisions. They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of the past. There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident; inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine that they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which button to push." – William S Burroughs, Interzone

Well, not so fast there, Bill.

It’s not clear when William Burroughs wrote that – it appeared in Interzone in 1989, but that book includes a lot of earlier work by Burroughs, so it could have been written any time between the late 50s and ’89.

Anyway, it’s a quote that’s stuck with me over the years – partly because he recorded it for Dead City Radio, and also because it struck me as the perfect description of how the US govt and Western democracy work. It helped that a college history professor I greatly admired gave a similar assessment – that the real power in Washington lies with the vast bureaucratic mechanism of government itself overseen by career politicians and experts who understand how it works. The President is really just a figurehead who surrounds himself with the experts who understand how the machine runs and how it will process whatever decisions are made. That doesn’t mean the POTUS has no power – just very limited power compared to a Stalin or Hitler. (Whether this is a good thing depends of course on how concerned you are about the balance of power between the elected POTUS and the appointed bureaucrats, the transparency of the process, etc.)

Anyway, it was this quote I found myself remembering when I came across this article on Quartz (written in March before Trump’s nomination, BTW) about the return of authoritarianism – not just in America, where D.Trump has risen to power on a strikingly authoritarian platform, but in other countries that have elected leaders with similar authoritarian qualities in recent years.

Theresa May (UK), Vladimir Putin (Russia) and Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) are the obvious ones that you hear about the most because of (respectively) Brexit, Trump and Duterte’s policy that if you see someone dealing drugs, you have permission to execute them on the spot. But there’s also Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Narendra Modi (India) and Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel). Meanwhile, in France, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front has moved from the fringe to the mainstream,emboldened by Brexit and Trump’s victory. The same goes for Geert Wilders and his far-right PVV (Party For Freedom) in the Netherlands.

And even in countries where far-right populist parties aren’t leading the polls, their support is growing.  All of them are pushing the populist line that essentially aims to galvanize nationalist sentiment, kick out the foreigners (by which they mostly mean Muslims), selectively curtail civil liberties (particularly for their critics), and Make [Insert Country Name Here] Great Again.

It’s like Trump opened a franchise, although that would be giving him too much credit. Much of this – even the sentiments that his campaign successfully exploited – has been brewing for years and years. These politicians didn’t just show up out of nowhere and con people into buying xenophobic claptrap they didn’t know they needed. Those sentiments were already there.

The obvious question is: why? And the answer is a lot of complex and nuanced guesswork. You can read the Quartz article, this WaPo piece and this article here for an idea.

Personally, I would add that a lot of it comes down to the rise of fear, uncertainty and instability that many people feel as the world changes at a faster rate than people are prepared to deal with. There are specific things you can point to, like the wealth inequality gap, education quality, social upheavals of institutional norms that people haven't had time to process (gay marriage, transgender washrooms, etc), and the ability of both broadcast and social media to amplify all of these issues to wildly disproportionate levels of hysteria.

But on a macro level, I think it’s really down to people feeling afraid and uncertain about the future. I think this is also why we’re seeing a rise in fundamentalist ideologies – not just of the religious kind (Christian and Muslim), but also sociopolitical beliefs. Fundamentalism by definition does not tolerate any idea or opinion that contradicts its worldview. And I’ve written before about how this election more than any other in my lifetime has been characterized by political debates in which people on the other side of the sociopolitical aisle are branded not just misguided or wrong, but evil and dangerous criminals and traitors who will destroy the country and society as we know it unless they are stopped (preferably at the polls, although if that doesn’t work, well …).

In that kind of environment, it’s no wonder more voters are seeking some kind of strongman (at least a symbolic one) in charge to put everything in order the way they think it ought to be put (i.e. in their favor).

Having said that, I don’t think this necessarily signifies the return of Stalins and Hitlers – at least not to those extremes. As I’ve said before, Trump is no Hitler – at least not yet, and not as long as he stays confined by the constitutional framework, economic infrastructure and diverse media outlets that he has no control over. (Those of you tempted to bring up conspiracy theories about the corporate media being a willing tool of the Republican Wall street fat cat evil bastards who really run America, you go right ahead, but I will shake my head sadly at you and move on.)

If it helps, here are two things to keep in mind for perspective:

1. There’s a difference between an authoritarian state and a totalitarian state – both are dictatorships but the latter is the more extreme version where every aspect of society is controlled by the dictating power (see: Stalin, Hitler, Kim Jong-Un, etc).

2. Authoritarian leadership doesn’t equal an authoritarian state. The latter is a monopoly of political power that can be maintained even in a system that allows some form of democracy. So unless (and until) Trump restructures the political system to prevent anyone other than Trump (or the GOP) from controlling every branch of government (to include state level) permanently, the US cannot be called an authoritarian state. The same goes for other countries where authoritarian politicians have power or are closer to acquiring it.

So to come back to that Burroughs quote up there, I think it's true that there will be no more Stalins or Hitlers – in the traditional sense. Perhaps what we’re seeing now is a mutation of sorts – a new breed of iron-willed dictator who is able to dictate within the constitutional confines of a democratic system with a functional (if inefficient) bureaucracy without radically altering its structure. They don’t need to understand how the machine works – they just need to figure out how to get the machine to do what they want it to do without breaking it. It helps that in the last 50 years (or longer), the machine has already been stress-tested in terms of how far you can quietly erode freedoms and civil liberties (in the name of national security) within the constitutional parameters under which it operates.

Which, again, is probably giving Trump too much credit – it’s reasonably clear he’s in this for the ego boost rather than any actual power, and had no real plan for anything apart from winning the election. And I would argue that Trump isn’t an iron-willed dictator so much as a thin-skinned egotistical blowhard control freak.

Is there a difference? I think so, in the sense that the former generally wants ultimate power to transform the country to his/her ideological vision of purity and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. The latter wants power mainly to stroke his/her ego and make his/her life as easy as possible – if they can institute their policies without breaking the system, then great. If not, then it becomes a question of tradeoffs (as in: will abolishing Congress impact my stock options?).

I may be way off here, of course. I’m guessing like everyone else, and I’m drastically oversimplifying all this. My overall point is that I don’t think the rise of authoritarian leaders means that traditional dictators (i.e. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, etc) are coming back into style.

What we may be seeing is a shift towards a quasi-authoritarian democracy under which people decide who gets to be dictator for the next term. Given the increased polarization and fundamentalist attitude of political parties, I think we're already at a point where a significant number of people will settle for nothing less than their favored political party achieving solid control over all three branches of govt and refusing to compromise an inch on any given policy idea or legislation. In short, they want a dictatorial govt that works in their favor – but they also want the mechanism in place to change dictators without resorting to a coup de tat (which would mean hard work and sacrifice).

To be sure, I’m reasonably certain those people who want an authoritarian version of democracy don’t think of it in those specific terms. And they are in the minority – for now. But their numbers are growing, and people like Trump are taking advantage of that. Put another way, the problem may not be Trump (or May, Erdoğan, Abe, Modi, Benjamin Netanyahu et al) so much as the voters that put them into positions of power in the first place.

Where this will lead to is anyone’s guess – again, I’m not convinced it will lead to Trump literally doing what Hitler did. But we are seeing a weakening of support for a loyal opposition that is essential for making democracy work. When you rebrand the loyal opposition en masse as the enemy of the state, yr asking for authoritarians to step in and fix them but good – maybe not in terms of purges and concentration camps, but certainly in terms of permanent disempowerment.

In which case perhaps democracy really will be a case of the winners getting the government they deserve – at the expense of everyone else.

We have met the enemy and he is us,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
If there’s one thing that America learned in this election, it’s this: a lot of information on the internet isn’t that accurate.

Granted, for many people, “inaccurate” means “this doesn’t fit the narrow hyperpartisan narrative in my brain”. Even now, media companies are getting a lot of flak from some liberals over their inaccurate and dishonest coverage of Donald Trump because they refer to him as “President-Elect Trump” and not “Fucking White Supremacist Nazi Batshit Insane Fascist Motherfucker Who Lost The Fucking Popular Vote Fake Fucking Not My President Trump”.

Anyway, now we’re hearing a lot about “fake news” on social media – especially Facebook –and to what extent this may have influenced the election.

Mark Zuckerberg hilariously tried to pretend the whole thing was overblown, since “fake news” accounts for a tiny percentage of what pops up on Facebook newsfeeds. Then Buzzfeed demonstrated that it’s not about percentages – it’s about eyeballs, and fake news stories on FB got plenty more of them than real news did.

The problem is also likely underestimated in terms of what counts as “fake news”.

Many people point to that kid in Macedonia working for Wikileaks or Vlad Putin, etc. But how about The Onion (which is satire, I know, but you’d be surprised how many people don’ know that)? Or how about stories from hyperpartisan sites like Breitbart or Addicting Info that are so blatantly one-sided that they might as well be fake? Or conspiracy/rumor sites like Infowars and Drudge? And are we including all those political meme graphics with info that usually is at best misleading and at worst completely false (making them the FB/Twitter equivalent of chain emails)?

And so on.

Once you factor all of that in – as well as the statistic that 62% of Americans get their news from social media (to include Facebook, Twitter and Reddit) – then I would argue that “fake news” was indeed a fairly big factor in this election. 

That said, I would add further that I don’t think it influenced the actual outcome. Or at least there’s no evidence of this yet. I do think that at a minimum, it served to reinforce the batshit reality bubbles that the hardcore left/right bases tend to live in already.

Which does raise a valid question: if fake news is the problem, is it the fault of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit etc for not doing enough to flag it, or is it the fault of the gullible and narrow-minded people who believe this tripe and can’t be bothered to fact-check it?

Either way, people are demanding the social media sites do something about it. M. Zuckerberg says he’s working on it.

Interestingly, four university kids claim to have solved the whole problem with a Chrome browser extension called “News Feed authenticity checker” which they whacked together in about 36 hours, according to Business Insider:
 
"It classifies every post, be it pictures (Twitter snapshots), adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, fake news links as verified or non-verified using artificial intelligence.

"For links, we take into account the website's reputation, also query it against malware and phishing websites database and also take the content, search it on Google/Bing, retrieve searches with high confidence and summarize that link and show to the user. For pictures like Twitter snapshots, we convert the image to text, use the usernames mentioned in the tweet, to get all tweets of the user and check if current tweet was ever posted by the user."

The plug-in even adds a tag saying whether the story is verified. The students have released the extension as an open-source project for other developers to tweak.

Certainly Facebook should be able to think of an algorithm-based solution – Google did something similar to deal with webspam content farms. But as this Vox article argues, it’s not a choice between algorithms or humans to vet fake news – you’ll probably need both.

On a side note, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft have agreed to create a shared database that allows them to ID and flag extremist content.

By “extremist” they mainly mean Islamic State and its supporters, but I suppose it could also be applied to, say, white supremacist/anti-Semitic groups who seem to be enjoying themselves at the moment. I wonder how far they’ll take that – does Trump count as an extremist? Does #NotMyPresident count? Will any stories reporting what Trump says be flagged as extremist?

Big fun.

BONUS TRACK:
I wrote a song about political memes being as bad as fake news, you know. Go like this:


Lie to me,

This is dF
defrog: (license to il)
I should probably post something about Fidel Castro, if only for posterity.

Obviously a lot of people are assessing his legacy via their own narrow political filters. For some people on the Left he was a symbolic hero with good intentions who gave Conservative Self-Righteous America the finger for decades – oh, and great healthcare system. For some people on the Right he was an evil, ruthless murderous Commie dictator (just like Obama) and not at all like (say) Vlad Putin (admirable) or Saddam Hussein (not a Commie, great terrorist killer).   

I think it's fair to say that Castro was all of these things. For me, however, Castro was mostly a cartoon character in American pop culture.

For context, I was born in 1965, well after the Communist Revolution in Cuba and the Bay Of Pigs incident. By the time I was aware of “the news” and the existence of geopolitics in the mid-70s, Castro was more a comedy staple than Terrifying Communist Menace On America’s Doorstep. Even with the Cold War still raging, Castro wasn’t an actual threat to America so much as an irritant for right-wingers annoyed that anyone could get away with setting up a Damn Commie regime just 90 miles off the coast of this great nation, etc.

So by the time I was aware of who Castro was, my image of him was more like this.

 

 

 

Of course, as I got older, I learned about the details of his regime, which are far more nuanced and complex than either side cares to admit. But really Castro has always kind of remained a television news character – like Reagan, Yasser Arafat, Mikael Gorbachev and others. So I didn’t take him all that seriously.

Which is probably why by the 1990s – like a lot of people – I thought the US ban on trade and travel with Cuba to be anachronistic and pointless. Sure, dictatorships are bad, and life under Castro was pretty bad for a lot of people.

On the other hand, by then I was very aware that the US govt has always been selective about which dictatorships are bad. And frankly by the 90s it was pretty clear that the US sanctions that were meant to isolate Castro and hasten the demise of his revolution simply weren’t working. At all. They weren’t working all the way up to the time that Obama put an end to them.

I guess that’s why on a purely objective level, it’s hard not to be impressed with Castro a little. He was a genuine cult of personality who started his own banana republic and defied the world’s biggest superpower right up to the end of his long natural life. The US couldn’t kill him (and don’t think they didn’t try). They couldn’t squeeze him economically. Nothing worked. (The going joke now is that the CIA finally got him by getting him to die of old age.)  

Still, yes, murderous dictator, etc. For all of the US’s hapless failings regarding its foreign policy on Cuba, no one should be glossing over the fact that Castro was pretty ruthless and heavy-handed as dictators go. You could argue that his predecessor Batista was worse, but let’s not pretend Castro’s opposition got off light.

Anyway, he’s gone, and now many Cubans are hoping that, with reformist brother Raul in charge, the country can move forward somehow and join the 21st century.

There is one hitch, of course.

Cuba libre,

This is dF 

defrog: (onoes)
Regarding the #NotMyPresident protests that Fox News is complaining about in the same way they didn’t complain about the “Obama is not legitimate” conspiracy theories:

Personally I’m not very critical of the anti-Trump protests in and of themselves, because I see them largely for what they are – a massive release of the fear, loathing and rage that has characterized this entire sad stupid election. It’s been a savagely emotional two years for everyone involved, and to lose when the polls all said otherwise (more or less) – and to do so yet again in a way where they won the pop vote but lost the electoral vote – is a hard pill for anyone to swallow.

And let’s be clear – Trump supporters aren’t really in a position to criticize the protests when (1) many of them refused to recognize Obama as POTUS because he’s gay Muslim foreigner, and (2) their own candidate said he would refuse to recognize the results if he lost. So let's not pretend that Trump fans would take an HRC victory calmly and agree to move on and unite the country instead of (say) grabbing their muskets, because they literally said they wouldn’t before the voting even started.

Also, it’s important to understand that a lot of this is driven by fear of what Trump and his fan base will or will not do to LGBTs, Muslims, immigrants and every other non-white-Christian-male demographic in America.

I get that. When I was a kid, I got bullied at school all the time (at one point it was for being gay, which I wasn’t, but people said I was, which was close enough for them). I had to go to school every day wondering what kind of shit I was going to be handed, if I was going to get teased or mocked or roughed up, or whatever. Some days were better than others, but that fear was constantly hanging over my head – not knowing what was coming or when or from who, but knowing that I would be forced to deal with it, that I wouldn’t like it, and that no one would back me up. And I had to go to school every day and face that.

That, I imagine, is how a lot of minorities in the US feel right now, only more so. The PEOTUS has given bullies a license to express themselves however they like – and they have been doing just that, and in the manner you’ve come to expect. So I can’t really fault anti-Trump protesters for taking to the streets to reject that philosophy. And it's a good sign that they are.

Having said that, I do think at some point they need to just accept the fact that Trump will be POTUS and prepare to deal with him and his minions on those terms.

Again, I get why that’s hard for them to do. At best they face a much more uncertain future than The Straight White Guys Of America – living in dread of what the Trump admin is going to try to do to them, or what their neighbors/work colleagues/strangers in food courts will do to make their lives sad and terrible.

But while I understand the emotional context of #NotMyPresident, I don’t support it in practice. For me, it’s very simple – the whole point of democracy is to create a peaceful transition of power. If you refuse to accept that transition, then yr headed down a road that leads to one coup de tat after another.

Note that there’s a major difference between refusing to accept the legitimacy of a POTUS and refusing to support any bad or dangerous ideas that POTUS may enact. You can both accept that Trump won AND oppose him on policy. What you can’t do is force him out and put Hillary in just because you want her there, no matter how dangerous you may sincerely think he’ll be.

Well, okay, technically yes you can, which is where people start talking about Hillary winning the pop vote and how the electoral college sucks and the electors should do their duty, become faithless electors and change their votes for Hillary.

Yes, legally they can do that. That doesn’t make it a good idea. Here are couple of reasons why:

1. If you were one of those people who criticized Trump and his posse for saying they would refuse to accept the legitimacy of a HRC victory, then it’s kind of hypocritical to refuse to accept a Trump win to the point of actively trying to change the official result in your favor.

2. Given how Trump supporters were convinced that Hillary would win by cheating – and were prepared to take action to save America – I’m pretty sure they’ll feel twice as strongly about that if the electors actively deny Trump the White House at this stage. If you think the pro-Trump racist groups act like violent jerks when they win, imagine what they’ll be like when they have their POTUS taken away from them.

For that matter, imagine the situation being reversed, where Hillary won the electoral vote only to have the electors give it to Trump.

So sooner or later, I think the Left is going to have to just bite the bullet and prepare to challenge the Trump admin enough to keep damage to a minimum. It will suck, yes. A raging civil war with street violence and possibly endless coups will suck a lot worse.

If it makes you feel any better, we’re already seeing hints that Trump was never serious about a lot of what he said, and only said it to exploit the far-right. He’s already denounced the so-called “alt-right” movement (notice the timing) and said he’s not going to bother putting Hillary in jail.

And suddenly every racist kook in America is starting to get the feeling they’ve just been played.

So there is that.

As I said in the last post, none of this necessarily means Trump will be a good POTUS after all. He’s still likely to do dumb and terrible things, and if he doesn’t personally, his appointees might, and certainly some of his supporters will (and already are). But if we’re lucky, Trump will turn out to be the ultimate huckster who – intentionally or otherwise – actually did us the favor of demonstrating to everyone that America still has a serious racism/bigotry problem that (it turns out) can’t be fixed by pretending that it doesn’t exist.

Interesting times, eh Jim?

The man who sold the world,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
One thing Donald Trump and Bernie Bros have in common is their unshakable belief that the election is rigged against them. This is one of the great unsung traditions of democracy, of course – when yr candidate loses, accuse the other side of cheating because WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE?

However, it’s one thing when voters do it. It’s another when the candidate does it. The former has the luxury of being sore losers. The latter doesn’t. And it’s another thing again when a candidate does it well ahead of the actual election, effectively warning his supporters, “If I lose, it’ll be because the election was rigged against me.”

Which D. Trump did.

And it’s comments like this – as well as the adamant belief of some Bernie Sanders fans that Hillary literally stole the nomination and thus is not a legitimate candidate – that get me to wonder if we’re not seeing the end of democracy as we know it.

To explain:

American democracy has always generally been a model for a peaceful transition of power. That’s actually kind of the point. You may hate that the opposition won, but yr not going to try and change the result with a coup de tat like they do in other parts of the world. Even in 2000 when George W Bush was effectively handed the election by the Supreme Court, as angry as liberals were about that, they weren’t furious enough to resort to violence as a remedy.

Occasionally some idiot resorts to assassination to eliminate a specific POTUS or candidate, but that doesn’t result in a handover of power from one party to another. (Put simply, assassinating President Obama results in President Biden, not President Romney.)

So generally, we accept the results of a given election, as much as we may hate them. The question is how much longer we will continue to do so.

Consider the following:
  • Trump’s campaign hinges on milking anger and frustration and providing scapegoats in the form of foreigners, Muslims and – notably – the liberal opposition
  • Some of his supporters have a tendency to express that anger and frustration in the form of opportunistic violence (a tendency that Trump hasn't exactly gone out of his way to discourage)
  • Others who stick to verbal expressions have expressed their feelings about Hillary Clinton in the form of chants such as “hang the bitch” and “kill the bitch” – to include his own advisors (albeit without using the “B” word)
  • Many Republicans – even ones that don’t support Trump specifically – are already convinced that voter fraud is a widespread problem that favors Democrats, which is why they’ve been pushing voter ID laws in as many states as possible
  • A number of those laws were recently weakened or overturned in court decisions.
So with all of those factors currently in play, it’s only natural to wonder how the Trump Mob is going to react if Hillary wins – especially given Trump’s recent Second Amendment crack.

A couple of quick points:

1. I feel obligated to point out at this stage that lots of people assumed the Republican convention would be a bloodbath thanks to the Trump Mob. It wasn’t.

2. I also think the 2A “joke” has been blown out of proportion in the sense that I don’t believe Trump was actively or intentionally calling for someone to shoot his opponent.

Similarly, on the rigged-election meme, I don’t think Trump is intentionally calling for revolution, assassination or any kind of violent remedy should he lose. I think he’s more interested in making sure everyone understands the only possible way he can lose is if Hillary cheats, because DONALD TRUMP NEVER LOSES.

However, as this article at The Atlantic points out, it’s not about what Trump meant, it’s about what his fans thought he meant – especially in the context described above – how much they take it to heart, and how far they’re prepared to run with it.

(I'll also add that while I doubt Trump gives a second thought about how his rhetoric is being processed, I do think whatever violence breaks out will be on him, no matter what his intentions were. He may have no control over the mob he’s created, but that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for its actions.) 

That’s just the Trump camp. Elsewhere, we are seeing that a growing number of voters are becoming polarized to the point where they believe the opposition has become clear and present danger to the country, making compromise or possibly even co-existence impossible. I hear this from conservatives and liberals alike, and boy are they angry about it.

To be clear, most of them aren’t talking about armed revolution, and the ones who are don’t have the numbers to come anywhere close to succeeding. But it seems to me we are heading in a direction where people eventually decide, “What the hell is the point of democracy if my side doesn't win?”

It may take us decades to get to that point. It might take until November. I don’t know. But it’s clear there’s a serious breakdown of trust in the current electoral process – it’s not rigged, but people think it is because they don’t understand how it works. Everyone thinks it’s a simple matter of whoever gets the most votes wins – it’s not, and hasn’t been for a very long time. But people don’t know that. And making matters worse is the process that does exist is starting to buckle under the strain of political polarization among the voting public.

If something isn’t done to correct this – either by reforming the process, simplifying it or even just educating people on how and why it works the way it does – the problem is going to get worse. Democracy works when people trust the system. When that trust is replaced with sufficient anger, suspicion and paranoia … well, at the very least you get D. Trump as a POTUS nominee telling his Very Very Angry supporters to assume a Hillary victory is illegitimate – and refuse to let her get away with it.

If we’re lucky, D. Trump’s numbers will keep dwindling until all he has left is a handful of die-hards. On the other hand, in a room full of dynamite it only takes one dingbat with a match to set it off.

Revolution ballroom,

This is dF
defrog: (mooseburgers)
Yes, I know, some people will say that’s been true since the 1970s. But after the spectacle that was the GOP convention, I think it’s something you can actually prove scientifically.

Mind you, a lot of what’s been said about the convention spelling horrible, horrible doom for America is overblown, or at least unremarkable. Liberals say that about EVERY Repub convention, and it’s usually based on the slanted benchmark that whatever happens at the convention is horrible and offensive mainly to liberals who basically find the very existence of conservatives horrible and offensive.

Also, one thing that’s not being talked about much is the fact that the predictions of the GOP convention resulting in wholesale violence and gunplay – and that’s just between the Republicans themselves – pretty much never actually happened. So that’s good.

However, that seems to be about the only positive thing you can say about the convention. You’ve probably read/seen all the horror stories, but here are the things that stand out for me personally:

1. Am I conservative enough for you?

The GOP revised its official platform, and while a lot of it is the same basic positions they’ve always held, they've taken many of those positions – especially the ones regarding social issues, guns and Christianity – and dialed them up to 11. It’s like the party decided, “Fuck it, why even pretend to appeal to the moderates?” 

You can read the full text here, or select summaries here and here

But this is by far the biggest story of the convention. Donald Trump doesn’t particularly agree with every plank here, but much of it is tailored to his worldview (which is why they added a plank calling for wall on the Mexican border). And it doesn’t matter if Trump disagrees with some planks – if he wins, he’s not likely to veto any particular action they take on these things unless it gets in the way of his main priorities

Also, Mike Pence is much more on board with the platform than Trump, who allegedly intends to delegate the meat and potatoes work to Pence(Pence being the CEO to Trump’s Chairman Of The Board, I guess). 

So the GOP is officially the party of Trump and conservative extremism. There’s no real middle ground from this point on – and that’s regardless of whether Trump wins. 

2. For once in his life, Ted Cruz does something right

To be perfectly clear, I think Ted Cruz would make an even worse POTUS than Donald Trump, because he does agree with everything in the updated party platform. However, you have to respect him for refusing to coronate Trump – even if he did probably do it mainly to kickstart his 2020 campaign. Still, it took balls to go up there and refuse to say what yr expected to say at these things. 

On the other hand, integrity only gets you so far when the only difference between Cruz and Trump is that Cruz actually believes in his inflexible hardline conservative ideology and would work overtime to inflict it on the country. Most conservatives I know only hate Trump because he’s a loudmouth poseur. So let’s not pretend that a Cruz presidency would be an improvement, or at least more sane. It would be less like a WWF event, but that’s about it. 

3. The way things used to be

On a related note, it’s worth mentioning that conventions used to be a lot rowdier and more contested than this. We’ve grown used to conventions being a sort of coronation ceremony with a unified statement of purpose. But they didn’t used to be that way. And frankly, everyone was expecting this convention to be even more raucous than it turned out to be. 

So in that sense, the RNC convention was a throwback to old-school conventioneering than a decline into party madness. That said, as has been accurately pointed out, at least of the chaos could have been easily avoided with better planning (i.e. vetting speeches for plagiarizing yr political enemies, allowing a guy who genuinely hates you to speak and upstage yr VP’s speech, etc). 

5. BENGHAZIPALOOZA!

The Hillary HateFest portion of the convention wasn’t unexpected, but it was decidedly over the top – at least to those of us who aren't conditioned to think of Hillary as a Feminista Criminal Mastermind. It’s one thing for one speaker to run with the “Lock her up!” meme – but for three of them to run with that and milk the crowd with it like a wrestler going for a cheap pop? That’s borderline incitement. And that’s before you get to the guy who said she should be shot for treason

Sure, you can argue that it’s just theatre and the GOP isn’t literally demanding that Hillary be jailed and/or shot. But (1) I’m reasonably sure that at least some of the people yelling “Lock her up!” weren’t kidding, and (2) whether they were or not, the overall message that the GOP is sending to both its base and the general public is that Hillary should be jailed/shot for crimes Republicans know for a fact she’s guilty of – despite some 30 years worth of investigations and no evidence of criminal wrongdoing – because there are tons of smoking guns in the alternate fantasy world they apparently live in. 

Or maybe they believe the smoking gun is Hillary herself: “She can’t POSSIBLY be innocent! She’s HILLARY F***ING CLINTON, for God’s sake! That’s proof enough for me!”

Which is ironic for a group of people who also go around saying “Blue Lives matter!” and demand restoration of law and order (which would imply due process, but why bother when you KNOW people are guilty? Like Hillary? Or black people who get shot by the police and therefore probably deserve it?). 

6. Dangerous creeps are everywhere

But then the “Lock her up!” meme slots in neatly with Trump’s overall message in his acceptance speech (which he shouted for 75 minutes): (1) America is in the worst shape it’s ever been (no matter what actual data tells you), and that’s because it is surrounded (and has been heavily infiltrated) by dangerous people, most of whom just happen to be non-white (and liberal!), and that’s entirely the fault of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and (2) only Donald Trump can save you! 

Or, as John Scalzi nicely summed it up

• We’re all doomed by crime, immigrants and minorities;
• It’s all Hillary Clinton’s fault, let’s jail and/or kill her;
• Trump is great, Trump is the supreme leader, all hail Trump, details to come.

Okay, Trump did try to be inclusive by pointing out how bad life is for black people economically (being shot by racist cops excluded, because that just doesn’t happen in America), and by saying that LGBTs shouldn’t be gunned down in nightclubs because of “hateful foreign ideology” (because certainly 
no one with hateful domestic ideology has ever supported the idea that LGBTs should be executed in the name of God). But again, the party that nominated him (to include his VP pick) has made it clear how they feel about homosex (it’s curable, for example), and while they may agree that mowing them down en masse is wrong, that’s about as far as they're willing to go in terms of outreach.

So that’s pretty much it – the GOP is officially the Loud Terrified Fucking Angry White Guy Party, and they’re out to fix America but good.

And again, that’s regardless of whether Donald wins. He’s got over 40% of the country on his side, and that’s not going to go away under a HillRod presidency. That's the opposition she'll be dealing with. If nothing else, the “Lock her up!” meme is a stark preview of the kind of cooperation she can expect from a GOP-led Congress. The motions for impeachment will probably start November 9th.

Unconventional,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
ITEM: Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter for tweeting racist abuse at Leslie Jones, who is currently starring in the Ghostbusters reboot, which has angered people like Yiannopoulos because they ruined a perfectly good movie by putting a bunch of girls in it to kowtow to the liberal Feminazi agenda or something.

So yeah, a few things here:

1. For the record, I haven’t seen the movie yet, and while I don’t think we needed a Ghostbusters reboot, I have no problem with the casting.

2. As usual John Scalzi saves me a lot of typing here regarding Yiannopoulos’ cries of censorship and liberal bias at Twitter. Basically, no and no.

3. Scalzi also raises a point that Leslie Jones has also mentioned – that Twitter needs to do more about this kind of thing, and not just when it happens to celebrities with lots of followers.

It’s true that trolls are a perennial problem anywhere on the internet, and yes, shutting them down doesn’t make them or their racist/sexist attitudes go away. But there’s a big difference between free speech and bullying – especially when it’s the kind of professional organized bullying that trolls like Yiannopoulos engage in. (For more on this, I recommend this piece by Laurie Penny, who has known Yiannopoulos for some time and attended his pro-Trump rally at the RNC Convention this week – poor woman.)

Social media has become so poisonous that companies like Twitter (and Facebook and all of them, really) do need to be more proactive in protecting users from abuse. It’s difficult for them to do that because their business model relies on keeping users, not kicking them off permanently. But it’s either that or people like Leslie Jones quitting. They can’t have it both ways for much longer – especially now that one of the biggest trolls in the country just accepted the GOP nomination for President.

Not with the banned,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
As a blogger I’m expected to express my opinion about #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, the Dallas shootings and the subsequent aftermath. And I’m way late on this, I know, but I’ve been busy.

And to be honest, there’s not much I can add to what I’ve posted before about #BlackLivesMatters. So much of the rhetoric on my Facebook feed and elsewhere is the same recycled talking points we’ve heard since Ferguson (which was, believe it or not, two years ago) – the #AllLivesMatter crowd are repeating themselves because they refuse to listen to what #BLM is trying to tell them, and #BLM are repeating themselves because #ALM isn’t listening.

You see the problem.

Anyway, here’s a few things to add to the “conversation”, such as it is, about the specific events last week.

1. One of the takeaways from Dallas is that when Micah Johnson started shooting, the cops did what they could to protect the protesters, and protesters did what they could to help the police. Also, considering that some of the protesters were openly armed, it says a lot that not a single cop shot anyone they saw carrying a gun. Both of these factoids do not slot in neatly with the stereotypical rhetoric that gets thrown around on TwitBook in related political memes.

2. All three incidents raise serious questions about Open Carry and the general belief of the NRA that everyone is entitled to carry guns openly because it makes us all safer.

For a start, Open Carry clearly didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the Dallas shooting, although it did make it more difficult for the police to determine who the actual shooter was (and that there was only one).

Also – and more to the point – both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were legally carrying firearms in Open Carry states. Yet the fact that they had guns alarmed police enough to use deadly force in the same way that white people with guns generally don’t alarm them. The NRA – which normally leaps at the chance to defend the right of everyone to carry a gun without being hassled by the police about it – hasn’t had a blessed thing to say about either case. And their own members are starting to call them on it (at least about Castile).

The NRA eventually released a statement about the Castile shooting (without mentioning his name), saying they don’t comment on ongoing investigations – which is possibly wise, but does come across as a blatant media-management trick to avoid saying something that people are going to use against you on Twitter for the rest of yr life.

3. There’s also the fact that the Dallas police took out Johnson with a suicide bomber robot. Which is a flashy way of describing what was the equivalent of a telepresence drone attack on a suspect, which raises all kinds of legal and ethical questions regarding due process, lethal force, militarization of the police, etc.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dallas police were wrong to use a robot in this specific situation – and there is actually precedent for using weaponized robots, although not with the specific intention to kill. And if we agree that the police have a legal right to kill someone in a situation like this, it arguably doesn't matter if they use robot bombs, guns, 16-ton weights or their bare hands.

Still, we’re headed into unknown territory here, especially when you remember (1) the current advances being made in robot technology regarding automation and artificial intelligence, and (2) the continuing trend of police militarization, and what it means to give cops the ability to send in a robot or drone to deal with suspects.

4. Inevitably there are idiots who were hoping Dallas would spark some kind of race war – including this guy. Possibly. I’m not entirely sure what exactly Joe Walsh wants, and it’s possible he doesn’t, either, apart from something that will make BLM protesters and Obama – and thus (in his mind) America’s race problem – go away, or at least make them look as evil and terrible and violent as he imagines they are.

I’d like to think the Joe Walshes of America are in the minority, but he’s not without support. Even my Facebook feed, sadly, makes that clear – many white people I know see BLM (and Obama) as the cause of racial tension in America: “Hey, I’m not racist, THEY started it, everything was fine until they saying white lives don’t matter and started shooting white cops!”

And while that’s not the same as openly advocating a race war, it seems pretty obvious that Walsh et al would welcome any excuse to crack down on the entire movement – like, say, a couple of violent psychopaths killing cops. It seems likely they’re going to milk Dallas (and now Baton Rouge) as “evidence” BLM is a terrorist group like ISIS and was all along and needs to be neutralized before they take over the country and enslave all the white people, or whatever it is they think BLM wants.

Good thing they’re only a fringe minority that won’t be emboldened by the success of a major Presidential candidate whose campaign has been built on white xenophobic … oh, wait.

It’s all sad and stupid, really. If a race war does happen, historians 100 years from now will shake their heads sadly at how easy it was to start one.

It never ends,

This is dF
defrog: (life is offensive)
ITEM: You know that Mississippi law passed in April that basically said you can legally discriminate against LBGTs and even unmarried hetero couples as long as it contravenes yr religious beliefs (provided those religious beliefs are Christian?

A federal judge just ruled it unconstitutional. Twice.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves ruled on a specific provision of the law that allowed clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He struck that one down.

Then, minutes before the law was to go into effect on July 1, Reeves struck down the rest of it for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

I’m not surprised by the ruling. You can’t really call it a “religious freedom” bill if it takes just three specific religious beliefs from one specific religion (well, two if you include Islam, which no one who wrote and supported the bill had in mind, I can pretty much guarantee) and encode them into law – especially in a way that violates another amendment (in this case, the 14th one). The 1A has never guaranteed religious freedom to the point that yr religious beliefs legally supersede everyone else’s rights or beliefs.

But then, as I’ve said before, part of the purpose of bills like this – and many of them have been proposed to varying degrees of severity – isn’t to succeed, but to be seen by yr constituents voting in favor of them. So the politicians who backed this law will get the political mileage they wanted with their base either way, and they get to trot out the old “liberal activist judge” meme for good measure.

Still, it’s nice the law was rejected, though of course it might be reinstated on appeal. No word yet on an appeal will actually happen, although Gov Phil Bryant has said he would very much desire it. And bear in mind that LGBTs are still not covered by the state's existing anti-discrimination law anyway. Still, in times like these you take what you can get.

Case dismissed,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
danskjavlarna: “ “Books cannot be killed by fire.” ”

[Via Gotankgo]

Choice of weapons,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
The Minneapolis Journal, Minnesota, April 14, 1905

[Via Yesterday’s Print]

Call me maybe,

This is dF


defrog: (mooseburgers)
ITEM: The Washington Post has become the latest in an ever-growing line of news media barred from attending Donald Trump’s rallies and press conferences after the paper gave him "incredibly inaccurate" coverage.

GLOSSARY: “Inaccurate” = “reporting what Trump said, not what he meant to say”.

Or something. It’s hard to know, exactly. It probably changes according to whatever mood Trump happens to be in at the time. Also, this is the same guy who claimed in his WaPo statement that WaPo is a propaganda tool for Amazon to protect its monopoly and avoid taxes. So, you know, accuracy is relative.

This isn’t the first time Trump has kicked reporters out of his campaign events or his press pool. It probably won’t be the last. The real question is whether it matters. And the answer probably depends on how far Trump would take this if he wins.

That depends who you ask, of course. The liberals are predicting apocalyptic visions of Nazi AmeriKKKa, though I suspect they’d be doing that if Jeb! was the nominee like he was supposed to be. Trump apologists – and in fact Trump himself – insist that Trump The POTUS will act differently from Trump The Candidate, so don’t worry, he’ll curb his more extreme side once he’s in office.

The latter opinion seems plausible when you remember that Trump is knowingly playing to a base that’s been built up on a rabid distrust of both Establishment politicians and the mainstream media. Banning reporters could just be a part of that schtick, and it’s always possible he’ll drop that shtick once he wins. He’s already said as much.

On the other hand, he has expressed an interest in amending libel laws making it easier to sue the hell out of newspapers who write “inaccurate” things about him. So who knows, really?

Supposing he does continue his media blacklist as POTUS, this raises an interesting question: is it really necessary to be in Trump’s physical presence in order to report what he says and does?

I mean, his speeches are already widely covered. I could probably “cover” his campaign from here in HK if I wanted to. The same would arguably true of President Trump’s career unless he imposes a full media blackout, which seems unlikely.

Also, I recall what Ana Marie Cox pointed out seven years ago: the White House Press Corps is arguably little more than a glorified steno pool who report whatever spin the POTUS or his media-trained Press Secretary hurls at their questions. No matter how much access they have to Trump, he’s not going to give them anything he doesn’t want to give. So why show up at all?

Still, I would agree that all this is beside the point. A POTUS who only grants access to media who doesn’t write “inaccurate” things about him (especially one whose definition of “inaccurate” seems pretty broad and arbitrary) isn’t exactly in the spirit of the First Amendment of the Constitution. And we already know what happens if you take Trump’s current attitude and run off the end of the Earth with it.

I don’t think Trump wants to take it nearly that far, mind you. But it’s clear he’s become frustrated that the media isn’t as credulous as it was when he started his campaign. That’s likely because (1) he’s no longer the loudest buffoon in a crowded field, but an actual presumptive nominee, and (2) journalists have finally gotten a handle on his interview style, so he’s no longer able to baffle them with his reality-TV bebop, as Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications scholar at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, told the LA Times:

“When the candidate’s style is a Joycean stream of consciousness, a reporter has trouble finding an anchor point to stop and interrogate him,” she told me. “But by now, they’ve begun to figure him out. They’ve worked out strategies to hold him accountable. They’re now deciding: I’m going to get an answer to one important question, no matter how long it takes.”

In other words, Trump can’t get away with just being “good television” anymore.

The honeymoon is over,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
ITEM: The US Senate’s commerce committee is investigating whether Facebook is suppressing ideologically conservative news or stories from conservative organizations from its "trending topics" column.

The allegations originate from a story on Gizmodo citing anonymous Facebook “news curators” who say they were told to ignore certain stories and inject others into the column, regardless of how popular they were. Facebook denies this.

A few thoughts:

1. If Facebook is suppressing conservative content, you sure can’t tell from my newsfeed because I get an earful of batshit every day from that side of the aisle.

2. It’s reasonable to assume that Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) only really cares about this because of the alleged liberal bias. If news curators were ignoring liberal-leaning stories, I doubt he’d bother calling the committee to order over it. The same goes for any other conservatives who may be crying outrage over this.

3. Thune’s contention seems to be that because Facebook is a social media site and not a news organization, it’s subject to different considerations regarding political media bias, not least because Facebook itself states that the trending module only lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook” and is generally driven by algorithms, with minimal human input to confirm the algorithms are working.

4. The thing is, even if the allegations are true, there’s nothing illegal about it unless yr argument is that Facebook is guilty of misleading marketing. In terms of the First Amendment, free speech and fairness, there’s an eloquent argument out there that social media outlets – which are privately owned companies – can set whatever content policies they want, and are under no legal or constitutional obligation to be “fair”. Pretty much all online sites set content policies (to include policing trolls in the comments section). And technically there’s no law dictating that any media outlet has to be fair and balanced, so why should Facebook be any different in that regard?

Thune may be right that “Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open Internet.” On the other hand, “the values of an open Internet” doesn't mean every site on the internet has to give equal coverage to all issues. Furthermore, it’s disingenuous for him to complain about anything being “inconsistent with the values of an open Internet” since Republicans are currently ideologically opposed to net neutrality, which is very much an “open Internet” value.

5. The actual point of the Gizmodo story was that Facebook’s trending column is run pretty much like any other news media outlet – with a gatekeeper/editorial function that is subject to the personal biases of the editorial team. Those biases may be more or less balanced, or they may be along the lines of Breitbart or AddictingInfo. But they’re rarely 100% neutral.

It's also worth mentioning that, according to Gizmodo, Facebook’s editorial decisions on trending topics were based in part on whether the stories in question were (for instance) duplicate topics, hoaxes, poorly sourced, or a rumor going viral within its own particular echo chamber with no outside verification. For example, if a story breaks that Obama is planning a false flag terrorist attack to cancel the election and declare himself emperor, and it’s only being reported on World Net Daily and similar right-wing crackpot conspiracy sites who are basically just repeating what WND said, then it’s not necessarily a “trending” news story, depending on yr definition of “trending”.

However, this does raise a valid question: is trending by definition 100% organic? Should it be? Would it more useful if it is? If so, to who – you, or Facebook’s advertisers? (Let’s remind ourselves here that Facebook users are not customers – they are product for the actual customers – i.e. advertisers.)

If there’s any “scandal” here, maybe it’s that Facebook’s trending algorithms don't work that great without human monitoring. Personally I’d prefer more human curators than less. But then I’m old school and I’m an editor by trade, so I would say that, wouldn’t I?

(Also, I don't actually use the Facebook trending topics thing. So it doesn't matter to me how good Facebook’s algorithms are.) 

And it probably doesn't matter in general because from here on out, most people won't be arguing about algorithms. They’ll be arguing over Facebook’s Big Fat Unfair Liberal Conspiracy against poor oppressed conservatives. There's a trending topic for you.

Antisocial,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
DISCLAIMER: I’m not very familiar with the transgender issue in general (see Point 8, below). I mean, yes, I’m aware that transgenders exist and face discrimination issues, etc. But I don’t know a lot about gender identity or understand how it works. So if this disqualifies me from commenting on this, you can stop reading now.

1. Transgenders in the US comprise somewhere around 0.3% of the population. So the scale of the “problem” the NC HB2 bill claims to be addressing is pretty small. (Put another way, it’s not like there’s going to be some massive transgender invasion of America’s washrooms.)

2. As near as I can tell, the NC law applies only to publicly funded facilities (i.e. government buildings, public schools, etc). Private businesses (such as, oh, say, Target) can legally set their own policies on washroom usage if they want.

3. Even so, the Justice Department has decided the law violates Title IX (which bars discrimination in education based on sex) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans employment discrimination.

4. Apparently that’s partly thanks to Antonin Scalia (albeit unintentionally).

5. For the life of me I have no idea what HB2 supporters think they’re accomplishing with this law. I’m not sure which washrooms transgenders were using before, but I’m pretty sure hardly anyone noticed or cared until a group of conservative lawyers decided to make it an issue.

Many (if not all) transgenders tend to look and dress like the gender they identify with (or so I assume), which means the law basically requires trans guys who look/dress like ladies to use the men’s room and vice versa. If yr the kind of person who gets freaked out easily by transgenders, I don’t see how making them 100x more noticeable in a washroom setting is supposed to make you feel more at ease.

And of course, plenty of people who are not transgender don’t always conform with the physical appearance or dress codes associated with a specific gender. I predict a lot of false alarms and general embarrassment for everyone involved.

6. One justification I’ve heard for HB2 is that straight guys and/or child molesters will use the law as an excuse to go into the ladies room and rape them and their children or something.

A few points here: (1) that’s never happened in any other city or state with the same transgender washroom provisions, (2) if it ever does happen, it would still be illegal under such laws and (3) the only guys infiltrating ladies’ rooms at the moment seem to be from right-wing conservative groups trying to make some half-assed point that technically it can be done.

7. Police forces in NC have already stated for the record that they really have no game plan for enforcing HB2. And even if they bothered to try, HB2 contains no enforcement provisions or penalties.

Yes, there are a few reports in circulation of cops arresting people in NC, but one of them is an outright fake and the other one not only didn’t happen in NC, it apparently happened at least six months before the NC law was passed. I’m sure we will start seeing some real incidents like this sooner or later. But I think they’ll be the exception to the rule, though I’m sure the magic of social media will blow them way the hell out of proportion – just like it does with everything else.

8. One key caveat: my above comments pertain mainly to washrooms. Locker rooms are a different matter, because some level of socially acceptable public nudity is involved, which lowers the privacy bar, and makes it more difficult for transgenders to blend in mainly unnoticed.

NOTE: This may not be the problem I imagine it might be. If any readers know otherwise, feel free to comment. And I'll stress here that I'm not personally afraid of encountering transgenders in the changing room. But I'll admit, I would be doing a double take and wondering if I'm in the wrong room, if you see what I'm saying. 

To my mind, that's not transphobia – that's the product of cultural mores about gender identities and roles that have been deeply embedded into our social and psychological DNA, which means that sharing locker room space with someone who is not the same biological gender is going to feel odd (at first), and it’s going to take at least several generations for cisgender people to get over that.

The same is true of transgenderism in general. Gender identity is a concept a lot of cisgender people don’t fully grasp (including me – I didn’t even know what “cisgender” meant until I did some research for this post).  That’s no reason not to pass anti-discrimination laws addressing it, of course. My point is that there’s a lot of cultural baggage for most people to overcome, and it will take a long time for them to achieve that.

I don’t think this can be understated, because some people think the way to help them overcome that baggage is to scream “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING BIGOT!” at them until they just shut up. That’s counterproductive, IMO – a lot of “tranphobes” are really just people who just need to be better educated about transgenderism and given time to process it. Screaming insults at them won’t make them wiser or sympathetic. It will arguably make things worse.

Who’s the woman who’s the man,

This is dF


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