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I’ve been too busy to blog about the Mueller report, which is probably just as well since it’s one of those potboilers that is going to be unfolding for quite awhile.

And I’m not sure what I could add, but I’ll give it a shot.

1. It’s hard to comment more on the report until we see it – which it seems every Republican in America does not want to happen. Which should tell you something about their “total exoneration” nonsense. It’s safe to assume there’s a lot of stuff in there that’s damaging to Trump, even if he can’t be actually prosecuted for any of it.

2. And in fact, we don’t really know that he can’t be, at least as far as the Obstruction of Justice part. Mueller left it open, possibly because he’d decided he went as far as he could go with it and wanted to make sure the work continued – perhaps with Congress.

3. Predictable MAGA hysteria notwithstanding, there’s now a lot of hand-wringing, soul-searching and fingerpointing about how the media got the Trump-Russia story wrong. Or did they?

Matt Taibbi certainly thinks so. Timothy L. O’Brien of Bloomberg thinks Matt is kinda nuts.

As usual, I’m somewhere in the middle. I think Taibbi is cherrypicking radical examples (Maddow, MSNBC in general, Daily Beast, Jonathan Chait’s New Yorker story, etc) to paint the entire media with the same brush, but I do agree with his overall concern – that the media had to be really careful how they treated the Mueller investigation, especially at a time when Trump is actively stoking up anti-media fervor and labelling all critical stories of him as one-sided Fake News. And in the end, many of them gave in to their sensationalist tendencies that turned out to play right into his hands.

On the other hand, the build-up of the Mueller case was as much the product of people on Twitter and social media who passed around otherwise sober stories as though they were smoking guns. Liberals and other anti-Trumpers were reading more into what was there, conflated allegations with proof, and were banking on Mueller to nail the bastard, put him in jail and save the country, even though anyone who paid the slightest attention knew that Mueller was never going to do that. His job wasn’t to arrest Trump (which he probably can’t do anyway) – it was to look into specific allegations and report his findings to the AG, who would then decide what to do with them. And even if the AG wasn’t a pro-Trump appointee, the most he/she would likely do is hand over to Congress for impeachment proceedings – which, as I mentioned earlier, isn’t going to happen.

So I think media coverage was only part of the problem.

Also, I don’t agree with Taibbi’s claim that RussiaGate was a myth that the media clung to because it was the perfect explanation for why they totally failed to see Trump’s election victory coming. It may well be the case that Trump didn’t actively conspire with Russia to win the election, but it’s already well established that (1) Russian hackers did in fact attempt to influence the outcome of the election, (2) they succeeded, and (3) there was some sort of oddball connection between Trump and Russia that Trump and his associates did not want revealed to the point that they were willing to lie to the FBI and Congress about it. Indeed, five Trump associates are now in jail precisely for doing that, and a sixth one has been arrested. You can thank Mueller for all of those, as well as the 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer who have also been indicted.

Some myth.

I take Taibbi’s point that the media is supposed to respect the “innocent until proven guilty” tenet of due process, and it’s true that the media’s sensationalist tendencies tend to blur those lines, especially with TV news. But let’s not pretend there was no basis for the Trump-Russia stories, or that the Mueller report proves the entire mass media industry got it wrong.

4. Meanwhile, as you might imagine, I am not at all impressed with Team MAGA’s “Total Exoneration b/w Democrats and Fake News Media Colluded to Destroy Trump” line, complete with the authoritarian schtick of naming names, accusations of treason and making “recommendations” that TV producers think twice about booking anyone on their list.

But then I’m not the target consumer – the MAGA base is. They’ll be screaming the “baseless witch hunt” conspiracy between now and the next election, and every effort by Demos to investigate further (and the media’s coverage of it) will be presented as evidence of that – and their base will devour every word.

Taibbi argues that’s why Demos and the media really need to move on from Mueller (at least until the report is released) if they want to maintain credibility – why hand them ammo if you don’t have to? That might be true, but it’s also true that Team MAGA manufactures its own ammo, so they’d be screaming “baseless witch hunt” even if Mueller had produced smoking guns.

5. Meanwhile, there is of course also the matter of all those other federal and state investigations into a wide range of shenanigans allegedly committed by Trump and/or his minions, as well as the question of whether Trump colluded with Russia in a different way (i.e. by giving them sanctions relief for the express purpose of enriching himself even though he knew at the time Russia was attempting to hack the election).

Those should continue to be investigated and reported, of course, but as far as impeaching Trump or convincing the GOP to abandon him, you can pretty much forget it. The witch-hunt narrative is pretty much set in stone, and the GOP is all-in with Trump at this stage. In terms of election strategy, it’s probably time to stop using scandals as a weapon – Trump has essentially immunized himself from that (and it certainly didn’t stop him from getting elected in the first place).

Going nowhere,

This is dF
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I’ve seen all the dithering about Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN), her apparent tendency to say things about Israel that play into anti-Semitic tropes, and the subsequent House resolution to condemn anti-Semitic speech, which eventually blossomed into a more generic anti-hate speech resolution.

Aaaaaand you know, blog.

1. Having read Omar’s comments, I’m inclined to believe that she’s genuinely trying to raise legitimate questions or criticisms of Israeli government policies and the lobbying influence of groups like AIPIC, but has a tendency to express them in ways that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic dog whistles.

That in itself is something I think needs to be discussed a lot more than it is, for a couple of reasons.

One: the thing about dog-whistles is that by nature they have double meanings – they allow you to say racist/anti-Semitic things without actually explicitly saying them. The obvious problem is that they often tend to be terms or phrases that people often say with no racist intention whatsoever. Which means if someone says them, it is entirely possible the person said it without knowing it could be taken in a racist way.

I know this because I’ve seen a lot of comments blasted as racist and anti-Semitic that I had no idea had that kind of connotation. As an easy example, I had no idea that “sleepy-eyed” was a slur against Jews until Trump described Chuck Schumer that way. So I can see why Omar could easily fall into that trap.

Two: If we’re basically saying that we have to be very careful about how we talk about Israel because it might accidentally conform to some anti-Semitic conspiracy trope, we are in essence allowing the anti-Zionist conspiracy kooks to direct the conversation. We are allowing them to dictate how we talk about it and what we can and cannot say, which is making it extremely difficult to have conversations about legitimate issues because if we say the wrong word – regardless of the intention of the speaker – we’ll be handing ammo to the Nazis or playing into their rhetorical hands.

That last bit may be true. And I do believe that words have power, so it’s good practice to use them carefully in any situation, especially when it comes to public discourse, although not to the point of crafting bland sentences that say nothing, convey no emotion whatsoever and offend no one.

I’m just troubled by the notion that anti-Zionist conspiracy kooks have successfully turned any discussion about the Israel-Palestine issue into a verbal minefield. It gives them power that I’d rather not be giving them, if you see what I’m saying.

2. I’m not really impressed with the Republicans jumping all over Omar on this because they clearly only seem to care about anti-Semitism when Democrats do it. Right-wing anti-Semitism is a far more frequent and bigger problem – not least because it has actually resulted in people getting killed. Most Republicans haven’t had a thing to say about that, and when they do it’s usually some half-assed “both sides” trope.

Also, given recent history and the fact that a lot of conservatives are still warning about Sharia Law as if they actually know what it is and how it works (they don’t), I’m reasonably sure their sudden interest in condemning anti-Semitic rhetoric has a lot more to do with the fact that (1) it’s coming from both a Muslim and an upstart freshman who they associate with the dreaded AOC squad, and (2) it’s a political opportunity to get Demos to either throw one of their hot riding stars under the bus or make excuses for her, which enables Republicans to keep turning a blind eye to their own anti-Zionist wing. Honestly they’d be fine with either outcome.

3. Anyway, the Demo house resolution has been passed, and they managed to do it without calling out Omar specifically. But it's unlikely that the issue will go away, even if Omar manages to express herself more carefully.

Which doesn't seem likely – not because she’s uninterested in avoiding anti-Semitic word traps (I think she is) but because (1) Omar tends to speak honestly from the heart – which is admirable, but the heart can get us in trouble sometimes when we let emotion control our tongues (especially on Twitter), (2) politics has always been about twisting yr opponent’s words around and pretending they said something that they didn’t, even if your twist makes no sense whatsoever, and (3) it’s 2019 – this is the age of manufactured outrage. Omar could tweet something about a bad experience with Wal-mart’s exchange policy and every pundit on Fox would spend three hours each on how outrageous it is that Omar is harassing and terrorizing hard-working Americans in an all-American company like Wal-mart. Or something.

Freedom of speech (just watch what you say),

This is dF
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Trump has declared his national emergency over the wall (or lack thereof), and I only just now have found some time to blog it, but luckily this may be the easiest blog post ever, so it won’t take much of your time.

1. There of course is no emergency except for the one that exists in Trump’s empty little head. And there are no reliable facts or statistics to back that up except for the super-secret ones Trump makes up in that same head. Which says a lot, because he could only get away with this in a time where people have conned themselves into believing that any fact that contradicts their worldview or their POTUS is fake news.

2. Obviously this raises some issues over the ability of a POTUS to use otherwise legal national-emergency powers to circumvent Congress when it doesn’t give him what he wants. That said, I am generally not impressed with the modicum of Republican handwringing over this. We’ve seen this before – Trump does/says something radical/insane, some Republicans say, “Well, I don’t really agree …” then they eventually back him.

Some people have tried the “Look, if you allow this, the next Democratic POTUS will have the same powers and the precedent to use them for, say, banning assault rifles, and it’ll be all yr fault” argument. Unfortunately, we tried that back when when Bush Jr was President – he started wars all over the Middle East after 9/11 and gave himself wartime powers to curtail liberties, set up torture camps , etc to “fight” terrorism, and Demos made the same argument – “You realize if Hillary becomes President, she’ll have all these powers too, right?” Repubs didn't care then, and when Obama became POTUS they just complained about Presidential overreach as if it was never a problem until Obama took office.

The message is clear: only presidents in the Opposition Party have too much power. Presidents from your own party never ever do, even when they have the exact same powers. And they will never see the dissonance between these statements no matter how much time you take to explain it to them.

3. I don’t know what the outcome of the lawsuits will be, but I will say I don’t think it matters from a political POV because, as some have already pointed out, Trump – ironically – doesn't really want a wall that badly. He wants to be seen by his base demanding that wall and scrapping with libtards to get it so he can get cheap pops at his ego rallies. It doesn't matter if the courts rule against him, because he can simply blame the libtards, the activist judges and the fake news media. And his base will accept that.

Over the wall,

This is dF
defrog: (life is offensive)
The 116th Congress is in session, and the new designated Enemies Of The People are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib for dancing and swearing, respectively.

And the internet is demanding I address these serious and grave issues. So here’s what I got:

1. You can’t say that on C-SPAN

All I really have to say about Rashida Tlaib’s “impeach the motherfucker” quote is: (1) Congresspeople swear all day, every day, and (2) at this stage, no one in the GOP gets to criticize or lecture anybody on civility and decorum.

Also, I’m pretty sure all the controversy is less about the MF-bomb and more about the I-word. Even most Demos don’t really want to talk about impeachment openly – at least not as if it’s a goal, mainly so that they can deflect the inevitable accusations from Repubs that the Demos planned to impeach Trump all along for no good reason. Which would be ludicrous, of course, but then so is politics, where the rule of the game is to always phrase things in ways that you can always claim meant something other than what you actually said.

2. You down with AOC? Yeah, you know me

Having seen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s dance video, I honestly have no idea why anyone might have thought it would be a thing.

But I have a pretty good idea why they hoped it would be a thing.

AOC is basically the new Obama, in the sense that conservatives absolutely and viscerally hate her for the same reasons they hated Obama: (1) she’s young, (2) she supports democratic socialist policies*, (3) she’s non-white, and (4) liberals absolutely adore her. What’s worse (for them), she doesn't take stick from anyone and gives as good as she gets. She’s smart, she’s confident, she defeated a trad Demo to get her seat and she’s got a fan base. Worst of all, she might actually inspire young people in 2020 to do what she’s just done.

All of which makes her dangerous, politically speaking. If she wasn't, conservative pundits wouldn't waste so much time trying to discredit her. So – like with Obama – conservatives will criticize literally everything she does or says or wears (no matter how minor or inconsequential) as though it was the most scandalous and discreditable thing in the world. If it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, it pleases the base and triggers the libs, which seems to be a nice consolation prize for many conservatives these days. Even getting her to quit Instagram would be considered a victory.

So we’re going to be seeing a lot of this. Given how well that’s going so far, I can’t say I’m not looking forward to future AOC smear attempts backfire as spectacularly as the dance video.

You should be dancing yeah,

This is dF

*Technically Obama differed from AOC on this point – he was more to the center. But conservatives swore blind then and now that he was full-on Commie, so I think it counts.

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Recently the interwub has been raging over one of the most important questions of our time:

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

I have decided to weigh in on the debate over whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. For me, I have a two-pronged yet simple answer:

1. Die Hard is not a Christmas movie

Obviously, the question mainly hinges on the criteria of what counts as a Christmas movie in the first place, and according to various articles I’ve read, the criteria varies but is generally narrowly tailored to ensure that Die Hard counts as a Christmas film.

Basically: “If it takes place during Christmas, it’s a Christmas movie.”

Based on that criteria, I could say The Fugitive (1993) is a St Patrick’s Day movie.

My own criteria goes like this: “It has to take place during Christmas, and this should inform the narrative in some fashion, whether it treats Christmas as a secular or religious holiday, or as a positive or negative thing. If the story itself can play out regardless of the holiday, it’s not a Christmas film.”

I would argue this is true of Die Hard. The Christmas setting doesn’t add anything to the story, apart from perhaps a nihilistic counterpoint to the main narrative, but the story could have been set any time of year without losing anything essential.

Not that it matters too much – I’m reasonably sure that most people who insist Die Hard is a Christmas film fall into four categories:

(1) People who are just trolling or trying to be punk-rock to annoy people who like proper Christmas movies
(2) People who hate proper Christmas movies
(3) People who hate Christmas altogether
(4) A combination of the first three categories.

2. Die Hard is a retroactive NRA propaganda film that embodies and endorses virtually every value embraced by the current NRA leadership.

There’s practically a checklist:

• Good guy with a gun
• The good guy with a gun is working-class rugged individual who doesn't like people telling him what to do
• The villain is an educated intellectual AND a foreigner
• Federal govt incompetence
• Justification of excessive deadly force by law enforcement offers
• Specific repudiation of Miranda and other “rules” that hinder police officers from doing their job (which is killing criminals caught in the act of committing crimes)
• Bad guys reduced to one-dimensional evil targets that can be killed off with sneers and one-liners, after which their dead bodies can be used as messaging devices.
• Wholesale murderous violence as redemption, proof of manhood and a way to win a woman’s love and respect (or in this case, win it back)

Probably the only reason the NRA doesn’t use it as a training video is they can't get licensing permission.

Anyway, no matter whether you consider Christmas to be a secular or religious holiday, there is nothing in the above list that even remotely reflects what Christmas is about.

ADDENDUM: Even if we agree that Die Hard is a Christmas movie if you narrow the criteria sufficiently, it’s ALSO an NRA right wing fantasy movie.

I’m not saying Die Hard is a bad movie. On its own merits, it’s better than most 80s action movies, thanks mainly to Bruce Willis being an unlikely action hero, and Alan Rickman being so good.

But a Christmas movie? Only if you really hate Christmas. Or love the NRA.

I mean, we’re talking about a film where at one point the good guy takes the body of a man he just killed, sits it in a chair, writes a note in the guy’s blood to the villain, and puts a Santa hat on him. Which is not exactly in the spirit of the holiday.

It’s kind of psychotic, actually.

Like the current NRA leadership.

Ho ho ho,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
And there you have it.

Mostly. According to FiveThirtyEight, there are still over a dozen races that are too close to call, but none will change the basic result of the Demos taking the House. They might widen that majority, and narrow the gap in the Senate back to where it was before the election. Which would be gravy. But in any case, the House is theirs.

So, a few thoughts:

1. Good for them. It’s a good sign that the (slim) majority of the country hasn’t lost its collective mind, and that white nationalism isn’t the only game in town.

2. On the other hand, the fact that the GOP won anything at all is fair warning that a major chunk of the electorate is still firmly onboard the Trump Train and its message of autocratic white xenophobic batshit. And that would be true even if the GOP lost every seat. Whichever Repubs lost, their constituents are still out there, and they’re still angry and scared. And I’m sure every little thing the Demos and the FakeNews™ media do from now to 2020 will make them even more angry and afraid. Fox News and NRATV will see to that.

3. I only had skin in the game as far as the TN race went, and I can’t say I’m surprised at the results. Apart from Memphis and Nashville, TN is firmly in Xenophobe TrumpWorld and so is Marsha Blackburn – indeed it was her main campaign message, and Trump held several of his rallies in TN to help drive that message home. Phil Bredesen was a reasonably successful governor, but that was eight years ago – a lifetime in politics – and the landscape has changed so much since then. In fact, his whole campaign strategy was to run on the issues in order to contrast Blackburn’s pro-Trump batshit – clearly the majority of Tennesseans prefer histrionic batshit. So it goes.

4. TX is not my state, but I confess I was disappointed to see Beto O’Rourke lose, though to his credit he made Ted Cruz fight for it. Granted, I’d love to see almost anyone give Cruz a walloping. But I have to admit I liked O’Rourke’s campaign style, and there’s no doubt he brought a lot of badly needed youthful energy to the base. I also admit it pains me to think that Cruz’s “Beto O’Rourke will take away yr BBQ and force you to dye yr hair and eat tofu” schtick might have actually worked. Still, it only just barely worked, so I guess that’s something.

5. Speaking of O’Rourke, he’s not the only progressive candidate who lost, but some did win, and those that lost generally didn’t lose by much. There are two schools of thought as to what this means: (1) Demos should take this as a warning that progressives lose elections and Demos should avoid them in 2020 if they want to win the White House, or (2) Establishment Demos owe their 2018 victories to progressives energizing the base in ways the Establishment couldn’t do, and they need to do more to accommodate them in 2020.

I lean towards the latter option. I don’t believe the Demos need to go fully hardcore Left to defeat the GOP – the center still matters. But it arguably doesn’t matter like it used to, and the Demos stand a better chance if they can integrate progressives into the party better – and in a meaningful way, not just an exploitative one. 

6. I know some liberals shudder at the idea of Nancy Pelosi being speaker because they associate her with the Establishment who backed Hillary over Bernie (as though we wouldn’t be in this mess if they’d nominated Bernie), or because she’s talking about bipartisanship and common ground and the Left is all: “WITH NAZIS ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME THEY SHOULD BE IN FUCKING JAIL WHAT ARE YOU NEVILLE FUCKING CHAMBERLAIN” etc and so on.

Personally I would rather see some fresh leadership from someone more attuned to the 21st century, or at least someone whose political worldview wasn’t shaped by the Cold War and Vietnam. But I’m not sure who else is available who fits that bill and has the political clout to challenge her.

7. As for the impact of the mid-terms on Trump’s agenda, to be honest I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make. Most of Trump’s ‘accomplishments’ in the last two years didn’t involve Congress at all – the tax bill is the only one I can think of offhand. He will continue to rule from the weird twisted fantasy world where his brain lives regardless of which party runs the House. And you can pretty much forget about impeachment.

Also, it's hard to call the House flip a blow to his admin when all it really does is give him a scapegoat for everything else he screws up between now and 2020. (Granted, he did that even when his own party controlled Congress. Still …)

I think any meaningful impact on Trump will depend on how willing the House Demos are to use their power to start holding Trump accountable on things like, say, his tax returns. Trump has decidedly been aided and abetted by an all too willing GOP-controlled Congress who have been happy to go along with just about every fool thing he does or says, occasionally denouncing some tweet but otherwise being unwilling to actually do anything about it. Sure, they’ll play the victim card and scream about witch hunts, but they scream that all the time, so let ‘em scream.

So it’s up to the Demos to make their victory matter. But I do think – at least theoretically – a Demo-controlled House could restore some balance to the Force if they choose to do so. If nothing else, the House Science Committee won't be run by someone who thinks rising sea levels are caused by rocks falling into the ocean.

So, you know, progress!

Disorder in the house,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Predicting elections is a hobby of mine, and an admittedly precarious one after what happened in 2016 – after all, Donald Trump said and did just about everything possible that traditionally would tank a politician’s campaign. And he still won (albeit by another electoral fluke).

But why not? Besides, I feel pretty confident about how this one is going to play out:

1. The Blue Wave won’t be much of a wave. I think the Democrats will probably take the House (but not the Senate), and a good chunk of the governorships up for grabs.

But this massive takeover that liberals are predicting because the GOP are violent misogynist rape Nazis and there’s no way they can possibly stay in power after the last two years of Trumpville?

No. Sorry.

The reason is simple: people are complex, voters doubly so. You have to remember that people don’t always vote based on logic or a panoptical view of the issues. People vote the party line out of tradition, or they vote based on a single pet issue, or they vote because that’s how Taylor Swift or Kanye told them to vote, or because [x] candidate seems like a nice person, etc and so on. I’ve known people to vote Republican just to see the look on their liberal coworkers’ faces when their candidate loses.

It’s also worth remembering that voters are not operating in a single unified reality. Many liberals and conservatives alike tend to live in their own little hyper-reality bubbles and online communities, and tend to assume that their intake is fair and balanced and that everyone else is seeing the same reality they are. That hasn’t been true for a long time, and it’s arguably getting worse.

Beating the GOP might seem like a slam-dunk given the events of the past two years, but only if you pay attention and follow the news closely from reasonably unbiased news sources. Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t read past the headlines. Also, a lot of people don’t think the GOP is racist or fascist because they have ingrained (and outdated) ideas of what racists and fascists say and do: “How can Trump be a racist Nazi? He doesn’t say the n-word, he doesn't wear a white hood, he doesn't wear a swastika armband, and he let his daughter marry a Jewish guy! C’mon, yr exaggerating! Now Hillary Clinton, there's a Nazi for you ...”

Anyway. Point being, for all the GOP’s awful shenanigans and Trump’s own terrible record, the fact is that Trump’s approval rating is around 43%. That means 43% of the country has no problem with Trump’s opinions, style or policies – most of which the GOP has cheerfully backed.

2. Which brings me to my second predicted outcome.


No matter who wins, yr going to see a lot of this.

Only it probably won't be as funny.

Fasten yr seat belts,

This is dF
defrog: (life is offensive)
I recently came across a post on Macrolit – a tumblog specializes in classic literature and used books – in which someone complained that the site owner reblogged a photoset of books by Simone de Beauvoir:

In the wake of all the recent Hollywood sexual assault allegations I would appreciate if you would hold off on reposting a serial child molester.

Macrolit didn't delete the post, but it did acknowledge the complaint and the subsequent issue raised, and – given how many other classic authors were guilty of immoral or criminal behavior (William Golding, William Burroughs, JD Salinger, etc) – posed this question to its followers:
Do we ignore important works by these authors because of the lives they lived and the things they did? Does the fact that most of these authors are now dead make a difference? Does de Beauvoir’s actions negate her important feminist work The Second Sex? Or should we continue to read them but with mental asterisks in our minds?

For me, this is a variation on similar questions raised in the past regarding filmmakers like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, and also regarding authors and actors who have been known for saying things that were racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic – can we separate the art from the artist? Should we? And if not, how far do we want to take that?

Obviously, there’s no easy or universal answer to these questions. This Vox article posed them to literary critics, and the results – while inconclusive – make interesting reading in terms of the history of separating the art from the artist (which wasn’t a thing until the 20th century) in art criticism.

Having thought about this a lot, it occurs to me that there are two levels to this issue – personal and cultural.

The personal level is pretty easy for me. Some people can separate the art from the artist, and some can’t – especially people who are victims of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexual assault et al. So my baseline standard is if you’d rather not read, hear, look at or consume art produced by offensive people – even if the art itself does not expressly convey their offensive views – then by all means don’t. If you want to boycott authors and other artists for moral reasons, then by all means do.

The cultural level is trickier, because some people who cannot separate the art from the artist – and again, that’s a perfectly valid position to hold –also insist that all art created by offensive or immoral people (or includes them – any film with Johnny Depp in it, for example) be banished and stricken from the cultural record, on the grounds that anything short of that is a de facto endorsement or celebration of the artist’s offenses or viewpoints.

That’s the gist of the complaint by the Macrolit reader – it’s not enough for him/her to avoid Simone de Beauvoir’s works, he/she also prefers that Macrolit delete the post and never post anything about de Beauvoir again.

As you might imagine, I’m not cool with this. It’s an absolutist zero-tolerance policy, which is almost never a good idea. And when applied retroactively to art and culture, the result is a sort of moral cleansing of our cultural history to the point where we’d be pretending we were never racist sexist homophobic misogynist jerks in the first place. This is not only dishonest, but dangerous. Even the people at Looney Tunes understand this.

That said, I don’t think the artist’s personal life or terrible deeds are necessarily irrelevant to assessing their art today in a different cultural context, nor do they have to be. I like the “mental asterisks” idea suggested by Macrolit – it’s healthy to assess art both in the context in which it was produced and the context of modern mores and attitudes, if only to provide a benchmark of how far we’ve come (or fallen, as the case may be).

Moreover, this creates an opportunity for education and discussion about sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, etc. In literature classes, for example, we could teach those books in the context of the times and societies in which they were written, discuss how our values have changed (for better or worse), and where we go from here. We could also counter those books with other books with differing perspectives. If nothing else, it could be the springboard for raising awareness of the fact that racial, religious and sexual minorities see such works much differently than (say) straight white guys.

Which is idealistic, simplistic and naïve in these hyper-polarized times. But then so is deleting every piece of art associated with anyone who ever did or said anything bad ever – you simply can’t rid the world of evil by pretending it doesn't exist, especially on the pretext that acknowledging its existence is the same thing as condoning it, which is demonstrably not true. I don’t have the answer, obviously, but I’m pretty sure censorship and revisionist history ain’t it.

Suffering for my art,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
A few final thoughts about Brett “Beer Likes Me” Kavanaugh and his successful job interview:

1. I’m not surprised. I mentioned before that I didn’t really think the GOP was going to give up on Kavanaugh – partly because they clearly want him to overturn Roe Wade (Steve King is already bragging about it) and partly just to trigger the libs, I imagine. They have tended to follow Trump’s lead when confronted with criticism or protests from the left and essentially double down just to see the looks on their faces. Anyway, it seemed pretty obvious to me where all this was going.

2. Regarding the FBI “investigation”, German Lopez minces words here, but he’s on point – the only reason Flake demanded an FBI investigation (and the only reason Trump agreed to it) was so that GOP senators could say to the Demos, “Look, you wanted an FBI investigation, you got an investigation, what more do you want us to do?” That’s all. It’s obvious too that Trump limited the scope as much as possible to make sure the FBI didn’t come up with anything, but honestly I don't think it wouldn’t have mattered in they came up with actual video of Kavanaugh sexually assaulting Ford or anyone else – Kavanaugh is their boy and he’s going on that bench if they have to staple him there.

3. For me personally, what’s truly horrifying and infuriating about all this isn’t so much Kavanaugh’s past or political views – it’s the sight of the President of the United States of America openly mocking Dr Ford and essentially establishing the axiom that the real victims of sexual assault are men.

And really, that in itself isn't so horrifying and infuriating as the sight of all the people in that rally laughing and cheering him on. I’m hardly the first person to say this, but it’s true – the reason so many women don’t report sexual harassment, assault and rape is EXACTLY because of what just happened in the Kavanaugh/Ford saga.

Also, look at all these headlines here of men who actually committed sexual assault getting off light.

So yeah, the message from POTUS, his rally fans and the GOP is clear – if yr a woman who has been sexually assaulted or molested, it’s probably yr own fault so shut up and walk it off, because you might ruin the guy’s career and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

4. I also wouldn’t bank on that costing Republicans the women vote, because there are plenty of women in his crowds who either don’t believe Dr Ford or don't care, because (1) they like Kavanaugh and (2) Ford only has herself to blame for what happened. Which is depressing, but there it is. So it's probably a good idea to get out there and vote in the midterms on the assumption that the last two years do not add up to a slamdunk Blue Wave. 

5. Trevor Noah has a good riff here on Trump’s weaponization of victimhood, which of course Trump did not invent, but he uses it effectively, and men and women alike buy into it.

6. As for Kavanaugh joining the Supremes, all I can say is what I said before – his presence doesn’t automatically guarantee Roe v Wade being overturned, or giving Trump cover from prosecution or whatever. I’m not saying that won’t happen, I’m saying there’s always the chance that it won’t.

If it helps, this article from FiveThirtyEight points out that SCOTUS has a long proud history of tailoring their opinions to prevailing public sentiment – willingly or otherwise. And at the moment, public sentiment is very much on the side of protecting Roe v Wade.

That will undoubtedly upset conservatives who like to complain about activist judges who don’t stick to literal interpretations of constitutional text, but then we all know by now that those same conservatives generally as rule only really care about that when SCOTUS rules against their side, so I don’t take their complaints too seriously.

Court is adjourned,

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Following the testimony of Dr Christine Blasey Ford (which I didn’t watch, no) and the subsequent reactions, I do have a few things to add.

1. I believe her.

2. I’m not sure it matters, because the (male) GOP senators have made perfectly clear that they don’t care whether she’s telling the truth or not.

If they care about anything, it’s the terrifying prospect that their entire careers could be ended by any woman who decides to accuse them of sexual misconduct no matter how long ago it may have happened. And I’m sure the rise of #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport has made them all too aware of the fact that women are more likely to be believed these days if they do step forward – which is a change from the good old days when you could just slut-shame them into silence and men could get on with their productive lives.

Kavanaugh’s statement pretty much encapsulates all of that. He’s not just proclaiming his innocence (which would be understandable and natural, whether it’s true or not). He’s trying to rally all men everywhere to his defense with the dire warning that if we let Blasey Ford get away with this, none of us are safe. We will all become unemployable at the mere hint of an allegation. And it will be all the fault of Democrats.

3. So, to summarize Points 1 and 2, the basic message the GOP is pushing here is: (1) we don't care what Kavanaugh did in his past or who got hurt, we want him on the SCOTUS bench and that’s all we care about, (2) a man’s career is far, far more important than the trauma of any woman he has sexually victimized, and (3) if we believe Dr Blasey Ford, we have to believe all women who make such allegations, and we all know where that leads – all men will be unemployed or in prison, and you can thank the f***ing femi-Nazi Democrats for that.

All of which is hard to take seriously, given that the GOP is perfectly credulous when it comes to allegations of sexual assault/harassment against people like, say, Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner and Al Franken. And honestly, the notion that all of this is a plot by Democrats to keep Kavanaugh off the bench doesn’t hold up when you remember that the number of women materializing out of nowhere to accuse Neil Gorsuch of sexual assault/harassment is [checks notes] zero.

4. The other GOP message here is, of course, “boys will be boys”. And it’s a message that at least some teenage girls are hearing loud and clear.

5. Trump has (finally) instructed the FBI to investigate, which is perhaps telling, given how Trump generally seems to think the job of the FBI is to put his personal enemies in jail. Maybe he’s hoping they’ll put Dr Blasey Ford in jail for lying to Congress? Or they’ll find out Hillary Clinton put her up to all this and put HER in jail? Or maybe he wants to know what boofing is so he can know if he’s done that yet? I don’t know.

6. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that no matter what the FBI finds, Kavanaugh is going to be confirmed, simply because that’s just how the current GOP leadership works. As long as you’re onboard with their ideology, they don't care if yr a gibbering idiot, a pathological liar who pals around with ruthless dictators, or a serial philanderer who pays his mistresses hush money and brags about being rich enough to get away with pussy-grabbing at will – so long as you get results.

I dunno. It’s hard to imagine the GOP dropping Kavanaugh now, and I’m not convinced holdouts like Flake, Murkowski and Collins will vote against him when push comes to shove. At this stage, I’m afraid the only way Kavanaugh isn’t getting confirmed is if he decides it’s not worth it and withdraws.

I’ll be more than happy to be proven wrong. But, you know, given how this admin has a history of hiring the most unqualified people possible to fill job positions, I’m not optimistic.

Getting away with it,

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I started writing this post back when Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement and the big concern then was (1) Trump forced him to retire because Kennedy’s son is tied to Russia somehow (which might be true but there's no hard evidence of this) and (2) Trump’s nominated replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, is a radical Trump conservative whose sole qualification for Republicans is his ability to overturn Roe v Wade and affirm the legal power of Trump to pardon himself for whatever crimes Robert Mueller eventually charges him with.

Obviously the concerns have piled on since then, thanks to Dr Christine Blasey Ford informing us what young teenage Brett used to get up to.

So, okay, a few things:

1. Roe v Wade: personally I think Kavanaugh’s political opinions may not necessarily be an indicator of how he would rule, if only because (1) it depends on the specific case brought before SCOTUS and the legal decisions that brought it to them, etc and so on, because that’s what they tend to rule on, and (2) my experience with the Supremes has been that they don’t always vote along predictable party lines (Kennedy being a case in point – he’s a staunch conservative who legalized gay marriage nationwide). So I don’t know that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would automatically spell the end of Roe v Wade. But obviously I can’t rule it out either.

2. Self pardons: Trump has been declaring loudly that he can totally pardon himself, and that sitting POTUSes can’t be indicted anyway. The thing is, he might technically be right. We don't really know for sure because it’s never really been tested. This Snopes article has a good breakdown of the legal arguments, but the upshot is that the Constitution grants the POTUS virtually unlimited power to pardon people, and there’s nothing in there that says he CAN’T pardon himself, with the exception of impeachment charges, which the Founding Fathers™ ultimately decided was the best remedy for a corrupt, criminal president. There may be a case of applying common law (i.e. you can’t be the judge at yr own trial), but there’s no guarantee any judge will rule that way, whether it’s Kavanaugh, Kennedy or anyone else on the bench.

3. Boys will be boys: All I can really say about Dr Ford’s allegations for now is that it’s helped shine a spotlight (again) on the fact that many Republican men are really, really, REALLY bad at talking about rape and sexual assault/harassment – which is especially egregious in the wake of #MeToo, which evidently convinced Republicans that the proper response to rape/sexual assault/harassment allegations is to double down on insisting it must be the victim’s fault somehow, or boys will be boys, or the perp has suffered enough and we don't want to ruin his entire life over one transgression, and we’re sure he’s sorry about it and it won't happen again – all of which basically add up to the message that the feelings of the accused man always matter more than the feelings of his female victim. (Unless the accused man is Al Franken or Anthony Weiner, in which case by all means, ruin his life and make an example of him.)

So yeah, obviously my sympathies lie more with Dr Ford at this moment, and the conservatives defending Kavanaugh have pretty much zero credibility with me.

4. The Return Of Anita Hill: We’ve sort of been here before with Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, which some fear will be a precedent for both how Dr Ford will be treated by the Senate Judiciary and Kavanaugh’s eventual confirmation despite her allegations.

On the bright side, according to this article, two key differences are (1) there were no women on the Senate Judiciary committee in 1991, but there are several today, and (2) #MeToo has changed the conversation we usually have about these kinds of things (except for Republican men, of course).

On the other hand, a number of Republican women have stepped up to defend Kavanaugh (not counting those 65 high-school “friends”), and one even said that even if Ford isn’t lying, so what?:

… we’re talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high. Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school?” Gina Sosa asked.

Well, sure. Every teenage boy goes through that period where he corners a girl at a party, turns up the music so no one can hear her protest and then covering up her mouth as he tries to force her to have sex with him. Everyone knows that.

So yeah, there’s a good chance that Christine Ford is going to be the new Anita Hill in the sense that the Senators are going to do their damnedest to badger, humiliate and discredit her, and the result is likely to be that Kavanaugh gets to be the new Clarence Thomas – because it does seem as though the current stance of the GOP is: “You know what? We honestly couldn’t care less if Kavanaugh rapes every woman he meets, films them all and posts them on YouTube so long as we get a guy on the SCOTUS bench who will rule in our favor.”

I might be wrong about Kavanaugh’s chances, but to be honest I think the only way he’s not getting this job at this stage is if he drops out voluntarily.

5. For the record, even before Christine Ford came into play, I personally didn’t think Kavanaugh should be confirmed – at least not with 100,000 pages of his judicial records being withheld. The fact that they are being withheld – and by Trump’s insistence – is in itself suspicious.


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John McCain left us last month. I’ve been preoccupied with other things, but I did have a few comments.

1. Personally, I’ve always had respect for him. Which is not to say I’ve always agreed with him, or that he’s always made good choices (see: Sarah Palin). But he came across to me as someone who didn’t just follow the bullet points – he actually put some thought into the issue at hand, and would actually take the time to listen to your views and respond to them. Which is preferable to the hyperpartisan batshit nonsense that the rest of his party has embraced. Sure, his maverick reputation was overstated and his “Straight Talk Express” was mostly a gimmick. But there was a certain amount of truth behind both.

Admittedly, my assessment of McCain’s politics has to do with the fact that I’m not a party guy per se, and I’ve always figured that if you’re pissing off the extreme hardline wings of both parties, yr probably doing something right. McCain did that, and that’s fine by me.

2. That’s why I felt in 2000 that if he had managed to win the nomination and the presidency I would have been okay with it. My philosophy of POTUS elections has generally been that if my preferred candidate doesn’t win, the winner should ideally be someone who isn’t too far from the center and can at least try to be a unifying figure and work with the opposition (assuming the opposition is willing to do likewise). I think McCain would have been such a POTUS. He certainly would have been better than the one we ended up with in 2000.

3. That said, I was less sanguine about a McCain presidency in 2008 – partly because he admitted having never sent an email (which I seriously felt ought to be a basic requirement to be POTUS in the 21st Century), and partly due to his running mate.

Some people have argued that we basically have McCain to thank for Trump because he gave Sarah Palin a national platform to demonstrate that what the conservative base really wanted in a POTUS was a clueless, xenophobic demagogue whose sole qualifications for office were blatant political incorrectness and insulting liberals. But I don’t think it’s fair to pin that on McCain – the Tea Party/MAGA base was already there, as was Fox News, the Koch Brothers and Breitbart, etc, and the GOP had been quietly courting them for years. Given all the Obama conspiracy theories and racist memes already in circulation during the 2008 campaign, I think the GOP would be exactly where it is right now, sooner or later, with or without Palin as poster girl.

4. Granted, selecting Palin wasn’t exactly good judgment on McCain’s part (which he would later admit). On the other hand, when McCain was handed a golden opportunity to exploit conservative xenophobia over Obama’s heritage, he refused. And he got booed for it, if memory serves. But he didn’t change his answer even when he saw it was backfiring. The same can’t be said for most of the rest of the GOP. So I have to give him points for that.

5. As an aside, it’s interesting in retrospect to note that one of the main arguments against voting for McCain in 2008 – namely his age, which meant that Sarah Palin was “one heartbeat away from the presidency” (translation: if McCain dies in office she gets to run the country) – turned out to be unfounded. Turns out McCain would have lived long enough to serve two full terms. So it goes.

Of course, we can never know that for sure, and given the pressures of the job, his health might not have held up as long as it did. I’m just saying.

6. This article in The Guardian is a pretty good overview of McCain’s many personal and political contradictions. Put simply, he was a complex person and he leaves behind a complex legacy that doesn't fit into anyone’s oversimplified partisan socio-political litmus test. He did good things, he did bad things, and he did neither consistently, but he did most of them out of what seemed to be a genuine desire to change things for the better. And if it wasn’t genuine, he was extremely good at faking it.

7. As for his funeral, it says a lot that he received such a huge send-off. And yes, it also says a lot that Trump wasn’t invited (at McCain’s own behest), and why should he be, all things considered?

And as for Meghan McCain’s dig at Trump, I think she’s more than entitled. 


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Now that Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen and Stephen Miller can’t get a table at restaurants, the GOP is now up in arms about the lack of civility in public discourse.

Ironically, the subsequent “debate” about this on social media is sort of proving their point, though not in the way they probably think.

And … well, look.

1. Lack of civility in public discourse has been a problem since at least Twitter was invented. It’s certainly been a problem since at least Rush Limbaugh got a talk radio show – or really since Reagan was elected. Or maybe since the 60s. We can certainly trace it back to William F Buckley and Gore Vidal.

Point being, it sure took Republicans long enough to notice.

2. That’s admittedly besides the point since I don’t really believe the GOP cares about civility for its own sake. Because let’s be honest here – you can’t really support Trump, Fox News, Ted Nugent and the NRA and expect me or anyone else to take you seriously when you complain about lack of civility in politics. They only care that the incivility is being directed at them.

3. However, as the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. And personally speaking, if the choices are being a dick and not being a dick, I choose not to be a dick. I’m more than happy to let the MAGA Party be the dick. It’s a differentiator I’m happy to let them own.

4. That’s basically what the “civility” argument boils down to, for me. I don’t define “civility” as avoiding arguing with MAGAs or telling them to their face how wrong and terrible their ideas are, or not protesting and calling out injustice when we see it. By all means we should. And it doesn’t mean you have to be friends with people you’d rather not be friends with. It’s really about to what extent you make it personal, and to what extent yr willing to be a dick to people you disagree with.

And when you start actively calling for incivility, it's valid to ask just how far you want to take that incivility, given that the Left has already established quite clearly that it's morally and socially acceptable to punch a Nazi in the face simply for being a Nazi. So if we also postulate that Trump is Hitler and the GOP are Nazis, does that mean we’re good to punch Republicans in the face? How about Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen? How about the next time they try to get a table, someone decides to punch their lights out?

To be clear, I’m not advocating that. And I’m not saying anyone else is (that I know of). I’m just posing the question. Because given the amount of fury and anger and hatred being projected at the GOP right now – no matter how understandable it might be – I’m not convinced that incivility will stop at politely denying the GOP entrance to a restaurant. Sure, it may not get to the point where the Left starts shooting up baseball games – but we can’t rule that out, either.

Point being, when you meet incivility with incivility, it tends to escalate, not the other way round. And when it gets out control, it’s on you.

5. The main argument in favor of incivility towards the GOP is that they have finally gone full-on Nazi, or close enough as makes no odds. In other words, we are not talking about the usual political disagreements over taxation, social programs or foreign policy. We’re talking about Trump’s implementation of hateful, savage and increasingly cruel policies that are racist, fascist and disastrous on so many levels that – according to the Left – civility is no longer an option. Because we tried civility with Hitler and look what happened.

Honestly I think that’s just an excuse to scream and yell obscenities at anyone who votes GOP, and to justify whatever actions end up being taken against Republicans, whether it’s refusing them service in restaurants, punching them or worse. All it does is reduce everyone to cartoon supervillain stereotypes rather than human beings. You know who else does that? Nazis.

6. On a purely tactical level, personally, I don’t think Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kirstjen Nielsen or anyone else should be denied service in a restaurant just for supporting Trump’s policies because (1) it just gives them an excuse to play the victim card without having to actually make something up, and (2) it’s stooping to their level of vindictiveness. Michelle Obama once said, “When they go low, we go high.” I don’t believe kicking Republicans out of restaurants fulfils that instruction.

7. Some have argued that being civil to Repubs is pointless because they’re not civil already, and they won’t change if we play nice. The first part is true – the second part will likely be true in many cases. But here’s the thing: being dicks to them won’t change things either. Being dicks to Repubs generally results in them doubling down and ratcheting up their own dickishness, and they’ll feel 100% justified in doing so.

8. And here’s the other thing: for all their whining, a lot of MAGAs would much rather the Left be dicks to them. Stephen Miller certainly would. He lives to “trigger the libs”. So does Trump. So does his hardcore MAGA/NRA fanbase. They want the Left to be angry, and they don’t mind if it escalates because that’s an arena they are very comfortable in.

John Lennon told us this decades ago:

“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.”

The same goes for incivility in this case.

So basically I’m not falling for this whole “we must be uncivil” kick. I’m not going to play their game on their terms. Civility must be a differentiator if we’re ever going to claw our way back from the cesspool of polarization we’re wallowing in now. The alternative may well be zero tolerance for the opposition, in which case the next election may be the last if the losing side refuses to accept their loss because Too Much Is At Stake.

And if that happens, then that’s the ball game.

Don’t be a dick,

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The GOP has gone so far off the rails that George Will is urging conservatives to vote Democrat this November.

Which would be significant if not for the fact that George Will’s opinion doesn’t really count for anything in conservative circles anymore.

Why am I blogging about this?

Mainly because I have a soft spot for George Will. To be sure, I rarely agree with him on anything, but I do see him as one of the last of his breed – an intellectual political commentator with a journalistic approach, a well-read understanding of the issues, and a deep sense of classical party loyalty and a firm belief in what the party stands for (or at least should stand for). When I was growing up, Will was among that class of newspaper pundit who not only had a good grasp of the political issues of the day, but could put together a decent and logical argument for his opinions of them – complete with stats, studies and anecdotes to back up his point.

Again, that’s not to say he was right. But you knew where you stood with him, and you knew that he had at least put some thought into whatever point he was trying to make.

For me, I always felt his main weakness is that his worldview often seems to come more from reading about it rather than experiencing it (particularly when it comes to baseball). That comes across in his writing – typically for Will, his latest column reads like an A- answer to a essay question in a university class. If he was a liberal instead of a conservative he could contribute song lyrics to Bad Religion. Who else but Will would quote The Federalist papers and A Man For All Seasons in the same column, much less use words like “vitiate”?

But that's exactly why I doubt anyone in Trump’s MAGA base cares what George says. For one thing, many of them probably wouldn’t understand half of it. For another, the MAGA clan has openly and frequently ridiculed intellectual elitists for the sole crime of thinking they’re smarter than everyone else. The fact that Trump is POTUS (Electoral College weirdness and Vlad Putin’s cyber-troll action team notwithstanding) is strong evidence that the modern conservative movement prefers opinion leaders who eschew intellectual reasoning in favor of people who shout a lot, insult their opponents personally and blame liberals, feminists and ethnic minorities for all their problems.

Also, Will quit the GOP over Trump’s nomination. He also bad-mouthed Bill O’Reilly to his face. Both of which are virtual treason in Trumpland.

In other words, George Will is one of many classic GOP loyalists who have been left behind by refusing to compromise on principles. Indeed, that’s why he quit the GOP – it’s no longer the party he once supported. Will is from that classic school of post-Vietnam conservatism embodied by William F Buckley’s National Review (of which Will was editor for something like eight years) and the Reagan-era GOP that had a specific ideological vision of what conservative govt should be and could accomplish – but was also rooted in a spirit of bipartisan deal-based practicality necessary to a two-party system.

Thanks to the Dubya Bush era and the Tea Party movement – enabled by the bullhorns of Fox News and conservative talk radio (and eventually Twitter) – the current GOP now embodies almost none of those principles and has morphed into something completely different and horrible. The GOP is dead. Long live the Trump Party. They kept the brand, but it’s a completely different company now. Etc. 

Consequently, no one in the current party is going to listen to his plea to vote the GOP completely out of power in Congress. The truth is, the majority of Republicans like this version of the GOP. Also, as other people have mentioned before (and correctly), the GOP wasn’t exactly dragged unwillingly into Trump’s hate-fueled xenophobic universe of dumb vitriolic race-baiting conspiracy theory batshit. 

The bigger problem is this: convincing conservatives to vote against the Trump Party means convincing them to vote for Democrats. Any given poll shows that most Repubs would vote for Trump all over again even knowing what they know now because they believe Hillary would have been be far, far worse. So I don’t see any of these people taking a chance on a Demo – much less to punish a party they don’t think needs fixing.

Ironically, of course, this is one of those times I agree with Will – to a point. I do think that the only thing that can stop the GOP in its sycophantic tracks and trigger some kind of self-reassessment is having its collective ass handed to it in the mid-terms – badly. Ideally they should lose enough seats that not only make the Demos filibuster-proof but will also take Republicans a good 20 years to try and take back at least one Congressional house.

However, Will seems to think this would force a rethink of GOP leadership that will bring it back to its Reagan-era ideology. He sees a mid-term routing as shock therapy to save the patient.

Remember the scene in Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom when Indy is under the spell of Kali and Short Round snaps him out of it by burning him with a torch? Like that.

However, my personal diagnosis is that it’s too late for that. The GOP as we know it is gone, and it is not coming back. It’s now the Trump-Fox-Alt-White Party. A mid-term defeat will cause plenty of soul searching, for sure, but the result will be either doubling down or figuring out how to better package their message, not a return to classic Republicanism.

And it’s a moot point anyway, since – again – most people who consider themselves Republicans would much rather vote for this trash fire than for any Democrat.

Still, you can’t blame George for trying.

Will the circle be unbroken,

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ITEM: D.Trump has issued a decree executive order putting an end to the policy of separating child immigrants from their families at the border – this being the policy that he and his staff have simultaneously said was (1) not his policy, (2) totally legal, (3) entirely the fault of Democrats, (4) Biblically justified, (5) intended as a deterrent to illegal immigrants, (6) upholding the law of the land, (6) something that only an act of Congress could stop and (7) non-existent.

(NOTE: To be clear, the policy wasn’t specifically to separate families. The policy was to arrest everyone and try the adults as criminals – which resulted in families being separated. And baby jails tender age shelters.)

As you may know, the good news is ICE won’t be separating families anymore. The bad news: kids will still be put in jail (albeit together with their parents), and most of the kids who have already been separated are probably going to stay that way for awhile, because nothing in the EO provides for it.

This Vox explainer and this article from New Republic covers the basics of what the EO does and doesn’t do. A few extra comments from me for bloggery purposes:

1. It’s important to understand that that what Trump actually wants is the ability to arrest every single illegal immigrant (regardless of age), prosecute them as criminals and keep them jail together for as long as it takes to process and deport them. The Flores Settlement apparently prevents that, and Trump wants to get rid of Flores so that he can detain immigrants indefinitely. In fact, as I understand it, the EO is essentially designed to ensure a court case to challenge Flores, provided Congress doesn’t overrule it first.

So the EO isn’t really about reuniting families or ending a barbaric practice – it’s about giving the Trump admin legal powers of indefinite detention for illegal immigrants.

2. That’s important to remember because let's never forget that the Trump admin does not care one bit about kids being ripped from their families, and doesn't see that as a bad or immoral thing in itself.

I feel confident in saying this because they were perfectly fine with it until it turned out to be a political liability that even Fox News couldn’t mitigate. And since this admin typically doubles down on unpopular statements and decisions (not least because Trump’s MAGA base loves his hardline – womp womp), I’m assuming they’re only changing gears now because (1) Trump wants to force the aforementioned legal battle, and (2) they realized quickly it was too expensive and troublesome to build tent cities or find places to put all those kids. Put simply, for TrumpCo, this is not about doing the right thing – it's about the cold logistical fact it's cheaper and easier to keep families together.

3. Which is another thing – apart from the policy being morally vile, it was also badly planned and incompetently executed. Apparently it never occurred to anyone in TrumpCo to work out the logistics of arresting literally every illegal they caught, the caseload involved, and just where they would keep these people in the interim. It seems pretty obvious no one in charge of this bothered to think beyond “arrest ‘em and deport ‘em”.

4. In any case, the EO does not excuse in any way what TrumpCo has done to these families so far, why they’re doing it, and how they’ve sold it to the MAGA base. They still own that, and they will continue to do so long after these families are reunited (if they ever are – and it doesn’t look so good right now).

5. As for Melania Trump’s jacket … I think the only reason to pay any attention to it at all is to point out that it was intended as a sideshow distraction. Because let’s stop to think for a moment of just who in the POTUS/FLOTUS ecosystem thought that jacket was a good idea, and why.

I mean, seriously – yr sending FLOTUS to the Texas border to visit the separated families that the left are making so much noise about. And she has this jacket that she is going to be seen wearing in plain sight in the midst of all that fury. It’s inconceivable to me that it never occurred to anyone involved that the jacket might be controversial or send an unintended message.

Which is why I’m assuming that was the entire point.

I do wonder just where Melania fits into this – did it ever occur to her wearing that jacket at this time would be a bad idea? What did she think people would say about it? What did she want them to think? Did Trump make her wear it? Did she wear it to gaslight Donald?

I don’t know. And the answers aren't important right now in the context of the bigger issue at hand. But I don’t believe for a second it was an unfortunate coincidence. And I don’t believe for a second it’s a comment on “fake news”.

We care a lot,

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We need to talk about DJ Trump and Jeff Bo Sessions and their zero tolerance immigration policy.

Because, damn.

1. The first thing to understand is that the legal situation and the process involved – and US immigration policy in general – is a lot more complicated than a lot of media reports make out. I recommend this Vox explainer and this NYT article for a reasonably detailed rundown of the nature and the history of the current policy.

The upshot: (1) This is an extension of a problem that’s been ongoing since at least the Bush II admin, (2) while there isn’t literally a policy instructing ICE to separate families at the border, there is a policy that treats all immigrants without papers as criminals, which is resulting in having their kids taken away (because you can’t keep yr kids with you in federal jail), and (3) the US govt isn’t set up to handle the logistics issues that this policy creates, which is a reason why they’re now looking at concentration camps tent cities. (More on that last point here.)

2. History aside, obviously it’s a monstrous policy for a couple of reasons: (1) obviously it's traumatic for the families, especially the children, and (2) it shows a distinct lack of empathy and humanity on the part of the Trump admin. They’re treating these people as (at best) statistics on a chart and (at worst) subhuman criminals who might as well be honorary members of MS-13 or whatever. It’s the kind of policy you'd expect from a guy who has been spewing rhetoric for the last few years about immigrants being terrorists, rapists, drug lords and animals.

3. Even if it’s just rhetoric to Trump, it’s practically gospel to his fan base who defend his policy as a law and order issue only – literally, if you happen to be Jeff Sessions, who can’t seem to keep a grin off his face when he talks about the admin’s current immigration crackdown. All I have to say about his Romans 13:1 crack has already been covered by Stephen Colbert. (Also, as others have pointed out, Romans 13:1 is irrelevant in a country that’s supposed to separate church and state.)

The whole law and order thing, for me, is mostly people trying to win an argument on a technicality – the law is the law, and if you don’t want to suffer the consequences, don’t break the law, what could be simpler? As if the “consequences” are justified no matter how extreme. All that says to me is these people see having yr kids taken away from you as just punishment for having the gall to take a shortcut in seeking a better life in the USA – and they’ve given no thought to what this actually involves doing to other human beings.

(I’ll add too that many people who deploy the “law and order” argument are also using it mainly because they do see immigrants as terrorists, rapists, drug lords and animals.)

4. For people whose fallback position is, “Look, like it or not, illegal immigration is a real problem and we need to fix how we deal with it," my response is this:

Yes, illegal immigration is a real problem (though not to the extremes that Trump Co claim), and the US needs to reform its policy to deal with it. The Big Question is how you deal with that problem, and the lengths (or in this case, depths) yr willing to go to “fix” it.

As it stands, our “fix” seems to require a certain amount of cruelty (see here, here and here) to carry out. And that means the people who carry it out – or support it – have to be okay with that level of cruelty. Whether cruelty is the intention or simply a consequence of zero-tolerance – or, even more cynically, an unfortunate but necessary political bargaining chip – it means these people think it’s okay to do this to illegal immigrants and their children. Trump can go on all he likes about having no choice because the law won’t let him keep families together – the prospect of separating them didn’t stop him from okaying the policy that is resulting in cruelty.

5. Also, regarding Trump’s claim that this is all the Democrats’ fault – that’s horseshit. What he’s saying is, “I wouldn’t have to do this if you’d give me an immigration reform bill that overturns the Flores Settlement, makes it harder to apply for asylum, allows indefinite detention and gives me my Wall™ money.”

Which is basically the same mentality as the average movie bad guy who takes people hostage and tells the hero, “Give me what I want and no one has to die – and if they do, it’s yr fault, not mine.”

It’s even more incredulous given that (1) the Democrats don’t control any branch of the govt, and (2) the current MO of the GOP is to slap together bills with no Demo input at all and force a vote (preferably in the middle of the night). And in any case, it’s insane to force Demos to vote for a bill they otherwise wouldn’t support simply to end Trump’s own cruel practice (which, by the way, it wouldn’t).

So, yeah – the situation is more complex than it looks, but regardless, Trump’s zero-tolerance policy is cruel political theater rooted in xenophobia and enabled by populist fear and racism that relies on denigrating the victims to sub-human status to justify it. It’s not just about the policy itself – it’s about the fact that too many people (from the Trump admin to its fan base and most if not all of the GOP) either don’t care about the consequences of that policy on real humans, or think that’s a small price to pay to achieve the fulfillment of their political ideology.

Theatre of cruelty,

This is dF
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There’s been a lot of shouting about the SCOTUS ruling about Colorado baker Jack Phillips demanding the right to refuse service to gay couples who want a cake for their wedding – which, as you may know, the bakery won.

The case was seen as a litmus test of sorts to settle the broader issue of business owners being able to discriminate against prospective customers (but especially gay ones) for religious reasons.

Despite crowing from the right and screaming outrage from the left, the SCOTUS decision didn’t actually do that.

I recommend reading SCOTUSblog’s explanation of the ruling, but the upshot is this:

Like a lot of SCOTUS cases, it’s not about the broader issue you want resolved but the specific details and context of the case before the court. And it’s not about the final score but the legal reasoning of the majority, which is key because it sets the precedent for reviewing future cases.

In this specific case, Justice Kennedy was careful to point out that what you have in these situations is two constitutionally protected items: the right of LGBTs to get married and generally not be discriminated against, and the right of people with sincere religious beliefs to lead their lives based on those beliefs. Kennedy also made it clear that the latter is not (and has never been) absolute.

The way to resolve this (such as it is) is to have a neutral third party evaluate the case under state anti-discrimination laws to fairly and neutrally determine if the religious person has a case. According to SCOTUS, the baker – Jack Phillips – didn’t get a neutral hearing. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission that ruled against Phillips treated him unfairly by being too openly hostile to his sincere religious beliefs.

I’m sure people on both sides of this argument will take umbrage to the idea of balancing LGBT rights with 1A rights, and argue that their side (and their side only) is non-negotiable. The point is that from a strictly legal POV, that ain’t the case. But in the case of Jack Phillips, it's really just a question of how this specific case was handled, not whether his religious beliefs took precedent over LGBT rights. 

So basically, the SCOTUS ruling didn’t really resolve the broader issue of whether businesses can use their religious beliefs as an excuse refuse service to people. It’s basically still a case-by-case scenario. For now. 

Which might be for the best, since I seriously doubt in these polarized times that the losing side of any eventual definitive ruling would accept it graciously and move on. We don’t really do that anymore.

As for me, my own take remains the same as before when this came up in Indiana:

If the law says a business owner can discriminate based on sincere religious beliefs – and if changing the law is not an option in the short term – the best response is for all of his/her competitors to step up and say as loudly as possible, “Hey victims of bigotry, we’ll totally take your money – in fact, we’ll give you a special discount!” We’ll see which business lasts longer. Even if it doesn’t result in bigots going out of business, it will at least assure LGBTs and other victims of bigotry that their needs are served.

If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake.

This is dF
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And while I was typing the last post, Samantha Bee is in trouble for calling Ivanka Trump the c-word. And naturally conservatives want TBS to fire her and cancel her show – allegedly in the name of fairness since Rosanne Barr was sacked by ABC for doing the same thing.

Also bloggable!

1. It’s not the same thing at all. Barr’s tweet was not only offensive, but also racist, which is bad enough on its own terms, and worse in the context of the times – racism is ascending in power with the aim of disenfranchising everyone who isn’t a white Christian male. Bee’s rant wasn’t racist or sexist, and didn’t contribute to Ivanka’s (or anyone’s) disenfranchisement in any way. It was just rude and offensive.

2. Assuming Bee keeps her job, it’s only a double standard if the “standard” being applied is civility and decorum. Which it’s not – we know this because (1) their favorite POTUS insults their political enemies almost daily and they love it, and (2) my Facebook/Twitter feeds are full of conservative memes about Obama being an ape, Michelle Obama being a man (and an ape), Chelsea Clinton being ugly, Rosie O’Donnell being fat, and libtards being stupid, little easily-offended snowflakes who can't take a joke.

So all this conservative handwringing about Samantha Bee is so much schadenfreude to me. They don't care about Bee’s use of the c-word – they only care who she said it about. If Bee had said it about Hillary Clinton, she’d be getting a White House invite by now.

(To be fair, too, I think a lot of liberals don’t really care about double standards either – I know plenty who loved what Bee said and think she has nothing to apologize for. Same old story – it’s truthful when I say it about yr side, and an offensive smear when you say it about my side, blah blah blah.)

4. All that aside, should Bee have said it? Probably not – partly because political discourse is toxic enough as it is, but mainly because it provided the perfect excuse for everyone to ignore the overall point Bee was trying to make regarding the insensitive obliviousness of Ivanka Trump posting a sweet photo of herself and her child when ICE is busy forcibly separating immigrant kids from their parents. Bee herself has said as much.

5. Some sponsors are boycotting Full Frontal as a result – and, you know, fair is fair.

6. I’ve seen people claim that Trump demanding that TBS fire Bee is a clear First Amendment violation because it’s the government ordering a show off the air – which is something the 1A explicitly forbids.

Personally, I don’t agree with that evaluation (yet) because Trump doesn’t have any actual power to force TBS to cancel the show. It would only be a 1A violation if he actually succeeded in enforcing his demand with government power. For example, if he directly targets TBS with blackmail or an executive order, or has Bee or TBS’ head of programming arrested, then yes, that would be an egregious 1A violation.

If he uses the White House as a bully pulpit to actively encourage advertisers to boycott the show – or to encourage his fan base to boycott the advertisers – that’s a grey area, but I don’t know if it would pass muster in a constitutional court case.

Anyway, until any of that happens, it’s just more of Trump’s usual autocratic bluster.

To Bee or not to Bee,

This is dF
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She had a sitcom. Now she doesn’t. Blog topic acquired!

1. I should say upfront I never watched either of her sitcoms, and that I never found her 80s standup to be all that funny.

2. Conservatives are of course getting themselves into a lather over Roseanne being “silenced” for exercising her 1A rights, etc. Tra la la.

I think what I said before about Kevin Williamson and the Intellectual Dark Web applies here: (1) yr 1A rights don’t entitle you to a TV show, or talk radio show, or NYT column section or any mass media platform, and (2) saying offensive things invites pushback and has consequences.

In mass media in particular, if you cross a line, the people who gave you that platform can take it away. We can argue all day about where the line should be – but that’s a non-starter these days, since most people tend to argue that wherever “the line” is, it should be in your favor and not your political opposition.

3. Some argue that ABC's move was Draconian because it dropped Barr for what she said on her personal Twitter account, not what she said on the show.

That's a fair point – it does seem unfair and alarming that you can be sacked for speaking yr mind on yr own time. On the other hand, we do live in a world now where if you are employed by a company and you suddenly become a Twitter sensation by – oh, let's say – being videotaped screaming at Spanish-speaking people in a restaurant, you’re not doing your company any favors by suddenly making them The Company That Employs Racist Jerks. If you become a liability to your company’s ability to do business, the company is going to sack you. Which is what happened with ABC – Roseanne’s tweet was toxic enough that ABC decided she was a liability to ratings and advertisers.

It's also worth pointing out that Rosanne Barr isn't just a clueless private employee whose racist comment happened to go viral – she's a famous person with a big fan base who has made a career out of saying outrageous things in public and on purpose. 

4. While ABC’s decision to drop the show completely may be extreme, it’s worth remembering the context in which all this is happening. Barr made a tasteless racist joke at a time when America is seeing a resurgence of white supremacists and neo-Nazis emboldened by the apparent backing of both the current presidential admin and its biggest megaphone, Fox News (which also just happens to be the most-watched TV news outlet in the country) – which understandably is alarming and infuriating to all the ethnic and religious minorities those groups want to oppress.

Consequently, when you make ape jokes about black people, you’re helping to legitimize and empower the white supremacist cause – especially when you’re someone who has Barr’s level of influence as a reasonably famous celebrity. Barr may or may not have intended that, but that’s the context in which ABC has to decide what to do about it.

5. As for Roseanne’s Ambien excuse, sorry, but no. I’ve heard that one before – “it wasn’t me saying that, it was the alcohol/drugs”. No, it was you. Alcohol and drugs don’t put those thoughts in yr head or yr heart – they release what’s already in there.

That joke isn’t funny anymore,

This is dF
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The internet is aflame over Trump’s latest race-baiting immigrant comment – namely that he called immigrants “animals”.

Or did he?

Which is the main takeaway of this Vox explainer about the whole thing, which is worth reading, because it makes a few very important points regarding the state of political discourse in the Trump era:

1. Context matters
2. People are basically talking past each other to make political points
3. Trump is a babbling idiot who doesn’t know what he’s saying half the time.

Okay, the article doesn’t say that last one explicitly – but it does make the point that a major problem with divining what Trump supposedly intended to say vs what we all heard him say is that he has a tendency to veer off on tangents that perhaps only make sense in his own head.

Have you ever had a conversation where the other person switched topics in their head but didn’t signal this to you, and so you think they’re still talking about what you were talking about previously but they’re actually talking about or referring to something else?

Trump is basically like that. Anything he says doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the immediate topic, or indeed the previous sentence. Which is why, when you review the conversation in which he made his “animals” comment, it’s in no way obvious that he is talking about MS-13 gang members exclusively. Even if he thought in his head that’s who he was referring to, you can’t tell that from the transcript.

And this is a problem because, of course, he’s the POTUS. What the POTUS says matters. And when you have no idea what he means when he says something, you invite misinterpretation on both sides to the point that it can become a distraction from real issues – such as the fact that Trump’s aggressive immigration policy is not as focused on “the worst of the worst” like he claims. (Or the fact that statistically, the Obama admin deported more non-criminal immigrants than the Trump admin has, although Trump is certainly trying to beat that record.)

So if there’s a takeaway worth remembering, it’s that the current head of the USA – and the person currently and enthusiastically backed by the GOP – is an inarticulate boob who says whatever pops into his head as if it’s true (which it frequently isn’t), and real policies are being carried out based on this.

For example, Trump may have been referring only to MS-13, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some ICE agents are trying to justify arrests of DACA kids by pretending they’re gang members. Which is not to say Trump specifically ordered them to do so – I think the more racist ICE agents are hearing what he says and interpreting it to mean that as far as Trump is concerned, they’re all potential gang members, so why not use that as a pretense?

It’s like all the racists and Nazis and alt-right characters who feel that Trump has their back, even though he’s never really specifically said that he does, and has never explicitly said pro-racist/Nazi things. But it sure can be interpreted that way. (Yes, I’m aware that Trump allegedly uses coded language, but that only works if you KNOW it’s coded language, and I swear at least 60% of the ‘code words’ racists use to say racist things without sounding racist are things I had no idea were code words in the first place – so it’s plausible to me that Trump doesn't know them either.)

And of course all of this is why it's so easy to conclude that Trump meant all (non-white) immigrants are animals, because it's not like he doesn't have a history of saying things like that.

What’d I say,

This is dF


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