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That isn’t what exoneration looks like…

“Can anyone explain why the Republicans are blocking a report that can completely exonerate the President?”

Good question (click to embiggen)

Since every news site was talking about the Mueller report, it seems a bit redundant for me to include much about it in the Friday Five. So I decided to make a separate post just about what was learned the first day the report was out.

In case you’ve already read more about it than you like, I’ll put it behind a cut tag. So don’t click if you don’t want to see… Read More…

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What does a self-loathing closet case anti-gay ex-Congressman do after somehow getting a sweetheart deal on his financial crimes prosecution?

Virulently anti-gay disgraced former congressman caught making out with a guy with his hands down the guy's pants at Coachella.

Virulently anti-gay disgraced former congressman caught making out with a guy with his hands down the guy’s pants at Coachella.

So, disgraced former Republican Congressman Aaron Shock is in the news again: Former GOP Congressman Aaron Schock spotted at Coachella making out with a guy and What Happens at Coachella Doesn’t Stay at Coachella (If You’re Hanging with a Gay Right Wing Republican). He was a public official who voted for and campaigned on anti-gay causes. He tried to make it legal for people to fire folks merely for being suspected of being gay. He voted against amending federal hate crimes laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability. He voted against the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in December 2010. He has never renounced those positions, even after resigned from office while he was being charged with a lot of financial malfeasance.

Last month prosecutors reached an agreement with Schock where all charges against him were dropped in exchange for him paying $42,000 to the IRS (taxes owed on a fraction of the money he illegally obtained while in congress) and $68,000 to his congressional campaign fund. As part of the deal, Schock’s campaign committee pled guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to properly report expenses.

For years rumors circulated around about the anti-gay congressmen, because of his unusual fashion choices and the years of being unmarried and wealthy but always having unmarried male “roommates.” But things hit mainstream media after someone reported that his personal Twitter account and Instagram account was following hundreds of gay models and male athletes who were always known for posting pictures of themselves scantily clad. Shock abruptly unfollowed those hundreds of accounts en mass when a major news site finally mentioned the gay rumors

Then on a taxpayer-funded trip abroad Congressman Shock had this guy who was listed as a staff photographer (but he never took pictures) put in a hotel room with a door adjoining his, get upgrades and other things using programs that are usually meant for spouses, and so on. The supposed photographer sat with Shock at banquets similarly to the spouses of other congressmen on the trip, The supposed photographed posed in pictures standing beside Shock like the spouses of other congressmen and the American service members abroad they met with on the trip. Read that again: the official staff photographer didn’t take pictures, he posed as if he was the congressman’s spouse in the pictures.

Totally normal to have your photographer (far right) pose with you in all the official photos rather than actually operating a camera. Even if the taxpayer is picking up the photographer's tab, right?

Totally normal to have your photographer (far right) pose with you in all the official photos rather than actually operating a camera. Even if the taxpayer is picking up the photographer’s tab, right?

Let’s not forget the time when when he was walking around a gay neighborhood with reporters during Pride week where he was supposed to be talking about some urban issues but he kept getting distracted on camera with his eyes following the hot shirtless men who walked by. Those are among the many, many, many reasons that everyone with a lick of sense had been saying for years that the anti-gay (ex-)Congressman is probably a closeted gay man.

I’ve seen people–gay people–posting on some sites that Shock’s private life is his business, and if out gay guys want to hang with him, we shouldn’t judge.

No.

He used the power of his office to cause harm to queer people. He used the power of his office to argue that anyone should have the right to fire, evict, or refuse to give medical services if they even suspect that person might be gay. He argued that employers and private citizens should be able to pry into other queer people’s private lives and discriminate against them. Until he makes amends for that by coming out, apologizing for the harm he caused, and make some kind of significant contribution to pro-queer causes, he has forfeited any right to a private sex life of his own. And I can absolutely judge any other queer people who friends with the douche who enabled hate crimes and more.

Leader of church that was the result of someone making up their own version of christianity says other people can’t make up their own version of christianity

Martin Luther with the text, “Let's start a new church. Let's start 40,000 of them”

The protestant reformation in the year 1517 was just one of literally thousands of times that some christians decided to make up their own version of christianity.

So, Pete Buttigieg, openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indian has been in the news a lot. First for being an openly gay public official announcing his intention to run for president, then by raising enough money (fairly quickly) to qualify for the first Democratic Candidates’ Debate, then by kissing his husband on the campaign trail (which didn’t hurt his standing in the polls), then by refusing to back down on criticism of the blatant homophobia of Vice President Mike Pence, then by officially announcing his candidacy (and having his husband on stage, where there was another kiss while the crowd cheered). Last I counted, we have about 18 officially announced candidates, and the first primaries and caucuses are still ten months away, so it is way too early to know if Mayor Pete is going to wind up being the nominee. But all the media attention and his success so far as sure gotten some of the religious right into a tizzy: Christian College President Everett Piper Slams Pete Buttigieg’s Faith and ‘Proclivities’.

I’m not going to link to Everett Piper’s full commentary (published in the Washington Times—a small far-right newspaper not to be confused with the prestigious Washington Post), but the article above has a link, and it’s not hard to find. The title of Piper’s commentary is: “Pete Buttigieg doesn’t get to make up his own Christianity.” And that’s just hilarious!

Because Piper is a member of the Weslyan Methodist Church (and is the president of a Weslyan Methodist college), which is a denomination that form in 1843 when it split off from the Methodist Episcopal Church, which officially split from the Church of England in 1784, which was formed in 1534 with King Henry VIII split with the Roman Catholic Church. And each of those splits were over doctrinal differences (yes, there was a specific personal and political aim that Henry was going for, but it was over a doctrinal dispute about what would constitute reasons for annulling a marriage). That means that each of those splits was because someone decided to make up their own version of christianity.

Mayor Pete is a member of the Episcopal Church, an American denomination that is part of the Anglican Communion. And the Episcopal Church has been accepting of gay and lesbian members, priests, and bishops for some years now. Mayor Pete wasn’t even one of the movers and shakers in that regard, so you can’t even accuse him of having made that particular doctrinal change.

Piper’s denomination, while being a splinter from a splinter of the Anglican Communion, has far more in common with fundamentalist evangelical denominations such as the Southern Baptists, than the Episcopal Church. And many of those fundamentalist evangelical denominations which Piper considers to be practicing his version of christianity are descended from groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church back in the year 1517, after Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (proposals for reforms) to the door of his church.

Each of the thousands of denominations are the result of someone deciding to make up their own version of christianity. If Piper is going to insist that no one has the right to do that, he darn well better resign from his current church and go join the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, if anyone confronted Piper about this, he would quickly deflect, because the real issue is that Piper and his co-religionists don’t think that denominations such as the Episcopalians are “real christians.” But he doesn’t want to admit that. Instead, he tries to cast this as somehow it is Mayor Pete all by himself deciding that queer people can be out and non-celibate and be good christians at the same time.

The fact that christian denominations such as the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterians, welcome and affirm queer members is something Piper and his ilk want to ignore. Just as they keep pretending that it is only a minority of the U.S. population that favors marriage equality and civil rights protections for queer people.

And what really worries them is the growing support in almost all denominations, especially among younger christians, for full acceptance of and legal equality for gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, et cetera people. Because it’s just another reason why many of those unwelcoming denominations are seeing the membership shrinking. Of course, I’m not the only person to observe this: Why do right wing Christians find Pete Buttigieg so threatening? Here’s the answer — The attacks on the South Bend mayor from severe fundamentalists will surely continue in the months ahead.

I suspect that Mayor Pete won’t actually wind up as the party’s nominee, but I hope he keeps making the haters foam at the mouth! And the more they do, the harder it is for others to ignore the bigotry

If you want to know more about Mayor Pete and his candidacy for president: Who is Pete Buttigieg? Meet the gay millennial mayor surging in the Democratic primary.

Weekend Update 4/13/2019: Evil comes in many forms…

Tweet from Jeff Tiedrich (@jefftiedrich)  “Hey kids. I'm in my 60s. You've never lived in an America where the rich paid their fair share. I have. Let me tell you what that was like: * We built new schools * We built new highways * We cut the poverty rate * We lead the world in technology * WE WENT TO THE FUCKING MOON”

We went to the moon! (click to embiggen)

Once again here we are with some stories that broke after I completed this week’s Friday Five or have had further developments since being reported in an earlier Friday Five or Weekend Update. Specifically stories that I want to editorialize a bit more about than I usually do in the Friday Five. And spoilers: it isn’t all bad news!

Let’s begin with a series of stories that are specifically relevant here in my home state of Washington.

I have occasionally written before about our local perennial anti-tax, anti-gay, anti-well-anything-decent initiative filer Tim Eyman. A man whose full-time job for a couple of decades has been running these shitty initiatives to restrict the power of the legislature to raise taxes, to make it difficult for local governments and counties to raise taxes, to stop transit projects, to repeal gay civil rights protections and so many more. He famously planned to make his official announcement of filing one anti-gay initiative dressed in a pink tutu because he somehow thought that would be funny—one of his supporters showed up with a rented Darth Vader costume and convinced him to wear that instead.

A bit over a month ago his usually operation switched gears when the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against him and one of his paid signature gathering groups for campaign finance violations including money laundering and diverting a lot of funds for Eyman’s personal use. The state elections commission had already ruled on some of his earlier campaigns that this sort of thing was frequently happening, and in a settlement of those charges some years ago, Eyman agreed to never the the treasurer of an initiative campaign or similar operation. But that apparently didn’t stop the malfeasance.

So, right after that, he sent out a whining money beg to his supporters, in which he also mentioned that he was filing for personal bankruptcy and that his wife was divorcing him. And it is mostly in the realm of that separate bankruptcy filing that he came into the news this week: Judge refuses to let Eyman back out of bankruptcy. So, when he filed for bankruptcy, his claim was that between his wife leaving him and that fundraising has become less successful (which he was blaming on the lawsuit that had just been filed—I guess his argument was that donors heard rumors of the lawsuit coming and had stopped sending in money?), plus the estimated legal fees for defending in that lawsuit, that he was going broke. He filed for Chapter 11, which allows for a reorganization and gives the bankrupt person some same in how the finances are sorted out.

The state has since asked the court to convert this to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where all assets are liquidated and then the court decides how to parcel out to the debtors. They argued that the primary purpose of the filing was to protect his wealth from the lawsuit—in other words, to prevent any punitive action of the courts from actually, you know, punishing him. And to bolster their argument, they produced bank records showing that he is spending money and an incredible rate, among other things.

This news going public apparently is not going over well with the donors who had started sending in money for his legal defense fund. So Eyman had filed a counter motion to end the bankruptcy proceedings entirely, all but admitting that the only real point of the filing was to avoid being penalized later.

The judge didn’t let him out of the filing, but also didn’t grant the state’s request. What he did do was order that Eyman has to every month file a list of exactly what he’s spending his money on, along with an estimate of his expenses for the coming months, and that at a particular date ahead, file a budget that the court will enforce.

This comes one week after the judge in the lawsuit dealt him another blow: Tim Eyman loses in court, faces possible lifetime ban on managing political finances . The lawsuit is still in early stages. There isn’t a jury or anything, yet. But part of the process includes the state outlining the kinds of penalties they will ask the jury and the judge to consider. And one of those was a lifetime ban on having any management or control over the finances of any political campaign. Eyman countered that this would infringe on his constitution right to free speech, because the courts have ruled that political spending is a form of speech.

The judge ruled, based on Supreme Court rulings in the matter, that what the court has said that spending your own money for political reasons is protected speech, but not spending other people’s money. She also pointed out that similar lifetime bans have been handed out in various jurisdictions (such as the one forbidding him from being a treasurer of a political committee) without the courts ruling them unconstitutional. This doesn’t mean that he has been banned, it just means that it remains an option in the proceedings.

And all of this is separate from his criminal trial of stealing an office chair from a store: Watch-WA Anti Tax Zealot, Tim Eyman, Steals Office Chair from Office Supply Store- in campaign shirt. And don’t forget the follow-up: Tim Eyman films himself trying to return the chair he allegedly stole. I’m sorry, just watch the video in the first story. Tell me that was an accident! He claims that since he came back inside the store and bought other things, that he meant to tell the clerk about the chair, or that he thought he did tell the clerk. But witnesses at the scene note that he tried to decline the offer of one of the employees to carry take his heavy purchases out to his car on a handtruck, and when they wouldn’t be deterred, insisted that they stack the stuff up next to his car, then he fumbled with his keys for many minutes until the clerk went back inside.

My only regret on this story is that, since Tim is a well-to-do white guy, that he’ll only get a slap on the wrist for stealing a $70 chair.

Imagine for a minute how all of this would go down if he wasn’t white…


Now we go from anti-tax/anti-gay a-holes who troll the tax system, to another kind of troll: Online trolls hijacked a scientist’s image to attack Katie Bouman. They picked the wrong astrophysicist. So, along with the story about that image that scientists created from 5 million terrabytes of data from hundreds of telescopes around the world to finally get a look at the supermassive accretion disk around a supermassive blackhole, people were sharing images of astrophysicist Katie Bouman with the giant stack of hard drives.

A bunch of misogynist guys online started spreading the story that another scientist had done most of the work. And the put his picture and several lies into memes of their own to share. He came back at them, hard. Since these trolls are usually also anti-gay, it seems like a bit of poetic justice that the guy they tried to make into their anti-feminist hero not only wouldn’t play along, but also is openly gay. And he used the media attention to point out that we need to do more to encourage girls and women into pursuing science careers, and that his branch of study, astrophysics is especially in need of more diversity.

As both he and Bouman point out in the various stories: hundreds of scientists contributed. Many many algorithms were developed and used to pull data from the various kinds of telescopes involved. Bouman coordinated the assembly, and contributed algorithms of her own, but she never claimed to be the sole discoverer.

This kind of science takes a whole lot of people. Not just because there is a lot of data to get through, but because different people bring different perspectives, and as they interact, more interesting ideas emerge. So, we need more people in science, and we need more kinds of people in science!


And yet another kind of troll: More than half of banned books challenged for LGBTQ content – The American Library Association noted there’s a “greater number of challenges” to LGBTQ books — “especially those with transgender characters.”. Because of course they are. Dang it, why are people so scared of queer kids? Why?


Finally, I promised at least some good news, and here it is! The first official teaser for Star Wars Episode IX dropped, and it is so good! Sometimes I wish we lived in a galaxy far, far away, where evil can be defeated with courage, ingenuity, and a light sabre…

STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Teaser Trailer [HD] Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Julian Assange finally dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy

I could hold this for tomorrow’s Friday Five, but I want to editorialize a bit here, so…

Assange arrested in London after seven years in Ecuador embassy, U.S. seeks extradition.

All right, so, while I am all in favor of transparency and recognize that without whistle-blowers even more corruption, malfeasance, and war crimes would go unpunished than already do, however, not all so-called hacktivists are good guys. Assange has claimed to be a journalist because he supposedly brings information to light. For part of my college career my major was journalism, and I have some strong feelings about journalistic ethics. One of the tenants of journalistic ethics is that if one engages in covert methods of uncovering information, one’s ethical obligations (to ensure accuracy, objectivity, while avoiding causing harm to innocent people) increase.

One of the basic questions an editor is supposed to ask when dealing with sensitive information of a diplomatic, political, or military nature, is will releasing this information place people in danger? And yes, you weigh that against the harm that has been caused or is being caused by whatever it is you are about to expose. It can be a difficult question.

But another one of the harms to innocent people that journalists are supposed to think about is: will releasing this information impede or interfere with legitimate democratic processes? Because elections matter, and who is in power can mean the difference between life and death— particularly for society’s most vulnerable.

The way in which Assange and his colleagues have stolen and dumped, unfiltered, large amounts of information into public view means that they are not even thinking about those kinds of questions. Therefore, what they are engaged in is not journalism, let alone ethical journalism.

I have no idea whether he is guilty of the sexual assault in Sweden that first sent him to seek asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy, but since Sweden isn’t exactly a vicious totalitarian state known for convicting innocent people of bogus crimes, I do wonder why an innocent man wouldn’t be willing to have his day in court there.

Yes, I believe in the Golden Thread of Justice: I believe that a person must be presumed to be innocent until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But I am allowed to judge his character, and here is the thing that completely disinclines me to have any sympathy for the man: after taking shelter in the Ecuadoran Embassy for seven years—seven years in which these people sheltered him, fed him, and suffered strained relations with many allied states—when they asked him for the umpteenth time that he clean his own room and take care of his own cat, rather than expecting embassy staff to do those things for him, he sued the government of Ecuador claiming that these demands are a violation of his civil rights.

Expecting you to clean up after your own cat is not a violation of your civil rights!

He’s a self-important, arrogant jerk. And frankly, everyone is still being way nicer to him than he deserves.

BBC News – Footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here

Weekend Update 4/7/2019: Sword-wielding hate crime suspect arrested

And now time for another post where I comment on news that either broke after I created this week’s Friday Five or there has been new developments in a story that I’ve previously written about. So, last week I linked to the story of a guy in a red Make American Great Again hat yelling homophobic slurs are people going into a skating rink in San Francisco who eventually allegedly attacked one of those people with a sword.

There’s been an arrest: Attempted Murder Charge In SF MAGA/Sword Attack. Police found the guy because they had a fingerprint from a beer bottle left at the scene, and someone found a bloody sword wrapped in a shirt which matched the description of the alleged perpetrator’s clothes as described by some of the witnesses. And the sword a fingerprint that matched the print on the bottle.

The stories I’ve read thus far don’t say whether the perpetrator’s fingerprints were already in the system, though The Blaze reports that the alleged perp was arrested for unlawful entry into a vehicle in Multnomah County, Oregon, in October 2012 and during that crime he threatened the owner of the vehicle with a knife. In any case, the guy doesn’t appear to be very bright because he got into an argument with his court-appointed defense attorney during the arraignment. I’ll get to that in a minute.

We now have a lot more information on the crime. Some of the eyewitnesses at the time had mentioned a pirate costume along with the red hat, while others had described a red flannel shirt over otherwise unremarkable clothes. Apparently he was wearing the sword on his back, and some witnesses had seen that and assumed it was a costume piece, and not an actual, you know, sword.

Also, while the victim wasn’t named last week, and was described as being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, the victim’s name has since been released, and the injury is described as “partially severed hand” and “gruesome.” The victim has admitted that he attempted to knock the guy’s hat off his head, and then he thought that the perpetrator knocked his arm away with an umbrella or a nightstick, and didn’t realize what had actually happened right away.

I mentioned that alleged perpetrator got into an argument with his defense attorney during the hearing. The perp is insisting that they have no evidence to tie him to the crime and that he was at home minding his own business at the time. The defense attorney, on the other hand, was trying to argue in court that his client should not be held over for trial, and that the case be diverted to arbitration because the attack with the sword was essentially self-defense after the other guy knocked his hat off. That’s when the perp started yelling at his attorney:

“You just basically implied that I did it,” Bergland said as prosecutors argued for him to be held in jail without bail. “Why are you telling me to be quiet?” Bergland then said to his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Eric Quandt. “I can defend myself.”’

I think the attorney recognizes that his client has all the evidence against him. Multiple eyewitnesses, his fingerprints at the scene and one the weapon used in the assault are just the parts we know about. The stories last week mentioned that the police were in the process of obtaining video footage from neighborhood security cameras, for instance. And I bet that were hair fibers left on the hat, and possibly on the bloody shirt that the sword was wrapped in. We presume that he discarded the shirt with the sword because there was blood on it, but looking at the photos in last week’s story of the huge splash on blood on the sidewalk, I wouldn’t be surprised that some of the other clothes the alleged perpetrator was wearing that night that he didn’t dispose of got a bit of blood on them.

If the evidence against him is even worse than what we know, the defense attorney may be correct that the best defense that is available to his client is to spin for the self-defense angle. His client is being held on $1 million bail, so I don’t think he’s going to avoid a trial without a plea deal.


Let’s go from a hate crime that had lots of witnesses and other evidence, to one lacking all of those things (not to mention credibility): Chicago to Sue Jussie Smollett After Deadline to Pay $130,000 Investigation Reimbursement Passes. As I mentioned in an earlier post, once we knew the details of Smollett’s report of an alleged crime it seemed very fishy. Why would Trump-supporting homophobic racists recognize an out gay actor who plays a supporting character on a prime time soap opera-type show that is all about a family of african-american musicians? They just aren’t in the same demographic as the show’s audience, right?

Smollett has since been given deferred prosecution and let go, and he seems to be really leaning hard into the lie that this exonerates him of all charges that the report was a hoax. And let me be clear: deferred prosecution, particularly when the Deputy District Attorney who did so explicitly said that this doesn’t exonerate him, is neither vindication nor exoneration. I suspect that the District Attorney’s office made this call because pursuing the case wasn’t going to result in significant jail time. I also suspect that the two brothers who say they were hired by Smollett to stage the crime may not come across very good in the witness stand if it came to that.

I also think that good attorneys on Smollett’s side could get a lot of mileage by talking about cases (and there have been some in Chicago) where white people have falsely reported crimes but they were never prosecuted.

Not that I think Smollett should get off scott free, here, but I can see reasons that not pursuing the charges might make sense. As another story noted, during the few weeks between the time that Smollett was charged for filing a false report and the day the charges were dropped, about 2900 other criminal cases where handled by the same prosecutor’s office. The sheer volume of crime cases in the county are often cited as the reason that they have been deferring prosecutions and seeking other kinds of diversion for a lot of non-violent crimes during the last few years. At least the District Attorney’s office is supporting calls for an independent investigation into their handling of the case.

Since it is also alleged that Smollett is behind the threatening letter that was mailed to the TV show before the alleged hoax attack, and since the FBI is looking into that letter, I suspect that Smollett is going to be standing in front of a judge again in the not-so-distant future.

The part that I’m still most angry about is that this case is being used by folks on the right to claim that all hate crime reports are fake. It’s exactly what many, many people were posting as comments on the reports about the sword-attack I mentioned above. Even though there is a lot of evidence that that crime did happen.

Weekend Update 3/31/2019: Bullies need an audience

Cowardly lion looking affronted. “Bullies be like... when they get caught.”There were two stories that I watched unfolding on Twitter. It’s not often that a conversation crosses my social media and then turns up as headlines the next couple of days. I thought about just saving the links for next Friday Five, but as I was reading one of the articles about one story, I realized that the two sets of events illustrate an aspect of bullying and hate that I’ve written about more than a few times. I also decided that I wanted to publish this before April 1st, so no one will think any of this is a joke.

I’m going to start with the most disturbing one: San Francisco Police Search For Sword-Wielding Man in MAGA Hat Who Cut Victim. Now this is a reported hate crime, and mindful that people will try to claim this is fake, I want to point out that there were multiple witnesses to the guy being in the stupid red hat, yelling homophobic slurs at the people going into the roller rink, and at least once he followed a group up to the door while yelling, but stopped without going inside.

One of the first stories posted on a San Francisco news site tried to make the guy who attacked someone with a sword out to be the victim, because at least one witness said that the guy who got stabbed first knocked the red hat off. Other witnesses were unclear as to what how the guy’s hat came off his head. At least one person described what happened before the sword came out as a scuffle. I’m not as familiar with California law as Washington state, so I don’t know if knocking the hat off (if that’s what happened) counts as assault. And if police find the asshole I’m sure he’s going to claim the other guy attacked him first.

But I’m confident the hat wearing guy was an asshole, because of the multiple witnesses to his hanging outside a skating rink that was hosting a gay-friendly event shouting homophobic slurs. And he brought a damn sword with him. That seems pre-meditated. He meant, at the least, to be a threatening presence. I hope they find him and throw the book at him.

The second story is a little different. I think most of the headlines have the story slightly wrong, but let’s start with the ending: Conservative commentator fired for attacking gay journalist online. So Denise McAllister, who has written for The Federalist and the Daily Wire and a few other of the conservative hate sites that pretend to be news has not had a great week. A few days ago she posted a link to an article from “ILoveMyFreedom.Org” that was critical of Meghan McCain (daughter of the late Senator John McCain and current member of the cast of The View). McAllister’s accompanying derogatory comments generated a lot of backlash, but things really took off when McCain replied with the statement, “You were at my wedding, Denise.”

The phrase quickly became a meme, as hundred of people started attaching it to various unrelated pictures. McCain apparently thought that all of these memes were people taking her side, apparently not quite getting the jokes of the meme.

Anyway, on Friday night McAllister overshared on twitter, saying that she had tried to talk to her husband while he was watching a basketball game, and he replied “Woman you know better than this, the game is on” and she agreed that he was right, she was wrong. And then the oversharing part was how at the commercial she brought him a beer to apologize and she described the kiss and, well, the whole thing was very Stepford Wives. And all in a single tweet.

This is, by the way, a good example of why I wish tweets were still only 140, because you wouldn’t quite be able to encapsulate thousands of years of toxic masculinity/misogyny and the willingness of some women to defend their own abuse in a single message.

Anyway, an out gay journalist named Yashar Ali quoted McAllister’s tweet with the comment, “Oh, Denise.” And this sent McAllister into a raging tweetstorm.

Those two words, “Oh, Denise” were, in her opinion, a vicious attack—not just on McAllister, but on masculinity and men’s freedom and I don’t know what all. There was a lot. The tamest comment she made was an assertion that gay men have no right to comment on heterosexual relationships, before she got to the kicker:

“Oh so sad. @yasher is lost. He doesn't know his purpose as a man. He doesn't know his purpose as a human being. He doesn't know his purpose as an individual. So he wallows and tried to find himself in another man's asshole. Sad.” and “I think @yashar has a crush on me. Maybe I'm making him doubt his love of penis.”

“Oh so sad. @yasher is lost. He doesn’t know his purpose as a man. He doesn’t know his purpose as a human being. He doesn’t know his purpose as an individual. So he wallows and tried to find himself in another man’s asshole. Sad.” and “I think @yashar has a crush on me. Maybe I’m making him doubt his love of penis.”

The only thing that Ali had said after “Oh, Denise” was to observe, “I guess Denise is not happy that I’m worried about how her husband treats her.” Now, I realize that other people were commenting on her first tweet, pointing out that maybe she shouldn’t be so happy about how her husband was treating. But Yashar’s two comments were pretty mild. Once McAllister had gone to both an anal sex and penis reference, a bunch of other people—including other journalists and conservatives—took a screenshot of the two tweets and started contacting the official twitter accounts of the websites/magazines that she listed in her twitter bio as being places where she writes. And yes, two of those sites later issued statements that she no longer works for them, and specifically referenced the homophobic nature of the tweets in the screenshot.

She has deleted most of the rest of her tweetstorm—where she characterized people’s reactions as trying to burn her at the stake, and other crazy things. But by then the damage was done.

There is so much to unpack in all of this. Ali’s initial response was not an attack, it was pity. Pity for a person who is not only perpetuates the disrespect she gets from her husband, but actually rewards it and feels the need to go brag about it to the world. When you broadcast stuff like that, it is perfectly legitimate for other people to comment. The response that a gay man can’t comment on heterosexual relationships is pretty rich, given how many times McAllister has written about homosexual relationships. If a heterosexual homophobe can write homophobic editorials critiquing queer people and how they live their lives, then all us queers can state opinions about things the homophobe brags about in their own relationship.

While we’re on the topic of homophobic editorials: the publications that have fired McAllister have published dozens, nay, hundreds of articles, opinion pieces, and so forth that were just as homophobic as those two tweets that they now claim are unacceptable. If being homophobic and stating so publicly disqualifies someone for working at The Federalist, then they all need to fire each other right now. McAllister’s tweets were slightly (and only slightly) more crudely stated than the usual lying hatred toward gays that The Federalist and The Daily Wire publish all the time. Several other conservative pundits and journalists had weighed in on the sheer disproportionality of McAllister’s response to “Oh, Denise,” but given the sorts of things they have all written about queer people, what they are really upset about his how blunt she was.

I don’t believe that those tweets are the reason she was fired. That fact that Meaghan McCain’s husband is the founder and editor of The Federalist almost certainly has more to do with her firing than a couple of homophobic tweets. The weird dust-up with McCain had almost certainly already put her on the shitlist at several places.

And one is tempted to say, “Oh, Denise” in a rather pitying voice. But she doesn’t deserve our pity any more than the MAGA-hat wearing guy who attacked someone with a sword. Because they are both doing the same thing. You don’t go to a gay-friendly public event, wearing one of those stupid red hats, and yelling slurs at people unless you want attention. You want people to know you hate the gays. Similarly, you don’t post stories about how your husband yelled at you and sent you to fetch him a beer to earn forgiveness for the offense of talking to him while he’s watching a basketball game unless you want people to know that you hate the libtards who expect men to treat women with respect.

And you comment on a gay man’s sex life in crude terms because you want everyone to know that you hate the gays.

But make no mistake, the conservative pundits and sites that publish things about “the militant homosexual agenda,” and defending so-called gay conversion therapy, and insist that equal rights for queer people is an assault on religion, and repeat lies about the health of queer people also hate the gays. They run those headlines because they want everyone to know that they hate the gays. The only difference between them and people like McAllister of the sword-wielding guy is that the misdirect with code words. Instead of coming at us with a sword, they take away our right to healthcare and employment. Instead of blatant references to anal sex, they talk about health. But it’s still attacking us. They just try to hide their rage and hate with polite words and a smirk.

Ali’s final comment was, in stark contrast to McAllister’s raging, both eloquent and refined: “I was bullied for being Iranian as a kid. But I never felt ashamed of my ethnicity. I came out on 8/17/2001 & while it hasn’t always been easy, I have always been proud of who I am. I’m Iranian, gay, and Catholic. Perhaps an odd combo, but I wouldn’t change who I am for the world.”

Haste to prepare the way, or an ex-evangelical explains christianist attitudes toward Israel and Israelies

PSSSST DON'T TELL BENJAMIN NETANYAHU BUT GOP CHRISTIANS ONLY WANT TO MPROTECT ISRAEL SO IT IS STILL AROUND LONG ENOUGH FOR GOD TO DESTROY PER REVELATION OTHERWISE WE DON'T GET OUR SECOND COMING! THEY'RE WELCOME! MRS BETTY BOWERS MRS BETTY BOWERS AMERICA'S BEST CHRISTIAN MEME

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As a child growing up in Southern Baptist churches, I was taught a lot of contradictory things about Jewish people, Jewish religion, and the Jewish state. On the one hand, they were god’s chosen people and we, as followers of god, are obligated to protect them. On the other hand, if they don’t convert to christianity, they will spend eternity in hell. On the first hand, certain verses in the bible predict dire consequences to any enemies of Israel, and therefore we must always, always, always support every action and policy of the nation of Israel and its government. On the other hand, they rejected Jesus when he was on earth and executed him, so they betrayed god and became tools of the devil. On the first hand, the book of Revelation says that a nation called Israel will exist when the Battle of Armageddon happens, ushering in the final destruction of the planet and bringing Jesus back from heaven to create a new kingdom of his faithful—therefore we must support the government of the modern nation of Israel and defend it from other nations, no matter what. On the other hand, modern Jewish theology supposedly descends from the Pharisees, who were the villains in a couple stories in the gospels, and therefore is more proof that they are tools of the devil, untrustworthy, et cetera.

I could keep going.

Before I continue, a couple of disclaimers: I have considered myself an ex-Baptist and an ex-Christian for a long time. I have often said I didn’t leave the church, the church drove me (a gay man) away. I was also the kind of nerd who read the Bible, on my own, cover-to-cover more than once (and had rather large swaths of it memorized). My passion for social justice was instilled at early age by some of the teachings of the church and its holy book, even as the contradictions I often observed in the teachings and practices of the church and their selective reading of that text fueled my doubts.

The negative attitude of many christians toward Jewish people has a long history, going back at least to the Third Century. And a lot of the rationalizations make no sense. As a for instance, take the “they reject him and executed him” argument. According to christian teachings, Jesus’ entire purpose for being sent to earth was to be sacrificed as a payment for human sin and make salvation possible. God’s plan required Jesus to be rejected and executed. Never mind that it was technically the Roman governor who ordered the execution, you can’t blame the crowds who supposedly demanded his death because they were just enacting god’s plan, right? Not the devil’s plan, god’s plan!

Similarly, taking various verses in the bible where the name Israel is used to metaphorically refer to all Jewish people collectively, and not a specific legal entity controlling a specific territory on the map to refer to the modern state of Israel is shaky reasoning, at best. And people today trying to claim that anyone who is critical of any specific policies of the current government of Israel is anti-semitic is equally absurd. And it’s pretty rich coming from Republicans, some of whom brought Holocaust deniers to the recent State of the Union Address, for instance.

All those contradictory things about Jewish people that evangelicals believe are baked deeply into the reasoning of the political rightwing in America. And it manifests in interesting ways. For instance, if anyone expresses any sympathy for the Palestinean people, the first thing that any journalist or pundit from Fox News and the like will ask is, “Does Israel have a right to exist?”

And it’s a bullshit question.

During the Obama administration, when Republicans would criticize things the government was doing, none of these talking heads ever asked them, “Does the United States have a right to exist?” When someone criticizes a policy of the government of Germany, or Mexico, or Japan or France, no one asks the person, “Does Germany/Mexico/Japan/France have a right to exist?”

And the truth is, no nation has a right to exist. A nation is a political and economic organization that has asserted control over a particular territory. A nation contains people, but the nation is not, itself, a person. People have a right to exist, but legal fictions that we create, like corporations, governments, social clubs, and so forth don’t.

And if anyone turned that question back on any of those talking heads—if a person who criticized the Israeli government would reply, “You’ve been critical of the U.S. government in the past, do think that the United States has a right to exist?” They would be offended and claim that it’s off-topic or not the same thing at all.

One of the reasons they think the “Does it have a right to exist” is a reasonable question is because they don’t perceive Israel as being just a government and its territory. They perceive it as the mythic entity cherry-picked from the bible. It is the chosen people of god, and it is a thing that must exist in order to bring about the second coming of Jesus. More than that, their reading of scripture demands that this mythic entity be embroiled in conflict, bloodshed, and the occasional war. Because again, the promised second coming and a new kingdom where they walk on streets paved with gold and all that can’t happen without horrible things happening in a place called Israel.

All of the other anti-semitic things they believe—the Jewish people are greedy, that they are untrustworthy, that they work in secret in various evil conspiracies and so forth—some from that betrayal of god thing. Evangelical thinking in particular is very ethno-deterministic. For a long time they opening taught that black people were descendants of either the biblical character of Cain or Noah’s son Ham. In either case, as descendants of those characters who were cursed by god, doctrine held that they were inherently less moral, less intelligent, and so on. Similarly, they believe (even if they are often less open about it these days), that because of the things their ancestors did, that now all of them are inherently aligned with evil.

So they don’t support Israel because they think the Israeli people deserve to be protected or that Israel is a great country. They support Israel because they think doing so will hasten the end of the world and fulfill god’s plan. Jewish people aren’t real people to them—Jewish people are sacrificial lambs whose blood is just one of the many prices they are willing to force other people to pay to get that mansion in heaven they think they’ve been promised.

And that’s how you get the same political party that inspires people to shoot up synagogs, that accuses rich Jewish people of financing every organization they disagree with, that claims that corrupt Jewish people control Hollywood, that refers to both neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers as “very fine people” pretending to be angry because one freshman Congresswoman criticized some specific policies of the Israeli government and claim that she’s anti-semetic.


Edited to Add: I got a comment from someone who seemed to think the intent of this post was to explain every single aspect of the attitudes of all christian sects toward the Jewish people. So let me first point anyone thinking that to the title of the blog post where I used the word “christianist” and not the word christian. What is a christianist, you may ask? A christianist is one who claims to be a follower of Christ and His teachings but who actively engages in acts and deeds that are contrary to Christ’s teachings.

Second, my usual goal is to keep my blog posts to roughly 1000 words (for various reasons). It is not possible to explore every nuance of any question in 1000 words. Some things need to be left as exercises for the reader. Or expanded further in a later post.

Note: The title comes from the hymn “What if it were Today” by Mrs. C.H. Moore, #124 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal

Disgraced former Congressman gets an out of jail free pass…

Aaron Schock’s crimes were well documented, yet…

I had another post I was hoping to work on today, but when I logged in I saw a zillion hits on an old post about the corruption investigation into former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock. The post always gets a lot of hits when a new story about his criminal trial makes it into the news, so I went looking and wow: Prosecutors in Chicago to drop charges against former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock if he pays back IRS, campaign. I wasn’t sure I believed the headline, because the sheer volume and size of the many financial crimes committed by Schock were first, much larger than the dollar amount being mentioned in the stories, and amounted to a whole lot more than just tax evasion. So why the sudden change of heart from the prosecutors?

I’m hardly the only one who is asking that question: Editorial: The downfall of Aaron Schock: Greed and ego.

The downgrading of the criminal case is a head-scratcher. Repaying the IRS and his campaign fund seem to be admissions Schock misspent money and violated tax laws. Federal law forbids taxpayer money and campaign money from being spent for personal use. That’s also what tripped up former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Remember the elk heads and the Michael Jackson memorabilia bought with campaign money? For that, Jackson and his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, each spent time in federal prison.

So another Illinois Congressman who committed similar infractions had to pay back every dime (not just a fraction), and still had to spend time in prison? The Congressman who had to spend time in prison was African-American and was a Democrat, and by some strange coincidence, the Congressman who isn’t have to spend prison time for the same kind of crime (and gets to pay back only a fraction of the stolen funds?)—is a white Republican.

But that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it. Can it?

Is it cynical of me to expect that now that this deal has been struck, that Schock will be getting some appointment from the White House. I mean, the scale of his corruption is extremely small potatoes compared to the alleged president, but he would fit right in. And his extreme anti-gay rhetoric (despite almost certainly being a self-loathing closet case) would certainly appeal to the alleged vice president.

I mean, the Get Out of Jail (almost) Free had to come from somewhere, right?

A head-scratcher, indeed…

One guy cried wolf—it doesn’t mean that wolves don’t exist

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I don’t want this story to take over tomorrow’s Friday Five, and I have a bit to say about the Smollett story. Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God blog, has stated many times his policy that he doesn’t link to reports about hate crimes unless one of three conditions have been met: 1) there has been an arrest of a suspected perpetrator, 2) there is video of at least part of the crime available, 3) there are uninvolved eyewitness accounts. In the years since articulating the criteria, he has made exceptions to the rule only when the national mainstream media was reporting it. Which everyone was shortly after actor and singer Jussie Smollett first reported being attacked by two men three weeks ago.

My first take when I saw the story being shared on twitter was, “I guess he isn’t famous enough to have an entourage with him all the time…” And because the same people who were insistent that Brett Kavanaugh was the victim in his Senate confirmation hearings were immediately claiming it was a hoax, I thought, “I need more details, but I think this falls under the ‘believe victims until proven otherwise’ rule.”

When I found a story with details, I have to admit I was a little bit confused. I had assumed from the initial headlines, that he must have been out at a known gay nightclub, maybe on his way to his car or something. I mean, I know who he is because I watched the first few seasons of Empire and was happy they had more than one queer character in the cast, but I didn’t think that he was famous enough that the typical white Trump-supporting Fox-news-watching bigot would know who he was. Right? I mean, yeah, if guys like that saw men coming out of a gay club they might harass them, and maybe a black dude would be more likely to draw their attention, but I don’t imagine many MAGA-hat-wearing white guys are familiar with the secondary cast of a prime time melodrama that is entirely about an African-American family who own a hip hop recording studio, you know?

However… the story was linked on the Joe.My.God blog, and I knew about Joe’s policy. I had also read a story where a spokesman for the Chicago police denied that they were considering this a hoax. So I included a link in that week’s Friday Five and waited to see if there were more developments.

And, boy have there been developments! Jussie Smollett paid $3,500 to stage his attack, hoping to promote his career, Chicago police allege.

Now, I still believe that on a personal basis, ‘believe victims’ when the report these things is a good rule of thumb. Statistics indicate that less than 2% of reports of this kind of assault are later proved to be fake. Yet, the vast majority of victims who do come forward are disbelieved and often harassed and threatened for doing so.

The biggest tragedy of this is not, as some people are trying to conclude, that people in MAGA hats are being unfairly harangued. The tragedy is that this case will be held up as reason to disbelieve and impede investigations into real hate crimes. Not all hate crimes managed to get caught in viral videos, like the recent assault in Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City Police Seek Help Identifying Man Filmed In Assault After Asking If Victim Is Gay.

This is especially troubling now. Between 2006 and 2016 there had been a steady decline in hate crimes in America. There was a sudden surge right after election day 2016. The FBI described 2017’s figures as a “significant jump” over the previous year, and all indications are that 2018 continued the trend. So moving forward there will likely be more victims of real hate crimes, but people will be more skeptical of any reported hate crimes.

There’s another aspect about this that bothers me. Smollett is being charged with a felony for falsely reporting the crime and wasting police resources. But I want to know why Pool Patrol Paul wasn’t charged for falsely reporting a black family was trespassing? Why wasn’t BBQ Becky charge with making a false report when she called police on a black family using a public park? Or Golf Cart Gail, or that Starbucks manager, or the Nordstrom manager, and many, many other white people who called the cops claiming a black person had committed a crime when no crime had happened? I mean, sure the unrelated Pool Patrol Paula faced criminal charges–but she was filmed assaulting one of the black teen-agers she chased from her community’s pool and the assaulted the cops that came to question her.

But all those other white people last year made false reports to the police—but oddly, none of them were arrested and forced to put up bail.

Smollett seems to be the boy who cried wolf. And yes, he should face consequences for what he did. But there is an important part of the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf that few people think about. He keeps yelling that wolves are attacking the town flock when the aren’t, because he enjoys seeing everyone come running. In the original Greek version of the fable, when the townsfolk stop believing the boy, the wolves show up and eat all the sheep with impunity. This doesn’t just hurt the boy, it hurts the entire village, as the sheep were part of the villager’s livelihood. The moral of the fable isn’t the wolves don’t exist.

Similarly, it isn’t just Smollett that is facing consequences. Unfortunately, any other person of color or queer person who is a victim of hate crimes going forward is going to find that they’re painted with the same hoax brush.