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Weekend Update 12/8/2018: Guilty men sometimes face consequences.

Doonesbury, © 22 October 2017 Garry Trudeau: The Flashback Edition.

Click to embiggen: Doonesbury, © 22 October 2017 Garry Trudeau: The Flashback Edition.

Once again, a bunch of significant news dropped after I queued up this week’s Friday Five, and I just cannot wait until next week to share it. And, as is usually the case when I post these weekend updates, to comment (sometimes at length) on the new news. And some of this week’s is just, “Wow!” Buckle up!

First, thank goodness for the rule of law: Neo-Nazi Found Guilty in First Degree Murder of Heather Heyer at Charlottesville White Supremacist Rally. Remember those rallies, with those alt-right jerks chanting Nazi phrase while waving their tiki torches? You know, that ones that Trump called “fine people” and at another part referred to as “us”? And there were counter-protesters (the people Trump called “them” in the same sentence) who were there to speak out against hatred and genocide and so forth? And then there was the asshole who drove his car into the crowd on counter-protesters, injuring at least 35 people but worst of all, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The neo-Nazi behind the wheel of that car was arrested, charged with murder, among other things, and this week the jury returned their verdicts (plural):

James Fields found guilty on all 10 counts, including 1st-degree murder, for ramming car into a group of peaceful counter-protesters following Charlottesville white nationalist rally in 2017.
—NBC News report

Not everyone is happy with this development. There was a lot of commentary on the alt-right/neo-Nazi/InCel/Men’s Rights Advocates side of various social media very angry about the first degree murder charge, especially. I actually laughed out loud at some of the comments. It’s always enlightening to watch people who pride themselves on logic demonstrate their ignorance and irrationality. Painful, but enlightening.

But first, the link above is just a news brief, the BBC has a more indepth story: Charlottesville driver Alex Fields Jr found guilty of murder as does the Washington Post (though the paywall may thwart your reading): Self-professed neo-Nazi James A. Fields Jr. convicted of first-degree murder in car-ramming that killed one, injured dozens.

Those online lawyers are trying to claim that the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to hurt people because of a meme he shared on social media three months previously of someone running liberals down with this car. That is not what happened. Instead, prosecutors showed the jury video of Fields sitting stonefaced in his car with the engine idoling, watching the counter protestors (who were all some distance away), and then, throwing his car into reverse, backing as far as he could on the street, throwing it into first, and peeling out aiming for the crowd. He wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t confused. He intentionally backed up so he could have more space to get his car up to as high a speed as possible when he hit it.

He drove 500 miles to participate in the rally. When his mother found out where he’d gone, she texted him urging him to be careful. He texted back (shortly before driving into the crowd): “We’re not the one who need to be careful.”

There was a lot of video (because it’s a big protest and people have their phones and Go Pros and such out), and numerous witness statements that there was no one standing near his car. Contrary to the tales his supporters are telling each other, he wasn’t surrounded, no one was yelling at him, nothing.

Yes, the Instagram post about driving over people was also part of the narrative for premeditation, but it was a tiny part. There were other conversations and comments made in the days leading up to the rally. And, of course, that chilling text message to his mother.

So, his intent to cause harm is established by his words shortly before the act, and the very deliberate act of slowing backing up to get more running room with the car. And twelve people on that jury came to a unanimous decision that the prosecution had established his intent to harm and that he had planned to do it before hand. An important part of premeditation isn’t just that it’s planning in advance, though. Part of the reason we think of premeditated murder as worse than an impulsive act of passion, is an opportunity to change one’s mind. I don’t know the precise jury instructions this jury was read, but the typical text from the judge includes that bit about premeditation: did the defendant have an opportunity where he could have stopped and decided not to go through with it, and then went ahead?

He could have, at any point during the backing up and staring at the crowd decided not to do it.

One of the other crimes he was found guilty of was fleeing the scene of the crime.

His defense team tried to disprove the intent argument by saying he was immediately remorseful, et cetera. But, he fled the scene. Sure, once he was tracked down and arrested he was sobbing, but I think we all know that he was upset because he had been caught.

Of course, Fields wasn’t the only alt-right jerk found guilty…

Takeaways from a frenetic week of Mueller filings: the special counsel left a series of public hints that prosecutors are closing in on President Donald Trump and his inner circle and Mueller Plays Truth or Consequences: In a slew of filings, the special counsel and Justice Department prosecutors slap (and praise) the witnesses who are making their case against Trump. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York made a bunch of filings in federal court this week. The filings are related to the previously made guilty pleas of Trumps former campaign manager, his former lawyer, and his former National Security advisor.

So what does it all mean? Each of the three men has already pled guilty to serious crimes. Each made a plea deal to cooperate with Mueller’s invistigation, the U.S. Attorney’s investigation, and “other related prosecutions.” That latter is one of the few public hints we’ve been given over the 80-some weeks of the Special Counsel’s investigation that information is being shared with state (and apparently international) justice departments. That latter is important not just because of more crimes, but it has been a signal that even if Trump rushes in and tries to pardon everyone, it won’t keep the men out of jail. Presidential pardons have no effect on state criminal charges, nor of international ones (as are likely to be brought by various European countries we can assume since Trump’s banking associates were raided last week over there).

While a lot of people are focusing on the anonymous Individual-1 named in the filings (which is clearly Trump himself), and the fact that the men have already made statements and provided evidence that Individual-1 participated in their crimes, what I find a bit more interesting is that all three of these men’s cases came to this point today, and how very different they are. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, according to the filings, has cooperated fully since he plea deal–everything he has told prosecutors has been able to be verified. So both Mueller and the U.S. Attorney are asking the judge for leniency on his behalf for the crime’s already pled guilty to.

Trump’s former attorney, who months ago bragged that he would take a bullet for Trump, on the other hand, has sometimes been less than cooperative. He has continued to lie about some things that the prosecutors can prove are lies. He has, on the other hand, provided a lot of evidence that Individual-1 committed a number of crimes related to the recent election. So, the prosecutors are asking the court to not go nearly so lenient on him, but don’t be too harsh, either.

And then there’s the former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Manafort has lied and lied and lied in indisputable ways. So both prosecutors are recommending maximum penalties for all his crimes.

This is a strategic action. It warns all of the other people who are being or are about to be questioned by either the Special Prosecutor or the U.S. Attorney, that if you don’t cooperate, they will bring the hammer down. And if any Trumpkins are reading this and thinking smugly, “until the president shuts it down,” well that’s not easy. Yes, Trump has been maneuvering to shut Mueller down, but so far he’s been unsuccessful. And while I don’t think the Senate Republicans are yet ready to hold Trump to account if he fires Mueller, stopping the U.S. Attorney is much more complicated, and nothing the alleged president can do prevents a jurisdiction like, say, the New York State Attorney General, pursuing charges against many of these people. It doesn’t stop the Congressional Democrats, who are about to take control of that chamber, from holding hearings including asking a fired Mueller to come tell the public everything he found out.

I don’t think it is at all a coincidence that as this was coming to light that Trump went on a lengthy, angry, foul-mouthed attack on Twitter directed at his former Secretary of State. I think he’s starting to realize that he has backed himself into a corner, and the people he counted on to protect him are all going to behave like Flynn if they find themselves in the crosshairs. Donald Trump’s entire existence has just been set on fire

Right now, I just hope the country survives long enough for us to see a bunch of his inner circle carted off the prison.


Regarding the cartoon I illustrated this post with: I probably should do a new Sunday Funnies post about this site, but if you want to learn more about Trudeau’s long running comic, or just catch up, you ought to check out Reading Doonesbury: A trip through nearly fifty years of American comics

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Weekend Update 11/25/2018: Pictures and headlines

There is just so much weirdness in the world that I could comment on, but I don’t even know where to begin.

© 2018 Matt Wuerker/POLITICO

(Click to embiggen) © 2018 Matt Wuerker/POLITICO

Trump administration to pull troops from border just as migrant caravan arrives — proving it was all a stunt.

Don’t forget the troops missing Thanksgiving with family in service of Trump’s political stunt.

(click to embiggen)

Trump rips retired Adm. William McRaven for not capturing Osama bin Laden sooner.

Retired Admiral McRaven repeats: Trump’s media attacks ‘greatest threat to our democracy’.

(click to embiggen)

Cindy Hyde-Smith sent her daughter to a private school created to help white kids bypass integration – It’s the latest detail that gives context to the lynching “joke” from the US senator from Mississippi..

Walmart asks Mississippi’s Hyde-Smith to return donation after ‘public hanging’ comment.

Cindy Hyde-Smith has embraced Confederate history more than once in her political career.

(click to embiggen)

Finland baffled by Trump’s comments about raking leaves to prevent forest fires.

Folks in Finland churn out hilarious memes mocking Trump’s raking comment.

(click to embiggen)

Poll: Democratic voters back Pelosi as speaker by wide margin.

Republicans declared war on Nancy Pelosi — and she won.

The liberal civility fetish explained:

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

I told you the blue wave didn’t fizzle!

We don't think of it this way, because we forget that state boundaries don't have an objective reality, but the Senate is one big gerrymander. State boundaries are imaginary lines on the map just like congressional districts are. The difference is history.

We don’t think of it this way, because we forget that state boundaries don’t have an objective reality. They are imaginary lines on the map just like congressional districts are.

I know it’s been a lot of politics lately, but since most of my writing time is going to NaNoWriMo, blog posts will be short. And the kind of blog post where I share a couple of links and make a shot commentary don’t take much time. So, here we go:

Despite all the things stacked against the blue wave (gerrymandered congressional districts, voter suppression efforts, the non-democratic/non-proportional nature of the Senate), the not-Nazi party has won a lot: Democrats had a good showing on Election Day. It’s been even better for them since. A lot of the races were too close to call on election night, but eager newspeople were more than willing to call them anyway. As more votes are counted, some of those calls are proving to be wrong. As just one example that this isn’t something that should surprise us: six years ago Jeff Flake was elected to represent Arizona in the Senate. On election night in 2012 he led his opponent by nearly 6%, so everyone called it. By the time all of the votes were counting, his lead had shrunk to a teensy bit more that 2%—he still won, but it was a lot closer than it had appeared on election night.

This year, that same Senate seat was up with no incumbent. On election night, the Republican candidate led the Democratic condidate by a woefully thin margin of one-half of a percentage point. As more ballots have been counted, the lead shrank, just like Flake’s did six years ago (because late-coming ballots often lean heavily one way or another; in Arizona’s case, late-arriving ballots tend to be more Democratic). So now the Democrat leads by a bit more than one percent. That’s a smaller shift than what happened six years ago, but well within what should have been expected: ELECTION DRAMA: Democrat Takes Tiny Lead in Arizona Senate Count; Florida Senate & Governor Prepare For Recount.

Will the lead widen? Will it narrow? Will it narrow enough to throw things into a recount? Will it flip? We don’t know for certain until all the ballots are counted. And that’s true of many races. We’re all so eager, as voters, to know the answer right away, forgetting that ballot counting takes time. The results reported on election night are always just a sample.

That’s why two races in Florida are still up in the air. Things were too close to call: Florida Begins Vote Recounts in Senate and Governor’s Races.

It isn’t just a matter of which ballots come in later (because of military ballots being shipped in from overseas, or absentee ballots mailed on the last day, or states like mine where all voting is by mail and we’re allowed to mail or drop off our ballots at the very last moment). Nor is it just because of issues like that story about one county I included a link to on Saturday where an overadundance of gross incompetence delayed the beginning of counting (among other things). In very high population centers, the sheer volume of the number of ballots means that only a tiny fraction are counted by the end of election night. Instead of hundreds or maybe thousands more to be counted in the following days, it’s hundreds of thousands. So we have low-populations counties like one in the Florida panhandle which had counted all but 26 ballots by the end of election night, and then a place like King County in Washington where there were over a quarter of a million (250,000) uncounted ballots in hand the day after election day—and because mail-in ballots were still in the postal system, thousands more on their way.

We don’t get answers fast. The fact that the margins change as more ballots are counted doesn’t mean something fishy is going on. The election ain’t over until every vote is counted.

100 years ago today, World War I, aka The War to End All Wars ended…

…and the President of the United States couldn’t be bothered to attend a ceremony at a cemetery full of American soldiers who died in that war because it was raining. The asshole flew all the way to Paris for the historic anniversary, but couldn’t leave his friggin’ room to go to a cemetery owned and maintained by the U.S. government where thousands of U.S. troops are burried!?! Trump Skips Visit To American Military Cemetery. And Justin Trudeau Shades Trump For Skipping WWI US Cemetary Visit Due To Rain

“It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary — and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow,”
—David Frum, former speechwriter to President George W. Bush

Ben Rhodes, who served as deputy national security adviser for strategic communications under President Barack Obama, said the excuse about the inclement weather did not stand up. “I helped plan all of President Obama’s trips for 8 years,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is always a rain option. Always.”

“As we sit here in the rain, thinking how uncomfortable we must be these minutes as our suits get wet and our hair gets wet and our shoes get wet, I think it’s all the more fitting that we remember on that day, in Dieppe, the rain wasn’t rain, it was bullets.”
—Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen #hesnotfittorepresenthisgreatcountry.”
—Nicholas Soames, a British member of parliament who is a grandson of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill

But enough of that. This beautiful story, written last Memorial Day, tells about that American war cemetery in France, along with the program that paid for mothers and widows of the slain to travel there to pay their last respects in the years following the war: In an American Cemetery in France: Thoughts on Memorial Day.

Weekend Update 11/11/2018: The count goes on

Join the Resistance!

Join the Resistance!

I have errands to run and then do some gaming with friends later, so not a lot of time for creating a post. But there were a few interesting things that I saw in the news yesterday that if I’d seen them earlier (or if they’d been published earlier) might have made it into the Friday Five.

First up, this started as a twitter thread people were sharing. One woman who shared the tale of the disasters she and her husband witnessed when they volunteers as poll workers: Porter County’s 2018 Election Fiasco. The county disbanded its election board this year and put everything in the hands of the County Clerk’s office… and obviously they were not prepared. The post I’ve linked has more details than the twitter thread, as she added stuff when she converted it. It’s really an interesting look into just what a clanky and disorganized mechanism our voting system (not just this one county by any means!) is.

Another clunky thing: while millionaires and richer make up approximately 10% of the population of the country, more than half of Congresspeople are millionaires. And while a congress person’s salary is decent, there are some problems when someone who makes only $29 thousand dollars a year gets elected to Congress (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez becomes youngest woman ever elected to Congress). She’s expected to head to Washington D.C. soon and start participating in orientation, hiring staff and such… but she doesn’t get her first pay check as a Congress person until February. And D.C. is famously very expensive to live in.Fox News Can’t Believe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won’t Sell Clothes She Doesn’t Own To Pay DC Rent. (The clothes thing is because Ocasio-Cortez did a little modeling a few years ago, and she wore some expensive clothes in a photo shoot. You know, clothes that were owned by the people paying for the advertising campaign the photos were for? Clothes the models wear long enough to be photographed in and are then taken back by the actual owners.

What pisses me off about this is the number of people who are Democrats and otherwise not clueless Fox News personalities who are also making fur of the fact that a woman who was working as a bartender in Brooklyn that the people of Brooklyn elected to represent them in Congress, isn’t secretly a millionaire or something. And people wonder why we keep winding up with slimy people as politicians…

And there are other weirdnesses. When, oh when will they start hiring actual designers to work on things like, say, ballots? Something Looks Weird In Broward County. Here’s What We Know About A Possible Florida Recount. As someone who has professionally designed user interfaces and documentation, as soon as I saw the picture of the ballot I realized immediately why 26,000 voters in one county skipped a race entirely: it looks like it is an example, and not an actual office to be filled in.

Finally, some good news for the future. I’m tempted to re-title this next story “Millenials Kill the Republican Party” but I realize that’s a bit of a stale joke, so I’ll still with their title< Trump celebrated the midterm results, but without millennials and women he could be headed for disaster in 2020. Despite all the gloom and doom predictions and the huge number of stories I saw over the last two years claiming that the polls can’t be believed because young voters respond to polls but then they don’t show up, or how Democrats were driving young voters away for reasons, young voters turned out in record numbers, and overwhelmingly they are rejecting what the Republicans in general and Trump in particular are selling.

There is a lot more fight ahead. One election swinging to just half of one branch of government isn’t going to solve anything. And if we don’t remain engaged and call our representatives and urge them not to vote for somethings, things will get much much worse. But there is hope!

Weekend Update 10/27/2018: No one should be surprised…

One of many photos of the van owned by the bombing suspect. It is covered in racist, misogynist, pro-Trump stickers, including my images of prominent Democrats with gun sight crosshairs superimposed.

One of many photos of the van owned by the bombing suspect. It is covered in racist, misogynist, pro-Trump stickers, including my images of prominent Democrats with gun sight crosshairs superimposed.

I’m late getting out the door to Geek Girl Con, and if I had been more organized last night, I would have written this then and queued it for today. So this follow-up to some of the links in yesterday’a Friday Five will be brief. Yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that they had arrested a man who they believe mailed all those pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and other critics of the alleged president of the U.S.: Cesar Sayoc Jr., Florida man, arrested in pipe bomb case; van with ‘right wing paraphernalia’ seized.

Every news site on the web was able to obtain pictures of the suspect’s van because it has been notorious since 2016 in that region. People have been taking pictures of all the hateful stickers plastered on the van and sharing the pics on social media for a couple of years. He is extremely pro-Trump and extremely anti-Obama, anti-immigrant, anti-women’s rights, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Which is exactly what anyone with any sense at all had been saying. Even at least one pundit who usually is virulently pro-Trump that I quoted yesterday: “If your first reaction to some evil person sending bombs to a variety of politicians on one side of the aisle is ‘FALSE FLAG,’ you are officially deranged.”

Voter registration in Florida is a matter of public record, and look which party the mad bomber belongs to...

Voter registration in Florida is a matter of public record, and look which party the mad bomber belongs to…

So, yes, the mad bomber is clearly someone who has been taking the many times that Trump has referred to locking up his opponents, encouraged is supporters to assault, suggested that someone should shoot, and so forth and finally tried to act on it. A quick search of images in any search engine using the suspects name will turn up pictures of him at Trump rallies, holding up pro-Trump signs, wearing one of those damn MAGA hats and so forth. I’m not linking or posting to any of those because, frankly, I think people who commit these kinds of crimes also get off on the attention afterward. But there are things to know about him: Suspected Mad Bomber Cesar Sayoc likes Trump, bodybuilding, scantily clad women; hates Democrats, Clintons, Obamas, immigrants. Scroll to the end of that article for a list of the many times that the suspect has been arrested in the past, always getting fines and probation, even when he threatened to blow up the local utility and kill thousands of people the second time! So, I’m not surprised that this evil man was on some watch lists. And based on how incoherent and badly spelled his many anti-immigrant and anti-progressive rants on line are, I’m not surprised that he left enough evidence on those packages for officials to trace back to him.

But don’t let any one paint him as an anomaly or a nut job. Remind people of the facts: Study shows two-thirds of U.S. terrorism tied to right-wing extremists. Two-thirds of the terrorist acts that happen in the U.S. are by republican supporters who aren’t immigrants and aren’t muslim.

  • The suspect is a native born U.S. citizen.
  • The suspect is registered Republican.
  • The suspect has proudly declared himself not just a Veteran for Trump, but a supporter of many of the most extreme Republican policies.
  • The suspect has been publicly calling for and echoing Trump’s calls for violence against liberals, immigrants, and so forth.

Make America hate again: When political rhetoric turns violent . And the blame needs to be laid at the feed of Trump and all the Republican politicians and rightwing pundits who have been fanning the flames of hate for years and years.

And in case you have forgotten how many times that Trump has fanned those flames this year: This montage of Trump calling for violence shows him as a stupid thug rather than the president .

Pure unbounded love thou art, or an ex-evangelical looks at trans hate in the church

Church sign reads: “God's love is unconditional as long as you are obeying Christ.”

Someone needs to look up ‘unconditional’ in a dictionary…

I was the kind of kid who asked my Sunday School teachers, ministers, and anyone else set as an authority in church questions that drove them crazy. I wasn’t doing it to be difficult—I never asked if god could create a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it—but I often found myself on the receiving end of a scolding rather than an answer. I know part of that is just being a kid. Children, their minds not quite as burdened by assumptions, expectations, and conventional thoughts, often ask difficult questions. The rest of the problem was that I was smarter than average, had an early affinity for logic, a really good memory, and I was being raised in a denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) that didn’t have a history of rigorous academia.

Before I get further, let me get a couple of disclaimers out of the way: I have considered myself an ex-Baptist and an ex-Christian for a long time, so some people will want to dismiss anything I say on these topics out of hand. On the other hand, I learned my deep sense of social justice from that church and more specifically their holy book. I was 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). I have often said I didn’t leave the church, the church drove me (a gay man) away.

One of the big problems I had, again and again, was the many times that teachers and leaders in the church would insist that god’s love and mercy were unconditional—and then they would lay out a whole bunch of conditions that one must meet to earn that love. At first they said you had to believe in him order to get his love and mercy. And don’t forget obey him, or you won’t receive his love. And obey him in the right way, not the way other churches say to do it, or you won’t receive his love. And ignore these parts of the holy book, but these other parts you must interpret exactly as we say, or you won’t receive his love.

That’s an awful lot of conditions one must meet to qualify for supposedly unconditional divine love.

It’s not just unconditional divine love that the fundamentalist evangelicals don’t understand. They have a similar misapprehension of civil rights. Tony Perkins heads to Fox News to defend Trump administration’s latest attack on trans rights. This takes a little bit to unpack. If you missed the news this weekend, the New York Times got hold of a memo from the department of Health and Human Services that outlines how the government could erase all trans rights: ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration. More details became available quickly thereafter: The Trump Administration Wants to Define Gender as Biological Sex at Birth.

An important clue in this memo is the assertion that previous definitions of sex “allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”

Tony Perkins mention above is the leader of the Family Research Council, an evangelical fundamentalist hate group that spends all its time an energy not on helping families, but rather on attacking gay rights and transgender rights and so forth. And he has made a very similar argument for years: gay, lesbian, and trans people don’t deserve civil rights protections.

Which means he doesn’t understand what a civil right is: rights aren’t deserved. You have them because you exist, period. They aren’t privileges. The Declaration of Independence referred to rights as “inalienable”—they can’t be transferred or removed. We can argue about what is or isn’t a right, but not who has them. Everyone has them. The moment you argue that some categories of people shouldn’t have their rights protected, well, that’s taking you a very long way down the fascist road.

And it isn’t something that Christians should be fighting for. They are commanded to love everyone, including their enemies. And as the Sermon on the Mount makes clear, love isn’t just about warm fuzzy feelings, it’s action. Love means lifting people up. Love means standing up for people. Love means doing good for people who disagree with you. Love means not just taking care of your own, but taking care of everyone who needs help.

Perkins and his ilk justify their opposition to the rights of transgender people by frequently making the claim that the Bible clear says that there are only two genders. It is true that the Bible frequently refers to two genders, but none of those references say that those two are the only possibilities, nor does it give a definition of those genders. While some portions make a big deal about what sorts of behaviors are appropriate for one gender or the other, other passages contradict those notions. And there there are a few places where the text asserts very insistently that gender is unimportant. Such as:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
—Galatians 3:28, Holy Bible, King James Version

Which seems to back the notion that god’s love really is unconditional, so maybe his so-called followers should stop trying to enforce divisions.


Note: The title comes from the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal

They still don’t get it…

© 2018 Drew Sheneman, The Newark Star-Ledger

© 2018 Drew Sheneman, The Newark Star-Ledger

Visiting Facebook always leaves me feeling at least a little dirty. Unfortunately there are people I need to stay in touch with who are only reliably reachable through Facebook. A long-time fannish friend posted about how she had been the victim of sexual assault many years ago, and because she was ashamed, bought into societal blaming of the victim, and fairly certain no one would believe her, didn’t report it at the time. She went on to say that if her attacker had been nominated to something like a judgeship that she would probably come forward then. I thought she was brave to say this, because I know how difficult it is to speak up about this sort of thing.

Unfortunately, among the replies from other friends and acquaintances expressing support, sympathy, and so on, there was one guy—someone who thinks of himself as a good friend of hers—who chimed in to angrily ask why you would speak up later just for spite.

Even though I don’t know this guy myself, one reason I know that he thinks he’s a great friend of the woman who posted the original story is because, as she and other people tried to explain that spite had nothing to do with it and so forth he described himself multiple times as a friend of the woman. He also said that he believed her story, but he also thought that if she hadn’t reported it at the time, it was wrong to report it later. “Why ruin his life over one little mistake years ago?”

And he really couldn’t understand who so many of us were describing his comments as attacks.

I don’t know how to get through to people like that. Someone who views sexual assault as “a little mistake.”

But it’s just a symptom:

When you think about it, this whole “oh my god it’s a scary age to be a man we could all be accused of sexual assault at any time” is a huge gaslighting campaign. It makes the simple request to not be sexually assaulted or harassed seem like something unreasonable and absurd, like sexual abuses aren’t a serious thing in the first place. -V

When you think about it, this whole “oh my god it’s a scary age to be a man we could all be accused of sexual assault at any time” is a huge gaslighting campaign. It makes the simple request to not be sexually assaulted or harassed seem like something unreasonable and absurd, like sexual abuses aren’t a serious thing in the first place.
-V

And it really annoys me that the same people who are up in arms trying to ban trans people from public bathrooms are the same folks who are screaming “fake news” and “innocent until proven guilty.” The last one really gets under my skin in connection to the Kavanaugh nomination. The presumption of innocence is an important principle, yes, because before a person is deprived of their freedom (sent to prison), the state should be forced to reach a certain standard of proof. But Kavanaugh isn’t in danger of going to prison over this. We aren’t depriving him or property or freedom or his life. We’re just saying the maybe he’s not a good candidate to be decided the fates of millions of other people under the law.

Also, the presumption of innocence doesn’t kick in until after there has been a thorough investigation of the alleged crime. And people don’t want us to do that (and no, telling the FBI to look into things for a week is not a thorough investigation).

The Republican Party has been the home of racists, misogynists, and homophobes for decades. They’re been liars and hypocrites for just as long. And they’re clearly demonstrating now that there is no bottom. There is no depth of immorality or deception they will not sink to. Just as there seems to be no limit to how much B.S. the Republican Base will eat up.

“A year ago you were outraged that your daughter might be assaulted in public restrooms. Today you showed her that you wouldn't believe her if she told anyone about it. #WhyIDidntReport.”

#WhyIDidntReport

Monday Update 9/24/2018: Just keep driving

This is not how a tunnel boring machine works…

A few years ago Michael and I were driving to NorWesCon. We were running late getting the car packed and was more than a bit worn out from very long days at work leading up to the mini-vacation. We had skipped the cons for two years, for various reasons. We’re finally on the road, though, and chatting about something when I realize that out of old habit I’m driving down the arterial that will take us through downtown. “Oh, wait,” I said, “I’m heading toward the viaduct.”

To explain why this is an issue, I need to explain that in 2001 we had a strong earthquake in Seattle. It happened in the middle of a workday. A lot of older buildings were damaged badly enough that they were condemned and eventually torn down. But one of the more worrying things was the damage done to the Alaska Way Viaduct, which is a big double-decking elevated highway that cuts through downtown. An elevated highway that is nearly the same design of the one that collapsed during an earthquake in Oakland, California in 1989.

Our viaduct was closed to traffic for inspection. The support pillars were confirmed to all be damaged. Reinforcement were installed and a long drawn out political battle ensued on what to do about it. The viaduct itself is state property, part of a state highway, and besides getting people from from one end of the city to another, serves as a conduit for a huge amount of freight traffic related to two airports and a huge seaport facility. But the highway runs through the city, which has legal authority to issue (or withhold) permits for the construction project within the city. The Port Authority, which is also involved, is government entity answerable to all of the voters of the county.

There were many differences of options. There were voter initiatives and demands for referendums. Eventually, the previous governor signed a state law which represented the compromise that had been reached, and at the ceremony she had promised that no matter what else happened, the Viaduct would be closed and taken down no later than 2012. That date was picked based on the guesses from engineers as to how long the damaged structure (part of which, by the way, is built on a section of town that used to be swamp and has been filled in… and the support pillars at that end of the structure have been slowly but measurably sinking since the quake).

Anyway, at some point during the two years that Michael and I skipped NorWesCon, I had decided to stop driving on the Viaduct at all. So, when I realized I was taking the old route we were nearly there, and getting to the other highway would involve some backtracking. Michael said, “It’s okay, let’s keep going.”

So we went back to chatting about whatever it was. Not long after we got on the Viaduct (and because we were going south, we were on the lower deck — you know, the place where everyone in every car would be crushed to death if there was another earthquake?), Michael suddenly went quiet. I could almost feeling the unhappy vibes coming off of him. I glanced over and he looked very upset. “What’s wrong?”

“Just keep driving,” he answered, in a very clipped voice.

So I did. After we got off the Viaduct he said, “We are never driving on that again!” And proceeded to tell me just how much bigger and more pronounced the cracks in all the support pillars were, which I hadn’t looked at because traffic was very heavy and I was paying attention to the cars around us the whole time.

The Viaduct was supposed to come down no later than six years ago. About eight years ago, the state engineers who inspect the bridge every few months and then brief the various government authorities about it, refused to answer a question from city councilmembers: “What is the criteria for deciding that it isn’t safe?” Which made it clear to a whole bunch of us following that that the engineers didn’t really think it was safe any more, but had been told by their superiors not to say.

This is what the tunnel boring machine actually looked like during the second big delay, when they had to dig a big pit down to it to replace the big broken rotary head in 2015. (photo © WSDOT)

This is what the tunnel boring machine actually looked like during the second big delay, when they had to dig a big pit down to it to replace the big broken rotary head in 2015. (photo © WSDOT)

So, imagine my reaction when I saw this headline: Highway 99 Tunnel Opening Delayed (Again), This Time Until 2019. Please note the word “again.” I think that they could have used about four agains in the headline. Now, I’ve never been much of a fan of the final tunnel project that was settled upon. Nothing on this scale had ever been attempted with a bored tunnel, so no one with any sense was really surprised at all of the things that went wrong (damaged water pipes and buildings as the earth shifted more than expected at greater distances from the tunnel than anticipated, the damaged machine, the problems when dirt and debris was accidentally dumped into the bay…).

There are also all the traffic studies that show how since the tunnel will be tolled, a lot of traffic that used to go on the Viaduct is going to divert to the surface streets, anyway. Not to mention that as people have been switching from cars to various transit options (including new light rail routes), the amount of traffic on the Viaduct has been steadily decreasing every year. If we’d bitten the bullet when we were supposed to, taken the Viaduct down, traffic would have been painful for a few months. But people figure out better options. There’s been a project on the other freeway that goes through Seattle, Interstate 5, where for a few weeks each summer the last few years many lanes are closed while refurbishing work is done. The first time? Horrible traffic snarls everywhere. All of the subsequent times, not nearly so much. Because people figured out alternate routes and so forth.

Commuters are flexible and will find a way to get where they’re going in the least time. And more people are using the trains and buses than ever before. So maybe spending billions on this tunnel wasn’t the most forward thinking idea. But like Michael and I in that car once we’d gone up that onramp, we’re stuck and have to just keep driving.

Weekend Update 9/15/2018: Disasters

The Hawaii Department of Transportation reports flooding and debris left by Hurricane Olivia have blocked the  Hana Highway near Hana on the island of Maui. (Hawaii Department of Transportation via AP)

The Hawaii Department of Transportation reports flooding and debris left by Hurricane Olivia have blocked the Hana Highway near Hana on the island of Maui. (Hawaii Department of Transportation via AP)

Horrible weather is lashing the southeastern coast of the nation, but that’s not the only place in the U.S. where hurricanes are causing trouble. A few days ago Hawaii was dealing with a hurricane, but you sure couldn’t tell it from the national news: Olivia fades away from Hawaii, but its moisture still tormenting Hawaiian isles. And that’s not the first hurricane to hit Hawaii this within the last four weeks: Hawaii Begins Massive Cleanup from Hurricane Lane. Again, something the big media outlets barely covered.

© 2018 Ed Hall (click to embiggen)

© 2018 Ed Hall (click to embiggen)

And let’s not forget that a year ago Puerto Rico, which is also part of the United States, was devastated by a hurricane: We Must Push for Better in Puerto Rico Because President Trump Simply Doesn’t Care and Puerto Rico’s road to recovery. And Trump lied about Puerto Rico’s death toll after Hurricane Maria and Trump’s Psychotic Puerto Rico Tweets Erase Human Beings From Existence for Political Gain.

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of news about hurricane Florence, and it is a big deal. People are in danger. It is important: Tropical Storm Florence crawls inland as it batters North and South Carolina and Florence: At least five dead, nearly 1 million without power as storm swamps Carolinas. But even Florence has a political angle: Trump Made It Clear to Virginia That Blue States Now Get Treated Like the Brown People of Puerto Rico:

Virginia’s entire Congressional delegation begged Trump to issue a federal emergency declaration for Virginia, which [as of Tuesday, when this story was publish was] more exposed to the destructive force of the monster hurricane Florence than North Carolina, and is likely to be hit as hard as South Carolina. But initially, Trump only offered emergency declarations for North and South Carolina. He completely ignored Virginia. For many, this omission looked very political. Virginia is now a blue state, as Trump very well knows. By excluding Virginia up until just [Tuesday] afternoon, he sent a clear message of how disasters in the age of climate change will be handled by the emergency government agencies he now controls. If you are a blue state, then he is going to treat you in the same way he treated Puerto Rico (over 4,000 dead, no electricity for a year, etc.). If you are blue, you are as good as brown.

I already mentioned Olivia (which seems to have downgraded to a tropical depression, but can still pack a wallop), but Florence isn’t the only storm looming: Hurricane Florence isn’t alone: Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Olivia, even a typhoon also out there.

Baton down the hatches, and don’t count on any timely help from the feds.

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