There is just so much weirdness in the world that I could comment on, but I don’t even know where to begin.
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..
The liberal civility fetish explained:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
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.
…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.
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!
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.”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 .
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
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.
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.
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.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.
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.