Tag Archive | alt-right

Sunday Funnies Update: Mueller indicts a cartoon villain

“I just realized that Roger Stone is the villain from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

“I just realized that Roger Stone is the villain from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

This is another story that broke on Friday, after I have already posted this week’s Friday Five, and I was going to do a Weekend Update about it, except I kept thinking, as I gathered more background information, that I couldn’t write about Roger Stone and his arrest in the same post where I was going on about the end of the government shutdown. More importantly, Roger Stone is such a strange, over-the-top, alt-right, Republican apparatchik that he appears to be a character who has literally walked out of a comic book. Reading stories about him and some of his antics makes rational people think that they are reading a parody.

So, the basic headline first: Roger Stone, Longtime Trump Associate, Arrested After Mueller Indictment. He has been indicted for one count of obstruction of proceeding (interfering with an investigation into one or more crimes), five counts of making false statements (lying to Congress under oath), and one count of witness tampering. Let’s be clear, this means that a grand jury has found that the prosecutors have established a prima facia case that he is probably guilty of these crimes.

According to the indictment, Stone informed members of the Trump campaign that wikileaks was illegally in possession of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, which he could make available to the campaign so that campaign may use the information in the political campaign. I want to note, here, that nothing in the hacked emails indicated that any crimes were being conducted by anyone in the Clinton campaign or the DNC. The so-called damaging information was either stuff that could easily be taken out of context to imply more unsavory things, or indications that many of the running a bunch of political campaigns were ruthless and sometimes held grudges. It can be embarrassing, but hardly illegal.

Obtaining the emails, on the other hand, is a criminal act. Using illegally obtained personal communications can also be a crime.

Anyway, Stone is charged with lying about this under oath multiple times, trying to convince at least one other witness to lie, and generally attempting to impede any legal investigation into the crime of hacking the email servers, stealing the information, and sharing it. This is serious, not just because it ties someone with long-running close ties to the Alleged President to the Russian Collusion case. It also implies that Congressional Republicans didn’t try very hard while investigation Russian interference: Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves the House Republicans’ Russia Investigation Was a Whitewash.

Stone has been an infamous figure in Republican politics for years. He’s well known for various dirty tricks. Be he is also well known for his obsession with disgraced former President Richard Nixon. Stone famously has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back (seriously, be posts pictures of the tattoo on line, himself!). When he came out of federal court on Friday after posting bail, he literally (and intentionally) posed in a manner identical to one of Nixon’s famous things: holding both hands out at an angle from his body, fingers on each handing making a V for Victory, and grinning like a madman.

Seriously, none of these photos are fake. This is how he dresses!

Seriously, none of these photos are fake. This is how he dresses!

Less pertinent to any actual crimes, but the source of many memes out there comparing Stone to the character of Judge Doom, the villain in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Look at these pictures! This is how the guy dresses when he is going to places. He looks like he’s cosplaying a a villain from the campy 1960s Batman TV show, for goodness sake! There are more, so many, many more! And I know it is silly and superficial to focus on such a thing, but there is more to his cartoon-ish personality and life choices.

And that is relevant in a few ways: Roger Stone’s Greatest Liability – The longtime Trump adviser’s attention-seeking ways made him an easy target for Robert Mueller.. An easy target, much easier than any one of the thirty-four other people who have either already pled guilty to various crimes related to the Trump campaign or have been indicted before Stone. That Mueller waited this long to get Stone tells us that he has already locked down enough to start going for big fish, as it were.

There is a bit more, though. I mentioned above that Stone is obsessed with Nixon and likes to talk up his relationship to Nixon all the time. Dozens of stories, including at least one of those I’ve already linked to, often refer to his time working on one of Nixon’s presidential campaigns. Specifically indicated that he was involved in the official Nixon campaign organization. That, it turns out, isn’t true: Nixon Foundation disowns Roger Stone.

You have to be pretty bad to have the Nixon Foundation disavow you!

The truth is that Stone was 16 years old the Nixon successfully ran for President in 1968. He was 20 years old when Nixon ran for re-election, and it is true that he volunteered for re-election activities. It is even true that his official title in that capacity was as a “junior scheduler.” But he was not working for the Nixon campaign. He wasn’t even working for one of the state-level committees to re-elect the President. He was the junior scheduler for the committee that was formed by his University’s Young Republican Club to promote Nixon on campus.

My grandpa used to like to tell the story about when I was four years old and I got into an argument with my dad because I thought that Barry Goldwater would be a better President than Lyndon B. Johnson. That didn’t make me a Goldwater campaign aide. And being a member of a campus Young Republican Club supporting the re-election of the then current Republican President doesn’t make one a Presidential Campaign Aide, either.

Stone eventually became the national president of the Young Republicans, and he became infamous for amassing dossiers on all 800 delegates to the national meeting of the club. He and his close friend Paul Manafort used information in those dossiers to blackmail other members of the organization in order to make them vote for his proposals.

Stone did work for the Nixon Administration briefly after college, but he was an extremely low-level Federal employee. As the Nixon Foundation’s official statement said, “Nowhere in the Presidential Daily Diaries from 1972 to 1974 does the name “Roger Stone” appear.” Stone later worked briefly for Senator Bob Dole, but was fired over allegations that he had been involved in various unethical campaign activities.

He did become a campaign strategist for a Republican gubernatorial candidate and later worked on both of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns and for the elder President Bush’s first election campaign. He was one of many founders of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. He worked on various Senatorial election campaigns. And in the 1990s he became a paid lobbyist for one of Donald Trump’s companies

He went to work for Senator Dole again while Dole was running for President, and then had to quit when it was discovered that he and his second wife had been placing ads in various “racy” publications seeking sexual partners for threesomes and more-somes. At the time, he accused a former employee with a drug problem of placing all the ads to embarrass him, but later admitted that the ads were his. And while I don’t think the ads or the private sexual practices of he and his second wife made are usually anyone’s business—remember that politicians he has worked for and promoted and raised money for have actively tried to restrict and criminalize the consensual sexual activities of other people, so it becomes relevant. And then, of course, trying to frame someone else for it is also indicative of his being an immoral, unethical liar.

So it should be no surprise that Trump has praised him: “Roger’s a good guy. He’s been so loyal and so wonderful.”

Roger Stone Made His Name as a Dirty Trickster, But the Trump-Russia Coverup May Finally Bring Him Down.

Again, he looks like a crime boss out of a comic book!

Again, he looks like a crime boss out of a comic book!

Stone was an informal advisor to Trump’s campaign. But then, Trump has claimed that one of the campaign chairman wasn’t actually involved, so we can’t lean too heavily on that word informal. It makes perfect sense why Stone and Trump get along. I mean, when you see those pictures of Trump’s living quarters and so forth with the gold furniture and other super tasteless over-the-top decorating choices, you realize that he isn’t really rich. He likes people to think he is so he lives the way that poor people think rich people would live. He tries to make his real life look like it came out of the pages of a Richie Rich comic book. And Stone, for whatever reason, likes to dress like villains from old comic books. They’re perfect for each other!

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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

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 .

It’s not just a word—when I say “Nazi” I mean it

The cover of the very first appearance in any comic of Captain America shows him punching out Adolf Hitler, in case there was any doubt whose side he was on.

The cover of the very first appearance in any comic of Captain America (March 1941) shows him punching out Adolf Hitler, in case there was any doubt whose side he was on. (click to embiggen)

I keep seeing the same retort coming up again and again on line: “You’re just calling everyone who disagrees with you a Nazi!” And while I know a bunch of them saying that are just trolling, I also think a bunch of them actually believe it. So let’s clear some things up. The original Nazis were a Aryan nationalist movement in Germany that rose up amid the social turmoil occurring in the former German Empire during the aftermath of World War I, exacerbated by the world wide Great Depression. Which isn’t to say that the social and economic upheaval justified the movement, just that it made fertile soil for resentment and hatred, right?

The Nazis wanted an ethnically and culturally “pure” society, and were willing to use violence to make it happen. That means they advocated for what would now be called “self-deportation” of anyone who did match their mythical Aryan ideal. In other words: everyone who wasn’t white, who wasn’t culturally Christian, who wasn’t heterosexual (Berlin in the 1930s had a thriving and public homosexual community), and who didn’t agree with them were out. In the early stages the government arrested undesirables under pretexts of other crimes while they turned a blind eye to the actions of their supporters who terrorized people in various ways. The message was clear to people of color, to Jewish people, and queer people: disappear or else.

Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. Even though both of them were from the south and their accents would make anyone think they were “good old boys” they had no patience for racism or sectarian prejudice. And while the image most people have of white guys who were their age in the 1980s, they both despised Reagan. My paternal grandfather said for years that he was going to move to North Carolina (we had relatives there, so he visited a lot) and establish residency just so he would have the pleasure to vote against the notorious racist senator, Jesse Helms.

My dad, on the other hand, was a blatant racist. He regularly used the n-word and other racial slurs. And every time he did within earshot of his own father, Grandpa would tell him not to use that kind of language around him. My maternal grandfather also told Dad not to talk like that.

But it wasn’t just about coarse language. When Dad would say things (about Black people or Jewish people or queer people) like: they should go back where they came form, or they were all lazy/greedy/dishonest/immoral, or they deserved it when bad things happened to them—my grandfathers called him on it.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard my paternal grandfather admonish my dad sternly along the lines of: “I didn’t spend four years of my life fighting in a war just so people could do the same racist hateful stuff here! All people deserve respect and a chance to live their lives, no matter where they were born or what religion they believe or the color of their skin!”

Each time he argued with my dad on those subjects, he mentioned his service in WWII and compared Dad’s beliefs to those of the Nazis.

My maternal grandfather wasn’t around Dad and me at the same time as often as my paternal grandfather was (and after the divorce when more details of how bad Dad’s physical abuse had been, Grandpa absolutely refused to be around him), so I only heard him lecture Dad like that once, but it was a doozy. As I recall, it went something like this: “I spent years fighting Nazis and fascists. I watched a lot of good men die. I saw people who had been starved and beaten and imprisoned just because their skin was the wrong color or they attended the wrong kind of church. And all of that bloodshed happened because people said that kind of B.S. you just said and other people believed it. You have a right to your opinion, but if you try to put THAT opinion into action… well, I for one am not afraid to fight again!”

Both of my grandfathers knew what Nazis and fascists were. They literally fought them. And when Dad spouted off his racist, anti-semetic, and otherwise bigoted opinions, they all but called him a Nazi.

They set the bar, for me. When I hear someone saying that people of color should “go back where they came from” or that every member of a particular religious background is a terrorist, or that the poor or disabled or mentally ill people are burdens on society that need to be “dealt with,” or that whole categories of people should be locked up, or that the economy isn’t working right because of “those people” taking “our jobs” and someone should do something about it, or lump refugees and immigrants together and call them all disparaging names, et cetera, then I’m going to say you’re talking like a Nazi. And you are advocating the policies of Nazis.

I do not call everyone who disagrees with me about some things a Nazi. There are people I disagree with on really important things that I don’t think are talking like Nazis. I have a couple of relatives I could name who are opposed to gay rights in general and marriage equality in particular. They are civil when they talk to me or my husband, and they don’t think they have a bigoted bone in their bodies. They’re wrong on that point. And obviously as an out proud queer man we disagree about a bunch of important things because of their feelings about gay rights. But they don’t believe that we should be herded into “quarantine camps” and they are outraged that border agents have seperated familes and put children in cages and so forth. We disagree on some pretty important things, but they don’t advocate the policies of Nazis. So I don’t call them that.

If you don’t like being called a Nazi, maybe, just maybe, you should take a closer look at the kind of things you’re saying, the people you are supporting or defending, and the policies you’re reporting. Because if you take an honest look, you may finally see a Nazi looking back at you from the mirror.

And like my grandfathers said, those policies aren’t welcome here.

Weekend Update 6/30/2018: Hypocrisy, faux civility, and why we mustn’t stop fighting

“Mitch McConnell, 2016" 'One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama You will not fills this Supreme Court vacancy.'”

(click to embiggen)

We now know that Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s decision to leave the court was not his own. The White House has been pushing for it: Trump’s little known ties to Justice Kennedy & the scheme to nudge him out and Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening and What we’re reading: The White House’s subtle push for Kennedy’s retirement. What is particularly scary is the number of sources that say the phrase, “time is of the essence” when they were communicating with Kennedy. What would the alleged president and his advisors (including the billionaire Koch brothers) bring pressure to bear to push Kennedy out and get a more conservative justice confirmed less than 16 weeks before the midterm elections? What could the possible reasons be?

Well, there are at least two reasons. The simplest one is that if the Dems manage to take back the Senate, they could prevent Cadet Bonespur from appointing anyone new to the court. So at least some of the GOP operatives see this as their only chance to ensure future court rulings continue to take rights away from workers, women, queers, and everyone else that isn’t a Republican billionaire.

But that isn’t the only issue! Now that we know that Justice Kennedy’s son arranged for Trump to get a billion dollar loan, and that Trump has made references to Kennedy’s son within earshot of live microphones just about every time the Justice and the alleged president have been together in public, it seems extremely likely that among those dozens of sealed indictments that Robert Mueller has obtained over the last year or so is probably against Kennedy’s son. This could result, if any of the related indictments or Cadet Bonespur’s attempts to pardon (pre-emptively or not) key people winds up being appealed to the Supreme Court. While recusal is solely up to each Justice, it would be very unlikely that Kennedy would not recuse himself if his son was involved in a case before the Court.

Though it angers me enough that the Republicans stole a seat from Obama last year, and I’m not looking forward to what the court will do with another arch conservative on the bench, I do take heart that despite all the brave talk about a red wave, the people in the know (like those billionaire mentioned above) are acting as if there is a good chance that the Senate won’t have a Republican majority after November. So there is that, I guess.

In other hopeful news, the resistance is alive and well: Thousands across U.S. join ‘Keep Families Together’ march to protest family separation. And people have some great signs: 21 Signs From Americans Fed Up With Trump At Families Belong Together Marches.

The marches themselves may not directly accomplish something, but the turn-out indicates people are willing to take action (which includes voting in November).

“Hypocrisy is when Republicans spent eight years disrespecting, delegitimizing and obstructing Pres. Obama, but now say 'Come together to support our president (t)rump because his success is our success.'”

(click to embiggen)

Meanwhile, there have been continued mock outrage over things like a restaurant deciding it didn’t want to serve members of this administration that our aiding and abetting the kidnapping of children at the border, taking health care from tens of thousands, encouraging white supremacists to commit violence, and so forth. I don’t always agree with columnist Michelangelo Signorile, but this week I do: Fuck Civility. And an extra stron f– you to the editorial writers who seem to think that getting in the face of people who have either ordered the commission of these crimes (mass separation of families is defined under international law–the very agreements our country help promulgate after World War II–as genocide and is a crime against humanity) is somehow just as bad or worse than actually committing those heinous acts.


ETA: I hadn’t seen this interview with Hilary at the Guardian: Hillary Clinton: ‘What is more uncivil than taking children away?’

“Give me a break! What is more uncivil and cruel than taking children away? It should be met with resolve and strength. And if some of that comes across as a little uncivil, well, children’s lives are at stake.”

Weekend Update 7/23/2018: Stop Mincing Words, Don’t Derail, and Shed a Tear

Upper picture is a child taken from parents by U.S. ICE agents, lower is child taken from parents by the original Nazis during WWII. Can we spot the similarities?

American attorney and author Mike Godwin coined his eponymous law on Usenet in 1990. Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies) is an internet adage asserting that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1”; that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds. Promulgated by the American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990…. [There] is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that, when a Hitler comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever made the comparison loses whatever debate is in progress.
—Wikipedia’s article on Godwin’s Law

Becaue of that latter tradition of the law being used as a trigger for moderators to shut down discussion threads, there are many well-meaning people who believe (falsely) that Godwin’s Law is a statement of a logical fallacy. In other words, they believe that someone how the act of invoking Hitler is an actual invalidation of the argument being made. In a time when:

…one often finds oneself being concern trolled by someone trying to derail one’s comments with invocations of Godwin’s Law. Which makes said de-railers either complicit with all these evil being perpetrated by the so-called alt-right or really stupid (sorry, there is no other word for it).

So this a reminder that Godwin himself, last year after the events of that Charlottesville neo-Nazi protest that resulted in injures and death, suspended his law:

We’re talking full-on fascism here, folks. Stop arguing semantics and let’s look for solutions. Also, if you have ever said, when contemplating the history of how the Nazis took over Germany in the 1930s, that you would never stand idly by had you been there. We are there now. What are you going to do?


A few other things that either didn’t make it into the Friday Five or come up after:

The Killer That Haunted My Adolescence: John Wayne Gacy was all over the news in my freshman year of high school. But worse was yet to come.

What Is the Gayest Marvel Movie?

How To Be A Writer In This Fucked-Ass Age Of Rot And Resistance.

Tolerance is not a moral precept.

Pride Month Special: “One True Pervert In the Courtroom” – The Trial of Dale Jennings. Great piece by Boozy Barrister, a straight guy who occasionally explain legal things for those of us who aren’t lawyers.

9,000 barrels of bourbon fall in Kentucky distillery building collapse. Oh, the humanity!

Oppressed Oppressors: Hateful, Angry Men

"Stop making excuses for hateful, angry men"

(click to embiggen)

I’m a news junkie who bookmarks stories all the time, which is why for years I posted a weekly round up of those bookmarks in a Friday Links post. I’ve scaled that back to the Friday Five, in part because by limiting the number of stories I post I don’t have to share quite so many outrage-generating stories. But sometimes it’s useful to share some of the less than happy news. If you don’t know about the people who are trying to take your rights or livelihood away, you can’t do anything about it, for instance. So this post is going to be about a couple of different seemingly unrelated stories of angry, hateful men in the news lately, along with some commentary. If you don’t want to read about that sort of thing, don’t click through. Otherwise… Read More…

Offended offenders — the joke is on who, exactly?

“When art becomes merely shock value, our sense of humanity is slowly degraded.” — Roger Scruton

“When art becomes merely shock value, our sense of humanity is slowly degraded.” — Roger Scruton

We hear it all the time: “How dare you call me racist! I don’t hate anyone! I was just making an observation.” And there’s: “It is so rude of you to call me a homophobe! I’m just advocating for my beliefs {that queer people don’t deserve legal rights/to exist openly in public spaces if at all}. You’re the real haters!” Let’s not forget: “Can’t you take a joke? You’re trying to silence me!”

People behave like jerks, make threatening remarks, harass people, advocate for policies and propositions that will cause actual harm to others, and then get angry if other people take offense. They try to hide behind the idea of free speech—they’re just expressing themselves, and everyone has a right to do that, right? But the defense is built on one or more false equivalencies. The most basic is equating disagreement with censorship. If you say that all Freedonians are criminals, and I point out that isn’t true, and show the statistics to prove it, you haven’t been silenced. If other people decide the don’t want to listen to your rants about the evils of the Freedonians anymore, they stop inviting you to their social events and if you show up uninvited they ask you to leave, that also isn’t silencing you. The right to express an opinion doesn’t obligate other people to listen. Then there’s the false equivalence that accurately describing some of their statements as bigoted is just as bad as the bigotry we’re decrying. And so on.

But the defense that really annoys me is the, “But I’m only joking!”

I have several responses to that. The first is: every bully and abuser who ever lived has tried to claim that they were only joking, or they were just playing around. They didn’t meant to cause those bruises or broken bones or to break that laptop or whatever. It’s a lie. Maybe the bully and the bully’s audience were laughing, but real harm is being done.

The second response is: the fact that you think a particular topic is suitable for joking demonstrates the ignobility of your intentions. They only way that one can think the sexual assault is a joking matter is if they either don’t think the sexual assault is a bad thing, or if they think the victims of sexual assault are worth less than other people. There are topics that go beyond the pale, understanding that requires moral fiber and empathy. Not knowing that tells us you possess neither.

The third response is that doing something like “ironically” pretending to believe neo-Nazi ideology is indistinguishable from actually doing it. In other words, if you’re pretending to be an asshole, it doesn’t sound or feel any different to your targets than when a “real” asshole behaves that way. It also has a very scary normalizing effect. The more people feel it is acceptable to express racial bias, for instance, the more likely some of them are to act on the racial bias.

And my fourth response is that jokes are supposed to be funny. Calling entire classes of people inferior, saying they are a waste of space and so on isn’t funny. The objection that is usually raised around this point is that they are just trying to make people think, and they have to shock people out of their complacency to do that. I’ll agree that good political humor pokes at us to get us to think outside the box, but these guys aren’t quite getting it.

“Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?” “Electricity is really just organized lightning.” “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” “At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom.” “'I am' is reportedly the shortest sentence in English. Could it be that 'I Do' is the longest sentence?”

Several classic George Carlin one liners. (Click to embiggen)

Let’s look for a moment at the work of a comedian who was often characterized as offensive. The Late George Carlin said things that shocked some people’s sensibilities. Go listen (many recordings abound) to his notorious “Seven words you can’t say on TV or the radio” routine and tell me that wouldn’t give people in the Religious Right conniptions. And sure, you can pull out individual lines from his routines and make him sound almost like some of this current generation of jerks with their racist or homophobic or misogynist rants on their Youtube channel. But that’s taking him out of context. Look over the classic Carlin corpus (excluding the last few years where he seemed to turn into a prophet of doom and things got a little weird) and you’ll find the most prevalent underlying theme is summed up in one of his best one-liners:

“Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?”

While the line works great on its own, it was actually the introduction to a longer bit, where he went on to make humorous observations about foolish and dangerous and weird things that people do while driving. It ranged around for a bit, and the audience laughed. You could certainly characterize the routine as making fun of bad drivers. And that doesn’t seem all that different from someone else having a comedy routine where they make fun of women, or immigrants, or queer people, right? But that’s not what the routine does. Every version of it I ever heard him perform varied a bit, but all stuck to one underlying theme. And it’s in that line I quote. That line isn’t just a joke, it’s a thesis statement.

Read it again: “Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?” Explicitly it says that we classify and judge people in categories like stupid and maniac by extremely subjective criteria. But implicitly it is also saying that sometimes all of us are idiots, and sometimes all of us are maniacs. Because implicitly everyone that we observe is an idiot for driving too slow, knows they we are maniacs. And every person that we can see is a maniac for driving too fast, can observe that we’re driving slow and therefore we are idiots.

Yes, the point of his routines is that some people do very foolish things and isn’t it ridiculous that such people exist? But by the time he has covered the subject, there is a point where he says something that hits close to home. We, the listeners, see ourselves in some part of that routine. In that way, his routines adhere to the classic definition of political humor: to hold a mirror up to society.

That is humor with a purpose. That is how you jostle people out of their complacency. You hold up a mirror, so that we look into it and see our own foibles and flaws. But what these other guys are doing? They aren’t working with mirrors. No, they are putting targets on other people, aiming their fans at those targets, and encouraging the fans to pull their triggers.

That is why the rest of us don’t listen to their rants. We disinvite them from our events. We tell them that their behavior is not welcome at our conventions or on our forums and so forth. That isn’t censorship, that is making a choice of who we will associate with. It’s deciding that we don’t need jerks and abusers in our lives.

Angry men on buses — not all violence is equal

Several years ago I witnessed an altercation on the bus. When I first got on, I noticed one guy with blond hair that was combed just so and his mustache was freshly trimmed, and he was dressed in what looked like a new suit and tie. He was sitting up super-straight, as if he had an iron rod up his backside. Everything about him radiated attitude. His smile was particularly smug.

I had already seen that one of my favorite seats near the back was open, so I headed back there and turned my attention back to the news radio I was listening to on my headphones.

Except as the bus pulled away from the stop, I could see people up in the front of the bus near this guy being more agitated. A couple people leaned forward and seemed to be addressing him angrily. And then I noticed that a woman also up in the front had put her hands over the ears of the little boy (who I presumed was her son) in the seat next to her, so I pulled off my headphones to hear was was happening… Read More…

How people use a word can tell you more about them than they wish — more adventures in dictionaries

Abuse as defined in one of my dictionaries... (click to embiggen)

Abuse as defined in one of my dictionaries… (click to embiggen)

I can’t count the number of times, as a child, that some adult (relatives, teachers, or people from church) would take me aside to suggest or insist that if I would just be more obedient or behave the way my dad expected, he wouldn’t have to be so strict with me. I know my younger siblings got similar admonishments: Dad wouldn’t be forced to use such strict punishments on us if only we could placate his moods. They never referred to his behavior as “abuse,” it was always said that he was “strict” and that he “had a temper.” And while they often implied that they thought his punishment was harsher than necessary, they never acknowledged that his behavior had crossed a line into being unacceptable or uncalled for. Which is quite amazing if I explain some of the specifics.

Content Warning: the following essay (which will also touch on dangerous misperceptions and myths about sexual orientation) includes some specifics about physical abuse of children and worse. Only click when you’re ready Read More…

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