Tag Archive | wingnuts

Sometimes someone needs an explanation

“I have been forced to explain homosexual relationships to my four year old because his uncle is gay. This incredibly difficult and traumatic conversation went as follows: Child: Why does Uncle Bob go everywhere with Pete? Me: Because they are in love, just like Mommy and Daddy. Child: Oh. Can I have a cookie?   We're all scarred for life. Scarred, I tell you.”

“I have been forced to explain homosexual relationships to my four year old because his uncle is gay. This incredibly difficult and traumatic conversation went as follows: Child: Why does Uncle Bob go everywhere with Pete? Me: Because they are in love, just like Mommy and Daddy. Child: Oh. Can I have a cookie?
We’re all scarred for life. Scarred, I tell you.”

I’ve been finding myself doing a lot of eye-rolling and teeth gnashing and biting my tongue lately over extremely asinine questions and assertions that cross my various information streams. Some of these are on social media, but a lot are also in news stories and/or coming out of the mouths of politicians, pundits, and so forth. When it happens on my social media, I sometimes decide to mute, block, or just unfollow the person. And when I mentioned that recently, someone asked didn’t I have a responsibility to educate people who unintentionally said bigoted things (or asked questions that are layered in all sorts of bigoted assumptions) so that they wouldn’t keep causing other people pain.

I had several answers—all of them true:

  • It takes a lot of time and energy to try to educate someone on these complex topics, and that’s time and energy I will never get back and which I’d rather spend on writing or editing my own stuff.
  • In my experience, very few people actually listen to your attempt to explain such things, they instead become defensive—sometimes extremely aggressively defensive. So you’re asking me to put myself into a fight.
  • I’ve been explaining these things my whole life—just look through this blog!—and it’s exhausting. Please refer to the first bullet.
  • One reason it is so exhausting to try to answer is because of what Foz Meadows once described as onion questions: “seemingly simple questions that can’t possibly be answered to either your satisfaction or your interlocutor’s because their ignorance of concepts vital to whatever you might say is so lacking, so fundamentally incorrect, that there’s no way to answer the first point without first explaining eight other things in detail. There are layers to what’s being misunderstood, to what’s missing from the conversation, and unless you’ve got the time and inclination to dig down to the onion-core of where your perspectives ultimately diverge, there’s precious little chance of the conversation progressing peacefully.”
  • Thousands of other people have been explaining all of these things. There is no shortage of information about these things out there. I’ve educated myself on all sorts of things that don’t directly affect my life, why can’t they do that, too?

However, K. Tempest Bradford recently shared a link to a post she wrote on this topic a few years ago, Pearls Before Swine – Or, Why I Bother and she makes some good points. I’d read the post before, but had forgotten. In the post she’s referring specifically to a long article that astronomer Phil Plait wrote, attempting to answer questions from people who don’t believe in evolution and so forth:

“I’m fairly sure that the reason the creationists in the Buzzfeed article asked such ragingly stupid questions is because no one has ever bothered to answer them seriously before. I know why that might be. Like I said, the questions are really stupid.

“So stupid they can inspire rage. Or stupid enough that it makes people shake their heads and think This Person is Not Even Worth It. Not everyone has the spoons to deal with crap like that.

“If one does have the patience to answer and explain in a real way it helps both the person asking the stupid question and it helps people who have to deal with the kind of people who ask those stupid questions. They can either offer up the knowledge as they understand it thanks to the helpful answers and info behind those links or they can say: “This post over here answers all of that and more, go read it and stop talking to me.” Drop that link and mambo, people!”

And it reminded me of a recent exchange with a friend who shared something with me that was chockful of misconceptions and concealed bigoted assumptions. And I decided that his friendship was probably strong enough to deal with the discussion, so I wrote about a thousand word email explaining the misconceptions, false equivalencies, and so forth. Even though he is a good friend and generally a nice guy, I have to admit I was a little worried he would be upset. Instead, he replied thoughtfully and realized, having read my explanation, that there were some things that he had been taking in and just accepting in various videos and articles and such that were similarly full of false equivalencies, straw man arguments, and so forth.

So, I’m reminded that not everyone gets defensive. Also, as Bradford observes: “Other people have come to me over the years, usually at conventions, and told me how they, at first, thought I was SO WRONG about race and the community and so angry… But then their anger and defensiveness went away and they pondered and listened and read other people saying the same things and finally came to a better understanding.”

I’m not going to go back and unblock any of the people I blocked this week and attempt to re-engage. I am going to think about whether I could keep a list of handy links to certain blog posts or articles on topics that come up again and again and share those links when it might help.

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Weekend Update 1/12/2019: The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but Alex Jones, they grind on you!

“Regarding the use of 'it was just a joke' as a defense: If it was 'just a joke,' then there's no reason for you to be upset that people didn't find it funny. You just accept that the material fell flat, note it for future reference, and move on. If, however, it angers or frustrates you that people didn't find it funny or tell you that is was offensive, then it wasn't 'just a joke' to you. It was a belief that you shared in a joking manner and you're taking the rejection of it as a rejection of part of you. Be honest about that instead of asking others to pretend that they believe you were joking.”

(click to embiggen)

Once again some news stories either broke after I had finished this week’s Friday Five or new developments related to stories I’ve posted about before. And, as usual, I have a few thoughts to go along with the news links. Today we deal with a horrible person dealing with the consequences of just a small number of his horrible actions.

Families of Sandy Hook shooting victims win legal victory against InfoWars, Alex Jones. The families haven’t won their lawsuits, yet, but this is an important step in the trials: ALEX JONES MUST REVEAL INFOWARS DATA TO SANDY HOOK FAMILIES AS THEY WIN LEGAL VICTORY.

In case you don’t remember: the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred back in 2012 were 20 six- and seven-year-old children (along with six teachers) were murdered by an angry 20-year-old. Alex Jones used to be a radio host (his show is carried only on the internet now) of a thing called Info Wars where he spouts all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories, while peddling gross survivalist food and other shit to his gullible (and fearful) listeners. And one of the conspiracy theories he pushed hard on his show for years was that Sandy Hook never happened, that no children actually died, and that the grieving parents people saw on the news were all actors.

And the issue is, that a bunch of people who are just as dangerous as the original shooter, believed him. They began harassing the parents, threatening them and their surviving children. They staked out the graves of the buried children and harassed anyone that visited those graves. The families have had to move and try to rebuild their lives several times because of the evil, deplorable followers of this greedy, evil, deplorable man.

And so the fact that some of the families have finally found a court that will hear their case is pretty awesome. I hope he winds up penniless and on the street.

I also wish more of the idiots who have harassed the families were sitting in jail, but I’ll settle for Jones being ruined.

Weekend Update 1/5/2019: It’s ugly, oh, so ugly…

Once again some news stories either broke after I had finished this week’s Friday Five or new developments related to stories I’ve posted about before. And these are stories I want to make a bit more commentary on than I usually do with the Friday Fives. So, let’s jump into these things…

First, the shutdown is still a thingL Pelosi and Schumer Meet With Trump – Say He Vows to Keep Government Shutdown for ‘Years’ Over Wall Funding. And later in the day Trump confirmed his words. This is bad. There are hundreds of thousands of federal employees being forced to work without pay (and they are ordinary people who need to pay rent, buy food for their kids, et cetera), and hundreds of thousands more that have been sent home without pay. ‘I feel used and insulted’: Furloughed IRS employee on CNN shames Trump for treating him like a pawn.

This isn’t just bad for them, it is bad for the economy. What makes the economy work isn’t the giant billion-dollar companies or wealthy investors: it is ordinary people spending money day to day.

And the really insane part is contained in this article: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences. Go read some of those quotes! There are a number of Republican congresspeople quoted who were cheering the shutdown a week ago, who are only now learning that government shutdown means that people who voted for them aren’t getting their foodstamps, or the social security checks, and won’t get tax refunds. There are Trump cabinet officials quoted in there who didn’t understand it.

They didn’t understand that ‘government shutdown’ means that the government shuts down!?!?

It isn’t just Trump who is ignorant and doesn’t know how things work. It’s like half the goddamn Republican party!

The thing is, they can end this. The first deal, the one Trump vetoed a couple of weeks ago, passed the Senate unanimously. The Republican-controlled Senate passed the deal with no wall funding already. Congress can override the President’s veto. Now, since new Congresspeople were sworn in and this is technically a new Congress, I believe that means that they have to first pass the deal again, let him veto it, and then if all the Senators who voted for it before, and a bunch of these Republican Reps in the House who are finally realizing what this means joins the Democrats on the reconsideration, BOOM, veto overridden and government is running again.

I’m going to repeat something that I say from time to time: the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution with the assumption that it is Congress that runs the country. Article I of the Constitution describes the Congress, its powers, its responsibilities, and its limitations. Everything that follows in the Constitution (the Presidency, the Judiciary, the Amendment process, the Bill of Rights) are in relationship to the Congress. The President isn’t supposed to run the country, Congress is. And they can. I realize it means some Republicans (not even half of them—just enough to with the Democrats—reach two-thirds) growing at least a teensy bit of a spine.

I’m not terribly hopeful at the moment, but…

There are some Republicans with spines: Bush speechwriter uses Bible to slap evangelicals for sucking up to ‘unethical and racist’ Trump. Wow, he even understands what the Bible actually says!

“In this struggle, many evangelicals believe they have found a champion in Trump. He is the enemy of their enemies. He is willing to use the hardball tactics of the secular world to defend their sacred interests. In their battle with the Philistines, evangelicals have essentially hired their own Goliath — brutal, pagan, but on their side… A hypocrisy becomes unsustainable. A seed gets planted. And a greater power emerges, revealing new leaders and shaming those who reduce Christianity to a sad and sordid game of thrones.”

I think another point he makes is the most important:

“The employment of an unethical, racist, anti-immigrant, misogynist Giant is not likely to play well with women, minorities and young people, who are likely to equate conservative religion with prejudice for decades to come.”

Honestly, polling information indicates that’s already happened. Which actually gives me a lot of hope.

“After two years of Donald Trup, I've wondered why conservative votes still support him. I thought maybe they were still angry and afraid, or just ignorant and in denial, or racist, but that's not it. I've realized the reason they support Trump and love him is not because of any of those things. They love him because they ARE him. They have the same morals, prejudices, hatreds, and insecurities that Trump has. They're the same persons he is and they've always been that way. We see it now because Trump has given them permission to come out in the open and be who they really are. And, it's ugly.”

I know it muddles the point, but it’s both: they are angry and afraid and ignorant and hateful and racist and all the rest… (click to embiggen)

Need a little angel sitting on my shoulder… or, save me from the well-meaning enablers

“Tis the season to be even GAYER than usual!”

(click to embiggen)

Some years before certain media hacks started claiming there is a War On Christmas, I was accused of (among other things) being part of an assault on that holiday. It was 2001, and my paternal grandparents were coming up on their 60th wedding anniversary. Their anniversary was late in December, because they moved up the wedding (originally planned for the following spring) after Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. entered World War II because my grandpa immediately wanted to sign up and go defend his country. I had been living 1200 miles away from my grandparents since my parents’ divorce when I was a teenager, but had remained in relatively close contact with them. Relatively close, that is, until I came out of the closet at the age of 31. To describe the communication as cold and infrequent would be an understatement.

So I was a little surprised when, several months before the anniversary, some relatives from out there contacted me to invite me to a 60th Anniversary party, just before Christmas. I said that I would have to look into travel logistics, but it would be nice to see the old hometown again. The relative in question hoped that I would be able to stay through Christmas and so forth. I made the comment that I wasn’t sure how much time off Michael would be able to take, since he got a lot less paid vacation at his place of work than I did.

I could almost feel the temperature drop on the line. “Oh, no. You can’t bring your friend. You understand, that would really upset everyone.”

“You expect my husband to stay back in a hotel while I’m at the party?”

”No. We expect you to be sensible and leave your friend back in Seattle.”

“What?”

They then explained (as if I needed to be reminded) that Grandma and Grandpa were elderly and weren’t as open-minded as this relative currently talking to me. They explained how many of the equally elderly siblings of both Grandma and Grandpa were planning to attend. “You can’t expect people their age to put up with… um, well, you know.”

I said that, as a matter of fact, I could expect that. And if my husband wasn’t welcome, than neither was I.

That wasn’t the end of it. Several other relatives called, urging me to come. Reminding me that this might be the last time I could see them, and surely I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life regretting that, just over a silly thing like this? Where was my family loyalty? Where was my Christmas spirit?

It eventually reached the point where I said, rather angrily, “You want me to take several weeks off from work, fly to Salt Lake City, drive 6 hours in a rental car, to attend an anniversary and various other social events, including Christmas all the time pretending that I’m perfectly happy to be spending the holidays 1200 miles away from my husband! If Grandma told you your husband couldn’t come to Christmas dinner, would you go?”

“I’m just saying that your friend doesn’t belong at a family event.”

Recently I shared this story with a couple of friends while we were discussing family issues, and one friend who is ordinarily diplomatic and calm reacted to this part of the tale with a vehement, “F— them! He’s your husband and he’s sweet and smart and gives good hugs!”

And while 17 years ago I didn’t mention the hugs, my final words before hanging up were quite similar.

Seventeen years later, some of those family members still think that asking me to go to all that trouble and expense to be a closeted prop in their fantasy of a perfect 60th Anniversary Party/perhaps Final Extended Family Christmas Reunion was a perfectly reasonable request, and I’m the bad guy for not subjecting myself to that.

And I want to point out, that even after the initial call that ended with me saying that if my husband wasn’t welcome I wasn’t coming, I went ahead and did the research of what it would take to get there, maybe just to attend the party by myself and then come back home to spend Christmas with my husband. That’s why I talked about where I would fly into and how long the rental car drive would be assuming only typical winter driving conditions in the two mountain passes involved in the journey. I also want to point out that before they told me my husband wasn’t welcome, they had already told me that because of my “lifestyle” it was a given that none of the relatives who lived nearby were willing to have me stay in a guest room at their house, so two weeks at a hotel at my own expense was an assumed part of the event.

Despite that, for a while I did consider subjecting myself to at least some of that as a sop toward an illusion of family harmony or something.

So I understand why some people who otherwise appear to be reasonable and even understand what it is like to be part of an oppressed minority, sometimes get up in arms when some of us are perceived as being less than tolerant of other peoples’ intolerance.

People are up in arms about Tucker Carlson Facing Advertising Boycott Over Immigration Comments to the point that supposedly reasonable people, like FiveThirtyEightDotCom’s Nate Silver to say that this is going to end all political discourse. The argument being that if we assume advertisers are endorsing everything that is said on a political analysis show, that soon we will have no actual debates.

I have four initial responses to this so-called argument:

1) Fox News, the network that broadcasts Tucker’s show, doesn’t classify his show as either news or analysis. In official filings with the FCC, in order to avoid what few regulations remain about libel and so forth, Fox News classifies nearly every pundit you have ever heard of as “entertainment.”

2) Tucker is not engaging in political analysis or debate, he is spewing lies (not opinions, lies) and inciting hatred against specific ethnic groups, religious groups, and transgender people. He is not making good faith arguments. To equate his program (and Bill O’Reilly’s whose earlier boycotts are being alluded to by everyone writing to defend Carson) with a serious political analysis program is a false equivalence. Incitement is not analysis. A lie is not a difference of opinion. Saying that some people don’t have a right to exist in our society is not a policy dispute. Locking up children in concentration camps after stealing them from parents who lawfully presented themselves at a border crossing to request entry is not a simple implementation of existing law. For some other analysis on this: Tucker Carson’s Racism is Not ‘Political’.

3) It’s a classic slippery slope argument. It’s the equivalent of saying that charging the alt-right guy with murder after he intentionally drove his car into a crowd and killed an innocent person means that now no one is ever allowed to state an opinion again.

4. It’s hypocrisy. None of these people ever scolded the National Organization of Marriage when they were trying to organize boycotts of companies that extended medical benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, or tried to get shows that included a single queer character canceled. None of these defenders of free speech said that those boycotts would lead to the end of all health benefits or all TV shows and movies. They only come out when it is the proponents of hatred that are threatened with consequences.

And to tie this back to my opening anecdote: here are the parallels.

  • My husband isn’t a friend and our life isn’t a lifestyle. He’s my husband. Trying to reclassify him doesn’t change the truth of our relationship.
  • Being civil if I bring my husband to a family get-together isn’t a Herculean feat that no one has ever been expected to perform at a family event. Big extended family get-togethers of every family include some people that others present don’t approve of but that makes nice and deals with it. Being disapproved of by half the family is practically the definition of in-law, in some families!
  • Bringing my husband to family events isn’t me forcing a political agenda on the family, nor does anyone being civil to him imply that they endorse everything that we believe. Just as Cousin Daisy bringing her husband that thinks the moon landing was faked doesn’t make any of us who are civil to them flat-earthers.
  • It’s hypocritical to claim that my declining the “invitation” which excluded not just my husband, but also my true self was the rude act, while the exclusion itself is merely a reasonable request. Yes, it was their party, and they can choose who to invite, but it is also my invitation which I can choose to decline. And while I had to get huffy on the phone, my huffiness was restricted to the relatives who were harassing me after I had already, as politely as possible, declined the invitation.

    Which isn’t to say that I believe the exclusionary invitation was the polite or correct thing for them to do in the first place, but no one is required to aid and abet their own denigration. Because it wasn’t just that my husband wasn’t invited, but also that I was expected to effectively go back into the closet for the length of my visit. I was expected to agree that there was something wrong with me, and something wrong with the person that I loved. Further, note that they didn’t just say he wasn’t invited to the party, they were insistent that he was not allowed to accompany me on the trip at all. Think about that, for a moment.

Me not attending the family event (at considerable trouble and expense) was not me abandoning my family. Nor was it a decision I should feel guilt and regret over for the rest of my life. Neither was it an attack on Christmas. Just as declining to be kicked in the teeth is not an assault on the would-be tooth kicker.

Finally, to be clear: when some of us contact companies whose products we use and express our displeasure that their money (money that ultimately comes from us) is being used to spread falsehoods and to incite or excuse violence, we are not telling anyone that they don’t have the right to any opinion that disagrees with us. This isn’t censorship, it is consequences.

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 .

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

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.

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.

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