Category Archives: Propaganda

Saturday Odds & Sods: Disturbance At The Heron House

Elijah and the Ravens by Ralph Chessé, 1945.

Winter played a fleeting return engagement in New Orleans this week. Unlike the Mid-March blizzard in the Northeast, it wasn’t anything to write home about but we ran the heater and shivered a bit. I’m not a fan of the new practice of naming winter storms even if the first one is named after a famous theatrical character, STELLA. Unless, that is, it’s named for the Hunter-Garcia ballad Stella Blue. The mere thought of a blizzard makes me blue so that could be it.

It may have been chilly of late but Spring allergy season is upon us with a vengeance. I have a mild case of red-eye but I’m used to that. A worse pestilence is this year’s flea crop. We haven’t had a hard freeze for several years so the nasty little buggers are dining on Oscar and Della Street. All we can do is treat the house, medicate the cats, and hope for the best. The idea of putting a flea collar on Della is particularly unappealing. She’s been known to draw blood so I’ll pass. Chomp.

This week’s theme song comes from R.E.M.’s classic 1987 Document album; more on the album anon. It’s my favorite record in their catalog and Disturbance At The Heron House is the kat’s meow. The lyrics were inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which is another reason I like it so much.

Here are two versions. The original studio track and one from R.E.M.’s appearance on MTV Unplugged. The second video has Radio Song as lagniappe.

The “followers of chaos out of control” indeed. In fact, they can follow me to the other side after the break. I hope it’s sufficiently chaotic.

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Save One

We are arguing about how much of the house is on fire, with the refugee/immigrant ban. We are arguing closet versus attic versus living room, instead of picking up a damn bucket and putting the fire out:

President Trump and his aides love to cite a small number and a big number in order to minimize the impact of the president’s executive order suspending the visas of citizens of seven countries.

But these figures are incredibly misleading, so let’s go through the math.

Let’s not, because it doesn’t fucking matter. I don’t care if this executive order affected one person.  I don’t care if this hadn’t affected ANYONE yet. In no possible world are any of our laws tested constitutionally based on how many people they affect. That’s not the measurement. That’s not the qualifier. You don’t get to say well, we only screwed over a dozen immigrant kids, so until we get to triple digits we’re cool. That’s not how any of this works.

Our laws were not designed to save as many as possible. Our laws were designed to save us all, and that means saving one. One person. One child. One family. One mother or father or brother or sister. Our laws were designed to weigh us all, one against the other, and say no one of us is worth more than any of the others.

It’s why our presidents, our congressmen, are subject to our laws. It’s why you can bring suit against those holding the highest offices in the land. It’s why you and I can — or should be able to — avail ourselves of the same legal system as someone who got here last week.

And that includes potential terrorists, for all the wingnuts in the cheap seats. I know you all think life is a nonstop episode of 24 and if President Trump doesn’t personally electrode a Syrian dude’s balls in the Roosevelt Room then we’ll all die in a nuclear attack, but a) that is not how anything is going to happen and b) at no point would such a scenario be endangered by said Syrian dude invoking a right to counsel. If Trump is hooking jumper cables to his nethers he’s already figured out that nobody can hear him scream.

Meanwhile, the non-terrorist families that just want to come here, get jobs, spend money at the local Wal-Mart and watch American TV are going to get handcuffed and deported back to the places we explicitly encouraged them to flee, and you’ll pardon me if I don’t want to wait until they’re a certain percentage of travelers or if they’re especially promising at geometry or any of the other bullshit narratives that have sprung up in the past 72 (holy shit, only 72) hours.

They’re human beings, and we are America. Let’s not go through the math.

A.

Bannon’s B3 Brownshirts & The Chaos Principle

It’s official: Donald Trump had the worst first week of any President* in American history. It was so bad that I debated with a friend as to whether he was already the worst ever. I still think it’s too early to tell since Buchanan and W are responsible for wars and economic calamity. Trump hasn’t passed Andrew Johnson either BUT he’s building a strong case for worst ever and he’s only been at it for 10 days. I don’t think our cause benefits from hyperbole and overstatement. You can only fight lies with the truth and delusion with reality.

I admitted the other day to knowing very little about higher maths. I have, however, heard of the Chaos Principle:

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.

It looks like Steve Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts are inspired by the Chaos Principle, at least by analogy. Team Trump is trying to inject so much chaos and confusion into our polity that repression will be required to maintain order. I seriously doubt if the Insult Comedian himself has such a plan: all he ever does is wing it without thought to the implications. Bannon, however, has emerged as first among equals in the West Wing. He’s capable of complex, devious, and downright evil thought. Bannon has Trump’s ear and the Dear Leader Wannabe seems to agree with the last person he spoke to.

In short, Bannon and his fellow white nationalists want to create the circumstances in which a right-wing revolution is possible. Those circumstances do not currently exist. Bitching about the government is as American as apple pie, it doesn’t amount to instant homegrown fascism. That is definitely a long-term threat but we have the mechanisms to stop it: people power and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. Political courage on the part of elected officials seems to be in short supply but the longer this constitutional crisis lasts the bolder they will become. Talk of collaboration with the Trumpers has become much less common since they came to power.

The good news is that Team Trump’s Muslim ban was issued without co-ordination with the agencies obliged to enforce it and they didn’t even run it by their own lawyers. That makes it eminently susceptible to legal challenge. It was, apparently, pulled out of Rudy Noun Verb 9/11’s ass:

I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when he first announced it he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, “Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

That is, of course, nonsense. The order discriminates against people because of their religion, and all the lies in the world won’t change that. The fact that an exception was made for Christians from the affected countries is proof of discriminatory intent as is Giuliani’s need to brag about his role in the ban. He’s really turning into his master. Giuliani’s success in masterminding the Comey coup has gone to his head, and he was already a raging egomaniac. This is terrific evidence for the legal eagles to pounce on. Thanks, Rudy. I can imagine Justice Anthony Kennedy’s head spinning as I write this. I am as likely to vote Republican as he is to uphold this executive order if it reaches SCOTUS.

This policy is based on Islamophobic fantasies, not reality. That’s a recurring theme for Team Trump’s Bannon wing. In addition to the Chaos Principle, they believe in what one might call the Goebbels corollary: the bigger the lie, the more believable it is. This is propaganda, not spin. The MSM is finally showing signs of coming to grips with that. It’s a pity that they didn’t do so during the late campaign. The MSM and the “Clinton is just as bad as Trump” crowd bear a lot of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. I hope the Steiners and Busters enjoyed the events of this weekend. They have a share of the blame. I may “Nazi punch” the next purity troll who tells me their vote didn’t matter because they were in a red state or some other lame excuse. Every vote in every election matters.

The Trumpers have clearly overreached. The order placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council is the best example I can think of. That body has been moribund for many years BUT excluding the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sends a dangerous signal that Steve Bannon is running the show. It doesn’t get much worse than that but the order’s impact is symbolic for now. For now. That’s always the rub with this crowd.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts is that they admire Soviet-style tactics. They’ve done some things that Stalin would have applauded such as placing what amounts to “political commissars” at cabinet departments and agencies. This sort of convergence of the far left and extreme right doesn’t surprise me at all.  This creeping Sovietism/Putinism is also reflected by their Holocaust remembrance day proclamation. It’s the first time an American administration has referred to the Holocaust without mentioning Jews. They’re pandering to the Holocaust denialists and minimizers. What’s next? An invitation for Davids Irving and Duke to visit the White House? Nothing would surprise me in the Chaos Principle era.

The one piece of advice I have for the nascent anti-Trump movement is to pace yourselves. The world is a complicated place and it cannot be changed in a day. This is going to be a long, hard slog and burn-out is a risk. Make sure to do whatever it is you do for fun It’s a lesson that New Orleanians learned during the post-Katrina/Federal Flood era. We were widely criticized for having Carnival in 2006. We knew better. It was necessary for our collective mental health. We continued rebuilding and pressuring the local, state, federal government for assistance but we took time out to enjoy life. It’s something that we can teach the rest of the country. There *is* a constitutional crisis now but stopping it won’t be helped by freaking out. Instead of freaking out: become better informed about American political history, and organize, organize, organize.

Vive les Maquis.

“Fuck You Nation” – National Edition

A year or two back, I coined the term “Fuck You Nation” to capture the general sense of how people in this country were tending to treat one another. The argument at the time was that when it came to the rise of Donald Trump, the mistrust of the media and the general sense of political discord, people were less “pro” something and more “fuck you” toward people they saw as “the opposition.” At the core of the argument was a general sense of self-righteousness, absolute certainty and an overwhelming sense of anger and bile.

If President Trump’s first week in office is any indication, I might soon need to patent that term and put it on T-Shirts. That, of course, presupposes we all survive long enough to have shirts printed and that the First Amendment isn’t outlawed.

“ALTERNATIVE FACTS:” We used to call these things “lies” or “bullshit” but now we have a whole new term. For fronting a party that hates politically correct language, Kellyanne Conway is doing a great job of coming up with some of her own. In defending Sean Spicer’s argument that the crowds at Trump’s inauguration were record-breaking and larger than Obama’s, she said it’s clear that Spicer just used “alternative facts.” In other words, “I see that you are saying X by supporting it with all sorts of information, but clearly it isn’t within my narrative, so I’m going to just tell you that you are wrong because the public has the attention span of a meth-addled squirrel.” In short, “Fuck you and your faggy little reliance on facts. REAL AMERICANS KNOW BETTER!”

We are so close to changing the national anthem from the “Star-Spangled Banner” to Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.”
“OPPOSITION PARTY:” Steve Bannon, who seems to be sporting the “probable cause” look, granted an interview to the NY Times this week in which he told the paper that the media is “the opposition party.” He also said the media needs to keep its mouth shut,” something that is not only grammatically incorrect but runs counter to the whole purpose of the media.

Bannon’s case is a simple one and it rests at the core of Fuck You Nation: We won, you lost, so go fuck off for a while. He relies on the narrative that reeks of populism and group-based conflict studies: Demonstrate superiority, cite things in an authoritative way without providing documentation, rally support within your group through glittering generalities and call into question the motives of people who disagree with you, rather than focusing on the disagreement. Perhaps most reflective of all these elements is a single quote:

“The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” Mr. Bannon said of the election, calling it “a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there.”

Bannon’s quote ignores key elements of reality (the popular vote, the media weren’t running for anything) and uses a single fact to create an overreaching singular reality (Donald Trump won the presidency, ergo all things he said are clearly 100 percent right and should be supported by this nation.)

In short, “Fuck you and your whiny bullshit. Shut up and get out of our way while we fix things.”

“GASLIGHTING:” During the past nine years, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what makes the asshole in my department tick. His ability to manipulate reality to fit his needs, rely on rules one minute while discarding them the next and the absolute certainty in which he took positions I knew were wrong fascinated me. I’d never dealt with someone like this and I had to understand it. About three years ago or so, I came across the book, “The Gaslight Effect” by Robin Stern. I remember reading through it and thinking, “Holy shit, this is a real thing. I’m not going crazy.”

Gaslighting is now the hot term and it has come to represent an “Emperor has no clothes” moment for the Left. However, it’s a lot more complicated than ego, manipulation or trying to create the Fourth or Fifth Reich (whichever we’re on now…). Gaslighting is both psychological manipulation and unyielding abuse that removes an individual’s sense of self and crushes the human spirit for another person’s selfish gains.

In a psychological sense, this is easy to understand, as manipulation, groupthink and other concepts have been studied for decades. Asch’s seminal work on conformity makes it easy enough to see what happens when something that appears so real and obvious to one person is contradicted repeatedly by others. Sane people tend to want to “see it from another point of view” or “avoid upsetting the apple cart” to the point of subjugating their own (accurate) reality to that of others. In other words, when Line B is clearly the longest, you still want to figure out why it is that everyone else in the group (all confederates for the experiment) is picking Line A. Eventually, like Picard, you come really close to saying there are Five Lights.

This leads to the second part (crushing opposition) and it is why the lines about voter fraud and crowd sizes are so scary. If people are willing to go against all present data to agree with an obvious lie, what happens when the stakes are higher? Say, a border fence? Or a war?

The problem with the Gaslighting Effect is that those who use it will never admit they are wrong. They might eventually give up the topic or change strategies on it, but they’ll never say, “Yep, you got me there!” A perfect example of this came yesterday when Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto cancelled his meeting with Trump in the wake of Trump’s continued movement toward a border wall. Nieto came out and said, “Look, if you’re going to keep this shit up, I’m not going to come and even bother talking with you.” Rather than let it look like he got stood up for prom, Trump said this:

“We have agreed to cancel our planned meeting,” Mr. Trump said in a new conference Thursday afternoon. “Unless Mexico is going to treat the U.S. fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, and I want to go a different route. We have no choice.”

By recasting this as a mutual thing, it looks less like Trump got stuck holding the bag and more like he was the one saying, “Look, unless you’re going to build this wall, you can stay on your side of the river and suck a burrito.”

This is what makes Trump so dangerous and it’s also what makes him so popular. Again, Fuck You Nation rears its ugly head: “You want me to say I’m wrong? Fuck you.”

 

In the end, the core of Trump will always be tied to “Fuck You Nation.” I read his inaugural and, honestly, it was really appealing and unvarnished from a middle-America perspective. There are a shit ton of empty factories in places where I live (and have lived). There aren’t a lot of good jobs for people of all walks of life can get. It often seems like we’re running around the world looking for something to fix instead of investing in people back home. If you want to be the president of the United States, shouldn’t you put the needs of the U.S. and its people at the front of the line? These things, on the flat face of them, do make a lot of sense to a lot of people who feel they have been forgotten because we now all have to worry about who gets to use which bathroom.

Trump makes the big picture small: You personally got shafted. I’ll help you get yours. However, this is like playing chess with a myopic obsession of moving a rook repeatedly. It’s never supposed to be about one piece for a president. It’s supposed to be about the board.

But when you are that one piece, everything he does makes sense:

“The world has told you, John Q. Public, ‘Hey, buddy, fuck you.’ Now, let’s turn this around and tell those people, ‘No, FUCK YOU.’”

Don’t Change a Thing? Um. Change EVERYTHING

Jack Shafer hypothesizes that Trump, Spicer et al are not something new, which is … interesting: 

I don’t recall anybody calling for a boycott of Barack Obama or his myrmidons for his media scheming and for tipping the “balance of power between the White House and press … unmistakably toward the government,” as the Politico past-masters put it. The press mostly carried on, threading the thicket of treacheries as best it could. Governments always have and will always impede the press from doing their job, and they will use any means necessary. “All governments lie,” as journalist I.F. Stone once wrote, “but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.” From my vantage, the Obama administration got Choom Gang stoned on their media pirouetting and the Trump administration seems to have come close to matching them in just a couple of days.

Okay, look. I get that reporters were just as guilty of tire-swinging with Obama as they were during the Bush administration, but Obama incited crowds to attack precisely nobody in the Washington press corps so maybe not so much with the Both Sides Do It when one of the sides is Trump.

As to Shafer’s point about tactics, however, we are agreed IN PART:

Boycotts and bans may fill a journalists’ heart with vengeance, or at least keep it from being bruised. But their maker designed reporters to be resilient, to take disparagement, derision, scorn, and sneering from lying government officials in stride. And for good reason. To quote from Jon Ronson once again, “It’s good for journalists to feel demeaned. It means we’re onto a story.” Rather than treat the Spicer, Trump, Conway ingenuities as an excuse to pout and leave the field, the experienced members of the press will be propelled by the weekend to pick up their mobiles and notebooks and go maximum Fahrenthold on the administration.

You can do what Fahrenthold did and refuse to sit there in the White House while they feed you lies. We hear lots and lots of talk about how there’s no money for journalism, so why pay someone to hang out in the dumbest, ugliest clubhouse there is? It’s not like the old days when that was the only way you got to speak to the president or his advisors. We have these telephone thingies now. I hear our current president is fond of broadcasting his thoughts on the internet.

Margaret Sullivan gets closer: 

Journalists shouldn’t rise to the bait and decide to treat Trump as an enemy. Recalling at all times that their mission is truth-telling and holding public officials accountable, they should dig in, paying far more attention to actions than to sensational tweets or briefing-room lies — while still being willing to call out falsehoods clearly when they happen.

Jay Rosen, too: 

When I say #sendtheinterns I mean it literally: take a bold decision to put your most junior people in the briefing room. Recognize that the real story is elsewhere, and most likely hidden. That’s why the experienced reporters need to be taken out of the White House, and put on other assignments.

All of these still spend a lot more time than I think is really healthy talking about what is good for the press, and not what serves readers/viewers. The whinging in response to Sullivan & Rosen’s commentary was epic, natch: But our access! Our traditions! Our routines and we HAVE TO book the president’s people, we HAVE TO call them for comment! Blah blah blah please don’t make me change my contact list.

And I get that certain formats have certain constraints. If you have a panel every Sunday then you need people for that panel. So … why have a panel, then? If a panel isn’t working for you, throw the panel out. Why do journalists perpetuate formats that require people like Kellyanne Conway (or some equivalently vacant and nominally Democratic creature like James Carville) to weigh in? Gosh, I wonder if the president’s advisors are going to defend his policies! I wonder if someone from “the other side,” on the rare days when genuine opposition is actually heard, will oppose them! I wonder if any news is being made here or anyone is being told anything they don’t already know!

Seriously, who is this supposed to be serving? Who is the audience here? Is it other journalists on Twitter? Is it congressmen and their staffers who watch this stuff religiously? Because nobody else is learning a single thing here.

A lot of professional press critics are coming around to the idea that they need to flip the script in terms of how they cover the White House. They should be coming around to the idea that they need to take a look at how they cover politics, and not just flip the script. They need to make a different movie.

A.

It Hurts to Take the Story Apart. Do It Anyway.

There’s a story we’ve been telling ourselves for a long time now, about how democracy works, about how it has to work in order for us all to get up in the morning. It involves how campaigns operate, how elections take place, how power is handed from one person to another and what is done with that power and to whom.

The story’s called America. It’s a few years old now. Maybe you’ve heard it: We are free, and we choose who leads us, and we have chance after chance to make things better. We’re in charge, you and me, for good and ill and sometimes both together.

It’s always been partly fiction. In our finest hours it’s always been a little frayed. But we’ve been able to tell ourselves the story while it’s still more knit than mend.

Can we do that right now?

The Russian state took an interest in our elections and tried to influence them. To what extent, with what effect, and for what purpose, those in power know and aren’t saying.

And over the past couple of days during discussion of that, and discussion of the popular vote imbalance, and discussion of voter suppression in formerly swing states, I’ve been hearing lots of variations on IT’S TOO HARD AND OMG MEEN. That political blowback would be intense for anyone who said hey, hold on, let’s figure this shit out. That we don’t have time between now and the inauguration (I guess there are too many Christmas parties?) and can’t we just put our heads down and power through this?

The vast majority of the GOP, of course, is hedging its bets as they have been since the primaries ended. Maybe this will all die down and they can get back to gutting the social safety net which is what they’re really here for. Maybe Donald Trump will just fuck up normally, like Dan Quayle or something, accidentally hit on a few prime ministers’ wives, do some blow in the Oval, and leave the hard work to them. That was their overarching rationale for endorsing his skeezy ass and they are desperately clinging to it.

It’s gross, of course, like a 15-year-old who still wants to bring his blankie to school, but we always underestimate how attached people are to their security objects.

But Obama and the Democrats? The purported grownups in the GOP in Congress and statehouses who either actively avoided mentioning Trump or flat-out said he was garbage? Those people? I don’t want to hear from THEM how difficult it is to take the story of America apart and put it back together again.

I don’t want to hear about concerns that they’d be perceived as helping Hillary, or that TV commentators would say things in that deep concerned voice they affect, or that frogs would yell shit online. THOSE AREN’T REAL CONSEQUENCES for people who are elected to do a job.

They aren’t elected to serve just to rename official state animals and pass continuing resolutions to hold up how much everything sucks right now. They are elected to fix what is broken even if that something is EVERYTHING.

Things have been breaking down for a while now. Redistricting to weight state legislatures overwhelmingly against Democrats and third parties, ballot initiatives designed to turn out opponents of one candidate or another, tax caps and institutional neglect and voting restrictions, and all of it leading to a campaign in which one candidate won the popular vote by 2.6 million and the other candidate — a racist sex predator — is president.

Things have been breaking down and politicians have been desperately pretending they are okay because, frankly, taking all this apart is hard. It takes time. It takes study and most of all it takes attention we don’t have because the decent public servants are trying to keep their constituents out of hock to the mob.

Which is a deliberate thing also, in case we didn’t have enough to deal with. I get ragey when modern American voters are described as being distracted by TV and video games; the club of the most of us is distracted by the trivial need to EAT, and I can’t imagine the calls district offices get asking for help with the few social programs we have left.

Still. Still and all. There have to be things big enough that we make room for them. The question of foreign interference in an election has got to be one of those things.

Winter breaks can be cancelled. Everybody can work late. We can stop talking about Twitter and we can take out a yellow legal pad and a box of black pens and a box of red pens and we can figure out how to investigate this and, if necessary, prosecute it. It’s not false and it’s not trivial and it’s certainly not too much for us.

We’ve built bigger than this. We can tear this down. We can take this story apart and figure out which parts are true and which are false.

Sack up, hos. Get to work.

A.

#NeverWingnuts

Watching otherwise intelligent people make common cause with scumbag assholes just because they both hate Trump is going to be the thing that ends me this election cycle. Jude and I have been texting this GIF back and forth to each other for like a year now:

varnish

Example one:

This deliberately stupid motherfucker was mocking Katrina victims AS THE HURRICANE WAS HITTING THEM. His mom made her bones convincing women to rat out other women in order to get likes back when likes were just dollars, and then he got a job appealing to the people even he thought were gross. And now, NOW, he wants to know who will speak up for him?

Buddy, you made sure anybody who would have been on your side was already six feet under politically. We tried to tell you this would eventually turn around on you, but you looked at the spreadsheet and called hippies smelly, called liberals fascist, called John Kerry a traitor and when called on your snide shit thought only of your sacred reputation.

Supposedly intelligent people should not be moved by pleas for sympathy from the likes of this. Jonah up there is the equivalent of those fratbros who buy a tiger as a pet and then are absolutely astonished when it grows up and rips their faces off.

Example two: ANYTHING Little Green Footballs tweets or posts regarding the unhinged-ness of Republicans and how awful and racist and crazy the party is now. I see people who are not otherwise idiots approvingly retweeting this site and again, forever, INTERNET GRANDMA, but  back in my day LGF was not something you went near without garlic and a big bag of sharpened stakes.

NEVAR FORGET: 

The man who was almost president shares a stage in Davos, Switzerland, with a rogue’s gallery of enemies, including the former president of Iran and his Iraqi puppet.

Nearly beyond belief. But this is John F. Kerry, doing what he does—giving aid and comfort to the enemies of America during wartime.

When reporter Jill Carroll was captured, then freed, by terrorists, this was LGF’s measured response: 

Note that even after her release, Carroll maintained that she had been treated well by her captors—so it would appear that this journalist for the Christian Science Monitor made these anti-American comments voluntarily.

Jesus H. Cuttlefish Christ. The “leftist-Islamist axis?” I almost forgot how fucking stupid everyone talked back in those days.

You don’t get to walk back from that and get anything other than a shortened wait time in purgatory. Like good for you for figuring it out before approximately 65 percent of your other wingnut friends, but I don’t think you’re due a parade. You certainly don’t get a cookie from people who at the time were looking at you and saying, “the FUCK, dude” while you were smearing your own poop on the walls and yelling about ISLAMOFASCISM.

I’m not saying people can’t come to Jesus. Plenty of them do and that’s fine, apparently, with Jesus. But I’m not Him and I don’t have to forgive, and with the Internet being a permanent record of everything ever, I’m certainly not willing to let anybody else forget.

A.

Penn State’s Reputation is Not Important

Just look at this crap: 

Eric Barron, who replaced Erickson as Penn State’s president, immediately issued a powerful apology to these victims and vowed to redouble the university’s efforts…OK, who am I kidding here? In reality, Barron came out with only token remorse for victims and certainly no promise that the entire Sandusky cover-up story will ever be bared. Instead, he said that Penn State had no evidence of wrongdoing by Paterno and other coaches and school officials (how could it, since it didn’t seem to look very hard?) and he then took the 21st Century coward’s way out, blaming everything on the media.

“Unfortunately, we can’t control the 24/7 news cycle, and the tendency of some individuals in social media and the blogosphere to rush to judgment,” Barron said. “But I have had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media. We have all had enough. . . . I am appalled.”

Oh, I’m sorry, are your feelings hurt by everybody talking about all the CHILD RAPE being committed by your EMPLOYEE? God, so awful for you! But I’m here to help. There’s like a really, really easy way around that and it has jack and shit to do with the 24/7 news cycle or social media or the blogosphere.

I’m gonna tell you the secret to not having the 24/7 news cycle and social media and the blogosphere covered with allegations that people you paid to work for you raped little kids and you covered it up. Are you ready? Here’s the secret to making that not happen:

DON’T RAPE ANY KIDS. TELL YOUR EMPLOYEES NOT TO RAPE KIDS. AND IF YOU FIND OUT THAT SOMEONE WHO CASHES YOUR CHECKS IS RAPING KIDS, YOU FIRE HIM OR HER JUST AFTER YOU CALL THE POLICE.

And then and forever after you shut your stupid meatloaf-hole about how much this all sucks for YOU.

I get that if you teach, say, physics, at Penn State right now, it sucks to hear your employer described as a garbage disaster zone full of enablers of child rape. The physics professors and whoever did not do anything to deserve this shit. Handing over their business cards at a party and having people back away from them slowly making cootie-protection-fingers at them must be a bummer.

You know what’s a bigger bummer? BEING RAPED BY YOUR GODDAMN COACH, and then going to your coach’s coach to say hey, enough with the raping, and having that coach tell you to shut up, and then watching your university build the last coach a statue for being such a good guy. That is more of a bummer than a university administrator’s stupid feelings.

So find some perspective, and possibly also a new job if you don’t like working for kiddie-rapist enthusiasts. The people you should be pissed at are in your university administration, not in the “blogosphere” or the 24/7 news cycle. CNN did nothing to you.

I hate this whining about “ooh, the Internet has destroyed our reputation” when it’s not like you were surreptitiously photographed picking your nose in your car. Nobody upskirted Penn State and posted it on RevengePorn.com. Sometimes your reputation deserves to be destroyed. Like when you lie about child rape. Like then.

A.

The Trump Reform Movement

Josh Friday: 

This is all a fairly striking thing to say out loud – or, technically, in private setting but meant for public consumption – since it amounts to saying that Trump has just been playing his supporters for rubes and he’s really a friend of the insiders after all. But the audaciousness of the claim and even the improbability of Trump’s ability to sell a dramatically different version of himself aren’t even the biggest issues.

And Trump yesterday: 

“I’m not toning it down,” Trump told a cheering crowd of 3,000 people, packed into a high school gymnasium in Waterbury, Connecticut. “Isn’t it nice that I’m not one of these teleprompter guys?”

Why should he tone it down? He’s winning right now. I’ve been saying all along that approaching Trump as a politician, animated by ideology, is a mistake and it’s one everyone has been making since the beginning.

I don’t believe for one second he actually hates Muslims, or Mexicans, or Putin, or that he cares at all about working class people screwed over by trade imbalances. He’s a businessman. He’s got a line that sells.

(Which doesn’t make the line any better or him any more admirable, by the way. The opposite.)

All the hue and cry over the past four months about stopping Trump somehow by beating him politically was motivated by this same mistaken belief. You want to stop Trump? Should have made him an offer back when he was only a blip on the radar. Should have made him a deal. Shut up and sit down, Donald, and you can be VP. Shut up and sit down, Donald, and you can run the party (could he do worse than Reince? Doubtful). Shut up and sit down, Donald, and we will make it worth your while.

Shut up and sit down, Donald, because you’re wrong, is not a deal. It’s an insult. You don’t make a deal starting with an insult. You don’t make an appeal for the good of the party because that’s not in his interests. You don’t make an appeal for the good of the country because that’s not in his interests either.

You make him an offer that enriches him and improves his standing in the world and right now the only offer America seems to be making is Republican Party nominee for the presidency of the United States.

Why would he tone it down unless there’s a better offer on the table?

A.

On Fighting For Those Who Fight Against You

Charlie: 

Before beginning, and in fairness to the good people of Menomonie, Wisconsin, whose voting record we examined earlier Tuesday afternoon, let us remember that Texas is the home office for climate denialists among our elected representatives.

It begins at the top with Tailgunner Ted Cruz, who’s been spouting the stupid on this subject heavily for the last few weeks. It runs down through Governor Greg Abbott and indicted attorney general Ken Paxton. And it runs deeply through the Texas congressional delegation, which includes some leading intellectual giants like Lamar Smith and Louie Gohmert, although, to be fair to those other worthies, Gohmert doesn’t know much about anything, so it’s almost unfair to include him here.

I mention this only because Houston is about to turn into a really bad Kevin Costner film and the climate crisis is one of the main reasons why.

And so fucking what? Look, this Vox piece was a load of false-equivalence crap, so stop acting it out by yelling I Told You So before people are even dried off. The people who already believe you don’t need the reminder and the people who don’t aren’t reading you anyway.

These are pretty typical comments when it comes to federal aid for Houston and its environs: 

Can we please ask the Federal Government – in the form of one specific person, teh Communist Muslim Overlord – to say yes to Texas …. as long as they ask on the White House lawn in front of the full array of tv cameras and it must run as the head story on a certain ‘news’ program?

Just for once can we rub their noses in it?


Wait, can’t you just shoot the flood with your concealed handgun?


Karma. It’s a bitch.


Ideally, authorizations for these monies should be at the periodic discretion of the President, as chief executive, as to whether it is needed.

The next election will be held Tuesday 8 Nov 2016. Said authorisations should be arranged so they ALL go up to the President Nov 9 or 10. And those places plumping for Republicans (the Party of Small Government) should get all aid cut until 20 Jan 2017, when the new President can do as he or she wants.

I get it.

America is hard to love right now.

Three out of every ten of us who vote are going to vote for Donald Trump. Four of every ten of us haven’t quite cottoned to the idea of women or gay people being citizens under the law, and people are spending lots of time figuring out how to assure themselves that they are in charge of where men and women go to the bathroom. Like, lots of time. The space race took up fewer mental meters than this bathroom crap does.

Thanks to the Internet, we now see that our racist uncle is everybody’s racist uncle, and thanks to news organizations thinking they are just Internets and have to tell us what our racist uncle thinks, too, we hear so much hate all day long. That Vox trash fire wasn’t wrong about the ease of seeing loathing. We see every dumbass meme about Obama killing jobs by forcing people to buy different light bulbs and we see the comments applauding those dumbass memes. What of the news we’re forced to watch in doctors’ offices or wherever is pretty stupid. It’s like the point in your family Christmas party where everybody’s drunk is always going on.

Hard to love that. So, so hard.

GRIT YOUR DAMN TEETH, AND DO IT ANYWAY.

Because: What is the alternative?

I guess we could stop voting. I guess we could stop calling and writing and working and campaigning. I guess we could pretend we know who everybody in Houston voted for, or maybe check their records, before we tow their cars out of the floodwaters. I guess we could repeal Obamacare for the red states, because to hell with those people anyway, right? I guess we could withdraw all federal services from states whose governors seem to hate the federal government, and teach those people a lesson.

I guess at a certain point we could give up even thinking about this crap, and watch TV. It’s been a rough, punishing 6 months and all I do is work. I would like to watch TV.

It’s Sunday morning. Love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you.

Moreover: Do good to those who persecute themselves, for no damn good reason other than screw some imagined minority somewhere, or they can’t be bothered to find out that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing, or they don’t see a point to voting because THE SYSTEM MAN, or they are just stone-ass dumb and mad. Do good to those who persecute you unless they tell you to go away was not part of the deal.

You want to tell me that a sick baby born in Alabama tomorrow to a couple of poor 15-year-olds bears any responsibility for the state’s shitbag governor? I want that baby to live and be fed and be happy and that baby dying sick and poor does absolutely nothing to change who holds the House of Representatives.

You know what would? Some actual goddamn Democratic money being put into every single legislative district race where Republicans run unopposed year after year after year. Yeah, probably futile and why bother. Because the sick baby, that’s why.

Does America deserve America’s help right now? Probably not. We are a shithead country at the moment. We are full of jerks. But that doesn’t get better if two thirds of us shake our heads and go home because we’re tired. I have news for us all: Not working doesn’t make us any less tired. It just makes us tired, and powerless.

What’s in front of us? A presidential election in which our choices are almost certainly a fairly conservative mainstream politician and ONE OF TWO COMPLETE LUNATICS. In the meantime there will be fires and floods and disasters natural and unnatural, and sick babies and poor kids who need food, and we are not asking how anybody voted before we address any of that. America is hard to love right now.

What’s the alternative?

A.

 

The Great Benghazi Martyrdom Movie

Yeah, I’m becoming more and more okay with the Nazi comparisons: 

Why did 13 Hours premiere in Arlington? On the red carpet, Bay said he had come because the city was “the heartland of America.” Tuesday’s premiere was, indeed, a very American event. The Dallas Cowboys, after all, bill themselves America’s Team, signifying perhaps that they are a deep well of mediocrity in thrall to a rich, old, spiritually corrupt creep, which is to say that the Cowboys are a PAC or two away from earning top-tier presidential contender status.

But Arlington is more than just the home of a bad football team: It’s the spiritual center of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, a great galactic plane of young suburbs home to some of the most reactionary politics in the country. What happens here steers America, but it’s often less visible in the wider culture than what happens elsewhere.

It’s also a place that’s responsible in large part for the rise of the new civic religion built around the worship of the most lethal among us.

What the hype surrounding this movie reminds me of — with the implication that if you DON’T see it for any reason up to and including that you are physically unable to leave your home, you are an anti-American liberal pussy — is The Passion of the Christ (or as Tbogg called it, Lethal Jesus: 2 Fast 2 Jewish).

It was some kind of litmus test, like if you go see this movie you are a Proper Christian who Appreciates What God Has Done For Unworthy You. And if you don’t see it, you can’t even HANDLE how hardcore Jesus was.

Demand like that, demand that we worship those who serve — and don’t get me wrong, I go weak in the knees for a uniform just like any red-blooded American girl — denies something essential about that service. If you’re doing it for a parade, that’s not service, that’s a transaction. There’s nothing wrong with transactions, so just call it what it is. Jesus didn’t ask anybody to put his picture up. He said, quite explicitly, that if you’re gonna worship, shut the fuck up about it. The baddest badasses of wartime that I personally know wave you off if you try to call them hero. Service is selfless. It is about the Other, about the Served.

That doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful, we can’t honor, we can’t appreciate those who serve. It means demanding that appreciation as a condition of service is morally repugnant and making an I DARE YOU NOT TO LOVE THIS display of it so aggressively misses the point you’d think it was deliberate, if you were a cynic like me.

There’s a lot that’s bizarre about the framing of the main events in 13 Hours, but the portrayal of Stevens is possibly the strangest part. The ambassador is, in conservative Benghazi narratives, the foremost martyr, a man to be honored and remembered, betrayed by the administration. If what is honorable about the contractors is their willingness to lay down life for country, you might think Stevens deserves similar recognition: not so, in Bay’s estimation.

When the warriors start to falter toward the end of the movie, their injuries and deaths are shown in excruciating, agonizing detail. Limbs are severed, and splintered bones poke out of dying men. Warriors collapse in pools of blood. This is Bay’s crude way of emphasizing the magnitude of their sacrifices. Stevens dies offscreen and reappears in a memorial reel in the closing credits.

A.

‘Help Fight Liberals’

For serious, why?

“Help fight liberals by donating today.”

Fight liberals how? And for what? I don’t get what we’re fighting about, and I pay pretty damn good attention to the Republican crazy on the Internets. How are people beyond the 27 percent supposed to connect with this?

I can’t bring myself to get upset about Republican hypocrisy anymore (and for serious, this isn’t even this week‘s most egregious example), but their shitty strategy annoys me. I like my enemies more competent than this.

A.

‘Help Fight Liberals’

For serious, why?

“Help fight liberals by donating today.”

Fight liberals how? And for what? I don’t get what we’re fighting about, and I pay pretty damn good attention to the Republican crazy on the Internets. How are people beyond the 27 percent supposed to connect with this?

I can’t bring myself to get upset about Republican hypocrisy anymore (and for serious, this isn’t even this week‘s most egregious example), but their shitty strategy annoys me. I like my enemies more competent than this.

A.

‘Help Fight Liberals’

For serious, why?

“Help fight liberals by donating today.”

Fight liberals how? And for what? I don’t get what we’re fighting about, and I pay pretty damn good attention to the Republican crazy on the Internets. How are people beyond the 27 percent supposed to connect with this?

I can’t bring myself to get upset about Republican hypocrisy anymore (and for serious, this isn’t even this week‘s most egregious example), but their shitty strategy annoys me. I like my enemies more competent than this.

A.

‘Help Fight Liberals’

For serious, why?

“Help fight liberals by donating today.”

Fight liberals how? And for what? I don’t get what we’re fighting about, and I pay pretty damn good attention to the Republican crazy on the Internets. How are people beyond the 27 percent supposed to connect with this?

I can’t bring myself to get upset about Republican hypocrisy anymore (and for serious, this isn’t even this week‘s most egregious example), but their shitty strategy annoys me. I like my enemies more competent than this.

A.

Annual Fundraising Drive: TEN YEARS MAN

We are ten years old. We are in fourth grade. We need new corduroys and school supplies.

Ten years ago this weekend, Holden and Tena and pie and I decided we'd had a stellar time guestblogging over at the Crack Den while Atrios was off, I dunno, becoming famous and respectable, and we'd set up shop here at this web site that I had that was basically some password-protected Buffy fanfiction and ranting about people who don't turn their radios down at the drive-thru window at Taco Bell. 

Those were, of course, good and awful times. Awful: We didn't have to look far to chronicle the malfeasance of the Bush administration, gay people couldn't get married just about anywhere, John Kerry was about to lose the election, and there were perhaps a couple hundred liberal political blogs up against a mass media narrative dictating that the president was epic and everything was fine.

Good: The 2004 election felt like a big fat party a lot of the time, and a good fight the rest of the time, and there's nothing I love more than a fight that feels like a party. Dissent had begun to have a voice, however small. Plus, there were perhaps a couple hundred liberal political blogs, so we could basically love everyone in this bar. 

(I basically still love everyone in this bar.)

I don't know what I expected to happen ten years from then. I didn't think about whether we'd still be here. I just thought that there was a here, and people seemed to like it, so we laid down some shag carpeting in the crack van and fueled that sucker up. 

(That carpet smells like goat vomit now, TOMMY.)

In preparation for this glorious anniversary of ours, I've been putting together an anthology of the best and most favoritest posts we've done, and in doing so I've read basically all our archives going back to August 2004. We were not as good as I thought we were, but in some cases we were better, and we managed to do some real work at a time when everybody who writes here has a day job or two, or is looking for a day job or two, or is otherwise somehow in a position where it would be totally acceptable to curl up underneath the quilts and not come out.

I'm proud of what we've built and it would be nothing without all our readers who come here every day. I'm so grateful to all of you, and I hope you've found something of value here. If you have, I hope you'll contribute to the drive. We didn't do one last year, because I was distracted by twenty things including the baby, and this one's our tin anniversary. Hallmark suggests you give us a lunch box full of popcorn. The Paypal button up there might be easier. 

In the coming year? I'm hoping this anthology finds a publisher home, and we will be moving to a newer, shinier, spiffier site that looks more like the Internet of this decade (minus the pop-up ads and frequent requests for customer feedback). 

Oh, and Friday night? Friday is our CRACK VAN BIRTHDAY PARTY, BITCHES. Old-timey Happy Kerry Photos, ponies, punch3 kitten chainsaw, re-posting Jude's gumbo recipe, and a very special message to all of you from our newest van passenger, callsign Kick. 

Give if you can. Party whether you can or not. 

A. 

‘Knockout Gamers’

Fuck shit Jesus, Wayne LaPierre has LOST THE PLOT:

“We trust what we know in our hearts to be right,” he said. “We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want. We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers and rapers, and haters and campus killers, and airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”

This guy is a huckster, okay, who knows exactly what he is selling, but what I cannot fathom are the people who genuinely get up in the morning scared of all this shit. How do they keep breathing? How do they put on their ties and go to work? If this was actually the world, nobody would ever leave their houses.

A.

‘Knockout Gamers’

Fuck shit Jesus, Wayne LaPierre has LOST THE PLOT:

“We trust what we know in our hearts to be right,” he said. “We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want. We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers and rapers, and haters and campus killers, and airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”

This guy is a huckster, okay, who knows exactly what he is selling, but what I cannot fathom are the people who genuinely get up in the morning scared of all this shit. How do they keep breathing? How do they put on their ties and go to work? If this was actually the world, nobody would ever leave their houses.

A.

‘Knockout Gamers’

Fuck shit Jesus, Wayne LaPierre has LOST THE PLOT:

“We trust what we know in our hearts to be right,” he said. “We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want. We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers and rapers, and haters and campus killers, and airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”

This guy is a huckster, okay, who knows exactly what he is selling, but what I cannot fathom are the people who genuinely get up in the morning scared of all this shit. How do they keep breathing? How do they put on their ties and go to work? If this was actually the world, nobody would ever leave their houses.

A.

‘Knockout Gamers’

Fuck shit Jesus, Wayne LaPierre has LOST THE PLOT:

“We trust what we know in our hearts to be right,” he said. “We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want. We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers and rapers, and haters and campus killers, and airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”

This guy is a huckster, okay, who knows exactly what he is selling, but what I cannot fathom are the people who genuinely get up in the morning scared of all this shit. How do they keep breathing? How do they put on their ties and go to work? If this was actually the world, nobody would ever leave their houses.

A.