Tuesday, May 31, 2022


In a New York Times op-ed, Susie Linfield, a journalism professor, writes about the question of showing the world exactly what happened to the kids in Uvalde.
On social media and in the press, some, including the former homeland security chief Jeh Johnson, have suggested that photographs of the slaughtered children, whose faces and bodies were apparently mutilated beyond recognition, be released to the public in hopes of garnering support for gun control legislation.

Mr. Johnson called this an “Emmett Till moment,” alluding to a photograph of the 14-year-old Black boy who was tortured and murdered by white racists in Mississippi in 1955. His mother had insisted on an open casket: Let the world — make the world — see what her son’s tormentors had done. And the world did: The photograph of Till taken by Jet magazine was reproduced throughout the country and abroad and helped invigorate the civil rights movement.
It's a compelling idea, but it wouldn't work. First, as Linfield says, we shouldn't assume the response would be what we want it to be.
Images are slippery things, and it is both naïve and arrogant to assume that an image will be interpreted in only one way (that is, yours) and that it will lead to direct political change (the kind you support). Anti-abortion activists frequently wave images of fetuses at their rallies; these photos denote, to them, a nascent human being in need of protection. To abortion rights advocates, the image is sentimental, manipulative and, frankly, disgusting.
If the images are released, or are on the verge of being released, many people who'd are critical of the gun culture will denounce the decision. Here's Michael Cohen (the liberal Boston Globe columnist, not the former Trump lawyer):

Many liberals will denounce the decision to release the photos (sincerely), while every conservative will also denounce the decision (cynically). We won't be talking about what we're seeing. We'll be talking about propriety. We'll be having the same conversation we have when liberals harass a Republican in a restaurant or demonstrate outside a Republican's home -- except that this will involve dead children. We won't be talking about the horror of the images or the morality of allowing this kind of violence to take place on a regular basis. All we'll be talking about is the decision to release the photos.

But maybe there's a way to convey the horror of assault weapon violence without traumatizing the families of murder victims. Maybe we could ask survivors of assault weapon wounds if they'd be willing to let us see what happened to them. We don't need to see them in the immediate aftermath of a shooting -- we can see them when the victims have recovered (though probably not fully). If there are photos of their wounds and they're willing to share them and talk about them, maybe we'll understand more about how damaging these weapons are.

We've been told how bad the wounds are, and it's not pleasant. You might not want to read this:
... the injury patterns seen in relation to AR-15 military-style assault rifles are somewhat indescribable. Bullets fired from these weapons exit the barrel at supersonic speeds that are 3x faster than conventional low velocity handguns. The increased velocity rate of these projectiles results in a cavitation effect on impact with the human body, such that the bullet causes a ripple wave of destruction to arteries, veins and soft tissues. Organs that experience high velocity gun injury are left eviscerated. Bony structures that are directly impacted by these ballistic missiles are reduced to rubble. The exit wounds associated with AR-15 firearms are often the size of grapefruits. Simply put, when Surgeons attempt life-saving measures in these cases, there is often nothing salvageable to fix.
Perhaps we'd benefit from seeing such wounds. But let's ask adult survivors who can consent. Maybe we can avoid some of the arguments about propriety, and maybe we can change a few minds.


Every well-informed politics watcher knows that this is futile except the leadership of the Democratic Party:
The decision of the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, to try for a negotiated compromise on new gun laws in the wake of the latest pair of mass shootings may prove to be a high-stakes bet on representative democracy itself, made at a time when faith in Congress — and the Senate in particular — is in tatters in both parties.

... even if a compromise means scaling back gun control legislation, it would be worth it, said Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, the Democrats’ chief negotiator, to get legislative momentum for more stringent measures and to reassure the parties and their voters that representative democracy can still function.

“We need to show Republicans that they can strengthen the background check system in a meaningful way and get politically rewarded for it,” he said in an interview. “That’s why I’m willing to look at things that might be less than what I would like.”
How many times do we have to go through this? How many times can we post that damn cartoon of Lucy pulling away the football as Charlie Brown tries to kick it?

Among the Republicans pretending to be interested in a compromise is Mitch McConnell. Greg Sargent understands what McConnell is up to:
... what might be in his interest is to make a show of reaching out, then ultimately to ensure that 10 Republican senators fail to materialize to support a deal. He can then blame Democratic intransigence for that failure, and he will have gotten headlines in the interim making Republicans appear open to a deal, at exactly the moment when public angst over the shooting is at its peak.

We’ve seen this before. When the House impeached Donald Trump over the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection attempt, McConnell signaled openness to convicting Trump. This produced headlines proclaiming “McConnell open to convicting Trump in impeachment trial.”

But in the end he voted to acquit Trump, as was surely his intention all along. Then as now, he got headlines advertising his reasonableness at exactly the moment when public emotions (over the attack on the Capitol) were at their height.
Right, and McConnell and his allies won't just blame Democratic "intransigence." They'll claim the Democratic proposals were so extreme, so radical, so tyrannical, that they couldn't possibly agree to them. So they get to beat us and demonize us. They get to demonstrate our powerlessness and portray us as power-mad.

But if Democrats feel they must reach out to Republicans at this moment, they should start here:
The gunman who killed 19 children in a single classroom in Uvalde, Texas, wasn’t quite as prepared as the 18-year-old who killed ten people in a supermarket in a racist attack in Buffalo just 10 days before.

To protect themselves, both gunmen wore bulletproof vests known as tactical plate carriers, designed for soldiers to insert heavy ceramic plates in the front and back panels to protect their torsos from gunfire. In Buffalo, the shooter, according to a pre-rampage screed, wore expensive plates that could stop bullets from an AK-47 — and did stop a less powerful bullet fired from an armed guard’s handgun. But in Texas, officials say the shooter did not wear plates at all....

Even if the killer in Uvalde did not wear the vest as intended, he joins a growing line of American mass murderers who have turned to body armor to make their attacks more deadly. Over the past decade, the vests have become an increasingly common feature of such shootings, worn in a Boulder supermarket attack in 2021 that killed ten; the Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017 that killed 26; the San Bernardino shooting in 2015 that killed 16; and the movie theater shooting in Aurora in 2012 that killed 12. The Pulse shooter who killed 49 people tried to buy one.
Democrats should announce that they're introducing a standalone bill this week to ban the sale of this kind of body armor to civilians, in addition to any efforts aimed directly at guns (and mental health and school safety). They should announce that they're open to discussions on the details, but that there really doesn't seem to be very much to negotiate.

If Republicans were acting in good faith, they'd have no reason to block this, for the simple reason that tactical plate carriers aren't guns. Not even under the most expansive reading of the Second Amendment could it be said that restricting access to them is unconstitutional.

But Republicans will express outrage anyway. They'll say the plain text of the Second Amendment doesn't matter and the Framers really would have said that no law can be written to restrict access to this armor. The Paul Gosars and Lauren Boeberts will say out loud what GOP voters are thinking: that the government has a constitutional obligation to give citizens access to anything that can help them overthrow that same government.

Once this happens, Democrats can stop negotiating on other issues. We'll see the plain evidence: Republicans don't act in good faith. They clearly don't want to do anything to lessen the carnage. Q.E.D.

Democrats won't do this, of course. And so Republicans will run out the clock, until another news story distracts us.

Monday, May 30, 2022


John Stoehr believes that our current pro-gun insanity began in 2008.
After the 2008 election, but especially after the 2012 election, the rightwing bloc of the Republican Party felt “betrayed” by democracy. After all, it created conditions by which voters elected a Black man.

In their eyes, the rule of law can’t include equal treatment, because “the rule of law” was never equal. It was racialized. In fact, “the rule of law,” for most of our country’s history, was “rule by white power.”

After Obama’s reelection, Republican governors and legislators began loosening previous firearms restrictions, allowing guns in churches, parks and other public spaces. The liberal reaction was befuddlement. After the bloodbath at Sandy Hook, what they were doing was insane!

Not to the rightwingers, though. After all, the sociopolitical orders of power that had once put them on top had been turned upside down. The oppressors had become the oppressed under this rule by a Black man. Expanding the range of guns was a way out of that predicament.
This would be plausible if the right's tendency to embrace the sociopathic stances of the gun lobby began in 2008. It didn't.

Two years after a gunman nearly assassinated him, President Ronald Reagan addressed an NRA banquet, in a speech that was full of pro-gun talking points.
Reagan ... comforted the gun rights advocates by vowing to "never disarm any American who seeks to protect his or her family from fear and harm." He also stressed the importance of constitutional freedoms as "every American's birthright" and called for harsher punishments for career criminals. He touched upon other long-standing NRA themes, such as the view that gun control is the first step toward the total confiscation of all law-abiding citizens' guns, and that those who want to inflict harm on others aren't fazed by stricter gun laws—a nod to the assassination attempt in March 1981....

Reagan delivered his speech just a few years before the NRA embarked on a state-by-state campaign, beginning with Florida, to loosen concealed gun laws. Now, all 50 states and Washington, D.C., allow concealed carry in some form.
In 1986, five years after he was shot, Reagan signed the Firearm Owners Protection Act. While it banned the sale of new machine guns, it also ticked off several items on an NRA wish list.
Among the reforms were the reopening of interstate sales of long guns on a limited basis, legalization of ammunition shipments through the U.S. Postal Service, removal of the requirement for record keeping on sales of non-armor-piercing ammunition, and federal protection of transportation of firearms through states where possession of those firearms would otherwise be illegal.
Remember, this was five years after a president of the United States was nearly shot to death. And that president signed the bill.

The election of Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress in 1992 briefly made gun control at the national level possible -- the Brady bill gave us a national system of background checks in 1994, and a ten-year ban on some assault weapons was also enacted that year -- but Clinton blamed the NRA, with good reason, for Democrats' huge losses in the 1994 midterms.

Stoehr writes:
To restore the natural order – the rule of white power – they first needed to bring down the current one, to knock out its foundation.

As a result, in the decade since the Sandy Hook massacre, this country has witnessed one mass murder after another. Liberals and gun-control advocates blamed the GOP, naturally. They also blamed the NRA and “gun lobby.” But they were missing two crucial elements.

One, that to be for gun control is to be against white power....

Two, that every massacre, even those with no apparent motive, is a reaction to democracy’s challenge to the natural order of things.
Stoehr is half right. The gun community and the GOP want to leverage the fear of extreme violence. But while the violence is sometimes overtly racial -- as it was in Buffalo earlier this month -- sometimes it's just right-wing. After the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, including 19 children, there were efforts to prevent the future use of fertilizer in bombs. The NRA wasn't having it, as The New York Times noted at the time.
Technological advances in the last three decades might have made it harder to build such a bomb and easier to trace its origin, the experts say, but gun enthusiasts and makers of fertilizer and explosives have repeatedly blocked efforts to put the research to use.

"It is just amazing that in this dangerous time fanatical, boneheaded people are opposed to controls on explosives," said Representative Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of Brooklyn, who introduced bills in 1993 and 1994 that would have forced manufacturers to add an identifying marker to explosives so their users could be tracked.

Mr. Schumer was referring primarily to the National Rifle Association and the explosives industry, which helped defeat the bills....
The NRA/GOP blockade of taggant legislation came up during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2015 2013:
One avenue of investigation is already closed off to forensic officials working the Boston Marathon bombing case due to efforts dating back decades by the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers.

... a crucial piece of evidence called a taggant that could be used to trace the gunpowder used in the bombs to a buyer at a point of sale is not available to investigators.

... Explosives manufacturers are required to place tracing elements known as identification taggants only in plastic explosives but not in gunpowder, thanks to lobbying efforts by the NRA and large gun manufacturing groups.

... In the past, the NRA has argued that taggants could affect the trajectory of bullets and would also be a de facto form of weapons registration....
The gun lobby effectively sided with Muslim bombers who attacked a sporting event whoe fan base skews very white. And the gunners began raising these objections to taggants long before Obama's election.

Stoehr argues that even non-white mass shooters act on behalf of white supremacy:
There is a straight line between Obama’s election, Sandy Hook, the election of Donald Trump, the J6 insurrection and Tuesday’s bloodbath in Uvalde. Salvador Ramos wasn’t white, but he probably wanted to be. To be white is to be in power. To not be white is to be subject to power.

What better way is there for a nonwhite man to become white than by purchasing a gun and committing acts of political violence, against Hispanic children who will benefit from democracy and equal treatment under law, for the purpose of restoring the natural order?
So would Stoehr argue that the Korean-born Seung-Hui Cho, who shot and killed 32 people, most of them white, at Virginia Tech a year and a half before Obama's election, was doing it on behalf of white supremacy? Seriously? How about the spree killers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, a Black man and a Black teenager who killed 17 people in and around Washington, D.C., in 2002 -- did they do this on behalf of white supremacy? Are white people who shoot up mostly white institutions -- the schools in Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland; the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas -- doing it on behalf of the white race?

Yes, the NRA and the Republican Party are racist. Yes, they want perpetual rule by their kind. But both of these things were true long before Barack Obama became president. They've been working to loosen weapons laws for nearly half a century. I'm certain that the election of Barack Obama was a prime motivator. But a Hillary Clinton victory in 2016 would have sent gun sales through the roof. Gun sales skyrocketed in response to a virus.

They want control. They want to crush their enemies, or at least make their enemies live in fear. It can ultimately all be about race -- fear of marauding urban criminals, fear of immigrants, fear of "the China virus" -- but the republicans and the gunners also hate the white people they believe are making a culturally diverse America possible. And that was true long before 2008.

Sunday, May 29, 2022


A few hours before the Uvalde school massacre, The New York Times published this op-ed by Dr. Kim Lane Scheppele, professor of sociology and international affairs at Princeton, on the subject of Viktor Orban's Hungary and signs of Orbanism in America:
In Hungary under Mr. Orban, political payback is common. Mr. Orban first targeted the independent and opposition media by directing state-funded advertising to pro-government outlets. He has used state regulatory power to shift business from unfriendly hands to friendly ones, starting with a law that required tobacco sellers to be licensed by the state. (Many of those licenses were awarded to government supporters.) With tobacco as a model, Mr. Orban opened similar efforts in the banking, energy and telecom sectors. Owners whose businesses failed to support the governing party have been sidelined, while party loyalists gained.
Dr. Scheppele sees the clear signs of Orbanism in Republican-controlled parts of America:
Some red states are now catching on to the politics of payback. In 2018, Georgia’s Republican legislature approved a bill that stripped out a tax break that would have benefited Delta Air Lines after the company decided to end a promotional discount for National Rifle Association members. A Texas legislator recently threatened to introduce a bill that would prevent Citigroup from underwriting Texas municipal bonds unless it stopped its policy of paying the travel expenses of employees who seek abortions outside the state.

Probably the best-known recent efforts have come from Florida, where Republican lawmakers voted to revoke Disney’s special tax status after the company condemned Gov. Ron DeSantis’s education law (known by critics as “Don’t Say Gay”). This sounded familiar. Last summer, Mr. Orban passed a law banning the display of L.G.B.T.Q. content to minors.
Left unmentioned, however, was a law the Times tells us about today:
Four years ago, JPMorgan Chase joined some of the nation’s largest banks in publicly distancing itself from the firearm industry after a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., left 17 people dead....

The bank, along with Citigroup and other Wall Street firms, did not completely shut the door on gun companies.

In a letter sent to the Texas attorney general this month, JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank, signaled its willingness to continue working with the firearm industry....

The letter ... was in response to a new law in Texas that bars state agencies from working with a firm that “discriminates” against companies or individuals in the gun industry....

The stakes are high for big banks. If a bank states that it is in compliance with the law and is found to be otherwise, it could face criminal prosecution. It could also be shut out of the state’s giant municipal bond market....

From 2015 to 2020, JPMorgan underwrote 138 Texas bond deals, raising $19 billion for the state and generating nearly $80 million in fees for the bank, according to Bloomberg data. But the bank has been shut out of working for the state since the law went into effect in September. This month, JPMorgan submitted a bid to underwrite a $3.4 billion bond issue for utilities, the largest in the state’s history. It would not be able to secure that contract until it is certified under the new law, known as S.B. 19.
That's Orbanism. And it's spreading.
The Texas law is the first of its kind in the country. Similar ones — described by gun industry lobbyists as FIND laws, or firearm industry nondiscriminatory legislation — are working their way through at least 10 statehouses, including in Oklahoma and West Virginia, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. This year, Wyoming passed a law that allows gun companies to sue banks and other firms that refuse to do business with them.
If corporations want to fight Orbanism in America, I suppose they can shift their contributions to the Democrats. But I imagine they don't really have a problem with it -- corporate support for LGBT rights or for greater regualtion of firearms is pure virtue signaling, and these companies are probably relieved when Republicans take the option away from them. And after all, Democrats might tax and regulate them more. Can't have that, right?

Saturday, May 28, 2022


The New York Times tells us that the owner of the company that made the assault weapon used in the Uvalde school massacre is an evil edgelord of firearms marketing:
The Texas shooting, which left 19 schoolchildren and two teachers dead and more than a dozen wounded, has put a national spotlight on Daniel Defense, a family-owned business in Georgia that has emerged as a trailblazer in an aggressive, boundary-pushing style of weapons marketing and sales.

Some of its advertisements invoke popular video games like “Call of Duty” and feature “Star Wars” characters and Santa Claus, messages that are likely to appeal to teenagers. The company was an early adopter of a direct-to-consumer business model that aimed to make buying military gear as simple as ordering from Amazon, enticing customers with “adventure now, pay later” installment plans that make expensive weaponry more affordable.

And the company’s founder and chief executive, Marty Daniel, has fashioned himself as a provocateur who ridicules gun control proposals and uses publicity stunts to drum up sales.
When Daniel Defense began selling guns and gun accessories to civilians, it made much of the fact that it had been a military contractor.
By 2009, the company had expanded to making guns for consumers. Its military ties were the basis of its marketing, which often featured heavily armed fighters. “Use what they use,” one ad says. Another shows a military-style scope aimed at passing cars on what looks like a regular city street.
(Gun fans frequently get huffy when critics say that the firearms industry is selling weapons of war to civilians. Funny how no one objected when Daniel Defense said this.)

The marketing got worse.
Some ads featured children carrying and firing guns.

And we all know about this:
The week before the Texas shooting, Daniel Defense posted a photograph on Facebook and Twitter, showing a little boy sitting cross-legged, an assault rifle balanced across his lap. “Train up a child in the way he should go,” the caption reads, echoing a biblical proverb. “When he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The ad was posted on May 16. It was [Uvalde shooter Salvador] Ramos’s 18th birthday.
Yesterday, The Washington Post told us about Daniel's deep ties to the GOP:
The owners of the Georgia-based company have donated more than $70,000 directly to GOP candidates for federal office this election cycle, according to a review of filings with the Federal Election Commission. Daniel Defense itself gave $100,000 last year to a PAC backing incumbent Republican senators.

The spending by Marvin C. Daniel and his wife, Cindy D. Daniel, illustrates the financial clout of the gun industry....

The beneficiaries of the couple’s political contributions include at least one candidate who emerged victorious in Tuesday’s primary contests, Herschel Walker. The former football star is running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia with former president Donald Trump’s endorsement....

Recent recipients of spending by Daniel and his wife also include Republican Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Tim Scott (S.C.) and John Neely Kennedy (La.), as well as Eric Schmitt, the attorney general of Missouri and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in that state.
Maybe this wouldn't work in Louisiana or South Carolina, but I'm hoping Raphael Warnock will demand that Herschel Walker return the money Daniel gave him. You'll say that Georgia is a Southern state and will probably rally to a pro-gun candidate's defense. But Georgia isn't as pro-gun as you probably think. Here are some results from a poll conducted earlier this year:
Nearly 70% of poll respondents said they do not believe adults in Georgia should be allowed to carry concealed handguns in public without first getting a license. Almost 28% of respondents said they support the idea.
That's one idea gun extremists love and nearly everyone else hates, even in Georgia. You know what else I think a majority of Georgia voters would hate? Firearms marketing that shows a child with a semiautomatic weapon in his lap, under a verse from the Bible.

As I regularly tell you, Republicans know Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" and regularly follow Rule #12 in particular:
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
Well, here's a target for Democrats: Marty Daniel.

Show the Bible ad. Ask Walker -- repeatedly if necessary -- when he's going to return the Daniel cash. And what hell, try it in South Carolina, too, where Tim Scott is likely to coast to victory this year but then might begin running for president, possibly with an eye on the GOP vice presidential slot. Ask him when he's giving his Daniel cash back.

Make them defend this blood money. Do it soon, and don't let up. Put these bastards on the defensive. And if they say they won't give it back (which is likely given their need to appease their base), then the rest of the public will see who they really are.

Friday, May 27, 2022


Thomas Chatterton Williams -- cultural critic, foe of "identity politics," New York Times contributor, Guggenheim fellow, American Enterprise Institute fellow -- might be a famous public intellectual, but he seems not to know much about right-wing Americans:

I'm pleased that he recognizes the uniquely American nature of this sick fetishization. But how can he not "fully understand the message"?

This ad shows a little kid fondling an assault weapon under a Bible verse (Proverbs 22:6) because -- as is obvious to anyone who's paid a reasonable amount of attention to U.S. conservatism in recent years -- right-wing Americans don't just believe they have an unlimited right to bear arms, they believe that this right was given to Americans by God.

In February, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas asserted that the Democrat who'll be running against him, Beto O'Rourke, "has threatened your God given Second Amendment rights by threatening to come and take your guns." Many other Republicans have used the same phrase. Katie Britt, who'll probably be the next U.S. senator from Alabama, refers to "God-given Second Amendment rights" on her campaign website; she adds:
Our Founders included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights because they recognized it is a God-given, unalienable right that needed to be secured by the government—not created by the government.
The Republican Senate nominee in North Carolina, a House member and gun store owner, also refers to "our God-given Second Amendment rights" on his congressional website. Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, wrote an opinion piece for Politico in 2019 titled "Yes, Gun Ownership Is a God-Given Right." A year earlier, Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association made the same claim in a CPAC speech:
There is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive. It's not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.
Do these prominent people believe this? Hard to say. But their intended audience does.

William ought to know that. And Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner (also an American Enterprise Institute fellow) ought to know why this is ridiculous:

As I think I just made clear, right-wing Americans think the right to own guns literally comes from God, so religion in America is certainly not going to wean them off weaponry. Also, there's this:

All over the world, the citizens of rich nations have largely abandoned religion -- with the exception of Americans. And where are all the gun crimes? They're here, not in those non-religious countries.

Why can't we have a better commentariat?


Here are two stories I've read this morning. First, this one:
Donald Trump ... faced a series of setbacks in Tuesday’s primary elections as voters rejected his efforts to unseat two top targets for retribution: Georgia’s Republican governor and secretary of state, both of whom rebuffed Trump’s extraordinary pressure to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But the magnitude of defeat in the governor’s race — more than 50 percentage points — was especially stunning and raised questions about whether Republican voters are beginning to move on from Trump.

Nearly seven years after the onetime reality television star launched what seemed to be an improbable campaign for the White House, the “Make America Great Again” movement Trump helmed isn’t going anywhere. But voters are increasingly vocal in saying that the party’s future is about more than Trump.

“I like Trump a lot, but Trump is in the past,” said David Butler of Woodstock, Georgia, who voted for Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday and said Trump’s endorsements had “no” impact “whatsoever” on his thinking.
And then this:
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol has started contacting witnesses to appear before the American public during its hearings in June — and it is interested in hearing from officials from the Trump White House, Justice Department and Vice President Mike Pence’s team....

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, however, is unlikely to be a part of the committee’s final push.

Even as the evidence detailing her involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election mounts and scrutiny of individuals linked to the alternate elector plan has ramped up, the committee is unlikely to add the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the list of individuals it has attempted to question.

... lawmakers on the House panel have expressed concerns about allowing a focus on Thomas to divert attention from Trump, according to people familiar with the committee’s discussions....
Am I wrong to see a link between these stories?

I've never believed that anyone will actually hold Trump accountable for any of his misdeeds. But many people assure me that Trump's time in the barrel is coming, and I just need to be patient.

One possibility that's occurred to me: Maybe Trump will be held accountable, but only because many Republicans want that to happen. They're ready to be rid of him. And this is perfect: He can be brought down by a committee that's overwhelmingly Democratic, but also includes two Republicans who are seen by the GOP base as the worst RINOs of all. So if Trump falls, the base will believe it was because Democrats and their enablers brought him down. In the eyes of GOP voters, Republicans in good standing will have done nothing dishonorable, while anger at Democrats will reach new heights. With a weakened Joe Biden in the White House, that clears the field for a new Republican standard-bearer who can win elections by focusing on the post-Trump GOP's obsessions (critical race theory, the trans menace) but can also promise revenge for what happened to Trump, despite being the prime beneficiary of Trump's downfall.

I imagine that this is precisely what Mitch McConnell wants. The same goes for Liz Cheney. Cheney might be the top RINO on the committee, but she's still a Republican, and we learned in March that she really, really doesn't want Ginni Thomas subpoenaed. The restoration of a pre-Trump GOP that Cheney and other Establishment Republicans long for would be the restoration of a party in which Clarence Thomas was a hero.

So that's the plan, I think: Dump Trump, blame Democrats and RINOs (Cheney will sacrifice herself for the cause if necessary, secure in the knowledge that many lobbying jobs await her if she's defeated), then let someone new win in 2024, partly by seeming like a fresh face, and partly by leveraging GOP rage at Trump's downfall.

But there are two problems with plan from the Establishment GOP's point of view. First, Democrats aren't very good at holding Republicans accountable. They could fail and make Trump stronger. Second, if the establishmentarians believe that Trump's downfall would lead to a presidential win by someone old-school -- Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie -- they're delusional. The next GOP nominee will be Ron DeSantis if Trump falls, and he's Trumpier than Trump. If it's illiberalism they fear, they'll get more of it from DeSantis than they would from Trump.

Then again, they may only fear erratic illiberalism, of the Trump variety. In that case, they'll be perfectly happy with the Orbanesque rule of DeSantis.

Thursday, May 26, 2022


Breitbart tells me that Ted Cruz was on Fox News last night, portraying himself as the champion of parents concerned about school gun violence:
On Wednesday’s broadcast of the Fox News Channel’s “Jesse Watters Primetime,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated that Democrats blocked legislation he proposed in 2013 to bolster school security and keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill by keeping it from reaching the 60-vote threshold.

Cruz said, “In 2013, I introduced legislation that would spend $300 million on federal grants to harden schools to make them safer, to make them more protected. The Democrats filibustered that legislation. I’ve introduced legislation to say schools like this elementary school behind me can get federal grants to harden their security, to put in bulletproof doors, bulletproof glass, to put in armed police officers to protect kids.”

He later added, “In 2013, I introduced legislation called Grassley-Cruz, which targeted felons and fugitives and those with serious mental illness. It directed the Department of Justice to do an audit of federal convictions to make sure felons are in the database. It directed the Department of Justice to prosecute and put in jail felons and fugitives who try to illegally buy firearms. That vote in the Harry Reid, Democrat Senate...a majority of the Senate voted in favor of Grassley-Cruz, but the Democrats filibustered it. They demanded 60 votes. They defeated it because they wanted to go after law-abiding citizens instead of stopping the bad guys. We need to stop the bad guys.”
That's one way of describing what happened.

Here's what really happened. In response to the Sandy Hook massacre in late 2012, Democrats (and a couple of Republicans) tried to pass the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013. Among other things, the bill would have expanded background checks and made the sale of some semiautomatic weapons illegal. Republicans filibustered the bill in the Senate, and it died.

Cruz and Senator Chuck Grassley offered their own plan as an amendment version to the Safe Communities bill, but it wasn't the same bill with all of Cruz's neat stuff added, as The Washington Post explained last year:
Amendments aplenty were proposed and defeated. The one from Cruz and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) would have removed the core of the gun bill: the expanded background checks.
Um, that seems like a big deal.

(Grassley-Cruz "instead proposed more prosecutions of gun buyers who falsely stated their criminal histories during the background-check process." I'm guessing that we wouldn't have found out about most of these liars until after they committed violent crimes.)

Wait, there's more:
Among other changes, the Cruz amendment would have reduced penalties for states that neglected to submit records to the FBI’s centralized database for background checks of gun buyers, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Cruz proposal also would have capped federal grants to improve states’ reporting procedures for the FBI database at $20 million, down from $100 million, and allowed for the interstate sale and transport of firearms.
So Democrats didn't filibuster this proposal because they hate school safety. They filibustered it because it gutted their gun bill, made the background-check system weaker, and created more avenues for the proliferation of guns. But your right-wing relatives will never believe that.


Josh Marshall wrote this a few hours after the Uvalde shooting, and, regrettably, he's right:
The inability of the U.S. to do literally anything about the scourge of mass shootings is itself one of their greatest draws, the magnetic heart of their attraction. Mass shootings are fundamentally about losers, rage and the draw of total power. For a few minutes a school shooter holds the power of life and death. That power speaks for itself. But that’s only part of it. Nothing reinforces the power of the gun like the way a whole country remains in thrall to them. The gun — and all the fetishes and cultural baggage surrounding them — is the one totally unassailable, unchallengeable thing in American society.

It doesn’t matter how many kids get shot or what new turn of perversion is added to the stale choreography of the latest mass school shooting: Literally nothing happens. That is power.

... That power is so total it’s no surprise that angry losers flock to become part of it.
Right -- given the way our politics are structured, it's impossible to enact any reforms that could prevent the next massacre, so every potential mass murderer knows he really will leave us flailing and powerless.

But I don't think mass murderers are the only ones who revel in that sense of absolute power. Look at the GOP:
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey unpacked lipstick, an iPhone and something else from her purse in one campaign advertisement — “a little Smith & Wesson .38,” she said....

In Nevada, an ad for former Senator Dean Heller, now a Republican candidate for governor, bragged about his wife’s shooting skills. And in North Carolina, a spot for Representative Ted Budd, a Republican Senate candidate, boasted that he owned a gun range.

... more than 100 television ads from Republican candidates and supportive groups have used guns as talking points or visual motifs this year.

... Republican primary candidates are often competing to show how conservative they are in a polarized landscape ever more defined by white-hot cultural battles. And guns are an easy visual shorthand.

“You basically have Republican primary candidates trying to explain to Republican primary voters that they are going to be on their side when it comes to the cultural cold civil war that’s being fought right now,” said Robert Blizzard, a Republican strategist.
It's a signal to fellow Republicans, but it's also a way of taunting liberals -- Yeah? What are you gonna do about it? This ad from Brian Kemp's previous gubernatorial campaign is a good example. It's just a series of taunts, on guns and other issues.

The message is: Liberals think they run the country, but they can't stop me. And on guns, at least, we can't. On several other issues as well, of course -- abortion, taxes, the minimum wage, voting rights....

The ability to leave large groups of people powerless is intoxicating -- for mass shooters and Republicans.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022


Writing for The Hill, former Democratic congressman Steve Israel explains why Republicans in Congress won't vote even for popular gun bills.
We had just completed a series of votes in an Appropriations Committee markup of funding for the Department of Justice. My fellow Democrats and I had proposed language to allow for strengthened background checks, to ban people who are on the “No Fly” list from easily obtaining military-style assault weapons and similar measures. Each amendment was defeated in a largely party-line vote....

In the elevator, a friend – a pleasant, reasonable, moderate Republican – complained that the votes were politically motivated — forcing members in swing districts to choose between their pro-gun bases and more moderate constituents. I argued that the polling in districts like his was clear: Nearly 80 percent support for the very measures he’d just voted against, including a majority (back then, at least) of Republicans.

... He admitted that despite personally supporting the measures, he had no choice but to vote against them. In a heavily polarized House, where districts were increasingly ruby red versus bright blue, any vote for any gun safety would invite a primary opponent and ignite his likely defeat. No issue, he told me, motivated his base more intensely than guns. Moderates would forgive and forget that he voted against background checks; but his base would never forgive him for voting for them.

... That congressman in the elevator had you all figured out. You forgive and forget too easily. And by doing so, you keep electing people who care more about surviving the next primary than they do about the survival of your kids in their classrooms.
There are Republicans who tell pollsters they support many of these measures, but not enough of them will rally around a GOP candidate who supports them. Less extreme Republican officeholders know this, so they go extreme on guns. And needless to say, those moderate voters would find it unthinkable to vote Democratic in a general election, even if the result might be fewer schoolchildren shot in the face.

So Republican candidates have to embrace gun extremism in order to win, and as The Bulwark's Jonathan Last notes, the party of gun extremism is the one that controls national gun policy.
[The] leverage which our system currently affords to the Republican party— which is a new, but so far durable feature of American politics—makes it so we have results like this: Gun reform [in general] is favored by a slim majority made up primarily of Democrats and independent voters, so it is impossible to enact....

If you believe that this state of affairs is suboptimal for our republic, then maybe Democrats should have made the District of Columbia a state instead of spending their political capital on an infrastructure bill.

That wouldn’t have fixed the gun problem, but reducing the leverage that rural voters have over the rest of the country is a necessary precondition to any progress on this front....

Nothing will change until the system is rebalanced, either through the passing of laws or the shifting of demographics.
If anything, the balance of the system is likely to tip even more in the GOP's favor, as more and more people migrate to large states with lots of jobs. Sparsely populated rural states will hollow out even more, but each of these states will still have two senators, the same as California. It's bad, and it will get worse:
Right now, the Senate is split evenly in half, but the 50 Democratic senators represent 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republican senators.

By 2040, if population trends continue, 70% of Americans will be represented by just 30 senators, and 30% of Americans by 70 senators.
So moderate Republican voters don't vote for Republicans (or Democrats) who are moderate on guns, and the Republican extremists who win office as a result of this are likely to dominate the Senate indefinitely. Unless there's a way out of this I'm not aware of, we're screwed.


Bari Weiss has pondered this month's mass shootings in America, and you will not be surprised to learn that she thinks "we" are the problem.
I read these headlines and I think about how people grow accustomed to horrific things. How, not so long ago, people watched other people get drawn and quartered in the public square. They watched beheadings. They participated in honor killings. I think about things that, in other times, in other places, perhaps seemed perfectly normal to the people who witnessed them—and that still remain normal in parts of the world today. We look at such practices from our civilized perch and wonder how human beings ever did this to one another. How did they witness such barbarism and still have the appetite for dinner?

How do we?

How have we normalized the fact that innocent people in this country can step onto a subway car or go to a grocery store or a synagogue or a church or a concert or a baseball game or a party or a car show or to work and maybe they will just be gunned down? How have we gotten accustomed to—let’s call it what it is—child sacrifice?
Who is "we"? The reactions I've seen to both the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings has been equal parts grief and outrage. I don't know anyone who's "accustomed to" this, in the sense of finding it acceptable. Inevitable, yes. But that isn't the same as watching "people get drawn and quartered in the public square" with delight. (I see that Weiss doesn't mention the gleeful American audiences for lynchings -- she wouldn't want to write anything that reads like critical race theory, I guess.)

We're not numb to all this. We feel powerless. Republican gun absolutists have a stranglehold over firearm policy nationwide and in most states. Guns flow freely across state borders even into states that try to regulate them. Interventions such as red flag laws are implemented half-heartedly and with an indifference to the possible consequences of failure. Most of us have no ability to participate in any of these processes. We vote, we give money to organizations that try to change law and policy, and nothing changes. I don't think this is comprehensible to Weiss, who has been a prominent media figure for years. She's influential. We're not. Nobody cares what we think. We live with this not because it doesn't bother us, but because we don't have any other options.

Weiss sees moral decay.
There is a deep sickness in this country. It goes beyond our addiction to guns. It’s an anti-social, anti-human disease that has gripped our society and our politics.

A big part of that disease is how numb we have become to violence. The country has been experiencing the largest crime surge in decades. Armed robberies are up. Shoplifting is up. Road deaths are up. Car break-ins are so common in some cities that people leave notes on their windows to the thieves that nothing is inside.

But the most devastating rise has been in murders. Since the FBI started tracking the data, 2020 marked the highest single-year increase in homicides. In 2021, it went up again.

As of 2020, the leading cause of death among children in America is guns. Not cars. Not drugs. Guns. It was also the year that we had the highest rate of gun sales in American history.
And while Weiss is critical of gun-absolutist defenses of the status quo ("mentally ill people getting their hands on guns to commit mass murder this easily is deranged and wrong.... There’s nothing well-regulated about Salvador Ramos, though it appears he bought those assault rifles legally on his 18th birthday"), the problem is really us.
... The social rot that’s come over America, the nihilism and hatred of each other, is part of the cause here. The dissolution of our social ties—and with them the accountability and responsibility that an actual community demands—has allowed insanity to fester unnoticed. Lockdowns accelerated the isolation, the purposelessness, the lack of meaning that was already overcoming us.

If we insist on viewing this shooting as part of some isolated issue or species of violence, then we miss the point. The point is the country is being consumed by what Philip Roth famously called “the indigenous American berserk.” It stretches back many decades, or longer, and for ages, it was possible to ignore or compartmentalize. Now the brokenness is everywhere we look and it is impossible to unsee it.
So is this contemporary, something that's "come over America" and "gripped our society" in recent years, or is it something that "stretches back many decades, or longer," because, as Roth says, it's "indigenous"?

Here's the trend line for violent crime in America:

The crime drop continued into the early 2010s -- but Gabby Giffords and 20 other people were shot in Tucson in 2011 (6 died). Sandy Hook and the Aurora movie theater shooting were in 2012. The Umpqua Community College shooting (10 dead) was in 2015. And so on. (I'm reading from this list of U.S. mass shootings.) If Weiss wants to blame some recent breakdown in the social order -- possibly stemming from pandemic lockdowns -- for Buffalo and Uvalde, then what caused those shootings? And if the "berserk" is just in our nature, as Roth says, how did we get crime to drop between the 1990s and 2010s?

Violent crime is up now -- it's still significantly lower than at its peak three decades ago, but it's up. I blame the guns, and the gun culture, or cultures -- the various subcultures of America wherein guns aren't seen as dangerous, or dangerous yet necessary, but rather as awesome. You can't blame dangerous people for resorting to guns when respected community figures say they're a good thing. Inner-city gang leaders send this message, but so do community leaders and prominent political figures in red America. And so do anonymous peers on white supremacist message boards. But the worst of these are the red stae community leaders who valorize guns, because they claim to represent America's core values. Peoplke in much of America don't worry about selling two assault weapons to a young man on his eighteenth birthday because they believe assault weapons are very good things. And the rest of us can't do a goddamn thing about that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


There's been another mass shooting, this time at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Governor Greg Abbott says that fourteen students and one teacher are dead, as well as the shooter, who's been identified as eighteen-year-old Salvador Ramos.

Right now, obviously, most Americans don't know much about this shooter, except that he's done something truly evil. But while we're waiting for more information, a parasite named John Cardillo -- a blue-check right-wing commentator with nearly 300,000 followers including J.D. Vance and several GOP members of Congress, posted this:

Are there initial reports that said this? I'm not aware of any. I'm aware that the governor himself said that Ramos is a U.S. citizen who appears to have attended Uvalde High School.

Tell me why I shouldn't believe that Cardillo knew exactly what he was doing -- spreading a rage-inducing falsehood, because inducing rage is the right's prime directive. It's what right-wingers do every waking hour of their lives.

It'll work, too. In the future, people will still remember that this shooter was an undocumented immigrant being chased by the Border Patrol, even though he wasn't.

Maybe there's an honest explanation for this, but I can't imagine what it is.


UPDATE: This wasn't the only piece of disinformation about the shooter -- it wasn't even the most widely disseminated, as an NBC reporter notes:


Congressmnan Paul Gosar saw the rumors flying and chose all of the above.
Following Tuesday's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, Arizona GOP congressman Paul Gosar spread a false and transphobic claim that the suspected shooter was a "transsexual leftist illegal alien."

Gosar tweeted the claim even though authorities had already identified the suspect as an 18-year-old male resident of Uvalde, where the shooting occurred.

As of Tuesday evening, the GOP representative has not commented on his tweet, which was deleted about two hours after being published.

This false claim has been proliferating on social media with photos of a transgender person unrelated to the attack. The images appear to have been taken off the Reddit account of a transgender artist.

Among the social media accounts that shared such images is a Facebook page called "North Florida Patriots."

The page has since corrected its post....
Next year, when Republicans control Congress, Gosar will probably be one of the most prominent inquisitors in the multiple highly public witch hunts that the GOP will conduct as a substitute for governing. The press will call him a "firebrand."


A story in New York magazine about Democrats' plans for the 2024 election (or lack thereof) in the event that President Biden doesn't run reveals that Biden very much intends to run (as we already knew from other reports), and that he seems determined to do so for only one reason:
As far as Biden’s camp is concerned, there isn’t any ambiguity about 2024 at all. He has said in private that he sees himself as the only thing standing between the country and the Trumpian abyss and has instructed his aides to redouble their planning for a rematch.

... nothing has budged Biden’s sense that nobody but him can keep Trump out of the White House. [Democratic pollster John] Anzalone articulated it on a Politico podcast this spring: “A lot of us feel that if Trump runs, there’s no one else that could beat Trump than Joe Biden.” Facing a country dubious that he will run, Biden just gets more convinced that he must.

... “Biden has to run again, because he desperately has to keep Trump out of the White House and defend our democracy,” as one Capitol Hill supporter puts it.

Biden is sustained by his contempt for Trump and the imperative of keeping him out of office. “If Trump is alive,” one veteran adviser says, “Biden is running.” ...

In private moments, Biden has been reflective, recently musing about his predecessor in a way that reminds his confidants of the aftermath of the 2017 neo-Nazi attack in Charlottesville — the moment Biden started to take 2020 seriously. The first question he asked his advisers was whether he could beat Trump. Then he lingered on a second one: “If I don’t run, who’s going to beat him?”
Maybe wanting to beat Trump is a good enough reason to run for president, but it suggests that Biden doesn't really think about why he wants to be president. It makes me suspect that he lacks a sense of urgency about, say, inflation or the baby formula shortage, or intraparty sabotage of his agenda. The idea of beating Trump gets his juices flowing in a way that being president apparently doesn't.

And is Biden really the only potential candidate who could beat Trump? In 2020, he seemed to be the only hope mostly because there was no pushback against the notion that the other candidates were too left-wing, too Black, too brown, too female, or too gay to win. It's true that0 no one in that field had the across-the-board popularity of 2008 Barack Obama -- but neither did Biden. I think a lot of people could beat Trump or Ron DeSantis in 2024, but only if everyone in the party agreed to cheerlead for whoever emerged from the primaries the way 2016 Republicans agreed to cheerlead for Trump. But we know that won't happen, because Democratic insiders would rather tell journalists that they agree with critiques of their party's potential stars than push back against those critiques.

In any event, I wonder what this portends if Biden runs again as expected but Trump doesn't run, or is indicted (an outcome they keep telling us is very much on the table), or is beaten by DeSantis in the primaries. Can Biden motivate himself to run hard against DeSantis, even though DeSantis would be a worse president than Trump? For that matter, can the rest of the party leadership? Prominent Democrats agree: Trump is bad. Do they know that other Republicans are, too?

Monday, May 23, 2022


Georgia gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor is running a distant third in GOP primary polling, but she's beginning to attract attention for her slogan JESUS GUNS BABIES, and for her opinions on church-state separation:

Now I see that she has an additional concern:

What are the Georgia Guidestones? Wikipedia explains:
The Georgia Guidestones are a granite monument erected in 1980 in Elbert County, Georgia, in the United States. A set of ten guidelines is inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages and a shorter message is inscribed at the top of the structure in four ancient language scripts....

In June 1979, a man using the pseudonym R. C. Christian approached the Elberton Granite Finishing Company on behalf of "a small group of loyal Americans", and commissioned the structure. Christian explained that the stones would function as a compass, calendar, and clock, and should be capable of "withstanding catastrophic events". Joe Fendley of Elberton Granite assumed that Christian was "a nut" and attempted to discourage him by providing a quote for the commission which was several times higher than any project the company had previously taken, explaining that the guidestones would require additional tools and consultants. To Fendley's surprise, Christian accepted the quote.... When arranging payment, Christian said that he represented a group which had been planning the guidestones for 20 years and which wanted to remain anonymous....

On March 22, 1980, the monument was unveiled.... Christian later transferred ownership of the land and the guidestones to Elbert County....

A message consisting of a set of ten guidelines or principles is engraved on the Georgia Guidestones ... in eight different languages....

1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
10. Be not a cancer on the Earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
As you can see from the video above, Kandiss Taylor links the inscription -- presumably the bit about keeping the global population under 500,000,000 -- to both legal abortion and COVID vaccination. The Guidestones could be an instruction manual for a vast satanic conspiracy if anyone other than locals and fans of oddball roadside attractions knew the first thing about them. Or maybe we all secretly follow these tenets and have duped the world into believing that this is an obscure, little-known monument.

Taylor says she'll order the monuments demolished if she's elected governor; this will be her "Executive Order #10." Here are the first nine:

Much of this is mainstream Republicanism in 2022 -- the state military force that can be used to intimidate Democratic voters and immigrants (similar to Ron DeSantis's election police in Florida), the opposition to public health mandates, the focus on "groomers." The theocracy is a bit more flagrant than what you normally get in Florida or Texas (or Georgia under Brian Kemp). Also, there's a reference to furries in the seventh executive order. But Taylor isn't much more extreme than Republican candidates who are winning right now. Instead of endosing David Perdue, Donald Trump probably should have endorsed her.


Over the weekend, Yastreblyansky noted the existence of a children's book by Kash Patel, a former Trump administration official and apparent conniver with Rudy Giuliani on the Trump White House's efforts to find dirt on political enemies in Ukraine. Patel's book -- a picture book -- is The Plot Against the King, the king being "King Donald."

Full of fake heralds and keeper Komey’s spying slugs, this is a story of daring and danger. But never fear! Kash the Distinguished Discoverer will win the day.

Hillary Queenton and her shifty knight had spread lies that King Donald had cheated to become King. They claimed he was working with the Russionians! But how could that be? Join Kash, the Distinguished Discoverer as he uncovers the plot against the King, and who was really behind all the lies.
This book is currently #51 on the Amazon bestseller list, whether because of genuine sales or bulk buys I'm not sure.

The publisher, Brave Books, is worried about Culture. According to Brave Books, Culture is bad. Culture is a vulture.

The head of Brave Books tells us this and explains how right-thinking parents can protect their kids from Culture and other evils:

Every Brave Book is designed to prevent Culture from harming precious right-wing children:

There's a lot of this going around. A children's book called Johnny the Walrus hit #1 on the Amazon list last month -- again, perhaps because of bulk buys, perhaps because of legitimate sales. The book, written by the Daily Wire's Matt Walsh and published by the Wire's DW Books, is a parable about transgenderism, as this Focus on the Family writer explains:
... the colorful board book tells the story of a boy with a powerful imagination.

“One day he’s a dog, the next day a crustacean,” the book says. But things begin to go south for young Johnny when he waddles downstairs as a walrus one morning.

Pro-trans-walrus activists on social media encourage Johnny’s mom to stop being so “literally walrusphobic” and “let Johnny transition.” After all, “marine mammals are people too!”

Mom succumbs to social media pressure, and she and a “woke doctor” encourage Johnny to become the walrus he really is.

The reader will hasten to finish the story, eager to learn: Will Johnny go live with the pinnipeds? Does he have his feet surgically altered into flippers? Do his newly grown vibrissae become a permanent facial feature?

Spoiler alert: There is one level-headed adult character, looking suspiciously like Walsh – albeit with bulging forearms, who helps Johnny’s mom see reality.
They'll tell us that they're doing this because Woke Culture Is Indoctrinating Children and because Politics Is Downstream Of Culture, but I think they're really doing it because Rush Limbaugh seems to have made a great deal of money from his Rush Revere series of children's books. (As depicted on the book covers, Rush Revere is Limbaugh in a tricorn hat; notice that both the Walsh and Patel books feature a character based on the author, although the Walsh character appears to have bigger muscles.)

Is publishing right-wing children's books a shrewd business move? Will the children of wingnut parents grow to adulthood and harbor resentment that their parents forced Brave Books on them rather than letting them read about Captain Underpants? We'll see.

Sunday, May 22, 2022


Monkeypox is barely a presence in America, and it may never be widespread here, but right-wing edgelords are already hard at work on monkeypox denialism. Here's Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers, an election truther who's a star on the right:

This is business as usual for Rogers, who never met a far-right conspiracy theory she didn't like -- she's also been proclaiming recently that she believes the federal government was responsible for the recent mass shooting in Buffalo -- but she's not alone. Here's an excerpt from a recent Gateway Pundit post:
With midterms fast approaching, Democrat approval ratings cratering out of control, the hysteria surrounding Covid-19 rapidly waning, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before another crisis developed that would help the Left reinstitute the tyrannical control mechanisms they used throughout the China-virus pandemic.

Well,now we have monkeypox – a viral infection that is traditionally mild and rare in humans – popping up all across the Western countries. Oddly enough, the virus is seemingly spreading from person to person like never before, leaving many people, including those in the scientific community, scratching their heads and asking themselves: ‘what is going on?’ Now, we are obviously a long way off from what we experienced with the last pandemic, but, either way – whether the origins of this more transmissible monkeypox virus are natural, or something else (like Covid-19, Wuhan, etc.) – the timing of this new outbreak is curious – to say the least....

The main concern with this latest outbreak is that the cases seem to be spreading through human-to-human transmission at an alarming rate. Traditionally, the virus has been zoonotic and normally has a hard time making the jump from animals to humans, so the new developments are worth keeping an eye on – especially with what Gates, Fauci, and the rest of the so-called ‘public health experts’ have been up to for the past few years.

Clearly, they are prepping the needles for more vaccinations, but what else is in store this time around?
And on Twitter, many people are spreading the mistaken notion that monkeypox is actually shingles, citing this as evidence:

When I first saw this, I assumed it was Photoshopped, but unfortunately it wasn't -- a photo of a shingles rash on the website of the health department of Queensland, Australia, was used to illustrate a 2021 post about monkeypox at TheHealthSite.com, a Mumbai-based medical information site. (There were a couple of monkeypox cases in the U.S. in 2021, which prompted the post.) A recent post at the same site is illustrated with an accurate photo of monkeypox on the skin, but the damage has been done.

I won't try to embed the tweets I'm seeing because Twitter (which Elon Musk doesn't own yet) might take them down, but here are some of the messages:
Make this viral. #Monkeypox is an adverse reaction from the clot shot. AKA... Shingles.


Shingles.. sorry.. Monkey Pox

Not that Shingles is a side effect of any jab now is it?


So are they just going to rebrand shingles as Monkeypox the way they rebranded the flu as covid?


Of course...They use the same picture as if you won’t notice!

That’s how STUPID [they] think you are.

Don’t prove them right!

I know this has been brought to light already, but it’s so important to let it sink in how deceitful our #FakeNews has become...

(You know what actually can increase your risk of getting shingles? A COVID infection.)

Living in an idiocracy is exhausting. Let's hope that the monkeypox outbreaks are contained, because we're not ready -- to put it mildly -- for a new contagious disease crisis.

And yes, I know that a few days ago I predicted a different reaction from the right to monkeypox: that non-whites and LGBT people would be scapegoated for any outbreak, because the disease is usually seen in Africa, and because public health officials say it's spreading in Europe and elsewhere among gay and bisexual men. But the right can argue that monkeypox is dangerous and fake at the same time -- that's certainly happened with COVID. There's often a choose-your-own-adventure aspect to right-wing propaganda -- is Joe Biden a drooling old man who gets lost wandering the White House or is he the co-mastermind (with his son) of a vast moneymaking criminal enterprise? Well, he's both, obviously, as your right-wing relatives will tell you. If monkeypox speads in America, we'll hear that it's spread by gays and Blacks and that it's a fake disease. I hope we can avoid all this.