Saturday, December 31, 2022

TODAY I LEARNED WHAT RIGHT-WINGERS MEAN WHEN THEY SAY "BIG MIKE"

So I was at Gateway Pundit this morning and I saw a post about John Lewis:
A statute of the late Democrat Rep. John Lewis will be erected where a Confederate monument once stood in Georgia.

The 16-foot-tall monument of Rep. Lewis by Atlanta artist Basil Watson will be placed in Decatur Square within 18 months.
As I often do, I decided to hate-read some of the comments. They were as vile as you'd expect. In right-wing comment threads, the mention of one famous Black person is just an opening for racist insults of other Black people, with the comments feeding on one another:
Lewis will always be fondly remembered as a race pimp. Next will come statues of Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

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The Reverend of the Church of “I gots to Gets Mines!”

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America needs more monuments to George Floyd. Thanks to some tough love he is now drug free.

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I know, you've gotta admire George Floyds will power, drug free for soon to be 3 years.

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Notice how quickly Minneapolis made a cash payout to the Floyd family with other peoples’ money. Typical bribe buy-off.

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N rich. They probably went through the money like Hitler through Poland.
But maybe they set some aside for their children's education.
不不不不不

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You's means fo deys kids eddication, doan ya?
Then I saw these comments:
Well... John Lewis' status will pale in comparison to the Piglosi statue that she will have erected along with Big Mike, and Obumer.

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I hear their starting up a transgender boxing assoc. Big mike would be a shoe in for the heavyweight title.
And I realized that even though I spend way too much of my time lurking in right-wing sewers, this was my first exposure to the nickname "Big Mike."

"Big Mike" is, of course, a disparaging name for Michelle Obama. On the right, it's regarded as common knowledge that Michelle is secretly a man, or a transgender woman, born Michael LaVaughn Robinson (a belief so widespread that PolitiFact felt the need to debunk it in 2020; in a follow-up post last month, PolitiFact debunked claims that Amazon's Alexa is now confirming this story about the former First Lady).

It doesn't help that in 2014 Joan Rivers told an interviewer, “You know Michelle is a tranny.” After Rivers died two months later during a botched endoscopy, Alex Jones, who'd also claimed that the former First Lady was trans, told his audience that the Obamas had had Rivers killed.
“Don’t forget,” Jones said, “the famous comedienne Joan Rivers said, ‘Of course everyone knows she’s a tranny.’ She’s dead serious, ‘She’s a man.’ Deader than a doornail in a routine operation where basically she had fire poured down her throat and was a fire-breathing goblin. Dead on arrival. Shoot your mouth off, honey, you will die.” ...

“I really think — her daughters don’t look like her — I really think this is some weird hoax they did again,” he said, “just like he didn’t get sworn in on the Bible, it was the Quran. All this weirdness, I mean, I used to laugh at this stuff, but man, it’s all about rubbing our noses in it. I think it’s all an arranged marriage, it’s all completely fake and it’s this big sick joke because he’s obsessed with transgender, just like some weird cult or something. I think Michelle Obama is a man. I really do. I really do. I believe it.”
Two years later, Carl Paladino, who'd been the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York in 2010, made similar comments:
When asked by Artvoice, an alt-weekly newspaper in Western New York, what he would most like to happen in 2017, Paladino used graphic language.

"Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret (sic), who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her," Paladino emailed to Artvoice.

Then, Paladino was asked what he would like to see go away in 2017.

"Michelle Obama," Paladino said. "I'd like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."
I'll remind you that Paladino ran for Congress in Western New York this year and was endorsed by third-ranking House Republican and possible future Donald Trump running mate Elise Stefanik. Paladino lost his primary by just 1,992 votes, in a district where he almost certainly would have won the general election.

Search "big mike michelle obama" at TikTok and you'll find videos that have a combined 641 million views. There are similar results at Facebook and, especially in the Elon Musk era, Twitter.

@godhelpuz #OverwatchMe #andGO #bigmike #michelleobama #obama #trans #wakeywakey ♬ JDM Trap Beat X Mr Smokey - Yan 394


I hate these people. I can't say anything wise or perceptive about them. I just hate them.

Friday, December 30, 2022

WHICH DO REPUBLICAN VOTERS PREFER: CRUELTY OR GRIEVANCE?

Today's release of Donald Trump tax returns is, among other things, a reminder that in the months leading up to the 2024 Iowa caucuses, Trump is going to be a guy stuff happens to, while his only real rival, Ron DeSantis, is going to be a guy who does stuff.

Nearly all of what DeSantis does will be acts of cruelty directed at people right-wing voters hate. Some of it won't succeed -- courts, for instance, are tossing out some of DeSantis's illegal-voting cases. But for the next year, he'll be the man in the arena, working hard to hurt people.

In response, all Trump can do is whine:




You'd think Republican voters would prefer results, and therefore DeSantis -- but I'm not sure. Trump will be powerless and aggrieved, but powerless and aggrieved is how Republican voters feel all the time, so they may find Trump more relatable. They'll see (we hope) Trump pursued by the feds, by the state of New York, by Fulton County, Georgia. Maybe they'll think, I know how he feels.

Trump was cruel as president, and unlike DeSantis now, he was cruel at a national level. And he has bigger grievances now: DeSantis can claim he's fighting the forces of wokeness in one state, but Trump is fighting all the evil globalists in the world. Who'll out-grieve the other? Will DeSantis's current statewide cruelty bea the memory of Trump's national cruelty? It's hard to tell.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

SANTOS THE LIAR, TRUMP THE BULLSHITTER?

At Digby's Hullabaloo, Tom Sullivan writes:
Lost in the “Catch Me If You (Oh, you already did!)” tale of George Santos is what it says about how infected the Republican Party is with Trumpism. Santos may be a pathological liar in his own right, but Trump developed the party faithful’s taste for liars and for shameless lying. That craving will outlast Trump. He’s modified the party’s DNA to match his, and Santos, Kari Lake, Team Kraken, and the rest of MAGA world suggest he’s replicating himself.
I'm not sure about this.

One difference between Santos and the other falsehood spreaders named by Sullivan is that rank-and-file right-wingers really believe Trump and the others, and they don't seem to believe that Santos actually worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, or had a grandmother who escaped the Holocaust. They genuinely believe that Trump won in 2020 and Lake won this year. They believed Trump was telling the truth about COVID. They think he really did finish the Wall. They're sure he's as rich as he's always claimed to be.

But this difference alone doesn't indicate that Santos is truly distinct from the others. He might just be picking the wrong things to lie about -- wrong because his lies are easy to disprove, or wrong because he doesn't have a propaganda army prepared to second what he's saying. (Lake benefits from a MAGA messaging army that insists all close elections won by Democrats are rigged. Trump built that army on the foundation of GOP lies and hyperbole about voter fraud going back twenty years. And in the years before he entered politics, Trump relied on an army of business and gossip reporters to second his claims about his wealth and sexual prowess, which they were happy to do because he was always good copy.)

Is the difference between Santos and Trump that Santos is a liar and Trump is a bullshitter? Harry Frankfurt, the academic besst known for trying to trying to distinguish lies and bullshit, might say so:
Frankfurt determines that bullshit is speech intended to persuade without regard for truth. The liar cares about the truth and attempts to hide it; the bullshitter doesn't care if what they say is true or false, but cares only whether the listener is persuaded.
Also:
Frankfurt ... argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.

Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.
This seems perceptive until you approach it with some skepticism. Trump seems like a bullshit artist in a way that Santos doesn't, but don't they both care about the truth and attempt to hide it? And does Trump really "change the rules governing [his] end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant"? I can't think of anyone I'd regard as a bullshit artist who does that. They all want you to believe they're telling the truth.

If there's a distinction, it might be that bullshit artists like Trump lie with great energy and panache. They don't just guiltily lay down a massive lie and pray that it's never debunked. Their lying is a sustained effort. They keep up a line of patter full of little lies in order to sustain the big ones. I think Frankfurt has a point about bullshit not needing to be untrue -- some of what Trump told us about COVID, for instance, was partly true (most respiratory diseases do dissipate somewhat in the spring), as were his financial boasts throughout his life (for most of his life he's been somewhat rich).

If there's a difference between Santos the liar and Trump the bullshitter, it's that Trump the bullshitter is trying to get you to enjoy the way he lies. Santos wants you to think more of him because, he insists, he's rich and successful and there are facts about his life that are noteworthy (even though, as it turns out, they're all lies). Trump's lies are an expression of his personality. If you fall for them -- I don't, and you don't either, but many people do -- they make you believe he's brilliant, super-competent, insightful, sexy, and charismatic. This isn't just because he says he's better than he really is -- it's because his self-confidence impresses people. (Okay, impresses idiots. But still.) It's the style that distinguishes him from Santos.

And that's why we might drive Santos from public life without too much more effort, something we've failed to do with Trump for forty years.

FOX COMMENTERS THINK HOUSE REPUBLICANS SHOULD BE ROOTING FOR JAMIE RASKIN TO DIE

I'm back. Thank you, Tom and Yas -- you did a terrific job while I was away.

Today I return to troubling news about Jamie Raskin:
Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, announced on Wednesday that he had been diagnosed with a “serious but curable” form of cancer.

Mr. Raskin, 60, who is a member of the House Jan. 6 committee and was recently chosen to become the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said he had diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and would soon begin a course of outpatient chemo-immunotherapy.
Fox News reports on expressions of support from Republican collegaues in the House, including one who might surprise you:
In the new year, Raskin will be the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, and the committee's incoming chair, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., was among those to provide words of encouragement.

"Cancer doesn’t stand a chance against a fighter like Ranking Member Raskin," Comer said in a statement. "We are all rooting for him as he and his team of doctors fight this disease. My prayers are with Ranking Member Raskin and his family as he goes through treatment and beats cancer."

Comer was joined by other House Republicans, including Reps. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

"Praying for @RepRaskin - I know a little about Lymphoma. You got this, Jamie. Godspeed," tweeted Roy, who is a survivor of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, with which he was diagnosed in 2011.

"We disagree often, but I’ll be praying for Jamie Raskin," Greene tweeted. "Cancer is a terrible disease. I watched my father die from it, and it broke my heart. It’s good Rep Raskin has hope and his form of cancer is curable with the treatment he will be starting."
Four days after Christmas, most of the Fox commenters are a tad less empathetic:
Ratskin was a vicious leading inquisitor on the phony Jan 6 and impeachment committees. Tough cookies.

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Not to worry----democrats like Raskin are immune to the normal human afflictions as they are not human.

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I pray that Raskin learns a little about humility.

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If this was Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or any other Republican politician DemocRATS would already be dancing on their grave. There is no "high road." As far as I'm concerned the only good Dem politician is dead one. #ZeroSympathy

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Me, I’m rooting hard for the other team.

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Rooting for him, a big dose of fentanyl should help.

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resign and go into the abyss

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Ivan Drago~ "If he dies, he dies "
(Yes, Ronald Reagan is still a right-wing hero for his hard line against the Soviet Union, but here's a fictional Soviet villain from the Reagan era being quoted approvingly at Fox.)
Wish I could care, but I can't.

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I don't wish those working to destroy my country well

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I have nothing nice to say.

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I wish ALL Democrats would be so inflicted.

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So instead of stepping aside gracefully and addressing his medical issue, he’s just gonna hang around? I loathe politicians...always in it for themselves.

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Too bad it’s not a Glioblastoma tumor. My sister was dead within 5 days after being diagnosed with one.

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I'm rooting for the Reaper.

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why should anyone root for evil?

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I wish it was Biden instead but, a win is a win.

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If the tables were turned and this happened to a notably republican, the left would be screaming for his painful demise and demanding any doctor that treated the GOP rep be doxed and cancelled, guaranteed.
That's ridiculous. President Biden replaced Sean Conley, Donald Trump's White House physician, with his own doctor, but this was after Conley downplayed the severity of Trump's COVID, after concealing Trump's infection before a debate between Trump and Biden.
Did Democrats wish Trump well when he had COVID, or did they accuse him of lying about it?
Well, actually, they did wish him well. There were some not-so-kind words about Trump's pandemic policies, but this was part of a public health crisis. Raskin's cancer isn't.
"We all received that news with great sadness," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC. "I always pray for the president and his family that they're safe."

"This is tragic, it's very sad, but it also is something that going into crowds, unmasked and, all the rest, was sort of a brazen invitation for this to happen," Pelosi said, adding that she hoped the news would be a message to others to follow guidelines for avoiding the spread of the virus....

"Let us all just pray for the president's health. Thank God the vice president has tested negatively and the second lady as well," Pelosi said....

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wished the president and first lady a "speedy recovery" and echoed some of Pelosi's criticism of the president's pandemic response. "What happened to President Trump is a reminder of why the whole country, including senators and staff, must follow the science and follow the protocols laid out by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and public health officials." ...

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted that "There will be a lot to say about this, but let's start here: The President and the First Lady have a serious, deadly virus and we should all hope for a full recovery." ...

Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips sent his good wishes for the Trumps but also expressed concern for residents of his Minnesota district. Trump held a fundraiser and rally in Minnesota on Wednesday. Phillips tweeted that "COVID-19 is a serious and unpredictable disease, and I wish the President, First Lady, and Hope Hicks a speedy recovery. I also have those in my district in Minnesota who may have been exposed on my mind." ...

Some commenters are angry at fellow Republicans who have kind words for Raskin:
Republicans, wake up! If he gets back to perfect health and you so much as jaywalk, he'll form a special jaywalking committee and spend millions in tax payer dollars to investigate you even if you wished him well!

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RINOs need to be removed or converted to democrats, not enabled

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After all the hate and lies that Raskin has spewed for all the years he has been in Congress, now the Republicans are rallying behind him? Hmmmm, I just wish the Republicans would rally behind the American people as quickly and stop thinking Congress is a license to steal from us.

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Time for a new party leader and a new America First party... fed up with RINOs and liberals.

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Please. Don't coddle those responsible for the decline, misdirection, and debt of the country. Tell him you hope he gets better, send him a card from the Dollar store, and leave it.

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Republicans still do not get it. We're in A-war of sorts and the democrats are the enemy. They never reciprocate and don't care about the rest of us.

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Bunch of weak Rinos. Hopefully Raskin suffers as much as possible and that his family goes bankrupt and ends homeless. That would be karma at its finest. Zero sympathy for his kind.
Ten or fifteen years ago, there would have been far more comments along the lines of "I wish him well, even though Democrats/liberals would never do the same for a Republican/conservatives." The meanness has increased. The cruelty is the point.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

History Has a Stutter

So Chaya Raichik--the insurrectionist, stochastic terrorist, and all around sick fuck behind Libs of TikTok--went on Tucker Carlson's show, and the result was as vile as you would imagine: For those of you who aren't among The Olds, Anita Bryant was a middle-of-the-road pop singer who, in 1977, channeled her hate into overturning Dade County's new anti-discrimination ordinance (her campaign was, alas, successful) and then took her anti-gay vitriol nationwide.

As Caraballo notes, Raichik is fully as hateful as Bryant--and the parallels don't end there. The poisonous core of Raichik's message--that LGBTQ people are "grooming" children--is exactly what Anita Bryant was saying 45 years ago:
"The recruitment of our children is absolutely necessary for the survival and growth of homosexuality… for since homosexuals cannot reproduce, they must recruit, must freshen their ranks."
And both Bryant and Raichik illustrate the point that when reactionaries are losing, they escalate. Things were changing rapidly in the '70s: homosexuality was removed from the DSM-II in 1973; shows like All in the Family and Maude had awkward but ultimately sympathetic portrayals of gay characters (though casual homophobia was still a staple of TV); and equality had some political successes, including the anti-discrimination ordinance in Dade County. Bryant embodied the angry backlash to all of this.

Today's climate is the result of further rapid change in a positive direction. A majority of states have some form of anti-discrimination laws on the books; marriage equality is the law nationwide, for now; and substantial majorities support most aspects of LGBTQ equality.

So Raichik and her cohort turn the hate up to 11, and we see the kind of aggressive bigotry we that we last saw in the late '70s. But this time there's an insidious twist: where Bryant attacked LGBT people in general, Raichik targets individuals--with predictable results. They can't win the culture war, or (probably) the political war, but they've figured out that at little cost to themselves they can try to make the rest of us live in fear.

The Anita Bryant story had a happy ending: she immolated her career (and eventually went bankrupt) with her reactionary crusade. Chaya Raichik is a niche player who never depended on mainstream acceptability, and the right-wing media ecosystem is now sophisticated enough to sustain her indefinitely. (Plus, she still has people like Bari Weiss running interference for her.) In other words, she's going to be around a while, and even if her base is shrinking (as I hope it is), with her model she can keep doing a tremendous amount of damage.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

A Christmas Story

Here's the heartwarming part of the story:
A group of migrants was dropped off outside Vice President Kamala Harris' D.C. home on Christmas Eve, as temperatures dropped into the teens and some people were seen without adequate winter clothes....

The Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network was there to take all three busloads of people to a church to help provide them with necessary resources and welcome them to our area.

"This is a welcome effort that we've been doing since the first bus arrived," said Amy Fischer, a core organizer with the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network. "D.C. just continues to show up as a welcoming city that is always ready and willing to open their arms to welcome people, whether it's Christmas Eve, whether it's 9 degrees outside or 90 degrees outside."
Also here:
“One of the things that’s always really beautiful to see — particularly after folks are able to get hot food into their bellies — is seeing how they open up,” Fischer said. “You have people calling their families, kids running around.”

Volunteers also helped the migrants figure out how they could get to friends and family who they had hoped to stay with or connected them with housing. Laborde said that her team was able to purchase about 90 bus and plane tickets for the migrants. New York and New Jersey were the main destinations. The farthest was Boston.
Extraordinary compassion and generosity are a staple of Christmas movies, whether it's post-conversion Scrooge caring for Tiny Tim or the whole of Bedford Falls bailing out the Baileys, and it's always heartening to see it in real life.

But extraordinary malevolence is also a staple. Here's the part that features Old Man Potter or pre-conversion Scrooge:
Fischer said this latest drop-off was a political stunt by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, using people as pawns.

“It really does show the cruelty behind Gov. Abbott and his insistence on continuing to bus people here without care about people arriving late at night on Christmas Eve when the weather is so cold. People are getting off the buses, they don’t have coats, they don’t have clothes for this kind of weather, and they’re freezing," Fischer said.
It's no longer news when Abbott pulls this kind of stunt, sending migrants to locations strategically chosen for the potential to own the libs, without coordinating with federal or local authorities, and without regard to the available resources there. What is news is doing it on Christmas Eve. It's a monumental Fuck You to what used to be broadly shared notions of basic human decency, a gesture so flagrantly contemptuous that even some of us who believe nothing is beneath the GOP found it startling. Forget about "I was a stranger and ye took me in"; in Greg Abbott's world the true meaning of Christmas is owning the libs.

It's possible that Greg Abbott miscalculated this time. Last Tuesday he sent a belligerent letter filled with the usual demagoguery, in another attempt to milk the "border crisis" for political gain. (Ironically, he pegged this letter to expected cold temperatures in Texas...and the migrants arrived on the coldest Christmas Eve ever recorded in DC.) Since Christmas, though, he's been largely silent, apart from a perfunctory response to White House criticism. There doesn't seem to be any DeSantis-style gloating this time, from Abbott or (as far as I can tell) the right-wing media bubble.

But he did what he did. I remain touched by the kindness of the people who helped the migrants, but I'm also sickened by the absolute moral degeneracy of the villains in this story.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Jon Swift Memorial

 


Commedia dell'arte cover art, 1920s. Via MareMagnum.


Happy Boxing Day and good Kwanzaa! I may be back with something later, but in the meantime there's probably something terrific from this year that you haven't read yet in the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup for 2022 of blogposts chosen by the bloggers, created by the great blogger Jon Swift/Al Weisel and curated since his untimely death by Batocchio. 


Sunday, December 25, 2022

California, Laboratory of Democracy

Even as certain states have become laboratories of fascism, California continues to move in the opposite direction--sometimes in direct challenge to the former. Today's Chronicle (along with this piece from earlier in the month) highlights some of the bills that go into effect January 1, and for the most part they reflect progressive priorities. A selection: 
  • Decriminalization of jaywalking (traditionally a pretext for cops to target people of color and people without money); 
  • Decriminalization of loitering with intent ("LGBTQ advocates labeled the loitering prohibition a 'walking while trans' ban because they said it resulted in police targeting transgender women and women of color"); 
  • Several pro-choice laws, allowing nurse practitioners to perform first-trimester abortions, "laws that protect medical records and cooperation with out-of-state entities regarding abortion restrictions...and protections for people from criminal or civil liabilities for pregnancy loss or abortion"; 
  • A ban on higher prices for (substantially) the same item marketed toward women; A ban on the use of rape kits to investigate the victims
  • An increase in the minimum wage, to $15.50; and 
  • Salary transparency (requiring workplaces to include salary range in job postings). 
From protecting choice to restraining the police to giving more power to workers, these laws move California toward a more equitable and democratic future. So as grim as it may be in places like Texas and Florida, we can take comfort in the fact that some states are fighting back.

Happy Holidays to everyone who reads this, and may you all have as much good news as possible, personally and politically, in the coming year. 

Christmas Present

 


I fell in love with this opening to the January 6 Report the moment I saw it last week. Telegraphing the ending instead of jumping into the medias res, it's not Dickens or Tolstoy, but it's the powerful jolt of narrativium I've been longing for in all these productions for the last three or four years. And the report is Dickensian or Tolstoyan in the extreme length of the thing, the panoply of grotesque characters among the occasional sincere and tormented person you can identify with, caught up in the war and seeking redemption.

In fact it's Christmas! It's a big fat novel your parents put under the tree when you're big enough—I know I was pretty young when I first read David Copperfield or Ivanhoe—where you come back from sledding or skating or whatever and you curl up on the couch with it and a cup of cocoa. It's really what I'd want to do over the next week or so, if only there were some snow and a print edition (I'm ordering mine from bookshop.org, an anti-Amazon gesture, but it'll be a while before I get it) and an actual vacation to work with.

Not that it's all that suspenseful, as far as I can see at the outset—there's plenty of "tell 'em what you're gonna say, say it, then tell 'em what you said", as I suppose is necessary. My first recommendation to readers-for-pleasure is to skip the Executive Summary for now and start with the full report, on p. 195, on Election Night, and Trump's premature decision to declare victory right away:

According to testimony received by the Committee, the only advisor present who supported President Trump’s inclination to declare victory was Rudy Giuliani, who, according to Miller, was “definitely intoxicated” that evening.4 

President Trump’s decision to declare victory falsely on election night and, unlawfully, to call for the vote counting to stop, was not a spontaneous decision. It was premeditated. The Committee has assembled a range of evidence of President Trump’s preplanning for a false declaration of victory. This includes multiple written communications on October 31st andNovember 3, 2020, to the White House by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.5 This evidence demonstrates that Fitton was in direct contact withPresident Trump and understood that he would falsely declare victory on election night and call for vote counting to stop. The evidence also includes an audio recording of President Trump’s advisor Steve Bannon, who said this on October 31, 2020, to a group of his associates from China [of Guo Wengui's media company]: 

And what Trump’s going to do is just declare victory, right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s the winner. He’s just gonna say he’s a winner. . . . The Democrats, more of our people vote early that count. Their vote in mail. And so they’re gonna have a natural disadvantage, and Trump’s going to take advantage of it. That’s our strategy. He’s gonna declare himself a winner. So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm. . . . Also, if Trump, if Trump is losing, by ten or eleven o’clock at night, it’s going to be even crazier. No, because he’s gonna sit right there and say ‘They stole it... to “provide the narrative engine for how we go forward.”

Also in advance of the election, Roger Stone, another outside advisor to President Trump, made this statement:

I really do suspect it will still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is 9/10s of the law. No, we won. Fuck you, Sorry. Over. We won. You’re wrong. Fuck you.7

And so on, and so on. If you think you got everything in the televised hearings, you're wrong. There are new gems of Trumpery everywhere

Donoghue and Rosen told President Trump “flat out” that “much of the information he [was] getting [was] false and/or just not supported by the evidence.”152 President Trump responded: “You guys may not be following the internet the way I do.”

In fact—and this has been said elsewhere—it's something of a defect overall that the focus is so relentlessly on Trump himself and his responsibility, even as it puts his stupidity and helplessness on display as in that example, leaving so many of the White House politicals (other than Mark Meadows) seemingly off the hook,  as if to help the Republican Party detach itself from him, a job the party really has to do for itself. But Trump is such a compellingly awful character, how could they not end up doing it that way?

On the other hand, is a Christmas book what the public really needs? Who reads an 800-page novel any more, in the first place? It's certainly not the thing that's going to convert any Trumpies either, is it? It's not really art, either, though it's fun to point out the resemblance. I'm not quite sure what it's for. 

It's nice to think the Justice Department investigation will make a practical use out of the material, for a firmer idea of the motivations and expectations the villains brought to their project of overturning the election, and sort out all the different ways they thought they might do it. It was a war fought on a lot of different fronts, in the courts and the legislatures and the press and on the street; were some of those approaches really feints, designed to distract from the real ones? Did any of them really think any of the lawsuits would come through? Did they really think that "fake elector" scheme had a chance of success? Or did they invest their main hopes in a "Reichstag moment", as Mark Milley told his aides, and a level of violence that would allow Trump to declare a national emergency and assume some special powers not envisaged in the Constitution? And did the refusal of "antifa" forces to take the bait on January 6 itself leave the Trumpers with no option but to try to create the violence on their own, while the Emperor spent that 187 minutes waiting to make his move? (You know what I think.)

You won't find answers to these in the report, which doesn't even acknowledge them (it maintains the view of Trump's inaction that afternoon as "dereliction of duty", as if he was just too lazy to call the National Guard—"Daddy's watching the game, ask me when the commercial comes on"). But you will find tons of material for working through them. I think that may be the best way to think of it, as a kind of Warren Commission equivalent, that fails to come to a satisfactory conclusion but will inform the debate on it for a long time to come. As such, it's a Christmas present that we won't just curl up with, but retain as an heirloom, forever.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


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Friday, December 23, 2022

Hope Among the Hopeless

The holiday season is an appropriate time for this piece from the Washington Post, about a young man born and raised deep in the Trumpiest part of Georgia who chose instead to become a decent person. It's a welcome alternative to the endless stories about diners full of Trump supporters, and a faint suggestion of how things could be different. Some excerpts:
“You couldn’t turn around without seeing some sticker, some post promoting violence and hate,” he said. It was the red hats, the flags, the conspiracy theories, the bullying, the racism. It was the sheer totality of how the Trump movement seemed to overtake peoples’ minds, he said....

But what was most insulting to him of all was the assumption that he would go along with all of it because of how he looked and where he lived. He started to feel like a spy. He had neighbors who made him aware of a bar near his house that was supposedly a gathering place for people in the white nationalist movement. He got a Facebook invitation to join some militia group, which he blocked. He had White co-workers who flagrantly used the n-word and made racist comments to him, and he came to enjoy their shock when he told them to cut it out....

“I decided I wasn’t going to just let it slide. Because if you let it slide, you become complicit, and complicity turns into guilt, and guilt turns into shame, and shame turns into fear, and I don’t want to live in fear.”
And this bit resonates with me, because of the Trump supporters I know (mainly my daughter-in-law's family):
“The hardest part is the juxtaposition of knowing these are good, kind, loving, caring people here,” Johnson’s wife would say. “It’s like they put their morality in a box.”
This is just one story, not the whole story. It still centers white people; we're still not getting the stories of the millions of Black people who turned out to hold the line against catastrophe. But it's a thoughtful, moving piece about how one person arrived at a more inclusive and constructive political perspective than that which surrounds him.

Read the whole thing (gift link).

For the Record: The Twitter Files

 


There's just so much news flooding in before I can absorb it, I'm thinking maybe I just have to resign myself to being a week or so behind on everything. I don't want to let go of the efforts of Mr. Musk's Kancelculture Kids to expose the woke leftist FBI's brutal censorship efforts at Twitter, where they succeeded in silencing the entire NewsCorp organization for [checks notes] a full day before Twitter changed its mind and its policy, in October 2020, nearly spoiling Rupert's special October Surprise revelations of Shirtless Hunter. 

Installment #7 of "The Twitter Files", by noted plastic straw advocate Michael Shellenberger, showed up on Tuesday to defend the story he, Weiss, and Taibbi have been developing: 

I mean, for one thing, the story of the blind computer repairman John Paul Mac Isaac turning the laptop over to the FBI was dodgy enough, the way Mac Isaac told it:

Thursday, December 22, 2022

GOP Schadenfreude Roundup

This should be a happy time of year for everyone (and by "everyone" I mean everyone who isn't a Republican), so for today--or at least for right now--I'll ignore all the doom and gloom and instead post happy stories from the GOP Klown Kar Krackup:

  • Marjorie Taylor Greene is fighting with Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz (she's on team McCarthy, they're both Never Kevins);
  • Kevin McCarthy is threatening GOP senators who vote for the omnibus bill;
  • GOP senators are unimpressed;
  • The Federalist has had it with Mitch McConnell;
  • Increasingly desperate supporters of Kevin McCarthy (R-Flopsweat) have taken to wearing buttons referencing the slogan "Kevin Is Chosen, Kevin Means Everything", or KICKME*; and
  • Newly elected GOP Rep. George Santos, who never worked for Goldman Sachs, never went to Baruch College or NYU, didn't have grandparents in the Holocaust, invented a non-existent charity, and responded to these allegations with a fake Churchill quote, may also have been lying about being openly gay.

    And that's leaving aside Trump's increasing multi-front legal jeopardy, which to be fair may not end in any more consequences than all of his previous lawbreaking.

    Anyway, happy holiday season to all who celebrate a holiday, and remember: Dems in Disarray!

    *I made this one up
  • Wednesday, December 21, 2022

    Heirs of Joseph de Maistre

     

    Mockery for Edmund Burke's support for Catholic emancipation, by James Gillray - Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

    The historian Thomas Zimmer is doing some interesting (and scary!) analysis on his SubStack of what's been happening in the livelier precincts of the American right, at The Federalist and the Claremont Institute and the like, where they've decided to stop calling themselves "conservatives" because they're really revolutionaries, and they're ready to throw out the whole apparatus of representative government:

    In a more recent piece entitled “Hard Truths and Radical Possibilities,” which came out in American Greatness in November, [Claremont thinker Glen] Ellmers reacted to the midterm results – by rejecting the legitimacy of elections altogether: “Elections – and therefore consent and popular sovereignty – are no longer meaningful.” Once again, his issue is not that the midterms were fraudulently stolen; it is actually much worse: “even if conducted legitimately, elections no longer reflect the will of the people.” There certainly isn’t much of a conserving spirit to be found here. Ellmers rails against the “woke oligarchy” which, based on a massive state bureaucracy that is entirely dominated by “the Left” and unresponsive to the will of the real people, has already completely destroyed the constitutional republic. There is, in this view, very little time to stand up to the “left-wing masters.”

    That's a pretty weird turn. Elections are bad because they install a "woke oligarchy" in power. What kind of political process implements the "will of the people" instead? What is the will of "the" people as opposed to the will of most people?

    To understand that, you should understand that most Americans aren't "authentic" Americans:

    Tuesday, December 20, 2022

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS

    Happy holidays, everyone, and thank you for all for reading what I've written this year. While I'm away, I'll leave you in the capable hands of Yastreblyansky and To Hilton. See you on December 29.

    TRUMP' FAILURE HAS MANY FATHERS

    To hear Maggie Haberman tell it, Donald Trump is a diminished figure now mainly for two reasons: his own bad judgment and the work of the January 6 committee:
    As the summer and the House Jan. 6 committee’s hearings began, former President Donald J. Trump was still a towering figure in Republican politics, able to pick winners in primary contests and force candidates to submit to a litmus test of denialism about his loss in the 2020 election.

    Six months later, Mr. Trump is significantly diminished, a shrunken presence on the political landscape. His fade is partly a function of his own missteps and miscalculations in recent months. But it is also a product of the voluminous evidence assembled by the House committee and its ability to tell the story of his efforts to overturn the election in a compelling and accessible way.
    Among the "missteps and miscalculations" Haberman has in mind, I presume, are his selection of midterm candidates who couldn't manage to win. But New York magazine's Ed Kilgore questions whether the committee's work had any impact on midterm voters:
    There isn’t much evidence that the committee’s more explosive findings or their skillful dissemination in the hearings had any tangible effect on this year’s elections (as it was widely assumed they were designed to). The findings weren’t discussed much by either Democratic or Republican candidates, though it’s unlikely that threats to democracy would have become a major campaign theme without the committee’s work. Yes, to the extent that Republican underperformance in the midterms may have been partially attributable to swing voters unhappy with MAGA extremism, the committee’s findings may have also contributed materially to that impression. But the committee seemed to be more concerned with what might happen after the midterms to Trump and his criminal associates.
    I have my doubts about both of these narratives.

    Kilgore believes the hearings had no impact on the midterms because candidates didn't talk about them much -- "though it’s unlikely that threats to democracy would have become a major campaign theme without the committee’s work." That's quite a qualification.

    And neither Haberman nor Kilgore mentions the biggest reason for the failure of Republican candidates, Trump-endorsed or otherwise: the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision. Politico recently noted the results of a post-midterms focus group made up of unaffiliated and Republican women in Maricopa County, Arizona.
    The women were frustrated and embarrassed by the election. They described Trump as a “central and unwelcome figure” ...

    But when it came to abortion, it was personal: When the moderator asked if the women themselves or someone they knew had an unplanned pregnancy or abortion story, every single hand in the room shot up.

    For them, it wasn’t just about a medical procedure. “It’s about control, controlling women and suppression of women,” said one independent voter.

    “It’s a slippery slope,” said another, a Republican. “If they are demanding control here, where does it end?”

    ... The focus groups [were] described in a memo obtained by POLITICO ...

    “Aside from Trump,” the memo stated, “abortion was THE central issue of the campaign.” What the women “considered extreme abortion positions,” plus Trump’s “influence,” it said, “took Republican candidates out of consideration for many of these women, including women who consider themselves pro-life.”
    Imagine the midterms if John Roberts had succeeded in persuading one Republican Supreme Court justice to support an incremental approach to the Dobbs case. Trump's assault on democracy would still have been a midterm issue, but it's unlikely that abortion rights would have been. A number of terrible Trump-endorsed candidates who lost their races by a few points might have won. We might have had Senator Herschel Walker and Senator Blake Masters and Governor Kari Lake. House Republicans probably would have won a more comfortable majority. Trump's win-loss record might have been mixed, but he could still say he'd picked a lot of winners. And his post-midterm blunders -- the dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, the ridiculous NFTs -- wouldn't have seemed like the acts of a loser slipping into irrelevance.

    So Trump is partly to blame for his recent decline in popularity, and the January 6 committee gets part of the credit, but so do Sam Alito and the rest of the Republican Supreme Court hard-liners.

    Also, Trump's decline wouldn't be quite so precipitous if the Republican propaganda machine hadn't begun closing ranks around Ron DeSantis. Republican voters are reconsidering their loyalty to Trump because they think they can -- they have an off-ramp.

    So there are many reasons Trump is "diminished" now. But let's hope Trump is a weight around the party's neck for at least another election cycle, whether he wins the presidential nomination or not.

    SAY, JUST WHERE DID LYING GOP CONGRESSMAN-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS GET HIS MONEY?

    Yesterday The New York Times published a terrific but regrettably tardy story revealing that George Santos, a Republican who won a congressional seat in New York State that had been previously held by a Democrat, has been lying about virtually every aspect of his life. Here's a nice summary of the Times story from a Substacker:
    * Santos didn’t go to Baruch College. In fact, in the years he claims to have been there, he was charged with a crime in Brazil, in the city where his mother lived.

    * He didn’t work for Citi or Goldman-Sachs, as he claimed.

    * He didn’t run a charity that was registered as such with the IRS. There’s some evidence it existed in some form from one fund-raiser but no evidence that it actually ever carried out a philanthropic mission or made donations.

    * He has a business but he doesn’t seem to own any property, let alone the amount of property he claims to own. His considerable net worth is completely mysterious in terms of where it might have come from, considering that he has no employment history of note and no college education.

    * He’s been evicted twice from two different properties for non-payment of rent.

    * His campaign spent money in strikingly profligate ways.
    About that "considerable net worth" that's "completely mysterious in terms of where it might have come from," the Times tells us:
    His financial disclosure forms suggest a life of some wealth. He lent his campaign more than $700,000 during the midterm election, has donated thousands of dollars to other candidates in the last two years and reported a $750,000 salary and over $1 million in dividends from his company, the Devolder Organization.

    Yet the firm, which has no public website or LinkedIn page, is something of a mystery. On a campaign website, Mr. Santos once described Devolder as his “family’s firm” that managed $80 million in assets. On his congressional financial disclosure, he described it as a capital introduction consulting company, a type of boutique firm that serves as a liaison between investment funds and deep-pocketed investors. But Mr. Santos’s disclosures did not reveal any clients, an omission three election law experts said could be problematic if such clients exist.

    And while Mr. Santos has described a family fortune in real estate, he has not disclosed, nor could The Times find, records of his properties.
    So where'd Santos's money come from? David Waldman directs our attention to this Daily Beast story from late November, which refers to Santos as George Devolder-Santos:
    The cousin and cash handler for one of Russia’s most notorious oligarchs poured tens of thousands of dollars into electing a newly minted congressman-elect who called Ukraine’s government “a totalitarian regime.”

    ... [Devolder-Santos] stood out to the Washington Post earlier this year for his remarks in the aftermath of Russia’s bloody, unprovoked assault on Ukraine.

    “It’s not like Ukraine is a great democracy. It’s a totalitarian regime. They’re not a great bastion of freedom,” the congressman-to-be told the paper.

    He has insisted that Ukraine “welcomed the Russians into their provinces” ... and that Ukrainians in the east “feel more Russian than Ukrainian” ...

    ... by the time Devolder-Santos made these statements, his congressional ambitions had already received a $32,800 boost from a controversial figure linked to the uppermost echelons of the Russian regime—and that support would more than double in size during the months ahead.

    The cash came from Andrew Intrater and his wife....

    Intrater’s main venture is today called Sparrow Capital, but it previously used the name Columbus Nova—and its primary function has long been to manage the investments of Intrater’s cousin, Viktor Vekselberg, one of Putin’s wealthiest and most influential courtiers.

    So tightly intertwined is Intrater’s business with that of his relative, who snatched up swaths of Russia’s aluminum and fuel industries during the post-Soviet period, that Columbus Nova described itself in 2007 Securities and Exchange Commission filings as “the U.S.-based affiliate” of Vekselberg’s Renova Group....

    Starting in March 2021, Intrater and his wife began pouring tens of thousands of dollars into auxiliary committees backing Devolder-Santos: $20,000 directly to GADS PAC, a leadership political action committee bearing the candidate’s initials, plus $12,100 to Devolder Santos Nassau Victory, a joint fundraising committee formed with the Nassau County Republican Party.
    Who knows what other money changed hands? This is what's in the public record. I assume there's more we don't know.

    The New York State Democratic Party produced an opposition research memo on Santos, but it missed most of what's been reported in these two stories -- it concentrated on Santos's presence at the January 6 Donald Trump rally. (Santos says he didn't go to the Capitol.) The opposition research failure is no surprise -- as New York magazine's Ross Barkan explained just after the midterms, the state Democratic Party is a hapless mess run by the incompetent Jay Jacobs, who doesn't even see party leadership as full-time work and regularly feuds with fellow Democrats:
    To best understand Jacobs, it’s easiest to explain what the party does not do. He himself is not a full-time employee of the New York Democratic Party. He earns his living owning and operating summer camps. The State Senate and Assembly chambers each have their own well-funded campaign arms, but they do not receive meaningful assistance or coordination from the state party.... Democratic congressional candidates on Long Island and elsewhere [have] often [been] on their own. The state party does little to recruit candidates or raise money for them.

    Organizing infrastructure is virtually absent. In 2020, Biden delegates were frustrated to find that Jacobs’s state party, which was supposed to oversee petitioning efforts to get him on the ballot in New York, offered little assistance, leaving the job to individual politicians and operatives. Jacobs has spent much of his time as party chair — he’s held the job in two different instances now — blaming Democratic losses on outspoken progressives....

    Beyond Jacobs, Democratic machines have atrophied on the county level, particularly in New York City. The Brooklyn Democratic Party, riven by infighting, could barely mobilize as Republicans swept a large stretch of southern Brooklyn. The Queens Democratic Party is hardly more active or better suited to repel Republicans.
    Hundreds of Democratic officeholders throughout the state have demanded the ouster of Jacobs, though he's hanging on so far. His party dropped the ball here, as did the press, although the Times gets credit for turning in an A-plus term paper a month and a half late.

    Santos should step aside but, unsurprisingly, says he won't. Republicans don't want to risk a new election in this very competitive district.

    So we'll find out whether Democrats can make Santos a national household name. There are bigger stories right now and this is the holiday season, but we know that the Republican propaganda machine could make a Democratic version of Santos into a national pariah. Let's see what Democrats can do.

    Monday, December 19, 2022

    VATICAN BOOTS LONGTIME RIGHT-WING OPERATIVE POSING AS A PRIEST

    There are many stories right now that are more important, but this one makes me happy:
    Frank Pavone, who leads the advocacy organization Priests for Life, and was once a religious adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, was dismissed from the clergy on Nov. 9 with no possibility of appeal ... the removal, called laicization, ... was approved by the Dicastery for the Clergy, a Vatican office.

    “This action was taken after Father Pavone was found guilty in canonical proceedings of blasphemous communications on social media, and of persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop,” [a Vatican letter] states.

    ... on Twitter [in] 2020 ... he referred to “supporters of this goddamn loser Biden and his morally corrupt, America-hating, God hating Democrat party.”
    Priests are expected to oppose abortion, but Pavone is at another level:
    Pavone has been in conflict with the bishop of Amarillo, Texas, for over a decade over his pro-life and partisan political activities that came to a head in 2016 when he put an aborted fetus on an altar and posted a video of it on two social media sites. The video was accompanied by a post saying that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform would allow abortion to continue and that Trump and the Republican platform wanted to protect unborn children.

    Pavone relocated from Amarillo and was allowed to move to Colorado Springs, Colorado. His Twitter handle still features him wearing a “MAGA” hat with a background photo of former President Trump....
    I wrote a lot of posts about this guy in the early days of the blog. A couple of decades ago, he was deeply involved in the story of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who became severely brain damaged and whose care was contested in the courts and demagogued by Republican politicians such as then-Florida governor Jeb Bush. Schiavo's husband said she'd previously told him she wouldn't want to have her life sustained under those circumstances; Pavone bigfooted his way into the story as a confidant of family members who wanted to keep her alive. After she died, an autopsy revealed that her brain was "profoundly atrophied" and that damage to the vision centers of her brain had left her blind. Which means that what Pavone claimed as her life was ending was a shameless lie. Immediately after her death, Pavone wrote:
    I went to see her in September 2004 and again in February 2005. When her mom first introduced her to me, she stared at me intently. She focused her eyes. She would focus her eyes on whoever was talking to her. If somebody spoke to her from another part of the room, she would turn her head and her eyes toward the person speaking.

    I told Terri she had many people around the country and around the world who loved her and were praying for her. She looked at me attentively. I said, “Terri now we are going to pray together, I want to give you a blessing, let’s say some prayers.” So I laid my hand on her head. She closed her eyes. I said the prayer. She opened her eyes again at the end of the prayer.
    Pavone repeatedly called Schiavo's husband a murderer:
    ... after Terri died, I called her death a killing, and I called you a murderer because you knew -- as we all did -- that ceasing to feed Terri would kill her. We watched, but you had the power to save her. Her life was in your hands, but you threw it away, with the willing cooperation of attorneys and judges who were as heartless as you were. Some have demanded that I apologize to you for calling you a murderer. Not only will I not apologize, I will repeat it again. Your decision to have Terri dehydrated to death was a decision to kill her. It doesn’t matter if Judge Greer said it was legal. No judge, no court, no power on earth can legitimize what you did. It makes no difference if what you did was legal in the eyes of men; it was murder in the eyes of God and of millions of your fellow Americans and countless more around the world. You are the one who owes all of us an apology.
    This happened a couple of years after Pavone spoke at a rally on July 22, 2004, at which members of the anti-abortion group Operation Save America burned a Quran, a rainbow flag, and a copy of the Roe v. Wade decision.

    None of this made Pavone a pariah. He met privately with John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign. Prior to that, he addressed members of Congress and Republican officials at a gathering on the final day of the 2004 Republican convention, then delivered the invocation at an inaugural eve gala attended by Karl Rove and other prominent Republicans the following January, just before George W. Bush was sworn in a second time.

    Here's Pavone now:



    He'll continue to be a right-wing celebrity. He'll probably still continue to wear the priest's collar. He says he'll continue being an activist. He's already endorsed Trump for 2024 (although I'm sure he'll cozy up to Ron DeSantis if DeSantis beats Trump in the primaries). But he's not a priest anymore, and I hope that stings.

    Sunday, December 18, 2022

    ELON MUSK: WHAT'S HE BUILDING IN THERE?



    When I think about what Elon Musk is doing to Twitter, I think about how Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes made Fox News a mainstream, highly profitable cable channel with an unmistakable right-wing bias. They did it, starting in 1996, with two slogans suggesting that the channel didn't have a bias: "Fair & Balanced" and "We Report. You Decide." Right-wing viewers knew what the slogans really meant: All other news outlets have an extreme left-wing bias, so you have to come here for a counterbalance. But the slogans were meant to signal to less ideological viewers that what Fox told them was the simple truth. The hope was that Fox would rope those viewers in and make them regular viewers and right-wingers. It worked. Fox is financially successful and it's radicalized viewers across the country. (Fox retired "Fair & Balanced" in 2017, and "We Report. You Decide" was abandoned at around the same time.)

    Now, imagine accomplishing the same goal without having to storm the barricades because you're already inside the barricades. Imagine starting with the mass audience and then transforming your site into the social-media equivalent of Fox News. I think what Musk imagines is that he can turn Twitter into a right-wing propaganda outlet without losing the vast majority of the normies on the site, most of whom just want the wide-ranging access to celebrity news, cat pictures, friends' accounts, and news and politics. He might not even lose most of the liberal journalists -- notice how the ones whose suspensions were ordered and then reversed this week meekly returned. But if Seth Abramson is correct, the right will dominate Twitter:
    On Twitter, a new algorithm will allow far-right trolls to band together en masse—something they have already been shown to have done repeatedly and systematically over the last 24 months—to make the tweets of Twitter Blue–verified left-leaning accounts disappear from public visibility permanently simply by muting or blocking them....

    You can be certain that Elon Musk is well aware that the far-right subculture that has developed at Twitter is very much focused on coordinating behind-the-scenes massive attacks on disfavored left-leaning accounts, to include waves of false reports of misconduct to Twitter and sprawling block-lists.

    The current largest such campaign unfolding on Twitter is run by a group of neo-Nazis who are trying to erase the voices of 5,000 Black and Jewish Americans on Twitter, and—to a lesser degree—feminists. The pretext behind this list is that all those on it are somehow associated with “antifa” or communism, when of course virtually none of them are....

    We know that Musk is well aware of this effort because he is regularly corresponding with far-right troll and fake journalist Andy Ngo, who has made it his personal goal to lobby Musk to remove all antifa supporters from Twitter.

    ... far-right campaigns of this sort can now become co-conspirators with a new, sinister Twitter algorithm by systematically muting and blocking Twitter Blue–verified accounts that they want disappeared. Just a few hours on a neo-Nazi block list or a mass false-reporting list can lead to a targeted account essentially disappearing from visibility on Twitter forever.
    Is this really the plan? I don't know. But Musk's friends on the right have lots of ideas, many of which Musk is implementing, so he probably believes that the end result will be a Twitter he finds much more ideologically congenial (i.e., radically right-wing) but that remains the mass-market social media site it's been for years.

    But can Twitter sustain itself that way? Fox is commercially successful because Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes understood how to reach and hold a mass audience in non-ideological ways. Murdoch had experience running widely read tabloid newspapers on three continents. Ailes had produced The Mike Douglas Show -- a popular daytime talk show that wasn't political -- and had helped soften Richard Nixon image in order to sell him to middle-of-the-road voters in 1968. They kept Fox lively and tabloid-y. They understood mass appeal.

    Musk isn't consulting with anyone like that. He's consulting with right-wing cult figures like Andy Ngo and Catturd. They're demimonde-level successful, not mass-market successful.

    On the other hand, if very few left/liberal people are fully banned and very few leave in disgust, Musk might get what he wants.

    But will Musk's Twitter ever be profitable? Run this way, no. But Musk is at the age when tech billionaires (Bill Gates, for instance) often start thinking about doing Good Works -- and he's also at the age when a somewhat older generation of billionaires began funneling large amounts of money into Republican political campaigns and organizations intended to steer America to the right. We might have to start thinking about Twitter less as a business and more as his version of the Koch network. That kind of political giving doesn't pay direct dividends. But it does help construct a world much more to the billionaires' liking, with more politicians in office who cut their taxes and ease their regulatory burden. Maybe that's the point of Musk's Twitter. He's claimed since he first made the offer to buy Twitter that he wants to use it to save civilization. What he means, I think, is that he wants to save civilization from us.

    Saturday, December 17, 2022

    THE RIGHT-WING MEDIA FINDS A NEW SCARY BLACK MAN

    How is the right-wing media scaring your white grandma and grandpa this week? I'll show you how:

    From the New York Post story:
    An activist warned California’s reparations task force of “a serious backlash” if it does not honor his demands for a six-figure payout for eligible black residents.

    Speaking at a meeting of the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans at Oakland City Hall on Wednesday, Deon Jenkins argued that every black Californian should receive a payment of around $800,000 to reflect average home prices in the state, KRCR reported.

    “Either they’re going to comply or it’s going to be a serious backlash,” Jenkins said in an interview following the hearing.
    Koch-loving Power Line blogger John Hinderaker says the quiet part out loud: "I’m sure that last statement is correct. Having held out the prospect of billions or trillions in government money, there likely would be riots if the government failed to come through."

    No, there won't be riots if a thing that hasn't happened in 160 years continues not to happen. And if there's any group protest at all, it's highly unlikely that this guy who's been designated by the right-wing media as the likely leader of the mob could even get a small gathering together.

    Who is Deon Jenkins? The Post says,
    A self-proclaimed “hip-hop organizer,” Jenkins ran for president in 2016 and 2020, and launched an unsuccessful bid for Senate during the 2022 midterms.
    That's technically true. He's released political hip-hop tracks and appears to have filed as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 and 2020, but I can't find any evidence that he appeared on any primary or caucus ballots, not even in New Hampshire, where ballot access is fairly easy -- at least 28 people were on the ballot there in 2016 and 19 in 2020. He did manage to get himself on the ballot for the 2022 California Senate primary, but he finished in 23rd place, with 0.1% of the vote -- 6,936 votes.

    How important a leader is Deon Jenkins? Let me put it this way: Jenkins has fewer Twitter followers than I do. That's sad.

    But just as in the case of the tiny "New Black Panther" group that stood with weapons in front of a polling place a few election cycles ago -- a bad thing to do, but it doesn't seem to have intimidated anyone -- Jenkins isn't a genuine threat to your pasty white ass, but the right-wing media sure wants you to think he's a threat. The right-wing media wants you scared and outraged.

    (Of course the right would focus on an individual villain. As I regularly say, the right religiously follows Saul Alinsky's final Rule for Radicals: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.")

    Reparations would be moral justice. But I worry that they're going to inspire the next right-wing backlash, the way Abolish ICE and Defund the Police and Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project and trans rights have inspired backlashes. The right eagerly weaponizes justice movements, especially movements focused on racial or gender equity, and this one seems ripe to be weaponized in the near future. The Guardian reports:
    The [California] taskforce has a 1 July deadline to complete its final report for the Legislature listing recommendations for how the state can atone for and address its legacy of discriminatory policies against Black Californians. Lawmakers will need to pass legislation for payments and other policy changes to take place....

    On Wednesday, the Boston city council voted to form a taskforce to study reparations and other forms of atonement to Black residents for the city’s role in slavery and its legacy of inequality. Lawmakers in other parts of the country have pushed their states and cities to study reparations without much progress. But Evanston, Illinois, became the first US city last year to make reparations available for Black residents, and public officials in New York will try anew to create a reparations commission in the state.
    Even if it's just California, Boston, and Evanston, that'll be enough for the backlash. Chris Rufo will be all over this. So will Fox News. So will Ron DeSantis. I expect the 2024 Republican presidential nominee to win in part on the basis of an angry pledge never to support reparations.

    Reparations will be portrayed as a budget-buster that picks the pockets of white, Asian, and Hispanic people, as a handout to the (few) descendants of the enslaved who are now fabulously wealthy, and as The Racist Democrat Party's means of making poor hard-working Volk pay for the consequences of its own racism. (Did you know Robert Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan? Did you know Abraham Lincoln was a Republican?) All just in time for the 2024 cycle. Get ready.

    Friday, December 16, 2022

    A CRINGE-CLASS HERO IS SOMETHING TO BE (updated)

    I think Amanda Marcotte gets a lot wrong in this column, but she's on to something about right-wing heroes' lack of coolness.

    Marcotte's insight is that right-wingers are fine with heroes who aren't cool because they aren't cool, at least by the standards of people who decides what's cool (whom they hate):
    ... what is too often overlooked in these discussions is how much [the right-wing] empire of trolling relies on the right's inferiority complex. At the root of the trolling mindset is defensiveness. Conservatives perceive, not always incorrectly, that liberals are laughing at them for being a bunch of tasteless rubes with boring sex lives and expanding beer guts. This perception does not motivate a desire toward self-improvement, but instead a longing for revenge, mostly in the form of imposing their grossness on the supposedly more refined existence of those they despise.

    This inferiority complex is why the term "elite" has become common currency on Fox News. They don't use it accurately — say, to describe those who hold excessive wealth and power, but as a swipe at the perceived progressive values of college-educate cultural tastemakers in coastal cities.
    This is mostly correct, although I don't believe that most right-wingers think they need self-improvement. They think they're fine the way they are, and that it's the standards of cool that are sick and decadent. Right-wingers were using the term "metrosexual," derisively, long after sophisticates had dropped the term. The right has contempt for gender-bending and multiculturalism and food made from soy. If it's perceived as hip, they hate it -- give them a Budweiser and some meat-and-potatoes blues-rock and they're happy, and they don't understand why anyone would disagree.

    (The exception to all this is the incel community, which is built on self-hate. But the hate is then directed outward, toward those who have the societally preferred faces and body types.)

    Marcotte is right when she says that right-wingers are fine with Elon Musk's lack of cool.
    Childish as it may be, Musk and his fanboys are still agitated about their perceived rejection by the Cool Kids.

    ... it's a mistake to conclude that Musk's fans simply fail to understand how uncool the Tesla CEO has revealed himself to be. He's created a cult of dork solidarity around him, one committed to a "Revenge of the Nerds"-style fantasy of ruining Twitter for all those blue-checked people who make them feel bad about themselves.
    That's correct -- and at a moment when Musk is banning journalists from Twitter, we need to recall that right-wing propagada has always put bylined mainstream reporters (or at least the ones who criticze Republicans) in the "elitist" category, even as (right-wing) billionaires are exempted. (Billionaires are "job creators" and heroes of capitalist innovation.)

    Which brings us to Trump. I think Marcotte's take on his embarrassing NFT stunt is all wrong:
    But here's the part we cannot ignore: Trump is going to sell a lot of those dopey digital trading cards. As viral marketing campaigns go, this one was a solid win. Not only did all that liberal dunking garner news coverage and dramatic social media spread, but he also conveyed an important message to his supporters: Those liberal elites are laughing at you. And the way to strike back, proving that you're in on the joke and making the liberals cry, is to buy this worthless crap and send Donald Trump more of your money.
    No, not this time, because Trump isn't making us cry, and right-wingers know that. What thrills them is when one of their heroes gets away with something that makes us sputter with helpless outrage. Trump did it repeatedly for years. Elon Musk has been doing it at Twitter. But once we're no longer outraged at a conservative hero and all we're doing is laughing, even right-wingers take notice. That's what happened to Sarah Palin. It's happening to Trump now. (For obvious reasons, this generally happens when the hero is out of power.)

    But the formula -- conservative dweeb-hero horrifies the swells -- generally works. It's why Ted Cruz was the last candidate standing against Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries. (I'm conviced that if Trump hasn't gotten into the race, Cruz would have won the nomination.) It's why Ben Shapiro is one of the right's favorite commentators. Even Rush Limbaugh was a sad dweeb getting his revenge.

    Which makes me wonder why Marcotte never brings up Ron DeSantis. Many people think he's too uncharismatic and unlikable to win the Republican nomination, much less the election. But he's another right-wing dweeb who makes the liberal swells howl. He's nerdy, but he's powerful. We feel outrage at every new DeSantis stunt. If that ever changes -- if his punches stop landing and we start laughing at him -- he'll be a spent force, like Trump ad Palin now, or like Chris Christie after Bridgegate. But until then, DeSantis is a dangerous dweeb.

    *****

    UPDATE: On the subject of those Trump NFTs, maybe I was wrong and Marcotte was right....