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When they’re walking out, through the snow

Fleeing to Canada

People trying to make it out, on foot, to Canada, in February, through the snow … well, that’s what it’s like when you’re in a tin pot banana republic and you’re trying to make it out alive.



Punching Nazis and the Rule of Law

Christ on a cracker. It’s a meme already. It’s a way of performing virtue at each other.

And if you disagree with punching Nazis, I assume you're a Nazi sympathizer. And I agree with punching Nazi sympathizers too. [quoting text saying:] We're on the same side. I just disagree with punching Nazis. ... Then we're not really on the 'same side'. I'm on the 'punch nazis' side.

Just one sample from the twitter machine

Look. If you can punch them because they’re awful people, they can punch you because they think you’re an awful person.

I know that’s not how it works in their world. They get to stomp on anybody they want because they’re so much better.

That does not make it a good idea to do the same thng. It does not reduce the number of nazis if you use their rules.

(What we should be doing is making their hate speech illegal. That’s the problem. Nobody should have to listen to hate speech of any kind. So, before the laws catch up, I guess we could shout in their faces to make it impossible for them to be heard. But punching them is just being part of their world.)

And — think about this now, really, think about it — the more of their rules you use the more of a nazi you are yourself. Punching people is just the first step down their road.

I know it feels right. But if it does not feel right when it’s done to you, then IT IS NOT RIGHT.

That’s the point of a rule of law. That’s the point of the rules applying to all equally. That’s the only way to live together without dodging people punching you all the time.



I don’t like to agree with Republicans

At this point it’s like a reflex. A Repub said it? Then, no.

But McCain is right about this:

“There is no moral equivalence between that butcher and thug and KGB colonel and the United States.”

The US, for all the evil it does, for all the Guantanamos and legalized torture and bullying wars, is not in Putin’s class.

Yet.

But as Joy Reid said, people like McCain need to “start opposing the thug’s apologist at 1600 PA Ave.”

If they want to stop sliding toward that class.



Remember when Bush the Lesser was bad? Good times.

A mere few days ago this was a cartoon.

“These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?” [And quite a few hands are raised.]

cartoon by W. McPhail

Yesterday. Reality. Comments by one of our newly unleashed protofascists. Congress can now reduce any individual Federal worker’s or specific program’s annual salary or funds to one dollar.

He favors a strategic application, likening it to a bullet from a sniper rifle rather than a shotgun. It’s unlikely — but not impossible — that members will “go crazy” and cut huge swaths of the workforce, he said.

“I can’t tell you it won’t happen,” he said in an interview Wednesday in his office. “The power is there. But isn’t that appropriate? Who runs this country, the people of the United States or the people on the people’s payroll?”

 

(Of course, if he was actually that concerned about the people, the president inaugurated on january 20th would be the one who won by near-three million votes, Hillary Clinton.)



Okay. Me too. Analysis of Dumpsterfire voters.

Opinions are divided on the sexism-racism-all-around-bigotry of the people who voted for the Gropenführer (h/t Doonesbury). They know they’re not any of those awful things. Everybody else knows they are.

After all, when everything you stand for damages everyone except your kind of people, what else can we call you?

I’m convinced we’re all correct. Really, the two are not mutually exclusive.

The sexist racist garbage was the whole point, for them. What it meant to them was they were going to be the important ones for a change. They were going to be the ones who got the money.

It’s not sexist or racist to want all the money, right? That’s just good old greed which, as we know since the 80s, is good.

The fact that it damns everyone else to hell is a minor detail, an unfortunate side effect. All they want is all the money. If there was some way for all those other people not to be miserable because of it, that would be fine. So they’re not bigots. A real misogynist racist is one who takes his automatic rifle and goes hunting for women or blacks to kill. They would never do that.

Us liberals are currently boggling that Gropenführer voters are shocked he’s taking their new government subsidized health insurance away. They’re shocked their jobs are still disappearing. What did you think? we’re screaming. You elect a fraudulent “billionaire” with gold-plated toilets and you think he’s going to do something for the menials?

But it actually makes sense that they thought both he’d give them their jobs back and not take away their health insurance. They thought they were going to get all the goodies. That’s what all that bigotry meant. To them.

Plus, big bonus, he said it was okay to kick all the scum who belonged beneath them. That proved he was in their corner, right? (Which is not hateful! It’s just unhappiness!)

(Also, for that matter, the appeal of Bernie Sanders to some of the same voters, which mystifies liberals, makes sense. Bernie was also heard as saying “vote for me and you’ll get more money.”)

I don’t know what’ll happen when the Gropenführer voters find out they’ve been swindled and only Goldman Sachs is going to keep getting gold-plated toilets.

Blame it on witches, probably.

 
Far Side cartoon, car salesman foisting enormous car onto tiny buyers.

 


Normalizing Malignancy

Everyone is right. It’s depraved to normalize evil. And that includes the horrible people who’ve decided to be its avatars. It’s wrong to muss their hair and discuss how to work with them, as if there was something well-meaning about them.

Not recognizing them for what they are and not rejecting the endless harm they do is to lose your immune system. Cancers kill because the immune system is fooled into not fighting them. Social cancers work the same way.

There are interesting articles turning up remembering normalization at work in the early Third Reich.

“The rough edges of the extreme anti-Semite and agitator of the masses were sanded away through the creation of a new, sophisticated persona that emerged in carefully crafted domestic surroundings. With silk curtains and porcelain vases, Hitler’s designers suggested an internal world that was both cultivated and peaceful.”

That kind of normalizing, which ignores the damage being done, is depraved.

But there’s another side to the issue.

Some of the anti-normalization outrage focuses on rejecting everything to do with people who do horrible things. You’re barely allowed to point out they had mothers once and were small and blew out the candles on their birthday cakes just like you and me. That’s also normalizing them.

It is, but it’s a very different sort of normalizing. It’s never all right to pretend the harm they do is okay. But it’s always necessary to recognize how widespread, how normal, the seeds of those horrors are in everyone. The seeds are just small. It’s easy not to see their potential. That’s why they can grow.

A writer with a pedophile father talks about this.

We don’t really just condemn the sexualization of children. Instead, we condemn the very existence of child abuse altogether. It’s as if the crime includes being victimized by it, or responsible for bringing it into the light. We take an ontological roach spray to the whole event, either denying its status in reality altogether, or competing with one another to proclaim the most exquisite forms of torture for the perpetrators. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the most strident liberal break character to loudly call for the prison rape of perpetrators.

That this darkness is actually woven into and throughout the fabric of our society—that these abusers are among us—is simply too much to bear. So the darkness is ignored except for the most distilled, theatrical, and viscerally repellent cases. …

Most of us would sooner discard all parties who have been tainted by this event than we would look at how tenuous the sanctity of children really is, how commonplace abuse is, or see the capacity for the mostly good to do periodic evil. We live in the same universe as those who abuse kids. We walk among them. If we want to end the sexual abuse of children, it will begin with the recognition that we are simply not that different from them.

If you assumed cancer cells are evil extraterrestrials otherwise unknown on earth, you could never find a cure. It’s when you know they’re ordinary cells with some processes running amok that you have any chance of stopping it.

Wholesale monsters who kill millions and retail ones who destroy a few women or children or men are not some kind of incomprehensible Others. They’re ordinary people who started running amok with appalling horrifying lethal consequences.

Never underestimate or normalize the malignancy. Never assume that normal people can’t become malignant.

Then we could at least try to stop the transformation at the source, every day.

That’s less fun than performing virtue by stoning the devil, but more useful.



Objet d’Art. Under Glass.

I find myself wanting to defend Melania, First Concubine. But why? She chose her path. She’s not suffering ordinary pain. I couldn’t put my finger on what makes her seem such a trapped figure.

Then along comes Laurie Penny, putting it all in words more clearly and beautifully than I could have done. As we say on the web, go read the whole thing.

When Melania speaks, more than any of Trump’s adoring female entourage, she looks like someone with a gun discreetly pointed at her back, with her necklines so high her clothes seem to be trying to strangle her and that rictus smile that never reaches her eyes.

Imagine being in her position. Imagine being married to that man, having to live with him, back him up, soothe his ego, deal with his tantrums. Her marriage will be under relentless scrutiny for the rest of her life, just as her body has been since she did her first catwalk at the age of five, but if anyone raises the alarm, we’ll be told it’s music and ordered to dance. Do we think that the ham-faced, race-baiting, woman-hating monster about to waltz into the White House respects his third wife as a person? This is a man who slut-shames and humiliates any woman who stands in his way

No, Mrs Trump is not the most unfortunate woman in America right now. She will be unaffected by many of the more venal policies of her husband’s cronies, and as the mother of an ex boyfriend once told me, if you must cry, it’s nice to be able to cry in the back of a Porsche. But there are all sorts of cages you can keep a woman in — ask the wife of any Saudi Prince — and this, now, is what American girls are being taught to aspire to. Costlier chains. Shinier bars.

It’s not that the third Mrs Trump never had any choices. Those who dismiss her as a trophy wife miss the point: of course she knew the deal she was making. She has worked harder than most men could ever understand to get to this position …. This is a woman who has played the Master’s game expertly, and who now has to live in the Master’s house, raising his child, doling out platitudes about abuse as her husband sets about gaslighting the entire world. You might see that as karma. I see it as tragedy. Treating Melania as a real human being, rather than an empty symbol, is one more way of opposing everything her husband stands for.

Melania Trump was kidnapped long ago. She is now the walking, very occasionally talking, embodiment of the Stockholm Syndrome suffered by a growing cadre of the American political class. It’s an ugly thing to watch.

It is galling to watch left-wing men, in particular, muster to fling mud at a woman who clearly has, in her own way, very few choices, and is very publicly starring in the reality-television adaptation of American Psycho.

Patriarchy is not a game any woman can win, and Melania is playing it on nightmare mode, in the version where you have to sleep with the end-level boss. The man she is married to has a thug’s understanding of consent and every intention of screwing the world, violently if necessary. How we treat his First Victim sets the tone for the fight to come.

 
small geisha doll on display

 


I know how to fix the tampered election

I’m obviously missing something because I’ve seen several articles along these lines lately. Yochi Dreazen in Vox, Dec. 20th:

In a best-case scenario, Russian President Vladimir Putin has managed to persuade tens of millions of Americans to question the integrity of the US political system and the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s narrow win. In a worst-case scenario, the Kremlin just handed the White House to the most jarringly pro-Russian presidential candidate in American history. …

And yet there may be no response. Nor is it even obvious what the response should, or would, be.

Not even obvious what the response should be? ??!?

 

 

He points out the disproportionality of a military response and the futility of trying to rig Russian elections back at them when they’re already fully rigged.

All of which seems like barking up the wrong tree in the wrong forest.

The answer is self-evident. You deny them (whoever “Them” are) their ill-gotten gains.

You re-run all the elections that had a whiff of tampering.

This time under the eyes of observers from all concerned parties you hand count the all-paper ballots.

And you do it now. Rerun January 14th. Delay inauguration pending results. Problem solved and tampering rendered pointless.

What is so hard about that concept?

.

Update Dec 26th. It takes me way too long to face reading all the sad links stacked up in my bookmarks. Moscow on the Potomac (Dec 21) provides a detailed, very well sourced article on the appalling level of the Dumpster Fire’s entanglement with Putin.

I grew up in a Russian family in the US. The “better dead than Red” hysteria of the old days was beyond stupid. But this is different. Putin got his start rising to the top of the heap in the KGB. The KGB. Americans seem to have no concept what that means. And that’s the guy who’s messing with democracies all over the Western world.

That’s an existential threat on the order of climate change to democracy and the rule of law, to say nothing of the US way of life.

The only appropriate reaction is to charge at the danger with your hair on fire.

It’s an attack on — and apparently successful takeover of! — this country. Ordering a rerun of the election, now, is essential. Obama could appropriately declare martial law if that’s what it takes to redo the election. Because that’s what martial law is for: extraordinary measures in defense of the country when it’s been attacked.

Instead he’s on vacation and the Dems are trying to figure out how to “work with” that shambling disaster.

 

 

Update, 2017-01-24: This is what I was trying to say: @miragonz “it’s like democrats and republicans were playing a board game, then the republicans were like ‘fuck it’ and lit the house on fire, but dems are still just sitting in the burning house trying to win the board game.’

That’s what I was trying to say with ‘hair on fire!’ ‘martial law!’ ‘dooooo something!’ Calling out the fire department is an appropriate response; worrying whether repubs will, zomg!, think you’re partisan is not.



The USA has chosen a coup over a civil war

A perceptive commenter over on the twittermachine has said, “Ah! I see #USA has chosen a coup over a civil war (for now).”

That’s probably the most charitable interpretation for Obama’s inaction.

I do know that my anger — it’s more than anger. Rage? Fury? — is based to some large extent on my own relative safety. Financially, I’m just this side of the line so I won’t be first to suffer the outrageous slings and arrows launched by the bullies in power. It is a bit of a luxury to be able to demand that people do the right thing.

That said, though, I can’t stop myself from feeling that demand.

Our closest parallel is Lincoln and the slave trade. The Civil War cost lives and money, but that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to say, “Oh, bother. We’ll have to live with slavery for some people because otherwise I, personally, may have to pay a price.”

The Bully-in-Chief-not-Elect — installed by vote suppression, the clickbait chasers in the media and everywhere, the FBI, and Russia, in that order of blame — the BICnotElect wants to use everyone with less power to get richer, wants to make most of the country destitute enough to use that way — and we’re supposed to let him go right ahead because doing anything else would cost us.

When the alternative will take more than you can count, worrying about how much something costs is not rational.

 

(Norwegian cartoon, author unknown)

 


Trump campaign coordination with Putin could be right in the server logs

The news of the day is all the info coming out about Putin’s personal involvement in the hacking of the US election (Obviously he was involved. The guy is the former head of the KGB. The KGB. Take it from someone who’s half Russian, that’s Bad News3.)

But Russian subversion of US democracy is worse if it was helped by the guy who plans on bossing it come January 21st. (Obviously, right?) Sarah Kendzior is one person who’s been tracking this:

From her tweet:

Trump campaign coordination with Russia was already discussed right after the election.

And Karen Collins responds:

Now just show the campaign personally coordinated with Russia and the game for them should be over.

The big words are “should be.” But aside from that, the evidence looks to be there, if the government (which Obama heads right now) would use its investigative powers to actually investigate. Foer in Slate, October 31st [note: before the election], reporting on a clandestine Trump server:

Earlier this month, the group of computer scientists passed the logs to Paul Vixie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no higher authority. Vixie wrote central strands of the DNS code that makes the internet work. After studying the [server] logs, he concluded, “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project.” Put differently, the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence. [emphasis added]



About Ohio’s anti-choice heartbeat bill

You’ve all heard by now that Ohio passed the “detectable heartbeat” anti-choice bill. Women are not to control their own bodies or make their own choices, ever. Not even when they’re the victims of crimes arguably worse than murder. You get to live with the aftermath of torture using sex.

There’s another class of people who don’t get to control their own bodies. Slaves. It’s the definition of slavery. You don’t own yourself.

But, yes, we know all that. What I actually wanted to write about was the biological angle here.

Do you know one of the weird things about live heart cells in a petri dish? They beat.

(Which, speaking as one of those unpoetic scientists who take all the fun out of things, does not mean that heart cells in a petri dish can feel warm fuzzies or celebrate Valentine’s Day or know hope. The beat is a consequence of the chemical and electrical properties of that kind of cell. It’s not actually evidence of a soul. Note also that we’re talking about cells. A functional heart develops by about the 20th week.)

Heart cells in a human embryo are differentiated enough to start beating at about 18 or 19 days following fertilization.

By convention, doctors calculate the duration of pregnancy from the first day of the last menstrual period (not from actual fertilization). That means a heartbeat is detectable at 32 days or four and a half weeks. (The Ohio backers of the bill, at least one of whom doesn’t know why women get abortions, stipulated 6 weeks because that’s the limit of detection for equipment currently available in doctors’ offices.)

A woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant at that point.

Fertilization happens in the middle of the ovulation cycle. The exact day varies a bit. Menstruation starts 14 days later. Periods are often 3-5 days later than expected because of common variations in the cycle. A missed period is the way a woman suspects she’s pregnant. She only knows she’s missed a period some 19 days after fertilization at the earliest.

At that point there’s already a heart beat.

graphic representation of timings discussed in the post

No, home pregnancy tests won’t help. They only start working about 14 days after fertilization, and they tend to give false negatives, i.e. unreliable results, up to about 20 days after. For those doing the math, that means they become reliable at about 5 weeks of pregnancy, calculated according to the medical convention.

No, advances in technology won’t change the test timing much. A woman is only pregnant once implantation occurs near the 3 week mark (ten plus or minus a few days after actual fertilization). About half of fertilized eggs implant, so earlier testing for fertilized eggs, once that is possible, would only mean a lot of false positives that never actually result in pregnancy.

So once research-grade heart beat detection is available everywhere, there will never, even theoretically, be so much as a day when a woman can control her own life.

That’s always been the point and goal of treating women as reproductive organs.



When even the President doesn’t care about the country

If you look through old posts here, you know I have a low opinion of Obama. He’s never done anything to indicate a fundamental change from the dawn of his political career when he maneuvered disqualifications of voters so that he could take an election from a popular incumbent. And the list of sleaze after that has been of a piece through the years. Just search this blog, if you want the gory details. For me, it’s too depressing to scare up the links.

But his latest display of his complete lack of interest in doing what’s right has managed to surprise me. After all these years.

“Had basis in evidence.” Let that echo around in your head for a while. “Had basis in evidence.” “Had basis in evidence.” “Had basis in evidence.”

The smears of Hillary had no basis in evidence. None. Zip. Nada. Bupkis. Those were shouted from everywhere.

Meanwhile, Obama sat on evidence of Russian efforts to elect Trump that had basis in evidence.

Meanwhile, he’s helping a serial sexual assaulter — a proud serial sexual assaulter — get comfy in the White House and surround himself with wifebeaters and racists and ignorant toadies. That Cheeto-topped Dogpile is an existential threat to rule of law in this country. But for Obama, actually acting like the President and taking care of his country is …

 

?

What??

Too much bother?

So, meanwhile, Obama sat on evidence of Russian efforts to elect Trump that had basis in evidence.



The crowing of the kakistocracy

“We won. America belongs to white men.” – Richard Spencer

Plain speech out of the mouth of … what? Can’t really say infants. Infants have no moral code, which puts them well above nazis.

And, of course, never confuse plain and true. They lost the actual vote by millions. We’re in the process of finding out why actual democracy is a good idea. Be nice if we had it.



#PotemkinElection but #DoNothing

More and more indicators are pointing to outcome-changing shenanigans in the 2016 US election.

The most massive issue: dumping hundreds of thousands of voters off the voter rolls. Suspiciously many of them are black, Hispanic, or poor. Greg Palast on the stealth war on voters. (Petition to release Crosscheck voter list, although petitions in our new autocracy feel like a dumbed down kabuki theater.)

Putin’s social media trolling, hacking, Wikileaking, snowjobbing of US voters. Even the NSA noticed.

Bizarre behavior by Comey, Director of the FBI, to help the snowjob effort. Data showing how Comey pushed some, enough, voters a week before the election.

None of those things will show up in the current go-through-the-motions recount in swing states. The damage was done before the election. Recounting the already fake results will just show us the same fake results.

Although there were Wisconsin counties with more votes cast than they have voters.[Update 2016-12-01. Christ take the wheel. You can’t make this shit up. Nineteen of those WI counties are refusing to provide the ballots for a recount. Which is illegal. Which obviously means zero to them. Anyway, so they have unreal numbers of voters…] 105% participation! Cool. And they say voter turnout is pathetically low in the US. Obviously they don’t get out to rural Real America™ enough. So, by all means, do a recount. Maybe it’ll uncover some further shenanigans on the day, which they really didn’t need by that point, but none of us knew that. We’re still learning this dictatorship stuff.

Because that, apparently, is what we’re trying to do. Otherwise, with all the evidence available, you’d think we’d be applying every tool at our disposal to get at the actual will of the voters. Which, I hear tell, is what democracies are about.

The Electoral College, invented exactly for the purpose of being a final bulwark against a failed election, would be showing that it was going to do its job.

The Department of Justice would be auditing the vote. Really auditing it. Including all the Jim Crow crap perpetrated by Crosscheck.

Obama would be ordering the release of relevant data from the FBI, so the people whom he serves could see just how much dirty work there had been.

But no, we’re not doing any of that. The very concept of examining the election for fakery is an unrealistic wild fringe idea. After all, if you looked squarely at our Potemkin Election, you’d first have to admit it might not be real.



#AuditTheVote

For the first time in my life I regret not being a lawyer. I don’t know who you sue to force an audit. Apparently, you can call the Dept. of Justice: 202-353-1555. Do it. Do it. Do it now. We must have an audit to see whether we need a full recount.

Update 2016-11-22: The DOJ number is reported to be busy by just about everyone, and the commenter below. I guess that’s good in a way, but it’s very frustrating. I’ve also found an email address: voting.section@usdoj.gov People are always saying calling is more effective, but I’m sure email is still better than a busy signal.

Because you know what? We have the same situation as happened only twice before: Bush-Gore in 2000 and Bush-Kerry in 2004. Look how many lives and trillions that cost us. And the junior Shrub was an elder statesman compared to the multiply bankrupt sexual assaulter who’s in line to be Head Bully now.

There is the same big, statistically unbelievable mismatch between exit polls and voting results in a few counties in a few swing states. Just enough to alter the election results.

If that kind of thing happens in, say, Kenya, the US makes stern noises about recounts.

(As it happens, Africans have kindly provided their expertise, best summarized perhaps, if you know anything about the two men involved, in this tweet: “The African Union has dispatched Olusegun Obasanjo & Thabo Mbeki to the US in effort to resolve the post-election crisis.”)

Rivest and Stark, professors at MIT and UCBerkeley respectively, have even made it easy for us by showing that a very small recount is enough to audit the results and tell us whether a full recount is needed.

Auditing surprisingly few ballots could give 95% confidence that the results are correct in every state: about 1.5 million ballots in all, a bit over 1% of the ballots cast.

We can do this.

Unless of course democracy in the US of A is not worth the tiny amount of money involved in handcounting 1,500,000 ballots.

#AuditTheVote #AuditTheVote #AuditTheVote



In Case Anyone Wonders Why Communism Fell

[Update Nov. 9: I’ve been working on a post about free speech and its limits since forever. 2009? Anyway. There’s hardly any point now, since the limits we so desperately needed — not that I know how to implement them — we didn’t figure out in time. Freedom of lying has given us the actual Cheeto-topped Dogpile as Head Bully, so anything about free speech is even more theoretical than it was before. Oh well. I guess it’ll keep me busy and off the streets. For a while.

Where was I? Why communism fell.]

It’s called a lethal inability to question your own dogma.

One of the bracing side effects of a Chatbot running for Prez is that people are realizing infinite blather is bad for the health of democracy. Unfortunately, it’s paired with refusing to see any workable solutions.

In this otherwise good article about how bad, fake, and gossipy reporting is undermining democracy itself, there’s this gem:

The cure for fake journalism is an overwhelming dose of good journalism.

This is in the same article, by the same author, pointing out that the number of journalists is now about half what it was in 2000 and headed lower.

The fact that there is nowhere for the onslaught of good journalism to come from is ignored. The dogma that the solution to all problems with free speech is always more free speech may not be questioned. Hell, it can’t even be articulated.

There’s another massive unspoken problem. How long has gossip and bullshit been with us? Since the dawn of time? People love the stuff. Human have been following it in herds since our vocabulary consisted of inflected grunts. The field of logic and its offshoots, rules of evidence and the scientific method, are nothing but earnest attempts to hold off the furious pleasure of jumping to conclusions.

And the well-meaning gent at the New York Times thinks that merely showing people lots of sensible work will keep them from mainlining crap. That’s a bit like assuming sermons will keep teenagers from having sex. It’s never worked before, and it won’t start working now.

But free speech dogma must not be questioned, even though it drags the whole democracy down with it.