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Retirement isn’t in the bible, so…..

Hell. At this rate I’m going to have to start a category for Stupid Garbage Spewed By Congresscritters. And I try hard to avoid that “news.”

(just a small sample: Utah, why stop at global warming?. This is how our world ends. Congressmen should have at least room temperature IQ.)

Electricity. Also not in the bible.

And now? Now this from Greg “Body Slam” Gianforte who is (was?) running for Congress from Montana:

“There’s nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement. … Nowhere does it say, ‘Well he was a good and faithful servant, so he went to the beach.’ It doesn’t say that anywhere.

Forgetting for a moment that little thing about separation of church and state, you know what else isn’t in the bible?

America. That’s what. Neither North, South, or Central.

So I guess you just better vanish, Mr. Greg. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

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It’s lucky Nixon obstructed justice

The Comey firing seems to have sent a tremor through the inert (dead? or sleeping?) body politic.

Even a few Republican congresscritters are saying ZOMG. That’s just so Nixon. That’s what he did. It’s exactly what he did. Omigod. Maybe we have to actually, perhaps, like, take steps.

You know what Nixon did, right? He tried to bug the Democratic headquarters to get the jump on his political rivals. At this point, that’s pretty well Standard Operating Procedure. Even Bernie Sanders snooped on his rival’s campaign info. Nobody cares. That’s what Nixon tried to do when the technology wasn’t as easy.

So, yes, in his case, obstructing justice was a way more serious crime, especially since he was President and supposedly a prime upholder of justice in the land.

Donnie “Two Scoops” Trump, on the other hand, has committed sexual assault, fraud, all indications point to heavy duty money laundering, and has handed over intelligence and god-knows-what-else to a hostile foreign power because Putin seems to have some major hold over him. Truckling to a hostile foreign power is treason.

Treason.

Treason. Committed by a thug installed in the White House by voter suppression.

That is just a tad worse than trying to get your opponent’s secret election-winning sauce.

But that’s not what the headlines are about. It’s as if right and wrong don’t exist anymore. The only way to understand whether something awful happened is if it echoes an event clearly labelled back in the day, when we still knew up from down.

So, as I say, thank God Nixon obstructed justice. There’s obviously nothing wrong with selling the country to Putin for personal benefit because Nixon never did that.

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Women are human or chattel. Not both.

We have a choice. We can do what it takes to live among equals, and benefit from all the fun and fascinating things some of those people will come up with. Or we can live in a Handmaid’s Tale, but without uniforms, of course, I mean, we wouldn’t want to be obvious about it, right?

There’s one very simple test of where you fall on the spectrum of believers in slavery.

Human beings have rights. They can’t be bought or sold or deployed as some master sees fit.

Slaves, on the other hand, don’t own themselves.

So, do you think women have control over their own bodies? Or don’t you?

If you do, you want to live in a world of equality. If you don’t, you think women are properly chattel, there to serve at someone else’s discretion.

It’s really that simple. You can’t be a “pro-life liberal.” (The crap about how Democrats should accommodate that drivel was the last straw and brought on this podium-thumping rant.) You can’t say the right to make your own decisions about your own body is some tertiary issue. If you think other people’s rights to their own bodies are unimportant, you’re pro-chattel.

We call the right to make your own decisions “pro-choice,” but that obscures the issue. The essence is that the choice has to rest with the woman who has the body that necessitates the choice. You might be against abortion in your own life. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what you can’t be is against abortion in someone else’s life.

You cannot make decisions about somebody else’s body without turning her into a slave. It’s the very definition of slavery. You have taken away her ownership of her own body.

We’re so used to thinking of women as some kind of not-really-humans that it’s easier to understand the point if it’s translated to general terms.

Taking that choice away from the woman involved is exactly equivalent to hauling people off the street and hooking them into a dialysis machine to act as a filter for someone else’s blood.

The mere thought is horrible.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s necessary to save someone’s life or not. That’s not the point. Not when it’s real humans dragooned into being dialysis machines.

It’s only when it’s women that suddenly somehow a fetus takes precedence.

And note that it’s only since the invention of the birth control pill that some people got into a lather about the personhood of the fetus. Before that, injunctions against sex, which did not apply to men, were enough to control women’s bodies. It’s never been about the “life” (read “personhood”) of the fetus. If it was, they’d care a lot more about what kind of life that fetus has once it’s born. It’s always been about trying to stop women from owning their own bodies.

Note also that all the measures pushing fetal personhood necessarily take that status away from the woman involved. The fetal personhood bills are really Women Are Non-Persons bills, but their authors try to avoid plain speech.

So, as I say, it’s a simple test whether you’re pro-equality or pro-slavery. Do you think abortion is a woman’s decision or not?

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How to stop weaponized speech?

Free speech defined as whatever anyone wants to say has got us here. A Chatbot sits in the White House. It’s not a theoretical question anymore whether the marketplace of ideas works and whether good ideas win out over bad ones. It all just got real and the answer is no.

But the answer is obviously not to shut down the right. There’s a reason freedom of speech is right up in the First Amendment. A society that loses its grip on reality is not long for this world, and self-serving groupthink among elites has doomed societies throughout history. The idea behind free speech is to avoid that fate. If everybody can provide insight, the truth is likelier to come out than if just a few people are looking. Many heads are better than one.

(I know. There are a mountain of issues to unpack in that too-simple summary. “What is truth?” for one. I’ve explored this a bit in Rethinking Democracy and in a number of posts on this site, listed at the end.)

The point here is that as a matter of practical fact free speech is foundational and the current approach is not working. We need to fix it. We don’t know how many dumpsterfires civilization can stand and it would be nice not to find the breaking point the hard way.

Fixing it requires identifying what’s wrong, and without an exhaustive list there are at least a couple of obvious reasons why the current approach to free speech does not work. The so-called marketplace of ideas assumes we’ll study all the ideas out there, weigh the evidence in favor of each, and come to the logical conclusion about which ideas are best.

There is so much wrong with that, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s impossible to study all the ideas out there. Who would have the time? Leave aside all objections about insufficient education, or intelligence, or poor presentation in the media, the simple limitation of time is enough to make nonsense of the assumption. Everything else could be perfect, and the time limits mean it still could never work.

Then there’s the psychological factor that people hate to be wrong. That means rethinking one’s opinion is much less likely to happen than forming an opinion to start with. Reserving judgment is difficult — both scholarship generally and science specifically are simply years of training in how to reserve judgment — and it’s the last thing we humans are naturally good at.

So if there is a lot of appealing garbage in this marketplace of ideas we keep hearing about, they’re not going to give way to the good ideas hiding in the back stalls. On the contrary, once people have heard it and thought it sounded plausible, they don’t want to re-examine it.

And that gets us Chatbots in the White House.

So what to do? How do we stop this travesty of one of the foundational rights? How do we get past the paralysis of losing free speech because we’re so desperate to preserve it?

One obvious point to start with is who should not decide on what is covered by the free speech label. Governments are the worst arbiters. In the very epicenter of desperation about free speech, the USA, it took the Chatbot-in-Chief mere seconds to label news he didn’t like “fake.” (Or, today, Turkey blocked Wikipedia, Wikipedia, for threatening “national security.”) Corporations are appalling arbiters. Google and Facebook and Amazon and the whole boiling of them don’t give a flying snort in a high wind what kind of dreck pollutes their servers so long as it increases traffic and therefore money to them. Experts are another subset who are never consistently useful. You have the Mac Donalds who’d prefer to shut down speech they don’t like, although they dress it up in fancier words. You have the Volokhs and Greenwalds and Assanges who can afford to be free speech absolutists because they’re not the ones being silenced. And finally, crowdsourcing doesn’t work either. That rapidly degenerates into popularity contests and witch hunts and is almost as far away as corporations from understanding the mere idea of truth. (The whole web is my reference for that one, unfortunately.)

As to who should decide, I don’t know. But instead of trying to figure out the edge cases first, the ones where the decisions are crucial, maybe we should start with the easier ones. Some of the problems with free speech involve expressions which are simple to categorize or have significant consensus. So maybe it would be possible to start with the non-difficult, non-gray areas.

Hate speech. It’s not actually speech as the word is used when talking about the right. Speech and expression are about communication, but the purpose of hate speech is hurt. It’s a weapon (that happens to use words), not communication. Pretending it should be protected, like some of the absolutists do especially when “only” women are targeted, is like protecting knife throwers if they say that’s how they “communicate.”

still from Minnie the Moocher 1932

Not only that, but hate speech silences its targets. It actually takes away the free speech rights of whole sets of people. That really needs to be a in bold capitals: it takes away the right to free speech. Shutting it down is essential to preserving the right.

Hate speech can shade into art and politics and religion but, again, let’s not worry about the difficult parts.

We could try one simple approach that might make a big difference by itself. Make it illegitimate to express any physical threats to someone or to target anyone with descriptions of bodily injury.

That seems doable because I can’t think of any insight one might want to communicate that requires physical threats to get the point across. I may just have insufficient imagination, in which case exceptions would have to be made. But as a beginning in the fight against hate speech, prohibiting wishes for bodily injury seems like a fairly clearcut start.

The first-line decisions about unacceptable content could be made by machine, much as automatic content recognition now prevents us from having search results swamped in porn. The final arbiters would have to be humans of course, but at least whether or not physical harm is involved is a relatively clearcut matter.

But even such a conceptually simple standard becomes intimidating when one remembers that applying it would render entire comment sections of the web speechless. They would have to stop yelling “Fuck you!” at each other.

That’s not just a wish for someone to get laid. It gets its power from wishing rape on people, it means “get totally messed up, humiliated, and destroyed.” It is, in the meaning of the words, a wish for physical injury and it would be illegal even though everybody insists they don’t mean it.

Expecting automated content recognition to discern intent is asking too much. Expecting humans to police every comment is also impossible. So even such a small, simple (it’s only simple if it can have an automated component) attempt at reducing hate speech means whole areas of the web would have to find new ways to function. They wouldn’t like that. After all, the reason hate speech is such a massive problem is that too many people don’t want to stop indulging in it.

But it gets worse. Another aspect of hate speech is the broadcast of dehumanizing putdowns against whole classes of people. And that causes people to get so angry they start memes about how great it is to punch Nazis.

It is not great. It’s a rather Nazi thing to do. The real solution is to stop allowing hate speech and shutting that crap down. But punching is easier than figuring out how to shut it down.

The biggest problem is that making it illegal to broadcast humiliation and harm against classes of people would make 99% of porn illegal. It’s interesting how impossible it’s become to distinguish porn from hate speech. That’s because that’s what it is now. And it really should be illegal. Harming and humiliating people to get high has a name, and it’s not sex.

That means much of the moneymaking web would disappear. So I realize the idea is doomed. Free speech isn’t that important to most people.

However, in the spirit of trying to tackle the problem anyway, maybe it would be possible to get a handle on at least one aspect of broadcast hate speech, that of public figures promoting bigotry. Most of it comes from the right wing, the Limbaughs, Coulters, Spencers, Yiannopouloses, probably because it’s easier to get paid for right-wing bloviation. It’s there on the left, just feebler. They’re given platforms, even though what they have to say is known drivel, even at places like Berkeley. And that’s probably for the same reason internet giants host garbage: it brings in fame and fortune.

The fault in this case, as it is with the corporations, is in the respectable institutions providing the platform. Somehow, it has got to cease being respectable to let people spew known lies. Climate change deniers, flat earthers, holocaust deniers, pedophiles, space program deniers, creationists — everybody who is just flat out spouting drivel should not be speaking at universities, television stations, webcasts, or anywhere else except maybe at their own dinner tables. Some crap-spouters are already excluded, such as pedophiles and holocaust deniers. It’s time to apply consistently the principle that discredited garbage is not to be given a platform.

As always, I don’t know how we can enforce that. We need a list of subjects on which over 95% of scholars agree on the facts — such as all the ones listed in the previous paragraph — and then some mechanism to prevent the drivel from being promoted. Once upon a time, the Fairness Doctrine seemed to help keep that stuff in check. There was a reluctance to give a platform to trash when you knew it would be immediately shown up for what it is. Maybe something similar could work now? (I know it’s not going to happen. As I said, the real problem is that people want garbage.)

Then there’s a curious new category of hate speech, the kind where somebody insists their feelings are hurt and that’s not fair.

Free expression is a right. As such, it has to apply equally to everyone. “Rights” that are only for some are privileges and not under discussion here. The claim that hurt feelings, by themselves, without any evidence that anyone committed hate speech or any other offense, should silence others is silly on the face of it. Applied universally, that principle would mean nobody could say anything the minute anyone claimed a hurt feeling. Trying to silence others over hurt feelings is actually claiming a privilege, which is proven by how quickly it silences everyone’s right to speak.

The most strident current manifestation of this strange idea is among some members of male-to-female trans activists. They insist that any sense of exclusion they might have from any community of women could drive some of them to suicide and is hence lethal and is a type of hate speech.

Since they feel excluded at any reference to biological femaleness or womanhood, the result is that women are supposed to never talk about their own experience using common words, like “woman,” because that would be oppressive to mtf trans people.

To be blunt, that is complete through-the-looking-glass thinking. It cannot be oppressive to third parties if a group of people discuss their lives amongst themselves, or if they want to gather together. That’s called the right of assembly, for heaven’s sake. To insist it’s so hurtful as to cause suicide is indicative of a need for therapy, not of harm on the part of others minding their own business.

(Clubs of rich people with the effect of excluding others from social benefits are different matter. Social power is a factor there, which is outside the scope of this discussion. Clearly, an egalitarian society can’t tolerate closed loops in power structures.)

Hate speech, to reiterate, is the use of expressions as a weapon, not as communication. When speech is communication, the fact that it’s not addressed to a third party does not make it hate speech.

A blanket restriction on broadcasting hate speech would be a relief in many ways, but would have negative effects on research. After all, if something is true, it’s not hate speech to point it out, and it’s not possible to find out if some groups truly have negative characteristics if publication of the results is forbidden.

Just as one example: it could be worth studying why over 90% of violent crimes are committed by men. (Yes, the link goes to wikipedia. There’s a wealth of good references at the end of the article.) That doesn’t even address the gender imbalance in starting wars of aggression, which, as far as I can tell, hasn’t been studied at all. Is the issue the effect of androgens throughout life? Are the origins developmental in utero? Or does status promote a sense of entitlement to inflict oneself on others?

Violence is a big problem with huge social costs and the gender correlation is striking, so it could be a legitimate topic of research. But some people, men probably, would likely consider it hate speech. There is no automated system that could tell the difference between hate speech and a legitimate research topic about a group. One would have to rely on humans with valid and transparent methodology. Luckily, we have that very thing. It’s called peer review. It has its problems, but it works well enough that it could be used to allow research on “dangerous” topics to be published in academic journals.

Well, so much for this being a short piece. And all I’ve achieved is to suggest a few small fixes at the edges of the most obvious problems. Automated systems could restrict unambiguously violent expressions. Large platforms need to be held accountable for their responsibilities to avoid known garbage. And manual review needs to be carved out for research.

Maybe that would be a start at delivering free speech back from the noise drowning it out.

Updated with a clarification, an image, and the linked list below May 6.

 

Other writing of mine on this topic: Free speech vs noise (2008), and on Acid Test:

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What do you mean, “Russia TRIED to hijack US election”?

BBC: Russia ‘tried to hijack US election’

Have you noticed who’s sitting in the White House (when he’s not golfing)?

 

(Admittedly, Putin had lots of help. Crosscheck dumped over 7,000,000 likely Democrats off the voter rolls, and the tRump got the Electoral College by all of around 77,000 votes in a few key districts. Small subset of effects of Crosscheck:)

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This isn’t going to work, is it?

I’m watching Old Orange, aka 45, as we’re all in this train plunging off this cliff together, and occupying myself by wondering, in a detached sort of way, how he’s going to handle this.

Not the crashing train of state, of course. It’s obvious what he’s doing about that. Nothing. Except for any grifting he and his Trumpists can accomplish before we find out where the bottom is.

I mean, how is he going to handle the fact that for apparently the very first time in his life he has to have evidence for what he says. And for the very first time, apparently, people think he shouldn’t be promising things unless he’s going to do them.

He’s spent his life throwing bizarre insults in order to play to his audience. He’s a Chatbot. What else would you expect? But suddenly when he says something idiotic for his base, such as that awful Obama wiretapping him, people start demanding evidence. What’s next? At this rate, they’ll soon be insisting on subject-verb agreement.

Then there’s the other big flap: the health care plan. It’s all the polar opposite of what he “promised.”

That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the man. He’s never promised anything in his life, not in the usual meaning of the word. He says whatever he thinks might get you to sign on the dotted line, what he calls “The Deal,” and then after that he gets to do what he wants. “Come up and sue me some time” is his general idea.

And now, suddenly, the meddlesome proles are acting like he’s under some sort of obligation? To them? For having said something to get their votes? Crazy. He got their votes. They’re irrelevant now. You’d think that would be obvious even to proles.

So what’s he going to do when he has to answer for his words for the first time in his life?

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Putin isn’t the biggest problem for the USA

1) Agent Orange got the Electoral College by 77,000 votes in three states, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

2) Crosscheck, the longrunning Republican effort to stop blacks, hispanics, poor, college students, and other likely Democrats from voting, dumped millions of people off the voter rolls.

The link above talks about how fewer blacks and more whites voted in the relevant precincts, framing it as mere turnout. Had blacks voted in 2008-type numbers, it would have changed the outcome. Personally, I think Crosscheck needs to be subpoenaed and examined minutely, because I’d be willing to bet money that Crosscheck is the difference, not “turnout.”

3) There were enough people in the country who, when faced with the choice between one of the most accomplished candidates in a century and an actual monster chose the monster. Because the accomplished candidate is female. That’s how toxic the patriarchy is.

(For comparison, Obama — with almost no experience at the time — ran against McCain, who was Churchill compared to the dogpile we have now, and yet Obama was not given concrete shoes to run in. Racism is toxic, see Crosscheck above, but it’s rattlesnake venom compared to misogyny nerve gas.)

My point is that if we didn’t have way too many feverishly irrational hatreds seething in this country, then Putin would have nothing to work with.

If we were smart, we’d be dissolving the hatreds as well as preventing his meddling.

We’re not even doing the latter, yet anyway. So I’m not holding my breath.

She won by 3 million votes even after
7.3 million were purged by Republican dirty tricks.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

 
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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.

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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

 
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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?

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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.

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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)

 
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