Category Archives: Politics

Links for the ongoing storm

Sen. Mitt Romney has unsurprisingly come around to backing a pre-election replacement for RBG. And of course Thom “Trump Toady” Tillis, who supported denying Obama a seat in 2016 now explains everything is different so he’ll vote yes on the nominee. One of our local papers vents about it.

As Scott Lemieux points out, even without a ninth justice, RBG’s death means the lawsuit to destroy the ACA will probably succeed. Which would be a disastrous move if the Republicans had to actually win the election, but they’re betting with a solidly right-wing Supreme Court they can steal it.

Danielle Pletka, an Iraq war supporter who by her own admission never once questioned Iraqis might not immediately build a Democratic society, recently published a WaPo op-ed explaining how she doesn’t like a lot of what Trump does, but gosh darn it, a Biden presidency might do something unspecified that’s much worse. Interviewer Isaac Chotiner nails her to the wall. She repeats the standard right-wing talking point (Senator Thom Tillis has made it several times) that Congress voting to pass the Affordable Care Act just like any other bill was undemocratic because … reasons? Scott Lemieux points out this is bullshit.

Of course Republicans have the advantage of branding. As Josh Marshall says, “the most flagrant GOP lawlessness and rules breaking is **expected**. Democrats even suggesting responding something like in kind is ‘total war.‘”

And some Democrats still want to play nice and pretend we can be civilized. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has declared she won’t support killing the filibuster.

Wanting to prevent panic is a standard rationale for cover-ups and lies — but this article argues most people don’t panic outside of movies.

I doubt William Barr’s in a panic, he just thinks calling New York, Chicago and Portland anarchist cities will justify cutting off federal funds to them.

Trump’s probably wetting his pants about his chances, which is why he’s joking/not joking about stopping Biden from being elected with an executive order. At the link, Ted Cruz dog-whistles they need a conservative judge who’ll vote for Trump if whatever ginnied up lawsuit they file makes it to the Supreme Court. Trump’s saying it too.

Scientific American doesn’t endorse presidents. This year, they’re endorsing Biden.

QAnon is coming for your yoga class. Sometimes believers just try to run people over. Fred Clark points out this kind of paranoia is not a new thing: the 1790s were obsessed with the Illuminati subverting America and a few decades later it was the Catholic Church (” global organization kidnaps children and teens (especially young girls) to have sex with power-hungry men in secret locations, men who are also involved in a traitorous plot to undermine democracy.”).

Speaking of conspiracy theories, one of my high school friends is cheerfully spreading George Soros conspiracy bullshit, then jumped on to insisting the Rothschilds were just as bad and just as much a threat. But she’s totally not an anti-semite!

The Pentagon took money intended for the fight against the Trump Virus and spent it on jet engines.

I don’t know how good any of the proposals are but it’s a good sign Democrats in the House are thinking about restrictions on the Executive Branch.

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Reclaiming their country

So a friend of mine had one of those long rants on FB about how liberals are forcing her to vote for Trump by all the terrible things they’re doing. In the discussion that followed, someone pulled the “bless your heart” card on me and recommended I seek professional help — I’m going to feel so miserable after Trump voters take their country back and fix everything we liberals have been doing.

My response was to point out that it isn’t “their” country any more than it is mine. It’s our country — all of us. Christian, Jewish or atheist. Black, white, Latino or Asian. Straight or gay. Descended from the founding fathers or a fresh-off-the-boat newly minted citizens. But that, of course, is what drives them crazy. They don’t want to share equally with people who aren’t straight WASP men; they don’t believe other people have the same right to America as they do. Even if it doesn’t affect their lives at all, it spoils their lives to know they’re not the alphas any more.

It’s not just status. As a quote at Lawyers, Guns and Money puts it,  “White Christian folks really did think they were the country,” he says. “So if you take that really seriously, [as] something they believed to the core of their being, then what’s becoming abundantly clear is that that is not true. But that is a foundational piece of their self-understanding. To fight tooth and nail for something that is going to actually undermine your basic identity is not too surprising. It runs just that deep.”

And that’s why, as I pointed out to the other commenter, they’ll be miserable even if they do win in November (or December, or January …). The past four years have been a triumph for Republicans (obligatory note, not all Republicans): two justices on the Supreme Court, one of them an accused rapist (the feminazis tried to take him down but they failed! Praise Jesus!), tax cuts for the rich, environmental laws gutted, Muslim immigration and travel bans, ACA badly damaged, cops emboldened to shoot black Americans, racism and misogyny openly aired without having to hide behind dog whistles.

Guess what? They’re still miserable. The FB post that started the discussion dripped with misery: they’re sick and tired of being criticized (as the LGM post puts it, they have a “set of views that has gone largely unchallenged for most of their lives, and upon which they honestly believe this country is based” and now people are saying they’re wrong!). They’re sick and tired of Trump being criticized! They hate being told America has a history of racism and that people of color and women suffer from discrimination! Even if nobody’s ever criticized them personally, someone out there thinks it about them!

Short of a total fascist shut down on free speech, we’re going to continue criticziing them. Gay people will keep on being openly gay. Women will keep on not being 1950s housewives submitting to their man (unless they want to). Black people, Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc. will still keep asserting their right to equality. The government will still pass laws Republicans don’t like, or fail to pass policies they embrace. They’ll have a rush of joy when Trump wins, but then they’ll notice the swamp — meaning us — isn’t drained — and they’ll go back to sulking about having to share “their” country with the Others, who are now a majority.

“This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly – done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated – we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas’ new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us” — Abraham Lincoln

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It’s not about feelings

I believe I’ve blogged before about the right-wing meme that tells “those who hate Trump” that Trump supporters felt exactly the same about Obama when “he went overseas and apologized for America,” when he said “America was no longer a Christian nation” (actually what he said was we’re not just a Christian nation) and told them all bathrooms would be genderless (no, not accurate). But they “bore him as much as we could. We waited and prayed for a president who would take a stand for America.”
The point of the meme, of course, is that Trump is Obama’s mirror image; he upsets liberals the way Obama upset conservatives. But that’s bullshit. You’ll notice they don’t cite Obama policies (except the alleged genderless bathrooms), only how he made them feel. He hurt their fee-fees by saying America had done bad things (which we have) and that America isn’t a Christian nation, which is correct. We’ve never been a Christian nation, just a nation with a Christian majority, which is not the same thing (and for most of our history it was conceived as a Protestant nation rather than Christian), and was a historical interpretation largely made up in the 1930s. The meme doesn’t suggest that Obama’s policies discriminated against Christians because he didn’t (except in the sense some conservatives think not getting what they want is anti-Christian). In short Obama saying that other countries can be as exceptional as ours and that other faiths are as American as theirs was seen as an attack.
Which may be the point of the meme. Living for years in a Bible Belt community, I’ve seen how many people think not embracing their worldview is anti-God. A world where they see black people shopping in “their” stores or women being independent and unsubmissive and gay people walking around openly is an attack. So if Trump creates a world we don’t like, that’s payback.
Then again, maybe it’s to suggest that all our objections to Trump policy — locking children in cages, separating them from their families, discriminating against Muslims, failing to be even minimally effective against the pandemic — are less about policy and about our own feelings being hurt, just like they were. We’re haters. We’re victims of “Trump derangement syndrome.” We’re the real crybabies so nobody needs to listen to us!
Or it could be both. Either way it’s a comforting lie to tell themselves so they can disregard the evidence they’re on the wrong side of history.

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According to Republicans, the Democrats are always bringing socialism to America.

My right-wing friends on FB have shifted from Oh No, Joe Biden to saying he’s fine but puppet-master Kamala Harris will bring socialism to America! But as the WaPo points out, stuff we now take for granted — Social Security, Medicare — was also going to bring socialism to America. The memes about how erasing college debt insults everyone who paid off their student loans would have been just as usable against the G.I. Bill decades ago (“My father fought in WW I then went to college on his own dime! Why are you dishonoring his hard work?”). But now, of course, this stuff is accepted as normal government services. Plus the older-skewing Republican base actually uses Social Security and Medicare and isn’t worried about paying off college debt.

While I didn’t shrug off all the comparisons between the Trump regime and dictatorships I’ve seen since 2017, I didn’t think we’d go as far toward tyranny as we have. At this point, I take articles like this one a lot more seriously. Ditto speculation about what happens if Trump refuses to admit he lost. The Prospect looks at how much damage he can do. And human pus-bag Roger Stone suggests Trump simply become dictator if he loses. I suspect this is mostly Stone pretending he’s a badass, but that’s not to say Trump wouldn’t try it. Yet we get arguments this is all the Democrats’ fault.

Oh, and Trump now wants to cut off federal funding from cities he doesn’t like.

In Pasco County Florida, the sheriff relied on a computer program to identify potential future criminals, then harassed them (yes, the article does mention Minority Report). Surprisingly the program didn’t focus on minorities primarily, it’s just a really bad idea.

Our country is trapped in a pandemic spiral which keeps us from getting control of the Trump Virus. Among the problems: a desire to return to normal, even when we can’t; refusing to make systemic changes; reacting rather than being proactive.

After the Charlottesville protests of several years ago, Donald Trump declared there were very fine people on the white supremacist side (supposedly not white supremacists but some nonexistent other group protesting there). Now Republicans are trying to  deny he said it.

“The core of the problem is that conservatives have decisively lost a lot of empirical debates. There was a time when conservative ideas about gender, race, genetics, and geology might have been true — they were open questions. But for the last hundred and fifty years or so, the evidence has been piling up on the other side, and, in more and more areas, the questions are basically closed. ”

The supposedly vast anti-Trump conspiracy.

“For most of its history, white evangelicalism in America was not opposed to selling children to rapists. ”

Creationism as conspiracy theory.

Trump claims diversity training is anti-American propaganda. Of course if you fantasize real Americans are all white, I suppose it is.

Media Matters reports a Texas assistant AG is a racist QAnon supporter. In a pleasant surprise, Texas’ response was to fire that sucker.

There’s nothing surprising in Trump declaring Americans who died for their country were losers, but it’s worth mentioning.

A white college professor built her career on claiming she was black.

So the Green Party screwed up in Wisconsin and didn’t get on the ballot. Their solution: with the help of Republican lawyers, file a lawsuit that may screw up the entire vote-by-mail process.

When Trump called on North Carolina Republicans to vote twice to prove how easy it is to cheat the system, he committed a crime. But AG William Barr says he has no idea what the law is.

Trump is determined to rush a Trump Virus vaccine into circulation regardless of safety and testing.

The players in the various Trump scandals often overlap. And it’s amazing how many new scandals they’re embroiled in. But hey, it’s not like their crooked boss is going to care if they’re dirty — he probably thinks that’s smart.

A grim story about the plight of the almost homeless.

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Sexism costs money

Reading and listening to accounts of women dealing with sexism at work shows how much. Hours spent on problems because they don’t listen to the woman’s view. Talking over the women and prolonging work when listening would wrap things up faster. Delegating crappy jobs to the women that don’t make use of their abilities.

As one of my friends said, what if this went onto the balance sheet? All the work-hours that could have been saved, all the projects that aren’t finished on time because the woman’s cleaning up for someone else’s mistakes. Not to mention talented women who quit because they’ve had enough dealing with sexists and/or harassers. It adds up. In some stories I’ve heard over the years, probably a lot of money.

To say nothing of lawsuits. Fox had to pay $90 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit over sexual harassment at the news channel. They’ve paid more to women who’ve sued over harassment from Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.

If that were tallied up and actually quantified for investors, that would be one hell of an incentive for businesses to treat women better.

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When did things go wrong, they lament, never stopping to think they’re the ones who went wrong.

In a column a couple of years back, Michelle Goldberg admitted she felt sorry for the lower level harassers slammed by #metoo, the “schmoes whose gross behavior was tacitly accepted by those around them until, suddenly, it wasn’t. I can only imagine how disorienting it must be to have the rules change on you so fast, to have your reputation obliterated in an instant.” (Don’t get the wrong idea, her sympathy does not mean she excuses them).

Working on Undead Sexist Cliches I see this a lot. Placido Domingo has argued that his long history of harassment looks bad now because standards have changed. Similarly Isaac Asimov did a lot of his groping back in the days when this was, as Greenberg said, something that was tacitly accepted by a lot of men, as long as it wasn’t your girlfriend or wife (both he and Domingo kept at long after standards changed though). Women, though? As one of his victims responded, there’s never been a time women thought being groped or harassed was okay. What’s changed is that more people take the women’s side. Not only that, more people (not enough yet) think they should take the woman’s side and that the man should be punished. Which is what truly unsettles the men, I think: it’s not just that a woman might slap your face for grabbing her, it’s that you can actually suffer consequences for it.

As Fred Clark points out, that’s part of a bigger shift in morality within my lifetime. When I was born, dirty jokes were shameful, dropping the F-bomb was awful and premarital sex was something you didn’t admit to; Dan Wakefield, in New York in the Fifties, says that back then if you made love to someone at their apartment, you left very early in the morning so nobody in the building would be up and (shudder) realize you were making the walk of shame. Segregation and treating black people like shit? Groping or otherwise harassing your secretary? Hiring a white man over a better-qualified woman or person of color? These didn’t have universal support even back then but they were endorsed by many, tacitly accepted by many more.

And then things changed. The sexual revolution, women’s liberation, Stonewall, the Civil Rights movement. Suddenly living together before marriage and being openly not a virgin — or even gay and not a virgin — were acceptable. Keeping blacks out of your neighborhood or refusing service to a gay couple? Not acceptable. As Clark says, “for many Americans this change was bewildering and infuriating. It was — and is — especially traumatic for those who had previously regarded themselves and their institutions as the standard-bearers of traditional morality. A hard-won, massive change in our cultural perception of right and wrong required an equally massive change in their sense of identity, and humans’ sense of identity isn’t receptive to massive changes.” And so they continue to insist on traditional morality. They insist that traditional morality was an unambiguously higher morality because now we have SEX everywhere! That traditional morality approved of Jim Crow and multiple other injustices — marital rape was legal, gay sex was illegal, some states outlawed contraception, women could be denied credit if their husband didn’t co-sign — doesn’t change their opinion. Either going back to that is an acceptable trade-off to get rid of SEX or they really do think the good old days of white male supremacy were a better way to live.

Trump supporters keep saying that if Biden wins, it won’t be the America they grew up in. If they’re my age, that’s a good thing. That America was not a better place. Not being that America any more is a good thing.

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In other news, it’s still a sick sad world

A world where Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis explains those two people Kyle Rittenhouse allegedly shot and killed had it coming. And a church truck bringing water and snack for protesters is seized by the cops because, reasons.

Where some people would sooner have a white-run America than democracy. For example, this guy.

Another reason it’s a sick, sad world is that cops get a legal shield against being investigated or punished for wrongdoing that nobody else does. An appeals court, however, has removed protections for journalists and legal observers in Portland.

Another is that Republican moderates really are a dying breed.

People really are drinking bleach to cure the Trump Virus. Spoiler: it doesn’t work.

The Republican presidential candidate “is an entitled coastal elitist, an easily triggered snowflake who plays the victim card and constantly elevates feelings over thinking. Trump is a big spending, Constitution-disregarding, dictator-coddling, traditional values-disdaining, identity politics-embracing, cancel culture-advocating craver of safe spaces. There’s nothing Trump resembles so much as a stereotype of left wingers” But that doesn’t stop bad Republican arguments why he’s awesome.

Betsy DeVos pushed new college rules for handling sexual assault. They don’t look effective: colleges can’t take action over off-campus incidents and it takes a lot of harassment before a college has to respond. DeVos is a rape apologist, I’m sure this is intentional.

The Washington Redskins name has been controversial. Management’s treatment of women is awful too.

Fred Clark points out the scandal isn’t what’s illegal but what’s acceptable. Crooked religious conservative Ralph Reed, for example, remains in good standing.

Trump and his toadies are still working to stop voting by mail.

Many people on FB have told me Trump is the one who can stop the violence! Actually he’s in favor of some of it.

And they’ve been freaking out over Dems Are Socialists for a century now. Always wrong, never giving up. And continuing to whine that Democratic votes shouldn’t count.

I’m repeatedly told on Facebook that Democrat run cities and states are a living hell of lawlessness, but that’s not true.

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Marrying young and starting a baby boom: Homeward Bound

Amazon recommended HOMEWARD BOUND: American Families in the Cold War Era by Elaine Tyler May to me when I was searching for research books for Alien Visitors. It’s no good for that but it’s a much better book than Welcome to Mars and a good resource for Undead Sexist Cliches.

While a lot of conservatives hold up the 1950s as the embodiment of traditional America, May shows it was actually an anomaly, an era when women married younger than ever before (there was a shit ton of teen sex going on but much of it was within the bounds of wedlock), stayed home and produced enough children to launch the baby boom. Women with professional training declared homemaking and motherhood would be their careers and threw themselves into it with a vengeance. Working moms who neglected their kids (it was assumed all working moms neglected their kids) created juvenile delinquents; moms who were too devoted to their kids created homosexual wimps (there was no winning; one woman quoted snarks that “the poor mother has been made to replace God in her omnipotence.”). Women who got college educations didn’t have enough kids, threatening social stability (a lot of the “stupid people outbreed smart people” rhetoric of the era was specifically focused on smart women not prioritizing babymaking).

May see the 1950s dream life of a house in the suburbs, kids, a stay-at-home wife and a great sex life as stemming from multiple sources. A good life with lots of consumer goods embodied American superiority over communism; where the USSR held up its women as proud professionals and workers, Americans exalted the feminine delicacy of stay at home moms. Strong families were the basis of a strong stable society. Getting women married young kept them from having premarital sex. And general conformist pressure encouraged everyone to go along: if you weren’t happy as a stay-at-home mom or a father commuting to a demanding, soul-crushing job, the solution was Valium or psychoanalysis, not questioning the system.

May points out that some women really did find this a satisfactory deal; others found it the best they could do given the circumstances and the lack of opportunity for professional careers. An old survey of married women is a major part of the book, as the women discuss what’s good and bad about their loves. Some of them said the comfortable life, great kids and standing in the community (being single was definitely not cool) were worth it, but they describe the downsides — husbands who belittle their opinions, drinkers, adulterers, boredom — in sad tones that make this era a lot less utopian than traditional-values conservatives want to imagine it.

This being the 20th anniversary edition, May looks at the post-9/11 world and finds many similarities to the Cold War (drawing on Susan Faludi’s excellent The Terror Dream). But the heart of the book is its portrayal of the 1950s; among other things, the acceptance of teen marriage gives a whole new meaning to teen love in romance comics.

#SFWApro. Cover design by Nicole Caputo, photograph by Dmitri Kessel (amazingly I actually met one of the women in it, a few years ago, though I didn’t know it at the time). Comics cover probably by Dick Giordano.

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Two phrases I’ve come to dislike

First, the term “intellectual diversity.”

This is an argument conservatives have been using since late in the last century: the left says it wants diversity on campus and in business. They push for racially diverse faculty, openness to hiring women in media — but where is the intellectual diversity? Why aren’t they hiring more conservatives!!! If they really believe in diversity, they’d hire conservative teachers and tolerate them saying conservative things! And hire conservative pundits for the newspaper (the NYT hiring David Brooks and Brett Stephens [who argues that “Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself.” — no, no more than a false accusation of murder is as bad as murder] isn’t enough).

I will admit I’m biased because I think conservatism in 21st century America is just crap. But even allowing for my personal biases, intellectual diversity is not the same as ethnic, religious or gender diversity. Conservatives do sometimes get the shaft, but there’s no history of systemic discrimination against them the way there has been against blacks, Jews, women, etc. Hell, there’s never been anything comparable to the 1950s blacklist which purged communists, socialists and somewhat left-of-center people from Hollywood and countless other jobs. That Kevin Williamson lost a a gig at Atlantic because he thinks we should hang women who get abortions does not represent a crime against free thought — it’s not even the dumbest thing Williamson has said (did you know Obama having two daughters makes him less manly than Mitt Romney’s five sons, which is why Romney would totally crush him in 2012?).

Second, the use of “gatekeeper.”

When I first started hearing the term a few years ago (in any sense other than literal) it referred to people who control access to something and abuse their power. Harvey Weinstein, for example, who pressured or assaulted women for sex and used his influence in Hollywood to shut them out if they pissed him off. Sherman Alexie in the Native American writing world. It also meant people who thought they should have the clout to control access, like the male comics and SF fans who rant about “fake geek girls” as if they (i.e. the fans) can decide who is and isn’t a real fan (of course people have been doing that for decades, but when it’s specifically gendered or race-oriented it becomes something nastier).

More recently though, the term seems to have turned into mush. Martin Scorsese saying he didn’t think Marvel movies were art was being a “gatekeeper” according to one dude in an online discussion. Telling someone Wikipedia is not a satisfactory information source is “gatekeeping” (this was in a context where the first speaker had no authority over the Wikipedia-user at all). It’s much like the way “Mary Sue” has gone from “idealized version of the author” to “any character who’s more awesome than the rest of the cast.”

 

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“How can you judge a young man for what he did five years ago?” is not a good defense.

So when 19-year-old Aaron Coleman was a tween he acquired a nude photo of a 13-year-old classmate. He threatened to share it around her family and friends if she didn’t give him more photos. She refused; he shared.

After Coleman won a Democratic primary for the Kansas House, this came to light, along with a stalking incident and him harassing a young woman to the point she attempted suicide. Coleman dropped out of the race, then changed his mind, complaining — as did some of his supporters — that given his strong progressive positions (Medicare for All!) feminists are insane to attack him. Do they want Republicans to win? How can we ever change the status quo if feminists eat their own like this?

Inevitably this has generated more support for Coleman from people showing “himpathy” and demanding (as LGM calls it) “dude process”: He was 13 and everyone knows 13 year olds have poor judgment. Is one foolish mistake going to hang over his head forever? Where is the path to redemption? He tried to apologize (his victims have blocked him on FB so he couldn’t reach them) and he admits his behavior was bad — doesn’t that count for something?

As Lindsay Beyerstein says, “his life is being ruined” is not the issue here. Losing the election or stepping down in the face of these revelations (nobody has demanded the party end his run for office) isn’t ruin, it’s just … not getting to hold elected office. And no, the fact he’s progressive doesn’t obligate feminists or anyone else to support him. Feminists went through this with Democratic Sen. Al Franken and New York AG Eric Schneiderman, both of whom lost their positions because of allegations of past harassment incidents (Schneiderman’s being far, far nastier). In both cases there were people who thought they were too valuable to the party — why not let this slide? I’m glad there was no sliding.

And I’m glad they called out Coleman. What he’s doing was not a case of “boys will be boys” — yes, teenagers do stupid, irresponsible things, but that’s not the case here. Coleman wasn’t sneaking into the girls’ locker room to get a peek (which is not good either, admittedly); what he did was vicious bullying and harassment. Coleman admits he was a “sick and troubled boy” and I don’t doubt that’s true, but it’s not a justification or an excuse, no more than admitting “I have a bad temper” excuses having a bad temper. With the dark times running 12 to 14, that’s a period just five years back. At least Brett Kavanaugh (who also got the Just Teenage Horseplay defense) was 20 years older than when he assaulted Christine Blasey Ford. Of course, both teenage boys and adults busted for rapes they just committed get the “you can’t ruin their life!” defense so I’m not sure time is relevant.

And it’s debatable whether Coleman has, in fact repented. He acknowledges he did some bad shit, which is good (and he really does acknowledge it, which a lot of these creeps don’t) … but then again, he also dismisses some of his harassing ways as “only digital,” as if that didn’t hurt. And his complaint about the circular firing squad is clearly saying criticizing his behavior is unreasonable. Plus his ex claims he choked her during an argument and that was just within the past year.

Contrary to some of the articles, I don’t think the victims have to forgive him for him to redeem himself; forgiveness and redemption are twinned but separate processes. I have no idea what redemption would look like (as I discuss here). But I don’t think Coleman’s redeemed himself yet, except by the standards of dude process.

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