Category Archives: Politics

Illegal immigration isn’t the issue

While I have seen several people on FB freaking out over “Democrats want open borders” (which is no more true than “the Squad are Communists” or “the squad are fascists!”), and warning against the threat of illegal immigration, I don’t believe illegal immigration isn’t the real issue. It’s having “too many” Latinos or Muslims.

It’s not just people on FB.  Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, for example, lists legal immigration as one of the reasons that “the America we know and love doesn’t exist any more.” That’s not about open borders, that’s about having too many people who don’t look like her. Law professor Amy Wax argues for white priority in immigration because “our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites” (she pretends this is about “culture,” not race, but polices like that are always about race). Or conservative Latino Marco Gutierrez warning that if we allow more Latinos in we’ll have “taco trucks on every corner.

I’m all in favor of managing our borders better, but if we had roughly the same number of immigrants we do now, and the same racial makeup, but they were all legal, I’d be cool with it. Too many Republicans wouldn’t be. So I part company with them.

And of course it’s nothing new, even though they think it is. In the 19th century it was about keeping out the damn Irish (subhuman, barely better than black!) and the damn Catholics (America is Protestant! Catholics are sheeple whose first loyalty will be to the Pope, not America!). By the end of the century it was the damn Asians (forcing demographic change on the west coast! Outbreeding us! Taking over parts of the country! Always loyal to their emperor, not to America!)

In the 20th century it was also the damn Poles, the damn Italians, the damn Germans, the damn everyone-who-wasn’t-a-WASP. Speaking foreign languages! Not learning English fast enough! Inferior culture and genes! And in every era it was the Jews. Never really American. (rootless cosmopolitans with no loyalty to anything but each other).

Astonishingly enough, they all adapted just fine. They all became American. Our “culture” didn’t collapse. It won’t collapse from the presence of Muslims, Middle Easterners, Latin Americans.

The people who oppose immigration are on the wrong side of history. And given so many of them think “more Latinos” is worse than “immigrant children kept in cages” they’re on the wrong side of justice too.

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The women of early Star Trek

A few weeks back I started doing something I’ve wanted to do for a while: rewatch the original Star Trek series. It was very much a part of my teen years as I watched episodes over and over in syndication, but it’s been years since I caught any of the episodes, except in passing when TYG was rewatching them. When I began, I discovered Netflix’s run includes the original pilot episode The Cage preceding the first episode, Man Trap. The difference between them was interesting.

Gene Roddenberry has rightfully taken crap for a vision of the future in which women, even though qualified to serve on a space ship, are primarily eye candy. The Cage is a step up from that. The ship’s first officer, Number One (Majel Barrett) is competent; Captain Pike’s female yeoman, Colt (Laurel Goodwin) is much more tomboyish in demeanor than ST: OS’ Yeoman Rand; the show emphasizes that having a female yeoman on the bridge is a novel thing.

The show does make it clear that the woman are attracted to Pike, so who knows how they’d have been written if the original pilot went to series. But having a woman as first officer, and clearly competent, is still striking, particularly in that era.

A little too striking for the network, which told Rodenberry to either dump Number One or get rid of Spock; he opted to keep Spock, believing viewers needed to see an alien on board. Colt got replaced by Rand.

The opening episodes of the regular series do feel much more sexist. Yeoman Rand is mostly there to be pretty and smile and run errands (watching as a teenager, I thought “yeoman” must be something like a valet). Uhura flirts quite a bit with Spock. It’s disappointing to compare.

But then we get to the second episode, Charlie X. This gives the Enterprise it’s first encounter with a cosmically powerful foe, a teenage boy raised by disembodied intelligences who taught him their ability to transform matter. It’s apparently a limitless power, and Charlie’s a teenager, full of raging hormones and completely unused to dealing with other humans. He reacts viciously to slights or hurts and winds up a lot like Billy Mumy’s demigod on It’s a Good Life.

He also looks like the embodiment of the #metoo villain. Once he meets Yeoman Rand she’s all he can think about, and he can’t tolerate being told no. She tries introducing Charlie to a girl his own age; he treats the girl like dirt. His feelings, his needs, are all that he cares about; he thinks he loves Yeoman Rand but she’s just a means to an end, the end being his own satisfaction.

Watching in my teens, I knew he was out of line, but I saw him mostly as a tragic figure, screwed up by his own lack of experience dealing with people. Now I see him as much creepier.

I don’t think I’ll have more to say about the series until I finish S1, but you never know.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Right-wing defense: telling women of color to go “back where they came from” isn’t at all racist

Yeah right. Even if some in the media don’t want to say so.

As you’ve doubtless heard, Trump blasted four women of color in Congress, including Ihlan Omar, and said they should go back where they came from (and that they call Jews evil, which is a lie). Never mind that they’re all US citizens and three of them are born here. As Adam Serwer says, Trump’s harking back to the old days when it was accepted by white America that nonwhites couldn’t be real Americans: “Trump’s demand is less a factual assertion than a moral one, an affirmation of the president’s belief that American citizenship is conditional for people of color, who should be grateful we are even allowed to be here.”

This is far from the only horrible thing Trump is doing. For example, the Justice Department has redefined spousal abuse and sexual assault and not for the better (though this doesn’t actually change state laws). Abuse is only abuse if it involves physical harm rather than mental abuse or coercive control. Assault is now non-consensual acts banned by law (including assault of unconscious victims) whereas the previous definition was broader (““Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”).

But as Serwer says, the president’s attack on “the Squad” is still horrific. And unsurprisingly his worshippers have picked up on it, chanting “send her back” at an NC rally, the way they chanted “lock her up” about Clinton.

But not to worry! Trump bootlicker and NC Senator Thom Tillis assures us the chants weren’t Trump’s fault, telling reporters “any one of y’all that have been to a rock concert or other venues, somebody starts up, somebody else thinks . . . I mean, to be fair to the audience, they’re in a mode where they’re energized.” Right, senator. Trump says we banish a US citizen, the crowd takes his side, total coincidence. Tillis, I should add, is all-in on Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda despite occasional hand-wringing. To his credit, he did co-sponsor a bill to end family separation at the border but his latest newsletter announced his current goal is a bill to ban sanctuary cities from not cooperating with ICE. Because you know, he’s totally concerned with breaking the law ! Our other senator, Richard Burr, is even worse.

No surprise Tillis considers North Carolina’s traditional population to exclude blacks and Hispanics.

And then we have Rush Limbaugh, who bigotsplains that this totally isn’t about race, it isn’t even about Omar: “Our founding is being stolen. Our way of life is being stolen. Our resources, our middle-class status, middle-class incomes — our goodness, our morality — is being stolen, and it’s being stolen by people like those four women in ‘the squad’ and the Democrat Party at large. So these reactions are totally understandable to me.”

No, Limbaugh, it’s not the Squad or Democrats that are causing the erosion of the middle class. If that was the issue, they’d be targeting Trump and the Republicans, not singling out a Somali Muslim immigrant who’s just one member of Congress. And Trump voters are motivated much more by status anxiety than economic hardship — as many pundits have pointed out, black and Latino working class Americans are just as economically stressed as whites, but they’re not swinging to Trump the same way. Limbaugh, as usual, preaches bullshit.

And if they’re that miserable, why aren’t they going back to the countries their ancestors came from? It’s the same logic Trump’s using on the squad, after all but no — it’s almost like his supporters feel they have more right to be here than Omar or A-OC do. Or that white immigrants have more right than non-whites. Even though, as someone said on FB last week, we probably have at least as much in common with Mexican culture than, say, France.

And we’ve still got a year before Trump’s campaign gets really cutthroat.


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Mississippi pol can’t be close to another woman without risking his marriage

So the Mississippi Today newspaper has been arranging for reporters to “shadow” the candidates in the gubernatorial race, following each candidate around for a day or so to see them in action. Only when state Rep. Robert Foster learned his shadow would be Larrison Campbell, a married gay woman, he freaked out and refused. His stated reason: if anyone photographed them together, they could smear him as an adulterer. Either the paper sent along a male reporter as chaperone or no go. The paer decided the requirement was too sexist, and using another reporter was impractical, so they said no.

Foster’s argument seems awfully implausible: it’s not like he and Campbell would be meeting at a cheap motel. And why should it be the paper’s responsibility — doesn’t Foster have a male staffer he can tap for the gig? And why would a chaperone help — couldn’t the paper claim they’re having a threesome? Or photograph him with a man and start a whisper campaign he’s gay — I have friends who assume any anti-gay pol (and Foster is ultra-conservative and anti-gay) is fighting down his own urges.

Tellingly, Foster’s shifted the goalposts to invoke the Pence Rule: it’s not that he’s worried about a smear campaign, he just refuses to be alone with another woman so as not to risk his marriage. As someone who’s been alone with a beautiful woman more than once since I married (friends in both cases) the only reason to worry about the effect on your marriage is if you can’t keep it zipped. Foster, however, implies Campbell’s at fault for not valuing her marriage as much, and charges “the liberal left lost its mind” because of his Christian purity.

Yeah, right. I imagine the changing rationale is pure politics — the first story didn’t play so he’s switching gears — but what’s the real reason? Is it that she’s gay?  Or that he’s uncomfortable about being shadowed and this is an easy way out? Or is it that he’s really worried he’ll do something appropriate?

Depressingly I don’t know any of this will hurt him in Mississippi.

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Some responses to the Jeffrey Epstein arrest

Michelle Goldberg: “The Epstein case is first and foremost about the casual victimization of vulnerable girls. But it is also a political scandal, if not a partisan one. It reveals a deep corruption among mostly male elites across parties, and the way the very rich can often purchase impunity for even the most loathsome of crimes. If it were fiction, it would be both too sordid and too on-the-nose to be believable”

That was the good response, and I think it identifies two key issues: gender and money. Even when he taught high school, his flirting with students creeped others out. But he managed quite nicely to purchase impunity and redeem his reputation with a mix of PR, financial donations and a feeling people had that yeah, he’d crossed some lines but he’s done his time, no big. Plus he allegedly intimidated witnesses.

You know what isn’t an issue? That Epstein is Jewish. But men’s rights activist Stefan Molyneux, points to Epstein as a Jewish guy preying on Christian children. As noted at the link, Molyneux has apparently decided saying the quiet parts out loud won’t hurt his brand as a YouTube philosopher. Anti-semitic preacher Rick Wiles claims Epstein was a Mossad agent gathering blackmail material on powerful Americans.

And smug pundit Erick Erickson, who defended Roy Moore and Brett Kavanaugh, thinks the big issue is that liberals would defend Epstein if he were gay and a drag queen. Because, of course, defending the rights of gay people and drag queens is exactly the same as defending their right to assault kids (as others have pointed out to Erickson, there was no wave of liberals defending the molesters in the Penn State scandal. Or the Boy Scouts. Or the Catholic Church). I do expect biased coverage from the right, but Erickson’s take is dumb-ass.

Republicans and even some Dems are still supporting Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who gave Epstein his original illegal sweetheart plea bargain. According to what I’ve read elsewhere, some of that may be because Acosta’s not as aggressively anti-labor as his successor will probably be — although he has tried to gut 80 percent of the budget of one Labor program for fighting human trafficking. Trump’s response, though, seems to hinge on whether Acosta comes across badly on TV. But regardless, Acosta resigned last Friday.

Meanwhile the believers in the mythical Pizzagate pedophile ring are holding up Epstein as proof they’re right.

And Alan Dershowitz, Trump-supporting lawyer, has admitted he’s visited Epstein’s mansion (he was one of the attorneys on the original plea deal) and gotten a massage, but it was from a really old woman — he never saw anyone underage there, honest!

Epstein, meanwhile, is hoping for bail, while prosecutors warn he’s a serious flight risk.


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Let’s start the week with some good news

Jeffrey Epstein, accused serial child molester, has been arrested in NYC: “Epstein, who has homes in Manhattan, Palm Beach, New Mexico, Paris and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, sexually abused nearly three dozen girls, mostly 13-16 years old, at his Palm Beach mansion from 1999 to 2006, according to investigators. He used the girls to help recruit other young girls as part of an operation that ran similar to a pyramid scheme. He also had recruiters who helped with his appointments, scheduling as many as three or four girls a day, the FBI probe found.” I hope this goes better than the botched prosecution in Florida by Alex Acosta, now a Trump cabinet secretary — and kudos to the Miami Herald for their outstanding investigative work on this (including this article).

Amazon has decided to stop carrying books by a virulent anti-gay activist and advocate for conversion therapy. And the Ravelry knitting website says no white supremacists.

Washington’s Supreme Court ruled a florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding violated the law. The U.S. Supreme Court told them to reconsider in light of the Colorado bakeshop case. The Washington judges voted unanimously to stick with their decision.

For all the talk of Dems becoming a “circular firing squad” doing Trump’s job for them, the candidates are rallying against the birther attacks on Kamala Harris.

James Alex Fields, who drove his car into the crowd in Charlottesville, will be spending life in prison.

Speaking of circular firing squads, the efforts to stop one conservative teen from attending Harvard were launched by fellow conservatives.

The AMA is suing North Dakota over its new anti-abortion restrictions. Among other issues, they object to doctors being forced to lie and tell patients that abortion by drug can be reversed.

Billy Joel shits on Nazis.

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“Without its ideals — its commitment to the freedom of all men, America is a piece of trash!”

So says Captain America in What If #44: set in an alt.timeline where he’s thawed out in the 1980s instead of the 1960s: “A nation is nothing! A flag is a piece of cloth! I fought Adolf Hitler not because America was great, but because it was fragile! I knew that liberty could be snuffed out here as in Nazi Germany! As a people, we were no different than them! When I returned, I saw that you nearly did turn American into nothing!”

Right on, Cap!

Let July Fourth be our reminder that if America is exceptional, it’s because we make it so. And that being exceptional doesn’t come automatically and doesn’t automatically last. It takes work.

Cover by Jack Kirby. All rights remain with current holder.


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Civility, its merits and its limits

Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who oversaw the toxic-water nightmare of Flint and appointed the officials responsible now has a gig at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Why pick him? “‘Governor Snyder brings his significant expertise in management, public policy, and promoting civility to Harvard Kennedy School,’ Liebman said in a statement. ‘We are excited that he will be joining the Taubman Center and confident that he will bring tremendous value to us and our students.'” Snyder believes a “lack of civility” is the greatest threat to our country. Worse, obviously, than being a neglectful hack who put an entire town at risk for lead poisoning.

Meanwhile, over in Congress, Rep. Dan Crenshaw has implied Muslim Rep. Ihlan Omar is sympathetic to the 9/11 attackers. When he got blowback, his Congressional allies claimed Crenshaw was the one treated uncivilly.

All of which reminds me of the outrage the right still feels about Brett Kavanaugh: how dare women confront this respectable man and say he doesn’t deserve his seat. It also reminds me of several other examples of women being told to “be nice,” like Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown who was told it was uncivil to say the word vagina in a discussion of abortion.

All of which shows why civility is a double-edged sword.

I do believe civility, in general, is important. Being able to say “Hello, how are you?” and smile at people we don’t like — or at least try to ignore them — is part of what keeps society functional. If we openly said what was on our mind every time someone annoyed us, I think we’d be back in the days of blood feuds and duels fairly quickly (contrary to Robert Heinlein I do not think a willingness to shoot people who annoy us will lead us anywhere good). And a lot of people do wish our government were more civil; Joe Biden’s nostalgic memories of working with segregationist bigots were an attempt to express that (though a very, very badly phrased one).

But the other edge of the sword is when civility becomes an excuse for shutting people up. Or insisting they not judge you or avoid your company, even if you do support Trump’s white male supremacist regime (or you know, allow massive quantities of lead in people’s drinking water). Or that you’re entitled to insult and belittle people without any blow-back or criticism. In a lot of cases I don’t think it’s a calculated tactic, it’s just people assuming that of course what they said was reasonable — obviously it’s the people who said it was racist or homophobic who were uncivil!

In the case of people like Snyder (I’m sure the Kennedy School would find it horribly uncivil if they got flak over this) or Kavanaugh, I think it’s partly the arrogance of aristocrats: America’s lousy at holding people of power and wealth to account. No surprise if doing so feels like the height of incivility. So does any suggestion the system in which they’re so comfortably ensconced needs to change. To paraphrase MLK, everything was very civil in Egypt as long as the Israelites were content to bake their bricks. As soon as Moses demanded freedom — well, from the Egyptian point of view, that was way more uncivil than keeping them as slaves (just as for some people George Washington owning slaves wasn’t as bad as him violating the sabbath).

But as Frederick Douglass said, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” And power never thinks demands are civil.

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Undead Sexist Cliche: Rape is all about the attractiveness of both parties

As you’ve probably heard, E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her in a dressing room. Trump’s response: “She’s not my type.”

Several people have pointed out that sounds like Trump isn’t denying he’d rape someone, just that she isn’t hot enough. On the right, however, you can find resounding agreement that she’s too ugly for a stud like Trump to have touched her. More likely she was begging for it! Likewise YouTube Trump-worshipper Bill Mitchell declare that “it just doesn’t seem plausible to me” that Trump would rape anyone that unattractive. (Mitchell also lies that this is just about Trump putting his arm around Carroll, which doesn’t matter because “I didn’t vote for Donald Trump to be my pastor or my spiritual guide.” As if not raping women required some massive level of spiritual evolution).

It’s an ugly argument, but not unique to Trump. Some people made the same point when Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her: look how handsome he was! Look how ugly she was! He’d never have raped her! And I’ve heard the same argument made in other cases. For example in 2017, a Canadian judge declared that a 17-year-old assault victim was “a little overweight but has a pretty face” and that she may have been a “bit flattered” by the assault. Podcaster Aimee Terese dismissed one harassment case she heard about by saying the woman was so unattractive she should be flattered a guy wanted to ejaculate on it.

Rape is overwhelmingly about power, aggression and dominance. But the myth that it’s all about lust remains widespread. Men rape because women dress too sexy or act too provocatively so the me get horny and just can’t control themselves. Which leads to the assumption the responsibility for preventing rape lies with the victim.

In reality, women who aren’t attractive get raped. Old women get raped. Women who hide themselves behind “modest” dress or burkhas get raped. Because it’s not about being driven made by lust, it’s about men who want to rape.

The flip side of this cliche is the myth that men only rape if they can’t get laid otherwise. The pseudoscience explanation is that this is how otherwise frustrated men can pass on their genes (at the link, I explain why that’s bullshit). The simpler but equally inaccurate explanation is that if a man’s getting sex he doesn’t need to commit rape. I have a film book that makes that point about Errol Flynn’s statutory rape charge way back when: a handsome man like Flynn couldn’t possibly have needed to get laid! Similarly, when Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for California governor, a friend of mine dismissed the sexual harassment charges the media reported: he doesn’t need to assault anyone! Women fling themselves at stars like him (which ignores that he didn’t actually sleep with any of them, only groped, fondled and humiliated them, targeting women who were in a position where they’d have to put up with him)! Similarly, Terese and misogynist Paul Elam have labeled the bulk of #metoo accusations as “starfuckers” trying to get back in the spotlight.

And I’ve seen more than one work of fiction where the stud protagonist assures the female lead he’s never raped a woman — he’s never had to.

This is as much bullshit as “she’s too ugly/she should be grateful.” Lots of people who have no trouble getting laid still commit rape. Multiple movie stars and movie-makers have committed rape and harassment. Men rape women they’re dating or already sleeping with. Married men rape other women, and some rape their wives. Some men commit rape with blunt objects.

But it’s much easier to imagine it’s just horny guys getting a little over the line than to deal with the ugly truth.

P.S. LGM has a good discussion of why it’s important to cover stories like Carroll’s, even if it doesn’t change Trump voters’ views (and it won’t). And Roy Edroso looks at how right-wing blogs distort Carroll’s statement Americans are titillated by rape.


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I didn’t underperform, but I sure under-slept

So I got a little stressed for various reasons last weekend (nothing catastrophic), and as frequently happens when I stress out, I don’t sleep.

Sunday night sleep: dreadful. Monday night: not good either. Tuesday I was so zonked I took a Lyft to the writer’s group, then headed home without going out to the bar afterwards. Wednesday: more of the same. Finally Thursday I took an Ambien and got a spectacular nine hours of sleep. I feel much better today.

While I’m sure I wasn’t functioning at peak capacity, the added time balanced out for that, some, so at least it was a productive week.

I finished Impossible Things Before Breakfast, sent it off to Asimov’s and got it back the next day (which I appreciate — speedy responses are welcome, even with a rejection). The editor said she liked it, but it wasn’t right for her. I’d actually figured it was a long shot for acceptance, but it’s nice to start submissions with a top market. And today I sent it off again. I also submitted Rabbits Indignateonem and Fiddler’s Black to other markets.  I’m really pleased with finishing Impossible Things as I haven’t completed a story since January. It counters the fear that I’m just spinning my wheels and not accomplishing anything.

I might not have done as much but Leaf is wrapping up its current project. I only had a few articles to do this week, so that opened up vistas. I intend to make maximum use of the two to four weeks before the new cycle starts up.

I’d intended to incorporate my beta-readers’ comments on Undead Sexist Cliches into the manuscript this week. Instead I took my big folder of relevant bookmarks and incorporated that. It took a lot of time (there’s a lot of bookmarks). Next month I shall manage my workflow so I’m rewriting, drawing on the betas and adding bookmarked info each week. Just doing bookmark after bookmark left me numb. They had lots of good information and observation I didn’t remember though.

And that was it. I hoped to get more work done on Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates but I kept finding more Leafs to do (probably ones other people had claimed, then given up) and I hate to pass up the money stuff.

In other news, TYG and I hoped to dope Wisp’s food Thursday and cart her off to our vet. She’d vanished over the weekend but showed up Monday and then again Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday morning … not a peep. It’s like she knew. However we still want her sore/abscess/cut looked at, and she needs her booster shots, so we’ll try again. TYG and I will map out Plan B this weekend.

Oh and our dryer has been dead for a week. As we don’t have time to make it to the laundromat, clothes have been piling up in the dirty basket. The repair dude came yesterday, didn’t have all the parts, had to reschedule for today (TYG was not pleased. He’s lucky it wasn’t her at home waiting for him). Hopefully it’ll all go smoothly.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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