Category Archives: Politics

A newspaper op-ed that doesn’t understand journalism?

Ever since the 2016 election, the “Trump safari” has been a recurring feature of newspaper journalism: let’s go talk to some Trump voters and try to understand them. Let’s explain how they’re uneasy with changes in their country and the way they’re losing ground in the economy. Let’s help big city liberals try to figure them out.

Which is not a bad thing in itself. But as countless liberal bloggers have pointed out, it results in coverage of white working-class voters and never say, what black working-class voters in rust belt cities want. Nobody ever suggests that the Trump voter needs to have their stereotypes about big-city liberals challenged. And the stories just keep coming, over and over.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed column, Jill Abramson suggests it’s all a failed effort: “there is little evidence that reporters have fulfilled their pledge to report on and reflect the interests and values of the people who voted for him. There have been some good dispatches from the heartland, but too often what is published amounts to the proverbial ‘toe touch in Appalachia.'” Why? Because they’re big city reporters coming in for a brief visit. The only way to get real answers is from someone who actually lives there, “to bring their audience up close to the different and difficult realities of life in rural America.”

Urgh. As a former journalist, I cannot begin to describe how clueless and trite I think this is. Okay, I can begin to describe it, because that’s why I’m writing this post.

First off, I agree that the loss of local coverage or locally based correspondents anywhere is a bad thing. If you don’t have someone attending city council or county commission meetings every week, and send reporters only when something major is happening, a lot of stories fly under the radar. Lots of things happen that people will never hear about. That’s bad because a lot of stuff that affects people happens in low-key meetings: development decisions, spending decisions, new policies.

And if you’re just doing a “toe touch’ yes, that can make it harder to give context. If an issue crops up again and again — in Destin, where I worked, that would have included traffic and beach erosion — a regular reporter gets perspective (institutional knowledge as they say). It’s a lot harder if you only attend meetings once in a quarter.   But that’s true of everything that doesn’t get regular coverage. Lots of regulatory agencies don’t undergo the coverage they used to. Fewer local newspapers have reporters in their state capitals. There’s no reason to single out rural America as uniquely worth of an added spotlight

And “toe touch” doesn’t automatically equal bad reporting. It’s the nature of reporting that you often have to learn about an issue/community/person really quickly to write the story; full immersion isn’t possible, or necessary. If Abramson wants to cite some examples of how Trump safaris are getting it wrong, fine … but she doesn’t. So what’s the point? Is she upset the articles aren’t sympathetic or understanding enough? Because as someone who used to live in Trump country and knows lots of Trump voters, I don’t feel any more sympathetic about them than the legendary big-city liberal reporters. And why exactly are Trump voters worthy of more coverage than, say, black workers in the rust belt? Small-town voters in Ferguson? Orthodox Jews in NYC? Homeless people in LA?

The only reason I can think of is that as Ta-Nehisi Coates put it, these people have a lot of grievances and white grievances have to be taken seriously.

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Links about that Gillette ad, sexism and abuse

The Gillette ad criticizing toxic masculinity no more implies “masculinity is bad” than “poisonous mushroom” implies all mushrooms are deadly. Some men don’t see it that way. Vox adds more. Isabel Cooper points out that yes, as others have pointed out, the ad is still calculated marketing — but it’s still a good thing. Fox’s Brian Kilmeade, however, attacks the ad using the same arguments it criticized: men are just that way. Online misogynists now hate Gillette. So does accused sexual harasser Charles Payne. The NRA declares the ad is bullshit because “men were meant to be dangerous.”

Right-winger Tammy Bruce harks back to the old Undead Sexist Cliche that without masculinity, humanity wouldn’t get anywhere.

A woman went to eat at the high-priced Nellos restaurant in NYC — where she says they wouldn’t let her eat at the bar alone because they’re cracking down on call girls. I’m willing to bet they will never try to discourage johns by banning men.

Christians in Houston sued a library on the grounds a story hour with drag queens doing the reading violated their freedom of religion.

“This year we saw with startling clarity that what many of the nation’s powerful men share is less talent and vision than arbitrary cruelty, pleasure in retribution, bullying, shouting, sneering, a sense that they’re above consequences, and an unusual dependence on golf.”

Some incels are convinced that an average women lives like a male billionaire.

Book riot argues that female-written fantasy for adults is too often classified as Y/A because, girls.

The Violence Against Women Act and the funding it channels really do reduce violence against women. Too bad Congress let it expire last year. And the Trump Administration redefined domestic violence to refer only to actual physical assault, not emotional or verbal abuse.

Another day, another anti-gay preacher with an alleged secret life. Evangelical’s abuse problems go much deeper.

Then, of course, there’s Bryan Singer.

New York City makes a step forward in abortion rights.

How Kamala Harris became the target of a birther smear (nonsensical — they admit she was born in the country, but claim as her parents weren’t citizens yet, she isn’t natural born). Oh, and there are equally gibberish charges of election fraud.

For at least a century, people have complained that feminists wanted to be men. Same old, same old.

White supremacist Richard Spencer’s wife says he abused her.

Robert Patterson, a right-wing pundit turned Trump Social Security official, opposes birth control. One reason? He claims condoms deny women the touch of semen, and semen makes women happier.

Ashley Judd’s harassment lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein got tossed out on technical grounds.

Tucker Carlson thinks women making more money than men is baaaaad. But criticizing him for his views is baaaad too and will lead us to a dark age.

And let’s not forget, the wave of right-wing authoritarians across the globe may differ in many details but they all want women in chains.


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Real witch hunts (and other political links)

Investigating Donald Trump’s alleged crimes and collusion with Russia is not a witch hunt. It’s an investigation.

This is a witch hunt. Seventy-something Brit Sabine McNeill became convinced that a couple of preschoolers’ baseless charges about Satanic ritual abuse were the real deal. She organized a massive campaign of harassment targeting the kids, their parents, the school district and a church, accusing them of murder, torture and cannibalism. She’s now facing nine years of jail. Slacktivist looks at the possible motivations.

Donald Trump is being investigated by normal legal means. Even if he’s completely innocent (which I do not believe) that doesn’t amount to a witch hunt. What McNeill did was outside legal means; it went way beyond legitimate means of civil protest. She’s closer to the guy who showed up at the “Pizzagate” pizzeria packing a gun.

Witch hunts have killed hundreds of people over the centuries; the 1990s “satanic panic” put innocent people in jail on trumped-up charges and nonexistent evidence (even though it was within the legal system, it pretty much fit the “witch hunt” bill). Witch hunts have done worse than any witches or Satanists that we know about.

In other linking news:

For the rich, deviance from social norms is nearly consequence-free

When we talk about putting ourselves in slave-holders’ shoes, do we risk forgetting about the slaves?

Florida legislator Dennis Baxley wants to require schools to teach the controversy about evolution. I doubt he means questions like “how significant is genetic drift in isolated populations?” And Fla. Secretary of State Michael Ertel stepped down after an old video surfaced showing him in blackface, mocking Katrina victims.

Over in South Carolina, a religious private agency that handles foster care placements for the state got the green light from the feds to discriminate and only place with Protestants. Who cares that there’s a shortage of parents willing to take kids? After all, the agency’s head says “ot’s not a judgment or an exclusion” so obviously they’re not bigoted at all.

By similar logic, bullshit artist David Barton claims a nondiscrimination ordinance in San Diego criminalizes Christianity. But that’s nothing compared to Rick Wiles’ reveal that the Russia investigation (the one that’s not a witch hunt) is a British plot to reconquer America!!!! As Fred Clark says of McNeill and similar delusional types, this comes off more as wilful delusion than political paranoia — it’s just so exciting, like we’re living in a Bond film or something (I’m referring here to Wiles’ audience, not the liar himself).

And for other people, it’s all about the grift. Sometimes it’s hard for me to grasp that’s all there is — not politics, not some radical agenda, just self-interest. But yeah, it happens.

Illinois is finding several hundred more abusive priests than the Catholic Church acknowledges.

All of last year’s extremist killings in the US were by right-wing extremists.

ICE detained a US-born Latino Marine, even though he had his passport on him.





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The shut down is over, so I’m feeling cheerful

Yes, I know it’s only a three week funding extension for the government. I’m hopeful that whatever Trump’s next move is, he’s not going to try this again after such a resounding defeat. So while I don’t indulge in schadenfreude a lot, I’ll gloat at the misery some right-wingers are experiencing (after all, he wants us to be miserable).

Not that I think them suffering is a good reason to do anything. I really loathe the “Hey, Trump’s triggering the libs!” excuse for supporting him. Even though some supporters want Trump to hurt other people, I support a government that helps those creeps too.But if doing something good like the Democrats staring Trump down to reopen the government or supporting higher taxes on the rich upsets them too, I do get a little buzz out of it.

Pundit Kurt Schlichter declared a couple of weeks ago that nobody beats Trump. At the link he settles for well, Trump’s not defeated yet!

Kevin “hang women who get abortions” Williamson freaks out that we might return to mid-20th century levels of taxation on the rich. And they’re all freaking out over Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez.

Roger Stone, busted! If it’s true, as alleged, that he threatened someone’s dog, I hope he gets the chair. More details on the arrest here.

Jonah Goldberg explains Trump’s ideology is good, it’s his character that’s screwing things up.

Some disgruntled defenders of able-bodied masculinity claim Bird Box is a direct attack on white able-bodied men.

“Firefighter prophet” Mark Taylor explains away the Democratic gains in November as a Trump sting operation.

And racist Republican Rep. Steven King (“”White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”) has actually suffered criticism and penalties within his party. And while I agree with this post that it’s mostly a CYA maneuver, it’s still a good thing. Showing language like that crosses some the line is better than implying it’s all cool.



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“They have taught that man may be a slave”

Quotes for Martin Luther King Day, though the title comes from one by Frederick Douglass: “They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.”

Now, some King:

“Let nobody give you the impression that the problem of racial injustice will work itself out. Let nobody give you the impression that only time will solve the problem. That is a myth, and it is a myth because time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I’m absolutely convinced that the people of ill will in our nation – the extreme rightists – the forces committed to negative ends – have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic works and violent actions of the bad people who bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, or shoot down a civil rights worker in Selma, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.” Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals. Without this hard work, time becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.”

“The road to freedom is a difficult, hard road. It always makes for temporary setbacks. And those people who tell you today that there is more tension in Montgomery than there has ever been are telling you right. Whenever you get out of Egypt, you always confront a little tension, you always confront a little temporary setback. If you didn’t confront that you’d never get out.
You must remember that the tensionless period that we like to think of was the period when the Negro was complacently adjusted to segregation, discrimination, insult, and exploitation. And the period of tension is the period when the Negro has decided to rise up and break loose from that. And this is the peace that we are seeking: not an old negative obnoxious peace which is merely the absence of tension, but a positive, lasting peace, which is the presence of brotherhood and justice. And it is never brought about without this temporary period of tension. The road to freedom is difficult.”

“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Another post about the shutdown

As it stretches out longer and longer, Vox points out one reason: Trump’s a lousy dealmaker who can’t be trusted to do anything he agrees to (and he’s not currently agreeing to anything). Plus he seems to have no idea what’s going on, just like he and his team didn’t know what effect a shutdown would have (for what it’s worth, at least he’s a lousy autocrat)

So it’s small wonder even his advisers are hoping he’ll issue an emergency declaration and courts will shut it down. Saves face, doesn’t waste money on a useless wall — but this could go horribly wrong. Unfortunately Trump’s base loves the wall, so we’re stuck in a shutdown. Plus the possibility Trump will take disaster relief funds from Puerto Rico and California to build it.

Oh, and the White House now says even if Trump gets an emergency declaration, he might keep things closed so the Democrats don’t feel they’ve won. Because he’s a petty, vicious little shit-gibbon who’s not only a sore loser but a sore winner.

All rights to Münch’s The Scream remain with current holder.


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Links about sexism

Only 32 percent of rape cases are closed by the cops. That’s down from 62 percent in 1964.

Laura McGann wrote a story alleging reporter Glenn Thrush had a history of harassment. Here’s what happened next. And plenty of other men accused of harassment promptly bounce back after a little time off. Though it looks like Kevin Spacey may not be one of them.

Producers didn’t think the RBG biopic On the Basis of Sex would sell unless it made her supportive husband look like a jerk.

Pushing back against #MeToo isn’t a sign the movement’s gone too far, it’s a sign “some men crave the poisonous high of feeling wrongfully endangered.”

The concept of the Democrats as the mommy party explains why Dems getting angry upsets Washington more than Republicans freaking out does: “No matter how much male privilege you have and regularly wield, going up against cardinal masculine virtues like violence, wealth, and the unchecked use of power taints you with a feminine stain, and in our society, femininity is disdained.” No More Mr. Nice Blog suggests Republicans are still seen as they were in the late 1960s, the law-and-order party. I think the two interpretations dovetail, actually.

If critics don’t like a movie targeted at women (or blacks, or Hispanics), the problem may not be lack of diversity among critics.

The challenges of analyzing gender differences.

Foz Meadows on the sexism of the Scream franchise.

In Ireland, a defense attorney brings up a 17-year-old’s thong panties to prove an alleged rape was consensual.

The Daily Stormer neo-nazi site suggests we revive the burning of witches.

A ‘smart dress’ shows just how often the wearer was groped while clubbing.


Filed under Undead sexist cliches

John Carter of Trademarked Mars

A Princess of Mars, the story that became the movie John Carter, is public domain. Nevertheless, after the 2012 movie flopped, Disney lost the rights to the character. How do you lose rights to public domain works?

Well the Burroughs estate claims the copyright is still good in some countries, which would restrict overseas sales. Plus the estate has trademarked John Carter and Tarzan. That led to a lawsuit Dynamite Comics over its John Carter series, on the grounds their portrayal of the characters hurt the trademark. Dynamite settled, though the premise is dubious: trademark suits hinge on the plaintiff using the trademark to label goods (e.g., Nike and sneakers) which the estate doesn’t appear to be doing. There are other nebulous issues noted at the last link, such as moral rights (if Dynamite’s stories were too sexy, that would hurt Burroughs’ image). One of the comments in this Scalzi post explains a little more about those.

A great many films and books are entering public domain soon (Mickey Mouse. The Great Gatsby). Surprisingly, copyright holders are not fighting for the usual extensions, which may be because pro-public domain forces are better organized (according to Ars Technica at the link) or it may happen a year or two from now. Oh, Motherboard has a list of sites to download the new public domain stuff.

Another copyright issue: the right to resell a digital copy as you would a used paperback or an art print. The law’s lagging behind the tech.

Does Google benefit from allowing digital piracy?

What happens if the U.S. overreaches in the use of lawfare against international IP piracy?

Does copyright law protect dances and other culture created by black teens? Particularly dance?

An orphan work is one that’s under copyright but the rights holder can’t be found; in that case, in some jurisdictions, it’s legitimate to use the work. However doing a diligent search that will protect the user is tricky.

Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew videogame series was a hit for years (my niece played them) but it ground to a stop a few years ago. A minor thread in the skein of woe was having to pay Simon & Schuster royalties to use Nancy (this wasn’t the biggest issue, but it justifies linking in a copyright post).

The copyright and fair use history of the video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing to a Breakfast Club mashup.

Contrary to legend, Paul McCartney did not pay a man’s legal fees in return for the rights to “Ob la di, ob la da

And for visuals, here’s a cover with the now public-domain superhero, The Boy King, art by Alan Mandel.


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Three links about the wall — oh, sorry, “wall”

Trump’s wall was never supposed to be a thing: it was mnemonic to focus Trump’s tiny brain on immigration during the campaign. Only the positive response from crowds got him to take it seriously, so here we are.

And so, to get his funding, Trump shut down the government with no idea of the effects. They are now figuring that stuff out. Ah, I remember the white supremacist shitbag who assured me we didn’t need a smart president because he’d be surrounded by the best people.

Trump keeps talking about using emergency powers to build the wall — so why doesn’t he do it?

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The 2020 election begins now! God help us all.

As far as Politico is concerned, Elizabeth Warren is already tanking her chances. No, the secret to winning is trust to old, center-right white candidates! Or wildly popular politicians like … Paul Ryan? But women, it’s essential they be likable!

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, would like you to know that he’s very anti-Trump except where he supports him. One LGM blogger suggests, however, this is a clear sign Romney thinks the tide is turning against President Shit-Gibbon. But NMMNG says if Romney thinks that could land him the 2020 nomination he’s dreaming. But just in case, Trump’s allies are pushing harder to declare Trump the party’s pre-emptive nominee.

And Jerry Falwell Jr. assures everyone evangelicals will stick with Trump regardless of what sins he may have committed. Falwell’s excuse is that Jesus shouldn’t be setting public policy, which quite simply I think is a lie; the religious right (which was founded by his father as a political force) is all about letting their view of Jesus’ wishes define the law.

And of course there are the constant arguments that Dems won’t really be any different from Republicans if they had more power or don’t really care about stopping them. After all they could totally have stopped Kavanaugh making it to the Supreme Court if they tried. Plus arguments that if Democrats trash-talk Trump, it’s all over for them.

In other news:

Trump’s tax cut benefits rich foreign investors more than Americans who don’t own stock.

65 percent of jail inmates haven’t been convicted of anything. The majority are there because they can’t afford bail.

Deplatforming hatemongering websites or starving them of cash has been an effective tactic. Then you get someone like tech CEO Rob Monster, who made it his mission to save the hate-site Gab.

The founder and former leader of Identity Evropa has filed for bankruptcy. Not much detail at the link.

Customers without plastic keep running into problems at businesses that don’t take cash. For one thing, a number of stores don’t say this up front.

More white, right-wing terrorism: Antigovernment radical James Stachowiak calls for people to commit lone wolf terrorist acts.

Chipotle requires employees to sign arbitration agreements giving up their right to sue. Now employees are requesting arbitration and Chipotle is stalling.

Idris Elba says the only reason to worry about Me Too is if you’re guilty of harassing someone. Likewise, while many Wall Streeters now avoid meeting with women and even worry about hiring them, attorney Stephen Zweig says the solution is “try not to be an asshole.”

“Why do we think “innocent until proven guilty” is an appropriate basis for deciding who we invite into our personal, professional, or public spaces?”

“A video clip of two black people showcasing visible anger toward the president would have been played over and over again on cable news.” Hilary Clinton got crap for not playing nice with Trump at Bush the elder’s funeral.


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