Category Archives: Politics

Can a house divided against itself stand?

I’ve been skeptical about warnings of a new Civil War. I remain firmly convinced that while many Republicans may talk tough about how it’s time take up guns and defend their imaginary version of America, they’d prefer someone else do the actual heavy lifting (although certainly plenty of individuals will become violent).

Nevertheless, as Paul Campos says, we may be approaching some kind of breakup. As I said Monday, it’s quite possible Republicans supporting the bullshit Texas lawsuit knew it was bullshit, but it’s not like they’d have protested if the Supreme Court had miraculously overturned the will of the voters. As Campos says, ” in a diverse, pluralistic modern society, patriarchy, white supremacy, plutocracy, and theocracy are all radically inconsistent with anything even vaguely resembling liberal democracy. We can see clearly now that the solution to this otherwise insuperable dilemma is to get rid of liberal democracy.”

I think that’s right. I’ve no idea how we go forward when a large part of this country doesn’t want me or people like me to have a say in who gets elected. And favor employers’s power to legally discriminate against gays, Jews, Muslims, women and PoC. Who think Real Americans are White Americans.

Rush Limbaugh’s solution is simple: secession! Why should his listeners have to share a country with all those New Yorkers they have nothing in common with? As soon as Limbaugh took flak for this he walked it back, saying no, of course he wasn’t advocating secession, it’s just, you know, some people somewhere are talking about it. He’s just transmitting the message. Texas chair Allen West has the same message. Ditto court evangelical Tony Perkins and Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase. If Trump had won and California or New York officials talked this way, Limbaugh would be screaming about how raising the subject shows liberals hate America (ditto West, Perkins and Chase).

Lord know, I find myself thinking at times how nice it would be to carve off a chunk of America and run it without Republican input. It sure as hell wouldn’t be utopia, but it’s still looking better than the failed state Republicans are turning the U.S. into.

Except, of course, Durham is a liberal island in a largely red state. It’s not like I’d benefit in a secession, unless it’s county by county.

Which is the big problem: we talk of red and blue states but we’re intricately bound up together. California’s dominated by big, liberal cities but there are lots of conservatives in farm country (Erik Loomis has some thoughts on the problem of Democrats winning rural voters). New York state has plenty of Republicans outside NYC. And even within big cities, there’s no shortage of right-wingers. Someone commented online a while back (I forget where I read it) that conservatives find it easier to move to a decadent big city than liberals moving to rural areas because the diversity that right-wingers whine about includes right-wingers. Whatever your politics you can find people who share it, which is much harder to do when moving to a small town.

So how would we divide things up? And what happens to women, gays, blacks, etc. stuck in Redstateistan? Will gay kids be able to escape homophobic parents by escaping to Bluestateia or will they be stuck? The book Invisible Countries points out this is a common problem with secession around the world: ethnic enclaves that want to declare independence from the government are rarely without residents from other parts of the country. Heck, even in our Civil War, we had slaveowning states in the Union and Southerners who opposed the war.

Splitting up has its appeal. But I suspect we’ll just be locked together, whether we somehow pull out of this crisis or spiral downward together into a failed first-world state.

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Undead Sexist Cliches: Stop calling yourself doctor, just be Mrs. Your Husband!

So last Friday, Joseph Epstein — yep, the guy who thinks we were better off when WASP men ran everything — has written a Wall Street Journal column lamenting that Jill Biden thinks her PH.D entitles her to be called doctor: “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.”

Epstein then goes on to say that he “taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree,” but was repeatedly addressed incorrectly as “doctor.” Um, okay, but how is this relevant to whether Dr. Biden, who does have a doctorate, should be called doctor? Why does he complain that honorary doctorates are handed out too freely — again, this has nothing to do with Biden, whose doctorate is not honorary (someone suggested online that Epstein assumed it was, then when he learned differently couldn’t be bothered to rework the article)?

In fairness to Epstein, this is not a novel idea: I remember reading articles back in the 1980s saying that it wasn’t appropriate for a Ph.D. to call themselves a doctor; that should be reserved for medical doctors. Then again, IIRC most of my college professors with PhDs were doctors, or professors. And I doubt Epstein would be writing to tell Dr. Henry Kissinger this. Nor would he address Kissinger as “kiddo.” According to one of his former students, he is a sexist ass in class.

Which leads to the point Monica Hesse and Libby Ann both make, that women use these titles precisely because men like Epstein, and people who are much less sexist, don’t give women their due. In situations where they’d address a man as “doctor,” they’ll address a woman as “Jill” or “kiddo”; even female doctors deal with this. As Libby Ann puts it, “we live in a world where men are granted authority automatically, but women have to claim it. In that world, a man who drops formalities and goes by his first name risks far less than a woman who does the same.”

Professor Debbie Gale Mitchell said on Twitter that she gave her students the choice of calling her Debbie or Dr. Mitchell, until one of them asked if she’d ever get her Ph.D.: “I discovered that for me, the use of my title is VITAL to remind students that I am qualified to be their professor.” As I said a few years ago, white male achievement is never doubted the way POC and women’s accomplishments are.

Or consider Ben Shapiro. He’s referred to Sebastian Gorka online as Dr. Gorka, but Dr. Biden? ROFL: “If you’re at a dinner and somebody introduces himself as ‘Dr. Smith,’ you’d be rather upset to learn that he had a doctorate in musicology if you were to suffer a stroke at the table.” What, does Shapiro think people plan their strokes based on the assumption there’s a doctor in the house? As Hesse says, “nobody is worried that if a pilot gets on the intercom and asks, ‘Is there a doctor on this flight?’ Jill Biden is going to leap from her seat and try to perform a tracheotomy.”

Perhaps, the point, as Hesse says, is in Epstein’s concluding advice that Dr. Biden should just forget about her personal achievements and revel in “the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.” Isn’t being Mrs. Biden more important than personal achievement? Or as Libby Ann points out, now that increasing number of women are gaining Ph.Ds, maybe men are starting to devalue them, the same way salaries go down when a job becomes predominantly female.

Either way, Epstein fails to convince.


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The struggle is real! So is the idiocy and the terrorism

So I started putting together this link post before the Supreme Court shut down the Texas lawsuit (to the horror of Newsmax). But Trump’s legal team are still running up big bills — er fighting for the president —so I think the points below remain valid.

Trump and his Republican disciples continue fighting to throw out the election they lost. As their lawsuits keep going nowhere, Trump’s resorting to calling Republican state leaders and asking them to throw out the results (another example here). He should go to jail for that once he’s out of office — it’s illegal — but I doubt he will. I also doubt Pelosi will refuse to seat the Republican representatives who supported the Texas lawsuit. It’s true they may have done so under pressure and knowing it would go nowhere, but it’s just as true if the Supreme Court had ruled for Trump, none of them would have protested the coup. As Steve M. says, membership in the Republican Party should no longer be respectable.

As Jamelle Bouie says, Republicans did better than expected. Contrary to predictions that the more people vote, the better Democrats will do, we had record turnout and Republicans who weren’t President Man Baby did well. They even did better among people of color than they did in 2016. That’s a good sign for them, but they still act as if voter suppression were the only way they can win. It’s a reflex now. And multiple Republicans defeated around the country are insisting they were robbed (““It’s on principle that we will not let up until the truth is known.” says one candidate as if the truth of his 70 percentage point defeat was in doubt).

It’s no surprise Trump paints himself and his supporters as tragic victims. It’s hrder to explain Hail Mary plays like Texas AG Ken Paxton who wants other states’ results thrown out (Democratic wins, of course) because Texas doesn’t like how they run elections — which is not something Texas gets to decide. Or Pennsylvania Republicans suing because laws on voting by mail that they supported delivered a Biden win; that’s the case the Supreme Court just threw out. Both cases run into the same problem: the time to sue over election law is not after the election.

Part of the cause is undoubtedly that if Trump does cheat successfully, Republicans are on-board. Possibly fear is a factor: the Republican majority leader in the Pa. Senate said if she doesn’t fight the result she’ll be bombed out of her home. Or maybe she’s exaggerating. Or giving herself an excuse to show support for Trump (you’d think being threatened by your own party is a reason to reconsider your allegiance, but no).

Either way I’m sure Steve M. is right and the Republicans will graduate from harassing state officials to harassing electors—some of them are already promising to intimidate state legislators to get the “right” electors sent. For both of which people really need to go to jail (I gather no arrests so far). Even if the coup doesn’t succeed, Paul Campos is correct, it’s becoming toxic.

Michelle Goldberg points out that when a restaurant refused to serve Sara Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s then-press secretary, it was not only news, it sparked heated discussion about why liberals are so intolerant (something I’ve covered before. And here). Like me, and others, Goldberg concludes there’s a double standard: “it’s pretty routine for Trumpists to threaten and intimidate people who work in both public health and election administration” and nobody cares. Though she sees it as the lack of electoral consequences, whereas I think it’s more that being bigoted bullies is on brand for Republicans. As she says it’s routine. Republicans are not mocked as often as they should be when they decry divisiveness in politics—let’s face it, nothing says divisive like lying that the other side stole your country.

Trump, meanwhile, is doing his best to make America worse. And make it more polluter-friendly. Fortunately the policies in the article can easily be undone by executive order once Biden takes the helm. Other changes, not so much.

Many evangelical Christians such as Eric Metaxas are saying they’d martyr themselves to overturn the election results — which, even given Eric Metaxas is at no risk for martyrdom, is a startling statement. Slacktivist concludes Metaxas made a conscious choice to embrace folly. Libby Ann suggests creationism has trained a lot of Christians to reject critical thinking.

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Let’s talk the COVID crisis! (and a couple of other medical links)

It’s almost surreal for me to read about how bad it’s getting. Working from home as I always have, it feels like nothing’s changed, even though I know it has. Reading links like these reminds me how crazy it is, and how shitty Republicans have been.

Pfizer has the vaccine and it works, safely. If we can inoculate 100 million people, it’ll make a real difference in the pandemic’s spread We’re getting 100 million doses — it takes two per person — but the Trump administration passed up an option to buy twice as much. Pfizer says it can’t provide more until the summer.

For Mitch McConnell, the key action the government has to take in this crisis is to protect businesses that throw away employee lives.

Some state governors are as bad in handling the Trump Virus as Trump (though Democratic officials who take a tough line, then break their own rules, are bad too). Even with medical professionals begging them to Do Something. Ron deSantis in Florida has a solution: silence the professionals. But at least the failures of some states to govern the virus has given us the opportunity for an experiment: guess what, masks work! I’m fine with an anti-mask activist doctor losing his state license.

Conservatives claimed 9/11 was such a tragedy it justified invading Iraq and reducing it to rubble. But they’re unwilling to act against Covid rates equivalent to a 9/11 a day. They’re fine with setting up the TSA and requiring us all to take off our shoes, but not with mask mandates.

Right-wing slime Candace Owens compares getting vaccinated against the pandemic to slavery. I’ve heard other people compare it to rape which is an equally appalling and incorrect metaphor. Republicans are inviting a prominent anti-vaxxer to testify before Congress. Blame Wyoming Sen. Ron Johnson for embracing the anti-vaxxers; while he talks about protecting the vulnerable, he’s already on the record saying if 3.4 percent of Americans die to protect the value of his stock portfolio (okay, that’s my interpretation of his “save the economy” argument) he’s okay with it. Small Wonder that Steve M. glumly but plausibly predicts right-wing anti-vaxxers will leave us grappling with Covid long after other nations get back to normal. Case in point, preacher Guillermo Maldonado warning his flock that the vaccine is the mark of the beast.

In other medical news:

A consultant firm working with Purdue Pharma proposed paying pharmacies rebates based on the number of oxycontin overdoses they caused. And Sen. David Purdue may have found a way to make stock market money off the crisis.

And what ancient bacteria will Arctic warming unleash upon the world?

Erik Loomis wonders if the rapid development of the Covid vaccine suggests we could fight other diseases as quickly.

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Worlds in collision (and Republicans in transition)

Well, Trump’s frantic efforts to defy the will of the voters have come to naught — even Bill Bar admits it. But that doesn’t mean things are stable, or that Republicans are getting saner. Take Ted Cruz, who claimed in July that if Biden won, Democrats would lift Trump Virus restrictions after the election. And the belief the election is rigged against Republicans goes back a long way.

Trump attorney Jenna Ellis claims she’s a constitutional law professor. She ain’t. Not that Sidney Powell is any prize. But hey, Trump’s only standard for good lawyering in the fight to stay in power is fighting — it doesn’t matter they’re spewing bullshit, they’re Fighting! For! Him! If the customer doesn’t demand quality, he won’t get it.

And then there’s Lin Wood who claims that since the governor wouldn’t swear on a Bible that he didn’t take money from China, he must be guilty!

And Rep. Mo Brooks says even after the electors certify Biden, he’s going to challenge the outcome.

Trump has had discussions about pardoning Giulani, Ivanka and his sons, though for what is not clear. I wonder if he realizes he can’t pardon them for state crimes?

One right-wing pastor suggests Trump is preparing to save us by imposing martial law.

Republican voters are now turning on the party for failing Trump. I doubt it’ll last but if it gives us a Democrat for Georgia senator, I’m good with it. But not so much violent threats against Republican officials.

Meanwhile, a wealthy Republican donor is suing a group for failing to expose any election fraud. And Trump’s raised $495 million to fight election fraud, but most of it goes to his PAC.

Meanwhile, Republican state legislators in Ohio want to impeach the Republican governor because his COVID-19 restrictions have made the state “a hostile work environment.” Libby Ann points out that Republicans say they want law and order, but they also encourage breaking pandemic restrictions because freedom! Of course the Supreme Court is doing its best to make restrictions illegal.

Ben Shapiro thinks Hulu’s airing a lesbian rom-com, Happiest Season, as an attack on Christianity.

If you click on only one link in this post, make it this one. Portraying A-OC as a sexy feminazi Marxist dominatrix suggests the creator has fantasies they may not be aware of.

Poor rural states will find vaccinating the public a challenge.

President Man Baby thinks being called “Diaper Don” on Twitter is a national security issue. Meanwhile he’s stripping job protections from OMB civil servants so he can fire them for disloyalty. Trump is also racing to deregulate everything and bring back firing squads.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has placed the unused Trump Virus relief funds where they can’t be tapped without congressional approval.

“arguments about policy are the vestiges of a notion that Trump has killed off: the idea that an election is a contest for the support, or at least the consent, of a majority of voters. Such arguments implicitly concede the possibility that there is another, equally legitimate choice. That is precisely what the posthumous Republican Party cannot and does not accept.”

To end on an upbeat note, one guy in Michigan did the right thing and insisted on certifying state votes.

And for another happy note, Tom Tomorrow reminds us everything is fine.


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First do no harm: Star Trek’s Prime Directive

Star Trek‘s Prime Directive is a nice moral statement but a pain in the butt when it came to actually writing episodes.

The Prime Directive, as every Trekkie knows, is the rule that the Federation and its starships don’t interfere with cultures that have not achieved spaceflight. No intervening in them politically or changing their natural course of development. No giving them signs that life exists beyond their world, such as showing advanced tech or evidence of alien life. This is so fundamental, if it’s choice between saving your ship, your crew and yourself and breaking the Prime Directive, a starship captain should choose death before dishonor.

I’ve read this was partly a pushback against the Vietnam War. During the Eisenhower presidency the U.S. had supported the French colonial regime to stop the Vietnamese independence movement — communist oriented, therefore the bad guys — from winning. Eventually the country divided into two parts, North and South Vietnam, with elections to follow; as it was obvious the revolutionaries would win, the U.S. and its allies refused to let elections happen. Instead, we provided military support for South Vietnam, then eventually committed our own troops. It was a major scar and influence on U.S. society at the time, and increasing numbers of people went anti-war (you can read Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam for an excellent history of the nation and the war).

Vietnam wasn’t a unique screw-up. We overthrew lots of democratic governments in the 20th century — El Salvador, Guatemala, Iran, Chile — because we didn’t like who the people voted for. While we saw ourselves as the champion of freedom against tyranny, all too often we went in the other direction. And as David Rieff says in A Bed for the Night, any attempt at a humanitarian military intervention is a contradiction in terms: military force isn’t humanitarian in nature. As in a lot of things, I think the part of the Hippocratic Oath that says “first, do no harm” might be good advice for us.

In practice, though, the rule was a mess. If we go by the Prime Directive, Kirk had no right to challenge the Landru-computer’s control of its world in Return of the Archons, or to take down Vaal in The Apple. Indeed, the latter story seems like a textbook example — Vaal’s control of his people is totalitarian, but it does apparently keep them at peace, happy and immortal. Will destroying Vaal improve things? Will shutting down the war computers in A Taste of Armageddon actually end the nightmare war, or will they go fully nuclear? As a kid, these episodes worked fine; as an adult I wonder if Kirk has not, in fact, done harm.

Of course not intervening is the opposite of how we expect heroes to work. When good guys stumble into a tyrannical society, fictional convention says they’re supposed to liberate the people, not turn a blind eye. That can, of course, make for dramatic tension, but it could obviously turn a lot of people off: what if the Enterprise crew doesn’t intervene at all to affect the repressive caste system of The Cloud Minders?

There have been multiple expansions and explanations of the details of the directive to handle all the contradictions and try to rationalize it. Ultimately it’s an interesting idea but very awkward, perhaps unworkable, in practice.

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So now we’re supposed to heal our broken nation and achieve unity …

According to some articles, what many people want to see from President Biden (and did during the past four years as well) is unity in government. No more hate, no more anger, no more Twitter rants. And that applies to us too: Biden voters should be reaching out and sympathizing with Trump voters. We need to show empathy — didn’t we feel just like this in 2016? Give them time to process their emotions and move on. To which I say, dude, WTF?

This is not at all equivalent to 2016: we were pissed and horrified, sure (and the past four years have shown we were right to be) but nobody doubted Trump had won, however hinky his route to the White House. We were not sitting there insisting he wasn’t a real president and that Clinton had actually gotten the electoral voes. Republicans are in denial and being nice to them probably won’t help (no. not even if Biden pardoned Trump).  And I don’t recall anyone at the time saying that Republicans should reach out and be sympathetic (not that they’d have listened). Heck, if you’ll remember, a lot of us Democrats were anticipating a Congressional landslide instead of Biden facing (probably) a Republican dominated Senate where Moscow Mitch will deep six every Biden initiative he can. Shouldn’t Trump voters be sympathizing with us.

I understand that many Trump voters are shocked they lost — didn’t Pat Robertson and other evangelicals prophesy for God that Trump would win? And they’re convinced that evil has triumphed. But they’re wrong. All that happened was that they lost an election. Republicans will have a shot — better than they should — at recovering the White House in four years. In that time, Biden and Harris will not destroy America, lock up Christians or turn their kids over to a Satanist pedophile cult that drinks children’s blood. Our fears that Trump would be anti-gay, misogynist, anti-immigrant, racist and generally incompetent turned out justified.

I think this is another version of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ axiom, that “white racial grievance enjoys automatic credibility.” Trump supporters’ suffering has to be taken seriously in a way the more diverse liberal wing doesn’t. That said, I can understand the desire for unity but how do we reach that with millions of voters embracing QAnon or white supremacy (or both) or willing to tolerate them? Or insisting the Trump Virus isn’t real even as they die from it.

The truth is we’ve never really been a united country. We weren’t united under slavery: slaves and masters were not on the same page, nor were slave-owners and abolitionists. Nor in WW II, despite the image of everyone pulling together to fight the Axis. Some American businesses traded with Germany throughout the war; some people preferred Hitler to FDR. The government shipped Japanese-American citizens to concentration camps and sent 2,000 citizens to Japan in exchange for American POWs. The Army was segregated and soldiers stationed in the south had to abide by Jim Crow laws. Gay sex and interracial marriage were illegal. As soon as the war was over, the government and big business snatched the jobs women had taken in the war away from them.

As Martin Luther King said, what we hadn’t wasn’t unity but a “period when the Negro was complacently adjusted to segregation, discrimination, insult, and exploitation.” Ditto women. Ditto gays. It looked united because society managed to contain protests and pushbacks and keep things relatively stable. But the fissures were there. As King said, we can’t get from the “old negative obnoxious peace which is merely the absence of tension” to “a positive, lasting peace, which is the presence of brotherhood and justice” without tension and disunity. And we have to make that shift to survive and recover from the failed state we seem to be turning into. Brotherhood and justice require equality; that’s hard to achieve when a large chunk of this country wants to roll back the achievements of Selma, Stonewall and Seneca Falls.

So yeah, unity’s nice, but there’s going to be a lot of tension first. And we can’t run away from it.

But as proof that sometimes good guys win one, LGM thinks the Affordable Care Act will survive the Supreme Court. And Trump’s “bring back the gold standard” pick for Federal Reserve couldn’t get confirmed in the Senate.

It’s a start.


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Publishers allegedly behaving badly

First, Disney. According to Cory Doctorow,  Disney acquired publishing rights to a number of Alan Dean Foster’s novels when they acquired Lucasfilm and Fox. They have not paid Foster any royalties since they became the publisher, nor provided him with royalty statements. The reason? They acquired publication rights when they bought the other companies’ assets, but not their debts — so basically they’re not legally obligated to pay him. They’re also refusing to negotiate or discuss things unless Foster signs a non-disclosure agreement first. Which sounds like a ginormous red flag — NDAs are often used as part of a settlement agreement, but not as a precondition for negotiating.

SFWA is on this, understandably. If Disney can get away with this there’s nothing to stop other corporations that buy up publishers from doing the same. Or one publisher under an umbrella corporation could sell the rights to another publishing company in the same organization. Keep in mind, they’re not washing their hands of what Lucasfilm owed Foster: Disney is selling copies of the books he wrote so there’s no excuse I can imagine that makes it legal.

From Disney’s perspective I would guess this looks like a no-lose move. If they win, or if Foster just gives up, they keep the royalties. There’s no court ruling to stop them from trying again. If the case goes to court and runs another five years, it will be a great deal of sweat and effort for Foster but none at all for Disney executives; they’ve got lawyers for that. And if they lose, well, it’s unlikely whatever court costs and damages they pay will hurt their bottom line much. Disney’s FY 2018 report says they spent $38 million settling litigation; another million wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Which is the thing about America today: if you’re rich and you don’t want to follow the law, the system can’t do much to stop or deter you. Disney Co. is very rich. Small wonder that aggressively as they protect their intellectual property, they keep getting accused of ignoring it when it’s inconvenient.

Then there are the allegations against Audible, Amazon’s audiobook company (I should add that I believe both sets of allegations). As detailed at File 770, writers receive only 40 percent of the sale price even though they pay for recording their books, which isn’t cheap. Now it turns out that Audible has launched an exchange program where you can trade in one audiobook for another, even if you liked the recording and listened all the way through (there’s a “return” button at the end). You can make the exchange up to a year after purchase. Audible then reduces the authors’ sales: you sell 10 books, three readers return them, you get payment for seven. It’s not obvious on the sales reports (my publisher McFarland’s sales reports make returns crystal clear). Nor did writers learn about this deal or get an option to opt out — oh, and even when Amazon changes the rules, writers can’t pull their books for seven years after they launch.

I presume this works out well for Audible: they make money off reader memberships and I’m sure turning themselves into a de facto library makes membership that much more attractive. Not at all well for writers.

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An incompetent, unsuccessful coup attempt is still an attack on America

One of the questions I’ve seen discussed on liberal blogs lately (links here) is how much of Trump’s appeal is his bigotry and misogyny, how much is Trump himself. The question shapes the future of the Republican Party: if Trump’s success is partly from his ability to perform and inspire at rallies, sober, serious Republicans who are equally extreme and authoritarian won’t inspire the same fervor (some discussion here). If not …

But either way, it’s pretty clear the Republican Party is totally wrong for America. Biden won. He won legitimately despite Republican vote suppression and the hysterical rants about how Democrats will shut down all the churches, destroy the suburbs and drink adenochrone from American children. And Republicans are attempting a coup. It looks like it will fail, but most of the party supports Trump’s efforts. Some of those displaying integrity would probably have changed their tune if it was close enough that cries of fraud were a little more believable (see here for more. Also here). Presumably they’ll do it again. Which means Democrats for the rest of my life will not only have to win, they’ll have to win by cheat-proof margins. And even then, we may have Republican loyalists like the GSA’s Emily Murphy refusing to allow a transition. It’s like McConnell’s declaration his top goal starting in 2008 was to make Obama a one-term president; running the government is less important than crushing Democrats (and democracy).

And we have right-wing news pushing to defend Trump — sure, he’s given us no proof yet, but any minute he might come up with the evidence Dems are as dirty as Real Americans always suspected. Or right-wing arguments that really, Dems are just as bad. What Murphy’s doing is no worse than Whoopi Goldberg telling Republicans to get over it, am I right? No, you’re not (and at the Murphy link, Howard Kurtz does make that argument).

Part of the problem is that the Republican agenda — anti-gay, misogynist, pro-the 1 percent, anti any regulation at all — is unpopular with most of America. Democracy works against them unless they change, and they’ve made it quite obvious they’re not going to change. Plus a lot of them are true believers. Many of them buy into the same the same right-wing “news” that Trump does. In the words of I.F. Stone, governments are in trouble when they start smoking the hashish they’re selling to the public.

No More Mr. Nice Blog says part of the Republican advantage is that they and their media allies have been screeching for decades about how eeevil liberals are. Dems aren’t doing the same back. So Democrats committing fraud or working against America seem more reasonable to a lot of people — certainly to people in the media — than the idea that Republicans are a threat to America. Looking at how even lying right-wing shits like Newt Gingrich rarely pay a consequence for their conduct, the blog wonders if we don’t need to get just as dirty as they do.

I sincerely hope not. We definitely need to play hardball — we should be out there reminding everyone that Republicans have rejected democracy, racial equality, gay rights, etc. — but turning outselves into Republican clones won’t work out well. I also think there’d be much more blow back than Republicans get. For a variety of reasons, Dems are typed as the nice ones: Republicans fighting for the right to discriminate against gays doesn’t generate the kind of shock that stories about Democrats refusing to date Republicans do. Being vicious and bigoted is part of their brand; we’re expected to be tolerant and fair.

Keeping Republican treachery in the public eye might help change that. Maybe. We should also challenge the Republican myth they’re the party of military duty and military leadership. Newt Gingrich, who never served, once mocked Sen. George McGovern, a fighter pilot, as a war wimp; Bush II, who dodged the draft and blew off his National Guard service, painted decorated veteran John Kerry as a shirker who faked his war wounds. Mitt Romney, who never served, once mocked Jimmy Carter (“Even Carter could have given the kill order,” dismissing Obama ordering bin Laden’s death), who did. Can we change that narrative? Maybe. Not for hardcore Repubicans (I’m pretty sure the veterans who told me they couldn’t tolerate Bill Clinton’s draft dodging voted happily for W and Trump), but perhaps for others?

Then there’s religion. Lots of Democrats have faith; Biden’s a lifelong Catholic, Obama and the Clinton’s are churchgoers. Nevertheless, Republicans still represent themselves as the God Party. Part of that, as blogger Fred Clark once said, is that people tend to equate meanness with faith: zealots who oppose interracial marriage or women’s right to vote are seen as more devout than people who are open to equality and gay marriage. Believers who let children die rather than give them medical treatment (it’s in God’s hands!) are more devout, by this thinking, than people whose faith inspires them to run a soup kitchen or a free clinic.

How do we push back? There you got me. I can blog about it, but I’m sure that’s not going to turn the tide (I am thinking of ways I can do more. No ideas yet). But it needs to be done. As does the kind of on-the-ground door-to-door organizing and energizing Ihlan Omar does.

Republicans are the enemy of America. As for the Republican voters … but that’s for next Monday’s post.

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Lying to us and maybe themselves: links about delusion and grift.

No More Mr. Nice Blog suggests that Trump refusing to concede isn’t some elaborate scheme: he really thinks he’s won. Heck, he’s even tweeting that now. Trump believing this sounds plausible, but it still leaves him stewing in resentment and watching TV. Not that this is surprising — when has he ever been a hard worker? — but it’s bad to have the White House out of action until Biden’s voted in. For example, ignoring the pandemic even more than usual.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Trump’s sucking out money raised to fight election fraud to pay down his campaign debts (while campaign funds go into Trump’s pocket). Pastor Darrell Scott of Ohio says that’s perfectly legitimate: Trump’s getting the money either way, what does it matter how he spends it? Libby Anne looks at Scott’s own er, colorful history in such matters.

And then there are the two prominent evangelists who raised $4.5 million for Holocaust survivors, but apparently want some of it for other projects. They’re now in court fighting over how it was divided up.

Or consider pastor Robert Jeffress who declared Biden the winner of the election — as he did for Trump the day after the 2016 election — then backed off and announced there’s no official winner yet after his fellow Trump supporters criticized him. Meanwhile a prominent law professor says if Biden has nothing to hide, he should support all Trump’s lawsuits to get at the truth. Right, just like Obama had some obligation to pull out his birth certificate to prove he was born in this country.

Libby Anne says anyone who calls themselves pro-life and refuses to take any steps to reduce the Trump Virus is fooling themseves.

For political scammers, we have Rep. Louie Gohmert, who claims it’s proven that 10,000 dead people voted in Michigan. Spoiler: it hasn’t. But Trump supporters still tell themselves Trump was robbed.

I can’t help but think companies promising to spot cheating in distance learning — they can analyze eye movements and know if you’re looking the answers up! — are grifters of another sort. Sure, they say science is with them, but I’ve heard graphologist say the same thing (companies that use handwriting analysis tests for job applicants can discover the TRUTH about them! It really works!).

Some people have ranked J.D. Vance, “working class people whisperer,” as another grifter. Even by that standard, the movie based on his book doesn’t work. The Newsmax TV channel, however, is gambling that moving to the right of Fox News — not calling the election for Biden, for instance — will be a winning media strategy.


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