Category Archives: Politics

We support the troops, but not if they’re Democrats (and other links)

Republicans like to talk loudly about how they support the troops, just as the Republicans I knew back in Florida sneered at Bill Clinton for dodging the draft. However they’ve never had a problem with Republicans who dodge the draft (George W. Bush, Donald Trump) just as they’ve never had any qualms about slamming veterans who vote Democratic.

Case in point, National Review‘s Kyle Smith who says he signed up to pay for college, which is fine, while Pete Buttigieg (whose military service seems commendable) only did it to look good when he went into politics. Evidence? Smith just knows this shit, ’cause Repubs are so tuned in to the subtle signals. I have a strange feeling that even though Smith rants elsewhere about “coddled” Ivy League elitists ducking military service (“There was always plenty of hypocrisy and cynicism to go with the Ivies’ two-generation-long hostility to ROTC.” — no, I’m not linking) he didn’t have a problem with President Bush II, who admitted he joined the National Guard to get out of ‘nam, then blew off his obligation. Or Dick Cheney, who took multiple deferments. Heck, he supports Donald Trump, the president with multiple bone-spur deferments who routinely mocks veterans and called our generals “dopes.”

Republicans work very, very assiduously to present themselves as the strong party that looks out for our security, where Democrats want terrorists to win. Don’t be fooled.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is removing pollution controls on wetlands. And he’s talking about cutting Medicare to pay for the federal deficit (I’m sure Social Security is on the list too, as Republicans have been trying to cut it for years). So Trump gave himself and other rich people a tax cut that generated record deficits; then he claims we have to cut a program working people have been paying into for years to cover the deficit. And once that happens, I’m sure he’ll push for more tax cuts. Oh, and Trump’s outraged the law doesn’t let American businesses pay bribes overseas.

And then there’s Ken Starr, once famous as the man who brought the Clinton/Lewinsky affair to light, now famous for covering up sexual assault.

The Supreme Court will hear a case on whether states have to support religious schools financially as well as their own school systems. I’m willing to bet if it passes, the next step will be court rulings that no, of course the religious schools can get government money without bothering about discrimination and other government requirements.

To end on a couple of upbeat notes:

The feds have once more arrested Chris “Crying Nazi” Cantwell. I hope he cries his eyes out.

And here’s a really great story, about a Jewish community destroyed in WW II; survivors and their descendants are connecting online.


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It’s all projection with the right: two examples

It’s a staple, and I believe accurate view on the left that right-wingers are big on projection. They actively work to restrict voting rights, but complain that Dems are engaging in voter fraud. They wreck the lives of workers while accusing Democrats of destroying the working class. They complain about being persecuted for religion while doing their best to gut everyone else’s religious freedom. Herein, two examples

First, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley. He’s acquired a reputation as the Great Dark Hope of the religious right, though he doesn’t seem that different to me than every other theocratic authoritarian swarming around since the 1980s. In an article for Christianity Today, Hawley argues that European and American society have been shaped too much by the views of the heretic Pelagius that we can achieve salvation through individual effort, which is the basis for Western individualism (I’m not an expert on Pelagius, but I find this argument tenuous). “But here is the irony,” Hawley writes. “Though the Pelagian vision celebrates the individual, it leads to hierarchy. Though it preaches merit, it produces elitism. Though it proclaims liberty, it destroys the life that makes liberty possible.” Because of Pelagius, liberals believe (to quote one Supreme Court decision) that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Well, yes, the search for God or meaning without God, should be up to each individual. But for Hawley, that leads us to the paradox he complains about: if freedom means having choices, “then people with the most choices are the most free. And that means the rich.” And the richer and more successful you are, the more God must love you. Pelagian individualism teaches us to celebrate the wealthy and the powerful which is why we’re now a hierarchy run by the elite where people at the bottom have crappy lives. We need to rebuild a culture that celebrates the working class and offers opportunity to all.

This is standard Republican boilerplate: an elitist (he’s a banker’s son whose education costs ran to half a million, according to this New Republic piece) ranting about elites and glorifying the little people. But then why is Hawley a Republican? The party does everything it can to gut protections for workers, protect payday lenders, make it harder for students to get out of student-loan debt, even from scam schools… I’m not really seeing a lot of support for the working class there. Hawley says he wants insurance companies not to discriminate against pre-existing conditions but that’s not the policy he supports. Nor does he seem to care that a lot of regular Americans are pro-choice and pro-immigration.

And his arguments about the evils of individualism (I suspect Hawley would be happier with anti-life) is bullshit. Yes, unfettered individualism can led to a lot of people getting screwed over, but hierarchy doesn’t just arise from that. A lot of hierarchy is directly opposed to individualism, a belief that people’s place in life is assigned by birth, by class, by caste. The divine right of kings. Aristocracy. Jim Crow. Slavery. The belief women simply shouldn’t be treated as equals. All anti-individualism and all of them reinforcing hierarchy. And as these things still have support on the right (Former Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist once wrote about the positive benefits of the divine right of kings compared to democracy), again, why is Hawley a Republican? He’s in a party that supports precisely the things he claims to hate.

The we have projectionist #2, right-wing blogger Christopher Cantrell. In a recent post, he argues women don’t belong in the “public square” because they whine so much. When men disagree, they trade insults and biting wit; when women are insulted, they complain about it, saying someone’s a racist or a rape apologist. How wimpy! Women will destroy the public square with their whiny demands for safe spaces!

First off, calling someone on their racist or sexist (or homophobic/transphobic/disabled-phobic or whatever) isn’t weak and isn’t about hurt feelings. Discrimination is a moral failing and a wrong, and it’s perfectly justifiable — and I think necessary — to label it. Of course, a lot of modern conservatism celebrates the right to be a racist, sexist shitbag; scumbag conservative Dave Daubenmire, for example, laments that he’s denied the right to say the N-word. He’s not alone. So it’s not surprising Cantrell gets huffy about it.

And second, conservatives do exactly what Cantrell complains about. They whine about how being criticized oppresses them. And right-wingers love the idea of safe spaces, but define it as the freedom to keep women and minorities out of the public square.

Curiously enough, I managed to refute Cantrell’s bullshit without once engaging in insult. But it was tempting.

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Controversial golden agers and other writing links

SF editorial legend John W. Campbell has become controversial in recent years. Cory Doctorow explains why. A friend of mine who showed this post to me added that it’s not just a matter of being bad personally: as the editor supreme, Campbell shaped and influenced what hundreds of writer got published. His ideas matter.

And then there’s Isaac Asimov. I’d heard about his fondness for grabbing or slapping women’s butts, but it was worse than I realized, At the link a good argument Asimov was not just “the product of his times.”

Several famous guitar riffs in classic songs are not in the sheet music used to register copyright. That could make them public domain. And lots of stuff made in 1924, such as Tarzan and the Ant Men and Rhapsody in Blue is now public domain. And if not for Congress extending copyright duration in 1978, material from 1963 would be available now, including Where the Wild Things Are and Spy Who Came In From the Cold.

Mystery novelist Sherry Harris says don’t write what you know, write what you suspect.

John Rogers of the TV show Leverage suggests “don’t write crime. Write sin.”

Male–male friendships are valued onscreen because, in addition to fleshing out male characters, they establish that men aren’t solely emotionally dependent on women, that they have lives and interests of their own. Female–female friendships are devalued for precisely the same reason, particularly in genre shows: they encourage the radical notion that a man, even a romantically suitable one, might not be the most important thing in a woman’s life. ” — Foz Meadows on representation and also how diversity in fiction favors white women.

Meadows also reminds us that while women and minority protagonists may be labeled as unrealistic, mediocre white protagonists get a pass.

The Mako Mori test: is there at least one woman in the story who has her own narrative arc, independent of supporting the man’s story?

The struggles to have a functional journalism in the 21st century.

“I don’t know about you, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable in a neighborhood full of Mr. Rogerses than I would in one patrolled continually by John Wayne wannabes with assault rifles.”

Another article on the question of whether we can separate the art from the artist.

“It was basically an early colonial version of Footloose.Atlas Obscura on America’s first banned book.


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Links about people behaving badly.

I’m always amazed how much anti-gay pastors turn out to be bottling up either a closeted gay side or something actually horrible For example, anti-gay preacher Ken Adkins and his taste for underage sex.

Being a conservative talking head is sometimes just a way to scam your followers.

Rep. Steve King, who insists white supremacist didn’t use to be an offensive term, doubles down.

Speaking of white supremacists, Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute is falling on hard times.

The right keeps talking about civil war if they don’t get their way. For example.

How corporate culture crashed the Boeing 737 Max.

Global warming has Australia on fire. But media magnate Rupert Murdoch wants everyone to know it’s arson and environmentalists.

Eric Metaxas argues that as we’re all sinners, Christianity Today shouldn’t call for Trump’s impeachment.

Jamelle Bouie on why Trump is a Lovecraftian monster.

“Chauvinist American commentators always presume America has the best intentions, and that the American military is composed of saintly warrior-poets. The reality is that the lumbering American colossus has unleashed a Thirty Years’ War-level of violent chaos all around Iran for no good reason at all. ” — Ryan Cooper on why if Soleimani is a bad guy, so are we.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard bullshit that if Democrats win, Christians will be the new Jews.

Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer warns women that if #metoo keeps up, they’ll never get another date!

And right-wingers complain about liberal political correctness!

Incels freak out that even if they sleep with prostitutes, the sex workers have had other lovers.

5G cell service may be a major problem for weather-forecasting satellites.

Chuck Todd of Meet the Press is stunned to realize Republicans tell lies.

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So we might be at war with Iran soon …

We killed an Iraqi commander with a drone strike. If it goes to war, the outcome will be ugly. And the treatment of Iranian-Americans too.

A lot of the responses, even from the liberal side, have included declarations that while the decision, and bragging about it so Iran knows we’re responsible, may be a mistake, Commander Soleimani was a bad dude who killed Americans and we shouldn’t feel bad for him.

Well, fair enough, though given that our drone strikes kill grandmothers, day laborers and good Samaritans, I don’t know that’s really a moral argument: if Iran or any Middle East group started executing drone operators, we’d be screaming about how monstrous it was to take them out.

More generally, we didn’t kill the dude because he’s bad. We take out people because they’re either threats or they’ve pissed us off (e.g, Chilean President Salvador Allende: Nixon didn’t want a socialist in office, so he overthrew Allende). If “bad dude” was the issue, we’d do something about the Saudis (repressive sexists who murder journalists) or Duterte in the Philippines. We don’t, because it’s not in our interests. We don’t take out North Korea’s Kim because the retaliation would not be in our interests.

Was killing Soleimani and then announcing it in our interests? Probably not. It’s good for Trump because he gets to strut and brag a lot, but as noted in that Vox link above, it makes it a lot harder to avoid a messy war (and we and Iran have a long history of misunderstanding each other). While the Trump administration is talking about stopping an imminent threat, I don’t believe that without iron clad evidence — we’ve entered into far too many wars based on similar bullshit claims.

In other news:

fA cop claims a server wrote “F–ing pig” on his receipt. Turns out the cop lied.

An NYPD officer staying in Nashville broke into the neighboring house, terrorized the residents and called them racial slurs. He got two weeks in jail.

The Trump tax cuts were very generous to big business. Under pressure from lobbyists, the Treasury department was even more generous about interpreting the law.

Incels are horrified that even hookers have probably slept with men before the incels patronize them.

White supremacist Augustus Sol Invictus was running for president. Now he’s been arrested for domestic violence.

A dispute over gay marriage will literally split the United Methodist Church in two.

Crackpot political paranoid Liz Croker argues that Tom Hanks appeared in The Man With One Red Shoe, red shoes are a symbol of pedophilia, ergo Hanks is a pedophile.

“We’ve been governed by idiots in eras and ages past, and occasionally we’ve gotten a break because men and women of good will decided to buck the tide, and we’ve still got a few of those despite the massive pressure our society applies to make them and all of us more idiot-friendly.” — Roy Edroso on not giving up hope.

“The rich often get what they want, even when most of the public want the opposite.” — Paul Krugman about the excessive influence of the wealthy in politics.

Alex Pareene looks at why the Obama years didn’t produce permanent liberal gains.

“Seeing this “Christmas spirit” at work is encouraging because it demonstrates that we’re capable of it. It proves that generosity and sympathy and magnanimity and charity are possible as a way of being together in this world. It shows that we can, in fact, choose to be overwhelmingly kind and gracious to one another.

But it also demonstrates that we’re not able — or perhaps not willing — to sustain such grace and generosity. We can heed the better angels of our nature, but only once a year and only for a very brief period. We tend to spend the rest of the year refusing to be generous or merciful because, come on, it’s not Christmas.” — Fred Clark on the paradox of the Christmas spirit.

Greece prosecuted a budget official for presenting accurate figures.

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Chaos at the Romance Writers Association (and other links)

Romance novelist Courtney Milan criticized a book as racist. The author filed an ethics complaint against Milan with Romance Writers of America, which sided with the author. At the link, Camestros Felapton details a fairly complicated mess in which the RWA seems to be digging itself in deeper every day. Plus a from Camestros here about the challenges for RWA and similar groups as what’s acceptable regarding racism/gender/homophobia shifts.

“The opinions of critics and reviewers should be used as guidelines for where to spend our time and money, not as a means of completely outsourcing all the work of critical judgement to other people.” Foz Meadows on accepting stories don’t have to be perfect to be worthwhile.

“If you can’t afford $4 to rent a movie, or $10 a month for a streaming service, or whatever it is you’re trying to watch or listen to, then you don’t get to do it.” — Creative Future cracking down on pro-piracy arguments.

Subsidy presses lie to make themselves look like legitimate publishers, for example claiming traditional publishers also require you buy a ton of books. Given how many aspiring writers I know who were clueless about legitimate publishing, I don’t doubt it’s effective.

How to write satire in the age of Trump.

John Scalzi on the possibility of becoming “problematic.”

How not to write a Hanukkah movie.

What Scooby-Doo teaches us about writing.

An answer to the perennial question why do ebooks cost so much?

There are trolls posting fake reviews on Goodreads. Because some people suck.

Laurie Penny on what she learned from fanfiction.

Joker director Todd Phillips says “woke culture” killed comedy. Joker actor Marc Maron counters that the only thing you can’t get away with is “shamelessly punching down for the sheer joy of hurting people, …For the sheer excitement and laughter that some people get from causing people pain, from making people uncomfortable, from making people feel excluded.”


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Owning the liberals, and more

Several liberal bloggers have argued persuasively that upsetting liberals is the prime directive for a lot of conservatives. Perhaps that explains why Trump is encouraging right-wingers to start arguments with their liberal relatives. Who are, you know, wimps for not wanting to debate with Real Americans.

NRA head Wayne LaPierre has been under fire for calling federal agents jackbooted thugs, the belligerent tone of NRA-TV and for funneling personal expenses through NRA’s advertising firm (NRA then paid them). He insists none of it is his fault.

As I’ve mentioned before, right-wingers mock the need for safe spaces, but they also insist liberals stay out of “their” safe spaces. So when the Hallmark Channel shows a lesbian kiss it’s a clear sign liberals are seizing control of a gay-free safe space and lesbifying it.

Stephen Miller proposed embedding ICE agents in a refugee agency as a way to round up more immigrants.

As climate protests become louder, Australia tries to criminalize the protests. Back in the U.S., the University of North Carolina monitored anti-racism protesters’ phones during a dispute over a Civil War monument.

The Love Joy Feminism blog argues that Matt Bevin pardoning dozens of criminals is not bad in itself. It’s just that the pardon list is very white, and includes a child rapist Bevin thinks can’t be guilty. LGM points out that the pardon power is a poor substitute for legal reform.

Is revenge porn protected by the First Amendment?

The downside of life in Disney’s Celebration community in Florida.

Washington State Rep. Matt Shea is very keen on a civil war with liberals where Christian true believers kill all males. I presume that’s so the women can be taken as breeders in his new Gilead. He’s refusing to resign.

Evangelical conservatives strongly believe atheists and Muslims would crush Christianity if they had the power. In reality, conservative Christians are much more eager to crush other people’s religious freedom.

Seattle works on solutions to SWATting.

The Republican plan to let people order cheaper drugs from Canada is … flawed.

Conservative radio host Chuck Bonniwell said he’d like a school shooting as a break from impeachment. He’s been fired, though I imagine someone will hire him for dynamic conservative thinking like that.

Republicans keeps complaining Democrats were ready to impeach Trump from “day one.” Which is exactly what they planned had Hilary Clinton won.

LGM argues that when the media call Trump’s anti-impeachment letter “fiery” or “passionate” or anything but “bullshit”, they help normalize Trump.

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Hobbits or heroes? Or can we be both?

Lance Mannion made an interesting argument a couple of years back that most of us, at heart, are hobbits: “Most people don’t want lives full of adventure and achievement and the acquisition of treasure. They want to stay at home in the Shire. They want lives full of comfort and contentment, in the company of family and friends.”

Mannion’s argument is that this is a mixed bag. Hobbits are at peace with themselves and their lives; they don’t chase the next promotion, they don’t fret they’re not climbing the ladder of success fast enough, they don’t build their self-image around lording it over others. On the other hand, “contentment can be hard hard to distinguish from complacency. Being satisfied with one’s self is not the same as being self-satisfied, and the latter is much more common.” And a lot of times, it takes the restless, unsatisfied people to get stuff done.

I think there’s a lot of truth to that. But there’s also a lot of truth to George Orwell’s observation about Hitler having “grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life … Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flag and loyalty-parades … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”

As with Mannion’s view, this is true of some people, not all. And it can be true of the same person at different times. Lots of people performed heroically in WW II, for instance, but when it was done the citizen-soldiers turned around, went home and settled into normal, everyday life. Some entrepreneurs have a nostalgic fondness for the days when they had to struggle and count pennies to keep the company afloat. After 9/11, when I went to make my regular blood donation, the Red Cross office was absolutely packed. I’d never seen so many people queued up and ready to give. I’m sure, even so, that they’d have preferred 9/11 not happen and we could live our lives without a global war on anything.

I think a healthy country should be able to find a balance between the two views. Life shouldn’t be a struggle for existence, but it should have options for struggle and challenge and danger for those who want it. As Raymond Massey says in Things to Come, “Our revolution didn’t abolish danger or death, it simply made danger and death worthwhile!” Struggle (to write a novel, to bring peace to the Middle East, to save species from extinction, to invent AI) is worthwhile when we choose it. A country that gives us that choice, where we can be hobbits if we choose, heroes if we prefer, is doing it right.

And in some ways, hobbit-hood can be a launching pad for struggle. People who have to fight to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table may never get the chance to tap their full talents or abilities. If people can find good jobs and not worry about the basics, that can free them up to wonder, “Hmm, what next?”

A number of people don’t see it that way. Pundit William Bennett has wondered why we don’t raise more courageous heroes like the Donner Party; apparently a world where few people need to survive by cannibalism loses some of its charm for him. Businessman Pete Peterson thinks we should end Social Security so people can’t spend the last decades of life not working.

Warhawk Donald Kagan was horrified the death of the USSR led to a “happy international situation … haracterized by the spread of democracy, free trade, and peace. Fellow hawk Irving Kristol (also at the link) was equally upset that post-USSR America wasn’t establishing itself as the new imperial power, shaping the world to its will. Several pundits celebrated 9/11 for putting an end to peace and prosperity: now America would have get out there and give them an exciting war to enjoy!  Okay, that’s not how they phrased it, but that’s what their laments feel like, especially as none of them were lining up to enlist. Peterson and Bennett are likewise wealthy men who show no signs of giving up their own comfort and privilege to live a life of character-building hardship. As Orwell once said, those who talk like this never fight; tough rhetoric is their substitute for fighting.

As Mannion says, a world with nothing but hobbits would grind to a stuffy halt. But there’s something to be said if more people have the hobbit option available.

#SFWApro. Covers by Barbara Remington (top) and Jack Kirby, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Christianity links for Christmas week

The conservative magazine Christianity Today has come out with an editorial saying Trump should be impeached. As Fred Clark says at the link, they deserve credit for that even though they show more concern with understanding Trump supporters than they do Trump opponents (“When someone is stomping on another person’s neck, charity — and justice — for the stomp-ee must come before “patient charity” for the stomp-er.”). And despite the fact the editor in chief only took a stand right before stepping down.

Meanwhile, young white evangelicals continue to support Trump. National Review goes with “both sides,” arguing that Democrats are as unwilling to compromise on abortion rights and identity politics to build an anti-Trump coalition than evangelicals are. But as Vox points out, evangelical conservatives don’t want to oppose Trump — they think he’s awesome. I’ll add that moderates and conservatives have been saying since the Clinton years that Democrats can recapture the white working class if they compromise on abortion, gay rights, etc. They have compromised, and it’s never worked.

Unsurprisingly, evangelicals see themselves much more positively than the rest of the country does.

I used to worry that if Trump stepped down Mike Pence would become a far more vicious anti-gay president. But whatever Trump’s personal feelings about gays, his actions are solidly in the tank for crushing gay rights.

“Politics is a transactional game, and presidents don’t need to be moral to be effective.” Rolling Stone on how money and power politics rallied evangelicals behind Trump.

Millennials are leaving organized religion behind.

Trump’s impeachment is more horrifying than the crucifixion!

A lot of conservatives believe if Christians refuse service to gays, that’s their right. If they’re religious groups resettling refugees, government has the power to stop them.

“To this day, the attitude I associate most with evangelicals is a sneering contempt for moral striving” An excerpt on Slacktivist from an essay about growing up evangelical.

To end on a positive note,  Baptist minister Mark Wingfield says when it comes to race, gender and such, Christian churches should learn to say “We were wrong.” And for another, a North Carolina church is trying to grow by shifting left.

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One type of dog-whistling, and other political links

How to dog-whistle about immigration fears: No, the writer has no problems with it himself, but why don’t we respect the views of hard-working who are uncomfortable with having more Hispanic people in the country?

This is not new. Richard Cohen claimed some years back that Tea Party conservatives with “conventional views” aren’t being bigoted when they’re offended at NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio’s biracial family, they’re fighting down a “gag reflex.” But he’s totally not a racist himself (even though he’s a firm believer in profiling black men), he’s just saying what other people are thinking (similarly, he believes George Zimmerman confronting a law-abiding Trayvon Martin was perfectly reasonable).

In other news:

Right-wing anti-gay bigot Bryan Fischer declares that in caving on allowing a lesbian kiss in an ad, Hallmark caved in to “the gay gestapo.”

The cops built a case against alleged sex trafficker Randy Volar, but never arrested him. One of his child sex slaves shot him; now she’s on trial for murder.

In Georgia, a politician’s wife dumps a drink over the head of a reporter, saying she had it coming. Elsewhere in the state, a city councilor resigns in the face of flak over his statement that interracial marriage “makes his blood boil.”

New Jersey is considering ending religious exemptions to vaccinating kids. Antivaxxers have stalled the bill in the state senate.

To its credit, the right-wing Christian magazine Charisma has published criticism of slimeball anti-Semite Rick Wiles, but it also gives him space to respond because they respect him.

Speaking of antisemitism, desecrating Torah scrolls in that Beverly Hills synagogue is more serious than I realized. This FB post goes into it in detail.

“We are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drool about in their dreams. All the dictators up to now have had to work hard at suppressing the truth. We, by our actions, are saying that this is no longer necessary.

Slacktivist on ads for Clint Eastwood’s film Richard Jewell: “That ad campaign calls Jewell ‘the real victim’ of the Atlanta Olympic bombing — which conveys a weird disregard for Alice Hawthorne and Melih Uzunyol who actually died in that attack, and for the 111 people injured in that crime. It also callously erases Officer Robert Sanderson, who was killed in one of the bomber’s subsequent attacks.”

Holy crap, the DoD used photos of a Nazi war criminal to salute the troops who died in the Battle of the Bulge.

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