Category Archives: Politics

New And Column and other political links

The column is on the Cosby rape apologists who insist that all those accusers are lying or just plain wrong because they’re ugly, or feminists are fudging the facts or Americans are Puritans, etc.

•Wow. Twenty-year-old Joshua Goldberg was an online whackjob who did everything from post genocidal articles supposedly from a (real) Jewish lawyer to adopting an ISIS-supporting jihadi persona. The latter got so involved in promoting terrorism he’s now been arrested. Amanda Marcotte has more.

•Operation Jade Helm, a military exercise in Texas ended without taking over the state as some right-wingers have predicted (and tried to stop by terrorism). Here are more predictions of apocalypse and the end of America under Barack Obama. Remember when the paranoia machine starts ranting about Clinton.

•Slacktivist once devoted a post to various pundits who argued that as they feel scared at seeing a black man on the street, that’s proof black men need to be targeted by cops. No, it’s proof the pundit has a problem. Likewise if someone feels like raping women who don’t dress “modestly,” the problem is with the man, not the women.

•Similarly just because a conservative feels uncomfortable airing their opinions to friends it doesn’t follow that this is the fault of liberal thought policing rather than say, having shitty, bigoted opinions.

Things to remember on 9/11. Right-wingers would rather you remember Muslims R Evil than that our response to an attack involving no Iraqis, Iranians or Afghanis was to attack Iraq and Afghanistan and threaten to attack Iran.

•Donald Trump continues freaking out Republican old-timers. The media menawhile are much more interested in Clinton’s allegedly improper email than Jeb Bush lying about his tax plan.

•Vox points out that the current slate of would-be candidates shows why political parties are useful—they can vet and groom candidates so we have a good selection (though I’m not sure the current Republican Party would ever produce a candidate I could live with). Speaking of which, here’s a look at why Bernie Sanders is not the Democrats’ Donald Trump. And Roy Edroso weighs in on the roots of Trump’s support (“If you want your shitty beliefs passed into law, you can get that from any Republican; but if you want your shitty attitude flattered, there’s nothing like Trump.”)

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It’s Thursday, so politics!

One of the running right-wing themes in the Obama years is that if Obama does something without Republican support, it’s tyranny! Case in point.

•Donald Trump’s campaign continues drawing the extremists.

•Costco and similar stores may have changed our shopping more than e-commerce.

•Republicans continue trying to block voters—well voters who aren’t Republican—exercising their rights.

•Due to the algorithms Princeton Review uses to set test-prep fees, Consumerist says, Asians pay more.

•The U.S. Chamber of Commerce fights for businesses’ right to robocall us. And the ad industry is contemplating legal action to prevent ad blockers on iPhones.

•I used to think I was completely cynical about human stupidity. But claiming a mother who’s not a virgin can transfer DNA from past lovers into her husband’s children? That’s a new high point.

•Do settlements for police wrongdoing lead to police reform? Of course, when cops assume the real issue is people criticizing them

•Of course, when it comes to accepting criticism of the justice system, torture and exploitation in the US, our government doesn’t like criticism either.

•Slacktivist asks, if the Kim Davis case is a sign all true Christians are persecuted, why is Mike Huckabee able to walk around free?

•An Uber driver filed for unemployment benefits. Uber objected he was never an employee, only a freelancer. A court disagrees with the company.

•So amidst a corruption investigation—did United Airlines add a largely empty flight to Newark Airport to win over a New Jersey government official?—the airline’s CEO stepped down. But as usual, stepping down during an investigation doesn’t hurt his retirement package.

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Undead sexist cliches: Everyone’s a sex object

There’s an old cliche that likes to hand-wave away visual sexism by arguing that everyone’s a sex object: women loved looking at Robert Redford/Paul Newman/Cary Grant/Johnny Depp/Heatlh Ledger/insert appropriate star of your choice, don’t they? SO how is that any different from men checking out women.

As Foz Meadows discusses in a post on fan service, the two aren’t equivalent. Anime offers harem fantasy set-ups for men and women alike, but it doesn’t visualize the men with as much skin. And the sexual display doesn’t undercut the men the way it does the women.

americanflagg1This topic came to mind when I started rereading American Flagg! recently (cover by Howard Chaykin, all rights with current holder). The book is set in a near future America where the military industrial complex  (“The Plex”)is literally trying to sell off the country, corruption is rife and a black market in pretty much everything flourishes. Reuben Flagg is a former video star, a sex fantasy for millions of women, who winds up as a cop for the Chicago-area Plex.He sets out to change things, and along the way, has sex with a lot of women.

When I first read this it was hard not to be blown away. I hadn’t seen a massively corrupt America portrayed in comics before, nor anything with this much sex (nothing X-rated, but I think it manages a soft-R). Writer/artist Howard Chaykin’s storytelling was impressive too.

Rereading, I’m less impressed. Chaykin’s art is great, but now that corruption and sex are so much less remarkable, so is the book. The story took a much longer time to get going but it’s picking up now, so I’m glad I kept reading.

But then there’s the woman. Lots of women doing the nasty with Flagg or other characters, frequently shown stripped down to their stockings and garter belts (very big in the early 21st century it turns out), bra and panties … well you get the idea.

In the last issue I read, someone brought this up in the letter column, to which the editor’s response was that Reuben. the former screen star, was just as much a sex object as any of the women. Which from the point of view of the characters is reasonable: women lust for the man who played “Mark Thrust” as much as Flagg lusts for them.

But from the reader’s viewpoint? Not so much. The women, as noted, strip down pretty much every issue to their sexy lingerie. The most i think I’ve seen a man is with his shirt off. The women are posed as eye candy pin-ups; Reuben and the other men are drawn to show they’re getting dressed after sex. The eye isn’t invited to check them out the same way.

americanflagg11As witness the image (Howard Chaykin, all rights with current holder) to the right. See my point?

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All lives matter too (political links)

A standard conservative meme is that feminists/blacks/gays say they want equality but they’re actually bigots: why aren’t feminists out there opposing discrimination against men, for instance?

This argument is a multipurpose one. It slams non-white, non-male, non-straight activists by painting them as hypocrites. It reinforces the idea that white people (or straights or men) are the real persecuted ones. And it puts a conveniently happy face on America’s past. Saying the civil rights movement was about “equality” sounds so much more digestible for some conservatives than saying it was about ending the Jim Crow segregation, job discrimination, housing discrimination, voting discrimination and sometimes violence imposed on blacks by white America. It was to rectify injustices imposed against blacks, not some vague equality. And a lot of injustice still exists.

This is the rationale for the kind of color-blindness that treats any measure protecting blacks as “special rights” and reverse discrimination. Or the bullshit I’ve heard from more than one conservative or libertarian (pundits Tibor Machan and John Leo, for instance) that back before we had affirmative action, jobs were given out according to merit. Which makes, I admit, perfect sense if you start from the assumption that white men are always superior, so naturally they beat out everyone else (Leo may believe that in fact: in one column he asserted the lack of white winners in one scholarship competition proved the awards were given out based on race—despite his assertions in other columns that statistics can’t prove discrimination by themselves).

Which ties into this post about why “black lives matter” isn’t some kind of racist statement. Black lives get short shrift (as the Ferguson, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner have shown) so saying this is an issue isn’t the same as saying “nobody else’s lives matter,” it’s saying (as pointed out in the post) “black lives matter too.”

In other notes:

•Corporations that work through franchises and contractors must accept joint responsibility as employers. In other words, McDonalds can’t treat employees as employees of the individual franchise alone. More on joint responsibility.

•Of course that would be moot if we get a Republican-appointed Supreme Court judge down the road who’s willing to overturn any regulation on business.

•Obama renames Mt. McKinley into Mt. Denali, which I gather is an old Alaska name. Right-wingers freak out.

Broadcasters sue the FCC for making it harder for local governments to limit cable rates.

•A condo-owner discovers his roommate renting out the condo on Airnb.

•Under new NYC rules, police who stop-and-frisk must provide a justification. Hullabaloo looks at the response from cops, some of whom (as well as some right-wingers) are shocked, simply shocked that people won’t accept their word the person they hassled was a bad guy.

•Lawyers Guns and Money suggests Donald Trump’s appeal is because he’s giving the Republican core both right-wing social stances and support for more welfare. I’m not entirely convinced, though: the argument is that regular politicians ignore social stuff in favor of economics—lowers taxes, lower regulation—but it seems to me they’ve been doing both for years now.

New Republic argues Trump is not a populist (agreed) and that he’s really the voice of “aggrieved privilege.” That would put him in the preservatist right-wing tradition discussed in Politics of Unreason, where people are driven by fear of others. In the current case, for a lot of white voters it’s (my though) less about having property or money taken than status: as white people become just one of the many minorities in this country, they become less special. “Their” country is being taken away.  As witness Obama renaming Mt. McKinley, named for a white guy, after some non-white Native crap. In one freak-out, right-winger Ben Shapiro sneers Obama will now rename the Southwest as “Aztlan” as he continues destroying “our” heritage.

And here we have right-winger Rod Dreher explaining that unlike callous liberals who never think about how much working-class whites suffer because of immigration (not just the illegal kind), Trump truly cares about their pain!

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New column out

About a column by Dick Cheney explaining Obama’s deal with Iran is both wimpy (appeasement! Just like Chamberlain!) and a betrayal of America’s glorious past of heroically overthrowing evil governments everywhere.

While I didn’t get into this in my own piece, it reads like something very much cobbled together to hit the Republican talking points as we move into the pre-presidential election phase. Cheney says specifically that ” Just as one president has left a path of destruction in his wake, one president can rescue us. The right person in the Oval Office can restore America’s strength and alliances, defeat our enemies, and keep us safe. It won’t be easy.” Guess what, the president who left a path of destruction wasn’t W.

The points? Let’s see:

•Iran nuclear deal is bad.

•America has to be so strong and scary that nobody in the world can possibly threaten us. And of course that doesn’t make Cheney a coward desperate for protection from the nanny security state, it makes him strong! Obama, the wuss, is the coward!

•Obama is a wimp who doesn’t support our military, doesn’t spend enough on our military and doesn’t attack enough people. This is a perennial for Repubs (Gingrich once described decorated combat veteran George McGovern (1972 Dem candidate as a wimp) whose image is based on them being the only ones who can protect America, strong, brave and fearless, in contrast to pacifist Democrats. George W. Bush, the guy who ducked the draft and blew off his national guard service was a Real Man, in contrast to combat veteran John Kerry (Bush’s opponent in ’04) who became the cowardly anti-war wimp.

I’m honestly not sure this resonates with younger voters who don’t remember Vietnam and the hawk/dove conflicts it spawned. But I know it’s a big hit with a lot of the older Repub core voters.

•America has a glorious history of promoting freedom! We must teach American children about all the great things we’ve done … and apparently none of the bad ones. Which fits in with longstanding efforts to make history classes more “patriotic.”

•Obama is totally un-American.

As I note in my column, it’s absurd that anyone’s even listening to the pro-torture vice president whose support for invading Iraq led to a disastrous war we didn’t have to fight, to destroy WMDs that didn’t exist. But as I’ve written before, there’s nothing “experts” can say that’ll make people see the emperor has no clothes. Though admittedly I wouldn’t particularly want to see Cheney with no clothes …

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Undead sexist cliches: It’s not the looks, it’s the confidence

A post by Foz Meadows discusses how women on screen have to look fashionable even if their characters aren’t: “Their hair is long, because our cultural beauty standards privilege women with long hair, and invariably worn loose, kept in place with spray and sheer force of will; their clothes are expensive and form-fitting, because we’re meant to admire their aspirationally well-toned bodies, which we can’t do if they’re wearing loose things or layers; their shoes have high heels, because we consider that fashionable, even for women who spend all day on their feet; their makeup is immaculate, their nails are manicured, and to me, they look largely like alien creatures, because 90% of the time, there’s a disconnect between who their appearance says they are and what their character is meant to be.”

This got me thinking of another problem with the way women are written in movies (though largely unrelated to Meadows’ point)—the number of rom-coms where the sad, lonely protagonist who can’t get a date is someone strikingly attractive. For example, Janine Garofalo in The Truth About Cats and Dogs or Julia Roberts in the god-awful America’s Sweethearts.

Cats&dogssoundtrackIn both cases, the defense is that this isn’t a movie about looks, it’s a movie about insecurity, and even good-looking people can be insecure. While that is certainly true, I don’t buy it; it seems more a rationale for writing good-looking people (primarily women) into the Plain Jane role.

In Cats and Dogs, for instance (all rights to image with current holder), Garofalo plays a vet with a radio talk show. After handsome Ben Chaplin asks her out, sight unseen, Garofalo has a massive attack of insecurity—how could a hunk like that be interested in a schlub like her?—and decides to do the Cyrano thing, recruiting gorgeous buddy Uma Thurman to step in for her. Hilarity ensues.

I like the film, and Garofalo does a good job playing someone painfully shy, but then comes the scene where she asks Chaplin—who’s insisting he loves Thurman for her mind, not her looks—whether he’d still feel the same if Thurman looked like Garofalo. And this anguished look comes over Chaplin, who clearly doesn’t want to admit that no, he wouldn’t. Which seems to imply that yes, ultimately Garofalo, despite being drop-dead cute, isn’t attractive in this film’s universe. Otherwise the logical response would be “Why wouldn’t I be, you’re drop-dead cute” or at least “Well I prefer blondes, so no,” other than a vague hint that Garofalo doesn’t make the cut.

And of course, there’s the fact that she isn’t dating anyone else. Nobody tries to flirt with her, nobody hits on her, which can’t be explained by a lack of confidence—men do actually hit on attractive-but-shy women—but does fit with the implication she’s just too bland to get laid.

Likewise in America’s Sweethearts, Julia Roberts is supposedly too shy and awkward to find anyone because she’s a former fatty—OMG, she weighed seventy pounds more! And now that she’s shed that unbelievable megatonnage, she’s still to insecure to flirt or put the moves on anyone. But again, the movie accepts that nobody is going to make the first move, which even given she’s hanging out with her sister Catherine Zeta-Jones is hard to believe.

Nor is it easy to believe that a 70-pounds-heavier Roberts would be undatable. So they don’t stop with the weight, the film shows that back in the day, she’s actually frumpy—no sense of style, no idea how to dress to look good or hide her mammoth weight (all these references to her being super-heavy are meant to be sarcastic, just so you know). As one movie critic pointed out, it’s not just that she’s overweight it’s that anyone who lets herself get that repulsively obese obviously has no concept of personal appearance. Again it’s more about looks than about confidence.

So I cry bullshit.

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Brief political post

Alabama tried the kind of tough-on-immigrants policies Trump advocates. Didn’t go well.

•Slacktivist points out that in a candidate field teaming with devout Christians and even ministers, the front runner with Christian conservatives is Donald Trump. So why?

•As I mentioned a couple of days ago, some conservatives now claim abortion clinics are literally Satanic. I wondered if that’s what inspired this rant. Or possibly it’s their general distaste for single people having sex.

•The Ashley Madison website is trying to protect all its hacked data with copyright claims. Doesn’t work that way. However LGM collects several links arguing that sharing this information around the Internet is bad for everyone.

•A British magazine finds childless women in politics are frowned on, but women with children are frowned on too. And Echidne looks at scientific research blaming women.

•Jeb Bush thinks we worry too much about privacy rights and need more government surveillance.

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