Category Archives: Politics

Is Matt Gaetz lying to us, to himself, or both?

I’m not the least bit surprised that Rep. Matt Gaetz, who wants to dissolve the EPA, is from my former home turf, Northwest Florida.

The Florida Panhandle is one of those areas as red as you can get, a mix of military, military retirees, rural southerners and right-wing Christian theocrat-lovers. The area went for Trump, though not as much as for Romney. And for a large number of the residents, “environment” is lumped in with civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, questioning the government (which is only okay if Democrats are in the White House) and all the other terrible things that happened in the 1960s when the world went to pot. And so it must be utterly and completely destroyed. Plus, of course, regulation on business is evil. And lots of developers and businesses dislike the restrictions imposed by environmental law in particular.

Despite which, Gaetz insists he doesn’t want an environmental apocalypse. It’s just that we’ve come so far since Nixon created the EPA, the states can now handle things. And cities, too. And they’ll do a much better job without that big, overbearing federal bureaucracy. And possibly some states will But speaking as a former, 40-year Florida resident, Florida won’t be one of them. Even the state Department of Environmental Protection, a much more modest operation, draws people’s ire, both for bottom-line and political reason. Despite his lies to the contrary, Gov. Rick Scott has cut environmental spending. The chance the state will spend enough money to make up for the loss of the EPA? Zero.

So the most charitable view of Gaetz is that he’s clueless. Much like Alan Greenspan, who declared after the financial meltdown of a decade ago that when he advocated for looser regulations, it never occurred to him that financial companies wouldn’t be responsible. Or Danielle Pletka, who said after post-occupation Iraq collapsed into civil war that she’d never imagined the Iraqis would fall to civil war and anarchy if we overthrew Saddam. Gaetz is a sunny, naive guy who assumes that the state will do the right thing. He’s wrong, but he’s swallowing his own snake oil.

The alternative view is that the snake oil is strictly for us. He knows perfectly well the loss of the EPA means a massive uptick in pollution, he just doesn’t care because deregulation! Freedom! State’s rights! He may genuinely believe that’s the right course, or he may simply be aware that voters and big money will reward him for his stance. And years from now, when the consequences of erasing environmental protection become clear, Gaetz will wring his hands and assure us that gee, he was soooo sure the states would carry the ball. He had no idea they wouldn’t use their freedom from regulation responsibly! And it’s unlikely he’ll live with any consequences, other than breathing whatever toxic hell he caused.

clean%20air%20act%20downtown%20smog(1968 LA smog photo from Herald Examiner Collection. Technically smog is covered by the Clean Air Act even if the EPA goes away. At least for now)

Over the years one of the anti-liberal arguments I’ve seen tossed around is that conservatives care more for the future than liberals because they have kids and families where liberals are smug, selfish bastards who stay childless to enjoy their yuppie lifestyle. But it’s liberals who push for a healthy environment, conservatives who advocate passing the buck to the next generation. Let them get elected, let them make their pile while gutting the ecosystem, who cares about tomorrow. Like Louis XV supposedly said when criticized on his policies, apres moi, les deluge — after me the flood. As long as it’s far enough after, they don’t care.

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Undead sexist cliches: The woman is an aquarium, her baby is a priceless fish

That’s how Echidne of the Snakes has frequently described the pro-life view of women: they’re aquariums whose only value is the precious life they hold. You don’t worry about the rights of aquariums. You don’t worry about the health of aquariums. All that matters is the baby.

Which leads to the new Arkansas Act 45 just recently passed. Under this state law, D&E abortions, which are a standard second-trimester approach, are banned. The only exception is if it’s life-or-death for the mother, or she’s at risk for serious physical impairment, or the baby has died (depressingly, that’s actually better than some proposals that wouldn’t allow an exemption  even if the baby was born dead). No exception for rape.

On top of which, it allows spouses and parents (it doesn’t seem to specify “parents if the woman is under-age”) or other healthcare providers to sue to stop the abortion, and to sue the abortion provider for damages. That right apparently extends to babies born of spousal rape (but good news! He can’t sue the provider for damages!).

The lawmakers supporting the bill talk about how they’re showing compassion. Sorry, forcing a woman to bear a child, let alone giving a rapist a say in her decision — hell, giving anyone else a say in her decision — is not compassion. It’s just throwing more roadblocks in the way so that the aquarium has to do its duty.

I think it’s telling that if Obamacare goes, the Senate has no interest in protecting the ACA requirements insurers cover contraception and maternity care. Contraception no surprise, because in the forced-birther universe only irresponsible sluts use it. (this does not, as far as I know, apply to guys using condoms). But maternity care? If they’re so het-up about protecting the fish, making sure plans provide maternity care (many formerly did not) would seem important. But no — it’s almost like if “the fetus has rights!” doesn’t reinforce the woman’s aquarium status, they don’t care. If a woman has to bear her rapist’s child, that means she either spends lots of money to get good care or the child and she suffer bad health issues, all through no fault of their own. Yet somehow I don’t see a move to provide that funding. Ultimately the fish isn’t that precious. As witness the Idaho forced-birthers who think abortion is wrong but denying your child medical care is godly.

•Did I mention that some states require rape victims who bear a baby from the rape to give their rapist time with the child.

•In Russia, domestic violence is getting decriminalized. I suppose I should take comfort that we’re not the only country grappling with sexism in the halls of power … but I don’t.

•On the positive side, pro-choice lawmakers are pushing to end the Hyde amendment that bans any federal funds going to abortion (e.g., Medicaid). I doubt they’ll succeed, but I think it’s good and necessary to fight for abortion (and other) rights.

•women on Twitter respond to Trump’s declaration female staffers must dress like women.

•In this morning’s post, I linked (not directly) to conservative Carrie Lukas whining that all liberal criticism of Kellyanne Conway is sexist. Sorry, I think ripping into someone for citing a massacre that never happened to justify Trump’s immigration ban on Muslims is fully justified.

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Trump’s cabinet: a wretched hive of scum and villainy

For example requiring financial advisors to put your interests ahead of their own when they give you advice (i.e., they can’t steer you to their bank’s products just to make money), seems like an obvious requirement. But the shit-gibbon’s blocking it. And the Republican Congress wants to roll back protections (clearly disclosed fees, for instance) for users of prepaid debit cards.

•A Trump Golf Club must pay $5 million to members who were denied the right to play but couldn’t get their dues back. As LGM points out, the right wing would have a fit if a Clinton Golf Club had done that.

•Should we consider Trump’s administration a Breitbart administration?

•Trump’s new FCC chairman is expected to roll back Internet neutrality and other Obama-era policies. He’s also blocked an FCC rule that limits what phone companies can charge inmates for outside calls. And cable and phone companies want to repeal a rule restricting their use of our data.

•Trump plans to channel funds for fighting violent extremism so that they focus on Muslim extremism only. After all, think how upset Steve Bannon and the other bigots in the cabinet would be if the government interfered with people like the guy who shot up a Quebec mosque. Which Fox News initially blamed on a Moroccan immigrant. And Trump’s press secretary held up as a reason to keep out Muslims.

•Then there’s the Yemen mess. I’m sure the people who freaked out about Benghazi will be equally enraged.

•Roy Edroso spots a spate of right-wingers comparing Trump to Lincoln. Oh, and criticizing Kellyanne Conway is just sexism. As far as I’ve seen it’s been about her lying for her boss, not say, sexist insults. Oh, Conway herself is furious that none of the media people criticizing the shit-gibbon have been fired.

•Billionaire Peter Thiel argues that when Trump talks about building the border wall or issues orders discriminating against Muslims, we shouldn’t take him literally. Because?

•Trump remembers the Holocaust in a White House statement. Only he doesn’t mention Jews. Which fits the Holocaust Denial argument that of course they’re not saying Jews weren’t killed, it’s just that they weren’t killed more than anyone else. The White House has defended this as “inclusive” but it’s not that hard to say “millions of Jews were targeted for genocide, along with Roma and gays.”

•Trump’s nominee for Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, says his bank didn’t use robo-signing on foreclosures (where they just rubber-stamp foreclosure documents without review, even when that was illegal). A new report disagrees. Senate Democrats on the relevant committee denied the committee a quorum, but the GOP changed procedure to get a full Senate vote anyway. And after a year of denying Obama a Supreme Court appointment (and multiple lower court appointments) protested how shocked they were that Dems wouldn’t immediately vote for anyone Trump wanted.

•Trump threatens to invade Mexico (though the Mexican president says he didn’t) and hangs up on Australia.

•However to give Trump his due, he hasn’t undone Obama’s protections banning federal contractors from discriminating against gay and trans employees. Unfortunately he’s also not going to do anything about lowering drug prices, one of the things he ran on.

•Just remember, protests can work. And work. Also remember it’s important not to burn out. Very important.

•When regular people speak up against Trump, one right-bloggers wants you to know nobody elected them.

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I totally did not see these plot twists coming (#SFWApro)

Plot twist the first: after a big get together last weekend, TYG came down with a nasty cold. As of today, it appears I’ve caught it too, but in much less virulent form (that’s how it usually works with us). I felt like all I want to do is nothing, but I’m not hacking or sneezing any. So yay for small mercies.

Plot twist the second: I routinely submit query letters to various non-fiction magazines, but my success rate is so low I’ve often wondered if writing and finishing more fiction wouldn’t be smarter. But this week, guess what? I got a go-ahead from History magazine for an article proposal. After the initial panic at having committed myself (I’m so used to working without deadlines or obligations these days) I took a deep breath, relaxed, and enjoyed the moment.

PT the third: I also apply for freelance gigs through the Journalism Jobs website, usually without much success. But this week I pitched Screen Rant on a gig writing about comic books, and they liked my stuff. It’ll be a trial run at first to see if it really works out on both sides, but writing about comic books (list-style articles) is like a dream job. More details when I have something posted.

This, of course, leaves me with the challenge of adjusting my schedule for the new assignments. That’s tougher than you’d think, simply because I don’t want to give up time on fiction — but most probably, work on short stories will take the hit. Next to actual paying gigs, Southern Discomforts is the top priority, lesser projects will have to go on stand-by.

Speaking of which, this week’s replotting went reasonably well. I have a rough outline of how things should happen and how everyone reaches their endpoints. I do not have, however, the scene by scene breakdown that I wanted; my vague outlines tend to fall so far apart midbook that I have to give up and start over, and I don’t want that. I’ll continue scene-by-sceneing it but I may start work on the early, well-detailed chapters as well. But I’m still concerned that I may be losing some of the sense of Pharisee as a community outside the plot of the story. I’ll have to watch that as things progress.

I delivered my next And column, though it’s not out yet, and got another 12,000 words written on Undead Sexist Clichés: The Book (not how it will be titled, but it’s the simplest way to distinguish from the same name blog-post series). I also took care of getting a second opinion on one household project (major repairs not necessary for a while, whoot!), and took the car in for its annual inspection.

A good week. With surprises that were mostly pleasant ones. I’m as happy as a plush dog chewing on a stick.


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Hilary Clinton, sexism, and fighting sexism

I was tentatively hopeful last year that America would finally put a woman in the Oval Office. November dashed that hope, but I take some comfort from remembering that the majority voted for the woman. But as Echidne of the Snakes points out, sexism made a difference (Rebecca Solnit has more). Including pre-election arguments that Clinton winning wouldn’t matter to regular women: she’s just a routine politician, and putting women in office doesn’t benefit women anyway. So no big. And at the same time, she’s held to higher standards than any male politician (as I’ve pointed out myself).

Plus we have two decades of right wingers painting as a hybrid of bin Laden, Lex Luthor and D&D’s Demogorgon. Several Trump supporters have said they despise her for not condemning Clinton’s infidelities, but if she had done so the script wouldn’t change. Instead of the bitch who destroys other women to further her ambitions she’d be the bitch who betrayed her spouse to further her ambitions.

Electing her wouldn’t have mattered to women? Seriously?  She’d promised to axe the Hyde Amendment, which bans any federal spending (Medicaid, say, or federally subsidized ACA insurance) on abortion. The House has just voted to make the amendment permanent (it had to be regularly renewed before). And Trump has reinstated a rule that bans money going to family planning groups overseas if their services include abortions or abortion counseling (at the link, the Dutch government announces an international initiative to make up the funding). And in fact he’s made it worse, applying not only to groups that provide family planning but any medical aid (mosquito netting, vaccines, childhood nutirtion programs). Not to mention possibly cutting grant programs that fight violence against women. But who cares? It’s biased to say Republicans have gone off the rails.

•Women protested Trump this weekend, and right-bloggers have freaked out (I know, they always do) that the women’s protest marches outperformed Trump’s inaugural address. Concern troll columnist David Brooks is shocked, shocked and appalled that the women were addressing the wrong issues — reproductive rights, affordable health care, equal pay — when the important matters are “balancing the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.” Because capitalism is under siege and that’s much worse than worrying about women’s rights and “identity politics.” Besides, real change has to come through legitimate political parties, not street protests. Brooks always wants people to work that way, even if it doesn’t get results. Because we must accept the superiority of our leaders. And our leaders must impose unity top-down — we can’t have a united movement rising from the streets.

•Jere are some of Jezebel’s favorite protest signs.

•After the march organizers passed on including a right-to-life group, people objected feminism should be a big tent. Samantha Field agrees it should — but draws the line pro-lifers who want to restrict abortion and birth control because that gets women killed. She has another post on protesting to change culture, not just the law (more examples here).

•One woman who claimed Trump assaulted her is suing him for defamation, for saying he lied. And Christopher von Keyseling, a Greenwich, Connecticut town official (and Republican) has been charged with grabbing a woman’s crotch and telling her he no longer has to be politically correct about such things. An assault von Kesyersling apparently admitted to in his legal response (it was just a joke! Why does everyone have to be so PC?)

•But never mind, according to the right-wing Acculturated, Ivanka is such an awesome mom she proves feminism is bullshit. Or something like that. Fortunately, as Quartz points out, women’s magazines have been covering serious issues for a while now — it’s not just Teen Vogue. I particularly liked the point about the sexism implicit in assuming that fashion articles and serious writing can’t possibly be compatible.

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Nice guys in white sheets (or out of them)

As Kelly J. Baker says, one of the standard complaints from the Trump voters — and many in the media who think white grievances are obviously justified — is that they resent all the damn elites and liberals looking down on them. They’re good people. Decent people. Nice people. They deserve to be treated as such. We should empathize with them, sympathize with them, find ways to assuage their concerns.  Baker’s response is that it’s possible to be both nice and racist. I’m going to expand on that.

First off, there are two kinds of nice. There is surface nice — being friendly, talking pleasantly, smiling, not yelling and cursing people you disagree with, wishing someone a good day even if you don’t mean it. Then there’s genuine niceness: being kind, thoughtful, helpful and so forth. Racists, sexists, homophobes, religious bigots can exhibit both or either kind (although I agree with Fred Clark that you can’t oppress someone or deny their rights and be nice about it. More from Clark here).

On the first kind, it’s astonishing how civil people can be when they hate each other. I’ve had reasonably “nice” conversations with people whose views make me puke, and I’m sure mine do theirs. It doesn’t make me like them or think their bigoted opinions deserve serious consideration, it just makes it easier to function in society if we don’t draw blades when we meet.

With politicians, lobbyists, activists, the ability to appear nice can be even stronger (ditto other kinds of salespeople). It’s part of the job, though obviously President Shit-Gibbon gets by without it. Being charming and nice to the press can convince them to go easy on you; it may even convince them that you shouldn’t be written off as an extremist because you’re so gosh-darn nice to them. As in the current example.


(AP photograph from Los Angeles Times. All rights reside with current holder).

The second type of niceness is compatible with bigotry because nice people can extend that niceness and consideration to some, but not all. I’m sure many KKK members were perfectly nice to each other, helped out when another Klansman needed a hand. Likewise lots of them probably loved their wives and kids. They may have been nice guys to white people in general … but that didn’t affect the way they treated blacks, Jews or Catholics. Lynchings, like the ones in Forsyth County Ga., were often a community event; all the white people bonding, neighbors and friends hanging out and posing for photos, while a black man died in a noose.

Some people are perfectly nice even with The Other, until they’re provoked. A black man doesn’t defer to them. A gay coworker puts his husband’s photo on his desk, which is totally shoving his queerness in straight people’s faces!!!! (no, it’s not). A woman talks back or says something online. I’m honestly not sure whether these count as surface-nice or the limited kind of deeper niceness — but as Clark says, it’s not really nice at all. There’s nothing nice about making rape threats, even if you were perfectly pleasant to the woman right up until she crossed you.

The fact someone greets us with a smile and chats amiably does not prove they were nice. Let alone that we need to treat their views as valid and worthy of consideration.

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This made me laugh about Trump’s inauguration

From a Scottish newspaper’s TV highlights column: “After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories – among the most common is the “What If The Nazis Had Won The Second World War” setting – but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press, and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into voting to make Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful.”

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