Women’s March, Rights, and Politics

I attended the Women’s March on Washington, yesterday. It turned out, I’m told, to be the largest inauguration protest in the history of the United States, and possibly the largest political protest ever, if you count the sister marches in other cities around the globe (including Antarctica).

At one point, we ran into, I believe, the American Socialist Party. They are, as I believe, the Communist-Lite bunch that Sean Hannity warned you about. I don’t remember seeing them out on the Mall before, so I suspect that they may have stepped up their activities in recent years.

If they have, they’re not alone. Witness the popularity of Bernie Sanders, who may not have won so much as the Democratic nomination, but got pretty damn far for an American who describes himself as a democratic socialist.

But of course he and Clinton lost the presidency to Trump. He may not have won a majority of votes, but he did get 46%, a not inconsiderable amount.

So what this all seems to suggest is a repeat of history: we’re living in a new gilded age, with income inequality at record-high levels, and populist factions appear to be gaining popularity in response: on one hand, on the left, people like Sanders and Warren, who promise to, basically, make the rich bastards pay their fair share so that the little guy can get a fair shake. I’m pretty sure that the communists of the early 20th century had the same message, and that that’s what made them so appealing to so many.

And on the right, there’s Donald Trump, who would be very happy to be the object of a cult of personality, and clearly feels most at home at the top of an autocratic dictatorship like — yeah, I’m gonna say it — Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy.

I can’t prove that history is repeating itself, but it does look that way. And so, we are faced with the problem of how to avoid both a fascist dictatorship and a communist dictatorship (thankfully, the two look so much alike (the key word is “dictatorship”) that we really only need one plan for both contingencies).

Of the two, I’m far more worried about the fascist dictatorship: these days, in America, the right is the side more likely to make threats of violence (“Second Amendment remedies, anyone?). The lefties I’ve met are far more likely to get everyone’s input, not execute kulaks.

On the right, on the other hand, I see more right-wing authoritarians (RWAs) who enjoy having a strongman in charge, and have a history of passing laws to prevent people from voting.

A Modest Proposal for Anti-Abortion Catholics (and Some Others)

When I recently ran across yet another of BillDo’s rants against abortion, I was struck by an idea: during transubstantiation, a priest turns a piece of bread into living flesh. But surely this is a reversible operation, no? People turn living wheat into nonliving bread all the time.

In addition, if there’s any kind of conservation law, the after centuries of Catholic rites, there’s bound to be mountains of bread accumulating somewhere, that could be put to good use.

So I propose the following: if a woman wants an abortion, a priest can cast a reverse-transubstantiation spell, and turn the fetus into a piece of bread. And then the abortion can proceed normally.

If Catholic priests can’t or won’t do this, then I’ll do it. I’m ordained, and I have as much evidence to back up my supernatural claims as they do.

Followup on Faithless Electors

Four months ago, I wondered whether there would be faithless electors in this election. And as it turned out, there were. Nine of them, in fact, of whom six were successful. That seems like a lot: according to Wikipedia, these days there are usually zero or one faithless elector. There were 8 in 1912, and 27 in 1896.

When I wrote that article, I expected to be surprised, and I was. But I stand by my comment about the dumpster fire consuming the GOP.

“If You Don’t Agree, Unfriend Me”

I’ve heard sentences of the form “If you [don’t agree with the blindingly-obvious point that I just made], unfriend me” a lot lately. And while I sympathize with the sentiment, I have to disagree with the tactic.

The message is, if you can’t even agree that women should control their bodies / gay people should have as much of a right to marry as straight people / evolution and climate change are real / Obama is not a literal devil / whatever, then you and I have nothing to discuss because we can’t even agree on the basics; and also, you’re probably morally-deficient, so you might as well fuck off.

All of which is, unfortunately true. There are lots of morally-deficient people out there who’ll never see reason. Everyone’s favorite whipping boy stereotype Your Racist Uncle (YRU), springs to mind.

My only qualm is that if YRU unfriends you, then he won’t see your posts/tweets/stories/chats and will have one less opportunity to change his mind. Likewise, if you unfriend him, then yeah, his racist memes / hate-filled screeds / religious reposts won’t raise your blood pressure on a daily basis, but you also won’t know what he’s reading, saying, or doing.

The US is currently as divided as it’s ever been, as far back as I can remember. And part of the problem is that we don’t know each other, don’t watch the same news outlets, don’t start with the same basic assumptions. We live in separate bubbles, so not talking to each other seems like it can only exacerbate the problem, and dig a moat between the bubbles.

I’m not saying you have to agree with YRU, or respond to everything he says. But if you can keep him in your timeline, even if you never respond to him, then at least you can keep an eye on him. Call it reconnaissance if you like, keeping an eye on the opposition. The next time someone at your local Demo-Liberal Hippie-Love Eco-Tea-and-Greet suggests that the way to fix the country is a drum circle in front of the local GOP headquarters, at least you’ll be able to think, “What Would My Racist Uncle Do?” and be able to critique the idea effectively.

And if nothing else, maybe you can agree to keep the political discussions on Facebook, and not bring them to the Thanksgiving dinner table, so you can enjoy dinner en famille.

Media Being Unfair to Poor Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon, former editor of the alt-right’s paper of record, gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal. From Politico’s coverage:

Democrats and the media, he told opinion columnist Kimberly Strassel, are casting him as a “cloven-hoofed devil” by associating him with the views promoted in the website he headed, Breitbart News, which has served as a platform for the so-called alt-right movement.

Yes, how horrible to judge a poor innocent white supremacist by the opinions published in the paper he ran! What’ll they do next? Quote his own words?

In fairness, though, I wouldn’t want to be associated with Breitbart either.

Church Graffiti: “Trump Nation, Whites Only”

(Update: WTOP and the Silver Spring Patch have the story.)

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington tells us that a banner at their church in Hillandale, MD was defaced last night:

episcopal-church-vandalism
Racist graffiti at the Episcopal church in Hillandale, MD, Nov. 12, 2016.

On the back of a banner advertising mass in Spanish, someone wrote “Trump Nation” and “whites only”.
Does it really need to be said that this kind of racism1 is unacceptable, especially in the 21st century2? Apparently it is. Apparently this crap isn’t confined to places like Alabama, or even rural America: the church in question is just a few hundred yards from the Beltway, right in my area.
I don’t know whether this is something new, or something hidden that the rise of Trump dredged up to the surface, but either way, I have to at least stand up and say that this is unambiguously wrong. That if you think this is an acceptable way to bring about change, then you can fuck off into a basement somewhere, and know that you’re just a step above literal neo-nazis (assuming you’re not already one of them).


1. Someone is bound to say that “Spanish” isn’t a race, so this isn’t racism. Those people can fuck off, and take the “false flag” crowd with them.
2. And someone else is bound to ask why what’s moral and immoral depends on what year it is. These people should also fuck off and ponder which years have the most hindsight to learn from.

Disorganized Post-Election Thoughts

1. Fuck. Seriously, what the fuck?

I realize this is a very widely-held opinion,  it today, I am not particularly contrarian.

2. Corollary: how did everyone manage to get this wrong? Polls, pundits, prognosticators all had Clinton in the lead, and comfortably so. Unless there were shenanigans, they all got it wrong in a failure of Dewey-defeats-Truman-es que proportions. And I haven’t seen any obvious signs of unforeseen shenanigans.

3. Could there have ban shenanigans? Could Anonymous or someone have rigged the election? I suppose anything’s possible, and I’m sure people will be looking into this possibility in the coming days, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Rather, this feels like a systemic mistake everyone made. Like underestimating how many bigots would come out to vote for one of their own.

4. In a way, this is understandable, because even though Trump’s an unabashed bigot and sexist who’s broken many of the rules everyone took for granted, surely some ground rules must still hold, right? Like, having a GOTV operation to get your voters to the poll helps you, and not having one hurts you, right?

And for this reason, I can’t really resent the people who voted for third-party candidates and handed Trump victory in races that turned out to be closer than expected. They probably didn’t think they were really going to change anything, and neither did any of the rest of us.

5. Looking forward, it’s possible that the Trump regime won’t be as bad as we fear. For as much as he’s talked about setting up horrible policies, he’s not Hitler. He’s not enough of an ideologue for that. He’s just in it for the attention and the glory.

Of course, that means that we need to start worrying about what de facto policymaker Mike Pence is going to do.

6. And related to point 5, since the Republican party is going to be in control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress, whatever happens over the next two to four years, they’re going to own it. If it turns out to be good, then great, although given recent history, I have low hopes for the Republican party.

But if it turns to shit, don’t let them forget it.

7. And as a follow-up, dust off your activism handbooks, because we’re going to need them. I’m not advocating an intransigent obstructionism like what Republicans have been inflicting on Obama for the past eight years. Oppose bad ideas, not Republican ideas.

8. Finally, no, I don’t have any uplifting parting thoughts, or even a picture of a kitten. Come back later.

“Spirit Cooking”: They Got Nothin’

The latest thing conservatives have got a bug up their ass about concerns something called “Spirit Cooking”. This is an art project by artist Marina Abramovic from 1996. It’s presented as pages from a cookbook, including such “recipes” as

3 glasses of water
that a ruby has been soaking in for 3 days
1 pomegranate

which looks to me like par for the course for a performance artist in the 90s. Other “recipes” call for “fresh morning urine” OR “fresh breast milk with fresh sperm milk”. According to the Washington Times article, above, she sounds like a mystic, somewhat crunchy-granola, and provocative. Again, par for the course in the art world.

So why is this suddenly showing up in the political news section? Because WikiLeaks has released an email message from Tony Podesta to John Podesta, relaying an invitation to Abramovic’s Spirit Dinner event.

So we have a weird-ass artist. She knows Tony Podesta, who’s the brother of John Podesta, who’s Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager and generally an important person in American politics. She uses her connection with Tony to invite John, as you do.

And apparently the conclusion to draw here is that John Podesta is into drinking urine or satanic rituals or something, and by extension, that Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president. Or something like that.

If that’s the best they’ve got, I’m not impressed. Or rather, I’m impressed that people so disconnected from reality manage to tie their shoes in the morning.

Will There Be Faithless Electors in 2016?

vg4647a-300-cat
Trump’s hairpiece in the wild. Photo by Valerie G. Bugh.

You may remember that during the run-in to the 2016 Republican convention, the #NeverTrump people were trying desperately to come up with some way, short of dynamite, to put out the dumpster fire that the conservative movement has been feeding lo these past three decades, and is now threatening to consume the GOP.

At the same time, it was pointed out that the Democrats didn’t have the same problem, in part because they had nominated a human being rather than a Monster From the Id, and partly because of superdelegates, party officials whose vote counts way way more than that of regular delegates from your state.

As universally-reviled as superdelegates are, at least they act as a firewall: if the ordinary people had nominated an obviously unacceptable candidate, like a bowl of granola, for instance, the superdelegates could have overridden the will of the people.

Which brings me to the general election: the way presidential elections were originally set up in the US constitution, we don’t actually vote for president: we vote for a guy who’ll go over to Washington, find out who the best candidate is, and vote on our behalf. In many states, electors are not bound by the popular vote and can, in principle, vote against whomever the people chose: so-called faithless electors. Apparently there have been two of them since 2000.

But this election feels different. Trump is not your run-of-the-mill Bad Candidate. Even high-profile Republican insiders consider him not just suboptimal, but unacceptable, even dangerous. So I wonder whether we’ll see any faithless electors in January.

In practice, it probably (hopefully!) won’t be necessary: if Clinton wins in the standard way, the electors will be able to go about their voting as usual, in relative obscurity and irrelevance. But if Trump wins, there’s that safety valve. It’s also possible that he’ll lose, and throw an epic temper tantrum such that not even the electors will want anything to do with him, and might change their votes in protest.

As usual, when dealing with predictions, I expect to be proven wrong about a lot of this. I’m not psychic, you know.

So You’ve Poked Your Eye Out

Tower of Parliament in Planet of the Apes
Image by @jeremiahtolbert. Used with permission.

If you are or have a parent, you’re no doubt familiar with expressions like “It’s fun until somebody gets hurt” or “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” in A Christmas Story. In one of those rare cases where Russian is more compact than English, my dad would use the word “доигрались” (“do-ee-GRA-lees’”) when my brother and I played too rough and someone wound up getting hurt. It’s from “играть” (“ee-grat’”, to play) and the prefix “do-”, meaning “until” or “up to the point that”.

We’d play, he’d tell us to be more careful, we’d ignore him, and then someone’s knee would get scraped or head bumped, or something in the house would be broken. And my father would look at us and say, “доигрались”, “So you didn’t think, didn’t listen, and now…” and the “and now” would be there for all to see, too obvious to mention.

That’s a word that’s been coming to mind a lot lately. The Republican party has spent decades cultivating anger, ignorance, and xenophobia. Now they have an ignorant, xenophobic candidate whom they can’t control. Доигрались.

Churches have spent decades, even centuries vilifying women and LGBT people, and now they’re panicking because young people aren’t joining. Доигрались.

Most recently, Britons have decided that they hate foreigners so much, they’re going to divorce Europe, and sent the Pound into free fall. It’s still too early to tell what the final outcome will be, but I’m still thinking, доигрались.

SMH.