uninformed, ignorant, and easily played

It’s been a while since I’ve stuck my head into the roiling mass of hate, stupidity, and hot bubbling fear that’s FreeRepublic. Lately I haven’t really felt the need to find out what’s going on in the fevered minds of the extreme right, mainly because it appears every day in headlines from the White House and in the cesspit of Comrade Trump’s Twitter account.

But this morning, while waiting for the coffee to get off its ass and do its job, I decided to see what that group of manky patriots are fussing about today. And I saw this subject line:

New Poll Finds 92% of Democrats Uninformed, Ignorant and Easily Played.

Now that, I thought, would be an interesting poll to look at. There was a link to the Gateway Pundit (which, in case you don’t live under a rock, is a conservative website that describes itself as ‘one of the top political blogs in the nation’ and has received (and no, I’m not making this up) the Breitbart Award for Excellence in Online Journalism). But before examining the source material, I thought I’d look at the comments made by Freepers. Here’s a representative sample:

Willful ignorance. Combined with pathetic and badly-constructed lies. That’s all the FraudStream Media knows how to sell. Problem is, there is a WHOLE LOTTA STUPID goin’ on out there, taking it as “truth”. How do you educate someone who rejects reality?

Which is a good question, isn’t it. How DO you educate someone who rejects reality? Let’s probe deeper into that question.

When you combine the results of Dunning-Kruger and Murray’s The Bell Curve, when you look at street gangs like Antifa, BAMN, or any communist humanities college student, you are left with the inescapable conclusion that democrats are genetically stupid. They were short-changed in the DNA Lotto, with their ratio of grey and white brain cells, short-term vs long term memory, and the number of synaptic connections.

Sorry, there it is.

Yes, there it is. Democrats are genetically stupid. It’s inescapable. Need more proof? This Freeper has it for you.

92% of democrats are on the left side of the Bell Curve. That is why they have been named the LEFT. 8% of democrats are the political leaders of the LEFT, and they know better than the lies they tell to the other 92%.

There it is again. You can’t argue with science. Or whatever this is.

Democrats are the masses of ignorant dependent. Led by the bigoted elite. Pretty much. More exploited for their votes than led by. To be honest. The elite of America hate our history and hate male dominated western civilization and resent Christianity in anything but puff form.

This is how stupid I am. I didn’t even know there was a puff form. Why didn’t anybody tell me about the puff form? I don’t even know what the puff form is, but apparently it’s a pretty important form and is the reason I hate history and male dominated western civilization.

My favorite comment was a photo. That’s it. Just this:

It’s a still from The Return of the Archons, a Star Trek episode from 1967. The episode takes place on planet Beta III in the C-111 system, ‘at the start of “Festival”, a period of violence, destruction, and sexual aggressiveness.’ Apparently during the Festival the inhabitants of Beta III arm themselves with baguettes and potatoes — not normally the weapons of choice for violence, destruction, and sexual aggressiveness. But, to quote an unnamed Freeper, there it is.

Democrats voters is stupid. Republican voters are abused, taken for granted. That’s hopefully not going to fly any more.

Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to fly anymore. I think that’s pretty much incapable of flight. Because Democrats voters is stupid.

With this collective Freeper wisdom in mind, I clicked on the link to the Gateway Pundit. I wanted to see the poll that found 92% of Democrats were ignorant, uninformed, and easily played.

It turned out to be a poll by CBS News that indicated 92% of Democrats believe the Trump campaign did something sleazy with Russia. Seriously, that’s it. That’s the entirety of the claim. Allow me to present the Gateway Pundit’s evidence:

The liberal mainstream media has pushed the conspiracy that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia during the 2016 election to defeat Hillary Clinton.

This was all a lie. In fact, it was Hillary Clinton and the DNC who colluded to defeat Bernie Sanders in the primary and then colluded with Russia. Democrats and the Obama FBI paid cash for a fake Russian dossier so they could spy on Donald Trump at Trump tower.

But Democrat voters are ignorant. And Democrats rely on the fact that they are stupid and easily played.

A new poll released this week by CBS News found that 92% of Democrats believe Trump advisors had improper dealings with Russia.

There it is, yet again. How do you educate someone who rejects reality? Democrats resent Christianity except in puff form, and Democrats voters is stupid.

You may not like it, but there it is. That’s just the way life works out here on planet Beta III in the C-111 system.

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dude, c’mon. alabama (part 2)

— I don’t understand what’s going on in Alabama.

— That’s okay. The people of Alabama don’t always understand what’s going on in Alabama.

— I mean this whole Roy Moore thing. What’s up with that?

— Wait. Didn’t we already have this conversation? Like a couple of years ago?

— Yeah, we’ve had this conversation twice. But then it was about Judge Roy Moore and same-sex marriage. Now it’s about Roy Moore and dating high school girls. That’s crazy, isn’t it?

— Dude, c’mon. Alabama.

— But high school girls?

— And junior high school girls. The first accusation was made by a woman who said your boy Roy hit on her when she was fourteen. You know what that means?

— That Roy Moore is a pervert?

— No. Well, yeah. But it also means your boy Roy was thirty-something years old and hitting on a girl who was in the eighth grade.

— Jeebus on toast.

— I know. In the eighth grade. Sitting on a bench in the Etowah County courthouse.

— What was an eighth grader doing in the courthouse?

— Her parents were getting a divorce. They were there for a child custody hearing.

— So not just an eighth grader, but an eighth grader who was emotionally vulnerable?

— Yup. Also? Your boy Roy was an assistant district attorney at the time.

— Sweet Jeebus tuna salad.

— Funny you should say that. One of Moore’s toadies defends him by saying Joseph was older than Mary so it’s really sorta kinda Christian for Moore to be hitting on girls in the eighth grade.

— Seriously? Who’d buy into an argument like that? Who’d even make an argument like that?

— Dude, c’mon. Alabama.

— Yeah, but it sounds like Moore is maybe a pedophile or something.

— Not technically a pedophile. Pedophiles are attracted to pre-pubescent kids. Moore held off until they reached puberty.

— So there’s that. It’s a great campaign slogan. Roy Moore: Not Technically a Pedophile. His opponent must really suck, if the polls are that close. He’s got to be like a devil worshiper or something. A communist, maybe.

Technically not a pedophile.

— His opponent is Doug Jones. He’s the guy who indicted Eric Rudolph, who planted bombs at a women’s health care center and the Centennial Olympic Park. Jones also prosecuted the KKK guys who bombed a Baptist church, which killed four little African-American girls.

— So, a Democrat.

— Bingo.

— No wonder he’s losing.

— Losing to a guy who got himself kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court twice. Twice.

— That’s not easy to do.

— It’s not easy to get kicked off once, let alone twice. I have to give your boy Roy credit for persistence. Too bad he’s persistently horrible.

— So what’ll happen if Moore actually gets elected?

— The Republicans will probably open an ethics investigation of Al Franken, then try to force him to resign.

— Too late. Al Franken resigned today.

— You’re joking.

— Nope.

— Fuck me with a chainsaw.

— Maybe something good will come of Franken’s resignation.

— You think?

— Maybe voters will see him resign and think ‘That’s how an ethical political party behaves.’ And then maybe they’ll do the right thing in the Alabama election next week.

— Maybe.

— You sound skeptical.

— Dude, c’mon. Alabama.

don’t take your guns to town, son

In today’s Washington Post there’s an opinion piece by Emily Miller entitled I should be able to carry my concealed gun across all state lines. Miller, who is the senior political reporter for One America New Network (a conservative cable news channel), is the author of Emily Gets Her Gun; But Obama Wants to Take Yours. Her op-ed is in support of a proposed law call the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which basically says a person who has been issued a permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state should be able to carry a concealed firearm all the states.

Miller writes:

The concept of reciprocity among states is popular with gun owners because the current patchwork of state laws is convoluted and disorganized.

That’s true. The concept IS popular with gun owners. And state laws ARE convoluted and disorganized. But I’m not convinced that’s a good enough reason to pass this legislation. Miller is distressed by the fact that she can carry her concealed handgun in Virginia but can’t carry it in the adjoining state of Maryland. She complains that if she wants to go to dinner in Bethesda, she could be arrested for carrying her concealed weapon.

There are two rational responses to that. 1) Don’t go to dinner in Maryland. 2) Go to dinner in Maryland, but leave your firearm behind. A less rational response is 3) Force Maryland to obey the firearm laws of Virginia. No, wait, that’s not accurate. A less rational response is 3) Force every state in the Union to abide by the firearm laws of the state with the least restrictive gun laws. A lot of conservatives are passionate about states rights except when it comes to gun laws — less so when it comes to, say, public accommodation laws (fuck your gun laws, Maryland, but let’s protect the Colorado baker who suffers severe emotional distress at the thought of baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple).

Why does Miller believe she needs a concealed firearm with her? Self protection, of course. Conservatives are always fretting that they’ll be unable to return fire in the event somebody decides to pull a gun in an Applebee’s in Bethesda. In a video she did with the National Rifle Association, Miller describes why she decided to get a firearm:

“I was dog-sitting for a friend at their house. And I took the dog for a walk, and in the time that I was gone, a man — the police believed to be a drug addict — got into the house and started robbing it. So when I came back into the house, he was in there robbing. He took my wallet, but I was able to talk him out of the house without hurting me, thank God.”

That’s pretty dramatic stuff. The story she told Lou Dobbs in an interview on FOXNews is even more dramatic.

“I walked in and found basically a thug, drug addict in my house stealing my wallet. It’s all he got away with. And thank God, you know, he did not hurt me. I unfortunately chased him down the street to get a picture, which I’ve learned from police is not a smart idea, I do not recommend — fifteen of his buddies standing around two pickup trucks. That’s when I called the police and I got away.”

And she described the event this way to Politico:

“I came home, and I was dog-sitting for a friend, and I walked in the house, and there was this thug, thief in the house, and like 15 of his buddies were outside on the driveway.”

This, however, is quite a bit different from her account which she originally published in an article in the Washington Times describing her struggle to get a concealed carry permit in Washington, DC. There she describes the critical event somewhat differently.

She’d been house and dog-sitting for friends who’d gone on vacation. She’d taken the dog for a short ten-minute walk, leaving the house unlocked. When she returned she saw a man leaving the house. He told her he was there to clean the pool.

“After the man left, I was still suspicious so I went inside, grabbed my Blackberry and clicked on the icon for the camera. I walked down the street, and as I turned the corner, I saw about 15 scruffy young men standing around two pickup trucks. We were at the end of a woody, dead-end road.”

Hours later, while at a party, Miller got a phone call.

“t was my credit card company asking if my card was in my possession because there were odd charges on it. I looked at my wallet and saw that all my cash was gone and the cards. It suddenly dawned on me that the “pool guy” had been inside the house.”

Not quite so dramatic, is it. But still a wee bit more dramatic than narrative described by the DC police who took Miller’s statement:

[Miller] stated that she left out to walk the dog at 1515hrs and when she returned at 1525hrs she observed [the suspect] exiting from behind the fence which leads to the side of the house. [Miller] asked [suspect] ‘What are you doing here’ and [suspect] stated ‘I am delivering firewood.’

[Miller] stated that she went into the house and felt that something was not right, so she exited the house to take a photo of [suspect’s] vehicle. [Suspect] approached [Miller] and gave her a business card that stated [a tree service] and [suspect] left the scene. [Miller] stated that [suspect] was operating a silver pick up truck with landscaping on the side of it.

[Miller] stated that she was contacted by her credit card company at 1945hrs about some fraudulent charges on her credit card. [Miller] stated that she checked her purse and noticed that her Visa credit card and $50.00 in US Currency was missing.

No face-to-face confrontation with a drug addict thug. No near escape from getting hurt. No talking him out of the house. No foot chase to get his photo. No theft of her wallet. No fifteen guys in two pickups in the driveway. Basically, somebody walked into the house she’d left unlocked and took a credit card and some cash from the purse she’d left on the kitchen counter.

Not to minimize what happened, of course. It’s not the ‘home invasion’ she claims, but it’s still a crime. Having been burgled a couple of times my ownself, I can attest that it’s an uncomfortable feeling to know somebody has been noodling about in your house. But hey, good solid police work enabled the DC police to identify the culprit. The fraudulent credit card charges at Wal-Mart and a tattoo parlor allowed them to 1) view security camera footage and 2) identify the suspect by the tattoo he paid for with Miller’s credit card (“a tattoo of a Skull with a blunt in it’s mouth and the word Stoned under it”).

Unfortunately, it appears Miller failed to follow through on her report to the police. They attempted to contact her three times about the case, leaving voice messages for her to call them. She didn’t. But she did get her gun and a concealed carry permit. So there’s that.

The thief? Presumably he’s still out there breaking into houses, frightening more people into wanting a concealed carry permit, drumming up business for the NRA.

As for Ms. Miller’s opinion piece, I’m inclined to think if you can’t be bothered to help the police prosecute the person who prompted your interest in obtaining a firearm, your opinion on where you should be allowed to carry your gun doesn’t carry much weight. I’d much prefer the Johnny Cash approach: don’t take your guns to town.

in the car

Okay, I’m a criminal defense guy at heart. Whenever I look at or think about a criminal case, my first instincts are to see it from a civil liberty/defense oriented perspective. So when I see Gen. Michael Flynn pleading guilty to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI, my immediate thought is this: This guy is in the car.

That’s an old, out-of-date term. In the car. It means to cooperate with the authorities. “Will this guy get in the car?” “Can we keep him in the car?” “Motherfucker is thinking about getting out of the car.” Like that. If somebody is in the car, he’s along for the ride.

Michael Flynn is in the car. He’s cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller and his team. The fact that he’s pleading to a single felony count also suggests (and when I say ‘suggests’ I mean ‘is pretty much definitive proof’) Mueller has a saddlebag full of other felonies with which he can charge Flynn. My guess is Mueller is also holding on to a few felonies for Flynn’s nitwit son, who is also criminally exposed (as we say in the biz).

Michael Flynn, former U.S. Army Lt. General, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, former National Security Director, felon.

So this is a good deal for Flynn, even if he ends up doing a chunk of time in some semi-pleasant federal prison. It’s a good deal for Flynn the Lesser, who may avoid criminal culpability altogether. It’s a good deal for Mueller and his team, because you can be sure Flynn is handing them incriminating information on folks higher up in the federal food chain. Maybe Jeff Sessions, maybe Pence, maybe Comrade Trump his ownself.

It’s bad news for those folks. This is the part of the movie in which we begin to hear the ominous musical theme. Sessions and Pence will probably go all tight-lipped and grim. Trump will…well, who know what the hell he’ll do? Explode, maybe. On weekends Comrade Trump likes to escape his handlers — which means he 1) can go golfing and 2) can rage-tweet. Unless, of course, his handlers wrestle his phone out of his hands. My guess is we’ll either hear nothing at all from Trump over the weekend or he’ll start flinging poo in all directions.

As a criminal defense guy, I have to admit I hate it when I hear somebody’s in the car. I do not like a snitch. As a patriotic private citizen, however, I’m glad to know Mueller has Flynn’s balls in a vise grip and is applying pressure. Mueller is a defense guy’s worst nightmare; he’s honest, he’s methodical, and he’s fucking relentless. Mueller is a patriotic private citizen’s dream for those same reasons.

I’m sad to say, though, that little attention will be given today to one of the real heroes of this story: Sally Yates. She was the acting Attorney General who informed the White House Counsel that Flynn was lying about his calls with the Russian ambassador, which made him vulnerable to blackmail by Russia. A few days later, Yates was fired (ostensibly for refusing to defend Comrade Trump’s illegal immigration order).

Tonight I’ll have a beer, and I’ll raise my glass to Sally Yates for first exposing Flynn, to Robert Mueller for his professional prosecution, to Michael Flynn’s legal team for making the best deal possible for their client, and what the hell, I’ll raise my glass to Flynn himself. He’s a rotten sumbitch who’s turning on other rotten sumbitches, but he’s the latest sumbitch in the car. And that car is moving right along.

I can drink to that.

walking thinking plotting shooting photos

I wanted to take a walk yesterday morning. However, according to my weather app, it was only 26F outside (23F with the light breeze, which really isn’t a great difference, but still). Here’s a true thing: I lack the moral fortitude required to force myself outside when it’s that cold. I’ll generally do it, but sometimes it takes a lot of persuasion to convince myself that it’s worthwhile. Sometimes I have to trick myself into it. Which is what I did yesterday.

You know how your ex will sometimes ask you if you want to ride along while she runs and errand? And sometimes you do, and sometimes you really don’t, and sometimes you say “How about if I ride along part of the way, and then you drop me off somewhere so I have to walk home?”. Which, again, is what I did yesterday morning. You may find this hard to credit, but my ex was surprisingly willing — I might even say eager — to drop me off somewhere along the way in the 26F cold so I’d have to walk home.

Which is why I found myself on foot on a bike path — one of those long, straight, unforgiving bike paths that used to be a railroad track — at nine-something in the morning. My weather app was correct; it totally felt like 23F.

I like to walk. Not as a form of exercise; I resent the entire notion of exercise. I like walking as a form of meditation (I totally suck at sitting meditation, but thanks to Thich Nhat Hanh walking meditation works for me). I also like walking as a vehicle for clear thinking. Yesterday morning I wanted to think about the ending to a story I’ve been working on. Like a lot of writers, I don’t even start to write a story until I have a general sort of ending in mind. Knowing the ending gives you a lot more control over every other aspect of the writing process.

That said, I rarely use the exact ending I envisioned when I began writing. The act of writing almost always opens up other potential endings. I’ve reached that point in the story where I need to solidify the ending. So that’s the primary reason I was out there, walking on a bike path in the cold. I was thinking and plotting.

I say I don’t walk for exercise, and although that’s true it’s also a little less than true. I have a knee injury that benefits from…well, exercise. I could do all that lifting weights and grunting business, which can be enjoyable. But all I need to do is keep the muscles attached to my knee in fairly decent shape. Walking is low impact, as they say. Which is ironic, since it was impact that caused the initial knee injury.

I used to be a counselor in the Psychiatric/Security unit of a prison for women. I had an inmate — a short, round woman about 5’5″ and probably 260 pounds that was mostly muscle — who suffered from a whole constellation of emotional and psychological issues, all of which were exacerbated by the fact that she also suffered from a form of temporal lobe epilepsy that’s associated with aggression and violence. She was in prison for basically destroying a house. Mostly with her bare hands.

When I accepted the job, she was being housed in an old-school St. Louis cell — one of those classic jail cells you see in the movies, with the iron bars and a metal bunk bolted to the floor — in a separate part of the prison. The first time I went to see her they handed me a raincoat, because she tended to hoard her urine in cups and throw it on the staff. Every couple of weeks they had to replace her mattress because she literally ripped them up. Again, with her bare hands. And then she’d urinate on the remains.

Eventually I was able to get her treated for the epilepsy and moved into the general population, but during the first few months on the job I insisted on being present and helping the security staff whenever they had to physically interact with this woman. On one of those early occasions I decided to help replace her mattress. They unlocked the cell, I rushed in, and made a lovely Errol Flynn leap onto the metal bunk. There wasn’t any mattress on it, since she’d ripped it up and peed on it. But the metal bunk was also soaked in urine. Urine, it turns out, makes a metal bunk slippery, so my Errol Flynn leap turned into a mad slide, which resulted in my leg getting semi-trapped between the bunk and the wall. By itself that probably would have been okay, but the inmate grabbed me by my hair (and yeah, I wore it long) and proceeded to yank my head down and bang it against the floor. That made my knee bend in an unfortunate and unnatural way. Which is one of the reasons I need to walk. You know, exercise.

It’s also why I tend to hobble a tad when I begin a walk and hobble a tad more at the very end of a walk. The middle bits, though, are usually pretty enjoyable. Yesterday’s walk home took me through a sort of semi-rural area, into a semi-industrial area, and eventually into a suburb with a wee little park. By the time I left the park — still maybe half a mile from home — my knee was moderately painful. But at least it didn’t seem so cold.

I’m still going to claim insist that exercise is a secondary reason for the walk. The primary reason was to work on the plot resolution. The story is about a pipefitter who supplements his income with the occasional spot of burglary. In one of said burglaries, the guy came into possession of an expensive camera — a Leica M Type 246, which is a purely monochrome digital camera. You might think expensive camera gear would be a dream come true for a part-time burglar. It’s not. That stuff is actually hard to move. Pawn shops won’t touch it without some proof of ownership, because folks who own a camera body worth around US$7000 tend to have insurance, which means the serial numbers have been registered, which further means burglary squads will be nosing around. Camera stores that stock used gear won’t touch it for much the same reason, not to mention they hate camera thieves. You might be able to sell a hot Leica for a few hundred bucks it to a buddy — if you happen to have a buddy who only shoots in black-and-white. Most part-time burglars don’t have that sort of buddy. So the character in the story decides to keep the camera and play around with it. He gets in trouble shooting photos in a park where there are kids playing.

There’s more to the story than that, of course, but that’s the McGuffin that sets the events of the story world in motion. I’m basing it in a very small way on a personal experience. I was never a pipefitter or an occasional burglar, but I did once get in trouble for shooting photos in a park where kids were playing. I hadn’t taken any photos of any kids, but one of the parents apparently thought I might have, so he decided to front me off, demanding I show him the photos on my camera.

Here’s another true thing: I’m a firm believer in civil rights, which includes the rights of photographers. On the other hand, I dislike fuss. So I tried to stand up for my rights without creating more fuss. I told the guy I’d let him see the photos IF he admitted he had no right to see them. He got angry, continued to demand to see the photos, and threatened to call the police. I told him I’d wait for the police, and said I’d only show the photos to the police under the same condition — an admission they no legal right to see the photos. Eventually the guy agreed he had no right to see the photos and I showed them to him. There were, of course, no photos of kids. He walked away without any sort of apology. It was an ugly situation that could have become even uglier. Which is always great fodder for a story.

That business about refusing to show the photos on my camera (or cellphone)? I’ve actually had to do that a few times. On rare occasions I’ve been stopped — usually by a suspicious civilian or occasionally it’s by a security guard — and questioned about why I’m shooting photographs. I was stopped once by a plainclothes Homeland Security agent because I was shooting photos along a railroad track that happened to be by a building used by Homeland Security. And almost exactly a year ago I was stopped by a local uniformed police officer. The Homeland Security guy was mostly concerned that I might have taken a photo that included the license tags of vehicles in the parking lot. The uniformed officer was responding to a complaint. Both of them were professional about it.

I don’t blame folks for wondering what the hell I’m up to when I’m shooting photos. But at the same time, I refuse to abandon my civil rights. Offering to show the photos in exchange for an admission that I’m not legally obligated to do so is my compromise. I suspect the only reason it works is because I’m a white guy. I may look like a thug, but at least I’m a white thug. That radically reduces the odds that I’ll get arrested. Or shot.

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. I’m properly thankful that I can live a life that allows me to just take a walk on any day I feel like it, that I don’t have to worry about getting shot for exercising my civil rights, that Philippe Kahn invented the cellphone camera, and that despite years of neglect and abuse my knees still work.

now it’s al franken

And now it’s Al Franken.

What we’re seeing here is a tsunami of collective frustration and righteous anger. It’s been a long time building and it’s massive and it doesn’t care who gets hurt. Which is exactly the way it should be. Only now it’s Al Franken.

Trump — we expected Trump, of course. Louis CK — well, there’d been talk about him for a long time, so he was no surprise. Weinstein — he was a given; it’s not surprising the tsunami took him first. Roy Moore — is anybody really surprised when a Christian conservative turns out to be morally bankrupt? But now it’s Al Franken.

Because of course it is. I mean, he moved in those circles. He was a semi-famous comedian before he became a politician. Fame and privilege go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Wait, let me amend that. Fame and privilege go together like blow flies and a decaying corpse. Popular culture history is jammed with stories of famous men abusing women. It’s so common, in fact, that I never even thought about it — not until around 1990, when a friend had me read Pearl Cleage’s essay Mad at Miles. I’ve been unable to enjoy Miles Davis ever since. Only now it’s Al Franken.

Al Franken is one of the good guys, right? Or he’s supposed to be one of the good guys. Somewhere on the internet yesterday I saw this comment: Now no man is safe. Which is true. Because, let’s face it, almost every man is complicit. I’m saying ‘almost’ because it’s theoretically possible there’s some guy out there who never laughed at a sexist joke, or who never looked at a woman in a purely sexual way, or who never discounted something a woman said simply because she’s a woman, or who never encouraged a woman to have another drink because he thought it would improve his chance of getting laid. Even those of us who like to think of ourselves as good guys, supportive guys, guys who ‘get it’ when it comes to women’s issues, almost all of us are guilty in some very real way. Now it’s Al Franken.

So now what do we do? What do we do now that it’s Al Franken, one of the good guys? Do we make excuses for him? “Well, at least she was an adult, unlike this Roy Moore business.” Yeah, no…that doesn’t work. Sexual harassment isn’t age-defined. “Well, at least he’s done good things for women since he became a politician.” Yeah, no…that doesn’t work either. Good behavior now may help atone for what he did back then, but it doesn’t excuse it. “Well, it’s only the one woman, unlike Trump.” Yeah, no…that really doesn’t work. If there’s one woman, then there’s bound to be another. A guy who acts like a sexist pig doesn’t only act like a sexist pig once. What Al Franken did was pretty classic sexist pig material, so even if no other woman steps forward and levels an accusation against him, I think we can be confident there are women who’d have every right to do that. So what do we do now that it’s Al Franken?

We do the same thing we do with all these other guys. We hold him accountable. At the very least, Al Franken deserves a public shaming. Hell, at the very least ALL men probably deserve a public shaming. Most of us will escape that since we’re not public figures. But public figures deserve public shaming. Even Al Franken.

That said, we can’t ignore that there’s a difference — and that difference also deserves discussion. We can’t hold ‘good’ guys to a lower standard, but we can and should tailor our response to these offenses. We can and should ask these questions: Will the person actually feel shame for their actions? I suspect Al Franken does. I don’t believe Trump and Moore do. Will the person work to change their behavior and atone for their past offenses? I suspect Al Franken will. I don’t believe Trump will.

A lot of women I know are torn up over this stuff. They’re glad to see women standing up for themselves, they’re glad to see attention brought to this too often ignored topic, but as one friend said, “I don’t want to demonize men and judge yesterday’s trespasses through the lens of today’s understanding.” As a man, I appreciate that thought. But I also think it’s wrong-headed. Pointing out bad behavior, even if it occurred some time ago, isn’t demonizing men; it’s demonizing a patriarchal system that deserves to be demonized.

It’s hard to cast off a few thousand years of patriarchal thought and behavior. It’s so deeply ingrained in us — both men and women — that much of the time we’re not even aware of it. We exist in patriarchy in the same way a fish exists in water. We generally move through it without noticing that it’s there. Not until somebody points out that the water is murky and filled with crap. Which is where we are today.

It’s critically important to support these women. It’s critically important to point out this bullshit when we see it, to drive a stake right through its fucking heart, and burn its corpse. Even when it’s done by Al Franken.

 

i got your parable right here

A number of folks, after the recent mass murder at a Baptist church in Texas (which took place during the service), questioned the efficacy of thoughts and prayers as a defense against multiple rounds of .223 caliber bullets. This, naturally, upset some Christian conservatives.

[S]ome prominent left-wing voices have taken the opportunity to politicize the incident. Some on the left have used the shooting to mock the concept of prayer and Christianity.

In an effort to be transparent, I should probably repeat the fact that I’m not a Christian and I don’t believe in a supreme being. I don’t object to the notion of prayer, and I’d never mock folks who resort to it. But I have to say I don’t think it’s a good substitute for action. I do, however, enjoy a good parable.

Here’s one you’ve almost certainly heard before. Devout Christian hears a weather forecast warning of heavy rains and flooding. He stays in his house by the river. The river rises, the man’s house begins to flood, he prays. Sheriff comes by, suggests he evacuate the area. Guy says God will protect him. Flooding continues, the guy climbs on his roof. Rescuer in a boat comes by, offers to take him to safety. Guy says God will protect him. Waters rise, guy is stranded. Helicopter arrives, offers to airlift the guy to safety. Guy says God will protect him. Guy drowns. Shows up at the gate to heaven, asks God why he didn’t answer his prayers. God says he did — sent a warning, sent a messenger, sent a boat, sent a helo — but the guy just didn’t listen.

What? Naw, this is fine.

The parable stops at that point, and most folks seems content with that. Me, I find myself wondering what else God told the guy. I mean, does God say “Dude, you are too stupid and stubborn to enter heaven”? Or “Dude, you ignored every sign I sent you, but hey I’m feeling generous, come on in anyway”? Or what?

Still, as parables go, that one is pretty sweet. Maybe religious folk should take it to heart. If there’s a God, maybe he/she/it is saying “Dude, seriously? I let them shoot up a McDonalds. I let them shoot up a college campus. I even let them shoot up a bunch of six-year-old kids. Then I let them shoot up a church. Why aren’t you paying attention?”

Maybe? Possibly? What do I know? I don’t understand this ‘moves in a mysterious way’ business. But IF there’s some supernatural agent at work here leaving a coded message to his followers, the code really doesn’t seem that difficult to break.

NOTE: That ‘mysterious way’ business? It ain’t from the Bible. It’s from a hymn written by William Cowper in the late 18th century. Not long after he wrote that hymn, Cowper attempted suicide. By drowning. Just saying.