they’re right to be afraid

This is an actual Washington Post headline for an article by Jeff Stein (WaPo’s White House economics reporter):

With Roe at risk, GOP faces pressure to support families after birth

Republican supporters of policies to help children say new restrictions on abortion should change political calculus

Dude, c’mon, you ought to know better. The GOP opposition to abortion isn’t about babies. It’s not about children or families.

If it was about babies or children or families, the GOP wouldn’t need to start cobbling together policies “to help children.” If it was about babies, those policies would already be in place.

From the Women’s March in January, 2017

If it was about babies and families, the US would make pre-natal care, childbirth, and post-natal care free (or at least affordable). If it was about babies and families, the US mandate paid parental leave with employment safeguards. If it was about babies and families, we’d support new parents by guaranteeing they’ll be able to return to their jobs and insuring they didn’t lose income during the important first few months of a baby’s life. But the GOP opposes all of this.

If it was about babies and families, we’d have free (or heavily subsidized) day care for working families. If it was really about babies and families, we’d provide a basic income for a parent who opts to be a full-time parent. If it was about children and families, we’d fund public education better; we’d pay teachers more; we’d give much more financial support to after-school programs. But the GOP opposes that.

If it was truly about babies and children and families, we’d enact sensible firearm legislation. In 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death among kids aged one to nineteen. More kids died from gunshot wounds than from car crashes, cancer, or drugs. But there’s no way the GOP would support gun restrictions.

From the Women’s March, January 2017

No, it’s perfectly clear the GOP opposition to reproductive freedom isn’t–and never has been–about protecting babies, children, or families. It’s certainly not about protecting women. It’s about controlling women. It’s about reinforcing patriarchy. And deep down, it’s about being afraid of women.

The GOP is right to be afraid.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Burn the patriarchy. Set it ablaze and let it burn until its reduced to ash. Stomp the ashes into dust. Let the wind blow it away.

human decency 101

Fischer Wells just wants to play field hockey. The State of Kentucky says she can’t. I’m not making this up. Kentucky passed a law to make sure this twelve-year-old girl won’t be able to play field hockey at her middle school. Think about how fucked up that is.

You know what? It’s more fucked up that you think. Consider the process of passing a law in Kentucky (or any other state, for that matter). It’s a time-intensive process. You have to cobble together the language of the bill you want to become law, including defining all the elements. Then you have to present the bill to…wait. Here, look at this:

This is the amount of effort the State of Kentucky went to in order to keep 12-year-old Fischer Wells from playing field hockey at school. Note Step 11: “If bill is vetoed, it goes back to each chamber. If approved by a constitutional majority in each chamber, the veto is overridden and the bill becomes law.” That actually happened with this particular bill.

Andy Beshear, a Democrat and the Governor of Kentucky, vetoed the bill because it “most likely violates the equal protection rights afforded by the United States Constitution.” The Republicans, who control both legislative chambers, voted to override the veto.

Why would Republicans go to so much fuss and bother to pass this law? Because Fischer Wells is a trans girl. She’s the ONLY known trans girl playing in middle or high school sports in Kentucky. She’s in the 8th grade. She’s not much of a threat.

12-year-old Fischer Wells

A number of states have passed similar laws designed to prevent trans students from participating in middle school, high school, or college sports. They claim they’re doing it in the interest of ‘fairness’. Their reason can be summed up in this comment by Robby Mills, the Kentucky law’s GOP sponsor:

“Boys have athletic advantages even before puberty in cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, speed, agility and power tests. A lot of time and effort is put into achieving a certain level of mastery in a sport and it would be crushing for a lady to train her whole career to have it end up competing against a biological male in the state tournament or state finals.”

Sure, that would be tough on a ‘lady’. But Mills and his fellow (should I call them bigots? I mean, the law is bigoted, to be sure. And it’s supported by anti-trans bigots. But it’s possible, I suppose, for a legislator to support the bill NOT because they’re a bigot, but because they want the votes cast by a bigoted public. But fuck that, if you vote for a bigoted law, you’re a bigot) bigots seem to be under the insane impression that there are guys out there in the sports world who consider themselves male BUT are so insecure in their ‘mastery in a sport’ that they’re willing to temporarily identify as female simply in order to win a high school sports championship.

And that’s fucking ridiculous. You have to be astonishingly stupid to believe that.

At the college level, where sports participation starts to really pay off, they’ve already taken steps to insure fairness. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a complete policy outlining transgender student-athlete participation. In theory, it applies to both trans men and trans women; in practice it’s directed primarily at trans women. It says trans women have to be taking hormonal treatment for gender transition for a certain period of time in order to participate in women’s sports. Trans men, on the other hand, don’t have to be taking testosterone in order to participate in men’s sports.

I’m not entirely convinced the NCAA actually needs to do this, but at least it’s an honest and sensible approach to ‘fairness’ regarding trans folks in college sports.

But the ‘fairness’ issue is really just a mask for all trans-related fear and hatred. Banning trans athletes isn’t just unfair to openly trans athletes, it actively discourages trans kids from even considering participating in sports. It actively discourages trans kids from letting their family and friends know they’re trans. It actively encourages trans kids to hate themselves. It actively increases the likelihood of trans kids self-harming or killing themselves. It actively encourages transphobic people to bully trans kids or find other ways to harass trans people. It normalizes trans fear and hatred.

On the surface, this seems to be a partisan political issue. Republicans pass anti-trans laws, Democrats try to protect trans rights. But some (how much, I don’t know–maybe a lot, maybe a little) of GOP anti-trans legislation is an aspect of their performative politics. It gets their base motivated, so they don’t give any thought to the repercussions. And yet at least one GOP governor demonstrated some basic human decency.

Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah vetoed an anti-trans sports bill passed by his own party–a bill that, like the Kentucky bill, only affected a few kids. Cox wrote this in his response:

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”

I want them to live. There it is. I don’t understand what they’re going through or why they feel the way they do. BUT I WANT THEM TO LIVE. You don’t have to understand (though it would be nice if you tried). You don’t have to agree with their choices. Just refrain from cruelty. Just let other folks live and be comfortable in their bodies.

There have been thousands–tens of thousands–of Fischer Wells, who’ve grown up afraid. There are lots of adult Fischer Wells out there, trans women who worry about going out in public, who wonder if they look fem enough to avoid harassment, to avoid assault, to avoid being targeted and killed.

If you vilify a 12-year-old trans girl who only wants to play field hockey, you create the social conditions that can keep her scared and uncertain and anxiety-ridden and alienated her entire life.

Just let Fischer Wells play. Let every Fischer Wells play. Just stop being assholes. Just make some attempt at some basic human decency. That’s really what this is about. Letting other people get on with their own lives. Letting people be themselves. It’s really not that hard.

male ego masquerading as love

Look, in the grand scheme of things (wait…IS there a grand scheme of things? It doesn’t seem very likely, does it. But never mind, it’s too early for that sort of tangent.) Chris Rock getting slapped by Will Smith is pretty small beans. Who cares if a rich actor slaps a rich comedian?

Except it happened in front of an audience–a live audience and a really huge television audience. Except that it happened during an award ceremony. Except Smith, just half an hour or so later, said, “People do crazy things for love,” as if the slap–and let’s just call it what it really was: a violent assault–as if that violent assault was the result of love. Except that some folks interpreted the assault as a ‘defense’ of Smith’s wife, who was the butt of a tacky Chris Rock joke.

It’s ego that makes people do crazy things, not love.

Except that the assault was really a clear, public display of male ego, of male rage, of male privilege. Except that Will Smith felt he had the right to interrupt a ceremony to exact physical retribution for a perceived insult to somebody else. Except the assault had nothing to do with love. Except that Will Smith made the entire incident–the entire award show and the entire night–about him. “Keep MY WIFE’s name out your fucking mouth.” MY wife.

You know what would be a good way to defend your wife? A good way to turn that joke into something actually about love? A good way to truly demonstrate your love for your wife? Use your time in front of the camera to talk about alopecia. Use that time to educate folks about what it is. Use that time to discuss the weird and often unhealthy social relationship between women and their hair. Use that time to remind folks that humor doesn’t have to be cruel. Use that time to say love doesn’t depend on hair. That love doesn’t depend on appearance. That the Beatles were right, and love is all there is.

At the end of his acceptance speech, Smith said, “I’m hoping the academy invites me back.” Invites ME back. Me. This may be the saddest thing about the entire incident. Will Smith was given an opportunity–a truly unique opportunity–to demonstrate how love for another person works. Instead, he put himself in the center.

EDITORIAL NOTE: I’ve said this before, but it’s always worth repeating. Hell, it’s necessary to keep repeating. Burn the patriarchy. Burn it to the ground, Burn it to the ground and collect the ashes, and grind them into powder. Bury the powder deep in the earth, and salt the ground above it so nothing will ever grow there. Pour cement over the salt. Then nuke the entire site from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure).

jesus suffering fuck, this guy, I declare

I’m sitting here this morning, minding my own business, right? Drinking my coffee and noshing on some sort of unpronounceable chocolate cookie I bought at the Grand European Market (yes, that’s actually its name), reading the news, getting pestered by the cat, just like every morning. Then I come across this bullshit:

This shouldn’t surprise me. I mean, Comrade Trump–he’s an ignorant, lying sack of shit. Ain’t nobody surprised by that. And that bit about NATO dues? That’s probably just an example of his ignorance. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Trump actually believes NATO nations pay ‘dues’. Like it’s a membership at one of his golf clubs. We’re probably lucky he’s not complaining about NATO not paying green fees.

But “There would be no NATO if I didn’t act strongly and swiftly“? Fuck me with a chainsaw. This is the guy who wanted to withdraw the US from NATO, something he’d even talked about during his 2016 presidential campaign. That talk didn’t stop after his election. In fact, both the House of Representatives and the Senate were alarmed enough that they passed bills that would require Congressional approval for the US to withdraw from NATO. For him to claim credit for the continued existence of NATO is utter bullshit.

What a fucking idjit.

But this is where the real delusional thinking comes into it: “[I]t was me that got Ukraine the very effective anti-tank busters (Javelins)“. We all know Trump tried to withhold those Javelins unless Ukraine’s recently elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, cobbled together some sort of dirt on Joe Biden (or his son). We know he actually froze the military support for Ukraine, and it remained frozen until a Federal whistleblower spoke out and basically forced Trump to release the funds and gear. This was money and weaponry Congress had approved, and Trump illegally froze it in order to cheat on a coming election. I mean, c’mon–the motherfucker was impeached for trying to pull that shit. You’d think Trump would remember that. You’d think Republicans would remember it.

But no.

Happily, Ukraine got its Javelins (sadly, they need to use them). Also happily, Ukrainians have given us a handy phrase to respond to bullshit like Comrade Trump’s statement. Іди на хуй. Go fuck yourself.

gop evolution of political discourse

Democrat: That insurrection on January 6th was awful.
Republican: Yeah, that was bad.
Dem: No way anybody could justify that sort of violence.
Rep: Well, it was bad but folks are upset about the election, so it’s sorta justifiable.
Dem: What? No. Ain’t no way you can justify assaulting the Capitol building.
Rep: Yeah, deffo justifiable.
Dem: Are you crazy?
Rep: Wasn’t just justifiable…actually justified. And maybe even a good thing?
Dem: No fucking way.
Rep: Yeah, deffo a good thing.
Dem: You’ve gone deep into the dark place, haven’t you.
Rep: Deffo a good thing. Maybe even a necessary thing.
Dem: Jesus suffering fuck.
Rep: Yep, it was absolutely good and totally necessary. Had to be done.
Dem: Can NOT believe you people.
Rep: I’m thinking we should do it again, maybe?
Dem: What about democracy?
Rep: It’s fucking ON, bitch.

Ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.

read the room, buddy

Years ago, when I was a graduate student in DC, I lived in a dodgy part of Columbia Heights (well, the whole neighborhood was pretty dodgy back then, though I’m told it’s been gentrified now). I lived a couple of blocks from All Souls Church, where I attended a concert by Sweet Honey in the Rock. The opening act was an all-woman a cappella group from South Africa; they sang a song called Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo, which I understand means “When you strike women, you strike stone.”

A more flexible translation might be, “Don’t fuck around with women who are fed up.” I’m sorry to confess that’s a lesson that’s been impressed on me countless times over the years–and sad to say, it’ll probably be impressed on me many more times. But it’s a good lesson, a valuable lesson, and men need to learn and relearn it.

Glenn Youngkin, the newly-elected Republican governor of Virginia, received that lesson recently. He visited a Safeway market in Alexandria. Safeway’s policy is to request ALL customers wear masks–just like their employees do. Youngkin took the standard GOP approach and refused to wear a mask. And a woman shopper kicked him directly in the balls. Metaphorically.

She shouted out a question. “Governor, where’s your mask?” It was direct, but still respectful. She called him by his title. Youngkin replied, “We’re all making choices today.” The woman wearing a mask was making the choice to protect herself, the other shoppers, and the store employees from Covid; Youngkin was making the choice to put them all at risk. The woman said, “Look around you, governor. You’re in Alexandria. Read the room, buddy.”

Read the room, buddy. This ordinary woman stands up to the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and tells him to read the room. And if that’s not glorious enough, when some guy (who appears to be either a Youngkin staffer or security personnel, who was at least properly masked) gets in between the woman and the governor, she doesn’t back down. “He’s my governor too,” she says, “I get to say what I want.”

First she takes on the governor, then stands up to this guy.

When you strike women, you strike stone. Look at that face. Even if you had no idea what was going on, you know you’re looking at a woman who is fed up with somebody’s bullshit. I’m sure by now we know her name, but at that moment, she’s every woman who’s just fucking had it. She’s Safeway Boudica. Hangaku Gozen of the checkout counter. Ọya, the orisha of the produce department.

There’ll be a lot of stuff written about ‘speaking truth to power’ and all, and that’s appropriate. But I’m like 98% certain this woman wasn’t thinking about that. I’m convinced she was just tired of people–and probably men in particular–being dicks out of pure dickishness. She’s not advocating burning the patriarchy to the ground; she’s just wishing people would grow the fuck up and act like responsible adults.

Read the room, buddy.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Burn the patriarchal system to the ground. Burn it, pound the ashes into dust, scatter the dust, and salt the fucking earth. Then nuke the site from orbit; you know why.

lawdy, these degenerate fuckers again

Okay, first let me say this: even Nazis have free speech rights. I absolutely defend their right to wear swastikas on their clothes and to wave swastika flags; I defend their right to gather and say ugly, despicable, hateful things. And to do all that in public.

Saturday, a couple dozen Nazis did just that in Orlando, Florida. Gathered, wore swastikas, waved flags, shouted ugly, despicable, hateful things.

A bunch of fucking Nazis

Yay First Amendment and all, but Jeebus on toast this is disgusting. If it seems this sort of appalling bullshit is becoming more common, it’s because this sort of appalling bullshit IS becoming more common. The Overton Window has shifted so far to the right that…what?

You’re wondering, “Greg, old sock, what is this Overton Window of which you speak?” Again, stop calling me old sock. And it’s a concept created by a policy analyst named Joseph P. Overton. It refers to the ‘range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time.’ For example, there was time–and not that long ago–when it would have been unacceptable for a politician to publicly support violent insurrectionists attempting to overturn the result of a fair election. That would have been outside the Overton Window, outside the range of acceptable and tolerable positions for a politician to take. Now it’s horrifying common. The window has shifted.

Another fucking Nazi

It’s still outside the Overton Window for politicians to support Nazis. But now they can at least cast doubt on whether people wearing swastikas and waving Nazi flags and shouting “Jews rape children and drink their blood” are actual Nazis. A spokesperson for Florida governor Ron DeSantis actually did that. She tweeted (and later deleted) “Do we even know they’re Nazis? Or is this a stunt…?”

No, it’s not a stunt. It’s not like these folks just happen to have Nazi flags and swastika arm bands lying around the house and thought, ‘You know what would be funny? If we put on these armbands and the black uniforms that can be found in most Florida households and stood the street yelling that Jews rape kids…wouldn’t that be a hoot?‘ To even suggest it’s just a stunt expands the Overton Window by implying this sort of monstrous and reprehensible behavior is merely distasteful hijinks.

A few more fucking Nazis

If you call yourself a Nazi, then you’re a fucking Nazi. If you act like a Nazi and talk like a Nazi and dress like a Nazi, then you’re a fucking Nazi. You don’t need to carry an official Nazi Party ID card. Don’t get distracted by some distinction between neo-Nazis and regular off-the-shelf Nazis; they all just fucking Nazis. This is pretty simple.

The question we have to answer is this: what’s the proper response to Nazis? Ignoring them doesn’t do any good; they’ll just get louder and more crude. What about punching them? I’ve written about this before; if you’re willing to accept the consequences of punching a Nazi, then punch away. I can’t–and won’t–actively advocate punching Nazis, but punching Nazis has real merit.

Still more fucking Nazis

Probably the best thing to do about Nazis is to close the Overton Window on them. Right now, I’m 100% confident folks on the internet are looking at the photos of these Nazis, studying their faces, learning their identities, and contacting their employers. Very few employers–even those in Florida–are going to want to be associated with Nazis. Make it less acceptable to be a Nazi.

And always remember this: Nazis are like cockroaches. If you see one, you know there are more of the creepy little fuckers hiding in the cracks. They have the right to exist. But we don’t have to make it easy for them.

devil’s scorecard

The Devil appears to Comrade Donald Trump the morning after the 2016 election. He says, “Comrade, I have three suggestions for you as president. First, you should undermine and destroy representative democracy. Second, you should downplay the severity of a deadly epidemic. Third, you should stop wearing lifts in your shoes.” Trump asks, “Why should I stop wearing lifts in my shoes?” The Devil grins. “Yeah, I figured you wouldn’t object to the first two.”

I’ve been on something of a social media holiday the last week or two. I haven’t been actively avoiding it; I’ve just spent less time fiddling with social media and engaging in or responding to it. But this morning I read some reporting about Comrade Trump and found myself imagining Trump in conversation with the devil.

The reporting this morning suggests Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who has been investigating whether the Trump Organization deliberately misled lenders and/or tax authorities about the value of its properties, is going to indict Trump personally for racketeering. It may be true. If so, it will be a tiny (but very welcome) step toward holding Trump accountable for some small fraction of the harm he’s done to the United States.

It’s difficult to describe…hell, it’s difficult to even comprehend…the scope of Trump’s corrosive effect on US society. His casual, reflexive lying about almost anything has become a common aspect of GOP political rhetoric. His nonchalant petty corruption–using the office of POTUS to enrich himself–has tarnished the office itself; perhaps not beyond repair, but the Trump stink lingers. His vindictiveness against anybody or anything he believes has slighted him has created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in governance. His indifference to public health has not only contributed to the death of more than 800,000 US citizens, but sparked an unhinged conspiratorial view of the medical profession. His unthinking automatic racism has fueled racial violence against almost every racial, ethnic, and religious minority group in the country. His cheap, performative imitation of patriotism has degraded the national capacity to be truly proud of the nation. His perpetual insecurity has turned conservatism into a whiny, grievance-oriented, resentful group of fear-biters.

Hold this feculent sumbitch accountable.

Combine all that with Trump’s deliberate, willful undermining of the norms of representative democracy, and you end up with a bitterly divided nation in which a third of the population is willing–even eager–to scrap nearly 250 years of semi-cooperative governance and replace it with an authoritarian regime grounded in white resentment and free-floating rage.

I don’t know that indicting–and, it’s to be hoped, convicting–Trump for ordinary crimes like racketeering or tax evasion (rather than the political crimes he’s certainly committed) is the most effective method for undoing the damage he’s done. But it’s a good start.

That assumes the reporting is accurate. Which reminds me–Trump’s manipulation of the news media had warped the very notion of responsible journalism. One more black mark on his Devil’s scorecard.