it’s not about her clothes

We keep falling for it. By ‘we’ I mean liberals, and by ‘it’ I mean the misleading bullshit conservatives throw in front of us to distract us. We keep falling for it. You’d think we’d know better by now, but no…we keep falling for it.

Let me give you an example. A few days ago Eddie Scarry, a writer for the conservative newspaper The Washington Examiner, posted this on Twitter.

And, of course, immediately there was a backlash. A deserved backlash, to be sure, but mostly it was a backlash about this line: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles. It was a backlash about the term ‘girl’ used for a 29-year-old woman who was a newly-elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives. But mostly it turned into a discussion about what clothes are appropriate — and affordable — for a young woman from the working class who wants to look nice in an office environment.

Which means we fell for it. Remember, ‘it’ is the misleading bullshit conservatives throw in front of us to distract us. It’s NOT about her clothes. When we respond to bullshit by discussing the clothing options of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we are falling for the misleading bullshit. It’s sabotage. It’s creating a narrative designed to undermine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It’s suggesting she is a fraud, that she’s not who she says she is, that she doesn’t belong in a position of power, that she can’t be trusted. That she’s phony. I’m going to say it again; it’s NOT about her clothes. We do her a disservice when we let folks like Eddie Scarry distract us by talking about her clothes.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez working as a bartender.

Repeat his attack — and similar attacks — for a decade and some of that narrative will infiltrate the public consciousness. After a few years, people will begin to distrust AOC without quite knowing why; they’ll begin to dislike her without knowing quite why. This is exactly what conservatives did to Hillary Clinton. It’s what they’ve done to Nancy Pelosi. It’s what they’ve consistently done to all effective Democratic women leaders.

They’ve started on AOC even before she’s been sworn in. Why? Because she scares the absolute shit out of them. She’s young. She’s young AND she’s conventionally attractive. She’s a young, attractive woman AND she’s of Puerto Rican descent. She’s a young, attractive, working class Latinx AND with less than US$200,000 in campaign funds, she won a primary against a long-term Democrat with campaign funds of nearly $3.5 million and who was the Chair of the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives. She did it through hard work combined with intelligence and passion. And that scares them.

It’s not about her clothes.

She scares them because she’s the future. It’s a future they don’t want to see happen. It’s a future that doesn’t rely on — or need — a well-connected network of middle-aged (or old) white guys. She scares them because they’re losing their power and their authority and their privilege — and they’re losing it all to people like her. So yeah, she scares the absolute shit out of them.

Let’s face it, Eddie Scarry doesn’t give a damn what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wears to work. He only cares that she reports for work in Congress. He only cares that Congress this year is less white, less male, and less hetero than it’s ever been. Eddie Scarry isn’t a fashion blogger; he’s a conservative political reporter with an agenda (and I’m being charitable here; Scarry made his bones at a gossip blog called FishbowlDC). He only cares about undermining effective Democratic leaders. He’s only concerned with sowing discord among liberals.

Don’t let him trick you into thinking this is about clothes. It’s not. It’s really not. It’s about the slow introduction of poison. It’s about weakening Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If we continue to fall for the bullshit Scarry and folks like him throw in front of us, we’re just spreading the poison.

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dude, not my fault

Years ago, before Academia and I decided we weren’t really compatible, I taught a variety of criminology and sociology courses — including courses on criminological theory. You know — what is crime, why do folks commit crime, how do we explain what’s going on? That sort of stuff. One of the theories I taught undergrads was Matza and Sykes’ theory of neutralization.

Matza and Sykes studied juvenile delinquency back in the 1950s. People, they said, are aware of their obligation to follow the law, so in order to skirt that obligation and do stuff they know they’re not supposed to do, they concoct a series of techniques to neutralize that obligation. In other words, they find ways to escape responsibility.

I mention all this because if you paid any attention to the news over the last week, you saw Matza and Sykes’ theory in action. Here are their five techniques of neutralization:

  • Denial of responsibility — Dude, it’s not really my fault.
  • Denial of injury — Dude, nobody really got hurt.
  • Denial of the victim — Dude, really it’s their own fault.
  • Condemning of the condemners — Dude c’mon, it’s not like you’re innocent.
  • Appeal to higher loyalties — Dude, I did it for my friends (or family, or god).

We saw ALL of these techniques in play over the last week. Every single one of them. We saw them employed by Comrade Trump, by his followers, and by most Republican politicians. Denial of responsibility: “Dude, Trump didn’t mail any of those bombs.” Denial of injury: “Dude, the bombs weren’t even bombs; they didn’t detonate and nobody got hurt.” Denial of the victim: “Dude, the people who got the mail bombs wouldn’t have gotten any mail bombs if they hadn’t tried to undermine the president like that.” Condemning the condemners: “Dude c’mon, it’s not like Democrats are innocent; I mean, a Bernie supporter shot a Republican congressmen who was playing softball, right? And people were rude to Sarah Sanders in a restaurant.” And yeah, even an appeal to higher loyalties: “The people who got the mail bombs were traitors and the real enemies of the people.”

Dude, don’t look at me, it’s not MY fault.

Even this morning, Trump was obliviously tweeting out neutralization techniques with all the desperate need of a spawning salmon.

There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!

He really can’t help himself. Trump seems to be completely incapable of accepting the notion that by labeling the news media as ‘fake’ and the ‘true Enemy of the People’ he’s not only inciting the anger he’s condemning, but also emboldening his followers to act on that anger.  Dude, it’s not my fault if the Enemy of the People get hurt; I’m just talking and words can’t really hurt you; besides, it’s the Enemy of the People who are at fault for being the Enemy of the People; and it’s not like they’re innocent, just look at how mean they are to me; and if I call the Enemy of the People the enemy, it’s because I want peace and harmony. Bitches.

It’s sad and infuriating that the only way to explain the behavior of the President of These United States is to rely on theories developed to explain criminality. Jeebus in handcuffs, we used to be a semi-decent nation.

People, you have GOT to vote. If you value decency and truth and science and integrity and compassion, you have GOT to fucking vote.

bombs, for fuck’s sake

You know, it was bad enough when our president was just ignorant. I mean, yeah, he was ignorant about the world and about how government worked, but it was just plain old ignorance. And it was bad enough that the president was an inveterate liar, who showed no compunction about making shit up on the spot and acting as though it was accepted truth. Sure, only his supporters actually believed them, but most of his lies were really obvious, so folks could ignore them. And it was bad enough that Comrade Trump was a hateful bully. But hey, he bullied everybody he thought he could get away with bullying, his friends and supporters as well as people who opposed him.

All that was bad enough. But now we have bombs. Actual bombs.

Now we have bombs sent to men and women who’ve publicly criticized Comrade Trump. We have bombs sent to people Trump considers to be enemies. Now we have bombs sent to two former presidents, a former vice president, a former Secretary of State, a former head of the CIA, a former Attorney General, a senior member of Congress, and others. Bombs, people.

Crude bombs, yeah, but fucking bombs. None of them detonated, yeah, and nobody got hurt, but the fact remains that somebody sent bombs to people who criticized Comrade Donald Trump. Somebody considered how to keep the weight of the bomb low enough to send through the mail, considered what materials could be used to make a bomb that would escape metal detectors. Somebody gathered the components to make the bombs, manufactured them, prepared the envelopes, delivered a couple by hand and sent the rest of the bombs — sent bombs, people — through the mail in order to kill or maim critics of Donald Trump.

Before, Trump or his followers would do or say something that was ridiculous or offensive or crazy, and we’d all repeat the mantra ‘This Is Not Normal and Must Not Be Seen as Normal’. But bombs? Bombs in the mail is so far outside of normal that you’d need the Hubble Space Telescope to find the galaxy where normal still exists.

Make no mistake, this is driven by Comrade Trump. No, of course, he didn’t tell anybody to make bombs and send them to people he considers to be enemies. What he did was repeatedly claim the people he considered as his enemies were enemies of The People. Enemies intent on destroying…well, whatever Trump happened to stand for at the moment.

In his recent rally speeches, Trump has taken to calling Democrats “the party of the mob.” Seriously. He stands in front of an angry, disorderly crowd (which, by the way, is pretty much the fucking definition of ‘mob’), encouraging them to become angrier, and then he accuses Democrats of being an angry, disorderly crowd. He actually said this at a recent rally:

“You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry, left-wing mob. And that’s what the Democrats have become.”

It’s no surprise that one (or more) of Trump’s followers, having been told that an enemy exists, having been told that the enemy is dangerous, having been told the enemy is intent on causing harm, and having the enemy identified by name, decided to act.

To act by sending bombs. 

Comrade Trump bears some responsibility for this, though he’ll never acknowledge it. The Republicans in Congress bear some responsibility for this as well, because their only response to a couple of years of the president lying, threatening, and making appalling personal attacks has been to occasionally issue a bland disagreement.

The primary responsibility, of course, lies with the criminal fuckwit who believed Trump to the degree that’s he (and yeah, I’m assuming we’re talking about a man here) was willing to put together a group of bombs and send them on their way to kill or maim.

Bombs, for fuck’s sake. That’s where we are now in this nation. Bombs. We’re sending bombs through the mail.

oh shit

There’s a sadly useful expression I learned in the military. It’s used to describe that moment when a situation changes so suddenly and radically that whatever you had been doing up to that point was no longer relevant — maybe not even possible. Overtaken by events

For example, let’s say one moment you’re flying a perfectly functioning aircraft and the next moment you’ve smashed into a flock of Canada geese; your engine fails, your windshield is shattered, and suddenly you’re hurtling along at 550 mph in an aluminum coffin. Dude, your flight plan has been overtaken by events.

In my medical unit, we modified the expression. A situation wasn’t overtaken by events; the situation went Oh Shit. As in “Everything was under control, until the patient had a seizure during a cutdown and an artery got nicked, then everything went Oh Shit.”

For years I had occupations in which there was always a possibility to be overtaken by events — for everything to go Oh Shit. Things frequently went Oh Shit as a medic, sometimes went Oh Shit as a counselor in the Psych/Security unit of the prison, but only occasionally went Oh Shit as a private investigator. But ‘Oh Shit’ was a constant in my working equation until I left those careers behind me. With the exception of a morning walk interrupted by a nasty auto accident (three cars, a scared and confused old guy trapped in his vehicle), for the last several years I’ve lived a life totally free of Oh Shit moments — and really, that exception was seriously more Oh Shit for the old guy I had to break out of his car than it was for me.

Then I read the news this morning, and saw this headline:

Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact

And I thought ‘Everything’s going to go Oh Shit‘. I mean, we’re not actually in the process of being overtaken by events, but guys we’re at high altitude and moving at speed in the direction of a flock of geese. Because Comrade Trump isn’t a president who carefully considers the implications and possible outcomes before making a policy decision. He’s more of a ‘Fuck yeah, I like the sound of that, let’s DO it‘ decision-maker.

That’s the sort of decision-making process that leads to…well, massive fuck-ups. “Hire the Hell’s Angels to do security at a Rolling Stones concert? Fuck yeah, I like the sound of that.” “Get a tattoo of my ex’s name after an evening of regret-drinking? Fuck yeah, let’s DO it.”

And then everything went “Oh Shit.”

When he was ‘elected’ some folks said, “Not to worry — Trump’s impulses will be tempered by more sober-minded professionals.” Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, Trump fired the few sober-minded professional. After his first National Security Advisor was fired for 1) lying to the FBI, 2) lying to the Vice-President, 3) accepting money from foreign governments without approval, and 4) planning the kidnapping and extrajudicial rendition of a Turkish cleric to Turkey, and after his second National Security Advisor resigned over disagreements about Trump’s approach to Russia (and North Korea and, what the hell, Iran), Trump named John Bolton as his third National Security Advisor.

Who the fuck is John Bolton? Lawdy, where to start? He’s a war hawk who admits he avoided service in Vietnam by joining the Maryland National Guard (“I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy”). He’s been a paid Fox News contributor and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, which is known for disseminating false anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim information. In the Reagan Justice Department, Bolton opposed financial reparations to Japanese-Americans held in World War II-era internment camps. He apparently threatened to fire a woman for refusing to lobby for the deregulation of baby formula in developing nations. He convinced President George W. Bush to pull out of the International Criminal Court (which Bolton described as the ‘happiest moment’ of his political career). He tried to reduce funding for the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program designed to halt the proliferation of nuclear materials. As a private citizen, Bolton was identified as a key member of Groundswell, a secretive coalition of right-wing activists trying to effect political change behind the scenes through lobbying of high-level contacts. He gave a speech for the fake Russian ‘Right to Bear Arms’ group for whom Russian spy Maria Butina worked. He also argued that the conclusion of the US Intelligence Community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump may have been a ‘false flag’ operation.

Bolton speaking at Russian ‘gun rights’ event.

In other words, John Bolton is a conspiracy theorist with a history of encouraging wars other people will have to fight. He’s basically Comrade Trump without the real estate career. This is the guy Trump relies on as his National Security Advisor. This is the guy urging Trump to develop new and improved nukes…you know, for leverage. Trump, of course, loves the idea of nuclear leverage. He loves the idea of any sort of leverage, really — of essentially being able to force people (or nations) to do what HE wants instead of what THEY want. So of course he’s all ‘Fuck yeah, I like the sound of nuclear leverage, let’s DO it.”

The ONLY hint of a silver lining in this looming cloud of Oh Shit is the fact that Trump often says he’s going to do stuff that 1) he doesn’t actually know how to do, 2) he fails to understand he lacks the legal authority to do, or 3) he thinks makes him look or sound tough. But as long as Bolton is standing at Trump’s side, Grima Wormtonguing in his ear, we’re in serious danger of everything going Oh Shit.

putin kim salman and trump

Comrade Trump believed his boy Vlad Putin when he said “Hacking? Interference in U.S. elections? Dude, it wasn’t us.” He believed his boy Kim Jong Un when he said, “Hey bruh, we was just nuclear-curious, y’know? We done with that shit now.” And he believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he says, “C’mon man, you really think we’re gonna murder and dismember a guy just on account of he disagreed with us? Seriously, that’s not who we are.”

Now, I’m not going to claim I understand what’s taking place inside Comrade Trump’s head, but I’m beginning to see a pattern here. You got three (3) absolute rulers who are free to do pretty much whatever the fuck they want whenever they want. Control the news media? Fuck yeah, do it. Prevent public protests? Fuck yeah, do it. Murder journalists and opposition leaders? Fuck yeah, do it.

“You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes.”

I’m thinking Comrade Trump is jealous. I mean, he can’t control the news media. All he can do is call them ‘fake’ and claim they’re the ‘enemy of the people’. He can’t prevent public protests. All he can do is limit where the protests take place, and even then his authority is pretty limited. And he sure as hell can’t Jimmy Hoffa journalists and opposition leaders. The most he can do is get his bone-ignorant crowds to chant “Lock her up.”

That’s pretty small beans compared to what Putin, Kim, and Salman are capable of doing. It’s got to be sort of embarrassing to meet with those guys and admit you can’t just lock up Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton without a bunch of due process bullshit.

“And your smile is a thin disguise.”

So I kind of wonder if he sees these guys acting like low-level Marvel comic villains and he’s thinking, Man, I wish I could pull shit like that. Call up the editor of the Washington Post and say “You motherfuckers are shut down as of right this fucking minute.” Find those pricks with the Baby Trump blimp and lock they asses up in fucking Alcatraz. If Alcatraz is still open. Fuck that, I’m president. OPEN Alcatraz again and lock ’em up. And oh, what I’d do with Obama and Elizabeth Warren, why I’d... Okay, I’m stopping there. I don’t even want to imagine what Trump would like to do to Obama and Elizabeth Warren. That said, I’ll give Comrade Trump this much: unlike his boy Salman, I don’t think there’d be any bone saws involved.

“I thought by now you’d realize, there ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.”

The thing is, I suspect Comrade Trump is smitten with the notion of absolute power. I suspect in his dreams he’d like to be on an equal footing with Putin, Salman, and Kim. I also suspect Trump is financially deep in the pocket of Putin and the Saudis. Kim, not so much, because he and his raggedy-ass nation are basically broke.

One thing I’m confident about. Trump will do anything he can to avoid placing blame or responsibility on those three guys. Yesterday he tried to blame ‘rogue killers’ for Khashoggi’s murder. I don’t know who he’s blaming today. Tomorrow he’ll probably claim Khashoggi killed and dismembered himself just to make the Saudi royalty look bad.

but what if he didn’t do it?

Let’s just acknowledge this right up front: Judge Kavanaugh is screwed. Regardless of whether or not he actually sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the guy is just flat-out screwed. Whether you support his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court or oppose it, there’s no getting around the reality that Brett Kavanaugh is totally and massively screwed.

Personally, I believe Dr. Ford. I’ve already written about that, so I won’t bother to repeat myself. I’m also opposed to Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the highest court in the land. I was opposed even before the allegations of sexual assault, and I remain opposed even if he’s entirely innocent of the alleged assault. I firmly believe his judicial decisions would be — and have been — moved as much (or more) by his political and ideological views than by the law.

That said, I have to acknowledge that the guy is screwed. No matter what happens now, Kavanaugh is absolutely and completely screwed. If he gets confirmed, he’s always going to be the SCOTUS Justice with an asterisk attached to his name. He’ll always be ‘Mr. Justice Accused Rapist’. If his nomination is rejected, he’ll always be ‘Judge Denied SCOTUS Because Rapist’. Even if he withdraws his nomination, he’ll always be ‘Judge Suspected Rapist’.

There is NO getting around that. Unless Kavanaugh can provide definitive, categorical, absolutely conclusive proof beyond any doubt whatsoever that Dr. Ford concocted her allegation out of thin air with the express intent to derail his nomination, there is literally nothing he can do to restore his reputation. Nothing at all.

If he’s innocent — IF he actually did NOT attempt to rape Dr. Ford when he was 17 and she was 15 years old — then what is happening to Judge Kavanaugh is terribly unjust and tragic.

I’m mostly okay with that. Not entirely okay with it…but mostly.

That’s a horrible thing to say. How can that be? How is it possible to be mostly okay with an innocent person being falsely accused of something horrible?

I’m mostly okay with it for these reasons. The unfair destruction of the reputation of one privileged rich white guy is small beans compared to the unfair destruction of the reputations of millions of women who’ve been sexually assaulted, then blamed for their own assault. The long-lasting shame and emotional pain Kavanaugh must feel IF he’s falsely accused of sexual assault is small beans compared to the long-lasting shame and emotional damage experienced by millions of women who’ve actually been sexually assaulted. IF he’s not guilty, the frustration and disappointment Kavanaugh will feel if his appointment is scuttled or tainted by this allegation is small beans compared to the millions of women whose lives and ambitions and dreams have been derailed because they were sexually assaulted.

IF Kavanaugh is factually innocent, then I have great compassion for him and for his family. Because he is utterly and comprehensively screwed, and there isn’t anything at all he can do about it. But if Kavanaugh is innocent, I’d argue he’s just another victim of a rape culture that’s been created, maintained, and perpetuated by him and people like him. If he’s innocent, it simply means rape culture has turned the table on him; it means he’s being victimized simply because he’s a privileged white man and his options are severely limited. Some would consider that poetic justice.

At the heel of the hunt, it comes down to this: if you think Judge Brett Kavanaugh is innocent, if you think he’s being treated unfairly, if you believe he’s being punished for something he has no control over, then the answer to the problem is pretty clear. The problem isn’t Kavanaugh. The problem isn’t Dr. Ford. The problem is rape culture. The answer is to work to destroy rape culture.

let’s be reasonable about this

It’s terribly, terribly important for Dr Christine Blasey Ford to be able to tell her alleged version of the alleged “incident” that allegedly took place in the alleged 1980s, but let’s be reasonable. She’s had three decades to prepare for this, so really, there’s no reason she can’t testify on Monday.

We can arrange for her to testify in the morning or the afternoon, whichever she prefers. We want to accommodate her. She can testify in private or in public, sitting or standing, it’s up to her. She can sit in front of us, she can sit behind us, she can sit off to one side, she can testify looking in a mirror if she likes. She can testify sitting behind a table, or standing behind a podium, or relaxing on a beach chair, or reclining on a bearskin rug, or swinging from a trapeze, if that’s what she wants. But let’s be reasonable, we have a schedule here, so it has to be on Monday.

She can testify wearing a sun hat, or behind a veil, or wearing a tiara, or maybe the Mask of Zorro if that makes her feel more at ease. We can turn the temperature of the hearing room up, we can turn it down, we can change the humidity, we can provide her with a folding Japanese kawahori-ōgi if that will make her more comfortable. But we must be reasonable and have her testify on Monday. Not Tuesday, not Wednesday, and Thursday is just impossible.

She can wear a mask during her testimony if she wants.

We can burn aromatic candles, or play chamber music in the background, or let her sit in a warm bath if it’ll help her relax while she testifies about her alleged sexual assault. We can give her a stress ball to squeeze, we can have a therapist massage pressure points on her feet, we can bring in a therapy koala to sit on her lap if that’s what she requires to be comfortable. But let’s be reasonable about this; she has to testify on Monday.

We will provide her with a fan, if that will make her comfortable.

We can hear her testimony in the Senate chambers, we can hear it the Gloria in Excelsis Tower of the National Cathedral, we can hear it on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building (where Tom Hanks finally hooks up with Meg Ryan), we can hear it on the Orient Express on the way to Istanbul, we can hear it in the Jungle Room at Graceland, we can hear her testimony anyplace Dr. Blasey Ford will feel safe in recounting the intimate details of her alleged sexual assault. So long as it’s on Monday.

We will, of course, do everything we possibly can to oblige Dr. Blasey Ford. We want to be supportive. She deserves to be heard. On Monday. We’re on a tight schedule, you know, so let’s be reasonable about this.

But if she declines….

But if she declines our invitation to testify on Monday — if, despite all the concessions we’re willing to make, regardless of the many compromises we’ve kindly suggested, notwithstanding the various allowances we’ve offered — if Dr. Blasey Ford fails to appear at the hearing on Monday, we’ll be forced, regretfully, to consider her to be just another lying slut trying to destroy the reputation of a decent man. We’ve made every effort to be reasonable about this.