fuck those guys

A few days ago I lost my patience with Bret Stephens, an anti-Trump conservative who wrote an apologia defending Kevin Williamson, who’d just been hired by The Atlantic despite having publicly expressed his opinion that women who’d terminated their pregnancies (and their doctors) should be hanged. My position was simple: if you think the opinion that hanging people for receiving or performing an absolutely legal medical procedure has a legitimate place in the marketplace of ideas, then…well, fuck you.

There’s a discussion to be had on abortion, to be sure. But it’s basically impossible to have a discussion when one party’s position is “hang ’em.” In any event, the issue isn’t abortion itself; that just happened to be the subject on which Williamson expressed himself. The real issue is this: what are the boundaries of civil discourse?

After some reflection and thought, and under pressure from outraged readers of The Atlantic, the magazine decided NOT to hire Williamson after all. Jeff Goldberg, the editor who’d hired Williamson, offered an explanation both for his hiring and his firing. In defense of hiring him, Goldberg said, “[N]o one’s life work should be judged by an intemperate tweet.” Which I happen to agree with. However…well, let Goldberg himself say it: “The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post.”

Composing an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment tweet ain’t easy.

In other words, Goldberg thought it was fine for Williamson, in the heat of the moment, to say he’d like to see women who have an abortion and the doctors who perform them hanged. But it was NOT okay for Williamson to actually hold that view as a considered opinion. To which I can only reply to Goldberg, fuck you. That’s bullshit. Even in the heat of the moment, once somebody voices the opinion that ‘you and people like you deserve to be killed‘ the discussion is basically over, even if the person who says that doesn’t really mean it. The fact that Williamson DID mean it, only makes it worse.

Now that Williamson has been returned to the editorial shelf, conservatives are rushing to his defense and the defense of free speech.

Kevin Williamson’s firing is another reminder that much of American conservatism finds itself ghettoized not by choice, but by the left’s active demands that the right be silenced. Socialists, national or otherwise, don’t like to compete for ideas when they can shut up others.

Fuck you. Nobody is calling for the right to be silenced. But a lot of folks do hold the opinion that advocating death by hanging for folks who engage in a legal medical procedure isn’t a position that merits much consideration or discussion.

It appears that The Atlantic has fired Kevin Williamson. That was close. They almost expanded their intolerant little bubble for a brief moment. In the end, we knew they couldn’t abide employing a talented individual with – gasp – a different worldview.

Fuck you. I feel no obligation to tolerate a worldview that says women and their doctors should be killed for legally terminating an unwanted pregnancy. If you feel that’s an acceptable worldview, then…well, fuck you.

Kevin Williamson: hired for his talent, fired for his views. This is chilling.

Fuck you. You know what’s chilling? Saying women and doctors deserve to die because they choose to undergo a medical procedure you find abhorrent. That’s pretty damned chilling to any sort of civil discussion.

“You dare omit the nutmeg? Have at you, villain!”

Here’s the thing: there are venues and forums for every political, social, or religious view, no matter how extreme. If you believe Jews are actively plotting to destroy Christianity, there’s bound to be a place where that view can be discussed. If you believe nine-year-old boys are capable of consensual sexual experiences, there’s probably a place where you can discuss that. If you believe slavery is a legitimate social institution, I’m pretty sure you can find a forum where that view is welcome. If you believe people who eat meat should be locked up in a hog containment barn for a year, there are places where that view will be seen as legitimate. If you think it’s a mortal sin to omit nutmeg when serving eggnog, you can find a venue where that belief will be applauded.

But extremist views of any sort don’t belong in general social discourse. Extreme voices shouldn’t be silenced, but that doesn’t mean we’re obligated to hear them or accept them as legitimate. And if you think claiming women and their doctors deserve to be hung by the neck until dead is NOT an extremist view, then fuck you.

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in which i sorta lose my temper

I’d never heard of Kevin Williamson until a friend sent me a link to an opinion piece in the New York Time entitled The Outrage Over Kevin Williamson. Even though I’ve lost a lot of respect for the Times, and I generally avoid their opinion page these days, I read the piece. I wanted to know 1) who the hell is Kevin Williamson, and 2) who was outraged by him, and 3) why.

Bret Stephens

The editorial is written as an apologetic letter to Williamson by Bret Stephens, who I only know as a conservative political writer who opposes Comrade Trump. It begins with Stephens citing the reasons for the apology:

Sorry, first, that you have to endure having your character assailed and assassinated by people who rarely if ever read you and likely never met you. Sorry also that your hiring as a writer for The Atlantic has set off another censorious furor in media circles when surely there are more important subjects on this earth.

Okay, then. This guy Williamson, who has been offered a job writing for The Atlantic, is apparently having his character assassinated. That’s shameful. Nobody likes that, nobody is in favor of character assassination. So at this point in the editorial I’m feeling a bit of empathy for poor Williamson. Until I found out why there is a ‘censorious furor in media circles.’ Stephens writes:

The case against you, as best as I can tell, rests on three charges. You think abortion is murder and tweeted — appallingly in my view — that doctors and women should perhaps be hanged for it.

I may have set a North American speed record for shifting from empathy to censorious furor. This guy tweeted that women who have abortions and doctors who perform them ought to be hanged? Hanged?

Stephens lists a couple other reasons for that ‘censorious furor’ but really, why bother? I mean, that first reason alone is more than censorious furor-worthy. Hanged, for fuck’s sake. Hanged!

I don’t like abortion, as I’ve said elsewhere, but I completely support a woman’s right to choose. I can understand why a lot of folks disagree with me. I can also understand why a lot of folks would like to turn back the clock and make abortion illegal again, though I think they’re absolutely wrong. I can even understand (on a purely intellectual level) why some folks would think it necessary to criminally punish women and abortion providers. But hanging? Are you fucking kidding me? Hanging?

Stephens goes on:

[Y]our critics show bad faith when they treat an angry tweet or a flippant turn of phrase as proof of moral incorrigibility. Let he who is without a bad tweet, a crap sentence or even a deplorable opinion cast the first stone.

A flippant turn of phrase. Hanging women and doctors…just a bit of irreverent frivolity. I’ve written my share of crap sentences, and I know there are folks who think some of my opinions are deplorable. But you can hand me that first fucking stone, because if advocating hanging women and abortion providers isn’t proof of moral incorrigibility, then I don’t know what is. What kind of fucking madness is that? You know what really shows bad faith? Wanting to hang people for receiving or performing an absolutely legal medical procedure.

Kevin Williamson

Stephens finishes by chastising the people who don’t think The Atlantic should hire a guy who has advocated hanging women and abortion providers. He says,

[T]hey foreclose the possibility of learning something useful from someone smart. Learning does not require agreement. There’s a reason this section of the newspaper is labeled “Opinion,” not “Affirmation,” “Reinforcement,” or “Emotional Crutch.” Liberals used to know that. What happened?

What happened? I’ll tell you what happened, you pus-brained fuckwit. A lot of people have no interest in ‘learning’ the opinions of assholes like Kevin Williamson who think the appropriate response to terminating an unwanted pregnancy is to string women and their doctors up by their necks until they die. That’s what happened.

struck stone

Matt Damon is a pretty good actor. Dude doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up, but he’s a pretty good actor. And yeah, of course, he has the right to voice his opinion. In response to the #metoo movement, he apparently made the “spectrum of behavior” argument. That argument always sounds convincing and reasonable.

And hey, he’s right. Patting a woman on the ass isn’t as bad as rape. We acknowledge that some behaviors are worse than others. But that’s not the discussion we need to be having at this singular moment in time. Here’s the discussion we should be having:

Burn the patriarchal system to the ground. Burn it, pound the ashes into dust, scatter the dust, and salt the fucking earth. 

It’s far too late to have the Matt Damon discussion. This isn’t the time for the niceties of fine distinction. This isn’t the time to parse offenses, to weigh and balance behaviors. This isn’t the time to figure out whether twenty years of patting asses is as bad as, say, five instances of wanking in front of women who didn’t (or felt they couldn’t) voice an objection to it. 

This is the time to put the system to the torch. Burn it all, and if some lesser offenders get caught up in the pyre with the worst offenders, well that’s a shame. They’re all offenders. Will some innocent men also get caught up in the blaze? Yeah, sure they will. Bound to happen. Too fucking bad. All the women who were sexually harassed or assaulted, they were innocent too. If there’s One True Thing we all know, it’s that innocence won’t save you.

Years ago — it must have been in 1989 or 1990 — I was in graduate school, living in a rather dodgy part of Columbia Heights in DC (back then the entire neighborhood was pretty much dodgy). My apartment was a couple of blocks from All Souls Church, where Sweet Honey in the Rock were giving a concert. The opening act was an a cappella group of women from South Africa, and they sang a song called Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo. (Okay, I should admit I had to look that up; it was a long time ago, and while I remember the translation, I’d forgotten the actual words). This is what it means:

When you strike the women, you strike stone.

This is the year we’ve struck stone. And if we’re lucky, the sparks from that will start the fire that eventually incinerates the patriarchy.

what it’s come to

The deadliest mass shooting in a house of worship. That’s how the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas was described last night on the evening news. We’ve reached the point at which we find it necessary to categorize our mass shootings.

The deadliest mass shooting at a college campus, the deadliest mass shooting at a shopping mall, the deadliest mass shooting at a festival, the deadliest mass shooting at a public school, the deadliest mass shooting at a place of employment.

We’ve had two of these deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history within the last 35 days. In the 309 days of 2017 we’ve had 307 mass shootings (remember, not all mass shootings are mass murders). We’ve made mass shooting ridiculously easy to commit. Semi-auto weapons are readily available, high-capacity magazines can be found without any fuss, bump-stocks that permit even more rapid firing have become somewhat scarce because people bought them up after the Las Vegas massacre, bulletproof tactical gear — vests, helmets, masks, gloves, trousers — can be purchased online or very likely at some local shop. If you have an active credit card, you too equip yourself in the latest mass murderer style.

Ruger AR-556

And we don’t much care who can buy all that gear. Devin Patrick Kelley had no trouble buying a complete mass murder outfit, even though he’d been court-martialed for assaulting his wife and child, did a year in military detention, and got his ass kicked out of the Air Force. He also apparently had a misdemeanor conviction for cruelty to animals. Didn’t slow him down at all when it came to buying a semi-auto rifle. We make it easy because, you know, a man has to be able to protect his family in case some nut decides to start shooting up a church.

And hey, it’s just as easy to mourn the dead. A few thoughts, a few prayers, that’s all it takes. Oh, and the promise to remember the dead. Comrade Trump his ownself said this about the victims:

“All of America is praying to God to help the wounded and the families — we will never ever leave their side.”

Except that, yeah, we’ll absolutely leave their side. Of course, we will — just as soon as the next ‘deadliest mass shooting at a location to be determined’ takes place. Trump is always saying pointless shit like that. We “will never ever forget the beautiful lives that have been taken from us.” That was the eight people killed a few days ago as they rode bicycles down a bike path in Manhattan. And this: “We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting.” The hashtag, of course, because this was TwitterTrump. And again: “We mourn them, we honor them and we pledge to never, ever forget their names.” The victims and first responders who died on 9/11. And this: “So wonderful to be in Las Vegas yesterday and meet with people, from police to doctors to the victims themselves, who I will never forget.” Yeah, so fucking wonderful, I’m sure that’s what the victims of the Mandalay Bay shooting thought. And also this: “We will never forget the 241 American service members killed by Hizballah.” Sure, Donald.

First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas

Does anybody really believe Donald J. Trump remembers the names of any of the Pulse nightclub murders, or the names of the cyclists in Manhattan, or the names of any of the Marines who were killed in Beirut? Does anybody really think Trump was even aware of the Marines killed in Beirut in 1983 until a speechwriter coughed up that fact for a speech on terrorism?

We will always forget their names. Always. We will always leave their sides. Always. As a nation we will never remember for very long, because there’s always a brand new horror ready to crowd out the old one. The nine men and women slaughtered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015? Now they’re just victims of the second deadliest mass shooting in a house of worship. Nobody remembers who came in second.

I am sincerely sorry for the victims of the Sutherland Springs massacre. I’m gutted with hopelessness over their tragic, pointless deaths — just as I’ve been for so many other victims of so many other mass murders. I’m genuinely sorry, but I’m also disgusted. I suspect many (or most) of that Texas congregation voted for politicians who believe that this sort of routine shedding of innocent blood is the price we have to pay for our national firearm fetish. And you know what it says in the Bible. ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’

That’s a pretty grim, tough approach. The apostle Paul wasn’t a very forgiving guy. You broke it, you bought it. Me, I’m more inclined to take the Socratic tack; I prefer the gospel according to e e cummings.

and what i want to know is
how do you like your blue-eyed boy
Mister Death

fuckwits and cowards

We are a nation ruled by fuckwits and cowards. There are people in this nation who truly believe a continuing cascade of mass shootings is a reasonable price to pay for the freedom to…to what? To own a lot of guns? And there are politicians who know there are practical ways to reduce that body count, but are too afraid of losing their job to actually do anything about it. Fuckwits and cowards.

We can talk about honoring the first responders, but it’s all bullshit if we’re not going to even attempt to reduce the horrors they’re responding to. We can talk about honoring the dead, but fuck them — they’re dead and they can’t vote, and even if the families of the dead make a fuss they can’t outspend the National Rifle Association. We can talk about honoring the Constitution, but it’s just a head fake — we routinely shit on chunks of the other amendments. We can talk, but don’t for a minute believe talk will result in anything. It won’t. Not as long as we’re a nation ruled by fuckwits and cowards.

Here’s a sad thing: I can no longer sustain any outrage about the butcher’s bill. 20 second-graders dead, 32 college students dead, 50 gay folks dead, maybe more than 60 country music fans dead. They’re becoming meaningless numbers. Meaningless deaths. Because we all know we’re not going to do anything about it beyond muttering something about thoughts and prayers. They’re good at that, the fuckwits and cowards; they have a never-ending font of thoughts and prayers.

It’s not just the mass shootings, of course. Every day about a hundred people die by the gun. They’re not all murders; some of them are suicides, some of them are accidental, some of them are a result of negligence. The fuckwits believe those deaths are inevitable, which means the world is a dangerous place, which means they’re afraid all the time, and because they’re fuckwits they believe the only way to protect themselves from people with guns is to have guns themselves. The cowards know better, but they encourage that circular thinking because it helps them stay in power.

Fuckwits and cowards. And the rest of us? The rest of us are worn out. You can’t win an argument with a fuckwit because they’re fuckwitted. You can’t win an argument with a coward because cowards lie. Making arguments you know you can’t win is just fucking exhausting. And discouraging. And disheartening.

But damn it, we still have to do it. Call your members of Congress today. It won’t matter, but do it anyway. Why? Because there are a bunch of dead country music fans to go along with our dead gay folks and our dead college students and our dead second-graders and all the dead spouses and girlfriends and co-workers and children and neighbors and siblings and no matter how fucking tired we are, we can’t just stay quiet.

If we stay quiet, then we’re also fuckwits and cowards.

a very short conversation about health care

My friend: “I can’t believe what the Republicans did. They hate poor people.”
Me: “I dunno. Seems like it, doesn’t it.”
My friend: “Oh c’mon, they despise poor people.”
Me: “Naw, it’s more like the Republicans are Rick Blaine and poor folks are Signor Ugarte.”
My friend: “What?”
Me: “You know, like in the movie Casablanca.”
My friend: Casablanca? What the hell are you talking about?”
Me: “You’ve never seen Casablanca?”
My friend: “Well, yeah, of course I’ve seen it. But what’s Casablanca got to do with Republicans passing a hateful health care bill?”
Me: “Remember that scene? The one with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre?”
My friend: “Oh, yeah, right. He wants to search Bogart’s office, and he pulls a gun, but Bogie knocks him out and takes his gun and searches him, and when Peter Lorre wakes up, Bogart gives him back the gun, and Peter Lorre points it at him again and demands to search his office. Great scene.”
Me: “That’s from The Maltese Falcon.”
My friend: “Oh. Right. Sam Spade and…Peter Lorre.”
Me: “Joel Cairo.”
My friend: “What?”
Me: “Peter Lorre played Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon. In Casablanca he plays a guy named Signor Ugarte.”
My friend: “Okay. I’m still confused.”
Me: “What I’m saying…or trying to say…is that Republicans would probably despise poor people if they gave them any thought.”
My friend: “Okay. Wait, what?”
Me: “Congressional Republicans…and this is just my opinion…don’t care enough about poor people to think about them enough to actually despise them.”
My friend: “But if they did, they would.”
Me: “Exactly.”

corruption, probably, right?

A couple of days ago I responded to a comment about the ‘rampant corruption’ of the Clinton Foundation. Basically I said “What corruption? Show me the corruption. Show me anything like actual evidence that there’s corruption.” Because, you know, there wasn’t any corruption.

Today I got this in my email:

If theres no corruption how come the new york Times is writing about the corruption.

I’m not sure why this person refused to capitalize New York but did capitalize Times, but let’s just ignore that. There was a link to this article by Eric Lichtblau: Emails Raise New Questions About Clinton Foundation Ties to State Dept. That sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it. I mean, questions are being raised! Questions! So I read the article, on account of I wanted to find out what those ominous questions were and why they were raised. You might want to read the article your ownself, just to reassure yourself that I am NOT MAKING THIS UP.

Are you ready for this: Okay, here we go. A guy named Douglas J. Band, who’d worked as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and was still working for him as part of the Clinton Foundation, sent an email to Huma Abedin asking for diplomatic passports for himself and two other aides to Bill Clinton. They’d all held diplomatic passports during their earlier tenure at the White House. Abedin responded that the issue would be ‘figured out’. This is how Eric Lichtblau characterized the exchange:

Mr. Band did not explain in the email exchange why he and the others needed the diplomatic passports, and Ms. Abedin did not ask.

A mystery! Surely if everything was above-board, Band would have explained exactly why he and his buddies needed those passports, right? And if Abedin wasn’t complicit in this conspiracy, she’d have asked why they needed those passports, right? So obviously something untoward, possibly sinister, and certainly majorly corrupt is taking place here, right? Right?

Nope.

Band and the other two wanted those diplomatic passports because ordinary citizens can’t get into North Korea without them. Wait…what? North Korea? Why would these people want to go to North Korea? Obviously something untoward, possibly sinister, and certainly majorly corrupt is taking place here, right? Right?

Still nope.

Bill Clinton was on his way to North Korea to secure the release of two American journalists — Euna Lee and Laura Ling — who’d been falsely imprisoned as spies. The two women had been held for more than five months, and had just been sentenced by a North Korean court to serve twelve years at hard labor. Band and the others wanted to go along on the diplomatic rescue mission. Which is why they asked for the diplomatic passports. And since the State Department knew this rescue mission was going to take place, Band didn’t need to explain why they wanted the passports, and Huma Abedin didn’t need to ask them why the passports were needed.

clinton-gore-ling-lee

And guess what? Because nobody at the State Department could see any necessary reason for Band and the other two aides to accompany the former president, their request for diplomatic passports was denied. Which is why they’re not included in the photograph of two newly free journalists smiling and crying.

Got that? These guys asked for diplomatic passports in order to enter North Korea to help imprisoned journalists — and were denied. And how does the new york Times characterize this humanitarian request?

Emails Raise New Questions About Clinton Foundation Ties to State Dept.

New questions, my pale pink ass. There are NO questions at all to be raised about the Clinton Foundation or its ties to the State Department.

Here are some questions that should be raised: 1) Who the hell is Eric Lichtbrau? 2) How the hell is he employed as a journalist? And 3) What the fuck is wrong with the new york Times?