Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bernie's Kids Run For Office and It's Fine Because Bernie!

It would irritate me a lot less that Bernie Sanders' son and stepdaughter are running for office if Bernie fans and white male pundits wouldn't have spent the past two years telling Chelsea Clinton to go away, never run for office, and join her mother knitting socks in the woods as if wicked witches in a Grimm Fairy Tale.

It would also irritate me less if the Twitter presence of Levi Sanders', who is Bernie's son, wasn't the epitome of what's so profoundly offensive about the unfortunate phenomenon popularly known as Bernie-Bro-ism, the predominate features of which are the pretense that it's somehow progressive to take offense at the phrase "white privilege," to disparage Chelsea Clinton for being in a news article, and generally coddling the bigotries and misogyny of the (white, male) working class.

Levi is running for US House of Representatives for New Hampshire's 1st District (in which he doesn't live). His Twitter commentary has been garnering scrutiny since he announced his campaign, as Aphra Behn breaks it down, on Twitter:
His commentary is cringe-inducing, really.

In an interview with Vice, Levi has stated that he is running on a platform similar to his father's:
"'The basic difference is that I’m a vegetarian and he’s not,' Levi said of his father, adding that despite their policy similarities he would run his own campaign. Levi said he has talked to his dad about the race but declined to elaborate."
I don't have any particular investment in the New Hampshire race as ultimately it's up to the people who live in that district to decide who they want to represent them.

For me, as someone who has been critical of Bernie, the juxtaposition of Bernie with Levi is interesting in that it taps into my fears about what Bernie is possibly really like when he's uncensored and off camera. That Bernie Sanders has a history of dodging questions he doesn't want to address doesn't help my perception of him as hiding really problematic views.

Finally, as the mainstream media largely uncritically accepts that "the Bernie wing" of the US is far left and that "Clintonites" and Bernie critics are "centrists," Levi is a good example of how, on many issues, that's simply not the case.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

CPAC Crowd Boos Woman For Telling Truth

At last week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), conservative Mona Charen participated in a panel on the #MeToo movement. She wrote about the experience in a New York Times op-ed:
"...[T]his time, and particularly in front of this crowd, it felt far more urgent to point out of the hypocrisy of our side: How can conservative women hope to have any credibility on the subtext of sexual harassment or relations between the sexes when they excuse the behavior of President Trump? And how can we participate in any conversation about sexual ethics when the Republican president and the Republican Party backed a man credibly accused of child molestation for the United States Senate.

I watched my fellow panelists' eyes widen. And then the booing began."
Charen shares that uttering this truth was freeing, in a way, even though she was dreading the reaction. By her account, it seems as though the women on this CPAC #MeToo panel were perhaps supposed to be there to bash liberal feminist hypocrisy, rather than to truthfully acknowledge and critique the conservative men who have actually raped, harassed, and molested women and children.

What I want to note in relation to this event is that Trump ran on a message that he was a courageous truth-teller in a world gone mad with truth-repressing political correctness. Yet, at CPAC, when confronted with the reality that the Republican Party, evangelical Christians, and conservatives now openly aid and abet the political careers of sexual predators, possibly one of the most Trump-friendly crowds to assemble in the US couldn't handle it.

I remain convinced, as ever, that the real aim of modern-day conservatism is: "truth, unless it's inconvenient to white male domination."

As always, "deplorables"  and "half" was probably too kind.

Related, and regarding Donald's recent claim that he would've run into Stoneman Douglas High School unarmed to stop the shooting:

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Guide To the Simpsons' Political Beliefs

For whatever reason,* I couldn't stop thinking about this last night:

I even had a dream where I detailed the political stances of every Simpsons family member and so now I'm going to subject you, dear readers, to it.
  • Marge doesn't follow politics closely, but as someone who does not like cruelty, she is most certainly not a Republican. She was weirded out by Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, and ended up voting for Hillary.
  • Homer, while sometimes a dipshit, is only an asshole sometimes and so therefore would not have supported Trump. He liked that Bernie Sanders, having gotten sucked into the anger. but he forgot to vote in either the primary or the general election because he was hungover and/or got distracted by a donut sale.
  • Bart is a future libertarian bro, mildly sociopathic, and probably the only Simpson who would have voted for Trump (in his school's mock election, because he's a kid).
  • Lisa would have shown up to the mock elections wearing a white pantsuit, ready to the pull the lever for Hillary, obvs.
  • Maggie is a baby. Babies can't vote, or flirt for that matter.
  • Patty (who is a lesbian) and her sister Selma would have voted for Hillary, obvs.  

Yes, no?

*For whatever reasons = I've been watching The Simpsons since the early 1990s, have multiple season DVD box sets, used to own and play multiple The Simpsons video games, and might even still own "The Simpsons Sing the Blues" compact disc.

See also: Former Simpsons animator Anna Maltese's commentary on this important topic.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Free, Unsolicited Advice to White Male Democratic* Politicians

Over at Shakesville today, I offer some advice to white male Democrats, as well as a reminder that it might be unwise for them to overlook our current revived feminist movement.

Here's a snippet:
Politicians, advocates, and pundits talk a lot of populism these days, but rarely do so in the context of ordinary, everyday women. To be blunt, populism is most commonly used in association with white male anger. As purported default human beings, it is often assumed that the white male life experience is the universal, with everyone else's being particular.

Yet, if we accept that women are people, we are better able to understand that today's revived feminist movement is very much also a populist movement. You might not immediately recognize it as such because an angry white man is not leading it and angry white men are not at the center of it.
 Read the whole thing!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wayback Wednesday

Can you still even believe this shit?

Not only did Hillary Clinton tell us during a televised debate that Russia was interfering in the 2016 election, but Donald Trump openly and publicly encouraged Russia to do so. And yet, for unknown mystery reasons, people still widely perceived Donald to be more trustworthy than Clinton.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mueller Investigation Continues: Russians Indicted

The big news from last Friday is that the US Justice Department has charged 13 Russians and 3 companies in an indictment for conspiring to interfere in US electoral and political processes, including the 2016 election.

The full indictment can be read here, but here are some highlights of the charges:
  • One of the Defendants, the Internet Research Agency, registered as Russian corporation in 2013, occupied an office in St. Petersburg, Russia, and sought to conduct "information warfare against the United States of America" via false social media personas on social media platforms and the Internet.
  • The Defendants posed as U.S. persons on social media sites addressing "divisive U.S. political and social issues." These sites "reached significant numbers of Americans." For instance, one fake "Tennessee GOP" Twitter account obtained over 100,000 followers. And, I have a question about that right away: did the real Tennessee GOP not realize that someone had co-opted their Twitter presence? How does that happen?
  • Defendants and their co-conspirators used their fake personas to post content focusing on U.S. politics "and to 'use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump - we support them).'" Now, with respect to that, I think it's somewhat obvious why Russia would favor Trump: he's incompetent and they possibly have compromising information on him. But, why would they have supported Bernie Sanders? Did they support him primarily to undermine Hillary? Did they believe that, had he won, he would have been a weak/ineffective leader? How much of Bernie's oft-discussed "stunning" primary run was attributable to Russian interference? The mainstream media needs to pursue these answers, particularly if Sanders is planning a 2020 run.
  • Defendants communicated with and distributed materials to "unwitting" members of the Trump Campaign.
  • Defendants, via their social media personas, began alleging voter fraud on the part of the Democratic Party. Here I'll note that Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the 2016 election was being "rigged" against, or "stolen from," him. Bernie Sanders, for his part, has done little to disabuse the American public of the notion that the Democratic Primary was stolen from him, even though evidence to support that claim is lacking.
  • Some of the Defendants traveled to the U.S. to collect intelligence and meet with real U.S. persons.
  • After the election, the Defendants organized both pro- and anti-Trump political rallies. The aim with respect to these rallies seems to be to sow discord.
  • Defendants and their co-conspirators opened fraudulent bank and PayPal accounts to send money into and out of the United States to promote Internet Research Agency's operations and for enrichment.
In response, Donald Trump has stated on Twitter that that his campaign did nothing wrong.

Now, unless there's been a drastic change in legal procedure that I'm not aware of wherein Cadet Bone Spurs' Twitter denials automatically halt an investigation, Mueller's work will continue, for now.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tales In Fauxbjectivity: "Indian Marauders" Edition

My grand experiment of reading at least one biography of every US president slogs along at number five, James Monroe.

For this one, I'm reading The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call To Greatness, by Harlow Giles Unger.

Summary: Somebody save me from the uncritical fawning.

For instance, how can a thinking person take the following seriously, regarding the status of western expansion during the Revolutionary War (emphasis added):
"As primogeniture became the guiding principle of inheritance, thousands of disinherited Americans - usually younger sons of eastern farmers - stood poised to move west as soon as the American government cleared out Indian marauders and made the territory safe to inhabit and farm."
As far as I can tell, Unger uttered in complete earnestness this notion that Native Americans had somehow pre-stolen land that non-firstborn white men did not yet occupy but were nonetheless entitled to by virtue of their white male American-ness. It's so typically American: if white men create a system that disadvantages a proportion of other white men, but is still better than what they've arranged for white women and all people of color, we're supposed to sympathize with and relate first and foremost to the disadvantaged white men.

Add this one instance to the thousands of others in US history wherein white male Americans take from others what is not theirs to take. Multiply that by the thousands upon thousands of white male historians who uncritically repeat this entitlement-coddling perspective. Then, factor in those who teach this perspective and repeat it and share it and learn it and come to believe in it.

A very clear story of white male American entitlement takes shape.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Galentines Day

This is just to pop in and provide a very important Xena update:
Love to all the dykes on Twitter right now unashamedly sharing what the show meant to them back in the day.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Quote of the Day: The Tone From the Top

Dahlia Lithwick on Rob Porter, White House staff secretary and the latest powerful man revealed to be an abuser:
"Taken together, all the grown-ups in the room protected, privileged, and covered for Rob Porter despite everything they knew about his pattern of abuse, because his career was important to them. Even well-educated, high-status, articulate white women who were lawfully married to Porter didn’t matter enough to be taken seriously. 

Please stop asking why women don’t come forward. These women did. They believed that once the police, the FBI, the White House, and John Kelly knew what they knew, Porter would stop ascending in their ranks. They were wrong. 

Rob Porter’s father wrote eloquently about the presidency and 'a tone from the top.' The tone from the top of the Trump administration has unerringly been that women are to be cherished and protected right up until the moment they stop being docile and decorative, and then they are to be dismissed and humiliated. Rob Porter’s defenders knew everything they needed to know. They did nothing because he was visible to them and his accusers were nothing. But the tone comes from the top, and nobody should be even a bit surprised"
In case anyone has yet to connect the dots from the past year or so: Donald Trump is a misogynist who surrounds himself with other misogynists and he was supported by millions of Americans who are also misogynists who wanted to see a powerful woman humiliated when for daring to compete with a man for the same job.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dispatches From the Queer Resistance (No. 6)

Over at Shakesville, I have written a roundup of recent queer-related news.   

Spoiler Alert: It turns out that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not allies!

Check it out.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Russian Bots Still Influencing US Politics

If you're looking for an overview of how Russian bot activity is still ongoing, Molly McKew has written an important piece at Politco how bots, humans, and bot-human combos are gaming Twitter for purposes of changing political opinions and behavior.

That McKew's piece is written in the context of how bots have just recently massively amplified the pro-Trump #releasethememo hashtag on Twitter underscores that Russian agents continue to influence both US politics and the very narratives about Russia's influence on our politics.

Here are some key take-aways:

1) "Sleeper" bots are activated during particular political moments. Take bot account "KARYN" for instance:
"The KARYN account is an interesting example of how bots lay a groundwork of information architecture within social media. It was registered in 2012, tweeting only a handful of times between July 2012 and November 2013 (mostly against President Barack Obama and in favor of the GOP). Then the account goes dormant until June 2016—the period that was identified by former FBI Director James Comey as the beginning of the most intense phase of Russian operations to interfere in the U.S. elections."
2) Russian bots will follow legitimate pro-Trump Twitter users and then use a massive bot network to amplify the pro-Trump content produced by these legitimate users, with the goal of getting users with large followings (such as Laura Ingraham, who has over 2 million followers) to amplify and legitimize the messaging.

3) McKew refers to some bot accounts as "cyborg" accounts in that they are partially automated but actual humans are also organizing their behavior.

4) It is clear that at least some trending content is artificially popular because bots and human users are gaming Twitter.

5) The sort of activities that influenced the 2016 election are ongoing and political, security, and corporate leadership appear ill-equipped to handle it:
"A year after it should have become an indisputable fact that Russia launched a sophisticated, lucky, daring, aggressive campaign against the American public, we’re as exposed and vulnerable as we ever were—if not more so, because now so many tools we might have sharpened to aid us in this fight seem blunted and discarded by the very people who should be honing their edge. There is no leadership. No one is building awareness of how these automated influence campaigns are being used against us. Maybe everyone still thinks if they are the one to control it, then they win, and they’ll do it better, more ethically."
These activities will be ongoing for the US elections held in 2018 and 2020.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Femslash February: Mrs. Maisel

Okay, who is watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?

It's 1958.

First, we have Midge, a femme comedienne - inherently subversive, already - full of charisma, raw talent, smarts, and curiosity about the art. Midge has a loser husband who (is it a spoiler alert if it happens right away in the pilot?) steals comedy routines for his own use and has an affair because he's insecure about his lack of talent.

For that reason alone, he barely warrants mentioning. Yet, the more important reason I don't give a hoot about "the husband" is that Midge has the best chemistry with her friend/comedy tutor/agent, a butch gal named (wait for it) Sue.

And honeys, if ever a lez there was:

I love her.

What I adore most of all about Sue is that I know approximately 37 actual queer and/or butch women who have Sue's exact persona (although only a few of them are actually named Sue).  

Look at the suspenders, pageboy hat, slacks with tucked-in shirt, and keys on a chain around her neck (definitely NOT a necklace, but what are they keys to? where do they fit? what do they open?). Notice the way she looks at Midge, whether they're drinking Schlitz together or Midge is on stage doing a routine. Observe Sue's dry humor, which she clearly uses to mask her discomfort about showing any feelings that might be construed as "affectionate" or "letting someone in." Is it self-preservation? This is the 1950s, after all. But, will Midge, one day, unlock the stony walls around Sue's heart?

We get a lot of Midge/Susie subtext. I like to think it's intentional and Amy Sherman-Palladino is somewhat making up for the lack of queer characters in Gilmore Girls. Although, it's also 2018, so throw us a real bone, eh?

I can see it now: Sue books Midge to perform at Lezzies, and afterwards they drink dry martinis with Carol, Terese, and Abby (who are now in a poly relationship, obvs).

Happy Femslash February, y'all!