6/23/2021

Manchin and Sinema Made Promises to Their Voters That They Refuse to Keep

After yesterday's 50-50 vote killing the For the People Act because a Republican filibuster prevented it from even being debated, let alone voted on, I was ready to write another piece raging about feckless Democrats and their inability to get things done, even when they have both houses of Congress and the presidency. But every time I thought it through, I came up against one pretty solid wall built by Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia and their declarations that they will not vote to do away with the filibuster, which will affect every bill from now until Republicans take back over the Senate and almost definitely ditch the filibuster when a Republican is president. Sure, sure, we can say that President Joe Biden could try some kind of LBJ-like threats and/or cajoling to get them to change. But that's not going to happen. Screaming against that wall is kind of useless. So lemme zag instead of zigging:

Sinema and Manchin have taken an untenable position on the filibuster because it puts them in the position of lying to their constituents about a whole lot of the promises they made when they last ran for office in 2018. 

For instance, Manchin's campaign website explicitly says, "America’s infrastructure is deteriorating, and too many roads and bridges in West Virginia are falling apart. Joe wants to put West Virginians to work updating and modernizing infrastructure." And in the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act, which is set to be voted on by the entire House of Representatives, West Virginia gets earmarks worth in the neighborhood of $35 million in specifically budgeted infrastructure projects, all requested by Republican members of Congress from the state, Carol Miller and David McKinley. That seems pretty damn bipartisan.

When it comes to broadband, Manchin was even more enthusiastic for helping a state that has the third-worst access in the country. His website says, "He’s fighting to expand high-speed broadband access in the Mountain State because it’s essential that businesses, entrepreneurs, and students are connected to the world and have the tools they need to compete in the global economy. Currently, 500,000 West Virginians do not have access to broadband internet. Joe believes that West Virginia requires expanded internet access in order to create new jobs, better train our workforce, and build a brighter future for West Virginians. Senator Manchin refuses to allow rural communities to be left behind due to lack of broadband access." 35 of WV's 52 counties don't have broadband internet. So, yeah, you'd think the state's senators would want to do something about that.

The infrastructure bill that Biden proposed, which has been the subject of negotiations cutting it deeper and deeper, has $100 billion to expand broadband access across the country. West Virginia's Republican Governor Jim Justice has said he welcomes the spending in his state. As he said about the bill, "I have more wishes and hopes than I have concerns." Other Republicans in West Virginia support the bill, too. Once again, the desire to improve the lives of West Virginians is bipartisan. 

This could go on. Manchin made promises about education. The Biden's proposal, the American Jobs Plan, has $100 billion for construction and upgrades to public schools. Manchin made promises about better health care and better care for veterans, also specifically in there. And considering the water issues in his state, you'd think Manchin might welcome the spending on clean drinking water. 

None of these are controversial. All of them have bipartisan support beyond the Senate. 

And we could do the same thing for Kyrsten Sinema. She's taken down most of her campaign website, but Archive.org is forever. Although, it's perhaps poignantly symbolic that the "Priorities" page now says "Not Found." But, her website once said, "She’s worked across the aisle to help family farmers, supported expanding rural broadband, and fought to protect community health centers that are so vital to rural Arizona." Sinema's a bit different from Manchin because she emphasized, time and again, that she would "reach across the aisle" to "get things done." 

The question for Sinema is if aisle-reaching is more important than, say, the $92 million in earmarks for Arizona roads and bridges in the INVEST in America Act in the House. Or the billions in other spending for Arizona in the American Jobs Plan. This is spending that would benefit all Arizonans, who, you know, have to vote for Senator in 2024. What's more important to them? That Sinema held the line on the filibuster? Or that they got more jobs, better broadband, and improved health care, among other things?

Even by her own standard that she laid out for voters, Sinema fails. On her website, it said, "We believe that delivering results is more important than scoring political points. That’s why Kyrsten will work with anyone – regardless of party – who’s serious about getting things done for everyday Arizonans." If she believes that the vote-blocking Republicans are "serious about getting things done" at this point, she's either owned by someone or delusional (or, yes, both - you can safely put away the little girl gif). But if Sinema believes "delivering results" really is "more important than scoring political points," then, it seems, the only result she cares about is preserving the filibuster. And that's just about scoring political points because it accomplishes nothing more.

Manchin and Sinema made explicit promises about what they wanted to do while in office. And the only people who are preventing them from fulfilling those promises are Manchin and Sinema. They will need to go home and explain why an anti-majoritarian Senate rule is more important than jobs, safe drinking water, bridges that don't break, and decent health care, especially for seniors and veterans. 

You want them to change their minds? Forget about raging. Go full court press in their home states. Remind voters of what they stand to lose.

6/18/2021

How a Story From a Middle Tennessee College Is Really About Our American Apocalypse (Part 2): The Mascot and the Damage Done

(Note: It's been a while since Part 1 of this story about how two professors protesting Turning Point USA starting a student group at their school, Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, turned into a question of employee rights and a minor cause for right-wing media. But that's because a few events have occurred that I won't be able to expand on until Part 3. For now, enjoy Part 2.)

Another place this whole story could start is with the damned mascot because the mascot battle is what led to the flyer battle.

Right now there's a long-running conflict going on in Cookeville, Tennessee, over the mascot of one of the local schools. Algood Middle School students and staff call themselves "the Redskins," complete with a Native American in full chief headgear featured on the front page of the school's website. Hell, the website is a big, farting "Screw you, snowflakes," since its url is "algoodredskins.com." After a push last year and into early this year, including a vote in the mascot's favor by the Putnam County school board, the name is staying, and the defense of it is pretty stunning. According to one online petition, the mascot is "a Native American depiction of a strong Warrior. It upholds and honors the many Native Americans who lived in Tennessee and were forced out. The word 'redskin' is not negative or derogatory." 

And if you think that last line there is blindingly ignorant, like in a "guns don't kill people" kind of  deranged and stupid way, the petition goes on, "Mascots and names of local schools are being changed to reflect the flavor of today. To satisfy a passing fad of erasing our past to build one of hate and destruction." Beyond the atrocious syntax, their "logic" is that a derogatory word is not derogatory and it's "hate" to say we should get rid of it because of course they think it is. 

By the way, the Redskin chief mascot represents the middle school. The elementary school, no joke, is the Braves. I mean, if you're gonna crap on a people, you may as well empty your bowels. 

By the way, local Native American activist Sayota Knight said, as you might expect, yeah, that's racist. "How can a board that professes inclusiveness with anti-discriminatory policies, allow this offensive, racist term to be their mascot?" he wrote in the Nashville newspaper. Knight has lived in Putnam County for over 25 years, and he regularly is invited to teach about Native American culture at public schools there. On May 1, Sayota and the Tennessee Indigenous Coalition had a protest and march through Cookeville against racist mascots, among other activism and attention to the issue by the very people who the mascot's supporters believe they're "honoring."

Now, how does this connect to the story of Julia Gruber and Andrew Smith and their conflict with AJ Donadio? During that February school board meeting, a committee was proposed to look into changing the mascot. When it failed to get any support, Donadio, who, as mentioned in Part 1, is also a county commissioner, clapped and yelled in approval. Gruber had been one of the parents spearheading the mascot change, and it just galled her that one of her fellow professors and an elected official was cheering for racism. That's when she contacted Smith to talk about Donadio at the meeting. As Gruber wrote to me, "A few hours later, he sent me a copy of the flyer and I thought it was accurate." And then they decided to put up the flyers. 

Make of that what you will. You can certainly see it as a seemingly disconnected response to losing a fight at a public meeting. You can see it as justified, as a return of fire, if you will, against someone who supports a racist mascot and a racist organization (in case you didn't read Part 1, Donadio, a nursing professor, is the faculty advisor for the TPUSA chapter at TTU). 

But that would ignore a whole bunch of other history. Now, we could go all the way back to the early 20th century, when TTU was founded as Dixie College. Or we could talk about Dixie Avenue, which goes through town and right by the university. Instead, let's focus in on more recent events. 

See, being liberal in a place like Cookeville isn't easy, as I'm sure many of you know who live in places where you feel like someone is always thinking of gunning you down for your Bernie bumper sticker. And that means that every action you take as a liberal is treated with suspicion, and when that suspicion is compounded by right-wing media losing its mind over something like Black Lives Matter and when you know the vast majority of your neighbors buy into that propaganda, well, you're gonna face some resistance.

For instance, Smith advised a youth group organizing a BLM rally. This was one of several groups who wanted to stage events protesting the mistreatment of Black Americans by police in early June 2020. It was looking like it was going to be a larger, more organized event, but the actual KKK threatened violence if it went forward.  Cookeville has a Black population of about 5% of the total. The purpose of the event was to show support for that community, as well as for the larger movement that was growing in the wake of George Floyd's murder. For the sake of safety, several of the groups canceled. But others, like the high school and college kids, persevered. There were still multiple events, including a June 6 rally in the town square of over 200 protesters. At one event prior to June 6, a small group, primarily high school students, held signs and chanted in the square. And self-proclaimed members of the KKK showed up. And one of them actually choked one protester who exclaimed, "Fuck the KKK," which is an objectively correct thing to say. This really happened. It was caught on video. So even after direct threats and violence by the KKK, on June 6, a couple of hundred people still made sure their voices were heard.

Of course, there's more to this because I didn't even mention how the FBI showed up to question Smith and the organizers of the protest rally. Yeah, actual FBI agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force knocked unannounced on the doors of four citizens of Cookeville to ask them if they "knew anyone in Antifa or had heard anything about Antifa coming to Cookeville." The agents indicated they had read private posts on Facebook, you know, those ones that aren't public and only your "friends" are supposed to be able to see. One thing I love about Andrew's response is that he was a total, preaching prick to the authorities who came to his house. But one organizer, Katy, dropped out for fear of what would happen to her, a fear that was totally justified considering that "agents turned up unannounced at Katy’s work, pulling her off the job and into a large truck in the gravel parking lot to question her about her connections to the upcoming rally and to antifa." Katy said, "I really thought I was going to lose my job. The whole experience was terrifying." And I'd be terrified, too.

You have to understand this atmosphere to understand where the flyer and the animosity towards TPUSA that got Gruber and Smith in trouble came from. You have to understand that social media in the town was inundated with warnings that busloads of leftist activists were about to pour into town and riot. You have to understand that there is a private Facebook group called "Protect Cookeville From Looters" with over 1600 members that is a hotbed of derision of BLM and paranoia about protests. You have to understand that a monument to Confederate soldiers was erected in 2004 at the town cemetery. Yes, 2004. It is dedicated "to the greatest fighting force ever assembled," a sentiment that is perhaps belied by the fact that it lost. You have to understand that Cookeville is not just a Trump town; it's a TRUMP town, filthy with MAGA, where every weekend lines of cars and trucks would drive up and down the main drag waving Trump signs in the run up to the election, where to express anything that wasn't Trump-worship was seen as traitorous. 

Gruber and Smith weren't being activists in a vacuum, and they are certainly not the only kickass leftist activists in this Trumpiest of places. They decided to act when the racists decided to proudly proclaim themselves at their place of work. Of course, one cannot be silent about that. Of course, they have received death threats, harassment, the possibility of sanction at their jobs, and, in Smith's case, the loss of one of his jobs.

(In Part 3, I'll get into that and into one of the great ironies of the whole situation: Gruber and Smith were placed on TPUSA's Professor Watchlist.)

6/16/2021

Conservatives Believe That Critical Race Theory Will Teach Our Children Too Much Truth (Part 2: Fear of a Non-White Country)

(Part 1 concentrated on Florida's new anti-critical race theory/1619 Project rule.)

The Citizens for Renewing America have a booklet for you: Combatting Critical Race Theory In Your Community (yeah, they use the British spelling of "combating"). As the subtitle says, it's "An A to Z Guide On How To Stop Critical Race Theory And Reclaim Your Local School Board," although it doesn't actually go from A to Z on anything. So it's already lying to you. 

According to the "Guide," critical race theory is coming after you to hijack all your institutions: "The fact is that proponents of this radical ideology will attempt to take over your cultural institutions, including all educational institutions." How is it going to do that? By telling you that "because racism is embedded in every single part of the system including anything from laws, to morality, to culture, to healthcare, and even science, racism is everywhere—no matter what anyone thinks. The way society operates is racist," which, let's be honest, is fucking true. That's the hilariously depressing part of this: these anti-CRT, anti-1619 Project assholes tell you that the truth isn't true. 

Now, I know you're wondering, "Why, how will I know if my precious white child is being subjected to the jungle madness that is critical race theory if they don't specifically say that heinous phrase?" Well, shitty parent of a kid who is going to grow up to hate you, there are certain buzzwords you should look out for. In fact, there's a big motherfuckin' list of 'em. They include, no shit, "equitable," "multiculturalism," "racial prejudice," and "anti-racism." Yes, there are some loaded words and phrases, but I don't think anyone is using "identity deconstruction" in little white Todd's 4th grade social studies class. 

(Side note: What's with these culture warriors and their problem with ideas or people that are "anti" something awful? How is it bad to be "anti-racist"? Or "anti-fascist," for that matter? It's like they're saying, "Don't tell us the shit we believe is wrong. You're wrong for telling us we're wrong about our wrongness." Really, I'm just saying they're a bunch of cowardly, brainless garbage fuckers on the right.)

If you're thinking, "Okay, this shit can't get any weirder and crazier," oh, you are mistaken. Because, see, this bullshit shifts from warning you about the horrors of your kid learning that Black and brown people have been treated like shit throughout American history to a completely nutzoid, paranoid rant about the CRT soldiers fucking up your nice, white society: "Once the Critical Race Theory activists show up, they will do everything in their power to take over your school, church, mosque, synagogue, club, business, government, police service, hospital, and any other institution you can think of. They will not always come as wolves in wolves’ clothing. Often, they will come as sheep, pretending to be articulate, reasonable, and moderate thought leaders. But with just an ounce of power, they will move surreptitiously and artfully to implement destructive CRT dreams into reality. It is incumbent on parents to always be on their guard and not invest power or potential in those who could do their children harm...They will stop at nothing...They are not trying to win an academic debate, they are attempting to socially replace you."

I read that and thought, "You hysterical motherfuckers, we just want kids to be taught that racism is real and it's been part of our history. Is that so fucking hard? Does that make baby Washington cry? Fuck off." And I thought, "Damn, they really don't want Black people teaching their kids."

But this is the tiger that conservatives have decided to unleash to tear into the heart of any burgeoning unity that the country might have over things like voting rights or gun laws or economic justice or, really, just about any fucking thing that Republicans don't want. They create a socialist/Marxist/Negro/Islamic babadook to haunt anyone who might want to think beyond their prejudices and actually make the nation stronger. "Oh, fuck that Joe Biden," they want voters to say. "Fuck those Democrats. Sure, they may want to give us supplemental income to help lift our children out of poverty, but not at the cost of our white souls!" Racism is the convenient cudgel of conservatism.

Yesterday in Texas (motto: "Your guns will keep you cool when the power goes out again"), Gov. Greg "People with Disabilities Can Be Assholes, Too" Abbott signed an anti-critical race theory/1619 Project bill into law, and, like those in other states, it's a confusing pile of contradictions and hyperbole. For instance, it requires that students learn about Ona Judge, George Washington's slave who escaped her bondage, and Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's enslaved rape victim, as well as Frederick Douglass's newspaper, the North Star, the Fugitive Slave Acts, and other documents related to Black life before and during the Civil War. The students have to learn about the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act and the Civil Rights Movement. They have to learn "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong."

However, teachers are supposed to give lessons in these things while adhering to the second part of the law, which says that they can't teach that "with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality." So, just to get this right, you're supposed to teach how, for most of the history of this country, Black people were either enslaved or denied rights, but you have to lie and say that's a "deviation," "betrayal," or "failure," not the reality that "This is America."

And you cannot do anything that might cause "an individual [to] feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's race or sex." So if you teach your class that white people in Texas were some of the lynching-est motherfuckers in the nation after the Civil War and that makes Todd feel like shit and he tells his MAGA mama, you might get in trouble. 

Oh, and you very specifically cannot, no way, no how, "require an understanding of The 1619 Project." Yeah, it's that fucking clear in it's "fuck you, libcucks."

That booklet I talked about up top also offers tips for getting teachers and others at the school to narc out the CRT supporters, as well as how to run for school board so that the loyal (white) Americans can run the joint. That's become an entire insane movement, with the group No Left Turn (god, they are so dunderheaded in their names) leading the way.

And it's continuing, with more states passing laws and more states teeing up laws, because this is the new hysteria. This is the new "transgender people will fondle your children in the restroom" or "Shariah law is coming for your pork" or "violent video games cause people to murder" kind of fake controversy. And it's not like this is something the fuckers have studied. Over in Alabama, a reporter actually asked a state legislator who is sponsoring a bill banning the teaching of critical race theory in his state what the fuck it is. And, of course, the dumb fuck didn't know. That's because you're not gonna know unless you take a course in it because "critical race theory" doesn't mean "all that black shit that makes my white ass look bad." It means something pretty goddamn precise

This is part of the backlash to Black Lives Matter. It is a reaction to legitimizing the pain and oppression of non-white people. It is the fearful squeal of a hegemonic whiteness that is seeing its power diminish as the United States becomes a non-white country, the crepuscule of a dominance that cannot continue. The shift to that non-white USA is going to happen, as it should. The only question is how much of this hateful bullshit are we going to have to wade through to get to the truly equitable, multicultural, anti-racist dawn.

6/10/2021

Conservatives Believe That Critical Race Theory Will Eat Our Children (Part 1)

Today, Thursday, in Florida (motto: "America's laboratory of backwards ass fucknuttery"), the state Board of Education voted that, when it comes to American history, "Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and the contributions of women, African American and Hispanic people to our country." Now that doesn't sound unreasonable. In fact, it sounds downright progressive. 

But this is Florida, which is led by screeching shitbird Ron DeSantis and the BOE is filled with craven lackeys who will suck whatever conservative scrotums are dangled in their ignorant faces. So, of course, they dickishly added to the rule for public schools, "Examples of theories that distort historical events and are inconsistent with State Board approved standards include the denial or minimization of the Holocaust, and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons. Instruction may not utilize material from the 1619 Project." Now, as these things go, that's not actually a terrible definition of critical race theory. Obviously, though, to the scrotum suckers on the BOE, acknowledging the reality of racism's role in the development of this country is a bad thing. 

However, here's one other thing they added: "Instruction must include the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments." You see the problem here? The U.S. Constitution, which must be taught, contained the Three-Fifths Compromise, where slaves were counted as only, you know, 60% of a person for the sake of congressional representation. That's racism fucking embedded in the fucking founding document of the fucking country. I'm not even sure how the fuck you would teach about slavery or the civil rights movement without discussing how American society and the legal system were all about reifying white supremacy and shitting on Blacks and other non-whites.

In a goddamn PowerPoint presentation at today's DOE meeting, the blithering cockheads who support this asserted, "The amended rule will protect students from being influenced or indoctrinated to think a certain way" and "The classroom is not an appropriate place for any adult to espouse their personal beliefs and ideologies." And if you're like me, your brain is twisting itself into a ball of psychotic rage over the hypocrisy of forcing teachers to lie about American history and then claiming that it's not imposing an ideology on or indoctrinating students. 

You want your mind to complete break down? This amended rule "Ensures our students receive classroom instruction that is both factual and objective and that significant historical events are not intentionally or unintentionally distorted," as the PowerPoint from the Bowels of Ignorant Hell reads. 

Teachers' unions and groups were quick to point out that nowhere in Florida public schools is critical race theory taught. Why? Because it's a motherfucking academic theory that you might learn when you're a goddamn graduate student. You might as well say, "Stop teaching Derrida to second-graders, you bastards." But critical race theory has become shorthand for "teaching students the truth we're trying to hide from them" or, to put it in GOP-speak, "liberals hate America." As DeSantis put it, those who espouse critical race theory are "teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other," which is just fucking dumb and incendiary, and dumb motherfuckers gobble it up like it's kibble from Donald Trump's ass. 

Honestly, so much of this is bound up in an attack on the 1619 Project because it says, "Fuck your bullshit history whitewash," and that scares the shit out of white people. Jesus fuck, so many white people can't even give up Columbus, that genocidal maniac. Tell them that they benefited from centuries of white oppression of other races (which seems pretty fuckin' obvious), and they're gonna explode with idiot rage. Too fucking bad. Facts are facts and grown-ups accept that shit. Children get mad at reality they can't change.

But, hey, exploiting the rubes is all the Republican Party has anymore. So we're getting laws and rules passed in Tennessee, Texas, Idaho, and elsewhere, all banning critical race theory and all reacting to a supposed crisis that is completely fucking nonexistent. How nonexistent? In Loudoun County, Virginia, at a school board meeting this week, parents were freaking the fuck out over critical race theory and it didn't fucking matter that the superintendent kept saying that it's not being taught. But because the school system came up with an "equity plan" based on an assessment of the racial climate at the district's schools, and because shitstains in conservative media say that "equity" is the same as telling white kids that they're pieces of garbage, the parents lost their goddamn minds. By the way, Loudoun County isn't some rural, poor district. It's a rich suburb of Washington, DC, one that has a fucked-up racial history, but it proves that rubes and racists exist at all income levels. 

While part of what's going on here is that screeching about critical race theory distracts from the fucking failures of the GOP in so many places, it's actually a great deal more than that. It is the vile heart of modern conservatism in action. More on that next week. 

6/08/2021

The Sinking of the Bipartisanship Manchin

It's a pretty great joke that Senator Joe Manchin, putative Democrat, has pulled on the country and, especially, on the people of his state, West Virginia. It's honestly irrelevant at this point whether Manchin actually believes the shit he's shoveling about the need "to seek bipartisan compromise no matter how difficult and to develop the political bonds that end divisions and help unite the country we love," as he wrote in his laughably dumb opinion piece for the Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper (motto: "We're trying so damn hard to save you idiots, but you keep voting for the people who poison our goddamn water and keep you hooked on opioids. Did you even read our reporting? Fuck."). 

But what matters is that he has created a lovely myth about Democrats and Republicans working together that makes absolutely no sense on a basic logical level. That's the joke. All over the country, Republicans, without the votes of Democrats, are making it harder, sometimes ludicrously so, for Democrats to vote, especially non-white Democrats. They are doing that to assure Republican (and, let's be honest, white) control of not just the states, but of the federal government, especially the presidency. Manchin says that he opposes the For the People Act, which, while not the greatest piece of legislation, would restore some semblance of sanity to the nation's voting laws, despite cosponsoring it in 2019. And he says that it's because Republicans oppose it that he can't support it. You got that?

However, and continue to follow this shitstream of consciousness here, but he will support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (which essentially unfucks what John Roberts' Supreme Court fucked by ripping the teeth out of the Voting Rights Act) because one Republican, Lisa Murkowski, supports it, and that he thinks he can get more Republicans on board, which, of course, he hasn't and he won't, at least not 10 of those depraved fucks. And why would they vote for it? They benefit from the extravagantly fucked new laws being masturbated into full release by the nutzoid state legislatures. It's like telling the Nazis in 1941, "Hey, we won't defend our allies if you don't say it's cool to do so." It's fucking embarrassingly laughable. 

But Manchin doesn't give a fuck. He's reached that lazy point in his late career where he's had his lips pressed to corporate asses for so long that he can't breathe without Wall Street farts in his face. The man is rich, and his chances of getting reelected again are spiraling into the Trumpian paradise that West Virginia is. There's no sense in acting like he can somehow make Republicans give up their complete intransigence, which they've had since Barack Obama was elected. So it's just what he fucking knows. And it sure smells kind of racist.

It's so goddamned frustrating because we can sit here and say, "Well, why can't leadership lean on him? Why can't he be stripped of committee assignments? Why are Democrats so feckless?" And the answer is that we fucking need Manchin, galling as that is, because without him, Republicans control the Senate, and that way lies madness. I could go a long fucking time without hearing Lindsey Graham squawking about how unfair it is to help poor people and migrants or holding Hunter Biden/Burisma hearings from now until 2024 as the chair of a committee, like it's Benghazi times Monica Lewinsky levels of outrage.

Meanwhile, we have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who always looks like he just found his wife's big, black dildos, not just saying that he wants to block President Biden's agenda, but, as he said today, that he doesn't support the John Lewis Voting Rights act because "There's no threat to the voting rights law. It's against the law to discriminate in voting based on race already. And so I think it's unnecessary." In other words, democracy can just suck his pruney balls. 

But the other joke of the whole fucking thing is that even as Manchin stays a Democrat, without his vote, it will be almost impossible to get anything passed, whether it's through reconciliation or a majority-vote Senate. If Manchin balks on using reconciliation to pass an infrastructure bill, then it's fucked, even though that's allowed by the goddamn rules he supposedly worships. Get rid of the filibuster, and, yeah, it's entirely possible that Republicans might vote for something when they're forced to vote for it. But it's also entirely possible that some Democrats get skittish about progressive shit because they believe fuckery like the Wall Street Journal saying that Manchin's a fucking genius and is playing chess and is saving Democrats' majorities because people don't want progressive legislation, even though that legislation has supermajority support in polls. 

By the way, you know what else is massively popular? The For the People Act. You know where it's massively popular? Fucking West Virginia

I don't know how to make Manchin have his come-to-Jesus moment, but I think it's more likely to get Romney or Murkowski or, hell, even Bill Cassidy to come on board for infrastructure and thus pleasure Manchin. It'll be half-assed compared to what a unified Democratic vote could have gotten, so that's extra fucking special. But on voting rights? If bipartisanship were a boat named for Manchin, that fucker is going down, but it's gonna drag a whole lot of us down with it.

There's supposedly a ghost in West Virginia called "Screaming Jenny," and her story is a tragic metaphor for so much. Back in the 1800s, the railroad left abandoned storage sheds along its line, and in the town of Harper's Ferry, poor people would live in those sheds. One of them in the late 1800s was a kind women named Jenny. She had no family, and she fell on hard times and had to leave her home and live in the shed. In the cold winter, she kept a fire going in her shed, and, legend goes, one night sparks from the fire ignited her skirt and set her aflame. In a panic, she ran out onto the train tracks towards the station, seeking help, but she was screaming and engulfed in flames and didn't know that the train was bearing down on her. Yep, the train hit poor Jenny and finished the job the fire had started. The train stopped, and the conductor and others found her still burning, mangled body. They doused the flames, and she was buried in a pauper's grave. A month later, another train was coming into Harper's Ferry when the engineer slammed on the brakes upon seeing a figure that looked like a person on fire. When he looked for a body, none was found. The stationmaster told the engineer about Jenny, figuring that her ghost must have returned. Even today, engineers claim they still see the flaming, screaming Jenny on the anniversary of her death.

Your metaphor mileage may vary, but in my most despairing moments, I kind of feel like Democrats are Jenny, forced into the shed, catching on fire, and running madly into doom. And the worse part is that we had hoped going into 2021 that we'd be putting the GOP into the ground. 

6/02/2021

A Couple of Observations on the Republican War on Democracy

Observation 1: Most religions have a great tautological scam going: Faith means believing in God, Jesus, Allah, or another invisible sky wizard even in the absence of evidence. Oh, sure, you can say that your book of faith that was written centuries ago by drunk monks proves some things, but it doesn't, any more than comic books prove the existence of superheroes. And maybe you can point to a miracle or two, but even those are mostly easily debunked. Despite there being no tangible, demonstrative proof that the aforementioned sky wizard is real, people are still willing to fight each other over which sky wizard is bigger and more magical or to use their sky wizard to justify barbaric cruelties.

Yet, as stupid as all that seems, it makes more sense than the millions of Americans who believe that the 2020 election was stolen. Why? Because you also can't prove that God doesn't exist (yeah, yeah, proving a negative, I know), and that's what gives the faithful cover for their faith. When it comes to the Big Lie, the proof that it wasn't stolen, that there was virtually no voter fraud, that Joe Biden won fair and square and it really wasn't all that close overall doesn't matter at all. Facts, observable and verified and supported by everyone with any authority and/or expertise, are beside the point. Faith in the absence of evidence is one thing. Faith in the face of evidence that clearly demonstrates your faith is a lie is, to put it mildly, fucking frightening and fucking madness. 

That's what makes this whole fight against the Cult of the Big Lie so frustrating. It's not like the evidence of a legitimate election is even open for interpretation. To disagree about it is like arguing with someone who looks at an ocean and says it's dry sand. At some point pretty quickly, you wanna say, "Okay, motherfucker, step on in," while you hope they don't drag you with them because they're gonna insist they're walking on solid ground until they drown. 

As I've said before, you can't argue with someone who refuses to accept that reality is real. They are, for lack of a more articulate term, sick. Perhaps even actually mentally ill. I don't say that lightly. What else can you say about people who believe a fantasy to the point that they are willing to commit violence over it? The thing is that one day the most fervent are going to want their belief to be put into action. And I think that the full danger is that Democrats are not just underestimating how much Republicanism is about rigging democracy, but they are not getting just how many legitimately sick people there are.

In other words, we are dealing with a Trump-induced hysteria, one that plays into every fear that conservatives, both the craven opportunists and the true believers, have warned their followers about for years, one that takes all their fears of non-whites and socialists (whatever the fuck they think that means) and abortions and non-Christians (because that fucking sky wizard is always in the mix) and LGBTQ people and wraps it in a big package with QAnon bow that says, "Of course they had to destroy the one man who was going to save us all." And, of course, in the face of that, a coup is horribly logical to keep that fantasy of white Christian supremacy alive.

You're not going to solve any of this by trying to play nice. It's not possible. It's the quickest path to letting these fuckers take over without a fight. 

Observation 2: If things were reversed, and one day it's pretty likely they will be, and Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House, and Democrats were blocking the GOP's agenda that they got elected on from being passed in the Senate, the filibuster would be shitcanned in a heartbeat. Hell, even if Democrats weren't blocking anything, the GOP would shitcan it because that's what dicks do, and the Republican Party right now is just a bag of dicks, more dickish than they've ever been in my lifetime, quite frankly, probably because they used to keeps their dicks in their pants and pretend they were doing things for some demonstrably real reason. Now? Fuck it. They've just got 'em whipped out and they're wavin' them around, daring you to tell 'em to put 'em away.

Yes, it's technically majority control, even if Republicans represent a significantly smaller part of the population, especially in the Senate, than Democrats, and even if the President only wins the electoral college and not the popular vote. Even in that terrifying moment, some on the left are optimists. The elimination of the filibuster would force Republicans to actually vote down bills that are popular. Although, more likely, a GOP Majority Leader just wouldn't bring them up for a vote at all, like what was done during the Obama administration by Mitch McConnell, who has the expression of someone who knows he sharted himself but is hoping there's no leakage.

Even more likely, a GOP congressional majority with a GOP president would immediately pass laws that would shape how the nation votes and assure that Democrats can't win a majority again. Those kinds of laws might include giving state legislatures the right to overturn elections or making it easier for them to do so. It might include stringent i.d. laws and restrictions on how and when people can vote and when they can register and so much more. If you don't believe that fucking up voting would be top of a Republican majority agenda, you have been asleep for the last six years. 

And while this is, yes, about Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema's bizarre (and perhaps even suspicious) insistence on preserving the filibuster, which isn't in the Constitution, it's mostly about how far Republicans continue to radicalize, from obstruction to destruction. To tie these both together, I think another huge danger is that Republicans have accepted that they have to do this or unleash a tide of violence. They have no beliefs except staying in power, so, fuck it, take the easiest, shittiest path to it. And once you decide to go down that path, fuck it. You may as well go enthusiastically. And these motherfuckers are skipping gleefully towards an authoritarian future.

5/31/2021

A Poem for Memorial Day

Singing Out
by Jan Barry

How big would the war
Memorial wall be
If it listed all the names
Of soldiers who died of suicide ¬–
Able, Baker, Charlie…
Jacob David George
Three tours in Afghanistan
Jeffrey Lucey
Marine vet of Iraq invasion
Theodore S. Westhusing
Col., US Army
Who wrote in Iraq
“Death before being dishonored”

I couldn’t write about
The first Vietnam vet I knew
Who killed himself –
I couldn’t write about him
I couldn’t write his obit
Because newspaper policy prohibited
Reporting suicides
I didn’t know what to do
With that—that—that—muzzling

The second vet I knew
Who killed himself
Was found with a copy
Of one of my writings
In his wallet –
We cannot protect our buddies
We cannot protect our friends
With words alone

We need to change
Our apocalyptic, hellacious
Hell-bent, death-dealing culture –
Our flag flapping, sword saluting
Sworn to secrecy
Stiff upper lip, suck it up
He-man, iron man military mindset

We need to transform
The “death before dishonor”
Code seeded in our souls –
To singing out for life,
For a lifetime
Singing out
To challenge, to change
Our dancing with death

(This poem comes from Warrior Writers, a non-profit organization that teaches and gives space for veterans to write and create art about their experiences. You can donate here.)