Republicans Need to Feel Way More Heat for Their Opposition to New Gun Laws

Everything you could say about our American gun obsession has been said, repeatedly, and nothing has changed. Now that our time living in the pandemic is lurching towards the finish line, we can once again expect the seemingly daily parade of horrors as mass shootings retake their place in the reopened nation. One nightmare will replace the next as quickly as the Boulder shootings replaced the Atlanta shootings in the news cycle and in the American consciousness, only to be replaced by another multiple homicide, multiple injury shooting by, almost guaranteed, some fucking man for some fucking reason. And we'll do the dance with the same steps that we've done for decades, with the back and forth over politicizing the death, with the round and round of what could have been done to stop the shooter, with the up and down over motives real and made-up, all the thoughts and prayers, all the proposed laws that go nowhere once they leave the House of Representatives, with the National Rifle Association somehow still relevant, with right-wing media telling us how guns equal freedom when we all, all of us know the opposite is true.

On Twitter and elsewhere, you'll see the usual liberal reactions. You'll get degradation, like advising gun owners to lube up their rifle barrels and fuck themselves to screaming orgasm with them. Or how a gun is just a dick substitute, a hard tube that makes up for a gun owner's inadequacies in physicality or skill. Hilarious.

Or it could be just general mocking of gun fucks. Like how they get all worked up if someone dares to misuse the term "assault rifle," as if that's what fucking matters.  Or what "AR" in "AR-15" really stands for (Asshole Reamer? Armed Rube? Authoritarian Robot?). And fuck you, pedantic gun nuts. You know what guns everyone is talking about when they say "assault weapons"

Or it could be an attempt to actually educate the savage gun freaks, pointing out how little gun violence there is in countries where there happen to be strict laws on gun owner. Or it could be to reason with them, Nicholas Kristof-style. But, really, the worst are a small number of gun owners who are deep-throating the NRA's talking points like it's a fellatio fest at Fleet Week (pre-pandemic). And, of course, elected Republicans.

So instead of all that noise, all that rhetoric, all those sodomy jokes, however fun they might be to make, lemme offer this:

In Florida, a February 2020 poll found that 86% of voters in that state supported universal background checks for all gun purchases. That includes 96% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans. 72% of voters said they "strongly support" the idea, with majorities in both parties agreeing with that sentiment. Yet, even in the wake of the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, skeevy Republican Senator Marco Rubio has never supported universal background checks, completely ignoring the wishes of the vast majority of his constituents.

In Indiana, an April 2019 poll found that 90% of voters in that state supported universal background checks for all gun purchases. That includes over 80% of Republicans and over 90% of Democrats. Interestingly, it also includes 88% of gun owners and 73% of NRA members. But Republican Todd Young, one of that shitty state's shitty senators, has an A+ rating from the NRA for, among other reasons, opposing universal background checks. Young has occasionally made noise about supporting some kind of "strengthening" of background checks, but he's never followed through because of course he won't.

In Utah, a September 2019 poll found that 88% of people in that state supported universal background checks for all gun purchases. That includes around 80% of Republicans and nearly 100% of Democrats. And it includes 88% of people who identify as active Mormons. Batshit insane Republican Senator Mike Lee proudly opposes gun laws and thinks that people need guns to prevent the government from taking their guns or some such vaguely treasonous nonsense.

The point here is not that universal background checks would end mass shootings. It would hinder some sales, but it needs to be paired with an assault weapons ban and other measures. But that's not the point of all that information. 

What should be clear by now is that universal background checks are not controversial or extreme, no matter how much the corrupt slugfuckers at the NRA screech that they are. In fact, the extremist position is opposing them. You are going against what almost every American believes and wants. Sure, you can call yourself a lone warrior for Second Amendment rights or whatever the fuck you wanna say to make yourself feel better, but, mostly, you're just a dick who's busy rubbing your nipples with gun lobby cash.

And the three dicks up there are all up for reelection in 2022. I'm under no illusion that Utah, Florida, and Indiana are gonna elect Democrats (although Florida is a little more likely and Indiana did have Evan Bayh for a couple of terms not that long ago), but Rubio, Young, and Lee need to feel some fucking pressure on this issue. Here they are, dismissing the overwhelmingly position of 9 out of 10 of their constituents. There's gotta be some pain for doing that, an ad or two calling them extremists who don't give a fuck about the voters of their state.

Because, see, if they end up having to pledge to support background check expansion, and that actually passes through the filibuster-fucked Senate, that opens the door just a little. Then we can move on to the other anti-gun laws that are also incredibly popular. Or we just fucking elect more Democrats and tell the GOP to go fuck themselves with their AR-15s. You know what the AR means now.


You Cannot Talk About Biden's Border Actions Without Talking About Trump's Gutting of the Federal Government

Amid the right-wing's newly-found hysteria over the treatment of migrant children who are traveling unaccompanied to the southern border of the United States, amid the media's buying into Republican talking points as if they are gospel because, without Trump, they have to go back to the old rules of creating scandals and crises where none exist because Biden's blissfully boring, amid the ecstatic rage of hypocritical fucks from the Trump administration who are savagely beating off to the images of migrants housed in crowded conditions, one big motherfucking piece of the picture is being completely ignored. And that's the fact that Donald Trump wrecked the federal government, leaving behind a barely functioning shell in many departments. He trashed the joint because that's what the fuck he does, like a fuckin' flood went through the neighborhood, and it's been up to the Biden team to essentially rebuild the houses from the studs and foundation that remain.

We knew this even before he was out of office. As Garrett Graff reported in Politico in mid-January, Trump's irrational, mercurial, and nonsensical revolving door of security officials, most with "acting" status, left the Capitol and, indeed, the entire goddamn nation vulnerable: "The practice has left his agencies severely undermanned and, often, staffed by people who are seriously underqualified for the positions they occupy." At the frantic, bullshit end, "the Department of Homeland Security's intelligence leadership ranks are so empty that it’s currently being led by the principal deputy general counsel." And that extended to, well, motherfuck, the border, where the "three main border and security agencies are all but gutted."

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a statement last week laying this all out: "The prior administration completely dismantled the asylum system.  The system was gutted, facilities were closed, and they cruelly expelled young children into the hands of traffickers.  We have had to rebuild the entire system, including the policies and procedures required to administer the asylum laws that Congress passed long ago." A CNN fact check found Mayorkas was accurate in his assessment of the absolute sabotage of the American immigration system on the Southwest border. But, of course, the verminous conservative criminals from the Trump administration are beshitting the airwaves, with Stephen "Most Likely to Actually Be Drinking Baby Blood" Miller, the architect of Trump's megafuckery at the border, screeching that Mayorkas is lying. Honestly, I could come up with lots of awful karmic and physical punishments for Miller, but I'm pretty sure all of them would just give that coprophagic bitch an erection. 

But it's not just Mayorkas. Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the director of the White House's office of intergovernmental affairs, said, "There were aspects of our legal immigration system that had been gutted and a department that lacked the personnel to administer our laws," with another official adding, "When we came into office, like, it was a disaster. I mean, really. The staffing wasn't in place, the structures weren't in place." Oh, and let's not forget what complete cockfleas Trump's team were to Biden's during the transition, so they couldn't even get the full picture of what they were walking into. Shit was decimated. You don't turn that around overnight.

Even with all this chaos, what's going at the border sucks, but it's been sucking for decades, and it's sucked far, far worse than it sucks now. And the actual situation is far, far more complicated than the manipulated media will talk about. The current surge of unaccompanied kids began in November, for instance. And, again, again, again, you can't leave out the damage done to the very agencies that are supposed to handle migrant issues, and you can't discount the corruption of the Customs and Border Patrol and ICE themselves. Yes, Biden has left in place some Trump policies so far as he's dealt with shit like the pandemic (which also has an effect on shit like the number of beds...like I said, it's fucking complicated) and the economic recovery. It's only been two months. Could we check in around July 20 to see how it's going? To see if shit's improved? To see if Congress might actually do something to unfuck our immigration system?

No matter what, you can bet that the jackals and howler monkeys of the right will be yowling like they slammed their nuts in a car door. Or perhaps they'll just continue to show you who they are, like Republican Senator John Cornyn did today. He tweeted out comments from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama condemning "illegal immigrations." Then he followed that with this tweet: "President Biden has instead emphasized the humane treatment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status."

Kind of takes your breath away, no? This mongrel nation only exists as it is because of immigrants, almost all of whom were treated like shit by other immigrants when they first arrived. You'd think acting with humanity wouldn't be derision-worthy, but, well, that's so American, I suppose.

(Note: The First Nations people decided to help the pasty white asses that arrived to this continent rather than murder them. Whites have always been shitty about repaying their debts.)


The Real Culture War Is Over Vaccines

Yesterday, I was talking to a few people about COVID vaccines. Two of us were fully vaccinated, and another was scheduled to get his. One of our Zoom group, Sandy, a young woman, declared that she was not going to get the vaccine, even if required by her job. She insisted that "everything I've heard" tells her that we don't know if it's safe, that "we don't really know what's going to happen to people 5 years from now," and "I never get a flu shot," and "It's only been a year."

After a few fruitless minutes that included "You're being crazy," "Who tells you that garbage?" and "Jesus fuck, get the fucking shot" (that was me), we decided to change the subject. That's when Sandy added, "And you know they're lying about the number of people who died." We asked what she meant. "They just say it's COVID when it's something else," she said. We pushed again. She got huffy and exclaimed, "I know friends who say they've had family die in the hospital from something else and they put it down as COVID."

"You personally have had people tell you this happened to them?" I asked. She said she had. Rather than saying, "Oh, bullshit," I said that I'd like to know if the dead people perhaps had conditions that were exacerbated by COVID. 

Sandy is not dumb. She claims that she stays out of politics, but that's the kind of lie that lots of people repeat when what they really mean is "I believe some fucked up shit and don't want anyone to know or to challenge me on it." Unspoken through all of this was where Sandy was getting her information. I avoided saying, "Fucking shut off the fucking Fox 'news' already," although I have said that to her on other occasions. She said she doesn't watch it but "it's on when I go visit my mom." Which, again, is just another way of saying, "Yeah, I suck that shit down along with every nutzoid meme my crazed Facebook friends post and every link to a sinister-sounding YouTube video telling me how liberals use coronavirus to mind control you."

This is the real cancel culture right here. It's not Dr. Seuss shitcanning books with racist images. It's not the genitals of Potato Heads. It's not even saying, "Well, I guess fuck Harry Potter" because JK Rowling is transphobic. No, the culture war that's being fought that matters far more than any of that is on the minds of people when it comes to coronavirus and the vaccines. Then the disinformation being spread by the most-watched and -clicked conservative news sources is about life and death, not if you've got the sads because If I Ran the Zoo is hitting history's dustbin. 

What Fox "news" and the rest have done is to turn the COVID vaccine into just another sock they can all jack off into and toss into the laundry basket brimming with stiff footwear. See, getting vaccinated isn't about making you a good citizen, a healthy person, or a considerate human being. No, it makes you a tool being manipulated by Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, Big Pharma, and probably AOC and socialism and, sure, Hillary Clinton. 

For example, on Fox, obviously, Tucker Carlson, who always looks like he's wondering if he just farted or sharted or full-on shit himself, is backing the anti-vaxxers by "asking questions" about the vaccine: "How effective is this coronavirus vaccine? How necessary is it to take the vaccine? Don't dismiss those questions from anti-vaxxers, don't kick people off social media for asking them." Yes, don't dismiss people who think that there are microchips in the shots or still cling to the completely discredited idea that all vaccines cause autism. Doing what conservatives always fucking do in blowing up one small thing, Carlson took the tiny - no, infinitesimal number of cases of blood clots in Europe and used that to discredit the vaccine as a whole. He talked about a case where someone died of a brain hemorrhage after getting vaccinated and asked, "Should this scare you? We don't know, but the rest of us deserve an answer. Instead, our leaders are acting as if the science were totally settled and you're not allowed to ask questions." In Europe, 37 cases were reported out of 17 million people injected. That's statistically zero. At best, it's what we might call "a rare side effect." The diabetes drug Jardiance caused 12 cases of rotting of the taint in 1.7 million users, but no one's rushing to tell people not to take it. (Yes. Taint rot.) 

How is this cancel culture? Because they are treating the anti-vaxxers like all the other things they claim have been "canceled" by the left. If you think Confederate monuments should stay up, why should you be condemned for that? If you think boycotting Goya products is wrong, why should anyone be allowed to tell you you're wrong? And if you think the vaccine is dangerous despite virtually every single bit of available science saying it is not, well, aren't you allowed to say science is wrong despite having absolutely no background in medical research? Shouldn't we all just accept your God-given, American right to dissent from reality? What happened to freedom? Hey, I'm just asking the fucking questions here. 

This is a dangerous fucking game the right is playing, often with full knowledge that they're just conning the rubes and milking them for all the pillows they can buy. Then again, other Fox shows, like Hannity, which is on right after Carlson's, hosts are whining that Biden isn't giving Donald Trump enough "credit" for developing the vaccine. So which is it? Either the vaccine's a dangerous thing that Biden is using to murder you or it's a blessing dropped right from Trump's chafed loins. 

Of course, such contradictions don't matter to their viewers. They'll get outraged for one thing, then outraged for the opposite, even if it kills them, and that's just fuckin' fine as long as it makes liberals cry. 

It's a great cosmic fucking joke that we used to unify and celebrate when America made a great scientific advance and now it's just an excuse for another volley of arrows from the right in an idiotic war of their making. So now we break down as a country between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, a situation ripe to create variants and misery, which, if it happens, will only prove to the anti-vaxxers that the vaccine is worthless, just like they told us.


Random Observations on a Presidential Presidential Address

1. President Joe Biden's speech to the nation last night could have been a giant victory lap. Having just signed the most significant anti-poverty legislation in at least two generations and leading a country that has gone from the worst rate of COVID deaths to the most vaccinations in the world since he's been in office, no one would have blamed Biden if he had come out to the lectern and said, "Suck my dangly old balls, you Trumpfuckers. Ol' Joe is taking your piles of shit and turning it into fertilizer. You thought I was brain-fucked. Well, sorry, bitches. You're ridin' with Biden and we just floored it. Oh, and indictments have been issued for the following people" followed by a list that included Trump, his terrible children, and most of his circle of poisonous cockmites. Beyond the rhetorical masturbatory fantasies of an angry, exhausted lefty, Biden could have done that. He could have listed all the parts of the American Rescue Plan that will help actual Americans who need rescuing and not only billionaire cash hoarders. 

2. But that's not the speech he gave. Instead, what came through most clearly was that Biden wants us to feel the burden of this fucktastrophe of a year. He wants us to feel it and carry it and understand it, as he carries the burdens of all the deaths he has experienced and his own brushes with mortality. He said that it's okay to mourn, no, that it's necessary to mourn the dead, and it's also necessary to mourn the loss of time that we all experienced. He said, "It’s the details of life that matter most, and we’ve missed those details.The big details and small moments. Weddings, birthdays, graduations — all the things that needed to happen but didn’t. The first date. The family reunions. The Sunday night rituals. It’s all has exacted a terrible cost on the psyche of so many of us." Goddamn, I know it's only been four years since Barack Obama was president, but those lines made me realize how much we have been missing since he left office, that sense that someone understood us as whole human beings and not red-hatted cogs in an orange, screaming ego machine. Biden spoke gently and firmly, laying it out there, as he has done before, and making clear that, yes, we will move forward, but we must honor what the cost has been.

3. Perhaps even more importantly, Biden made a case for the centrality of government in the lives of a nation's people, as a part of the people. Since 1981, the idiot mindset of too many members of both parties has been that government should be something minimal in your life (unless, of course, you want an abortion), that direct help is bad, that social programs are worthless, despite nation after nation proving the exact opposite. This kind of thinking has fucked up so many people's lives, from the deregulation that has allowed our air and water to be poisoned to the denial of assistance to the poor. What fucking monsters we've been. What American pigs. Biden reversed that equation in his speech, saying, "Look, we know what we need to do to beat this virus: Tell the truth. Follow the scientists and the science. Work together. Put trust and faith in our government to fulfill its most important function, which is protecting the American people — no function more important. We need to remember the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s us. All of us. 'We the People.'" Notice that he was talking about everyone, and, with his refreshingly straightforward condemnation of violence against Asian Americans, he was saying that the racist shit that was tolerated before is off the table. 

4. And, inevitably, conservatives lost their little goddamned minds, going full-blown ragegasm at a speech that sought to unify the nation. There was the laughably moronic image of tiny Tucker Carlson reacting to the speech in the corner of the Fox "news" broadcast; it was mostly Carlson doing his Tucker stare, which means looking like a little boy seeing a vagina for the first time. There was Brian Kilmealready bizarrely telling everyone to move on from the half-million dead, which is what you say when you're one of the people who helped murder them. Screechmaven Mark Levin blustered that the speech was "propagandistic," revealing that right-wingers think that compassion and care is propaganda, which is pretty accurate. But the most hilarious thing that upset the right-wing fucknuts is that Biden didn't give "credit" to Donald Trump for his administration's role in developing the vaccine, which is pretty bold for a bunch of people who never gave Obama credit for building the economy that Trump brayed like an ass about for years. Sure, though, let's give credit where credit is due. Biden could have said, "Donald Trump ignored the coronavirus for too long, politicized simple things to prevent it, lied about its seriousness, held events that actively spread it, and refused to come up with a national plan, leading to widespread economic misery and over a half-million Americans dead, but he didn't totally botch it when it came to the vaccine." Yeah, fuck all of these increasingly deranged, insignificant, pathetic dicks.

5. What we also got in the speech is that Biden isn't looking for our approval (although, you know, every politician is). He is looking for our help. He is leveling with us about what has happened and what needs to happen and what consequences are if we fuck it all up. He told us he needs us and that he trusts us, perhaps a little too much, to do the right thing when it comes to finally bringing this miserable crisis to its jubilant end. Yes, July 4 as our Independence Day from COVID is hokey, but it's not a goal for cynics like me. And, unlike Trump's promises a year ago that things would be over by Easter 2020, it's genuinely realistic. It was a presidential presidential speech, and, even more, it was a healing speech, not just from the virus, but from what the last administration did to us. We can get past this, Biden was saying, all of it, and be better in body and mind and soul and country. Let's hope he's right. Let's help him be right. 

(Note: Yeah, this is a bit of a slobbery blow job for Biden. But that's okay. There will be plenty of time to take him to the woodshed over all kinds of shit.)

(Note: The Affordable Care Act is arguably the last great anti-poverty legislation, but the American Rescue Plan does even more.)


One Year On in CoronAmerica (Part 1: Keeping It Together)

It was a year ago that I finally told my students that we were going to move our class online. Over the two weeks before March 10, student after student kept telling me about how they were worried, how they lived with parents or grandparents with comorbidities, how they themselves were scared for their own health. They wanted to know from me what to do. I had finally faced the reality of the situation. I was an idiot in February 2020, telling people that it wasn't any worse than a bad flu because I desperately wanted it to be that. Because I knew that if it wasn't, we were fucked, that a chunk of our short lives was about to be sliced out as a sacrifice to the coronavirus. And it wasn't just me - yeah, I had all kinds of things planned - it was the students. It was the kids of friends and in my family. I was and remain crushed by all that they have missed out on, by the stalled careers, the canceled life-affirming events like graduations, and more. But denial wasn't going to do anyone any good.

So I told my students that I was making the decision to go to remote learning. I'm also a chair of an academic department (yeah, I know, I'm as surprised as you are), and I had told my colleagues the same thing the night before, writing to them, "I see no reason not to respect the judgment of faculty who believe that their health may be at risk" when it comes to the decision to move online. By the end of the day March 11, the entire City University of New York, all two-dozen campuses, shut down, and the world became a new, alien place. 

On March 18, I wrote to my department, "I want to be realistic about things without being grim. But we're looking at this getting much worse before it gets better. There is a very good chance that at least some of us will get ill, if we aren't already, and there is a very good chance that at least some of our students will, too. You can add into that our loved ones and our students' loved ones. And we know that there is a chance that some will get very ill and even die." I asked them to practice a "pedagogy of compassion," where our empathy for the confusion and fear all of us were experiencing would guide our virtual classroom decisions. "If we're all in this together," I said, "then the more compassionate and forgiving we can be, the easier it will be for all of us when it's finally under control and we go back to whatever normal becomes. Hopefully." We thought it would be a few months until normal. Then a few more. And now a year. With more to come.

I've been fortunate in so many ways in this year. I have a job that I was never at risk of losing and could, with some adjustment, do from home. All my loved ones are fine. I personally know only one person who died of COVID; he was an elderly retired professor who was a lovely human being. I know many who got the virus, but all were fine with a few exceptions, including some who have symptoms that have lasted months. I went through a mild bout with the bastard but recovered quickly. I was never food insecure or threatened with eviction or bereft of medical care when I needed it. I don't believe in being blessed by an invisible sky wizard, but maybe there's a secular version.

Being a professor, I got an understanding of the suffering that so many families were enduring through students coming to me to tell me about their sick and dying relatives. For a period of time, at least once a week, a student had to miss class to go to the hospital to look after someone. More than a few did have to handle death near to them. Students got COVID, and it laid some of them out, making them unable to even come to a Zoom class. It was a snapshot of the pandemic in its worst months in New York City. They told me about lost jobs at restaurants and shops, or essential jobs, as EMTs or grocery store workers, where, frightened and worried, they did their best to keep society together for people who were just as frightened and worried. Many of my students are new teachers or teachers-in-training, and they found themselves thrown into a pedagogical world where their own young students' fears and frustrations were complicated by the Zoom distance. They found themselves acting as emotional support for young people. It made more than a few question their career choices. I tried to offer advice and comfort where I could, and maybe it helped for a moment or two, a salve for a pain that allows you to forget it for a little while until a twinge brings you back to reality.

This was the heart of my year in America during the coronavirus. CoronAmerica, if you will. Outside of personal relationships, this was what prevented me from falling into despair. The first couple of months, during lockdown, students clung to our Zoom classes as moments of attempted normalcy and of desperately-needed community. And so did I.

I don't know how I would have dealt with this past year without that because of the other overwhelming feeling, that of a burning rage that has never diminished in the last 12 months. More on that tomorrow.


Grappling with Andrew Cuomo's Scandals

There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty or bad because you found comfort in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily press briefings during the lockdown early in the coronavirus pandemic. While President Bumblefuck Magoo was prancing around and lying about the severity of the situation while shitting on anyone who would dare ask the federal government to do more, Cuomo was a soothing voice of calm, seemingly honest and straightforward, ready to challenge Donald Trump, and, holy fuck, we just needed that. 

You can still appreciate that. I don't feel ashamed that I enjoyed Bill Cosby's comedy for decades. But now, I feel awful for his victims, first and foremost, and, way down the list of Cosby fallout, I can't see him or listen to him without being viscerally repulsed. That's the only rational reaction. The point here is that you can have thought one way about Cuomo in March 2020 and now think the complete opposite in March 2021 (and as an employee of the state of New York, I've thought in many ways about him).

But we have to grapple now with what we know about Cuomo. We know that he has been accused of sexual harassment by at least three women, including two who previously worked for him and his administration. We know that Cuomo and his administration sought to hide the true number of deaths from COVID at nursing homes, partly because it reveals how disastrous was his decision to allow patients recovering from COVID to go back to their nursing homes while still testing positive for it. 

And, frankly, as Steven Thrasher details in a Scientific American article, Cuomo made many moves early on in the pandemic that fucked over New York. In mid-March 2020, for instance, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted to do a shelter-in-place order, as had been done in Wuhan, China, and Lombardi, Italy, but Cuomo refused to authorize it, saying, "It cannot happen legally. No city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval and I have no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city." That order might have saved 17,000 lives.

Oh, it's fun to laugh at Cuomo and the Cuomosexuals, the ones who put him on a pedestal so high that he had the gall to write (or have ghostwritten) a book titled American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic while we are still very much in the midst of the goddamn crisis and the fuckin' lessons are still being learned. It's pretty awkward and not so fun that the book has this line: "New York was number forty-six of fifty in the nation when it came to percentage of deaths in nursing homes." Well, no fucking shit when you're reporting numbers that are half what they should be.

And now multiple Democrats have called on the Democratic governor to resign in the wake of the allegations of inappropriate behavior with women who worked for him. This has led other Democrats to angrily cry, "Franken!" under the belief that Senator Al Franken resigning over sexual misconduct with several women was hasty and wrong and excessive. While I would have liked to have seen a full inquiry into the allegations, I said at the time that Franken had to go because it gave strength to the growing #MeToo movement and allowed us to criticize Donald Trump with clean hands. (And, to be fair, Franken's replacement, Tina Smith, has been a pretty great senator for Minnesota.)

However, as Dahlia Lithwick points out, we've gotten to where thorough investigations into allegations made in the media should be welcomed. She writes, "It’s not a terrible thing to allow an independent investigator to gather all the facts and arrive at a formal conclusion before calling for his immediate ouster...If we’d spent the time we’ve spent calling for people to step down immediately in formulating and refining an actual process that could formally investigate claims and issue guidance on what should be done about them, we might have ended up in a place where more sexual predators could be held accountable rather than fewer." And that, to me, seems like pretty solid footing to be on. 

And that's not because I have any love for Andrew Cuomo. Seriously, in most ways, fuck that guy. But it's because, as I've written before, we're in the midst of reckoning on shitty behavior by men, including those who may not understand how their behavior is shitty (really, if you don't get how being a creep is making a woman feel uncomfortable or threatened or even just getting in the way of her doing her goddamn job, that's on you). It's a reckoning that is long overdue. These allegations may just take down Andrew Cuomo and force him to resign. More likely, he'll have to answer to voters, which isn't necessarily an awful outcome. 

But I think the way to give power to this reckoning is for there to be some kind of official affirmation of the charges. It's not about disbelieving Charlotte Bennett, Lindsay Boylan, and Anna Ruch. As with the allegations against Joe Biden or against Brett Kavanaugh, it's about taking allegations seriously and not dismissing or accepting them because of your feelings towards the person being accused. It's about trying to make sure the due process and due diligence are done. 

I'll tell you one thing that has me additionally pissed about the Bennett case is that she followed the procedure that the state, you know, the one led by Cuomo, has for reporting harassment in the workplace. As someone in a supervisory position and, like I said, employed by New York State, I can tell you that this shit is hammered into us, with potential consequences if we don't act correctly on hostile workplace reports. By law, there was supposed to be an investigation, and that wasn't done. In fact, according to Bennett, Cuomo's chief of staff and general counsel said that there would be no investigation because "You came to us before anything serious happened. It was just grooming and it was not yet considered sexual harassment." How fucked is that. Also, every employee of the state at a certain level has to take an online sexual harassment training, as I have, and Cuomo didn't fucking do it.

Andrew Cuomo was never who his biggest fans thought he was. Thrasher's article makes it crystal fuckin' clear that his actions in slashing hospital beds and Medicaid spending exacerbated the effects of COVID on New York. Cuomo is a fucking asshole, an old school hardball player who will fuck with members of his own party (although, in New York, sometimes Democrats are the Democrats' biggest enemies). He's had multiple scandals already, although you wouldn't know that since they happened before he became "America's governor" (damn, I think I gagged writing that). 

So if this is the end for him, if it's because of the harassment allegations against him, then so be it. Cuomo is not irreplaceable. Almost no one is. He might have given us something that we needed in a terrible moment, but, hey, breakups happen.

One note, though: If you're someone who gave Donald Trump a pass on all his rape and sexual misconduct allegations, you can just sit the fuck down on Cuomo.

Update on August 3: Yeah, fuck him. Cuomo needs to get the fuck out of office. 


"Fuck Those Dr. Seuss Books" and Other Proper Responses to the Fake "Cancel Culture" Bullshit

As an honest-to-goodness professor of the literary arts, I have seen your "cancel culture" bullshit so many times before that it's honestly fucking laughable. I can remember sitting next to a renowned Shakespeare scholar as I argued that a course in ol' Bill shouldn't be required of English majors. His face got red as he sputtered, "What do you mean? You think someone deserves a degree in literature without reading Shakespeare?" I said I did and that we needed to get away from such prescriptive ways of thinking about literature and the canon and more. 

This was in the midst of the late 1980s and early 1990s upheaval in my field over what students ought to read. See, all of a sudden, we were supplanting white male writers with women and people of color, cutting down on the number of Europeans while adding Asians, Africans, and South Americans, and allowing gay and lesbian authors their proper credit. The gatekeepers of the literary world were aghast. It was "political correctness" run amok. Fucking books were written about it. "Tenured Radicals," as one hysterical tome put it, were destroying the foundations of Western Civilization by daring to say that the works of dead white men might not be the only lens with which to view the world. This shit was everywhere, on TV news networks, in Congress, in the presidential race, how "political correctness" was wrecking the joint like a black lesbian feminist Godzilla devouring the canon and setting fire to the Ivory Tower.

Now, it all seems so fucking dumb. I don't think students could imagine an education in literature that privileges white male authors entirely over, say, Toni Morrison or Sylvia Plath or James Baldwin. And most students will end up reading Shakespeare because, you know, he's just hard to escape no matter how hard we might try. But the point here is that after hyperventilating that there was only one way to properly learn the humanities, most of academia adjusted and, indeed, embraced this blowing a hole in the wall of racist and sexist bullshit surrounding the precious subject matter. Now, you're an outlier if you think we should go back to a Great Books as Defined by Crusty Pale Fuckers. 

So this whole "cancel culture" thing is so fucking dumb and it's just another way that conservatives are exploiting the ignorance of their voters. So what if there's a warning in front of a couple of episodes of The Muppet Show to indicate that it's fucked up that Johnny Cash sang in front of a Confederate flag or that Spike Milligan did yellow face and fake Chinese voice. So what if the packaging for Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head went unisex? You can still put high-heeled shoes and a mustache on your plastic potato, just like you could before. And, really, truly, fuck those Dr. Seuss books. How is it not a problem that the books contain racist images? Let's stop acting like there aren't a million other books that are just as good that don't have crazy Arabs or weird indigenous Alaskans. Besides, you're not losing your Horton or Lorax or Grinch. Your childhood is protected, so you can stop being an asshole because (checks notes) the Seuss estate pulled the books out of publication.

The point here, of course, is not that some conservative dicks are upset that liberals believe things. That's been the story since forever. No, what we're seeing here is the distraction, the thing that makes you forget you the GOP really is. Remember that Republicans don't give a fuck about appealing to people through Ideas That Might Make Their Lives Better. No, they prefer the Shit That Makes Idiots Mad and Fuck Your Voting Rights approaches. The vaccine program is a big success? The COVID bailout prevents the nation from being economically fucked by the pandemic? Oh, fuck, what's a scummy GOP fucknut going to do? Time to cue up the culture wars, motherfuckers. "Yes, it's true that Republicans supported policies that flat out murdered hundreds of thousands of people, but, hey, look, Kermit's nuts are being cut off by Cancel Culture and AOC," they'll say and that'll be dutifully re-vomited by right-wing media led by Tucker Carlson's one-mustache-short-of-a-Fuhrer face.

This becomes the same-sex marriage or anti-abortion initiatives on ballots that distract people from voting for Democrats. Yeah, we've been through this before. In fact, every fucking time now with Republicans, who would rather toss shit than discuss an issue honestly. Or, these days, rather than talk about the same reality.

In so many cases, "cancel culture" just means "Oh, shit, they caught us" to the people who got caught. And they're pissed that now that they're caught, they can't just be white people who, say, casually use the n-word. Like, well, the Republican Party.

(Note: By the way, back in the late 1960s, Warner Brothers made sure that no one would see the ultra-racist cartoons they used to produce. So they got rid of the grotesque Black people, the hideous Asians, but, oddly, not Speedy Gonzales until recently. And now, no one even cares about them except out of perverse curiosity. We don't think twice about it. If that happened now, the Proud Boys would be attacking Bugs Bunny.)

(Note: There are more complex examples of different works being updated or recontextualized than the ones noted up there. We should be having a hell of a discussion about how we talk about Washington, Lincoln, and especially Jefferson.  We might argue about whether the racist depictions of Native Americans in the Little House on the Prairie books make them unsuitable for younger readers. Sometimes we may end up disagreeing and never figuring it out, like with Huckleberry Finn. And fuck the idea that you let it go because "it was fine" back in the day. That's not a free pass. You should read some of the shit included in old anthologies of American literature. Shit changes. Change with it.)