Random thoughts, March 2020

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I follow MMFA media critic and trans activist Parker Molloy on twitter. She’s witty and often makes great points. And while she’s clearly on the left side of the left, she wasn’t in the tank for any candidate (well, until Warren dropped out and left her with only one option, I suppose).

And she writes many good takes.

This one is not one of them.

Her argument: that NeverTrump conservatives should not get a say in Democratic politics. That, with their long track record of backing Republican causes in the hazy, distant days Before Trump, they should just STFU and GTFO — partly because they’ll just find an excuse for voting for Trump anyway.

“If there’s one thing Trump’s improbable victory in 2016 should have made clear,” Molloy writes, “it’s that these [NeverTrumpers] are not particularly relevant voices in the modern political era, and yet media outlets haven’t recognized this fact and acted accordingly. If anything, it seems as though conservative Trump critics are being promoted more aggressively than ever…”

“But in the end, the same conservatives pleading for Democrats to move to the right won’t actually follow through on voting for them — as exemplified by The View co-host Meghan McCain when she said, “I’m a Republican. I’m going to end up voting for Republicans” during a 2018 episode.”

First of all, Meghan McCain cannot be taken as an example of what we generally mean by the term “NeverTrump.” Her beefs with the president are 100% personal, as she reminds her viewers endlessly, due to his feud with her late father. It is 0% political. She’s married to one of the ethics-free founders of The Federalist, for God’s sake. Anyone who would share a bed with one of the worst people in conservative media (and that is, shall we say, one high bar to clear) cannot be counted in the same circle as Rick Wilson, Charlie Sykes, or Tom Nichols.

nevertrumpBecause the latter guys haven’t stopped repeating themselves that they are voting for the Democrat in November. That is now the litmus test for the NeverTrump brand: are you voting for Biden, or are you just staying home? (If the latter, they’re more accurately called “Trump skeptics” than NT.) (True, some of them would have sat out if it turns out being Bernie, but that is looking increasingly like an irrelevant disclaimer.)

The reality is that Wilson and friends are better thought of as conservative Democrats, at least while Trump remains in power. They’ve been pulling for Biden because he’s long been the choice of many or most conservative Democrats, especially older African Americans. Yes, they are opposed to Medicare for All (unlike myself, full disclosure) but then again, so is Joe Biden. Why the hell wouldn’t any conservative Democrat be pulling for Biden (or Bloomberg, before he folded)?

NeverTrumpers daily tweet and write endless paeans to Joe Biden. True, their praise of Obama’s VP would have been unthinkable eight years ago. But the world sure has moved on, hasn’t it? If you still stubbornly insist that the NeverTrumpers are putting up some kind of act, this is saying more about your cynicism than theirs.

I agree with Molloy that NeverTrump has absolutely zero relevance in today’s Republican Party, which is now a Maoist cult of personality. But it was because their personal morality made it impossible to continue to associate with one of the most morally corrupt major movements, and presidents, in American history. Say what you will about their MSNBC appearances, but they would’ve made far more money with FoxNews, especially as they could write paint-by-the-numbers pro-Trump blowjob books guaranteed to be promoted up the bestseller lists by the most important Twitter account on the planet. Just spitballing here, but shouldn’t progressives be *encouraging* defectors from decadence, instead of declaring them forever unclean?


Now, as for that bit of minor health news occasionally earning mention on TV…

I feel like the media is both overselling and underselling Charlie One-Niner. Overselling, in treating this coronavirus like a dread reaper, cutting down people in their prime like the Spanish Flu before it, where we’re one day away from the movie Contagion and three days away from The Stand. Underselling, in that they are not giving enough coverage to what it actually is: a dread reaper — of the elderly. Either 100%, or close to it, of the fatalities in America and Italy are over 60, for instance. (edit 3/17/20: this is no longer the case, as middle-aged people with other comorbidities make up a minority of fatalities)

“Well, fuck them olds,” some people think.

old people to keel over and die

Which is fine if you have no grandparents, or elderly parents, or aunts, or uncles, or friends, or if you yourself plan on never aging past 60. Or if your preferred presidential candidate isn’t well to the north of 70 because, oh man, it sure would be nerve-wracking if the president and his two remaining challengers all qualified as at high-risk for being escorted off this earthly plane by our friend from Wuhan.

Modern society has long made invisible people who qualify for Medicare. They no longer work, so they no longer matter. They get shunted off to retirement communities to remain thankfully out of view. This is long-standing: decades before “ok, Boomer,” there were jokes about The Olds forever having a blinking 00:00 showing on their VCRs. And while the Boomers are indeed America’s Worst Generation, this bias both precedes them and, we can safely bet, will succeed them.

Which is my way of acknowledging my fear that someday, my thoughts will be met with an eyeroll and “post it on Instagram, grandpa” or “lol want an avocado with that?”. Even Zoomers should keep this in the back of their head. Even if we’re headed to environmental catastrophe, human extinction won’t happen before current college freshmen have become the worst thing ever: old.

What if our taunting of Boomers will someday come back to bite us in the ass? Perhaps this virus will eventually shock us into remembering that people with hair growing out of their ears are still actually people too. We shouldn’t taunt people for being aged, out of touch, or too in touch with obsolete tech or bands because, guess what: Cage the Elephant will someday run a reunion tour with tickets starting at $300 and our grandkids will be laughing their asses at us for actually going.

 

The wonderful outliers

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Read any news story about gender and sports these days, and it will almost always be about transgender issues. “Should transwomen be allowed to play in women’s leagues,” that sort of thing. So naturally, my assumption was that transgenderism was in play upon first encountering this story:

badass

But, nope. Trans has nothing to do with it. For one, this is clearly a co-ed league, and there is no mention of this champ, or of her opponents, being trans. A cis girl went into a wrestling meet, kicked the asses of her cis male opponents, and walked away with the gold. That’s it; that’s the story. And just look at this badass’s cocky alpha grin versus the sullen dejection of her runners up. Fucking awesome.

Of course, this does bring up the question of how, exactly, a girl can physically not only go toe-to-toe with at least somewhat post-pubertal boys, but also come out on top. The boys should have a definite advantage in upper body strength within the same weight class. Right?

Is she juicing? I have to doubt it. The effects of illicit testosterone are far more noticeable on females than males, as East German women’s athletes could’ve attested, and this girl couldn’t exactly pass for Barry Bonds. Besides… roiding up, and thereby risking her college career/scholarships, just for a high school title? Really?

More likely: she’s naturally in the upper regions of the 99th percentile of girls her size in terms of strength and stamina. (I mean, someone has to be, right?) And while the average girl will of course bench far less than an average boy of the same age and weight, that’s also just it: average. The remarkable variability among specimens of our peculiar species results in some astonishing X-men-level outliers, from certain East African lineages owning the sport of marathon running, to this girl beating out trained, practicing boy wrestlers, to an overweight, middle-aged diabetic patient I once saw with a resting heart rate rivaling that of Tour de France bicyclists.

People have no problem accepting the existence of Hawkins-level outliers in intelligence… but in the physical arena, we still have a hard time wrapping our minds around it.

Sadly, the term “outlier” goes both ways, and I speak with some authority. If the girl from above has male upper body strength through some weird condition or gene, then I have precisely the opposite situation. I don’t know why, but I never really got the teenage-boy surge of strength to my arms, to the point where I use weights at the gym equivalent to what women there use… my last personal trainer actually made fun of me for it. There’s been a pretty low ceiling on what I can bench even with regular workouts. A girl once broke up with me because she jokingly pinned me down one time… and I couldn’t get her off me. (I still have no problem with lower body strength… in high school I never understood why I could crush it with the leg press machine but practically nothing else.)

Poor me? Nah; in the list of reasons why my life is shit, it doesn’t even break the top 100. I have to be careful not to arm wrestle any girl I date, that’s all. Or, perhaps, finesse the inevitable jar-opening request.

I just enjoy the outliers of the human experience in all its forms and how we defy stereotypes. Whether it’s the female ass-kicker above, or a man who excels at early childhood education or being a stay-at-home dad for his high-earning wife, or the fact that the NFL’s current best two quarterbacks are black and its best running back is white. Or seeing certified, card-carrying, neanderthal right-wing conservative activists refuse to bend the knee to the host of Celebrity Apprentice. Fucking break expectations. Smash boxes. Nobody remembers the followers. If you can’t be a leader, be a goddamn renegade. Never let them see you coming. It’s no guaranteed path to happiness, sure. But for some, it’s the only way to live.

Positronic Light Bulb

*unfinished post, edits to come*

I recently mashed through some quite curious thoughts while recently sick with an upper respiratory virus, and want to put them down as words, even if I don’t really understand them fully, being a bit outside my area of expertise.

One of the questions that has long bedeviled particle physicists, and which cannot be adequately explained by the Standard Model, is: why, exactly, does only matter exist in the known universe, and not antimatter? After all, all equations predict that any process that creates matter, whether as great an explosion as the Big Bang or as tiny as those fomented by our artificial experiments, should also create antimatter in exactly equal parts. Indeed, this is in fact always the observed result in particle accelerator tests. However, there is no known antimatter left over from the Big Bang in the observable universe. And if it all had simply annihilated against matter, then there would be no matter left over, either.

This leads to two possibilities: one, that the antimatter does exist but is somehow outside of the observable universe. Or, two, that our current equations are wrong and that matter does, in fact, slightly outnumber antimatter in these genesis reactions (or actions).

Scientists have mostly dismissed the first possibility and are hard at work trying to prove the second. For instance, there is a decades-old project to prove something called “proton decay,” which, for arcane reasons beyond my ken (no, despite what comic books say, physician and physicist are not interchangeable), would be necessary to prove that matter/antimatter asymmetry is valid. The problem: every one of these tests have failed. Scientists have responded by expanding and expanding again the proposed half-life of the proton, but even within the new parameters, protons still stubbornly refuse to spontaneously fall apart.

But what if they’re wrong? Or, to rephrase: what if their equations were right all along? That antimatter was produced in equal parts in the Big Bang, but that the antimatter is, in fact, outside of what we can observe in the universe? How can this be?

To answer that, we have to first turn to a fascinating property of antimatter that would not only explain where it all went at the beginning of the universe, but could open a rabbit hole leading down completely unorthodox paths in physics that could lead to the secrets of the universe itself.

Imagine, if you will, the title of this post: A positronic light bulb. Or, rather, a light bulb made entirely of antimatter, along with an antimatter battery, antimatter wiring, and an antimatter switch. Such a device would be powered by “reverse electricity,” using positrons (aka antimatter electrons) instead of normal electrons. Let’s say that we somehow construct such a device, at enormous expense, and house it in a compete vaccum. How would it work? Or to phrase it more precisely: what happens when you flick the switch?

In a regular lightbulb, as we all learn by fifth grade: flipping the switch closes the circuit so that the current may now flow unimpeded from the battery’s negative side. First, electrons (assuming a direct current) emerge from the battery, flow through the wires and the bulb itself, before terminating on the battery’s positive side:

electronflow

While we leave it on, the battery’s negative (cathode) side slowly discharges its supply of negative charge, while the positive (anode) side slowly gains electrons and therefore has its positive charge diminished at the same rate. Eventually, the battery is depleted, the current of electricity stops, and the light bulb goes out.

Now, if this whole thing were made of antimatter parts?

Well, the battery would be made of the antimatter version of the exact same stuff, like zinc and magnesium oxide, same as the wires and bulb. Only, it would be a flow of positively-charged particles that power the bulb. Here is the progression:

The light turns on.

And then, the switch is flipped.

Wait, what?

Yes. The light came on before we flipped the switch. The effect has preceded the cause. We have just violated one of the most fundamental rules of not only physics, but our basic conception of the time and space: causality.

This is possible because another way of viewing antimatter is that it’s matter, only going back in time. If a normal electron has a time paramater t of 1, then a positron is an electron, only with t = -1. This sounds strange, but the math checks out! (For completeness, note that photons that make up light are t = 0. So, the light coming out of our positronic light bulb is no different than any other light.)

Going back to the Big Bang question, we have our answer. The antimatter from the great explosion was sent backwards in time. Because that’s simply what antimatter does. What’s more, there’s no reason why the antimatter universe can’t have antimatter stars, suns, planets, even life. Indeed, there may be antimatter scientists on an antimatter Earth right now, carefully creating and experimenting with the strange, reverse stuff we call matter.

 

 

 

 

A couple months ago, I talked about the only two pillars of today’s Right: blind hatred of liberal Americans, and blind worship of the former host of Celebrity Apprentice. The next post will be about the former, but I want to expand on one of the three classes of conservatives who dare dissent from MAGA.

First, a brief example of how extreme the cult of personality has gotten. There is nobody in the House more worshipful of Donald Trump than Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Try as they might, not even bootlicks like McCarthy, Meadows or Jordan can approach the enthusiasm of his servility. Or at least, not until this week where abruptly, for some reason — nobody can quite place why — he broke with his boss in favor of his constituents, just once, on a single floor vote.

Here is his tweet trying to explain himself. Gaetz himself is not important here. The response from the conservative base is what’s important. I invite the reader to scroll through the replies from outraged MAGA-heads. You can do Trump’s bidding with a smile a thousand times, but if your conscience slips you up and you disagree once — just once — you’re dead to these people. Dead.

asshole

But, even at this late date, not every last Republican is like the piece of shit above. I broke down conservatives who are not in the cult into three groupings. One, the familiar NeverTrumpers, often quite moderate in their politics and friendly to the liberal media. Next we have the white nationalists, who have realized that Trump is not one of them and, while too scared to challenge the president directly, now have no problem coming at his surrogates or even his son.

And finally, we have those hardened, rock-ribbed right-wingers who, for whatever reason, have slipped out of the GOP’s fever-dream and have come to recognize the president for who he is, while retaining hardcore conservative beliefs. They’re admittedly rare, but they exist. I had mentioned talkshow host Shannon Joy as one. Another is podcaster Mark Pantano. I mean, just take a look at this rank heresy (clickable):

It’s not that I agree with these guys on most issues — I don’t. (Immigration has always been a core component of the American project, although open-borders extremists are admittedly nuts.) I ask liberals who are appalled by these stances to look past that. It’s that these conservatives were able to not only hold onto their principles, but also see when and how the president fails them. They are as bitterly opposed to the Democrats as any Trumper but now see that the president has failed them, does not actually care a jot about anything he ran on, and works more to convince the rubes and suckers at his rallies that he’s building the wall and owning the libs than actually doing these things.

If you’re a liberal, what these conservatives are saying should actually be a relief. From immigration to abortion, they’re saying this president is all hat, no cattle. And they’re right.

If you’re a liberal, you should be glad that the vast majority of Republicans believe their president’s ridiculous lies about the wall that let him get away with not actually building it. Or that he’ll happily team with Nancy Pelosi to sign a pork-laden spending bill that gives both sides the boondoggles they want at the expense of the debt that, like climate change, won’t reach a crisis point until they are both long buried.

“Ah, they’re just Tom Nichols or Max Boot-ish TDS sufferers,” you might argue. Absolutely not. These conservatives do not hate Trump. They had high hopes for him, and will even vote for him again (or, at least, not vote for the Democrat). It’s that they desperately wish they could convince him to care about conservative issues — but are increasingly realizing that he never will:

pantano5

He’s probably right that if Republican Senators and Congressmen, and their voters, actually had a shred of self-respect and held the president to account on immigration and abortion, instead of falling to the Maoist cult of personality where Dear Leader can do no wrong, this president would have achieved far more conservative results than the judges — and, remember, even the judges are hardly some kind of singular Trumpian achievement, as he’s going off the same list of judges that Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz would have used.

Regular people, even progressives, could share a beer with these patriots, however much they disagree with them politically, for the simple reason they don’t have their heads up their asses. By contrast, most conservatives would punch you in the face as soon as your dared slight their Precious.

If there ever will be a post-Trump Right (which is debatable), it won’t be led by moderate NeverTrumpers. It will be led by people like Joy and Pantano. Disagree with them all you want, but at least they don’t want to turn this place into a dictatorship.

The national conversation about NYC’s anti-Semitism problem we need, but won’t get

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One of the most dearly-held myths among the Left is that only white people are capable of racism. The reason is rhetorical: the most powerful insult, and the most effective way to silence opposition, is to call your opponent a racist… and they will not tolerate that word being turned back against themselves, or a member of a “protected community.”

Which is one reason why the rising tide of anti-semitism around NYC goes so under-reported.

See, the Pittsburgh synagogue attack still gains more coverage a full year later than your typical attack around here because it fit with existing tropes. The attacker was white! Alt-right! Typical white conservative backlash! Trump! MAGA!

And of course the horrible attack must be remembered. But the problem is, NYC-area attacks such as this one last night — on Hanukah, no less — quickly get forgotten by the media because the perpetrators usually look something like this:

perp

As this man’s soul clearly is incapable of the stain of bigotry, editors at Vox and Huffpost tell themselves, let’s just chalk it up as one of those random acts of bizarre mystery like flight MH370, or Elisa Lam. We may never know the answer.

For instance, take a look at this write-up over at Slate. They see fit to award all of four paragraphs to the rash of attacks on NYC-area Jews over the last few days, while treating the attacks like a force of nature without any attempt at explanation, as if they were talking about a tornado and its aftermath. Streetlights might just be randomly falling on Jewish people’s heads, for all they care.

Update 1/3/20: Or take a look at this CBS News report, which goes on to question whether it’s due to… wait for it… economic anxiety, that same discredited trope that Trump fans use to account for white racism in their ranks.

But if the various perps had had a more pinkish hue, “wall-to-wall” would be the order of the day with Slate and other outfits, with endless calls to SPLC spokesmen, and references to online organized hate, and the effects of MAGA. One thinkpiece after another would wonder on the destruction wrought by angry white loners. Well-funded state taskforces would appear overnight. The Sunday shows would all lead with the rising tide of alt-right violence in the largest media market. De Blasio would lead a candlelight march against hate.

But because the attackers are more likely motivated by Louis Farrakhan than Richard Spencer… well… uh… shrug.

Also, without a white-bigotry angle to pursue, it’s difficult to get liberal media outlets to care about this sort of attack due to long-standing lefty animosity to Zionism. Progressive anti-Semites typically anchor their Jew-baiting around the existence of Israel, in contrast to the neo-Nazis’ racial theories. They possess an uncanny ability to turn mundane conversations about labor rights or the Yankees or granite countertops into a conversation about Israel. Thus, the obsessive need to pass BDS sanctions, and pursue open exclusion of Jews from progressive spaces. Of course, even if the worst progressive conspiracy theories about Israel were true, such atrocities wouldn’t even approach the level of China’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against Uighur Muslims, with its concentration camps and forced sterilization and Stalinesque systemized rape; but good luck getting these supposed champions of downtrodden Muslims to give a damn.

Also, unlike their alt-right cousins, lefty anti-Semites like to leave a door open for the existence of the “good Jew”… as long as they are sufficiently self-loathing, anyway, lest they face the usual banishment. This is why a secular Jew named Bernie Sanders faces a precarious position: he cannot favor Israel lest he lose support of anti-Zionist obsessives like Rep. Ilhan Omar, yet he cannot bring himself to fully embrace the leftist “from the river to the sea” vision of a Judenfrei Middle East either.

In any event, such liberal attitudes from “people of color simply cannot be bigots” to “but those Zionists kinda had it coming, didn’t they?” are why the media has already moved on from the deadly anti-Semitic attack at a Jersey City kosher market earlier this month, and are why they will forget this attack within a week, yet still meditate on the Pittsburgh attack. The latter fits into an acceptable larger worldview, while the other assaults do not.

Finally, on a personal note, this is among the many reasons why I’m politically homeless. While my attitude towards the right may be readily surmised from all the Trump rants around here, I can’t exactly sign onto the left’s bullshit either.

 

Who goes MAGA?

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From time to time I re-read Dorothy Thompson’s seminal 1941 piece, “Who Goes Nazi?“. She imagines herself at a dinner party, determining who among the guests and who would not join the Nazis if they were ascendant in America. She makes clear that, although she is writing from an America just on the cusp of entering WWII, “Nazi” is more of a state of mind that has little to do with race, creed, Dem/GOP political leanings, or even Judaism — this sort of thing only uses ideology or manifestos as mere excuses to paper over something much older and more primitive. Substitute “Nazi” with “ISIS” or “Khmer Rogue” and little would change in Thompson’s essay.

Two archetypes she mentions stand out to me in particular. (If you haven’t read her essay, I highly encourage doing so now.) One is that of Mr. C. This is a man so bent, so twisted, so devoid of joy or empathy that he lacks a shred of humanity. Or as she puts it,

Were he primitive and brutal he would be a criminal—a murderer. But he is subtle and cruel. He would rise high in a Nazi regime. It would need men just like him—intellectual and ruthless. But Mr. C is not a born Nazi. He is the product of a democracy hypocritically preaching social equality and practicing a carelessly brutal snobbery. He is a sensitive, gifted man who has been humiliated into nihilism. He would laugh to see heads roll.

And then there’s Mr. B. Unlike C, he’s no inhuman psychopath. In fact, Thompson notes that Mr. C hates Mr. B. He is a figure well-known to us Americans: highly successful, born into wealth, but no doubt credits his own intelligence — i.e., born on third base and thought he hit a triple. Friendly and sociable, he nevertheless possesses a core of pure selfishness undisturbed by any higher scruples.

His code is not his own; it is that of his class—no worse, no better, He fits easily into whatever pattern is successful. That is his sole measure of value—success. Nazism as a minority movement would not attract him. As a movement likely to attain power, it would. [emphasis mine]

maga cultAs the title to this post suggests, while reading Thompson’s essay, I consider how these two people define much of the Trump base. Again, they are not literal Nazis. But certain similarities of mindset between them and the average rank-and-file functionaries and officials of the Reich may be made.

Also, I do not mean people who only voted for Trump regretfully because they are lifelong Republicans and/or considered Hillary worse, which remains an honorable position. I mean the diehard, true believers in the Fifth Avenue rule, that would never ever abandon MAGA whatever new moral depradations their orange idol engages in, up to and including mass murder — but with one important qualifier.

The Mr. C’s are simpler people and easy to point out. Acid-spitting, insult-flinging, completely unethical monsters since long before Trump came along, they were the campaign’s early adopters because they saw by the beginning of 2016 how destructive and divisive their man would be and — falsely — because they believe he is one of their own. They are distinguished from their bretheren in that they enjoy fantasizing about a new civil war. They do not pretend to be in it to help the country, their fellow Americans, or even their fellow conservatives, the latter of whom they hold in contempt even if they did eventually bend the knee to Trump. Laugh to see heads roll? Hell, the right’s Mr. C’s would play soccer with the heads if they didn’t think of soccer as a commie sport for them dirty foreigners. Ann Coulter. Dinesh D’Souza. John Cardillo. Don Bongino. Michelle Malkin. Mark Levin. Wayne LaPierre. Your rank-and-file QAnon believer. And every last member of the alt.right. Unlike the more genteel members of MAGA, these people would delight to see bodies piled high by the millions (hopefully liberals and NeverTrumpers and Deep Staters, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter). Say what you will about these people, but give them credit for one thing — they have not changed themselves one iota for Donald Trump.

And then we have the Mr. B’s, who most definitely contorted themselves and their principles, such as they were, for the host of Celebrity Apprentice once it became clear he was winning. Many of them are literally like Mr. B in that they are millionaire capitalists, used to playing kingmaker in Republican politics (IRL or, for the vast majority of them, in their heads). They were staunch advocates for, and donors to, the Bushes and Mitt Romney, as well as the various Koch PACs and foundations — up until mid-2016 when they recognized which way the winds were now blowing. And why not? The president is one of them, opportunistic and selfish to the core (and not a Mr. C, which the alt.right can’t seem to grasp).

But rather than millionaires, far more Mr. B’s are conservative writers, journalists, elected officials, GOP apparatchiks, lobbyists, hangers-on, or just common people who now believe hanging Trump flags in their home will somehow propel them to success like a new prosperity gospel. Because, to paraphrase Ms. Thompson again, that is their sole measure of value — success. They were probably anti-Trump up until it became convenient, or profitable, to switch over. And they could do so because they had no moral code to restrain them. This grouping includes every last currently serving Republican congressperson and senator except, perhaps, Romney; every unelected GOP official worth mentioning, starting with chairwoman Ronna McDaniel who, notably, struck the Romney from her name at the president’s request; media figures like Mollie Hemingway, Rich Lowry, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, and your typical FoxNews robot; and your friend or family member who only became a convert after Trump won the primary. For them, winning is the only thing.

Mr B, unlike Mr. C, does not pine for a seven-figure-plus body count among his fellow Americans and might even privately consider such a thing a bit… unseemly. On the other hand, he would have no problem looking away, or making excuses, or attacking anyone who did show moral qualms.

But however often and however loudly the Mr. B’s may declare their undying loyalty to Trump, the president would we wise to remember: they are only with him while he is winning. Not that they would automatically turn on him if he were to lose in 2020, especially if it were close; but if a new power center emerged in the GOP? If a new politician or tycoon were the next big thing on the right, and DJT was yesterday’s news? All of the B’s mentioned above would slink away like they were never there. All of them. Because MAGA as a minority movement would never attract them. As a movement likely to attain power, it does.

People wondering how to break Trump’s hold on the right: that’s your answer, and that’s your only answer. You have to make him not only lose, but lose humiliatingly. The next day, Lindsay Graham would swear he’d been against Trump all along. It’s just how these people work.

For completeness’ sake, Ms. Thompson’s other Nazi party-goers also show up today, although are not as important overall. The pathetically surrendered woman — this would be the many weak MAGA wives from Melania on down who are sock puppets for their husbands, and who all may be dismissed out of hand. Mr. G, who tries to accept the movement but at arms length, but with qualifiers — this would be Ben Shapiro, who thinks supporting Trump but also trying to hold onto the old, discarded Reagan conservative principles and also while snarking at Trump tweets is somehow acceptable to the New Right. As Thompson predicted, he will be purged.

The vapid, rich, spoiled brat who has never wanted for anything in life and joins the movement for fun — this would be the army of young, bottled-blonde, photogenic airheads who realized how enjoyable, and profitable, it would be to serve as the face of this Boomer-centric political movement. They all show up on FoxNews sooner or later — good luck telling any of them apart.

And finally, the labor leader and, therefore, supposed liberal Mr. L. There is a cottage industry of “MAGA liberals,” with Glenn Greenwald and Tulsi Gabbard chief among their number. Their motives are many: a long-standing history of Russia apologia; a hatred of other liberals and lefties; hatred of America; or maybe a simple will to power, with the realization that going full Trump serves their narrow petty interests. Also, plenty of Trump-hating lefties would gladly sign on with a would-be Bolshevik dictator and his program of gulags, purges, show trials, and genocide — just as long as they get to join the new NKVD.

All of these are horrible people in their own ways, but it’s Mr. B and Mr. C who truly define the Republican Party as we enter 2020. In the end, today’s GOP has little to do with their stated ideals like anti-abortion, low taxes or gun rights. It’s almost entirely about the morals and character, or lack thereof, of the people who flock to the Mr. B who now runs the show. And, to repeat myself and to avoid a charge of Godwining, I am not calling them Nazis. But on the other hand, if these people had lived in 1933 Germany, you know which way they would have turned.

Your franchise won’t save you… but Mary Sue might.

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Like a lot of gamers, I was hyped up for Borderlands 3. For those unfamiliar with the series, it’s a first-person shooter with a Diablo-esque loot system. But far more important than that was the humor and the writing. Oh man, the writing. That’s what had Borderlands cosplayers still hitting the cons years after Borderlands 2 premiered with its hilariously evil villain, Handsome Jack. (Just mention “Butt Stallion” to any BL fan and try to dare them not to crack a smile.) Shooters and looters are a dime a dozen these days, but does any other have Claptrap lose an argument with himself about whether he should get beaten up by thugs? And that’s before we even get to Tales of the Borderlands, which was more interactive novel than game, and yet remains many fans’ favorite.

borderlands3But most of the reviews for the franchise’s latest outing are crestfallen over the lame writing, which landed like a body blow while I was shopping for a new game. Sure, they say, the guns and action and loot are better than ever, and if that’s all you care about then, ok, yeah… but that’s never been the real heart of the franchise, has it? And you’re telling me the game has forgettable villains? Forgettable villains???

It’s the same sin as that of Mass Effect: Andromeda. That game had the best action of any entry in that legendary series, and yet, it was still a franchise killer due to the wooden writing, lame quests, and elimination of the evil (aka “Renegade”) story choices. It was never the duck-and-cover shooty parts that people cared about with the original trilogy.

Your favorite media franchise will always let you down sooner or later. Always.

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Domestic abuse does not have one face.

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Think of the term domestic abuse for a bit. Swirl it around in your head the way wine snobs swirl around an Italian chardonnay. What does it make you think of? Most likely, how your brain interprets that dry, rather clinical term involves a man in a beer-stained sleeveless t-shirt. The back of a hand. The word “bitch” thrown around with abandon. “Look what you made me do, bitch.” Bruises, black eyes. Perhaps you might even imagine the cops getting involved, or a DV shelter, or the brute driving around searching furiously for said DV shelter, thumbing the revolver tucked into his belt.

domestic abuseAnd, above all, a female victim. That is the universal of almost all abuse scenarios (absent the rare gay-male-DV story, which almost never broaches public imagination for some reason). Probably curled up in one corner, crying, a menacing shadow looming over her, belt in his hand.

Now, with those Godfather movie scenes still fresh in your mind, read this.

No, seriously. Go and read it. Then come back. It’ll even open up in its own tab and everything. I’ll wait.


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Why your right-wing uncle is so cut off from reality

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Following up the prior post: Sondland today did indeed lay out some testimony that must’ve had White House lawyers reach for the Rolaids more than once, but that is not what this post is about. It’s about how the top story of the news cycle gets rolled out at various sites. It’s about how one flavor of site is not like the others, and really is about why a third of the country has been conditioned to believe outlandish made-up nonsense. Hint: No, it’s not because of Mark Zuckerberg.

First, let’s look at some mainstream sites’ headlines. All follow the old-school media model of trying to play it fair and, other than a national paper, represent communities varying from purple to deep-red. From left to right, we have Newsday (Long Island, NY), USA Today, the Kansas City Star, and the Salt Lake Tribune.

The verbiage differs, but all say that Sondland implicated Trump and/or his lieutenants like Rudy and Pompeo.

Next, let’s look at some unabashadly liberal outlets: (L-R) Huffpost, New York Magazine, vox.com, and The Daily Beast.

These guys all jazzed up their headlines (Sings! Damning! Threw under the bus!) and throw in more than a little editorializing, some of it premature (is it really “the ballgame”? C’mon). Yet, when it comes to the facts of the testimony, they do not deviate substantially from the mainstream outlets on the facts of the case.

Now let’s take a look at the conservative press, and by that, I do not mean The Bulwark. Here we see (L) the NY Post, (upper R) Breitbart, (mid-R) the Washington Examiner, and (lower R) the president’s favorite channel.

You may be forgiven if you feel like you’re receiving news from some alternate dimension. Two of the sites fail to mention Sondland at all on their front pages when he’s the news of the day, preferring “but Hunter Biden” and/or the tried-and-true “but Obama.” One tries to spin Sondland as a win, and finally, Fox goes with “We may never know the truth here.”

This… THIS is why MAGA is divorced from the rest of the country. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t writing the nonsense stories your Trump-worshiping relative keeps sharing on Facebook. He isn’t forcing anyone to push stories from sites notable for their ads selling gold. Zuck’s not blameless — his algorithms create an echo chamber for his users, as does Twitter’s — but on the other hand, that seems to be precisely what people want.

And so MAGA voters do not want to be troubled with information that deviates from the reassuring “alternative facts” pushed by their safe spaces like FoxNews. In their world, Trump literally *always* wins, and every story is about some smug liberal getting comeuppance or just how much of a victim the most powerful man in the world is, or similar rot.

Furthermore, the people who work for these sites know what their readers want. They get avalanches of hate mail for raising even the slightest criticism of Dear Leader; such heresy can and will also cost them their jobs — sometimes immediately.

If you’re a conservative freelance writer trying to squeak out a living in an increasingly precarious economy for your profession, or a FoxNews line producer uncomfortable with what’s happened to your workplace, or a popular right-wing podcaster or YouTuber since before the rise of Trump, you are under enormous pressure to fellate the orange schlong like everyone around you. I mention sites like The Federalist selling out, but the simple fact remains that if they did not submit before Trump, they would have been shut down and their jobs eliminated. Prostitute your and your magazine’s ideals before the bronze man, however, and the lure of big-time book deals dangle before you.

I talk about what happens to a democracy when a large chunk of voters wish to eliminate the democracy. Now we also know what happens to the news industry when a large chunk of people do not wish to hear the real news, ever.

The stupidest authoritarian timeline

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Word is that one of the president’s men — no, not some agent of the deep state, but a guy specifically hired by the Ochre Joker — will confirm the quid pro quo demanded of Ukraine to Congress today.

What will Republicans do? Admit their error? Say that, ok, our Great Leader made a mistake for once in his life? Or will they do what they always do and character-assassinate Gordon Sondland for the crime of not perjuring himself to Congress? Do you even have to guess?

Remember, it is 2019. As just one example of just how asinine this benighted era has become:

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Yes, it sure would be bad if a deep state operative in the impeachment hoax used canned catch phrases for the benefit of do-nothing Democrats like shifty Adam Schiff and the fake news media. Why, this witch hunt with started with its fake whistleblower is nothing but presidential harassmentThe failing New York Times may not like it, but REAL patriots just want to drain the swamp and would never resort to mere catch phrases. Now then. Let’s put on our red hats that have just random non-catchy words on them to show our support!

idiocracy president

Idiocracy was a prophecy.

Of course, things like hypocrisy, nepotism, and the Big Lie technique weren’t exactly unknown in Washington in the distant history of Before Trump. The stupidity of our current era just makes them simple enough for a slow-learning second grader to pick out. Hillary would have hidden her bullshit within mazes of plausible deniability within crystal palaces of Newspeak nonsense words hidden in forests of Washingtonian winks and nods. Fredo Trump there just tweets it out because at this point, shit, why not? This is the same guy who accuses Hunter Biden of nepotism with a straight face.

Donnie Jr. and his father never fail to be entertaining, at least, in their buffoonery. Unfortunately, what’s behind the clown show is as meaningless as a typical episode of The Hills or a McDonalds burger wrapper crumpled up in the gutter.

The worst thing about Trumpism is how boring it is.


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