Friday, January 19, 2018

Señor Trumpanzee's Shithole Shutdown


Congress will be seen as "a bunch of Washington bozos" if a shutdown occurs
-Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Last night the House passed HR 195, the Federal Register Printing Savings Act, the name meant to obscure what it really is and make it hard for voters to find a record of who voted for and who opposed the latest Republican short term CR (continuing resolution). It funds the government through Feb. 16 without dealing with DACA if the Senate passes it and Trump signs it. It passed 230-197. 11 Republicans voted NO and 6 fake-Democrats voted YES. The 6 Democraps who broke ranks and threw the DREAMers under the bus:
Salud Carbajal (New Dem-CA)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Vicente Gonzalez (Blue Dog-TX)
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Union activist Randy Bryce, the progressive Democrat who is driving Paul Ryan out of Congress, saw the vote last night in terms of solidarity: "There are times," he told us right after the vote, "when like-minded people need to stick together in order to stand up for the most vulnerable among us. This was one of those times. Disappointed in those who turned their backs."

Two of the Republicans who opposed it-- Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both from overwhelmingly Hispanic districts in South Florida-- did so because Ryan refused to deal with DACA. That was the overwhelming reason behind the nearly universal Democratic opposition in the House as well-- although that wasn't the only reason. Carol Shea Porter (D-NH), for example, told her constituents she opposed it because it failed to increase resources directed at the opioid epidemic fight, failed to provide redictable funding for our military and veterans’ access to health care, failed to help disaster-stricken communities and failed to extend funding for community health centers. She told New Hampshire residents that she was refusing "join House Republicans in abandoning the fundamental tasks of governing by kicking the can down the road yet again on the most basic responsibility we have, funding the government. In a hearing this afternoon, Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, said, ‘I can’t in good conscience testify before Congress about naval power without mentioning the toxic and corrosive effect of nine years of continuing resolutions and years under the Budget Control Act…The absence of stable and adequate funding for defense makes everything that our sailors and their commanders do harder. On a scale of one to ten, the importance of stable and adequate funding scores an 11.’ This is now the fourth extension, and it is time to end the harmful cycle of lurching between short-term funding bills with the now monthly threat of a government shutdown. These monthly failures to govern are simply unacceptable, and they need to end. I will continue to stand up for Granite Staters, who are sick and tired of the constant dysfunction and excuses. We need to work together to find long-term solutions to the critical issues facing our nation, instead of kicking the can down the road one month at a time."

Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) pointed out to her constituents in Seattle that "the majority has made a mockery of our legislative process. We just voted on the fourth continuing resolution in nearly four months. This makes no sense. It is no way to govern. Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House, and-- still-- they’re scrambling at the last minute to piece together a patchwork budget that does nothing for the American people. It does nothing but kick the can down the road for another month. It ignores the real challenges we face. Once again, we watched Republicans put in the bare minimum. They denied relief for the 1.5 million Dreamers whose future hangs in the balance. They squashed the hopes of the 122 young people who lose their status each day we wait on a DACA fix. They turned their backs on the people suffering from our nation’s rampant opioid epidemic. They told kids who rely on the Children’s Health Insurance Program that their best interests don’t matter by ignoring our need for a permanent CHIP fix. I refuse to substitute one family's pain for another's gain. This is more than just a spending decision-- it is about the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. It is about the soul of our country. And our country deserves so much better than this."

A new Quinnipiac Poll asked: If there’s a government shutdown, who would you blame?
Congressional Democrats- 34%
Congressional Republicans- 32%
Trump- 21%

We reached out to some of the Blue America-endorsed candidates to see how they're handling the issue in their campaigns. All of them are in sync with what Pramila Jayapal and Carol Shea-Porter were telling their constituents:

DuWayne Gregory (Long Island):

"The Republicans have proven again that they cannot handle the mandate to govern.  They continue to kick the can down the road while poor children go without healthcare and dreamers live in fear of deportation. America needs leadership now."

Jenny Marshall (northwest North Carolina):

"When will we stop kicking the can down the road and demand legislation be passed that is sorely needed?  While the bill at least reauthorizes CHIP, the government shutdown is still looming and we did not address the fix needed for Dreamers. The Republicans needed the Democrats and those who voted yes took the crumbs brushed off the bargaining table while leaving the meal untouched.  They should have demanded the legislation needed to protect and serve the people who live in this country. They failed."

David Gill (central Illinois):

"I think that passing continuing resolutions instead of actual budgets is an irresponsible way to govern. And I could never sign on to a deal which treats young people who came here as children in such a heartless manner. The resolution passed today still leaves hundreds of thousands of dreamers in jeopardy.“

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (Albuquerque):

"Supporting the short term funding fix without addressing the fate of DREAMERS is cruel to the 800,000 young people whose lives have been disrupted by Trump's racist and irrational decision to revoke DACA. Pitting health care for children (CHIP) against security for innocent young DREAMERS (DACA) was a Republican tactic designed to divide Democrats with a 'Sophie's Choice' and give Republicans an illusory way to try to attack Democrats for their vote. The Democrats who fell for this cynical and cruel tactic are the type of politicians that make all politicians look bad. They betrayed Democratic values of compassion and inclusion., I would not fall for this cynical Republican tactic. Republicans own this dysfunctional failure to perform the most basic function of Congress--to fund our government."

Austin Frerick (southwest Iowa):

"We are not going to allow 800,000 young Dreamers to be deported. That is what this conservation is about and a short term fix doesn't address this uncertainty for these Dreamers. When Republicans control the Senate, House and White House, and they blame Democrats for the shutdown, I don't think anybody is going to take that seriously. Shame on any Democrat for joining them."

Tom Guild (Oklahoma City):

This is no way to run a railroad, much less a country. Congress has not passed a budget for this year, despite an October 1, 2017 deadline for passing the current fiscal year’s budget. Trump’s lackeys in Congress continue to parrot and vote the party line. Chateaubriand and Fancy French Champagne all around at Mara Lago, even if the government shuts down! Trump & his acolytes fiddle as America burns! What a self-absorbed group of elected officials incapable of empathy. Millions of Americans will be affected & hurt by a government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of DREAMERS cruelly twist in the wind. We have a self-absorbed president and a compliant Republican congressional majority that allows Trump’s ego and their votes to not even do the bare minimum to keep the lights on & the government functioning. How tragic that a proud country's government has come to this! The Needle & the Damage Done! If the government shuts down it will be their doing. They'll try to blame it on everyone in sight. They are severely challenged in the areas of leadership & taking responsibility for their malpractice and inadequate actions."

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Republicans Are In A State Of Denial About What's Headed Their Way In November


Trygve Olson-- sounds like a Norwegian name-- is a national Republican strategist who is from Wisconsin’s 10th senatorial district, the site of the GOP donnybrook Tuesday. "If Republicans are losing districts like this," he said after the counting was done, "they should be in complete panic mode about the tsunami heading their way." In fact, Tuesday saw 4 special elections in very red districts that had gone to Trump in 2016 by very wide margins. Although just one flipped from red to blue, all 4 swung heavily towards the Democrats. These were the results:
WI- SD-10-- a 26 point swing towards the Democrat
WI- AD-58-- a 25 point swing towards the Democrat
SC- HD-99-- a 15 point swing towards the Democrat
IA- HD-6-- an 18 point swing towards the Democrat
So that's an unweighted average swing of about 20 points towards the Democrat in very Republican territory. Veteran GOP strategist Curt Anderson told The Hill that he's "not advising my clients to panic, but if it’s a choice between panic and complacency, I suggest panic. Every Republican candidate should approach this election as if we start 5 points behind." Really? 5 points? That sounds delusional. What will it look like if what happened on Tuesday happens on a federal level in November? The simple answer: the GOP will be wiped out. Let's take, for example, the 15 races where Blue America has endorsed candidates (or is in the final stage of vetting candidates) in districts held by a Republican incumbents that Trump won. So not included are the DCCC theory-of-the-cycle districts where Hillary beat Trump. Below you will see by what percentage Trump won the district.
IA-03 (Austin Frerick)- 4 points
KS-04 (James Thompson)- 27 points
IL-13 (David Gill)- 6 points
PA-16 (Jess King)- 7 points
IN-09 (Dan Canon)- 27 points
NC-05 (Jenny Marshall)- 18 points
MI-06 (Paul Clements)- 8 points
TX-21 (Derrick Crowe)- 10 points
NY-02 (DuWayne Gregory)- 9 points
ME-02 (Jared Golden)- 10 points
OK-05 (Tom Guild)- 13 points
WI-01 (Randy Bryce)- 10 points
WA-05 (Lisa Brown)- 13 points
NE-02 (Kara Eastman)- 2 points
IA-04 (J.D. Scholten)- 23 points

As you can see, a 20 point nationwide swing would sweep away 12 of the 15 Republican incumbents in the Trump districts. That means the hardest work is needed in KS-04, IN-09 and IA-04. Be my guest, please.
National GOP leaders met at the Salamander Resort in Virginia over the weekend to discuss the 2018 campaign.

Sources familiar with the meeting say leaders left the resort acknowledging they would lose House seats in November.

Still, many were hopeful that economic growth and the tax cuts that haven’t yet made their way to voters’ paychecks will boost the party between now and Election Day.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the fourth-ranking Republican in leadership, said the discussion at the retreat reinforced how important it will be for Republicans to “win hearts and minds on the tax package.”

“People in this country need to realize what is driving economic growth and job creation and opportunity,” she said.

Democrats need to flip 24 seats to gain control of the House.

McMorris Rodgers told The Hill she believes Republicans would maintain their majority in the House through 2018.
McMorris Rodgers is wrong-- and not just about the delusional assertion that the GOP is going to hold onto the majority in Congress. It's not likely she'll even be in Congress herself in 2019. As we saw on Tuesday, it's very likely that Eastern Washington voters are going to replace her with the state's former House Majority Leader, Lisa Brown. And Brown is doing all she can to reach out to those voters as directly as she can. Today she told us that "although Paul Ryan’s SuperPAC is opening a field office in Spokane, threatening to flood Eastern Washington with dark money, our supporters are countering it with thousands of contributions. $27 is still a popular amount, but they range on a daily basis from $5 to $500, because people understand how important it is to defeat entrenched leaders who have 'gone Beltway.' More significantly, we have over a thousand people attending training academies, clamoring to register voters and knock on doors from Chewelah to Walla Walla. This is how you take back your country."

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Señor Trumpanzee-- Working Class Hero?


Trump makes a big deal about keeping his campaign promises. And, unfortunately, the ones he wants to keep, he does try to keep. Sometimes the courts and occasionally, even Congress, keeps him from keeping the worst of them. His excuse for torpedoing the bipartisan DACA fix was that it flew in the face of one of his ugly outbursts of bigotry during the campaign. Now Ryan and McConnell are using his bizarre and incoherent approach as an excuse for not bringing popular DACA fixes to the floor of each house for a vote.

But on promise that was very specific, consistent, loud and very public during the campaign was his promise to the workers at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis. Looks like that's one he didn't really care much about-- or at least not enough about to do anything proactive once he had lost Marion County (Indianapolis) in 2016. Primary day was interesting there:
Hillary- 59,649
Bernie- 58,799
Trumpanzee- 49,835
Lyin' Ted- 39,557
Kasich- 9,633
And, despite Mike Pence's presence on the ticket-- or maybe because of it-- Hillary kicked his ass in the county. She beat him 212,676 (58.9%) to 130,228 (36.1%). Maybe he thought he shaped have won the state's biggest county. He did do better than Romney had though. And he certainly won the state-- and the Carrier workers-- who are unionized-- helped. I bet they're sorry now.
It was raining in Indiana's capital city on the day Renee Elliott and millions of other blue collar Americans stunned the world by helping to elect a Manhattan real estate mogul the 45th president of the United States.

But all Elliott saw that day was sunshine.

As she waited patiently in line to cast her vote, Elliott said she was buoyed by the belief that Donald Trump would make good on his campaign pledge and prevent her job at the Carrier plant-- the job that she said allowed her to escape an abusive marriage and live a modest but comfortable life-- from being sent to Mexico.

Now, very soon, Elliott will be standing in another line-- the unemployment line.

Elliott, 44, was one of the 215 workers at the Indianapolis plant who were given pink slips on Thursday. And to say she is disappointed by Trump would be an understatement.

“We all voted for him,” she said of herself and her Carrier co-workers. “We just thought he was going to protect our jobs. It sounded really good. And then, boom.”

Elliott doesn't know what she is going to do next. She has only a high school diploma to go along with the hairdresser license she earned before she got the job five years ago at Carrier, when she was studying to be a nurse.

“My five-year plan was to finish out nursing school and work on the line and take classes at night,” she said.

What Elliott does know is that it will be hard to find anything that will match the $18-an-hour she made as a press operator at Carrier-- and that whatever savings she had were eaten up raising two now-grown kids. Her 73-year-old mother, who had also been living with her, has moved in with her brother, who still has a job at Carrier.

“Being a paycheck away from being homeless is terrifying,” she said.

...Elliott’s fate was sealed long before she voted for Trump. The Carrier Company announced on Feb. 10, 2016, that it was closing its plants in Indianapolis and Huntington, Indiana, and moving the operations to Monterrey, Mexico.

It was during the first presidential debate with Hillary Clinton that Trump gave Elliott and her co-workers some hope that their lives and livelihood would be spared.

“We have to stop our companies from leaving the United States and, with it, firing all of their people,” Trump declared. “All you have to do is take a look at Carrier air-conditioning in Indianapolis. They left-- fired 1,400 people. They’re going to Mexico.”

The exact details of what was happening at Carrier were somewhat different. But the gist of what Trump said on national television electrified the workers on the Carrier plant floor.

Suddenly, there was a savior on the horizon.

Until that moment, Elliott said she didn’t think much of Trump, the son of a wealthy real estate developer who was trying to cast himself as a working-class hero.

“When I first heard on the radio that he was going to run, you’re thinking, ‘He’s a billionaire and so forth,’” she said. “And I was thinking, ‘There’s no way, but he’s going to find a cause and pick it up and when he does he’ll change things. And little did I know we’ll be the cause.”

Elliott said workers began showing up for their shifts in red Make America Great Again baseball caps and she started seeing Trump bumper stickers and posters everywhere.

After the election, there seemed to be even more reason to cheer when a triumphant Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, then the governor of Indiana, announced that they had worked out a deal with Carrier's parent company, United Technologies, to save “more than a thousand jobs right here in the head of the Heartland.”

“Actually the number’s over 1,100 people, which is so great, which is so great,” Trump said.

Chuck Jones, the tough-talking Local 1999 steel worker president who spent decades fighting the exodus of good-paying American manufacturing jobs to countries like Mexico, said he didn’t buy what Trump was selling. Jones began working in the 1970s when 19.4 million Americans had manufacturing jobs, a number that had shrunk to fewer than 11.5 million when he recently retired.

“I didn’t vote for Trump,” he said. “And I kept on saying I think he’s full of shit.”

Privately, however, Jones hoped Trump would prove him wrong. He worked for the nearby Rexnord plant for more than 40 years before that operation was moved to Monterrey. And he knows a lot of the Carrier workers who had pinned their hopes on Trump. But as Trump spoke, Jones did the math.

“When Trump and Pence showed up here, they kept on referring to the fact they had saved over 1,100 jobs,” he said. “The people in the crowd thought that everybody was going to have a job. They misled the people.”

Jones said it was an especially cruel move because many of the Carrier workers had already made peace with the idea that layoffs were looming and were looking for other jobs.

“Then people went home that evening and told their families, ‘Everything is going to be all right. President Trump saved our jobs,’” Jones said.

The Carrier plant in Indianapolis will have a work force of 1,100 people after about 215 workers depart Thursday, “completing the final phase of the previously announced plan to relocate fan coil manufacturing production lines,” Ashley Barrie, a spokeswoman for United Technologies, said in an email to NBC News.

Also, Barrie added, the laid-off workers will “receive a one-time payment, severance pay and six months of medical insurance.”

“Since the initial announcement, approximately 60 impacted employees have chosen to take advantage of the company’s Employee Scholar Program and pursue degree programs,” Barrie said. “In addition to reimbursing four-year education costs, Carrier has also reimbursed, and will continue to reimburse, technical training costs for those who prefer to pursue a vocational technical certification program.”

Elliott said she was convinced her job was safe until some strangers from Monterrey showed up at the plant.

“Mexicans came in and some even came to me and asked questions, but I didn’t want to talk to them,” she said.

But other Carrier workers were forced to train those who would be doing their jobs for a quarter of the salary the Americans made.

“The Mexicans aren’t our enemy,” Jones said. “Pure and simple, corporate greed is driving it.”

...Come Friday, though, Elliott will be another unemployed American factory worker. “At my age, I don’t have the confidence to start all over again,” she said.
Virginia Foxx's opponent in North Carolina's 5th district, Jenny Marshall grew up in a small town in Indiana. She told us that she "saw first hand the damage NAFTA had on our town and in the communities across our country. The effects were swift and brutal. Companies packed up and left town seeking out cheap labor in foreign countries. My father was a tool and die maker in a plant that employed hundreds of people in a town of just 17,000. When they closed and shipped their jobs out of the country it caused a ripple effect of businesses closing across the town. It was devastating. We must end these disastrous free trade policies that allow companies to shutter plants just to import those products back into the United States to be sold to the people who used to make them. And we cannot expect people to pick up the pieces and find a new career time and time again. It is a simple case of companies prioritizing profits over the people who work for them. I say enough is enough. It is high time our laws actually protect the people instead of a company's bottom line."


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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


-by Noah

Decisions, Decisions!

Damn! I'm not sure what the rules of this game are, but, the bottom line is Hell!


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nazis In Unpop Culture


A month or so ago, rock journalist Steve Knopper called me to discuss how punk music pushed back against Nazis who tried infiltrating the early anarchistic punk music scene. Fascists in London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York seemed drawn to the scene's iconography, rowdiness and anti-establishment perspective. Soon after I went off to Thailand-- the Land of Smiles-- and forgot all about it. This week Steve's story, Nazi Punks F**k Off: How Black Flag, Bad Brains, and More Took Back Their Scene from White Supremacists was published by GQ. First paragraph:
Every hardcore band you loved in the '80s and beyond, from Black Flag to Minutemen to Fugazi, had one unfortunate thing in common: Nazi skinheads occasionally stormed their concerts, stomped their fans, gave Hitler salutes in lieu of applauding, and generally turned a communal experience into one full of hatred and conflict. Punk rockers had flirted with fascist imagery for shock value, with the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux wearing swastikas in public, but, as early San Francisco scenester Howie Klein, later president of Reprise Records, recalls: “Suddenly, you had people who were part of the scene who didn’t understand ‘fascist bad.’”
I watched in horror as bands, and their supporters, tried to out-do each other in outrageousness in the mid to late '70s. The idea is that if you could piss off your parents and other authority figures, you were succeeding (at something). At the time I had a punk label in San Francisco and our first signing was the most popular local band, The Nuns. Our very first release, a 3-song 7" EP-- looked vaguely Nazi-ish:

There were 3 singers-- one was Jewish, one was gay and one was an art school woman and the guitar player was from a prominent socially conscious Latino family. The song was "Decadent Jew," a live version of which from 1978 is posted above. The Jewish singer uses the N-word. At one point Bill Graham said he would manage the band if they stopped performing the song; they refused. The two other songs on the record were "Suicide Child" and "Savage." They got a lot of attention, which was the whole idea and the way to compete. The fans picked up on the vibe and were soon out-of-control, especially when the scene went from an ironic art school in-crowd joke, to a way for suburbanites to blow off some steam.
By 1980, a more violent strain of punk fans was infecting punk shows. “Pogoing became slam-dancing, now known as moshing, and some of ’em didn’t seem like they were there to enjoy the music, as much as they were there to beat up on people-- sometimes in a really chickenshit way,” says Jello Biafra, whose band, Dead Kennedys, put out a classic song about it in 1981: "Nazi Punks Fuck Off."

Many of the more conscious scene leaders, like Joe Strummer and Mick Jones (from The Clash), Jello Biafra (from the Dead Kennedys), Joey and Tommy Ramone (though not Johnny or Dee Dee) were having misgivings and feeling some responsibility very early on. The bands that didn't give a shit-- or even encouraged and exploited the worst aspects (like the Sex Pistols)-- were cooler, at least in some circles.

Knopper then puts the 3 decade old movement into the context of "the era of Trump and the alt-right, Charlottesville, and 'very fine people on both sides,' [when] fighting Nazis is sadly newly relevant, and veterans of the hardcore-vs.-skinheads battles of yore are happy to help with war stories and advice." The rest of his piece is a very worthwhile oral history on how punks took back their scene, featuring, among others, Black Flag's Henry Rollins, Mike Watt from Minutemen, Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains and Camper Van Beethoven's David Lowery. I should have told Knopper to include Penelope Houston from The Avengers. Last night she surprised me with her recollection. "The Avengers broke up in mid-79. We didn't seem to attract super narrow-minded fans. I think the Nazis coming to punk gigs happened years after that, but I wasn't there. I'd made my way into more arty or folky kinds of punk: Human Hands, Monitor, B-People, Violent Femmes, after hardcore reared it's nearly shaved little head. There was one time some dudes from the suburbs came to our show at the Mabuhay and started punching people in the audience. We just stopped playing. This was in a pre-pit, pogo-esque time period. I still don't get why some people say the Avengers were the first hardcore band. We were not having it."

Darren Hill was the bass player-- and the brains behind-- the Red Rockers, a band on my label, 415 Records. They had come from Metairie, Louisiana, home of KKK Grand Wizard or Dragon (and Republican state legislator) David Duke. The Red Rockers were nothing like David Duke-- and when their first album was released they were often referred to as "the American Clash." Today Darren manages Paul Westerberg of The Replacements. I asked him to read Knopper's story and give me some input.
We knew that Nazi imagery had been adopted by some of the punk pioneers strictly for it’s shock value. That always made me uneasy but I never imagined that anyone in our scene would actually adopt their ethos.

Slam dancing had become a thing at our shows in New Orleans but it was harmless fun for the most part. Occasionally ignorant and testosterone fueled jocks would come out and misinterpret what was going on. They thought it was some kind of sport and started hurting people-- even girls.

We did a pretty good job policing it though-- stopping the show and calling them out. Ridicule and shaming was pretty effective because they were outnumbered.

It wasn’t until we hit the road that we encountered real Nazi Punks for the first time. I couldn’t believe it. This is a real thing? What in the hell are you doing at our show? Do you know what we’re about? Have you ever listened to our lyrics? We went from awareness and singing “Springtime for Hitler” in the van to the cognizance that this was real and dangerous… and very, very frightening.

By the time we returned home they had infiltrated OUR scene. The vilolence had spun up several notches and we could no longer control it-- to the point that the club we played at all the time had to ban us due to the violent element. I always believed that violence begets violence but there was no reasoning with these animals. Failed attempts and a black eye led to the realization that they were not just ignorant, they were brainwashed. We understood that we had to defend ourselves and our scene. The next time we hit the road, we took our friend out as a roadie-- the only employee we could afford at the time. He was a six-foot-four 260 pound hulk of African/Puerto Rican decent. Picture a NFL linebacker with a mohawk in a kilt. He couldn’t tune a guitar to save his life but probably saved our lives a few times. He would slowly skank across the stage while we played always keeping an eye on the crowd. If he saw any sign of trouble he would leap down into the middle of it and dance, then jump back up and resume skanking. He was actually quite graceful for such a big man. He was so intimidating yet peaceful and we never had a problem after that.

Years later, in the late 90’s, I was managing the Dropkick Murphys. There was a resurgence of the skinhead movement and they adopted the band as their own. Even though the band denounced them, there was still a huge presence at the shows. There was freightening confrontation at a Warped Tour show one year in Salt Lake City. The band’s vastly outnumbered crew stood up to a literal army of bad skins that day in what can only be described as a battle. What can I say, our guys were from Boston. Luckily there were no serious injuries and the skinheads were chased off in shame. There was a serious threat of retaliation if the band ever came back to SLC so we stayed out of the market for a while. Fortunately that dissipated over time.

Those who believe in hate cannot feel empowered and be allowed to grow. Charlottesville reminded me of this.

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People Like Oprah-- But Not As A Presidential Candidate... Although Better Her Than Trumpanzee


Last Friday we looked at how sick voters have become of celebrities and CEOs and celebrity CEOs running for office-- and not just of Trumpanzee. One utterly clueless foreign betting firm was giving odds that Oprah Winfrey would win the Democratic presidential nomination. I should have bet! Democrats aren't going to be nominating the likes of Oprah, Mark Zuckenberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Cuban, Tom Steyer, Carly Fiorina or Mike Bloomberg anytime soon. And that was confirmed by a new Morning Consult poll that found that "most voters do not think Oprah Winfrey should run for president in 2020" even though she'd "hold a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head 2020 matchup." After her Golden Globe moment of grandeur, Morning Consult found that just 24% of respondents thought she should run-- as opposed to 59% who said she shouldn't. Although Democratic voters would prefer her over the odious Kirsten Gillibrand-- 44-23%-- most voters would prefer Bernie or Biden to Oprah.

Quinnipiac also released a new poll that may have some relevance for the 2020 election. [They also asked who they would vote for between Trumpanzee and Oprah and found Oprah ahead 52-39%-- "But American voters say 66 - 14 percent that electing a celebrity to the office of president is a bad idea."] But mostly Quinnipiac was trying to figure out how many voters have figured out that Señor Trumpanzee is batshitcrazy. The nation is split. Crazy people (45%) think Trump is just fine. Sane people (47%) recognize we have an insane "president." Most men think he's sane; most women have figured out that he's not. Regardless of his mental state, most voters, by a wide margin (57-38%) disapprove of how he's handling his job.
Trump is doing more to divide the nation than to unite the nation, voters say 64 - 31 percent. Every listed party, gender, education, age and racial group says the president is dividing the nation except Republicans, who say 70 - 24 percent that he is doing more to unite the nation, and white voters with no college degree, who are divided 48 - 46 percent.

Trump does not respect people of color as much as he respects white people, voters say 59 - 38 percent. Republicans, white voters with no college degree and white men are the only listed groups who say he respects people of color as much as white people.

"President Donald Trump can't seem to improve his approval rating, perhaps because of the troubling fact that half of the voters we spoke to think he is mentally unstable," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

"The president is a divider, not a uniter, say an overwhelming number of voters, an assessment made even more disturbing by his perceived lack of respect for people of color."

American voters say 58 - 35 percent the comments President Trump allegedly made about immigrants from certain countries are racist.
Of course, people of color aren't the only targets of Trump's vicious bigotry and grotesque ignorance. The Committee to Protect Journalists released a list of the world’s worst press oppressors. Señor Trumpanzee took home the top honor, beating out, for example outright fascists like:
Vladimir Putin
Tayyip Erdoğan
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

John McCain: "Reagan recognized that as leader of the free world, his words carried enormous weight, and he used it to inspire the unprecedented spread of democracy around the world. President Donald Trump does not seem to understand that his rhetoric and actions reverberate in the same way. He has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing 'fake news awards' upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with. Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy... The phrase 'fake news'-- granted legitimacy by an American president-- is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens...We become better, stronger and more effective societies by having an informed and engaged public that pushes policymakers to best represent not only our interests but also our values. Journalists play a major role in the promotion and protection of democracy and our unalienable rights, and they must be able to do their jobs freely. Only truth and transparency can guarantee freedom."

Today Gallup released some new findings: World's Approval of U.S. Leadership Drops to New Low. "One year into Donald Trump's presidency, the image of U.S. leadership is weaker worldwide than it was under his two predecessors. Median approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low of 30%, according to a new Gallup report. Obama left office with a 48% worldwide U.S. approval rating. After a year of Trump, that's fallen to 30%-- an 18% collapse.
The relatively fragile image of U.S. leadership in 2017 reflects large and widespread losses in approval and relatively few gains. Out of 134 countries, U.S. leadership approval ratings declined substantially-- by 10 percentage points or more-- in 65 countries that include many longtime U.S. allies and partners.

Portugal, Belgium, Norway and Canada led the declines worldwide, with approval ratings of U.S. leadership dropping 40 points or more in each country. While majorities in each of these countries approved of U.S. leadership in 2016, majorities disapproved in 2017.

In contrast, U.S. leadership approval increased 10 points or more in just four countries: Liberia (+17), Macedonia (+15), Israel (+14), and Belarus (+11). The 67% of Israelis who approve of U.S. leadership is on par with the ratings Israelis gave the U.S. during the Bush administration. Notably, interviewing in Israel took place before Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but he had repeatedly promised to do so during his campaign for president.

...The losses in U.S. leadership approval may have implications on U.S. influence abroad. With its stable approval rating of 41%, Germany has replaced the U.S. as the top-rated global power in the world. The U.S. is now on nearly even footing with China (31%) and barely more popular than Russia (27%) -- two countries that Trump sees as rivals seeking to "challenge American influence, values and wealth."
One of the sharpest declines in confidence in US leadership in the new Gallup poll was in the UK, where it dropped by 26 percentage points. A third of Britons questioned in the new poll expressed approval, with 63% voicing disapproval.

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Trump And Ryan Can't Even Keep The Government Open, Though The GOP Controls Every Aspect Of Government


Wednesday, the editors of the Boston Globe reminded their readers who are thinking about the government shutdown Trump seems to be engineering for tomorrow-- and pre-blaming on Democrats-- that "the Republican Party controls both houses of Congress and the presidency. If its leaders can’t keep the government’s lights on, despite unified control of Washington, it would be an unnerving commentary on the GOP’s ability to handle the most basic tasks of governing... Anticipating the public backlash, Trump and some other Republicans are trying to divert blame to the minority Democrats. It’s an odd tactic. It’s true that many Democrats want no part of any deal unless it includes a separate proposal to protect the children of undocumented immigrants from deportation. But the Democrats don’t run Congress."

Tuesday night Ryan and his team decided to start waving the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) under the noses of Democrats-- 6 years worth of renewal funds-- to try to get their support after the far right extremists of their own party, primarily members of the neo-fascist Freedom Caucus, said they won't back keeping the government open. The Democrats, however, want a DACA fix in the bill, something in-house White house fascist Stephen Miller has persuaded Trump to oppose.

North Carolina Nazi Mark Meadows bragged this week that "based on the number of noes and undecideds in the Freedom Caucus, there’s not enough support to pass it with just GOP support in the House." In the kind of deep, deep red district that Meadows and other Nazis represent, primarily in the South, where no independents are needed for elections, no one cares who gets blamed for a shutdown in swing districts held by Republicans top north. And new polling shows that Trump and the GOP will be blamed, despite all the Trump tweets and despite Fox-- all preaching to the neo-fascist choir. The Hart Research poll found that "even before hearing any specific policy disagreements," 42% of Americans would blame Señor Trumpanzee and congressional Republicans for a government shutdown, with just 31% instinctively laying the blame at the feet of the Democrats, a significant 11-point margin.

Among independents and undecided voters, the margin is even wider, as independents would blame Republicans over Democrats by a 16-point margin and self-described undecided 2018 voters would blame the GOP over Democrats by a 19-point margin.

The poll included interviews with adults in 12 Senate battleground states: Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Of the respondents, 52 percent reported having voted for the president and 41 percent for Hillary Clinton, a margin crafted intentionally to closely mirror the combined average results from those 12 states in the 2016 election.

Republicans headed into the new year hoping to spend much of 2018 touting the passage of Trump's signature tax bill. Further, many Republicans up for election in November hoped to use its passage as a main campaign tool. But a government shutdown would likely draw the focus of voters away from the tax legislation and instead toward Washington dysfunction and a blame game over who is responsible for the government shutdown.
Paul Ryan's opponent in WI-01, Randy "IronStache" Bryce is a common sense kind of guy. "Basic math," he told me today, "would normally be used to show who has a majority in every branch of the U.S. government. It’s one of the few things left that can’t be considered 'fake.' Funniest part about this entire finger pointing session has the 'Freedom Caucus' is the group creating the havoc. Please clean up your own yard before telling others to look after theirs."

Politico reporting by Kyle Cheney and Elana Schor backs this up. There sources? Beltway Republicans. Like South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford: "The perception of most Republicans is that a shutdown does not accrue to Republican benefit. It’s a relatively tough sale. It makes it that much harder for Democrats to acquiesce on a deal because they feel like they have the upper hand."
During the 17-day shutdown of 2013, “the Republican Party’s favorable rating dropped 10 points in a matter of days, and it took a year to fully recover,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster. “It would take an act of extraordinary political agility to avoid a similar fate today.”

This year, Democrats hold none of Washington’s levers of power, but their central goal in the immigration talks-- protections for undocumented individuals brought to the country as minors-- is viewed favorably by bipartisan majorities. Trump is mired in low approval ratings, even in battleground states he won in 2016, as he pushes for more money for the border wall he promised on the campaign trail.

And new polling suggests voters are already poised to blame Republicans if talks go awry. A poll released Tuesday by the Democratic-leaning firm Hart Research Associates found 81 percent of voters in a dozen Trump-leaning states supportive of adding aid to the undocumented Dreamers to any government funding bill.

That leaves Democrats with a significant strategic advantage, knowing that Republicans need their votes to keep the government open and would have trouble laying blame for a shutdown in their laps.
This is the kind of thing that makes me scoff when Beltway types warn that the election is still 10 months away and that everything could change and the Republicans could retain control of Congress, etc. Sure, it is 10 months away...  but the most likely changes to the zeitgeist are that the likelihood of Democrats winning between 50 and 60 House seats will increase to 75-80 House seats. That deep, deep red Wisconsin state Senate seat that flipped Tuesday wasn't just a fluke-- and the Republican who went down in flames was no Roy Moore. This was a response from rural GOP-leaning voters to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Scott Walker. And this is what a nascent tsunami looks like 10 months out. One would have to be out of one's mind to imagine that Trump isn't going to make things even worse for his party between now and November-- and that the voters are going to do anything other than grow increasingly furious at his Republican enablers in Congress. Shutting down the government is going to further erode GOP support among independents and moderates, even if the lunatic opioid-and-Fox addicts who back Trump whine about Pelosi on cue.

Derrick Crowe is running for Congress in an Austin/San Antonio district that Trump won by 10 points-- much closer than the 26 points Trump won the Wisconsin state Senate district that flipped red to blue on Tuesday. And like that Wisconsin Senate district, TX-21 is an open seat, Lamar Smith having decided to get out before the voters kick him out. Derrick seemed incredulous at the bickering inside the GOP over their inability to keep the government funded and running. "This is a total and complete failure to govern by the GOP," he said. "They've managed to pass a tax scam that gives corporations and billionaires big paybacks for political donations, but they can't get their act together to reauthorize CHIP or keep the government operating at any basic level. That's because this administration was never intended to be a true government. It's a smash-and-grab job, plain and simple. They've handed federal departments to oligarch accomplices for the sole purpose of breaking them or using them to enrich themselves and their friends. But when the government shuts down, the people are going to rise up for the political revolution."

Goal ThermometerJenny Marshall is also running for Congress-- and in a tougher district than Derrick's. But-- with hard work and persistence-- it's a winnable district in this wave cycle and she's running against a bona fide villain, the proudly bigoted Virginia Foxx. "Virginia Foxx, Mark Meadows and the GOP," she told us this morning, are fully responsible if our government shuts down. For the past year they have controlled all three branches of our government and they still cannot figure out how to govern. They had to cram the tax plan through in the dead of night with notes scribbled in the margins with little debate and no negotiation with the Democrats. This is no way to govern. Now the Republicans need the Democrats and we must stand firm in our commitments to children on CHIP and a fix to DACA. Under no certain terms should one take precedence over the other. We are talking about the lives of people in both instances and two issues that the American people want to see fixed/funded. We should and must push for both of these to be passed. If the Republicans want to avoid a shutdown, then they will actually remember what Congress is supposed to do...debate, negotiate and compromise. That would be responsible governance."

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez is running in a nice blue New Mexico district. Her wisdom, experience and energy will do a lot of good in a Congress that has grown more and more dysfunctional and ineffective. She told me that "the current shut-down crisis is an outrageous level of dysfunction. The Republican party has been unified by hate and bigotry when it comes to the subject of immigrant communities, and they have betrayed working families by allowing CHIP funding to lapse. They run the federal government-- both houses of Congress and the White House are in Republican hands-- and they own this shutdown. The President reneged on his commitment to DREAMers, and the right-wing Republican Congress is complicit. And, disturbingly, to a law professor like me, is the failure of this Republican controlled Congress to serve its constitutional role as a check and balance to an out of control executive branch of government. Instead, they fail to even keep the government going. A bold and drastic change is needed. I expect a blue tsunami as long as voters know what is going on."

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Much "Consensual" Sex is Non-Consensual — #MeToo and the Muddy Middle Ground of Social Communication


Comedian Aziz Ansari on women who don't go out with nice geeky guys like him. Listen to this brief excerpt, then read below what this "nice geeky guy" is really like on a date.

by Gaius Publius

To understand my headline, read the following short excerpts from Elizabeth Bruenig on the problem women have when men occupy the "social signals" middle ground between rape and "taking no for an answer," then read how that works in practice via an account of a date between "Grace" (not her real name) with comedian Aziz Ansari.

That middle ground is where much of the #MeToo action is, and it gives the lie to our black-and-white thinking about "Just say No" when it comes to sexual assault.

Note: This is not primarily about whether or not Aziz Ansari is a bad person, nor about the degree to which Grace caused her own problem. It's about what happens on dates when people are unfamiliar with each other, how much of the communication between them is social and non-verbal, why painful aggressions aren't always escalated to police reports, and how all of this plays into the #MeToo movement.

This is also not about "these modern times" and "kids today." Using social signals to communicate is broadly characteristic of our species, has been for millennia, and is not just an aspect of "these times." The only thing that's new to us now is that sexual interaction is much less rigidly constrained — and much more a social activity, as well as a personal one — than it was through most of the last century. Cultures in which sex was similarly social — and patriarchy was similarly constrained (cultures without droit du seigneur practices, for example) — would have evidenced these same species-specific problems.

The "Social Signals" Middle Ground

Elizabeth Bruenig, writing in the Washington Post, says this about sex as an intimate social act:
One of the principal outcomes of the sexual revolution was to establish that sex is just like any other social interaction — nothing taboo or sacred about it, no big deal. [Atlantic writer Caitlin] Flanagan points out [here] that, in her day, women were advised to slap men or jump out of cars or scream and shout in order to bring an encounter verging on nonconsent to an end: Sex [...] didn’t need to be treated with ordinary manners.
Yet in most other social interactions, one doesn't move immediately from "I'm kind of interested in doing this with you" to slapping and screaming "Get out!" Which means that, contrary to what Flanagan says, sex is often treated with "ordinary manners." That's just the way it works with social interactions — they're treated with "manners" long before they escalate into fights — and most would say that's a good thing.

In the real world, sexual activity, especially with a new partner, starts with signals and its communication can continue that way for quite some time. This places much of our sexual communication in a "social signals" middle ground, well between between the extremes of saying explicitly No or giving explicit consent.

This places much of our sexual communication and interaction in the field of etiquette. Bruenig again (emphasis added):
Yet, while becoming just another social interaction stripped sex of much taboo, it’s still subject to the everyday pressures of etiquette, which can be just as binding. If a guest were lingering too late after a party, or a lunch partner boring you, or an acquaintance pestering you to borrow your umbrella, you wouldn’t scream or shout or slap them, and you likely wouldn’t abruptly leave. You would likely try to be subtle and transmit certain signals without a confrontation. You would likely go along to get along. You would likely grin and bear it. You would likely do this because that’s what we do in workaday social interactions, and sex is one of those now.
This is what I mean by the "social signals" middle ground, the clear but muddiable middle between two more explicit ends of a communication spectrum.

At one end of this spectrum, the good end, is the man or woman who "takes No for an answer" — even and especially a non-verbal, signaled No (which is how all No's begin, as signals and hints). Interested Party approaches signaling sex, Person Approached signals lack of interest, Interested Party retreats. Message ("No thank you") received.

Note that the communication is clear even though it's not verbally explicit.

 Ignoring social signals. Deliberate? Who can say? (Photo: Thinkstock)

At the other end of the spectrum, the bad end, is the rape attempt. Here all social bets are off, and etiquette and behavioral rules no longer apply. Interested Party uses force, Rejecting Party uses force, and the attempt is fought off until resistance succeeds or fails. In most of these interactions, both parties move to explicit verbal communication rather quickly ("Don't fight me, dammit!" "Get away, you pig!").

The rest of our sexual negotiations, at least in the early stages of a relationship, lie between these extremes, in the same way that most of our social interactions do.

Consider, for example, how you get a dinner guest to leave who wants to stay forever. Do you scream "Get out!" early in the interaction, or do something gentler, then slowly escalate? Of course you do the latter.

Now consider a sexual encounter where one party becomes less and less comfortable, is less and less willing to continue, and the other party persists. Is this rape? It is if the uncomfortable party jumps his or her response to the far end of the social spectrum — with an etiquette-defying punch to the gut, for example — and threatens to call the police.

But what if the resistant party just increases the clarity of his or her social signals without the punch to the gut, or tries to exit without turning the situation into a fight? What if that party is voluntarily undressed at the time? Is it rape now?

Not really, And yet, yes, it is, though not in a legal sense.

The Intimate Act of Having Social Sex

The difference, of course, between the act of having sex and the act of getting a resistant, late-staying dinner guest to leave is that sex is not just a social act negotiated with social signals — it's a deeply personal surrender of one's body to another. Even in the most casual sexual encounters, allowing anyone, especially a relative stranger, the level of access to your body that occurs during sex requires a great deal of trust. And for many of us, engaging in sex grants a great deal of access to our most personal feelings as well.

Sex may be a social act, but it's an intimate and personal act as well. It's both. Which means that when even casual sex goes badly wrong, our intimate sides can also be deeply affected.

Bruenig puts it this way. "[S]ex is a domain so intimate and personal that more harm can be done than in most social situations, and that given that heightened capacity for harm, we should expect people to operate with greater conscientiousness, concern and care in that domain than in others. If you are still hanging around your tired host’s home long after the party is over, excuse yourself and leave — don’t wait for them to order you out or call the police. If you are kissing someone and they’re barely responsive ... then get their coat for them and call it a night. [Aziz] Ansari didn’t commit a crime [see below for more]. But cruelty isn’t restricted to criminal acts."

To be specific, the cruelty mentioned above is in ignoring social signals, even strong ones, because they are "just" social signals and not screaming rejections or punches to the gut.

Because sexual activity is both social and deeply personal, especially between unfamiliar partners. #MeToo isn't and can't be just about rape, or about how "No means No." #MeToo about everything that happens in that social signals middle ground as well.

Example: An Account of a Date Between "Grace" and Aziz Ansari

The following is a perfect example of the "social signals middle" when it comes to sexual communication, of how difficult it can be to say refuse and be heeded when the forcing party won't acknowledge the signals and the resisting party won't escalate to an out-and-out fight.

This was not rape exactly, but it is use of force, and the consequences to the victim were devastating, as they would have been to most people, as they are in fact each day that passes to hundreds throughout the country.

The entire story is here: "I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life". Caitlin Flanagan calls this "revenge porn." Perhaps, but it's a perfect example of what happens when a social sexual encounter turns bad. I'm excerpting the story with enough detail to give a feel for what happened. To read the entire encounter, go to the link above.

Note: Is this a lurid clickbait piece presented at one of the seamier sites in the Internet's erotic bazaar? Perhaps. But the story is also likely true, if the writer's claim of having checked contemporaneous messages and accounts passed between Grace and her friends is true. The writer could also be lying throughout, of course, but given Ansari's celebrity and the nature of his defense (below), that seems unlikely.

Ansari: "I misread things in the moment"

Grace (again, not her real name) and Ansari met at the 2017 Emmy Awards after-party and started flirting. As she was leaving Ansari asked for and got her phone number. After a week of flirtatious communication, they fixed a date for Monday, September 25. According to the story's writer, Katie Way:
Her date didn’t go as planned. The night would end with Grace in an Uber [riding] home, in tears, messaging her friends about how Ansari behaved. Babe spoke to the first friends she told about it, and reviewed the messages on her phone.

The day after the incident, she wrote a long text to Ansari, saying: “I just want to take this moment to make you aware of [your] behavior and how uneasy it made me.” To that message, Ansari responds: “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”
Before we get to details of the date, consider Ansari's defense: "I misread things in the moment." Keep that statement in mind as you read the "things" (signals) that Ansari claims to have "misread."

The date started with dinner, but before the meal was entirely over, Ansari wanted to move quickly to his apartment. Way: "[Grace] recalls there was still wine in her glass and more left in the bottle he ordered. The abruptness surprised her." Note the social signal from Ansari: I want to get you back to my place.

At his apartment, Grace complimented his kitchen counter tops, which he turned into an invitation to sit on them. The sex escalated quickly from there:
“He said something along the lines of, ‘How about you hop up and take a seat?’” Within moments, he was kissing her. “In a second, his hand was on my breast.” Then he was undressing her, then he undressed himself. She remembers feeling uncomfortable at how quickly things escalated.
We're now in the social middle ground. She's undressed, he's undressed, he's been fondling her, and now she's feeling uncomfortable. Here's how her discomfort got communicated:
When Ansari told her he was going to grab a condom within minutes of their first kiss, Grace voiced her hesitation explicitly. “I said something like, ‘Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.’” She says he then resumed kissing her, briefly performed oral sex on her, and asked her to do the same thing to him. She did, but not for long. “It was really quick. Everything was pretty much touched and done within ten minutes of hooking up, except for actual sex.”
Grace is trying, gracefully, to extricate herself with social signals.
She says Ansari began making a move on her that he repeated during their encounter. “The move he kept doing was taking his two fingers in a V-shape and putting them in my mouth, in my throat to wet his fingers, because the moment he’d stick his fingers in my throat he’d go straight for my vagina and try to finger me.” Grace called the move “the claw.”

Ansari also physically pulled her hand towards his penis multiple times throughout the night, from the time he first kissed her on the countertop onward. “He probably moved my hand to his dick five to seven times,” she said. “He really kept doing it after I moved it away.”

But the main thing was that he wouldn’t let her move away from him. She compared the path they cut across his apartment to a football play. “It was 30 minutes of me getting up and moving and him following and sticking his fingers down my throat again. It was really repetitive. It felt like a fucking game.”

Throughout the course of her short time in the apartment, she says she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was. “Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points,” she said. “I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”
There's quite a bit more of this, including several pauses in the sexual interaction before it restarts. For example:
Whether Ansari didn’t notice Grace’s reticence or knowingly ignored it is impossible for her to say. “I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested. I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.”

Ansari wanted to have sex [the writer means intercourse; to me, all of this sounds like sex]. She said she remembers him asking again and again, “Where do you want me to fuck you?” while she was still seated on the countertop. She says she found the question tough to answer because she says she didn’t want to fuck him at all.

“I wasn’t really even thinking of that, I didn’t want to be engaged in that with him. But he kept asking, so I said, ‘Next time.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, you mean second date?’ and I go, ‘Oh, yeah, sure,’ and he goes, ‘Well, if I poured you another glass of wine now, would it count as our second date?’” He then poured her a glass and handed it to her. She excused herself to the bathroom soon after.

Grace says she spent around five minutes in the bathroom, collecting herself in the mirror and splashing herself with water. Then she went back to Ansari. He asked her if she was okay. “I said I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you,” she said.
I'll stop here, but there's quite a bit more. Note the last sentences above. He asked if she was okay. “I said I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.” Even that is an attempt by Grace to mollify without antagonizing, to appeal to his interest in being liked instead of just punching him, gathering her clothes, and racing to the door.

Grace, like a great many people in situations like this, wanted to maintain the relationship, but end the sexual part. We don't know her reasons, nor do we need to judge her for have them. That decision was hers to make and it came with a price. Was it her fault, the price she paid? Or his fault for making her pay it, by unilaterally using her (minimal) social restraint to continually force himself on her?

And if the price she paid is indeed largely his fault — after all, it's his behavior that caused it — how best to enforce constraints on behavior like this?

Grace eventually succeeded in ending his sexual approaches. A car was called and she raced out. "I cried the whole ride home," she said, according to the account. "At that point I felt violated. That last hour was so out of my hand."

Is This Rape? What's the Solution?

The #MeToo movement is about sexual assault in the police sense, but it's also about encounters like these. As my title says, much "consensual" sex is non-consensual. This is certainly a prime example.

What was Ansari thinking? Perhaps this: She let me take off her clothes. My hands have been on her and in her. I read that as Yes. I just need to get her the rest of the way [to intercourse].

What was Grace thinking? Likely this: He's way out of control. How do I out of here without starting a huge fight? 

Are incidents like this rape? No, but they come close. Are incidents like this consensual? Only literally, in that Grace stayed within the norms of etiquette by not screaming, punching or accusing him of a crime. But in no other sense did she consent. She simply chose less extreme, more socially mollifying ways to end the encounter. In this case, she succeeded, but only after enduring hours of aggression before getting away.

This isn't a matter for the police under current law, but it's also not nothing for Grace. It feels as violating as it would have been if it were a matter for the police.

The solution? Again, the problem is the inescapable middle ground that non-verbal and social communication by its nature entails. Do we want to legislate that? The solution comes down to two choices (other than do nothing):

(a) Make aggressive but social interactions like these legally prosecutable, or

(b) Make these interactions, aggressive refusal to honor social non-verbal signals, so socially objectionable and subject to social punishment that few aggressors will cross them.

Which means:

(c) Publicizing events like these as they occur, if only amongst one's friends, so that perpetrators are so shamed and ostracized that few will risk the consequences.

I would strongly oppose solution (a), since that would further muddy the water of social interaction. (I understand though the reasoning of those who would choose that option.)

Bruenig seems to concur with me. "Demanding an expansion of empathy and responsibility when it comes to sex isn’t regressive," she writes, "it’s a sexual revolution in its own right."

Besides, incidents like the above are generally designed to occur in the world of "he said, she said" deniability, with no third parties present. By not using the law and its requirements for proof, and the court's humiliating and demeaning cross-examinations, as an avenue of redress, victims of unprosecutable aggressions like that described above are free to take their case to the "court of public opinion" — their own and the aggressor's social and professional circles — as Grace did here.

Under the law, when Ansari says, "I misread things in the moment," he's home free. In his circle of friends and associates, which in this case is wide if you include his fans, saying "I misread her" may well get him absolutely nowhere. It could even, at worse, deal a death blow to his social and professional life, at least until he rehabilitates himself.

Is that punishment fair? Who knows?

But if Grace is telling the truth, what was done to her was not fair either. As messy as that solution may sound — addressing these assaults aggressively in the "court of public opinion" — that seems a whole lot cleaner fix to me, and perhaps on the whole a more effective one, than writing laws to regulate human behavior in the social middle ground. (We're ignoring for a moment the special case of the cynical use of #MeToo for political gain.)

Because frankly, somehow, these "middle ground" aggressions do have to stop. If vigilante social counter-aggression does the job, the world will be much better for it.


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Making Bannon Snitch On Trumpanzee


Tuesday I was in a hospital waiting room with a TV tuned to CNN when Bannon waddled into a closed door congressional hearing. I noticed that "Sloppy Steve" was wearing a coat and tie. I didn't know he owned a tie. Maybe he borrowed one. That night it was all over the news that he refused-- for 10 hours-- to answer any substantive questions from members of the House Intelligence Committee, even after they served him with a subpoena. Democrat Adam Schiff described the escapade as "a gag order by the White House." Even after the subpoena was served, according to Schiff, Bannon "was instructed by the White House to refuse again to answer any questions concerning the time during the transition and his time in the administration... The scope of this assertion of privilege-- if that’s what it is-- is breathtaking. It goes well beyond anything we’ve seen in this investigation." The White House once again claimed it is “fully cooperative” with the Putin-Gate investigation.

Bannon confirmed that last week he had been served with a subpoena by Mueller and that he would cooperate with that investigation, further infuriating members of the Intelligence Committee, including Republicans. With Intel Committee chair Devin Nunes recused from participating, acting head Mike Conaway (R-TX) adjourned the hearing with the proviso it would be back in session-- with Bannon-- today.

So what do Mueller the congressional investigators want from Bannon? He was part of the regime when Trump decided to fire Comey. They want him to help them prove the very likely obstruction of justice charges in the impeachment process. The Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff reported that "executive privilege-- the president’s right to keep certain information from the public so he can have frank conversations with aides-- will not keep Steve Bannon from sharing information with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team," since Mueller is part of the Executive branch.

A report from Kyle Cheney in Politico late Tuesday had silly members of Congress claiming they will force Bannon to disgorge the information he has. They didn't specify how. Water boarding? The iron maiden? The rack? The brazen bull? The garrote? Brown rats? Pear of anguish? Boiling in oil? No dinner? I guess they could lock him in the congressional basement and play Nickelback, Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers really loud all night 'til he stops stonewalling.

"We’re going to get answers from Mr. Bannon," said Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, the top Republican on the committee's probe of Russian interference in the presidential election.

Tensions flared early in the proceedings after Bannon informed the committee that he was refusing to answer any questions about his time in the White House or on the post-election transition, infuriating Democrats and Republicans on the panel, who subpoenaed him on the spot, according to a source familiar with the interview.

...Bannon was behind closed doors with committee members and staff for more than 10 hours. Schiff said much of the time was spent negotiating the parameters of his testimony. Conaway recessed the interview after 8 p.m., and he declined to say whether he would pursue additional steps, such as holding Bannon in contempt or issuing a further subpoena for documents.

Schiff and Conaway confirmed that Bannon and the White House didn't specifically assert executive privilege to avoid answering questions, but rather suggested that some of the answers could potentially infringe upon executive privilege. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a similar case when he declined to answer some questions he had received from lawmakers in various ongoing Russia probes.

But Bannon also refused to discuss conversations he may have had with Trump even after he left the White House in August, Schiff said. And a source familiar with the interview added that lawmakers were perplexed at Bannon's suggestion that the transition period-- when Trump wasn't yet in office-- could be subject to executive privilege claims.

The decision by Republicans and Democrats to subpoena Bannon represented unusual bipartisan pushback for a committee that has recently been mired in partisan discord. And Bannon's appearance came just weeks after a falling-out with Trump over comments Bannon made in an explosive new book.

  ...The source familiar with the interview said Republican lawmakers-- including Conaway and former federal prosecutor Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina-- were also frustrated that Bannon was not more forthcoming.

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