Vice-Presidential Precedent

Mike Pence has ruled out invocation of the 25th Amendment. I could try to analyze his entire statement, and I’ll post it below, but right now I just want to focus on one sentence:

Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent.

Let’s be clear here, Pence is claiming that it would be wrong to communicate to future presidents who aspire to tyranny and the violent overthrow of our constitutional order that such a betrayal of our nation and our constitution renders one, by definition, unfit to hold the power of the presidency.

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Takeover: Movement toward justice

Quite a number of years ago, I joined with some students who had taken over the administrative building of their college. I wasn’t at the takeover when it happened, but I was asked to come speak to the people who had. It was a very odd thing, from my point of view. I was new to the campus and honestly didn’t understand the specifics of the grievances that led to the takeover, but I had been invited as a guest lecturer specifically because the student body trusted me and wanted my opinions on various topics related to feminism, anti-racism, queer liberation, trans liberation, and disability. Several of those were implicated, most prominently feminism and racism, and I think it made sense to the students to have a competent facilitator for certain discussions related to them, but also to have a facilitator without baggage, without a history at the college. I had something of an educator’s patina, but no relationship to the administration or its past choices. Thus I was invited, and thus I went.

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Being Uncomfortable

So, as had been reported in mainstream media in a few places (here, for instance), and as I alluded to last night during comments elsewhere (“there are still stories to tell and information to pass on”) the BLM organizers have called for deemphasizing the federal courthouse protests after the BLM rallies next door at the Justice Center. At least one asked for people to simply go home, and skip any post-rally protest focussed specifically on the Mark O. Hatfield courthouse.

Honestly, the audio system is pretty deficient (as I’ve also noted before, though I will admit it was better last night – July 27th – than on most other nights) so i can’t hear anything clearly and can’t be sure I got everything, but they did clearly ask people to simply go home at the end of the main BLM rally, rather than refocus the protest on the Hatfield courthouse as the crowd typically does around 10 or 10:30pm. This request is different than simply asking people not to set off fireworks or start the small fires (on concrete, they don’t spread, but they are plenty large enough to hurt someone badly if they fell into it). They have been consistently asking people to stop setting fires and setting off fireworks, which I consider the worst behavior during these demos, every night I’ve been there. This request goes much further in simply asking people to return home.

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And now, the Congressional-Corporate interactive Corruption!

PZ has brought attention to congressional corruption (in the form of insider trading) and corporate corruption (in the form of stock buy-backs) earlier today. But hark! Fear not that they have lost out on opportunities to engage in mutual corruption. 119 members of congress, including Dems and Reps both, are now calling to use anti-coronavirus legislation to boost purchases of F-35 fighters.

Now one or both of you may actually be confused. While there’s legitimate concern for the economy and stimulus is warranted, the concern isn’t that defense contractors don’t have enough work, but rather that people who are unable to work for fear of transmitting the virus will stop spending money, either because they completely run out or because of fear their savings might not last. Economic stimulus always functions best when given to the poorest, and this case is no exception. Indeed, production speed wouldn’t be increased, so calling for more fighters simply means that production activities due to end a decade from now will instead come to a close 3 or 5 years later than that. While defense contractors like the legislation I’m sure, it does fuck all to help the economy now.

But if neither the virus is vulnerable to air-to-air missiles nor its economic effects offset by distant future delays in closing fighter jet assembly lines, we can at least take heart that the military-industrial-congressional complex have been brought together in hard times to work in unison for mutually beneficial corruption.

So… Slavery Did Not Exist?

There’s this thing that’s been in the news lately. It’s actually quite an interesting bit of awful, and exactly the kind of thing we would normally discuss on FtB: an educator who abhors asserting facts because some people refuse to admit the truth of those facts. Now, the right wing loves to claim that this is a common left wing practice, routinely employed to hide facts supportive of conservative opinions, religions, or ideologies. (For our purposes in this post, we’ll follow the Fox News formula and accept arguendo that anyone working in the public schools is a “lefty”.) I don’t particularly see that, and more telling still, the examples that Fox News blowhards tend to cite don’t actually show that when one returns to original sources. If this really were happening all the time, one would think that the conservatives opposing the practice could come up with at least one good example. In these cases, then, the absence of evidence is waggling its eyebrows suggestively and mouthing, “Hey! Look over there!”

But that doesn’t mean that ignoring fact in favor of opinion or “belief” is something of which we on the left are  never guilty. Just recently, the news has gotten hold of a story about a principal in Boca Raton, Florida, where many of the large contributors to local taxes are Jewish. What was the story you ask, as if you didn’t both already know?

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Joe Biden See No Boundaries

Much discussed in certain circles of the internet the past month or two has been Democratic presidential nomination candidate Joe Biden’s long history of zooming past boundaries without even acknowledging that they might be there. The debate has been weirdly complicated by some people who insist that, since they themselves would have gladly consented to the touching Biden initiated with them without asking that somehow never asking is a reasonable choice on his part. “If I wanted a back rub,” their argument begins, “but other people don’t want a back rub, how in the world is Biden supposed to know who wants him to walk up behind them and rub their shoulders and who doesn’t?”

How indeed.

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That’s what I thought: Senators don’t care about sexual assault, but they might about perjury

I’ve been talking for the last few days about how I consider Kavanaugh’s likely history of sexual assault to be disqualifying, but that his perjury potentially foreshadows even greater threats to justice in SCOTUS, and also that it is more likely to cause Senators to vote against his confirmation.

Jeff Flake (R-I don’t give a shit) has now affirmed exactly that latter view on 60 Minutes when he and Chris Coons were interviewed together. From RawStory describing and quoting from the interview:

In an interview beside Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), the two men also agreed that there’s no way they’ll be comfortable confirming if Kavanaugh was found to have lied.

“Nomination’s over?” they were asked.

“I would think so,” Coons said at the close of their interview.

“Yeah,” Flake agree.

I think it’s pathetic that so many Senators think that credible allegations of rape and sexual assault should not even be investigated, but there you are. The real hope for stopping the nomination is making sure the FBI seriously investigates the accuracy of his testimony.

Don’t stop talking about the sexual assault, but the next time you call your senator, make sure you also mention Kavanaugh’s plentiful perjuries.


Horrible Jokes

So my best friend and I were having a conversation sparked by that most recent post of mine. We were discussing whether it was acceptable, even as a cathartic joke, to talk about burning (fictional and/or non-specific) people and scattering their ashes on the wind. We concluded that it could be acceptable in some contexts. But that brought up another joke, that was subtly different:

Q: How many men does it take to wallpaper a bedroom?

A: Only one if you slice him thin enough.

Now, my best friend is actually the same person who first told me this joke 20 years ago, so I was a bit surprised to hear her say that this joke was never acceptable. She went so far as to say she should never have told it. On the other hand, I think it’s completely unacceptable to tell such a joke for laughs in any public context you could find in Canada today – and likewise in any public context you could find in the US today – but that when she first heard it in the 1980s the context was sufficiently different that it could be (and was) acceptable in at least some contexts. Where she first heard it was during an ongoing anti-war protest. It was a women-only camp that was set up to protest and to monitor activity related to the Pershing II missiles (nuclear tipped missiles with a range that shifted during development and production, but was ultimately ~1000 miles or 1500-1800 km) designed to be deployed in Europe. Everyone at the camp being seriously committed to non-violence contributed, I believe, to the context that made the joke acceptable in the time and place originally told. It also matters (to me, anyway) that “humor” about violence against women was still not merely acceptable, but financially rewarded. this is, after all, long after “To the moon, Alice,” and still before Andrew Dice Clay would sell out venues to thousands of people eager to hear “jokes” like:

I give [women] what they want. Pull their hair, rap ’em in the head a few times, say all the little things they want to hear, like ‘Fuck, pig, howl, skank.

Emphasis added.

For me, although the discussion at the peace camp wasn’t this context, the joke would also have been acceptable when told in a way that was designed to provoke a reaction (“hey, that ain’t fair to men!”) and then to use that reaction to make society better (“But you accept that unfairness from men comedians … if you interrupt and question this joke, are you going to interrupt and question misogynist jokes?”).

Although there is certainly a wealth of sexist/misogynist humor out there, I think there’s enough of a new social context for us to leverage other arguments or employ other tactics to fight what still exists. There’s simply less need for a “slice ’em thin enough” joke to make the point. While the possibility of telling such jokes for catharsis still exists, I don’t believe that telling them publicly (including in almost any manner using the internet) is necessary for such catharsis. I think it’s good if people don’t tell such jokes for cathartic laughs in private with their best friends, but if people conduct themselves well publicly, I won’t condemn them for using humor privately for reasons such as catharsis that would not be acceptable publicly.*1

I make a distinction between this joke and the “people who make me angry” joke in the previous post because the previous post’s joke targeted “the people that inspire my rage” where “my” is a pronoun standing in for a particular, but fictional, person. Thus the targets are specific, but undefined. The targets of the wallpaper joke are non-specific, but well defined (all men). There’s much more reason and justification, then, for some individuals hearing the wallpaper joke to believe that they devalued, that they are socially or psychologically injured by the joke. Nor do I think it saves the wallpaper joke that men benefit from sexism. It’s arguable, but I think in the 1980s men’s privilege and the context of misogynist humor might very well have saved the joke. Today? No.

What do you think? If told in the comedy club nearest you (as a joke, not dissected for its social meaning and effects and morality), would the wallpaper joke be acceptable? Could it ever possibly be? Would it matter if it was a special event night (e.g. “feminist humor night” where the violence and sexual prejudice of the joke are more likely to be interpreted ironically)? What about the burning/scattering the ashes joke? Would it be acceptable at your local comedy club? Could it ever be?

Although I find the latter much more acceptable than the former, I’d love to hear any disagreement.

*1: The reason I don’t think it’s a good idea even privately is that I think it reinforces certain types of thinking, which then makes harmful actions more likely later when one reenters public space. In theory it’s possible to tell jokes that target people based on gender or race or dis/ability in private while behaving generously and without prejudice in public. In practice, I don’t think it’s possible. But since without telepathy it would be impossible to know about the private jokes and (more importantly) impossible to know exactly what role private jokes played in shaping public behavior, I’d rather focus my criticism on the unacceptable public behavior.