Speaking of redemption for the irredeemable…

Remember Kevin Williamson, the pundit who tweeted that women who get abortions should be executed by hanging, and lost a job at The Atlantic over it? I’m not sure what should be done with such horrible people, but not being hired as an opinion writer ought to be the least of it. But guess what the Washington Post has done? They’ve given him an opportunity to write on their opinion pages! A one-time thing, I hope, because I’d rather just see him vanish.

But no. Now he gets a prominent space to rehash his ugly views. I’m going to go find a puppy to kick so I can get space where I can write more about puppy-kicking.

Shockingly, the first thing Williamson does is…denial.

So what would it mean as a practical legal matter to outlaw abortion? That is a question I have been asked frequently since being fired by the Atlantic over a four-year-old, six-word tweet and accompanying podcast in which I was alleged to have voiced an extremist view on the matter of criminalizing abortion — that it should be punished by hanging.

That isn’t my view at all.

What is this “alleged” BS? There was the tweet, which he has since deleted, closing his whole Twitter account. But then also, he was
repeatedly asked if he was joking or serious
, he calmly affirmed that he was.

When Johnson pressed Williamson about whether he was serious, the National Review writer responded: Yes, I believe that the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.

He was asked about it in a podcast, and he strongly affirmed it.

And someone challenged me on my views on abortion, saying, ‘If you really thought it was a crime you would support things like life in prison, no parole, for treating it as a homicide.’ And I do support that, in fact, as I wrote, what I had in mind was hanging, Williamson said.

My broader point here is, of course, that I am a — as you know I’m kind of squishy on capital punishment in general — but that I’m absolutely willing to see abortion treated like a regular homicide under the criminal code, sure.

He even expanded on his point to say that the doctors and nurses who assisted in an abortion should also be executed! So what’s with the weasely “alleged” nonsense now?

He is lying and pretending he didn’t say it. Further, he’s now piously declaiming that he just wants moderate laws regulating abortion, just like France’s.

France, like many European countries, takes a stricter line on abortion than does the United States: Abortion on demand is permitted only through the 12th week of pregnancy. After that, abortion is severely restricted, permitted only to prevent grave damage to the mother’s health, or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities. France is not a neo-medieval right-wing dystopia.

The law in France imposes penalties on those who perform illegal abortions, ranging from forfeiture of medical licenses for doctors to fines and, in some cases, incarceration (for providers, not for the woman obtaining the abortion) ranging from six months to 10 years. Those sanctions seem reasonable to me. Why not start there and see how it works?

Start there…that’s his key point. He sees this as the point of a wedge, leading to, he dreams, full criminalization of abortion. And look: making it illegal for unqualified people to rummage around in women’s uteruses is a good idea, and I suspect is already consider criminal under existing laws about doing physical harm to people, but that’s not what he wants. He wants to arrest and punish certified doctors, nurses, and women who want an abortion. I don’t think France does that.

But these are just Williamson’s unoriginal excuses. This argument, that they just want to be like Europe, has been around for quite a while, and is an outright lie. Katha Politt has specifically addressed this stupid anti-choice talking point.

Here’s what’s really different about Western Europe: in France, you can get an abortion at any public hospital and it’s paid for by the government. In Germany, you can get one at a hospital or a doctor’s office, and health plans will pay for it for low-income women. In Sweden, abortion is free through eighteen weeks. Moreover, unlike the time limits passed in Texas and some other states, or floating around in Congress, the European limits have exceptions, variously for physical or mental health, fetal anomaly or rape. Contrast that with what anti-choicers want for the United States, where Paul Ryan memorably described a health exception to a proposed late-term abortion ban as “a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it.” If a French or German or Swedish 12-year-old, or a traumatized rape victim, or a woman carrying a fetus with Tay-Sachs disease shows up after the deadline, I bet a way can often be found to quietly take care of them. If not, Britain or the Netherlands, where second trimester abortion is legal, are possibilities. (In 2011, more than 4,000 Irish women traveled to Britain for abortions.)

Here are some other differences: in Western Europe, teens get realistic sex education, not abstinence-only propaganda. Girls and women have much better access to birth control and emergency contraception, which are usually paid for by the government. In countries that require mandatory counseling, it is empathetic and nondirective: nothing like our burgeoning network of Christian “crisis pregnancy centers” and state laws requiring women to endure transvaginal ultrasounds, hear fetal heartbeats and look at sonograms. European doctors are not forced to read scripts that falsely warn women that abortion will give them breast cancer and drive them to suicide, and tell them that an embryo the size of a pea is “a unique living human being.” In countries that have waiting periods, distances are smaller, and just to repeat, abortion is widely available and integrated with the normal health system, not shunted off to clinics in a few
cities and college towns. You do not have to travel eight hours four times to get the counseling and fulfill the waiting period—or sleep in your car or the bus station till the time is up.

And just because you’ve read this far: there are no screaming fanatics thrusting gory photos at you as you make your way to your abortion. No one takes down your license plate in the parking lot and calls you—or your parents—later with hateful messages. Doctors who perform abortions do not wear bulletproof vests, nor are they ostracized by their communities and shunned by other doctors. The whole climate of fear that makes many doctors reluctant to perform abortions and makes some women postpone going to the clinic does not exist.

OK, Kevin Williamson, I do want something like that. But that is not what you want: you want gibbets installed in every town with those wanton women who didn’t want a baby hanging from them.

No one is fooled. Except, apparently, the editors at the Washington Post who were happy to let a vicious troll lie openly on their pages.

Where are Vinz Clortho, The Keymaster and Zuul, The Gatekeeper?

The harbingers are supposed to precede the advent of Braco the Gazer, also known as Gazer the Gazerian, Gazer the Destructor, Gazer the Traveler, Volguus Zildrohar and Lord of the Sebouillia, and yet there he is. Braco the Gazer is a New Age charlatan who has taken laziness to a new level. He does nothing. He says nothing. He writes nothing. He looks at you — for no more than 7 seconds, any more would be dangerous — and moves on. You pay $8 for the privilege of standing in a crowded room while Braco gazes at everyone.

New Age music began and all those who were able were asked to stand as Braco emerged and climbed the stairs of the podium. He stood before the room awkwardly at first, and then his pose grew majestic, like he was standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Everyone watched him expectantly.

Then Braco gazed at the audience. For ten minutes.

He was expressionless, but his eyes scanned the room intensely. His head barely moved but he seemed to make eye contact, like one of those paintings where the eyes appear to follow you. As we all stared back we were looking at Braco for longer than the “safe” seven-second period.

As Braco “gazed,” some meditated or prayed, some rocked back and forth gently, and some were crying. Some held photos of sick or deceased loved ones to their chests. We’d also been told that if we had photos of people in our phones, Braco would heal them too.

Then it was all over.

And the crowd goes wild! What a gig.

Braco does do something, though: he sells stuff.

Braco also offers a line of Sunce (sun) jewelry that displays his mentor’s symbol: a golden sun with 13 rays. The price of the jewelry ranges from $190 for a pair of earrings to $2395 for a diamond pendant. Website testimonials claim these talismans bring good luck to the wearer.

You probably aren’t surprised.

How to profit from your own sleaziness

The entertainment industry leads the way in turning exploitation into money by adding another layer of exploitation. This sounds like the worst television show idea ever.

Disgraced CBS anchor Charlie Rose is being slated to star in a show where he’ll interview other high-profile men who have also been toppled by #MeToo scandals.

Among the people Rose would interview are Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., and Mario Batali. They intend to use their own notoriety as harassers to drive an “entertainment” program where they’ll schmooze with each other and talk about how unjustly they were treated and how they ought to be given a second chance. I suspect their accusers will not get a moment in the limelight, and that their accusations won’t even be discussed.

There’s a really good piece by Lindsay Zoladz on these efforts to reward very bad men with an unearned redemption, as if they haven’t been soaking in their ill-gotten rewards already.

But in what felt like some sort of quota for needlessly sympathetic stories about odious men, the very same issue of The Hollywood Reporter in which Miller’s C.K. story was published also contained a lengthy, much-criticized feature that asks, in the gently curious tone usually used when one wonders where a beloved child star is now, “What Happened to Charlie Rose?” (What happened to Charlie Rose, you’ll remember, was that 17 women said he’d committed sexual harassment and misconduct, including groping, making unwanted sexual advances, and “walking around naked in front of colleagues who were required to work at one of his New York homes.”) In the months since the accounts, if you were wondering, Rose has mostly spent his time reading and ordering takeout in Bellport, Long Island, where he owns a waterfront home valued somewhere between $4 million and $6 million. In case you would like more information about the other multimillion-dollar homes the accused sexual predator owns, in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina, The Hollywood Reporter printed fawningly descriptive blurbs about each of them at the end of the story.

So brace yourself. These nasty men are plotting their comebacks, and there are plenty of enablers in the upper echelons who want to give it to them.

“The consensus is that while his behavior was clearly wrong it was not at the level of a Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, or Bill Cosby,” Miller wrote in his piece about Louis C.K., before quoting a flippant and painfully unfunny joke that the comic Gilbert Gottfried made about the “different levels of misbehavior” enacted by these men. Sure. I am not denying that there are different levels of sexual misconduct — and, like the New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino, I am sick of people assuming that feminists are inherently denying or unable to see that. As Tolentino wrote in January in an excellent piece about the inevitability of the #MeToo backlash, it is incredibly frustrating when people are more willing to see nuance on the side of the accused than the vocally critical. And yet it is crucial that we also see the way that the forgiveness of a “lesser” predator paves the way for one “at the level” of Weinstein, Toback, or Cosby to be redeemed. To welcome someone like C.K. or Batali back into the fold not six months after these accusations broke is to intimidate other victims from speaking out, because it will make them think their stories don’t matter, or that the power granted to them by the #MeToo movement was just a temporary spell. To write about them sympathetically, to give them more ink than the names and achievements of their accusers, to run headlines suggesting a “likely” comeback, is to participate in the very culture that allowed these men to behave badly in the first place. It is a failure to imagine a different story, a better world.

C.K., Batali, Lauer, and Rose are all rich, having profited for years off a system that protected them from accusations leveled by people with less money and power. They don’t need to rush back to work. They can afford early retirement or lengthy public hiatuses ensconced in one of their multiple properties. And fans who miss their work and are eager for a “comeback” can buck up and let themselves be sated by many alternatives: In the streaming age, women who create the kind of dark, self-loathing, confessional comedy preferred by C.K. are currently thriving; lord knows people can find other recipes for marinara sauce or cinnamon rolls. But to demand that these men return to the spotlight too early, or in some cases at all, is to risk a cascading effect that will undo the necessary work of the #MeToo movement and to intimidate victims back into silence. Be warned: After Louis, le déluge.

The devaluation of knowledge accelerates

Here’s an announcement that kind of says it all.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is asking department chairs to recruit graduates to serve as adjunct faculty on a volunteer basis.

A statement from the office of SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, posted on the chancellor’s website Tuesday afternoon, indicated that the university is developing a “pilot project” in collaboration with the SIU Alumni Association to “create a pool of potential, volunteer adjuncts with advanced academic degrees who might contribute as needed for up to three years after their approval.”

I’ve written a few rants about the appalling practice of universities surviving on the backs of poorly paid, part-time temporary faculty, that we churn out brilliant, educated people that we then put in such desperate straits that they’ll work for a pittance, and for long hours. But they were paid…poorly. Now we’re at the stage where the administrators, who are better paid than the faculty, are thinking they can get our intellectual labor for free.

If, 40 years ago when I was a graduate student, I had heard about this practice, I would have decided it was time to leave science and find an occupation that would keep me and my family alive. Not because I wanted to, but because it would be necessary.

We are looking at the end result of years of Republican misrule, of long efforts to starve and destroy the infrastructure of this nation.

Where were our leftist riots?

Gosh, this has been a busy week of late nights and paperwork and search committees and trying to catch up with my backlog as the semester winds down to a close. And then I realized…I forgot something. Something something something I’d been planning to attend on Monday. D’oh!

I completely missed Dinesh D’Souza’s visit to our campus. I’d noted it, and there are great big posters everywhere of his gormless goony face, but still — on the appointed day and hour, I had so little interest in the event that I didn’t even remember it enough to tell myself I was too busy to waste an hour on it.

I wondered how it went, but when I asked around, no one else had attended either, or remembered that it was going to happen. We just didn’t care. I’m sure the UMM College Republicans were disappointed, too. Where was antifa? Where were the shrill mobs of feminists and progressives and radical leftist students and old hippies?

So I thought I’d look in on the UMM College Republican web page. Surely they’d have a report on the talk by their hero, brought in to antagonize a liberal campus. They’ve got nothin’. Well, not exactly nothing: they mention their victimhood at length (someone let the air out of one of their tires; probably a black op. One of their members found a used condom thrown at their door…which sounds like an icky college student prank, but you never know where the tentacles of George Soros will strike), and talk about the party they threw for the graduating president of the club, who was given a “Most Hated Person at UMM” award. I felt bad for them. I don’t even know who they are. If it would be validating, I might be willing to muster a vague feeling of pity, but sorry, not hating.

They had photos of the party. They are very sad.

So their big event of the semester with a nationally known speaker was kind of a pathetic bust. They’ve got like four people at their graduation party. I guess I am feeling that vague pity after all.

If I knew who they were, maybe I’d raise a fist and say “Comrade! Workers of the world, unite!” as I passed them in the hall, just so they’d feel like their life goals had meaning.

I guess this is the forlorn, empty fate of conservatives, eventually. I don’t think Trump has helped their brand.

Oh. I checked the facebook page for the event. Even sadder.

A good response…a bit late, but good

Hank Azaria has responded to the Apu controversy on The Simpsons. Recently, people woke up to the fact that the character is a terrible stereotype (Hari Kondabolu made a whole movie about it), and Azaria finally thought about it and publicly recognizes that Kondabolu is right, and that the show should change.

They need real representation in the writer’s room? Yep, that’s always true. If you’re going to feature an ethnic character, you better talk with someone of that ethnicity.

He could have gone the Mickey Rooney/Breakfast at Tiffany’s route.

Rooney, who occasionally shows the Mr. Yunioshi clip as part of his traveling stage show, added, that “Never in all the more than 40 years after we made it — not one complaint. Every place I’ve gone in the world people say, ‘ … you were so funny.’ Asians and Chinese come up to me and say, ‘Mickey you were out of this world.'”

Don’t worry. Rooney forgave people who were offended.

Rooney said that if he’d known people would have been so offended, “I wouldn’t have done it.”

“Those that didn’t like it, I forgive them and God bless America,” he said. “God bless the universe, God bless Japanese, Chinese, Indians, all of them and let’s have peace.”

Azaria’s response is real progress.

Like nabbing Al Capone for tax evasion

I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Capone was a murder and thief, an amoral gangster — and the law was unable to bring him down for the truly evil things he did, but could jail him for the lesser crime of tax evasion. It was a useful tactic for ending a criminal regime, but two things are bothersome: that we were inadequate to the task of stopping a murderer, and isn’t it revealing that the more easily prosecutable crime in a capitalist was society was a crime against property?

It just seems like we’re constantly pussy-footing around the gross corruption of the Trump regime, and have dispatched people like Mueller to investigate and find some little hook, a violation of campaign finance law, perhaps, or lesser offense that, because of the ways our laws work, are easier to nail him on. That seems like a bad precedent to me. The man is openly incompetent and dangerous, and we pin our hopes for getting him out of office on a badly filed form, or a personal peccadillo, and we can’t remove him for being terrible at his job? Something is wrong here.

Case in point: Scott Pruitt.

It is ironic and pathetic and dangerous how the media, the Democratic party leadership and too many liberals are now focusing everyone’s attention on Scott Pruitt’s expenses and petty scandals to discredit him. When we look at who Scott Pruitt really is, and what he’s really done, we can see that going after him this way is like catching a naked mass murderer right in the act and then charging him with indecent exposure. It is hugely dangerous because it mis-directs people away from the immense real danger represented by Pruitt.

It’s the same thing! The man is ragingly bad at what ought to be his job.

Pruitt is a Hard Core Christian Fascist Playing a Key Role at the Core of the Trump/Pence regime.

For years Pruitt has been one of the most prominent right-wing attack dogs against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when (during previous administrations before Trump/Pence) it was still in the main carrying out its stated mission of protecting the environment using science and scientific principles to monitor and assess the health of the environment.

He has been an open unapologetic lobbyist for energy firms for many years.

But more than this, Pruitt is a Christian fascist. He sits on the board of directors of the Southern Seminary, one of the largest seminaries in the world and the largest of the denomination’s (Southern Baptists) six seminaries. He is one of the main sponsors of the weekly cabinet-level biblical study group along with: Vice President Mike Pence, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA Director (and now Secretary of State designate) Mike Pompeo and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

This study group is run by Ralph Drollinger an infamous far-right extremist pastor who was disavowed by his own church for his bigoted ideology. His group also has similar study groups in the U.S. House and Senate and in 43 State assemblies. In a September 2015 interview, Drollinger described his mission as creating a “factory” to mass-produce politicians like Michele Bachmann, who is on the Capitol Ministries board. “She thinks Biblically,” Drollinger said. “She doesn’t need a whole lot of time to figure out how to vote because she sees the world through a scriptural lens. We need more men and women like her in office.” Drollinger has praised the new (Trump/Pence) administration for its power to “change the course of America in ways that are biblical.”

Yet none of that is indictable. We can have a radical religious bigot placed outside of his qualifications in a high position with the specific purpose of destroying the office under his charge, and nothing can be done. But hey, maybe he filed an inappropriate expense report! Maybe he spent too much on office furniture!

It’s too much to hope that failing to meet the obligations and trust expected of a political servant might be grounds for dismissal. That’s all I ask — not that they go to jail (although they should) or be hung from a lamppost or be water-boarded at Gitmo by our pro-torture government, but that they be dismissed from the jobs they cannot do. And that maybe our vetting process for high office involve less about ideology and more about basic competence.

Sam Seder vs. Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson was on Bill Maher’s show, and I didn’t watch it — those are two names I find utterly repellent. Bill Maher is a terrible host, because he loves to pack his little panels with politically diverse people, and then preside over some of the most inane, horrible apologists for idiocy who have nothing to add to the conversation, and Maher not only nods and strains to find something to agree with them on, but will then invite them back over and over again. Case in point: Jack Kingston, Trump apologist, seemed to have a permanent slot on the show.

So you knew that when he had Jordan Peterson on, there would be little pushback, and as a centrist, he’d agree with every criticism made of the left…and you knew he’d only criticize the left, not the right, will playing the non-partisan. And that’s what happened.

But Sam Seder does not feel any need to fawn over Peterson, and in this clip, jumps all over the stupid arguments Peterson makes in the way Maher should have.

Seder would be a far more interesting talk show host than Maher. Unfortunately, he’d also have the conservatives frothing rabidly for his blood in a way that Maher doesn’t get. They may not like some of Maher’s views, but they know that at his heart, Maher is a warrior for the status quo.