Whenever I see TPUSA signs, I always think “Toilet Paper USA”

I’ve never been shy about saying that I despise Turning Point USA. It’s a horrible organization that makes rancid pro-capitalism arguments from a Libertarian perspective, and that tangles it all up in an anti-diversity reactionary package that Republicans all love. There’s somebody at my university who slaps up their stupid declarative posters everywhere, which means that just walking down a hallway give my superior rectus and oblique ocular muscles a painful workout.

Welp, now TPUSA has been investigated. They’re worse than I thought, which means they’re probably on par for a sleazy right wing organization.

Perhaps most troubling for an organization that holds up conservatives as the real victims of discrimination in America, Turning Point USA is also alleged to have fostered an atmosphere that is hostile to minorities. Screenshots provided to me by a source show that Crystal Clanton, who served until last summer as the group’s national field director, sent a text message to another Turning Point employee saying, “i hate black people. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.”

The good news: she got fired. The bad news: it was probably for making their opinions public, not for having those opinions.

Former Turning Point employees say that the organization was a difficult workplace and rife with tension, some of it racial. Gabrielle Fequiere, a former Turning Point employee, told me that she was the only African-American hired as a field director when she worked with the group, three years ago. “In looking back, I think it was racist,” she said. “At the time, I was blaming myself, and I thought I did something wrong.” Fequiere, who now works as a model, recalled that the young black recruits that she brought into the organization suddenly found themselves disinvited from the group’s annual student summit, and that when she herself attended, she watched speakers there who “spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock. It was really offensive.”

Also, they sponsored Milo Yiannopoulos.

Speakers at Turning Point events on various college campuses have been accused of going out of their way to thumb their noses at ethnic and cultural sensitivities. The conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, whose appearance Turning Point co-hosted with the College Republicans at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, said that despite being gay, he hated “faggots,” lesbians, and feminists, who, he said, “fucking hate men.”

Also, they’re a 501(c)3 charity, forbidden from engaging in partisan political activities. Yeah, sure.

Susan Walker, who worked for Turning Point USA in Florida, in 2016, told me that the group did aid Republican political campaigns. Walker said that a list she created while working for Turning Point, with the names of hundreds of student supporters, was given without her knowledge to someone working for Marco Rubio’s Presidential campaign. “That list had, like, seven hundred kids, and I worked my ass off to get it,” she said. “I had added notes on every student I talked to, and they were all on it still.” The Rubio operative, she added, “shouldn’t have had that list. We were a charity, and he was on a political campaign.”

Also, they’re propping up conservative take-overs of student government.

ast May, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an investigative report on what it called Turning Point’s “stealth plan for political influence.” The story recounted accusations on multiple campuses that the group had funnelled money into student elections in violation of the spending caps and transparency requirements set by those schools. It detailed how student candidates backed by Turning Point had been forced to drop out of campus elections at the University of Maryland and Ohio State “after they were caught violating spending rules and attempting to hide the help they received from Turning Point.” It also quoted Kirk saying in an appearance before a conservative political group in 2015 that his group was “investing a lot of time and money and energy” in student-government elections. (In the story, Kirk denied any wrongdoing and said it was “completely ludicrous and ridiculous that there’s some sort of secret plan.”)

Student government? What can they do with student government?

Once in control of student governments, the brochure says, Turning Point expects its allied campus leaders to follow a set political agenda. Among its planks are the defunding of progressive organizations on campus, the implementation of “free speech” policies eliminating barriers to hate speech, and the blocking of all campus “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movements. Turning Point’s agenda also calls for the student leaders it empowers to use student resources to host speakers and forums promoting “American Exceptionalism and Free Market ideals on campus.”

Also, if you, like me, have been wondering where they get their money, it’s from the oil and coal industries.

In a phone interview, Kirk declined to identify the donors who have supplied his group’s eight-million-dollar-plus annual budget, noting that many prefer to remain anonymous. But Kirk has spoken and fund-raised at various closed-door energy-industry gatherings, including those of the 2017 board meeting of the National Mining Association and the 2016 annual meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. In our interview, Kirk acknowledged that some of his donors “are in the fossil-fuel space.”

I’m glad someone is turning over this rock and snapping pictures of all the vermin wriggling beneath it.

Finally! I discover who is pulling my strings and sending me those fat paychecks!

I’ve been hearing so much over the years about this guy, George Soros, who is supposedly my puppetmaster. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about Soros except that he was a really rich guy, and right-wing nutjobs seemed to think he was hiding under their bed. Now, all is explained.

OK, so he’s a billionaire philanthropist who donates to good causes. That’s about it.

A classic eugenics image

A fascinating bit of historical propaganda.

The message is about “The danger of increasing procreation of inferiors” and shows how the good German family on the left, with their two children, will be overwhelmed by the crude nose-picking progeny of those others. How awful! Clearly the people on the right must be culled. We know how that turned out.

We’ve outgrown all that, right? Only alt-right neo-Nazi scum are still peddling that kind of nonsense.

You know, like @WhiteHouse.

I just want to say that it is true that some people will have larger families than other people, but it doesn’t matter — all those children are still people, still have the same potential, and it is the responsibility of the nation to care for them all and give them all the opportunity to use that potential.

(via Kieran Healy)

The Solution

I suppose the alternative is to stop raising boys to be such selfish little shits, but that’s going to take at least another generation.

OK, Democrats, who are the progressive women you’re going to support in the next election? (No, not Hillary Clinton, who I know would be better than the current toxic TV personality in chief, but I said progressive).

Also, I know women can also be toxic. Wanna bet the Republicans are grooming aggressively paranoid and disconnected from reality NRA mouthpiece Dana Loesch for high office?

Cui bono?

The Republicans passed their horrible, evil tax plan. Guess who is going to benefit? This Koch scion.

Jesus. If all he was was a guy with bad taste with a shirt business, fine, OK, sure, express yourself, let’s see if you can make a go of it with a business selling your ugly shirts. But no, he’s just a parasite with rich relatives. He can’t fail.

Once upon a time I worried that all the right-wing militias were going to tear up this country. But it’s looking more and more like it’s going to have to be revolution against the undeserving rich, and the chickenshits who parade around with guns are going to be on the wrong side.

Russia isn’t the issue — it’s our vulnerability to exploitation that matters

Who’s at fault for the Trump presidency? Ariel Dorfman says it so well. It’s not the Russians, it’s us.

I’m tired of hearing about how Russia intervened in the recent U.S. election and tired of the talk about collusion, and I’m especially fed up with the speculation that all this will doom the Trump presidency.

My weariness is not due to a lack of indignation at how a foreign country covertly helped a reckless con man become president. And I would certainly celebrate if the uncovering of crimes forced President Trump to abandon the White House and slink back to his tower. But I fear that the Russia investigations — and the hope that they will save the republic — are turning too many opponents of this administration into passive, victimized spectators of a drama performed by remote actors over which they have no control.

The psychic, intellectual and emotional energy expended on this issue would be better employed, I believe, by addressing a more fundamental concern: What was it, what is it, in our American soul that allowed the Russians to be successful?

Short of evidence that Russian hackers explicitly flipped voting machines, all they did was feed false information to a receptive audience that wanted to believe what Fake News was selling. We keep looking for an external cause for an American failure, and the real cause is right here at home: a wealthy oligarchy that’s been wrecking education for decades, that feeds the sense of entitlement of racist white people, that discourages taking a close look at policies and practices of the military-industrial complex, because that’s become a wonderful money funnel for the rich. Both Republicans and Democrats have been supporting a system of oppression that keeps the electorate fat, stupid, and greedy, and makes them easily manipulable. That we’re also vulnerable to manipulation by foreign sources is our fault, our weakness.

Real patriots would have been working for the last several decades to make the electorate better educated, better able to evaluate information, and more critical of our government. That’s where the strength of a democracy lies, and we’ve been undermining it for generations. Instead, we’ve built up a population that listens to Fox & Friends uncritically, that keeps Alex Jones and Ann Coulter in business, that thinks their illusory notions about what God is thinking is a path to truth.

The investigation into the Russian conspiracies is a good thing — if it ends a dangerous and corrupt regime, I’m all for it. But it’s superficial. At best, it’s going to flip open a manhole cover that will expose the sewer of the American id. The real test will be whether we can then dive in and clean up our own problems.

Republican royalty

Track Palin, son of Sarah and Todd Palin, was arrested for breaking and entering. Ooh-er, it is a sordid story.

He apparently was doped to the gills on alcohol and painkillers, and had broken into the house and beaten up his father for denying him a truck or car, and then strutted about the house while armed. My favorite line in the police report is this one:

Communication was attempted which failed due to Track yelling and calling myself and other officers peasants and telling us to lay our guns on the ground before approaching the residence.

The family really does think of themselves as royalty, don’t they? Comes with being a Republican, I guess. Their prominence is a legacy from John McCain, after all.

I’m more afraid of Elon Musk than I am of rogue AIs

Ted Chiang cuts straight to the heart of issue: it’s not artificial intelligence we should fear, it’s capitalism and its smug, oblivious, excessively wealthy leaders.

This summer, Elon Musk spoke to the National Governors Association and told them that “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.” Doomsayers have been issuing similar warnings for some time, but never before have they commanded so much visibility. Musk isn’t necessarily worried about the rise of a malicious computer like Skynet from The Terminator. Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems harmless enough, but as the AI redesigns itself to be more effective, it might decide that the best way to maximize its output would be to destroy civilization and convert the entire surface of the Earth into strawberry fields. Thus, in its pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal, an AI could bring about the extinction of humanity purely as an unintended side effect.

This scenario sounds absurd to most people, yet there are a surprising number of technologists who think it illustrates a real danger. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’re already accustomed to entities that operate this way: Silicon Valley tech companies.

Consider: Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? This hypothetical strawberry-picking AI does what every tech startup wishes it could do — grows at an exponential rate and destroys its competitors until it’s achieved an absolute monopoly. The idea of superintelligence is such a poorly defined notion that one could envision it taking almost any form with equal justification: a benevolent genie that solves all the world’s problems, or a mathematician that spends all its time proving theorems so abstract that humans can’t even understand them. But when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism.

I’ve always thought the dread of AIs was overblown and absurd and not at all a concern. Chiang exposes it for what it is, the fear that lies in the id of Musk, and Bezos, and Zuckerberg, and every greedy gazillionaire who is frantically pointing “over there!” to distract us from looking at where they’re standing: the fear that someone else might be as rapacious as they are.

I still have a few questions

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Trump administration has informed the CDC that they’re no longer allowed to use the words “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based”. That’s weirdly specific and random, in addition to being contemptibly authoritarian. There’s something funny going on here. I have questions.

Why? This is strangely like telling someone “Don’t think of an elephant” — don’t think of a vulnerable transgender fetus with your evidence-based brain, people! So what are the scientists at the CDC supposed to think when, for instance, they see statistics on Zika-induced developmental abnormalities? As Tara Smith points out, scientists were also given alternatives: instead of talking about science, they should say CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes. So we’re supposed to consider what people wish were true? All right, I wish I had the body of a 30 year old and a million dollars.

Damn. Doesn’t seem to be having an effect.

But I also want to know why those specific seven words. Why not “homosexual”, “abortion”, “euthanasia”, “pollution”, “climate change”, “infertility”, and “tampons”, which conservatives would also find enraging? What specific input triggered the need to dictate censorship of these words?

Who? This edict came from somewhere, from someone who thinks they have the power to police the language. This is really mysterious. The HHS, which is in charge of the CDC, is currently leaderless, although Alex Azar has been nominated to run the show. Azar is an Indiana Republican who ran HHS under the Bush administration, and since has worked as a lobbyist and division head for Eli Lilly, a big pharmaceutical company. His appointment hasn’t been approved, so would he have any say at all? Why would a “pharma shill” object to science and evidence? The Indiana connection is ominous (is Pence tinkering behind the scenes?) but it sounds like maybe, once again, it’s underlings running amuck while the system is rudderless.

What’s next? If they think they can purge a useful, non-ideological word like “vulnerable”, there’s nothing to stop them from getting rid of all of the substance coming out of work from scientific organizations and replacing it with nothing but bureaucratic glurge, which, it wouldn’t surprise me, might be their real goal.

You know, I was also just wondering why anyone would want to be known as a Trump appointee. It seems to carry the taint of corruption and incompetence. I know if Trump tapped me to run the CDC (a position for which I’m completely unqualified), I’d have a terrifying moment of introspection in which I’d wonder what horrifying crime against nature and humanity I’d committed to deserve this rebuke.