No poors allowed

Our administration wants to slide in new rules to keep those poor people out of the country.

In a 447-page proposed rule issued on Friday, the administration proposes sharply limiting legal immigration for those that aren’t already wealthy and privileged.

The proposed rule would favor granting permanent legal status to immigrants who make more than 250% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, that means an income of $62,750 per year.

This exceeds the median household income in the United States.

I will only accept this if it is applied retroactively, meaning Trump’s immigrant grandfather and all of his descendants must leave immediately. It means I’ll also have to move to Norway or Sweden, but that’s a small price to pay.

Why free speech is sometimes a curse

John Oliver rips into the Republican efforts to prop up Kavanaugh in the first 9 minutes, but go ahead and watch the rest where he describes Facebook as a toilet. A lot of it is spent on how Facebook blithely allowed inflammatory hate speech to flow in Myanmar, with the excuse that they didn’t have enough people fluent in the language to police it, but I have to say — they allow it fo flow pretty freely in English, too.

Another account

Here we go again…another woman, Deborah Ramirez, has stepped forward to testify about Brett Kavanaugh’s drunken behavior at Yale. It’s a story vetted by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, two journalists with a rock-solid reputation.

Will the Republicans finally withdraw this nomination? If they push it through, all they’ll accomplish is to diminish the authority of the Supreme Court still further.

America is Animal House

The Washington Post has a good story on Christine Blasey Ford, and let’s get this out of the way: she’s also a product of wealthy, preppy, privileged, private school and country club culture. I despise those people. That they are the class that dominates politics is one of the big problems with this country.

But she got out — she fled as far as she could from the kind of people that Brett Kavanaugh instead chose to wallow with. The kind of people who thought getting drunk until they vomited was the height of fun.

Every summer, the “Holton girls” would pack into a rented house for Beach Week, an annual bacchanal of high-schoolers from around the region. The prep schools that formed Ford’s overlapping social circles usually gathered at a Delaware beach town each year. Kavanaugh, in his senior-year yearbook, cited his own membership in the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”

Like Kavanaugh, Ford was part of that alcohol-fueled culture. But those unchaperoned parties, at beach rentals and Bethesda basements alike, frequently left the girls feeling embattled.

“The boys were pretty brutal,” Evers said. “They would do what they could to get you drunk, and do whatever they would try to do to you.”

And then those boys go on to become lawyers and politicians, and do whatever they would try to do to the American people.

I have to say that this Twitter thread (read it all here) pretty much has American culture pegged.

Remember those cheap comedies from the ’80s, like Porkies or Revenge of the Nerds? I remember laughing at them, but what they were really doing is instilling in us a forgiveness for the excesses of Asshole Culture. Sure, they’re committing rape, they’re humiliating women, they’re praising turning the tables on bullies by becoming bullies yourselves, but boys will be boys, and isn’t it funny to peek in the girls’ showers or their bedroom windows and see boobies?

Try watching them now. They haven’t stood the test of time, and are painful to see, because now (I hope!) we can all see that the underdogs are all privileged white boys who have managed to succeed only by finding a new group of victims, usually women, to exercise power over. They are stories about clawing your way up the hierarchy by stomping hard on people, where you win by being cunning and brutal and making your opponents suffer, and your reward is getting the girl, whether she likes it or not.

And today, Cthulhu help us, it’s the people who absorbed those messages who now run the country.

You know, it pains me to say it, because I loved the anti-establishment message of another of those ’80s comedies, Animal House, and it actually does have some funny moments, but…it’s part of the problem. It celebrates sexism (don’t you like to see boobies?), and it is underdogs battling the privileged, but it’s two frat houses fighting for dominance. It’s the frat system that is the problem, and no one ever seems to think of leaving the whole rotten edifice. Then the hero is Bluto Blutarski, who is a crass, crude, ignorant failure who uses bluster and unearned confidence to claw his way up the ladder…he is the archetype of Trump. Real-life Blutarskis are not funny anymore.

It is sort of funny in a laugh-through-the-tears, ironic way that in the closing credits of the movie, they say that Blutarski goes on to become a US senator. It’s too true. That’s why we can still laugh. But do you still laugh when you see all the Blutos actually running congress? Becoming Supreme Court judges? Getting elected president? I don’t think so.

Jordan Peterson, fragile little snowflake and misogynist

I remember the old days of the internet, when some dork would throw a hissy fit and demand that we skeptics immediately remove all our mean statements about their devoutly held beliefs, and threaten us with legal action. And we’d all laugh at such absurdity, because once it’s on the internet, it’s being spread widely and isn’t going to go away, no matter how fiercely you stamp your foot or how loudly you scream.

I’ve personally experienced their ire: Pivar, Shermer, Carrier, to name just a few. Their efforts are futile. The facts do not disappear when they make you uncomfortable. Yet they still don’t get it.

The only difference today is that now it’s the so-called rationalists who are making willy-nilly threats of lawsuits to silence their critics, all while simultaneously genuflecting before the altar of free speech. It’s freakin’ weird, man. You’d think their heads would explode, or that at least their followers would notice the hypocrisy and turn their backs on them. But they don’t.

Latest in the litigious free-speechers who want to shut people up: Jordan Peterson. He’s suing someone who criticized his book.

In June, he threatened to sue Down Girl author and Cornell University assistant professor Kate Manne for defamation, after she criticized his book, 12 Rules For Life, and more generally called his work misogynistic in an interview with Vox. (Peterson previously filed a lawsuit against a university whose faculty members, in a closed-door meeting, argued that showing his videos in a classroom created an unsafe environment for students.) In letters to Manne, Cornell, and Vox, Peterson’s lawyer, Howard Levitt, demanded that all three parties “immediately retract all of Professor Manne’s defamatory statements, have them immediately removed from the internet, and issue an apology in the same forum to Mr. Peterson. Otherwise, our client will take all steps necessary to protect his professional reputation, including but not limited to initiating legal proceedings against all of you for damages.” (You can read the full letter below).

Among the statements Levitt objected to: Manne’s contention that Peterson’s book included “some really eyebrow-raising, authoritarian-sounding, and even cruel things,” as well as her observation that “it doesn’t seem accidental that [Peterson’s] skepticism about objective facts arises when it’s conveniently anti-feminist.” The lawyer and his client were equally unhappy with this line: “I also suspect that for many of Peterson’s readers, the sexism on display above is one tool among many to make forceful, domineering moves that are typical of misogyny.”

You don’t do this. You don’t bluster and threaten to sue critics of your book, no matter how savage their reviews. You especially don’t sue them when they can quote you and support all of their contentions, when your whole schtick is making broad-brush characterizations of people as archetypes and stereotypes.

I don’t get it. I get abused far worse, over a longer period of time, by various people who despise me, and they aren’t shy about doing it publicly (although, admittedly, they often do it behind the veil of anonymity), and I’ve never once thought about suing someone far it. These free-speech paladins, on the other hand, do it all the time.

Reminder: we’re still fundraising to defend ourselves from one SLAPP suit by one of these asshats. Not one of the usual freeze-peach suspects has spoken out against that suit — they’re inviting him to speak at their conferences, instead.

Rule of law is an illusion

I woke up to feelings of despair and disillusionment. I’m slow; I’ve lived my whole life with this idea that we live in a nation of laws, and I’ve been comfortable with the idea that I’ve been treated fairly by them. I’ve been able to face the fact that not everything goes my way with an appreciation of the fact that we have to accommodate hundreds of millions of different points of view. So Ronald Reagan got elected, I was horrified and knew he was a disaster for the country, but I could at least feel that he got there through a fair and equitable democratic process, and that we could work within the system to curb Republican excesses (and obviously, that it was just for them to work through the system to curb what they considered Democratic excesses). Rule of law. Checks and balances. Democracy. Everyone working together, sometimes in opposition, sometimes in concert. What a beautiful…fantasy.

It felt like something snapped in my head overnight, and the whole fabric of lies tumbled down. I don’t believe any of that any more. I can’t. The whole concept is at war with a deeper value, the importance of evidence and reason, and the evidence is all saying “No!”

The first cracks appeared with the appointment of George W. Bush to the presidency by the Supreme Court. That was not fair. We can’t pretend the court is impartial anymore — it’s been warped strongly by ideologues serving political factions (and the historians will tell me that’s always been the case, I’m just saying I can’t ignore it anymore), and has been shaped specifically by one side to favor archaic conservative views that do not reflect the will of the people at all. It has become a tool to strip power from the people and hand it over to the wealthy, and it’s in the process of being made worse.

Congress has become an object of contempt. Everyone expects it to be the domain of self-serving nincompoops, where incompetence is the rule, and our representatives now work only in the all-consuming process of raising obscene amounts of money for their re-election campaigns, and most of that money comes from rich special interest groups who will obligingly write legislation for their pet figureheads. Both parties do it, but the Republicans have taken venality to a new high, and have prospered for it.

And then, there’s the executive branch. You can’t witness the elevation of Donald Trump, a shambling, lying, illiterate boob of a man, and not lose all faith in representative democracy. He won by the favor of the electoral college, not the popular vote, and do you all remember the defenses of that at the time? It’s a relic from 200+ years ago, but it’s important that we abide by the rule of law (not that there’s been any significant effort to change obsolete laws since). We were fed pious declarations that the college was there to halt at the last minute any errors that would have put a manifestly incompetent person in charge. I don’t think that worked at all.

The system is broken. Totally broken. And it’s getting worse.

The Kavanaugh nomination is simply the last straw. Here is a man whose only qualifications are that far-right fanatics have selected him as representative of their views, and congress has rushed him through a meaningless process, hiding his record from critics, and even as it’s revealed that he was a selfish, uncaring thug, a blackout drunk who assaulted women, it has become apparent that none of it matters, that he’s going to be approved along party lines. The whole review process is a sham.

It’s not just the head that has rotted. The system is corrupt at every level. Your school boards are packed with religious bigots who hate science, and are doing their damnedest to wreck education. You want to know how to get such awful people elected to the highest positions in the land? Make sure the electorate is ignorant. Poison their minds at the earliest age.

And don’t get me started on the police. Does anyone trust Officer Friendly? That was a lie we were indoctrinated with as children, but now it’s clear that Officer Friendly was attending KKK rallies in their spare time, and that now they’ll bust into your apartment and murder you, and that they conveniently carry around toy guns to drop on the bodies of the children they kill so they can claim self-defense. The one thing you can trust is that when you are murdered by a cop, they will thoroughly dig into your background to find a post-hoc justification for the execution.

I don’t think it’s just Monday. I think I failed life when I didn’t raise the black flag and riot against the goddamn rotten system in oh, about 1980, and 2018 is way too late.

So now what? I don’t know.

Make it matter

The woman who was assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh has revealed her identity — she’s a psychology professor named Christine Blasey Ford — and spoken up about the details of ol’ Party Boy Brett’s callous disregard for women. I won’t repeat the story here, but want to mention that she revealed herself reluctantly, and for good reason.

By late August, Ford had decided not to come forward, calculating that doing so would upend her life and probably would not affect Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” she said.

That’s the looming threat in this story, and you know it’s happening even now. Kavanaugh has no worries, he’s got a mob at his back, but you know that Professor Blasey is looking up at an avalanche of shit coming her way. It’s not fair, but it’s what always happens — we remember Anita Hill, right?

There’s only one thing to do. Make sure that coming forward does matter. Stop that nomination cold.

Maybe things haven’t changed all that much since 1961

Guess who has Trump’s endorsement in a Michigan senate race? This guy, that’s who.

Speaking at a men’s-only event earlier this year, Michigan Republican John James questioned women’s capacity for leadership, alleging that “women want men who have been tested” and that men had a “charge to lead.”

“We have an obligation to future generations to make sure that we are operating within the role that we have to lead. And yes that is not politically correct, but men we have a charge to lead and we are failing in that because we are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings,” James said at the Christian Businessmen’s Connection luncheon in Bath, Mich., on May 24.

Christian Businessmen? Enough said.