Excellent Read: “Elizabeth Warren & Tracee Ellis Ross on the Road to Activism”

My favorite Senator has been rude to Trump again, in a Washington Post op-ed:

Cratering in the polls, besieged by sexual assault allegations and drowning in his own disgusting rhetoric, Donald Trump has been reduced to hollering that November’s election is “rigged” against him. His proof? It looks like he’s going to lose.

Senior Republican leaders are scrambling to distance themselves from this dangerous claim. But Trump’s argument didn’t spring from nowhere. It’s just one more symptom of a long-running effort by Republicans to delegitimize Democratic voters, appointees and leaders. For years, this disease has infected our politics. It cannot be cured until Republican leaders rethink their approach to modern politics…

For years, Republican leaders have pushed the lie that voter fraud is a huge issue. In such states as Kansas and North Carolina , and across the airwaves of right-wing talk radio and Fox News, Republican voters have been fed exaggerated and imagined stories about fraud. Interestingly, all that fraud seems to plague only urban neighborhoods, minority communities, college campuses and other places where large numbers of people might vote for Democrats. The purpose of this manufactured hysteria is obvious: to delegitimize Democratic voters and justify Republican efforts to suppress their votes…

… Which reminded me that I’ve been saving an NYTimes article, one of their Table for Three series, by Philip Galanes:

Tracee Ellis Ross may be working 14 hours a day in Los Angeles on her hit TV show, “black-ish.” “But when Elizabeth Warren says she’ll have dinner with you,” Ms. Ross said, walking into a suite at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, “you get on a plane. I have a million questions for her.”

And from the moment Senator Warren entered the lobby, friendly to all but racewalking toward the elevator, she was happy to offer answers: breaking down complex problems into plain-spoken choices, engaging everyone in sight. When a woman on the elevator said, “You look familiar,” Ms. Warren introduced herself, shook her hand and asked how her evening was going…

Ms. Ross, 43, has also established herself as a powerful advocate, particularly for self-esteem among black girls in a series of TV specials, “Black Girls Rock,” and through social media. For eight seasons, beginning in 2000, she starred in the sitcom “Girlfriends,” for which she won two NAACP Image Awards.

But her greatest exposure and acclaim have come with her starring role on “black-ish,” about an extended African-American family… For her performance, Ms. Ross was nominated for an Emmy for lead actress in a comedy. She is the first African-American woman to be nominated in the category in 30 years, and only the fifth in Emmy history…

Philip Galanes: One reason you’re both such powerful advocates — for the middle class, for self-esteem — is that you’ve fused who you are with the issues you care about.

Elizabeth Warren: Well, I know who I am, and I know what I fight for. Whether we’re talking about making college a little more affordable — or health care or social security — I want to be as sharp as I can be because I know how tough things are. That’s my opportunity now.

PG: It reminds me of your great line: “I was brought up on the ragged edge of the middle class.” What made it “ragged”?

EW: Because it was so hard to hold on to. My mother clung to it — “We are middle class” — because our grasp was so tenuous. There were times we were and times we weren’t.

Tracee Ellis Ross: I feel like I’m on the inside for the first time. Inside the castle. I have an Emmy nomination! And I’ve been in this career a long time. I’m 43, not some ingénue who just stumbled into this. Much of my role has been as an advocate for self-esteem and humanity. The beauty of my work is that I get to unzip something that people are afraid to touch. To make them more comfortable in their own skin.
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Saturday Morning Cartoons Open Thread: Locker Rooms


(John Deering via GoComics.com)

Donald Trump — terrible human being, tremendous target.

Apart from mocking Lord Smallgloves Shitgibbon, what’s on the agenda for the day?


(Drew Sheneman via GoComics.com)



(Matt Davies via GoComics.com)


(Walt Handelsman via GoComics.com)


(Nick Anderson via GoComics.com)

Welcome to Gilead

handmaids-taleLike many of you, perhaps, I have been literally appalled at the GOP for decades. And every time I reach a kind of equilibrium, they appall me worse and I have to readjust.

But this business of repealing the 19th Amendment? That’s on a whole new dark and disturbing level. I can barely find the words to express my new level of appalledness, but fortunately someone else did: Margaret Atwood. From one of the most chilling sections of her chilling book, The Handmaid’s Tale:

It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics at the time.

Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control.

I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, gone like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?

That was when they suspended the Constitution.

She then goes on to describe in chilling (that word again!) detail the rapid, systematic disempowerment of women: barred from working outside the home, barred from owning property, etc.–all the way to becoming property themselves.

The scary thing is how plausible it all sounds.

A couple of years ago, Atwood visited West Point:

After her opening remarks, the questions posed by the cadets — who identified themselves by name and rank before asking — referred to everything from Islamism to Descartes, whom Atwood paraphrases at one point in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Yes, if she were writing the novel now she might have borrowed some of the oppressive tactics of Muslim fundamentalists, but, 30 years on, contemporary American politics — such as conservatives’ references to “real rape” in the run-up to the 2014 elections and the bizarre belief held by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., that a woman’s body reflexively disables conception in the event of “legitimate rape” — still offers ample inspiration. When those stories broke, she said, the hashtag “#handmaidstale” began to appear all over social media. The book has been filmed, made into an opera and is currently being adapted as a graphic novel.

Surprisingly, none of the questions referred to the ostensibly Christian nature of the Gilead regime. In 2012, a cadet named Blake Page resigned from West Point, complaining that the excessive religiosity of the culture at the academy “willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America” and fosters “open disrespect of non-religious new cadets.” (Among the practices Page objected to were mandatory events that routinely included prayers.)

Perhaps most striking, given Mercer’s hopes for a new vocabulary, was that all of the questioners were male, and none of them asked about the status of women in Gilead.

A certain apocryphal “Chinese curse” comes to mind.

BUT, being an optimistic sort, I’ll also point out that The World Values Survey has for years been documenting a global shift away from “survival” (authoritarian / sexist / xenophobic / etc.) values to “self-expression” (equality / tolerance / etc.) ones. I was taught that privilege fights hardest at the end, and so there’s plenty of reason for hope, especially given digital technology’s wondrous capacity to decentralize information and power.

Not that the Far Right is going to disappear, but they’ll just get more and more marginalized.

You can call me a gullible fool–and I’m sure someone will!–but in the words of the immortal Joel, I have been a fool for lesser things. Also, I like the company I’m keeping, out here in the ranks of the foolish optimists.

Also, too:

The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985! Talk about a Lady Oracle!

Hulu’s doing a movie!

Ms. Atwood is a long-time animal rights proponent.

Consent: The Rosetta Stone to Decipher the Wingnut Mind

Yesterday, as we were jointly consuming barrels of popcorn while watching the Trump campaign reap the whirlwind, some of y’all mentioned Rush Limbaugh’s odd Trumpologia, which centered on the concept of consent. Here’s the mind-blowing quote from that ass pustule which sparked the conversation:

You know what the magic word, the only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is? One thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine. Whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left.

FSM knows Limbaugh wasn’t the only Trump apologist saying absurd things for broadcast consumption yesterday. One of his more ridiculous surrogates went airplane armrest truther to try to discredit one of the women who accused Trump of non-consensual groping on a flight.

But I think Limbaugh’s failure to grasp the role consent plays in regulating behavior between human beings is telling. It’s an explanation for his own serial depravities, certainly, but perhaps it is also a portal into the wingnut worldview that can help us decipher their thinking and behavior more fully.

Trump views women as objects he can grab and manipulate for his own ends, and we’re seeing a fraction of the results of what happens when a man lives 70 years on the planet with that mindset. He’s not done yet, of course: rounding up the women who’ve accused Bill Clinton of sexual abuse and displaying them at the recent debate was another example of Trump using women as a commodity.

If reports from the Trumpenbunker are to be believed, he plans to double down on that strategy. And if Hillary Clinton were to respond in kind, she might have to charter a fleet of 747s to transport Trump’s accusers to the next presidential debate.

But the problem isn’t just obvious creepers like Trump and Limbaugh: Apply their boggled view of consent beyond Trump’s serial molestations to actual GOP policy practiced by so-called respectable Republicans, and it explains a lot.

Mainstream Republicans like governors Scott Walker and Tom Corbett, as well as a number of House GOPers, support legislation to force women seeking an abortion to undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasounds. It may sound like “state rape” to you and me, but if women are merely fetus-bearing vessels without an claim to consent, what’s the problem?

Even the “Never Trumpers” are revealing their views of women as they criticize Der Gropenführer. Here’s the godly and upright Erick Erickson on Twitter this morning:

See what he did there? In the featured article, he even helpfully links to a Wikipedia page describing the role of Bill Clinton campaign operative Betsey Wright in quelling rumors of Bill’s extramarital affairs, i.e., “bimbo eruptions.” Erickson unconsciously conflates consensual affairs with non-consensual groping, which is telling.

People like Erickson are going to solve the Republicans’ Trump problem? As my old ma used to say, “Bullshit!”

Anyhoo, as many have pointed out, 2008 taught us a great deal about America’s crushing problem with racism. And 2016 is revealing the depth of our misogyny problem. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Open Thread: Trump Is Trump, and His Followers Are Just As Terrible

From the NYTimes today:

More than three decades ago, when she was a traveling businesswoman at a paper company, Ms. Leeds said, she sat beside Mr. Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight to New York. They had never met before.

About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her.

According to Ms. Leeds, Mr. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.

“He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere.”

She fled to the back of the plane. “It was an assault,” she said…

Mr. Trump’s claim that his crude words had never turned into actions was similarly infuriating to a woman watching on Sunday night in Ohio: Rachel Crooks.

Ms. Crooks was a 22-year-old receptionist at Bayrock Group, a real estate investment and development company in Trump Tower in Manhattan, when she encountered Mr. Trump outside an elevator in the building one morning in 2005.

Aware that her company did business with Mr. Trump, she turned and introduced herself. They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go, she said. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks. Then, she said, he “kissed me directly on the mouth.”

It didn’t feel like an accident, she said. It felt like a violation.

“It was so inappropriate,” Ms. Crooks recalled in an interview. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.”…

“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at The Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.

“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims…

The proximate cause of today’s #Repealthe19th comes from two graphs at FiveThirtyEight…

… the first of which Trump’s idiot son Eric tried to use as an indicator of positive momentum for fundraising this morning. Women! We’re nothing but trouble!

And we have memories. Long, long memories.

It’s almost exactly the 25th anniversary of Anita Hill’s testimony about her sexual harrassment by a soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice. Thousands of men, that Fall, heard stories from the women in their lives that they had great difficulty believing, because who could have imagined? But women didn’t need to “imagine” — even when it hadn’t happened to us directly, the stories had been shared by so many of the women we knew, usually starting as warnings when we were still children. Trump’s endless, uncaring abuse of women was never a secret, it was just something that Very Serious People (mostly men) didn’t need to know about, so they never bothered to pay attention.

Surreality TV

creepy-orange-clownThought experiment: A hypothetical demagogue — let’s call him “Candidate T” — has trailed in polling averages for pretty much the entire election season. He develops a catastrophic PR problem just a month out from election day when a video surfaces that shows Candidate T skull-fucking a kitten.

Candidate T assembles his brain trust in his comically clichéd super-villain lair, and they decide they must change the subject from the kitten skull-fucking at all costs. So they send Candidate T out at a high-stakes event watched by tens of millions of voters, and he skull-fucks a puppy on stage.

After the event concludes, all anyone talks about is the puppy skull-fucking, so mission accomplished, right? Nope — not if the goal is to get people to stop talking about the kitten AND win the election. The first part of that objective has been temporarily met, but now Candidate T has disgusted even more voters.

I suspect PussyGate isn’t over, not by a long shot. Soon, women in addition to Miss Utah will speak up about being forced to endure Trump’s unwanted, Tic Tac-scented advances. Other contestants besides Miss New Hampshire will describe what it was like to be ogled by Trump in the dressing room at pageants.

What we saw last night was desperate flailing by a candidate who is going to lose bigly. That he attempted to turn a presidential debate into a Jerry Springer spectacle is a measure of his desperation. He lied and lurked and smirked and stalked, and he threw the contents of Ken Starr’s 1990s recycling bin at his opponent, who remained cool. It didn’t work 20 years ago. It won’t work now.

I also suspect I’m not the only woman who is angry and disgusted this morning. I’m pissed off that a malignant, gross predator like Trump has jack-hammered through the gutter to drag our already dysfunctional politics into the fucking sewer. I find it revolting that an accomplished woman like Hillary Clinton is required to be in the same ZIP code with a tawdry creep like Donald Trump, let alone in his physical proximity.

But one thing I’m NOT this morning is worried. We can’t let up. We should use this opportunity to demoralize and heap derision on all the gutless elected Republican cowards who won’t stand up to Trump, and we should lift up their opponents in any way we can. We should continue to donate, phone-bank, canvass, etc.

But she’s got this. And I so look forward to watching that grotesque buffoon Trump get an indelible “LOSER” stamp on his forehead, family name and brand. It will be exquisite to watch the sanctimonious hypocrites, bigots and bagmen in the Republican Party brawl over who is responsible.

Eyes on the prize, pedal to the metal, and a correction: WE’VE got this.




Two Things That Happened And One That Didn’t

I’m going to keep this short (you’ve heard that before from me) because my disdain for punditry extends to my own attempts.

Still, it seems to me that there is one real measure of success or failure (“winning” or “losing”) for any political event: did what just occurred move votes to one side or the other.  Everything else is just noise, or, as our elite bloviators perform it, theater criticism.


By that criterion there were only two moments that mattered last night, and both did real damage to Team Trump.

The first was obvious from the moment the words left Mike Pence’s mouth: “You whipped out that Mexican thing again.”

I’m sure I’m not alone in my instant reaction:  “He just said WHHHAAAATTTTT!” Latino Twitter was unamused, certainly — and this is key.  There are some constituencies in which Trump cannot fall any further.  The number of Black Trump supporters is hovering around the margin of error — he’s polling between two and six percent nationally.

But there are still Latino votes to lose.  A Univision battleground state poll found Hillary lagging about eight points behind Obama’s numbers in each state, with Florida’s 24 percent gap between the two the narrowest of the lot.  Did Mike Pence help Trump with those voters last night?

The question answers itself.

The other meaningful moment was equally apparent as it happened.  That would be this exchange:

Governor, why don’t you trust women to make this choice for themselves? We can encourage people to support life. Of course we can. But why don’t you trust women? Why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves?

That’s what we ought to be doing in public life. Living our lives of faith or motivation with enthusiasm and excitement, convincing other, dialoguing with each other about important moral issues of the day…

PENCE: Because there are…

KAINE: … but on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.

PENCE: Because there is — a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn. I believe it with all my heart. And I couldn’t be more proud to be standing with a pro-life candidate in Donald Trump.

One man said that American women are the agents of their own lives.  The other said that they cannot be, that his personal religious commitment pre-empts any decision a woman might choose to make.  All the squid-ink of piety Pence spewed did not obscure the painfully clear: Mike Pence would use the force of law to ensure no woman had more authority over their bodies than the state would.

While abortion remains an issue on which the American electorate is divided, and there are certainly plenty of women who are committed to the anti-abortion cause — and plan to vote accordingly — plenty more voters recoil at the idea of the Trump-Pence punitive approach.  ETA: As valued commentator RaflW notes below , an overwhelming majority of Americans favor at least some abortion rights.  But almost half of  those polled identify as “pro-life.”  And those are the people who seem to me to be the focus of the argument that Kaine advanced against Trump and Pence:  even if you are queasy around the topic of abortion, the reminder of the blunt rejectionism and punishment-centered views of the GOP has some force. Given the significance (we are told) of the suburban woman and millenials in this year’s swing states, there’s no joy for the Trump crowd here either; shoring up the base that’s already enthusiastically committed to you is less important than giving those who might be persuadable to pull the lever for your side.

To me, everything else that occurred in the debate takes second place to those two brief passages.  Kaine did well, I think, to get Pence on record denying his savior thrice before cock-crow — that helps drive the second day narrative, which is certainly useful.  But in terms of actually grabbing votes?

Further alienating the Latino/a vote and making it ever harder for women to cast a GOP ballot — and not just women, but any man who sees women as actual people —  ain’t exactly a royal road to victory.

And as for the moment that never happened?

We’ve had 180 minutes of debates so far.  180 minutest to go.

As I write this, after the hottest half year on record; after devastating drought; after horrific fires; after record floods; with a Category 4/3 hurricane bearing down on Florida, having already wrecked Haiti — with all this, there have been exactly zero questions on climate change.  Tim Kaine managed to slip in a mention in a national security answer, praising Clinton for forging “strong alliances to battle terrorism and climate change.” Clinton did get Trump to deny saying climate change was a Chinese hoax — as he did.  But that’s it.

This is simply disgraceful.  One more piece of evidence that our elite political media if f**king hopeless.

That is all. [Flips Pundit-Mode to “off”]

Image:  J. M. W. Turner, Shade and Darkness — The Evening of the Deluge, 1843.