Oh sure, 'only people doing domestic terrorism will be investigated for domestic terrorism.' Or so he says.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, and found himself explaining over and over and over again that the Department of Justice is not in fact trying to criminalize parents who are angry about mask mandates and accurate US history lessons, however irritating those folks may be. Instead, you see, the DOJ is only interested in preventing violence or threats of violence against educators and school boards. Really, that's different from people spouting dumb Fox News claims about masks and critical race theory.
It's all kind of meta, really: First, rightwing media whipped people into a frenzy about nonexistent threats — masks are tyranny! History lesson harm white kids! — and that led some more excitable assholes on the Right to scream "we know where you live!" at public health officials, to get into actual fistfights with teachers on school grounds, and to vow they'll physically march into school board meetings and "remove" board members. Also, really actually terrible death threats against them and their families.
So when educators and the National School Boards Association requested that the Biden administration do something to keep school boards and teachers safe from such threats, wingnut media and Republican members of Congress have responded by lying about that, too, insisting falsely that an October 4 memorandum from the DOJ represents an attempt to silence all dissent by patriotic parents who merely want to protect their children from knowing real history, or from their inalienable right to spread a deadly lung infection.
Let's be very clear: The DOJ memo that Fox News and your more dishonest parts of Congress are so upset about makes clear, in its first damn paragraph, "While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views."
For your Hollow Mordant Laughter viewing pleasure, check out this thread of six video excerpts showing Garland patiently explaining that the DOJ memo only addresses threats of violence and actual violence against schools and school boards, and that the DOJ doesn't have any interest in preventing people from ranting as much as they want to about imaginary conspiracies, just as long as they aren't threatening to murder teachers. Here are just two examples; our favorite may be the second one.
Idiot Jim Jordan (R-Idiotburg) accused Garland of setting up a "snitch line" for people to turn in parents who object to school policies, which led Garland to explain, yet again, that the memo had nothing to do with school policies, or about parents objecting, just violence or threats of violence, sigh.
But for pretended dudgeon, it's hard to beat Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Breakfast) who just wanted to know why the Department of Justice thinks concerned parents are domestic terrorists and criminals. Tiffany wanted to know whether Garland would be sending FBI agents to attend school board meetings (no, they will not, you stupid fuck), and wondered aloud if concerned parents like himself will be dragged off to Gitmo and tortured or something.
Tiffany: I've attended multiple school board meetings in my district over the last year, I have a child that's in public school yet, [I'm] very concerned about some of the things that are going on, and yes, some of those school board meetings get heated. Are we, my friends, neighbors, constituents, are we domestic terrorists?
Garland's one-word answer, "NO," speaks volumes. By the fourth or fifth time he's had to explain the point, we can't say we blame him for being irritated.
Tiffany pressed on: "Are we criminals?"
Garland, clearly annoyed, explained that he's fairly sure the congressman hasn't actually done any thing criminal like making threats of violence, but he seemed to imply that if Tiffany has, he'd be open to hearing about it.
Crom knows Garland tried, stating early on that "Parents have been complaining about the education of their children and about school boards since there were such things as school boards and public education," and emphasizing that the DOJ has no interest at all in regulating constitutionally protected speech.
Not that it did the least bit of good, because after all, why is Merrick Garland calling parents terrorists, huh?
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All culture war, all the time.
A week ago, conservatives had a freak out about the NEW Superman coming out as bisexual in the upcoming Superman: Son of Kal-El #5. But it seems that was just the tip of conservatives' WAR ON SUPERMAN.
On October 16, during the DC Fandome online event, chief creative officer and publisher of DC Comics Jim Lee announced that the Man of Steel's motto would be "evolving" from the well-known mantra that he fights for "Truth, Justice and the American Way." The new mission statement for Superman will now be "Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow," which is both aspirational and more hopeful for a Superman for the next generation.
Cue Fox News going for another round after the announcement:
The video features well-known comics fans [checks notes] Leo Terrell, Lara Trump, Raymond Arroyo (who made extremely homophobic remarks to Laura Ingraham when discussing the sexuality of Superman last week), and Alicia Acuna. Arroyo and Terrell particularly complain about DC Comics "changing the origins of Superman" to cater to "wokeness."
This narrative was furthered when Fox News published a story of the colorist on "Superman: Son Of Kal-El" quitting over this change. They were so excited to add their new favorite phrase "cancel culture" to their Superman outrage that they created a new word which has yet to be corrected as of this writing:
We can only assume that Superman's "wokness" is delicious, out of this world stir-fry.
In its article, Fox News links to disreputable Comicsgate propaganda website Bounding Into Comics. Both articles published part of a rant colorist Gabe Eltaeb gave during a four and a half hour YouTube livestream run by Comicsgate's self-appointed leader, former DC Comics artist and bigot Ethan Van Sciver.
After telling an anecdote about The Joker creator Jerry Robinson, Gabe Eltaeb went on a rant that was published in most conservative websites.
I'm tired of this shit. I'm tired of them ruining these characters. They don't have a right to do this. [...] It's not about gay or anything like that. What really pissed me off was saying truth, justice, and a better world. Fuck that it was Truth, Justice, and the American way. My Grandpa almost died in World War II [...] We don't have a right to destroy shit that people died for to give us. It's a bunch of fucking nonsense.
Arguably, no one is destroying or taking anything away by adding more diversity and creating new characters. But Eltaeb continued with his rant against "SJWs" (Social Justice Warriors), as Comicsgate likes to call anyone not in their hate group.
They call us bigots and racist and shit [...] they're the fucking bigots.
Funny that Eltaeb has an objection with them being called bigots or racist considering the "hightlights" of the livestream (which included comics has-beens Jon Malin, Dan Fraga, Graham Nolan, Aaron Lopresti, Art Thibert, and Billy Tucci) that all these conservative publications left out:
- Van Sciver using a homophobic stereotypical "lisping" voice
- Van Sciver saying they are going to "give Superman HIV"
- Art Thibert referring to LGBTQ+ as a "sexual preference"
- Making a "joke" about a character raping the new Superman
- Jon Malin, after Dan Fraga asking "What's next after this," saying that they will pivot to pedophilia and saying "You're gonna have Batman fucking Robin."
- Gabe Eltaeb comparing LGBTQ+ to bestiality after Malin's rant
That last part (and possibly leaking story information weeks prior to Van Sciver to get the hate machine going) is why Eltaeb was probably fired, as posited by this piece by Bleeding Cool and this pinned tweet from Eltaeb (whose Twitter is now in protected mode) in which he describes being "pushed" out rather than "quitting."
Eltaeb's and Fox News's meltdowns are both a word salad of conservative dog whistles and ahistorical. "Truth, Justice and the American Way" did not originate with the first Superman comic books by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In fact, Superman's original motto in his first appearance in Action Comics#1 was one that today would fit more progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders or, as Comicsgate likes to say, SJWs:
Superman for President in 2028!DC Comics
As noted by this piece in Variety, the version of the motto conservatives are screaming about was created for the "Superman" radio serial in the early 1940s during World War II. But even as early as 1948, in Superman's first film serial, it was adapted to "Truth, Tolerance and Justice," as noted by the writer of Superman Smashes The Klan:
"Truth, Justice, and the American Way" was first used in the 1940s Superman radio show, but didn't become ubiquitou… https://t.co/LYJSHtQmrD— Gene Luen Yang (@Gene Luen Yang) 1616245897.0
The "American Way" motto was revived for the "Adventures of Superman" TV series that aired in the 1950s (during the Cold War paranoia and McCarthyism) before it was changed again to "Truth, Justice and Freedom" in the 1960s on the kids cartoon series "The New Adventures of Superman." The "American Way" part came back in arguably the most well-known version of the character, 1978's "Superman: The Movie" starring Christopher Reeve.
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, the new slogan lets the new Superman live up to of the original Superman's (his father Clark Kent) oldest nicknames: "The Man of Tomorrow." The nickname, which debuted in 1939's "New York World's Fair Comics" #1, has long been associated with Superman. But with both Supermen embracing diversity, advocating to fix climate change and optimistically fighting for a better future, never have we more needed Superman as "The Man Of Tomorrow" and a symbol of hope for EVERYONE.
Both in the comics pages and in pop culture.
Why, Santy Claus? Why?
It's late October, so you know what that means: War on Christmas! In keeping with the times, this year's festive rightwing panic is focused on demanding that Joe Biden fix all the weirdness of the world's pandemic economy right now, especially disruptions to the global supply chain. If he doesn't, maybe Christmas just won't come at all! For a particularly eye-rolling example, here's Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) insisting that people are calling 2021 "Biden's Blue Christmas." You've heard that, haven't you? Of course you have; Joni Ernst just said it.
the cringe factor is absolutely off the charts https://t.co/LsQV3ISwMm— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1634751881.0
Ernst added that she sure hopes the supply chain problems, caused by Joe Biden personally, don't extend all the way to the North Pole, or a lot of good little boys and girls will be very sad.
We're calling it now: The big wingnut trend this Christmas, whatever the economic reality by December, will involve rightwing parents telling their little children, "Sorry honey, Santa couldn't find the toy you wanted, and it's Joe Biden's fault. Here's a block of scrap two-by-four, maybe you can pretend it's a doll or a truck or a video game. This is what happens under socialism. Santa was cancelled."
Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy is doing his part to spread Christmas fear. During Thursday's daily press briefing, he invoked the specter of empty store shelves and sad little children crying because mean Joe Biden wouldn't lift a finger to make sure this year's hot toy, whatever it is, is under the tree (which also is missing, having been burned up because Joe Biden didn't rake the forests). And maybe nobody can afford Christmas anyway, because isn't runaway inflation making it impossible for anyone to afford this year's roast beast?
Here's video of Doocy dropping his usual Doocy, this time with Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. We've cued the video up to his brilliant economic question: If prices are up, isn't that exactly like raising taxes? (Spoiler: no, it actually is not.)
DOOCY: You guys say that President Biden does not want to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, but there's a new Fox poll that finds 83 percent of registered voters are noticing bills for groceries and everyday items increasing. So how is that any different than a new tax? [...]
The supply chain is all backed up; there are bottlenecks — empty shelves, prices going up. People are paying more. And so, how is that any different than a new tax?
Empty shelves! Just like the B-roll of empty Brexit shelves that rightwingers keep tweeting as "Biden's America," please disregard the prices in pounds. It's like Soviet Russia here, and Joe Biden just doesn't care, apart from how he's been meeting with leaders from the retail sector, the shipping industry, and port officials to get things moving again.
Jean-Pierre acknowledged that yes, the pandemic has led to all sorts of disruptions, and that sucks. Maybe Doocy heard of the pandemic, and how it's been playing hell with things for a year and a half? She pointed out that of course Biden understands that's causing prices to go up, and that the administration has been "using every tool in our tool belt to make sure that we deal with that in a real way."
And no, kinks in the supply chain don't point to disaster; they mean that as the US economy recovers, there's more demand than can be met, which is inconvenient for people wanting a new couch, but temporary. She noted that the economy has, on average, been adding 600,000 jobs per month, and that unemployment is going down, with nearly five million new jobs added in the last eight months. So heading into the holiday season, the US is in considerably better shape than it was in 2020.
Doocy had a whattabout, referring to a letter from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling on Biden to halt any work on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill until all the problems with the global supply chain are fixed, which Jean-Pierre wasn't especially impressed with: "Okay. Yeah, wonderful letter." She noted that under Trump and McCarthy last year, job growth was struggling, and that under Biden, we're in far better shape, with all those new jobs and such:
Americans have money in their pockets, and they're spending it, resulting in record volume of good — goods through our ports, and our roads and rails.
A lot of that improvement, she said, was due to the American Rescue Plan, which she noted didn't get a single Republican vote.
Doocy was ready with a really stupid follow-up: Wait, things are actually terrible and Biden's killing Christmas!
Are you saying that you — as you compare holiday season this year to holiday season last year, are you saying that if Christmas gifts don't get delivered this year — because the supply chain is backed up, because of bottlenecks — that people are going to blame Donald Trump, or are they going to blame Joe Biden?
Jean-Pierre wasn't having any of that, no way:
That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that we're in a different place than we were a year ago. And the reason why is because the president took action. The reason why is Democrats came together and they passed the American Rescue Plan, put checks into pockets, made sure that we were dealing with issues that pushed women out of the workforce, which is the Child Tax Credit, childcare — all those things that really benefited everyday people who were being left behind. [...]
She also noted that Biden has indeed been working on the supply chain issue, by meeting with private sector leaders and labor, and by persuading the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to start operating 24/7. And again, she noted, this is a short-term problem. It's not Soviet North Cuba, for fuckssake.
But Karine, what about the empty shelves and the Christmas presents that won't be under the tree? What about all the jing-jinglers, and the floo-floobers, and the tar-tinkers still sitting on container ships off the coast of California? How can we have Christmas without our Who-whoobas and gar-ginkas?
Somehow, we suspect, Christmas will come, and we'll all just fah-hoo rah-hoo as much as we want, and since vaccines for kids aged five to 11 are on the way in the next few weeks, we can gather together and enjoy our Who Hash without it being a superspreader event.
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'We are at a hinge of history.'
Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked the bipartisan Stop Republicans From Cheating bill that Joe Manchin had worked so hard to craft in a way that would win approval from Republicans. This is because Joe Manchin is far more committed to the fiction of bipartisanship than to any objective reality. For all Manchin's absurd fantasies that Republicans might vote to prevent their own party from cheating, the bill itself is actually quite good, and it really ought to become law.
Tuesday, with that vote still pending, Sen. Angus King, the independent from Maine who caucuses with Democrats, delivered one hell of a speech on why we need the bill — and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — to protect democracy from some very real threats. It was passionate in all the right ways, invoking the long struggle to make democracy work, and pointing out just how easy it is for democracies to fail. If you have 24 minutes to feel inspired about saving American democracy, give it a watch, and if you don't read what we wrote about it below!
King pointed out that American Democracy is a fragile thing, an "anomaly" among systems of government, not because America is uniquely good or right or exceptional, but because we've spent nearly two and a half centuries trying to make it work, even if it's only really become a government for all Americans since sometime after the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Now, King argued, we're facing the greatest threat to the Republic since 1860, thanks to the efforts by Donald Trump and his supporters to negate the 2020 election.
Two interrelated things are happening right now with regard to this system that are unprecedented in my lifetime and that are profoundly dangerous to our fragile republic; one is the breakdown of trust in the system itself, and the other is an overtly partisan attempt to use this loss of trust as a pretext to change the results of future elections by limiting the participation of voters deemed unworthy (although this is rarely said out loud) or unlikely to vote for your particular political party.
All the talk of "election integrity" and the need to stop "voter fraud," King pointed out, is nothing more than a cynical ploy to make elections less fair, less inclusive, by suppressing the votes of people who might thwart one party's desire to stay in power. Bills passed in the name of "election integrity," he says, aren't addressing any real problems in the electoral system. There just isn't any substantial "voter fraud" to root out, and even bogus efforts like the Arizona "audit" couldn't find any. "The only fraud," King said, "is the allegations themselves."
Even worse than the efforts to suppress the vote, which is pretty damned bad, the manipulation of election laws by Republican state legislatures actually worsens the problem they're supposedly fixing, spreading a "massive and unprecedented erosion of trust in the electoral system itself, the beating heart of our democracy."
King appealed to very recent historical precedents:
It's important to remember that most failures of democracy started with legitimate elections, but once in office, the leader manipulated the electoral process to consolidate their hold on power, just as was attempted here last winter. And once power is seized, the control and reach of the modern surveillance state is truly terrifying. Ask the Uighurs in China, or members of the opposition in Russia, if you can find any alive.
Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, and Hungary are examples of the slide into authoritarianism just in our lifetimes; those countries still have elections, but they don't mean much.
Worse, he said, it can happen here. Republican state legislatures are already passing laws that would allow it:
And what if the current wave of voter suppression legislation succeeds and keeps tens of thousands of people from voting, or what if in 2024 a partisan legislature in a swing state votes to override the election results and send its own set of electors to Congress? Then it won't just be Republicans who distrust elections, and we will be left with a downward spiral toward a hollow shell of democracy, where only raw power prevails and its peaceful transfer becomes a distant memory.
There has been a great deal of talk in recent months of a possible constitutional crisis in 2022 or 2024; Madame President, we don't have to wait that long; we are in the midst of such a crisis right now. One of our great political parties has embraced the idea that our last election was fraudulent, that our president is illegitimate, and that they must move legislatures across the country to "fix" the results of future elections.
A substantial proportion of our population has lost faith in our democratic system and seems prepared to accept authoritarianism; all but the most extreme sources of information have been devalued; and violence bubbles just below the surface.
But it doesn't have to be that way. There's still the chance to stop it, by protecting everyone's right to vote. Democracy, King said, is fragile, relying not only on the Constitution and the law, but "even more so on the trust our people place in our democratic system — and in us."
Deliberately undermining that trust for short-term political advantage — which is exactly what is happening right now — is a tragic and dangerous game. No election, no endorsement, no Senate seat, no presidency is worth it.
Well sure, easy to say if you know that if everyone is allowed to vote, they'll prefer your ideas. How are Republicans supposed to compete on a crazy basis like that?
For good measure, King invoked the Battle of Gettysburg, noting that the Union's survival was "a near thing," and said that the challenge of protecting democracy today is nearly as great, particularly if we want to avoid a similar national catastrophe. He said that he truly believes America is "at a hinge in history," when the "fate of the American experiment hangs in the balance."
So like we say, good speech. Not enough to change any Republican minds, but plenty to energize the next phase in the fight to save voting rights. Last night, following yesterday's Republican filibuster of the bill, King appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and explained that, for all his prior skepticism about ending the filibuster, he absolutely supports passing an exception that would allow protections of the vote to pass with 51 votes.
The filibuster, he noted, isn't in the Constitution, and in the face of the GOP's "pure unadulterated obstruction," we're in a crisis of democracy, and "now, I say, you know, democracy has to trump a rule."
Here's hoping Angus King can schedule a lunch date soon with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
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