A Reminder That Iran Protests Don’t Exist Because of or Despite the United States

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I am far from an expert on Iranian internal politics or its economy–though, if you’ve watched the shows or been on Twitter the last few days, that shouldn’t stop anybody from opining intently. Is this anti-regime? Pro-Trump? Anti-Trump? Does it show the nuclear deal was a success, or another capitulation? Should we investigate Hillary? What does Tucker Carlson think? Etc.

What is happening in Iran has quickly become, as these things do, internalized. It’s become about the United States, subsumed into our domestic debates and endless dining room squabbling. Who was right about Iran? Who was wrong?

This is frustrating, and not just because it is myopic, and frankly irritating as hell, but because it gets to the very heart of the problem: we don’t see the Iranians as actual people, but rather as pawns in our imperial power and our domestic maneuvering. And because of that, we’re almost doomed to make worse what could be a propitious moment in regional history.

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Roy Moore Calls For New Election Due to Voter Fraud; Is Mainstream Republican


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Erie PA is not a metaphor for the chilling freeze overtaking our democracy, but it’s not not, either


Dave Wiegel this morning talked about a ridiculous, ludicrous story that barely even bats a single brow, here in the late bitter cold of 2017.

Roy Moore, the Republican nominee who lost Alabama’s closely watched Senate race this month, has filed a last-minute legal complaint alleging “election fraud” and asking the state not to confirm the victory of Democrat Doug Jones.

In the complaint filed in state court, Moore’s campaign argues that Alabama “will suffer irreparable harm if the election results are certified without preserving and investigating all the evidence of potential fraud.” It cites rumors of election fraud that have already been investigated and refuted by the Alabama secretary of state, argues that high Democratic turnout in key areas was statistically unlikely, and reports that Moore himself has taken a polygraph test — an attempt to disprove allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances on teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Weigel obviously gets to the heart of this nonsense when he talks about rumors that have been “investigated and refuted” by Alabama’s deeply-red Secretary of State. These aren’t even “rumors”, really, as much as “completely made up nonsense by racists and vandals.”

They involve, as you would assume, Soros-funded buses dragging out-of-state blacks and other liberals into small towns in a state with the toughest voter ID laws in the country to swing an election by some 20,000 votes.

There’s another great part in this story.

The complaint also recounts how the secretary of state investigated a viral video of a man saying people had come from “across the country” to help beat Moore — but goes on to argue that the investigation was not transparent. The man in the video turned out to be a legal Alabama voter.

Now, anyone who has ever worked on any election know what that means: there were volunteers coming from everywhere. That happens in every election.  This was one Jones volunteer who excitedly said that they united the country to win, and the right-wing took that as proof of a massive conspiracy. That’s right: they think that they caught some guy going “We have voter fraud, baby! We made the illegal!”

(The whining about it being investigated but not being “transparent” is great. You know the investigation was the SoS going into another room, counting to ten, and coming out and being like “Well boys, we looked into it…”)

The other part of the complaint is that it was statistically unlikely that Democratic turnout in general, and black turnout specifically, was so high. That’s almost cute, because Roy Moore can’t fathom how so many people hate him.

Now, Moore is backed up in this by “election experts”, which is a way of saying people who make up stuff about elections in order to suppress black votes. Weigel politely puts paid to the story.

The experts came to the case with baggage of their own. James Condit Jr., one of the election analysts who signed an affidavit on behalf of Moore’s campaign, has written and spoken about “Zionist” control of world politics, and alleged an Israeli role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Richard Charnin, who provided the court with an argument that there was just enough possible fraud to swing the election, claimed to have “mathematically” proven a conspiracy behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

OK, so a loathsome, wildly unpopular figure disputes that unpopularity by claiming to be the victim of massive fraud and conspiracy, against the reality of any evidence, gethers cranks and weirdoes to “prove” his entirely fabricated allegations, takes every opposition statement in bad faith and blows it up into conspiratorial nonsense which gets amplified by the right-wing noise machine, and uses the machinery of state to further his ambitions and monkey-wrench our democracy. What does that make Roy Moore?

An establishment Republican.

As we (unoriginally) pointed out when he won his run-off against Luther Strange, Roy Moore is a perfect establishment Republican: beholden to conspiracy, an expert at self-victimization, a bully and a brute, and an anti-democratic demagogue. To quote myself, because no one else will:

 Roy Moore is just another example of how wild and ultimately ungovernable this country is, and how mean-spirited and bigoted and narrow-minded today’s right wing is, and with that, with his comic-opera cruelty and sneering, gun-blasted piety, he’ll fit right into Mitch McConnell’s Senate.

What was true then is even more true now. Since then Trump’s assaults on the FBI have ramped up, and the Republican Party has continued to march lockstep with this hammering away at our norms. They are undermining any attempt to have a law-based society, and a fact-based one, and are giving into authoritarianism far quicker than I had even thought possible.

This week’s terrifying calls for “purges” of disloyal FBI agents by Florida Congressman Francis Rooney is part of that. While it is easy to write off as the ravings of a lunatic, it isn’t very far off from what other people, both inside government and in the influential right-wing circus media, have been saying.

These people are working for a government of permanent minority, dedicated to white supremacy in the form of plutocratic worship and exclusionary theocracy. They are willing to commit treason for it (as Digby points out, the leading Congressional charge against Mueller is coming from Floridians, who seem to be pretty involved in Russian electoral interference). They believe in wild conspiracies and outlandish assaults on reason.

So why should Moore concede? Why should he back down? What difference do facts make when you have no shame, and are willing to do whatever it takes to establish a denuded landscape of wage-servants fighting each other along racial lines while walled off from the billionaire class and their self-selected fetch-servants?

After all, he is a Republican, dead-center in the mainstream of that wretched collection of goons and thieves. They’re falling in line behind Trump, and Trumpism, as this terrible year ends in the vice-grip of a shattering cold, driving deep into the frozen marrow of our bones, threatening to break everything we once knew.

Happy Holidays! The President is a Deranged Bigot!

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Yes, that’s Dean Cain, in case you were wondering if Trump can’t pull in the stars. He still can, baby! 

So, I was on the el yesterday, and at one of the stops a woman shambled toward the seats in front of me, causing her potential seat-mate to instinctively scoot away. Understandably: she was singing and laughing to herself, dressed in baggy rags, with that particular human odor of neglect proceeding and enveloping her.

She sat in front of me, so for the next 10 minutes I had a one-man audience to her songs, a garbled mix of half-remembered hymns and “Frosty the Snowman”, interspersed with high-pitched laughing when the robotic voice announced the stop. She incorporated the name of the station in her tunes in a way that I found delightful.

When I got to my stop, I walked past her and sort of half-smiled, and she looked at me, burst into laughter, and said “MERRY CHRISTMAS, FROSTY!”

And I thought: well, she must be crazy. It’s only November 30th.


In his later remarks, the president told the crowd how long he’d been waiting to say “Merry Christmas,” a nod to his 2016 campaign promises that Americans would be “saying Merry Christmas again.”

“Today is a day that I’ve been looking very much forward to all year long,” the president said. “It’s one that we’ve heard and we speak about and we dream about and now, as the president of the United States, it’s my tremendous honor to now wish America and the world a very Merry Christmas.”

This was one of the main talking points our dumbest possible candidate had during the campaign, before he transitioned into the idiot President: that people would be saying Merry Christmas again, because of him. It wasn’t very subtle. He sort of understood the War on Christmas talking points and, but doesn’t understand (and indeed rejects) anything like subtlety or nuance.

What he does have a genius for is how to turn the lingering scars of resentments, both real and imagined, into gaping, suppurating wounds. And, due to his overwhelming ego, he convinced people that he would be the one to change it. So he ratcheted the rhetoric up to 11.

In Trump’s telling, absolutely no one said “Merry Christmas” during the Obama years. It never came up. December was a grim and joyless slog toward an undefined date where we gathered, in a foggish trance, driven only by the sense-memory that Dec 25th used to mean something, and exchanged practical gifts and bowls of oatmeal around a fake gingko tree.

It was basically this grim. Check out what he said in St. Louis the other day, in a speech about the “tax plan” (he didn’t talk much about the tax plan, because he certainly doesn’t understand it, and isn’t smart enough to pretend it is something other than the class warfare Gotterdammerung).

“Remember, I was the one when I was here the last time, I said, ‘We’re going to have Christmas again,’ ’’ Trump said. “I was the one that said, you go to the department stores and you see ‘Happy New Year’ and you see red and you see snow and you see all these things. You don’t see ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore. With Trump as your president, we are going to be celebrating ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

In Trump’s telling, having red and having snow and all those things is somehow not celebrating Christmas, which comes as a surprise to anyone who has been to any store since Thanksgiving and been assaulted by “The Little Drummer Boy”. He is right, though, that people don’t say “Merry Christmas”, but there is a reason for that: it isn’t fucking Christmas until December 25th.

Think of how insane their proposition is. They think that when you walk into a store this evening the person checking you out should say “Merry Christmas”, 24 days before the holiday. It would be like the dude at Target saying “Happy 4th of July!” in mid-June. I mean, we have the American flag paper plates on display, so why not say it?

The thing is, everybody says Merry Christmas on Christmas. And usually for the few days before. If you’re going on vacation on like, the 18th, you say “have a Merry Christmas” to your co-workers as you leave. That’s normal. What isn’t normal is to say a day’s salutations literally weeks in advance, with numbing repetition.

And they obviously know all of this, and you know all of this. Their whole point isn’t to celebrate Christmas; the point is aggressive identity politics. The snarling, combatitive “Merry Christmas” is to make anyone who isn’t celebrating uncomfortable, unwelcome, excluded.

And it isn’t even just anyone who isn’t celebrating; it’s anyone who isn’t celebrating the right way. Hell, I love Christmas, and I’m as secular and liberal as you can get. My bride and I are decorating this weekend. We go nuts. Lights illuminating the every nook and cranny, a real tree, fake fluffy snow bringing memories of frost to every windowsill. It’s a goddamn wonderland. But that’s not enough.

It’s not enough because they have an extremely exclusionary and bigoted vision of what America should be, one that isn’t close enough to encompass a general holiday season, where you can be happy about a lot of things for a whole month. That’s how small and petty and terrified they are. And their avatar is in power.

We see this narrow bigotry in so many places, in so many ways. It manifests itself in the cruelty of the border wall. It manifests itself in the repeated Muslim bans. It manifests itself in Jeff Session’s daily racism. It clearly manifests itself when Trump tweets out fascist propaganda in order to incite violence (alientating our primary ally). It even comes to fore in our nuclear terror with North Korea, where the President preens and blusters and has to show he’s a bigger man than some stunted Asiatic.

It’s beyond argument that bigotry (which is broader than racism, and sometimes less cruel, though they are related) is at the heart of Trumpism. The insane tax plan, which will solidify the plutocracy’s power-and-money-grab for a generation, puts paid that this was at all about helping Johhny Blacklung.

There are people who thought Trump could help the overcome their economic straits, for sure. A lot of people genuinely thought he was a good businessman, with the evidence being: he was on TV. A lot of people were just crying out against change, in some ways an understandable thing.

But at the end, Trump was taking the pain of change and promising not salvation, but retribution. He didn’t promise to make things better; he was the promise of getting even. He promised to bring the rest of us down to size, so we can all be miserable together. He would give the disposssed not any real hope or opportunity, but a chacne to jab the flag of final surrender right into the spine of a fallen enemy. We might all be in the trash heap, but someone’s trash heap has a few gnarled and flickering strings of Christmas lights and the blood of the fallen to brighten their hovel.

Happy holidays!


A break from daily horrors to think about Ted Cruz being humiliated


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I would like every day to be as happy as this picture once made me.


I think tomorrow we’ll get closer to being on pace. Working on a long post about Saudi Arabia and Iran, as it looks more and more like we’re heading toward a catastrophic mid-major power war, one in which the US will either be drawn in or let Saudi Arabia get annihilated (guess which!).

But for now, a quick happy thought about Ted Cruz being embarrassed.

538 has a fun chat about the Democrats taking back the Senate, and there is some back and forth about Texas being in play next year.

micah: But here’s my argument for buying Democrats at 30 percent: They basically need one seat in addition to Arizona and Nevada. They might get that in a month. And even if they don’t, if it’s a super Democratic-leaning year, as we think it will be, I’d bet Democrats in red states will be mostly safe.

Moreover! I think people think too narrowly about what states could be in play.

Like, if Democrats have a +10 advantage on the generic ballot and it’s an anti-incumbent year, who’s to say Ted Cruz won’t be in trouble in Texas?

Now, I’m not betting on this (and neither are they). But it’s not impossible to squint and see Ted Cruz in real trouble, considering that he is still somehow more unlikeable (though not as hatable and truly deeply loathsome) as Donald Trump.

However, it’s also easy to see Ted Cruz sort of wanting to lose in a Democratic landslide year.

It’s this here blog’s long-standing contention that Ted Cruz is running in 2020. He was planning to whether Trump won or lost. It’s why he’s been so fiercely loyal to the man who insulted his wife’s appearance and accused his father of murdering JFK.  I have no doubt he was going to run “more in sorrow than anger” against a man who betrayed conservatives.

(Note: the casus belli would probably be that Trump didn’t have Hillary Clinton executed or something. It isn’t like Cruz would go against Trump for any decent reasons.)

So losing in 2018 would help this case. Trump was such a bad conservative he lost the Senate, and gave it to hated Chuck Schumer. We hates the New York…elite, don’t we? Very tricksy.

This also has the benefit of letting Cruz off the hook. He’d have to start running for President right about the same second his term would begin. While running for re-election, he certainly won’t admit that he has no interest in being a Senator. Indeed, he’d be indignant that anyone would even ask him about that (no one does hypocritical indignation better than Cruz, except maybe Newt).

If he lost, he wouldn’t have to pretend that, like, God got on the horn with him a few days after the election and told him that, on second thought, he should run for President. Even for Cruz, that would look bad.

The best part is that it wouldn’t work. He’d get blown out in the GOP primary by Trump (or anyone else if Trump is gone by then, which: oh god please), win or lose his seat. He’ll be humiliated. Remember, Ted Cruz is nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. He miscalculates all the damn time. I just hope he gets humiliated in the primary after being humiliated in his Senate race.

Just the thought of it is already making me smile. And in these dark days, we’ll take what imaginary pleasures we may.

Why Did The People Of Sutherland Springs Die? Because They Live In America


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Scene: America


After every mass shooting or attack on our daily lives, we rush to figure out motivation. It can quickly get grotesque, as each side stakes out assumptions on the killer, and Twitter rings with claims that he belonged to this or that militia or that he evinced support for climate change or that he was a Muslim.

We know that if the killer pledged allegiance to ISIS, regardless of any actual connections, it will be cynically exploited by the right and immediately politicized, while if it was committed by nearly anyone else we’ll have to say that there was nothing that could be done, it is a health issue, etc.

We know that if the killer was a Muslim, many on the left will be more ready to criticize reaction than to explore why it is that ISIS is able to turn troubled young people into killers with numbing regularity. And we know that the right will act as if these shootings are somehow unique, as if they have nothing to do with any of the other shootings that are beginning to blur in our minds. They act as if you are somehow less dead if shot by a Christian.

We know this, and we already have our reactions planned out while the echo of bullets still bounces off the mountains and thunder across the plains. In a way, it isn’t even cynical: how else can we cope with a problem that seems intractable, and is made so by the most craven politics imaginable?

One way we comfort ourselves, or at least move the conversation into another gear, is when we look for proximate causes. We see in the Texas shooter a history of domestic abuse and violence, and are horrified that he was able to arm himself with such heavy vengeance. Or we see the mental health issues, and pretend that it had nothing to do with guns, per se, as if he could have walked into a church and hollered 26 people into a terrible grave.


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Scene: America


(Needless to say, we don’t think Omar Mateen was troubled; he was just a terrorist.)

A violent past, a troubled upbringing, being lonely, being angry, being mentally troubled: all our killers have most or all of this in common. But they have something far deeper. They all live in America, a nation that seems rapidly plunging into a wild kind of madness, a yawping howl that is eating us alive. The violence inherent in our country and buried under our immense and sometimes-inspiring contradictions is burbling to the surface in a shambolic frenzy of limbs and fire.

This violence is part of our past. In this, of course, America is not unique; no borders have been drawn without suffering and oppression over time. Nor are we the only country that’s unraveling. It’s happening in the heart of Europe, and accelerating in the Middle East.

But there is a continent-spanning violence that created our nation, which was birthed in multiple waves of genocide and midwifed by slavery. There has been violence in the expansion of the west, the ever-present violence of Jim Crow, the murder in the cities, not to mention the life-ruining hucksterism of swindlers and city boosters and those who claimed the rain followed the plow.

And through it all, there was the gun. The gun has always been there. Never mind that the 2nd Amendment is clearly licensing state militias; never mind that in the old west you had to check your guns in town.

Pictured: not pro-gun!


But that didn’t matter. For an enormous amount of people, the gun isn’t just a tool designed to accelerate lead into another person’s body in order to rend flesh and pulp organs and shed blood: it was the symbol of freedom.

Or, to be more accurate: it is a symbol of freedom for exactly those reasons.

To me, that’s the heart of our madness, and one of the reasons we have this free-floating violence, which can land anywhere at any time, and why none of us are safe. We have literally fetishized the gun, not in the juvenile sense of it being a penis-replacement, but in terms of making it a totemic item of worship, something irreducible from the intangible fantasies that make us America indivisible.

Think about that. We’ve taken it for granted for so long, and buried it in a way over anger at the cynicism of NRA-funded prostitutes in Congress, not to mention the profit-driven murderous culpability of gun manufacturers, that we haven’t looked at how insane these beliefs are. And even if we have, we haven’t really looked at the moral impact of these beliefs.

Obviously, it isn’t just the gun worship that is leading to this crack, this terrible violence. Economic dislocation plays a role, and as I’ve argued, the fact that a continent-spanning multi-ethnic nation that has very recently absorbed into it enormous parts of other countries can’t survive as a democracy, certainly not in the age of atomized media. Distrust and paranoia have always been part of our character, and they’ve been spavined even wider into something gulping and black and endless.

But to me, so much of this comes down to the gun. We’re a nation that is soaked in violence, watered in its visceral resolutions, and we tramp through the muddy slurry that is our only path. It’s why mental illness takes its murderous form, and why so many of us decide that taking out as many people as possible is a viable death fantasy. It’s why the rest of us have our lives and our futures beholden to their whims, and to the luck of not being in a place that has bloomed suddenly into a red nightmare.

Why did those people die in their pews? There are a million reasons, but it boils down to one: they live in America in the 21st century, when all our contradictions come crashing down.

The people who take aim at everyone understand this more than nearly anyone else. It is those whose last moments are spent in pain and terror who feel it the most.