Some amazing things happened in public life the past few days. Here are a few of my picks:
Imagine that: Democrats came up with a brilliant political slogan.
I’m not sure that’s happened since “Yes We Can” burst on the scene with Barack Obama in 2008.
This one is the “rebrand” of the last year’s luckless “Build Back Better.” I was okay with BBB, but it sure went down, choked in coal smoke from Manchin’s mines, then lost in Krysten Sinema’s deserts.
A caveat: I’m speaking here only of the title; what’s in it is another matter, as are its actual prospects for passage. But certainly it will be an asset in the Dems’ midterm electoral campaign.
Next, a spate of stunning campaign ads popped up. The best, which delivers a horror message worthy of Stephen King, with wickedly sardonic wit and wordplay, comes from Texas and a new PAC, Mothers Against [Texas governor] Greg Abbott “MAGA”:
In an instantly viral ad, a doctor tells a distraught couple that their fetus has suffered a catastrophic abnormality.
If she were to make it to full term, he continues, the baby girl would die just hours after birth. “She will suffer,” the doctor adds, before telling the tearful parents that a decision must be made on terminating the pregnancy — a choice that “only one person can make.”
“And that person is Greg,” the doctor says.
“Who the F—- is Greg?” The father asks. The doctor reveals a portrait of Abbott. With a direct phone line. [Click here to watch the ad. ]
“Greg” turns thumbs down. Then . . . .
I think the ad is brilliant in every way: production, acting, targeting (Republican Abbott is up for re-election), its daggerlike wordplay, and packing its thrust into less than ninety seconds.
Speaking of a quick thrust . . .
PS. A real Grass-Roots snapshot, from In The Yard:
It is hard to feel sorry for extremely awful, obscenely rich people – particularly in the middle of a cost of living crisis – but I found myself feeling weirdly sad for the Trumps this weekend, after reading about Ivana’s opulent but miserable send-off.
Donald Trump’s first wife, who was found dead at the bottom of her stairs this month, had a gold-hued coffin (of course), but the speeches were the real centrepiece. Her kids and a former nanny all gave eulogies that were bizarre and tragic in equal measure.
Let’s start with the eldest: Donald Jr. The warm memory of his mother that he chose to recount at her funeral? The time she disciplined him so hard she had to stop from exhaustion. Once, when they were kids, said Donald Jr, his sister Ivanka accidentally destroyed an expensive chandelier. Ivanka – it will shock you to hear – lied and said it was her brother’s fault; Ivana then pulled out a wooden spoon to teach Donald Jr a lesson. Continue reading Can’t Look Away: Ivana Sleeps With The Sharks—Scenes from Her Funeral→
NOTE: Normally I don’t watch late-night TV. That’s less from snobbery than the fact that normally I’m asleep by then. But I make an exception when the January 6 Committee show runs til almost midnight.
(Full disclosure: I didn’t watch those late shows last night either. But the New York Times did, as a special service for its less hardy subscribers, providing these tidbits.)
“He did not call them from a box.
He did not call while watching Fox.
He did not help out Uncle Sam.
His brain is made of eggs and ham.
But, in his defense, it is possible he forgot the number for 9-1-1.”
— STEPHEN COLBERT, on news that Trump didn’t reach out to any security officials on Jan. 6.
“Yes, he is a stain on our history — and thanks to these hearings, we know that stain is ketchup.”
— STEPHEN COLBERT, referring to Representative Adam Kinzinger’s referring to Trump’s inaction as “a stain” on our history.
“The White House announced that President Biden has a mild case of Covid. On the bright side, it’s the first positive news Biden’s gotten in months.”
— JIMMY FALLON
And, the winner’s trophy in the Capitol Underground 100-Yard Dash goes to Jumpin’ Josh Hawley, the Sprinting Senator from Missouri.
A long, long time ago – five decades to be exact – America was roiled by wrenching generational showdowns, massive street protests, and a blazing array of social justice movements. Now, half a century later, similar events and dynamics dominate the public conversation. So, perhaps, it’s poetic that precisely five decades have elapsed since a song that captured all that cultural turmoil, American Pie, became a smash hit. “It’s a song that spoke to its time,” said Spencer Proffer, who has produced a comprehensive new documentary about the song, titled The Day the Music Died. “But it’s just as applicable now.”In fact, American Pie has only gained in fans and expanded in meaning as it has hit successive generations and generated fresh covers. Over the years, it has been interpreted by artists from Madonna (who created a commercially triumphant, if aesthetically limp, take in 2000) to Garth Brooks to Jon Bon Jovi to John Mayer. Throughout the years, journalists have subjected the song to a Talmudic level of scrutiny, while its songwriter, Don McLean, has doled out dribs and drabs of insight into his intent. By contrast, the new documentary offers the first line-by-line deconstruction of the song’s lyrics, as well as the most detailed analysis to date of its musical evolution. “I told Don, ‘It’s time for you to reveal what 50 years of journalists have wanted to know,’” Proffer said. “This film was a concerted effort to raise the curtain.”In addition, it offers an emotional account of the tragic event that McLean used as his jumping off point for the larger story he wanted to tell.The event, which McLean dubbed “the day the music died”, shattered the pop world of its day and had a formative effect on the songwriter. On a frigid night in 1959, a small plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson (The Big Bopper) crashed in a corn field in Clear Lake, Iowa, minutes after take-off, killing everyone on board.
Opinions from Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor send stark warning about increasingly radical court abandoning long-held principles
Taken together, the dissents written by the three liberal justices this term send a clear warning about an increasingly radical court that is abandoning long-held principles and even the facts of a case to enact an extreme conservative agenda in America.
While supreme court opinions can frequently become mired in legalese that is incomprehensible to the average reader, the wording of the liberals’ dissents is often simple and direct. The opinions can read like a desperate attempt to reach beyond the court’s standard audience of legal experts to speak to the millions of people who will feel the impact of these rulings.
“Today, the court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion to conservatives’ decision in Carson v Makin. She concluded: “With growing concern for where this court will lead us next, I respectfully dissent.”
Ms. Stewart has reported on the religious right for more than a decade. She is the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.”
The shape of the Christian nationalist movement in the post-Roe future is coming into view, and it should terrify anyone concerned for the future of constitutional democracy.
The Supreme Court’s decision to rescind the reproductive rights that American women have enjoyed over the past half-century will not lead America’s homegrown religious authoritarians to retire from the culture wars and enjoy a sweet moment of triumph.
On the contrary, movement leaders are already preparing for a new and more brutal phase of their assault on individual rights and democratic self-governance. Breaking American democracy isn’t an unintended side effect of Christian nationalism. It is the point of the project.
A good place to gauge the spirit and intentions of the movement that brought us the radical majority on the Supreme Court is the annual Road to Majority Policy Conference. At this year’s event, which took place last month in Nashville, three clear trends were in evidence. First, the rhetoric of violence among movement leaders appeared to have increased significantly from the already alarming levels I had observed in previous years.
Second, the theology of dominionism — that is, the belief that “right-thinking” Christians have a biblically derived mandate to take control of all aspects of government and society — is now explicitly embraced. And third, the movement’s key strategists were giddy about the legal arsenal that the Supreme Court had laid at their feet as they anticipated the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
[Part One of this “Review in Pieces” is here.]
Imagine a history of the Trump rise done not by a DC insider, but by Stephen King, who had taken a double dose of bad acid and is channeling Hunter Thompson in bed with Franz Kafka. Then you’ll begin to get the drift of Tim Miller’s book, Why we Did it.
But as I read through the ominous early chapters, another specter haunted me: as what Miller calls “the croc” (using a Churchillian metaphor about fools feeding a pet crocodile in the bathtub) began to thrash its tail outside the rightwing tub, in nearby DC neighborhoods during these same years there existed a bloated, entrenched complacent “progressive” counterpart, raking in the “liberal” billionaires’ dough, buying or building their beach houses, and still skating on the legacy of the Sixties’ good side, victories won by many of their grandparents. While increasingly preoccupied with such towering matters as microaggressions or blanco fragility, and sharpening their aim with practice circular firing squads, they were just as surely turning themselves into sitting duck targets for this monster. Continue reading Timothy Miller “Why We Did It” Review, Part 2→
Most folks who speak often in public tend to have a collection of anecdotes they repeat to illustrate familiar points. Dr. King, for instance, had a whole stack of sermon passages, which he shuffled like a deck of cards, to fill out various addresses. (Yes, “I have a dream” was one.)
Wendy Brown, academic doyenne, is another, still very much alive. She also has her go-to stories. Not being an academic, I only know one of hers: the tale of the near-broke little Carolina Quaker college which sold its soul to an Ayn Rand-obsessed mega-donor, for half a million dollars and a ten-year supply of her doorstop clunker screed, Atlas Shrugged.
AP News: Drag queen blasts GOP candidate for Arizona governor
BY JONATHAN J. COOPER — June 20, 2022
PHOENIX (AP) — Kari Lake, the frontrunner in the Republican primary for Arizona governor, condemned the growing cultural clout of drag queens, jumping into the latest social grievance taking hold on the right.
But her comments were quickly criticized over the weekend by one of the most popular drag performers in Phoenix, who says Lake is a hypocrite who frequented his performances.
Richard Stevens, who performs as Barbra Seville, said Lake, a former television news anchor, regularly attended drag shows and even hired him to dress as Marilyn Monroe at a private party and brought her young daughter. He posted photos on his social media accounts of Lake posing with drag queens and screenshots of his conversations with her.
The dispute between the gubernatorial frontrunner and the prominent drag queen drew national attention and put Lake on the defensive two weeks before early voting begins ahead of Arizona’s Aug. 2 primary. It also fuels a persistent criticism of Lake’s conversion from Barack Obama donor to Donald Trump conservative.
“They kicked God out of schools and welcomed the Drag Queens,” Lake tweeted on Friday night. “They took down our Flag and replaced it with a rainbow. They seek to disarm Americans and militarize our Enemies. Let’s bring back the basics: God, Guns & Glory.”
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Stevens responded on social media the next morning: “I’ve performed for her. I’ve performed for her family. I’ve met her kids. I’ve been in her home, and I have her private phone number and her private Facebook account.”
He told The Associated Press on Monday that he stayed in touch with Lake and privately defended her even as she ran a far–right campaign that he disagreed with. But when she came after drag queens, he said, “this hypocrisy really bothered me.”
“I was just personally offended by that tweet,” Stevens said.
Stevens said he first met Lake in the late 1990s, when he performed regularly at a gay bar near the KSAZ studios, where Lake was an evening anchor. He said Lake and her coworkers would sometimes stop by the bar’s weekly drag show after the broadcast, and he recognized her from watching the news. They eventually struck up a friendship, he said. She would ask him for sources to discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community, and he occasionally appeared on Fox 10 broadcasts.
Lake once hired him to perform as Marilyn Monroe at a coworker’s baby shower about a decade ago, and there he met her daughter, whom he remembers being around 9 or 10 years old.
As Stevens’ post quickly gained traction on social media Saturday, Lake’s campaign initially responded by drawing a distinction between a drag performer and a man impersonating a female celebrity.
The campaign published a statement Sunday condemning the media for covering the controversy and threatening to sue Stevens for defamation.
“Like most sane people, Kari Lake is very much opposed to grown men or women dancing provocatively for children, especially at the expense of the taxpayer,” the statement said. “Why would anyone be opposed to this?”
The statement called Stevens a “talented comedian and performer that Kari Lake covered during her TV career” and pointed to his support for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
A spokesman for Lake, Russ Trumble, declined to comment further Monday, saying “it’s a legal matter now.”
Lake jumped quickly into the frontrunner’s position after launching a campaign that energized the GOP base and earned Trump’s endorsement. She has aggressively promoted false claims that the 2020 election was marred by fraud. But she faces a challenge from businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, who’s family fortune has allowed her to vastly outspend Lake on television ads, and from former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon.
Drag shows feature men dressing in flamboyant women’s clothing while dancing and singing or lip–syncing. Once a relatively obscure subculture, they’ve have exploded into the mainstream with the popularity of the television hit “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Some performances, particularly light–night events at bars, can be risque. Others are promoted as family friendly affairs, such as drag queen story hour.
Lake’s drag queen tweet latched onto an issue that caught fire this month with conservatives around the country who say drag shows are sexualizing children.
Lawmakers in several states have introduced legislation attempting to ban children from drag shows, and GOP leaders of the Arizona Senate say they have plans for a similar bill.
“The fact is, drag has existed forever,” Stevens said. “I’ve been doing drag longer than Kari has been a Republican. But if you want to outlaw drag in front of kids, you better free up your calendar because it’s ingrained in our culture. The first drag queen I saw was Bugs Bunny.”