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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Obama Privately Warned Reporters Trump Would Destroy America in 8 Years in Last Days in Office

Obama Privately Warned Reporters Trump Would Destroy America in 8 Years in Last Days in Office  Barack Obama. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

 

Bess Levin / Vanity Fair

As we’ve previously noted around these parts, the biggest criticism of Barack Obama between the years of 2016 and 2020 related to his decision not to voice the opinions you know he absolutely had about Donald Trump. Indeed, it was not even until the end of 2018 that the 44th president uttered his successor’s name in public, despite the fact that most of the world was regularly referring to him with terms like “certified moron,” “an idiot surrounded by clowns,” “Adolf Twitler,” and, we assume, “a malignant tumor on the colon of society.”

While Obama did choose to start talking toward the end of 2020—warning that August that Trump would “tear our democracy down” if given the chance—the remarks that he reportedly made in private were the ones people probably would have appreciated hearing the most, wherein he described the 45th president as “a madman,” “a racist, sexist pig,” a “corrupt motherfucker,” and a “fucking lunatic.” And apparently, he had other things to say about the guy too.

Bloomberg News reports that in his final days as president, Obama warned reporters, in an off-the-record conversation, that while America would be “okay” from four years of Trump, “eight years would be a problem. I would be concerned about a sustained period in which some of these norms have broken down and started to corrode.” (The remarks were revealed in a transcript that was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in 2017 by reporter Jason Leopold.) Trump has, of course, been threatening to make another bid for office for some time now, which, if successful, would give him those eight years Obama warned against. While that would obviously be extremely bad for humanity, one might argue that the country is already quite worse for wear after just the first four, and that Obama was a little too optimistic about how Trump’s first term would shake out.

Elsewhere in the conversation, Obama told reporters that he didn’t believe Trump was keen on starting any wars, though he would probably be into “bombing the heck out of terrorists.” (In early January 2020, the Trump administration assassinated Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani; Trump would later complain that he didn’t get enough credit for this, and that he should have because Soleimani was a much “bigger” terrorist than Osama bin Laden, whose 9/11 attacks he bizarrely attempted to downplay.) “I think his basic view—his formative view of foreign policy is shaped by his interactions with Malaysian developers and Saudi princes, and I think his view is, ‘I’m going to go around the world making deals and maybe suing people,’” Obama said during the chat. “But it’s not, ‘let me launch big wars that tie me up.’ And that’s not what his base is looking [for] from him anyway.” 

According to Bloomberg, Obama said his biggest fear about his successor was the politicization of the nation’s top law enforcement agency. “I would be like white on rice on the Justice Department,” Obama told reporters. “I’d be paying a lot of attention to that. And if there is even a hint of politically motivated investigations, prosecutions, et cetera, I think you guys have to really be on top of that.” Trump, of course, spent much of his time in office demanding the DOJ investigate his political rivals, including Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton. As Bloomberg notes, “Geoffrey Berman, the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, recently accused Trump’s Justice Department of meddling in prosecutions and pressuring his office to launch politically motivated probes into Trump’s adversaries.”

In addition to opining on Trump, Obama reportedly offered his thoughts on the GOP, saying that “the Republican Party now is ideologically completely incoherent. You don’t know what they stand for. So what’s bound them together is opposition to me, opposition to a fantastical creature called the liberal who looks down on them and just feeds all that regional resentment. And there are a handful of issues, like guns, that trigger that sense of ‘these folks aren’t like us and they don’t like us and act like us.’ And there’s obviously some racial elements that get put out into that stew.”

Ginni Thomas swears she never once discussed her attempt to overturn the 2020 election with her husband, Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas

And if you believe that, we’ve got a bridge to sell you. Per The New York Times:

During her interview, Ms. Thomas, who goes by Ginni, repeated her assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald J. Trump, [Rep. Bennie] Thompson said, a belief she insisted upon in late 2020 as she pressured state legislators and the White House chief of staff to do more to try to invalidate the results. In a statement she read at the beginning of her testimony, Ms. Thomas denied having discussed her postelection activities with her husband.

In her statement, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, Ms. Thomas called it “an ironclad rule” that she and Justice Thomas never speak about cases pending before the Supreme Court. “It is laughable for anyone who knows my husband to think I could influence his jurisprudence—the man is independent and stubborn, with strong character traits of independence and integrity,” she added.

In March, shortly before Thomas’s incredibly damning text messages with Mark Meadows regarding the 2020 election were revealed, she admitted in an interview that she’d attended the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the January 6 attack on the Capitol, adding, of her husband, “Like so many married couples, we share many of the same ideals, principles, and aspirations for America.” But she also insisted: “We have our own separate careers, and our own ideas and opinions too. Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me, and I don’t involve him in my work.” Which was about as believable then as it is now.

Ginni Thomas: "Isn't she lovely?..."

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Republicans assure Florida gets decimated by Ian

Before Hurricane Ian, Florida Republicans Fought Against Climate Disaster Protections 
Boats are pushed up on a causeway after Hurricane Ian passed through the area on September 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Florida. (photo: Joe Raedle/Getty)

Before Hurricane Ian, Florida Republicans Fought Against Climate Disaster Protections

David Sirota / Jacobin 

 

Roughly three months before Florida was clobbered by this week’s climate-intensified hurricane, eight of the state’s Republican lawmakers pressured federal regulators to halt a proposal requiring businesses to more thoroughly disclose the risks they face from climate change. Those lawmakers have raked in more than $1 million of campaign cash from oil and gas industry donors, according to data reviewed by the Lever.

The proposed rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are designed to give investors, government officials, and the general public much more information and details about the dangers of climate change. But even in Florida — one of America’s most climate-threatened states — top Republicans are trying to help fossil fuel industry lobbyists block such disclosure mandates that could better inform communities about climate risks. Those mandates could also help identify which carbon-emitting companies are most responsible for the climate crisis.

On June 15, seven of Florida’s House lawmakers signed a letter to SEC chair Gary Gensler demanding he rescind a proposal that would require large corporations to “disclose extensive climate-related data and additional ‘climate risks.’”

“Congress did not establish the SEC to set climate policy nor to be the final arbiter of businesses’ strategies to combat climate change, which is what these rules will do,” the lawmakers wrote, lambasting the agency for “taking a novel, activist approach to climate policy.”

The following Florida Republican House members signed the letter while pulling in fossil fuel industry campaign cash: Gus Bilirakis ($259,550), Vern Buchanan ($174,490), Kat Cammack ($54,737), Byron Donalds ($60,163), Neal Dunn ($20,902), Bill Posey ($127,000), and Mike Waltz ($71,553).

In a separate letter signed by Florida Republican senator Rick Scott — who has received more than $236,000 from fossil fuel industry donors — thirty-two GOP senators slammed the agency for “mandating climate change reporting requirements that will not only regulate publicly traded companies, but will impact every company in the value chain.”

After the letters, Gensler signaled that his agency could pare back the disclosure rules.

The effort to kill climate risk disclosure rules has long been led by Posey, who represents a district on the central Atlantic coast of the state. In 2011, Posey authored legislation to statutorily bar the agency from requiring corporations to tell investors about the ways climate change affects their business.

“Instead of enforcing climate change policies, the SEC might want to focus its attention on protecting investors from fraud and abuse in the financial markets,” Posey said at the time.

Florida GOP Politicians Still Behaving Like Climate Denialists

Climate scientists say storms like Hurricane Ian that has battered Florida are intensifying more quickly because climate change is warming ocean waters. There appears to be some broader recognition of the link in the state: Between 2019 and 2021, the number of Florida Republicans who believe climate change is real doubled from 44 percent to 88 percent, according to surveys by Florida Atlantic University.

However, many of Florida’s Republican politicians have not reflected that shift.

In Washington, every Republican member of Florida’s congressional delegation voted against an infrastructure bill providing billions of dollars in investments in climate-related weatherization and flood mitigation. Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis derided the $19 billion earmarked for the state.

Meanwhile, last month DeSantis spearheaded an initiative to bar his state from considering environmental factors such as climate risks in its investment of billions of dollars of retirement savings of teachers, firefighters, and other government workers.

DeSantis, who is running for reelection, has vacuumed in more than $800,000 of campaign cash from oil and gas industry donors, according to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. That includes more than $314,000 directly from the coffers of fossil fuel companies.

Mar-a-Lago escapted disaster this time, but Republicans are sure to give other hurricanes at shot creating this scene.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Everything Donald Trump touches dies

Former President Donald Trump arrives for a Make America Great Again rally at Kenosha Regional Airport November 2, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Everything Trump Touches Dies

After being scraped out of the White House and deposited back at Mar-a-Lago, it didn't take long for Donald J. Trump to begin holding for-profit events that looked and sounded a lot like campaign rallies but have, in fact, been nothing but personal cash grabs. Donald likes yelling his grievances at a live audience; if weird and sedition-friendly Americans want to pay Donald to complain at them inside sweaty arenas with other like-minded masochists, Donald's going to take the money and yell the things.

We're all accustomed to this game by now, so if you assumed that Donald Trump getting paid was going to turn out to be connected to nearly everyone else involved in the effort getting screwed, you get no prize. Sure enough, the "American Freedom Tour" has been failing to pay its bills, canceling events, and leaving speakers not named Donald Trump wondering if they're ever going to get their money.

The Washington Post brings us that news, and it's filled with the sort of details that really bring home what a thoroughly Trumpian operation this thing has been. American Freedom Tour is the company that's been organizing these Trump rallies, and the Post reports that Donald Trump personally appears to be getting paid his full amount for every appearance. The same isn't true for the company's "vendors, investors, and employees," as the company cancels events and promises everyone that the money's coming real soon now.

"In addition to Trump, the shows featured right-wing celebrities such as Candace Owens and Kimberly Guilfoyle, as well as motivational speakers offering personal finance courses," notes the Post, which immediately raises the question: How close do you have to be to Donald, personally, to get your money? Candace Owens probably won't be seeing any cash, but does dating one of Trump's children improve your odds?

Yeah, I'm betting no. I'm pretty sure Donald Trump would hate you forever if you proposed giving Donald Trump slightly less money so that you could pay anyone else, including Donald Trump Jr., a dime.

Those names are also a reminder that, despite the high ticket prices, these events weren't exactly posh affairs. Trump is the headliner, and everyone else is "people that you'd never, ever pay money to hear from."

What's not clear from the Post's story is why the company is canceling events. A company spokescreature cites "unforeseen scheduling issues," which might mean that Donald Trump keeps having to nix event dates because they've been conflicting with his ongoing series of crimes but could also mean that Trump's draw—recent pictures from attendees have shown venues that might be half full, if you're being generous—has so faded that it's become hard for the events to turn a profit.

In fact, it's almost certainly that. The company has been putting on Trump for-profit Trump rallies and yet can't pay its bills. That means it’s not selling enough tickets to make its business plan profitable.

Trump can draw a gaggle, but Trump can't draw a crowd. We also know that Trump has been demanding that donors and other suckers pay for his flights to and from events, and you know whatever speaking fee he's charging is one far steeper than what the ticket sales can justify.

So that's a little treat. Everything Trump touches dies; everyone who works with Donald Trump ends up getting stiffed. You'd think after decades of this, the world would run out of suckers, but no. No, there are always more people who think, "if I partner up with Donald J. Trump, I won't lose my shirt."

Everything Trump Touches Dies

Thursday, September 29, 2022

QAnon conspiracists see Trump’s warm embrace on Truth Social as their hoped-for signal

Trump 'storm' meme
Donald Trump has been regularly posting QAnon memes and videos on his Truth Social account, thrilling the cult's followers.

Donald Trump’s recent open embrace of the QAnon conspiracy cult that deifies him has predictably metastasized into full-on identification. This became clear at his Sept. 17 rally in Youngstown, Ohio, where QAnon fans in the audience raised their fingers in a coded salute while Q-derived theme music played over the loudspeakers. Over the past couple of weeks on his Truth Social chat platform, he has repeatedly posted and reposted Q-derived memes and hashtags, including ominous suggestions of future Jan. 6-style insurrectionist violence.

Just as predictably, those hordes of QAnon cultists have been rapturous over what is now his open public embrace and how it normalizes them. After Trump posted an ominous Q meme—one reading, “Nothing can stop what is coming. Nothing”—a popular Q account reposted it, saying: “It doesn’t get more Q affirming than that. It’s almost like he’s trying to tell us something. Boom!”

While Trump’s Truth Social platform—intended to be a MAGA alternative to Twitter—has been a financial fiasco, his account there nonetheless has over 4 million followers. And in recent weeks, Trump’s account has produced a steady diet of openly QAnon-based content.

Trump QAnon meme
Trump’s recent QAnon-based post on Truth Social.

One post featured a video clip that opens with an image of his face with a large “Q” superimposed over it, accompanied by the text: "Information Warfare. It's time to wake up." The video then proceeds to show a montage of memes featuring Trump: “Moves & countermoves, the silent war continues. Q.” “Stand by, shit is about to get real.”  “WWW1WGA” [the popular hashtag for the QAnon war cry, “where we go one, we go all”]. “We know all, we see all” [with an image of Trump holding a card with “Q” on it].

One of the memes shows Trump talking on a phone. “Empty it totally,” its text reads. “I said drain it, completely. Yes, the globalist traitors, commies, thieves, satanists, pedos, all of ‘em!”

Another meme tells his followers to prepare for a "storm" and then displays a graphic showing the U.S. Capitol: "It's going to be biblical." (QAnon fanatics played a central role in organizing the Jan. 6 insurrection.)

Experts who track QAnon conspiracism seem to agree that Trump’s motives for embracing the cult are fairly transparent: It’s about politics, and particularly Trump’s desperation to rally his troops amid the multitude of legal troubles he currently faces, believing he still has a shot to regain the presidency. Mike Rothschild, author of The Storm is Rising, told Salon’s Kathryn Joyce that his loyalists have become his only constituency:

I think it is desperation, and trying to keep faith with the people who have been in his corner the most fervently.  He's losing support; people are walking away from this. They're just sick of it. And you also have to remember that he's doing this on Truth Social. This is not a widespread mainstream application; nobody's using it other than Trump people. So he's signaling to the people who are already in his corner—knowing that they love him, that they will do anything he asks them to do—because those are the only people he's got left, really.

“If we think it’s in Trump’s best interests to really heighten the polarization in the country and cast everything in these sort of doomsday terms if Democrats retain power, then I think it makes a lot of sense for him to promote QAnon,” Will Sommer of the Daily Beast told Aaron Rupar and Thor Benson. “They literally think this is a battle between heaven and hell.”

Rothschild observes that QAnon has shifted dramatically since Trump lost the 2020 election, becoming far less dependent on “Q drops” from the original anonymous “Q” who posted material on the 4chan and 8kun message boards with cryptic claims about Trump and the supposed global pedophilia ring that is at the heart of their conspiracy theories. Nowadays, their topics of paranoid conversation are more likely to originate with LibsofTikTok, Christopher Rufo, or Fox News.

“A lot of the really weird stuff has been left behind, but QAnon's ideas are much more mainstream than they ever were before,” Rothschild says. “The idea of an all-powerful government that conspired to keep Trump out of office, and staged COVID-19 just to make sure that there could be mail-in voting fraud, and then that the election was stolen. All of these things are now mainstream Republican tenets. You can't be successful in the modern GOP if you think that the 2020 election was fair. And a lot of that comes from the normalizing of conspiracy theories that you got with QAnon.”

As Sommer explains, this fits Trump’s political agenda for returning to the presidency, primarily by subverting if not overthrowing democratic institutions:

I think Trump sees QAnon as the sort of ultimate Trump fan club. These are guys who by comparison make many Trump devotees look pretty lightweight. The average Trump fan thinks he was the greatest president ever and can save America, but these are people who see him as a messianic figure who is basically going to defeat the devil. Of course, they also think all of the people opposed to him are satanic pedophiles.

We can’t see inside his head, but I think he’s in these kind of dire straits legally, potentially politically, and I think he’s trying to throw some bait to rev up his hardest core fans.

MSNBC’s Zeeshan Aleem observes that in many regards, this has always been the inevitable endgame for Trump’s war on American democracy:

It's because this isn't about winning by democratic means. It seems likely that Trump recognizes that QAnon followers represent his best bet at forming a militant vanguard for his ever-increasingly authoritarian political movement. Dozens of QAnon believers have already committed acts or attempted acts of vigilante (and domestic) violence. They were key players in the Jan. 6 insurrection. And they're at the center of a new kind of politically infused spirituality that blends proto-fascist thinking, conspiracy theory and Evangelical Christianity. As ... Anthea Butler describes it, these followers "imagine themselves part of the 'end times' and saving the nation." They're primed to do whatever it takes to restore Trump to power, out of a belief that it's essential for civilization and humanity.

Rothschild explains that, while QAnon’s narrative is absurd and its followers ridiculous, this isn’t a frivolous matter, because its real-world consequences have become so wide-ranging, and its spread has become normalized:

So this is now a movement that has transcended the person or people who started it. It doesn't need Q drops anymore. In fact, it's arguably better if there are no more Q drops, because the Q drops tend to be cryptic and weird and they keep people away. If a movement really wants to grow, you don't want anything like that. You want it to be very obvious, very approachable. You want anybody to be able to fall into it, and that really happened during the pandemic. A lot of people came to QAnon without any knowledge of what the Q drops were, without any particular affinity for Donald Trump. They just knew something was wrong and somebody was lying to them. So the biggest danger in QAnon is how adaptable it is to discarding its previous self and adapting into something new.

Also these ideas have now become so mainstream in the Republican Party that you can completely radicalize yourself into QAnon without ever having read a Q drop or knowing anything about Q. You just fit into this world and it turns you on to more and more conspiracy theories.

This brings to mind a recent University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats report identifying an active American insurrectionist movement comprising some 21 million people. These radicalized Trump followers believe that “Use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency” and that “The 2020 election was stolen, and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” About 63% of them believe in the Great Replacement theory, while 54% subscribe to far-right QAnon conspiracism.

It also notes that this insurrectionist movement is made up of “mainly highly competent, middle-aged American professionals,” leading the researchers to warn that their continuing radicalization “does not bode well for the 2022 midterm elections, or for that matter, the 2024 Presidential election.”

How the sane world views QAnon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Evangelicals excused porn under Trump, but are ready to restart their crusade

Activists and sex workers hold up signs near police as they participate in a "Slut Walk" in Miami beach, Florida on December 5, 2020. - Activists and sex workers marched in the streets of Miami Beach for the decriminalisation of sex work. "This slut walk is an action created to ensure the rights of humans that chose to or are forced into sex work. They are disproportionately persecuted and various intersectional identities compound this. The decriminalisation of sex work will make a safer world for all of us and create a healthier more prosperous world", said human rights activist Jonni Quest. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Activists and sex workers hold up signs near police as they participate in a "Slut Walk" in Miami beach, Florida, on December 5, 2020.

Bad movies relax me. I still enjoy watching the early ’80s Christian paranoia film, Rock: It’s Your Decision. It’s an anti-rock music film featuring a boy who becomes warped by his fundamentalist parents into becoming a judgmental jerk. It’s not enough that he decides to no longer listen to what he considers “evil” music, like Barry Manilow, but he demands that all of his friends and classmates stop listening as well. He yells at them, calls them sinners, and then casts himself as a persecuted victim when they ignore him. (So, no, these people don’t ever change.)

The evangelical war on music seems ridiculous now, but it actually helped lay the groundwork for today’s nonstop culture wars. This initial foray into morality politics laid the template: Construct outrage around a perceived inherent evil force designed to disrupt the "traditional" family and national values.

Pornography is another issue popularized by evangelicals in the 1980s. Ronald Reagan even established a commission on pornography to try to “stamp it out.” The attacks more or less fizzled by the 1990s, when Republican moralists tried to take down Bill Clinton with an impeachment fixated on his sexual exploits. Instead, his popularity soared, and Democrats gained seats in the House.  

The war on pornography limped along for the years that followed, being replaced by focused attacks on gay marriage and reproductive freedom. Then, in what has got to be the most egregious display of hypocrisy, evangelical leaders briefly suspended their fight against porn because they feared it would lead to attacks on Donald Trump. Trump was not only a porn aficionado who spoke in lustful terms about his own daughter, but had also used campaign money to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels, whom he slept with during his wife Melania’s pregnancy. Yet the religious right excused, and even justified, his behavior. (Just as they are doing right now with evangelical Republican Dennis Hastert and Rep. Matt Gaetz.) As a direct result of evangelicals’ glorification of Trump, pornography was able to “enter the political and cultural mainstream.”

Evangelical leaders were brutally mocked by late-night comedians for “normalizing porn” over Trump. The GOP had essentially given up on pornography as a culture war. In the 1970s, Jerry Falwell, who led the Moral Majority, went to war over Playboy magazine, saying Jimmy Carter’s interview lent “credence and dignity” to what he considered a vulgar publication. Yet when Trump was campaigning in 2016, Jerry Falwell Jr. posed for a photo of himself and Trump in front of a framed cover of that exact same magazine with a provocative photo. (This was also long before Jerry Falwell Jr.’s own sex scandals became public knowledge.)  

Even when Christian nationalists finally decided it was time to try to renew their crusade against pornography after Trump left office, they didn’t quite know how to do it. After all, most Americans now believe pornography is morally acceptable, and they don’t take kindly to being lectured on morality by hypocrites. Moralist lectures and propaganda films simply don’t work anymore, if they ever did, which is why we will never see a film with the name Pornography: It’s Your Decision. (Actually, there are a few low-budget Christian anti-pornography films, but they are really bad.) Instead, they did something much more sinister, but effective.

One of the biggest Christian anti-porn lobbies, Morality in Media, the one that pushed for Reagan to declare war on pornography, figured it was on the side of a losing battle. This is a group that has stated, falsely, that pornography is a public health crisis, and still classifies Cosmopolitan and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue as “hardcore pornography.” However, they decided they could be effective if they managed to disguise their agenda, so that’s exactly what they did. Morality in Media completely rebranded into the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)which was meant to sound similar to the legitimate nonprofit called the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The NCOSE website was scrubbed of any mention of morality or religion.

Their rebranding ploy worked, as they are now often quoted by mainstream media, and even get an audience with Democratic politicians. Instead of preaching about general moral decay, this group succeeds by conflating consensual sexual expression with serious sexual crimes that everyone agrees are bad, such as sexual abuse and human trafficking.

By deceptively rebranding as an organization to fight sex crimes as opposed to policing pornography, their budget and spending have exploded. This has allowed them to host conferences, workshops, and seminars for other organizations so they can copy their model. They teach their questionable strategies about not disclosing religious origins, make false comparisons of porn to human trafficking and slavery, and constantly (and falsely) claim that pornography is a public health crisis. One of their apprentice organizations was a shady evangelical group called Exodus Cry.  

ss.png
Scene from “God Loves Uganda”

Exodus Cry started as a prayer group tied to a church in the Charismatic Christian community. Charismatic Christians believe people can manifest physical, supernatural experiences such as prophecy, spirit healing, speaking in tongues, and—within some factions—even snake handling. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett identifies as a Charismatic Christian, which some refer to as a cult within Christianity.

The church was called the International House of Prayer, or IHOP. (And yes, they were sued for that.) The church is famous for being featured in the documentary God Loves Uganda, which detailed a church leader’s pressure on Uganda to not just condemn homosexuality, but to promote the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that allowed the death penalty for gays and lesbians. Sadly, American evangelical missionaries have strongly pushed anti-gay messaging in Africa for decades, including prominent evangelical leaders like Rick Warren and John Ashcroft.

In the U.S., Exodus Cry got into the anti-pornography business, but took NCOSE’s advice and “altered its mission statement to remove all references to Jesus Christ and prayer.” Unfortunately, Exodus Cry and NCOSE have been very effective in bypassing traditional right-wing media, and instead promote their message of online censorship on non-conservative platforms such as Good Morning America and CNN.

They were at their most effective when it came to supporting two laws, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which were sold to lawmakers as a way to fight sex trafficking. In reality, these laws amended the Communications Decency Act of 1996 to remove the protection granted to websites for the content of its users if that content is found to “promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person.” In other words, under SESTA-FOSTA, any website with any sexual content could be feasibly held legally liable for sex trafficking, a term that is very broadly defined in the legislation. But what the laws don’t do is anything to target actual illegal sex trafficking.

The laws are written vaguely enough so that anti-porn groups have been successfully going after payments of creators using cryptocurrencies or credit cards. Legal internet videos and escort services have also been targets. Although the laws are supposed to focus on prostitution only, anti-porn activists were able to define pornography as "performance prostitution." This means a platform has to be worried about being sued if a striptease artist performs online.

These laws also mandate a 25-year prison sentence for anyone who “acts with reckless disregard that such conduct contributes to sex trafficking.” This is why personal ads disappeared on Craigslist. 

Yet these laws were so bad that they damaged how the internet is governed, since the laws didn’t bother to differentiate between consensual and nonconsensual sex work. Taking down consensual sex work sites means sex workers could not vet or choose clients online, which is much safer than working on the streets. Platforms that had groups for sex workers, such as spaces where they could list dangerous clients to avoid, were also taken down.

FOSTA-SESTA also allowed NCOSE to go after OnlyFans. This is an online platform that allows people to create content in the form of photos, videos, and livestreams and sell them via a monthly membership. Most creators are fitness trainers and models, but some make “adult content.” The site exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as many unemployed people turned to the site to survive.

However, the new legislation nearly succeeded in shutting this site down by pressuring banks and payment processors to sever ties. Going after banks and payment processors is part of the latest coordinated anti-porn campaign by these Christian activist groups, and this tactic has proven extremely effective. After credit card companies dropped Pornhub, it removed over 10 million videosover 80% of its content.

Joy Rider performs during a burlesque show at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 16, 2022. - The notorious rockabilly music weekend that draws approximately 20,000 attendees annually, resumed after two years of going dark due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Ronda Churchill / AFP) (Photo by RONDA CHURCHILL/AFP via Getty Images)
Joy Rider performs during a burlesque show at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 16, 2022.

OnlyFans was temporarily forced to ban the posting of any sexual material, but was able to fight back and restore their status. Most people on OnlyFans use it to supplement their income, yet they suddenly found themselves targeted by the anti-porn crusaders. “Camming,” which is when someone is requested to perform certain activities (sexual or nonsexual) on a webcam for paying clients, is by far one of the safest types of sex work as it’s done in the safety of their own home. Shutting that down forces sex workers who need money to consider taking more risks, like going back to meeting strangers in public without being able to vet them. Going after people on OnlyFans doesn’t help anyone; It just takes away a safe environment and criminalizes sexuality.  

Slate talked to a woman who was a burlesque performer, which generally includes provocative and creative stripping, but was locked down in her New York apartment during COVID-19. Not being allowed on sets or events, OnlyFans saved her from becoming homeless and greatly supplemented her lost income. Right-wing organizations and politicians are trying hard to ban people like her from working, but have never expressed interest in helping them if their ploy to ban these sites succeed.

The anti-pornography bills are part of a unique conservative strategy that was labeled Project Blitz, which is modeled after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC provides model draft legislation for conservative politicians to push through their respective state legislatures in order to pass a right-wing agenda. Project Blitz uses the same strategy, but for Christian Nationalism:  

Chief on Project Blitz’s agenda—which they laid out in a 148-page 2018 “playbook”—was enabling religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, promoting the Bible in public schools and plastering the words “In God We Trust” across license plates and government buildings.

But they’re also expressly concerned with destroying all forms of porn, sex work and premarital sex. In their playbook, they claim that states would “benefit” from public policy that limits sexual intercourse to “only between a married, heterosexual couple,” and erroneously associate any other type of interpersonal gyrating with an undefined, yet “enormously expensive disease.”

I should mention that not all Christians believe pornography is evil. There’s the pastor who left her church because she felt called to become a stripper. One prominent OnlyFans Christian creator, Nita Marie, stated her belief that “Jesus would have loved sex workers.” There are also several Christian OnlyFans models, such as Lindsay Capuano, who makes over $200,000 a month, but insists she is a devout Christian.

Again, there are legitimate concerns about real sex crimes, such as human trafficking and revenge porn, that need to be addressed. Yet time, money, and resources are being devoted to attacking healthy, consensual sexual relationships.  

The same people who want to tell you what books to read, what medicines to take, what films to watch, what states you can travel to, and what you can do with your own body are the same ones screaming about freedom. This is all about having power over people, and turning our democracy into an authoritarian Christian nationalist society. It’s why evangelical leaders openly embrace someone with such moral failings as Trump, because he promised them power.

There has never been much of an interest from the right in fighting sex trafficking, but there has always been an interest in a war on sex. That is all about control. More specifically, this is another front in the war on women. Just as Christian men have had no issues with abortion when it’s their mistress or wife, they also have no issues with pornography when they are using it or benefiting from those who do. It’s everyone else who is the problem.

As always, there is a misogyny angle in the religious right’s war on pornography. Whether you agree with pornography as an industry or not, you must admit that it is primarily female-dominated. Content creators, such as on OnlyFans, are mostly women making videos for their customers, who are overwhelmingly white, straight, self-identified Christian men. In fact, the top nine states for pornography are all in the Bible Belt. 

If Republicans truly hate OnlyFans, which they don’t, they are free not to use it. One big reason that sites like OnlyFans are popular is that they provide the creator with a revenue stream they can use to either live off of or supplement their income. The creators have sole discretion over their content. They have power over their craft and their lives, and can make a living off it in a safe environment.

There is an argument to be made that many creators would prefer another line of work, but this would require a guaranteed living wage, affordable housing, food security, and access to health care. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called attention to this when conservatives, along with the New York Post, tried to shame a medic who used OnlyFans to literally make ends meet.

Yet the reality is there would still be people who do it because they want to, and that’s fine. Our religious, patriarchal society has been conditioned to treat sex like a dirty secret. Then, when men get caught watching porn, it feeds into that dirty-secret mentality. Too many religious leaders treat consensual sex like it’s a problem that needs to be eradicated. The problem has never been porn or sites that provide it, but the inability to deal with sex in a healthy way. Sadly, there is no law that can help with that.

Porn is not a recent phenomenon. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Republican Lindsey Graham, who has never seen a vagina, proposes a nationwide abortion ban

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"Lindsey Graham lacks masculinity because he has no pride or principles. He is a suck-up and an ass-kisser, amoral and weak, an embarrassment."

Lindsey Graham is a 67-year-old man who has never married — or even been seen on a date with a woman. So, of course, people speculate he is gay. They need to stop. Graham’s sexuality is irrelevant. What is relevant is that he is not much of a man. This is ironic as he belongs to a party that bemoans the loss of masculinity in America — apparently because not enough men are shooting (topless), wrestling (shirtless), or getting their testicles tanned (completely naked). Video courtesy of the giggling doughboy, Tucker Carlson, click here.

Graham lacks masculinity because he has no pride or principles. He is a suck-up and an ass-kisser, amoral and weak, an embarrassment. And yet the “real men” — and women — of South Carolina have elected him their Senator four times. If he represents the “flower of Southern manhood,” I am not impressed.

It was in his home state that Graham's shortcomings were first nationally exposed. In 2015, during the pre-primary phase of the GOP’s 2016 candidate search, reality TV star Trump went to South Carolina and lacerated Graham in front of his homies. The orange pestilence called Graham,    

“a disgrace,” “one of the dumbest human beings I’ve ever seen,” “one of the worst representatives of any representative in the United States.” Adding “I don’t think he could run for dog catcher in this state and win again.":

During the contest, he gave out Graham’s cellphone number. And after Graham dropped out, Trump piled on by pointing out Graham’s inadequacies and questioning his sanity.

“He ends up at zero [percent]. Zero. Here’s a guy running for the presidency — he’s at zero. He leaves in disgrace, in my opinion.” Adding,

“I saw him on television this morning, and I think he lost it. He said ‘Donald Trump, he’s’ — he couldn’t even talk. He was shaking. The hatred. They say, ‘What do you think of Donald Trump? Well, waahhh.’ He went crazy. The guy is a nut job.”

Graham fired back, asserting that if Trump became the nominee,

"The Republican Party will get killed, we’ll get creamed, we’ll lose, we’ll deserve it." Adding,

“I’d rather risk losing without Donald Trump than try to win with him, because it will do more damage over time," And,

Trump has run “a campaign on xenophobia, race-baiting, religious bigotry – that cannot be Republican conservatism.”

One man won. One man lost. But while the loser was bloodied, he was unbowed. Sadly, not for long. And this is why Graham is like a meth addict. A junkie will do anything to get their fix. Offer sex, steal from their family, shoplift, beg — whatever it takes. Graham’s drug is relevance. And the only way to stay relevant in the GOP today is to appease the 2020 loser. No matter the cost to reputation.

It is hard for the non-addict to understand the compulsion that drives the user to sacrifice everything for their drug. Many have to hit rock bottom before they find the will to quit. And others never find the will and simply die. Graham’s desperate need to be somebody manifests itself in his abasement. It is too bad he never married anyone or had children through sex or adoption.

I am not saying that his lack of family has doomed him to his fate. Many single people live rich and meaningful lives. But they are people who are comfortable in their skin. Psychologically healthy, they do not need the affirmation of another. Graham’s make-up is too fragile. He needs someone to look after him. When John McCain died, Graham lost his father — again. He needed a substitute. OK. I have probably gone too far (let me know in the comments).

Regardless, Graham was soon carrying the man’s golf bag and saying with pride Trump “beat him like a dog.” I cringe as I write this. How does a man value his honor so little that he will trade it for a pat on the head? Does Graham not see the scorn he has engendered? Not just from his political rivals but from his own party? He does not. Because he does not care what Democrats think. And Republicans are all doing the same thing.

Ted “your wife is ugly” Cruz, “Liddle” Marco Rubio, and Kevin McCarthy are just three desperate piglets fighting to latch onto the orange sow’s teats. These spineless opportunists have made a Faustian bargain. And in return for kissing the ring, they hope to receive the blessing of a man who is as equally likely to be in jail in 2025, as he is to be President. (Note: In June 2020, Graham pocketed Trump’s “my Complete and Total Endorsement!”. And in April 2021, Rubio scored his “Complete and Total Endorsement.” Because Trump's vocabulary tops out at c.100 words.)

But Graham is feeling the inconstant nature of Trump’s approval. In February, Graham reasonably observed that insurrectionists rioting through the halls of Congress ought to go on trial. in return, Trump called him a RINO and said “Lindsey Graham doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.” Note the use of the full name. It is like a parent who is so mad at their miscreant progeny they use the kid’s full name.

Now in the face of an enormous backlash against the Supreme Court's decision to deny women agency of their uteruses, Graham has decided the time is right for national abortion restrictions. The man was for states’ rights until he was not. He also claims, despite his pitiful presidential run that "The people are with me!" And the GOP, who were once betting on how overwhelming their majority would be in Congress, are now desperately holding on to fading hopes.

It is one thing to indulge your misogyny in red states but pushing purple states towards the Democrats is political malfeasance. So why did Graham do it? For the publicity - to get on TV. He works on the principle that it is better to be reviled than ignored. And reviled he is.

What will his gravestone say? “Here lies a nobody, who thought he was a somebody.”