December 6: Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

[CN: gun violence against women]

Today, December 6th, is Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It marks the anniversary of the death of 14 women who were engineering students at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal on December 6, 1989. The gunman's suicide note blamed feminists for ruining his life, and included a list of 19 feminists he planned to kill. Although the note was explicit about his anti-feminist and misogynistic political motivations, the initial media narrative, predictably, portrayed him as a crazed loner. The 1991 designation of December 6th as a National Day of Remembrance by Parliament has helped ensure that that the true nature of this crime is remembered.

I will not name the gunman, but will focus on remembering the women who lost their lives that day:

Geneviève Bergeron

Hélène Colgan

Nathalie Croteau

Barbara Daigneault

Anne-Marie Edward

Maud Haviernick

Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz

Maryse Laganière

Maryse Leclair

Anne-Marie Lemay

Sonia Pelletier

Michèle Richard

Annie St-Arneault

Annie Turcotte

Like other women who have lost their lives to gender-based violence, each of these women had hopes and dreams, a life, and loves. A little bit about some of them from CTV:

Annie St-Arneault: A mechanical engineering student from La Tuque, Que., a Laurentian pulp and paper town in the upper St-Maurice River valley. Lived in a small apartment in Montreal. Her friends considered her a fine student. Was killed as she sat listening to a presentation in her last class before graduation. Had a job interview with Alcan Aluminium scheduled for the following day. Had talked about eventually getting married to the man who had been her boyfriend since she was a teenager.

Annie Turcotte: Was in her first year and lived with her brother in a small apartment near the university. Was described as gentle and athletic -- was a diver and a swimmer. Went into metallurgical engineering so she could one day help improve the environment.

Barbara Daigneault: Was to graduate at the end of the year. A teaching assistant for her father Pierre Daigneault, a mechanical engineering professor with the city's other French-language engineering school at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

Maryse Laganiere: The only non-student killed. Worked in the budget department of the engineering school. Had recently married.

Sonia Pelletier: The head of her class and the pride of St-Ulric, Que., her remote birthplace in the Gaspe peninsula. Had five sisters and two brothers. Was killed the day before she was to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. Had a job interview lined up for the following week.

The gunman's plans to murder 19 feminists had a profound and chilling effect. In a 2014 story, two of the women on his list of intended targets, Monique Simard and Francine Pelletier, described the aftermath:

Simard, president of Quebec’s film and culture foundation, SODEC, was a trail-blazing union leader in 1989. “My reaction was, Oh my God, these young women are the victims because he couldn’t get to us,” she says in an interview from her office in Old Montreal.

Pelletier, a prominent Quebec journalist — then and now — founded a feminist newspaper in the 1980s, La Vie en Rose. Two days after the killings, her editor at La Presse called her. “Have you see today’s paper,” asked Alain Dubuc. She hadn’t. “Brace yourself,” he told her. That day, La Presse published the names of the 19 women, which had been leaked to a police reporter. “Your name is on it,” he said.

“It broke my heart,” says Pelletier. “It didn’t change who I was. But many of his victims probably weren’t even feminists (and) I felt they died in my name.

“For me, Polytechnique sounded the death knell of the glory days of feminism. Those days were gone when he started shooting. Feminism wouldn’t be easy anymore.”

Today, december 6th has become a day to take action, in memory of the 14 women who lost their lives in 1989, as well as of other women who have lost their lives to gender-based violence. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's statement reflects this idea:

“On this somber anniversary, let us reflect on what Canadians – women, men, and youth – can do to rid the country and the planet of the scourges of misogyny and gender-based violence.

“The statistics on violence against girls and women are unacceptable. Far too many girls and women, here in Canada and around the world, suffer physical and psychological harm at the hands of others – often people they love and trust.

“On this day – and every day – we recommit ourselves to finding solutions that help prevent future acts of violence. Men and boys are a vital part of the solution to change attitudes and behaviours that allow for this violence to exist. There must be zero tolerance for violence against women, and only with everyone’s support can we build a Canada that is safe for all.

“As we mourn today with the families and friends of those bright and talented young women who were victims of that senseless act of hatred, I encourage everyone to think about how their own personal actions matter. Start by joining the conversation online using the hashtag #ActionsMatter. Together we can change minds and stop gender-based violence before it starts.”

In Canada today, there will be marches and vigils across the country. But wherever we live, today is a good day to take whatever concrete actions we are able to end gender-based violence, whether that is donating to an organization dedicated to addressing gendered violence, finding time to volunteer with a local organization dedicated to addressing the needs of those targeted by gender based violence, educating oneself about bills in state/provincial/national legislatures with implications for gendered violence, or otherwise finding a way to contribute to the fight, as our individual resources and abilities allow us to.

If you're at a loss to get started, here are a few ideas for ways to help fight vioence against Indigenous women. You might also like to check out Feministing's list of groups working to address violence against trans folk. Or, you might look at UN Women's webpage and learn about the many global initiatives they are supporting which help women and girls. Those are just a few ideas. I invite you to share your own resources in comments. As always, please respect that different people give support in different ways.

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Oh My Heart

Last night, Vice-President Joe Biden presided over the Senate during a procedural vote on the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes funding for his Cancer Moonshot. During the session, the section of the legislation that provides the funding was named after his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in May 2015.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Biden's loss, and his determination to fight the disease to which he lost his son: "He's known the cruel toll this disease can take. But he hasn't let it defeat him. He's chosen to fight back. He's taken a leading role. And the Senate will soon pass the 21st Century Cures Act as a testament to his tremendous effort."

He continued: "I think it's fitting to dedicate this bill's critical cancer initiative in honor of someone who'd be proud of the presiding officer today, and that's his son, Beau."

The vote was taken. McConnell asked that the resolution be agreed to. Biden responded solemnly: "Without objection."

It was a moving moment — a reminder of the shared humanity with which the Senate should be preoccupied, every day.
In times like this, I wonder why it is that, when we're capable of things like this, we so often choose to do something else.

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Open Thread

Hosted by a turquoise sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Mira: "What's your #1 most favoritest, bestest cleaning or organization trick?"

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This Must Stop

[Content Note: White supremacy.]

Here is a thing that Dianna E. Anderson, Alison R. Parker, and I all worked on together, and it's a really important piece to me, and I hope you will read and share it: "Nazis were 'stylish,' too: The dangerous hipsterization of white supremacy."

One of the methods by which authoritarian power asserts itself is through appearance — a clean-cut young gentleman in handsome attire is less likely to be a red flag, as humans often expect people who hold extreme views to look extreme.

The Nazis had a very specific style guide aimed at normalizing their appearance and reducing any sense of fear around members of the Nazi guard. Fashionable, well-designed clothing was specifically chosen to reassure the citizenry: The Nazis looked like the guy next door, not like a degenerate or a monster. Their outer appearance belied their inner depravity, which allowed the latter to metastasize that much more easily.

...There is a demonstrable history of oppressive movements using fashion-forwardness as a means by which to insinuate themselves, and media replicate this history at our collective peril.
There is much, much more at the link.

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Recommended Reading

Here is some good stuff to read!

Yessenia Funes at Colorlines: "Water Protectors Celebrate Army's Halt of Pipeline, Brace for Trump Pushback."

Sean Mandell at Towleroad: "HB 2 Stalwart Pat McCrory Finally Concedes Defeat in NC Governor's Race."

Jessica Mason Pieklo at Rewire: "Pro-Choice Legal Offensive Launched in Three States."

Melissa Brown at Daily Progressive: "Ready to Ditch White Feminism? Here Are 6 Black Feminist Concepts You Need to Know."

[Content Note: Racism; colorism] Parth Shah at NPR: "For Tattoo Artists, Race Is in the Mix When Ink Meets Skin."

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Trump Picks Carson for HUD

Because of course he does. I've got a few thoughts on that at Shareblue: "Unfit president-elect Trump chooses unfit nominee Carson to lead HUD.

Now, after dithering about it, Carson has accepted the nomination to HUD, despite his lack of qualifications. He will "oversee an agency with a $47 billion budget, bringing to the job a philosophical opposition to government programs that encourage what he calls 'dependency' and engage in 'social engineering.' He has no expertise in housing policy."

Carson's only cited qualification, such as it is, is having grown up in an inner city: "In a recent television interview, Mr. Carson said that he was prepared to lead the agency because he grew up 'in the inner city' and because as a physician in Baltimore he has 'dealt with a lot of patients from that area.'"

...But no expertise is required by Trump — who, after all, has no qualifications himself. He has never served a day in public office in preparation for the presidency, and has so little knowledge of the job that he was surprised he has to staff the White House.

What is telling about this selection is that it is clearly Trump's pick — unlike much of the Cabinet, which otherwise has Mike Pence's fingerprints all over it. That Pence, and whichever other Trump advisors are wielding influence, evidently stepped back and "gave" this one to Trump suggests what a low priority HUD is to the powerbrokers in the incoming administration.
There is, as always, more at the link, including a strong statement of objection from Nancy Pelosi. GOOD.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound asleep on his back on the couch, with his legs the air and his tongue hanging out
Post-breakfast nap.

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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Dear The Left

[Content Note: Bigotry, privilege, emotional auditing and tone policing.]

First they came for the trans people, and we said, "America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms."

Wait, no. That's not right, is it? Let's start over.

Dear The Left,

Let me put the situation in a pop culture reference so the gravity might be appreciated: The white walkers, and I do mean white, have breached The Wall and are now holding victory rallies in the heartland.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported nearly 900 hate incidents believed to have been inspired by Donald Trump's Electoral College win. Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke has celebrated Trump's win as a great victory for the white people. Trump is crafting a Cabinet of deplorables who are not only economically elite, but who also hold white supremacist, anti-immigrant, misogynistic, and/or anti-LGBT views.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.5 million votes, which tells me that more people agreed with her message than with her opponent's. And, in light of this tragic and urgent state of affairs, I find it most curious and unfortunate that some of our white male friends on the left are critiquing what they call identity politics, political correctness, and what they have deemed the general failure of Hillary Clinton in particular, and the the left in general, to sufficiently consider the perspective of so-called ordinary (implied: white, straight, cis, male) Americans.
Now, it's hardly new to complain about how the scourge of political correctness has gone too far. Yet, if one paid no attention to politics, one would likely have no idea what this phrase "political correctness" could possibly mean. That's because it exists in a context where those who utter it nod and wink to one another because they all just somehow know it when they see it. Ah yes, they roll their eyes, this again.

As Moira Weigel observes in The Guardian, the phrase conjures "powerful forces determined to suppress inconvenient truths by policing language." But also, she adds, speaking specifically of Donald Trump, "There is an obvious contradiction involved in complaining at length, to an audience of hundreds of millions of people, that you are being silenced."  It is the ultimate illogic: we are supposed to believe that the politically correct are at once immensely powerful and also the weakest of the weak.

In that illogic lies the second contradiction: The goal of those who decry political correctness is precisely to police what language is acceptable in society. Specifically, they seek to silence the truths of marginalized people's lives by delineating for marginalized people which instances of real bigotry are allowed to be named and with what tone of voice.

Writing for audiences of millions at The New York Times, Mother Jones, and The Atlantic, some liberal and progressive white men have recently offered their half of what is, in actuality, a common dialogue that happens around the clock on the Internet. The maintext of these white male monologues is that Trump supporters are right: PC has gone too far! An insidious subtext is that academia and social media have fostered a hostile, uncharitable, and truly unbecoming incivility against ordinary Americans in general, and white men in particular. It treats identity politics as the invention of women and minorities rather than, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie aptly notes, the white (male) invention that it is and the very basis of segregation.

For those of us conversant in these dialogues around language and tone, we know that the full conversation often goes more like this:

Person A: That's offensive!
Person B: You're wrong. Stop being so sensitive.
Person A: Wait, that's even more offensive!
Person B: Well you'll never convince anyone if you say it like that!
Person A: I shouldn't have to ask nice for you not be racist!
Person B: See, this is exactly what I'm talking about! I'm a NICE GUY!

In his recent Salon piece, Conor Friedersdorf presents a bizarre, convoluted telling of an Internet "case study" wherein he claims that some on the left have "uncharitably" stigmatized people as being "white male supremacist." His overall point is that gratuitously using loaded terms dilutes the power of the words and, besides that, is ineffective. He defends Bernie Sanders and Kevin Drum at great length.

Drum, for reference, just wrote a piece at Mother Jones, suggesting that Ta-Nehisi Coates has made it "fashionable" to use the term "white supremacy." So now people are apparently wantonly using the term where it doesn't apply. It is faddish, we are to believe. Popular. Easy and fun to do. As an analogy to why he deems this purported trend dangerous, Drum patronizingly instructs, "A lewd comment is not the same as rape."

Meanwhile, media outlets, including Mother Jones in a tweet they've since deleted, are literally glamorizing white nationalists, labeling them "dapper" and publishing cool-guy pics of white nationalists in sunglasses and suits. CNN tweeted over the weekend, "Hipster or hate-monger?" of one far rightist.

And it's like our white male brethren on the left have fallen into this warped Upside Down where we, women and minorities, as we defend ourselves from these assaults are the real problem here.

Friedersdof, in his piece, assumes the role of Person B, that common white male "devil's advocate" protagonist in a conversation about race or gender who whips out his Merriam-Webster, jabs his finger at the page, and lectures the "uncharitable" women and people of color what words like feminism and racism mean. In a most decadent-of-decadent argumentum ad populums, he adds that he even asked six random people at the writing cafe for their definitions and they agreed with him, so seeeee, that's exactly what he's talking about! These are all nice ordinary people!

Even as he concedes that, yes, words might have different meanings in different, academic contexts, he instructs that the proper way to deal with ordinary Americans is to..... well, I'll just note that it's almost like there are powerful forces at work determined to suppress inconvenient truths by asking marginalized people to police their language.

Meanwhile, Mark Lilla, in The New York Times, quoted at the top referencing how hard it is for him to have to hear about bathrooms, claims that "the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life."

That we are ostensibly the same "unaware" liberals and progressives who somehow know about, and object to, pretty much everything Donald Trump stands for seems to be of little consequence to our white male scolds. That many people of color, queers, and trans folks are also in the group "liberals and progressives," and that we literally spend our lives tip-toeing around the delicate feelings of "ordinary Americans" seems ..... like it, too, might be a thing that they are, dare I say, unaware (and, unlike Lilla, I'll hold off  on the mental illness judgment).

What strikes me most about these monologues is that they read as instructions from white men to other white men. The pieces are permission slips. Now now, they tell themselves. Of course we'll be the KKK's "worst nightmare" if it comes to that, but we can't focus on "identity stuff" that is less than that. Trans people have to pee? How self-involved!

When coupled with the related articles being shared on social media citing research that shows that having "nonconfrontational conversations," rather than calling people bigots, is a more productive way to address bigotry, we see white people everywhere letting themselves off the hook, whispering, It's true you know, if only marginalized people were more thoughtful about this stuff...

Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote in The New York Times of this tendency to think of "identity politics" as an insular, faddish issue. She asks, "Is this what my fellow Americans had thought of my fight for dignity all along?"

And, I'm with her. It's as though treating people who have marginalized identities with basic dignity is so "boutique" that it's something our allies think can be withheld if we don't pay the proper currency for it. (Meanwhile, if Richard Dawkins has a little jar of honey taken away from him at airport security it is a human rights violation of the first order. Never forget.)

So, The Left, I offer for your consideration:
  • Please consider that many marginalized people already know that it is considered uncivil if we do not ask nicely to be treated decently. We know this from lived experience. Many people have no idea the daily accommodations that people with marginalized identities engage in to keep our/themselves safe. We are the black mother teaching her son a hundred lessons on how to stay under the radar of potentially-hostile white strangers who could, in an instant, bring the full force of the police state upon them. We are the women who bite our tongues when we hear sexist jokes at work, because we cannot afford to be seen as troublesome. And yes, we are the trans person navigating a public space while inhabiting a body that, like most human bodies, requires the expelling of wastes at regular intervals.
  • On that basis please consider that if you don't know that marginalized people dance around calling out bigotry all the time in our daily lives, you either aren't in much contact with marginalized people, you are completely oblivious, or we/they don't trust you enough to share this experience with you.
  • Please also consider, white men, that while these conversations are difficult for you, I can assure you that they are also difficult for marginalized people, let alone to have repeatedly in a sufficiently-nice manner. These conversations often mean being directly confronted with people's patronizing "just telling it like it is" opinions that we are sinful, lesser-than, mentally-ill, or otherwise faulty beings.
  • On that basis, please consider that when you instruct marginalized people to have these conversations in a way that you deem to be civil or "more accurate," it might be empathetic on your part to also add that you acknowledge that the marginalized person will likely be in at least a fair amount of discomfort while having these conversations. Stop shoving dictionary passages in our faces as though we're unaware and illiterate. Stop trying to win all the conversations. Stop telling people what is and isn't real bigotry against us, worthy of the collective attention. Stop acting as though empathy is women's work and marginalized people's work, but definitely not ordinary white people's work. Don't tell us you're a good guy, show us that you are. A little, "Hey, I know these times and these conversations are hard for you, how can I help?" could go a long way.
  • For all of these reasons, these conversations could be great for allies to actively engage in. Are you a white man? Awesome. Get to talking to other white men. Talk less about how you agree that PC culture has gone too far, and instead about how maybe, just maybe, we all harbor beliefs that are probably at least a little bit racist, sexist, homophobic, and bigoted and we, The Left, must keep working on that.
And lastly, The Left, please do not ask marginalized people to endure the hostility of the Trump regime on your terms or on anyone's terms but their/our own. The white walkers are here and we are doing our best to hold the door. My question to you is, which side of it are you on?

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A Few Things to Read...

Here are a few things I wrote over the weekend, in case you missed them...

1. Trump risks major diplomatic dispute with China over call with Taiwanese president: "The Financial Times reports that President-elect Donald Trump spoke via phone with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, marking what is believed to the first time since 1979 that a United States president—or president-elect—has spoken to 'a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic relations between the two were cut in 1979.' The call, which the New York Times describes as 'a striking break with nearly four decades of diplomatic practice that could precipitate a major rift with China even before Mr. Trump takes office,' was news to the White House, which 'was not told about Mr. Trump's call until after it happened.'"

2. Trump’s Taiwanese call: diplomatic failure and more conflict of interest questions: "These reports once again raise concerns that Trump's business interests, and his plan to turn over his business to his children, will continue to cause major conflicts of interest during his presidency. Unless and until he solves this dilemma by taking the meaningful actions of disclosing his tax returns and business financials, fully divesting himself, and ending brand licensing deals, these serious concerns will not go away. A seemingly less solvable problem is Trump's tendency, as described by former U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, to 'wing it.'"

3. Trump tweets about SNL sketch that is literally about how he can't stop tweeting: "It continues to be worrying that a man soon to be inaugurated as the President of the United States can be piqued by satire. And react so petulantly that he virtually renders it beyond satire."

4. Keep your eyes on Mike Pence, who is emerging as the most powerful veep ever: "Pence's style has always been less aggressive than it is opportunist—which does not make him any less dangerous. To the contrary, his patience in waiting for effective opportunities in which to implement his extremism, and his willingness to brazenly disregard democratic processes to get it done, makes him all the more toxic. His stealth is the perfect complement to Trump's theatrical egotism: Pence will exploit every second of being ignored to enact a radical conservative agenda in the long shadow cast by Trump's attention-grubbing megalomania."

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Open Thread

image of a purple sofa

Hosted by a purple sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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The Virtual Pub Is Open

image of a pub Photoshopped to be named 'The Beloved Community Pub'
[Explanations: lol your fat. pathetic anger bread. hey your gay.]

Belly up to the bar,
and be in this space together.

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Recommended Reading

[Content Note: Bigotry] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the New Yorker: "Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About."

[CN: Privilege] Damon Young at Very Smart Brothas: "Why So Many Liberal White Guys Just Can't Admit the Election Was About Race, Explained."

[CN: Civil rights violations] Melinda D. Anderson at The Atlantic: "What Is the Future of the Office for Civil Rights?"

[CN: Bullying; bigotry] Matthew Chapman at Shareblue: "Trump's Bigotry Has Empowered Hatred and Bullying in Schools."

[CN: Prejudice] Caleb Luna at The Body Is Not an Apology: "Romantic Love Is Killing Us: Who Takes Care of Us When We Are Single?"

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This Is Doing My Head In

[Content Note: White supremacy.]

I've got a new piece at Shareblue about the corporate media's unconscionable abetting of Kellyanne Conway's lies about empowering white supremacy:

The original exchange, as well as Conway's denialism — and personal offense — have been widely reported. However, a critical piece of context has been left out of every bit of reporting I have read thus far.

As Shareblue has documented, Trump is populating his administration with people who have direct links or associations with white supremacist groups.

Chief policy strategist Steve Bannon, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and a number of other appointees and advisors have affiliations with white supremacist organizations. This is not incidental: It is a continuation of Trump's campaign, which routinely made explicit and dogwhistled appeals to white supremacy.

Conway's denialism, and purported offense, are thus absurd and deeply dishonest. But without this important context being included in reports, news consumers are left without crucial information to make that assessment.

This is an editorial choice, and it is a dangerous and irresponsible one.
This is what happens when the media decide facts don't matter anymore.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Matilda the Fuzzy Sealpoint Cat curled in a crescent moon shape on the floor
Matilda does her impression of a crescent moon.

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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So, Trump Had a Rally Last Night

[Content Note: Racism.]

I watched some clips of it. It was as terrifying as you'd expect. I honestly don't have anything to say about that spectacle other than what I said on Twitter last night.

We are living in strange and terrible times, friends.

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The Rubber Meets the the Sound of Squealing Tires

I've got a new piece up at Shareblue about how the Republicans are getting a case of the jitters about repealing Obamacare now that they actually have a chance to do it.

By February of 2016, Congressional Republicans had tried — unsuccessfully — to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) more than 60 times. Despite the fact that more than 20 million people are now covered under the ACA's provisions, Republicans have repeatedly deemed it a failure that needs to be dismantled.

But that was then. A time when Republicans could get a lot of mileage out of attacking a healthcare access expansion without worry their attempts to overturn it would pass. Now, there is a president-elect who is unlikely to veto a repeal.

...It is not just a theoretical proposal discussed by grandstanders in the abstract anymore. Now it is a real possibility, with real people who will lose their healthcare coverage with a repeal — and whose lives may hang in the balance as a result.

As they say: Be careful what you wish for. Republicans now face the prospect of getting what they have long claimed to want — the chance to repeal Obamacare. But if they do it, they will face the wrath of voters who value their health insurance made possible by Obamacare. And if they do not do it, they will face valid accusations of breaking promises they have been making for six years.

Buyers' remorse over the election of Trump might come sooner than expected. And in, of all places, the Republican Congressional caucus.
More at the link, as ever.

It's all fun and games pretending to have principles until actual votes are at stake.

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Open Thread

image of a pink couch

Hosted by a pink sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Dreadful Invalid: "Are there any movies that were a big part of your childhood that are still enjoyable and relevant today?"

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[Content Note: Violence.]

"Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense."

This guy's nickname is "Mad Dog," and he has a history of talking about how much he loves killing people. He has said things like: "It's fun to shoot some people" and "It's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

So, you know, everything's looking great.

*jumps into Christmas tree*

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