Horrible Things

A very important aspect of cult is the idea that if you leave the cult, horrible things will happen to you. This is important, and it’s important to realize. That people outside of a cult are potential members, so they’re not looked upon as negatively as people inside the cult who then leave the cult.

– Steve Eichel, quoted in “How to Identify a Cult

This week’s featured post is “Governing Party vs. Personality Cult“.

This week everybody was talking about the Mar-a-Lago search

I cover the details in the personality-cult portion of the featured post. (Look at the quote above in light of how Liz Cheney has been treated.)

Something that didn’t make it into that article: It would be easier to believe Trump’s “witch hunt” rhetoric if his people didn’t keep pleading guilty to multiple felonies, as his CFO Allen Weisselberg did this week.

and the tide shifting for the fall elections


Once or twice a year, I actually sympathize with Mitch McConnell. Like this week, when he lamented how “candidate quality” might keep Republicans from taking the Senate. (For what it’s worth at this stage of the campaign, Nate Silver agrees. His Senate forecast gives Democrats a 63% chance of holding the Senate compared to a 21% chance of holding the House — though even that number has been going up lately.)

“Candidate quality” is an oblique way of saying that Trump and his personality cult have pushed a lot of bozos through the Republican primaries, leaving McConnell little to work with.

In Georgia, an anti-Trump Republican group is airing an ad in which Herschel Walker’s ex-wife describes him holding a gun to her temple and threatening to blow her brains out. But no, the GOP isn’t anti-woman.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic senate candidate John Fetterman has mastered a technique that Republicans have been using since the first President Bush weaponized the Pledge of Allegiance against Mike Dukakis in 1988: latching onto some symbolic issue that works against your opponent and refusing to let up. His opponent, Mehmet (Dr.) Oz, has ten houses, and mostly lives in the one in New Jersey, where People magazine found him in 2020.


Fetterman keeps finding new ways to poke this issue, like getting a Jersey Shore TV star to weigh in on it, or hiring a plane to pull a banner welcoming Oz “home” to New Jersey, or tweeting a photo of Boardwalk with ten houses on it.

On abortion, Republican candidates keep digging deeper and deeper holes for themselves. Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Nixon justifies forcing a 14-year-old rape victim to bear a child because of the bonds some girls have formed with their babies. “Out of that tragedy, there was healing through that baby.”

I shouldn’t have to point out that we don’t buy this logic in any other situation. Stories of heroism and community bonding come out of every natural disaster, but we try to avoid disasters all the same. We want fire departments to put out blazes before they spread, even though the great fires of Chicago and London allowed those cities to rebuild themselves better. The archetypal World War II movie is about a tentative young man who grows up quickly and finds inner strength through his combat experiences, but those accounts shouldn’t inspire us to go out and start more wars.

Similarly, some 14-year-olds (or even younger girls) may rise to the occasion and make something positive out of bearing a rapist’s child. (More often, I suspect, a young woman looks back on a hellish period of her life and constructs an upbeat narrative to make peace with it.) But that’s no excuse for the government to force girls down that path.

Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano (a 2020 election denier who organized busloads of Pennsylvanians to go to Trump’s January 6 rally) associates with self-styled “prophet” Julie Green. She was invited to give the opening prayer at a Mastriano rally, where his campaign aide introduced her as “a representative of God”. Mastriano has posted one of Green’s 20-minute videos (where she made a series of vague National-Enquirer-style predictions that will be easy to verify after something-or-other happens, but also predicted a scandal for that “treasonous snake” Mitt Romney), and also a picture of himself with Green.

Green has said a lot of interesting stuff: Nancy Pelosi drinks children’s blood. Joe Biden actually died and has been replaced by an actor. Adam Schiff will face God’s judgment because “all will see the proof of your disgusting acts against My son, the true President”. In the same post, God speaks to Chuck Schumer: “Chuck Schumer, your story is similar to that of Nancy, Adam, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Obama. … you will reap your Harvest though not before you see your nightmares come to pass. My son will return and will be put back in his rightful seat. You will all pay with your lives, and your plans will not succeed.”

Maybe I’m over-interpreting, but it sure sounds like she’s saying that when Trump gets back in power, he will have all his enemies killed. And that’s supposed to be a good thing.

The GOP isn’t the party of Romney and John McCain any more. If you’re still a Republican today, you’re in bed with a bunch of lunatics like Julie Green and Doug Mastriano.

and the pandemic

Reported new cases (for what those numbers are worth in these days of home testing) seem to have leveled off at 130K per day in mid-July and then started downward in August, going under 100K this week.

The theory that something turned in August is supported by the lagging (but more solid) statistics: hospitalizations (down 7% in the last two weeks) and deaths (down 7%).

Now we wait to see whether the start of the school year triggers a new surge.

As an aside: Much of the country is acting like Covid is over, as if 460 deaths per day (which, if it held, would work out to 168K deaths per year) isn’t worth our attention.

By now we all know people who have had Covid and appear to have recovered completely. But you can’t count on that, especially if you’re older.

The study found that 4.5 percent of older people developed dementia in the two years after infection, compared with 3.3 percent of the control group. That 1.2-point increase in a diagnosis as damaging as dementia is particularly worrisome, the researchers said.

and the Republican war on public education

Who didn’t see this coming? If your daughter loses an athletic competition in a state that bans transgender women from sports, you can accuse the winner of not being female.

After one competitor “outclassed” the rest of the field in a girls’ state-level competition last year, the parents of the competitors who placed second and third lodged a complaint with the Utah High School Activities Association calling into question the winner’s gender.


In that case, the UHSAA was satisfied with school records, which listed the young woman as female every year back to kindergarten. So it wasn’t necessary to pull down her pants. An out-of-state-transfer or homeschooled-until-recently student might not have been so lucky.

The UHSAA says it takes all such complaints seriously, even if it’s just “that female athlete doesn’t look feminine enough.”

Meanwhile, in Florida …


This Onion headline was just realistic enough to make me do a double-take: “Texas Schools Require Clear Bags To Prevent Students From Bringing In Books“. It’s satire. For now, at least.

But a real news story is only slightly less disturbing: A new state law requires every Texas public school to prominently display a poster stating “In God We Trust”. So it doesn’t matter if you’re raising your child in an atheist or a polytheist home; the government of Texas has decided that monotheism is best, and wants to make sure your child knows that.

The law’s defenders point out that “In God We Trust” is the national motto of the United States. But, like the “under God” addition to the Pledge of Allegiance, that motto wasn’t adopted until the 1950s. The Founders could have left us a religious motto, but chose not to, just as they chose not to include the word “God” in the Constitution.

It’s easy to debate the specific religious beliefs of the Founders, who were sometimes vague, sometimes changed their minds, and often disagreed with each other. But one thing they universally didn’t want was to repeat what England went through in the 1600s, when rival sects competed for control of the government, often violently. The Founders wanted religious competition to happen outside of government. Using government power to champion one group’s theology over another’s violates their vision.

This is just one more piece of evidence that originalism is a facade masking Christian privilege. When Christians want privileges that would have horrified the Founders, originalism goes out the window.

A good piece of journalism from the NYT. They talked to history teachers in different parts of the country about what they actually teach. So much of the “critical race theory” or “wokeness” debate is based on people’s fears and fantasies. It’s good to get some actual information.

and you also might be interested in …

A week from tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of President Biden pulling American troops out of Afghanistan.

CNN’s security analyst Peter Bergen makes the this-was-a-huge-mistake case, which basically boils down to the fact that the Taliban is bad: It has destroyed women’s rights, has no interest in democracy, has mismanaged the country into a famine, and appears to be sheltering Al Qaeda again.

That’s all true. But what Bergen doesn’t offer is any plausible alternative plan other than to keep losing American troops there forever. Yes, the Afghan government we supported folded immediately after we began pulling out, without even waiting for us to finish withdrawing. The army that we had spent so much money equipping and training turned out to have no interest in fighting. So the withdrawal was an ugly scene.

To me, that collapse just underlined how badly we needed to get out. Twenty years of nation-building ended up building nothing that could stand on its own for even a week. Tell me: What could we have accomplished by staying another six months? Two years? Fifty years? Why would our exit be any less ugly then, after we had spent another few trillion dollars and gotten several thousand more of our soldiers killed?

Yes, Afghanistan was a huge American mistake, but the mistake was staying for 20 years when we weren’t accomplishing anything. Biden was the president who stopped living in denial, and I thank him for that.

On appeal, the NFL increased DeShaun Watson’s suspension from six games to 11 and added a $5 million fine. The league, Watson, and the players’ union have agreed to this, so my worst nightmare won’t happen: I was afraid the case would get into the federal courts, and that Watson would be allowed to play until a decision came down.

But I’m conflicted about this outcome. It wouldn’t be fair to suspend Watson forever, because (1) he was never indicted or convicted of anything, and (2) I disapprove of situations where a corporate monopoly gets to dictate terms to its workers.

Going in, I thought that anything less than half a season (8.5 games) would be a slap on the wrist. So I feel like I ought to be happy with 11 games.

But through this process, Watson has done nothing to earn my sympathy or empathy. He insists he did nothing wrong.

I’ve always stood on my innocence and always said I’ve never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone, and I’m continuing to stand on that.

So I suppose he wants us to believe that those two dozen massage therapists (who tell strikingly similar stories about him) must be making it all up. It sure looks like Watson has learned no lesson (other than possibly “don’t get caught”), so I’ll be surprised if he isn’t in trouble again before long.

In the meantime, I’m just grateful that I was never a Cleveland Browns fan. By trading for Watson and giving him a rich contract, the franchise has stained itself for years to come.

and let’s close with something artificial

People are having way too much fun with those AI algorithms that turn phrases into artistic images. Here, the opening lines of famous novels get the AI treatment. Like Gravity’s Rainbow‘s “A screaming comes across the sky.”

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  • nedhamson  On August 22, 2022 at 1:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News.

  • Deborah  On August 22, 2022 at 9:08 pm

    So, according to Mr. Brunelle, combat vets can now be teachers? I wish people actually read the law before sharing memes and cartoons. It’s only 3 pages, about a 5 min read. http://laws.flrules.org/2022/186

  • Anonymous  On August 27, 2022 at 12:28 pm

    I’m not sure why you think that Fetterman has latched onto a symbolic issue.

    Oz is running for Senate in Pennsylvania, but he doesn’t live in Pennsylvania. Apparently he qualifies for the ballot because one of the multiple houses that owns happens to be in Pennsylvania.

    Does he spend six months a year in Pennsylvania? Does he vote in Pennsylvania? Is his car registered in Pennsylvania? When he files his Federal taxes, does he list Pennsylvania as his residence?

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