Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East. History nerd, linguistic geek, and devoted news junkie.
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Blooming Balderdash!

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I picked the post title at random from the top row of words at this site, which features “Swear words and profanities from around the world,” because the apparent page title, &$!#%, didn’t work for me. The “Questions & Answers” section at the bottom says:

It’s a celebration of swearing. Because swearing is great!

Choosing the right swear word is one of life’s great pleasures. Perhaps it’s a muttered “dickhead” when you see that guy on the telly, or shouting “MOTHERFUCKER” with tears streaming down your face when you stub your toe on the bed for the third time in one morning. But the right word at the right time is a uniquely human joy.

I know the best swear word! Can you add it?

I would love to add your rude words. I’d especially like to hear more non-English swear words (so I can swear around the kids without them knowing) and obscure or regional vulgarities.

How did you decide how rude a word is?

Rudeness is complicated. In one sense, rudeness is highly subjective: what offends me might not offend you. But swearing is based on the breaking of taboos that are created by society at large, so there’s definitely a hierarchy of sorts, even if it’s unspoken and vague.

I reckon we in the UK could all agree that bonk is less rude than shag, which is less rude than fuck — the difficulty would be in putting an exact number on how vulgar a word is. So I’ve intentionally chosen a format that’s imprecise, and leaves room for your interpretation.

Obviously, this is my kind of site; I found it at MetaFilter via another post by the indefatigable and irresistible chavenet. …And on preview I discover that there is a different row of words at the top — I guess it changes constantly — so consider my title a snapshot of one magic moment in &$!#% history.

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Wonkette Went To The Moms For Liberty Key Party And All We Got Was This Lousy Sticker

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On Tuesday, because of how we are all pretty much gluttons for punishment at this point, we (well, Dok and Robyn) attended a Moms For Liberty chat at the Bradley Symphony Center in downtown Milwaukee. Are you so jealous? I bet you are! Anyway, instead of writing a whole post on it, we decided to just have a Slack about our favorite moments. Fun? Fun!

Robyn: Hey Dok! So HOW MUCH FUN did you have at the Moms For Liberty forum yesterday?

Doktor Zoom: Well, I got that new bandage from Walgreens on my blistered toe, so that was a real win!

Robyn: That was pretty exciting. I got a bunch of Vitamin C there because I thought it might make me less anemic. So that was also nice. But sadly, instead of spending a few hours in the Walgreens where I could happily stare blankly at the ELF section for a while (it's makeup, okay?) we had to go to the Bradley Symphony center not to see the symphony but to see a bunch of weirdos talk about how they are SAVING THE VERY SOULS of the children, but not in any specific way.

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Doktor Zoom: But it was very specific, Robyn. Moms for Liberty cofounder Tina Vescovich started with a warning that "there's something going on in this country," which is a definitely true statement that I dare anyone to refute. Then she explained it was a battle between good and evil, and that sure sounded scary. Also, I guess radical Marxists are coming for America's children, possibly to buy them school lunch, but also for their souls. That's clearly terrible, and I hope the children don't have their souls taken, by some unspecified Marxist evil.

Robyn: I feel like it's not a real battle for good and evil if there's not a Hellmouth but ymmv!

To be specific, she said that the radical Marxists are coming for their children's futures, which is actually pretty true in the way that the radical Marxists do hope that, in the future, their children will have health care, subsidized college, a living wage, and a planet that is not entirely decimated.

Of course, the real "radical Marxists" are people like me (I guess?) with literally no power to do any of that, nevermind making it so the workers own the means of production, so perhaps she assumes we'll just give up and ... eat babies?

Doktor Zoom: Oh, wait, that does sound like us, doesn't it. We're the baddies, then. Also there's all the radical gender ideology and the books that will make children think about gay pornsex if they see a child in a picture book who has two mommies, but for some reason nobody in the discussion actually mentioned any of the things that Moms for Libertines is best known for.

Robyn: They did not! The only mention of any of that was when they announced that some college students who were polled agreed with them that girls should not "have" to compete with those who were assigned male at birth in sports. That was it! Otherwise absolutely zero mention of the LGBTQ+ kids they want to make life hell for or the "porn" they've found in school libraries. So weird! It's almost as if they are realizing that most Americans think their social conservatism is a tad extreme and they're trying to downplay it.

Doktor Zoom: They already know exactly what they're doing, so with a shibboleth like "parental rights," nobody needs to explain that's shorthand for "no one can acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ+ people lest my innocent child turn into one, which is how I think that works." It's like the very old joke that I heard in high school about the prison where all the jokes that could possibly be told already had been told, so to save time they just numbered all the jokes and people would break into laughter. Then a new inmate tries to get in on the fun, shouts "37!" in the dining hall, and everyone just stares at him, so he tries again with one he's seen people cracking up over earlier. "41!" he yells, and the guy sitting across from him just shakes his head and says, "Man, some people just can't tell a joke."

Robyn: Oh, that's absolutely what they're doing. They're making it all as vague as possible so they can say "What! We just care about children and their education and don't understand why this is suuuuuuch a partisan issue! Why is the Left against our desire to protect our children from nothing in particular? Is it because they hate the children?"

Doktor Zoom: And isn't it a terrible, terrible thing that the very people who are siccing the FBI on ordinary moms for speaking their minds at school board meetings, are actually calling Moms for Censorship "fascists"? If anyone's a fascist, it’s these people on the Left who want TOTAL CONTROL OF OUR LIVES, and I don't need to be more specific than that because what part of EVERYTHING don't you understand?  

Robyn: Oh yes! I really loved that bit yesterday about how we supposedly have no policy and therefore have to "demonize" them and tell everyone that they are bad fascists, because otherwise no one would be able to figure that out for themselves by the way they go around banning books from libraries and attacking LGBTQ+ kids. Also when Wisconsin’s Senator Ron Johnson started going off about how we want to control people's lives, because that was just precious.

I mean, was it Opposite Day? Because I sure as hell don't see us going around telling people what religion they can be, who they can have sex with, what gender they are, what books their kids can read, whether or not they can take their kids to drag queen story hours, etc. etc. The only ways in which one could say we "try to control" anybody are when we say they shouldn't be allowed to be shitty to other people they work with or have guns with which they can kill 47 people in under a minute. Sorry, but it's a lot weirder to tell people they need to follow your personal religion than it is to prefer they not murder you.

Doktor Zoom: OK. but don't you see, we must want to control everyone, by making kids become gay degenerates through not banning the books with LGBT+ content. A highlights reel that ran before the discussion included a clip of Joy Reid asking about the rights of parents who want their own LGBTQ+ kids to have access to books that help them feel seen; Moms cofounder Tiffany Justice explained, "If a child feels seen by this story, that means they have been the victim of a predator." It turns out the book in question was George M. Johnson's award-winning YA "memoir-manifesto" All Boys Aren't Blue, which The Federalist described after the Reid interview ran in January as a "book about child rape." So no one could possibly want a teen to read that, unless they're a child rape advocate, QED.  

Robyn: They were pretty upfront, mind you, about their inability to empathize with others or understand why people disagree with them. On multiple occasions, the speakers exclaimed that their (nonspecific) views should not be partisan. Ron Johnson, however, really brought it home by explaining that he "just can't get inside the mind of a leftist." This is not surprising, as these are people who lack empathy and have also never really bothered to find out what "leftists" believe — which is probably why they think we have “no policy ideas.” (WE HAVE SO MANY POLICY IDEAS! Just not policy ideas about putting the Ten Commandments up in classrooms.)

The ridiculous thing is that it doesn't even require "empathy" to understand why people believe or don't believe certain things, because you can just listen to or read what they have to say! The Right does not bother to do this. Why would they, when they can just invent a bunch of strawmen?

Can I truly understand what it would feel like to believe in God or to care what gender people identify as or who they prefer to have sex with? Not entirely! But I can comprehend the fact that people like the Moms for Liberty and Ron Johnson and whoever else do think that way. It's not hard.

Doktor Zoom: But everything is a spiritual war against the forces of evil that are trying to destroy America. So if you tried to understand what's going on in the head of a leftist, or even worse, feel empathy for an LGBTQ+ teenager who worries that they're a horrible freak who can never be open about who they are, then you're only lending legitimacy to those people and their anti-American agenda of trying to control everyone. Worse, you might have to admit that you're scared of boogeypeople who exist mostly in your own head.

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The really ugly thing, of course, is that, as in the Joy Reid example, these folks say they're the only ones who really care about the children. A parent might say their LGBTQ+ kid might benefit from reading about the awful things that George M. Johnson not only survived but overcame on his way to becoming a functioning, self-assured adult. But the only thing the Mad Moms see in the book is the child rape, so it's a book about child rape and only a weirdo would want that in a public library.

Robyn: Honestly? End of the day I think it is less about anything like that for them than it is about the fact that they don’t want their kids to develop empathy for others and then, subsequently, believe that their empathy-lacking parents are jerks. Because reading something like a memoir or fiction is a way of doing that thing Ron Johnson is so unable to manage — putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute. They just can’t do it.

Anyway! I vote that we wrap this thing up and head out to some equally terrible RNC thing. Any other favorite moments from … whatever that was? Mine, apart from the woman at the beginning singing “The Star Spangled Banner” so terribly (though in her defense … that is something that only sounds good if you are singing at an Aretha Franklin level) — I would have to say the whole discussion of charter schools, in which many of the speakers professed a desire to return to (swear to God) one room schoolhouses. There was also a consensus among the speakers that the Department of Education should be abolished and that both healthcare and education would be helped by “competition” — likely because they are all very detached from reality and that’s their solution for everything.

Well, everything except books and religion.

Doktor Zoom: I did enjoy how they confidently said that American parents are all really on their side, as shown  by their many victories in school board elections that too many voters don't pay attention to, at least not until the Moms' candidates start wreaking havoc on the schools and accusing anyone who opposes book bans of being a pedophile. As we saw in the 2022 midterms and off-year elections last fall, once the schools get taken over by extremist christian nationalists, many voters can't wait to toss them out.

Probably just goes to show how deeply the Marxist radicals have infiltrated society.

Thank you for reading Wonkette. This post is public so feel free to share it with everyone you love (or hate).


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To be specific, she said that the radical Marxists are coming for their children's futures, which is actually pretty true in the way that the radical Marxists do hope that, in the future, their children will have health care, subsidized college, a living wage, and a planet that is not entirely decimated.

Of course, the real "radical Marxists" are people like me (I guess?) with literally no power to do any of that, nevermind making it so the workers own the means of production, so perhaps she assumes we'll just give up and ... eat babies?
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Pullet Surprise.

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Yes, this is silly stuff, and it’s four decades old to boot, but it’s hot and muggy for the umpteenth day in a row and I can’t come up with anything serious, so enjoy Jack Smith’s “‘Pullet Surprise’: Years later, student’s coincidence is still, uh, malapropriate” (L.A. Times, Feb. 18, 1985; archived):

I have been troubled by an Associated Press story out of Orange Park, Fla., reporting what seems to me an incredible coincidence. I wasn’t going to take note of it here, but several clippings of it have been sent to me, from various newspapers, and I feel obliged to comment.

The story said that Jim Mattson, an English teacher at Orange Park High School, had been collecting his students’ malapropisms over a period of four years–both at Orange Park and during his previous assignment in Exeter, N.H., and it gave some examples. […] What troubled me, though, was a student’s malapropism that Mattson gave as one of his favorites: “In 1957, Eugene O’Neill won the Pullet Surprise.”

“I literally fell out of my chair laughing,” he said. “I was laughing so hard I was crying. I showed it to my wife and tears came down her cheeks.”

Alas, a dedicated schoolteacher named Amsel Greene, years before, and way out in Helena, Wyo., had had pretty much the same reaction when the same sentence turned up in one of her students’ papers: “In 1957, Eugene O’Neill won a Pullet Surprise” (the only difference being an a instead of a the). Like Mattson, Miss Greene was fascinated by these strangely logical errors, and had been collecting them with the idea that someday she would publish them in a book. But what to call it?

“Here was the term,” Amsel Greene wrote in her preface, “for which I had been groping. I had jotted down hundreds of classroom misinterpretations for which I had found no name. The terms boners, bloopers and booboos imply stupidity or inadvertence, whereas student errors are often marvels of ingenuity and logic. But Pullet Surprises sparked a Eureka response. Its rightness had the impact of revelation!”

See the link for more examples and the rest of Smith’s story; I generally roll my eyes at such lists, as I wrote here:

[…] bullshit forms reminiscent of those “Kids say the darndest things!” pseudo-mistakes some people e-mail lists of (Old-timer’s disease, a blessing in the skies, Carpool tunnel syndrome—this is the title of a book, and it’s a deliberate pun, for Chrissake!, Heineken remover—which they as good as admit is bullshit, &c &c)

But I have to admit, “Pullet Surprise” made me laugh. Thanks, Trevor!

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Project 2025 – The Department of State

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The Project 2025 chapter* on the State Department is a plan to transform the State Department into the President’s political arm in international affairs. Institutional knowledge would be jettisoned, most personnel would be replaced, and those remaining would be subject to political indoctrination and firing for not toeing the President’s line.

If you thought Donald Trump got a bum rap in being impeached for trying to shake down Volodymyr Zelinsky or if you’re loving his photo-ops with Viktor Orbán, you’ll love Project 2025.

Additionally, Project 2025 would end treaties or any treaty-like agreement with other countries. This has long been an ambition of the Republican Party. All such agreements would be defunded and considered for funding only if they advanced the party line or could be bent or broken in that direction.

Immigration and building enmity with China, along with regime change in Iran, are high on the priority list. According to the report, Mexico has become a third-world country and should be treated as  such, although the report holds back from recommending declaring war.

Some of these objectives are not put quite as baldly as I have expressed them here, but some have, and others clearly lead to these conclusions. It’s going to take more than one post to go through some of the specifics. This is a radical document that proposes to change the place of the United States in the world.

A continuing whine from the Trumpies is that the oppositional bureaucracy never let Trump be Trump. That bureaucracy did unforgiveable things like remind Trump of the rule of law. The State Department, according to Project 2025, was among the worst. Some selections from the early sections of the chapter:

There are scores of fine diplomats who serve the President’s agenda, often helping to shape and interpret that agenda. At the same time, however, in all Administrations, there is a tug-of-war between Presidents and bureaucracies— and that resistance is much starker under conservative Presidents, due largely to the fact that large swaths of the State Department’s workforce are left-wing and predisposed to disagree with a conservative President’s policy agenda and vision.

It should not and cannot be this way: The American people need and deserve a diplomatic machine fully focused on the national interest as defined through the election of a President who sets the domestic and international agenda for the nation. The next Administration must take swift and decisive steps to reforge the department into a lean and functional diplomatic machine that serves the President and, thereby, the American people.

A major source, if not the major source, of the State Department’s ineffectiveness lies in its institutional belief that it is an independent institution that knows what is best for the United States, sets its own foreign policy, and does not need direction from an elected President.

The next President can make the State Department more effective by providing a clear foreign policy vision, selecting political officials and career diplomats that will enthusiastically turn that vision into a policy agenda, and firmly supporting the State Department as it makes the necessary institutional adjustments.

Focusing the State Department on the needs and goals of the next President will require the President’s handpicked political leadership—as well as foreign service and civil service personnel who share the President’s vision and policy agendas—to run the department. This can be done by taking these steps at the outset of the next Administration.

the next President can exert leverage on the Senate if he or she is willing to place State Department appointees directly into those roles, pending confirmation.

Assert Leadership in the Appointment Process. The next Administration should assert leadership over, and guidance to, the State Department by placing political appointees in positions that do not require Senate confirmation, including senior advisors, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretaries, and Deputy Assistant Secretaries. Given the department’s size, the next Administration should also increase the number of political appointees to manage it.

… No one in a leadership position on the morning of January 20 should hold that position at the end of the day.

Support and Train Political Appointees. The Secretary of State should use his or her office and its resources to ensure regular coordination among all political appointees, which should take the form of strategy meetings, trainings, and other events. The secretary should also take reasonable steps to ensure that the State Department’s political appointees are connected to other departments’ political appointees, which is critical for cross-agency effectiveness and morale.

Maximize the Value of Career Officials. The secretary must find a way to make clear to career officials that despite prior history and modes of operation, they need not be adversaries of a conservative President, Secretary of State, or the team of political appointees.

Reboot Ambassadors Worldwide. All ambassadors are required to submit letters of resignation at the start of a new Administration… The next Administration … should both accept the resignations of all political ambassadors and quickly review and reassess all career ambassadors. This review should commence well before the new Administration’s first day.

The priority should be to put in place new ambassadors who support the President’s agenda among political appointees, foreign service officers, and civil service personnel, with no predetermined percentage among these categories. Political ambassadors with strong personal relationships with the President should be prioritized for key strategic posts such as Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

More to come: The next section is “Righting the Ship.”

* The chapter starts on numbered page 171, pdf page 204.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner

The post Project 2025 – The Department of State appeared first on Lawyers, Guns & Money.

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Fighting for Democracy in Arkansas

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I mentioned the other day the bullshit that Arkansas’s Secretary of State used to try and stop voters from deciding whether abortion will be legal in that state. Well, our correspondent in Arkansas (a reader I frequently chat with) notes that the fight is not yet over and here’s an update:

But on Thursday, the plot thickened again: Thurston’s office admitted to the Arkansas Times that it had been mistaken in earlier stating that Arkansans for Limited Government had submitted just two documents on July 5 along with signatures. Once the full slate of documents was released — around the same time that the abortion petitioners issued a detailed response to Thurston — the reasons for nixing the signatures started to look more rinky-dink, with more avenues for challenge. Moreover, it now appears that Thurston’s decision to stop the count altogether could violate state law.

Lauren Cowles, executive director of Arkansans for Limited Government, sent Thurston a sharply worded letter Thursday saying he had “unlawfully rejected” the petition. “You must continue counting,” she told him.

That doesn’t mean that abortion petitioners are out of the woods. Their fate will ultimately be in the hands of state officials and judges, many of whom are politically hostile to their cause. If Thurston’s office does resume counting, they could still see significant numbers of signatures rejected. And even if they survive this hurdle, significant challenges will remain.

But the funeral atmosphere of Wednesday now appears premature. The fight has only just begun.

Good. Keep up that fight!

The post Fighting for Democracy in Arkansas appeared first on Lawyers, Guns & Money.

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After Years of Litigation, First Black Mayor in Rural Alabama Town Gets to Serve

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“I knew I was gonna be able to serve again, you know,” Braxton told Capital B in a phone call last week. “It’s just how long it was gonna take for us to get some kind of resolution first for this.”

Patrick Braxton is overwhelmed with gratitude.

He’s been juggling a yearslong legal battle to serve as the lawful mayor of his hometown, Newbern, Alabama. After years of harassment, his rural town enters a new chapter: Its first Black mayor will finally get to serve. 

Braxton will be reinstated as mayor of Newbern, according to a proposed settlement reached on June 21. The settlement awaits the signature of U.S. District Judge Kristi K. DuBose. After 60 years of no elections, residents will get to exercise their right to vote. The town has also pledged to hold regular municipal elections beginning in 2025.

In nearly a year since Capital B was among the first to report on Braxton’s fight, he has garnered support locally and nationally.

On a recent morning in May, he traveled nearly three hours from his hometown to Mobile for a preliminary injunction hearing, asking the courts to demand the town hold regular elections in November.

When he and his council members arrived, they were met by a busload of more than 30 residents who also traveled nearly three hours to showcase their support.

In 2020, Braxton became the first Black mayor in Newbern and experienced harassment and intimidation for doing so. However, the previous majority-white town council blocked him from the post.

He and his council filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against them in 2022 for conspiring to deny his civil rights and position because of his race, challenging the racially discriminatory voting and electoral practices in Newbern in the process, Capital B previously reported. 

Read More: A Black Man Was Elected Mayor in Rural Alabama, but the White Town Leaders Won’t Let Him Serve

For at least 60 years, there’s been no elections in this 80% Black town of fewer than 200 people, which Braxton’s attorneys argued is a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Act provides an avenue to challenge states and jurisdictions using racially discriminatory voting policies.

Since 2020, when Braxton ran for mayor, he says some white residents have moved away.

Though the court denied the request to hold an election in November, Braxton didn’t feel defeated. In fact, he felt optimistic.

“I knew I was gonna be able to serve again, you know,” he told Capital B in a phone call last week. “It’s just how long it was gonna take for us to get some kind of resolution first for this.”

This week, that long overdue resolution came.

When he received the news that he’d get reinstated, Braxton shared it with his pastor, who exclaimed, “Finally. It’s been a long time coming. You know if you pray, change will come.”

This win in Newbern is important because it shows citizens nationwide can still use the courts to be heard, despite the attacks on the Voting Rights Act, said Morenike Fajana, co-counsel on the case and senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc. 

“It’s important just to highlight Mayor Braxton’s tenacity, and the fact that this is a four-year battle that he’s had to fight in different courts and at different levels — and now finally, a court is going to say, ‘Yes, we agree. You were wronged. And you were the mayor,’” Fajana told Capital B. “I think that is very inspirational and important. And it’s also very sobering, just the amount of work that it takes and time that it takes to have your rights vindicated.” 

Setbacks, frustration, and the will to keep fighting

For the past few years, it’s been a heap of long nights and early mornings for Braxton, a volunteer firefighter for years.

Not only was he locked out of the town hall and forced to fight fires alone, but he was also followed by a drone and denied access to the town’s mail and financial accounts, he told Capital B last year. Rather than concede, Haywood “Woody” Stokes III, the former white mayor, and his council members reappointed themselves to their positions after ordering a special election that no one knew about. 

“It hurt my heart because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” Braxton said. “We had some plans to do some work in Newbern. … It might not have been the time for us to do it.”

The setback didn’t stop him, he said. He’s hosted several community events for the youth and the town’s elders. Two months ago, he used his personal funds to feed more than 125 people at his church, First Baptist. This week, he helped plan a Fun Day Out, a type of summer reading program, at the local library. 

He’s also been working overtime to build a racially diverse city council amid the lawsuit. He wakes up early in the morning, knocking on doors and “running down people” to talk to him. In 2020, no white person seemed interested. 

That has changed. 

He will submit his list of interim council members to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey for confirmation. If the governor does not affirm the positions, she must notify the Hale County probate judge to declare a special election, which Braxton will administer, the settlement states.

One of those people: his “ride or die” Janice Quarles, a Newbern native and plaintiff who volunteered to serve on Braxton’s council in 2020.

Read More: How Some States Are Responding to the Worst Attack on Voting Rights in Decades

The most stressful part of this journey for Quarles has been finding adequate legal representation and a listening ear to hear their concerns. 

“It seemed as if we weren’t moving. It seemed to me as if we weren’t being heard,” Quarles said. “By being from such a small little town, I kind of felt like we weren’t getting enough attention. But eventually, we kept pushing and got into the courts.”

With the recent news, she is beyond “elated” and hopeful it will bring together the community across racial lines.

“We don’t do a lot of integrating. We don’t do too many things together. But I just feel that it’s gonna be a change because sometimes it has to work on both sides,” Quarles said. “I’m just filled with joy because … there always comes a time for change — everywhere in every country, every state, every city. And now the time has come for us here in Newbern.”

While this chapter is closed, the fight is not over, Braxton said. He’s hoping his journey will inspire others.

“Like I told the pastor, I’m not fighting for myself,” Braxton said. “I’m fighting for all the younger generations coming up behind me. They can do the same thing and be successful in this town. You don’t have to move away from your hometown just to accomplish something. We finally got the door open for me, so y’all can come in. I don’t want to hold this seat forever.”

The post After Years of Litigation, First Black Mayor in Rural Alabama Town Gets to Serve appeared first on Capital B News.

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