Pluralistic: 12 Jul 2020

Today's links

Trump convinces GOP supporters not to vote (permalink)

Trump has been repeating a groundless conspiracy theory about postal voting leading to fraud – despite the fact that he, himself, votes by mail.

His supporters believe him.

They believe him so much that they're refusing to cast postal ballots, leading GOP strategists worried that they will lose races because of it this fall.

"It’s very concerning for Republicans. I guarantee our Republican Senate candidates are having it drilled into them that they cannot accept this. They have to have sophisticated mail programs. If we don’t adapt, we won’t win." -"Top party operative"

Postal voting benefits many people – stay-at-home parents without childcare, people whose employers won't give them time off, people who work for apps and are classed as "contractors," people whose polling places have been shuttered as part of voter suppression efforts.

But postal voting is also vital to two of the GOP's most important constituencies:

I. Old people

II. Rural people

"Especially for older, more rural voters, that could be important for Republicans getting out the vote in 2020. I don’t want ‘I will not vote by mail’ to become a political statement. But it may be too late." -"senior GOP strategist"

And while Republicans may believe Trump and so fail to cast a ballot at all, Democrats know he's lying: "in Kentucky’s June 23 primary only about 10 percent of Democratic votes were cast on the day of the election, while 20 percent of GOP votes were."

87% of Democrats think it should be easier to cast a postal ballot; 33% of Republicans want this. GOP strongholds are thus less likely to permit vote-by-mail and even when they do, their voters are less likely to take advantage of it.

When Senator Joni Ernst [R-IA] urged voters to sign up for postal ballots, her supporters sent her messages like, "I can’t believe you’d support absentee ballots" and "We need in-person voting with ID or no voting at all."

Another GOP senator's constituent replied to a vote-by-mail text with "Absentee ballot? Nah. I’ll be there in person. No one should legitimize this mail in voting hogwash."

The hits keep coming!

"I don’t want you sending a ballot application with my name on it to somebody else who could do something bad with it, and then I show up on Election Day, and I’m not allowed to vote" -Joel Freeman, chairman, Kent County GOP, Grand Rapids MI.

As Dana Milbank writes, Trump's decisions to politicize voting and wearing masks means that his base have been convinced not to vote and to commit mass suicide. This will not bode well for the GOP.

Image: Ben Hannam

(Image: Ben Hannam)

Trump handed grifters millions for masks (permalink)

Do you want to make a lot of money? Trump's got a plan for you:

I. Obtain a government purchase order. This has become startlingly easy after the Trump admin cut "red tape"

II. Leverage that PO to get financing from investors

III. Use the cash to buy masks from China

In Propublica, David McSwane profiles the kinds of chronic loser grifters who've been transformed into millionaires by the Trump admin's decision to force agencies and states to source their own masks while cutting procurement scrutiny and standards.

(Remember "We’re not a shipping clerk"?)

Trump's mask millionaires are swell fellows. Take Jason Cardiff, whose previous ventures included:

  • Pyramid schemes

  • Robocalls

  • Quack weight-loss and smoking cessation "remedies"

  • Prolongz, a pill that falsely claimed to offer men "increased ejaculation control"

Cardiff found $10m in private investment capital and founded VPL Medical Inc, putting the business in the name of Bobby Bedi, his partner, and landed a $20m Trump contract to supply masks to two fed agencies.

Cardiff is now in a California court after he and Bedi each netted $420k from their deal; he's got another deal pending with HHS that will make he and his partner $2m each.

Cardiff billed the VA $0.68/mask; the same masks sell on Amazon for less than $0.25/each. The Trump admin has helicopter-dropped $6.8b in similar PPE deals since the start of the crisis. 2000+ of the contracts were no-bid.

Cardiff is quite a fellow, the embodiment of the American dream:

"It’s easy for you to go, ‘Oh, well, Cardiff is a fraud with the FTC, but we’re delivering masks. No one is absconding with anything." -Cardiff.

"[Cardiff engaged in] false and unsubstantiated claims for dissolvable film strips advertised for smoking cessation, weight loss, and male sexual performance." -FTC

"In March, Cardiff was found in contempt of court for hiding about a million dollars and funding a lavish lifestyle through an account he had opened in the name of his 90-year-old father."

"Look, it’s a global pandemic right now. People need PPE." -Cardiff

What it's like to be a man (permalink)

Patriarchy's dirty secret is that it sucks for men, too. There's been an ocean of ink spilled over "toxic masculinity" but until I read Phil Christman's "What It's Like to Be a Man" in the Hedgehog Review, I couldn't crisply define it.

For Christman, the essence of maleness is "chosen discomfort" – spend your life denying you care how you look while tormenting yourself with painful exercise you're not allowed to admit hurts, nor may you admit that you're doing it because you worry about your appearance.

"I live out masculinity as perverse avoidance of comfort: refusal of good clothes, moisturizer, painkillers; hard physical training, pursued for its own sake, not because I enjoy it; a sense there is a set amount of physical pain/self-imposed discipline I owe the universe."

Masculinity requires that you find "the costliest, least productive, most epic way of doing everything," combined with a masculine omerta, a prohibition on talking about any of this stuff.

"Manhood resists straightforward discussion even as men stand accused—correctly, insofar as any accusation directed at such a broad target cannot fail to hit—of sucking the air from every other conversation."

The masculinity conversation is driven by occultists like Jordan Peterson and "vitamin-hawking conspiracy theorists, rape apologists, and Nazis of YouTube."

Even there, the contradiction is inescapable: "If you need a YouTube video to help you be a man, then in some essential sense simply BEING one is already off the table."

What is "masculinity"? It's "an abstract rage to protect" — but not "the actual useful things a man (or anyone else) may do for other people," rather, "activities that stem from a fear that simple usefulness is not enough."

That is, larping out the prepper's fantasy of being spartan in grooming and habits, undertaking "defensive projects that have no connection to the actual day-to-day flourishing of the people one loves."

"Men seem constantly on patrol, whether or not there’s anything to patrol against." From "securing your family's future," it's a short walk to the neo-Nazi's "fourteen words."

Leading asshole thinkfluencer Harvey Mansfield accidentally nails it: "Honor is an asserted claim to protect someone, and the claim to protect is a claim to rule. How can I protect you properly if I can’t tell you what to do?"

The contradiction of masculinity is that following Mansfield's prescription means you will always fail to live up to the standard it sets. Men fail to protect the people around them in two ways:

i. "Many of us commit violence against women and each other, and the rest of us stand accused, with more or less justice depending on our individual circumstances, of letting those guys get away with it"

ii. "We sit around too much" Women who work outside the home average 98h/week of work… "that’s presumably a lot of work we men are not doing."

"Protectors always fail": "The world is the sort of place in which statistical probability reaches down like a giant and swats us and our loved ones away. You cannot be a protector any more than you can be a changeling or a fairy princess."

Even by their own terms, men have "clearly failed women."

This is why men can't "disclose even a serious personal problem to another man, even in private conversation, without offering up a litany of the categories of human beings whose oppression is undoubtedly worse."

It's an apology for "claiming the human prerogative to hurt," and against it, a longing for "the dignity of having something real to worry about."

"We feel like a bad joke."

There aren't any great ways to prove you're not a joke: "turn sullen and grumpy, like people out of a Frank Miller comic" or "turn defensive" ("defensiveness has a well-known tendency to make us behave in ways that are laughable").

The great irony of patriarchy is that it makes everyone miserable, including its notional beneficiaries. Of course, this is also our best hope: if no one actually likes this system, maybe, just maybe, we'll dismantle it.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Water pump driven by kids' roundabout

#10yrsago Ian McDonald's DERVISH HOUSE, superb novel of the mystical nano future of Istanbul

#10yrsago Ghosts in My Head: story about the neuromarketing end-times

#1yrago Philadelphians debate whether parks and rec centers should use anti-personnel weapons that indiscriminately target children

#1yrago Facebook's $5B FTC fine was so laughable its stock price went UP after the announcement

#1yrago MLMs are cults that prey on moms, Mormons and the military

#1yrago How to: run a small social network for you and your friends.

#1yrago US Conference of Mayors adopts a resolution to never pay off ransomware attackers

#1yrago How science fiction affects (but does not predict) the future

#1yrago Trump's trade war cost the world $2t, wiping 6% off the global one percent's books

#1yrago Teens are filling Tiktok with memes deploring #Life360, a parenting app that tracks teens

#1yrago Detroit's police commissioner arrested at commissioners' meeting for demanding answers about secret meetings where facial recognition was planned

#1yrago CBP employees' new challenge coin mocks care for migrant kids

1yrago For years, the chief of the Border Patrol was a member of the secret CBP Facebook group for racist and threatening chatter

#1yrago Cooperative porno copyright troll gets 5 years in prison, while his co-conspirator got 14 years

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Mitch Wagner (, Naked Capitalism, Pocket (

Currently writing:

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Currently reading: Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

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