Trump’s Mika Brzezinski tweets show that he hates women — especially members of the press

Donald Trump

(Credit: Getty/Drew Angerer)

This morning, the president of the United States used his favorite media platform for addressing the public to remind us of just how little respect he has for women — especially women in the press.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Trump posted two revoltingly sexist tweets attacking MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski for her appearance and intellect. The leader of the free world called the morning show anchor “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and alleged that she had attempted to visit him at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on New Year’s Eve and was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at the time.

This isn’t the first time Trump’s attacked women media figures — it’s not even close — and it’s also not the first time he’s done it on Twitter. In recent years, he has tweeted that:

He and his campaign targeted reporter Michelle Fields (formerly of Breitbart.com and HuffPost) after then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was shown on camera manhandling her at a campaign event.

Trump repeatedly lashed out at Megyn Kelly during the campaign season offline as well, at one point saying in an interview that she had “blood coming out of her wherever.” He also attacked Tur at rallies and in interviews, calling her “Little Katy, third-rate journalist” and “not a very good reporter” and singling her out at press events.

After People’s Natasha Stoynoff reported that Trump had sexually assaulted her in 2005, Trump suggested at a campaign rally that the report was false because Stoynoff wasn’t attractive, saying, “You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

Earlier this week, Trump was openly reducing another professional reporter to her body, pausing an official diplomatic call in the Oval Office to comment on Irish reporter Caitriona Perry’s smile.

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How the Berlin government could rein in Airbnb and protect local housing

Germany Berlin Wall Anniversary Then and Now

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) (Credit: Markus Schreiber)

TheGlobalistA year ago in June 2016, I wrote an oped for Tagesspiegel in which I predicted that a new Berlin law, designed to curtail the runaway growth of Airbnb home-renting, would fail to accomplish its goal.

That law has been in place for a year, and now we have new numbers about Airbnb’s growth in Berlin. Unfortunately, the law has failed massively, as I predicted.

The reason is simple: it was designed by government officials who were well-meaning but did not understand that the old ways of regulating these digital companies will not work.

Based in Silicon Valley and valued at $31 billion, Airbnb uses online app- and web-based technologies to rent out vacant apartments and homes to tourists. It is popular with many travelers, and these online transactions are very hard to track using conventional means.

Highly lucrative

That has allowed landlords and professional real estate operatives to infiltrate the Airbnb platform, where they can triple their income by renting to tourists instead of local people. They evict tenants and turn their apartments into Airbnb hotels.

Some professional hosts control dozens of properties; in Mitte, a government study found that in one building on Wilhelmstrasse, 280 out of 300 apartments were rented to short-stay tourists. That reduces the housing available for local residents, driving rents up.

Airbnb could easily identify those professional hosts who are breaking the law and kick them off its platform. But it makes too much money from them, and so has refused. This is a company that is willfully helping many hosts to break the law.

So the Berlin Senate passed a law to remove the professionals. The law, which went into effect in May 2016, requires that Airbnb’s hosts actually live in their residence, and that those hosts could only rent out a spare room, not the whole apartment, which in theory cuts out the professionals.

Hosts also must register with the city, and can be fined up to €100,000 for violations.

Little to no tangible effect

Yet since the law was implemented, Airbnb growth has exploded. According to the website Inside Airbnb, the number of listings in Berlin has increased by 54%, with over 7,200 new listings for a total of 20,576 — the most ever in Berlin.

But even more ominous, the number of whole homes/apartments listed — which the law was specifically designed to curtail — has increased by 45% to 10,289 listings. So 50% of Airbnb listings are still for entire homes and apartments.

Stephan von Dassel, the well-intentioned mayor of Berlin-Mitte, says that the legal process of cracking down on the criminals is slow, so he expects to see only 20 to 30 convictions against Airbnb hosts this year.

He also says about 1,500 cases are in process. But in the meantime, thousands more listings have joined the illegal activity. Berlin is rapidly losing ground.

It was predictable that the law would fail because it replicated ineffective regulations from other cities, including in San Francisco where I live.

Impossible to regulate

Like these other cities, Berlin is learning a hard lesson: it is virtually impossible to monitor or regulate this commercial activity unless regulators get detailed data from Airbnb telling them which hosts are renting, for how many nights and how much they are charging per night.

These data are also important for assessing how much unpaid taxes are owed, since traditional hotels pay an occupancy tax, which provides important revenue for local governments.

The Berlin law does require Airbnb to provide some data, but the requirement is not aggressive enough and clearly hasn’t worked. As in New York City, the company has refused to provide complete data because it says its hosts have a “right to privacy.”

But this contorted thinking overturns established commercial law. Once you turn your home or apartment into a commercial enterprise, you forfeit some of your privacy.

If you start a “bed and breakfast” in Germany, you have to register that business and fill out paperwork. Why should it be different just because the transactions are conducted over the Internet?

What regulations will effectively rein in Airbnb, remove the professionals and allow regular people to earn some extra income? First, just like any business that wants to operate in Berlin, Airbnb should have to obtain a business permit. To receive that permit, Airbnb must agree to:

  1. Provide the complete data set (hosts, number of rental nights, nightly rates) that Berlin needs to enforce regulations and taxation.
  2. Require that Airbnb only list on its website those hosts that are registered and following the law. If Airbnb lists any illegal hosts, the company would be fined for each violation.
  3. Require Airbnb to pay the same occupancy taxes as regular hotels, and use the provided data to calculate the amount of tax owed.

Putting responsibility where it should be

These three requirements would put the responsibility on the company, instead of just on individual hosts. Any online platform that knowingly facilitates criminal activity should itself be treated as a criminal enterprise.

In the digital age, cities and nations must develop the tools to prevent predatory, internet-based companies from making a mockery of regulations. Various countries have shown that it is technologically possible to protect one’s “digital borders,” and shut out companies like Google.

If Airbnb or any other company refuses to follow the law, it should be “digitally evicted” from the privilege of doing business in Germany. With Airbnb gone, a replacement company will surely arise that provides the same service, yet is willing to follow the law.

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GOP health bill: How we got into this mess

Activists Rally For Health Care Insurance Reform

(Credit: Getty Images/Mario Tama)

New America media

Amid all of the scoreboard coverage of the Republicans’ American Health Care Act (AHCA) — they have the Senate votes, they don’t have the votes, how many millions will be stranded without insurance — few lines of type have delved beneath the partisan debates as sharply as Christy Ford Chapin did in her New York Times op-ed June 19, headlined, “How Did Health Care Get to Be Such a Mess?.”

“The problem with American health care is not the care. It’s the insurance,” Chapin begins. Her essay comes on the eve of the GOP’s promised release of its secretive overhaul of American health care. But, while almost everyone agrees that health care in the United States is broken, neither the national media nor political leadership have added much to the public’s understanding of how basically flawed the system is, how it was destined to become so costly, while healing so few compared with health care outcomes in any other advanced economy.

Back to the future, pre-1965

Even Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Starr, co-editor of the progressive American Prospect magazine, was alarmed enough to warn that the Republicans’ behind-closed-doors drive to pass a bill before the July 4 break would go well beyond returning the nation to the pre-Obamacare era. Starr believes the bill could return the future back to before Medicare and especially Medicaid were passed in 1965.

Starr worries that congressional Republicans are not only acting to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), but aim to restructure Medicaid into a program with federal-budget caps so tight it would break down one of the principal Great Society health protections of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Medicaid and the Medicare program have been fundamental to health care in the United States since 1965. Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill is only being unveiled this week, with a vote expected as early as next Tuesday, according to various media sources, the version that the House enacted this spring would virtually eliminate Medicaid’s stature as an entitlement program.

“Entitlement?” That’s certainly a reviled locution, but despite Medicaid’s many flaws, here’s what the Republican reversal of the program would mean to millions of people ranging from low-income rural kids to Native American health care providers to seniors in nursing home dementia units.

In effect, states would get a lump sum each year for their estimated number of low-income Medicaid recipients, and individuals would get a modest tax credit, instead of ACA’s subsidized premiums. The bill tells sick or injured people, “We’re so sorry you’re ailing, but federal funding is now so short that we’ve run out of money until next year. So, we have to say no, even though the old Medicaid program said your condition would have entitled you to the care you need.”

How did we get here? Starr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Social Transformation of American Medicine,” which was just updated in a new edition, shows that unlike any other advanced economy, the United States instituted a small-business model of medicine that promised to preserve the autonomy of individual doctors — and hold government and corporate medicine at bay.

Both parties ‘stumbled’

Chapin, author of “Ensuring America’s Health: The Public Creation of the Corporate Health Care System” (Cambridge University Press, 2015), picks up from Starr. A health-policy historian at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, she writes, “Both parties have stumbled to enact comprehensive health care reform because they insist on patching up a rickety, malfunctioning model. The insurance company model drives up prices and fragments care. Rather than rejecting this jerry-built structure, the Democrats’ Obamacare legislation simply added a cracked support beam or two.”

Obamacare deserves qualified credit: 20 million Americans gained health insurance, although millions more remain unprotected. Health plans were subsidized, but even without the Supreme Court decision undercutting mandated participation by everyone, little was done to more than slow escalating costs. Medicare’s prescription-drug “donut hole” is closing, so seniors won’t fall into that gaping money crevasse, but prices of key drugs used by seniors kept rising by double digits.

So many convoluted compromises. Chapin explains that the American Medical Association, in particular, lobbied successfully to undermine effective models of care developed early in the last century in communities nationwide: “Unions, businesses, consumer cooperatives and ethnic and African American mutual aid societies had diverse ways of organizing and paying for medical care.”

As for a better way, she documents how 100 years ago, physicians established the particularly elegant model of a prepaid doctor group. Unlike today’s physician practices, this provided patients comprehensive, integrated care in one place, with treatments across medical specialties by doctors who met regularly to review treatment options for chronically ill patients and those with difficult cases.

About the only place in American medicine where that happens today is in better palliative care programs for the terminally ill.

In short, good old American know-how was working well a century ago.

Private insurance deciding your care

But in the first half of the 20th century, the AMA became powerful enough to stop President Harry Truman’s universal health care plan and other public health funding efforts until Johnson took the national helm in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. What Chapin encapsulates so clearly is the AMA’s rickety design “to keep the government out of their industry was to design a private sector model: the insurance company model.”

That model was economically dysfunctional from the start because, Chapin goes on, leading to convoluted workarounds that would eventually have insurance middlemen making medical decisions based on factors such as pre-existing conditions. The AMA’s insurance device was covering more and more people as the 1960s got underway, writes Chapin: “But private interests failed to cover a sufficient number of the elderly.”

Still, the entrenchment of so many private insurance interests was powerful. Although the medical association could not halt Johnson’s “Great Society” juggernaut, the Democratic Congress then structured the new Medicare program, Chapin wrote, “around the insurance company model.”

As for those who lack health care coverage, a decade ago President George W. Bush described (thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s previous decision) the U.S. default to necessary treatment. He stated, “The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

Medicaid offers a different kind of helping hand. It also passed in 1965, although with a more conservative and racist structure as a means-tested poverty program.

Each state determines payment rates and eligibility limits, although under important but minimal federal requirements. Under the current Medicaid rules, a state can add coverage levels or benefits over the basic federal limits, but once it does, it must provide that care to anyone who qualifies.

Hence the wide disparities between, say, more generous Minnesota and impecunious Mississippi. But even within a particular state’s limits, the Medicaid program can’t simply stop providing essential treatment to someone for, say, a stroke because the government hit a budget cap.

The flaws in Obamacare, which also revamped the U.S. health care system along private insurance lines, are deep.

The Commonwealth Fund’s Sara R. Collins told PBS’s Charlie Rose (June 19) that short of a major shift to another model, such as single-payer health care, ACA is about as good a health program as a commercial insurance-based model can get, with plenty of room for bipartisan improvements. That is, the kind of bipartisan cooperation we’re not likely to see soon.

Meanwhile, the nation’s health care future is up to the U.S. Senate.

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For Young Muslim-Americans Like Nabra Hassanen, IHOP Served as a Rare Safe Space

Two eggs fried in a skillet

(Credit: Getty)

AlterNet

For many Muslim-American teenagers, the 3am IHOP outing is a rite of passage during the month of Ramadan. Teenagers from New York to San Francisco to Tampa drive to the all-American breakfast chain to fill up on buttermilk pancakes, steak and eggs, and golden hash browns before the sun rises during the holy month. Often it is their first experience free from parental supervision.

In her Saturday New York Times op-ed, “Nabra Hassanen and the Lost Innocence of Ramadan IHOP Nights,” Pakistani-American writer and Global Voices editor Sahar Habib Ghazi mourns the loss of 17-year-old Nabra on her way home from an early morning outing to IHOP on June 18 as an attack on the Muslim-American community and its traditions.

“After what happened to [Nabra Hassanen], I don’t know whether the American IHOP Ramadan ritual will ever feel the same,” writes Ghazi, who spent many early mornings during her teenage years and early 20s at IHOP surrounded by a diverse group of Muslim Americans—Arab, black, Iranian, and Pakistani.

Ghazi muses on Hassanen’s final hours: “An hour before Ms. Hassanen was attacked, she was praying at her mosque. If she was anything like me and my friends when we were 17, she was probably praying for good grades, mercy for people she had never met far away in war-torn countries and happiness for the people she knew were sad. Or perhaps she spent the night asking for something that no one close to her even knew she wanted.”

Police say that Hassanen’s killer, a 22-year-old man, was not motivated by racial or religious hate. But in light of the Islamophobia in the mainstream U.S. political climate, and proliferating acts of anti-Muslim violence and murder from Portland to London, many activists and Muslim-Americans are treating Hassanen’s murder as an act of Islamophobia.

For Ghazi, Hassanen’s murder also represents the destruction of a uniquely Muslim-American cultural space. For a community that has been vilified and made unwelcome in so many public spaces in the United States, Hassanen’s attack outside of IHOP means one fewer place where Muslim-Americans feel safe from violence.

“Police say their investigation ‘in no way indicates the victim was targeted because of her race or religion.’ But whether her killer’s actions are officially characterized as ‘road rage’ or ever described as a ‘hate crime’ won’t change the fact that Muslim spaces—the religious ones and the ones we’ve created—are increasingly under attack. And visibly Muslim women, especially Muslim women of color, are the most vulnerable,” writes Ghazi.

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Trump’s Mika tweets were gruesome — but the “resistance” needs to stop fainting every time he says something inflammatory

Mika Brzezinski; Donald Trump

Mika Brzezinski; Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Evan Agostini/Getty/Molly Riley)

Why the shock and the awe?

Earlier on Thursday, in response to criticism from MSNBC personalities Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Donald Trump took to Twitter and offered up the following missive:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

His comments received the expected and designed outcome. The online commentariat, members of the professional chattering class and others responded with anger at his mean-spirited, childish, sexist and misogynist comments about Mika Brzezinski. 

Trump is as Trump does. His comments about Brzezinski are a reflection of who he actually is. They should not surprise anyone. Donald Trump has bragged about sexually assaulting women by grabbing their vaginas without permission. He insulted Hillary Clinton during the campaign by making allusions to her menstruation. He has talked publicly about finding his own daughter sexually attractive and he overtly views women primarily as sex objects.

Later in the day, the White House doubled down on Trump’s comments.  Trump mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was a victim who was just defending himself against the “liberal” media. She added, “You can’t expect for that amount of attack and intensity to come on a president and he can never respond.” Sanders added that voters “knew what they were getting when they elected Donald Trump.” Melania Trump’s press secretary also chimed in: “As the First Lady has stated publicly, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.”

Trump’s professional sycophants are paid very well to defend the Great Leader. He can do no wrong.

Again — as he does on an almost weekly basis — Donald Trump reminds the American people that he was elected because of his sexism and misogyny, not despite it. Likewise, Trump was elected because of his racism and bigotry, not despite such traits. The mainstream media’s many failures enabled Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. One of the greatest was normalizing Trump’s racism and sexism by presenting them as coincidental to his appeal rather than traits central to his political brand. This miscalculation (and denial of reality) still informs how the media remains largely unable to understand Trump’s almost cult-like control over his supporters in White America.

Race and gender are intimates along the color line. They cannot be neatly separated. Thus, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that more white women voted for Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. As they have done historically in America, the majority of white women voters decided that racial loyalty, and protecting the benefits that whiteness have bestowed, were more important than standing with women of color against sexism. 

This loyalty to whiteness and Donald Trump has hurt all women in many ways.

Trump and the Republican Party’s health care bill is a crime against humanity that will harm women by severely cutting funding for reproductive services, hospitals and programs such as Medicare.

Donald Trump’s administration has directed the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to not make enforcing civil rights and other protections against racial, gender and sexual discrimination a priority.

Since Trump’s election in 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations have documented an increase in harassment and sexual assault against women and girls. Donald Trump sets the tone for a nation. It would appear that many men and boys are responding to his “leadership.”

In her classic science fiction novel “Parable of the Talents” (Earthseed #2), Octavia Butler warned: 

Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.

To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.

To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.

To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.

To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.

To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery. 

Donald Trump is proof of her wisdom. Unfortunately, tens of millions of white voters decided that Trump was the embodiment of their dreams. His deficits and shortcomings of character, temperament, wisdom, intelligence and morality made him their avatar and thus an extension of themselves. In all, Donald Trump is but a symptom of a much deeper cultural and political rot in America. 

It is long past time for those other Americans who voted against Trump by the millions to stop acting surprised or shocked by a boorish man who trolls the world on Twitter. They must resist Trump’s regime every day in ways both small and large. Falling to the metaphorical fainting couch every time Trump says something outrageous online as a means of distracting the American people from his incompetence, greed, corruption and possible collusion with Russia in order to steal an election only serves to advance his cause.

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Review: Netflix’s anorexia film “To The Bone” is more than just its trailers

To The Bone

(Credit: Netflix/Gilles Mingasson)

Midway through Marti Noxon’s directorial debut “To the Bone,” its anorexic protagonist Ellen (Lily Collins) enjoys dinner at a Chinese restaurant with her new friend Luke (Alex Sharp). They have a tremendous time, and Lily giggles enthusiasticaly at Luke’s jokes when she’s not methodically chewing bites of food and spitting them into napkins.

This is one of the lighter scenes in “To the Bone” in the sense that the setting is bright and the duo, both “rexies,” demonstrate that they’re capable of joy even as they hover on the brink of death. Much of film takes place in the dimly-lit group home where Ellen and Luke are in treatment for their eating disorders, and the visual contrast between the house and the eatery reflects Ellen’s uncertainty about one place and her relief to be anywhere else, and seen as anybody else, even temporarily.

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Ellen is mercurial, stubborn and barely willing to concede that she doesn’t have her eating disorder under control. She’s been kicked out of the latest of a string of in-patient facilities that refuse to put up with her antics, getting the boot from one as the story begins.

So as a last ditch effort, Ellen checks in to an unconventional in patient program run by Dr. Beckham (Keanu Reeves, in a solid performance), requiring her to live in a house with other people who have eating disorders, including Luke. The home has a set of rules that chafe Ellen to the point that she can barely handle the treatment.

But her home life is untenable.  Ellen has recently moved in with her father, who never appears in the film, her stepmother Susan (Carrie Preston) and her half-sister Kelly (Liana Liberato). Ellen’s flighty mother Judy (Lily Taylor) and partner Olive (Brooke Smith) couldn’t handle Ellen any more. And the behavior her eating disorder inspires enrages and confuses her family. “It’s like you have a calorie Asperger’s,” she murmurs with grim fascination after Ellen reduces her food to numbers.

“To the Bone” was a hit at Sundance and makes its Netflix debut on Friday, July 14. But the film has not had an easy road to release. Although Noxon is known throughout the industry she said it took many years to find producers and secure financing.

Noxon is best known for her extensive work in television. She was an executive producer on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and is the co-creator of Lifetime’s “UnREAL” and the creator and executive producer of Bravo’s drama “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.” Balancing snark and heart is one of her signatures, and it’s present throughout her script for “To the Bone.”

Predictably, “To the Bone” also is facing some controversy due to the sensitive nature of the subject and how it’s portrayed in the trailer.

Mind you, pre-release controversy is often some of the best promotion a film can get. The streaming service has already inspired fiery debate this year over its series “13 Reasons Why” and its portrayal of suicide, none of which prevented the title from becoming a massive pop culture phenomenon and earning a second season.

But the “13 Reasons Why” storm erupted after the series had already been seen by untold numbers of viewers (Netflix does not release any viewership data about its originals). The spiking negativity surrounding “To the Bone” started more than three weeks before its streaming service debut and is mainly in reaction to that teaser.

To answer an obvious question, this is one of those instances where the trailer does not adequately capture the film’s tone. This happens all the time in movie and television promotion for projects that are difficult to describe without confusing or turning off potential viewers.  Ellen and Luke’s date, described above, demonstrates the film’s high-wire stroll between humor and gravity. But who peeks at a scene of a Hollywood actress spitting up food while smiling and says, “Yes, more of that please”? I won’t say nobody, but to say “a precious few” is probably accurate.

Hence, Netflix is softening the sale by making “To the Bone” resemble a cross between a sassy romp about damaged young adults and a life-affirming romantic tragicomedy. The first few seconds feature Ellen’s sarcastic rejoinders to the people in her life who just don’t get seem to get it, including her stepmom and Dr. Beckham, as Problem Child’s peppy pop-anthem “Come and Get It” bounces in the background.

Then, after a montage of Ellen pushing herself to exhaustion, she collapses — and the tone softens to a parade of emotional, life-affirming exchanges set to sensitive acoustic guitar licks. Understandably some people living with eating disorders find this tactic to be upsetting, but perhaps less so than the fact that the trailer opens with a glimpse of Ellen guessing the calorie counts of everything that’s on her plate — and verboten act among people recovering from eating disorders and, according to some people, possibly triggering.

A film about grave illness is difficult sell in the best of circumstances, even when it stars a known actor of Collins’ caliber and is written with sensitivity. “To the Bone” is informed by Noxon’s long war with an eating disorder; Collins has battled the illness as well. Both have responded to the furor with measured statements.

And it’s also worth remembering that all of this loud concern is over a trailer. The film itself is an admirable and empathetic work that does not romanticize anorexia or the young woman being ground into nothingness by the disease, as some have feared.

Instead, “To the Bone” reveals the taxing nature of eating disorders on the sufferers and the people around them.  Susan lacks patience and understanding to an alarming degree; she’s the kind of fussy person who thinks the best way to welcome her anorexic stepdaughter back into the fold is to present her with a cake shaped like a hamburger with “EAT UP ELLEN!” written in red icing.

The plot also revolves around a specific and popular presentation of eating disorders as conditions mainly suffered by young white women, and primarily manifested as anorexia. This is a recurring critique of the film surfacing on social media, and it has merit. Characters of different ethnicities live in the house, one of whom is addicted to bingeing, but for the most part they lurk around the outskirts of the main action. Noxon does deserve credit for including a male anorexic in the mix, and Sharp, a newcomer who’s already won a Tony, sparks nicely with Collins.

You’d have to watch the film to discover that for yourself, and hopefully many people will. The realm of eating disorders and recovery from them hasn’t been explored as widely or with as much care and nuance as Noxon does here. And hopefully “To the Bone” can open the door to other projects that tackle the subject with such grace and dignity. But those who are triggered by the trailer can’t be blamed for wanting to skip the main feature. It’s hard to take in Collins’ sunken eyes and jutting ribs, even if they are accentuated by make-up. People are right to suspect that “To the Bone” will be difficult viewing.  The hope is that they’re avoiding it for the right reasons.

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A wrestler called “The Progressive Liberal” is riling Appalachian crowds, but the sport is a mirror for politics throughout America

The Progressive Liberal

The Progressive Liberal (Credit: YouTube/Appalachian Mountain Wrestling/Salon)

He’s the most hated performer in the Appalachian wrestling scene, and often goes on stage wearing a Hillary Clinton shirt and lecturing his audience on why they’re voting against their best interest while fending off boos and chants of “Trump! Trump!” Oh, and did we mention that he goes by the wrestling name “The Progressive Liberal?” In real life, his name is Daniel Harnsberger, and as the Washington Post reports, he has a day job as a real estate agent.

While the “Progressive Liberal” is a particularly polarizing example, the wrestling world has long been populated by these tropes of good and bad — in wrestling lingo, “heels,” or villains, and “faces,” the good guys they want you to root for. Like soap operas, wrestling depends on their heels and faces to enthrall the crowd into following along with the elaborate, sometimes convoluted storylines. And also like soap operas, the characters have to be politically and socially relevant to make sense to the crowd.

Indeed, the idea that a wrestler who espouses liberal viewpoints could so offend an audience as to be a villain is very funny — but it’s also not unusual in the wrestling scene, which can be very regionally specific. Here in the Bay Area, our local indie wrestling event, known as Hoodslam, has its own set of specific heels and faces that might not make sense elsewhere.

Case in point: California-based wrestler “Joey Ryan” (real name Joseph Ryan Meehan) doesn’t have an openly taunting moniker like “Progressive Liberal,” but his particular schtick often turns him into a heel, particularly in the politically-correct Bay Area. His main mantra is “I’m here to bring sleaze back to wrestling,” and he’s sometimes introduced as “The King of Sleaze.”

In an Oakland match at Hoodslam on October 7, 2016 — the same day that Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” tape surfaced — Joey Ryan faced off against another local wrestler, Christina Von Eerie. “By the end of the match, you’re going to touch my dick,” Ryan taunted Von Eerie, to jeers from the crowd. The news cycle meshed nicely with Joey Ryan’s sleaze-ball persona, and as he faux-groped Von Eerie, the crowd gnashed at him.

“What a creep,” the evening’s emcee, “Broseph” Joe Brody, remarked mid-match. “Broseph” Joe Brody is the wrestling persona of A.J. Kirsch, who serves as host and commentator for Hoodslam (as the “Broseph” character) and hosts other Northern California wrestling promotions (as himself). Kirsch is familiar with what it takes to make a villain. His Broseph persona exemplifies the stereotypes of a jock-y, ignorant bro. Broseph’s character traits include casual sexism (he Tinder-swipes while emceeing), a love of Nickelback and a penchant for Axe body spray, which he sprays liberally on himself and the crowd before each match.

“I concocted the character to be a heel, taking into consideration the Oakland crowd,” Kirsch explains. “The way I carry myself — my entrance music starts with Nickelback, I spray a disgusting amount of Axe on myself . . . it’s easy to look at that character for five seconds and say, ‘yeah, fuck that guy.’”

Kirsch told Salon that the Oakland crowd “gets it. . . it’s a parody of a subculture.” Kirsch says that the Broseph character was designed to be a “combination of frat culture around Chico State [University],” where Kirsch went to college, mixed with “the douchebags that hung out at a nightclub in the Marina,” a neighborhood in San Francisco known for being preppy.

Kirsch mentioned another local heel, the “Berkeley Brawler,” as a good counterexample to the Progressive Liberal. The Berkeley Brawler is a “tribute to the Brooklyn Brawler,” Kirsch says, “who’s a stereotypical Brooklyn character — whereas the Berkeley Brawler is a stereotypical hipster. He rides a razor scooter into the ring.”

Kirsch says that being a heel is often less about politics and more about how the heel behaves, or if they condescend to the crowd. “Even though Berkeley Brawler probably aligns with me politically, I see him as a dick,” Kirsch added. Like the Progressive Liberal, the Berkeley Brawler probably wouldn’t translate if you strayed too far from his home region — the stereotypes of snobby Berkeley gentrifiers aren’t as widely known beyond Northern California.

Sometimes, characters that are intended to be heels can end up as heroes — as happened with Stone Cold Steve Austin, a WWE wrestling star of the 1990s and 2000s. Austin played a prototypical anti-hero, but his class-conscious stunts — such as his frequent staged kerfuffles with his boss, Vince McMahon — resonated with a mostly working-class audience. “People related to the idea of beating up your boss,” Kirsch said of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Wrestling’s relationship to politics feels oddly relevant nowadays. As an art form that attracts a distinctly working-class audience, the heels and faces hint at our cultural moment. And our current commander-in-chief was featured in a long story arc on WWE in 2007, which, some have argued, may have helped ingratiate him and his brand to a wide swath of wrestling fans.

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Greta Van Susteren is out at MSNBC after six short months

greta msnbc1

After a six short months Greta Van Susteren is officially parting ways with MSNBC. The longtime Fox News host tweeted the news on Thursday afternoon.

“They let her go,” her husband John Coale said, according to CNN. “We’re working out contract issues now,” he added. She will be replaced by MSNBC’s chief legal correspondent, Ari Melber.

In a statement to employees, MSNBC President Phil Griffin said, “MSNBC and Greta Van Susteren have decided to part ways. Greta is a well-regarded television veteran and one of only a few broadcasters who can say they’ve hosted shows at all three major cable news networks. We are grateful to her and wish her the best,” according to CNN.

Van Susteren spent 14 years at Fox News, and was reportedly “very happy” with the way her new show was doing at MSNBC. “I love the show,” she told the Hollywood Reporter in April. “A lot of the same staff came over with me. I’m in the same building. I’m about four parking spots away from where I was in the building. The show is practically the same title. Everything’s pretty much the same.”

Earlier this month, MSNBC struck a deal with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt who will have a 30-minute show on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. The network also hired notable climate change skeptic, Bret Stephens, who was also recently hired as a columnist for the New York Times in April. Stephens will appear on NBC News and MSNBC as a contributor, according to the Huffington Post.

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The night they busted Stonewall

Stonewall

“Street kids” who were the first to fight with the police at Stonewall ON Sunday, June 29, 1969 (Credit: WikiMedia)

June 28, 1969, was just another night in New York City. I had graduated from West Point only a few weeks earlier and was spending my graduation leave renting a loft down on Broome Street before I departed for three months’ training for the infantry officer basic course at Fort Benning, Georgia. I know . . . I know . . . what was a West Point graduate doing in a loft in SoHo? Well, truth be told, I was freelancing for the Village Voice that summer. I know . . . I know  . . . what was a West Point graduate doing writing for the Village Voice in the summer of 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War? Well, I had started writing letters to the editor of the Voice while I was still a cadet and the year before had published my first couple of pieces in the paper. It wasn’t such a bad fit.

The three founders of the Voice, Dan Wolf, Norman Mailer, and Edwin Fancher, had all been infantrymen in World War II, and in an interesting twist of circumstance, Ed Fancher had served in the 10th Mountain Division under my grandfather, General Lucian K. Truscott Jr., in Northern Italy near the end of the war. Still, a West Pointer writing for the Voice was  . . . unusual. But I was writing rock criticism — remember rock criticism? — and covering stuff that was all over the map. My first piece was on Christmas Day at the Dom on St. Marks Place with Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm, soon to be made famous at Woodstock, and only the week before I had covered a Billy Graham religious revival at Madison Square Garden.

I wasn’t expecting to find a story when I left my loft at Broome and Crosby and walked toward the West Village, looking to spend the evening drinking at the Lion’s Head, the writer’s bar on Sheridan Square just off Seventh Avenue. It was a hangout for writers like Pete Hamill, then of the New York Post; Joe Flaherty, a former Brooklyn longshoreman currently writing for the Voice; David Markson, a novelist just making his mark; Nick Browne, the Lion’s Head bartender who covered the Village bar scene for the Voice; Fred Exley, who had just published the marvelous memoir “A Fan’s Notes”; and Joel Oppenheimer, the Village poet and graduate of Black Mountain College. Somehow I managed to fit into a scene that is still celebrated as a kind of golden age for Village writers with a drinking problem, or drinkers with a writing problem. Take your pick.

I was coming up Waverly Place from Sixth Avenue approaching Christopher Street when I saw the police car lights flashing. A cop car and a paddy wagon were pulled up in front of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar two doors down from the Lion’s Head, and uniformed policemen were hauling Stonewall patrons out of the bar and putting them into the back of the paddy wagon. A crowd had gathered across the street, and some of the arrestees were pausing at the door and pursing their lips, doing as best as they could to blow kisses to the crowd with their hands cuffed behind their backs. I stopped to watch.

The crowd was young, some of them very young, the Stonewall being known for its underage crowd. In fact, it turned out that the purpose of the raid was to bust a Mob blackmail ring being run out of the Stonewall. The Mob was using underage hustlers to entrap older gay men, mainly from Wall Street, and extract money from them. All the gay bars in the Village were Mob owned. There was a “morals clause” in the New York State Liquor Authority laws that outlawed selling alcohol to “immoral” persons, which the authority arbitrarily defined as gay people, so they wouldn’t issue a liquor license to bars catering to gays. The Mob was happy to oblige, however, setting up illegal bars like the Stonewall and selling overpriced watered-down drinks to gays without a license and paying off the cops to stay open. It would take several years after Stonewall until the authority issued its first license to a bar with gay owners, the Ballroom on West Broadway, followed quickly by Reno Sweeney on 13th Street.

But on this night, gay bars were still illegal, and as they did every time they busted one, the cops were rounding up and harassing the patrons. The crowd outside was loving it as they came out striking poses, but the cops weren’t loving it. This was not the way gay people were supposed to act when they busted a bar. They were supposed to come out of the bar in cuffs with their heads down, hiding their faces in shame. But not this time. This time they were vamping and calling out to friends in the crowd.

The cops started angrily manhandling the arrestees, shoving them out the door and quickly into the paddy wagon. The guys under arrest were back talking the cops, asking them what their problem was, which only got the cops madder. Some of the crowd started throwing coins at the cops, taunting them. Then the cops pushed a drag queen out of the door of the Stonewall. She was apparently well-known on the street and paused to strike a vampy pose, acknowledging the crowd, calling out to a friend that she’d meet him when she got sprung from the Tombs in the morning. One of the cops pushed her roughly with a nightstick. She said something to the cop, he swung at her, she dodged the swing, and two more cops joined in, grabbing her and roughly shoving her into the paddy wagon.

That was it. Coins rained down. The crowd, which was now probably more than 100 strong, yelled at the cops, cursing them. Someone threw a beer can, and more trash rained down. The cops menaced the crowd, telling them to disperse. They didn’t. When the cops moved on them swinging their nightsticks, the crowd pushed back. Someone picked up a cobblestone and threw it through the window. The crowd yelled and rushed the Stonewall. One of the cops slammed the doors to the paddy wagon closed, it sped away, and the cops ran into the Stonewall and closed the door. The crowd was yelling at the cops, daring them to come out. The crowd had gotten bigger.

The whole street in front of the Stonewall was filled. I got up on a trash can next to the 55 Bar to see better. Someone threw another trash can through the Stonewall’s window. Someone else tried to grab my trash can, but I pushed them away. A guy right next to me  lit a newspaper and threw it into the Stonewall window. I could see the cops inside struggling to put out the fire. Gay people were pissed off that the Stonewall had been busted and its patrons had been arrested and harassed by the cops. There was a riot going on. They weren’t going to take it anymore.

My friend the Voice columnist Howard Smith had gone into the Stonewall earlier to talk to the inspector in charge of the raid, Seymour Pine, and was trapped inside with the cops. The crowd kept throwing stuff at the Stonewall’s window. They pried a parking meter loose from the pavement and a couple of guys used it as a battering ram on the door, but the door held. The cops called for reinforcements and a few minutes later, maybe six cop cars came screaming down Christopher Street from Sixth Avenue. Cops jumped out swinging nightsticks and people started running, but they didn’t run far.

Some of them went around the corner of Seventh Avenue down West 9th Street and right on Waverly Place and came up behind the cops, taunting them with catcalls and curses. That split the cops, some chasing one group east down Christopher Street, some pursuing a crowd across the park, spilling onto West 4th  and Grove Streets. Now there were several hundred people in the streets, the word having spread to gay bars around the Village which emptied into the streets and more people joined the protesters. More cops arrived, sirens screaming. The crowd kept dispersing in every direction and coming back to the Stonewall. Nobody was in charge. The only thing everyone knew was that it started at the Stonewall, and they weren’t giving  up.

This went on for several hours until finally the cops got a sufficient number of reinforcements that they could hold the street in front of the bar and rescue those trapped inside. Jay Levin of the New York Post and I went over to the 6th Precinct around 4 a.m. I don’t recall the exact number, but I think something like 14 people were arrested. The cops wouldn’t give out any names, so my Voice story and Jay’s squib in the Post didn’t record who the heroes of Stonewall were. But they were there. I saw them. And I saw the gay people who poured out of the bars and clubs and  took to the streets.

The next afternoon, the Stonewall reopened with a sign in the window saying something like “We got nothing but college boys and girls in here.” By dark, someone had spray-painted “Gay Power” over the sign. Crowds gathered on the street and it was on again. This time, the cops called in the TPF, the Tactical Patrol Force, with their plastic shields and helmets and plexiglass face masks. A lot of good that did. Word had spread to the boroughs and Fire Island that there had been a protest at the Stonewall on Friday night and the crowd was huge. The TPF didn’t know the twisting, crisscrossing streets of the Village at all, so the crowd had a grand time taunting the cops and leading them down alleys like Gay Street and  Waverly Place and around the block.

About the time the cops arrived back at the front of the Stonewall and thought they had things in hand, a chorus line of protesters appeared behind them doing a kick routine, loudly singing, “We are the Stonewall girls!/ We wear our hair in curls!/ We don’t wear underwear!/ We show our pubic hair!” The TPF would wheel around and chase them, only to have another chorus line appear down the block singing out the same taunt. Soon tear gas canisters flew. People used wet rags and cups of water from hydrants to splash themselves and kept going. Every once in a while the cops would manage to grab one of the protesters and beat them with nightsticks and throw them in a car, but that only served to set off the crowd, which grew louder and larger as the night wore on. If the aim of the TPF was to disperse the riot and shame the gay people back into hiding, it didn’t work. By the wee hours, you could see gay guys walking home from Sheridan Square hand in hand. It was something you never saw on the streets until that night.

Sunday night the crowd was smaller and older, many people having arrived back in the Village from weekend places on Fire Island and upstate. The TPF tried to line up, blocking Christopher at Seventh Avenue, but other bars and businesses were open and complained, so they had to let people through. Occasionally, someone would throw trash at the cops and they would chase a group down the street, but there was no tear gas. The riot was over.

I spied the Warhol superstar Taylor Mead and Allen Ginsberg standing across Seventh Avenue and walked over. They had been out of town and wanted to know what happened, so I told them. Both longtime denizens of the East and West Village, they were amazed. Allen said he’d never been in the Stonewall and asked if I’d take him, so we walked over and went inside. The place had obviously been trashed by the cops, but the Mob guys had erected a makeshift bar and were back to selling overpriced drinks. Loud music was playing in the back room and people were dancing. Ginsberg asked me if I would dance with him, so we went back there and bopped around for a couple of songs and left.

Walking east across 8th St. toward Allen’s apartment, he continued to express amazement at what had happened. “The fags have lost that wounded look they always had,” he said of the people he’d seen on the streets. We passed couple after couple holding hands to Allen’s obvious delight. We reached Astor Place and as I turned south headed toward my loft, Allen called out, “Defend the fairies!” As I once observed elsewhere, as of that night, they didn’t need defending anymore.

As for me? Well, the brand-new second lieutenant of infantry went home to the loft and sat down and cluelessly wrote a story about how the “faggots had rioted and asserted gay power for the first time. My piece, and one by Howard Smith, ran on the front page of the Voice that Wednesday. Jim Fouratt, who had been one of the protesters over the weekend and had quickly formed the Gay Liberation Front to give some political form to what he had clearly identified as a movement, held a demonstration in front of the Voice protesting my use of the word “faggot” to describe gay people. So the very first protest of the new gay movement was against me. The Voice committed to using “gay” from then on, and so did I. Gay power had come to Sheridan Square.

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Comics resist: Secessionist Californians battle Trumpism in “Calexit”

CalExit by Matteo Pizzolo

CalExit by Matteo Pizzolo (Credit: Matteo Pizzolo)

In “Calexit,” the entire blue-leaning state of California has shut itself off from the rest of the United States after a dictatorial, autocratic president orders all immigrants deported. The topicality, the relevance is right there waiting for you with a sledgehammer. You don’t have to reach out more than an inch to grasp how writer Matteo Pizzolo and artist Amancay Nahuelpan’s limited series published by Black Mask Studios fits into today’s political discourse.

And there is nothing wrong with that. With news reports of ill-conceived, often ill-intentioned, government policies and the tweeted ravings of a possibly unhinged commander in chief arriving like blunt-force trauma in a near-constant deluge, it’s only fair and right that art in all its forms would strike back with unmitigated force.

That’s not to say there isn’t subtlety in Pizzolo’s all-too-real fantasy (the “what ifs” in the narrative never shy that far from the news cycle). In the end, it’s the story of very specific, well-wrought characters attempting to navigate through an America that no longer views them as Americans. It’s located and local, a parable that builds up from a valid, often ignored ground-level experience of our country.

With the comic headed to stores this summer, Salon spoke with Pizzolo about where “Calexit” came from, how he obtained a long list of intellectual stars to provide content for the issues and what he wants readers to take away from this particularly on-point dystopian tale.

Obviously, Brexit is an inspiration here, as is the divided state of our country, Donald Trump and so many other real-world issues. That said, I’m wondering how the idea specifically came to you. 

Certainly the setup and the concept (and the title!) are inspired by political events in the world at large, but very quickly it becomes a very personal story. It starts out with a family. I just had a baby daughter born while I was writing the comic, so obviously that can’t help but influence it.

So, it opens with a father trying to protect his daughter, Zora, when The State comes looking for her. She’s an immigrant in the United States, in a near-future where all immigrants are hunted down and deported. This father [will] do anything to protect his daughter from Father Rossie (our villain), from The State. Well, he tries. But parents can’t protect their children from the world, the kids have to grow up and fight their own wars. And so the story follows Zora and a smuggler named Jamil, who considers himself strictly a survivor, totally apolitical, he’s not going to resist — and ultimately they change one another.

But thematically . . . I think the core sensibility to “Calexit” actually comes from the California drought, strangely enough. I drive my son to pre-school past the Silver Lake reservoir in L.A., and it’s always a refreshing part of the day to pass a large body of water when you live in an urban environment.

So one day, at the height of drought panic when you’d get hard looks just asking a waiter for a glass of water, I’m driving my son past the Silver Lake reservoir and it’s just completely empty. Just bone dry. They were moving the water for some reason, it’s not like it had all evaporated from the drought, but just seeing the reservoir empty was chilling. Because Los Angeles is not self-sustaining, it’s completely dependent on water and agriculture and energy being piped in from rural and exurb regions.

So thinking about that in the age of Brexit and the age of the Bundy [standoff] and everything feeling so incredibly factionalized in the 2016 election cycle . . . it just doesn’t feel like the center is holding at a time where we’re all increasingly reliant on one another for limited resources. That’s what the characters in the story are dealing with. The story isn’t really about fighting the government or seceding, it’s about taking care of each other when the center doesn’t hold.

Tell me about your own upbringing and experience with the general subject matter discussed in the series.

My mom was a really engaged activist when I was a kid, so some of my earliest memories are of being in a stroller at protest marches. In my interview with Bill Ayers in the back of “Calexit” No. 1 he mentions that the Weather Underground and the activists of that era actually believed they were going to win, that the empire was going to crumble. And that was very much how I was raised, that the activists were going to win: “the ERA is going to be ratified and women will be guaranteed equality,” “predatory capitalism will be fixed so the distribution of wealth won’t be so awful,” there was this sense that those things were going to happen. I was just a little kid hearing all that. I never really believed in Santa Claus as a kid so I guess the ERA not happening was my version of finding out there’s no Santa.

It was interesting going to the Women’s March with my family earlier this year and there was a moment when I was walking next to my mom and pushing my own kid in a stroller and you realize that change happens slowly, it happens across generations, and just because the marches my mom went on when I was a kid maybe didn’t yield the immediate results she expected doesn’t mean they didn’t matter. The timeline is much longer. And again, that’s why the comic isn’t so much a war story, it’s really about celebrating the spirit of resistance.

On top of Ayers, you’ve got a good handful of progressive intellectual stars offering up interviews in the back of each of the issues. How did you ask these people for inclusion? What were their initial reactions?

Well, it helps that I was coming to them saying I’d written this story about characters struggling to resist against a fascist state — everyone loves a story of resistance. So, even though it was challenging in some cases to get the conversation started, once they’d read the comic it became much easier, more like “Well I’ll talk to you about politics if you tell me what’s going to happen to Zora!”

But yeah, it’s kind of a funny thing to reach out to people who are out there doing real amazing, constructive political work and asking the question “can I interview you for the back of a comic book called ‘Calexit’ that’s about California going to war against the U.S. President?” So it’s pretty incredible that they said yes. But I think organizers and activists recognize that the arts play an integral role in cultural change and in helping inspire resistance. So even though I felt a bit ridiculous asking the question, the reactions were super positive and everyone was really curious about the project.

In my head I imagined the supplemental material in the back to be like when I read “Brave New World” as a kid and all I cared about was the characters and the story and how much I loved John, Lenina and Bernard. But then I found “Brave New World Revisited” in the back where Huxley took a non-fiction look at the elements inspiring the world of it. So I was going for something like that — but I’m no Huxley, so I had to go find people way smarter than me to talk about the non-fiction underpinnings. It’s pretty awesome to be writing comics in a time where I can reach out to brilliant people and they think it sounds pretty cool to be interviewed in a comic book.

Actually, it seems there’s a lot of progressive buzz around comics in general these days.

We have a tour we’re doing with the book and it’s called the Comics Change The World Tour, which is intended to be hyperbolic in a fun way and I’m sure to some people it can come across as crazy optimistic, but we’re living in a really crazy time for comics. “V For Vendetta” has provided the face for a political uprising, “MARCH” won the National Book Award, “Wonder Woman” is the first movie by a woman director to break $100 million, Marvel and DC are dominating popular culture, and “Walking Dead” has raised awareness of the impending zombie apocalypse. Seems like a good time to be optimistic about the influence comics can have on the world.

There’s a lot of apocalyptic dystopias out there in comics, novels, films and TV. What separates yours? What is its distinct quality?

Apocalyptic dystopia is kind’ve just a canvas and we’re all doing very different paintings on that canvas. I think “Calexit” is mainly about the characters and how they survive and treat one another in this awful situation where their city is being controlled by a hostile occupying force sent by their own government. Which is actually how a lot of people all around the country feel right now.

Militarized police is not dystopian fiction. The President has even publicly stated he could deputize the National Guard, so I don’t know if this book is apocalyptic dystopia or somewhere between current events and speculative fiction. Thematically, the idea of the book was to place a fascist overlay onto everyday life. You and me going about our day in a city occupied by fascists. So at one time, that would seem like maybe we’re saying “put on these ‘They Live’ sunglasses and we’re gonna show you that you actually are living in a fascist state.” But that was before the CEO of Exxon became Secretary of State. If one of the definitions of fascism is the synthesis of corporations and government, then you don’t even need “They Live” sunglasses anymore because no one’s even bothering to hide this stuff.

Also, I think Zora is a unique character who stands out — she’s a leader in an armed U.S. resistance movement. She has to make hard choices. There are people willing to sacrifice themselves because they trust that she is doing the right thing and making the smart moves, but of course she’s not a military strategist and in her heart she just wants to either escape Father Rossie, who is relentlessly hunting her down, or she wants to turn the tables and kill him out of revenge for all the suffering he’s caused her. But if she lets that anger be her driving force, then is she really qualified to be leading a resistance?

But I think — and this may sound insane especially because issue No. 1 is pretty bleak — ultimately I think “Calexit” isn’t as grimdark as a lot of apocalyptic dystopias. Even though it can be brutal at times, there are also moments of fun and adventure — we’re following young outlaws after all. Zora and Jamil have a lot of heart, and I hope that shines through the dark lens.

What do you hope people take away from the series?

I know a lot of people are picking this up because it seems like a polemic, and if you want hard-edged dystopia it’s in there, but I hope they are surprised by what they find and become pulled into the story. We’ve just started getting the preview to retailers — and, in comics, retailers are the tastemakers and heartbeat of the industry, they really determine what books find an audience — and there’s been a lot of buzz about the book, enough to get the shops to read it but they don’t take a risk investing in a comic just for buzz, the story has to deliver.

And the response so far has been better than I could have hoped for, the story really seems to be resonating and so the support we’re getting is just far beyond what I expected.

It’s pretty terrifying to make a comic book like this, there’s not a lot of comics that take the kinds of risks we’re taking, so for shops to be backing it with their dollars and their rack space and their word of mouth endorsements, that’s just everything for a comic.

I hope readers fall in love with Zora and Jamil and are inspired by their adventures, inspired to have heart and stay strong and take care of one another and resist. And I’m hopeful that the section in the back might also help point people in the right directions for taking real world actions. Resistance isn’t enough, we have to build better alternatives.

One thing a lot of the interviews in the back focus on is being involved in midterm elections and local elections — even though they’re not as glamorous and exciting as Presidential elections, those are winnable battles and there is a lot of power to change your life and the lives of those around you for the better.

I think there’s something to be said for art that celebrates resistance and how that can help build the framework for a culture in its own small way. Like when I was a teenager and would see somebody walk by in a Minor Threat shirt or Bikini Kill shirt or whatever, you just have this silent acknowledgment that you’re on the same team. So, y’know, if you see somebody on the train reading “Calexit,” go say hi to them.

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