on the question of punching nazis

So, dude, punching nazis…okay or not?

In general, punching anybody is pretty rude. So in general, I think given the choice between punching somebody and not punching somebody, not punching is the default and preferred choice.

Yeah, okay, in general. But dude, does that apply to nazis?

This is not a simple question. You have to consider…

Dude, totally a simple question. Punching nazis…yay or nay?

There is a longstanding American tradition of punching nazis, but we need…

Wait, hold on, you’re not capitalizing nazis in this pretend conversation. Shouldn’t it be Nazis? 

I’m not an orthographer, if that’s a word, but I’m gonna say that if you’re talking about a member of the Nazi party, then you’d capitalize it. Otherwise, no. All Nazis are nazis, but not all nazis are Nazis.

Okay, then. Doesn’t matter, both are eminently punch-worthy. But dude, should you?

Well, some folks will maintain that violence is never the answer…that you can never entirely justify…

Really. Stop pissing around. Nazis. Punch them? Not punch them? C’mon.

Right. Okay. If there’s a nazi handy and you have an arm that has a hand attached, and if that hand is capable of making a fist, you should probably at least consider punching the nazi. Whether you do or not, that’s a personal decision. But at the heel of the hunt, you should always want to punch nazis.

Okay, good, but what do you say to those folks who say punching nazis makes us just as bad as the nazis?

To those people I say, “Nuh uh.”

Because…?

If you punch a nazi, will that nazi still want to exterminate Jews?

Yes.

If you don’t punch the nazi, will that nazi still want to exterminate Jews?

I get your point. Okay, then.

statues & memorials

I really wish things were simple and obvious. I sometimes really wish there was no need for a nuanced understanding of…well, of anything. At times I really wish the world wasn’t complex and complicated.

Except, of course, I don’t really wish that at all. The world is messy and irrational and down at the bone, I like it that way. But lawdy, it does confuse things.

So then, let’s go ahead and talk about war and statues of Confederate generals and war memorials and what should be done with them. Let’s start with this: when it comes to war, there are essentially three groups of people involved. There are the politicians who declare war, who develop the policies of war, who determine the political goals of war. There are the officer classes, who are in charge of actually prosecuting the war based on the politician’s policies and goals, who determine the strategies used by the armies and the broad range of tactics to fight the battles. And then there are the poor bastards who fight the war — the ordinary people who have nothing to do with strategies, who have little or no voice in the politics, but who do the fighting and the killing and the dying. This is true of all wars in all the nations of the world over the entire scope of history.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee — this must go.

Why is that important? Because it’s important to distinguish between statues and memorials. Statues are built to honor the specific politicians and the senior officers who start the wars and prosecute them. Memorials, on the other hand, are generally built to honor the nameless mass of soldiers who get mutilated or killed fighting those wars.

For the last several years there’s been a movement to remove and/or destroy statues honoring Confederate politicians and military officers. Over the last few days we’ve seen that notion expand to include essentially all symbols of the Confederacy. Statues, memorials, flags — get rid of them all.

Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, War Criminal and Indian Killer — should this go?

I totally understand that feeling. I just disagree with it. Well, I disagree with chunks of it. I have no problem with removing the statues of Confederate leaders. I don’t want to see them destroyed, but I think it’s a fine idea to remove them from public land and place them either in storage or in museums. Destroying statues of people we dislike or whose beliefs we disagree with — that’s what ISIS does. It’s vengeful, it’s small-minded, and at heart it’s an attempt to color over the past. Remove them, and if they must be displayed, display them with context.

The problem, of course, is where you draw the line once you decide to remove the offensive statues. Which statues do we keep; which ones do we remove? Clearly, the statue of William Tecumseh Sherman in Manhattan would have to go. Even if we ignore his scorched earth actions during the Civil War (which would make him a war criminal by modern standards), his actions against native Americans after the Civil War were horrific. And what about the statues of John Brown, the abolitionist who believe a violent armed insurrection was the only way to insure the end of slavery? His cause may have been just, but should we ignore his extra-judicial murders? Should we remove his statues? I don’t know.

Civil War memorial — do we remove this? Is it Confederate or Union? How much does the answer matter?

In any event, I’m adamantly opposed to removing/destroying Confederate war memorials. Or any war memorial, for that matter. Soldiers enlist for any number of reasons, but they don’t necessarily fight for the reasons cited by politicians to start the war. The U.S. fought a war in Vietnam to stop the spread of communism; how many of the troops on either side really cared about communism? Both of my older brothers fought in Vietnam, both came back damaged; neither of them really had any notion of communism as a political system. They enlisted for the same reason I did: it’s what the men in my family have always done. We were raised to believe we have an obligation to serve — the nation, the state, the city, the community.

Civil War memorial — do we remove this? Is this Confederate or Union? How much does the answer matter?

I mention Vietnam for a couple of reasons. One, obviously, is because there are Vietnam war memorials all over the U.S. They’re not there to celebrate a war against the expansion of communism into Asia; they’re just there to honor the fact that people fought and died — even if the cause was wrong, even if the cause was pointless. I also mention it because I used to live in D.C. and I’ve visited the Vietnam memorial dozens of times. I always tried to visit in on the day my oldest brother was wounded, the day some of his buddies were killed. But I also visited it once with a fellow graduate student, a Vietnamese-American woman. I knew she’d been born in Vietnam, but I knew nothing about her history. I just assumed she and her parents had immigrated to the U.S. during the war. In fact, she’d immigrated as a child with her aunt and uncle; her parents had both died, killed by U.S. troops. She didn’t tell me how or why they were killed; maybe it didn’t matter if they were collateral damage in a bombing or whether they’d been involved in the actual fighting. The thing is, she blamed the death of her parents on the war itself, not on the troops.

Civil War memorial — do we remove this? Is it Confederate or Union? How much does the answer matter?

The statues of Confederate politicians and generals were (and still are) political statements, honoring the men (they’re all of men) and the cause they fought for. Their removal is justified and warranted. The memorials to the soldiers who fought, on the other hand, are an acknowledgement that ordinary people die in wars. I see them as a reminder that war — even a just war fought for valid reasons — is wasteful.

Does it matter if they cause they died for was just or unjust?

I know a lot of folks will disagree with me on this. I’m okay with that. This is just my opinion, and I recognize that other folks will have different and equally valid opinions. Like I said at the beginning, the world is messy and irrational. I like it that way.

I only wish there were memorials dedicated to all the civilians, the true innocents who die and suffer in war.

 

many sides

The president — and man, I cannot tell you how it sickens me to refer to that colossal lying fuckwit as ‘the president’ — said this in response to the violence in Charlottesville yesterday:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

Fuck you. Fuck you from many sides. Only one side decided to gather at Charlottesville to champion hate and white supremacy. Only one side arrived carrying firearms and wearing military gear. Only one side carried flags made infamous by genocide, and flags made infamous by lynching and church-bombing and racial assassination. For that matter, only one side wore MAGA hats. The truth that only one side instigated the violence is so obvious that to dispute it is, in effect, to support and promote the violence. Which is exactly what the president did. So fuck you, Trump, fuck you and your lies about many sides.

There was only one side that Made America Ashamed Again. That side could be represented by Vanguard America, a group devoted to what they call ‘American fascism.’ Those polo-shirted fuckwits toting tiki torches and shouting “Blood and soil” on Friday night? They were chanting the motto of Vanguard America. This group advocates one side supremacy. Given the power, they wouldn’t allow many sides to even exist. The Vanguard America manifesto specifically calls for an:

America based on the immutable truths of Blood and Soil. A multicultural nation is no nation at all, but a collection of smaller ethnic nations ruled over by an overbearing tyrannical state. Our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed.

The most powerful nation, there’s the clue. Not the greatest nation, not the most civilized, not the most free, not a nation of many sides, not the most open or the most welcoming nation. The most powerful. You know who wants the most powerful nation? People who are afraid. People who are afraid and want to dominate those they’re afraid of. People who hate. People who drive muscle cars (of course, it would be a muscle car) into a crowd of peaceful protesters.

James Alex Fields, the driver of that car, was associated with Vanguard America. They deny he was a member, of course, despite the fact he was photographed with the group yesterday, carrying a Vanguard shield and dressed in their usual Vanguard-emblazoned white polo shirt and khaki pants. Have you noticed how often groups that espouse the belief that only one side is legitimate tend to wear uniforms?

Blood and soil. Only one side at Charlottesville was eager to spill blood on the soil.

Me, I like a many-sided world. I love a many-sided world. I may not like or agree with some of those sides, but a many-sided world is a healthier, a more vital and a more interesting world. Yet the only time Trump and his hate group supporters refer to many sides is when they’re trying to diffuse responsibility, when they’re trying to spread the blame, when they’re trying to dodge their own culpability.

Trump is culpable. Not for the racism or white supremacy or hate itself, but for nurturing and encouraging racism and white supremacy and hate. He created a petri dish of racial resentment and gender hostility and class rage that spawned what happened over the last couple of days in Charlottesville. He didn’t drive that car into the crowd, but he helped create an environment that made it possible for James Alex Fields to do it.

 

in which i explain why i call him comrade trump

Hey, you guys! Remember when something like forty-seven hundred different United States intelligence services said Russia interfered with the presidential election and Vlad Putin said, “Nuh uh” and Donald Trump believed Putin? Is Trump a fucking idiot or what? (Hint: he is a fucking idiot.)

And remember just a few days ago when the U.S. Senate voted 98-2 to sanction Russia for interfering with the presidential election, and Donald Trump said, “Oh, c’mon, stop picking on Russia, leave Brittney Putin alone!” but signed the bill anyway on account of he’s a weasel? And he did it in private, which is really really unusual because Donald Trump just loves to sign things in front of an audience? Remember that, you guys?

And also too, you guys, remember like a day or two ago when Brittney Putin decided to expel 755 people from the American embassy and consulate staff in Russia on account of the U.S. Senate voted 98-2 (ninety-fucking-eight to two!) to sanction Russia for interfering with the presidential election, and Donald Trump totally thanked Brittney for punishing the U.S. embassy in Russia?

You guys, listen you guys, people ask me, they say “Hey, Greg, why do you call him Conrad Trump?” and I have to explain it’s not Conrad, it’s Comrade, and then they want to know why I call him Comrade.

You guys, this is why I call him Comrade Trump. On account of he’s deep in the pocket of Russian oligarchs, on account of he’s smitten with Putin the Strongman, on account of he was elected only through the assistance of the Russian government, and on account of given a choice between standing up for the U.S. or sitting in the lap of Russia, Trump always — every fucking time — chooses Russia.

Every. Fucking. Time. So, that’s why. In case you were wondering (you were totally wondering, weren’t you).

uncomfortable confessional crap – part two

I have this Fitbit thing on my wrist to remind me to get up off my ass periodically and move. When your work involves sitting in front of a computer and putting words in a row, an activity tracker is pretty handy. It’s set up to keep track of all sorts of stuff, most of which I don’t keep track of — how much liquid I drink, how much food I eat, how many calories I burn.

It also keeps track of how much sleep I get. Which isn’t much. On average, around five and half hours a night. On average, that’s the key. Sometimes it’s less than five hours, occasionally as much as six and a half. Last night, according my Fitbit thing, I topped out at four hours and five minutes.

Nightmares. Everybody has them. I had them last night. Not the standard nightmares. You know — being chased, being trapped, being stalked, falling from a height, the universal nightmares everybody shares. Last night I had the sort of nightmares that you earn. The nightmares that grow out of stuff you’ve seen, stuff you’ve done, stuff you were afraid to do but did anyway, stuff you don’t really think about but is always there lurking in…I don’t know what it lurks in. Your subconscious, I guess. Doesn’t really matter what it’s lurking in; it’s the lurking that matters.

Sometimes the nightmares are weird replays of stuff you’ve done or seen. More often they’re about the moments leading up to the stuff you did, the stuff you saw. Those are the worst. It’s the awareness of what’s coming and the inability to halt it or turn away.

I don’t have those nightmares very often anymore. Three, maybe four times a year. A long time ago I had them weekly. They’ve gradually abated. I’ve also gotten better at interrupting them, which sounds a wee bit crazy. Somehow, when I’m asleep and the nightmare begins, it’s like I can tell myself “Dude, this is that nightmare…you know, that one where you have to break the transom over the door and crawl through and then after you fall there’s that awful bit with struggling and the jagged, broken bit of metal and all that hot slippery blood…you know this nightmare and you can skip it tonight,” and then I usually wake up and everything is okay.

But every so often one gets away from you. When you finally wake up and turn on a light, all you can do is reassure yourself that it’s just a nightmare. Sometimes you can go back to sleep. More often, though, you don’t. It’s not that you can’t go back to sleep; it’s more that you’re afraid to. If you go back to sleep, it might happen again.

But here’s the really crazy part. I’m okay with that. Like I said earlier, I earned those nightmares. My life now is quiet and calm and peaceful. Most days my biggest concern is what I’m going to prepare for supper. But I spent about fifteen years doing really interesting stuff, stuff that was intense and demanding, stuff that mattered. If I think about the stuff I’ve seen and done that could figure into nightmares, I feel I’m getting off fairly light. So if the cost for all that is the occasional nightmare, then I’m okay with that.

Note: I started to title this post ‘Uncomfortable Confessional Crap’ because…well, it’s uncomfortable for me to talk about, it’s confessional, and really who gives a crap about it? But the title sounded familiar, so I checked and found I’d used the same title almost exactly three years ago. So, part 2. I may do another uncomfortable confessional thing three years from now.

the galaxies are full of very stupid people

The fans of Doctor Who are, on the whole, a pretty intelligent group with a fairly elastic capacity for the willing suspension of disbelief. Most of them (and by ‘them’ I mean ‘us’ because I’m also a fan of the Doctor) have a Disbelief Suspension Toggle that triggers immediately on hearing the first electronic notes of the harmonic waveforms that comprise the show’s theme song.

But there are some fans whose Disbelief Suspension Toggles appear to be seriously malfunctioning.

Consider the Adipose. Cheeky little semi-sentient marshmallows of fat, from the planet Adipose 3. They could, in a crisis, completely absorb humans, thereby turning those unfortunate humans into…well, more fat. To Whovians with a properly functioning DST, this is believable.

Totally believable, this.

Consider the Slitheen. They’re a Raxacoricofallapatorian crime family who plotted to turn the Earth into a huge nuclear reactor pile and sell the planet’s remains off as starship fuel. The Slitheen are able to pass themselves off as human by ‘wearing’ the skin of large, dead people. Because the Slitheen are larger than most humans, they have to compress themselves to fit inside the skin. One effect of this compression is the periodic necessity to expel gas in the form of resounding farts. This is believable.

Absolutely believable.

Consider Chula nanogenes. This was a microscopic form of gene therapy used to repair wounds and injuries suffered by soldiers from the planet Chula. The nanogenes were accidentally released on Earth in 1941 by an immortal, time-traveling human con man who’d stolen a Chula space ambulance. The escaped nanogenes attempted to heal a young British boy who was the victim of a Nazi bombing raid. Assuming the boy’s gas mask was actually part of his face, the nanogenes ‘healed’ the mask. Using the boy as a template, the Chula nanogenes ‘healed’ other injured humans based on the boy’s characteristics and injuries at death — thereby creating gas-mask-faced zombies. This is believable.

Who wouldn’t believe this?

Consider the Doctor — an alien being from the planet Gallifrey who possesses a binary vascular system, maintains an internal body temperature of around 60F (15-16C), and has a respiratory bypass system that allows the Doctor to occasionally go without oxygen for an indeterminate period of time. The Doctor primarily resides in a stolen dimensionally transcendental time-spacecraft called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) which, due to a faulty chameleon circuit, looks like a 1960s-era British police box. When near death (usually due to injury, age, or disease), the Doctor can regenerate — a process by which the body restructures its triple helix DNA. This restructuring generally allows the Doctor to retain most of the previous Doctor’s memories. However, it also includes the genetic equivalent of ‘bit errors’ in the DNA. This has the effect of altering the Doctor’s appearance, height, mass, and apparent age. This is believable.

So completely believable.

To some Doctor Who fans, however, there is one immutable characteristic of the Doctor. One physical facet of the Doctor’s being than is indispensable, regardless of the regeneration process. One supreme, conclusive physical attribute that defines the Doctor. An extendable intromittent organ that acts as a sperm delivery system. To these fans, the Doctor’s physical body is apparently nothing more than an extension of the Doctor’s dick. Absent that organ, the Doctor is a sham.

In other words — no dick, no Doctor.

What? No. Are you kidding me? Unbelievable.

These particular Doctor Who fans are what I like to call ‘fuckwits’. Why? Because there’s no evidence that the Doctor even has a dick. The Doctor has always appeared to be male, so many fans have fallen into the Operative Assumption of Dick. It is an implied dick; nobody has ever actually seen the Doctor’s dick.

I’m confident, though, that there are David Tennant/10th Doctor fans who’ve made an exhaustive visual inspection of the Doctor’s tailored striped trousers; if a dick had been noticeable, I’m pretty sure it would have been…well, noticed. Even if the Doctor has a dick, it’s possible he’s hung like a horsefly.

The thing is, we just don’t know. No, wait…the thing actually is, it just doesn’t matter. Whether the Doctor is fully dicked, partially dicked, variantly dicked, or utterly dick-free, it just doesn’t matter.

What matters is whether the Doctor connects with the audience — and that’s a personal issue. Jodie Whittaker will either be convincing as the Doctor or she won’t. If you’re only able to relate to Doctors who possess an implied dick, then — well, I don’t want to say you’re a sexist idiot, but… No, wait. That’s actually exactly what I want to say. If you can’t connect to the 13th Doctor because she hasn’t a dick, then you’re a sexist idiot.

I don’t know if Jodie Whittaker will be convincing as the Doctor. I very much hope she will. But it won’t depend on what’s hidden beneath her clothing.

That said, I’ll be deeply disappointed if she wears heels.

anatomy of a sinkhole

It works like this: water soaks into the ground — maybe through rainfall, maybe through a leak in a water main, the source doesn’t matter. If the bedrock beneath the ground is soluble, like limestone or gypsum, then the rock begins to dissolve. This creates a cavity — a hollow space under the ground. That hollow space may begin to fill up with water. Over time the cavity grows; the weight of the soil itself and any structures above ground causes the ground to collapse.

Boom — you’ve just lost your house and your new Ford pickup.

Now imagine this. The bedrock is the United States. Russia is deliberately leaking the water. Comrade Trump and his Government of Nazgûl comprise the cavity. Democracy is the house. You’re the Ford pickup.

A lot of people think Russia’s goal in colluding with the Trump campaign was to get him elected. It wasn’t. Their goal was to undermine democracy by eroding and weakening the bedrock. They only needed to incrementally increase the level of vitriol and hate and suspicion among the electorate in order to create a less stable United States. The fact that Trump was elected was, I suspect, an unanticipated dividend. Regardless of who eventually got elected, Russia would have succeeded just by injecting more acidic water into the bedrock.

Here’s the good news: sinkholes can be repaired. The process requires a lot of work, but is fairly simple.

  1. Clean the area. Remove any trash, rubbish, and other debris from the depression.
  2. Determine the extent of the hole by careful excavation and probing.
  3. Incrementally fill the depression with clean fill soil that has a high amount of clay and low amount of sand. Do NOT use gravel or rock as fill, because water will trickle through the gaps and create another sinkhole.
  4. Continue this process until the depression is filled in.

It’s to be hoped that the bulk of this work will be done by Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel in charge of the Russia investigation. But it would help if Congress would get off its ass and do its job. It would also help if Republicans stopped chucking gravel and rock into the hole.