muslims and taco bowls

I knew it was going to be bad. I didn’t know it would be this bad this soon. I knew Comrade Trump had no real grasp on the concept of governance, but I didn’t know he was entirely ignorant of how government worked. I knew he wasn’t prepared for the job, but I didn’t know he’d make no effort to learn.

Trump apparently believes issuing a presidential executive order works the same basic way as ordering a taco bowl. You say “I want a taco bowl” and somebody gives you a taco bowl. You say “I want a ban on Muslims” and somebody gives you a ban on Muslims. Easy peasy. Right?

Easy as ordering a taco bowl.

Easy as ordering a taco bowl.

Nope. Ordering a taco bowl is easy; getting a taco bowl that’s safe to eat is complex. Somebody has to grow the lettuce and the tomatoes and the beans, somebody has to pick those vegetables and legumes, and somebody has get them to market. Somebody has to make the tortilla shell, somebody has to make the cheese. Somebody has to gather all those makings together, and somebody has to put it all together so somebody can bring it to your table. And throughout that whole process, there’s somebody monitoring it all to make sure that all the ingredients are healthy, and that they’re properly handled and prepared so that you don’t end up in the bathroom puking your guts out. It’s a massive, complex process, making a taco bowl.

Trump said “I want a ban on Muslims” and somebody gave him a ban on Muslims. In this case, it was two somebodies: Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. These guys wrote the executive order, and served it to Comrade Trump, who signed it.

Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon -- should not be allowed in the kitchen.

Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon — should not be allowed in the kitchen.

You know, when you make your first taco bowl to be served to the public, you have to let your supervisor look at it before it makes its way to the customer’s table. The same is true when crafting an executive order. You’re supposed to let other folks look at it and make sure it’s correct before you foist it on the unsuspecting public. For example, if you write an executive order pertaining to homeland security, you’re supposed to let the folks at the Department of Homeland Security get a peek at it before it’s released. It’s not just a matter of good manners to do that; it’s also how you insure the customer doesn’t end up in the bathroom puking his guts out.

Trump, Bannon, and Miller didn’t bother. The Secretary of Homeland Security learned about the executive order when he saw it announced on television. Seriously. On television.

Not only did they fail to ask for the advice of the Department of Homeland Security, they also failed to check with the Justice Department,. And the State Department, and the Department of Defense, and the National Security Counsel. They didn’t even show the order to the Office of Legal Counsel, which has always reviewed executive orders before they were released. Hell, these people didn’t even prepare the two agencies that would be implementing the order — the heads of the Customs and Border Protection agency and the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services were given a telephone briefing while Comrade Trump was signing the order.

Let me just recap this. These three bozos — Trump, Bannon, and Miller — put together and issued a presidential order having global implications with less care and supervision than the guy working part-time in the kitchen of your local Taco Bell. It’s no wonder a big chunk of the world has found itself in the bathroom, puking its guts out.

comrade trump in the oval office

Trump: Hey, I just farted.

Pence: A gentleman doesn’t fart, Mr. President; a gentleman breaks wind.

Trump: No, that was a fart, believe me. My first fart as President. First Oval Office fart, and it was a good one.

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Pence: Yes sir. Very powerful. Maybe we should continue discussing your plan to investigate the massive voter fraud. We need to…

Trump: Three to five million illegal votes. I don’t even know what to say. Three to five million. That’s a lot of votes, Lot of votes. Dishonest media keeps…wait. I think I’m going to fart again. Hold on.

Pence: Mr. President, we need to discuss what agency will conduct the investigation. The FBI  The DOJ? Maybe the FEC? And we have to determine where the funding will…

Trump: Nope, false alarm. Not a fart. No fart. I don’t care who does the investigation so long as it’s a great investigation. A beautiful investigation with good results. You know who does good investigations? Putin. We should get him on the phone and ask who does his investigations. Those are terrific investigations, over there in Russia. The best.

Pence: I’m not sure what would be wise, Mr. President. If the news media learn we’ve consulted the Russians, they’ll…

Trump: The crooked media, they’re against me, always have been. They don’t want me to succeed, the most crooked, dishonest group of people ever in the history of this great country. Ever in the history. It’s just despicable. Despicable. I was wrong, there’s another fart in there.

Pence: Yes sir, Mr. President. We don’t have to decide on those details today. Why don’t you just sign this executive order requiring…

Trump: Sure, give it to me. This is a great executive order. I think this may be my best executive order so far. This is why I got elected, to sign execu…yeah, there it is. Another fart. Now that was a presidential fart.

Pence: Praise Jesus.

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Trump: The president gets to fart wherever he wants. There’s no conflict. No conflict. And you have to stand there and smell it. It’s good to be the president. Where’s Melania? She should smell this fart. Putin. He’d appreciate it. You know who can fart really well? Germans. It’s all those sausages. I don’t know what they put in those things. What’s the German word is for sausage?

Pence: I don’t speak German, Mr. President.

Secret Service Agent: Wurst.

Trump: What? What’s worse?

Secret Service Agent: The German word for sausage, sir. It’s wurst.

Trump: Worse than what?

Pence: Mr. President, why don’t we move on to…

Trump: Worse than what? I want to know what’s worse than what.

Secret Service Agent: I’m sorry, sir. I wasn’t clear. Wurst is the German word for sausage. Double you, you, are, ess, tee. Wurst. As in bratwurst or liverwurst.”.

Trump: Best bratwurst, right here in Trump Tower. The best, absolute best.

Pence: We’re, uh, in the White House, Mr. President.

Trump: I know that. Oval Office. I had them change the curtains. Obama had crimson curtain. Not presidential. Not presidential. You wouldn’t believe how unpresidential. I had them replaced them with these classy gold ones. So much better. So much. Is there a menu here? I want to look at the menu.

Pence: Somebody get the president a menu.

Secret Service Agent: Here you are, Mr. President.

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Trump: Is there bratwurst on the menu? Or maybe a taco bowl?

Pence: I’m sure the White House chef will prepare whatever you want, Mr. President. But for now perhaps we could discuss policy? We have a lot to do and we’re just getting started.

Trump: I know that. A lot of great stuff to do. The news media won’t report on all the great stuff we’re going to do. They’re only interested in undermining. Nothing but undermining. It’s all they…farted again. Maybe I should order in the press corps. You think I should bring in the press corps? Make them smell my fart? They’d just have to stand there and take it. Dishonest, corrupt media and their lies. At least a million people at my inauguration. At least. Maybe more. Probably more. Possibly not, but probably more. I’m just saying.

Pence: Mr. President, we have a lot on the agenda today. Why don’t we…

Trump: Mexicans, they’re good farters too. Not the best, not the best, but good. It’s those taco bowls they eat. Good farters. Not the best, though. Not as good as the Germans. Germans fart like a pack mule. But the Mexicans are pretty good. Not the best, okay. But pretty good.

Pence: Please, Mr. President, we have a long day ahead of us. We need to discuss your cabinet appointees, who are having some difficulty with certain members of Congress. I suggest we…

Trump: You know what would be good? A taco bowl with bratwurst. Somebody call down to the restaurant and tell them I want a taco bowl with bratwurst. Would that still be called a taco bowl? Call downstairs to the restaurant and tell them I want one.

Pence: Still in the White House, Mr. President.

Trump: Just do it. And after lunch I want to meet with the press.

a sea of pussy hats

Some folks are troubled by the pink pussy hats. Some are troubled, others are amused, or curious, or confused. A few are offended — not by the hats themselves, but by the pussy reference.

There’s no point in discussing the pussy hats unless we first talk about the Women’s March. First, it wasn’t a protest against Comrade Trump. It’s true that Trump was the spark that lit this fire and there were plenty of anti-Trump signs, to be sure. But while the anger at Trump is very real and cuts very deep, the Women’s March was not specifically or directly a protest against him. Had it been an actual protest against Trump, there would have been such a storm of righteous rage that the very earth itself would have been scorched. But, for the third time, this wasn’t a protest against Trump.

It was a rally and a march for women.

not-in-the-white-house

Now, the pussy hats. No, wait — we’ll come back to those in a bit. Let’s take a look at the people who attended the Women’s March. Or, rather, the Women’s Marches — because there were marches all across the United States. In fact, there were satellite marches on all seven continents. This was a planet-wide event. Aside from sharing the name Women’s March, as far as I can tell, the various marches all also shared a similar eclectic composition.

I can only speak directly of the march I participated in. There were smiling babies, and young parents trying to keep toddlers out of the mud, and grandmothers wearing pussy hats, and people singing, and a small gathering of cheerful grey-haired Wiccans wearing cartoonish witch’s hats, and a guy wearing a faded MOPAR/NASCAR jean jacket over a Stand Up for Standing Rock t-shirt, and a young woman in a wheelchair with a rainbow blanket around her legs, and people of every age and faith and color and a spectrum of gender identities and orientations so broad it required a significant chunk of the alphabet to enumerate them — and all of us talking and laughing and shouting and hugging each other and chanting. You’d probably see many of those same people at an anti-Trump protest; but they wouldn’t be smiling and laughing.

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Perhaps the most inspiring thing about the rally — about ALL the rallies and marches across the globe — was the way women took the insults made against them by Comrade Trump (and lawdy, there were a LOT of insults against women) and transformed them into positive symbols of resistance. It’s a sort of socio-political aikido, redirecting the momentum of an act of aggression and using it against the aggressor. He calls Hillary Clinton a nasty woman, they defuse the insult by embracing the title. It’s brilliant, really. It’s a gentle turning aside of an attack meant to wound, and turning it aside without excusing or forgetting or forgiving the attack or the attacker.

whole-lotta-pussy-hats2

And that brings us to the hats. Some folks questioned the use of pink pussy hats. Most of the criticism I’ve seen seems to be grounded in the notion that the hats themselves are supposed to be representative of actual vaginas. Since not all vaginas are pink and since there are a lot of folks who are lacking any sort of vagina at all, the argument is that the pussy hat is an unsuitable symbol. I get that. As a person without a vagina, I get it.

But I disagree.

families-wearing-pussy-hats

The pink pussy hat, as I understand it, is a response to Comrade Trump’s cavalier and offensive discussion about grabbing women “by the pussy.” The hats weren’t meant to be taken literally; they aren’t symbolically appropriate for every individual who participated in the marches. But the hats ARE a simple, easily accessible, highly visible, socially elastic device that indicate solidarity for the entire constellation of rights and causes that joined the orbit around the Women’s March on Washington.

Much of the beauty and power of the Women’s March is that it was inclusive. It wasn’t the ‘Stop the Pipeline’ march or the Reproductive Rights march or the Black Lives Matter march or the Save the ACA march or the Immigrant Support march or the ACLU march or the LGBTQIAPK march or the Religious Freedom march or the Climate Change is Real march — but all of those causes were made welcome and encouraged to join.

strong-as-hell

In my opinion, that makes the pink pussy hat perfectly appropriate. The same arrogance and contempt and ignorance and hostility that allows Comrade Trump to brag about grabbing women by the pussy is also directed at gay folks and scientists and Muslims and water protectors and union members. Trump (and his Cabinet of Nazgûl) assumes he has the right to grab everybody by the pussy, whether they have one or not.

But, again, this wasn’t a protest against Trump. It was an affirmative stand for the dignity of all people. It was an announcement made by a few million people around the world that we’re all going to support each other.

The pussy hat is optional.

resist

Later today the United States will formally inaugurate as President a willfully ignorant, inexperienced blowhard — a man who is dangerously unprepared to occupy the Oval Office and temperamentally unfit to deal with international and domestic affairs. A man who was elected to that office through gerrymandered Congressional districts, aided by systematic voter suppression tactics, and with the assistance of a covert campaign of misinformation and propaganda employed by agents of a dictatorial foreign regime led by a former Soviet KGB officer.

We will witness the swearing-in of an arrogant, petty, mean-spirited, selfish and self-centered man — a vindictive narcissist who is entirely lacking in empathy and loyalty, a thin-skinned bully who attacks at any perceived insult and is accustomed to picking fights and letting his lawyers tidy up after him.

We will have as president a boor, a braggart, a crude vulgarian who mistakes ostentation for taste. Our nation will be led by an amoral sexist buffoon, a blatant and unrepentant liar who has no respect for the law or for science or for the truth, a man who is completely lacking in integrity, devoid of sincerity, and utterly without principle.

Starting today, we’re going to have a president from whom we have to protect ourselves. That fact is disheartening, it’s humiliating, it’s almost incomprehensible that it could happen.

But it did. Get used to it. Get used to resisting. Get used to having to call your members of Congress on a regular basis. Get used to marching and demonstrating. You have to get used to it — or just give up. Resistance or surrender. There really isn’t any other option.

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But here’s the good news: there are more of us than there are of them. And starting today and tomorrow, we’re going to let them see us.

Resist in any way you can. Resist in every way you can. Resist as writers, resist as photographers, resist as artists. Resist creatively. Just fucking resist every attempt to reduce us, to marginalize us, to limit us, to stop us.

Respect our existence

or expect our resistance.

there’s a photo, right there

I’m out taking a walk, right? I had an errand to run in a part of town I’ve never been in before, and when I’m done with my errand, I say to myself ‘Dude, long as you’re here, why not take a walk, look around.’ So I do. But the business area turns into a generic suburban neighborhood, and I decide I’m going to take the next left and head back to the car.

Then I see this garage door. I’m thinking to myself ‘Dude, there’s a photo, right there‘, and what happens? Garage door goes up, car pulls into the drive and directly into garage, and a woman gets out and begins unloading groceries.

What am I supposed to do? I can’t just stand there watching this woman unload groceries. That would be totally creepy. I can’t really offer to help her with the groceries, on account of that would be mega-creepy. So I have to continue my walk. I tell myself ‘Dude, you know where the house is — you can come back when nobody’s home‘ which would sound super mega-creepy if folks could hear what I was telling myself, but they can’t so I turn on my heels and start walking again.

I’ve gone maybe twenty-five, thirty yards, and I hear that garage door sound. You know that sound; it’s sort of a mechanical murmur. Anyway I turn, and hey, the garage door is going down again. Only now my brain is caught in the don’t-be-creepy loop, and I start wondering if I go back and photograph the garage now, will anybody in this suburban neighborhood who happens to be looking out their window see me back outside the house and call the police? Which would be understandable in a suburban sort of way.

van-gogh-garage

Then I say to myself ‘Dude, won’t nobody be looking out the window — and even if there IS somebody looking out the window, they probably won’t call the police — and even if they DO call the police, won’t nothing happen on account of all I’ll have to do is say ‘Officer, cast your eyes upon that garage door’ and the officer would say ‘Dude, there’s a photo, right there’ and everything would be cool‘. So I turn around and head back to the house.

I shoot two quick frames, chimp the photos real quick, then I’m back on my way. No police were alerted. No neighbors were alarmed. No grocery-toting woman was creeped out. I call that a good walk.

probably didn’t happen, but still entirely believable

See, here’s the problem: all that unverified stuff reported about Comrade Trump could be true. Some of it is almost certainly bullshit. Maybe most of it. But even the most disturbing parts (and different folks will be disturbed by different stuff) are surprisingly believable.

Let’s take the most discussed (although maybe the least important) aspect of the (sorry, but I have to say it) leaked report. It’s claimed that Trump hired

…the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel where he knew President and Mrs. Obama (whom he hated) had stayed on one their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.

Is that likely? No, it’s not likely at all. Trump may be an egocentric fucking idiot, but he’s not THAT much of an egocentric fucking idiot. Probably.

It’s that ‘probably‘ that’s the problem. Because damn it, an incident like that simply can’t be rejected out of hand. It may be improbable, but it’s not hard to imagine Trump pulling crazy shit like that. Let’s not forget, this guy has made his sexual proclivities part of his public persona. Kinky sex with prostitutes to defile a bed slept in by Obama two years earlier? C’mon, that’s not very believable. Kinky sex with prostitutes? Totally believable.

In fact it’s NOT hard at all to believe Russia has information of some sort about Trump that can compromise him. Sexual, financial, ethical — doesn’t matter. It’s NOT hard to believe Russia would use that information (assuming it exists) to force Trump to serve Russian interests over American interests. In fact, it could be said we saw indirect evidence of that last summer when the GOP was crafting its party platform. The original platform included language calling for the U.S. to “provide lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government” following Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Russia’s ongoing support for the separatist insurrection. Trump’s people had that strong anti-Russia language removed. To my knowledge, that was the ONLY major change Trump requested in the GOP platform. How does one account for that? Are we to believe that out of ALL the material in the GOP platform, the only section Trump disagreed with had to do with the Ukraine?

Comrade Trump and his transition staff keep claiming this is all an attempt to undermine and de-legitimize his presidency. I suspect that’s probably accurate — but it’s only partially accurate. It’s more likely an attempt to undermine and de-legitimize ANY U.S. presidency. And hey, it’s worked.

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Vlad has to be laughing his KGB ass off.

this is not somebody that would have been prohibited from having a gun

So this guy walks into…wait, let me start over. This guy who has military experience walks into the FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska, and tells them…wait, let me start over again. This guy, who served in Iraq but received a general discharge from the military after having gone AWOL a few times, walks into the FBI office…wait. Let’s try that again. This guy who’d served in Iraq and was basically kicked out of the military, and who was facing domestic abuse charges for having hit and strangled his girlfriend, walks into the Anchorage office of the FBI and tells them he’s hearing voices. They send him…wait, damn it, let me start over again.

This guy, Esteban Santiago, who’d served in Iraq, who’d gone AWOL often enough that he’d been given a general discharge from the military for ‘unsatisfactory performance’, who was being prosecuted for punching and strangling his girlfriend AND who’d been arrested for violating the subsequent restraining order forbidding him to go near her home, walks into the Anchorage office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and tells them he’s suffering from auditory command hallucinations directed by the CIA requiring him to watch violent propaganda videos released by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which sparks the FBI into contacting Anchorage law enforcement, who subsequently seize Santiago’s Walther 9mm pistol and transport him to an area psychiatric facility for four days of evaluation, which determined Santiago wasn’t mentally ill.

So the Anchorage police gave him back his handgun.

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I shit you not, they returned Esteban Santiago’s gun to him. Why? Because, according to U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler,

“As far as I know, this is not somebody that would have been prohibited (from having a gun) based on the information they had.”

What bits of information did they have? Let’s enumerate them, shall we?

  1. He was awaiting trial for assaulting his girlfriend. During an argument, she’d locked herself in the bathroom and called the police. Before the police arrived, Santiago (allegedly) kicked in the bathroom door, struck her, throttled her, then fled.
  2. He was also awaiting trial for violating the restraining order keeping him away from the woman who was now his ex-girlfriend.
  3. He presented himself to the FBI, confessed to having auditory hallucinations, and stated he’d been watching violent videos put out by militant Islamist terrorists.
  4. He was given an evaluation that determined he didn’t meet the criteria for being legally considered mentally ill.

Let’s look at that last issue first. Can a person who suffers from auditory command hallucinations NOT be mentally ill? Sure. In Alaska, mental illness is defined as having “an organic, mental, or emotional impairment that has substantial adverse effects on an individual’s ability to exercise conscious control of the individual’s actions or ability to perceive reality or to reason or understand.”

This sort of nonsense really happens. I once had a client who suffered from auditory command hallucinations. My client believed he had Go-Bots (these were transforming robot toys similar to Transformers) sitting on his shoulder. The Go-bots would identify gay men, then tell him to shoot those men the kneecap. (Spoiler: Go-Bots have shitty gaydar; none of the men he kneecapped were actually gay — not that it matters.) My client wasn’t considered medically ill because he knew shooting people in the kneecap was wrong and because he felt he could refuse to obey the Go-Bots if he’d really wanted to (he just didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t trust the Go-Bots).

If Santiago was able to “exercise conscious control” of his actions, then legally he wasn’t mentally ill. By going to the FBI and informing them he was being controlled by the CIA, he was demonstrating that conscious control. Seriously — by reporting that he was hearing voices to the FBI he was proving that he wasn’t legally mentally ill.

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Now, you’re probably saying ‘Dude, the guy STILL assaulted his girlfriend! Shouldn’t that disqualify him from toting around a firearm? WTF? Allow me to respond. Dude, this is Alaska. In some other states, Santiago’s firearm would have been confiscated. But Alaska? They don’t even stop folks who are convicted of domestic abuse from buying and carrying firearms — and Santiago hadn’t even been tried yet.

So hey, let’s give him back his gun. And hey, while we’re at it, let’s let him transport that handgun from Alaska to the Gun Nut Mecca of Florida. Sure, we’ll make him transport it in checked luggage (not carry-on luggage, because that would be crazy), but let’s give him access to it once he lands. I mean, we don’t want to make it difficult for Esteban Santiago to protect himself once he lands in Fort Lauderdale, do we.

Because as T. Jefferson said, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. And unsuspecting passengers idling around waiting for their baggage to arrive. Freedom isn’t free, right?