dude, not my fault

Years ago, before Academia and I decided we weren’t really compatible, I taught a variety of criminology and sociology courses — including courses on criminological theory. You know — what is crime, why do folks commit crime, how do we explain what’s going on? That sort of stuff. One of the theories I taught undergrads was Matza and Sykes’ theory of neutralization.

Matza and Sykes studied juvenile delinquency back in the 1950s. People, they said, are aware of their obligation to follow the law, so in order to skirt that obligation and do stuff they know they’re not supposed to do, they concoct a series of techniques to neutralize that obligation. In other words, they find ways to escape responsibility.

I mention all this because if you paid any attention to the news over the last week, you saw Matza and Sykes’ theory in action. Here are their five techniques of neutralization:

  • Denial of responsibility — Dude, it’s not really my fault.
  • Denial of injury — Dude, nobody really got hurt.
  • Denial of the victim — Dude, really it’s their own fault.
  • Condemning of the condemners — Dude c’mon, it’s not like you’re innocent.
  • Appeal to higher loyalties — Dude, I did it for my friends (or family, or god).

We saw ALL of these techniques in play over the last week. Every single one of them. We saw them employed by Comrade Trump, by his followers, and by most Republican politicians. Denial of responsibility: “Dude, Trump didn’t mail any of those bombs.” Denial of injury: “Dude, the bombs weren’t even bombs; they didn’t detonate and nobody got hurt.” Denial of the victim: “Dude, the people who got the mail bombs wouldn’t have gotten any mail bombs if they hadn’t tried to undermine the president like that.” Condemning the condemners: “Dude c’mon, it’s not like Democrats are innocent; I mean, a Bernie supporter shot a Republican congressmen who was playing softball, right? And people were rude to Sarah Sanders in a restaurant.” And yeah, even an appeal to higher loyalties: “The people who got the mail bombs were traitors and the real enemies of the people.”

Dude, don’t look at me, it’s not MY fault.

Even this morning, Trump was obliviously tweeting out neutralization techniques with all the desperate need of a spawning salmon.

There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!

He really can’t help himself. Trump seems to be completely incapable of accepting the notion that by labeling the news media as ‘fake’ and the ‘true Enemy of the People’ he’s not only inciting the anger he’s condemning, but also emboldening his followers to act on that anger.  Dude, it’s not my fault if the Enemy of the People get hurt; I’m just talking and words can’t really hurt you; besides, it’s the Enemy of the People who are at fault for being the Enemy of the People; and it’s not like they’re innocent, just look at how mean they are to me; and if I call the Enemy of the People the enemy, it’s because I want peace and harmony. Bitches.

It’s sad and infuriating that the only way to explain the behavior of the President of These United States is to rely on theories developed to explain criminality. Jeebus in handcuffs, we used to be a semi-decent nation.

People, you have GOT to vote. If you value decency and truth and science and integrity and compassion, you have GOT to fucking vote.

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keep saying it

There’s too much to say today, and it feels like there’s not much point in saying any of it. We’re dealing with yet another mass shooting, this time a hate-inspired attack on a synagogue. We’re dealing with this just a day after the arrest of a hate-inspired series of bomb attacks on prominent critics of President Trump — which took place just a couple of days after a hate-inspired double murder of African-Americans in a Kentucky grocery store (after the shooter failed to gain entry into an African-American church).

In the face of all this hate, President Trump has once again proven himself incapable of performing the basic functions of his office. Instead of trying to unify the nation against this hate, he’s continued to encourage the anger and resentment of his followers. Instead of showing compassion for the victims of this shooting and offering comfort, he blamed the temple for not having an armed guard at the door. Instead of making a sincere call for unity, he continued to fuel the bitterness and the hate. He has falsely indicted Democrats and the news media for a lack of civility while absolutely refusing to acknowledge that his rhetoric plays any part in the problem.

Many of Trump’s supporters insist that all the hate and violence being inflicted on the public — including this mass murder — is a product of false flag operations conducted by Democrats and the Deep State, intended to hurt Republicans in the midterm elections. Instead of decrying this, Trump has fed into it, insisting that he is a victim of some sort of conspiracy. In doing so, the president has deliberately undermined public trust in many of the fundamental systems of representative democracy — law enforcement, the courts, the news media. And he’s done it purely in the interest of political expediency.

Again, there’s too much to say today. And right now  it feels like there’s not much point in saying any of it. But I still think it’s important to say it. And to keep saying it. Over and over and over. Even if it doesn’t seem to do any good, it’s important to keep saying it.

bombs, for fuck’s sake

You know, it was bad enough when our president was just ignorant. I mean, yeah, he was ignorant about the world and about how government worked, but it was just plain old ignorance. And it was bad enough that the president was an inveterate liar, who showed no compunction about making shit up on the spot and acting as though it was accepted truth. Sure, only his supporters actually believed them, but most of his lies were really obvious, so folks could ignore them. And it was bad enough that Comrade Trump was a hateful bully. But hey, he bullied everybody he thought he could get away with bullying, his friends and supporters as well as people who opposed him.

All that was bad enough. But now we have bombs. Actual bombs.

Now we have bombs sent to men and women who’ve publicly criticized Comrade Trump. We have bombs sent to people Trump considers to be enemies. Now we have bombs sent to two former presidents, a former vice president, a former Secretary of State, a former head of the CIA, a former Attorney General, a senior member of Congress, and others. Bombs, people.

Crude bombs, yeah, but fucking bombs. None of them detonated, yeah, and nobody got hurt, but the fact remains that somebody sent bombs to people who criticized Comrade Donald Trump. Somebody considered how to keep the weight of the bomb low enough to send through the mail, considered what materials could be used to make a bomb that would escape metal detectors. Somebody gathered the components to make the bombs, manufactured them, prepared the envelopes, delivered a couple by hand and sent the rest of the bombs — sent bombs, people — through the mail in order to kill or maim critics of Donald Trump.

Before, Trump or his followers would do or say something that was ridiculous or offensive or crazy, and we’d all repeat the mantra ‘This Is Not Normal and Must Not Be Seen as Normal’. But bombs? Bombs in the mail is so far outside of normal that you’d need the Hubble Space Telescope to find the galaxy where normal still exists.

Make no mistake, this is driven by Comrade Trump. No, of course, he didn’t tell anybody to make bombs and send them to people he considers to be enemies. What he did was repeatedly claim the people he considered as his enemies were enemies of The People. Enemies intent on destroying…well, whatever Trump happened to stand for at the moment.

In his recent rally speeches, Trump has taken to calling Democrats “the party of the mob.” Seriously. He stands in front of an angry, disorderly crowd (which, by the way, is pretty much the fucking definition of ‘mob’), encouraging them to become angrier, and then he accuses Democrats of being an angry, disorderly crowd. He actually said this at a recent rally:

“You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry, left-wing mob. And that’s what the Democrats have become.”

It’s no surprise that one (or more) of Trump’s followers, having been told that an enemy exists, having been told that the enemy is dangerous, having been told the enemy is intent on causing harm, and having the enemy identified by name, decided to act.

To act by sending bombs. 

Comrade Trump bears some responsibility for this, though he’ll never acknowledge it. The Republicans in Congress bear some responsibility for this as well, because their only response to a couple of years of the president lying, threatening, and making appalling personal attacks has been to occasionally issue a bland disagreement.

The primary responsibility, of course, lies with the criminal fuckwit who believed Trump to the degree that’s he (and yeah, I’m assuming we’re talking about a man here) was willing to put together a group of bombs and send them on their way to kill or maim.

Bombs, for fuck’s sake. That’s where we are now in this nation. Bombs. We’re sending bombs through the mail.

oh shit

There’s a sadly useful expression I learned in the military. It’s used to describe that moment when a situation changes so suddenly and radically that whatever you had been doing up to that point was no longer relevant — maybe not even possible. Overtaken by events

For example, let’s say one moment you’re flying a perfectly functioning aircraft and the next moment you’ve smashed into a flock of Canada geese; your engine fails, your windshield is shattered, and suddenly you’re hurtling along at 550 mph in an aluminum coffin. Dude, your flight plan has been overtaken by events.

In my medical unit, we modified the expression. A situation wasn’t overtaken by events; the situation went Oh Shit. As in “Everything was under control, until the patient had a seizure during a cutdown and an artery got nicked, then everything went Oh Shit.”

For years I had occupations in which there was always a possibility to be overtaken by events — for everything to go Oh Shit. Things frequently went Oh Shit as a medic, sometimes went Oh Shit as a counselor in the Psych/Security unit of the prison, but only occasionally went Oh Shit as a private investigator. But ‘Oh Shit’ was a constant in my working equation until I left those careers behind me. With the exception of a morning walk interrupted by a nasty auto accident (three cars, a scared and confused old guy trapped in his vehicle), for the last several years I’ve lived a life totally free of Oh Shit moments — and really, that exception was seriously more Oh Shit for the old guy I had to break out of his car than it was for me.

Then I read the news this morning, and saw this headline:

Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact

And I thought ‘Everything’s going to go Oh Shit‘. I mean, we’re not actually in the process of being overtaken by events, but guys we’re at high altitude and moving at speed in the direction of a flock of geese. Because Comrade Trump isn’t a president who carefully considers the implications and possible outcomes before making a policy decision. He’s more of a ‘Fuck yeah, I like the sound of that, let’s DO it‘ decision-maker.

That’s the sort of decision-making process that leads to…well, massive fuck-ups. “Hire the Hell’s Angels to do security at a Rolling Stones concert? Fuck yeah, I like the sound of that.” “Get a tattoo of my ex’s name after an evening of regret-drinking? Fuck yeah, let’s DO it.”

And then everything went “Oh Shit.”

When he was ‘elected’ some folks said, “Not to worry — Trump’s impulses will be tempered by more sober-minded professionals.” Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, Trump fired the few sober-minded professional. After his first National Security Advisor was fired for 1) lying to the FBI, 2) lying to the Vice-President, 3) accepting money from foreign governments without approval, and 4) planning the kidnapping and extrajudicial rendition of a Turkish cleric to Turkey, and after his second National Security Advisor resigned over disagreements about Trump’s approach to Russia (and North Korea and, what the hell, Iran), Trump named John Bolton as his third National Security Advisor.

Who the fuck is John Bolton? Lawdy, where to start? He’s a war hawk who admits he avoided service in Vietnam by joining the Maryland National Guard (“I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy”). He’s been a paid Fox News contributor and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, which is known for disseminating false anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim information. In the Reagan Justice Department, Bolton opposed financial reparations to Japanese-Americans held in World War II-era internment camps. He apparently threatened to fire a woman for refusing to lobby for the deregulation of baby formula in developing nations. He convinced President George W. Bush to pull out of the International Criminal Court (which Bolton described as the ‘happiest moment’ of his political career). He tried to reduce funding for the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program designed to halt the proliferation of nuclear materials. As a private citizen, Bolton was identified as a key member of Groundswell, a secretive coalition of right-wing activists trying to effect political change behind the scenes through lobbying of high-level contacts. He gave a speech for the fake Russian ‘Right to Bear Arms’ group for whom Russian spy Maria Butina worked. He also argued that the conclusion of the US Intelligence Community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump may have been a ‘false flag’ operation.

Bolton speaking at Russian ‘gun rights’ event.

In other words, John Bolton is a conspiracy theorist with a history of encouraging wars other people will have to fight. He’s basically Comrade Trump without the real estate career. This is the guy Trump relies on as his National Security Advisor. This is the guy urging Trump to develop new and improved nukes…you know, for leverage. Trump, of course, loves the idea of nuclear leverage. He loves the idea of any sort of leverage, really — of essentially being able to force people (or nations) to do what HE wants instead of what THEY want. So of course he’s all ‘Fuck yeah, I like the sound of nuclear leverage, let’s DO it.”

The ONLY hint of a silver lining in this looming cloud of Oh Shit is the fact that Trump often says he’s going to do stuff that 1) he doesn’t actually know how to do, 2) he fails to understand he lacks the legal authority to do, or 3) he thinks makes him look or sound tough. But as long as Bolton is standing at Trump’s side, Grima Wormtonguing in his ear, we’re in serious danger of everything going Oh Shit.

putin kim salman and trump

Comrade Trump believed his boy Vlad Putin when he said “Hacking? Interference in U.S. elections? Dude, it wasn’t us.” He believed his boy Kim Jong Un when he said, “Hey bruh, we was just nuclear-curious, y’know? We done with that shit now.” And he believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he says, “C’mon man, you really think we’re gonna murder and dismember a guy just on account of he disagreed with us? Seriously, that’s not who we are.”

Now, I’m not going to claim I understand what’s taking place inside Comrade Trump’s head, but I’m beginning to see a pattern here. You got three (3) absolute rulers who are free to do pretty much whatever the fuck they want whenever they want. Control the news media? Fuck yeah, do it. Prevent public protests? Fuck yeah, do it. Murder journalists and opposition leaders? Fuck yeah, do it.

“You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes.”

I’m thinking Comrade Trump is jealous. I mean, he can’t control the news media. All he can do is call them ‘fake’ and claim they’re the ‘enemy of the people’. He can’t prevent public protests. All he can do is limit where the protests take place, and even then his authority is pretty limited. And he sure as hell can’t Jimmy Hoffa journalists and opposition leaders. The most he can do is get his bone-ignorant crowds to chant “Lock her up.”

That’s pretty small beans compared to what Putin, Kim, and Salman are capable of doing. It’s got to be sort of embarrassing to meet with those guys and admit you can’t just lock up Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton without a bunch of due process bullshit.

“And your smile is a thin disguise.”

So I kind of wonder if he sees these guys acting like low-level Marvel comic villains and he’s thinking, Man, I wish I could pull shit like that. Call up the editor of the Washington Post and say “You motherfuckers are shut down as of right this fucking minute.” Find those pricks with the Baby Trump blimp and lock they asses up in fucking Alcatraz. If Alcatraz is still open. Fuck that, I’m president. OPEN Alcatraz again and lock ’em up. And oh, what I’d do with Obama and Elizabeth Warren, why I’d... Okay, I’m stopping there. I don’t even want to imagine what Trump would like to do to Obama and Elizabeth Warren. That said, I’ll give Comrade Trump this much: unlike his boy Salman, I don’t think there’d be any bone saws involved.

“I thought by now you’d realize, there ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.”

The thing is, I suspect Comrade Trump is smitten with the notion of absolute power. I suspect in his dreams he’d like to be on an equal footing with Putin, Salman, and Kim. I also suspect Trump is financially deep in the pocket of Putin and the Saudis. Kim, not so much, because he and his raggedy-ass nation are basically broke.

One thing I’m confident about. Trump will do anything he can to avoid placing blame or responsibility on those three guys. Yesterday he tried to blame ‘rogue killers’ for Khashoggi’s murder. I don’t know who he’s blaming today. Tomorrow he’ll probably claim Khashoggi killed and dismembered himself just to make the Saudi royalty look bad.

yes, it suits her

I have thoughts about Mr. Justice Kavanaugh, and Mitch McConnell, and the bloated carbuncle currently occupying the Oval Office — but I’m holding them in abeyance for a few more days. I don’t want them to corrupt the joy I feel about Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor.

I’ve written about the Dick-free Doctor Who Debate already, so I won’t repeat any of that, except to say there were people (and by ‘people’ I mean ‘men’ and by ‘men’ I mean ‘astonishingly stupid childish misogynists’) who were upset by the notion that a woman could be the Doctor. We’ve moved on from that now; it’s a reality.

In a very real way, it never mattered to me whether the Doctor was a man or a woman. I mean, I’m glad that the folks who run Doctor Who decided to cast a woman. It needed to be done, if only to demonstrate the reality that gender was never a defining aspect of the character. The Doctor didn’t have to be a ‘daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away.’ The Doctor just had to be a daft old being who stole a magic box and ran away.

Let me repeat the important bit in that last paragraph. Gender was never a defining aspect of the character. When Christopher Eccleston appeared out of nowhere and took Rose Tyler’s hand, telling her “Run!” he wasn’t being a Doctor Who for boys; he was just the Doctor. When Jodie Whittaker fell through the roof of that train, she wasn’t being a Doctor Who for girls; she was just the Doctor.

Here’s something Steven Moffat, the Doctor Who showrunner for a decade, said about the character:

Heroes are important. Heroes tell us who we want to be, but when they made this particular hero, they didn’t give him a gun, they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn’t give him a tank or a warship or an X-Wing, they gave him a call box from which you can call for help, and they didn’t give him a superpower or a heat-ray, they gave him an extra heart. And that’s extraordinary.

Let me add this. They didn’t give him a penis, they gave her curiosity.

When the new Doctor Who was introduced on Sunday, the most surprising thing (to me, at any rate) was that Jodie Whittaker was immediately the Doctor. I’ve always been sort of slow to accept a new Doctor. I tend to put them on emotional probation until they’ve earned my trust — because Doctor Who may be a sort of cheesy sci-fi show on the surface, but the character of the Doctor is complex and nuanced.

“Right, this is going to be fun!”

Jodie Whittaker hit the right notes straight from the beginning. In her first scene she’s still coming to terms with the regeneration; she doesn’t know where she is, or what she’s doing there, or who she is, or even what she is, but she knows she’s there to help. That mix of confusion and certainty, peppered with the visible joy she experiences when she learns something new or remembers something from before, was convincing and totally natural. When she learned she was a woman, she treated it like a mildly interesting fact. She asks, “Does it suit me?” but she’s not hanging on the answer, because it’s simply not that important.

And yet, the fact that she’s a woman IS significant and important. Not for the character, but for the viewing audience. A woman Doctor doesn’t change the character of the Doctor, but it changes how the audience experiences the Doctor. It gives women — and more importantly, girls — a protagonist they can better identify with. A girl who wants to dress up as Doctor Who for Halloween no longer has to dress like a man. That’s a big deal.

So here’s the thing: the fact that the 13th Doctor Who is a woman is simultaneously completely unimportant and incredibly important. That’s about the most Doctor Who thing ever.

’til the stars all burn away

It was June when they met. The lovers month, when days are long and lazy, nights are short and sweet and full of fireflies. June when, as the poets say, ‘each mocking day doth fleece / A blossom, and lay bare her poverty.’ The twelfth day of June, an ordinary day, a day like any other,  part of Bicycle Week in Ireland.

But they weren’t in Ireland, these star-crossed lovers; they were in Singapore, a city of romance and intrigue, a city where love blooms like lilacs — if lilacs bloomed in June, a sultry city where secrets are shared in silent rooms, a city of tender desires, where there is no sin in sinning, a city like no other, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government that would make any heart sing. Ah, Singapore.

We could have danced all night and still have begged for more. We could have spread our wings, and done a thousand things we’ve never done before.

Their’s was a love that never should have been. But how could it not? Two men, born leaders, masculine physiques, both capable of making bold hair decisions. How could they not fall in love? It was fate, it was kismet, it was inevitable.

Yes, it was Fate, which steals along with silent tread / Found oftenest in what least we dread. Did they dread their meeting? Did they dread their parting? Who can say? And does it matter? In the end, does it matter if they could have known what would come of their meeting? There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known. Nothing you can see that isn’t shown. There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy. All you need is Love.

Ah love. In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities. No nuclear obstacle is too radioactive to overcome. Ain’t no mountain high enough. Or as the poet Bieber said, “Swag, swag, swag on you. Chillin’ by the fire while we eatin’ fondue.”

Fate brought them together. Can Fate keep them apart? Fate does what it does. But even if the stars prevent these two from sharing pomade in the morning, surely they don’t regret their love. Are they sorry. Yes, perhaps…but if there’s one thing we know about love, it’s this: love means never having to say you’re sorry.