About greg

Just another bozo on the bus.

all the horrible things

I’m kinda down this morning. I had one of my bi-annual PTSD nightmares last night, and this morning it’s gloomy and rainy and cold, and Comrade Trump is…okay, wait. I should probably oughta take a short (honest, it’ll be short) tangent here.

Everything is horrible.

Kinda down is what I have instead of depression. I don’t really get depressed. I used to think I did, until I talked to folks who experience real depression — and you guys, that’s a whole nother thing. That shit sound really fucking grim. Kinda down is basically just a short-term grumbly dissatisfied unhappiness. I’ll be kinda down for…I don’t know, maybe a few hours, tops. Or until the cat does something weird. Or I see something interesting somewhere. I may have an entire day in which…no, that’s not true — maybe an entire morning or afternoon…that’s sporadically, episodically kinda down, but that’s about it. This is how lightly kinda down sits on me: when I get kinda down, I also feel kinda grateful that I don’t get actually depressed. The truth is kinda down is a pretty candy-ass negative emotional state.

So, I’m kinda down this morning because (see above)…and Comrade Trump is still horrible and still POTUS. His POTUSish days are probably numbered because of the coming election, but the bloated bastard is still lumbering around in the White House, and that casts an ungly (yeah, I misspelled ‘ugly’ there, but I sorta like the way ‘ungly’ looks and sounds as a word) shadow on the entire United States.

No, really, things are horrible.

I’m kinda down because yesterday in San Diego a man shot and killed his wife and his three sons, then killed himself. I’m not down because of the murders themselves (though I probably ought to be, because that’s just horrible); I’m kinda down because killing your whole family and yourself doesn’t count as a mass murder. Seriously. The most common definition of a mass murder (and c’mon, it’s fucking horrible that we have to have define it) states the murders have to take place in a public place in which four or more people are killed in a single episode, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence. This guy killed 1) his family 2) at home so hey, bingo, NOT a mass murder.

And I’m kinda down because Venice is underwater, and the air quality in Delhi is so bad some ‘entrepreneurs’ have opened an ‘oxygen bar’ where they SELL a few gulps of fresh air to folks who can afford to pay for it, while Trump continues to roll back EPA clean air and water regulations, and his mob of MAGAwits are still falling for the lie that climate change is a hoax.

No, horribler than that.

I’m kinda down about an article I read on some Irish news site (yeah, I periodically check Irish news sites because I’ve Irish roots, and Irish news is so much nicer that US news; the Irish are maybe the happiest miserable people in the world, with the possible exception of the Finns because, c’mon, those poor bastards have to live in Finland) about how difficult it is for trans folks to shop for clothes. Shopping for clothes ought to be really easy for everybody. You need a shirt, you go to a store, you find a shirt you like, you buy the damned shirt…that’s it. It never occurred to me how buying a shirt (or a blouse or pants or whatever) would be so massively difficult and traumatic for trans folks. But of course it is. Why doesn’t Target or Kohl’s just create a sort of trans-wear section, like they have for young men or sportswear or coffee pots, for fuck’s sake. You know, just some place where trans folks can buy a pair of pants without having to deal with other folks’ horribleness.

I’m also kinda down because yesterday I picked up my camera and didn’t remember how to use it. I’m talking about my actual camera camera (well, one of them) instead of using the camera in my phone, and when I say I didn’t remember how to use it, I mean I’ve forgotten how to do certain technical things (like use spot metering NOT in the middle of the frame, if that makes sense). Technical things that were second nature to me a year or two ago. And was the menu organization always that cumbersome? Am I going to have to be reduced to using program mode for a while? I mean, program mode? Did gremlins get hold of my camera as it sat idle on the shelf and re-arrange everything while I wasn’t looking?

Also? I’m kinda down because…well, no. It’s over now. I really wanted to get one more horrible thing here — and lawdy, there are SO MANY horrible things — but I got a Twitter notification so I looked away and lawdy, Stephen Fry has posted a photo of himself with something approximating a mustache. And now the cat wants my attention, and there are brownies for breakfast, and tonight I’ll watch the new episode of The Good Place and despite all the horrible things…sorry. I almost said something trite and ‘inspirational’ here, and there’s nothing more annoying than trite inspirational stuff.

So, that’s it then.

craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history

Okay, a quick heads up. I’m going to write a really long sentence. Really long. The kind of sentence writing instructors warn students never to write because readers will either lose interest in the subject and decide to go see what’s on television, or get massively confused halfway through and have to start again at the beginning. It’s going to be longer than the sentence you just read. It’s a long sentence because the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history demands long sentences. So you’ve been warned.

Yesterday, at the same time Congress was holding the first public impeachment hearing to determine if Comrade Donald J. Trump is fit to continue to occupy the office of the President of the United States, Trump was meeting with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, who last month launched a military offensive that bore all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kurdish forces who had been the chief ally in the U.S. fight against ISIS for years until they were suddenly, unexpectedly betrayed by Trump’s inexplicable decision — which came immediately after a late-night phone call with the president of Turkey — to remove U.S. military forces from the Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria.

This was an extraordinary conjunction of events, even by the loopy standards of the Trumpverse. As I said earlier, it’s the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history. While two patriotic career civil servants (one of whom is actually a deputy assistant secretary of state specializing in anti-corruption efforts) were testifying under oath that Trump had betrayed his oath of office by engaging in corrupt activity, Trump was publicly celebrating a different corrupt betrayal — and doing it with the corrupt dictator who directly benefited from the betrayal. Not only that, Trump openly confessed to a war crime. Although he’d claimed he pulled U.S. forces out of Syria to bring them home, yesterday he said this:

“We are keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.”

This is a clear violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions, which categorically states pillaging (taking something of value from a location seized in a time of war) is prohibited. It’s also perfectly on-brand for Trump, who argues that corruption committed in the open doesn’t count.

This is the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history. Democrats and civil servants are systematically and methodically demonstrating the corrupt practices of the Trump administration while Republicans are spouting insane conspiracy theories and mocking Congressional witnesses for drinking water (I am NOT making this up) and POTUS is calling himself a ‘big fan’ of a foreign dictator who a few weeks ago had openly insulted him by saying he’d thrown Trump’s threatening letter in the trash. What the actual fuck is happening here?

How can all this crazy shit be happening at the same time? It almost makes you want to believe in astrology, because it would be nice if we could explain it all away by pointing to some lunatic arrangement of planets. That would actually make it less crazy; that’s how goddamn crazy this moment is.

And don’t even think about pulling me aside and whispering, “Forget it, Jake…it’s Chinatown” because it’s NOT CHINATOWN. This is NOT a Chinatown situation. Sure, Kurdistan is as dead as Hollis Mulwray, and Trump is treating the Constitution the way Noah Cross treated his daughter, but this isn’t policing in Los Angeles in the 1930s. It’s actually possible for us to know whether our foreign interventions are helping victims or exploiting them.

Okay. Okay, I got a tad carried away and veered off into a tangent that probably won’t even make sense to folks who’ve seen the movie. Sorry. That’s what living in the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history will do to you.

There’s another public hearing schedule for tomorrow. Maybe it’ll be less crazy. Or maybe Comrade Trump will hold a press conference with Ming the Merciless. I’m not going to rule it out.

Somewhat Related Editorial Note: If you haven’t seen Chinatown, WTF is wrong with you? Go watch it. It’s brilliant. Cynical, yeah, but one of the best films ever made, even if it was made by Roman Polanski — and there’s a tangent I’m going to avoid while I still retain some semblance of self-control.

this is bullshit

I’ve been seeing this particular meme popping up in social media for a couple of weeks now. I generally find this stuff easy to ignore — especially the lightweight pseudo-Zen philosophical near-aphorisms that sound profound but aren’t. But for some mysterious reason I find this particular meme more annoying than most (although, now I think of it, the reason isn’t at all mysterious; the reason is because it’s almost officially winter and soon I’ll be dealing with the reality of snow).

This is bullshit. It stinks of Zen, which is to say it has the appearance of Zen philosophy without the substance. It co-opts the notion of mindfulness; mindful fitness may be a real thing, but it exists outside of a hashtag. It suggests I’m somehow at fault for NOT finding joy in snow. It suggests joy is something I can somehow force myself to experience rather than a spontaneous reaction to the moment. It suggests I’m unwilling to ‘find’ joy in snow, and that my unwillingness is a personal failing. It also suggests joy is quantifiable, that it’s something you can add to or subtract from and measure against some sort of baseline standard.

That’s all bullshit. That’s not how joy works. Joy isn’t an emotion you elect to feel; it’s a natural, unpremeditated experience. Being open to joy can be a conscious decision, but it’s not a response you can compel. You can choose not to be miserable about a given situation — or at least not to give in to misery — but you simply can’t strong-arm or manipulate yourself into experiencing joy.

The idea behind this meme is laudable. It’s saying snow will happen independent of your emotions, that it will fall regardless of how you feel about it, that snow is a natural event over which you have no control, so you may as well get some pleasure out of it. (Well, the real point of the meme is to get you to visit a website and buy snow-related sports products, which will bring joy to the business owners.) I actually like the idea behind the meme — the non-capitalist part, but the meme itself is misleading and it’s bullshit.

There are a LOT of natural events that will take place independent of your emotions and regardless of how you feel about them. Some of them are pleasant. A rainbow, for example, or the way leaves change in autumn. Other events aren’t pleasant. A flood, or a drought. An earthquake, or a mudslide, or a volcanic eruption. Or, if you live in California, a wildfire.

If you choose not to find joy in the wildfire, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of fire.

See how massively stupid that is? I’ve been through natural disasters — floods and tornadoes and hurricanes. None of them brought me joy. (That’s not entirely true; I felt a weird fierce joy at seeing a tornado, while still dreading what it could do.) I can honestly say that even while dealing with the ugly aftermath of those events, there hasn’t been a single day when I didn’t experience some sort of momentary joy. 

It’s going to snow here. It’s inevitable. When that happens, I absolutely WILL feel joy watching it fall. I’ll probably feel some degree of joy when I take a walk in the snow. But I can also guarantee you I’m NOT going to feel joy when I have to shovel it off the driveway and sidewalks. There IS a certain meditative contentment in the repetitive act of shoveling, and some emotional gratification in doing it well. But that ain’t joy.

faith, hope, and tax exempt charity

You guys, I’m a tad confused about this latest — well, one of the latest — scandal involving Comrade Trump and some really trashy shit. I’m talking about Trump being forced to cough up a couple million US dollars in damages for “misusing funds from a tax-exempt charity.” Here’s what confuses me: I’m not sure which particular charity scam is involved.

Is this the ‘charity’ Trump founded with the millions of dollars given to him by the guy who runs (or ran…does he still run it…did he ever really run it…does it still exist? I have no idea) the Global Fake Wrestling Event of the World (or whatever it’s called) and whose wife was appointed by Trump to run the Small Business Administration? Or is it the ‘charity’ that held events at various Trump golf resorts to raise money to help kids with cancer, while it was actually pouring the cash into the resorts themselves or was redirecting the cash to other ‘charities’ connected to Trump’s family or business interests?

“Look, I’m trying to be nice here. But get your sticky fuckin’ hands off my desk, okay?”

Maybe it doesn’t matter which charity scam Comrade Trump is being punished for. The important thing is he won’t be able to do it again. Well, not in the State of New York. In addition to fining Trump, the judge also forced him to “submit to extra monitoring of any future charitable activities in New York” in order to prevent future “persistent violations of the law.”

You guys, how bad is it that the President of These United States can’t even be trusted to run a charity to help kids with cancer? Pretty fucking bad, is how bad.

In the dimension of time and space we used to inhabit, something like this would signal the end of a president’s administration. But here in the Trumpverse, it’ll be replaced by another scandal in…oh, maybe about forty minutes. And then it’ll be forgotten.

All we can do is bow our heads and pray to the Sweet Bearded God of Goats to have mercy on us and burn this whole motherfucker down to the topsoil.

Or, you know, we could vote.

hardboiled

A couple days ago an acquaintance asked me a question and recommended a television show. The show is called Stumptown, which according to my acquaintance, is sorta kinda about a woman private investigator. The question was this:

Are real private investigators actually hardboiled?

The question had to do with the show. I hadn’t watched the show, so I couldn’t say anything about the hardboiled character of the protagonist, other than in my experience television PIs are about a realistic as television doctors or television lawyers. Which is to say not realistic at all. In fact, television PIs are probably even less realistic. TV writers (and viewers) almost certainly have some limited first hand experience with doctors and lawyers, but relatively little experience with real life PIs. So they’re mostly making shit up based on what other writers have made up about PIs.

So, are real PIs actually hardboiled? Before the question can be answered, we have to decide just what the hell that term means. It generally refers to characters who are cynical, jaded, sarcastic, tough, world-weary, wisecracking, violence-prone, stubbornly persistent, but with an unspoken code of honor/conduct.

 

Most of that is nonsense. Most of it. But some of it absolutely applies to real private investigators. How much it applies depends partly on what type of PI you’re talking about. Just like lawyers and doctors, private investigators tend to specialize. The more technical your specialization, the less hardboiled you have to be. A PI who does mostly accident reconstruction or forensic financial investigations probably doesn’t have to be hardboiled at all.

The more your work involves human frailty, the more hardboiled you have to be. PIs who specialize in, say, domestic investigations — divorces, pre-marital investigations, cheating spouses, that sort of thing — tend to be a lot more hardboiled. Insurance investigators, folks who missing persons, even PIs who specialize in deep background investigations need to be somewhat hardboiled to be effective. The same is true of criminal defense investigation, which was my specialty.

Where the fictional hardboiled character diverges from reality the most is in being openly sarcastic and making wisecracks. At the heel of the hunt, most PI work is about getting reliable information. You won’t get that from folk you’ve pissed off. Worse, when people get pissed off, they sometimes get violent. That’s fine in fiction, where a PI can get beat up or shot and shrug it off the next day. In real life, getting beat up seriously fucks up your ability to work — and if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Being a smart ass isn’t just stupid, it’s bad for business.

In real life, being hardboiled is most apparent in your attitude. It’s more about being emotionally tough than physically tough. It’s less about being cynical than it is about losing the ability to be shocked by the shit people do to each other. Some of the most hardboiled people I’ve ever met were emergency room nurses.

Believe it or not, the only television or movie PI I’ve seen who came close to getting the attitude right was Veronica Mars. Not the smart-ass Veronica, but the skeptical and persistent Veronica. She also showed the long-term debilitating effect of being skeptical and suspicious all the time. By the end of the third season, Veronica Mars was pretty fucked up. That was realistic.

The protagonist in Stumptown.

I decided to watch the first episode of Stumptown, the television show that sparked the question. I had low expectations (hardboiled, remember). And yeah, the show isn’t at all realistic. But the protagonist has the attitude down. She wasn’t actually a private investigator, but she was hardboiled. And she was a smart-ass, but not in the usual hardboiled television style. When she was sarcastic, it wasn’t like she was scoring points or showing off or trying to belittle somebody. It was more like she couldn’t be bothered any more…to be nice, to be cute, to be clever, to be friendly, to be anything other than being completely fucking weary of dealing with other people’s shit. The tone of her voice and her flat affect was more disinterested resignation than anything else. We’re becoming used to women characters who say, “I can’t believe I still have to deal with this shit.” We like characters like that. But this woman was more “Yeah, I’ve seen this shit before, I’ll probably see a lot more of it, but it’s your shit, so don’t expect me to care about it.” It made the character, in those moments, believable.

I said earlier that being hardboiled has a lot to do with losing the ability to be surprised. Stumptown surprised me. Not the action (which was over the top, but well done), not the plot (which was predictable), but the protagonist’s attitude. And, of course, she has the one thing that all true fictional hardboiled characters have — the sense that what she’s doing won’t change much, if anything, but might give one person a slim chance not to fuck up their life.

I enjoyed the show. I’ll watch at least one or two more episodes, even though I’m skeptical that any network television show can manage to avoid turning an interesting character into another dull, predictable clone. (Hardboiled, remember.)

a discussion about the impeachment process

Democrats: You know, we think Comrade Trump maybe probably did some crimes, so we’re going to investigate.

Republicans: YOU LOST THE ELECTION GET OVER IT!!!

Ds: It appears Trump has possibly violated the Emoluments Clause. And also maybe committed a bit of tax fraud. Plus probably illegally diverted monies from the military by declaring a fake emergency at the border. Also too, maybe illegally dangled pardons to accused criminals in an effort to shape their testimony.

Rs: FAKE NEWS!!!

Ds: Oh, and then there’s that extortion of foreign governments to hurt a possible political rival. That’s on top of the obstruction of justice stuff.

R: YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO OVERTURN THE ELECTION!!!

Democrats discussing the impeachment process with Republicans.

Ds: There’s a whistleblower, you know.

R: A DEEP STATE LIAR!!! THIRD HAND HEARSAY!!!

Ds: Seems pretty credible, really.

Rs: TRUMP’S PHONE CALL WAS PERFECT!!! HERE’S A COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT!!!

Ds: Well, it’s not really complete, is it. Or even a transcript.

Rs: FAKE NEWS!!! BIDEN’S A CROOK!!!

Ds: We have several career diplomats and foreign service officers who corroborate the whistleblower.

Rs: DEEP STATE TRAITORS!!! NEVER TRUMPERS!!! NO FIRST HAND WITNESSES!!!

Ds: Oh. Okay, here’s a first hand witness.

Rs: HE WAS BORN IN UKRAINE!!! HE SPEAKS UKRANIAN!!! CAN’T BE TRUSTED!!!

Ds: His parents fled Ukraine when he was three to seek freedom. He’s a career military man, a combat veteran who awarded a Purple Heart for his wounds.

Rs: THE HEARINGS ARE HELD IN SECRET!!! WHAT ARE YOU HIDING???!!!

Ds: Republican committee members can attend the hearings and ask questions.

Rs: THERE’S NO FORMAL IMPEACHMENT VOTE!!!

Ds: We don’t need one. But hey, okay, we’ll have a formal vote.

Rs: TOO LATE!!! DEEPSTATETRAITORS!!! WHERE’S THE SERVER???!!! BENGHAZI!!!

Ds: Benghazi?

Rs: WE NEVER SAID BENGHAZI!!! THE TYPEFACE ON THE IMPEACHMENT HEARING RULES IS WRONG!!! STOP THE WITCH HUNT!!! NO MORE SECRET HEARINGS!!!

Ds: We’re going to start holding public hearings.

Rs: !!!???

Ds: I know, right?

Rs: BOOING PRESIDENTS IS RUDE!!! TRUMP KILLED THAT ISIS GUY!!!

Ds: Well, that was the Army, but yeah, we’re glad al-Baghdadi is no longer a…

Rs: STRANGLED HIM WITH HIS BARE HANDS!!! RIPPED OUT HIS LARYNX WITH HIS TEETH!!!

Ds: Uh…

Rs: WITH HIS TEETH!!!

Ds: Uh, I don’t…

Rs: SHUT UP!!! THERE WAS A DOG!!! A DOG!!!

Ds: …

Rs: WE WIN!!! PRAISE JEEBUS!!! MORE GUNS!!! MAGA!!!

buy me some peanuts & impeach the motherfucker already

Comrade Trump doesn’t really like ordinary people. He likes to keep his distance from them. He only eats in the White House or at one of his own hotels, and with guests he invites. He only plays golf on his own golf courses, also with guests he invites. The only crowds he encounters are those at his rallies, where he knows he’ll get cheers and unconditional support. As much as possible, Trump avoids coming into contact with people who haven’t been carefully selected and approved in advance.

Until last night.

Last night he attended game five of the World Series. He’d spent most of the day being celebrated and celebrating himself for having given the order for a Delta Force team to kill or capture Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Clearly, he expected that celebration to continue at the ballpark.

It didn’t.

Some fans displayed a large banner reading “Impeach Trump”. A group of veterans behind home plate held up signs stating “Veterans for Impeachment.” When the park introduced some members of the military, the crowd began to cheer — but when the introduction included Comrade Trump, the cheering immediately turned to boos. Loud boos, measured at around 100 decibels. That’s just slightly less loud than a chainsaw. And if that wasn’t enough, a large segment of the crowd began chanting “Lock him up! Lock him up!”

Watching Trump’s face change at the moment he realizes he’s being booed was almost painful. I’d have felt sorry for him if he wasn’t such an awful person who’s done so many awful things to so many people.

The moment Comrade Trump realizes the cheers for the troops had turned to boos for him.

A lot of conservatives and pundits DID feel sorry for him. They chided the fans who booed, and chastised the people who applauded the booing. Joe Scarborough, who as much as any pundit is responsible for normalizing Trump’s pre-election behavior, tweeted the following:

This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what happened. When crowds at a Trump rally chanted “Lock her up!” that was an orchestrated chant advocating the imprisonment of a political opponent. When fans at the World Series chanted “Lock him up!” that was a spontaneous reaction from ordinary people defying a lawless president and wanting him to be held accountable for his crimes.

The people upset by the chants and boos at the ballpark seem to believe Comrade Trump needs to be enclosed in a safe, dissent-free bubble at all times. Worse, those people seem to believe he actually deserves that.

Those people are frightfully fucked up. But they are a perfect example of a serious socio-political problem. Right now we have a president, backed by a political party, who maintain the president should not — and, in fact, cannot — be held accountable for any of his actions while he holds office. And we have an opposition — a resistance — who the president and his party believe should be constrained by tradition, by courtesy, and by law from even attempting to hold him accountable. That’s a wild-ass asymmetrical use of power.

But here’s the thing: there’s more of us than there are of them. Comrade Trump made the mistake of showing his face in public. He almost certainly won’t do that again. But everybody saw what happened when he did. And nobody is going to forget it. That includes Republicans in the Senate.

A few days ago I wrote that it’s possible — not probable, but possible — that the Senate might actually vote to convict Trump after he’s been impeached by the House. What happened last night, on what should have been Comrade Trump’s biggest and best day of his presidency, is going to lurk in the minds of those senators like Freddie fucking Krueger on meth.

And they should be afraid.