existential threats

Interesting bits and pieces of the George Stephanopoulos interview with Comrade Trump had been scattered all over teh Intertubes over the last couple of days. So I decided to watch the interview on television.

Okay, I need to digress for a moment. I don’t watch a lot of television. I like television and I’d like to watch more of it, but there’s just so many other things to do. I watch a couple of hours of television a night (except, of course, when the World Cup is on; I watch the hell out of that). And when I say ‘television’ I generally mean something on Hulu or Netflix. I can’t recall the last time I watched a show on commercial network television. Until last night and the interview with Comrade Trump.

It was awful. I mean, Trump was Trump — a despicable human being incapable of relating to any aspect of life and the world around him except through a lens of how it affected HIM. He lied, he was arrogant, he denied reality, he asserted ‘facts’ that didn’t exist, he kicked his own acting Chief of Staff out of the Oval Office for coughing during the interview, he accused his so-called ‘enemies’ of treason, he maligned President Obama, he said the Director of the FBI was wrong in stating that political figures should report contacts from foreign nations who offer ‘dirt’ on political opponents, he claimed to be ‘an honest guy’, he insisted he had polling data that showed he was winning ‘everywhere’, he accused his former White House Counsel of lying under oath, and he complained that he’s been treated more unfairly than President Lincoln (who, it’s worth remembering, was shot in the back of the head).

It was, as I said, completely awful. But here’s an indication of how Comrade Trump has normalized lying, hypocrisy, victimization, and the abuse of power: to me, the most shocking thing about last night was how completely and irredeemably horrible commercial television is.

It was an hour-long show purportedly based on thirty hours of material of which maybe 40-45 minutes of actual interview was presented, and which was routinely interrupted in order to sell products. The commercial interruptions were not only annoying and disruptive to the flow of the interview, they were LOUD. And stupid. And repetitive. There were, for example, at least two commercials for some sort of miniature golf-based game show.

Think about that for a moment. An interview in which the President of the United States makes a number of startling admissions that in ordinary times would lead to immediate impeachment proceedings is interrupted to promote a sort of celebrity miniature golf contest. How fucked up is that? (Hint: pretty fucked up.)

I make an effort to expose myself to a variety of political opinions; I make an effort to have a variety of experiences; I make an effort to avoid the existence-in-a-bubble mentality that I believe makes communication so difficult between folks who hold different opinions. But it turns out I do live in a sort of bubble — a non-commercial bubble.

I don’t know how anybody could process any information or narrative in a meaningful way when it’s presented in the way commercial television presents it. No wonder we live in such a fragmented, disorganized, disruptive, and jangled society. And no wonder Comrade Trump is able to get by with so much bullshit. The whole experience left me struggling to properly place Trump’s unabashed awfulness within a context of luxury car adverts and mini-golf promotions.

After we impeach the motherfucker, we need to think about addressing commercial television. It’s also an existential threat to society.

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what will we do?

I’m here to wreck your Sunday. You’re probably sitting quietly, having your morning tea or coffee, maybe listening to music, maybe doing the Sunday crossword, maybe looking out the window and evaluating the weather and planning how to spend this last lazy day before having to go back to work tomorrow.

Dude, I’m about to fuck up your day. I’m going to ask you to consider the following sequence of events:

  • Comrade Donald Trump is impeached by the House, voting along party lines.
  • The Senate refuses to convict, voting along party lines.
  • Trump is defeated in the 2020 election.
  • Trump refuses to concede the election. He claims the election results were rigged by the ‘deep state’. He claims the results were skewed by voter fraud and that millions of illegal immigrants voted. He claims he really won the popular vote AND the electoral vote, and news reports otherwise are fake news. He states he is the real winner of the election, and what’s taking place is a coup attempt. He holds a series of rallies between election day and the day of the new president’s inauguration encourages his supporters to resist. He tells news reporters that he’s worried his supporters will resort to violence unless the coup is stopped.
  • Trump rejects and prevents an inauguration event. He refuses to leave the White House or acknowledge the legitimacy of the new president.

What happens next?

I’m not an alarmist by nature. I tend to be a skeptical optimist. I keep my expectations low, but my hopes are moderately high. I don’t expect things will work out well, but I always hope they will. About a month ago I wrote about the probability that Comrade Trump would make the transition of power as ugly and messy as possible. But the notion that he would refuse to give up that power was, for me at that point, unthinkable.

But behaviors that were unthinkable two years ago are now commonplace in the Trump administration. A presidential candidate accepting the help of a hostile foreign nation to skew an election in his favor? Unthinkable. A president openly using the office of the presidency to line his pockets? Unthinkable. A president attacking traditional allies and openly supporting totalitarian regimes? Actively and persistently undermining the law enforcement and intelligence communities? Ordering his staff to ignore Congressional subpoenas? Calling the news media the ‘enemy of the people’? Lying blatantly and openly about everything from golf scores to domestic policies to military situations? All of that used to be completely and entirely unthinkable. Not anymore.

Refusing a peaceful transition of power? Refusing even to give up that power? It ought to be unthinkable. But Comrade Trump and his fellow Republicans have already been laying the foundations for the unthinkable for a couple of years with their repeated lies about voter fraud and the ‘deep state traitors’ inside the government and ‘fake news’ agencies staffed by reporters who hate Trump.

It’s not only ‘thinkable’ that Trump might refuse to accept defeat, it’s somewhere between ‘very possible’ and ‘an absolute certainty’. We HAVE to think about Trump refusing to give up his power and consider the implications of the unthinkable. We have to ask ourselves what the military would do in such a situation. What would the Secret Service do? What would Congress and the Supreme Court do?

What would WE do? Think about that, because it’s a very real possibility. What would YOU do?

Okay, you can go back to your quiet Sunday now.

mueller — itmfa

I watched Robert Mueller’s brief public statement yesterday. And dude, the operative term there is ‘brief’. Under ten minutes. He slid over behind the DOJ podium, said his piece, then was gone like Kyzer Soze.

I know a lot of folks were disappointed by his statement. I guess they were hoping for something dramatic — some sort of revelation maybe, or a political call to arms. But that’s not Mueller. Mueller’s a professional prosecutor. Here’s the thing: political processes always involve some level of passion and partisanship. But we’re supposed to keep that shit out of legal processes. Legal processes are supposed to be sober, deliberate, and dispassionate.

This is where the problem lies. Because Mueller’s legal process has big-ass political implications. In his statement yesterday, he said his report:

“…contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.”

But the work doesn’t really speak for itself on account of 1) it’s a prosecutor’s document and even though there’s juicy stuff in it, the report is written in a legal fashion that’s boring as fuck to read, and 2) the report is almost as long as a Game of Thrones novel, and as a result of 1) and 2), we get 3) ain’t hardly nobody actually reading it.

And that’s a damned shame, because the report is pretty fucking clear. It says Russian military intelligence agents interfered with the 2016 election to help Comrade Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. It says the Trump campaign was hip deep in Russian contacts, all of which had some sort of connection to Russian intelligence agencies. It says folks in the Trump campaign lied their asses off about those contacts. And it says Trump and his people obstructed the investigation in lots of ways, but since he’s the president (and the DOJ has a policy that a sitting president can’t be indicted) they couldn’t consider charging him with a crime.

In his statement yesterday, Mueller reminded everybody — including Congress — that there are options to charging Trump with a crime. He said,

“[T]he Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.”

That’s about as close as Mueller can get to saying, “Congress, y’all need to impeach the motherfucker already.” And let’s face it, when he’s saying ‘Congress’ he basically means ‘Democrats’ because nobody, including Mueller, expects the Republicans in Congress to hold Trump responsible for anything.

I think that’s at least partially why Mueller made a public statement. He’s a Republican his ownself, and I sorta kinda think he’s trying to shame Republicans into stepping up and earning their paychecks. I think Mueller is telling everybody that serious shit took place, and as a nation we can’t allow that to happen. That’s actually the very last thing he said in his statement:

“I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments—that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Every American. Including Republican-Americans. If gutless Democrats refuse to start impeachment hearings, they’re freeing gutless Republicans from having to take any responsibility for Trump’s behavior. Impeachment proceedings will force Republicans to state publicly if they’re willing to allow the ratfucking of US elections by hostile foreign nations if it helps them win elections.

Mueller isn’t going to show up at demonstrations wearing a ITMFA tee shirt or appear with Colbert drinking from a ITMFA mug. He’s not going to write an op-ed in the New York Times or Washington Post advocating impeachment. That was never his job and he’s not that sort of guy. He’s written his report and he’s made a statement. He’s said what he can say and done what he can do.

It’s up to us and to Congress now.

 

cheese will be provided

— Do you really think Comrade Trump will be impeached?
— I do.
— Really?
— Really. He’s going down.
— No, I mean do you really actually believe they’ll impeach him?
— He’s totally going down. No question.
— Okay. It’s just that…
— He’s going down like the Titanic.
— Yeah, you say that, but…
— Down like Betamax.
— Like what?
— Exactly.
— So you actually believe Trump will be…
— Down like Google+
— Holy crap.
— Down like a nine pound round of Double Gloucester cheese on Cooper’s Hill.
— …
— You know…the annual cheese rolling festival and massacre?
— No idea what you’re talking about.
— C’mon, it’s the most famous cheese rolling event in the world.
— Cheese rolling. Cheese rolling? What the fuck? Cheese rolling?
— Yeah. It’s an…
Cheese? Cheese rolling?
— Every spring for the last, oh, few hundred years the good and semi-sober people of Brockworth in Gloucestershire have held a sort of contest in which they roll a cheese down Cooper’s Hill.
— That’s it?
— Well, no. People chase the cheese down the hill. The first survivor at the bottom wins.
— Wins what?
— The cheese, you idiot.
— When you say ‘survivor’…
— It’s a steep hill. People fall. And tumble and roll and break bones.
— …
— Also spectators might get whacked by the cheese as it rolls and bounces down the hill.
— Hit by a cheese?
— A nine-pound round of Double Gloucester can top out at about seventy miles per hour. Cheese like that could kill a person. These are murderous cheeses.
— You’re making this up, aren’t you.
— How dare you!
— Why would anybody chase a cheese down a hill?
— Probably some sort of ancient primitive pagan fertility thing.
— That’s ridiculous.
— Dude, they’re British.
— Oh, right. Yeah, then it makes some sense. And people really do this? And they really get hurt?
— Watch this.

— Jesus suffering fuck.
— I know, right?
— That’s insane.
— Well, there’s cheese involved. And possibly alcohol.
— …
— …
— I totally want to do this.
— Impeach Trump?
— Fuck Trump. I want to chase the cheese. When does this happen?
— May 27th, five days from today. Around noon. Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire. Cheese and medical care are provided.
— This is why England will always be a great nation.

tire iron transition of power

I had a horrible thought yesterday afternoon. It led to a horrible belief that has now solidified into a horrible certainty.

A Facebook friend had said, “I want to scream when Pelosi says, about impeachment: ‘We’re not there yet.‘” I’ve heard lots of folks say that, and sometimes I’ve felt the same way. But I’ve also been telling myself that Nancy the Knife Pelosi has been around the block a few times. She’s cagey enough to say ‘not yet’ to impeachment in order to seem reluctant to engage in a process that could most definitely would be seen as primarily political. But all the while she’s prepping for impeachment like a boss.

I said as much to my friend — and when I said it, I believed it. Or at least I wanted to believe it. This morning, I think there’s a pretty fair chance that I was just full of shit. Why? On account of I’ve now read that Pelosi says the only real way to rid ourselves of this turbulent fuckwit is to defeat him in 2020 by a margin so big that he can’t challenge the validity of his loss.

Which is when I had the horrible thought. Which was as follows: There IS no margin of victory so large that Comrade Trump wouldn’t challenge it. And that led to this horrible belief: Even if he was impeached by the House and convicted in the Senate, he’d refuse to accept it. Which led inevitably to this horrible certainty: Motherfucker ain’t gonna leave without an ugly fight, no matter what.

Let’s face it, Trump has ignored every norm, every standard of presidential behavior, every yardstick of diplomacy, and every rule of protocol so far. So why in the hell would we assume he’ll abide by our tradition of a peaceful transition of power?

He won’t. He just fucking won’t. It’s horrifying for me to say this, but even though he doesn’t really even want to be president, I can’t imagine him just giving it up. No matter whether he’s impeached or defeated in 2020, he’s going to claim the system has been rigged against him. He’s going to claim his enemies have conspired against him. He’s going to claim his defeat is a fraud perpetrated by deep state traitors. He’s going to rage and complain and threaten and bellow that he was somehow cheated.

And a lot of his supporters will believe him.

Here’s another horrible but true  thing: Trump won’t care how much damage he does before he leaves. He won’t care about the harm done to the office of POTUS, to the system of checks and balance, to our entire system of democracy. He won’t care if he leaves the nation in shambles. Trump is the kind of guy who’d shit in the driver’s seat if he thought you were going to repo his car.

I really believe we need to start thinking in those terms. I think we need to accept the fact that no matter the circumstance, Comrade Trump is not going to make a peaceful and dignified exit from the White House. He’d rather burn the place down.

With that in mind, there’s no reason the House of Representatives shouldn’t start a long, detailed impeachment process. We’re going to have to pry this jamoke out of the White House with a tire iron; we might as well take a few deep breaths and get started.

trump fatigue

Trump fatigue. It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything on this blog, and it’s due entirely to Trump fatigue. I don’t want to write about Comrade Trump. Or anything to do with Trump. Or the Trump administration. I’m sick of writing about Trump. There are so many other things I’d like to write about.

But the horrifying fact is this: Trump and his supporters are destroying democracy. That sounds so melodramatic, but nonetheless it’s true. I don’t want to write about Trump, but there’s nothing as important as the erosion of democratic norms and the corruption of democratic institutions.

I watched Attorney General William Barr’s attempt to lie and harrumph his way through the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. There was a moment that seemed to me to be the distillation of everything Trump. In response to a question, Barr said this:

“The point i was trying to make earlier is that in this situation of the president who has constitutional authority to supervise proceedings — if in fact the proceeding was not well founded, if it was a groundless proceeding, if it was based on false allegations, the president does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow it to run its course. The president could terminate the proceeding and it would not be a corrupt intent because he was being falsely accused, and he would be worried about the impact on his administration.”

In other words, Barr is claiming that if the president decides an investigation into his behavior isn’t really justified, he can end it. That’s a shocking opinion from a person who is supposed to be the nation’s chief law enforcement official. If other AGs had held Barr’s position, Nixon could have said, “Watergate? Nope, wasn’t me. Shut down that investigation,” and skated through the rest of his term. Bill Clinton could have said, “Nope, this Whitewater investigation is bullshit, so shut down that investigation,” and today nobody would be familiar with the name Monica Lewinsky.

It’s obvious that presidents need to be accountable for their actions. Even presidents we like. But we find ourselves, for the first time in the history of the United States, in a situation where the institutions created and designed to hold the president accountable have actually been corrupted by the president. We can’t rely on the Supreme Court, we can’t rely on the Republicans in Congress, and we can’t rely on the Attorney General. All we can do is resist and encourage the Democrats in the House of Representatives to do what they can to check the president.

I don’t want to write about William Barr. I don’t want to write about Mitch McConnell, or Justice Brett Kavanaugh, or Comrade Donald Goddamn Trump. I don’t even want to think about these corrupt motherfuckers. But we pretty much have to think about them. And talk about them. And resist them.

It doesn’t mean we can’t think about the Game of Thrones or the photography of Garry Winogrand or the novels of Dorothy Dunnett or morel hunting or any of the thousands of things that interest us. It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy all those things. In fact, we should give into the temptation to enjoy those things even more — because right now we NEED to find things to enjoy. We should enjoy the hell out of them, if only as an antidote to Trump Fatigue.

But then we need to get back to the business of resistance.

censure? fuck that. impeach.

An alarming number of Democratic politicians are suggesting that censure of Comrade Trump would be a better option than impeachment. A pair of WaPo pundits — Karen Tumulty and the improbably-named Thor Hogan — have echoed the suggestion.

Tumulty says censure ‘would be dismissed in some quarters as merely a symbolic act‘ but counters that ‘it would be a historic rebuke of the Trump presidency.‘ Our boy Thor says censure ‘has proved to be an effective form of public shaming, especially when implemented in a nonpartisan way. Such a punishment seems well suited for this president and this moment in our national history.

Tumulty’s right in one regard; censure would be dismissed as a symbolic act. Because it would actually BE a symbolic act. And if Thor seriously thinks shaming could be effective against Comrade Trump, he wasn’t paying attention during that whole Stormy Daniels ‘I-spanked-Trump-with-a-Forbes-magazine-while-his-third-wife-was-home-with-a-newborn-baby’ business.

Jeebus dancing migraines, we’re talking about Comrade Donald Fucking Trump here. Shame doesn’t attach to Trump. Shame is embarrassed to be seen in the same room with Trump. This is a guy who’s spent his entire adult life brazenly lying and cheating and bragging about it. This is a guy who didn’t just accept help from a hostile foreign power in order to win an election, he welcomed the help — then he rewarded Russia for fucking with the election. Does anybody honestly think he’s going to respond to public shaming with sincere reflection and regret?

Hell no.

Because he’s a liar and a cheater.

He’s lied to and cheated most of his business partners. He’s lied to and cheated on all of his wives. He’s lied to and cheated the American public. He’s lied to and cheated federal law enforcement officers, and the intelligence community, and his most trusted advisers, and the White House staff, and members of Congress in both parties, and our nation’s oldest and most valued foreign allies, and HE’S NOT GOING TO STOP.

Because he’s a liar and a cheater.

If we wait to deal with Trump until the 2020 election, he’ll keep lying and cheating. If Congress holds public hearings and exposes his lying and cheating, he’ll keep lying and cheating. If Congress censures him, he’ll keep lying and cheating. If Trump is impeached by the House but not convicted in the Senate, he’ll keep lying and cheating. He’ll keep lying and cheating until he’s grabbed by the scruff of his neck and forcibly removed from the White House.

Because he’s a liar and a cheater.

People say that even if the House does impeach Trump, the Republicans in the Senate will never vote to convict him. They’re probably right. Probably. But you’ll never get an omelet if you’re afraid to break the eggs.

Start the impeachment hearings. Hardly anybody will watch them on C-Span, but they’ll get reported every day online and every night on the news. That constant dripping of evidence may move some people to be pissed off, and if enough people get pissed off maybe some Senators will be concerned about their re-election, and if enough Senators get concerned about their re-election maybe they’ll decide party loyalty costs too much, and if enough Senators decide party loyalty costs too much maybe they’ll also decide their best bet to save their own ass is to get rid of Trump.

That probably won’t happen. Probably. But here’s the thing: for Democrats it’s a gamble in which they have nothing to lose. Comrade Trump will lie and cheat and attack them whether they start the impeachment process or not. Trump will lie and cheat to win his own re-election whether they start the process or not.

Because he’s a liar and a cheater. Lying and cheating is what liars and cheaters do. Hell, even if Comrade Trump IS impeached and convicted and tossed out of the White House on his fat ass, he’ll still keep lying and cheating in every possible way as an ordinary citizen. And some folks think the answer is to censure him?

Censure? Really? Fuck that. Impeach.