we are approaching a crisis point

You guys, I don’t want to alarm anybody, but I’m starting to get a little worried about the Comrade Trump administration. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving her job as…as whatever it is she does for the Trump administration. I mean, yeah, okay, she’s officially the ‘Press Secretary’ or something, but c’mon, her job clearly doesn’t have anything to do with the news media (except FoxNews, of course). Her real actual title is probably something like ‘Iron Sneer Maiden’ or ‘Destroyer of Souls’, but at heart Sarah is a lying asshole.

Here’s the thing: she’s leaving and who is qualified to take her place? Who among Comrade Trump’s coterie of collaborators can do what Sarah Sanders has done with the same level of mendacity and disdain? (Spoiler: nobody.)

This is becoming a problem, you guys. We haven’t a Secretary of Homeland Security since April, which means we have an amateur in charge of caging children. We haven’t had a Secretary of Defense since Christmas, which means we’ve got us a rookie handling the rumors that Iran is blowing up oil tanker in the Gulf of Someplace. And we don’t have a Secretary of the Interior, which means…well, nobody really knows what that means on account of does anybody have a clue what the Secretary of the Interior actually does? (Spoiler: nope.)

The result of so many of Comrade Trump’s most (temporarily) trusted advisors and aides is that our national reserve of lying assholes is being depleted. We are beginning to face a lying asshole deficit (and okay, maybe ‘face’ isn’t the best term to use there).

Now you’re probably saying to yourself there’s an abundance of lying assholes in Our Nation’s Capital, which is most certainly true. I mean, there are scads of liars in DC, and the city is hip deep in assholes, and since the Family Trump has come to town, there are more lying assholes than usual. But are they the best lying assholes? Are they natural lying assholes? You can learn to lie, and you can learn to be an asshole, but the very best lying assholes are born.

I’m afraid that with the departure of Sarah Sanders the craft — no, the artistry — of being a lying asshole will suffer. Unless Comrade Trump is willing to think laterally. Unless he proves himself to be morally and ethically flexible enough to dip into a deep well of high grade lying assholes that’s been available for some time, but remains untapped.

That’s right. I’m talking about television ministers. They might just be the answer to our looming lying asshole crisis.

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the best sporting event in the world

The FIFA Women’s World Cup begins today. I have to keep reminding myself of that. No matter what other ugly shit is happening elsewhere on the globe, the very best international sports event in the world begins today.

Yes, yes, FIFA as an organization is Trump-level corrupt. And yes, yes, they are also Trump-level misogynistic, and Trump-level cheap as possible. This year the prize money for the WWC is US$30 million. That’s spread out over all 24 teams (the winning team gets four million). It sounds like a healthy chunk of coin — and, in fact, it’s double what the women got for the last World Cup. But the men’s World Cup held last year in Russia? We’re talking $400 million. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s fucking infuriating. Fuck FIFA in the neck.

But hey, let that go for now. Because starting today we’ll get to see women playing brilliant futbol. I’m of the opinion that women’s soccer is more fun and more interesting to watch than men’s soccer. The women are less arrogant, have fewer divas, fake FAR fewer injuries, focus more on teamwork, and play with more fierce joy than the men. There’s a delicious aura of liberation in women’s soccer — strong women hurling their bodies about with speed and fluid grace, unencumbered by all the ‘nice’ bullshit they’ve been saddled with for centuries. They’re focused on the ball, of course, and the play, but you get a sense of how good it must feel for them to be able to call upon their body to run flat out and perform some complex athletic task. It’s wonderful to watch.

Okay, it’s just sports. In the grand scheme of the world, I’ll agree that a bunch of folks kicking a ball around doesn’t seem terribly important, even if they’re doing it in France in front of an international audience. But it still matters. The WWC matters. All women’s sports matter, and yes, they matter more than men’s sports. Because women’s sports are watched by young girls who’ll grow up with fewer limits and more hope and bigger dreams because of the women we’ll see on the pitch today. The girls who watch the 2019 WWC will be the ones who eventually kick FIFA in the balls and make futbol fair, and they’ll take that attitude and confidence into every aspect of society — and society will be the better for it.

One last thing. Nike. This is an advert. It’s deliberately manipulative and intended to convince you that Nike cares about…I don’t know, something. It’s a marketing thing. Watch it anyway.

All the ugly shit in the world will continue to take place while I sit in front of the television. I’ll give it due attention. But for a few hours every day for the next few weeks, I’ll be ridiculously happy and weirdly emotional because women will be playing soccer.

I may even go buy a pair of Nike sneakers.

 

it’s memorial day again

Somebody wished me a “Happy Memorial Day” yesterday. I was sort of shocked for a moment. Happy Memorial Day? Happy? I wanted to say, “You daft motherfucker, do you even know what the fuck Memorial Day is about? It’s about dead fucking Marines and soldiers and sailors and airmen.” I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. I just nodded. Because for him, Memorial Day isn’t about the dead; it’s about burgers and potato salad and a day off work.

I get that. I really do. But I’m maybe a tad touchier than usual this Memorial Day weekend. For years I’ve had a dysfunctional relationship with the holiday. I respect the concept of honoring those who’ve died in uniform, and those who’ve worn the uniform, but I spurn the reality of it, as represented by folks who say “Happy Memorial Day.” But this year is worse than usual.

This year we have a president who is a tacky, self-aggrandizing, narcissist who was elected with the aid of a hostile foreign nation, and who treats the men and women in uniform as little more than props. Yes, we had him last year as well, but this year it’s increasingly clear that Comrade Trump is a threat to the very democracy that the men and women in uniform swore an oath to defend.

Also this year — a couple of days ago — I visited my brother’s grave at the veteran’s cemetery. Normally I don’t do that. I’ve never felt any need to visit his grave. And in fact, I didn’t feel any real need this year. But there I was, standing in front of his gravestone, and it affected me a lot more than I thought it would. He’s been dead for almost eight years now. I thought I was accustomed to it. I think of him fairly often. Every time I go morel hunting, he’s in my thoughts. Every time I go to Granny’s to get ice cream, I think of him. I have his coat hanging in my closet and his cap on my hat stand. I think of him, but I never get weepy about it. I miss him, but I never get choked up about it. I mean, he’s dead and gone, and that’s what happens to everybody. NBD and all that.

But it got to me. All those dead service members, all those graves, a president who has no concept of honor or duty, my brother. Huge fucking lump in my throat. It was hard to speak. I stood there, thinking about everybody in my family who’d put on a uniform, thinking about how everybody in that cemetery had offered up a part of themselves, and lawdy, it gutted me.

I left a little plastic frog on the brother’s grave — not so much for Jesse Eugene, but for my oldest brother, Roger Lee, who also served. I knew he’d get a grin out of it.

At any rate, this year I’m a tad more prickly about Memorial Day. But if the weather permits, I’ll grill out this weekend and spend time with family and have a burger and potato salad just like everybody else. And if folks wish me a happy Memorial Day, I’ll nod and be polite — but the truth is some part of me will be thinking, “You daft motherfucker…”

the cat

Somebody asked me why I’ve never written anything about the cat on this blog. By ‘the cat’ I mean, of course, the cat that shares this living space. My reply was something to this effect: “Dude, I have written about the cat. Probably.”

And hey, it turns out I wasn’t even lying. Not entirely. I actually did write a thing about my morning routine with the cat. But aside from that, the cat doesn’t feature heavily in this blog (though the wee creature appears with alarming regularity on Instagram and Facebook). I mean, she’s been mentioned–and mentioned prominently, I might add, not just a casual passing reference–a couple of times. Once in a thing about Buddhism and shoveling snow and once in reference to the Cassini-Huygens satellite. That’s not bad, really, considering the cat is just a cat.

But the fact is I haven’t really written about the cat as the other species with whom I share a living space. So. The cat. She has a name: Abby. I didn’t give her the name and I don’t use it, but it’s traditional for house cats to have names and veterinarians insist on having a name for their records, so there it is. Abby. I generally just call her “the cat”. Or “little cat”. Or, when she’s eating, “you wee swine”.

Why don’t I use her name? I really don’t know. When people ask (and why do people ask? it seems weird, but they do) I tell them it seems presumptuous to put a human name on any non-human, and especially on a cat. But I’ve shared space with other non-humans and other cats, all of whom had human names. So why not this cat? Again, I don’t know. It’s not any sort of distancing technique; the cat and are pretty much bonded. It doesn’t make any sense, but there it is.

I photograph her occasionally. Okay, that’s a lie. I photograph her a lot. I delete most of the photos immediately because it’s not like the world needs more photos of cats. But at the same time, cats are just so fucking photographable. What’re you gonna do? Not photograph them?

In the end, I guess I don’t write about the cat because she’s a cat. Just a cat. She eats, she sleeps, she shits in the litter box (almost always), she chews grass and vomits (on rare occasions), she sits on my lap (she’s insistent about that; she’ll come sit in front of me and just stare at me until I invite her up — or until she decides the invitation exists even if I don’t offer it, and even if there’s a plate in my lap), she makes an odd grunting sound instead of purring, she sometimes likes to attack my feet from hiding when I walk through the house, she mostly stays in the house (which is good on a number of levels, including the fact that she absolutely sucks at hunting and so would starve to death in a week if she were on her own), she sheds very little until she’s sitting on my lap, if she’s not on my lap or on her perch she’s somehow managed to disappear into another dimension (because she’s nowhere to be found), she knows I go back to work around 8:30-9:00 at night and will return from her inter-dimensional travels around that time and insist on being petted and fed. I have absolutely no idea how she tells time, but she does. Go figure cats.

She has NO interest in boxes. None. Or paper bags. What kind of cat dismisses boxes? It’s unnatural, right?

But that’s just it. The cat is your basic cat. Weird, distant, clinging, imperturbable, occasionally boneless, contradictory, curious, predictable, unpredictable. I can’t say I understand her. But she makes me happy. I’d like to think I make her happy, but I recognize that I may just be the one who feeds her.

Who the hell knows what a cat is thinking?

screaming

I watched the video with the sound off.

I’m not a dispassionate person by nature, but much of my professional experience and training (as a medic, as a counselor in the Psych/Security unit of a prison for women, and as a private investigator specializing in criminal defense) has taught me to be a detached observer/participant. Well, as detached as possible. You can’t be effective on the job if you allow yourself to fully experience the shock, the horror, the revulsion while you’re doing the job. The emotional distance between you and what you’re doing and seeing is the only thing that allows you to do the job well. You put all that ugliness aside and deal with it later. The problem, of course, is that you always have to deal with it

That’s why, last night, I watched the video of the attack on the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand with the sound off. I didn’t want to hear the screaming. It’s harder to be a detached observer when you hear the screaming.

“I am just a regular white man, from a regular family, who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people.”

How do you even begin to explain all this, to understand it? Do you start with Brenton Tarrant, the shooter? He doesn’t really believe he’s just a regular white man, of course. He’s a white supremacist who thinks shooting unarmed people in a house of worship somehow makes him a hero. But if you focus on individual shooters — the Brenton Tarrants, the Anders Breiviks, the Dylann Roofs — it’s easy to overlook the connections that link so many of these white supremacy shooters.

“The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European.

We must crush immigration and deport those invaders already living on our soil, It is not just a matter of our prosperity, but the very survival of our people.”

There it is. Tarrant’s ‘justification’ for murdering Muslims at prayer. Fear and hate born out of the irrational notion of white victimhood, then transmitted, promoted and amplified by the Internet. Tarrant referred to this in his Great Replacement ‘manifesto’ (they all seem to have manifestos, these shooters; without a manifesto you’re just a fucking nutcase — with a manifesto you’re a hero).

This Great Replacement conspiracy theory didn’t originate with Tarrant. It’s been banging around in white supremacy circles for almost half a century. It began with a 1973 French novel, Les Camps des Saints, in which Western civilization is destroyed through the mass immigration of Third World peoples. The author of the novel, Jean Raspail, said he got the idea for the plot when he was visiting the Riviera.

“What if they were to come? I did not know who “they” were, but it seemed inevitable to me that the numberless disinherited people of the South would, like a tidal wave, set sail one day for this opulent shore, our fortunate country’s wide-gaping frontier.”

There it is again. The ‘justification’ for the Great Replacement theory. The fear and belief that white European Christian populations are being systematically replaced by non-European brown-skinned populations through mass migration and demographic growth. If you’re in Europe the immigrants are Middle Eastern, North African, and Sub-Saharan; if you’re in the US, the immigrants are from Central and South America. This notion of white European culture being overrun by non-white alien cultures resounds throughout the online white supremacy community.

Would Tarrant have acted in the absence of that community, in the absence of the reinforcement and amplification of that conspiracy theory? I don’t know. But the thing is, the echoes of Great Replacement filter through mainstream US and European politics.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Does this make Trump responsible for the Christchurch mosque massacre? No, of course not. But it helps white supremacists like Tarrant justify their actions. Tarrant stated he viewed Donald Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” When Trump refers to an influx of families fleeing violence and poverty as an ‘invasion’ on the Southern border, he’s feeding the conspiracy theory. When he claims people seeking asylum is a ‘national emergency,’ he’s feeding the conspiracy theory.

When it was revealed that an audio tape of the torture and murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi existed, Trump refused to listen to it.

“I don’t want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape. I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it “

I totally understand that. It’s why I watched the video with the sound off. It’s harder to be detached when you hear the screaming.

But the truth is, even with the sound off I still heard the screaming in the mosque. I’m still hearing it this morning. That business about dealing with the horror later? That’s mostly bullshit that allows you to do what you need to do. But if you’ve ever heard the screaming in any context, you can never unhear it.

If you have any humanity at all, if you have any decency at all, you never stop hearing the screaming.

a few simple rules

I was pushing a loading cart holding maybe ten heavy boxes and an ironing board down the hallway of ‘senior living center’ (it’s a long story, but irrelevant to this post) when an old guy using a walker came tottering down the hallway with a small homely mixed breed dog that was suffering from some serious sinus issues. I stopped the cart, smiled at the guy, and said “Now that’s a fine-looking dog.” He smiled and chuckled and thanked me. Told me the dog’s name. Said, “He’s friendly,” which I took as an invitation to lean down and pet the wee creature, who was largely indifferent to the entire situation.

My friend, who was pushing a smaller loading cart, gave me a familiar WTF look as we started moving again. I said, “Always compliment a person’s dog. The dog’s don’t care, but it makes their owners happy.” She said, “Is that like a rule of life?”

Always compliment a person’s dog.

I decided that it was. Or should be. And here are a few more basic rules of life.

— Always compliment a person’s dog.
— Don’t block the aisle with your shopping cart.
— Apologize when you’re wrong.
— Don’t wear blackface.
— Hold the door open for everybody.
— Vote.
— Tip your server, even if the service is poor (because these folks are always overworked, get paid very little, are often abused by their customers, and sometimes they make mistakes like everybody else).
— Read at least a few paragraphs after the headlines.
— Tell the people you love that you love them.
— Tell the people you like that you like them.
— Push your damn chair in when you leave the table.
— Check the batteries in your flashlight.
— Don’t argue with stupid people.
— Park between the lines.
— Don’t judge people for the TV shows they watch, or the books they read, or the games they play, or the music they prefer, or the god they worship, or the clothes they wear, or the food they cook, or…just don’t fucking judge people.
— Refer to folks by the names they ask you to use even if you don’t understand and even if you think it’s stupid.
— Say ‘hi’ to strangers now and then.
— Try new foods, even if they sound/look gross.

Say ‘hi’ to strangers now and then.

Okay, that’s not a complete list. And maybe they’re more like guidelines than rules. And they’re my guidelines; they don’t need to apply to anybody else. I figure you’ve probably got your own. But these work for me.

a short list of things I’d like to see in 2019

In no particular order:

The Great British Baking Show with Paul Hollywood as a contestant. Let’s see how he likes that.
— A movie car chase in which the police officer doing the chasing decides it’s just not worth the risk to the public and just stops.
— The return of home milk delivery in glass bottles.
— Playgrounds for adults, so you could go play on a swing for half an hour without other adults looking at you like you’re some sort of pedophile.
— Louis CK continuing to perform in comedy clubs…and the entire audience standing and walking out.
— A remake of Killing Eve with all the same actors but with a plot that wasn’t phenomenally stupid.
— Donald Trump and his family of grifters and traitors in handcuffs.
— Universal health care in the US.
— Universal selective service in the US. Not necessarily military service, but a couple years of compulsory national, state, or local service.
— George RR Martin admitting he’s sick to death of GoT and acknowledging he’s never going to finishing the last books, so everybody should just watch the HBO show and be satisfied.
— More respect for bollards.
— A harsh, severe, punitive tax on houses with pointless gables and extraneous dormer windows.
— Brett Kavanaugh busted for DWI.
— Gun owners actually held accountable for their guns.
— Actual usable pockets in women’s clothes. It’s 2019, for fuck’s sake.

I’m sure there’s other stuff, but this is all I could come up with while waiting for the coffee to finish becoming coffee.

What about you? What would you like to see in the coming year?