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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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.

 

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.

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.

dude ought to be impeached.

Trying to distill a 448 page report down to the point where it can be encompassed in a blog post is a mug’s game. I’m not even going to attempt it. Instead, I’m going to point to one thing — a single line on page 213 of the Mueller Report. This is part of Mueller’s explanation why he’d decided neither to accuse Comrade Trump of obstruction of justice nor to exonerate him. Here’s the line:

“…we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”

It’s that last bit I want to draw attention to. That potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct bit. In effect, Mueller is saying he and his team decided NOT to accuse Trump of a crime in part because it might bugger up another process designed for dealing with him. And what constitutional process exists for addressing presidential misconduct?

That’s right. Impeachment.

I actually mentioned this as a possibility last month (yeah, this is me showing off now). The Principles of Federal Prosecution manual includes a section describing conditions for declining prosecution — one of which is if ‘there exists an adequate non-criminal alternative to prosecution.’ And when the accused is the president that non-criminal alternative is…that’s right again. Impeachment.

It’s important to remember that impeachment is a process, not a result. Congress has filed articles of impeachment against two presidents in recent history: Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon resigned before any impeachment hearings could be held; Clinton was impeached in the House but acquitted by the Senate.

In both cases, however, the articles of impeachment had some common elements. Here’s one of Nixon’s:

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.

And one of Clinton’s:

In his conduct while President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.

Change the names and the text is exactly the same. In each case the president is accused of preventing, obstructing, and impeding the administration of justice in violation of their constitutional oath of office. It’s important to remember that neither Nixon nor Clinton was actually charged with the crime of obstruction of justice. The credible accusation of obstruction based on evidence was, in itself, a reason for the impeachment process to begin.

I think you can see where this is going. It’s my opinion the Mueller Report is basically a solid, well-crafted, meticulously researched foundation for the impeachment of Comrade Trump. It’s jammed with credible evidence that Russia deliberately interfered with the 2016 election, that the Trump campaign was eager to cooperate with Russia, that the president and his staff repeatedly lied about their interactions with Russia, that the president publicly and privately undermined the investigation, and that the president actively encouraged (and even ordered) his subordinates to impede the progress of the investigation.

It’s a long document, no mistake. It’s not light summer reading. But all the same, you  should consider reading it. This is an historical tipping point.

Comrade Trump swore an oath when he was inaugurated. He promised to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Trump lies a lot. I don’t know if he was lying when he swore that oath; I don’t know what was in his mind or heart. But if you read the Mueller report, it’s clear he hasn’t even tried to preserve, protect, or defend the Constitution.

Dude ought to be impeached.