bombs, for fuck’s sake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To act by sending bombs. 

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

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

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

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oh shit

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

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

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

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

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

Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact

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

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

And then everything went “Oh Shit.”

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

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

Bolton speaking at Russian ‘gun rights’ event.

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

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

putin kim salman and trump

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

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

“You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes.”

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

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

“And your smile is a thin disguise.”

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

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

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

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

’til the stars all burn away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

civic duty

This is one of the first things Dr. Christine Basey Ford said on Thursday:

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”

Civic duty. I’m a big believer in civic duty, though it’s pretty much an outmoded concept these days. Civic duty is the notion that citizens owe some fidelity to the government, and in return that government helps and protects its citizens.

The government really asks very little of us. Pay our fair share of taxes. Vote. Obey the law. On rare occasion, serve on a jury to sit in judgment of a legal matter involving our community or a fellow citizen. That’s about it. Some of us accept more civic duty than is required. We serve in the military, we work for the fire department, we help out in natural disasters, we volunteer to feed the homeless and help the poor. We alert the authorities to information they need. Sometimes we oppose the authorities when they overstep their power.

“[I]n early July 2018. I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of a list of very well-qualified Supreme Court nominees. I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh’s conduct so that those considering his nomination would know about this assault.”

Civic duty requires an element of sacrifice. That sacrifice is why so many people try to avoid their civic duty. People try to avoid paying taxes, find ways to shirk jury duty, can’t be bothered to vote. They praise the military, but shun actual service because it can be dangerous, and doesn’t pay well, and disrupts their career plans. They blame the poor for their poverty and ignore the homeless. They turn away from the victims of crime or condemn them for being victims.

“My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you could take into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.”

Civic duty requires a sort of quiet heroism. It normally doesn’t call attention to itself. It usually doesn’t promote itself. In general, it simply involves the acceptance of the responsibility necessary to be a good citizen, and whatever sacrifice that entails.

But sometimes civic duty requires actual courage, actual sacrifice, actual heroism. Sometimes it demands more than a person wants to pay, more than it’s reasonable to pay. Those are times when we discover how sincere and genuine a person’s dedication to civic duty is.

Dr. Ford did not want to expose herself and her family to what she knew would come if she made her allegation against Judge Kavanaugh public.

“This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but I felt that I couldn’t not do it. My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient to allow the Senate to consider Mr. Kavanaugh’s serious misconduct without having to make myself, my family or anyone’s family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy that we have faced since my name became public….

In August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain. Persons painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. And I believed that if I came forward, my single voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters. By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me.”

Here’s the thing about civic duty and civic engagement. You don’t do it for yourself. You do it for others. You don’t do it to improve your social status — most civic duty is pretty low status stuff. You don’t do it for money — civic duty doesn’t pay well at all. You don’t do it for attention — most civic duty is ignored except in times of crisis, and if you get any attention at all, it’s almost always negative attention.

“[M]y greatest fears have been realized and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats, and I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying and have rocked me to my core.”

You accept your civic duty because you care about things. You care about your community, your neighborhood, your town, your county, your state, your nation, your entire world. You accept your civic duty because it’s the right thing to do. You engage in civic duty to protect public values, sometimes to make a change, sometimes to prevent a change, but you always do it because it’s your responsibility as a good citizen.

“It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell you the truth.”

Dr. Christine Basey Ford is a good citizen. She’s a hero. She’s told her truth, whether you believe her or not. She’s been willing to accept the sacrifice of her decision. No matter what happens from this point on, she deserves our respect.

but what if he didn’t do it?

Let’s just acknowledge this right up front: Judge Kavanaugh is screwed. Regardless of whether or not he actually sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the guy is just flat-out screwed. Whether you support his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court or oppose it, there’s no getting around the reality that Brett Kavanaugh is totally and massively screwed.

Personally, I believe Dr. Ford. I’ve already written about that, so I won’t bother to repeat myself. I’m also opposed to Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the highest court in the land. I was opposed even before the allegations of sexual assault, and I remain opposed even if he’s entirely innocent of the alleged assault. I firmly believe his judicial decisions would be — and have been — moved as much (or more) by his political and ideological views than by the law.

That said, I have to acknowledge that the guy is screwed. No matter what happens now, Kavanaugh is absolutely and completely screwed. If he gets confirmed, he’s always going to be the SCOTUS Justice with an asterisk attached to his name. He’ll always be ‘Mr. Justice Accused Rapist’. If his nomination is rejected, he’ll always be ‘Judge Denied SCOTUS Because Rapist’. Even if he withdraws his nomination, he’ll always be ‘Judge Suspected Rapist’.

There is NO getting around that. Unless Kavanaugh can provide definitive, categorical, absolutely conclusive proof beyond any doubt whatsoever that Dr. Ford concocted her allegation out of thin air with the express intent to derail his nomination, there is literally nothing he can do to restore his reputation. Nothing at all.

If he’s innocent — IF he actually did NOT attempt to rape Dr. Ford when he was 17 and she was 15 years old — then what is happening to Judge Kavanaugh is terribly unjust and tragic.

I’m mostly okay with that. Not entirely okay with it…but mostly.

That’s a horrible thing to say. How can that be? How is it possible to be mostly okay with an innocent person being falsely accused of something horrible?

I’m mostly okay with it for these reasons. The unfair destruction of the reputation of one privileged rich white guy is small beans compared to the unfair destruction of the reputations of millions of women who’ve been sexually assaulted, then blamed for their own assault. The long-lasting shame and emotional pain Kavanaugh must feel IF he’s falsely accused of sexual assault is small beans compared to the long-lasting shame and emotional damage experienced by millions of women who’ve actually been sexually assaulted. IF he’s not guilty, the frustration and disappointment Kavanaugh will feel if his appointment is scuttled or tainted by this allegation is small beans compared to the millions of women whose lives and ambitions and dreams have been derailed because they were sexually assaulted.

IF Kavanaugh is factually innocent, then I have great compassion for him and for his family. Because he is utterly and comprehensively screwed, and there isn’t anything at all he can do about it. But if Kavanaugh is innocent, I’d argue he’s just another victim of a rape culture that’s been created, maintained, and perpetuated by him and people like him. If he’s innocent, it simply means rape culture has turned the table on him; it means he’s being victimized simply because he’s a privileged white man and his options are severely limited. Some would consider that poetic justice.

At the heel of the hunt, it comes down to this: if you think Judge Brett Kavanaugh is innocent, if you think he’s being treated unfairly, if you believe he’s being punished for something he has no control over, then the answer to the problem is pretty clear. The problem isn’t Kavanaugh. The problem isn’t Dr. Ford. The problem is rape culture. The answer is to work to destroy rape culture.

let’s be reasonable about this

It’s terribly, terribly important for Dr Christine Blasey Ford to be able to tell her alleged version of the alleged “incident” that allegedly took place in the alleged 1980s, but let’s be reasonable. She’s had three decades to prepare for this, so really, there’s no reason she can’t testify on Monday.

We can arrange for her to testify in the morning or the afternoon, whichever she prefers. We want to accommodate her. She can testify in private or in public, sitting or standing, it’s up to her. She can sit in front of us, she can sit behind us, she can sit off to one side, she can testify looking in a mirror if she likes. She can testify sitting behind a table, or standing behind a podium, or relaxing on a beach chair, or reclining on a bearskin rug, or swinging from a trapeze, if that’s what she wants. But let’s be reasonable, we have a schedule here, so it has to be on Monday.

She can testify wearing a sun hat, or behind a veil, or wearing a tiara, or maybe the Mask of Zorro if that makes her feel more at ease. We can turn the temperature of the hearing room up, we can turn it down, we can change the humidity, we can provide her with a folding Japanese kawahori-ōgi if that will make her more comfortable. But we must be reasonable and have her testify on Monday. Not Tuesday, not Wednesday, and Thursday is just impossible.

She can wear a mask during her testimony if she wants.

We can burn aromatic candles, or play chamber music in the background, or let her sit in a warm bath if it’ll help her relax while she testifies about her alleged sexual assault. We can give her a stress ball to squeeze, we can have a therapist massage pressure points on her feet, we can bring in a therapy koala to sit on her lap if that’s what she requires to be comfortable. But let’s be reasonable about this; she has to testify on Monday.

We will provide her with a fan, if that will make her comfortable.

We can hear her testimony in the Senate chambers, we can hear it the Gloria in Excelsis Tower of the National Cathedral, we can hear it on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building (where Tom Hanks finally hooks up with Meg Ryan), we can hear it on the Orient Express on the way to Istanbul, we can hear it in the Jungle Room at Graceland, we can hear her testimony anyplace Dr. Blasey Ford will feel safe in recounting the intimate details of her alleged sexual assault. So long as it’s on Monday.

We will, of course, do everything we possibly can to oblige Dr. Blasey Ford. We want to be supportive. She deserves to be heard. On Monday. We’re on a tight schedule, you know, so let’s be reasonable about this.

But if she declines….

But if she declines our invitation to testify on Monday — if, despite all the concessions we’re willing to make, regardless of the many compromises we’ve kindly suggested, notwithstanding the various allowances we’ve offered — if Dr. Blasey Ford fails to appear at the hearing on Monday, we’ll be forced, regretfully, to consider her to be just another lying slut trying to destroy the reputation of a decent man. We’ve made every effort to be reasonable about this.