the dicknoggin conspiracy

Imagine a foreign country — oh, let’s call it the Republic of Dicknoggin. Imagine the government of Dicknoggin has decided to implement a covert campaign against These United States.

Imagine that deep cover Dicknoggin agents manage to get  themselves installed as administrators of federal agencies. Once in place, they create conditions that will make the air dirtier, the water less potable, food less safe, energy production less clean, working environments more dangerous, gun violence more likely, civil liberties more at risk, poverty more cruel, international crises more probable and more deadly, health care less available and more expensive, and schools less effective.

Imagine Dicknoggin agents using social media to undermine public belief and trust in US systems of justice. Imagine them claiming the FBI and the Department of Justice are actually controlled by a shadowy group of conspirators whose mission is to destroy the very government they work for. Imagine them hinting that those few federal law enforcement agents who weren’t actually criminal were nonetheless incompetent or possibly corrupt.

Imagine covert Dicknoggin agents being nominated and confirmed to lifetime terms as judges, who’ll decide how US laws should be interpreted and applied. Imagine Dicknoggin agents working at the state level to determine who should be able to vote and when voting can take place and how those votes are counted. Imagine Dicknoggin agents seducing and subverting religious leaders with promises of policies that favor their specific religious beliefs.

Imagine if the Republic of Dicknoggin actually existed and instituted those sorts of measures against These United States. It would be seen as a belligerent act by a hostile nation. It would be seen as a type of warfare.

Dicknoggin policy roundtable

Folks, the modern Republican party are Dicknoggins. It’s easy — and, for that matter, it’s sort of comforting — to think these Dicknoggins are acting out of ignorance. Or greed, or a lust for power and authority. It would be nice to believe they’re fucking up the country because they don’t know any better, because they simply fail to understand the very real consequences or the long-term implications of their actions.

I’d like to believe that, I really would. I’d like to believe the Dicknoggins are just fuckwits. But when you consider how widespread their actions are, how every facet of the government has been turned on its head, it suggests that this isn’t an accident. It suggests it’s deliberate.

So if you sometimes feel like the modern Republican party has declared war on These United States, that they’re intentionally destroying the things you love about this nation, then your feelings might actually be justified.

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shit is broke, folks

You guys! Remember when Comrade Trump was reading his State of the Union speech out loud and said, “I call upon on all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people.” Remember that? And remember when he said, “Let’s come together, set politics aside and finally get the job done.” C’mon, it was just a few days ago, you surely remember that, right?

Yeah, didn’t nobody believe him. Partly on account of he was just reading something somebody else wrote, but mostly on account of we knew it would only be a few days (or hours) before he was insulting and demeaning folks who disagreed with him. Or folks who just didn’t praise him enough. Or folks who were women. Or black. And sure enough, here’s Trump this morning:

Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper! Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!

You’re probably thinking something like “Yeah, well, Trump’s a dick.” Or “Yeah, well, it’s Monday and this is pretty much what Trump does on Mondays because he’s a dick.” Or “Why doesn’t some adult take the phone away from that mucilaginous motherfucker?”

This guy — notta dick.

But see, here’s the thing: Comrade Trump has just accused somebody — wait, not just your basic somebody, but an actual ranking member of Congress — of committing a felony. We’re talking about the unauthorized disclosure of classified information here. You guys, that’s a direct violation of 18 U.S.C. § 798. You pull shit like that, and the Feds can arrest your ass, prosecute your ass, and if your ass gets convicted, toss your ass in prison for ten years. This is what those of us who’ve done time in the criminal justice biz call a big fucking deal.

If any other president in the history of These United States had publicly accused a member of Congress of doing shit like this, there’d be…okay, I don’t know what there’d be, on account of no other president in the history of These United States has ever been that fucking stupid or that fucking reckless. But after a year in office, we’ve become so inured to shit like this that we think, “Yeah, well, Trump’s a dick” and we move on with our day.

This guy — total dick.

Shit is broke, people. Shit is broke and it’s going to take a whole lot of fixing up to unbroke it. And we can’t even start unbroking it until we kick Trump’s Kremlin-shaped ass out of office.

So organize, you guys. Organize and resist. Resist openly and often. And vote in November. Vote for the candidate who is least likely to be a dick. Let’s make politics as dick-free as possible.

the sacred investigative process?

This morning Comrade Trump had this to say on Twitter:

The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!

In favor of Democrats. Against Republicans. What absolute bullshit. The FBI was established in 1935 and…well, wait. Okay, it was first established in 1908, but back then it was just the Bureau of Investigation and basically what it did was investigate the Mann Act, which made it a federal crime to transport a woman or a girl across state lines for the purpose of “prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” This was also called — and I’m seriously not making this up — the White-Slave Traffic Act. because apparently nobody cared if women of color were transported across state lines for any damned reason at all. But I digress.

This fucking guy…

In 1935, the BI was formally renamed the FBI. Its first director was J. Edgar Hoover. A Republican. Here’s a list of the political affiliation of every single FBI director:

  • J. Edgar Hoover — 1935-1972, Republican
  • Clarence Kelley — 1973-1978, Republican
  • William Webster — 1978-1987, Republican
  • William Sessions — 1987-1993, Republican
  • Louis Freeh — 1993-2001, Republican
  • Robert Mueller — 2001-2013, Republican
  • James Comey — 2013-2017, Republican
  • Christopher Wray — 2017-present, Republican

You may have noticed a distinct absence of Democrats appointed to head the FBI. What does that tell you? It tells you the three Democratic presidents who appointed FBI directors (Carter, Clinton, and Obama) all deliberately chose a person (okay, a white man) who was in the opposition party.

You think that was an accident? Nope. They each chose an FBI director who was more certain to be independent of the president’s political agenda. Because that’s the fucking job — to be independent of ANY political agenda.

This other fucking guy…

And Comrade Trump? Fired Comey when Comey refused to promise allegiance to him personally. Hounded Deputy Director Andrew McCabe out of office after he refused to promise allegiance to Trump personally. Now Trump and Republicans in Congress are claiming the leadership of the FBI comprises some sort of pro-Democratic cabal secretly determined to undermine his presidency.

You think that is an accident? Nope. It’s a poorly disguised attempt to immunize a president who was elected in part because of Russian ratfucking with the election, a president who has financial ties with some seriously shady Russian oligarchs, a president who has attempted to obstruct the investigation into the interactions between his campaign and Russian intelligence agencies.

Assuming Comrade Trump and the Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee release the Nunes Memo to the public today (and I can’t see anything stopping that), then they’re basically shitting on that ‘sacred investigative process’.

It’s really hard for me to understand how anybody can be that despicable so consistently.

three things that happened

First Thing:

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat representing Missouri, made a motion to insure the salaries and death benefits of members of the military would still get paid through the shutdown. She said,

“I want to make sure that tonight we send a very clear signal that we don’t want one moment to pass with there being any uncertainty of any soldier anywhere in the world that they will be paid for the valiant work they do for our national security.”

She asked the motion be approved without objection.

Second Thing:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, responded to her motion. He said,

“I object. My hope is that we can restore funding for the entire government before this becomes necessary.”

The motion to approve pay and military death benefits was tabled.

Third Thing:

It became necessary.

A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crashed early Saturday morning in California, killing two soldiers.

In case you were wondering why we shouldn’t base congressional decisions on Mitch McConnell’s hopes.

By the way, members of Congress will continue to receive their full pay during the shutdown.

trying times

Chelsea Manning is apparently running for the United States Senate to represent the State of Maryland. I say ‘apparently’ because although she’s filed her intent with the Federal Elections Commission (which will allow her to raise campaign funds), she hasn’t yet filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections — which is necessary if she wants to actually appear on the primary ballot.

She’s running to replace Senator Ben Cardin. Cardin is usually rated as one of the most liberal Democrats in Congress. He’s a consistent F with the National Rifle Association, he’s been a proponent of the Affordable Care Act, he supports Net Neutrality, he’s been consistently in favor of raising taxes on higher income earners, he voted against the war in Iraq, he’s been active in expanding protections for foster children, and he’s fought for stricter ethical standards in government. Cardin also recently released a report on Russian efforts to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States.

Senator Ben Cardin (D – Maryland)

I like and, for the most part, respect Ben Cardin. I’m not a fan of his open Zionism and I question his occasional willingness to consider environmental compromises, but overall I think he’s been a good legislator. I don’t know enough about Chelsea Manning to like her, but I respect the way she accepted responsibility for leaking classified military and diplomatic information.

I completely understand why the military and the diplomatic corps needs to keep secrets. I also completely understand why there are times those secrets need to be revealed. Most leakers and whistleblowers try to avoid responsibility for their leaks. They want the information out there in the public, but they don’t want to suffer the consequences of leaking the information. Chelsea Manning, to her credit, leaked the information, got caught, pleaded guilty to some of the charges, went to trial on some others, and got sentenced to 35 years in prison.

There are folks who consider her a hero, and there are folks who see her as a traitor. Both arguments have merit, in my opinion. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. Sometimes betraying your country is heroic; sometimes standing up for your country is cowardice. I’m not terribly interested in whether Chelsea Manning is a hero or a traitor or both; I just want to know what her ideas are.

Chelsea Manning

So here’s me — I like and respect Cardin, I respect Manning. Some people have said she shouldn’t run a primary campaign against a solid, reliable, mostly liberal Democrat. To which I replied, “Piss off…let her run. Let her engage in the marketplace of ideas, and let the good people of Maryland decide which candidate’s ideas they like the best.”

I still feel that way. But I have to say, Manning’s campaign announcement video makes me wonder what the hell her ideas are. Here, watch:

It’s not just that the video is awkward (though it is), or that her voice-over is wooden (and lawdy, it is). The thing about the video is that with a different candidate and a different voice-over, this could easily be a right-wing nutcase propaganda piece. This is what she actually says:

We live in trying times. Time of fear, of suppression, hate. We don’t need more…or better…leaders; we need someone willing to fight. We need to stop asking them to give us our rights. They won’t support, they won’t compromise. We need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves. We need to actually take the reins of power from them. We need to challenge them at every level. We need to fix this. We don’t need them anymore. We can do better. You’re damned right we got this.

Substitute a short-haired Aryan face for the image of a trans woman, exchange the footage of the Nazi rally with a BLM rally, and replace the voice-over with a deeper, more menacing voice and that video would be appropriate a pro-Trump candidate.

I really like the idea of more trans folk running for office. I also like the idea of old privileged white guys — even those who are solid Democrats — being challenged by younger and more diverse candidates. And I really like the idea of shaking up the Democratic Party, which has been a moral and political Tower of Jello these last few years.

But that video? It’s grounded in fear, not in change. It’s not about politics, even; it’s about Chelsea Manning. It suggests that the world is in turmoil and in order to fix it we need a trans woman. And hey, that may be true. But being a trans woman isn’t, in itself, enough. Be a trans woman with ideas and tell us what those ideas are.

If you want to take the reins of power, first tell me what you want to do with them.

allowed — thoughts after the planned parenthood book sale

There were a couple of guys standing outside the Planned Parenthood book sale yesterday, talking together. My impression was they didn’t really know each other — one guy was older, had that sort of liberal artsy-intellectual look I associate with docents at museums; the other was maybe in his late 20s, comfortably scruffy, zippered hoodie over a Raygun t-shirt. Both guys were white, probably considered themselves to be progressive. They were just standing there, hands in pockets, idly talking, probably waiting for somebody who was inside buying books.

I’d already bought my books and was heading back to the car. As I passed them, I smiled and nodded. I’m also a white guy, I think of myself as progressive, and on the docent-scruffy metric I probably fall somewhere closer to scruffy. I suppose these guys could be considered part of my tribe. After I passed them I heard the younger guy say something like, “Oh, well yeah, I think women should be allowed to decide for themselves.”

And I kept walking. I shouldn’t have. I should have stopped and turned and spoken up. I should have stopped and said, “Allowed? Did you just say allowed?”

Yesterday, before I left for the PP book sale, I made a comment on a friend’s Facebook post. The post was about sexual harassment. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but it was something to this effect: words matter. Language is critically important in shaping the way we perceive and understand the world. A few hours later, I had a chance to put theory into practice — and I didn’t do it.

Allowed. See, that’s the thing. That younger guy probably thinks he’s being — I don’t know. Supportive? I’m sure, if confronted, he’d have back-pedaled furiously. I’m sure he would have said — and said with sincerity — that he didn’t really mean ‘allowed’. In his defense, ‘should be allowed’ is better than ‘should NOT be allowed’, but only in the sense that diluted poison is better than concentrated poison. ‘Allowed’ is still poison.

I’ve avoided writing about abortion. Partly, I admit, because I don’t want to deal with the tiresome ‘abortion is murder’ crowd. But I’ve avoided it mainly for another reason: I can’t write about abortion without indulging in what will at first appear to be a tangent. This is the tangent.

I was a medic in the military. In my very first duty station I was assigned to a general medicine ward of a large medical center. The wing that housed the ward also housed the hospital’s medical waste incinerator. Medical waste has to be incinerated. If, say, a person has a foot amputated, you can’t just chuck the foot into a dumpster; you burn it. Somebody has to be in charge of the incinerator. Somebody has to accept the medical waste, check to be sure it’s what it’s supposed to be, log it, put it in the incinerator, then push the button.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. For about six months, one of my duties was to be the incinerator monitor. An aborted fetus, in that state (maybe in all states, I don’t know), was technically considered medical waste. My job required me to inspect the medical waste, then incinerate it.

But words matter, right? I didn’t incinerate medical waste; I incinerated amputated limbs and tumors and appendixes and chunks of ulcerated intestine and occasionally aborted fetuses. It was…unpleasant. The image of an aborted fetus in a blue plastic tub is one of dozens of images I wish weren’t banging around in my brain. I was 19 years old.

That’s when my opinions on abortion were formed, and they haven’t changed in the decades since. Here’s my opinion: 1) abortion is a legitimate and legal medical procedure, 2) it’s not a procedure anybody would undertake lightly, 3) it’s a procedure that should be rare, 4) in order to make it rare, we need to encourage folks to plan for pregnancy, 5) which also means folks should plan to avoid pregnancy, 6) which means we need to make birth control easy and affordable, and 7) these are decisions that can only be made by the women involved with consultation with their doctors and perhaps their religious leaders.

I don’t like abortion. But I recognize that sometimes it’s necessary. I don’t like abortion, but I completely support a woman’s right to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I don’t like abortion, and that’s exactly why I support Planned Parenthood. I don’t like abortion, but I recognize that everybody has the right to control over their bodies.

I don’t like abortion. I don’t like it. But the term ‘allow’ doesn’t belong in the discussion. 

taking a knee

It’s become popular among some Republicans to claim Comrade Trump isn’t really a Republican at all. They act like he’s some sort of chimera — a semi-mystical, implausible synthesis of disparate bits of different animals. Part liberal, part conservative, part patriot, part iconoclast, part traditional, part unconventional, part who the fuck knows. A new type of politician, they say.

Bullshit. Trump is the distillation of everything the Republican party has become in the last couple of decades. He’s selfish, self-centered, cruel, mean-spirited, fearful of anything different, completely unscrupulous, alienated from reality, dismissive of science, contemptuous of facts, mercenary, fundamentally dishonest, sneering, arrogant, judgmental, and too privileged to give a shit about anybody or anything that isn’t useful to him.

In brief, Trump is an asshole. Over the last couple of decades the Republican party has gradually shed any semblance of a conservative philosophy of governance and replaced it with being an asshole. You want to know what the Republican position is on any given policy? Ask yourself this: ‘What would an asshole do in this situation?’ The environment? More coal, fewer regulations. Epidemic of gun violence? More guns, fewer regulations. Healthcare? More regulations, fewer people insured.

This is what you can expect from the president when the president is an asshole. Free speech? Call NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem ‘sons of bitches’ who disrespect the nation, and encourage owners to fire them.

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,’

You have torch-toting nazis marching at night in an American city? An asshole would say there are some “very fine people” among them. A football player who takes a knee during the national anthem to protest violence against African-Americans?  An asshole would call that “total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”

Because all of those football players are paid huge amounts of money to entertain the public, assholes will claim they should keep their political opinions to themselves. Because most of them are black, assholes will feel victimized by that exercise of free speech while at the same time complaining to other assholes that the players are being uppity.

But here’s a true thing about assholes: they polarize people. Today there are probably folks — standard NFL fans — who were maybe mildly offended by the decision of players to take a knee, who are now applauding the practice. Today there are probably folks who don’t care at all about professional sports who are appending #takeaknee to their social media posts. Today there are probably folks who are supporting the ‘take a knee’ movement NOT because they agree with it, but just because they’re just fed up with having an asshole for a president.

By the way, those NFL players? Some of them are assholes too. But a LOT of them, even though they’re making obscene amounts of money, are also showing up at soup kitchens, they’re standing up against bullying, they’re helping with flood relief, they’re raising and donating money to hurricane victims, they’re supporting research to cure diseases, they’re fighting homelessness, they’re actually out there doing stuff for their communities while assholes are sitting at home and complaining.

Let me also say this, since I come from a military family rather than a sports family. In the military ‘take a knee’ means to take an immediate break, right where you are, because you’re just fucking exhausted. It’s a moment — and only a moment, which is why you’re only taking a knee — to stop, catch your breath, allow your sore muscles to relax, and consider what to do next.

I think this whole nation needs to take a knee.