and he smiled

I didn’t watch Comrade Trump’s speech on Tuesday night. My Trump Tolerance Quotient, which has never been particularly high, was way too low to allow me to watch him speak live on television. I figured it would trigger some sort of unfortunate temporal lobe episode — and who needs that on a Tuesday?

But I consider myself to be a good citizen and a patriot, so I decided to watch the entire speech yesterday morning. The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t really a speech. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. People have been practicing the art and craft of public speaking since the damned Greeks, so we know what a speech is. What Trump did on Tuesday night wasn’t public speaking. It was public reading.

Comrade Trump displays ability to read words aloud.

Comrade Trump displays ability to read words aloud.

It was embarrassing, really. For the most part, Trump just read sentence after sentence. Slowly. Like he was afraid he might leave out a word.

Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.

First off, this just isn’t something Comrade Trump would actually say. This is not the way he speaks. But we can ignore that, right? Because even badly delivered written speeches aren’t necessarily meant to be conversational. But just a few hours earlier this mendacious sumbitch was suggesting maybe those threats and that vandalism were ‘false flag’ attacks perpetrated by Jews in order to gain sympathy or make other folks look bad.

And then there was this:

Dying industries will come roaring back to life; heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need. Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve. Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways, gleaming across our very beautiful land. Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately stop, and our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

Right. Also? Shoeless Joe Jackson will emerge from the cornfield to play catch with your dad, Joss Whedon will revive Firefly, fashion designers will start putting real pockets in women’s clothes, that recipe your auntie gave you for okra-jello salad will turn out to be really good, George R.R. Martin will finish whatever fucking Game of Thrones book he’s been working on for the last decade, Michele Obama will punch a Nazi, and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team will finally get paid what they’re worth.

It was all pretty much standard issue bullshit. Until this moment:

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of US Navy special operator Senior Chief William Ryan Owens. Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation.

I resent this. I resent it, but I know that trotting out victims and widows for a public display of sentiment is, sadly, an established practice now. Every president since Reagan has done it (one more sin to lay at that motherfucker’s feet). But this was a singularly reprehensible moment for a lot of reasons.

First, let’s acknowledge the fact that Chief Owens didn’t die. He was killed. There’s a difference. Second, he was killed on a raid casually approved by Trump, who didn’t even bother to follow the raid in the situation room while it was taking place. Third, Trump tried to shift responsibility for the fuck-up to President Obama and to the generals instead of accepting that as Commander-in-Chief, he was ultimately responsible. In terms of accountability, it doesn’t matter if the raid succeeded in its goals or not. Not every mission is going to succeed. No battle plan survives intact after first contact with the enemy; that’s been accepted wisdom since the days of Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke.

But when things go ‘oh shit’ everybody who issues orders accepts responsibility for what happens to the people who attempt to follow those orders. Everybody. That’s just how it works. From the ground up, everybody who gives an order carries the weight of the poor sumbitch who follows the order.

But not Comrade Trump.

Then that reprehensible moment turned into something even more reprehensible. As the long moment of applause began to ebb, Trump said this:

Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he is very happy because I think he just broke a record.

And he looked at the widow — and smiled.

170228213137-donald-trump-congress-address-1-full-169

This fucking guy who says he’ll do everything for the military, but refuses to take them seriously — he smiled. This fucking guy who’d spent much of the week dodging responsibility for his role in the raid in which Chief Owens was killed — he smiled. This fucking guy said, out loud and to Owens’ widow, that her dead husband was happy because of the amount of applause generated by his sacrifice.

He said that, and he fucking smiled.

I had to stop watching the speech.

a beautiful word

It really shouldn’t surprise me. Two things have been obvious for years. First, the total mass of Comrade Trump’s ignorance is so densely packed it can affect the tides. And second, he’s never let his ignorance on any subject prevent him from acting like he knows something.

So there’s absolutely no basis for me to think Trump would take the issue of human trafficking any more seriously that he takes anything else. But here’s the thing: this meeting of several groups who deal with human trafficking was set up by his daughter Ivanka. So I thought maybe he’d take five minutes, read a briefing on the topic, show some actual interest. I mean, you do that sort of thing for your kids, right? You put their art on the refrigerator door, you help them with a school project, you pretend to like their music, and when they arrange a meeting on human trafficking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, you make a little time to learn about the issue. Right?

Nope. Not Trump. If he has a clue about human trafficking, it wasn’t obvious in his opening remarks. And when I say ‘remarks’ I mean a seemingly stochastic series of structurally malformed sentences (you can read the entirety of his opening remarks here if you want, though lawdy, it’s pretty fucking painful to read). Trump informs his audience of professionals who deal with human trafficking that human trafficking is a horrific practice. And hey, it’s getting worse.

“It’s getting worse and it’s happening in the United States in addition to the rest of the world, but it’s happening in the United States, which is terrible.”

It’s happening right here in These United States, and sure, the rest of the world too, but here, right here in River City. Which is terrible. Something must be done.

It’s such a terrible, horrific practice right here in the United States and the rest of the world (but mostly, you know, it’s a horrific practice in the United States), that Trump is:

“prepared to bring the full force and weight of our government to the federal and at the federal level, and the other highest levels, whatever we can do.”

All those other highest levels, you guys. None of those low levels, no sir. The highest levels of — well, you know. Complete with their full force and weight. To do whatever we can do. With the federal.

And what can we do? We can damned well put an end to human trafficking (which, by the way, is still a horrific practice).

“I want to make it clear today that my administration will focus on ending the absolutely horrific practice of human trafficking.”

Ending it! All those highest levels with the federal and others will focus on ending the horrific human trafficking practice. Which you’d think would mean solving the problem, right? Silly rabbit.

“Solving the human trafficking epidemic, which is what it is, is a priority for my administration.  We’re going to help out a lot.  ‘Solve’ is a wonderful word, a beautiful word, but I can tell you, we’re going to help a lot.”

Solve — beautiful word. Who could argue with that? So maybe actual solving isn’t going to happen, but Trump and his highest levels are going to help. How much are they going to help? A lot. In what way are they going to help a lot? So glad you asked. Trump is going to have his people…

“…take a hard look at the resources and personnel that they’re currently devoting to this fight.”

A hard look, you guys. Not a soft look. Fuck no, what — you think he’s Obama? No, he’s going to have them take a hard look. At those resources and personnel. Is that enough to solve help out a lot with this horrific problem? Well, okay, maybe not.

Is there anything else Trump and his levels can do? Yes! They’re going to talk about it.

“It’s a very, very terrible problem.  It’s not talked about enough.  People don’t know enough about it.  And we’re going to talk about it, and we’re going to bring it out into the open and hopefully we’re going to do a great deal to help prevent some of the horrific — really horrific — crimes that are taking place.”

Man, once Trump and his highest levels start with that hard look and the talking, you’re going to see some serious preventing. Hopefully. Because human trafficking is horrific. Also, terrible.

Credit where it’s due, and all that. Trump had the grace to thank the people for showing up at his daughter’s party important meeting.

“I cannot thank each of you enough, and the dedicated men and women who run my staff and your staffs in getting everybody together was terrific.  I was so glad I was able to be here.”

And in conclusion…

“I really can say, in this country, people don’t realize how bad it is in this country, but in this country and all over the world.  So thank you all for being here.”

It’s really bad in this country. Really really bad. But in this country and all over the world. Trump can really say that. Out loud.

Comrade Trump taking a hard look at...well, resources. Also, personnel.

Comrade Trump taking a hard look at…well, resources. Also, personnel.

Still, there’s this: boom! Another problem solved! A horrific practice, solved. Nobody realized how bad it is in this country and in this country, also the world, but in this country, nobody realized until his daughter told him, but now — horrific practice ended. Or solved. Or helped a lot. With the staffs and the highest levels and all those hard looks, those are some really hard looks, the best, believe me. And really, is there a more beautiful word than solve?

C’mon, okay, maybe. Horrific, that’s pretty good too.

the logan act (with optional pirate stuff)

Right, there goes Michael T. Flynn, out the back door of the Trump White House. Now that we’re finished applauding his resignation, folks are wondering about a couple of things. First, can he be prosecuted under the Logan Act? And second, should he be prosecuted.

There are, of course, problems. At least three problems. The first is the Logan Act is of questionable constitutionality. It’s never been really tested in court; nobody has ever been prosecuted for violating the Logan Act. Not even George Logan, after whom the law was named. The second problem is more political. The recently appointed Attorney General of These United States is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who is undoubtedly tickled pink that the Logan Act is of questionable constitutionality. It gives Sessions the perfect opportunity to practice looking severe without having to actually do anything. The third problem is this: just what the fuck IS the Logan Act, and what was it intended to do?

The Logan Act is a perfect example of how history, which can be singularly cool, has a reputation for being mind-numbingly dull. I mean, we’re talking revolutions and piracy on the high seas — and that’s some seriously exciting shit, right there. But reading the Logan Act — well, it’s not long enough to actually put you to sleep, but it’ll make your mind wander. Anyway, here’s the history.

Not actually a French ship attacking a US merchant, but c'mon -- it's pirate stuff.

Not actually a French ship attacking a U.S. merchant vessel, but c’mon — it’s pirate stuff.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘These United States’) had us a revolution. I’m assuming you already know this. A few years later, France had its own revolution. France had been pretty helpful to our revolution and they quite understandably expected the new U.S. to give them a reach-around. We didn’t — at least not to their satisfaction. So France got pissy and authorized French ships to plunder American merchant ships. President John Adams sent some envoys to France to straighten out the mess. The French listened to their arguments, then politely told the envoys “S’il vous plaît, uriner une corde.” Or words to that effect. The envoys returned to the U.S., reported they’d failed miserably, then went to a bar and made rude remarks about the French (I’m not entirely sure about that last bit with the bar and rude remarks, but it’s what I would have done if the French had told me to go piss up a rope).

Enter Dr. George Logan, a Philadelphia Quaker. Logan decided he couldn’t screw things up any worse, so he sailed to France, chatted with Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and the good folks of the French Directory — and hey, bingo, the French changed their minds and stopped the plundering. Yay, sounding of trumpets, release of doves, everybody wins, right?

Dr. George Logan, Quaker and Freelance Diplomat.

Dr. George Logan, Quaker and Freelance Diplomat.

Right. Except for the politicians back in the U.S. who weren’t happy with civilians conducting unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments. Which is perfectly understandable. I mean, George Logan might have done a fine job, but the next guy might get us in a war. So they passed the Logan Act to prevent that sort of thing from happening again.

It’s easy to see why nobody has been prosecuted under the Logan Act. Back in the late 1700s, civilians could get away with pulling shit like that. Today, that’s not going to happen. Ain’t no Quaker going to show up on Pakistan’s doorstep (even if Pakistan had a doorstep, which it doesn’t) and negotiate a nuclear arms deal. And if General Michael Flynn had been an ordinary citizen, nobody in the Russian embassy would have paid any attention to him when he discussed the sanctions imposed on Russia by President Obama.

But that’s exactly why the Logan Act could be used in this case — because General Michael Flynn was NOT an ordinary citizen. He was an advisor to the President-Elect. He was expected to become President Trump’s National Security Advisor. He had influence and power, and even though he had no authority from the sitting POTUS, he had presumptive authority from the President-Elect.

Assuming Flynn actually did discuss lifting Obama’s sanctions on Russia (and since the transcripts of Flynn’s calls haven’t been made public, we can’t know that for certain), then he was a nominal civilian with enough influence to effectively undermine an action taken by the President of These United States. That’s a big fucking deal, and it’s exactly the sort of thing the Logan Act should be used to deter.

It’s absolutely worth testing the constitutionality of the Logan Act in this case. But somehow, I doubt the pixie-eared Attorney General will do that.

resist

Later today the United States will formally inaugurate as President a willfully ignorant, inexperienced blowhard — a man who is dangerously unprepared to occupy the Oval Office and temperamentally unfit to deal with international and domestic affairs. A man who was elected to that office through gerrymandered Congressional districts, aided by systematic voter suppression tactics, and with the assistance of a covert campaign of misinformation and propaganda employed by agents of a dictatorial foreign regime led by a former Soviet KGB officer.

We will witness the swearing-in of an arrogant, petty, mean-spirited, selfish and self-centered man — a vindictive narcissist who is entirely lacking in empathy and loyalty, a thin-skinned bully who attacks at any perceived insult and is accustomed to picking fights and letting his lawyers tidy up after him.

We will have as president a boor, a braggart, a crude vulgarian who mistakes ostentation for taste. Our nation will be led by an amoral sexist buffoon, a blatant and unrepentant liar who has no respect for the law or for science or for the truth, a man who is completely lacking in integrity, devoid of sincerity, and utterly without principle.

Starting today, we’re going to have a president from whom we have to protect ourselves. That fact is disheartening, it’s humiliating, it’s almost incomprehensible that it could happen.

But it did. Get used to it. Get used to resisting. Get used to having to call your members of Congress on a regular basis. Get used to marching and demonstrating. You have to get used to it — or just give up. Resistance or surrender. There really isn’t any other option.

writersresist

But here’s the good news: there are more of us than there are of them. And starting today and tomorrow, we’re going to let them see us.

Resist in any way you can. Resist in every way you can. Resist as writers, resist as photographers, resist as artists. Resist creatively. Just fucking resist every attempt to reduce us, to marginalize us, to limit us, to stop us.

Respect our existence

or expect our resistance.

asshats unleashed

I don’t recall the first time I came across the term ‘Trump Effect’. I do recall being irritated by it, though. The ‘Trump Effect’ — it seems much too polite. On the other hand, I have to admit it’s an incredibly efficient use of language. You can say the ‘Trump Effect’ or you can say ‘the pernicious, aggressively belligerent, multifarious forms of bigotry and hatred and bullying that have been unleashed by the campaign and election of Donald Trump’.

As far as that goes, even the phrase ‘multifarious forms of bigotry and hatred’ is an efficient shorthand for ‘misogynistic, Islamophobic, racist, anti-intellectual, homophobic, anti-poor and working class, trans-hating, xenophobic, anti-science, climate-denying, white supremacist, social venom’. So basically, it’s either this:

The ‘Trump Effect’

or it’s this:

The pernicious, aggressively belligerent, misogynistic, Islamophobic, racist, anti-intellectual, homophobic, anti-poor and working class, trans-hating, xenophobic, anti-science, climate-denying, white supremacist, social venom and bullying that has been unleashed by the campaign and election of Donald Trump.

As somebody who makes a living with words, I’ve got to go with the Trump Effect. But whatever you call it, it’s real. It’s easy to dismiss asshats like the guy below as a sort of aberration — something outrageous you see on Facebook or YouTube but don’t expect to encounter in real life.

But you’d be making a mistake if you dismissed these fuckwits. I live in a mostly white neighborhood, in a mostly white city, in a mostly white state. I know this shit happens, but I almost never witness blatant racism in my mostly white daily life.

Then a few days before Thanksgiving I found myself in a small specialty shop that sells batteries. There were two other customers when I entered the shop: a young Latina getting a battery for her phone and a young white guy buying a battery for something or other. The white guy needed to give the clerk some information in order to get a lifetime guarantee for his battery. When asked for his name, the guy spelled out his surname.

“Busch. Like the beer. The American beer. I’m as American as the beer. Voted for Trump too.”

He looked the Latina when he said he was American as the beer. After saying he’d voted for Trump, he said “Whoops!”, made a mocking face like a boy who’d said something naughty, then laughed. The Latina just ignored him and paid for her battery. I was still standing there thinking ‘What the fuck? Did that actually just happen?‘ when she left the shop. Nobody said anything about it — not me, not the clerks. We just all stood there blinking.

trump-angry

Then it happened again, the Trump Effect. On Thanksgiving. Everything was prepared and timed to be on the table a short while after the guests arrived. One of the guests, a woman I’ve known for three or four years, was the first to show up. She looked around the kitchen, smiled, and said “You must have worked like a little nigger getting this ready.” Again, I did that blinking in disbelief thing. Then I said, “What did you just say?” And she laughed, sort of embarrassed. I said, “Don’t ever say that again.” And she sort of laughed again. Other guests arrived and I let it go.

I like this woman. She’s a friend. I’ve seen her take time off her job to care for a sick friend. I’ve shopped at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale with her. I’ve seen her be kind and thoughtful and giving. Now I’ve heard her say nigger and our friendship is tainted, possibly ruined. Trump didn’t make her a racist; she must have held those views before Trump arrived on the political scene. But I do believe Trump’s election allowed her to think it was okay to say nigger in the company of friends. I do believe the Trump Effect gave her tacit permission to voice views that she’d held in check before.

I suspect this is going to happen more often, but now I’m prepared for it. At least I hope I am. It’s a shame, but I have to be prepared for it. I can’t allow people I think of as friends to make racist or hateful comments around me. I can’t stay quiet when I see sexist, homophobic, or hateful behavior taking place in public places. I cannot allow this shit to be seen as acceptable or normal.

I absolutely hate that it’s become necessary for me to do this.

trump-level derangement & gazoony rays

I haven’t written much lately about Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President of These United States, for the following reasons:

  1. The tsunami of offensive, idiotic shit Trump says is just overwhelming; no human can keep up with it — not writers, not readers. It would take a damned cyborg to process the daily load of Trump bullshit.
  2. The phrase Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President of These United States is troubling in itself. I recognize all those words individually, but they make no sense when arranged in that order.
  3. C’mon, seriously, what is there to say about this guy?

But there are some Trump moments that are so entirely deranged that they bear repeating, if only as evidence that there’s a reason the term ‘deranged’ exists. Yesterday in Florida (of course, it had to be Florida), we saw two (2) such moments take place within minutes of each other. According to the New York Times, Trump said this:

“[W]hen Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”

Got that? If Iranian sailors in small craft approach a U.S. warship and make rude gestures, we should obliterate them. That’s deranged, of course, but it’s ‘normal’ derangement. I mean, it falls into the conventional range of crazy. What makes it deranged on a Trump scale is that moments later he said this about Hillary Clinton:

“She’s trigger happy.”

He wants to blow Iranian sailors out of the water for making rude gestures, but she’s trigger happy. This is the key to understanding Trump-level derangement. It creates a neural state in which a sentence spoken aloud exists independently, entirely devoid of any context or connection to the sentences that precede or follow it. Make a rude gesture and die. She is trigger-happy. To a ‘normal’ human, that would seem inconsistent. Not to Trump, though, because they’re two totally separate and completely unrelated sentences.

But that’s just ONE of the deranged Trump moments that took place in public yesterday in Florida. The other? Trump said Clinton:

“…is being so protected. She could walk into this arena right now and shoot somebody with 20,000 people watching, right smack in the middle of the heart, and she wouldn’t be prosecuted. Okay? That’s what’s happening.”

In case you were wondering what was happening, that’s it right there. Hillary Clinton can shoot somebody and not get prosecuted. That’s altogether different from what Trump said about himself back in January. He said:

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?”

Again, to a ‘normal’ person, it would seem hypocritical to complain that one’s opponent could get away with shooting somebody after having bragged about personally being able to get away…wait. Wait just one fucking minute. What sort of person uses the capacity to get away with shooting another person as a metric for…well, for anything? I mean, Jeebus Caliber, what the fuck?

Trump emitting high-power Gazoony Rays

Trump emitting high-power Gazoony Rays

See, this is why I don’t write much about Trump. His level of derangement distorts all normal measures of derangement. Instead of being appalled by his bluster about being able to shoot somebody and not lose voters — which is REALLY APPALLING — you find yourself instead examining his hypocrisy about other folks being able to shoot…fuck me, I’m doing it again.

There’s only one possible explanation for this — only one explanation that makes any sense at all. Donald Trump must be emitting extremely powerful Mind-Distorting Gazoony Rays. There’s no other explanation.

booing and heckling and slouching toward bethlehem

Okay, let’s talk about Bernie Sanders supporters booing the speakers at the Democratic National Convention. Let’s talk about them booing and heckling Elijah Cummings and Cory Booker, let’s talk about them booing and heckling Elizabeth Warren, and booing every time Hillary Clinton’s name was spoken. Let’s talk about them booing and heckling Bernie Sanders himself.

I’m okay with it.

bernie-protest-1024

The booing and heckling, I mean. I don’t like it, mind you. It’s rude and it’s childish and it doesn’t accomplish anything other than making the hecklers feel better. But basically, I’m okay with it. These folks are angry and disappointed and frustrated; they’ve invested a lot of themselves into Bernie’s campaign. They were promised a revolution; they just didn’t understand that nonviolent revolutions sometimes take longer.

Bernie never promised them a victory; he only promised to help create a revolutionary movement. He fulfilled that promise. A lot of the hecklers appear to have believed that the sheer intensity of their belief in Bernie merited some sort of reward — that because they loved Bernie more than Hillary’s supporters loved her, they should get electoral extra credit for it. They seem to have felt that Bernie owed them a victory. And they feel they’ve been misled and cheated.

bernie protesters

I don’t think they have been misled; I don’t believe they’ve been cheated. But I also feel they really DO deserve some sort of reward for their passion and hard work. Let them vent their frustration. It’s not much of a reward, to be sure. But I’m inclined to think they’ve earned the right to be a bit unruly.

At the heel of the hunt, however, it’s critically important to come together and defeat Donald Trump. I think almost everybody understands that. There will undoubtedly be some Bernie supporters who write Bernie’s name on the ballot in protest, and some who’ll vote for Jill Stein instead — but I hope those numbers will be few. Because, in the words of my boy Billy Butler Yeats, we know “what rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born”.

It’s Trump.