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.

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how we got where we are (October 28, 2013 at 9:26am)

In order to avoid the work I ought to be doing, I spent the last half hour or so deleting drafts of old blog posts that were begun but not finished. This one is dated October 28, 2013 at 9:26am. There’s a beginning and an ending, but the middle never managed to get written. The middle is always the hardest part.

The situation has deteriorated radically since 2013.


Well, the Republicans are right about one thing: it all began with Ronald Reagan. The modern GOP is the direct legacy of the Reagan Worldview. Not his politics — lawdy no, Reagan was much too liberal to fit into the current Cone of Crazy that constitutes the Tea Party. But his approach to the world is deeply imprinted on Republican DNA.

We see it in a couple of ways. First, the total abandonment of science and rationality for anecdote and ideology. Reagan had no use for facts that didn’t fit well with what he already believed. He was fond of quoting Sam Adams, saying “Facts are stupid things” (what John Adams actually said was “Facts are stubborn things”). Just a couple of examples: Reagan repeatedly claimed “There is no word for ‘freedom’ in the Russian language” (there is: svoboda). He believed nuclear missiles, once fired, could be ‘recalled’ (they can’t). He claimed the Environmental Protection Agency had suppressed a report demonstrating that “eighty percent of air pollution comes not from chimneys and auto exhaust pipes, but from plants and trees” (they didn’t, and it doesn’t). And on two different occasions Reagan publicly stated he’d personally assisted in liberating some of the Nazi death camps during WWII (he hadn’t; he spent the war in Hollywood making training films for the U.S. Army).

Major source of air pollution

Major source of air pollution

This is now standard Republican drill. Make shit up to support your belief, repeat it often, repeat it with passion, repeat it even after you’ve been told it’s wrong, claim the people who disagree with the shit you made up are trying to suppress the truth, present yourself as a victim of liberal elites, repeat it all again.

The Republican casual disregard for reality is troubling

Second, the notion that government has no value.

Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.

Here’s a classic example of the Reagan Approach. He’d twice flown over the Mount St. Helens volcano, and he’d come to the following conclusion:

“I have a suspicion that one little mountain has probably released more sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about.”

And there you have it. In reality, the volcano emitted about 2,000 tons of sulphur dioxide per day at its peak output; cars in 1980 produced approximately 81,000 tons per day. But Reagan didn’t need or want stupid facts; it was enough to have belief. And why listen to anybody who might challenge that belief?

And right there, you have the modern Republican party. The political party whose elected representatives actually believe women are biologically prevented from getting pregnant through rape, who believe wind is “a finite resource” that will be “slowed down” by windmills, who believe vaccines are dangerous and that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by scientists in order to…something,

screaming

I watched the video with the sound off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a midvinterblot’s tale

The luck of the king is the luck of the land, according to the Ynglings, the most ancient of Viking dynasties. The sad truth of this can be seen in the story of King Visbur and his son Domald — which is appropriate given that today is the winter solstice.

Visbur married the daughter of Aude the Rich. Her name is unknown to history since the value of women was only measured by their ability to give birth to sons. She gave Visbur two sons: Ond and Gisle. At some point Visbur put his wife aside and married another, whose name is also forgotten. The new wife gave him another son, Domald (sometimes called Dómaldi or Dómaldr), who was declared Visbur’s heir.

Ond, Gisle, and their poor nameless mother objected. The two sons went to Visbur to protest, but were rejected. Their mother then cursed Domald with ósgæssa — ill-luck or bad fortune. Ond and Gisle took what today would be called a pro-active approach. This is how the skald Snorri Sturluson described it:

Eptir þat sömnuðu þeir liði, ok kómu at Vísbur um nótt á úvart ok brendu hann inni.
Thereafter they collected men, came unexpectedly in the night on Visbur, and burned him in his house.

The crown passed to Domald, whose curse of ill-luck was compounded by an exaggerated sense of self-worth coupled with a distinct lack of competence. Domald’s reign was disastrous. Crops withered and failed, livestock became sickly and died. So on the winter solstice, at the time of midvinterblot — the annual sacrifice — Domald had his priests sacrifice oxen instead of sheep. The greater the sacrifice, the more it is appreciated by the gods.

It didn’t work. The crops still failed, the livestock grew thinner, old folks and children starved. At the next midvinterblot Domald had his priests sacrifice a few peasants instead of oxen.

An early version of the Sacrifice of Domald.

It didn’t work. The fields of rye and barley gave paltry yields, the hay and timothy needed to feed the livestock died before it could be harvested, the swine and cattle wasted away. So as the winter solstice and midvinterblot approached:

…a great multitude of Swedes came to Upsalir; and now the chiefs held consultations with each other, and all agreed that the times of scarcity were on account of their king Domald, and they resolved to offer him for good seasons, and to assault and kill him, and sprinkle the stalle of the gods with his blood. And they did so.

And they did so. Snorri Sturluson assures us the crops and livestock then flourished, and all were happy.

Domald dies by bloody arms,
Raised not by foes in war’s alarms
Raised by his Swedish liegemen’s hand,
To bring good seasons to the land.

Carl Larsson’s ‘Midvinterblot’ depicting the sacrifice of Domald.

We shouldn’t read anything into the similarity between the names Domald and Donald. Nor should we consider the blood oblation of midvinterblot as anything other than a metaphor for a meaningful sacrifice. But given recent events, and the promise of more chaos, upheaval, and pandemonium to come, I think it’s past time for Congressional Republicans to begin the ritual necessary to remove our own ill-fated, star-crossed Donald from power.

The luck of king, the Ynglings told us, is the luck of the land. And Comrade Donald is bad luck all around. For the good of the nation and its people, Donald Trump needs to go.

it’s not about her clothes

We keep falling for it. By ‘we’ I mean liberals, and by ‘it’ I mean the misleading bullshit conservatives throw in front of us to distract us. We keep falling for it. You’d think we’d know better by now, but no…we keep falling for it.

Let me give you an example. A few days ago Eddie Scarry, a writer for the conservative newspaper The Washington Examiner, posted this on Twitter.

And, of course, immediately there was a backlash. A deserved backlash, to be sure, but mostly it was a backlash about this line: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles. It was a backlash about the term ‘girl’ used for a 29-year-old woman who was a newly-elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives. But mostly it turned into a discussion about what clothes are appropriate — and affordable — for a young woman from the working class who wants to look nice in an office environment.

Which means we fell for it. Remember, ‘it’ is the misleading bullshit conservatives throw in front of us to distract us. It’s NOT about her clothes. When we respond to bullshit by discussing the clothing options of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we are falling for the misleading bullshit. It’s sabotage. It’s creating a narrative designed to undermine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It’s suggesting she is a fraud, that she’s not who she says she is, that she doesn’t belong in a position of power, that she can’t be trusted. That she’s phony. I’m going to say it again; it’s NOT about her clothes. We do her a disservice when we let folks like Eddie Scarry distract us by talking about her clothes.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez working as a bartender.

Repeat his attack — and similar attacks — for a decade and some of that narrative will infiltrate the public consciousness. After a few years, people will begin to distrust AOC without quite knowing why; they’ll begin to dislike her without knowing quite why. This is exactly what conservatives did to Hillary Clinton. It’s what they’ve done to Nancy Pelosi. It’s what they’ve consistently done to all effective Democratic women leaders.

They’ve started on AOC even before she’s been sworn in. Why? Because she scares the absolute shit out of them. She’s young. She’s young AND she’s conventionally attractive. She’s a young, attractive woman AND she’s of Puerto Rican descent. She’s a young, attractive, working class Latinx AND with less than US$200,000 in campaign funds, she won a primary against a long-term Democrat with campaign funds of nearly $3.5 million and who was the Chair of the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives. She did it through hard work combined with intelligence and passion. And that scares them.

It’s not about her clothes.

She scares them because she’s the future. It’s a future they don’t want to see happen. It’s a future that doesn’t rely on — or need — a well-connected network of middle-aged (or old) white guys. She scares them because they’re losing their power and their authority and their privilege — and they’re losing it all to people like her. So yeah, she scares the absolute shit out of them.

Let’s face it, Eddie Scarry doesn’t give a damn what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wears to work. He only cares that she reports for work in Congress. He only cares that Congress this year is less white, less male, and less hetero than it’s ever been. Eddie Scarry isn’t a fashion blogger; he’s a conservative political reporter with an agenda (and I’m being charitable here; Scarry made his bones at a gossip blog called FishbowlDC). He only cares about undermining effective Democratic leaders. He’s only concerned with sowing discord among liberals.

Don’t let him trick you into thinking this is about clothes. It’s not. It’s really not. It’s about the slow introduction of poison. It’s about weakening Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If we continue to fall for the bullshit Scarry and folks like him throw in front of us, we’re just spreading the poison.

down to hope

So here we are. Election Day in Godawful America. Nobody knows what the fuck is actually going to happen. But I suspect we’re all pretty confident it’ll be ugly.

For Democrats, progressives, liberals — for those of us who want a nation that’s actually representative of the people who live here — it’s a day of hope tempered by trepidation. We hope to do well, but we had that same hope two years ago. We’ve seen hope turn to shit. We don’t really trust hope.

We know from experience that hope doesn’t carry much weight — not in the face of rampant voter suppression, widespread gerrymandering, unchecked lying, unbridled racism, and blatant voter intimidation. We know the game is rigged against us. We know it’s not enough to get more votes; we know it’s not enough to actually win an election; we know we have to win it by a massive margin in order to overcome the institutional and political obstacles deliberately put in place to prevent us from winning.

Hope? Hope is a mug’s game. Hope is a path strewn with caltrops. Hope is standing waist-deep in a cesspit at the bottom of a hill, looking up at those at the top, who are complaining about being ill-treated while rolling boulders down at you.

Tree of Hope — Frida Kahlo, 1946

But here’s the thing about hope. You can’t help it. No matter how steep the hill, no matter how many goddamn boulders, no matter how fucking deep the cesspit, you can’t help but hope there’s a way out. You tell yourself it’s stupid to hope, you completely understand that hope only leads to disappointment and frustration and rage, and yet you just cannot help yourself. Hope is fucking brutal.

But it’s what you need in order to haul your ass out of that cesspit. Hope and hard work.

So here we are. Election Day in Godawful America and nobody knows what the fuck is actually going to happen. But we’ve done what we can. We’ve knocked on doors, we’ve made phone calls, we’ve donated time and money, we’ve encouraged others to vote and we’ve voted our ownselves.

Now it’s down to hope. With hope and hard work, maybe tomorrow will be less godawful.

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.