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.

torching the orchestra pit

So how long will it be before Donald Trump hires Roger Ailes as a media consultant?

The timing is perfect. Last night Trump, the beefy bully former reality television star, really, truly, totally not making this up, became the Republican nominee for President of These United States. And yesterday Roger Ailes, the beefy bully who turned FoxNews into a Republican propaganda machine, was forced out of his job as Chairman and CEO of Fox News — the media outlet that buttressed the illusion that Trump was somebody who should be taken seriously as a political thinker.

It may not happen, of course. but Trump/Ailes seems a natural pairing. This would truly be a match made in Hell. Not the nicer part of Hell, with the little shops and cozy restaurants, but the other-side-of-the-tracks part of Hell, where decent demons and fiends are reluctant to visit after dark.

Roger Ailes

Roger Ailes

Back in 1988, when he was still working overtly as a Republican political consultant, Ailes was interviewed by Judy Woodroof. Ailes had just helped put George H.W. Bush in the White House, and he described his approach to political media consulting.

Roger Ailes: Let’s face it, there are three things that the media are interested in: pictures, mistakes and attacks. That’s the one sure way of getting coverage. You try to avoid as many mistakes as you can. You try to give them as many pictures as you can. And if you need coverage, you attack, and you will get coverage.

It’s my orchestra pit theory of politics. You have two guys on stage and one guy says, “I have a solution to the Middle East problem,” and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news.

One thing you don’t want to do is get your head up too far on some new vision for America because then the next thing that happens is the media runs over to the Republican side and says, “Tell me why you think this is an idiotic idea.”

Judy Woodruff: So you’re saying the notion of the candidate saying, “I want to run for President because I want to do something for this country,” is crazy.

Roger Ailes: Suicide.

Trump is almost a perfect orchestra pit candidate. He equally divides his time between stumbling into the orchestra pit and attacking his opponents. Wait, that’s not entirely correct. Trump doesn’t necessarily stumble into the orchestra pit; sometimes he hurls himself head first into the pit. And then sets it on fire.

The four days of the Republican National Convention proved that. Let’s face it, the convention was one orchestra pit moment after another. It looked like it was staged by somebody with a severe synaptic disorder. It was chaos piled onto a heaping mass of confusion with a side helping of disorder, served up with a large glass of pandemonium.

Trump needs Ailes.

Back in May I said I wasn’t worried about Trump getting elected as president. My opinion hasn’t changed much. The flaws and weaknesses of the Trump campaign haven’t changed. But if anybody can put a glossy shine on the Trump turd of a campaign, it’s Roger Ailes.

'I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination."

‘I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination.”

Of course, Ailes has been forced out of Fox because of a sexual harassment scandal, so Trump might be reluctant to hire him as a…oh c’mon, you didn’t really think I was being serious with that line, did you? Trump would snatch up Ailes like a dog eating its own vomit. And his supporters would see that as Trump standing up against the Tyranny of Political Correctness.

Maybe it won’t happen. I hope it doesn’t happen. Because with Ailes, the Trump campaign could actually take form. It’s not that Ailes would plant pretty flowers around the borders of the Trump landfill; that’s not Ailes’ style. The risk is that Ailes might convince some folks that the stench of the landfill is the smell of freedom and success.

 

hillary fbi scandal omfg you guys

Hillary is NOT going to prison, you guys! Who could have predicted this? Nobody could have predicted this! This was totally unpredictable! Nostradamus on his best day could not have predicted this!

Well, okay, anybody who read actual news accounts of the email scandal rather than all the opinion pieces could have predicted it. The facts are surprisingly clear. Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State in 2009 and almost immediately asked for a secure phone like the one the National Security Agency provided for President Obama. The NSA said no.

Clinton and her staff said, “Oh, c’mon, let me have a secure phone.” The NSA said, “Nope, sorry.” The Clinton folks said, “Okay, how about if you just give a few high level staff a waiver, like you did for Condi Rice and her staff?” The NSA said, “Yeah, no, we don’t do that anymore.” The Clinton folks got a face-to-face meeting with seven senior State Department staffers with five NSA security experts, and said, “Guys, we really need a secure phone system.” The NSA said, “What, you guys are still here? Okay, you can give Hillary one of these.”

Sectera Edge

Sectera Edge

The Clinton folks said, “Are you fucking kidding me?” The NSA said, “Sure, it’s clunky and weighs almost a pound, and yeah it’s so awkward our own IT techs think it’s difficult to use. Oh, and the trusted display–the one you have to use for secure communications is really, really, really tiny. Also, it runs on Windows CE, which is a wee bit slow (because the operating system was already 13 years old in 2009). And by the way, the State Department will have to buy and install a whole new secure server infrastructure in order to actually use it.” The Clinton folks said, “Yeah, I don’t think so.”

Here’s a question: have you ever tried to cook a new dish while reading the recipe? It’s a fucking nightmare. You’re trying to caramelize the onions, while slicing up the peppers, and you know you bought Mexican oregano recently–where the hell IS it? It’s chaos. Now try to master a new communications device that has a notoriously steep technological learning curve while conducting negotiations with world leaders in crisis situations and simultaneously maintaining timely, sensitive international communication. You’re going to end up scorching some onions.

And remember this: Hillary Clinton is a grandma. Did you ever have to help your grandma with technology? You know what that’s like.

hillary_blackberry

This is NOT to excuse Clinton. She chose convenience over security (and also, what the hell is that pin she’s wearing? Looks like some sort of Star Wars medal). Her reasons for choosing convenience may be understandable and her decision might have been naive at the beginning, but Jeebus Krush at some point she and her staff had to realize they were taking ridiculous risks with security. What she did was stupid and probably negligent, but it didn’t rise to the level of criminality.

So no, anybody who’d paid attention to the actual facts of the situation couldn’t have been surprised by the FBI’s findings. Still, a lot of folks are upset that Hillary wasn’t charged with a crime. Okay, maybe upset isn’t the most accurate term. Let’s go with livid. A lot of people are livid. No, not emotional enough. A lot of people are fucking furious. There we go. A lot of people are fucking furious at the FBI, at James Comey, at the entire government of These United States of America, and at the whole combustible universe.

The folks who are most upset? Conservatives, of course, but also the Bernie or Bust folks. Yesterday I spent a bit of time scanning the reactions of those two groups: the right-wing cranks at FreeRepublic and the Facebook page for The People for Bernie Sanders.

So here’s a little game. I took some verbatim comments from each group and I’ve included them below. You try to guess which quote came from which group:

Yesterday we celebrated our Independence from a tyrannical government. Today we were reminded that those in charge are above the law. Nice.

After today I can carelees how the corrupt FBI director can or cannot say. He is a sell out.

this is the last straw. We WILL NOT accept that woman for President. Absolutely, positively not, under ANY circumstances.

Any idiot can see that the fix is in and this whole damned thing stinks to high heaven.

The United States of Corruption.

No indictment, No Justice!

That FBI ruling was a joke. It’s obvious the rules don’t apply to Hillary Clinton. No punishment for enemies getting a hold of top secret information because of you? No punishment for lying under oath? It’s so obvious the system is rigged for her.

Hillary needs to go to court and be tried by the people!!!!

How about outrageous, scandalous, corrupt beyond belief? The entire upper echelon of our government is composed of oath-breaking traitors.

Comey goes through the facts, finds the evidence, shows her lies, says that top secret information was left unprotected, and then says not to prosecute. The follow through was not congruent with the set-up. She’s guilty of negligence, she put top secret information at risk, which was illegal, they could easily bring charges. And who cares if Clinton has a ton of lawyers to fight it, she did this crime as Comey stated, and doesn’t deserve the presidency.

Is there not ONE HONEST person in this government?? I am beginning to think NO! GOODBYE AMERICA!

If Hillary is elected this November, then there is NO DOUBT this country is over.

Can’t have a racist or corrupt wall street WHORE as president!!!

SHILLARY FOR PRISON

Because of Hillary E-mails she can be Blackmailed as President from our enemies who have already hacked her server.

It’s not a very fair game, because I don’t recall which comments are from which group. I deliberately mixed them up. But the level of vitriol against Hillary is pretty much the same from both groups.

Here’s the thing (well, the thing as I see it): most of the ‘scandals’ directed at Hillary Clinton (and her husband) are bullshit. Republicans have investigated the shit out of any rumor or suspicion that touched the Clintons in any way. Seriously, back in 1997 when Bill was still in office, Republicans launched an investigation into the Clintons’ Christmas card list. I am NOT making this up. They held hearing for days, they called more than thirty witnesses to testify under oath, demanded 40,000 documents about the Christmas card list. Nothing came of it, of course. I don’t even remember what the hell the point was. But it allowed Republicans to spend a month of so on television, talking about yet another Clinton scandal that was being investigated by Congress.

HillaryDevil

You spend a quarter of a century launching bullshit investigations and claiming Hillary is the devil, some proportion of the public is eventually going to start believing there must be horns or a forked tail hidden away somewhere. This email business is one of the few incidents grounded in actual behavior that merits actual criticism. The criticism has been massively amplified and exaggerated, but this time some measure of it is deserved.

That doesn’t make it criminal. The FBI made the right call. And the furor over the FBI decision is less about national security than it is about twenty-five years of raw, partisan vilification, and the willingness of some segments of the public to believe bullshit just because it’s repeated often.

And can you guess what the Republicans are going to do in response to this? I’ll bet you can. Go ahead, you guys, take a guess.

Right. Good guess! They’re going to hold investigative hearings to find out if the FBI is part of the conspiracy to keep Hillary out of prison. Watch the news, hear all about the New Hillary FBI Scandal. They should be able to keep — oh, let’s call it FBI-gate — in the news cycle until the election in early November.

(Stay tuned for Clinton Voter Fraud-gate, due to be released in mid-November!)