fuckwits and cowards

We are a nation ruled by fuckwits and cowards. There are people in this nation who truly believe a continuing cascade of mass shootings is a reasonable price to pay for the freedom to…to what? To own a lot of guns? And there are politicians who know there are practical ways to reduce that body count, but are too afraid of losing their job to actually do anything about it. Fuckwits and cowards.

We can talk about honoring the first responders, but it’s all bullshit if we’re not going to even attempt to reduce the horrors they’re responding to. We can talk about honoring the dead, but fuck them — they’re dead and they can’t vote, and even if the families of the dead make a fuss they can’t outspend the National Rifle Association. We can talk about honoring the Constitution, but it’s just a head fake — we routinely shit on chunks of the other amendments. We can talk, but don’t for a minute believe talk will result in anything. It won’t. Not as long as we’re a nation ruled by fuckwits and cowards.

Here’s a sad thing: I can no longer sustain any outrage about the butcher’s bill. 20 second-graders dead, 32 college students dead, 50 gay folks dead, maybe more than 60 country music fans dead. They’re becoming meaningless numbers. Meaningless deaths. Because we all know we’re not going to do anything about it beyond muttering something about thoughts and prayers. They’re good at that, the fuckwits and cowards; they have a never-ending font of thoughts and prayers.

It’s not just the mass shootings, of course. Every day about a hundred people die by the gun. They’re not all murders; some of them are suicides, some of them are accidental, some of them are a result of negligence. The fuckwits believe those deaths are inevitable, which means the world is a dangerous place, which means they’re afraid all the time, and because they’re fuckwits they believe the only way to protect themselves from people with guns is to have guns themselves. The cowards know better, but they encourage that circular thinking because it helps them stay in power.

Fuckwits and cowards. And the rest of us? The rest of us are worn out. You can’t win an argument with a fuckwit because they’re fuckwitted. You can’t win an argument with a coward because cowards lie. Making arguments you know you can’t win is just fucking exhausting. And discouraging. And disheartening.

But damn it, we still have to do it. Call your members of Congress today. It won’t matter, but do it anyway. Why? Because there are a bunch of dead country music fans to go along with our dead gay folks and our dead college students and our dead second-graders and all the dead spouses and girlfriends and co-workers and children and neighbors and siblings and no matter how fucking tired we are, we can’t just stay quiet.

If we stay quiet, then we’re also fuckwits and cowards.

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the galaxies are full of very stupid people

The fans of Doctor Who are, on the whole, a pretty intelligent group with a fairly elastic capacity for the willing suspension of disbelief. Most of them (and by ‘them’ I mean ‘us’ because I’m also a fan of the Doctor) have a Disbelief Suspension Toggle that triggers immediately on hearing the first electronic notes of the harmonic waveforms that comprise the show’s theme song.

But there are some fans whose Disbelief Suspension Toggles appear to be seriously malfunctioning.

Consider the Adipose. Cheeky little semi-sentient marshmallows of fat, from the planet Adipose 3. They could, in a crisis, completely absorb humans, thereby turning those unfortunate humans into…well, more fat. To Whovians with a properly functioning DST, this is believable.

Totally believable, this.

Consider the Slitheen. They’re a Raxacoricofallapatorian crime family who plotted to turn the Earth into a huge nuclear reactor pile and sell the planet’s remains off as starship fuel. The Slitheen are able to pass themselves off as human by ‘wearing’ the skin of large, dead people. Because the Slitheen are larger than most humans, they have to compress themselves to fit inside the skin. One effect of this compression is the periodic necessity to expel gas in the form of resounding farts. This is believable.

Absolutely believable.

Consider Chula nanogenes. This was a microscopic form of gene therapy used to repair wounds and injuries suffered by soldiers from the planet Chula. The nanogenes were accidentally released on Earth in 1941 by an immortal, time-traveling human con man who’d stolen a Chula space ambulance. The escaped nanogenes attempted to heal a young British boy who was the victim of a Nazi bombing raid. Assuming the boy’s gas mask was actually part of his face, the nanogenes ‘healed’ the mask. Using the boy as a template, the Chula nanogenes ‘healed’ other injured humans based on the boy’s characteristics and injuries at death — thereby creating gas-mask-faced zombies. This is believable.

Who wouldn’t believe this?

Consider the Doctor — an alien being from the planet Gallifrey who possesses a binary vascular system, maintains an internal body temperature of around 60F (15-16C), and has a respiratory bypass system that allows the Doctor to occasionally go without oxygen for an indeterminate period of time. The Doctor primarily resides in a stolen dimensionally transcendental time-spacecraft called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) which, due to a faulty chameleon circuit, looks like a 1960s-era British police box. When near death (usually due to injury, age, or disease), the Doctor can regenerate — a process by which the body restructures its triple helix DNA. This restructuring generally allows the Doctor to retain most of the previous Doctor’s memories. However, it also includes the genetic equivalent of ‘bit errors’ in the DNA. This has the effect of altering the Doctor’s appearance, height, mass, and apparent age. This is believable.

So completely believable.

To some Doctor Who fans, however, there is one immutable characteristic of the Doctor. One physical facet of the Doctor’s being than is indispensable, regardless of the regeneration process. One supreme, conclusive physical attribute that defines the Doctor. An extendable intromittent organ that acts as a sperm delivery system. To these fans, the Doctor’s physical body is apparently nothing more than an extension of the Doctor’s dick. Absent that organ, the Doctor is a sham.

In other words — no dick, no Doctor.

What? No. Are you kidding me? Unbelievable.

These particular Doctor Who fans are what I like to call ‘fuckwits’. Why? Because there’s no evidence that the Doctor even has a dick. The Doctor has always appeared to be male, so many fans have fallen into the Operative Assumption of Dick. It is an implied dick; nobody has ever actually seen the Doctor’s dick.

I’m confident, though, that there are David Tennant/10th Doctor fans who’ve made an exhaustive visual inspection of the Doctor’s tailored striped trousers; if a dick had been noticeable, I’m pretty sure it would have been…well, noticed. Even if the Doctor has a dick, it’s possible he’s hung like a horsefly.

The thing is, we just don’t know. No, wait…the thing actually is, it just doesn’t matter. Whether the Doctor is fully dicked, partially dicked, variantly dicked, or utterly dick-free, it just doesn’t matter.

What matters is whether the Doctor connects with the audience — and that’s a personal issue. Jodie Whittaker will either be convincing as the Doctor or she won’t. If you’re only able to relate to Doctors who possess an implied dick, then — well, I don’t want to say you’re a sexist idiot, but… No, wait. That’s actually exactly what I want to say. If you can’t connect to the 13th Doctor because she hasn’t a dick, then you’re a sexist idiot.

I don’t know if Jodie Whittaker will be convincing as the Doctor. I very much hope she will. But it won’t depend on what’s hidden beneath her clothing.

That said, I’ll be deeply disappointed if she wears heels.

bottom line

Over the weekend I heard somebody run with the ‘give the guy some time’ defense of Comrade Trump. You’ve surely heard this. “Sure, he’s made some dumb moves, but the bottom line is he’s only been on the job a few months. What do you expect?”

That’s a good question. No, wait…it’s a really stupid question. What do we expect? The guy is the goddamn President of These United States. We shouldn’t have to be concerned about whether he meets some minimal tolerable standard. This isn’t Pass/Fail, for fuck’s sake. But sadly, that’s where we are as a nation. We’re actually forced to ask if Donald J. Trump is capable of meeting the bottom line.

The bottom line. It’s about as perfect an expression of a concept as you could ever want. It literally refers to the final profit and loss figure of any enterprise, which is located on the bottom line on an accounting page. Even the term bottom is absolutely perfect. It’s derived from a Proto-Germanic root word, buthm, meaning the ground, earth, soil, the lowest level. There is nothing below the bottom. 

So, bottom line — what’s the very least we expect from the President of These United States? What are the minimal set of behaviors and beliefs we reckon are acceptable from the person who runs the United States government? A few things immediately come to mind.

Is it true? I dunno. Maybe. Probably. Who can say?

A certain degree of honesty. Nobody expects POTUS to be perfectly honest about everything. There are things that, for security reasons, need to be kept secret. We’re all adults; we know this. We may not always like it, but we understand the need for incidental presidential fibbing. Hell, most of us are even okay with the occasional bald-faced presidential lie IF it’s in the best interest of the nation. But at the same time we expect the president NOT to lie casually. Or frequently. Or blatantly.

Comrade Trump violates that expectation. He lies easily, he lies often, and he lies brazenly — even if the lie is obvious. The scope of the lie doesn’t seem to matter; he lies just as easily about issues of national importance as he does about trivial crap. He’s not just indifferent to the truth; he so indifferent to it that we’re forced to wonder if he’s even aware he’s lying.

That’s unacceptable. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that our president isn’t a habitual liar. The leaders of other nations share that expectation. When it comes to matters of trade or security — not to mention times of international crisis — other national leaders need to be able to trust that the U.S. president isn’t lying his ass off. At this point, nobody can fully trust Comrade Trump will deal honestly with…well, with anybody.

Whaddya mean, I got to listen to Congress? Who elected them to…oh. But still, c’mon.

A basic grasp of how the U.S. government functions. Yeah, government is complex. No single person can be expected to understand every facet of every organization and agency that comprises the U.S. government. But as citizens, we expect the president to have a working knowledge of how our government is supposed to operate.

Comrade Trump violates those expectations. If you google Trump doesn’t you get the following predictive searches:

understand executive orders
understand checks and balances
understand separation of powers

Okay, executive orders are maybe a tad confusing, but the concepts of checks and balances and separation of powers? That’s basic stuff. The first three articles of the U.S. Constitution are devoted to it. You know — three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, the judiciary. None of them is superior to the others, each operates independently, but are held in check by the other two. For example, POTUS can negotiate treaties, but the Senate has to approve them. Congress can make laws, but the courts determine if those laws are constitutional. The courts can send folks to jail, but POTUS has the power to pardon them. POTUS can propose a budget, but Congress decides whether to fund it. Basic stuff, like I said. American kids learn this in middle school or earlier. But they’re a mystery to Comrade Trump.

That’s unacceptable. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that the president should be as familiar with this stuff as your average fifteen year old kid. It’s ridiculous that Comrade Trump has to be periodically reminded what the president can and cannot do. He’s NOT the king — he’s not even the CEO of America Inc. — he’s just the guy who temporarily occupies the office.

Go fuck yourself. Go. And then fuck yourself. In that order.

An elementary notion of decorum. I’m not talking about whether he knows what fork is for the salad. I’m talking about preserving and maintaining the dignity of the office of the President of These United States. In the words of Joe Biden (who, let’s face it, wasn’t always the most decorous and dignified person in the room), it’s a big fucking deal. We expect our president NOT to be a jerk in public. When the president is out and about with his wife, he should be polite to her. It’s none of our business whether or not he loves his wife, but it IS our business that he treats her with respect. When visiting officials and dignitaries arrive at the White House, he should be polite to them. It doesn’t matter if he likes or dislikes Angela Merkel. She’s the Chancellor of Germany — shake her damned hand. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that our president doesn’t disgrace the nation, doesn’t embarrass the citizenry, doesn’t wantonly insult others. It’s not asking too much to expect the president to comport himself a degree of restraint and a certain amount of grace.

Comrade Trump violates those expectations. He’s consistently rude and boorish — to his wife, to his staff, to visiting dignitaries and diplomats, to his predecessors, and to others in general. He’s quick to ridicule folks he disagrees with, to insult his detractors, to disparage anyone he feels is in any way inferior, and to malign anybody he sees as any sort of threat. At the same time, he compliments authoritarian figures and tyrants. He praises Russia’s Putin, Duterte of the Philippines, Turkey’s Erdogan — but he calls President Obama “a bad (or sick) guy” and accused him of “trying to destroy Israel” and being “the worst president in U.S. history” as well as being “weak” and “insane”.

That’s unacceptable. As citizens we deserve a president who isn’t a continuous source of shame and embarrassment. We deserve to be represented by a person who treats others with a modicum of respect. We deserve a president who is self-confident and mature enough to respond to slights and insults with restraint and sensibility. We deserve a president who isn’t a flaming asshole.

Bottom line: he can’t get any lower.

So, here’s the bottom line then. We expect the president to be moderately honest, to be as conversant with the basic functions of the government as a middle school student, and not to be a jerk. We expect him not to pout, not to whine, not to blame others, and not to have tantrums. We expect him NOT to behave like a spoiled child acting out at the Burger King.

Bottom line — we expect the President of These United States to act like a fucking adult.

a very short conversation about health care

My friend: “I can’t believe what the Republicans did. They hate poor people.”
Me: “I dunno. Seems like it, doesn’t it.”
My friend: “Oh c’mon, they despise poor people.”
Me: “Naw, it’s more like the Republicans are Rick Blaine and poor folks are Signor Ugarte.”
My friend: “What?”
Me: “You know, like in the movie Casablanca.”
My friend: Casablanca? What the hell are you talking about?”
Me: “You’ve never seen Casablanca?”
My friend: “Well, yeah, of course I’ve seen it. But what’s Casablanca got to do with Republicans passing a hateful health care bill?”
Me: “Remember that scene? The one with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre?”
My friend: “Oh, yeah, right. He wants to search Bogart’s office, and he pulls a gun, but Bogie knocks him out and takes his gun and searches him, and when Peter Lorre wakes up, Bogart gives him back the gun, and Peter Lorre points it at him again and demands to search his office. Great scene.”
Me: “That’s from The Maltese Falcon.”
My friend: “Oh. Right. Sam Spade and…Peter Lorre.”
Me: “Joel Cairo.”
My friend: “What?”
Me: “Peter Lorre played Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon. In Casablanca he plays a guy named Signor Ugarte.”
My friend: “Okay. I’m still confused.”
Me: “What I’m saying…or trying to say…is that Republicans would probably despise poor people if they gave them any thought.”
My friend: “Okay. Wait, what?”
Me: “Congressional Republicans…and this is just my opinion…don’t care enough about poor people to think about them enough to actually despise them.”
My friend: “But if they did, they would.”
Me: “Exactly.”

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.

tip your little hat

Jackanapes (noun) 1 (obsolete) A monkey. 2. (dated, pejorative) a : an impudent or conceited fellow, an absurd fop, b : a saucy or mischievous child.

mid-15c., from ‘Jack of Naples‘, with ‘of Naples’ rendered ‘a Napes‘ in vernacular. Orig., a man who exhibited performing apes; an organ grinder and his tame monkey. Usage note: originally in the singular form: jackanape, Later ref. pertained primarily to the ape. Farmer & Henley say ‘originally, no doubt, a gaudy-suited and performing ape.’

Many people are saying the J. in Donald J. Trump stands for Jackanapes. I don’t know; I’m not saying it, but many people are. Many tremendous people. Maybe it’s the Chinese, or it could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds, nobody knows. Probably not Russia. But many people are saying it.

organ-grinder

A little advice for Mr. Trump. If you hear the music of a hand organ, look around. If you can’t immediately see the monkey at the end of the leash, it’s because you’re the monkey. Hold out the cup and tip your little hat. And don’t forget, Putin the Organ Grinder owns that little hat, and the cup. And the leash.

specifics aside

So I’m eating lunch, right? Well, breakfast — I mean, it’s my first meal of the day so I guess it’s officially breakfast even though it’s almost noon. Whatever you call it, I’m eating and reading the news and opinion pieces — and there’s a piece by Mark Halperin on last night’s Republican debate.

I should point out that Mark Halperin isn’t a total fucking idiot — but he comes close enough so often that the difference between him and a total fucking idiot can be measured in angstroms. He was assigning letter grades to the…an angstrom? Sure, an angstrom is a unit of length that’s equal to 10−10 meters. That’s one ten-billionth of a meter. We’re talking tiny. Even tinier than that. A hydrogen atom is about half an angstrom.

Mark Halperin, not a total fucking idiot.

Mark Halperin, not a total fucking idiot.

So Mark Halperin is assigning letter grades to the Republican candidates for the quality of their debates last night, and he gives Trump an A. Seriously, he gave Trump an A. And he says this:

“Critics will howl, but, specifics aside, he sounded sufficiently reasonable and generally informed to win the nomination.”

See? Not a total fucking idiot. A total fucking idiot wouldn’t know that critics would howl. Everything else in that sense is pure distilled total fucking idiocy. Specifics aside, Halperin says. Specifics aside, Trump sounded reasonable and informed. .

Specifics aside, a mouse and an elephant are both mammals. Specifics aside, roadkill and quiche are edible. Specifics aside, turning water into wine is a good idea. Specifics aside, the only difference between the rats that brought the Black Death to Europe and lab rats is the quality of their fleas. Specifics aside, mass transit submarines would be a cool way to commute between Baltimore and Malaga, Spain.

What the actual fuck, Mark Halperin? Specifics aside, my ass. The fact that Trump was able to keep from yowling like a goddamn monkey — that he was able to refrain from talking about his dick and insulting the other people on the stage — that does NOT make him sound reasonable and informed. It just means he was unreasonable and ill-informed in a more muted voice. And for that, he gets an A.

A tuna noodle casserole.

A tuna noodle casserole.

Jeebus Airbus, these fucking people, I declare.. Specifics aside, the difference between Mark Halperin and a tuna noodle casserole is that I respect a tuna noodle casserole.