lies, head fakes, stunts, naked self-interest & the stink of corruption

A few months ago I referred to the Republican Party as ‘the trash party‘. I called them that because they’ve basically abandoned everything that made them a legitimate political party. A coherent ideology, a consistent approach to governance, a concern for the common good, applied principles — that’s all gone. The GOP is now a party of lies, head fakes, stunts, and naked self-interest.

And everybody seems to know it and accept it. It’s a given, though most folks refrain from actually saying it out loud. This is how far the ‘Grand Old Party’ has fallen: Republicans in the Senate who are considering — just considering, mind you — the idea of asking for new witnesses — witnesses with direct information about the alleged crimes of the President of the United States, witnesses who are willing and eager to testify — in the ongoing impeachment trial are being described as ‘brave’.

Think about that. Brave? These are elected representatives getting paid a very healthy salary by taxpayers; their only job is to serve the public who elected them. They swore an oath to do that, to defend the Constitution. They’ve sworn a second oath to act as impartial triers of fact in the impeachment of the president. This is one of the critical, fundamental tasks they agreed to accept when they’re sworn in. But Republicans have lost their way so badly that it’s considered courageous for some of them to consider meeting the most basic, minimal expectation of their job.

And let’s face it, very few of us expect those few ‘brave’ Republicans to actually follow through. We expect almost nothing from them anymore — nothing except lies and head fakes and stunts and naked self-interest. They’re hollow, an empty shell of what once was a political party. All the principled Republicans have either left the party or abandoned public office, leaving nothing behind but the trash and the stink of corruption.

this is what scares me

I’m not particularly concerned that Trump will skate on this impeachment trial. I think we all expect he will. Senate Republicans, after all, are all gutless Quislings completely devoid of honor or integrity. So yeah, Trump will almost certainly walk. I don’t like it, but I expect it — and there it is.

What scares me is this: what comes next? If Comrade Trump gets away with this — if he’s acquitted in the Senate despite all the evidence against him — what will stop him from doing it again? What’s will prevent him from allowing — or flat out encouraging — a hostile nation to attack his Democratic opponent? And what could we do about it?

He’s capable of doing that. You know he is.

What’s going to stop him from doing something even worse? What if, say, he declares a national emergency — what if he announces there’s been a threat to certain polling districts and ‘for the safety of the citizens’ orders those polling places closed? What if he says the voters should go to different polling sites, sorry for the inconvenience? What could we do about it? 

Do you think Trump isn’t capable of doing that?

What if the 2020 election goes against him? What if he loses and claims the election was rigged/hacked/manipulated/fraudulent? What if he refuses to honor the result? What if he just refuses to relinquish power? What if he tells his followers to resist his removal from office? What if he tries to declare martial law? What then?

Do you think that’s impossible? It sounds crazy, doesn’t it. It sounds ridiculous. Because it IS crazy and ridiculous — or it would be if anybody else were president. But do you really think Trump wouldn’t try to pull something like that if he thought he might get away with it? What would stop him? Patriotism? Decency? Respect for the Constitution?

That’s what scares me. Not one more year of Trump, as horrible as that would be. What scares me is this: IF Trump gets away with it this time — and right now that seems a foregone conclusion — what’s going to stop him from thinking he can get away with it again? The answer scares me.

Nothing.

like a girl

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, isn’t there. We’re only twenty days into the new year and we’ve already had our 16th mass shooting. Australia isn’t as much on fire as it was last week, but it’s still burning and giving the world a preview of the coming climate apocalypse. In Richmond, VA, the home of the traitorous Confederate States of America, a lot of ‘gun enthusiasts’ (seriously, I read a news thing in which all these white, overfed, camo-clad, body-armored, armed-to-the-teeth, MAGA fuckwits who are threatening a new American Civil War if they’re limited to buying only one handgun a month were called ‘enthusiasts’ instead of ‘terrorists’) are gathering in order to express their opposition to terrorize any legislator who might even consider a law to limit their access to firearms. And tomorrow we’ll be starting the Senate hearing in the impeachment of Comrade Trump, the sitting President of the United States, for abusing his power and obstructing the Congress trying to investigate his abuses of power.

That’s a full day, right there. But today is also the birthday — well, okay, not the actual birthday since she’s a fictional character who therefore was never really born, but it’s the fictional birthday of the fictional character — of Buffy Summers. You know, the Vampire Slayer? She’d be 39 years old today.

“Into every generation a Slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.”

BtVS was the reason I bought a VCR. Not just to tape the show if I wasn’t around to watch it, but so that I could watch the episodes again. This was the first television show in my experience that I wanted to watch more than once, that rewarded the viewer for re-watching. It was that good, that clever, that charming, and that meaningful.

I mean, sure, at it’s heart it was just a story about high school as Hell. Literally. And yeah, it was also the first show that turned an entire genre on its head. The silly blonde cheerleader — the traditional victim of choice of demons and monsters — is actually the being that demons and monsters need to fear. It was the first show (in my experience) that was layered and textured with meaning that went beyond slaying the monster. It wasn’t just a show that entertained (although it sure as hell did); it was a show that encouraged you to think. About politics, about sexuality, about religion, about gender, about the uses/misuses of science, about hypocrisy, about the roles of women, about power relationships, about the ways myth and legend shape culture, about music, about alienation, about love, about loss, about death, about suicide, about narrative structure, about…no, really, narrative structure. I’m not just bullshitting here. This show actually encouraged you to think about narrative structure.

Look, BtVS wasn’t the first show to mix comedy and drama. But it was, I believe, the first show to refuse to separate comedy and drama. In most shows, you’d have a dramatic scenes and you’d have comedic scenes; they were always separate and distinct. BtVS destroyed that notion. They’d toss a funny line into a dramatic scene without damaging the drama. They’d drop a dramatic line into a comedic scene, and it would hang there for a bit, then the dialog would return to the comedy because it was the only way NOT to scream. Because actual life is full of comedy and drama and it’s usually all mixed together. Actual life is so often about finding the strength to do what you need to do — what you’re supposed to do — when you would really rather not do anything at all, and still being able to have a laugh now and then.

That was the thing about BtVS — it never shied away from the ugliness of the world. It never promised that everything would turn out just fine. It was always about finding ways — usually through friends and family — of dealing with a world that didn’t turn out just fine. It was about doing what you can do to make things better, even if it was almost certain you’d lose. It was, in the end, a show about taking responsibility for your place in the world, it was about showing up and doing your damned job, it was about being strong when strength was required, it was about getting over yourself and doing what needed to be done, it was about claiming your space and fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

“I’m beyond tired. I’m beyond scared. I’m standing on the mouth of Hell and it is going to swallow me whole. And it’ll choke on me. I’m done waiting. They want an apocalypse? Well, we’ll give ’em one. From now on, we won’t just face our worst fears, we will seek them out. We will find them, and cut out their hearts, one by one.”

It was a show about refusing to accept things being the way they are just because that’s the way they’ve always been. In the final episode, Buffy even casts off her role as ‘The Chosen One’. She says”

“In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who might have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. There are a lot of metaphoric vampires, demons, and forces of darkness that need metaphoric slaying. Buffy is a singularly apt role model for this world. We’re all living in Sunnydale now. We can all…well, I’ll let Buffy and Angel explain it.

Buffy: My mom said some things to me about being the Slayer. That it’s fruitless. No fruit for Buffy.
Angel: She’s wrong.
Buffy: Is she? Is Sunnydale any better than when I first came here? Okay, so I battle evil. But I don’t really win. The bad just keeps coming back…and getting stronger. Like the kid in the story, the boy that stuck his finger in the duck.
Angel: Dike.
Buffy looks at him.
Angel: It’s another word for dam.
Buffy: Oh. Okay, that story makes a lot more sense now.
Angel: Buffy, you know there’s still things I’m trying to figure out. There’s a lot I don’t understand. But I do know it’s important to keep fighting. I learned that from you.
Buffy: But we never…
Angel: We never win.
Buffy: Not completely.
Angel: Never will. That’s not why we fight. We do it because there’s things worth fighting for.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. We all need to show up, stand up, speak up, and fight like a girl. So happy birthday Buffy Anne Summers. You saved the world, a lot.

so far

Over the last few days, three bits of seemingly unrelated news caught my attention and sort of took up residence in my brain.

News Bit the First: After two years of investigation, a Trump Justice Department inquiry launched by vindictive Republicans into allegations of 1) financial corruption by the Clinton Foundation, 2) criminal activity by Hillary Clinton in the Uranium One deal, and 3) still another probe into the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server was quietly ended. No report was issued, no announcement was made, no comment was given — the investigation just ended with the conclusion that there was absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing.

News Bit the Second: There’s been an ongoing social media discussion about the reluctance of men — particularly men who would be casting votes for Academy Award nominations — to see Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women. Why? Apparently because it’s about women. Apparently because these men feel the male characters in the film are ‘two-dimensional, largely ornamental and relegated to the background.’

News Bit the Third: It appears Senator Bernie Sanders may have said — or somehow suggested — that a woman couldn’t win a presidential election in 2020. It seems highly unlikely to me that Bernie would have said that — or that he would believe that to be the case — but the guy tends be blunt and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he said something that could easily be interpreted that way. In a way, it doesn’t matter if Bernie actually said it or not. The sad fact is, the electability of women shouldn’t even be a matter of discussion. But it is.

Obviously, these three seemingly unrelated bits of news aren’t unrelated at all. I don’t need to point out what they have in common. I don’t need to say it’s incredibly stupid that it’s 2020 and women are still dealing with this shit.

But I DO want to say that it’s impressive as hell that they ARE dealing with it. That Hillary Clinton could get three million more votes than Trump, still lose the election, and yet still have the strength of character to continue to speak out. That Greta Gerwig can make an absolutely amazing film, get denied a Best Director nomination, and yet still have the strength of character to celebrate the actors in her film and their nominations. That Elizabeth Warren could create the idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, be denied the Director’s position by Republicans, run for a Senate seat against the incumbent Republican, win the seat, was warned by Mitch McConnell NOT to read a letter by Coretta Scott King, read it anyway, got formally rebuked (“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted”) and still had the strength of character to run for president.

I am astonished that so many women have continued to stand firm, speak out, and fight for fundamental fairness despite living in a culture that is punishing, denigrating, often hateful, shaming, and for some reason even denies them pockets in their clothes.

Pockets, for fuck’s sake. How women find the patience to resist burning it all down is beyond me. And they could do it. If every woman — every low paid office clerk, every admin assistant, every receptionist, every woman executive, every housekeeper and baker and welder and doctor and truck driver and police officer — if every woman decided to not go to work for one day, the entire world would come to an abrupt halt. If they decided not to go to work for two days, whole economies would collapse.

But nevertheless, they persist. They do go to work. Every goddamn day.

So far.

stinks

Just pointing out the obvious here, but Comrade Trump always does what he accuses other folks of doing. There’s this from this morning:

And there’s this from Friday in an interview (on FOX News, which is the only place Trump feels safe enough to give an interview) with Laura Ingraham:

“Here we are, split-second timing, executed like nobody’s seen in many, many years, on Soleimani? Can you imagine they want us to call out and speak to crooked corrupt politician Adam Schiff? ‘Oh, Adam, we have somebody that we’ve been trying to get for a long time. We have a shot at him right now. Could we meet so that we can get your approval, Adam Schiff?’ And he’d say, ‘Well, let’s do it in a couple of days.’ ‘Oh, OK, let’s wait a couple…’ It doesn’t work that way, number one. Number two, they leak. Anything we give will be leaked immediately.”

He accuses Schiff of ‘totally making up a conversation’ but does exactly that his ownself. Hell, he even did it during the interview with Ingraham.

“I think Nancy Pelosi and Schiff — you know, because he’s corrupt. I mean here’s the guy stands up at the United States Congress and repeats a conversation — except it was a fraud, he made up a conversation.”

This Trump guy, he’s a textbook case of psychological projection. Textfuckingbook. Seriously. Here: a defence mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.

Is that not Comrade Donald J. Trump? It so totally is. Even our old friend King James went on about this. “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Okay, somebody would probably have to explain to Trump what a ‘mote’ is, but still.

I am so tired of this guy. It’s going to take a long time to get rid of the stink of Trump. A long time.

we can’t

Y’all already know this, but I’m going to repeat it just so we’re clear. Comrade POTUS Donald Trump ordered the targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani, a high-ranking military officer of Iran — a nation with whom the US is not at war — during the general’s public visit to Iraq, which offered no objection to his visit. The question we have to ask, of course, is this: why in the hell did Trump decide to have Soleimani assassinated?

Trump initially said Soleimani had to be killed because “he was planning new attacks on American targets.” Attacks, plural. He repeated this claim, and got more specific, at his campaign rally in Ohio last night. Comrade Trump said this:

“Soleimani was actively planning new attacks and he was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad, but we stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold. So at my direction, the United States military eliminated Qasem Soleimani and ended his rampage through not only that part of the world but much bigger parts of the world he was all over.”

Multiple attacks on more than one embassy. Members of Congress (in both political parties) who were eventually briefed on the assassination have said there was no mention of any plans by Soleimani to attack any embassy. Still, Trump is making the claim — and the claim makes him look decisive and determined and concerned about the welfare of US embassy staff. It’s almost certainly a lie.

Another take on the assassination is buried deep in a Wall Street Journal article. It offers some uglier insight into Comrade Trump’s decision-making process:

Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

This makes Trump’s decision to have Soleimani assassinated sound like nothing more than an attempt to shore up support in his coming impeachment trial. It’s probably true.

It’s barely making the news. This is the United States we live in now. We have a president who almost certainly had a foreign military leader assassinated in order to strengthen his political situation in Congress, and because Trump is who he is and because Republicans have protected him for so very long, it’s just another day. We were this close to a shooting war…and Republicans just shrug it off.

The United States used to be a fairly decent country. Those days are gone, and sometimes it seems like we’ll never get them back. It makes you want to sit in a dark room and mope. But, of course, we can’t.

Well, we can. But no, we can’t. We can’t. We really can’t.

a thin sheet of hate

It was explained to me, in very polite terms I should note, that I was completely wrong when I said modern evangelicals supporting Trump were promoting “a gospel of white supremacist rage and victimhood.” The evidence that I was wrong?

If you look at the Evangelicals For Trump website, you’ll see a number of African-American and Latino models sporting Trump products specifically designed for African-American and Latino supporters.

I’m willing to be convinced that I might be wrong. I’ve been wrong a LOT in my long, semi-wicked life, so I’m open to the possibility that I might be wrong about this. I did as I was asked to do. I looked at the Evangelicals for Trump website.

Okay, granted, the landing page (is that what it’s called?) shows a sea of white faces with one singularly Aryan-looking kid. But that’s just one photo. And besides, the proof I was told I’d find was about the products being sold. And hey, right there in the upper right hand corner is a ‘SHOP’ button. So I clicked on it.

Sure enough, a couple of pages in you can find black and Latinx models dressed in Trumpwear with slogans like ‘Black Voices for Trump’ or ‘Latinos for Trump’. There were also Trump straws (pack of 10 for US$15) and ‘Get Over It’ t-shirts and camouflage dog bandanas and Trump/Pence snowflake wrapping paper and ‘Women for Trump’ ball caps and Trump/Pence playing cards and Space Force bumper stickers and…

Wait. Snowflake wrapping paper? Space Force bumper stickers? How does any of that fit into evangelism? Trump plastic straws? I don’t get the religious angle here. So I went back to the landing page and read this description of the site:

Evangelicals for Trump will engage the Christian community to help re-elect President Donald J. Trump in 2020. Through re-affirming support for President Trump, evangelicals across the country will work to deliver a second term – ensuring that pro-life initiatives, religious freedom, and the appointment of conservative judges are kept as a top priority for four more years.

Well, okay. I know that ‘pro-life’ is code for ‘anti-abortion’ so I can see the religious angle in that, even if I don’t agree with it and think it’s hypocritical. I’m also aware that ‘religious freedom’ as it’s commonly used by evangelicals means the promotion of a specific style of Christianity along with the quiet, indirect suppression of non-Christian religions. I don’t think that’s very Christian, but it’s certainly ‘religious’. But conservative judges? That’s entirely political.

Why, on a website devoted to evangelical supporters, isn’t there any mention of more traditional Christian values? Why don’t we see anything about “Love your neighbor as yourself” or “If a man strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek” or “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Those are pretty fundamental tenets of Christianity.

Evangelical Christians claim they are called to spread the gospel — the teachings of a person who called on them to care about the poor, the suffering, and the outcast. Yet there’s no mention of the poor, the suffering and the outcast here. There’s no mention of morality or civic virtue. There’s only merchandise to be moved.

Why is this site promoting Trump rather than evangelicalism or Christianity? The answer is found in the small print.

This website, mobile application or other digital or online application or service is operated by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

Evangelicals for Trump isn’t a religious site; it’s a political site. It’s got nothing to do with Christianity or evangelicalism; it’s only about raising campaign money. Yes, there are black and Latino models wearing Trumpwear, just as my critic claimed. But they’re not included because modern evangelism supports diversity. They’re included because Trump will sell anything to anybody if he can make a profit off it.

Here’s a sad, ugly truth: Donald Trump corrupts everything he touches. He’s corrupted the Republican Party; he’s corrupted the Christian evangelist movement. There’s no better metaphor for that than Trump/Pence Snowflake wrapping paper.

Trump claims he made it safe for Christians to say ‘merry Christmas’ which is a lie on a massive scale. His followers insult liberals by calling them ‘snowflakes’ to suggest they’re delicate. The only reason this wrapping paper exists is so Trump supporters can believe in the illusion that they’re somehow ‘winning’ by insulting liberals. That’s about as far from the spirit of Christmas as you can possibly get — which makes it perfectly on brand for both Trump and modern evangelicalism.

Wrap religion in a thin sheet of hate and sell it to the gullible. There it is.