many sides

The president — and man, I cannot tell you how it sickens me to refer to that colossal lying fuckwit as ‘the president’ — said this in response to the violence in Charlottesville yesterday:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

Fuck you. Fuck you from many sides. Only one side decided to gather at Charlottesville to champion hate and white supremacy. Only one side arrived carrying firearms and wearing military gear. Only one side carried flags made infamous by genocide, and flags made infamous by lynching and church-bombing and racial assassination. For that matter, only one side wore MAGA hats. The truth that only one side instigated the violence is so obvious that to dispute it is, in effect, to support and promote the violence. Which is exactly what the president did. So fuck you, Trump, fuck you and your lies about many sides.

There was only one side that Made America Ashamed Again. That side could be represented by Vanguard America, a group devoted to what they call ‘American fascism.’ Those polo-shirted fuckwits toting tiki torches and shouting “Blood and soil” on Friday night? They were chanting the motto of Vanguard America. This group advocates one side supremacy. Given the power, they wouldn’t allow many sides to even exist. The Vanguard America manifesto specifically calls for an:

America based on the immutable truths of Blood and Soil. A multicultural nation is no nation at all, but a collection of smaller ethnic nations ruled over by an overbearing tyrannical state. Our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed.

The most powerful nation, there’s the clue. Not the greatest nation, not the most civilized, not the most free, not a nation of many sides, not the most open or the most welcoming nation. The most powerful. You know who wants the most powerful nation? People who are afraid. People who are afraid and want to dominate those they’re afraid of. People who hate. People who drive muscle cars (of course, it would be a muscle car) into a crowd of peaceful protesters.

James Alex Fields, the driver of that car, was associated with Vanguard America. They deny he was a member, of course, despite the fact he was photographed with the group yesterday, carrying a Vanguard shield and dressed in their usual Vanguard-emblazoned white polo shirt and khaki pants. Have you noticed how often groups that espouse the belief that only one side is legitimate tend to wear uniforms?

Blood and soil. Only one side at Charlottesville was eager to spill blood on the soil.

Me, I like a many-sided world. I love a many-sided world. I may not like or agree with some of those sides, but a many-sided world is a healthier, a more vital and a more interesting world. Yet the only time Trump and his hate group supporters refer to many sides is when they’re trying to diffuse responsibility, when they’re trying to spread the blame, when they’re trying to dodge their own culpability.

Trump is culpable. Not for the racism or white supremacy or hate itself, but for nurturing and encouraging racism and white supremacy and hate. He created a petri dish of racial resentment and gender hostility and class rage that spawned what happened over the last couple of days in Charlottesville. He didn’t drive that car into the crowd, but he helped create an environment that made it possible for James Alex Fields to do it.

 

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in which i explain why i call him comrade trump

Hey, you guys! Remember when something like forty-seven hundred different United States intelligence services said Russia interfered with the presidential election and Vlad Putin said, “Nuh uh” and Donald Trump believed Putin? Is Trump a fucking idiot or what? (Hint: he is a fucking idiot.)

And remember just a few days ago when the U.S. Senate voted 98-2 to sanction Russia for interfering with the presidential election, and Donald Trump said, “Oh, c’mon, stop picking on Russia, leave Brittney Putin alone!” but signed the bill anyway on account of he’s a weasel? And he did it in private, which is really really unusual because Donald Trump just loves to sign things in front of an audience? Remember that, you guys?

And also too, you guys, remember like a day or two ago when Brittney Putin decided to expel 755 people from the American embassy and consulate staff in Russia on account of the U.S. Senate voted 98-2 (ninety-fucking-eight to two!) to sanction Russia for interfering with the presidential election, and Donald Trump totally thanked Brittney for punishing the U.S. embassy in Russia?

You guys, listen you guys, people ask me, they say “Hey, Greg, why do you call him Conrad Trump?” and I have to explain it’s not Conrad, it’s Comrade, and then they want to know why I call him Comrade.

You guys, this is why I call him Comrade Trump. On account of he’s deep in the pocket of Russian oligarchs, on account of he’s smitten with Putin the Strongman, on account of he was elected only through the assistance of the Russian government, and on account of given a choice between standing up for the U.S. or sitting in the lap of Russia, Trump always — every fucking time — chooses Russia.

Every. Fucking. Time. So, that’s why. In case you were wondering (you were totally wondering, weren’t you).

uncomfortable confessional crap – part two

I have this Fitbit thing on my wrist to remind me to get up off my ass periodically and move. When your work involves sitting in front of a computer and putting words in a row, an activity tracker is pretty handy. It’s set up to keep track of all sorts of stuff, most of which I don’t keep track of — how much liquid I drink, how much food I eat, how many calories I burn.

It also keeps track of how much sleep I get. Which isn’t much. On average, around five and half hours a night. On average, that’s the key. Sometimes it’s less than five hours, occasionally as much as six and a half. Last night, according my Fitbit thing, I topped out at four hours and five minutes.

Nightmares. Everybody has them. I had them last night. Not the standard nightmares. You know — being chased, being trapped, being stalked, falling from a height, the universal nightmares everybody shares. Last night I had the sort of nightmares that you earn. The nightmares that grow out of stuff you’ve seen, stuff you’ve done, stuff you were afraid to do but did anyway, stuff you don’t really think about but is always there lurking in…I don’t know what it lurks in. Your subconscious, I guess. Doesn’t really matter what it’s lurking in; it’s the lurking that matters.

Sometimes the nightmares are weird replays of stuff you’ve done or seen. More often they’re about the moments leading up to the stuff you did, the stuff you saw. Those are the worst. It’s the awareness of what’s coming and the inability to halt it or turn away.

I don’t have those nightmares very often anymore. Three, maybe four times a year. A long time ago I had them weekly. They’ve gradually abated. I’ve also gotten better at interrupting them, which sounds a wee bit crazy. Somehow, when I’m asleep and the nightmare begins, it’s like I can tell myself “Dude, this is that nightmare…you know, that one where you have to break the transom over the door and crawl through and then after you fall there’s that awful bit with struggling and the jagged, broken bit of metal and all that hot slippery blood…you know this nightmare and you can skip it tonight,” and then I usually wake up and everything is okay.

But every so often one gets away from you. When you finally wake up and turn on a light, all you can do is reassure yourself that it’s just a nightmare. Sometimes you can go back to sleep. More often, though, you don’t. It’s not that you can’t go back to sleep; it’s more that you’re afraid to. If you go back to sleep, it might happen again.

But here’s the really crazy part. I’m okay with that. Like I said earlier, I earned those nightmares. My life now is quiet and calm and peaceful. Most days my biggest concern is what I’m going to prepare for supper. But I spent about fifteen years doing really interesting stuff, stuff that was intense and demanding, stuff that mattered. If I think about the stuff I’ve seen and done that could figure into nightmares, I feel I’m getting off fairly light. So if the cost for all that is the occasional nightmare, then I’m okay with that.

Note: I started to title this post ‘Uncomfortable Confessional Crap’ because…well, it’s uncomfortable for me to talk about, it’s confessional, and really who gives a crap about it? But the title sounded familiar, so I checked and found I’d used the same title almost exactly three years ago. So, part 2. I may do another uncomfortable confessional thing three years from now.

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.

anatomy of a sinkhole

It works like this: water soaks into the ground — maybe through rainfall, maybe through a leak in a water main, the source doesn’t matter. If the bedrock beneath the ground is soluble, like limestone or gypsum, then the rock begins to dissolve. This creates a cavity — a hollow space under the ground. That hollow space may begin to fill up with water. Over time the cavity grows; the weight of the soil itself and any structures above ground causes the ground to collapse.

Boom — you’ve just lost your house and your new Ford pickup.

Now imagine this. The bedrock is the United States. Russia is deliberately leaking the water. Comrade Trump and his Government of Nazgûl comprise the cavity. Democracy is the house. You’re the Ford pickup.

A lot of people think Russia’s goal in colluding with the Trump campaign was to get him elected. It wasn’t. Their goal was to undermine democracy by eroding and weakening the bedrock. They only needed to incrementally increase the level of vitriol and hate and suspicion among the electorate in order to create a less stable United States. The fact that Trump was elected was, I suspect, an unanticipated dividend. Regardless of who eventually got elected, Russia would have succeeded just by injecting more acidic water into the bedrock.

Here’s the good news: sinkholes can be repaired. The process requires a lot of work, but is fairly simple.

  1. Clean the area. Remove any trash, rubbish, and other debris from the depression.
  2. Determine the extent of the hole by careful excavation and probing.
  3. Incrementally fill the depression with clean fill soil that has a high amount of clay and low amount of sand. Do NOT use gravel or rock as fill, because water will trickle through the gaps and create another sinkhole.
  4. Continue this process until the depression is filled in.

It’s to be hoped that the bulk of this work will be done by Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel in charge of the Russia investigation. But it would help if Congress would get off its ass and do its job. It would also help if Republicans stopped chucking gravel and rock into the hole.

 

a roach in the spaghetti

Yeah, it’s not treason. This is treason: 18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Do you see the problem? Did Comrade Trump Jr. levy war against the U.S.? Nope. Did he adhere to any enemies? Nope. Adhere, in this context, basically means ‘join’. Did he give aid or comfort to the enemy? Nope, not really. Aid and comfort — that phrase doesn’t have any strict legal meaning, but in general it’s about giving (or even making an attempt to give) some sort of substantial assistance or material support. Trump the Lesser is a despicable creature, but he didn’t commit treason.

Nevertheless, you could make a solid argument that Comrade Trump Jr. is still a traitor. A traitor, after all, is just somebody who betrays their country. Colluding with Russia to influence the election makes him a traitor, even if he didn’t commit treason.

This oleaginous, French-cuffed fuckwit cannot be trusted.

I’ve heard some folks arguing that all Trump Jr. was doing was gathering opposition research. Balderdash (this is a wonderful word, by the way; it was originally an Elizabethan term for a jumbled mix of liquors — you know, like at a party when folks pour three kinds of wine, some beer, and half a bottle of gin into a bowl and call it ‘punch’ or something. When you drink balderdash, you speak balderdash).

Okay, I got distracted there. As I was saying, balderdash. I’ll even add an exclamation point here, because it’s warranted. Balderdash! Opposition research is a sleazy but common practice. What Comrade Trump the Lesser did was sleazy, but not at all common.

It’s important to remember that Putin wasn’t supporting Trump the Elder because he thought he’d be a good president. He wasn’t really supporting Trump at all. He was just fucking with the electoral system in order to destabilize the U.S. If Russia could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral process, then that would weaken the authority of the next president, regardless of who got elected.

Let’s not forget, Russia didn’t just illegally obtain and distribute emails. They also invented and promoted false narratives. Like that Pizzagate bullshit. Like the bullshit about Hillary Clinton’s health, or her relationship with her aide. They flooded social media with bots that promoted bullshit stories. Putin-Russia deployed a LOT of different attacks. If one failed, there were a dozen others. None of them needed to succeed entirely in order for the plan to work. The combined effect was enough to cast doubt on the authenticity of the election.

I got a bowl of pasta for you, tremendous bowl, best ever, just for you. Don’t ask questions, just eat.

The lawyer with whom Comrade Trump the Lesser met — even if she was entirely innocent (which is exceedingly unlikely, but still possible) — is inextricably linked with the folks who DID do all that other stuff.

Right, time for an analogy. What do you do if you see a cockroach sitting in a bowl of spaghetti? Do you try to untangle the roach-touched noodles from the rest of the bowl? No. You chuck out the entire bowl of spaghetti.

That Russian lawyer is a noodle in a roach-tainted bowl of spaghetti. Trump Jr. knew the spaghetti was tainted. But he was willing — even eager — to serve it to the public.

two presidents, two speeches, one astronaut

First, a bit of history. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a satellite into orbit around the Earth. This was what scientists call ‘a big fucking deal’. It caught the U.S. entirely off guard, and it took about a year for us to get our shit together.

That really began when President Dwight Eisenhower created the National Space Council, with the idea that the nation really needed an agency dedicated to developing policies regarding space. You have to remember, this was back when the idea of human space flight was still pretty much science fiction.

Three years later, the Soviets launched Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the Earth. And once again, the U.S. was standing around with its thumb up its collective butt. But this time President John Kennedy sat down with the National Space Council and they came up with the most audacious policy goal ever. They decided “You guys, you know what we should do? We should totally go to the goddamned moon.”

“Our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men.”

At that point we were still having trouble putting folks in orbit. Sending them to the moon was completely nuts. But Kennedy liked the idea and announced the policy in a speech given in (I’m not making this up) Texas. It was a terrific speech. Kennedy quoted William Bradford, one of the founders of the Plymouth Bay Colony:

“[A]ll great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”

And Kennedy was just getting started. He said:

“[T]he eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.”

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

What’s equally astonishing is that Kennedy told the American public that it was going to cost them to send people to the moon. He flat-out told them “all this costs us all a good deal of money” and informed them their taxes would be raised to pay for it. That’s not all; he also told them there wasn’t any way for them to know if it was going to be worth it. “I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.”

And hey, the people responded and said “Dude, let’s go do it.” And we did. We went to the goddamned moon, inspired by a president who was adventurous and thoughtful and wicked smart. Over time, the idea of space exploration became less interesting to people, and we returned to the practice of standing around with our thumbs up our collective butt.

“Our journey into space will not only make us stronger and more prosperous, but will unite us behind grand ambitions and bring us all closer together. Wouldn’t that be nice? Can you believe that space is going to do that?”

Until a few days ago. That’s when Comrade Trump signed an executive order that re-established the National Space Council. Like Kennedy, Trump gave a speech.

“The future of American space leadership — we’re going to lead again. It’s been a long time. It’s over 25 years, and we’re opening up, and we are going to be leading again like we’ve never led before. We’re a nation of pioneers, and the next great American frontier is space. And we never completed — we started, but we never completed. We stopped. But now we start again.”

Yeah. We’re starting again. With another crazy idea. Not inspirationally crazy — actually crazy. Trump asked NASA to conduct a study to see if we could put astronauts on the first test flight of the agency’s new rocket and crew capsule. Got that? He wanted to put living people in the first test flight of a new rocket. Because he feels strongly about space and security.

“I’ve felt strongly about it for a long time. I used to say before doing what I did — I used to say, what happened?  Why aren’t we moving forward?

And security is going to be a very big factor with respect to space and space exploration.  At some point in the future, we’re going to look back and say how did we do it without space?”

I’m pretty sure at some point in the future, people will look back and say ‘What the fuck is wrong with this guy?’ I’m pretty sure people were saying that even while Comrade Trump was ad-libbing from the remarks some speechwriter wrote for him.

Buzz Aldrin, fondly remembering the days when they sent monkeys into space.

“It is America’s destiny to be at the forefront of humanity’s eternal quest for knowledge and to be the leader amongst nations on our adventure into the great unknown.  And I could say the great and very beautiful unknown.  Nothing more beautiful.”

Nothing more beautiful than the unknown. What a fucking idiot. Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, attended the signing ceremony and stood near Comrade Trump while he spoke. After his speech, Trump made a show of signing the executive order. Aldrin, who was clearly unimpressed, looked over Trump’s shoulder and said “Infinity and beyond” — the catchphrase of Buzz Lightyear, the buffoon-hero character from Toy Story. Trump’s response?

“This is infinity here. It could be infinity. We don’t really don’t know. But it could be. It has to be something — but it could be infinity, right? Okay.”

It has to be something. It could be infinity. Right? Sweet Jeebus Galileo, this guy is actually the president. I weep.

HAL, close the pod bay doors, please.