This Morning

PART II: Time for the crazy shit.

ClearImage result for crazy pirate

(Have you all told everyone about me? Image taken from here, and it’s for sale.)

(Here’s Part I.)

So all right: we’ve got our floating garbage-land, called Spirit of Trump (Trumpia? Trump-As-Fuck-Land? We’ll discuss. There will be a meeting. One awesome thing about pirates is that they were members of an essentially egalitarian and democratic society.). Now it’s time to talk about our long-term goals. I mean, sure, we can just float around on our trash-berg, but how long will that satisfy us? For my own self, I feel I will need a purpose greater than snickering at Trump while living on a giant mound of waste.

So here’s the plan.

First of all, we’re going to become Lords of Plastic. I’m hopeful that we will have some science-minded people aboard, and they will be willing to experiment with the plastic that makes up our proud island; maybe they can find ways to manipulate it, better than we can now. Specifically I’d like to make plastic that is impervious to bullets and rockets and torpedoes and the like, as I plan to go to war and it would be swell if our plasticontinent didn’t get wiped out by the first salvo. Though really, the main protection from assault would be the sheer size of our rubbishy Nautilus: I want this thing to be so big that the U.S. Navy could blast away at the edges for days and do nothing more than break off a whole lot of plastic confetti. But I figure, once word gets out that we’re creating a free society, with Trump’s blessing and outside of his control, and also helping clean up the oceans? I mean, imagine the brain drain on the United States of Trump: imagine all the brilliant minds who can’t stand to turn on the news every day and see that straw-haired Nazi Cheeto in the White House. Think how many of them would rather live on a giant pile of floating trash rather than a country filled with MAGA hats. I mean, really, which honestly seems more like worthless garbage? So I’m pretty sure we’ll  have all of the greatest minds in America on our team.

Just imagine what they could do, what America’s best minds could do, given free rein and a cause to fight for.

To that end, in addition to plastic shielding, I’m looking for some intriguing plastic-based weapon systems: I want plastic netting that could tangle motors and machines, and maybe trap attacking ships; and I would love some plastic that could adhere to people and sort of cocoon them in a plastic shell. You know what else would be awesome? Sentient plastic. Ooo — and maybe Flubber!

Once we can turn the plastic into our weapons of war, then it’s time to become Lords of Plastic for real. We’re taking all the plastic. All the garbage. All the recycling, too, since 91% of plastic produced ends up in landfills, which means recycling is just another pile of bullshit. Like Trump and his goddamn slogans. I figure we can reach an agreement with the nations of the world — certainly with Trump and his ilk, the megalomaniacal idiots — to take all of their plastic garbage off their hands. They’ll pay us to do it, so long as the plastic doesn’t end up in their landfills, in their rivers and streams, making them look bad for their people; no, indeed, we don’t want that. So we’ll take it all, and we’ll earn some hefty fees, too — garbage is lucrative. Just ask the Sopranos. But what’s even better is that the more plastic we collect, the larger our island will be. Considering the sheer quantity of plastic we produce now, worldwide, I figure we’ll overtake Australia in no time.

But the goal is not to make the largest plastic island in the world. The goal is not even to escape Trump’s America. I want those things, I want fame and fortune, and freedom. But you know what I really want?

I want my fucking country back.

I don’t mind losing a political fight. I don’t mind being wrong; it intrigues me, actually, when I finally shed the blinders and actually understand an argument from the other side; and when I see, just for instance, the economy improving in a lot of ways, even in the last two years under Trump, I have to recognize that there’s something to the idea of lowering taxes and decreasing regulation in order to give businesses a boost. That makes sense, even though my liberal soul says that we need the money from taxes in order to help people who need it. But the truth is somewhere in the middle: taking too much from those who produce wealth really does make it harder to produce wealth, and there are problems with that, including that it makes it harder to collect money that we want to spend on good causes. Things like that make me recognize that Republicans have a point. They’re not inherently wrong. The pull from the right, to draw back the government and keep it small, and to ensure that it is not involved in every aspect of our lives, is a valuable influence on our society. We shouldn’t go all the way to that side, I don’t think, because frequently the government is the best way to ensure a level playing field, and to protect people from injustice. But government unchecked is not any better than capitalism unchecked. I know that. I know that because of conservatives who have won arguments, who have made good points, who have done things when in power that are actually good for all of us. Fiscal conservatives keep us from overspending. Small-government conservatives are a good check on large government, because large government institutions are inefficient and wasteful, and occasionally corrupt; just look at the Senate under Mitch McConnell, the evil fucker with his hand up the dummy-Trump’s backside. I don’t even see that son of a bitch as a Republican, not now after he’s repudiated everything the GOP is supposed to stand for in his naked grab for power. He’s a kleptocrat, just like Trump. Just like 90% of the current Republicans in power, who have given everything up in order to support Trump, just so they can maintain power.

I won’t leave my country in their hands. I won’t.

So once we have our floating continent of filth, we’re going to come back and fight for this giant pile of waste we call home.

What we do is, we go after the oil, first. I’d love to start subtly, by taking all the plastic we can steal: we pirate all the cargo ships carrying plastic goods, and steal them all; shred it and add it to our island, or maybe provide any useful material wealth to the “shithole” countries, and all the ones that Trump cut off aid to because they’re not white. The more plastic we can steal, the more oil they’ll have to produce in order to replace the stolen plastic. Then we go after the offshore oil rigs: it would be great if we could have two garbage islands, one in the Atlantic to go into the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to hit the coast of California, and/or Alaska. I sorta think all we have to do is float into them, and let our island crush the oil rigs underneath our neverending plasticine bulk; but if not, we’ll use the plastic weapons, nets to foul the drills and to capture the tankers, plastic cocoons to freeze the workers and float them back to shore. Once we stop the oil production, and/or push up the price of crude so high that America’s overheated economy can’t afford to import it, then the economy will crash. (Obviously renewable energy would be the other option, but all of the best minds, and the most liberal ones, will be dancing on a giant ice-shelf of shredded water bottles and Chinese-made toys, flipping off everyone in a MAGA hat.) Once the economy crashes, Trump will not only lose his support, but his only reason for being President, which is his own enrichment and aggrandization; he’s not going to want to be the leader of a poor nation that got beaten by a floating pile of garbage.

A floating pile of garbage with an Ultimate Weapon.

My idea for the ultimate weapon is this: the island has a volcano cone, but obviously no volcano under it. I figure it would just be a hole down into the ocean below. So we make huge balls of plastic, big enough to fill the volcano completely, like ping-pong balls in a giant Nerf gun: then we push down on the whole island with enough force to make the water shoot up through the volcano and launch that plastic boulder for miles. I don’t know how we aim it; that’s why we have all the brilliant scientists. But I know this part: know how we push the island down? That’s easy: when we clear all the plastic out of the oceans, we’ll win the undying friendship of all the whales. So we get them to leap out of the water, and land on the island, all at once. It’ll shove the whole island down, fast and hard, and BOOM! Plastic volcano launches plastic boulder. The whales will be fine; the island’s just plastic, so it won’t hurt them, and we will quickly help them back into the water, so they can swim around and do it again, as soon as we can reload the volcano with another giant plastic pellet. It’s foolproof! And maybe we can make the plastic pellets hollow, and fill them with — I dunno, something good, something that will dissuade anyone from fighting us. Eight tons of butterscotch pudding or something. Radioactive waste (I bet we could get a good deal on that if we agreed to take it off America’s hands when we get all the plastic.). Maybe sewage? That’s be poetic, wouldn’t it? If we dropped a giant plastic ball filled with slimy, festering shit  right on top of Mar-a-Lago?

Anyway, between all of our piratey scalawags, our continent of plastic, the geniuses who were pushed out of Trump’s America, and the allegiance of all the whales, and probably all the dolphins and porpoises, and definitely the sea turtles once we clear out all those straws, I’m pretty sure we can win this fight. Really, I bet all we’d have to do is threaten to destroy every building and golf course named after Trump, and he’d resign in no time.

Really, I think this is the best plan. It certainly seems more realistic than trusting our democratic institutions and trying to heal all the damage that partisan fighting has done to this country.

So who’s with me?

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Investigation

There should be an investigation.

Sorry: I assume that I don’t need to give any more explanation than that of my topic here; but in truth, there are several things happening right now that could lead me to call for an investigation, so I should certainly give my audience a little more than that.

There should be an investigation into the accusation of sexual assault made against Brett Kavanaugh.

There. Is that clear enough? Mmm, perhaps not; I know this story has exploded into unavoidability, but I also know that many of my fellow citizens, and many interested parties around the world, make a point of staying away from the mass media and the political news cycles; those people may need more information. I don’t expect that any of them read this blog – not sure that anyone will read this blog once they have realized what my subject is – but in case they do, I should explain.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, currently an appellate judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. District, has been nominated by President Trump for the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court vacated by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Judge Kavanaugh is on the fast track to confirmation, partly because he’s a fine conservative judge with excellent experience and credentials, and therefore a good choice for the seat (if you don’t mind the fact that he’s a perfect fit for the mold of Republican Honky, having grown up wealthy and privileged and white, attending private schools and Yale, working for the Bush White House, et cetera, et cetera. He’s even married with two children whom he coaches in softball, for God’s sake. He’s a Republican Ken doll. Does that make him a good or bad choice for the Supreme Court? Honestly, I want to help my party stop playing identity politics, because identity politics are bullshit, and so I’m going to say we should let Judge Kavanaugh’s stereotypical markers go, and focus on his actual record of words and deeds), and partly because the Republican-controlled Senate wants to fill Justice Kennedy’s seat before the November elections, when the Democrats may win control of the Senate, and may then cast out any Republican judicial nominations while chanting “Merrick Garland! Merrick Garland!”

I have to say: I had this splendid and insane idea. What if the Democrats, should they win the elections in November and take control of Congress, could call Merrick Garland for a hearing, and then vote him into Kennedy’s seat? I mean, he was nominated for the Supreme Court by a President, and he wasn’t voted down by the Senate, simply never given a chance to be considered. Could they go back and pull his nomination out of the cold case files, so to speak, dust him off and put him through the process now?

The answer is no, sadly. His nomination officially expired when the 114th Congress closed in January of 2017. Too bad. Think how sweet that would have felt. It might even have precipitated the second civil war, and about time, I say. I don’t mean that.

Anyway. Judge Kavanaugh was going forward with his successful bid to become an entrenched 30-year bastion of conservatism, when suddenly the car went off the road and crashed down a hillside. It is currently flying, in super slow motion, over a cliff’s edge; it is not clear yet whether it will flip over, smash into the ground and explode in red-white-and-blue flames, or if it will glide perfectly onto another roadway on the other side of the narrow chasm it may currently be flying over. That is to say: Kavanaugh’s nomination has suddenly gone awry, but it may still straighten out and land him in a seat at the Supreme Court.

The reason the Kavanaugh car went off the road is a woman named Christine Blasey-Ford, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, who has stated publicly that, when she was a teenager known simply as Christine Blasey, she was assaulted at a party by a drunken 17-year-old boy who pushed her down, lay on top of her, groped her and kissed her, tried to take her clothing off, and when she tried to scream for help, he put his hand over her mouth to silence her. That drunken assault was committed, according to Dr. Ford, by Brett Kavanaugh.

Okay. Cue outrage. Cue insanity. Cue tens of millions of people all saying, “Oh, shit.” I know I certainly did, several times, when I first heard this story after it broke. But after the outrage and insanity and the Oh-Shits have passed, we now have to deal with this situation. And the question is, what do we do?

It’s not fair to treat this as a special case because of the political ramifications. If Dr. Ford’s story is true, then she was attacked by a drunken savage, who may quite possibly have raped her had his equally drunken buddy, a man named Mark Judge, not jumped laughingly atop the two while they struggled on the bed, knocking all three to the floor and enabling the young woman to get away. (I have to say, though maybe I shouldn’t, but I have to: that’s the part that makes me think Dr. Ford’s story might be true exactly as she said it. That is not the kind of act someone would make up, because it’s so absurd, so entirely dumb; it turns an attempted rape into a bad Three Stooges skit. It makes the rape attempt seem less serious, which would undercut the narrative if Dr. Ford wanted to invent an attack to use as a weapon. But it is also clearly something that a drunk-ass teenaged boy would do. I also think it is something that a guy would do if he thought his buddy was taking a joke too far, and he suddenly got disturbed that maybe this wasn’t a joke, to his buddy: according to the story Dr. Ford recounted, Mark Judge was laughing wildly the whole time, and he jumped on top of them twice, only knocking them off the bed the second time. I can quite easily see that young man doing that intentionally to make Kavanaugh stop, maybe after seeing Kavanaugh do something that wasn’t playful and funny in that Ha-ha-we’re-drunk-guys-assaulting-a-girl-but-not-really kind of jokey way. Maybe putting his hand over her mouth after she screamed? However: I also have to note that there is no indication other than Dr. Ford’s testimony that the two guys who carried out this, to me, realistic-sounding attack, were actually Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. So I believe the event happened. I do not know for certain if Kavanaugh was the one who did it. That depends on whether we believe Dr. Ford. Is it believable that she would forget who did this to her? It is not; trauma creates strong memories, and she knew both boys’ identities at the time. Is it possible, since memory is often deceptive, that she has mixed up the identities of her attackers in the intervening years? It is possible, and it is also possible that Dr. Ford is lying intentionally. So I can’t be sure; there is a reasonable doubt. Forgive the ridiculously long aside.) Whether that savage would-be rapist is now a judge, or nominated for the Supreme Court, or if he was just some dude who drove a bus or sold insurance or ran a car wash would make no difference. Dr. Ford’s account should be considered carefully, and the reasonable next steps should be taken. We are well past the statute of limitations, so there cannot be any criminal or civil action taken against Dr. Ford’s attacker; but the purpose of acting on an accusation of assault shouldn’t be for the sake of punishing the attacker: it should be for the sake of trying to make things right, however that can be done. The truth is, of course, it can’t be made right, because Dr. Ford can never be relieved of the burden of what happened to her; but that makes it more important, not less, that we try.

At the same time, this case can’t be separated from the politics. The potential stakes have been raised, all the way to the highest court in the land. This may be important not only for those involved, but for the entire country. It doesn’t change the situation, but it changes the extent of it, and therefore changes the extent of our response to it. Howsoever far we might be willing to go for the sake of doing what is right for Dr. Ford – and I’d argue that that should be pretty goddamn far – we have to be willing to go much, much farther to do what is right for all of us.

So what is the right thing to do? Let me start by stating, as I think I’ve been doing all along, the obvious: we should not be playing partisan politics with this. And as is always the case, neither party is innocent of that crime, the crime of exploiting intense suffering, perhaps even causing intense suffering, for the sake of partisan political gain. It is utterly appalling that the Democrats, specifically Senator Dianne Feinstein, sat on the accusation for two months, revealing it only when it was the last bullet in the gun and could be used to delay Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination as long as possible. It seems likely that the political calculus here also sought to make it impossible for President Trump to nominate a replacement in time to get someone confirmed before the midterms if he and the GOP should decide to abandon Kavanaugh, which means they have little choice politically but to stick with the man accused of sexual assault, which will surely be used to make much political hay regarding the President and the rest of the privileged white dudes in power and their tendency towards sexual violence and misconduct. That’s a disgusting abuse of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh and the entire political system. (Honestly, if I may be allowed another aside, I have to say that I think President Trump did nothing wrong here. I’m already seeing memes associating Trump with all of the sexual misconduct in the GOP, and though he certainly bears responsibility for his own alleged crimes and multiple verified instances of misogyny and sexual misconduct, he didn’t make the Republicans, nor the Democrats who have also committed crimes and sexual misconduct, into the scum that they are. He could not possibly have known about this assault accusation against Judge Kavanaugh, and so he should not be taken to task for picking a man who had this hidden in his past; it was hidden too well and too deep for anyone to know, which is why Judge Kavanaugh has the title and the position that he does. I saw Trevor Noah of the Daily Show making a comment about how Trump seems drawn to other sexual assaulters, and while that may be true, it also hides the truth that people who commit sexual assault are not always, not even often, clearly criminal in their demeanor. There is nothing to show, on the outside, that someone may have committed sexual assault in their past. The nicest guy you know might be guilty of sexual assault, and still seem like the nicest guy you know. There’s no particular reason to think that Trump could sense if Kavanaugh is guilty of this, and he couldn’t have known that Kavanaugh would be accused of it. That being the case, I actually think the honorable thing for the President to do is to stand by his nominee until and unless the truth is proven; and that’s what Trump is doing.) I don’t believe the cover story of protecting Dr. Ford’s anonymity; it wouldn’t even be hard to bring up the accusation without details but with enough information to scuttle the nomination before it went to committee. Senator Feinstein could have gone to President Trump’s advisors and presented the situation, and they absolutely would have steered the President to a different nominee; it’s not like Brett Kavanaugh is the only good Republican Ken doll in the judicial branch, and there were a dozen other possible names floating around for the seat. No, it seems clear that Senator Feinstein held this grenade until the very last second so as to inflict maximum damage, and that is simply gross.

On the other hand, the idea that the Republicans can push this nomination forward to a vote without properly pursuing the matter in a manner befitting the seriousness of the allegation, and the potential impact of putting a man guilty of sexual assault onto the Supreme Court for the rest of his life, for the sole reason that that man is also a conservative, is just as utterly disgusting. I can’t imagine being so cynical that I could do what the GOP seems to have done, which is to find a way to spin this that seems acceptable to enough of their base that they can then go ahead and do what they planned to do before this came to light: put a fifth conservative justice on the Supreme Court and start laying down precedents that will help them win the culture wars. But all I hear from them is, “Well, she’ll have a chance to speak, but we can’t delay this nomination. Don’t have time. Got to get this done fast.” Their reasoning is clear, and grotesque.

The right thing to do politically would be to go to a vote and vote Kavanaugh down, right now, and then get a second nominee through the process as fast as they possibly can; I would also argue that this would be the right thing to do for Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, because it would take all of the ungodly pressure and scrutiny off of the case, and Dr. Ford could pursue it as she saw fit. It should be pursued, now that it’s out, both for her sake and because even if he is not headed for the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the Court of Appeals: he may not be one of the nine most powerful judges in the country, but he is one of the 188 most powerful judges. But bringing an accusation to light, proving the allegations, and potentially calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment from the appellate court, none of that has the same insane heat as this does. And that way, the GOP could go ahead and get their fifth judge on the Supreme Court. Without inflicting a second justice, along with Clarence Thomas, who may be (is, in Thomas’s case) guilty of criminal sexual acts. (And Democrats worried about the long term effects in the culture wars should keep Thomas in mind. He is 70 years old, and he will not want to live out his last years as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is doing, working into her 80’s through ill health because she needs to keep her seat and do the right thing. Thomas does not have a hundredth part of Ginsburg’s strength, and his moral character is essentially nil. So make sure that Congress is Democratic, and Trump is out by 2020, and you’ll get a fifth liberal judge when Thomas steps down.)

But this is all beside the point. Because this is not a political issue. There are political issues attached to it, which change the dynamics of it; but they do not change the core issue. The core issue is that a woman has said she was attacked. And while there is no evidence beyond her word that Kavanaugh was the man who did it, there is evidence that it happened, both in her willingness to come forward with the accusation when there is little evidence that she gains thereby (I say “little evidence” because she might be using this allegation to hurt Kavanaugh and Trump, and her gain might be their loss. But there’s no evidence that Dr. Ford is a fanatic who would throw away her entire life for the sake of sticking it to Trump, just so he could nominate a different Republican Ken doll to the court after tossing out Kavanaugh. Also note that if her intent was political drama, she would have made the very same play that Feinstein made, coming out publicly at the most intense moment, rather than sending a letter to her congresswoman two months ago.), and in the fact that she recounted the attack to her therapist in 2012, long before she could have predicted she’d make an allegation against a Supreme Court nominee. It is not clear that she is telling the truth, because it is not clear that she definitely recalls the truth; that it happened seems likely, but that it was Kavanaugh is in some doubt. She took a polygraph test and passed it, but that isn’t good evidence; the therapist’s notes from 2012 differ from her story in critical ways (The notes say there were four males in the room when she was attacked. Kavanaugh is not named in them.); she can’t recall many details about the overall situation (though she has not had the opportunity to speak about this and answer questions, so we don’t yet know everything she recalls, only what her initial public statements describe); the other people in the room deny her allegations. That Kavanaugh denied it doesn’t show he’s innocent, because of course he has quite a lot to gain from denying it and nothing to gain from admitting guilt; the testimonials of his good character and the fact that there are many women whom he hasn’t attempted to rape do not, of course, mean anything at all.

So what do we do when there is a credible but not airtight accusation of a serious crime? It depends. What would be gained from pursuing the matter? What would the costs be? If this was just two people with an old trauma between them, then there wouldn’t be much for society to gain, and it wouldn’t be worth very much to pursue it; it would of course be worth the world for Dr. Ford to pursue it, and people who could help her would be, I think, honor bound to do so if they could, for her sake. But this is a 35-year-old crime, and if she brought it to a Maryland prosecutor, even if the statute of limitations didn’t exist (And by the way: it shouldn’t. The statute of limitations is that “Boys will be boys” bullshit made into law – “Well, shucks, he hasn’t raped anybody since then, so what’s the big deal?” – and it’s everything wrong with our justice system.), the prosecutor might not pursue it because there are other crimes and other criminals that pose larger threats. I think the story should be published, because there is not a better way to find out if other women might have suffered similarly; and if there is a pattern of behavior, suddenly there is much more reason to pursue charges against the assailant, to protect other innocents from harm.

I recognize that publishing an unproven allegation would ruin a man’s reputation. I face that possibility myself, all the time, because society believes someone like me, a man in his 40’s who spends all day with teenagers, is already probably 40% of the way towards child molestation; a credible public accusation would be more than enough to end my career forever, and prevent me from ever working in anything remotely like this field again. But the truth is that victims are destroyed by sexual assault, and it is the work of a lifetime to rebuild themselves; many can’t ever do it, particularly not if they are victimized more than once. Coming forward in our society with an accusation is even more dangerous than being accused: Brett Kavanaugh might lose his nomination for the Supreme Court; Dr. Ford has received death threats and has had to move out of her home, just in the last week. There isn’t an instance of public accusation that doesn’t go approximately that way: for all the grief that Bill Clinton (And Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore) got because of Clinton’s misconduct, it wasn’t a patch on what Monica Lewinsky went through. Laughing stock of the entire nation, for – well, for life, really, though she has done an admirable job of rebuilding herself since then. If I were accused of sexual misconduct, I’d be ruined; but the one who accused me, because I am a successful and popular teacher and a good guy, would be the target of every single bit of anger and hate that all of my friends and family could bring to bear. It would be bad. If someone were willing to do that to themselves, it would stand as reasonable evidence that the allegation were true. Proof? Of course not. But evidence. And because I recognize that, I work hard to make sure I don’t ever make it easy for someone to bring a false accusation against me, and I work even harder to make sure that no one could make a genuine complaint about my behavior, could accuse me of harassment or discrimination or something similar.

Plus, I’m not a rapist. Which makes it a lot easier to avoid accusations of rape.

I have to say, I got drunk as a teenager, more than once. Really drunk, sometimes. At parties, even. And I never even jokingly pretended to rape anyone. There is a difference between someone who will commit an act this heinous when their inhibitions are lowered, and someone who would never commit the act. That difference matters. And it has nothing to do with age and nothing to do with alcohol. People who say “Boys will be boys” about sexual assault, or who use a phrase like “drunken hijinks,” need to learn that.

So as I said above, what do we do when there is a credible but not an airtight accusation of a serious crime? We investigate. Of course we investigate. We ask questions. We send professionals in to interview everyone involved, and everyone who might know the truth, and we find out everything we can about it. Everyone should want this: Kavanaugh is already at risk from the accusation; if he’s innocent, an investigation is the best chance to prove it. If it were me, I wouldn’t be satisfied with being able to deny it – even if I categorically denied it, as Kavanaugh has – and then move on, I’d want someone who knew what they were doing to ascertain the truth, and make it known as an objective fact. Dr. Ford should want an investigation in order to prove that she’s telling the truth, and to bring herself one step closer to justice and the good rebuilding of herself from her trauma. And indeed, Dr. Ford has asked for, even demanded an investigation. Well, one out of two ain’t bad. The Republicans should want an investigation because it will be far faster than pursuing another nominee if Kavanaugh is innocent, and far better than either confirming an attempted rapist to the Supreme Court if he’s guilty, or abandoning a man just from an accusation, which is neither good nor politically savvy. For those concerned about how a mere accusation can do irreparable harm to a man’s reputation, an investigation would increase the penalty for those who make false accusations, and show that the accusation alone is not the end of the story.

For all the rest of us, an investigation would help ensure that we get a decent person on the Supreme Court (Partisan politics aside, please: a decent person who is a conservative is a decent person; many and many a conservative Justice have made decisions that have been good for the country. And remember that any decision does not have to be the end of the fight, because even the Supreme Court can be overridden by the will of the people. Even if we don’t get Kavanaugh, we are going to get a conservative: because even if the Democrats win in November, they won’t take control until January, and that’s plenty of time for a whole new nominee. So let’s get a decent one). An investigation would help us learn the truth, and help a victim work through a trauma, and those are both good things regardless of other considerations. An investigation would help us remember how seriously we have to look at sexual assault, and if Kavanaugh is guilty, it may help us start thinking seriously about how we can work to prevent similar things from happening, and also how we can’t assume that all sexual assaults happen in the same way, or that all those who commit sexual assault are the same kind of person, or that finding 65 women who think you’re nice shows that you couldn’t possibly have tried to rape a 15-year-old girl, and gagged her when she tried to scream.

Nobody knew about what happened at that party when it happened, because society has stigmatized victims more than attackers, and girls more than boys, for millennia. We have to change that. We should make sure we all know now what happened then. There should be an investigation, a complete investigation by the FBI, intended to help ensure the best outcome for our national interest, as well as do the best we as a society can do for the victim.

Christine Blasey-Ford has been silenced once before. Now she should be allowed to speak.

I said I would still rant a little.

Let’s talk.

I know I just said last night that I was going to reduce the rants and move towards a simple journal about my experience trying to be a published writer. I also said I was terrible at arguing. Both of those things are true.

But also, I think that continuing the conversation is vital to our democracy. People frequently blame our president for his continuous denigration of the media, and you can see the results in how frequently that charge is echoed by his supporters; but the free press alone is not enough to protect our country and our liberties. We all need to think about it, and talk about it. The women’s marches, last year and this, are a wonderful example of citizens participating in the conversation, and the interview I heard this morning on NPR in which a woman criticized the marches for not having a clear message was, I think, missing the point. If you are determined that the answer must be clearly known and entirely solidified before you speak up, before you take action, then you’re assuming that the answer is simple, and therefore so is the problem.

We’re talking about our country. Our democracy. It is not simple. Especially not when you also include women’s rights in our society, women’s issues within our culture, gender politics, and the culture of sexual assault and harassment in the conversation. I recognize that the woman making the comment on the radio was trying to say that we should limit the conversation to a single talking point, but then it becomes easy to discard because that single talking point doesn’t affect everyone. Sometimes a single issue should be the exclusive focus, but sometimes it should be broader. Both types of conversation are necessary: a marriage can’t be considered healthy just because the two people have figured out who does the dishes, but no marriage can go on without figuring out who does the dishes.

So here’s a conversation I came across and that I would like to participate in. Not as an argument, just a conversation. It’s a couple of days old, now, but if Fox News will let me, I will link to this blog in the comments, and see if anyone gives me a response. I welcome responses of any kind.

It’s an op-ed called The Truth About Trump’s First Year, by Allen C. Guelzo, a professor of history at Gettysburg University. The first victory for the president, according to Professor Guelzo, is simply that he is still president:

 

But despite the Russia investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, despite the unrelenting fury of the princes of the op-ed pages, despite President Trump’s hiring of staff he was forced to fire, and despite his much-criticized tweets, the president is still in charge at the White House. And he appears to be wearing down all but his severest critics.

 

The last sentence is the thesis of the essay (though Guelzo goes a bit further than that by the end of the piece), that the President is convincing all and sundry that, actually, he’s doing a better job than we have given him credit for. The slant of the piece is apparent in the list of “despites:” the Mueller investigation is not over, of course, and Professor Guelzo does not list the various elements of the investigation that have already called the president’s actions and associations into question; the “unrelenting fury of the princes of the op-ed pages” is a wonderfully loaded phrase, calling into question both the rationality and impartiality of the pundits, and also implying they are undemocratic, unlike the Man of the People in the White House (I will not point out that Mr. Guelzo is himself declaiming on the opinion page, as I’m doing the same; but I will include this picture of the Man of the People.);

Image result for trump private residence the tweets are “much-criticized” not because we’re all biased against the President, but because the man should not Tweet as he does – and nearly every interview I hear with a supporter of the President says the same. You think there’s broad bipartisan support for DACA? Run a poll on whether or not Twitter should close the President’s account. So I think that Professor Guelzo is already discounting things that should not be discounted, in any assessment of the President’s first year in office.

But let’s see how the President is wearing down his critics. The first issue raised is ISIS: Guelzo refers to a New York Times op-ed that discussed the collapse of the Islamic State this past year; the author, Ross Douthat, who describes himself in the piece as focusing primarily on finding fault with the President’s actions, grudgingly gives the President some of the credit for ISIS’s collapse:

So very provisionally, credit belongs where it’s due — to our soldiers and diplomats, yes, but to our president as well.

But Douthat’s argument isn’t terribly good, either:

I mean the war against the Islamic State, whose expansion was the defining foreign policy calamity of Barack Obama’s second term, whose executions of Americans made the U.S.A. look impotent and whose utopian experiment drew volunteers drunk on world-historical ambitions and metaphysical dreams. Its defeat was begun under Obama, and the hardest fighting has been done by Iraqis — but this was an American war too, and we succeeded without massive infusions of ground troops, without accidentally getting into a war with Russia, and without inspiring a huge wave of terrorism in the West.

Right, so as Douthat himself states, the war effort began under Mr. Obama, and was fought primarily by troops from the countries involved – Iraqis in the struggle to overthrow ISIS in their country, and Kurds and Arab soldiers in Syria; at least 160,000 fighting troops, and about 2,000 U.S. advisers, plus the American personnel carrying out airstrikes and artillery support – and so I immediately have to question how much of an American war this was. Yes, we were involved; but the President changed very little about that, he didn’t send more troops, didn’t appreciably change the strategy or the resources, didn’t bring new allies into the coalition. He gave the U.S. generals more freedom in deciding strategy, but how much influence did that really have? Were our generals behind the actual strategy as carried out by the fighting men? And then the success markers Douthat lists – we DIDN’T send in thousands of American troops, we DIDN’T get into a war with Russia, we DIDN’T inspire new terrorists (Well. Not yet. Right?) – I mean, that’s a low bar. I didn’t do any of those things, either. Can I have credit for the victory? (Snark aside, this article from the Guardian makes a compelling argument that the collapse of the actual Caliphate was inevitable, and that we have not yet seen what will come of ISIS as a stateless terrorist organization, which is what we have made of al Qaeda and the Taliban – both of which we are still fighting. I think this is not much of a victory at all, let alone a victory for the President. I will also say that the collapse of the Islamic State is a good thing, and that U.S. forces do deserve some credit.)

Next in Professor Guelzo’s argument is this:

Douthat’s observation was followed by never-Trumper and fellow columnist Bret Stephens’ insistence that, despite the collapse of ISIS and other achievements, President Trump must remain beyond the pale because he lacks “character.”

What Stephens didn’t say was that the Constitution does not list “character” as a prerequisite for the presidency, nor do voters necessarily reward it – or punish a perceived lack of character.

The issue of “character” certainly did nothing to affect Bill Clinton, or, for that matter, Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy. Stephens’ attack was a pout, and when pundits turn to pouting, it means they have lost faith in their own argument.

This is, unsurprisingly, a poor rendition of Stephens’s argument. Stephens, who calls himself a conservative, discusses how the conservative viewpoint was once the one that touted character as the most important criterion for political office; he describes how the President’s particular personality has had harmful effects on his own administration. He makes a dozen points to support his contention, and to dismiss them all with “Well, character’s not in the Constitution!” is a pretty ridiculous red herring. Guelzo’s other point about character not affecting Clinton or Kennedy or Johnson is obviously false: Clinton was destroyed by the Lewinsky scandal, and Gore was sunk by the same torpedo; whether or not Kennedy would have been affected by character assassination was made moot by the other assassination. Professor’s Guelzo’s argument regarding this President seems to be that if one gets elected, and does not specifically violate the requirements in the Constitution, then that shows that one is satisfactorily performing the office.

I suppose we’re not going to talk about the emoluments clause. Did you know that Trump never even set up the blind trust (which wasn’t going to be that blind since his children are not exactly disconnected from him) for his company? I didn’t know that either.

Guelzo then refers to a third New York Times columnist, David Brooks, who wrote about how people meeting the President are surprised to find that he’s not actually a lunatic in person. I suppose that’s a victory. This is followed with these critiques of the left’s response to the President’s inauguration:

[A]s we turn the page on President Trump’s first year in office, the dirigible of anti-Trumpism is assuming an amusingly deflated look. It actually began deflating in the first few weeks of the Trump presidency, after Antifa thugs gave the “resistance” a self-inflicted black eye and a “Women’s March” made the wearing of funny hats its biggest accomplishment.

All right: so “Antifa thugs” that gave the resistance a black eye is only valid from a specific point of view, one that was looking for a black eye to give the left after the largest single protest movement in the history of humankind – which, apparently, only accomplished the wearing of funny hats. I think the only response to this is to reverse it: the white supremacists in Charlottesville gave the President’s party a black eye, which they tried to cover up with their MAGA hats. No, that’s not all the Republican party and the conservative movement accomplished in the last year, and the very worst elements affiliated with the right should not taint that entire half of the political spectrum. So too with the Women’s March or Antifa, which all by itself should not be tainted by its worst members – none of whom, I will say, drove their car into protestors.

What’s next, Professor Guelzo?

President Trump succeeded in getting Neil Gorsuch confirmed to fill the seat on the Supreme Court vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In addition to Gorsuch, the Senate has confirmed 22 Trump nominees for federal appeals and district courts, with another 43 awaiting action.

What’s more, as Jonathan Adler of the Case Western Reserve University Law School has said: “The overall intellectual caliber of Trump’s nominees has been as high, if not higher, than any recent predecessor. That’s almost the opposite of what you might have expected.”

Okay, this is certainly an accomplishment; the appointment of Justice Gorsuch was one of the most pivotal issues that swung traditional conservatives to support the rather unconventional candidate picked by the GOP’s base. Turns out that this is actually an impressive number of judicial appointments:

Trump ranks sixth of 19 presidents filling the highest number of judgeships at the Supreme, appellate and District Court levels in their first year in office, while Obama ranked tenth, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis Friday.

The president has appointed 23 judges, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a dozen appellate court judges and 10 District Court judges. Obama appointed 13 judges—Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, three appellate court judges and nine District Court judges.

Source

Of course, context is everything. You know that, Professor: you’re a teacher. You teach history, for Pete’s sake. Why would you drain all the context out of this, if not to achieve a slanted partisan talking point?

Context:

Trump’s success comes in part from the fact that the GOP holds a slim majority in the Senate, which confirms Trump’s picks. In addition, Republican senators in Obama’s first five years blocked three dozen judicial nominations, Politifact found. Democrats used a simple majority to pass most judicial confirmation votes, not a super-majority of 60.

“Nominations pretty much came to a halt until the start of the Trump administration when the Senate started quickly confirming his nominees,” University of Georgia law professor Susan Brodie Haire told the LA Times.

Source

 

And as to Professor Guelzo’s comments about the intellectual prowess of Trump’s nominees, this is why he went with the opinion of a single pundit using a single subjective metric:

However, the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has rated four of Trump’s nominees as “not qualified,” which is close to 14 percent of his picks and a higher percentage than recent presidents.

Of the 23 confirmed judges, only nine have previous judicial experience and most have backgrounds in litigation in either private practice or government. The association bases its ratings not on candidates’ politics, but their “integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament,” its guidelines state.

And while 23 confirmed appointments and 43 awaiting processing is impressive,

There are still more than 140 vacancies in the federal judiciary.

Source

 

Context, Professor.

At this point in the piece, however, Professor Guelzo does take on a more fair and balanced view of the President’s first year in office.

And despite an undeniable string of misfires with Congress (especially on the “repeal and replace” of ObamaCare), there are now more grins than grimaces among Trump loyalists from the increasing number of successes the president has scored over trade deals (withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership), the repair of the crucial diplomatic relationship with Israel, the decline in illegal border crossings, and the economy.

I mean, the withdrawal from TPP may have been a victory, but I have heard nothing but negatives about the renegotiation of NAFTA, the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, the attempted scuttling of the Iran nuclear deal. I suppose we have improved our relationship with Israel, though of course there are two sides in Israel and we have pleased the hardline conservative faction while upsetting the more liberal faction, so it’s more that the President shifted our relationship with Israel than that he repaired it; the President’s decision to move the U.S. embassy has also made our relationships with Arab nations much more difficult, especially Jordan, a nation whose population is 30% naturalized Palestinians, with another 2 million Palestinian refugees living in the country.

So what’s the clear victory here? Must be this:

“It’s the economy, stupid,” was once a Democratic battle cry; it may now become President Trump’s.

The Dow Jones industrial average has soared from 18,259 on the day President Trump was elected to over 26,000, in what one analyst called “the most doubted bull market of all time.” New jobs created topped 200,000 in December, driving the unemployment rate down to 4.1 percent – the lowest in 17 years.

 

I mean, how can I argue with this?

Luckily for me, I don’t have to. Professor Guelzo argued it for me.

 

Anti-Trump diehards will argue that these are not really Trump accomplishments at all, but the last successes of the Obama years. There is probably some truth in that. The reality is, though, that it’s irrelevant.

Every president takes the credit (or assumes the blame) for what occurs on his watch, and harvests the votes afterward.

 

Simply put, I don’t think the truth is irrelevant. I don’t think the ability to “harvest votes” (A strange phrase, when one thinks that every vote is a person) justifies all. He’s right, of course, that every president takes credit for things that aren’t his doing; but that sucks, and we shouldn’t accept it, let alone encourage it.

So let’s tell the truth. President Obama was not the greatest president in history. Nor was President Clinton. The Democratic Party has done some really bad work in the last two decades, including the catastrophe of the 2016 primaries that led to Hillary Clinton’s nomination. (Some specifics: President Obama never dealt with Guantanamo; the continued and in some ways intensified involvement in Middle East nation building – the longest war in our history, presided over by Obama longer than any other president including Bush – has had terrible consequences; Obamacare is a travesty of a gutted compromise when what we should have had was single-payer healthcare, or nothing. President Clinton ravaged the welfare system, took down the Glass-Steagall Act and thereby was the single most important precursor of the 2007 Wall Street collapse, and yeah, really did lack character in important ways, which have continued to resonate to this day. And the 2016 primaries? Superdelegates and collusion among the DNC leadership, anyone?) I also have argued and will continue to argue that the President should not be impeached until and unless he is proven to have committed high crimes and misdemeanors against this nation, just as I argued that President Clinton should not have been impeached just because he cheated on his wife; the idea that he lied about it and therefore perjured himself was too much of the snake eating its own tail. I think the Russia investigation is important to restore some faith and credibility to a democracy that got invaded by Russian hackers; but I doubt that it will bring down the President, and unless Mueller finds evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors committed by the President, evidence that has so far been nonexistent, it should not bring him down.

And on the other hand: it’s the economy, stupid. Our current President deserves little if any credit for the unemployment rate, which has been going down steadily since its height in 2008-2009. The arguments that conservatives have been using to knock that progress, that the official unemployment rate doesn’t include those who gave up looking for work, and that the current rate doesn’t reflect the number of people who are underemployed, are still true. The bull stock market only increases wealth disparity, as it concentrates more wealth in the hands of those who had the money to invest big in the market before it went up, an issue which the tax overhaul only intensified, and no amount of short-term tax cuts for the 99% can counteract. Income inequality is the number one place where our entire government, of millionaires for millionaires, fails to act to protect our country and our citizens; I hope I don’t need to actually argue that the election of a billionaire real estate developer has not brought progress on this issue. The deficit and national debt have been increased, as it always is by the majority party when they are in control, and despite past Republican claims that they would rein in spending, despite the President’s claims that he would drain the swamp and oppose the entrenched Washington interests. Did you see, by the way, that the President has now said that he will campaign for incumbents? Or at least that he’ll avoid primaries?

At the same time, the President has launched an all-out war against immigrants, which has had the effect of scaring millions of people, and therefore both reducing border crossings and increasing tension with other countries; I can’t see it as a good thing in the final summation – though it has not yet run its course, so we’ll have to wait and see before we can judge that. He has agitated our enemies (Iran, North Korea) and insulted our allies (Germany and the EU, the Arab nations, and all of those shitholes). He has, whether Professor Guelzo wants to admit it or not, so soiled the office of the Presidency that even his staunchest allies are forced to turn hypocrite or offer weak criticisms of his Tweeting while ignoring the bullying, the accusations of sexual assault and misconduct, and the clear racism. It’s true that poor character is not the exclusive province of the President; but it’s also true that he does exhibit it to an extent that Americans should decry, regardless of their positions on policy. It’s a tired trope, but I would get fired if I did half the shit that the President does, and I’m only responsible for a hundred or so students. That’s the truth.

Conservatives may be pleased by the reduction of regulations, by the dismantling of the EPA and the Department of Education; they should be pleased by the appointment of conservative judges, particularly Justice Gorsuch. I’m sure corporations are still whooping it up over the tax cuts, and those who are seeing direct benefits, such as the increased wages and the bonuses, should be happy too. The current administration has had victories, both symbolic and practical.

But that’s not the whole story. And the conversation should continue, and continue to be as honest as we can possibly make it.

30-Day Slump

(Alternate Title:

)

Today – Presidents’ Day – is the 30th day that President Lump has been in office. It’s the end of our free trial, our money back warranty period; now we can’t return the product any more.

So. How’s it going? Let’s check in.

I think that President Sump got elected on the back of an unlikely coalition of monied interests and angry Americans. His lack of a background in politics, which would have told us where his interests lay and where his votes have been cast, and the fact that he is a reality television star in every sense of the word (By which I mean: he purports to represent himself completely honestly, but we all know he’s edited and scripted and molded, folded, spindled, and mutilated, until he’s actually the furthest thing from reality.), have allowed various groups to color him in according to their own imagined scheme. Anti-Islamists dreamed he would eliminate radical Islam (or even better, ALL Islam); Republicans hoped he would put a stop to the Liberals taking over the country; wealthy people believed he would help make them even wealthier. They all hoped he would be a good choice, and enough (just barely enough) of them voted for him that now we get to find out what happens when people stop being polite – and start getting real.

I see Mr. Rump, then, as an experiment. It’s an experiment I wouldn’t have chosen personally, but it is one I am participating in; and I, too, had my hopes about what he would and would not be like as a President. I’m sure we’ve all seen the memes about giving him a chance, and hoping that he fails is like hoping that your pilot crashes the plane; that’s all well and good, as far as it goes. The question is: how far does it go?

That’s the point of this blog. We’ve gone 30 days. Has it been enough to see what has happened to our hopes and dreams? What do you say we give him a progress report?

The Republican establishment: The Republicans in Congress, who opposed him, waffled about him, and then supported him, had a very specific plan in mind, I think, when they decided to back Clump. And they did back him, whatever people think about Stump’s intention or capacity to oppose Washington institutions and “drain the swamp.” The standard Republican strategy is to use social wedge issues to get elected, and then completely ignore those same social issues in favor of cutting taxes and regulations as part of sweetheart deals with various industries who lobby them, and then hire them as lobbyists. (Thomas Frank’s excellent book What’s the Matter with Kansas? explains this lucidly and completely) So since they have gerrymandered a lock on the majority in Congress, what did they need Plump for? Easy: he’s a distraction. He’s the dancing clown we’re all staring at while McConnell and Ryan et al tear apart the regulatory state and the tax base.

How’s it working for them? Well, they’re tearing apart the regulatory state and the tax base, and Crump’s getting the majority of the heat. They are not forgotten, though; the curtain hiding the man in the corner of The Great and Powerful Oz’s chamber is not really covering them very well. They need Grump to allow a few more pipelines, nominate a few more paper men to head important bureaucracies. Hold a few more manic press conferences. Overall, though, they’re probably pretty satisfied. Let’s see what they do to Obamacare.

Republican voters: The vast majority of people who would identify themselves as Republicans are probably not happy with who he has become. They wanted him to champion their specific causes, and he’s not been doing much of that; he’s been championing mostly himself. But this is not news: generally speaking, candidates quickly become a disappointment to the voters who got them in there. I voted for Obama in 2008 because I wanted him to end the war, close Guantanamo, regulate Wall Street, and create an effective single-payer health care system. So I guess one out of four ain’t — fuuuuuck.

Same thing here. Two minor differences: Mr. Chump has disappointed people more quickly, I think, than most presidents do; witness the rally he felt a need to hold in Florida this past weekend, trying to stir up some excitement. 30 days and people are already drawing away, hissing in breath between their teeth. And two: most of the time, candidates who become Presidents disappoint because they moderate their stances: once they’re in and they no longer need to fire people up, they start looking to compromise with the establishment. Gump (Sorry, Forrest) hasn’t moderated at all: he’s just shown that his more extreme stances will meet resistance. I don’t know if that shows his voters that he can’t get things done, or if it shows them that the rest of the government isn’t on board the Gump-Train.

The Democratic establishment: Could not be more miserable. Lost the entire government to a Three Stooges skit. Also couldn’t be much weaker about it. I mean, Jesus: they’re already talking about approving Gorsuch for the Supreme Court? When it should have been Merrick Garland almost a year ago now, and we all know it? What kills me is they don’t want to use the filibuster against a Supreme Court nominee for fear the Republicans will change the rules and take it away. Right, because Lord knows you don’t want to lose a weapon YOU WON’T EVEN USE. That would really suck.

Hey guys: the GOP got credibility by opposing everything the Democrats did under Obama with an almost religious fervor. What you need now is an equal credibility. Peace and negotiations come later, once you discover some strength. Suck it up and do your job, okay? And don’t tell me how much it sucks: mine sucks too, and I make less than a fifth of what you make, NOT counting bribes from lobbyists.

Democratic voters: In some ways, ecstatic. I mean, heartbroken after the actual election; but then they got determined, and they have stayed that way. Since the Democrats have largely been sitting on their laurels since the Clinton who won, it’s good that they are willing to get to work. I think it’s been good for them to do it, too, to actually take to the streets, to recognize what it is to build coalitions rather than simply imposing an orthodox viewpoint and ostracizing those who don’t conform. Let’s be clear: it’s not enough to be right, you also have to get enough people to agree with you. Listen to Hamilton sometime.

Moderates: Hoo boy: you thought Republican voters were upset. Always, ALWAYS, the candidate moderates when they get into office. Compromise is the only way things ever get done in a government built on checks and balances.

But nobody told Dump that.

If anything, he’s gotten more extreme as his attempts to follow through on his campaign promises have been stymied by the courts or the Congress or the public or the media or — is there anyone still on his side? I mean, I guess the First Lady. And Bannon. So I figure moderates who voted for Slump hoping that he would be a good middle-right statesman once he got into office? Not real happy with how it’s gone.

Libertarians: Well, I mean, libertarians hate everything anyway.

People who thought he had to be better than Clinton: HAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAhaaaaaa.

Start with the accusation that Clinton is a liar. Now: alternative facts. Then go to her ties to Wall Street and to billionaire donors with shady politics. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, (fortunately withdrawn) Labor Secretary Andrew Puzder, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Then how about that email thing? Right: I give you reading classified documents on an open air terrace at a golf resort, not to mention the Twitter Feed Heard ‘Round the World. And her apparent lack of personal charm and class?

Come on: that was shot before the election.

Frankly, I hope you people are unhappy.

People who were so angry over Bernie Sanders’s treatment that they wrote in his name or didn’t vote at all: Well, principles are important. But maybe a little less so now, hmmmm? “Voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil.” Right: so is voting in such a way that you enable evil to win. I’m not saying that voting for Clinton wouldn’t have been evil: I mean, I don’t think it would have been, but I’m not in this group; those who are in this group may not have been able to stomach a vote for Clinton, and I get that. But when you literally throw away your vote — I don’t mean the people who voted for Stein or Johnson or another legitimate third party — you are making it more likely that either evil is going to win. Which means you’re voting for evil. And you got it.

Does it feel better to help evil when you have your back turned to it while you help?

Probably not.

Big business: 

Billionaires’ — Hold on a second — go back and watch that last one again. That video is priceless.

Right, where was I?

Billionaires’ Boy’s Club:

(By the way: did you know the last verse of that song is from the point of view of the President? Hm. Interesting.)

Speaking of presidents…

Vice President Mike Pence: Every time somebody mentions impeachment, I think his heart skips a beat. He signed onto this dog and pony show as the rational one, and that will stand him in good stead if the Mump ahead of him finally gets yanked out by the big hook. So considering how the first 30 days have gone, I assume he’s quite happy, indeed.

The Military: I assume they like how he keeps talking about increasing the military budget and buying newer, better equipment. If my job put me in harm’s way, and I could do it better with newer equipment, I’d want the same thing. Hell, if we didn’t have an unConstitutional standing army that has made us into the most war-like, invasive, intercessionist nation in history, I’d want the men and women of our military to have more money and better equipment. (Someday we will have the greatest National Guard in the world, and will offer hefty support to our allies and the UN — and nothing. Else. Think how far our military budget could go if we weren’t supporting hundreds of redundant bases around the world. But anyway.) They probably approve of his naming so many generals to his staff and cabinet. But they can’t be happy that he seems to be systematically alienating our allies and cutting off all lines of communication. I don’t believe our military wants to fight World War III, let alone start it.

The Alt-Right: I mean, Bannon, right? On the National Security Council, like Pennywise working in a daycare? And an attempted ban on Islamic immigrants? And a big ass wall?  Here y’go, fellers.

Fundamentalist Christians: So he’s not very Christian. But he’s opposing the Muslims, and he’s supporting the Israeli one-state solution. Along with all of the warmongering and hedonism, he certainly seems to be bringing about Judgment Day all the quicker.

And that’s . . . good, right? Right?

America’s Actual Enemies: If they’re crazy, then I assume they are planning to rise to the challenge, and see if they can out-loon President Grump. If they’re not crazy, surely they see how easy he will be to manipulate. Hell, any troll on Twitter can rile the guy up in 140 characters. This is, of course, lovely news for those who actually understand the importance of image politics and the cult of personality. I don’t really think that I do —  but I have no doubt that our enemies do, and they are probably doing this:

Everybody else in the world: All I can say is, I’m sorry. I don’t know if you had any hopes left in you after the election went how it did, but if you did, well — I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what my country has become.

Let me be clear: I actually still have hope. I am still hopeful that Mr. Trump (Yes, fine, sure I can use his actual name. President Donald J. Trump, okay? Bah, humbug.) will do no lasting harm to this country, and that he will satisfy a large number of people who have felt left behind by the progressive swing of the pendulum over the last few decades. That would be a good thing. In some ways, I think that’s all that can be hoped for with any president. I don’t know how much President Obama really accomplished –really — other than this: he did no harm. He didn’t hurt our international reputation, he didn’t break our government or our economy. The debt he created was already coming because of previous administrations and our Congress’s willingness to create new spending without finding ways to pay for it, and because of the financial crisis initiated by Wall Street. The wars he failed to stop, and the one he exacerbated by dealing weapons and flinging drones around like Rip Taylor chucking confetti, are all part of a quagmire that we were already in up to our tits. Jesus: do you realize that we propped up the Iranian government under the Shah, who came to power after the Allies invaded in 194-fucking-1? It goes that far back. So in the grand scheme, Obama did no harm. The problems of this country, the real ones, were not his fault, and I don’t think he made them worse, overall.

I hope I will be able to say the same for Trump. And if he makes people feel like they have a voice, like their vote counts, then that is all to the good.

And if he shows us all that what we really need to do is find a way to listen to each other so we can never, ever, EVER elect another jackass like this one — then I think his legacy will be complete.

I hope.

But that’s only good for my country, and our internal democracy. For the rest of the world? This must really be like looking down the barrel of a gun. And not because of Trump himself: but because 63 million Americans voted for him.

That’s the scary part.

On the Sixth Day of Blogging, Just Dusty Blogged for Me . . .

A political post; his specialtyyyyy!

Here’s the truth: we all know what’s coming.

The Republicans are coming.

It’s like watching a storm coming in: the clouds roll out across the sky like a cloth unfurling; first they are white, then grey, then black. The color leaches out of the world. The wind turns cold and biting, and then the first drops arrive: if it is a summer storm, then the big, fat splashes are refreshing, though the tang of ozone in the air is alarming.

But I don’t think this is a summer storm. It feels like winter. Those drops are cold. We are shivering.

When the storm hits in winter, it brings quiet. The wind may howl, but after it goes, everything is still. Frozen. Asleep, or dead.

That’s what I think this feels like. Like the storm is coming, and we need to get into shelter, and cover everything. Anything left out will freeze solid, will turn black, will die. We have to cover ourselves, we have to batten down the hatches. And ride it out.

But hang on: winter storms don’t kill everything. Yes, there will be some death: the EPA seems doomed, and Obamacare will be lobotomized, dissected, cut down into pieces too small to sustain itself any longer. Maybe the Department of Education, too, since the nominee for Education Secretary is against public education. Irrevocable harm will be done to the environment as new oil leases are sold, new mining contracts offered, coal dug and burned at will. Internationally, the day of the strong man is on the rise: the new administration will be a friend to Putin, and Netanyahu, and probably Assad and a dozen others who hold an iron grip with their right hand. America will no longer be the defender of freedom around the world. But then, we haven’t actually been that for a long time: we have defended our interests, and little else. That will continue, to the joy of the exceptionalists. Surely we will no longer fight against genocide or oppression: pity is the most delicate flower, and will be the first to freeze.

But not everything will freeze. It will get deathly cold, but our shelters run deep, and are well-protected. And though the storm will be bad, it will not last long. That’s the truth: it will not last long. At some point, perhaps in four years, perhaps in only two when the new Congress is elected, the storm will break, and the skies will clear.

Then we will have to see if there is another storm behind this one. It is possible, you know. This storm may last eight years. If it does, we’re going to have a lot of frostbite.

But think of this. No party has won three elections in a row since Bush followed Reagan. Before that, not since Truman followed Roosevelt. Twice in almost a century have we had a Democratic president after a Democrat, or a Republican after a Republican – Johnson following Kennedy and Ford following Nixon notwithstanding, for obvious reasons. Which means that things will change. The storm will end. Believe it.

Here’s what we hope for, between now and then.

Hope that the storm does some good. Storms do, you know. They wash things clean, they break away dead branches and scour away debris. I am a progressive, and I believe in the power of government to do good things; but the truth is that our government has a lot of debris stuck in its branches. And some dead branches, I think. It is entirely possible that, even while it harms and breaks good things, the storm will also clear away some of the bad. We have to hope so. Maybe there will be some positive effects.

The key for us – for all of us – is going to be objectivity. We must be dispassionate, and we must be rational. Reasonable people can agree, can compromise, and what was most noticeably absent from this last election was reason — and therefore agreement, and therefore compromise. To keep the weather metaphor: some people like cold weather, like storms, like the rain; other people prefer warm sunshine. But only unreasonable people claim that there is nothing good about cold, that only warm sunshine can ever be acceptable; only unreasonable people claim to hate it when the sky clears and the sun comes out, at least once in a while. Reasonable people realize that Arizona summers are too freaking hot, that New England winters are too freaking cold, that the Pacific Northwest is too overcast and rainy, and the Southeast is too muggy.

We have to be reasonable. If the Republican control of the government leads to some good things, leads to some reductions in unnecessary regulations (and there are such), leads to some reversal of government overreach and invasion into private lives (and there is such), then we must be happy that good things are happening. We must not make the same mistake that unreasonable people have made when they have claimed that, for instance, President Obama has been bad for the economy. Or that the First Family has been an embarrassment to the country. Hate Obamacare all you want, but the economy has turned around since the recession. (And I say Fie to anyone who claims that the economy would have grown faster had the president for the last eight years been Republican. Fie. Prove it. Show me where economic predictions have ever been reliable. If a simple cause and effect were provably true, the argument would be over. It ain’t. So fie.) The Obama family are a model of dignity and grace.

So let’s not make the same mistake. Let us be reasonable. Let us take the long view and see: if a thing is broken or taken away, was that thing actually necessary? Perhaps not. Perhaps when Obamacare is destroyed by the storm, we will come out of our shelters when the sky clears and build something even better.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, when Miss Maudie’s house burns down during the winter freeze, she simply says this:

Miss Maudie looked around, and the shadow of her old grin crossed her face. ‘Always wanted a smaller house, Jem Finch. Gives me more yard. Just think, I’ll have more room for my azaleas now!’ 

You ain’t grievin’, Miss Maudie?’ I asked, surprised. Atticus said her house was nearly all she had. 

Grieving, child? Why, I hated that old cow barn. Thought of settin’ fire to it a hundred times myself, except they’d lock me up.’

But—’ 

Don’t you worry about me, Jean Louise Finch. There are ways of doing things you don’t know about. Why, I’ll build me a little house and take me a couple of roomers and – gracious, I’ll have the finest yard in Alabama. Those Bellingrathsll look plain puny when I get started!’

There are ways of doing things. That’s how we have to see this. Like the burning down of an old house. It’s dangerous and damaging – and we have to try to fight the fire, and we have to try to save what we can from its flames – but we have to remember that after the storm, after the fire, life goes on. And maybe the new day will dawn even brighter. Anything that is destroyed that shouldn’t be, we can rebuild. Maybe we can even make it better.

Now: that is me being reasonable, because we should be, about Republican control of government. Republicans are not fools, and are not evil; though I think political parties are harmful to this country, it is certainly true that two parties are necessary, that one party alone, even my party, would be doomed. I think of when Frodo offers the One Ring to Galadriel, and she refuses it because she would become a queen, awesome and terrible — “All will worship me and despair,” she says, as she’s imagining it. Gandalf turns it down, too, for the same reason: nobody can use it safely, even if they mean to do good. The federal government is, in some ways, the Ring. The key to using it safely is in numbers: no one person can hold it for too long; no person can go it alone. Frodo never makes it to Mt. Doom without Samwise. Realize that, while we seem to have handed the Ring to Denethor, the madman on the throne of Gondor, it wouldn’t be any better if we hung on to it ourselves: we’d go mad like Frodo does, and decide to keep the Ring for ourselves. That is a fate to be feared no less because progressives have, I think, the right idea. I may write more about this another time.

For now, let’s talk about the other part of the winter storm scene from To Kill a Mockingbird: let’s talk about the Morphodite.

You remember the Morphodite, right? The snowman that Jem and Scout build, that is actually only a coating of clean snow over a big ball of mud? Right. Jem turns him into a caricature of their loud, obnoxious neighbor Mr. Avery, but at Atticus’s request, he changes it into a more innocent imitation of Miss Maudie, dressing it with her sun hat and hedge clippers. She, of course, takes it as an insult (though she doesn’t mind too much) and names it a morphodite, meaning a thing that changes its shape. The Morphodite melts in the heat of the burning house, and Scout and Jem have to clean up the muddy, filthy, sticky mess.

I think we all know what I’m talking about. I don’t, in theory, have a problem with the Republican party taking control of the government — though I am extremely nervous that, after they push through a conservative Justice for the Supreme Court, they will control all three branches of the Federal government — but we’re not just talking about conservatives or Republicans, are we? We’re talking about this guy:

You know — the Morphodite. See? Clean and white on the outside, nothing but sticky brown nastiness underneath. (And I’m not making a racial reference here, just using the symbolism of white snow=purity, and mud=shit=corruption.)

So here’s the thing with the Morphodite. He was picked largely as an alternative to a lot of bad choices, mostly (but not solely) on the Republican side. I still believe, absolutely, that he entered the race solely to increase his name recognition and give himself a veneer of patriotism; maybe to make some political connections he could use to his advantage for his business. I think nobody was more shocked than he when he started winning, and that state of shock continued all the way through the final victory. I mean, he’s been unprepared the whole way; it’s no less true now. And he’s filling his cabinet with people who are likely to support him and his ideas personally, with their own selfish interests in mind, rather than people who are civic-minded, or who will likely consider what is best for the American people before considering what is best for themselves. Just like him.

The man’s a narcissist, that much is clear. He acts like a spoiled child: and he seems happiest when he breaks things and gets attention, which he then turns into more attention as he mocks the people who chastise him for breaking things. He thrives on attention. It is why he entered the race, why he ran so hard and why he has acted the way he has since his election.

So what do you do with a spoiled child who acts out for attention?

You ignore him. Don’t give him the satisfaction. Don’t give him what he wants, because it is the only thing he wants, and he doesn’t care in the least if it is good attention or bad attention. All he wants is for people to talk about him.

So stop. Stop using his name. Fortunately there are a thousand alternatives, from John Oliver’s call to make Donald Drumpf again, to the various versions of orange-themed insults that plaster the internet. Any of those are fine; he wants to see his name, his actual name. I think he prefers The D_____, actually, though clearly the last name, associated with the business, is the #1 priority. But there are so many others, too: Rump. Dump. Chump. Chimp! Lump, Slump, Gump, Hump (Wait — not that one. Too close to home.), Bump, Thump, Clump. So many possibilities, and not a one of them will give him what he wants.

If you feel a call to protest, please do. But address your concerns to the part of the government that is actually still a government. And when the reality TV guy comes on stage — change the channel. Or better yet, just turn him off.

Let him melt back into a puddle of goo. Then we can have a couple of kids rake him up and throw him away.

The Party’s Over

“Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king. That’s why I did this: to protect you from yourselves. –Sideshow Bob, “Sideshow Bob Roberts”

(This is the third installment of my political corruption series, and the last. For now.)

Let’s be clear (If you read my stuff, it’s probably already clear): I am a lifelong Democrat. I am the child of two lifelong Democrats: my parents voted for John F. Kennedy, for William McGovern, for Walter Mondale, for Michael Dukakis; I voted for Clinton, for Gore, for Kerry, and for Barack Obama, twice. I don’t understand why people can vote Republican: the wealthy, for whom it makes personal sense, have to be callous, I feel, in order to refuse to maintain the social safety net for those less fortunate than they, or unbelievably greedy in order to agree to destroy the regulatory state so that they can make even more money at the expense of our very world; the poor and middle class are voting for social causes, not for personal gain (Unless they believe in trickle-down economics, but in that case they are deluded), but I see two problems with that: first, they are on the wrong side of most social issues – anti-choice, anti-equality, xenophobic, and parochial – and their candidates don’t ever deliver on their promises. So if you’re wealthy, how can you stand to vote Republican? And if you’re not, why would you ever think to vote Republican?

I read an excellent book by Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter With Kansas, in which Frank examines how Kansas, his home state and, through the 1800’s and early 1900’s, one of the most radical and progressive states, became so very staunchly, unflaggingly, self-destructively conservative. What happened was that Republican candidates around the early 90’s started pushing a pro-life agenda as the only issue that mattered – you know, the usual “40,000,000 murders,” “Culture of life” stuff – and when elected, every Republican proceeded to lower taxes, kill social services, remove regulations on business, make sweetheart deals with corporations, and basically ruin life for the average person; and then go back to election yelling “We have to end the scourge of abortion!” Which got them re-elected, into majority after majority — and yet they continued to fail to do anything about abortion, simply pushing their pro-business agenda on the state to its steadily growing detriment. But the pro-life agenda, whipped into a frenzy every new election cycle, was so compelling that nothing else seemed to matter to the voters, who kept voting Republican until it put their state where it is now – essentially hollowed out, unable to provide even the most basic elements we expect of our governments, like schools – not that Kansas schools teach anything other than creationism and abstinence, according to the campaign promises of the Republican candidates.

That’s how I see Republicans: selfish, deluded, misguided, and absurdly optimistic– or, less kindly, willfully blind to the fact that their politicians don’t ever deliver on the things they promise that won their constituents’ votes: on the national scene, we still have Obamacare, we are still giving foreign aid to dozens of other countries, our veterans are still dying on the streets, abortion is still legal, gay marriage is now legal as well, and there still isn’t a wall between the US and Mexico. So why would anyone vote Republican?

Here’s the thing, though: why do I continue to vote Democratic? It was Clinton who ended the Glass-Steagall Act, which, more than anything else, precipitated the economic crash that happened ten years later, under George Bush but not – I repeat, not — because of him. It was Bush’s fault that our government wasn’t in a better position to help after the crash, because he gave away Clinton’s surplus in tax breaks and war spending; but the crash was because of the Democrats. Democrats who I voted for. And of all of my other causes, the most important to me is the reduction of violence and misery, and the improvement of equal opportunity for everyone; the largest obstacle to all of that is income inequality. Which Democrats conveniently ignore, not wishing to appear – gasp – Socialist. (I know, I know – Bernie Sanders. But he’s also pro-gun.) We have Obamacare, but without the public option, it is more of a burden than anything useful; my costs for health care are still going up, every year, while my wages are going down: I make less now than I did ten years ago. Unions are still dying, and women still don’t make the same wages that men do, and Guantanamo is still open and still incarcerating prisoners of war who have never been to trial, and guns remain unregulated, and schools remain unfunded, and everyone is still driving Hummers while we drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

So who’s really the fool, here?

I think the answer’s pretty obvious: we all are. We have all been sold a bill of goods that doesn’t match what the grinning faces behind the counter are putting into our baskets.

This is the last form of political corruption I want to write about, and that I think I have a solution for: this one is the corruption of the entire system, through partisanship and self-serving deception. This political corruption is the two-party system.

I would love to go back now to when the two-party system made sense and worked well for Americans; but in all honesty, the two-party system has always been about helping itself. Having a clearly defined and well-known political party makes it easier for candidates affiliated with that party to get elected: the party label offers a certain legitimacy, and even loyalty, in that people often vote the “straight ticket,” picking the candidates affiliated with their party without knowing anything about them. The party also offers a political apparatus that makes it easier to get heard and therefore elected; you need staff, you need volunteers, you need access to media and to debates and the like, you need a platform that people can hear and understand and support. The political party that exists before and beyond one’s own candidacy offers all of that; unless you’re a billionaire loon like H. Ross Perot, bless his wrinkly, big-eared heart, you wouldn’t want to form your own party just for your candidacy, and you almost certainly couldn’t afford to. So political parties are useful, and they aren’t going away – more’s the pity; because by far the easiest solution here is just to ban them entirely. But then it would be too hard for anyone not an incumbent to mount a national political campaign, or even a serious state-wide one, and that would not be any better, as those in power – who already have political staff, legitimacy, and access to media – would get re-elected even more often than they do now. So okay, we’ll keep political parties.

Now, if that party represents a certain set of values that the voter supports, then well and good: but because there are only two parties with any real legitimacy in this country, those two parties become too large and unwieldy, their umbrellas too wide and encompassing such extremes, that voting for the party doesn’t really mean supporting one’s specific causes: is this Republican candidate an evangelical Christian who wants to put the Ten Commandments on the American flag and mandate both creationism and prayer in schools? Or is he a Libertarian seeking the end of the income tax and government reduced to only two services, international commerce and the military? Is this Democrat in favor of a path to citizenship, but also supports private prisons, or is she looking to legalize marijuana and strengthen the Second Amendment at the same time? We can’t tell based on party affiliation.

Now, the two-party system theoretically serves the middle: because the two parties have to have such broad appeal, they tend towards the center. And thirty or forty years ago, I think that was probably true: but it isn’t now. And before that – say, eighty or a hundred years ago – it also wasn’t true. Way back when it was formed, the Republican party was single-mindedly abolitionist, which was an extreme (albeit correct) position; the Democratic party, in response, was for decades staunchly segregationist and pro-states’-rights. Also not moderate positions. Today, we have one party – I’ll let the reader guess which one – that has discovered that it can motivate its base through extreme and inflexible positions on social issues; in other words, the more extreme and zealous and inflammatory the party gets, the more votes they turn out. The entire party is moving away from the center, and at the same time, becoming more successful, because of it. More successful, that is, at winning elections: they are certainly not more successful at governing, a profession they seem to have cast aside in favor of demogoguery. Meanwhile, the opposition party is trying to maintain its foothold in the middle; but as the other party keeps going farther and farther to one side, the middle drags in that direction – and rather than hold their ground and make the extremists come back, the moderate party is moving with them, and thus also becoming less moderate: while surrendering entirely the side of the political spectrum they were supposed to be watching. I feel like, any minute now, the Democrats are going to turn around and see that a Republican has captured their flag while they were all on the other side, trying to keep an eye on the Republican team – who were having a dance party around their own flag, completely ignoring the Democrats and the entire game, but subtly distracting their whole team so that no one was left to play defense. And somehow, Vince Lombardi was behind it all. Or Ronald Reagan.

The two-party system is also supposed to provide stability: because the parties are predictable, and centrist, and inclusive, and effectively share the electorate, they are forced to compromise, which isn’t terribly hard because their positions aren’t far apart, and so they can respect and agree with each other on most things; any one politician also realizes that his opposition is not going away, and so he has to work with them. Except our parties aren’t providing that, either: instead we get hatred and bile and petty partisanship that blocks everything useful, even stuff that shouldn’t ever be a question, like raising the debt ceiling, or providing for the 9/11 First Responders. Honestly, any government that can’t give those guys health care and a pension that would choke a horse is no kind of government at all.

So that’s what we have: no kind of government at all. The parties have lost their way: rather than improving our democracy, they are hurting it; because their goal is no longer to represent the will of the people, but rather to maintain and expand the power of their party. As long as their party wins, nothing else matters. Politics is become a team sport. The propagandists (You know – the cheerleaders. Though I can’t think of anyone on this Earth who looks less like a cheerleader than Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove.) have taken over, and they have realized that they don’t need to steer their parties towards what the people want; they can make the tail wag the dog, and the party can tell the people what they want. As long as they say they are in favor of what the people are in favor of – this side will ban abortion, that side will close Guantanamo and ensure that women make equal pay for equal work – they don’t actually have to do those things in order to maintain power. And as long as the person says they are a Democrat or a Republican, that’s a win, even if they don’t actually act like it: and so the Republican party will support Donald Trump if he wins the nomination, and the Democratic party will support Bernie Sanders, even though he is a Socialist independent.

I don’t even have to argue that the political system is broken: the race for President – which has already been going on for a full year – will likely come down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Bernie Sanders will likely not be in the running. (And I have to say: in that scenario, I almost wish that Ted Cruz would win, so that Mitch McConnell could stand up in the Senate and say that his first goal is to ensure that Ted Cruz is a one-term president. I want to see how well Mr. Cruz can do when he can’t blame things on Obama. Although of course he’d keep blaming Obama for everything, anyway.) If the system worked, then Sanders would run as a Socialist, Trump as the head of the shiny new Trump-Solid-Gold Party, Hillary Clinton as a Democrat, Ted Cruz as a member of the Inquisition, and probably Marco Rubio as the Republican. And then we’d have a race, by God. You’d have two actual centrists, Rubio and Clinton, one on the left in Sanders, one on the far right in Cruz, and Trump off on a tangent, somewhere far out in Nutsville.

So how do we change things to achieve that glorious outcome in the future? Well, there are a couple of ways. The first thing is we can bring back the Fairness Doctrine, which required opposing viewpoints to be presented on any television station that aired political views; that, with a certain minimum percentage of votes – say, 5% of the popular vote in any one election cycle – required to gain status as an opposing viewpoint, would allow alternate parties to gain media access, publicity, and a voice in the system. That would be the best thing: allow parties a chance to gain their own foothold, and stop this nonsense where everyone other than a Democrat or Republican is a “third-party candidate,” which is seen almost universally as a wasted vote.

We could also eliminate the one-winner-takes-all election system, and the single-representative system with it. Depending on whether we want more representatives in Congress, it could look like this: the Congress members from a certain state would all run in one general election, with up to as many candidates as there are seats from each party – so in a state with ten Congress seats, there would be ten Republicans, ten Democrats, ten Socialists, etc. – and the popular vote would be divided by percentage. So if 50% of the state voted Republican, 30% Democrat and 20% Socialist, then the state would get five Republican congresspeople, three Democrats, and two Socialists; you could either have the parties choose their reps by caucus, or have a run-off within the party for which candidates get the slots. Alternately, you could run the same system but with multiple candidates from the various parties winning a single “seat,” that is made up of several actual members; though that would greatly increase the number of Congresspeople, and still allow for districts to be gerrymandered. I like the state-by-state bloc voting, personally.

And one other thing is critical: term limits. It is absurd that we don’t already have these in Congress when we have them almost everywhere else, including the Presidency. I’d suggest about a decade for each seat: four two-year terms in Congress, two six-year terms in the Senate. Maximum twenty years in the legislature. And anyone currently past that is out at the next election.

All of us are unhappy with the partisan politics. I have seen this meme several times of late, and I expect to see it even more between now and November.

Screw  the Demopublicrats

We need to fix the system, because the people who are breaking it aren’t going to turn around and fix it, and breaking it even further is not going to magically bring it back around to a good place. Too be specific: Donald Trump will not make America great again. No Republican and no Democrat will.

We the people can. We will. We just have to do it. Now, please.

Free To Be . . . You And Me

So I was trying to figure out what to write about tonight. My dog, Sammy? Who is adorable, sweet, quirky, and entirely mystifying in terms of his breed? How about the sulcata tortoise we got recently, whom we named Neo? Or I could continue with the book reviews, as I also recently read “Stiff,” by Mary Roach, which is about what happens to the bodies of people who donate themselves to science?

I could write about school, of course. About the observation I recently had. Or the news stories I’ve been seeing about the problems with teachers and with schools. I had an idea for an essay analyzing King Lear (I’ve been grading those recently), and blaming Cordelia instead of the usual  villains, Goneril and Regan or Lear himself: after all, why the hell couldn’t she just tell her aged, semi-demented father what he wanted to hear? Is it so wrong that he wanted her to say how much she loved him, and lie a little?  Who doesn’t lie to their parents? Who doesn’t pretend to feel more affection for family members than they actually feel? How the hell is it virtuous to enrage your 80-year-old father in order to — what, protect your honor?

I could write about Trevor Noah taking over for Jon Stewart. Maybe about the breakup of One Direction. Or about the infuriating way that Cox refuses to put the new episodes of The Amazing Race on demand in any kind of rational way. I could talk about everything that’s wrong with The Voice, which should be an excellent show, and instead is just okay.

So many possibilities. But see, I have been wanting to follow the 2016 Presidential campaign, especially the Republicans. I want to understand the conservative stance. I want it to be rational. My wife, who is perfect in all ways, tends to see Republicans as dangerously stupid lunatics whenever she and I discuss politics, which we do pretty regularly. And hey — considering that the GOP is represented by people like George Bush and Dick Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and Mitt Romney and John Boehner — and people in our own new state like Jan Brewer and Doug Ducey, and the people who tried to mandate that everyone join a church or tried to gag teachers and school officials who disagree with them — Toni has a valid point.

And in the interests of pursuing this conservative campaign project, I really should write about Ted Cruz. The first Republican to officially declare his intention to run for President, despite being grossly unqualified, grossly unsuited, and basically just gross. I’m sorry: I don’t mean to rip on Republicans just because they’re Republicans, or conservatives; I’m serious about wanting to understand why people believe what they do and why they vote the way they do. But this guy? This guy?? THIS GUY?!?

How am I to take this man seriously?

I will try. I promise. But while I was looking through Ted Cruz’s website tonight, looking for information and an angle I can take on him, I checked out the Cruz News! link. And found this:

CRUZ: I’m proud to stand with Gov. Mike Pence, and I urge Americans to do the same

03/30/15

Issues Statement on Religious Freedom Restoration Act

HOUSTON, Texas — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, issued the following statement today in support of Governor Mike Pence’s effort to defend religious liberty and protect against the government forcing individuals to violate their deeply held beliefs:

“I want to commend Governor Mike Pence for his support of religious freedom, especially in the face of fierce opposition. There was a time, not too long ago, when defending religious liberty enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Alas, today we are facing a concerted assault on the First Amendment, on the right of every American to seek out and worship God according to the dictates of his or her conscience. Governor Pence is holding the line to protect religious liberty in the Hoosier State. Indiana is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across this country who are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks upon our personal liberties. I’m proud to stand with Mike, and I urge Americans to do the same.”

source

There we go. Something at least for tonight’s blog.

Let’s start with Indiana and the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” First, you can’t restore a religious freedom that didn’t exist in  the first place. And while religious folk do have the right to think what they want about anyone they wish, and the right to say whatever they want that isn’t directly defamatory or libelous (the same right we all have, with the same restrictions), they do not have the right to treat people differently because of a religious disagreement. That’s called discrimination, and it is a violation of civil liberties. In other words, my right to freely patronize your restaurant overrides your right to throw me out of it, barring dangerous or harmful actions on my part — a category which does not, unfortunately for religious bigots, include thinking sexy thoughts about Charlie Hunnam.

(Sorry if  the reference is obscure — we’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy. Allow me just to say this: Mmhm.

)

The moment a business — or a church –opens its doors to the public, it grants the public the right to come through those doors. The minute you offer a service to that public — including sermons and ceremonies — the public has a right to make use of those services, if their use falls within the same guidelines offered to other people. So if you let a Christian man use your bathroom, you have to let a Muslim man use your bathroom. Or a gay one.

Them’s the breaks. That’s the way America works. I do understand the objection, honestly: there are students that I would much rather throw right the hell out of my classroom, and sometimes it has been because I disagree so strongly with their views — particularly, in my case, religious ones. (Especially some of the self-righteous holier-than-thou pro-life zealots I have been sorry to come across in the last fifteen years of teaching persuasive essays) But I don’t have that right, and I wouldn’t even if I weren’t a public school teacher. You know what I do with those people? I argue with them, when I can; I hate them on the inside — and I treat them like my other students, and I grade them fairly. I gave an A to the guy who argued that white people really were better than blacks or Latinos. Because he wrote a decent essay. No — I think I gave him a B. He didn’t cite sufficient evidence. Probably because he was full of crap.  But it really was a pretty good piece of (disgusting, appalling, and downright distasteful) writing.

Patronizing a place of business is not, in any way, by any stretch of the imagination, an imposition on the proprietor. You are offering money in exchange for goods or services; this is not asking something unreasonable, and it is not an infringement on private space: the business owner invited the public in. But refusing services, for a reason that is based on a personal opinion, most definitely is an imposition, especially if this must be done publicly, by asking the person to leave or refusing to serve them. Someone being gay in your vicinity is not a harmful act, and therefore you have no reason to throw them out of the restaurant.

Therefore, this act is not protecting the freedom of the business owners. It is protecting their opinions. I do not think anyone has the right to have the government protect their opinions, other than keeping someone from wrongfully stealing and profiting from those opinions, through plagiarism or copyright infringement. And I do not believe that a lot of people are going to steal “We don’t serve homos” from some deep-fried pork rind joint in Indianapolis and put it on a T-shirt. The government should protect the right to express those opinions, and any business owner who wants to write a letter to the editor saying that they don’t like homosexuals is welcome to do so. They deserve what they get.

They just don’t get to tell people they can’t buy a cup of coffee.

On a final note, let me address this specific piece of the Senator’s statement:

There was a time, not too long ago, when defending religious liberty enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Alas, today we are facing a concerted assault on the First Amendment, on the right of every American to seek out and worship God according to the dictates of his or her conscience.

When, Mr. Cruz? When did defending religious liberty enjoy strong bipartisan support? When has religious liberty ever been threatened — genuinely threatened — in this country? As for the “concerted assault” on the First Amendment, what the hell are you talking about? Concerted by whom? Who is calling the shots, coordinating the efforts, to — what? Force bigots to look homosexuals in the eye and say “You want fries with that?” Allow me to point out that the freedom to “seek out and worship God” is in no way threatened by insisting that people treat others fairly, and with dignity. Not unless you belong to the church of Don’t Sell Gel-Sole Shoe Inserts To Homosexuals.

Which, in this genuinely wonderful country of ours, is totally a church you could found yourself. And you can even become a reverend through the Universal Life Church, and gain tax-exempt status for yourself. No shit.