Thursday, July 12, 2018

News and Updates

1.  We’re knee deep in July and I keep thinking that my life will calm down soon but somehow new things keep happening.  This is not a problem really, as most of those things are good things, but I’m feeling rather tired these days.  So much of being an adult is just thinking “If I can only make it until [DATE] I’ll get some time to catch up,” and then it’s suddenly [DATE PLUS SEVERAL DAYS] and you’re just wondering how you got there and whether half the stuff you had planned to catch up on should just get tossed as dead weight.  I suppose that’s one way to trim a to-do list.

2. You know you’re in deep when you sit down during a quiet moment at work and idly put together a list of things to work on for when you get home and it ends up being 22 items long.  So far I’ve checked off one item.  But that’s progress, isn’t it?

3. So the World Cup final will not be particularly interesting after all.  I had a 3 in 4 chance of getting a game with a team that I was cheering for once the semifinals were set – Belgium v France and England v. Croatia meant that my final game options were Belgium v England (double yay!), Belgium v. Croatia (yay!), France v. England (yay!) or France v. Croatia (say what now?).  And naturally I am left with Option 4.  Oh well.

4. Yes I have a friend in France too, but I find that I am having a hard time caring whether France wins or not.  I suspect this is because they were one of the favorites and they won it all not that long ago.  On the other hand, they do play an entertaining game.  Of course so does Croatia and they’ve never won.  I’m sure I’ll end up watching the game anyway (and definitely the third-place game between Belgium and England).  There will be a long gap after that before the Premier League picks up again and I need to store up my soccer viewing time, though the US men’s and women’s leagues are in session this summer so that will help.

5. It’s marching band season and Lauren is heading to field shows and parades.  Kim and I went to the home show that they did a couple of weeks ago, and that was a good time.  It was far too hot for the heavy uniforms that they wear, but they did a nice job of playing through it.  I was impressed, at any rate.  Go Lauren!

6. It’s always such a lovely thing when friends come to visit, especially if they’re people you don’t get to see very often and wish you could.  Mike and Krista drove out from Pittsburgh for a few days and it was so good to see them and not nearly long enough.  There are people in this world that you only see at long intervals and when you do it’s like no time has passed at all.  Hang onto those people, folks. 


7. In addition to her marching band, Lauren is also keeping up the family tradition of running spotlight for the school plays.  Local Businessman High School is running its summer musical this week and next and Lauren signed up for that gig.  So Lauren and I spent some time on Monday morning down at Home Campus walking through the mechanics of running a spotlight and practicing for a bit, and now she’s at rehearsal putting all that to good use.  I am a proud theater dad!

8. I need to clean my office.  I have space now to clean my office.  I have time to clean my office.  The office definitely, positively, absolutely needs to be cleaned.  I am not cleaning my office at the moment.  This is likely not going to end well.

9. My summer class is going well, however, even if I do have a pile of papers to grade now.  I miss being in a classroom when I don’t get to teach and this is one of my favorite classes, so I guess I’ll just grade the papers and be done with it.

10. This summer has been far too hot for far too long.  Seriously – it’s been heat-wave hot for most of the last four weeks, and as someone who thinks civilized weather starts halfway through the autumn and runs just a few weeks into spring, I’m pretty much done with it.  I could really go for some global cooling right about now.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

My Cup Runneth Over

I’m enjoying the World Cup so far.

I don’t get as much of a chance to see it this time around as I did last time, when it was in Brazil.  Brazil is more or less in the same time zone as I am, which means that the games were played at a time when I wasn’t working or sound asleep (which two things are not simultaneous, at least not since I graduated from college).  This whole “working for a living” thing really does cut into my relaxation time, you know?  Russia covers eleven time zones and not a single one of them is convenient for a spectator in the American midwest, but so it goes.

I get to see some of the games live on weekends or when I don’t go in to work until later in the day, and sometimes if I think I’ll have time in the evenings I’ll tape them.  This has its drawbacks, though.  I was at a social gathering this past weekend when the tournament came up in conversation.  “Don’t tell me who won that game!” I said.  “I’ve got it recorded for later!”  And then somebody else who didn’t hear me say that wandered by and said, “Did you see that game!  That team won!  It was fantastic!  There was THIS play and THAT play and where are you going, Dave?”

Oh well.

Please do not presume to criticize me for watching a sporting event originating from Russia.  Yes, I know that Russia is a corrupt and venal place that won a war against the US in 2016 that we didn’t even know we were fighting, but have you checked out our own government lately?  I’m just not sure that making moral judgments based on politics is something we Americans should be doing right now.

Also, I grew up in the Cold War.  I’m used to watching games that take place in countries that are actively trying to kill me.  This is not new.  We called that detente back in the day, and we walked uphill against the wind to see them on a black and white television with rabbit ears on top and a grainy picture on the screen and we liked it.

I think I can handle it.

Plus the American network broadcasting these games (not sure which one – I just scroll through the guide until I hit paydirt) has pretty much ignored the setting, which means I can just focus on the games and be happy.  Three cheers for you, network, whoever you are.

And I am happy, when I get the chance to watch.  Most of the games have been interesting (with the singular exception of Spain v Russia, which was a clinical exercise in wasted possession and mind-numbing delaying tactics by the Spaniards), and there have been a number of unexpected results to make things fun.  I knew it was going to be a good tournament when Mexico defeated Germany.

A lot of the students I see on Home Campus have family roots in Mexico, so there was much celebration around here.  It was a lot sadder when they lost to Brazil, but hey – only one team gets to win its final game in this, so you might as well enjoy the ride while it lasts.

With Mexico out, that means three of the four teams I’ve been cheering for are still alive.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that they are all in the same group* so a) they will have to play each other which means at least one will have to lose each time, and b) there is no chance that I will have two teams to cheer for in the final.  England and Sweden play each other next, and Belgium will play Brazil.  I have friends in England, Sweden, and Belgium, so those are my choices.  Only one of those countries can make it to the final, though, but I hope whichever one does wins it all.  The other side of the bracket has four teams that I don’t really feel much about one way or the other. 

Go my teams!  Beat the other teams!

---

*Correction, courtesy of my friend Roeland: Belgium is in a different group from England and Sweden, so there is in fact a chance that I could see a final between two teams I'm cheering for.  This is good news!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate

With the cascade of stupid, immoral, illegal, subversive, un-American, and possibly treasonous things emitted by der Sturmtrumper, his pet Congress, his supporters, and his administration reaching levels that make it nearly impossible for any sane person to keep up with, I’ve started just keeping a running list of observations on the matter.  Every time the list reaches critical mass, I suppose I’ll post it and start a new one.  Can’t hurt; might help.  Here’s the most recent list:

--

1.  So the Supreme Court has overturned decades of precedent and all civilized morality in order to that it is okay for public businesses to serve only those parts of the public that they like, in whatever manner they like.  Welcome to the new Plessy v Ferguson, I suppose – the New Gilded Age rolls on, with anyone not a straight white evangelical male being relegated to second-class status at best.  Astonishingly, the Court insisted that this decision was not about the rights of LGBTQ American citizens to be treated as American citizens – the key issue, really – but was instead about the people who processed the original complaint, who were apparently insufficiently obsequious regarding the religious views of those who wished to deny American citizens the rights of American citizens.  This is, of course, nonsense.  Help me out – why is religion even part of the discussion here?  The United States is not founded on religion and we do not need to follow the Bible in our laws.  We are founded on the Constitution, and we follow that in our laws.  Your personal beliefs – sincerely held or not, catered to or not – are utterly irrelevant to this discussion.  If you want theocracy, move to Iran.

2. On the other hand, the decision was narrowly decided on procedural grounds, and it has already had one unforeseen consequence.  The Arizona Court of Appeals released a decision in the case of Brush & Nib Studio v Phoenix in a case that more or less mirrored the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.  The Studio was a card and decoration seller for, among other things, weddings, and they argued that a Phoenix law banning discrimination against same sex couples violated their First Amendment rights.  The Arizona Court of Appeals unanimously rejected this and cited the Masterpiece decision in support of its argument. 

Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts. At the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression. As this Court observed in Obergefell v. Hodges, “[t]he First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” Nevertheless, while those religious and philosophical objections are protected, it is a general rule that such objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.

“The government may prohibit businesses from discriminating against same-sex couples,” noted Slate.com, “so long as it respects those business’ religious beliefs in adjudicating those disputes.  Brush & Bib Studio may sincerely oppose same-sex marriage.  But, the court explained, it could not create an exception for anti-gay business without inflicting a ‘grave and continuing harm’ on gay people.” 

Leaving aside the issue of whether businesses can have beliefs at all, this is essentially the opposite of what the bigots wanted, and seeing their own so-called victory used against them is just one of the bright spots that this world offers sometimes.

3. No, the president cannot pardon himself.  Don’t be ridiculous.  Only an idiot would say he could, and the fact that plenty of idiots are saying this now does not make it any less grotesquely stupid of a thing to say.  One of the foundational principles of western legal systems is that nobody can be the judge in their own case.  This was reported to Richard Nixon by the Department of Justice in 1974, in fact, only three days before he resigned in disgrace.  Now if only der Sturmtrumper would take the hint.

4. Der Sturmtrumper’s Nixonian argument that the president cannot obstruct justice because anything the president does is by definition legal is too much even for some Republicans.  PA Senator Pat Toomey said, “it is entirely possible for a president to obstruct justice,” and added that he could think of “lots of ways a president could obstruct justice.”  Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), noting the impeachment of Bill Clinton, said, “There’s a precedent there, obviously.  I’ve always said I didn’t think anybody is above or below the law.”  Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who was one of the leaders of the impeachment circus in the 1990s, continues to have at least the virtue of consistency – “Well, you can be impeached for obstructing justice, that’s what we did with Clinton,” he pointed out.  So perhaps, just perhaps, when it comes to a choice between country and party, there might be just enough patriotism in the GOP to make a positive difference.

5. The German government – which knows how to recognize a Nazi when it sees one – is formally demanding an explanation for der Sturmtrumper’s pet ambassador’s threat to use his office to help right-wing extremist parties take over not only Germany but all of Europe.  This threat is, of course, not only a serious violation of diplomatic protocol that could very well lead to a break in relations with one of the United States’ most powerful and important allies, but also typical of the tin-eared radicalism of the regime this ambassador represents back in Washington DC.  Not that it is atypical of Richard Grenell’s style – a hyperpartisan GOP operative with a long history of bombshell stupid statements, Grenell seemed quite happy to tell Breitbart all about his plan to “empower” the sorts of people that ran Germany until 1945.  Sweet dancing monkeys in a stick, people – it has come to this: the United States is now actively working to reintroduce Nazism to Germany.  Think about that.

6. On the other hand, State Department spokesbot Heather Nauert claimed that “We have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany.  Looking back on the history books, today is the 71st anniversary of the speech that announced the Marshall Plan.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion.”  Uh, wait.  Stop.  Run that last one by me again?  Weren’t we shooting Germans on D-Day?  I’m not sure this is the kind of relationship you want, especially if your own ambassador is actively trying to revive the NSDAP over there.

7. Robert Mueller’s team is reportedly now requesting that witnesses turn in their cell phones so they can’t hide encrypted messages from them.  This is neither groundbreaking nor surprising, since these are witnesses to potential criminal acts and Mueller’s team has the right to that information.  The witnesses can turn it over voluntarily or wait for the subpoena, but either way the end result is the same.  Naturally the right wing has issues with this.  Sean Hannity – der Sturmtrumper’s biggest cheerleader and Michael Cohen’s other client – has publicly advised witnesses to obstruct justice.  “Take your phones and bash ‘em with a hammer into itsy bitsy pieces, use bleach bit, remove the SIM cards and then take the pieces and hand it over to Robert Mueller,” he said to his minions. 

First, Hannity is now guilty of a crime – admittedly not a big one, unless one of those witnesses actually follows his advice, but obstruction of justice is obstruction of justice no matter how thin you slice it.  I look forward to his prosecution in a court of law. 

Second, it’s really amazing, isn’t it?  How nobody on the GOP side ever thinks that any evidence that Mueller could turn up will possibly exonerate der Sturmtrumper?  They know damn well he’s guilty, and every time they open their mouths it just makes that more obvious.  May they all go down together.

8. In an astonishingly cynical move, the North Carolina GOP – the leading edge of autocracy and corruption at the state level these days, which, in a country that includes Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Maine, is quite an achievement – has decided that if they can’t disenfranchise nonwhites and registered Democrats legally they will rewrite the state constitution to make it happen.  Their Voter Suppression law was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 for targeting “African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and since the GOP knows it cannot win a free and fair election they need a new tactic to guarantee their iron grip on power.  But yeah, “freedom.”

9. Abby Huntsman, one of the hosts of der Sturmtrumper’s favorite television shows “Fox & Friends,” described the meeting between der Sturmtrumper and Kim Jong-un as a meeting between “two dictators” and the other hosts didn’t even bother to correct it.  They’re not even trying to lie to you anymore, are they?

10. Oh sweet dancing monkeys on a stick, what a debacle der Sturmtrumper turned in at the G7 meeting in Quebec.  What an embarrassment this idiot is to my country.  Paul Krugman summed it up well:

What went down in Quebec? I’m already seeing headlines to the effect that Trump took a belligerent “America first” position, demanding big concessions from our allies, which would have been bad. But the reality was much worse.

He didn’t put America first; Russia first would be a better description. And he didn’t demand drastic policy changes from our allies; he demanded that they stop doing bad things they aren’t doing. This wasn’t a tough stance on behalf of American interests, it was a declaration of ignorance and policy insanity.

Der Sturmtrumper demanded – demanded! – that Russia be readmitted to the group, despite the fact that a) they were expelled for illegally invading Ukraine, a situation which continues, and b) their economy is nowhere near important enough to be included, being smaller than Brazil’s.  He demanded – demanded! – that the G7 member nations remove “ridiculous and unacceptable” tariffs on US goods despite the fact that the US government’s own numbers say that those tariffs average only 3% on American goods.  He showed up to important meetings late and left early.  He refused to sign the summit statement at the end because Reasons.  He attempted to start trade wars with all of our most important allies and threatened to cut off all trade with them unless they gave in to his petulant, incoherent demands.  This is a disgrace and an embarrassment, and anyone who supports this clown should be ashamed.

13. French President Emmanuel Macron was fairly clear in expressing the general reaction of the civilized world toward the juvenile antics of the American president.  “We spent two days to obtain a text and commitments,” he said.  “We will stand by them and anyone who would depart from them, once their back is turned, shows their incoherence and inconsistency.  International cooperation cannot depend on fits of anger or little words.  Let us be serious and worthy of our people.”  But you see, that’s the problem.  Der Sturmtrumper is neither serious nor worthy.

14. Der Sturmtrumper doesn’t seem to have figured out that everything the President reads or writes is part of history and needs to be preserved.  That’s not just a noble sentiment – that is actually federal law.  Apparently he destroys every document he handles, and then some poor slob has to go back and tape it back together.  Literally.  Laws are for other people folks – remember, that’s the GOP motto.

15.  Wait – is der Sturmtrumper really trying to pick a fight with Canada of all places?  Canada?  One of our oldest allies?  The country we share the world’s longest undefended border with?  The place known for being polite?  The one that has supported the US through pretty much everything over the last century and a half?  That Canada?  Can this guy be more of an asshole than he already is?  Can he destroy the American standing in the world more thoroughly than he is already doing?  Enquiring minds want to know.

16. Aaaaand continuing on the theme of These Fuckers Are Evil, now you have Our Confederate Attorney General announcing to the world that the US will no longer accept domestic abuse as legitimate grounds for asylum.  So wife-beaters of the world rejoice!  The US government is officially on your side!  Can we just throw this bunch of assholes into the river and be done with them now?  This goes beyond the snarkable and into the outright depraved.  Seriously, these fuckwits need to be torn down and replaced with human beings.

Also, the next time some right-winger gets on their high horse about “values” I will go spare.

17.  Der Sturmtrumper finally did get to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and, as predicted, got played like a dime store trombone.  In exchange for giving North Korea pretty much everything it demanded – security guarantees, equal treatment as a nuclear power, and the suspension of war exercises with South Korea that they have demanded for decades (a suspension which came as a great surprise to both South Korea and the US military) – the US got the same commitment to denuclearization that North Korea has made more than a dozen times since 1992, with no particular movement toward actually realizing it.  And in point of fact, to nobody’s surprise North Korea is now rapidly working to strengthen its nuclear arsenal, in direct contradiction to what der Sturmtrumper so proudly declared.

“The most remarkable aspect of the joint statement [that came from this meeting] was what it didn’t contain,” noted the New York Times.  “There was nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.  Kim seems to have completely out-negotiated Trump, and it’s scary that Trump doesn’t seem to realize this.”

The man whose dealmaking skills led him to go bankrupt while trying to sell red meat, alcohol, and gambling to the American public has maintained his sorry track record of being taken to the cleaners by anyone he tries to negotiate with, and as with every previous time it will be the people around him who suffer and not der Sturmtrumper.  Note carefully that WE are the people around him now.

That sound you hear?  Wa-waaaaah.

Sad trombone.

18. Not that der Sturmtrumper didn’t get anything out of this.  He and the other dictator had a lovely conversation about beachfront condominiums, so perhaps yet another violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution is headed our way.

19. The predicted and predictable results of the Great Reverse Robin Hood Tax Plan shoved through Congress by a GOP unhappy with the fact that inequality is only at near-record highs and eager to make it even worse are in, and they are, well, predictable.  Revenue has declined while spending has increased, and the US posted a budget deficit of $146,800,000,000.00 in May – the largest monthly deficit since 2009, the last year of George W. Bush’s budgetary authority.  This, by the way, has been a trend this year – the first eight months of the current fiscal year has seen the deficit rise 23% to $532,200,000,000.00 (vs. the $432.900,000,000.00 from the previous year).  After seven consecutive budget years of declining deficits under Obama (after the record high deficits of George W. Bush), the federal deficit is expected to hit $800,000,000,000.00 this year and more than $1,000,000,000,000.00 by 2020.

The Republican reputation as the party of fiscal responsibility is the single biggest con job of the last half century in American politics.

20. Continuing on this theme, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report recently that noted that the national debt is now at its highest point since WWII – rapidly approaching $100,000,000,000,000.00 and currently equal to 78% of the entire GDP of one of the largest economies on earth.  Within 30 years, if nothing changes, the debt will reach 152% of GDP, and the tax bill has a “significant and direct” impact on this.  But hey – debt only matters when the black guy is in charge, amiright?  When it’s the white GOP guy, then it’s okay.

21. It’s looking more and more likely that der Sturmtrumper’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will flip and turn state’s evidence and my won’t that be exciting?  He has split with his own legal team and der Sturmtrumper’s lawyers see nothing good in that.  He has publicly declared that he will put “family and country first,” which list notably omits der Sturmtrumper.  He even thanked the FBI agents who raided his office and home for being “respectful, courteous, and professional.”  “We shook hands,” he said.  Grab yo’ popcorn.

22. Kris Kobach, the GOP nitwit who has been pounding the sand for years in his hallucinatory quest to find enough voter fraud to back up his obvious agenda of voter suppression, got slapped down by the judge when his case finally went to trial.  Federal Judge Julie A. Robinson – a Republican appointee, by the way – pummeled Kobach so hard he’ll be needing aspirin for months.  She found that his voter suppression law was illegal and unconstitutional, that he had no actual evidence to back up any of his claims, that his so called “expert witnesses” were the biggest bunch of liars and fools ever unleashed upon a court of law, and that Kobach’s predatory law actually disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal voters for no justifiable reason.  And since Kobach had personally represented Kansas in this case and had repeatedly violated elemental rules of evidence and discovery while doing so – Law School 101 stuff, really – she sentenced Kobach to remedial legal education. 

It is not clear to the Court whether the Defendant repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules.  Therefore, the Court finds that an additional sanction is appropriate in the form of Continuing Legal Education.  Defendant chose to represent his own office in this matter, and as such, had a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure, and to ensure as the lead attorney on this case that his discovery obligations were satisfied despite his many duties as a busy public servant. 

That’s legalese for “you’re too fucking stupid to conduct yourself appropriately in a court of law so go back to school and maybe they can beat some information through your thick partisan skull.”  Good luck with that.

23. The Trump Trade War isn’t going so well.  One of the largest nail manufacturers in the US is about to go bankrupt from the flood of cancelled orders due to the retaliatory tariffs that the rest of the world has imposed on US products, and even that icon of American industry, Harley Davidson, is feeling the pinch – due to the $2200 price increase per motorcycle that this trade war will create, they decided to move some of their production overseas.  And of course der Sturmtrumper did not take that well, threatening to tax them out of existence.  Yes, folks, that’s the US president taking time out of his day to threaten an American business because it’s not toeing the line the way he wants them to.  That’s an impeachable offense, by the way, not that it matters to the GOP.  It’s also more evidence of the creeping totalitarianism that der Sturmtrumper embodies.  But FREEDOM!  Yeah, right.

24. Speaking of totalitarian acts, when Congresswoman Maxine Waters dared to criticize der Sturmtrumper’s policies and urged Americans to resist, der Sturmtrumper took the dictator’s path out and threatened her with bodily harm.  Because when psychotic bullies meet resistance, what else would they do?  Seriously – I didn’t tolerate this nonsense from my toddlers and I see no reason why I’m supposed to tolerate it from someone who is theoretically a grown-up.  Maybe some parent-figure in his life should take him over a knee?  Or is it too late for that?  Probably.  Oh well.  Parents: discipline your children before it’s too late!

25. The Supreme Court’s approval of der Sturmtrumper’s Muslim ban in Trump v. Hawaii will go down in history as one of the most shameful travesties of justice in American history, along with Dred Scott v. Sanford and Korematsu v. US.  To approve what amounts to a religious test on entry into the US based on specious national security grounds is an absolute embarrassment and a disgrace.  How the right-wingers on that court can square their argument that this is somehow not an outright case of religious bigotry (particularly in light of their oh-so-sensitive reaction to any criticism of religion when it comes to baking cakes for gay couples) despite the repeated statements to the contrary by der Sturmtrumper and his minions, lackeys, sycophants, and cronies, is an exercise in contortionism.  The sooner this halfwit crowd is run out of town on a rail, the better for the US and the world.

26. Justice Sonia Sotomayor certainly called out her oblivious colleagues over this issue.  A reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motived by anti-Muslim animus,” she wrote in her stinging dissent from the majority ruling, “The majority holds otherwise by ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.”  As for the fig leaf that the majority tried to apply to this appalling decision by formally repudiating the Korematsu decision, Sotomayor was clear: “By blindly accepting the Government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one ‘gravely wrong’ decision with another.”  She concluded with what any reasonably aware person would see as a warning: “Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments.  Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent.”

27. Oh, right.  Now we’re supposed to worry about civility because Sarah “Huckabee” Sanders was told to leave a restaurant because of her participation in and excusing of the worst excesses of an unAmerican regime.  First of all, isn’t this what right-wingers have fought for, the right of private businesses to discriminate against members of the general public for whatever reason comes to mind?  Weren’t they just cheering this decision when it came to bigotry against gay couples wanting cakes?  They never thought they’d be on the receiving end of it, though, and now they’re howling like stuck pigs.  There’s a word in German for this, I’m sure of it.  Oh well.  My guess is that the neo-Nazis who so wholeheartedly support der Sturmtrumper and his policies can fill Sanders in, if she chooses to ask.

Second, let’s review a few things.  This is the president who has publicly slandered all Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, made fun of a handicapped journalist, encouraged (and repeatedly still encourages) his supporters to commit acts of violence and terror against anyone who opposes him, boasted of sexually assaulting women, called Nazis “fine people,” harassed the survivors of a school shooting, and whose supporters routinely wear shirts that say “Fuck your feelings” and call their opponents “snowflakes” for complaining about assholery in general.  This isn’t even getting into the rampant child abuse that he started and continues to implement on the Mexican border, for which he deserves to rot in Hell.  His supporters see no problem with any of this, of course.  Yeah, right.  This is not a group that gets to complain about lack of civility.  This is a group that frankly deserves every asshole thing that can be dished out to them, and the only real question here is whether the rest of us want to sink to their level or not.  I may or may not do so, but I’m not going to complain when others do because it is deserved.

Third, to continue reviewing, isn’t this the same right-wing movement that shouted down members of Congress and sent armed idiots to walk around the perimeters of events where the Actual President was speaking during the 2010 astroturf wars, when fake populism calling itself the Tea Party decided that democracy wasn’t going to get it what it wanted so armed intimidation would?  Isn’t this the same group of assholes who actively cheered when a Virginia bakery asked Vice President Biden to leave back in 2012?  Why yes, yes it is!  Who knew!  Spare me the crocodile tears and the fake outrage and the calls for civility – they don’t want civility and wouldn’t recognize it if you gave it to them.  They want servility, and that they are damn well not going to have.

28. Or to put it another way:


29. Or, for those who want the tl;dnr version:


30.  A warning from Hamilton Nolan’s recent piece on Splinter, entitled “This Is Just the Beginning:”

This is all going to get more extreme. And it should. We are living in extreme times. The harm that is being done to all of us by the people in the American government is extreme. To imagine that Mexican immigrants should happily cook for and serve meals to people who enable a man who is determined to demonize and persecute them as subhuman criminals is far more outrageous than the idea that those enablers should not be served in restaurants. I do not believe that Trump administration officials should be able to live their lives in peace and affluence while they inflict serious harms on large portions of the American population. Not being able to go to restaurants and attend parties and be celebrated is just the minimum baseline here. These people, who are pushing America merrily down the road to fascism and white nationalism, are delusional if they do not think that the backlash is going to get much worse. Wait until the recession comes. Wait until Trump starts a war. Wait until the racism this administration is stoking begins to explode into violence more frequently. Read a fucking history book. Read a recent history book. The U.S. had thousands of domestic bombings per year in the early 1970s. This is what happens when citizens decide en masse that their political system is corrupt, racist, and unresponsive. The people out of power have only just begun to flex their dissatisfaction. The day will come, sooner that you all think, when Trump administration officials will look back fondly on the time when all they had to worry about was getting hollered at at a Mexican restaurant. When you aggressively fuck with people’s lives, you should not be surprised when they decide to fuck with yours.

You can argue whether this is justified or not.  You can argue whether this ought to happen or not.  But don’t be surprised when it happens, whatever you decide.  The United States is not special, it is not unique, and it is subject to the same laws of history as every other polity.  And one of those laws, more or less, is that what goes around comes around.  A properly constructed political system would have pressure valves and feedback mechanisms to ensure that things didn’t get too far out of hand, that the system would be responsive to the people it rules over, but the American political system has become so rigged in favor of the ruling minority that such mechanisms no longer apply.

When the poor have nothing left to eat, they will eat the rich.  The ancien regime crumbled in scenes of shocking violence and terror.  It can happen here, and the current administration is doing everything in its power to make it happen here.

As I’ve said before in this space, I don’t condone political violence in this country but on our current path I do predict it.

31.  More and more people are coming to this conclusion, sadly enough.  Dana Milbank’s recent article in the Washington Post explicitly warns that “An Explosion is Coming.”  After listing the a few of the crimes of the modern GOP against the popular will – multiple Supreme Court nominees from a minority president, nominees whose positions are entirely out of step with the majority of the American population; an entirely minority government (neither der Sturmtrumper nor the GOP members of the Senate nor the GOP members of the House garnered more than half the popular vote in 2016); and so on – he makes a very simple point: “You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.”  They’ve been doing it for a while, and this is not sustainable.  “The backlash is coming,” Milbank writes.  “It is the deserved consequence of minority-rule government protecting the rich over everybody else, corporations over workers, whites over non-whites and despots over democracies.  It will explode, God willing, at the ballot box and not in the streets.”

But explode it will.

32. “I think we’re at the beginning of a soft civil war,” said political scientist Thomas Schaller.  “I don’t know if the country gets out of it whole.”  The GOP has been running roughshod over Constitutional and legal restraints for more than a decade now, and eventually something will have to give.  Eventually other people will start to follow their lead, and that won’t end well.

A Bloomberg article by Francis Wilkinson puts it plainly:

Speaking of the GOP, former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum said, ‘When highly committed parties strongly believe things that they cannot achieve democratically, they don’t give up on their beliefs – they give up on democracy.’  Democrats won’t give up on democracy.  It’s too central to their identiy, and their commitment to democratic norms and processes is also their point of greatest contrast with Trumpism.  Instead, Democrats will give up on conservatives.  They will give up on Alabama and Mississippi, on Kansas and Nebraska.  They will explore ways to divorce their culture, politics, and economy from Trumpism and from their fellow Americans who support it.

And where that ends up is an interesting question.

33. Nice to see that we can all agree on something.  A bipartisan group of nearly 200 political scientists has ranked der Sturmtrumper at or near the bottom of US presidents.  On a 100-point scale, where 50 is average, der Sturmtrumper averaged a score of 12.34 – below even James Buchanan, the consensus pick for generations for being the guy who sat around with his thumb wedged deeply into his lower intestine while the Civil War broke out around him.  The overall consensus placed der Sturmtrumper 45th out of 45 presidents, and when you just looked at the political scientists who identified as conservative he only improved to 40th.  By contrast, George W. Bush rose five places to 30, Bill Clinton dropped five places to 14, and the top seven – Lincoln, Washington, FDR, TR, Jefferson, Truman, and Eisenhower – remained unchanged.

34. So now Anthony Kennedy is retiring and this gives der Sturmtrumper and his right-wing extremist base a chance to lock in their disastrous reign for a generation.  They need this, because the simple fact is that their agenda is not popular enough to win free and fair elections – the GOP has lost 6 of the last 7 presidential elections if you go by popular vote, and their share of the national vote for Congress has been similarly anemic.  Only because the Senate and Electoral College is thoroughly gerrymandered in favor of rural states (and the House has been thoroughly gerrymandered by GOP state governments to dilute the impact of urban populations) does the GOP survive.  They’re not going to let that change without destroying the country in the process – their basic position is that they deserve power and nobody else does, and if that means burning the place down and pissing on the ashes to keep someone else from ruling well that’s a price they’re willing to have you pay.

35. Five people were killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis MD, just days after right-wing terrorist Milo Yiannopoulos called for journalists to be executed by supporters of der Sturmtrumper’s increasingly Fascist regime.  And yet Yiannopoulos walks the streets a free man and isn’t rotting in a jail cell where he belongs.  Folks, this isn’t the beginning of the road to Fascism.  We passed that stage a while ago.  We are seeing a full-on authoritarian dictatorship emerge out of the ruins of the American republic, and the right wing cheers every step of the way.

36. Not that this violence bothered der Sturmtrumper in any way.  After explicitly calling the free press the “enemy of the American People” in those exact words and also words more or less like them on five separate occasions in the last eighteen months, nobody should be surprised by the fact that he ignored reporters’ questions on the massacre and refused to offer any words of condolence for the families when pressed on June 29.  Dictators don’t do that sort of thing, after all.

37. I do get criticism for calling der Sturmtrumper and the modern GOP petit-Fascists, but you know…


38. Also, this.


39. And here it is, right on cue: in order to pay for their massive tax giveaways to the already wealthy, the GOP is going to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  Their proposed FY 2019 budget calls for $537,000,000,000.00 in cuts to Medicare, $4,000,000,000.00 in cuts to Social Security, and $1,500,000,000,000.00 in cuts to Medicaid.  Because the wealthy deserve to live in ease and luxury on the backs of the poor and middle class, of course.  YOU are paying for those tax cuts that benefit people who could buy you out of petty cash and who value your life accordingly.  All those who are surprised by this, please state your name, your IQ, and what you were doing that put you in that coma when every responsible observer was shouting to the rooftops that exactly this would happen.

40. Back of the bus, y’all.


41. Speaking of trade wars, Mexico has decided that they’ve had enough bullying from der Sturmtrumper and is working to establish better trade relations with Argentina – relations that will allow them to buy all of their corn, rice, wheat, and soy from Argentina duty free.  In exchange they will ship cars made in Mexico to Argentina without duties.  This will likely cost American farmers upwards of $13,000,000,000.00.  Is America great yet?  Although much of the population hardest hit by this voted for their own economic evisceration, so how much sympathy one can have is a bit of a trick to determine, isn’t it?

42. Space Force?  SPACE FORCE?  Seriously?  What comic book nonsense is this?


43. You know things are bad for the GOP when Ted Cruz is telling people to vote for the Democrat.  But when an open and proud Nazi wins the nomination for the GOP ticket for a Congressional seat in Illinois, what else can he do?  “This is horrific,” he said.  “An avowed Nazi running for Congress.  To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat.  This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes.”  Now, on the one hand, good for Cruz to recognize this and to say it publicly.  I'm not a great fan of Ted Cruz, but credit where due.  On the other hand, what does it say about the GOP that this guy got nominated in the first place – that the GOP couldn’t find anyone willing to run against the Nazi and so many GOP voters saw nothing wrong with the Nazi?  Nothing good, that’s what.

44. Betsy DeVos is emailing teachers to tell them to quit their unions.  Teachers in Massachusetts have been receiving emails from a shadowy organization called MyPayMySay urging them to cut their own economic throats and leave their unions.  MyPayMySay is funded by the Mackinac Center from Michigan, which is in turn funded by the DeVos Foundation.  Yet another reason why this corrupt hack should be exiled to an uninhabited island somewhere cold and cut off from all human society, but there is no justice under der Sturmtrumper so she will continue to suck off the public tit while simultaneously insisting that Other People get no assistance at all.

45. Did you know that Anthony Kennedy had already hired clerks for next term?  That’s not someone who intended to retire.  Except that his son works for Deutsche Bank, which is the institution indicted for laundering money for Russian oligarchs, and his son’s client was none other than der Sturmtrumper, for whom he had arranged millions of dollars in loans.  This is where the Mueller investigation has been headed, and this is not something a sitting Supreme Court justice can survive, especially if – as is entirely possible – der Sturmtrumper appeals some of the charges up to the Court.  The appearance of conflict of interest here is pretty strong, and the more that comes to light about this whole tawdry affair the worse it looks for both Kennedy and der Sturmtrumper. 

46. Keep this in mind, all you who think the forced retirement of Anthony Kennedy is your golden opportunity to strip women of their right to control their own bodies:


Friday, June 29, 2018

Mazel Tov!

All I needed was a boat.

My niece had her bat mitzvah last weekend in New York City.  Of course we were there.  It’s family.  You go to these things.  They’re a lot of fun and you get to see people you haven’t seen in a while – what’s not to love? 

The trick, of course, is getting there.

Some of that was distance, but most of it was scheduling.  It’s summer and while there was a time when that meant lazy days and endless free time, for me that time was 1983.  These days it’s just another season of work and projects, only the weather is more uncomfortable than usual.  We had a very defined slot into which we could put this event.

Nobody could leave until after the graduation party, for one thing.  For another, we had to be back by the following Sunday evening so Fran could get packed up for her flight back to Belgium.  And for a third, I couldn’t leave until after my summer class started.  So we worked it out that Kim, Tabitha, Lauren, Fran, and Lauren’s friend Aleksia would leave the day after the graduation party and head to Philadelphia to meet up with my mom and explore that part of the world for a few days, and then we’d all meet up in New York for the bat mitzvah.

Win.

Kim and the girls arrived at my mom’s that Sunday. 


They had a grand time, from what I heard.  They went to Reading Terminal Market and had cheesesteaks (among other things).  They also walked around Center City, by Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and any number of other things, past the Chinatown Gate, and generally enjoyed themselves.





It was a hot, hot day, which of course meant water ice. 


There was a lovely Italian meal at the restaurant near my mom’s place, where for some reason everyone got a post-it with their own personal fruit drawn on it.  Even the waiter. 



And they visited Eastern State Penitentiary, an old prison now turned into a great museum and run by a friend!  They didn’t get a chance to see him, but still – the museum was fascinating and you should go there. 



There was also a lovely day down at the Jersey shore with Steve and Rolane, who were nice enough to volunteer their home down there even though they just got back from a trip of their own.  And of course there was a side-trip to Junior’s Donuts, because no trip to the Jersey shore is complete without one. 



From there they traveled up to New York on Thursday, where they met up with Keith, Lori, Josh and Sara, and spent the day doing New York things, notably riding on the subway, walking around Times Square, and also eating at Gray’s Papaya, which is apparently required for all New Yorkers and visitors.  





I went out to meet them on Friday, on one of those odysseys that are so common these days.  I woke up at an hour that I used to routinely go to bed at when I was in college and headed down to the airport by bus as the sun slowly rose in what I regard as entirely the wrong part of the sky for the sun to be in.  I got on the plane without incident – something that actually surprised me in this paranoid age of Security Theater, as a single man on a one-way ticket with no baggage – and flew into LaGuardia, then took another bus to the subway and the subway into Manhattan.  You should take public transportation in New York City – that’s how you see the actual city.  Plus, it’s lovely antidote to the Homogenized and Standardized that so dominates this country these days.  I think everyone should be required to live in New York for six months, just to remind them that there are millions of Real Americans Who Do Not Look, Think, Act, Or Speak Like Them.  Our politics would be very different if more of my fellow Americans could beat that simple fact through their skulls, I think.  The bus ride was maybe 20 minutes long, and I heard five different languages during that time.  That’s America.

The subway let me off at 57th Street, and at that point I walked the half mile or so to the hotel, stopping about halfway to grab a soft pretzel from a street vendor because it was lunchtime and I was starving and they were right there after all.  I put mustard on that pretzel, the way God and Nature intended, and it was good.

Wheels, wings, rails, feet.

All I needed was a boat.

I checked into the hotel – one of those lovely New York hotels that is gorgeous and features rooms the size of a midwestern closet, though with a wallpaper in the hallway that was eerily reminiscent of something Stanley Kubrick would have in the background – and then met up with a few family members in the coffee shop on the corner for conversation and snacks.  It was a lovely time. 


Meanwhile, as I was making my way to the hotel Kim and the girls were continuing to be tourists, on the theory that neither Fran nor Aleksia had ever been to New York before and they have these great tourist sites for a reason after all.  You might as well go.  They headed off to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  You need a boat to get there, and if I had gotten to New York earlier I could have completed my transportation set.  But they had a grand time, by all indications. 



I remember going to the Statue of Liberty when I was in 7th grade on a field trip.  It was nice, even if mostly what I remember is a lot of cramped stairs.  I’ve never been to Ellis Island, though I’d like to go sometime.  Lauren kept sending me pictures of possible ancestors’ names on the wall, which I thoroughly appreciated.

We all got together for a lovely dinner in the restaurant underneath the hotel, after which I must have collapsed in a heap on the bed because it had been a long if entertaining day.

After a more interesting morning than expected, during which I learned precisely how easy it is to jimmy open the hotel security latch if you have the proper tool for it (vide supra, re: “Security Theater”) and had a bagel breakfast for all in the hotel lobby, we all headed up to the bat mitzvah.  Like most things in New York, it was within walking distance – that’s one of the joys of a big city, everything’s close – and we ambled our way up there in our own separate times.

It is a strange realization that your kids are now mature enough to be let loose in New York City with instructions and times for a meeting place later on.  Parenting FTW, I suppose, but no less strange for that. 

You weren’t really allowed to take pictures during the ceremony, which I already knew.  What I didn’t know was that this particular synagogue had a rather expansive definition of “ceremony,” one that included all of the milling-about time beforehand, so eventually a nicely-dressed woman came over to me and clued me in and I didn’t get to take all of the pictures I wanted to take, but I did get some. 







The ceremony itself was lovely.

Most of it was sung, for one thing, and there was a kind of a klezmer feel to it which was nice.  And the officiants did a nice job of walking the visitors through the various bits that those more familiar with the order of things would just have known.  It was a long service – they went through the usual Sabbath service as well as the bat mitzvah (or the b’not mitzvah, which is the plural form, since Sara and her friend Mia decided to do this together) – but it flowed on by.  Sara did a nice job with her speaking parts, and Keith and Lori even found roles for various family members.  Kim and I were put on the “put the cover back on the Torah” detail, along with a couple of people from Mia’s family, and we managed to get it done even without a rehearsal.  This is good, because apparently if you drop the Torah it means several weeks of fasting and we had a reception to go to afterward.

“Lunch is on,” I whispered to Keith as I walked past him back to my seat.

And so it was.  We walked over to a restaurant called The Sugar Factory, which is apparently known for using goldfish bowls and dry ice to make giant steaming sodas, and settled in for a lovely reception. 


We talked.  We ate.  We tried a few of the items at the bar – drinks roughly as extravagant as the sodas only you shouldn’t be driving home afterward (try the American Honey – it’s really, really good).  There was a photo booth where you could take serious photos and not so serious ones.  It was a grand time.   








There was also a Serious Dessert for the guest of honor, as was only right and proper. 


A few of us ended up back at Keith and Lori’s afterward for yet more food and conversation, because that’s just the best way to spend a day.  By that point the hard part was over, the nerves had been stilled, and everyone could just relax. 

These are initiation rites, welcoming the initiant into the community as an adult.  We don’t have enough of those anymore, really, and it’s good to see the ones we have continuing.  As a historian, I just love the idea of passing down customs, practices, and objects from one generation to another, especially when they’re more than just things – they’re part of a larger culture and a family history.

Of course this left us with some time afterward, so after much puzzling the Wisconsin crew decided that we’d go to a movie.  Incredibles 2 was playing nearby, so we wandered around the city in our separate ways for a while until showtime, met Sara at the theater, and were Entertained for a while. 

We were even more entertained afterward when the escalator down to the street level decided to eat Lauren’s shoelace and Kim had to press the emergency stop button so we could get it back.  No harm done, and there was a general celebration that ended yet again at yet another Gray’s Papaya because New York that’s why.

We drove home the next day – a long and thankfully uneventful drive made longer by the slowest KFC on earth.  But we made it, and everything was fine.

Congratulations, Sara!  Mazel tov! 


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Quiet

It’s kind of odd how quiet things can get when a quiet person isn’t around.

Through a long and frankly implausible process that even now I do not fully understand, we acquired a foreign exchange student in December.  She needed a place to stay.  We had a place for her.  Tabitha and Lauren already knew who she was, even if they didn’t know her very well.  She was already attending Local Businessman High, so that was easy.  I guess it all just lined up.

And now Fran has gone back to Belgium.

We ran her pretty hard these last few weeks – you might as well get your money’s worth out of a stay in a foreign country, after all, and the US can be pretty foreign.  I came home from work a week ago Thursday and asked her how her day was.  “Kind of quiet,” she said.  “Well,” I told her, “I hope you enjoyed it.  That’s the last one you’ll have until you get back to Europe.”  And it pretty much was.

We had a graduation party for her and Tabitha the following day, one I have already written about.  The next day she, Kim, Tabitha, Lauren, and Lauren’s friend Aleksia headed east on a journey that will have its own blog post soon, a trip that I joined already in progress because I had to stay and teach my summer class.  We got back Sunday night, and Monday evening we were in Madison dropping her off for the long trip back.

Who plans those, by the way?  From the moment we left last night to the moment her flight departed was 21 hours.  I suppose with that many travelers to juggle that’s just how it has to be, but still.  That’s a harsh way to end a good year.

And it was a good year.  It really was.

She’s family now,  of course.  There's always a place here for her, when she wants to come back.  We’re going to go visit her in Belgium as well, and we’ll get to meet her family there – say what you will about the many and pressing flaws of Facebook, but it does do a pretty good job of what it was actually designed to do, which is to foster communication between widely separated people, and we’ve managed to get to know her parents a bit over the last few months as well.  We’re really looking forward to spending time with all of them.

But for right now it’s mostly quiet.

Safe travels, Fran.  We miss you already.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate: Child Abuse Edition

Sometimes you just have to take time out of your life to document the unmitigated evil that your supposed leaders are openly engaged in, as well as the sheer depravity of the people who think this is okay.  Normally I try to collect a wide variety of things for these posts, but when the government of the United States actively abuses children to the applause of far too many so-called Americans, well, you just have to focus on the issue at hand.  So welcome to this Special Edition of Continued Stray Thoughts.  Lawsey, what a fucked up time we live in.

--

1. So, magically, after insisting for days now that his hands were tied and there was nothing whatsoever he could do about it, der Sturmtrumper picked up a pen and did something about the child abuse he had authorized and was so vociferously defending.  Isn’t that amazing?  Isn’t that strange?  Imagine – it’s as if he could have done that all along!  I wonder why he didn’t!

2. Well, other than the fact that these are brown-skinned Spanish-speaking children and when you’re a white supremacist whose election campaign was endorsed by every major neo-Nazi and racist group in America, well, you have to dance with them what brung ya, I guess.  Seriously, why are people surprised by this?  Why is this even an issue?  This is an administration predicated on racism, built on gratuitous cruelty, and focused on riling up its idiot base with whatever atrocity comes to mind next.  Of course they’re going to abuse children.  What’s the down side for them?

3. And on that note we bring you Arizona GOP Representative David Stringer, who told the Yavapai County Republican Men’s Forum (did you know such a thing existed?  It does!) that immigration was an “existential threat” to the United States because “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” and this will result in a country that isn’t, um, mostly white.  Folks, they’re not even pretending not to be racist assholes anymore.  Do you wonder why they’re abusing brown-skinned children?

4.
 
5. Also this.


6. The United Nations – an organization that the United States created – has demanded that der Sturmtrumper’s minions halt the immoral practice of ripping children from their families because it is a violation of international law (which the United States, in part, also created).  “The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,” said UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.  “The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles.”  She added, “There is nothing normal about detaining children.  The US should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offense.”  Not that the modern GOP sees anything wrong with immorality, illegal actions, or harming children.

7. “Does anyone remember Fox’s obsession with ‘FEMA concentration camps’ a few years back? Turns out they don’t have much trouble with the real thing, just the fact that they imagined Obama was doing it.”  (observed by my friend Jack)

8. “One thing I know for sure: no one on the right side of history has ever had to nitpick what the definition of ‘cage’ is.”  (Stephen Colbert)

Folks, they’re concentration camps where we keep children in cages.  If you begin to quibble about definitions, you’ve already lost.

9.

10.  You think?


11. Someone complained that the Bible is not the basis of the US government and therefore we shouldn’t be using it to determine the worth of a federal policy.  This is 100% true and completely irrelevant.

First, yes it’s true.  The US is not a “Christian nation” in any sense.  It was not founded on Christianity, the Bible, the “Judeo-Christian heritage” (whatever the hell that is), or any particular sect’s doctrine.  The Founding Fathers were very clear on this, and even codified it into federal law in 1796, when the people who wrote the Constitution were still around to check.  Nobody – NOBODY – objected to this statement of the obvious.  So remember, when people tell you that this is some kind of Christian nation, they are either lying, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. 

But here’s the thing.  When the bastards control the institutions of government, evil becomes legal.  There is nothing in the law that overtly says the US government cannot abuse children the way der Sturmtrumper’s junta is doing.  At this point, you have to fall back on morality and argue that the law should be changed or interpreted to avoid evil.  Furthermore, the fuckers doing this are using the Bible to try to justify it, and throwing that back in their faces cuts them off at the knees (to mix my bodily metaphors).  So yeah, I have no problem with using their own religious views to destroy their shoddy and evil position.

12. On that note, it is instructive to note that the United Methodist Church is now considering bring canonical charges against Our Confederate Attorney General – a member of that denomination in a congregation in Alabama – for violating church doctrine.  According to the UMC’s web site, more than 600 clergy and lay members are bringing charges against him for “child abuse in reference to separating young children from their parents and holding them in mass incarceration facilities; immorality; racial discrimination and ‘dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines’ of the United Methodist Church,” all of which are chargeable offenses under Paragraph 2702.3 of UMC doctrine.  This could ultimately lead to Our Confederate Attorney General being expelled from the church.  Keep that in mind next time he decides to cite Scripture to defend his indefensible policies.

13. I don’t think this is what Jesus meant.


14. Just a reminder, this is not a serious crime.  I’ve seen morons comparing these children to rapists, and that says a lot more about their fantasy life than it does about the children they’re abusing.


15. Meanwhile a bipartisan group of 75 former US Attorneys has published an open letter to Our Confederate Attorney General condemning this child abuse.  “Like the majority of Americans,” the letter says, “we have been horrified by the images and stories of children torn from their families along our nation’s Southwest Border.  And like a majority of Americans, we are appalled that your Zero Tolerance policy has resulted in the unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children.  But as former United States Attorneys, we also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served. … The law does not require the systematic separation of families under these circumstances. … Until now, no Republican or Democratic administration, nor any prior Attorney General, has endangered children in order to deter illegal entry.”

16.

17. Former Border Patrol officer Jenn Budd, who served from 1995 to 2001, has called on her former colleagues to refuse to obey these orders.  “It’s unlawful to take children away from their parents like this.  It’s unheard of,” she said.  “Trump is basically holding children hostage for his wall, and he doesn’t care who it affects.  There’s going to be kids that end up committing suicide, whether in custody or afterward, because of the trauma we’re putting them through.  This is going to be as shameful as the internment camps we had for the Japanese.  There’s no excuse for these agents to not literally lay down their guns and badges and say this is unlawful.  Somebody has to stand up, has to say something.”

18. Two thirds of the US is opposed to this policy, which, while a reassuring majority, does unfortunately suggest that one third is perfectly okay with it.  In particular, a majority of Republicans see no problem with child abuse.  This is a damning indictment of the Republican Party, and of American culture in general.

19. Did you know that the tent cities der Sturmtrumper wants to jail these kids in will cost more than just letting the children stay with their parents?  That’s the GOP – spending more to achieve less.

20. Do you think der Sturmtrumper and his minions, lackeys, cronies, enablers and sycophants can ever keep their stories straight on this?  Not even Anthony Scaramucci thinks so, and when the Mooch thinks your PR is shoddy you really ought to reexamine your life.


21. I swear upon all that is holy that the next time some asshole tries to defend child abuse on the grounds that it will save taxpayers money I will go nuclear.

Seriously?  It’s a financial issue with these people?  Human depravity never ceases to amaze me in its multitudinous forms.

22. A friend of mine told me that they were just so angry all the time about this, and my response was, effectively, “Good.”  There are times in life when rage is exactly the appropriate thing to feel, and when my government is abusing children that’s definitely one of them.  Fuck those people.  Bring them to justice and bring them to justice good and hard.

23. Do you want to know just what kind of subhuman asshole is running this country?  Corey Lewandowski, der Sturmtrumper’s former campaign manager, was told about one 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome being torn from her mother and his response was to make fun of the child.  This is your GOP, folks.

24. Steve Schmidt, a Republican consultant who was responsible for any number of GOP victories over the last several decades, has had enough.  “29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life.  Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party.  It is fully the party of Trump.  It is corrupt, indecent and immoral.  With the exception of a few Governors like Baker, Hogan and Kasich it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders.  This child separation policy is connected to the worst abuses of humanity in our history.  It is connected by the same evil that separated families during slavery and dislocated tribes and broke up Native American families.  It is immoral and must be repudiated.  Our country is in trouble.  Our politics are badly broken. … I have spent much of my life working in GOP politics.  I have always believed that both parties were two of the most important institutions to the advancement of human freedom and dignity in the history of the world.  Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and values.”

25. And if you want to see a threat to a free nation, note that the editorial cartoonist of the Pittsburgh Press-Gazette was fired for this cartoon.  Apparently the truth hurts.  So of course I do feel an obligation to spread the cartoon widely, or at least as widely as this blog goes.


26. For fuck sake, even Michael Cohen has publicly declared that this policy sucks.  “As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart wrenching.  While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips.”

27. But that’s what they are!  Der Sturmtrumper specifically said he was holding them hostage for his stupid, ineffective, arrogant wall.  Isn’t that special?


28. And now, finally, der Sturmtrumper seems to have backed down.  And the operative word here is “seems.”

His decree (which misspelled the word “separation,” but hey) supposedly allows children to be detained indefinitely with their families.  Except a) that violates a 1997 court decree preventing children from being detained or imprisoned for more than 20 days in these circumstances, which means this is all a set-up for challenging the courts while he continues to separate families under a different label, and b) the children who have already been torn from their parents won’t be returned until he’s damned good and ready to return them, which for all we know will be 2019.

This is a ploy, and nobody should fall for it.

Watch your back, America.  The immoral are here in force and intent on taking this country for their own.