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Friday, February 14, 2020

Those Who Forget History


In Congress, July 4, 1776…

Whenever I mention certain subjects, people shout at me to read the Constitution.

…The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America…

That’s right. Read the Constitution.

The Constitution of the United States of America.

The Constitution, the foundation of law and government in this country.

…When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…

But that’s not what they actually mean.

No, what they actually mean is the Declaration of Independence.

That’s what they want me to read.

…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

We hold these truths to be self-evident.

Constitution. Declaration. Whatever. It’s all the same thing. Probably.

Most Americans can’t with any reliability recite the first paragraph of the Declaration, or the later paragraphs for that matter, but that part they know by heart. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.

By the Great White Christian God, that’s America. Life. Liberty. Happiness. That’s right.

And maybe a bit of the next part:

…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Consent of the governed! Consent of the governed! Yes! Yes! That! Consent. That’s what we’re talking about. You gotta have our consent. It says so right there in the Constitution of Independence. Or the Bible. Or something. It’s right there.

Because, otherwise:

…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…

There it is. That part. That’s the part we Americans love. Revolution. Bang Bang! We get to shoot something! Hot damn, Revolution!

Whenever I ask which article in the Constitution grants Americans the right to overthrow their government by violence, through force of arms whenever they please, that’s the part Republicans and Democrats alike quote at me. The right of the people to overthrow the government! Revolution. Rebellion. Shoot down the government. Consent of the governed. That’s it, right there. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Second Amendment, whatever, man, the point is Americans have the inalienable right to shoot down the government whenever they want.

That’s every American’s inalienable right.

That’s what all the guns are for. That, right there.

And that’s where Americans’ knowledge of their founding documents usually ends. Right about there. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, shoot down the government, guns, freedom to be a Christian, something something gazpacho and that’s why America is better than everybody else. Can I get an Aaaaaamen!

And really, what more do you need, right?

What more indeed?

But, funny thing, there is more:

…Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed…

Wait, what? Prudence?

Prudence? The quality of being prudent, the exercise of wisdom, caution, judgement, sagacity. Prudence. From Americans? That’s hilarious. And government should not be changed for light and transient causes? What the hell is that? Because that sounds like our ancestors were putting some conditions on our inalienable rights. And what exactly are the founders saying here? That violent overthrow of government is more likely to result in disaster than in a better nation? But, but…

Weird how you never hear those eager for revolution quote that part, isn’t it? Prudence.

…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…

Ah! Good. Good. Throw off the government and we’re back on track. Cool.

…Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…

Okay, I think that’s pretty much all of it … wait, where’s the John Hancock?


There’s supposed to be a John Hancock.


What’s that you say?

That was only the introduction? A Preamble?

Yeah, that’s right.

You see, the parts most Americans are at least passingly familiar with, life, liberty, etc., that’s just the opening statement.

That’s not even the actual point of the document.

What actually led to America declaring itself independent from England wasn’t all that stuff up above, but rather some very specific grievances with the government of that nation. That’s actually the heart of the Declaration of Independence, those specific grievances.

Quick, how many are there?

How many can you name?

Don’t know? Yeah, that’s the really ironic part.

Because most Americans can’t recite a single one of those grievances.

Maybe some vague handwaving about taxation without representation – a phrase that doesn’t actually appear in the Declaration at all. But beyond that? Nothing. They’d have to go to Google.

But, when you read the whole Declaration of Independence and you look beyond those opening paragraphs and you read that very specific list of grievances, twenty-seven in total, well, then you can see pretty damned quick which part actually mattered to our Founders and which part was just flowery window-dressing.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

That’s the first one.

That’s what started it, the Revolution.

He, King George III, has refused his assent to laws.

What’s that mean? Well, in those days it meant that for legislation to become law, the King had to give his approval. And he often refused, either through pig-headed stubbornness or from neglect of his duty. Even when the legislation was “the most wholesome and necessary for the public good” and was something overwhelmingly desired by the population, the King refused to give assent. When our forefathers were considering bloody violent revolution that might very well end with their own precious selves swinging from a gallows, this was their first complaint.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

When they sent the Declaration to King George III, they wanted him to see this first.

Failure to pass laws necessary for the public good.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

As of January 1st, 2020, there are more than 300 bipartisan bills, legislation most wholesome and necessary for the public good, that have passed the House and are right now gathering dust on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

McConnell openly refuses to bring this legislation to the floor of the Senate.

McConnell, Trump, and their supporters in Congress, not only refuse to give assent to these laws, they won’t even allow the legislation to be debated by Americans’ elected representatives.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

They openly refuse to do their duty.

And they maliciously prevent others from doing theirs.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

And that – that right there – was the first and most important justification our own forefathers used to throw off their government and declare their independence from it.

I read that list, government refusal to make and pass laws for the public good, representatives who refuse to meet with the people, a tyrant who demands obedience and compliance from state and local governments, leaders who hold themselves unaccountable to the people, and I can’t help but think of Donald Trump’s tweet yesterday: “I’m seeing Governor Cuomo today at The White House. He must understand that National Security far exceeds politics. New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment [sic], start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes. Build relationships, but don’t bring Fredo!”

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, our own ancestors were fighting with a mentally ill xenophobic autocrat who wanted to ban immigration and put conditions on who could be an American and the more things change, right?

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

Trump himself said this morning that even though he supposedly never asked the Attorney General to do anything in a criminal case, “This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!”

He doesn’t. He is not a king. He has no more rights than any of us. The power of his office was limited by design, because our ancestors daily lived under a tyrant whose power was without limits of any kind and they detailed in the Declaration of Independence the very abuses which resulted.

I don’t know if our ancestors would be surprised by courts whose verdicts depend on a tweet from the President or just sadly familiar.

The Attorney General himself announced this morning that he would be personally reviewing the case of General Flynn, a Trump crony who literally pleaded guilty not just once, but twice. This on the heels of the resignation of four US Attorneys who quit over interference from the Justice Department in the sentencing of yet another member of Trump’s inner circle. Trump surrounds himself with criminal and louts of all stripes, but it is those who brought them justice that William Barr would prosecute.

Again, with the enthusiastic help of Mitch McConnell, Trump is stacking the courts, appointing judges who are grossly unqualified, openly partisan, and absolutely dependent on himself. 

We will suffer the consequences of this for generations.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

For a political ideology that claims to hate government, who violently opposed government when it was helmed by a black guy, this administration has suddenly developed an abiding love of Executive Orders and compliance with federal authority. From Blue Lives Matter to the Border Patrol to the Transportation Security Administration to School “Resource” Officers, you’d damned well better knuckle under, keep your eyes down, be respectful, show your papers.

Meanwhile, Trump’s proposed budget would slash the very social safety nets nearly every American depends on to survive.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

We long ago gave up the idea of not maintaining a standing military force. The nature of the world made a permanent professional army a requirement of our national security. But, that requirement has grown into an all-consuming monster. We have reached a point where our military doesn’t exist to protect our society, but our society exists to feed it.

I’ve written extensively about America’s increasingly dangerous tendency towards mandatory worship of the military, a trend that has accelerated under Trump and Republicans. We have an entire generation of Americans who have grown to adulthood since 9-11 and in those two decades they have never known a single moment when America was not at war. Three thousand Americans died on 9-11, and for that we have embarked on 20 years of revenge. 20 years. Tens, hundreds, of thousands dead as a result. We are trillions of dollars in debt.

And yet – and yet – the world is no better off and victory is nowhere to be found.

Trump brags about increased military spending, about spending $2 Trillion dollars on new tanks and invisible planes with no missions and warships that will never engage an enemy on the high seas.

Three thousand dead Americans and we’re entering the third decade of war as a result.

We do this, supposedly, so that no more Americans will die from terrorism on American soil.

Meanwhile, in that same time, in the same decades that we have been sending our children to fight and die in a foreign land, something like 600,000 Americans died from gun violence. And we do nothing. We spend not a single penny to prevent such deaths in the future.

Out of 330 million Americans, 537,000, give or take, will die from cancer this year. Some, perhaps many, could be saved. But cancer drugs are expensive. Hideously so. Sometimes upwards of $20,000 per month for specialized treatment. How many of those Americans would $2 trillion save?

How many Americans die from hunger, preventable sickness, homelessness, every year? How many of them would $2 trillion save?

How many abortions would $2 trillion prevent, if those expectant mothers knew they could get support, medical care, financial aid?

Why is it that Trump crows about spending vast sums on the military, but not a single penny on the very people he swore himself to defend?

Why is it that Trump defends those in uniform convicted of terrible crimes and abuse, but dismisses and attacks those who serve with honor and integrity and a sense of duty above self?

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

This week, Republicans led by Trump and McConnell rejected three separate bills designed to secure our democracy against foreign interference.

Trump repeatedly sides with dictators and foreign authoritarians over Americans.

Republican judges, legislators, and the president repeatedly defend vulnerabilities that give foreign actors undue influence over American lives, and repeatedly block any attempt to defend America from this manipulation.

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

What would the men who wrote that, who literally went to war and fought a bloody revolution because of that, think of Trump’s trade war?

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

I suspect if our ancestors were writing that line today, it might say something like “For imposing the entire burden of national support on the poor and middle class while the wealthy pay little to nothing, while billionaires pay a lower tax rate than a Walmart greeter, while mega corporations reap billions in yearly profits and not only pay no taxes at all but receive a return from the government. For imposing again upon the poor and the middle class the entire burden of repeatedly bailing out Wall Street when bankers and investment company CEOs who are wealthy beyond imagination yet again destroy the economy without consequence to themselves and again wipe out our savings, investments, retirements, college plans, homes, jobs, healthcare, sustenance, and livelihoods, all the while lecturing us about ‘responsibility.’”

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

We live in a country where people of color are shot down by the government in the street for the crime of being black. Where selling loose cigarettes on the street is punishable by summary execution.

We live in a country where the president uses his office to publicly accuse an athlete of being a criminal, again a black man, for not being respectful enough.

We live in a country where that same president daily suggests his political enemies are traitors, criminals, and unamerican.

We live in a country where a Republican congressman is suing a social media account that pretends to be a cow because he thinks criticizing a congressman should be a crime – well, so long as that congressman is him.

We live in a country where the Senate, whose very job is to act as a check on presidential power, just acquitted the President of abuse of that power without calling a single witness or reviewing a single piece of evidence and where Republican senators openly bragged about receiving donations from the president’s own defense attorneys before their vote.

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

Trump certainly didn’t invent Rendition and Detention, but no president has embraced extra-constitutional measures in the name of National Security the way he has. He daily suggests that he has unlimited powers granted by some imaginary article of the Constitution – the very thing the Constitution was literally created to prevent – and Republicans let him get away with it. And now, post-impeachment, he is made bolder in his abuse of power and believes himself without limit. He has publicly sworn revenge on those who accused him and openly suggested that the military criminally prosecute those who testified against him. How long then, before Trump declares these people enemies of the state, terrorists, traitors, and uses such extra-judicial tools against them?

Remember, this is a man who tried to use the power of his office to extort a foreign nation into attacking the family members of his political opponents and who sent his own personal lawyer to oust a US ambassador from her office up to and including conspiring to have her assassinated by a foreign agency.

And who got away with it.

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

We’re probably safe, at least at the moment, from Trump dissolving the government of Quebec and installing his own puppet state in its place. But this is where I remind you of his repeated attacks on US states that he doesn’t like, California and New York chief among them, and how he compares such states to those which support him. This is where I also remind you again that Trump is using the power of his office to right now extort New York into dropping its investigation of his taxes and business practices.

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For fundamentally altering the forms of our governments.

And Republicans under Trump have most certainly done that. From gerrymandering to blatant voter disenfranchisement – including voter ID requirements that are impossible to comply with, closing of voter registration offices in minority neighborhoods, purging of voter rolls, open intimidation at the polls, refusal to reinstate the voting rights of former felons who have successfully completed their sentence – to utter refusal to secure election systems, to dark money and superPACs, to stacking the courts, to submission to religious fanaticism, to open nepotism, to walled borders, etc., Republicans seem determined to alter our Republic into a form unrecognizable to a free democratic people.

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

And we’re back to a Senate Majority Leader whose desk is buried under a mountain of dead legislation and who has essentially seized absolute power and daily refuses to do his duty despite overwhelming protest from both sides of the aisle. And McConnell holds the Republic by the throat solely at the behest of Donald Trump.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

Trump hasn’t sent the army against us, yet, though he has certainly threatened to do so. And you have only to listen to his works, listen to his rallies and speeches, read his daily Twitter feed to see that he absolutely believes we are the enemy. He is not the President of the United States, he is the CEO of TrumpCo and only those who pay fealty to him are granted protection.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

No British warship, no Redcoat, ever posed as great of threat to the American people as the looming disaster of Climate Change. Our seas, our coasts, our towns and cities, our very lives, all stand in danger. This grave threat is more and more apparent, and more imminent, every day. Even Republicans can no longer deny it. And, yet, every day Trump does nothing. Worse than nothing, he denies the threat even exists – not because he doesn’t believe that it’s real, but because it might cut into profits. He refuses to take action in any form. He’ll be dead long before the bill comes due, but our children and the generations who follow will have to deal with the self-serving foolishness of this malicious inaction.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

And again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Trump might not have started the practice of outsourcing America’s wars to hired killers, but he embraced the concept whole hog and he not only promotes the use of mercenaries and the corporate privatization of war (and thus its profit), he ushers mercenaries right into the White House.

As the men who declared our independence noted, this is the practice of the most barbarous of ages and utterly unworthy of the head of a civilized nation.

We shouldn’t be offering outfits like Blackwater a job, we should outlaw their very existence.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

Impressment of US merchant sailors on the high seas probably isn’t something we need worry about at the moment, but it’s damned telling when out of the 27 grievances which led our ancestors into a bloody war for independence, it’s only this one that doesn’t apply today.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

While we likely don’t need fear Trump encouraging Native Americans to slaughter the rest of us – and in fact, Native Americans are a hell of a lot more likely nowadays to rise up in protest against a government intent on driving oil pipelines across their land and fracking their water tables – Trump has most certainly excited domestic insurrections among us. You have only to look to Neo-Nazis marching in the streets of our nation’s capital, you have only to look to Charlottesville, you have only to see the III% Militia recruiting booths at every fair and gathering across our country, you have only to notice the sudden prevalence of Punisher skulls on the backs of pickup trucks flying Confederate flags to see it. You have only to listen to Trump’s own words, watch his rallies, read his Twitter feed, encouraging hate and violence against those he considers not American enough.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

Substitute “Republicans” for “British brethren” in that last paragraph.

Compare “We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations […] They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity” to the recent impeachment proceedings in the Senate and tell me honestly that you don’t see the similarities.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Two and half centuries ago, our forefathers sent that Declaration to the King of England and said of themselves in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Today, the very Americans who quote the Preamble of the Declaration as justification for their unwavering support of Donald Trump are utterly and completely ignorant of the rest of that document and the actual reasons our forefathers rose up in rebellion against tyranny.

The Republicans of today fancy themselves patriots and champions of freedom, but they would not be those Minutemen who answered the call of liberty and pledged their sacred honor to each other. No, those who support this government are the same sorry sons of bitches who two centuries ago would have cheerfully knuckled under to a King solely in order to own the liberals.

They tell themselves they would gladly hang, together or separately, but that is a lie.

Instead, they are the ones pulling the rope.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Stalking Horse


Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.
-- Occam’s Razor

The Senate is going to sell us out today.

The Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, is going to sell us out.

The Senate, now an organ of the Executive, is going to sell us out. 

The Senate is going to take a pass on duty and integrity and it’s going to sell out the Republic to own the libs.

You’re disappointed, sure. But unless you’re a complete fool, you’re not really surprised.

We are all disappointed. But we knew it was coming. Didn’t we? And to be honest, I’m surprised Impeachment made it this far.

We all knew it would end this way. Sure, we did.

Still, you have to wonder: Why aren’t Republicans willing to do their duty?

Why? I asked that question on social media, on Twitter and Facebook.


If you followed those posts, stick around. This isn’t a repeat. This is the follow up.

It was a popular question, as you can see from the various likes and shares. Seems a lot of people, at least on my timelines, want to know: Why aren’t Republicans willing to do their duty? Why cover for Donald Trump? Why protect him? Why?

I mean, Trump is guilty. He's as much as admitted it. Bragged about it even…

What?

What’s that? Oh, I see.  You’ve got a problem with my assertion that Trump admitted to his guilt?

Just don’t. Trump’s going to get off, you win. You owned the libs. Good for you. You can at least be honest about it. Republicans have gone though the whole cycle: he didn’t do it; okay, maybe he did do it, maybe that’s a picture of him actually doing it, maybe there are some documents, maybe some recordings, maybe he did it; that said, we’re not admitting he did it, but even if he did do it, he’s the president so if he did do it, it would be fine; OKAY, fine! Fine! He did do it, we admit it, he did it and he’d do it again and it's not only totally fine it’s legal because he sincerely believed it was in America’s best interest, so there!

That’s the President’s own lawyer. Alan Dershowitz. And sure, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s essentially his argument: Trump did it, but it’s not a crime because he did it for America.

"If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment."
--
Alan Dershowitz, arguing before the Senate, 29 January, 2020

If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest…

  He believes will help him get elected, in the public interest.

In the public interest.

Dershowitz – and by extension, the Senate, if they allow this argument to win the day, and they will – is saying that so long as the president believes his election is in the public interest, then whatever he does, up to and including coercing a foreign government to take action against his own political enemies specifically so that he might be elected/re-elected to office, cannot be considered grounds for impeachment.

He’s not saying Trump didn’t do it.

He’s saying Trump did.

And that’s okay, says Dershowitz, because so long as Trump believes his presidency is in America’s best interest, he’s untouchable, unaccountable to Congress or the American people.

It’s the second coming of the same old Republican “sincerely held beliefs” defense.

Dershowitz along with Republicans like Mitch McConnell, they know there’s more than enough cause to hold a rigorous trial. To examine all the evidence, hear all the witnesses. They know it. And as I've previously noted, if this was 1974, Republicans would have already gone to Trump and demanded his resignation rather than have that evidence made public – or more public.

But these are not the Republicans of 1974.

You didn’t have to ask what Republicans would lose back then.

Back then, Republicans knew what they would lose.

And they did it anyway.

When Barry Goldwater, Hugh Scott, and John Rhodes went to Nixon and demanded his resignation, the Republicans in Congress that they were speaking for all knew what they were going to lose.  And they did. They lost the White House and the next election, and a number of Republican Representatives and Senators lost their jobs.

There was no way they didn’t know that was coming.

But, still, they did the right thing.

When it came down to it, they did the right thing. They put country over party, integrity over power, duty over partisanship.

And exactly one election cycle later, they got Ronald Reagan.

And, in fact, Republicans then held the White House for twelve years.

And it seems they didn’t really lose much at all.

And so you have to wonder: What do the Republicans of today lose?

What do they lose if they stand up, declare they are putting America first, that the integrity of the office matters, that the president -- government -- must be always held to a higher standard? What do Republicans lose if they show themselves acting with courage, integrity, and a sense of duty? What do they lose if they take charge of impeachment and lead from the front? What do they lose if they demand the truth? Evidence? Witnesses? What do Republicans lose if they stand up and show America that they are willing to do the right thing? Put country over party, duty over politics, truth over lies? Do they lose their jobs, or do they earn reelection out of respect? Do they hold the White House for the next twelve years?

What do they really lose?

What do Republicans lose if they remove Trump from office for cause?

They don't lose the office. Instead they'd get President Pence, a hardcore Ultra-Christian conservative with a proven track record of right wing fanaticism. If they remove Trump, they don't lose the White House, at least not right away. They don't lose the Senate. They don't lose the Supreme Court. They don't lose any of the conservative agenda they've passed so far. In fact, they might even be able to force Democrats into passing more of the Republican agenda in exchange for Trump's removal.

So, what do they lose?

When I asked that question, a number of people who responded to the original thread on Twitter and Facebook said: They lose Trump’s base. They lose voters.

But do they?

Do they really?

Do they end up out of office like those who followed Goldwater?

Maybe.

But did you see how fast Conservatives turned on John Bolton? How fast they turned on John Kelly? Mad Dog Mattis?

They’re calling John Bolton a liberal now. John Bolton.

And maybe, if Republicans played it right, if they did it right, maybe they'd seize the moral high ground, yank the rug right out from under democrats, and take control of the situation. Maybe they’d be the leaders.

If Republicans played it right, they could own the liberals once and for all.

Sure, they’d lose some of the hardcore Stormtrumpers. Of course, they would. But, the woman with the “Trump can grab my pussy!” T-shirt? So what if they lose her vote? Who’s she gonna vote for if they throw Trump out of office, Bernie Sanders?

She doesn’t get any more choice than you do.

And so she’s gonna vote for the Republican, whether that’s Trump or Mike Pence or whoever is on the ballot. Or she’s gonna stay home. Because she sure as hell isn’t going to vote for an abortion loving’ Democrat, no matter what. And if Republicans can pick up Independents and Undecideds, they don’t need her.

Here’s the kicker: We’re going into this next election with basically the same Electoral College we had last time, that’s what matters.

Republicans know this. And if Republicans showed themselves to be men and women of courage and integrity, who put country over party, over their own jobs, then the odds are they’d win every Independent and Undecided and every swing state Electoral College vote. Especially, the people who didn’t want Trump in 2016 but really, really hated Hillary Clinton even more. The same people who this time are already pissed off at the idea of Joe Biden, or Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie.

Republicans like Mitch McConnell are cold, calculating, cunning, conniving sons of bitches who plan for the long game.

They have no loyalty to Trump.

Their fealty is to power.

And if they played this right, they could turn Impeachment into a victory far beyond just owning the libs.

So why don’t they?

What do they lose?

What do Republicans lose? It's not like if Republicans force Trump to resign they are suddenly going to have to get gay married to vegetarian Muslims, have an abortion, or stop shooting down black men in the street. If they remove Trump, rich people still won't have to pay taxes, we won't melt down all the aircraft carriers into universal healthcare, and Barack Obama still won't show up on their doorsteps to take their guns.

So, what do they lose?

Because it must be something, right?

What do Republicans lose if they own impeachment and remove Trump from office?

They lose Trump.

Trump. They lose Trump. They lose an amoral bombastic fool, a patsy, that can be easily manipulated into implementing the very worst of their agenda without getting their own hands dirty.

They know this guy is a fool.

Those with their hands on the real levers of power? In this country and beyond? You know they look down on Trump with nothing but utter contempt, you can see it in every sneer, every smirk, every roll of the eyes.

But that’s the key to it.

Because Trump is so desperate to prove himself their equal, so desperate for their attention and acceptance, that he’ll do anything to get it. Trump is so pitiful, so utterly in need of praise, that he can be openly manipulated by news broadcasters and baited by a tweet.

Hillary Clinton, love her or hate her, had that part right: A man you can bait with a tweet isn’t someone we can trust with nuclear weapons.

And that’s the thing, right there.

That’s what Republican have to lose.

Trump is the guy who makes it okay to say those things out loud. They remember when they could call a black man a nigger to his face. They remember when they could tell a gay joke and laugh at the fags in the middle of a board meeting without worrying about a visit from Human Resources. They remember when, as a teacher, hating some towelheads in front of their sixth grade classroom was considered “patriotic.” That’s what they love about Trump, he says the words out loud. They remember. And they miss those days. And when Trump says “Make America Great Again,” well, that’s what they’re expecting. Those days, when they didn’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed of their hate – not that many of them were, mind you, but now with Trump, they don’t have to hide it any more.

Trump is the guy who told them they don’t have to be ashamed of being a horrible person. If they lose Trump, then they lose an excuse for their hate, their selfishness, their racism, their misogyny, their homophobia, their horrible religion, their wars, their greed, their fear, all of it. Trump is the guy who makes it okay to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nazis, with Confederates, with the Klan, with the Proud Boys, and still pretend that you’re standing up for “The American Way of Life.”

If they lose Trump, they lose a chump to blame for it all when the bill comes due.


That’s what they lose.


Now, when I said this on social media, things went sideways.

It wasn’t Republicans I got pushback from.

The responses from conservatives were mostly: Yeah, so? Not, “you’re wrong!” But rather, “So, what? Suck it, lib!” They didn’t dispute what I’d said about Trump, or about the failure of a Republican dominated Senate, or even the integrity of the office. Essentially it was the same response Dershowitz gave the Senate, so? So what?

I called Republicans horrible people and they didn’t dispute it. Instead they reveled in it. Ha ha, suck it, losers! MAGA!

No, it was liberals who told me I was wrong.

It was liberals who told me Republicans in congress weren’t really that bad.

Oh, they’re bad, sure, said my lefty responders, but there has to be more to it. They can’t be just horrible people. They can’t just be racists, or sexists, or religious fanatics, or homophobes, or jingoistic xenophobes. No. There has to be more than just that.


Kompromat.

Yes, kompromat.

They think it means “blackmail” and they’re pretty sure that’s what’s going on.

See, Trump has something on Republicans, all the Republicans, every Senator, every Representative, the Russians hacked the RNC server, goes the theory, and Putin gave Trump Kompromat on all the Republicans, child porn, gay sex, dirty money, something, on every single Republican and now Donald Trump, the guy who can’t work a toilet and thinks wind turbines cause cancer, is actually some master manipulator of such astounding skill that he’s somehow managed to blackmail hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in the House, Senate, various government agencies, the US Intelligence Community, and the Press, etc., into unquestioning obedience, all without leaving a trace. Or, alternatively, he paid them. Trump, the guy who doesn’t even pay his own contractors, paid off the whole Republican party with Russian money … or something, I’m a little vague on the details.

And if that doesn’t work, well, then a Russian assassination squad will show up to take Republicans window shopping in Moscow. And, according to my Twitter, Vladimir Putin himself called each Republican personally to threaten them, probably in an ominous Hollywood Russian accent.

Because it’s easier to believe that the people who are right now selling out the Republic are doing so because of some vast complex invisible multinational conspiracy, than to believe they are just … bad people.

As if the Nazis needed to blackmailed into being genocidal monsters.

As if the Confederacy or the Klan needed be blackmailed into racism.

As if the Proud Boys had to be blackmailed into hating women.

As if all the people who’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh for the last 20 years only did so because Vladimir Putin threatened to kill their kids.

As if human nature wasn’t enough.

I don’t know.

Maybe it speaks well of you that you believe these are decent people who have to be blackmailed into doing terrible things.

Maybe you’re a better person than me, probably you are, in that you believe there has to be more than just hate and fear, ignorance, deliberate stupidity, greed, selfishness, and lust for power.

Maybe.


Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, it’s over today one way or the other.


Because the Senate is going to sell us out.

Mitch McConnell now has the votes to lock out witnesses and evidence -- and thus, there's not much point in dragging this out any further. It's essentially over. And they’re going to acquit Trump.

They are.

You knew this was coming.

You knew. I knew. We all knew this was how it was going to end. There was never any chance that the Republican Senate was ever going to do its duty. All those things I said up above about integrity, duty, courage, we all all knew they would never embrace those traits.

Because the Republicans of today are not the Republicans of 1974.

And Trump isn’t Nixon and he’s not going to be held to account by Republicans. He’s going to weasel out, as he always does. As the rich and privileged and powerful always do. You knew it. You said so, right here, on my Facebook page, in my Twitter timeline. You knew. So did I. So did we all. Of course, we foolishly let ourselves hope it would be different, sure we did. We got excited there for a minute. Maybe this time Susan Collins and Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski would actually stand up and … well, yeah, like I said, foolish.

So, naturally, now you're feeling let down and disappointed and disgusted and depressed. Because, for a moment, for a bare moment, you dared hope that Republicans might not be terrible.

But you knew.

You always knew.

And so, inevitably, here we are.

And it’s damned depressing. Because we shouldn’t be here. We should have done better. We should have been better citizens. Elections have consequences.

You can thank 2014 for this one, we handed the Senate to Mitch McConnell. And six years later, here we are.

Elections have consequences.

Even the ones you don’t show up for.

Don't get me wrong here: it had to be done.

It had to be done.

Because if you want to hold the moral high ground, then you have to first climb the hill. Even if you end up dying on it.

History judges us by what we do.

And by what we don't.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
-- Hanlon’s Razor

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Snake


When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
-- Maya Angelou


Trump should have resigned already.

Trump’s Impeachment trial, such as it is, starts today in the Senate.

But we shouldn’t have gotten this far. Trump should have resigned already.

If we lived in a rational nation, I mean.

If we had rational political parties who actually cared about the nation more than themselves.

Hell, even if we lived in the insane world of 1974. Trump would have resigned already.

And that world was insane. 1974. Trust me, I lived through it. The country was coming apart at the seams, everywhere you looked. Vietnam was mostly over, but violent anti-establishment sentiment still filled the streets in protests over race, religion, culture, and everywhere there were haunted, shattered veterans of an incomprehensible conflict that had been raging my whole life. I mean, Vietnam was literally a fixture of my life and I had no idea what the hell we were even doing there and that was true of the majority of the nation – and the more things change, right? Millionaire heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped from her apartment by domestic terrorists in broad daylight. American cars where huge, ugly, clunky, poorly designed, unsafe, gas gulping monsters based on technology decades old. What’s that got to do with anything? Well, we were in the middle of the OPEC Embargo and there were hours long lines for gas like we were living in some slowly failing dystopia. While, weirdly, at the same time American astronauts, the very image of innovation and advanced technology and optimistic can-do American spirit, were flying overhead on the last Skylab mission and Mariner 10 arrived at Mercury half a solar system away. There was a massive swarm of tornados across North America, 148 twisters in one day, 315 dead, 5000 injured, billions in damages. The terrorists (guerillas they were called back then) who kidnapped Patty Hearst, the Symbionese Liberation Army, were trapped by police in Los Angeles and burned alive during a shootout on the Six-O-Clock news. There was this absolutely bizarre riot in Cleveland when an entire stadium got drunk on 10 cent beers and 50,000 people set to cheerfully brawling in the middle of an Indian/Rangers game. In Sarasota, Florida, a depressed broadcaster put a pistol to her head in the middle of a live show and it happened so fast that the station couldn’t cut away before she pulled the trigger, thus becoming the first suicide broadcast live and in color on television. The threat of nuclear Armageddon was in your face, every single minute of every day, and most of us thought the end of civilization wasn’t a matter of “if” but of “when.”

The music, the fiction, the news, of that time, that year, well, you go listen to it, read it, watch the recordings, you’ll see what I mean.

It was so damned grim, so insane, in 1974, that when it turned out the President of the United States of America was, in point of fact, irrefutably a crook who had grossly abused his office for his own benefit, well, you know, it wasn’t really all that noteworthy.

I mean it was, but it was also just more of the same terrible reality we were living in every day.

And yet…

And yet, when that happened, when the proof of Nixon’s malfeasance could no longer be denied, even in that time, among that grim reality, well, it wasn’t. Denied.

In the middle of all that madness, the members of the President’s own party, Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, Senate Minority Leader Republican Hugh Scott, and the Leader of the House Republican Conference John Rhodes, faced reality and put the country ahead of politics and they went to the President and told him to resign. These weren’t moderates – despite the comforting fiction we like to tell ourselves about Goldwater today. They were hardcore conservatives. Staunch party Republicans. They had supported Nixon all the way, until the smoking gun, until Nixon’s criminal conduct could not be ignored any longer.

And these Republicans, they went to the Republican president and told him to resign.

They told Nixon flat out, we won’t support you. Republicans won’t support you. Get out. Quit. Resign.

Or be thrown out of office and sent to prison.


And so, Nixon resigned.


Even in that time, even that grimly insane time, this would have already been over.

Trump would have already resigned.

Republicans would have already forced him to resign, or be thrown from office.

Because it’s obvious. Trump is a crook who abused his power to a degree that makes us look back on Nixon and wonder if maybe he wasn’t so bad after all. And he was bad. Goddamn was he bad. Nixon was terrible, all the things we knew about him then were only the tip of the iceberg. But, Trump is so bad, so crooked, so obviously crooked, that he’s almost literally rehabilitating Tricky Dick in our collective memory and, you know, goddammit, at this point, if Nixon himself was running against Trump, if those were the only choices, I’d probably have to vote for Nixon.

But Trump isn’t Nixon and the Republicans of today aren’t the Republicans of 1974.

And that’s the thing, right there: That bit about what we knew then and what we know now.

That’s the real difference.

Back then, we didn’t know.

I mean, how could we? News was twice a day, one hour at 6PM and again at 11PM, and there were typically only three channels and the news was pretty much all the same. The average adult maybe read one newspaper a day, from the local big city – or if the city was big enough and you could afford it, maybe two major papers. There wasn’t any internet, no 24/7 cable news. If you wanted to learn about a candidate, really learn about a candidate, you had go to a campaign rally. Physically go, because there wasn’t any YouTube to watch it on a day later with your smartphone from the internet. Hell, a lot of American still had Black and White TVs back then.

Nixon? You might not agree with his ideology, and there were plenty of Americans who vehemently did not, but it was hard to tell who he really was unless you saw him in person.

So, how could we really know?

We might have suspected, but how could we really know until Watergate broke in the press? Until the Smoking Gun Tape was released on August 5, 1974, and told the whole world who Richard M. Nixon really was in his own voice.

But today? Now? In this time?

You don’t have that excuse.

Trump told you who he was right from the very first moment.

His Tweets and his rallies and every word he’s mangled since he rode down that goddamned escalator in Trump Tower to announce his campaign for President. He told us who he really was. Unlike Nixon, Trump never tried to hide it. Never tried to slap a smooth veneer of civilization over it. Nixon was a consummate politician. Trump is … well, Trump.

It’s the one thing he was honest about.

He told you that he was an unabashed racist. And he is that.

He told you that he was a sexist and a misogynist. And he is most certainly that.

He told you he was a homophobe. It's true.

He told you he was white supremacist. Also true.

He told you he was a nationalist. He literally used the word: nationalist. And he is.

He daily told you he was ignorant of history, science, military matters, and geography and he wasn’t lying.

He told you he embodied the very basest of traits, the worst of impulses, that he had no self control. He doesn’t try to hide it, he’s proud of it.

He told you he loved money above all things and that he would run government like a business. His business. And every day he acts as if he owns America, as if it’s one of his hotels and we’re his employees.

He told you he would give rich corporations and the wealthy billions at your expense. And trillions of dollars in debt later, he delivered.

He told you he was Islamophobic and in the thrall of Christian Dominionists. You can't argue with that.

He told you he would cater to the mob. And there he is on Twitter, at his endless Nuremberg-style rallies, whipping the faithful into a mindless froth of hatred and fury against the rest of us.

He told you he saw The Press as the enemy – the enemy -- and he's worked every single day to make that a reality, and he himself is most certainly the self-declared enemy of the free press in return. Q.E.D.

He told you he would hire only the worst people to run your government. He literally introduced them to you, rapacious pillagers and sycophants all, cowards, fascists, racists, sexists, predators of all stripes, the most ignorant, the most foolish, the most corrupt, and the most incompetent. And so he has.

He told you that he would destroy the environment, that he would burn more coal, pump more oil, pollute the air, despoil the seas, strip-mine the land, open the national parks to drilling, frak your water. All for profit. He did it.

He told you he sympathized with brutal dictators over Americans. He proves that true time and again.

He told you that he was self-centered, selfish, self-aggrandizing, arrogant, and a staggering narcissist who listens only to himself and the cheers of the howling mob. True.

Promises made. Promises kept. Trump told you exactly who he was in detail and what he was going to do.

He is all of that. And he did what he said he would.

And yet, somehow, 62,979,636 Americans voted for him.

Sixty-two million Americans looked at Donald Trump and liked what they saw.

Maybe they liked the idea of racism, misogyny, bigotry, nationalism, white supremacy, and all the rest of it.

Or maybe they just hated Hillary Clinton and liked the idea of sticking it to the rest of us. I seem to recall messages that went something like: Burn it all down! Burn it all down!

Instead of the American tradition of politicians pretending not to be terrible people, Trump embraced his terribleness.

Trump directly pandered to the racists and the sexists and bigots of all stripes, to the greedy and the selfish, to the nationalists and the xenophobes and the war mongers. Trump appealed to that guy at the end of every bar. You know, that guy, the loud drunk, the blowhard, who knows it all and is determined to tell you. The guy who thinks that if we just drop enough bombs, kill enough people, the rest will fall in line. That’s his answer to everything, bomb ‘em! Violence. A punch in the nose. Trump appealed to that guy because instead of attempting to lead from out in front, from a position of (alleged) moral high ground, Trump instead told that guy he was right.

The simpleminded demand simple solutions to complex problems, and Trump gave them that.

Trump told them they didn’t need to be better people.

That’s what a real leader does, encourage you to be better.

But not Trump.

No. Trump told Conservatives they were fine, the very best, in fact, they didn’t need to be better people because they were already the best people. Better than everybody else.

Trump didn’t appeal to their supposed better nature. Instead,  he told shitty terrible people that it was okay to be shitty terrible people. Trump told the privileged that they were the real victims. That’s right.

Trump told racists that they were very fine people indeed, that it was okay to be racists, and he welcomed them to his rallies. The Klan. Nazis. Confederates. Proud Boys. For the first time since 1968, since George Wallace, they were all welcome up front. Come as you are!

Trump told the misogynists that it was okay to grab ‘em by the pussy so long as you popped in a Tic Tac first. He told the haters it was okay to hate gay people and Muslims and people of color. Trump told the greedy that it was okay to be selfish. He told the warmongers peace could only be had with the application of high explosives. He told the deliberately ignorant stupidity was a virtue, history was a liberal plot, education was elitism, compassion was an assault on manhood, and that money – and only money -- was proof of intellect.

Trump told terrible people that it was okay to be terrible.

Trump told terrible people that they didn’t need to feel bad about being terrible.

The defining moment was when Trump stood in front of America on national TV and told conservatives that it was A-OK to mock the disabled and he flapped his arms around and made weird squawking noises. The audience, instead of being appalled, they roared with laughter.

They roared with laughter.


That’s when we should have seen it coming.


That moment right there.

That’s when we should have realized that Trump was going to win.

Oh, there were plenty of other warning signs. Sure. The debates, for example. Trump’s opponents were completely outclassed because they’d never faced anything like this before. Because we pretend that this isn’t what America actually is. I mean look at it: Trump was completely unprepared. He never answered a single question in any substantive fashion whatsoever – and hasn’t since, for that matter. All those things listed up above, the racism, the misogyny, the jingoism, the angry ignorance, the greed, the lack of experience and deep knowledge, that’s when you saw those things on display in exquisite detail.

And Clinton? She was poised, prepared, calm, funny, she knew all the answers in as much detail as is possible. Whatever the question, whatever the issue. She knew it all.

One side: a blowhard full of bombast, bluster, and boast. On the other: perhaps the most qualified candidate to ever seek the Office.

And yet – and yet -- Trump “won.”

Oh yes he did. He won the debates.

You, gentle reader, you didn’t think so. I didn’t think so.

But he did.

The critics said Clinton was “too prepared.” Too calm. Too poised. Too confident. As if that is even possible when you’re talking about the President of the United States. They said she “cheated” somehow. And sure there was a large degree of sexism to those viewpoints, but the real truth of the matter is that conservatives didn’t care if Trump couldn’t answer any of the questions. They didn’t care what he said or what he did. Remember, they laughed when he mocked a disabled reporter, because to them it was funny. That’s the kind of people they are. The kind of people Trump told them it was okay to be. The mean spiritedness of it only made it more hilarious. The outrage from the left only made it more delicious. They loved the show. The spectacle.

They didn’t care about answers, they only wanted to be entertained.

They still do.

Trump instinctively understands that. And, now, so do Republicans.


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the rub. Right there.


Trump is most certainly guilty.

You know it. I know it. Democrats know it. Republicans know it.

Trump knows it.

And if this was 1974, Trump would have already been forced to resign.

But Trump is not Nixon and the Republican Party of today is not the party of 1974. The Republicans of 2020 are not going to go to Trump and demand his resignation. They lack both the courage and the integrity. And even if they did find Trump guilty in the Senate, even if they were forced by some happenstance, some bit of irrefutable evidence, to acknowledge Trump’s chicanery, they’ll do what they’ve done since January 20th, 2017 – they’ll say it doesn’t matter. He didn’t do it. But if he did do it, well, it’s okay.

They know he’s guilty. They know it. And thus, they have no intention of putting country over party. No intention of an actual trial.

No, they intend to put on a show.

Because they know Trump’s guilt doesn’t matter.

The truth doesn’t matter.

Duty doesn’t matter.

Facts do not matter.

The integrity of the Office and of The Republic does not matter.

All that matters is the spectacle. Win that, and you win the debate.

That’s the lesson of Donald Trump. And that, that right there, is what America has become.

Trump thinks that if he can just put on a good enough show, he’ll walk free right into reelection.

And here’s the thing: given history, he just might be right.


I saved you! Cried the woman
And you've bitten me, but why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die!
Oh shut up, silly woman, said the reptile with a grin
You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.
-- Al Wilson, The Snake, written by Oscar Brown Jr.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veteran’s Day

The […] novel sucked. Even when I liked Heinlein I saw right through that Rah Rah Military is Awesome bullshit.
  - Facebook Comment

I met a man who despised me.

He called me fascist, murderer, and a dumb blunt tool.

I didn’t take it personally – though a younger me might have.

I didn’t meet him in the flesh, like most of my social interactions these days I encountered him online. He surfaced on a well known author’s Facebook page during a conversation regarding a certain well known classic science fiction novel.

The novel was, of course, Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

It’s one of those books you either love or hate.

Very few who are familiar with the work find middle ground between those poles – including those who haven’t actually read it and are familiar with the writer and the novel only by second-hand heresy (yes, heresy, the book is nearly an article of faith to many) and a terrible Hollywood adaptation.

It’s one of those stories where your opinion depends very much on your age and experience, and as such your opinion with regards to the story tends to change and temper over time.

To me, well, that’s what makes it a truly great work.

Love it, hate it, it is a coming of age story and it endures as a lightning rod, as a jumping off point for exploration of the human condition, of government, of service, of duty, of war and conflict, of why we fight and why we should – or should not.

I have read this novel many, many times.

I read it as a teenaged boy before I joined the military.

I read it again at various points throughout my military career, as an enlisted man and as an officer – and in fact it is required reading for students at a number of military academies.

I read it the day the author himself died, and raised a glass to yet another lost shipmate while stationed at a far distant outpost.

I’ve read it a number of times since I hung up my sword. I may, in fact, read it again today.

I don’t know that it influenced my decision to join up. I don’t know that it didn’t. The author, in this work and many others, certainly had some impact on my worldview. I do know that this novel did influence what kind of military man I ultimately became and that there were times, very difficult times, black days, moments when I didn’t know what to do next and lives depended on my decision, when I heard the words of Robert Heinlein whispering in my head, honor, courage, duty, ethics, morality, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in the cause of something greater – even and perhaps most especially when the cost is unjust and immoral and terrible.

The ideals of that book, and the veteran who wrote it, those ideals spoke to me in a very personal way.

And they still do.

As a writer of politics and military subjects, I encounter this book and discussions of its author often and I watch the resulting battles with some amusement. I’ve read hundreds of treatises on this book and its long dead author, detailed analyses from bloggers, columnists, best selling writers, noted scientists of various specialties, politicians, academics, and of course, military professionals.

All, every one, miss one fundamental thing.

And that is this: The reason six decades later this novel still generates love and hate and violent emotion is because the protagonist, Johnny Rico, a man very much like me, finds a home in the military.

War is his profession and he embraces it willingly and without regret.


And that, that right there, is the novel’s great sin.


That’s the criticism most often leveled at both the book and its author, they are pro war, pro military, and therefore somehow fascist and un-American.

To me this is like saying a fireman, one who runs towards the inferno, who is willing to brave the flames to save others, is somehow pro-arson.

There is no one who knows the terrible cost of war more than a veteran. There are few more anti-war than a combat veteran. Just as there is no one who knows the terrible toll of fire more than those who fight it. And yet, both still serve, because that is who they are. 

It’s okay in our society, at the moment, to love the soldier, to tell the story of war.

It wasn’t always so. When I was growing up, society openly despised the soldier.

But somewhere in the intervening 50 years, the circle has come full around and now again it is not only okay to love those who do violence in our names, it is nearly mandatory.

But it must be done in a certain way, you see.

It’s okay to write about war, to set novels among the conflagration and tell tales of glory and honor and sacrifice, so long as those who are caught up in its horror resent their own service. So long as they despise the conflict and the government and the utter ridiculous stupidity which sent them into the meat grinder. It’s okay to tell stories of war and conflict so long as the hero is serving only out of duty and will return to civilian life once the war ends – or die heroically, or tragically, or foolishly, depending on what kind of story you’re telling.

But to tell a story of those who serve when they don’t have to?

To write of those who find a home in the military?

That is a sin.

Those people, you see, they’re the losers. Honor, courage, duty, ethics, the morality of war, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in trace to your country, well, these things are for suckers, wannabe fascists, murderers, dumb blunt tools with nothing better to do.

This is the difference between Full Metal Jacket and The Green Berets.

This, this right here, is the difference between The Forever War and Starship Troopers.


This is the difference between the man I met up above … and me.


Today we honor those who served in peace and in war.

We honor those who came of their own free will and those who came only because they were called.

We honor those who came of age in bloody conflict, those who like me, like the protagonist of that novel, found a life, who found ourselves, in the military.

And we honor those who resented every goddamned miserable senseless minute of it.

Today wreaths will be laid. Flags will be raised to the truck and lowered to half-mast and there they’ll fly, cracking in the cold breeze, the symbol we fought and bled and died for, while below words of patriotism, duty, honor, courage, service, and sacrifice will be spoken.

The trumpets will sound their terrible call and the tears will flow – as they are down my face even as I write this.

Because, you see, I remember.

I remember those who trained and led me. I remember those I served alongside. I remember those I trained and led myself. I remember those men and women, every one of them, the good and the bad, the faithful and the faithless, the leaders and the followers, the admirable and the shitheads, those who came before me and those who came after, those who still live and serve and fight out there every day in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, those who have hung up their swords, and most of all I remember those who have given the last full measure – I remember them, each and every single one, each and every single day.

They are always with me, because they are the people who made me what I am.


Perhaps we are nothing more than blunt instruments. Perhaps we are fools. Today I am disinclined to argue the point.


Perhaps we are.

Because after the wreaths are laid, and the flags are lowered, and the trumpets sound their final mournful call, then the politicians will return to the same old divisions, the tax bill, the latest pork barrel project, or how the other party is a bunch of unpatriotic un-American bastards.

Tomorrow they’ll remember us not at all – or at best, only as a way to further their own selfish agendas.

The talk show hosts will cry their crocodile tears, and wax self-righteous and angrily demand that their listeners honor veterans. They'll take people to task for not wearing an American Flag pin, or for not having a yellow ribbon on their cars, or for not serving in uniform, all the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none.

And tomorrow, as always, they’ll forget all about us and go back to telling Americans to hate each other.

The Great Patriots, those Americans who think love of country is a contest and who wave the flag as if it were the cheap symbol of their favorite football team, are going to drink a lot of beer and discount liquor and pontificate drunkenly at great length about how the country is going to hell in a hand-basket because of that son of a bitch in [insert: Congress, the White House, Wall Street, et cetera here] and how we should be doing better by our “Heroes.” All the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none.

And tomorrow, they’ll nurse their sullen hung-over resentment and go back to fearing that the men and women they honor today will knock on their door to take away their freedoms and liberties and guns.

Meanwhile today a lot of folks who don't think much about patriotism are going to go to parades and wave little flags and quietly give thanks for those who bought their freedom at such terrible cost. Some will stand ramrod straight even though many can barely stand at all, like me they limp, or they roll, bent but unbroken, they’ll place their hands over their hearts as the American flag passes, and in their eyes you can see horrible memories of Saipan and Iwo Jima, Normandy, the Rhine, the black Ardennes forest, The Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Tet, Al Basrah, Anbar, and Bagram.

They won't talk about honoring veterans, they are veterans.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives in the service will raise a flag in their front yard, just as they do every day - and pray that those same loved ones get home alive and whole, just as they do every day.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives and mothers and fathers who have fallen in the service will visit graveyards, they'll bring fresh flowers, and fresh flags, and fresh tears.

Today, some just won’t give a good goddamn. They'll get a day off from work. They'll picnic, or party, or go boating, or hiking, or to the track. They'll paint the house, or do chores around the yard, they’ll haul trash to the dump if it's open or take the dog for a walk. Or maybe they won't, maybe today will be just like any other day. Kids still go to school, here in Florida. Teachers still teach. Stores, restaurants, car lots are all open with blowout sales. And it may be that these people most honor veterans, by simply going on with their lives, by living without having to remember the dead on some far distant battlefield, without having to worry about their security.

Without having to thank anybody.

And today, some will protest. Protest war, the military, the government. They'll use this day to burn the flag, they’ll take to Facebook and Twitter to call us fascists and murderers and dumb blunt tools. They’ll use this day to march and to demonstrate and it may be that these people are paying the highest compliment to veterans – even though that is the least of their intentions. Because, you see, it was veterans who bought them their right to despise us.

We are not heroes.

We are not heroes. Most of us anyway, we are simply people like any other, doing the best we can with what we have under difficult circumstance. We came when called and did our duty, each for our own reasons. You don’t have to understand why, just as you may not understand why a fireman would run into a burning building instead in the other direction. Just as you may never understand why Heinlein wrote what he wrote.

And that’s okay.

In our country, in a free society, the soldier should be no more revered than any other citizen.

We should respect the warrior, if he be worthy, but we must never worship him.

For there is no glory in war.

It is a horrible, brutal business and make no mistake about it.

We can wish it otherwise. We can rail against the utter stupidity and the phenomenal waste and the bloody obscenity of it all. We can declare and decry war’s terrible necessity and its terrible cost. Be that as it may, given human nature, for now war must often be done and our nation, our world, needs those who would fight, who would stand rough and ready to do violence in their name. It is a duty, a profession, a job, and a calling that must be done.

Perhaps in some distant future we will have put it behind us, perhaps we will have made war and the warrior long obsolete.  We can certainly hope that it shall be so. We can and should and must strive to make it so.

Perhaps some day we will set aside a day to honor the peacemakers and study war no more.

Perhaps.

But I wouldn’t count on it.


I don’t know. I don’t particularly care. I won’t live long enough to see such a day if it ever comes.


You see, I didn’t do it for you.

I didn’t do it for you and you owe me nothing. Neither thanks nor pity.

I’ve said it before, I’ll likely say it again: If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens. And me? I joined the military for myself. To prove something to myself. To be that better citizen in my own way.

I joined for myself, but I stayed for them.

I stayed for my comrades in arms, for those I served beside. I did it for them. I did it for all the things I found in that novel, honor, courage, duty, ethics, morality, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in the cause of something greater – even and perhaps most especially when the cost is unjust and immoral and terrible.

I did it because like the protagonist of that book, that is my sin, I found a life there among friends.

I met a man who despised me.

He despised me for who I am, a veteran.

And you know what? That, that right there, is the highest compliment I could be paid.

That, that right there, is what we were doing out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, defending his right to hold us in utter contempt.

I met a man who despised me.

He called me and those like me fascist, murderer, dumb blunt tools.

He’s wrong. Utterly wrong. But I can live with that.

And I wear his contempt as a badge of honor.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Danger Close

Representative Denny Heck (D-WA): "Is it okay for a president to pressure a foreign government for help to win an election?"
Director of National Intelligence (acting) Joseph Maguire: "It is unwarranted. It is unwelcome. It is bad for the nation."


We are at a very, very dangerous moment in history.

Trump is mad. Mad angry. Not mad insane – though that works too.

Goddamn, is he mad.

He’s so mad, he’s literally sputtering – something that I thought was mostly just a creative turn of phrase.

He stepped off Air Force One on Friday fuming, red faced, seething, sputtering mad, and yelled at reporters that he might try to file some sort of legal action to stop his impeachment.

What these guys are doing, Democrats, what they’re doing to this country, is a disgrace and it shouldn’t be allowed! There should be a way of stopping it. Maybe legally through the courts. But they’re gonna tie up our country. I mean we can’t talk about gun regulation we can’t talk about … anything. Because frankly they’re so tied up, they’re so screwed up, nothing gets done except for when I do it!

Shouldn’t be allowed!

There should be a way of stopping it!

Maybe legally though the courts.

And maybe not.

Maybe not. That’s the implication here, isn’t it? That maybe not part.

The day before, when Trump was at the United Nations, in a meeting with his staff he raged:

"They're almost a spy! Who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that's close to a spy."

I mean, you do see it, don’t you?

The sense of outrage. Outrage that anyone should question Donald Trump.

But the very word “whistleblower” exists for a reason.

Because it is a legally protected check on power, on abuse, on greed, on crime, on government.

Our laws, our entire nation is based on this idea.

Our Constitution was designed around this very idea: that power should be limited. That power should be checked, should be called out, should be held accountable at every turn. And that those who would blow that whistle should be protected to the full measure of the law.

Because without those willing to stand up, to speak truth to power, to sound the alarm, liberty dies.

This was the reason for the First Amendment, so that the people would have the power to speak freely in criticism of their government, not just as a right, but as a duty; so that the press would have the ability to hold all of us but most especially government to account; so that the people might assemble in protest and face down government power with their own; so that government would be required to give redress of wrongs against its own citizens.

If conservatives are correct in their interpretation of the Second Amendment, then its entire purpose is so ordinary citizens might hold government to the ultimate account.

And yet here they are.

Ironically, hypocritically, suggesting that the those who call out suspected government abuse are somehow traitors.

That it shouldn’t be allowed.

That there should be a way of stopping it, perhaps legally and perhaps … not.

We are at a very, very dangerous moment in history.

Trump has always tended to see himself as a superior specimen misunderstood by the common rabble.

He believes himself special. Above the laws which bind the common man.

When he’s held to those same laws, be they natural or manmade, he’s offended. He feels demeaned, lessened, diminished.

Public office amplifies his sense of martyrdom and he's becoming overtly, obviously, paranoid and publicly unstable. The term “siege mentality” might have been coined just for him. Worse, he surrounds himself with fringe nuts like Sebastian Gorka, political extremists like Stephen Miller and Steve Mnuchin, disgraced fanatics like General Mike Flynn, and an endless host of incompetent amateurs from Betsy DeVos to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and it shows.

These people, not one of them, has any idea how to run a Republic.

These people have no idea how to deal with the world on an equal basis – because they do not see the world a place of equality. Far from it. They expect to give orders and have them obeyed. They expect the universe to bow down, to bend to their desires. Because it always has. No one questions the wealthy. No one criticizes a general. No one holds the privileged to account. Not to their faces. They are accustomed to subservience, not accountability.

The rules don't apply to these people.

Not on social media, not in the courts, not in the military, not in the boardroom, not on Wall Street, not in politics, not in the Media, not anywhere.

This isn’t my opinion, this is theirs in their own words:

I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.

You can do anything.

They believe themselves entitled to this unquestioned power as their due.

They believe themselves better. Better than you. Better than me. Better than everyone.

This is how aristocracy is born, right here.

And if it's not stopped now, here in this moment, then in a few generations they will be lords and princes and kings, born to power.

And we will be their serfs.

This is a very, very dangerous moment in history.

Impeachment doesn't just threaten Trump, or his office.

It threatens the very self image of the privileged, who see themselves as the elite, as better, as born to power and above criticism or accountability, beyond the law and beyond reproach.

If Trump can be removed from power, so can they.

That terrifies them. You joke about guillotines, but you’d better goddamned believe they’re not laughing. They know. They remember. And they’re terrified that one day they’ll find their own heads on the block.

It’s too close now.

This is a very dangerous time. For us, but more so for them. And they know it.

That’s what they mean when they say Make America Great Again.

Great like when Robber Barons ruled America and the peasants paid for the privilege of eating out of their garbage cans. Great before the time of social safety nets and social programs, of unions and public education, before the common people claimed power for themselves, when profit was all and no one – no one – dared threaten their power. Like the Kings and the aristocracy who ruled over colonial America before the Revolution, there is nothing these modern elites fear more than the radical idea that power rests not with the privileged, not with those born to it, but with the ordinary citizen.

And because they are afraid, afraid of you – and they are indeed afraid of you – and because they will do anything to hold on to power, to their image of themselves as superior, they have become very, very dangerous.

Impeachment of one of their own directly threatens their power structure.

Whether it successfully removes the president from office or not, impeachment sets the very example they are most afraid of.

There's an old saying, apocryphally attributed to Thomas Jefferson and ironically used as a rallying cry by those who would point to the Second Amendment as a proof their right to burn down the government and yet who right now directly support these very elites. It goes like this:

When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.

Of course, Thomas Jefferson never said this. And likely never would. Because Jefferson of all the Founders understood the dynamics of wealth, privilege, power, and fear.

Because when government fears the people, and when people fear their government in turn, what you get is chaos, what you get is civilization falling into war, revolution, and violent, bloody murder as each seeks to destroy the other.

When the privileged feel their power threatened by those they see as their inferiors, that’s when you get tyranny.

When government fears its citizens, that’s when the boot comes down on your throat. Every. Time.

Worse, there will always be those on the bottom rungs of the ladder who see government falling into absolutism not as tyranny, but as opportunity.

And they will cheerfully throw in with the powerful, hoping for a few scraps from the table, hoping to save themselves at the expense of their fellows. Hoping for that moment, finally, when they can shoot down their despised neighbors in an orgy of blood and rage. They'll willingly sell their souls, hoping that they themselves will be given some measure of power and privilege over those they – there on the bottom rung of the ladder – see as inferior, if only by a fraction, to themselves.

This is a very dangerous time.

Impeachment isn't just a threat to Trump, but to all of those who align themselves with him, and who benefit from his hate and fear, and who would be nothing without their privilege and sense of superiority, the brawlers and the wealthy alike.

They are terrified that the dam has been breached, that more whistleblowers will come forward. They don’t trust you, but they for damned sure can’t trust each other, not when the only way to save themselves might be to sell out their fellows. There is no honor among thieves and there is no loyalty among those who see integrity as a roadblock to power and wealth.

And they will not go quietly.

They've said so.

They will change the laws to give themselves power.

They intend to spill blood, your blood, if necessary to keep that power.

They will ally themselves with America's enemies against you if necessary.

They will lie, cheat, steal, and murder. These are people who put children in cages and see nothing wrong with it and they'll do whatever they must to hold onto that power.

You look at the White House, you look at who Trump surrounds himself with, who he's given power to, who has access to that power, who benefits from Trump's increasing megalomania – from Exxon to Russia – and you'd better believe the danger is real.

But here’s the thing: we can face down that danger, return our nation to sanity without blood in the streets and bring that power to heel.

We can.

It’s possible.

It would have been a hell of a lot easier, safer, a few years ago, when there was more of a margin, but you didn't believe the danger was real then.

I hope you believe it now.

Now that we stand on the very precipice with the pit yawning beneath our feet, I hope you can see the danger now.

I hope it's finally real to you. Because if you don't show up this time, no matter what – no matter what – then you’re not going to get another chance.

Your government, the wealthy, the powerful, they aren’t just afraid of you, they’re terrified.

And they damned well should be.

But that makes them very, very dangerous – as are all cornered animals.

Now, right now, is the time to hold these sons of bitches to account and show them who and what America is supposed to be.

Yes, this is a dangerous moment in history.

But then it always is.



[Update]

A day after I wrote this, Trump posted this to Twitter:



This is the president of the United States right here suggesting that his political enemies be arrested for "treason."

This is the same definition -- the very same definition -- of "treason" used by dictators the world over: I.e. anyone who criticizes the state, and the state being me.

You look at that.

Look at it.

I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat, EVERY American should feel the hair standing up on the back of their necks right now. This cannot go on. Because arrests for "treason" WILL come next, followed by show trials. Followed by everything else. THIS is how it happens, right here.

Trump needs to be removed from office.


[end edit]



Impeachment is dangerous. And that danger – that very danger right there, the very nature of it -- is why it must be done. And it is in the crucible of crisis, facing the greatest of dangers, when true, authentic greatness is forged.

Now is the time.

If you want a better nation, be better citizens.

I would not be understood my dear Marquis to speak of consequences which may be produced, in the revolution of ages, by corruption of morals, profligacy of manners, and listlessness for the preservation of the natural and unalienable rights of mankind; nor of the successful usurpations that may be established at such an unpropitious juncture, upon the ruins of liberty, however providently guarded and secured, as these are contingencies against which no human prudence can effectually provide. It will at least be a recommendation to the proposed Constitution that it is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of Tyranny, and those of a nature less liable to be surmounted, than any Government hitherto instituted among mortals, hath possessed. We are not to expect perfection in this world; but mankind, in modern times, have apparently made some progress in the science of government. Should that which is now offered to the People of America, be found on experiment less perfect than it can be made, a Constitutional door is left open for its amelioration.

-- George Washington, Letter to Lafayette, February 7, 1788