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Category: Politics

Dear John McCain: Today, You [COULD HAVE BEEN] A Hero Again

Dear Senator McCain,

Today is  was your last chance to be a hero again.

This is It would have been the stuff of movies. Enter Jimmy Stewart, Michael Douglas, Tom Hanks. The hero enters the chamber, the music swells, the chills and tears flow freely.

It’s would have been easy (and the idiotically hopeless optimist in me actually believes that  you’re already planning to do it believed you might). All you have had to do is was the following:

  1. Make a special request to speak first on the grounds that you are recovering from surgery, literally have brain cancer, and need to rest.
  2. Step up to the lectern and say something along the lines of this:

My fellow Senators, this ends now.

Not Obamacare, but rather our collective willingness to enable this president to further degrade himself, our party, the nation, and the office of the President of the United States of America.

Look at us. What are we doing? If you’d told me two years ago that Republicans—Republicans!—would be resorting to bizarre schemes like this one, demanding that our members vote to debate an as yet unnamed bill that is apparently just going to be one of the previous bills that was crafted in secret and subsequently rejected by this body…if you’d told me any of that, I would have laughed in your face. Whatever you think of Obamacare, this sort of nonsense is unbecoming of United States Senators. This is not who we are. This is not responsible stewardship of this hallowed chamber that so many of us profess to love.

Rather, this is what comes of contorting ourselves into whatever grotesque shapes were required to maintain the baldly preposterous illusion that this is all perfectly normal, that we have this all firmly under control, that we haven’t abandoned everything we once held dear—all because we couldn’t bear to give up the Ring of Power, the Iron Throne, the Holy Grail, having held them for just a moment.

We should never have come this far. We should never have allowed our cynical political impulses to cloud our judgment to the point of allowing this monstrous lunatic, this profound ignoramus to become our standard bearer, let alone our president. We disgraced ourselves. We brought shame to our families and ourselves. We irreparably damaged the nation.

We may never recover, but we have to try.

I, for one, am deeply ashamed that I allowed things to get so badly out of hand. It took a brain tumor to make me realize that I’ve been putting party ahead of country for too long. I cannot bear the thought of retiring from the Senate or from life without having done everything within my power to end this long national nightmare that I helped create.

I can only hope that I am not too late. I can only pray that there is time yet to pull the nation back from the brink of deeper paralysis and greater destruction.

I will vote no on whatever bill is being offered here today. I will then return to Arizona for recuperation and treatment. I will return to this body for only one additional vote: a vote on Articles of Impeachment from the House of Representatives to convict and remove Donald J. Trump from office.

That’s it, Senator. That’s all you have had to do. Books will be would have been written, songs will be would have been sung, movies will be would have been made, statues will be would have been erected, slow claps will be would have been started, Sarah Palin will be would have been erased from our memories.

You will be could have been an American hero again.

But you didn’t. Instead, you did a slight variation on what you’ve always done: emit some vague maverick-ish mumblings designed to perpetuate the myth that you’re somehow more than a garden variety Republican piece of shit who will always and everywhere put party and self ahead of country ahead of your constituents—while taking actions that reveal you to be exactly that.

I’m not sure why I allowed myself the insane and naive luxury of fantasizing that you might restore our national faith in our leaders, that you might give us that movie moment that would bring us all together against all odds and give us a fighting chance to come out of this clusterfuck in one piece.

I was wrong. You’re a bad person, John McCain.

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One Big Dot

Over the course of the last year, your husband has been spotted all over town with a certain attractive young lady. Dining in restaurants, walking through the park, dancing at clubs, walking into and out of hotels, etc.

“She’s just a friend!” he says defensively when you confront him once again with news of the latest sighting.

“Well then why didn’t you just tell me you were going out with a friend?”

“I forgot. But look how honest I am to be telling you now!”

This happens over and over again. And again.

And again and again.

But you just know he’s not screwing her. You’re sure of it. He would never lie about that. He would never betray you that way. So why does he have to keep making you look like a jerk by frolicking about with a woman whose Snapchat profile simply reads “#DTF #HomeWrecker #MarriedMenFuckTheBest?”

The thing is, there’s just no “smoking gun,” no actual evidence, so what exactly are you supposed to do? You haven’t seen him put his penis in her vagina. Until you do, it’s all just lies and smears and hysteria from the jealous losers who are sharing these ridiculous stories (and videos and audio recordings and photos and tweets from your husband himself saying awkwardly complimentary things about the young lady). Sad!

Your friends begin to lose respect for you,rightly believing that you’re quite stupid for continuing to rationalize his denials and excuses. They also sense something that just hasn’t occurred to you: that it no longer even matters if he has ever actually fucked her—because even if you are never able to prove that he has, he’ll never be able to prove that he hasn’t.

This is the situation that our President finds himself in.

Our President is hopelessly, irredeemably, utterly compromised. I do not mean that in the sense in which it is typically used—i.e. I do not mean that Vladimir Putin necessarily has the pee tape or some other form of kompromat and is holding it over Donald Trump’s head in exchange for certain actions, although that may certainly be the case.

No, our President is even more compromised than that. Our President is so completely compromised that it no longer even matters what the underlying truth of the matter is. His words and actions (along with those of his family members) have created a web of lies, omissions, contradictions, suspicions, and conflicts that can never be sufficiently untangled.

Take, for example, the June 19th meeting at Trump Tower between Don Jr. and, at last count, roughly 847 shady characters, about half of which have/had some kind of connection to the Russian government, all of whom had to be revealed one-by-one after being told after the previous revelation that there was no one else to reveal. We have absolutely no idea what happened at that meeting and, as it happens, there wasn’t a single reputable, trustworthy person in the room whose account we have any reason to believe.

Now Robert Mueller will investigate this and get as close as he can to the truth, but the fact is that there’s not a single ending to even just this one story that, given the context, could possibly result in anyone being able to say “Oh, well that was all clearly a misunderstanding,” unless of course there were cameras in the room and it turns out they really just had a totally innocuous chit chat about adoption after jokingly arranging the meeting under the pretense of exchanging dirt about Hillary Clinton that was hacked by a foreign government.

Try to invent an explanation that works. It can’t be done.

Yesterday we learned that Trump, amid all of this, somehow could not resist getting up from his seat at a G20 dinner party, walking over to an open seat next to Vladmir Putin, and commencing to have a private, one-hour chat with ol’ Vlad and ol’ Vlad’s translator (without any other U.S. official or U.S. translator)—and that the White House inexplicably (and yet unsurprisingly) didn’t deign to inform the American people of this meeting until they were asked about it. We will never know what they discussed for that hour and neither party’s account, should they ever provide one, would be even marginally reliable.

The White House will continue to insist that these dots just don’t connect, but I’m here to say that it no longer matters whether the dots connect. There are so many dots now that they’ve basically merged into just one big, stupid fucking dot. If there was anywhere to draw the lines maybe they’d connect, maybe they wouldn’t. It just doesn’t matter.

As things stand, we have no good reason to think that our President might not be under the thumb of Russia’s malevolent and autocratic leader in one way or another. We have no good reason to doubt that Putin is either giving direct orders to our President and/or merely toying with the bumbling idiot in order to diminish our status, thereby improving his own. We have no good reason to believe that our President ever has or ever will put the nation’s interests ahead of his own.

Our President is compromised—not specifically, not narrowly, not by a particular entity, but wholly and irreparably.

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Donald Trump And The Plausible Unforeseeability Event Horizon

I think it’s fair to say that one of the things about the Trump campaign and presidency that has caused the most consternation, even among the most deeply cynical of observers, has been the non-response of congressional Republicans to a series of statements, events, behaviors, and tweets that are just objectively horrifying to everyone else, everywhere. It didn’t seem possible that I could hold the GOP in lower esteem than I did in 2015—and yet never in a million years could you have convinced me back then that they’d have stood idly by while Donald Trump insulted his way to the White House and proceeded to dismantle our reputation in the world with his staggering incompetence and immaturity.

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but if I am to maintain any shred of hope for the future of the Republic, I need an explanation for the systemic moral meltdown of the political class on the Republican side of the aisle. It can’t really be that they’re just this craven, right? If they are…well, then politics as we know it is dead and we might as well stop trying. As a last ditch effort to assume salvageable, underlying decency, I’d like to postulate the existence of a psychological phenomenon I call the Plausible Unforeseeability Event Horizon.

Before I describe this phenomenon, let me provide a little background. One of the most affecting books I’ve ever read is called The Fifty Minute Hour, written by the preeminent psychoanalyst Robert Lindner shortly before his death. Published in 1954, it’s a collection of four case studies of particularly compelling and complex patients Lindner worked with. The story that sticks in my head is of a young man, Charles, who stabbed a young woman sixty-nine times with an ice pick and then raped her.

As in each of Lindner’s stories, the layers of this man’s life are peeled back until, by the end, you can scarcely imagine a different ending. Even if you care to dismiss the Freudian analysis, the circumstances of Charles’s childhood were brutal and led, as I see it, inexorably toward a horrible conclusion. Maybe it was the “upbringing since the age of three in a sequence of religious orphanages, where he experienced sadistic beatings that pushed him to identify with his ‘tormentors’ and to become what Lindner calls ‘an afflictor, delighting in giving pain.'” Maybe it was being “plied with alcohol and beaten up by a gang” at the age of eleven. Or maybe it was being sent, at thirteen, “to live with foster parents on a farm, where he does odd jobs and is treated as little more than a farm animal.” Most likely, it was all of those things.

Whatever it was, this obviously raises questions about the kinds of collective and individual failures that produced such a troubled soul. What could society have done differently to protect Charles as a child? Who actively contributed to his psychopathology? Who saw the signs and did nothing? At what moment in Charles’s life did his future become inevitable or, at the very least, foreseeable? When did a bad outcome stop being plausibly unforeseeable?

The question I’ve been asking myself lately is a slight twist on this way of looking at human behavior—an attempt to do it in the present, rather than from the future. That question is this: Is there anything Donald Trump could do today that, when looked back upon in five, ten, twenty years, would seem even remotely surprising? If Donald Trump raped a waitress at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, would anyone be able to plausibly say “Oh god, I didn’t see that coming?” If Donald Trump strangled a reporter to death with his bare hands in response to a question he didn’t like, would anyone be able to plausibly say “Geez, there were no warning signs?” If Donald Trump stripped naked at the Lincoln Memorial and gave a wild-eyed speech demonstrating a very poor understanding of history and/or policy, would anyone be able to say “What the heck? He seemed so smart and normal before!”

The answer to all of those questions—indeed, the answer to any similarly structured question you can imagine about Donald Trump’s behavior—is an emphatic “No.” I defy anyone to suggest an act—short of displaying emotional maturity, intellectual aptitude, or human kindness—that would produce a different answer.

The fact that you won’t be able to do it suggests to me that at some specific moment in the last two years we crossed the Plausible Unforeseeability Event Horizon (PUEH).

And the psychology and politics changed for congressional Republicans the moment we crossed it. As we approached the PUEH, the incentive to denounce and distance themselves from the black hole that is Donald Trump increased at an exponential rate. On the other side of the PUEH, the incentives are essentially reversed. To say now that firing Comey was wrong, that leaking highly sensitive intelligence information to the Russians was bad, that whatever he does today is somehow worse or more dangerous than any of a thousand other things that have come before, would be character suicide. They couldn’t do it without admitting that they’d been wrong to give him passes on a thousand earlier transgressions and that they are thus manifestly unfit to take an unsupervised shit, let alone hold public office.

My gut sense is that the PUEH for Trump was probably the Access Hollywood tape. Intuitively, it felt at the time like openly admitting to being a serial sexual assaulter—someone who felt free to “grab ’em by the pussy”—should have been the last straw, despite it being not even the worst or most dangerous thing he’d done, said, or shown himself to be up to that point. And sure enough, Republicans came as close as they had to jumping ship, but couldn’t quite bring themselves to stop fucking that chicken. After all, the election was approaching, the tape had been recorded years earlier, it was locker room talk, Hillary did email, #Benghazi.

So they let themselves slip past the PUEH—and here we are. I’m not absolving them of their crimes against humanity. I’m merely suggesting that Republicans’ behavior now is perhaps more understandable from a psychological, self-preservation perspective than it was before they reached the PUEH, which is useless information unless they choose to learn from it, which they won’t.

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Actually, Healthcare Isn’t That Complicated

There’s been much ado about Donald Trump’s statement that “nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.” Before I get to the real point I want to make about this, let me just say something about these phrases: “A lot of people are saying,” “more than anyone has ever seen,” “no one can believe,” “bigger than anyone even knew.”

He uses these constantly. CONSTANTLY. These are the kinds of things you say when you need to impress but haven’t even bothered to fabricate any supporting data. They are utterly meaningless, content-free claptrap. They are almost always demonstrably false, but not the sort of thing that smart people waste anytime “fact-checking,” because the language is understood to be low-brow idiomatic and because it would be pretty absurd to report that “In the five or so minutes we spent working on this, we found no fewer than a dozen people who actually do believe [insert thing Trump said no one can believe].”

But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about here. What I want to do is push back a little against the notion that healthcare is really as complicated as Trump and the GOP would like us to believe.

Healthcare, as in the services provided by medical professionals is certainly complex and requires extensive learning and experience, but that’s not what Trump is talking about. He’s talking about the problem of ensuring access to healthcare for all Americans—and basically he’d just like us to know that it’s just too complicated for the plebs to understand so we should all please kindly just trust him and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to provide a tremendous plan that we’ll all really love.

This is a fun little trick for pulling the wool over peoples’ eyes and Republicans have been doing it in the healthcare debate for decades now. They’ve completely obfuscated the very simple yes-or-no question that lies at the heart of the debate. It’s a question that they don’t want to answer because both responses make them look bad; “yes” reveals them to be heartless bastards, while “no” invalidates everything they’ve ever claimed to believe on the subject.

I’ll get to the question by way of a short hypothetical:

Imagine a person we’ll call Willis. Willis has been a fall-down drunk asshole for as long as anyone has ever known him. He’s belligerent, violent, vulgar and mean. It’s easy to see how he ended up living all of his adult life on the streets. He’s ungrateful and rude to those who try to help him. Willis just plain sucks.

One night, in his usual state of stumbling blind inebriation, Willis walks in front of a bus and is grievously injured. He needs two things—transport to a hospital and immediate medical treatment—neither of which are “free,” (which is to say that while there is obviously a cost associated with police and fire department response, no one will be presented with an invoice for this specific incident).

The entirety of the real healthcare debate lies in the question of what you think should happen to Willis at this moment.

Free-market orthodoxy would dictate that if Willis is unable to pay (or unlikely to be able to pay, i.e. with credit) for the services he needs, no one is obligated to provide them. Willis made a lifetime’s worth of bad choices that led to his current predicament. Why should anyone provide tens of thousands of dollars in products and services to an indigent jerk who will never pay a nickel for any of it? This is an extremely compelling argument. I happen to disagree with it vehemently, but it is nevertheless rational, idealistic and worthy of being given voice and consideration in the debate.

Having said that, anyone wishing to take that position must be willing to extrapolate out consistently from the relatively easy case of Willis to less tidy hypothetical cases involving human beings who are more inherently sympathetic than Willis—people whose life choices have been more relatable, people who have fallen on hard times under circumstance beyond their control, people who have young children, etc. The vast majority of cases involve individuals and families who are more likable than Willis, but the fundamental facts of those cases are, when you get right down to it, identical to his: someone needs products and services they cannot afford; the free market demands that they be denied those products and services.

If you are unwilling to make that argument, you have wholly abdicated the free market position. The moment you admit that you are unwilling to let Willis or any other hypothetical or real person go untreated for inability to pay, you have become a socialist where healthcare is concerned. In terms of policy, a person simply cannot hold that a single mother working three jobs to stay afloat should receive treatment for ovarian cancer while Willis should be denied care—unless of course you want the government to get into the business of making value judgments about who is deserving of care. Talk about death panels.

Look, I’ll say it again—I see the appeal of the free-market argument. It is beautifully and phlegmatically simple. Conservatives should make this argument because it is the only intellectually consistent argument against universal healthcare for all. Nay, conservatives must make this argument if they wish to oppose establishing healthcare as a basic human right. It’s easy to see why they’d rather not; they don’t want to be seen as the kind of raging assholes who would argue that Willis should be left to die in the road or that a single mom with cancer should be denied treatment, but they face a brutal conundrum: they want the system to function in precisely that way without ever having to argue that it should.

This is why people think the healthcare debate is so complicated. We’re pretending to have a debate about healthcare, but what we’re really doing is muddling through a smokescreen the GOP has deployed in the form of a faux debate about things that are fundamentally unrelated to health and care, namely, unpleasant features of the private health insurance market: deductibles, co-pays, premiums, pre-existing condition exclusions, continuous coverage requirements, denial of services, etc.—all of which are just a bunch of knobs and levers designed to ensure that insurance companies can make and grow profits off of our need for healthcare services.  This is complicated, but it’s complicated by design.

Look, I am decidedly not arguing that insurance is bad. Insurance is an inherently socialistic scheme that I wholeheartedly approve of. It is nothing more or less than a way to pool risk so that when someone gets sick or injured, they don’t have to bear the full brunt of the costs. It’s kind of a perverse lottery; your premiums are the price of entry and those who hit the “jackpot” of illness or injury get a payout straight from the pockets of other people who weren’t lucky enough to “win.” That payout comes in the form of paid medical bills.

Let me elucidate this point by reframing a couple common complaints in lottery terms:

Complaint: “My premiums are too high!”

Translation: “These lottery tickets are too expensive.”

Response: Fine, drop out and pay cash for services.

___

Complaint: “My deductible is too high!”

Translation: “The taxes on my winnings are too high!”

Response: Too bad. It was all spelled out on paper before you bought your ticket. You had the choice to drop out and pay cash for services.

Yes, I know that Obamacare forced people to buy health insurance. I have two things to say about that. First, the penalty functions essentially as a tax to cover whatever we’re all going to have to pay for when you get sick or injured and can’t afford to pay your bills. It’s a nominal amount, especially if you make over $100,000 (roughly where the 2.5% of household income is capped).

Second, and more important, look at this:

Out-of-pocket healthcare costs were rising precipitously before Obamacare. Complaints about health insurance didn’t start in 2010 and they won’t stop if Obamacare is repealed. They also won’t stop if Obamacare is not repealed, because Obamacare is still a free-market system.

Back to my point: once you’ve signed onto the idea of health insurance as a good thing people should do, and if you’re not willing to let Willis die on the street, there is literally not a single good reason on the face of the earth not to a) put everyone in the same pool and b) stop letting a bunch of fat cats profit from our suffering. It’s not that that’s they’re doing so malevolently, necessarily. It’s just that for-profit health insurance is a casino—and in a casino, the house always wins. The house must win; shareholders must profit, executives must be paid exorbitant sums, the beast must be fed.

In a single-payer system, there are no such requirements. We all just pay the cost to run the lottery. Obviously, there are philosophical debates to be had about how such a system should operate—Should smokers pay more into the pool? Is birth control covered at the same level as Viagra? Does it make sense to spend hundreds of thousands on last-ditch, low efficacy treatment for terminal patients?—and so on. But those are honest debates about how to administer the pool equitably, about how to achieve the best possible health outcomes for the greatest number of people at the lowest cost.

I’ll take those debates every time over the casuistic garbage debate we’re having now between one side that views healthcare as a basic human right and one that won’t explicitly argue against healthcare as a basic human right but which also insists on the letting the market prevail, which is functionally the same as saying healthcare is not a basic human right.

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The President Is Insane

Here’s what you need to understand about Donald Trump’s voter fraud allegations:

Donald Trump is not asserting that some individual or entity hacked into the election system and shifted three to five million votes into Hillary Clinton’s vote total in a failed effort to hand the election to her. That would be a wild-eyed conspiracy theory for which there is no proof, but one that would at least have the benefit of being conceivable as something that someone(s) might actually aspire or conspire to do.

That is not what Donald Trump is asserting.

Donald Trump is asserting that three to five million individuals took it upon themselves to do one or more of the following things:

  • register purposefully in two ore more states or find themselves accidentally registered in two or more states (most likely because they moved) and decide to vote in two or more of those states, even though doing so is a third-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in jail and $10,000
  • purposefully maintain the registration of one or more dead persons and proceed to impersonate that person or persons for the purpose of casting one or more additional votes on their behalf even though doing so is a third-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in jail and $10,000
  • somehow register and vote despite being a non-citizen

Donald Trump is also asserting that those three to five million individuals cast all of those extra votes for Hillary Clinton. Every last one of them—and he’s not even bothering to allege that there was a conspiracy between them, organized by some malevolent person or people. No, this just happened organically, apparently.

Now here’s the important thing: if a person or persons could pull of hacking the whole system and flooding it with votes for a particular candidate, that might well be a risk worth taking for someone of sufficiently low moral character and sufficiently high resources and know-how. The risk-benefit analysis for Joe the Voter, however, is vastly different. It would require an especially stupid person to even waste the effort required, let alone risk prosecution, to cast just one extra ballot in a sea of over one hundred twenty million votes.

This is a very insane thing for the duly elected President of the United States to be talking about. It did not happen. It could not have happened. There is no evidence that it happened. His investigation will not find that anything like it happened.

It’s not even a lie, per se. It’s just an incredibly stupid thing he chooses to believe as a defense mechanism to protect his singularly fragile ego. He can’t fathom that Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than he did so his childlike brain just lurched toward the first idiotic thing it could come up with. Fortunately for him, his supporters are exactly the sort of people to whom it sounds like something that probably definitely happened. Their brains are tuned to this frequency. Of course millions of liberals and/or brown people conspired to steal the election from Donald Trump, risking ten years in jail when every indication was that he’d lose anyway.

For the record, my wife and I moved to a different state last September. We registered in our new state the moment we arrived and, sure enough, we received our ballots in the mail from the old one (which does all elections by mail). Can you guess what we, a couple of foaming-at-the-mouth Hillary fanatics did? We tore those mail ballots up and threw them away.

Look, it’s very simple: the President is insane. No one will ever convince me that he’s making machiavellian use of some sort of authoritarian playbook and that this or any other bit of insanity he spews is a distraction or a tactic that is part of some larger conscious strategy. There is no authoritarian playbook—there are only the totally predictable actions and reactions of verifiably insane people. Insecure, sociopathic narcissists will always reject any assertion that they are not superior human beings in every conceivable way. Insecure, sociopathic narcissists will do anything and everything possible to destroy anyone who says otherwise. Insecure, sociopathic narcissists will never do a single thing that they do not perceive to be in their own interest.

Donald Trump is an insecure, sociopathic narcissist and we are now along for the ride. He will never stop, he will never surrender. He will drive himself and the rest of us right off the cliff if that’s what it takes to maintain his delusional image of himself.

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Dear Kellyanne

Dear Kellyanne,

Hey girl. What’s up? Just checking on you. Seems like maybe you could use a little unwind, disconnect, touch base…whatever…just a second to sort of step away and look at things from the outside.

Hey, do you remember that one time when you took this gig because you thought you could bring some professionalism and stability to the situation? Hahaha, those were good times. I admired you for that. I didn’t think it would work because there are just some beasts that can’t be tamed, but I figured it was worth a shot. Someone had to try, anyway.

And what was the worst that could happen, right? If things got untenable, you’d just walk away and never look back, knowing that you gave it your best, as a professional and as a patriot. Right?

Sure, there were times when I was all like “Oh my god, is she actually saying this right now?” but then you’d turn around and let loose with a little flash of brazen dissent from within, undoubtedly knowing it could mean your ass, and I’d be super proud. I’m sure it was a thrill for you too. I’m sure it made you feel like you were boldly doing what you set out to do.

And ultimately it all seemed pretty harmless because he wasn’t going to win. There was no way he was going to win. He couldn’t win.

When he did win (sort of), honestly, I was horrified for you. I knew you didn’t really, in your heart of hearts, want that to happen. You just wanted him to do less damage to the party on his way to defeat. Right? And so I was sure you’d find the exit as quickly and gracefully as possible.

But you didn’t. And not only that, you seemed to be relishing the victory with a mean spirit—more like that vile parasite Omarosa than like my old friend Kellyanne.

I think you’re still in there, old friend, but I’m not sure. It’s getting harder and harder to tell. It’s most difficult in those moments when it is no longer clear to me that you understand that you’re part of something uniquely malevolent. There used to be a knowingness in your eyes and in your tone that said “I know, I get it, let me do my job here the best I can.”

That shrewdness is completely gone now. For example, you seem to be in earnest when you complain about the way the press treats your boss, as if you can’t see—as the old Kellyanne would have been able to see—that they’re asking legitimate questions and you’re giving seriously insufficient, false, and/or misleading ones. You actually appear to feel persecuted.

Do you get it, old friend? Do you get that they’re not the wrong ones here? Do you get that you are working for a man who represents an existential threat to the republic and that probably the biggest piece of that threat is the way he manipulates information through people like you?

I’m not sure you do anymore. It’s not exactly Stockholm Syndrome, but something very similar appears to be at play here, because you are not the person you were. You are not doing the work you set out to do. You are not thinking of your family, your nation, your principles.

You are not the Kellyanne I knew.

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On Golden Showers: Perception Is Everything

Donald Trump may or may not have hired Russian prostitutes to pee on him in a bed the Obamas once slept in. Vladimir Putin may or may not have video evidence of Russian prostitutes peeing on Donald Trump in a bed the Obamas once slept in. Trump and/or members of his team may or may not be compromised by knowledge that Putin has video evidence of Donald Trump being peed on by Russian prostitutes in a bed the Obamas once slept in.

Also, the Russians may or may not have other “compromising personal and financial information” about Trump.

Here’s the thing: it does not matter whether any of this is true or not. All that matters is that it seems entirely plausible that it might be.

There is not a single aspect of today’s bombshell revelation that is not COMPLETELY consistent with all of the available evidence we have about Trump, his character, his campaign, and/or his motives. I’m not even passing moral judgment on the alleged act, necessarily; I’m merely saying that Donald Trump could conceivably be compromised in any and/or every way, by anyone and/or everyone imaginable because he has never displayed a shred of evidence a) that he conforms to or even marginally respects any social norms, b) that he is motivated by anything other than pure self interest, or c) that he is not a puppet of Vladimir Putin.

The financial aspect is, of course, far more disturbing and potentially damaging to American interests—and if we could see Trump’s taxes perhaps we could at least set those concerns aside. But we can’t, apparently—and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a Trump presidency will always be tainted by a completely fair concern that he is acting not in America’s best interests, but out of base self-interest and/or desperate self-preservation.

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The Infantilism Of Saying ‘Bernie Would Have Won’

Can we please talk for a moment about the idiocy of the people responsible for creating and propagating the sort of nonsense you see below…

Allow me to attempt an analogy:

You’re camping way out in the middle of nowhere with nine friends. While doing some hardcore nature shit one late afternoon, one of your friends suffers a grievous injury. A bear attack maybe. Or whatever stupid crap happens when you leave the safety and comfort of civilization. Anyway, it’s bad and you need to get this friend to a hospital before he bleeds to death.

All ten of you pile into the big-ass van you rented for this trip and head for help. It’s a long trip, but there is a shortcut. No one in your group has ever taken the shortcut before. It is understood to be a somewhat treacherous, off-road type of excursion, complete with narrow, cliffside, crumbling rock type shit—but it might could trim an hour off the ride and it would sure as hell be an awesome adventure.

There is much debate as the van approaches the fork in the road. Four members of the group are, like, super enthusiastic about taking the shortcut, regarding it as the only morally responsible choice. Everyone else can sort of see their point but think there’s something to be said for the whole “slow and steady wins the race” thing,” not to mention the advantages of familiarity. They know the regular route well, warts and all—and as night falls, they simply feel better about navigating its paved roads than taking a chance on this alleged miracle route.

A final vote is taken and the Historically Reliable Course (HRC) prevails. The van reaches the fork, stays to the [slight] right, and passes the point of no return. Four hours to go.

The course is set, but the brouhaha continues. Moral recriminations abound. The “shortcut-or-bust” (SOB) people are fucking pissed and they insist on continuing an argument that becomes less and less relevant with every passing mile marker.

The tide starts to turn, but ever so slowly.

One hour in, one SOB peels off. S/he’s not enthusiastic about the HRC but sees that the important thing is getting to the hospital. S/he also sees that the equation might ultimately boil down to six of one, half dozen of another. S/he continues, however, to defend the virtue of the remaining SOB stalwarts.

Two hours in, another SOB lapses into resigned silence. “The HRC is the road we’re on,” s/he reasons. “I hate the HRC, but there’s no use fighting over it now.” S/he makes no effort to broker peace.

Three hours in, a third SOB resigns in protest, asking to be let out of the van to plot an alternative route that no one else has yet considered. The driver obliges him.

With the lights of the city in view, the final SOB holdout is still causing a general ruckus. He can’t let it go. Everyone is exhausted and angry. The driver is exhausted, angry, demoralized and distracted by the ongoing screaming match. S/he drifts across the center line, into the path of a speeding Mack 18-wheeler hauling 10,000 metric shit-tons of flammable toxic waste mixed with the waste of a million county fair porta-potties.

The semi slices through the van like butter and the remnants of the van explode. Everyone is killed. The semi remains intact except for a gash in the side that begins to leak its noxious contents wherever it goes. Several miles down the road it crushes to death the former occupant of the van who was wandering like a lost idiot across the road in search of a third path.

All ten occupants of the van arrive in the afterlife together. To no one’s surprise, the lone remaining SOB extremist—dumb, sanctimonious piece of shit that he is—launches into the most despicable, self-serving, intellectually vapid, historically revisionist tirade imaginable: I TOOOOLLLLLD YOU WE SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE SHORTCUT! I FUCKING TOLD YOU!!! IF WE’D TAKEN THE SHORTCUT, WE’D BE AT THE HOSPITAL RIGHT NOW INSTEAD OF DEAD!

It is, of course, impossible to know where they’d be right now if they’d taken the shortcut. Maybe they would, in fact, be at the hospital. Or maybe they would have plunged off a cliff and suffered the same fate. All we can know for sure is that a) they are all currently dead, b) useless, petulant infighting clearly played a major role in that outcome, and c) attempting to blame the initial choice is unfathomably reckless, obtuse, deluded and infantile.

When Bernie-or-Busters say “Bernie would have won,” they’re saying that the Democratic primary electorate should have collectively acquiesced to their grotesque hostage-taking antics; they’re admitting that they actively or passively got Donald Trump elected because we didn’t give them what they wanted; they’re conceding that Trump’s election is a cataclysmic outcome that could have been avoided, but only if we’d done it the way they prescribed because they are more important than everyone else.

But here’s the most disgusting thing: while minorities and women and children and scientists and military personnel and LGBTQ people and creatures that think and breath oxygen are cowering in fear of what a Trump administration will bring, these self-righteous fucksticks are taking a joyous victory lap because the catastrophic thing they insisted (threatened) would happen, a thing they were in a position to keep from happening if they’d just pulled their heads out of their asses, happened. (“Don’t bet on that horse, it will lose.” [Beats horse’s legs mercilessly with a tire iron. Gives steroids to another horse. ] “See, I told you it would lose.”)

So let me just say this to the SOB’s: You are infants. You are assholes. You are incomprehensibly stupid people. I hope you are the first to suffer and/or die in Trump’s America.

 

 

 

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It’s Time To Change The Way We Talk About Trump’s Tweets

It’s easy for those of us who live in the Twitter bubble to forget that Twitter is just not that terribly popular in the United States. It’s hard to pin down what percentage of the population uses it with any regularity, but as far as I can tell it’s not much more than 10% of the population. Facebook, by way of comparison, is closer to 60%, which amounts to the vast majority of the adult population.

Ask someone who is not at all familiar with Twitter about Twitter and they’re likely to scoff and tell you they can’t be bothered with learning what it is exactly or how to use it. It might as well be the Snapchats. You’ll immediately realize that they regard Twitter with a distant non-fascination, as some sort of newfangled gimmick—as though it is anything more or less than another means of conveying messages with words and images. 

I’ve begun to get the sense that when non-tweeters hear about “Trump’s tweets,” they regard them as something distinct from Trump’s words, Trump’s statements, Trump’s press releases, Trump’s recorded voice admitting to serially sexually assaulting women, etc. In other words, they seem to rank the contents of tweets beneath other forms of communication in terms of how seriously they should be taken.

When someone like John McCain says to reporters “I’m not talking about Trump. I’m not talking about Trump. I’m not talking about Trump,” as he did yesterday, it’s abundantly clear that the frustration he’s giving voice to comes from the constant barrage of questions related to the constant barrage of tweets emanating from Trump’s tiny tweeting fingertips.

It’s impossible to keep up, obviously…but also, I would argue, McCain feels entitled to be dismissive of questions about tweets because he barely knows what tweets are. I find it hard to believe he’d be as cavalier if Trump were communicating by other, more official means.

This phenomenon is also evident in the scolding of liberals who chastise people for reacting to “Trump’s tweets,” as if they’re any less worthy of reaction than his words and actions in other venues.

The bottom line is that I don’t think we help matters when we talk about “Trump’s tweets” instead of just saying “Trump said ‘[insert dangerous, idiotic, and/or offensive words here].'” If they come from Trump’s Twitter account, they are nothing more or less than the words of the President-elect of the United States of America. Trump did not put a nickel into a mechanical bird which then uttered something insane. Trump was not possessed by the spirit of an ancient bird spirit that forced him to say something insane.

Trump simply said something insane…on Twitter.

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On Slut Shaming Melania Trump

There is a curious response to the sharing of nude photos of Melania Trump via social media wherein a certain type of liberal commenter immediately jumps to the conclusion that she is being slut shamed. I understand and appreciate the underlying impulse, but it is wrong.

Take this meme, for example…

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Personally, I have no problem whatsoever with this photo in terms of provenance or content. It was not hacked nor was it shared by an angry ex-lover; it was the product of a photo shoot for a French men’s magazine, clearly intended for public consumption. There was no expectation of privacy surrounding her participation in this photo shoot, which she was paid for. Indeed, as far as I am aware, none of the racy photos of the soon-to-be First Lady currently in circulation come from sources that could be characterized as illegitimate.

As far as content…well, again, I just have no problem with anything I’m seeing here. I see two beautiful women locked in a sensual embrace. I have no problem with people displaying their nude bodies. I have no problem with people engaging in sexual acts between consenting adults. I have no problem with homosexuality. In other words, there is nothing to be ashamed of here. If I share it, as a person who has no moral objection to its content, I am not shaming anyone involved in the photo.

So what about the sort of person who thinks a photo like this is something to be ashamed of? What of the people who buy into and perpetuate the idea of sluttiness as a construct? It is only from their perspective that sharing this photo might be called slut shaming. The goal of sharing it is to make them confront it from their sexually repressed little corner of the universe…the corner from which they so often like to judge some people but not others.

I celebrate this photo, just as I would celebrate a similar photo involving Michelle Obama if such a photo existed, which it does not. My position is 100% consistent in all real and imagined versions of reality. The same cannot be said for those on the other side of the political spectrum.

It is important to note here that the reverse situation would very much be slut shaming. A hypothetical conservative citizen who views such things as morally repugnant who shared, as the above meme imagines, a similar photo of Michelle Obama would clearly be motivated by a desire to debase her in the eyes of likeminded fellow citizens.

Both beauty and shame are in the eye of the beholder. As liberals, we are not responsible for the shame that conservatives attach to the naked human form, to homosexuality, to guilt-free participation in sexual activity of various kinds with various partners of various genders. If they are ashamed of what they see here, perhaps they should have objected to it with the same vociferousness with which they happily attack the LGBTQ community with words, actions and pieces of legislation.

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