Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I think taking the time to take stock of your blessings in life is a great thing. The troubles of the world weigh on us, sometimes lighter than they should. If I am thankful for my full plate, I have to also know that there are people whose larder has been bare. If I am thankful for my heat and light and access to the world through the internet, I also have to understand what it is to be without these things. If I am thankful for my health, I have to also remember those who are without health care, or who soon could be. If I am thankful for the safety of my home, I have to also think of those who might have no home, or might lose their home. If I am thankful for the love I have enjoyed in my life, it needs to be balanced by knowing the love that has been denied  (and is still being denied). If I am thankful for my education, I need to acknowledge that getting a good education is still a struggle for so many.

What I am thankful for, and humbled by, is the gift of perspective. I could be unhappy about the things I do not have, but find the only desire I should by rights want is the ability to work to make anything better for anyone else because of the gifts I do have. And understanding that creates purpose to me, and a better appreciation for all of it.

I could almost pity someone with no perspective, or empathy, or appreciation of the power and wealth dumped in their lap, lacking all capacity to better the life of a single deprived soul because knowing how isn't in them. But of that particular knowledge and blessing, I find myself bereft. And perhaps, it's just as well. Recognizing obstacles that need to be removed is also a kind of perspective.

Stating my Possibly Unpopular Opinion Re: Rep. Barton

There are a couple of things about l'affaire Barton that I think, just being a reasonable person, don't seem all that scandalous. He divorced in 2015. He had some consenting relationships with adult women. He sent them communications of a sexual nature. One of the women seems to have felt some way about having competition, and shared material that was intended to remain private. He advised her beforehand that this was a bad idea and not without repercussions.

Here's the thing--releasing a graphic video or photos of someone in an intimate situation because it screws with them when that person did not want it out and about is called "revenge porn". It is a crime in many states, and a damn nasty trick to pull on someone. All things considered, if he and the individual who released the material had a relationship that was cool and consensual at one point, and he felt like opening up in this way, turning around and using his vulnerability against him is just not cool, whether he is a US Congressman or a total political hack or has garbage opinions about the environment or health care, or any other thing totally not related to a naked video of Rep. Joe Barton making the rounds on social media.  He's a person who has a right to not have his private shit thrown out in the street like this.

I also have a problem with the body-shaming comments getting made about a video that was not ever made for mass consumption--also not cool, not necessary, not really an apt criticism. A dude in his 60's with a mostly desk-related job might not be your idea of pleasing to the eye. Got it. But he never made that for you. He made that for someone he thought would appreciate it and not actually release it to the broader public, because why in the hell would someone do that?

Which is kind of where judgment does come into this situation. When you send any material digitally to someone else, you run the risk of it being reproduced or forwarded to who knows how many other people. Being a person in his political position, he should have been well aware of the risk to his reputation if it ever came out--but he was being trusting. He just didn't think. Things being what they are, though, one always has to be thinking.  And I guess I can see where social conservatives may see this in a different light than I do.

There is precious little overlap between me and Barton politically, but I think he's getting some blowback about this story and its framing that is not entirely fair. It's not about him--it's about whether this is ever a way anyone should try to screw over a romantic/sexual partner if things end poorly. And I say this is not OK. If he's in jeopardy related to his job, it should be because he's said dumb stuff about wind being a finite resource or that we should apologize to BP over the Gulf oil spill, or has nonsense ideas about workers' rights and minimum wage and other right wing claptrap. It should be at the ballot box he gets his, and not over this.

Unless it turns out he sent that to be creepy or abusive to someone who never wanted it or some garbage like that. But the story so far doesn't seem to make him out to be that guy.

UPDATE: I guess it might be a factor in considering Barton's overall ethics that he was likely still married when he began his relationship, but this really still wouldn't have any bearing on whether it's appropriate to digitally pimp someone's business.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Stress of Their Disregard

The reckoning we've been having over sexual harassment has been piling on names and stories of harassment and assault in a way that that can tend to enervate.  For some, it's a reminder of their own assault, harassment, or other abuse; for others, a discovery that the world is populated by too many abusive men entrusted with too much power over others' livelihoods; or maybe it's a mixture of both. It can be a shock to recognize the blind eye that has been turned to the abuse of others from people who considered themselves protected, or to come to terms with the degree that people with quite clear vision aided and covered up the exploitation and dismissal of the humanity of other people for their own personal reasons. 

It's a fucking lot to accept, although a lot of people who have been through it kind of already knew. The insult added to all this injury is the commentary of people who either haven't grasped the pain and waste of all this cultural sexual/sexist bullshit, or will happily lay the blame for all this at the feet of the victims. 

A lot of the handwringing has been about how the allegations against powerful men will now derail their careers and cast a pall over whatever work they've done--there's a better point to be made (as Caroline Framke at Vox has done) about how abusers have been gatekeepers that have hounded out and silenced good talented people from their fields. They could have brilliantly mentored them, building teams and encouraging fledgling enthusiasm, but chose to just be petty and treat them with a kind of disregard. I think of Charlie Rose, saying that he felt that he was "pursuing shared feelings". He, the celebrated interviewer--could not be bothered to ask the women what they felt? No--he disregarded them. Their feelings did not matter. The good, productive journalism they could have assisted in did not matter.

I feel the same sort of recognition regarding the allegations against Rep. John Conyers.  This employee was disregarded. The patterns of protection from his circle against the accuser's claims just seem too familiar to discount. Her ability to do her job was jeopardized by the very person she was working for. How can that be productive? Whatever good Rep. Conyers has done, I have to consider this sort of thing very seriously because it speaks to his effectiveness as a public servant. 

With the politicization of sexual harassment,  sexual abuse, and rape claims, the defenses are not a great look for any culture. We learn that Congress really has created a system where sexual malefactors never learn from their fuckups.  We learn that anti-gay activist Tony Perkins is okay with same-sex sexual harassment, if the perpetrator is also vocally anti-gay and in the process of gathering political power.  These are examples of disregard--people not caring who is harmed. 

In the defense of former Judge Roy Moore, the arguments go further: Pastor Flip Benham claims Roy Moore may have favored underage girls because older women were either married or tainted. It's disgustingly reminiscent of the abstinence lessons that compare a woman who has lost her virginity to chewed gum.  It disregards a woman's value as being about anything but what is between her legs. Pastor Earl Wise performs an astonishing act of victim-blaming, managing to cite the young girls being pursued as having asked for it and looking like they were 20 years old, anyway.  I would be interested to know if Pastor Wise has made this mistake about the age of young girls, himself, and whether he ever felt himself the prey of their "sweet dreams". 

What I don't hear in any of these arguments is any empathy for why these accusations are being made, or any acceptance that Moore may have behaved inappropriately at all. The accusers are disregarded. But of all shocking defenses, I have to go to Stephen Moore--who equated Roy Moore's underage predation with...being pro-choice.  Of all the nonsensical claims that could be made his has the worst math. Both the issues of reproductive choice and not getting raped rely on a respect for bodily autonomy and the world where support for reproductive liberty equals child molestation only exists where one divides both sides by the proposition that women have no rights that a man need respect.  This is horrific. Women, their right to and ownership of their bodies, are disregarded. For the sake, as near as I can tell, of tax cuts. 

And of course, President Trump likes Moore too. And he would.

This is the disregard that stresses us; the claims that we are liars when we talk about our abuse, or that our abuse doesn't matter because we are taking things the wrong way. This is the narrative that we don't know what is best for us, and the lie that our careers are only made possible by support of "great men". This is the dismissal of children's innocence. This is the blame that falls on victims. This is sexism and class war.   This is religion reinforcing a cultural crime. 

And while I hate it all, I am glad we are finally airing it out, even though there will be lies, and bullshit, and tears all around. Because too many people have been disregarded and we need to stop and recognize we all benefit when we all can live our potential. 

The above scene is Bernini's Apollo and Daphne. Daphne was a nymph pursued by Apollo who chose to be a tree rather than succumb to his advances. Things happen in mythology for reasons.  The title of this post is a call-back to the novel by Tim Powers, The Stress of Her Regard. Who got his title from here. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The TrumpWorld Grab-Bag That Wore It Well

Sometimes, I try too hard to pull off a cohesive TrumpWorld Grab-Bag, and the effect is somewhat like Carter Page in the above pic--suited up for serious business, but with a jaunty little red something or other, like that rolled-rim bucket hat, a signifier of being the Cardinal of Casual.  Sure, he can say he was warding off the sun from his otherwise unprotected pate on a sunny Washington, DC day--but that's boring. He was dropping off subpoenaed documents, and I feel like he was sending a little semaphore by haberdashery. "Red hat at morning, co-conspirators take warning," perhaps? 

We will just have to see. It looks like an investigation that involves the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and a Special Counsel certainly takes a lot of documents. The DOJ has been sent a request by Special Counsel Mueller to send over a broad array of docs, some centering on the firing of FBI Director Jim Comey, which wasn't really supposed to involve AG Jeff Sessions but kind of did, because he recused himself for reasons that are both obvious and really need to be explained.  It's probably a good idea to get a paper trail on Sessions' business, because as has been previously elaborated upon, his memory could be called "fickle".

But I guess when in the heat of getting campaign advisors together or sorting out a chaotic transition, things can often be forgotten--for example, would you believe Jared Kushner forgot to disclose that he had some other Russian contact and maybe a little Wikileaks contact too? That is such a weird thing to forget to mention on your security clearance application, like forgetting maybe a hundred or so other things?  

But stuff gets forgotten all the time. George Papadopoulous was practically forgotten, but apparently not everybody is willing to leave his arrested, plead, co-operating behind out in the cold

(Remember, in case this bizarre quality of folks like G-Papa and Page get you wondering "Who the hell even let these guys on this campaign?" the answer is probably Sam Clovis, who had very special feelings about Russia for some time. )

But in case the rogue's gallery of characters we know quite well haven't complicated things enough--there's probably a talk between Rob Goldstone and the Special Counsel's team coming up. Congressional investigators want to look more deeply into the Russian side of the Trump Tower meeting that happened last year. And there are still so many questions out there about what the hell Mike Flynn was doing.  It looks like these several avenues of investigation will wear well into the future. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Reckoning is Never Gentle

This year has brought about a kind of collective reckoning about how people, men, mostly, have abused their power relationships with other people sexually. We're listening to women and men come out about how egregious behavior by others who should have certainly known better have hurt them and impacted their lives. I think this is a good thing. It's past time we collectively as a society wanted accountability for how people treat one another, and for the real damage done by gross, selfish, unethical and deliberately or negligently harmful behaviors to get the discussion that is due. 

And that means sometimes saying that some individuals who did really good work that you appreciated just need to get cut off--like Bill Cosby. As I relentlessly bore youse with, I am from Philadelphia, and Cosby could have gone anywhere, but he was a native son here and he went to Temple. I grew up with Fat Albert. I watched The Cosby Show and Picture Pages.   (Although A Different World, a spin-off from The Cosby Show, was definitely more my favorite show--because the original kind of has some Brady Bunch vibes, but I just liked where A Different World was coming from. Debbie Allen was the creative mind influencing later episodes of that show, and of course, I loved her since Fame.)  Like, every comedian I came across for years had to have a Cosby impression going on. His HBO specials where he discussed fatherhood and his life were great decent material.  He was a major influence on culture, and some comics today can still talk about him with reverence because he did do some great work--

But he also did so many shitty things. And eventually, that is what people will remember, because that's how it goes. And it's sad. I won't think less of his work product, necessarily, but I will have to reckon with the damage that went into it. And that is ugly. 

Same thing with Kevin Spacey--if I were to go back in time and tell 1999 me, just getting out of a theater having taken a half-day from work because I just thought I wanted to take in a movie in a mostly-empty theater and really appreciate American Beauty, that in my timeline, Kevin Spacey came out in 2017.  I loved that movie so hard

1999 Me: Hey, that is really great. I'm glad he's finally able to live his truth. I know it's hard to come out in his business and there's a danger of being typecast, but with his talent... 
          2017 Me: He came out to deflect from being a serial abuser and rapist of young men and boys

          1999 Me: Fuck everything he even thinks about into tiny little pieces and set them on fire. 

And I would have meant it then. And I mean it now--sometimes the truth hurts but you have to take it--even someone whose work you really like. It's true if the artist is someone you know, the way Sarah Silverman talks about Louis CK :

“One of my best friends of over 25 years, Louis C.K., masturbated in front of women,” she continued. “He wielded his power with women in -—ed up ways, sometimes to the point where they left comedy entirely. I could couch this with heartwarming stories of our friendship and what a great dad he is, but that’s totally irrelevant, isn’t it? Yes, it is. It’s a real mindf—, because I love Louis. But Louis did these things. Both of those statements are true. So I just keep asking myself, ‘Can you love someone who did bad things? Can you still love them?’ I can mull that over later certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims. They are victims and they are victims because of something he did. So I hope it’s OK that I am, at once, very angry for the women he wronged and the culture that enabled it, and also sad, because he’s my friend. But I believe with all my heart that this moment in time is essential. It’s vital that people are held accountable for their actions, no matter who they are. We need to be better. We will be better. I can’t -—ing wait to be better.”

What she said. So, taking in that Al Franken, who has been a solid liberal voice, and a capable US Senator, has behaved in ways that are inappropriate with respect to female coworkers in any setting, my instinct is to believe the accuser, to look at the picture without trying to deflect that he seems to be miming groping only, or that he touched her for the sake of "comedy", as if that made autonomy and personal choice about being touched less important.

Of course what he did was wrong. The thing with being a real feminist or ally is owning up to the failures of people to be who we need them to be regardless of how they mostly represent themselves as. I don't need an 80% anti harassment ally. I need a 100% ally, because that 20% is what keeps sexism and inequality going strong. I think people should acknowledge their bullshit and understand why their bullshit was wrong, and promise to never go back on their bullshit. I think Franken did a good ego-check based on his statement of apology and contrition, and called for his own senate investigation. He isn't deflecting. He's here to do the work. I can support that kind of accountability. I can also pick apart why it is stupid to carry out a mime-groping of a sleeping individual and sympathize with her dismay about what people saw fit to do around her while she was unconscious and incapable of consent and mourn how that was not transparently beyond the pale for them.

It's a reckoning. I like Al Franken and think he does good work, and am proud of him for calling for his own investigation. I don't think he's probably abusive as a general rule, and recognize that comedy can be about exploring edges, and might sometimes encroach on shibboleths, so I don't hold his comedic speculations against him as "proofs" of eventual poor behavior. I truly think proportionality is an essential part of justice.

But yeah. I also have to check in that what Franken did was sexist bullshit that took no input regarding the woman he was working with. That is wrong.

But like the vicious partisan I am, I need to also remark on this:

Yeah. Trump is still also an abuser, and has done worse than Franken as far as we have heard alleged. So I don't think Mr. Glasshouse should be using his slingshot like that right now.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

I'm Not Saying Roy Moore's Attorney is a Scoundrel, But...

I think the amazing thing about this is I'm trying to imagine the POV of a person who thinks it is OK to reference someone's apparent nationality of origin to presuppose they are capable of understanding the moral relativity of perving on underage girls, because, you know. Like arranged child marriages n' shit. It is possible this individual has really failed to ever leave the bubble of his own culture this hard? I almost want to see how this spectacular televised bigot-fail even made it into production from a somewhat-educated individual's head, and I just can't.

Look, deep down, I try to not be the liberal coastal elitist queer working-class anti-racist commuter-college BA having atheist that red state folk might have difficulty understanding. And yet, such is my life. I get I'm not accessible on all levels to all readers. 

But this guy is amazeballs opaque to me. Here's an actual site his lawfirm owns-- It's different. He claims to care about female-bodied people's abortion experiences and admits that the harm from the procedure is rare, but is stating:

If you, a friend or loved one has been the victim of a botched abortion, we are here to help. Our firm has extensive experience in preparing and litigating cases on behalf of injured victims. We will evaluate your claim free of charge and there will be no fee unless we collect compensation on your behalf.

Often times the mother who consented to the abortion is not even aware that her unborn child may have had a heartbeat, could feel pain or even had brainwave activity at the time the doctor ended the child’s life. Despite many state’s requiring a sonogram be done and/or a waiting period complied with, often times the abortion clinic staff and medical doctor are more concerned with performing the abortion rather than informing the mother or ensuring that the conditions are sanitary and to the appropriate standard of care. Others viewed sonogram pictures of their child which were nearly unreadable and others were subject to unsanitary conditions such as unclean rooms following prior procedures, often times against numerous state law.

Look at this. "State's" with an unnecessary apostrophe, and "numerous state law" not being plural? How do people alleging to be professionals at law, making their living from words, not try harder at advertising themselves as familiar with the language they are supposedly arguing cases in? It seems like the specificity of the URL "botched abortion lawyer" indicates that they have a specialty in weird and rare Kermit Gosnell-like conditions, but these are in fact exactly that. Weird and rare. Also, I have to wonder about the "heartbeat" and "sonogram" language, because I do not believe that any woman has ever not known what she wanted an abortion for, or failed to understand what that fetus was, or would be persuaded that the presence of a heartbeat or a picture of the fetus would necessarily be more than an annoyance. This is the fake abortion clinic level of concern about women's choice and health.

So--he's defending a person alleged to have sexually harassed or assaulted six or so people as a person who would sort of whaambulance-chase mostly non-existent abortion regretters? Yeah, this is the right guy, alright. I do not understand how this is the attorney of someone trying to establish they have their shit sufficiently together to be a US Senator.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This TrumpWorld Grab-Bag is Just a Box of Money

Now, you might think I was paying extra-special attention to Keebler Hate-Elf Jeff Sessions' testimony today regarding what he knows about stuff and whether he remembers any stuff, but he can basically get double-stuffed. (I still love the good people at Keebler and their products and approve in general of any cookie having Double Stuffing. But I am building on a metaphor about a certain bad cookie, and oh Gosh, I think Jeff has not been a good elf at all. I do not believe he would be allowed near a cookie-making facility in all truth.)  But I did not do that, because Sessions can't remember shit. 

Now, CRS (Can't Recall Shit) affects us all, and as I get older, I sometimes dotter into a room and realize I don't entirely know what I was looking for, or absently strike a few keys, and not realize why I'm looking at some computer conversation. But I think Jeff Sessions wants us to believe he can't remember entire meetings with people he knows, or forgets entire people he should very well remember. If he recalls them conveniently after he's been, well, "busted", I tend to think his selective amnesia is bogus. While I think this is obviously BS and some ass-covering self-lawyering, I think the pattern of what he prefers not to reveal until he bloody well has to says more than what he might independently reveal. 

I know this is a little controversial, but Jeff Sessions probably is useless and unable to do the AG thing, recused as he is from Trump-Russia and having in his confirmation hearing recused himself from any of the Clinton investigations Trump (because of course) has pressured the DOJ into.  I know this means an AG who might could fire Mueller, but having an AG this compromised (and kind of bigoted and all) is a bummer. I despise Trump for making me want this asshole to stay on. I just can't with these things. I hope federal prosecutors assigned to this conspiracy theory bullshit, like Uranium One (described ably here by the one missionary among the FOX savages, Shep Smith, who has been dodging the cookpot for I know not how long) just throw down a massive press conference and announce "Stop Believing Bullshit!" after the bare minimum debunking any of it should require.

But I have had it with Trump & Co's dumb retaliatory squid-inking nonsense distractions.  So let me just lower my dumb ass onto what has to be a journalistic claymore: electronic funds from Russia, marked "To Finance Election Campaign Of 2016”

No. Seriously. Like, a box of money just sitting out there of rubles that could have been paid for Facebook ads and all that providing a direct link from the Russian government to a disinformation campaign aimed at destabilizing various centers of shit worldwide? Like, what dumbfuck would mark this money for doing the thing it was supposed to be surreptitiously doing out loud where the people would find out? That kind of thing would be so stupid!

But I've been doing this TrumpWorld thing for a while, you see?  I don't necessarily think anything is too stupid to be all that credible anymore. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Roy Moore is Still a Scoundrel

The RNC has pulled its support from Moore, and once-dedicated backer Steve Bannon now supposedly has qualms about the controversial candidate.  I don't know what the next poll numbers are going to look like when they drop, but the local news media have gotten mighty nostalgic over Moore's "back-when". Kayla Moore was apparently a classmate of one of Moore's accusers according to Twitter. That's...something. She has also tried to spread false information --

Which has been debunked.

Also the Moore campaign seems to have fished out the canine ocarina with a somewhat anti-Semitic robo-call purporting to be a "Bernie Bernstein" from WaPo offering 1000$ for dirt, and Moore's own amusing rhetoric about "creating new rights in 1965" . (Why are all these dogs barking?*)

If he's going down, it's going to be ugly. If he's staying up, man, that's ugly, too. There's supposedly a letter from a lawyer suing local AL media on the Moore family and their charity's behalf, but it looks almost too absurd to be real. (Unless it isn't--threatening to sue WaPo but then going after small fry with no money is a tactic I wouldn't put past these bozos. But no professional would write legal demands while coming down from peyote buttons and that thing their veterinarian friend said would get a caribou off. But then again, Trenton Garmon, the lawyer in question, did go on TV and call CNN's Don Lemon "Don Lemon Easy Peezy Lemon Squeezy" so I don't even know. Maybe he's just foolish.)

Which isn't even to say Moore is a dead cert to lose. But what I am looking at is not something the national Republican party should want tied to them like a creepy, Bible-beating albatross, either.


I think this is awful but relevant, this is Trenton Garmon rambling about why talking about hating on gays is okay.

He's got some issues, there. If it isn't politically incorrect to say so, I hope he gets the hell over his glaring problems. It might be a mote, and it mote not. But I sense a need for serious ocular lumber removal.

*UPDATE: A good argument circulating on Twitter is that he was referring to Griswold v. Connecticut, which makes more sense. So, not civil rights, just birth control and abortion.

The Sins of the TrumpWorld Grab-Bags

One of the things I do kind of love about the Trump family is their enthusiasm and loyalty. I would. And for what it is worth, while much is made of the puzzling pair of Javanka and the weird nepotism of their even being White House advisers, and having security clearances (especially Jared, amirite?), it's the contributions to our culture made by Donald Jr. that truly fascinate me.  

It looks like Don Jr. is once again the focus of the collusion question, because WikiLeaks definitely decided that the way to the father was through the son.  (Not sure where Assange got that idea.) The messages in Jr's DM's, while not necessarily responded to, did apparently result in Trump Sr. pushing WikiLeaks info. 

The thing with Don Jr's involvement in coordinating with WikiLeaks is that no one can just decide that he was a low-level volunteer. Unlike George Papadopoulos, who definitely conveyed to WH Senior Advisor Stephen Miller that Russia had "dirt" on Clinton. His position, being the person currently charged with running his father's business, should be clearly seen as important. 

But what does this mean, besides the links between the Trump campaign and various Russian cut-outs becoming more obvious? Well, it might mean statements that make no sense and are, whether intentionally or unintentionally, degrading to our intelligence community coming from the White House and POTUS himself. Or it could mean poor national security decisions

It does not mean anything good. As I keep saying--it looks bad because it is bad. 

It also will not mean Julian Assange is Ambassador from Australia. WTF? No, this silly boy is staying at the Ecuadoran Embassy until they get sick of his pasty ass and put his bunk out on the street with him in it. Which will be a day.