How Do We Solve a Problem Like The Donald?

Damned if I know.

Right now, three days after the election, pretty much everyone who didn’t see this coming is scrambling for two things: an explanation and a plan. I suspect that an explanation will come in due time. A plan, however, is something we need right now.

sgtanckI’m angry. For lots of reasons, really. I’m angry that a racist, woman-hating con man got himself elected to the highest office in the land. I’m angry that he brought a horde of misshapen, venomous parasites with him. I’m angry that the racists and bigots and xenophobes seem to think that his election means it’s open season on everyone they’ve always hated. I’m angry that so many people I know and love are scared. I’m angry that other people I know and love aided and abetted this ignominious defiling of the Presidency.

I’m angry that lies and slander and outright cruelty can not only go unpunished, but can be rewarded. I’m angry that the institutions we trusted to keep this from happening just stood by and let it happen.

I’m angry that my country isn’t what I thought it was, on so many levels.

And I know I’m not the only person who’s angry. Lots of people are angry, and rightly so. The problem with anger is that it can very easily lead to doing great and irreparable harm to oneself and others, so what we need now is that plan.

Unfortunately, the plan we’re being offered from our leadership – Obama, Clinton, much of the press and punditry – is to let it go. Give the next President a clean slate and the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, they say, he’ll do the right thing.

To that I say: Bullshit. Here’s why:

When he rode down that gleaming escalator, we all laughed and said, “There’s no way he’s serious. He won’t go through with this.”

But he did.

When he was one of nearly two dozen Republicans vying for the nomination, we said, “There’s no way he’ll get through this without screwing up.”

But he did.

When he became the nominee, we said, “Well, now that he’s facing the general election, surely he’ll move to the center. He had to make use of his dogwhistles and his angry stump speeches for the GOP base, but now he has to deal with the rest of the electorate. He can’t keep spewing all this anger and mendacity.”

But he did.

And when he came up against Clinton, a woman with more qualifications and experience than he could ever hope to have, a woman who resoundingly trounced him in three debates, we all turned to each other and said, “There’s no way he can win.”

But. He. Did.

And now Obama and Clinton and the press and the punditry want us to believe that he’ll turn around. That the reserves of his awfulness have been expended, that running for President is one thing but being the President is another, and he’ll govern the country responsibly from January 20th onward.

Why on God’s green earth should we believe that? Why should we believe that he’ll change this time? What evidence do we have that this is even remotely possible? At what point have we seen him decide that there is something bigger than himself, something to which he must show even a sliver of compassion and humility?

And the theory that the GOP will somehow be a check on him? Like they were in the primaries? Like they were during the general? The closest they got to controlling him was taking away his Twitter access right before election day. That’s what you do to control a recalcitrant teenager, not the President. The Republican Party won’t be able to control this man any better when he’s in the White House than they did before.

And those of you hoping that he’ll just get bored and leave everything to his underlings? Look at those underlings and bury that hope in the deepest hole you can find.

So. The plan.

I don’t believe there can be any common ground. No clean slate. No buried hatchet. In order to do that, there must be trust, and I don’t trust him any further than I could spit a dead rat. I have no reason to believe that he will be a better person come January 20th. None whatsoever.

The new President and his party of preening, pustulent parasites must have no quarter and gain no ground. They must be fought tooth and nail for every inch until we can replace them with people who value nation over party and responsibility over power. They must be rejected, rebuked, and repudiated on all fronts. The President, his hangers-on, and the cowards who can’t bring themselves to stand up to him are owed nothing from us because nothing is all they stand for.

I feel like I should be waving a flag. Like La Marseillaise should be playing in the background. And yet…

And yet, who the hell am I to be saying this? I’m thousands of miles from the USA right now. Unless the plan to pull US forces out of Japan goes through, or that tangerine hobgoblin decides to nuke North Korea, I won’t see the kinds of effects that people are already seeing – the violence, the discrimination, the slurs and epithets and hate.

I’m well-insulated over here, typing away on a blog that has about as much influence over national affairs as not blogging at all. What I think and what I want, well… It really doesn’t count for much. Or at all.

But I can’t keep all this inside my head without going mad.

I am angry. I suspect that I will be for quite a while. I just hope that I can make it count for something.

Thanksgiving, Day 8: Democracy

Deal with it.

Yeah, I know, it’s a gimme topic today – but I like it.

I often like the concept of democracy more than the thing itself. Like all political systems, it’s much better in the abstract. In an ideal democracy – or democratic republic, if you want to get all pedantic on me – a well-informed citizenry would stand up and cast their votes for a leader from those who were best suited to guide the nation forward. These candidates would be the best the country had to offer, and the choice would be made based on their skills and their record.

Of course, as with any political or economic system, once actual people get involved, the whole thing goes pear-shaped. A lot of voters aren’t informed, or limit their information to what they want to hear. A lot of the candidates aren’t interested in governing as much as they’re interested in winning, and in the end the whole thing is an exhausting endurance trial for everyone involved. Everyone on every side tries to game the system, adhering to the letter of the law rather than the spirit, and when it’s all over just shrug and say, “Well, that’s just how the game is played.”

But, as has often been said, of all the political systems on offer, it’s one of the best. And especially after yesterday, I’m thankful for it.

It is true that we are, in essence, exactly where we were before the election – Barack Obama in the White House, a Senate controlled by the Democrats but not locked down, and a House controlled by the Republicans. If the last couple of years are any indication, it looks like the way forward will remain much the same. A lot of gridlock and obstructionism, with each side complaining about how the other side isn’t playing fair, and how if only they would change their minds to think like we do, we could get work done. So there is that.

But look at all the good things that came of this election – and I’m sure I’ll miss a few:

I’m sure I missed some – sound off in the comments.

In general, I’ve always thought this: people, as individuals, are usually pretty smart. The People, in aggregate, are as dumb as a box of dead squirrels. [1] But I am always happy to be proven wrong on this point, and I would say that the 2012 election did a nice job of that.

[1] And thus ends my 2016 Presidential campaign.

Thanksgiving, Day 7: Distance

I’ll make this quick, as it’s been a tiring day.

Barack Obama won, as well he should have. The campaign – the endless, endless campaign – felt like an ever-increasing burden on my mind, and as every day drew closer to the election, I fretted and worried and refreshed Nate Silver’s site…

And I’m not even in the country.

There are times when I do miss being in the States, but election season isn’t one of them. It’s one of those times when I’m glad for the immense distance between me and the funhouse mirror universe that is a Presidential campaign.

People back home have complained endlessly about the mailers, the robo-calls, the inescapable attack ads and pollsters and door-knockers. For the people back in the homeland, this was the water you swam in, the air you breathed for the last eighteen months because you had no choice.

I, on the other hand, do. I can choose the websites I visit and the television I watch. IF I see an attack ad, it’s usually only after it’s been chewed over on The Daily Show and mocked relentlessly on the internet that I deign to go to YouTube and check it out. Hell, even the time distance insulates me – when something huge happens, it’s while I’m sleeping. I wake up and get the settled-dust aftermath.

This distance keeps me safe, it keeps me sane. In normal times it’s frustrating and unpleasant, but during an election season? It is comfortable as all hell…

Four more years…

Hooray! I matter!

I got a campaign mailer!

Those of you living in the US are probably completely jaded about this by now, I get that, but I haven’t gotten one of these in ages. It’s from Bill Wadsworth, the Republican candidate looking to be re-elected to State Rep. It came with a nicely-done CV and statement of principles, along with a letter that someone had written my name on in what I assume is ink.

Well played, Bill.

Now keep in mind, he’s too late – I’ve already sent my ballot back, and even if I hadn’t, I would rather set my own hair on fire than give a vote to the Republican party. He seems like a decent guy on paper, but he doesn’t belong to a decent party, and there’s no way in heaven or on earth I’ll reward them with my privilege as a citizen.

Still, I have to give Wadsworth credit: His people must have sent this out right after my ballot application arrived, and it raced across the planet only to be a couple of days too late. On top of that, I’m a voter living abroad – not exactly a demographic that’s going to tip the scales for this or any other election. Someone made the decision to send this to me, and for some reason that warms my cold, shriveled heart a little.

Man, I need to get more mail.

So kudos to you, Bill Wadsworth! If you weren’t allying yourself with bigots, plutocrats, and thieves, this might have convinced me to vote for you. Better luck next time.

Dear Benghazi Mob…

Why don’t you have a seat over there? Thanks.


Back in aught-one, the US was attacked. Planes, towers, Pentagon, “Let’s roll” – you know the story. Hell, there are probably hill tribes in Borneo who know the story. The point is, we were attacked in a way we never expected to be. It hurt us. It scared us. And on that day, our reaction was to freak the hell out.

We really lost our shit over this, passing laws that five years prior would have sounded like something out of a tinfoil hat conspiracy newsletter. We launched two wars, one of which was completely unreasonable, and the other of which has been the longest in our history. We allowed our anger and terror to get the better of us, and by doing so we handed victory to the forces that had attacked us. It’s unfortunate, but it’s an all-too-human reaction. Quick, reflexive decision-making may have been what saved our ancient ancestors in Africa all those millennia ago, who knows?

Pictured: One of those bad decisions.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea now. Very little good has come from the decisions made in the aftermath of 9/11, and if we had it all to do over again (not that I’m offering, mind you), I should hope that we’d handle the situation with more care and greater forethought.

Why do I bring this up? Well, because you have fallen into the same trap that we did. You were insulted and outraged by this inane video, produced by a puffed-up religious bigot who thinks it’s funny to incite international incidents. And you reacted without thinking, lashing out not at the people who actually made the video, but at a target only barely related to them at all. Like I said – we get that. We’re the United States. That’s kind of our thing.

Osama bin Laden told the world that we were reactionary, violent warmongers, and we fulfilled that image. Terry Jones told the world that Muslims were an irrational, murderous mob, and you have fulfilled that image as well. You have, as we did, accepted your antagonist’s vision of who you are.

If it were just confined to you, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, your actions tarnish the reputations of a whole lot of people who aren’t you. Just as there were many Americans who opposed post-9/11 policy-making, there are many Muslims who think what you did was an abomination. And just as the Bush administration tainted the image of The United States, you have tainted the image of Muslims which, at least in the U.S., really doesn’t need to take any more abuse.

You know what they call people who make other people apologize for them? Assholes, that’s what they call them.

The real takeaway from it is this: attacking a U.S. embassy and killing an ambassador isn’t going to do a damned thing except ensure the prompt delivery of a group of very angry Marines. Terry Jones won’t change his ways – hell, you’ve basically confirmed all his prejudices against you – and you’ve managed to make life a lot harder for that vast population of Muslims and Arabs who aren’t screaming maniacs.

Anger is understandable – some jackass openly mocked your sacred traditions. I get that. But there are limits to the acceptable expression of anger, and killing people who had nothing to do with what made you angry, well, that’s out of bounds. And now a whole lot of people who were perfectly willing to get along are going to have to play damage control just because you have problems expressing your rage appropriately.

You have to be better than the people who have attacked you. It’s a lesson the U.S. has had a hard time learning – hell, it’s a lesson that can vex any human being. But it’s vital if we’re ever going to see an end to people like Terry Jones. He needed your rage and you gave him a feast. From now on, don’t feed the trolls.


Problem solved.

NAMBLA? Really?

I found today that the Family Research Council – an advocacy group that advocates, among other things, against gay and lesbian civil rights – wanted people to say what they thought about the group. So I went over to their survey, loaded to bear, and basically threw in all the worst stuff I thought about them. That they were bigots and fearmongers, anti-civil rights, hypocrites hiding under the banner of Christianity and murderers of gay youth.

At one point, they asked if I had ever given them money, and if not then why not? I wrote that I would sooner give money to NAMBLA than the Family Research Council.

Then I thought, Really? NAMBLA? So I decided to see if my off-the-cuff choice of advocacy groups held up.

1) The Name
“Family Research Council.’ Kind of an unassuming name, doesn’t really tell much about what they do or what their goals are.
“North American Man/Boy Love Association.” Well. No question about what it is NAMBLA is promoting there. The who and what are pretty well spelled out. So, for clarity of name, NAMBLA is the winner here.

2) The Goals
On the page “Who We Are,” NAMBLA writes:

NAMBLA’s goal is to end the extreme oppression of men and boys in mutually consensual relationships by:

  • building understanding and support for such relationships;
  • educating the general public on the benevolent nature of man/boy love;
  • cooperating with lesbian, gay, feminist, and other liberation movements;
  • supporting the liberation of persons of all ages from sexual prejudice and oppression.

Okay, some weasel wording going on in there, but it’s a pretty clear statement of what they want to see happen.

On the FRC’s “Mission Statement” page, they say:

Family Research Council (FRC) champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.

Again, it’s pretty clear from their statement what they want, though they do couch it in more abstract terms. They don’t come out with specific goals, but rather promote ideals. I’m giving this one to NAMBLA, but only by a little. They’re much less nebulous in their goals, which allows them much less wiggle-room to try and fit the group’s actions to their statements.

3) Freedom

Okay, this one takes a little bit of rationalization, but stick with me. I asked myself which group was more inclined to promote freedom. The FRC is not – they openly advocate the denial of full civil rights to gays and lesbians, up to an including amending the constitution of the United States. They’re against the repeal of DA/DT as well, in favor of keeping gays and lesbians from serving in the military. They promote abstinence-only education, restricting the freedom of schools to promote proper sex education, want to restrict pornography, are against the rights of women to choose how and when they want to have children, and in general want to lock down on the freedom of people who do not share their values. On the other hand, they want to expand the role of religion (specifically Christianity) in politics and schools, encouraging Judeo-Christian values as the basis of American morality and law.

NAMBLA wants to be able to have “mutually consensual” relationships between men and boys. While I disagree with their stated goals, from a purely objective point of view, they are trying to expand liberty for themselves, without restricting it for anyone else. So while NAMBLA is an excellent example of where the limits of freedom should be drawn, they aren’t trying to take away my rights or force people by law or public policy to do something they don’t want to do. Winner: NAMBLA.

This may be the fever talking, or it may just be my own brilliant rationalization of the contempt in which I hold the Family Research Council, but I find that they are far less morally defensible than the North American Man/Boy Love Association. The former couches its goals in imprecise, vague language and seeks to restrict the freedoms and civil rights of those they dislike, while forcing their own moral and religious values on others. The latter is clear and unambiguous about its goals, and is advocating the expansion of freedoms for a (thankfully) small minority of men, without restricting the freedoms of any other group.

So. Family Research Council, congratulations. If I were in one of Jigsaw’s horrible murder-traps and told I had sixty seconds to choose between you and NAMBLA before spider monkeys are released to eat my eyeballs, I would choose NAMBLA with alacrity.

At least contempt is some kind of attention

I feel bad for Gay Republicans, I really do. They may not need my pity, but there it is.

I read about Homocon, a recent convention for gay Republicans, where Ann Coulter was one of the main speakers. With her usual sandpaper-like delicacy and tact, Ms. Coulter ran off some rather bad gay jokes, culminating in the quip that same-sex marriage “is not a civil right – you’re not black,” and then implying that because gay oppression is not comparable to black oppression, we should all just stop whining.

Like any population of people, gays and lesbians are going to have internal political differences. While I believe that being One Of Us does oblige you to favor social justice [1], there’s nothing in the Gay Rules and Bylaws that says you can’t favor small government over large, market freedom, aggressive national security, tax cuts and other conservative standards.

The problem for a politically or economically conservative gay or lesbian person is that they have nowhere to go but into the arms of the people who actively and openly hate them.

The Democrats are out, obviously, seeing as how even though they’re nicer to queers, every other part of their agenda would be abhorrent to a Conservative. Third parties are fine and all, but let’s face it – voting for the Libertarians isn’t exactly hitching your wagon to a star.

All that’s left for the conservative homosexual who wants to be politically active is the GOP, and going to them is like Wendy Torrance thinking that maybe Jack is just smashing through the door with an axe to tell her he’s awfully sorry about trying to kill her.

Listen, Gay Republicans: your party hates you. [2] They would be perfectly happy if you just vanished from the political landscape. The only reason someone like Coulter comes to talk to you is because she gets off on abusing people who won’t or can’t hit back. You don’t have the voting numbers that the conservative Christians do – hell, even NASCAR fans would be a better political investment. You’re a trophy minority for the Republican Party – token fags that they can show off to their friends. You’re in a classic abusive relationship, and you keep going back because you have this deluded vision that Maybe This Time Will Be Different.

But it won’t. The GOP – and its twisted, mutie by-blow the Tea Party – are never going to sincerely welcome you in and fight for your rights. Not in our lifetimes, anyway. Every time you write a check for the RNC, you’re giving aid and comfort to those who want you to get back in the closet and shut the hell up.

But right now, you have nowhere else to go, not if you want to remain true to your politics. That’s why I pity you.

But my pity runs thin – you’re choosing to be true to your politics rather than yourselves.

Maybe it’s because you can’t bear the thought that, if you go, no one in the party you supported will actually miss you. And maybe knowing you’re alone is worse than throwing your lot in with those who despise you.


[1] If you’re a member of an oppressed minority and you’re opposed to the full and free civil rights of other oppressed minorities, then you’re a cyclopean hypocrite and need to go away.

[2] Individual Republicans may vary. I know plenty of (straight) Republicans who are very much in favor of gay civil rights and vote accordingly. But then, they don’t make party policy.

Maybe he’s in the Gay CIA….

You know, working behind enemy lines or something?

This story has been passed around a lot this morning, and it got me thinking. Mostly about self-respect, principles and compassion.

Long story short: California Senator Roy Ashburn has long been an opponent of gay rights, especially same-sex marriage. He has be vociferous in his opposition, which made his DUI arrest a couple of weeks ago all the more interesting. He was with another gentleman, and they were both coming home from a well-known Sacramento gay bar. Finally he has come out and admitted that he was gay.

My first thought was, “Serves you right, you lying Republican scum,” but that’s sort of my default response. I’d think the same thing if Orrin Hatch got a paper cut. But there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be taken when someone who has been so openly and vocally against homosexuality turns out to have been a Double-Secret Gay the whole time. The fact that he has a wife and kids just makes it all the worse – not only has he been lying to his constituents, but to the people who should be most important to him.

I marvel at it, too. How much self-loathing does it take to maintain a lie of this caliber for so long? I mean, it’s bad enough if you’re just trying to keep your gayness a secret – millions of men have had to do that throughout history, but they at least had the excuse that revealing themselves could have resulted in ostracism, injury or death. Ashburn doesn’t have that excuse, seeing as how he lives in California. But still, if you want to keep it a secret because you think it’s something that is dangerous to you, okay. Just try not to hurt anyone else in the process.

Well, Ashburn has failed at that. He has a wife and kids who have been lied to. He has supporters and staff who have been lied to. He has lovers who have been lied to. And the worst part is that his lie, in this day and age, is pretty much unnecessary. He doesn’t need to lie about who he is, and I’m pretty sure he knows it.

That being said, I feel bad for him.

In a radio interview, he said “I’m gay. Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long.” You see, I was lucky. I was extraordinarily lucky that I had friends and family who were loving and accepting of who I was. I was never insulted or cursed by anyone I came out to, never rejected or ostracized. I never felt that I was at risk of losing someone I loved by coming out. In short, my circumstances were about as good as they can possibly get for someone who is coming out gay. Even so, actually saying the words to these wonderful people and telling them what, in many cases, they had already figured out for themselves, was amazingly difficult. It often required alcohol.

So if it was that hard for me, and I was basically in the best possible position to come out, how hard must it be for someone like Ashburn? Not just because he risks losing his career and his marriage and kids, or that he’s now facing nationwide public scorn and will have to pay a pretty hard penance to get back into the good graces of the people he loves and respects. By saying those words, he is confessing to years of lies and initiating the destruction of an identity that he has built over an entire lifetime. My coming out, as difficult as it was for me, was nothing compared to this.

And so I feel compassion for the poor bastard. If he does it right, he will be able to build a new life, one in which he can be honest to himself and those he loves. He may even be able to continue in politics, if he plays his cards right. I understand he says he’ll keep voting on an anti-gay platform because that’s what his constituents would want, but I think that’s just the cognitive dissonance talking. If he follows through on this, he’ll soon be forced to reconcile his vote with his sexuality, and will realize that “it’s what my constituents want” is just another lie to be done away with.

All of my compassion for him, of course, is predicated on his continuing to be honest with himself and behaving in a manner consistent with his newfound honesty. If he strays from that path, well, may his suffering be endless.

Just so we’re sure….

A bunch of guys from Saudi Arabia crash planes into buildings for overtly political reasons, and that is terrorism.

A guy from Austin, TX, crashes his plane into a building for overtly political reasons, and “At this time, we have no reason to believe there is a nexus to terrorist activity.”

I’m curious where the cutoff point is. Is it because he flew a single-engine aircraft instead of a big passenger plane? Is it because no one died? Is it because it was, y’know, in Austin – not like it’s somewhere that’s actually important like Washington DC or New York. Is it because he’s an American citizen? Is it because (dun-dun-DUNNN) he’s white?

Certainly as details emerge, we may see a turnaround on this. He may be labeled a terrorist after all. Near as I can tell when making this kind of judgment call, it is the motivation that matters. He was making an explicit political point, and chose to express himself through violence against government workers and property. He was willing to cause the deaths of up to 200 people in order to send a message to the mean ol’ IRS.

If he’d done it because Shirley in Human Resources turned him down for a date once and he’s never been able to get over it, and he figured that he’d show her how much he loved her – HE’D SHOW THEM ALL!! – then there would be no real reason to wonder about what to label this incident. I just hope that we’re able to maintain some sense of consistency here and call it what it is – terrorism.

What’s really kinda scary is that, reading his suicide note (PDF), I do agree with him on some points. He notes that Our Elected Officials couldn’t move fast enough to save GM and rescue the financial giants that shat in our economy, but ask them to do something to benefit the citizens of the United States – deal with the health care problem – and they drag their feet like surly six year-olds told to clean their room. His is a story of woe, of being put down by The Man, but I suppose it would have to be. The day I see a Wall Street executive crash his plane into a building to demand tax reform is the day things get really interesting.

Also, as I was reading that, I could hear the ghost of Howard Zinn sitting behind me, nodding and saying, “Told you so.”