Thursday, February 20, 2020

Abusive Billionaire Crap (The ABC's of the Modern Political Landscape)

CN: Abuse dynamics

Jokes about Warren "killing him" aside, let me do some real talk. I can't tell you what Michael Bloomberg does when he's not on camera (though an awful lot of people seem to imply that it isn't savory), but when he is on a national debate, he acts like an abuser.

Bloomberg got up on stage last night and lied. He lied in exactly the same way Trump did way back when he (Trump) still worried that his base might be scared off by fact-checkers.

He lied in exactly the same way in the way abusers least when they're in public.

"My taxes are too complicated," Bloomberg said.

Let me refresh your memory of the exact words of Trump: “It is big. And it is complex. And it is probably feet high. It is a very complex instrument. And I think that people would not understand it.”

But more to the point, even if he DOES release them next week in his right-before-Super-Tuesday surprise to convince worried moderate boomers that he's better than Trump (after all, he probably IS [actually] a billionaire and not a bloated hundred-thousandaire in massive debt to the Russian mafia oligarchs), telling people that you can't be forthright with them because they wouldn't GET it––they wouldn't UNDERSTAND what they were looking at––that’s abuser talk. How many times have you heard that in the mouths of abusers? “Look, I'm not going to justify myself to you. You don't have all the facts." (Unsaid: And I'm not GOING to give all the facts to you. I just expect you to doubt yourself––and I shall live underneath the umbra of that doubt.)

The real one, though, was about the NDAs on women he'd harassed. I don't know what he did, but I can tell you with the marrow in my bones that it was worse than tell a joke that "they just couldn't take." (Women can't take a joke, amirite? JFC!)

That shit where you swing the silencing tactic back around and blame the victim? That's classic abuser.

"Oh...THEY want to keep their stories private," he said.

Michael, do you know what they would have to do if you released them from their NDAs in order to keep their stories private?


That's it. They would just have to go on about their day. They would have to buy some tasty carbonated beverage from Safeway and sit down to sip it while watching The Witcher. That's it. Their stories would remain hidden. If some savvy reporter could even figure out who they were without them actually coming forward, they would simply have to change their response from “Sorry, NDA,” to, “Sorry. Don’t want to talk about it.” NDAs don't protect those women IN ANY WAY. Those NDAs don't protect anyone but MICHAEL BLOOMBERG.

But framing the isolation of victims from their ability to recount their stories as "for their own good" is classic abuser tactics. Telling people "It's private...WE don't want to air our dirty laundry" when someone is trying to hold them accountable for their actions is classic abuser tactics. And Bloomberg was on his "first-date" behavior last night.

I get that some people see a politician willing to switch their party to run for mayor (and then back again) as literally "as centrist as you can get" but I strongly suggest anyone who thinks that’ he is going to be anything but Trump with a shorter and bluer tie (and a far more Machiavellian mind) to consider the things it says about opportunism, manipulation, and rudderless self-absorption with his own political gain at any cost. We've already seen what the price of those things will be when (not so) deep down in places one doesn't talk about at parties (well, except for the fact that both Trump and Bloomberg DO talk about them.....even to reporters), there is a wanton bigotry displayed for women, BIPOC, trans folk, and anyone with the temerity to "choose" poverty.

Abuse has a social analogue in oppression and marginalization dynamics (complete with its own social forms of gaslighting, honeymoon cycles, and victim blaming) and while there are plenty of people who don't realize what they're doing or are enablers, obscenely rich, cishet white men who think they should be in charge are most likely to fill in the role of the unapologetic abusive partner: "You shouldn't have made me so angry. If you would just do what I tell you, these things wouldn't happen."

My Blue No Matter Who has limits, but frankly that's next season's debate. For now, let me just beg and plead that the generation who looked the other way when abuse was happening across the apartment complex and said nothing during awkward hallway encounters not do the same thing to the whole fucking country. Let's not even GO there, and then we won't have to even have the debate over which asshole could theoretically destroy democracy, marginalized communities, and pluralism more quickly.

Let's not make our decision between two unapologetic abusers.

Monday, February 3, 2020

It's Bigger Than "A Simple Geography Mistake"

Chris's Pass/Agg theater of the day (today with very little "Pass"):

Of course, everyone makes mistakes. Of course not everyone is fully versed in U.S. geography. Of course I'VE "ever made a factual error on social media." But before you dive in like Dean trying to take a bullet for Sam and run the "liberals are mean and just look for any excuse to be mean" play right off of page two of your playbook, I'm going to remind you of the Tan Suit News Cycle That Wouldn't Die™ so sit there for a second and shut your fucking hypocritical waffleslurper.

Do I care that someone doesn't know where a football team comes from? I have a pretty active imagination. I make my money by being creative. And I still have a difficult time picturing myself caring any LESS. I didn't even know who was playing until yesterday, and the only reason I know where one of the teams is from is because I could spit and hit the stadium.

But I do care that this is emblematic. I care that the President of the United States just pops off whatever is on his fucking mind and it is the official communication of the office. Today it might be a low-stakes error about where Kansas City is (or where the team is from if you believe the first "wave" of defenders that of course Trump knew there was a Kansas City in Kansas), but tomorrow it might cause a foreign policy disaster. He doesn't even lean over to someone (anyone!) and say "Hey, does that look good to you?" He doesn't double-check things. He doesn't make sure he's right...or even that he's spelled hamburger correctly. Because he's been alive for over seven decades and still hasn't realized that he has the capacity to be wrong. He's playing fast and loose with his fucking cell phone like he STILL hasn't realized there are consequences.

(Partially because there never are.)

I care that he's a constant national fucking embarrassment. This isn't like my friend making a mistake and me being an asshole that says "Haha! You don't know U.S. geography!" (You have my permission to smack me with a trout if I ever do this.) These aren’t off-the-cuff remarks. This is the President of the United States on official communications who regularly doesn't bother to fact check, get a second opinion, or even proofread. He doesn't treat his job with any sort of veneration or respect. (He only demands these things for himself personally.) In ANY other job, that sort of behavior from an outward-facing representative of the entire company would be considered egregiously unprofessional. CEOs have gotten fired by their boards for not being careful with their PERSONAL social media, never mind the company's official accounts. But you want me to LOWER the bar if it's POTUS?

I care that he makes mistakes like this all the time, but still fucking thinks he knows everything about everything. If this were the first boner, I'd be in line to defend him. But he doesn't grow and develop. He doesn't evolve. When I misposted a couple of articles in a one-week period (they were both over two years old, not current), I was mortified. Now I check the date EVERY time. He HAS no such shame. He just gets pissed off at the people who tell him he's wrong. Which means he goes on being wrong and making mistakes and not learning......and that, I very much DO care about. He should have a social media team, but he doesn't care that he makes factual errors, retweets Nazis, or undermines years of policy when does it all himself.

I care that he literally cannot admit error. The man wrote a tweet with a meaningless collection of letters that is now an international joke, and instead of saying "Yeah, I need to stop going to bed with my phone," or something that literally every human being would relate to, he tried to play it off like he would later reveal the super secret meaning of his "absolutely intended" gibberish. He uses sharpies on weather maps rather than admit he was using hours-old data and should have double-checked. He has no ability to admit that he is a human being capable of error. He only knows how to double down. That's not a LITTLE problem.

I care because he's NOT going to admit he was wrong about this. (He deleted the tweet. That's about as close as you ever get.) And whether he influences them or was simply chosen as their paragon avatar for his powers of truthbending, he now sits on the throne of a group that will defend his absurdities to the last. Even now––even after he deleted the posts––they are out there saying that the team is "basically" from Kansas. This behavior came from a place that can't admit fault or error. An entire political movement exists with whom FACTS DON'T MATTER. They would rather insist on "alternative facts" and defend what would have been perfectly-understandable mistakes as "not actually mistakes at all" by twisting themselves into pretzels

I care that he is a fucking buffoon. Not that he makes mistakes so much as he thinks he doesn't. Not just that he doesn't think he makes them, but he doesn't believe he ever WILL make them either because he truly, ardently believes that it is impossible he ever could. Ignorance is not a moral failing or a crime or even by itself a judgement of value. Clinging to ignorance and defending it IS. And while I might be a little nervous about a world leader who clearly didn't know some pretty basic stuff, even still I could be comforted if they had the humility to know that, and surrounded themselves with expert advisors who they respected and listened to. THAT AIN'T TRUMP. Not only does Trump embarrassingly not know basic things but he THINKS he does. Not only does he not know things, but he doesn't check in with the people who do––nor would he listen to them if they said something he didn't like. Not only does he not know things, but he regularly ACTIVELY MOCKS the very institutions that try to keep people informed and ATTACKS the individuals who point out that he is in error.

So you go ahead and climb up on that cross and tell us that we're all a bunch of look-for-anything-to-complain-about meanie mean heads being elitist about geography. Frankly, not knowing what the real issue is, but THINKING you do, fits in pretty nicely with the motif.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

No More Speed Limits for Trump (The GOP's Moral Failure)

I learned to drive in Santa Clarita Valley—specifically Canyon Country, its south-easternmost town. These days, you can find it on a map just north of Los Angeles, but back when I lived there, even the main drags had huge swaths of undeveloped land between a peppering of strip malls and housing tracts, and I had to explain it to most people by saying "it's near Magic Mountain." Learning to drive in Canyon Country was a swift lesson in Things Law Enforcement Didn’t Really Care About™.

They didn’t care if you sped on Soledad between Sand Canyon and the McDonald’s unless you were clearly doing over 75.

They would almost never enforce rolling stops except for on Whites Canyon, Soledad, or near this chunk of the town where all three schools were within spitting distance of each other. (You might have to really wind up to hit the middle school.

And if you were on Bouquet Canyon Road or Sierra Highway between Santa Clarita Valley and Palmdale, you could go as fast as you wanted. There was a posted speed limit of 55. But it didn’t matter. They never gave out tickets in the stretch between cities. And everyone KNEW they never gave out tickets. So drive as fast as you want. It may as well have been an autobahn.

Because laws that aren’t enforced don’t really matter. Something can be "technically" illegal, but if it is never enforced, it doesn't matter.

Trump’s acquittal, while absolutely the most predictable thing since Shutter Island, is now a lesson that there is no consequence to a sitting President using their power and authority to withhold congressional foreign aid at gunpoint in order to coerce other nations to interfere in U.S. elections. Further, it is okay for the executive branch to arbitrate whether or not the constitutionally mandated powers of the legislative branch are “valid,” and to completely disregard them if they wish.

Not “okay” of course. Everyone agrees that Trump did something wrong. But there will be no consequences.

It’s piss-obvious what happened. Trump withheld foreign aid from Ukraine in order to get them to announce an investigation into a thoroughly debunked theory in the hopes that the mere hint of impropriety would change his personal political fortunes against a rival he was losing to in the polls. (Naturally the “perfect” phone call the White House was a lie. This President lies. He lies a lot. He lies about shit that has been proven wrong on camera. But why should that stop the party of family values from treating him, from a sociological standard, more like a cult leader than a politician.)  In fact, it was SO obvious what happened that the Republicans essentially had to change their strategy in mid-stream. They had started by claiming it was about a deep and abiding concern for corruption (a claim betrayed by the timing, the conditions put on the money, and not to put too fine a point on it, but the fact is that this administration has yet to meet a corruption it didn’t like), but by the time Bolton was confirming the entire story and that it was actually even more corrupt than the initial investigation revealed, and GOP senators were breaking ranks to get to the truth, suddenly the entire argument shifted to “Okay, okay. What he did was wrong, but doesn’t meet the standard of an impeachable offense.”

Literally “He did it and we all know he did it. And he lied about it repeatedly. And it was wrong….and totally illegal. And he knew it was wrong when he was doing it. But since the Constitution is vague, we can pretend that it wasn’t so bad he should be removed from office.”

Lawyers even said that anything Trump did in an attempt to get reelected wasn’t impeachable because Trump thought it was in the country’s best interest. Give that a moment’s thought if you haven’t already. Have you EVER met a politician who thought that their election was NOT in the best interests of their constituents? This is literally arguing that ANYTHING a sitting President does—bribery, extortion….treason––is all okay so long as it furthers a reelection they “really” believe in.

Republicans have had a little “ends justify the means” problem with what they claim are their moral principles for quite some time now, but that sound you heard was millions of eyes going wide as it is still apparently possible to shock the rest of the country by just coming right out and making it your official defense.

Marco Rubio took it even a step further: ”Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office….”

If you unpack that, it’s basically, “Yeah, Trump broke the law and it was ethically bad enough to remove him, and we probably ought to, but I’ve decided not to." (Curiously, this might be the only stance that wouldn’t be reprehensibly hypocritical should a Democrat turn around and do the same thing in four years.

Of course there was never any doubt that this would happen. The Republican leadership was transparent about how impartial they WEREN’T going to be. When Trump was impeached, Mitch McConnell said he was going to do everything he could to help the President (until he realized those optics really sucked and then got all solemn and promised to do his impartial duty…..which just happened to involve doing everything he could to help the President).

The only moment that wasn’t utter, farcical Kabuki theater was when three senators broke ranks in wanting to hear from witnesses. Two were whipped back into line, probably with the threat of losing RNC funds (and if you’re slightly conspiratorial, both may have been putting on a “show” that McConnell agreed to ahead of time because they need to be seen as somewhat open-minded in their battleground states). The only holdout (Romney) was uninvited from CPAC. He’s being “punished.”

Republicans with the SLIGHTEST interest in finding the truth, never mind doing their job, are being “punished."

So the message is crystal clear, now Trump knows he can go as fast as he wants.

The legislative branch has essentially said that it’s okay if the President abuses their authority and holds up the funding CONGRESS allocated to fetter it to political favors. They’ve said it’s okay to enlist the aid of foreign countries to interfere in our elections. They’ve said that it’s okay for the President to ignore the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution and “decide” if a given congressional investigation is worth cooperating with. And if that President decides that it’s politically inconvenient or they don’t like where it’s going, they can just tweet “witch hunt” enough and ignore subpoenas en masse.  Far from mere “executive privilege” on a case-by-case basis decided by the courts, it is okay if the President deems something Congress was given the power to do as unimportant, it’s okay to just ignore their authority.

Well….not OKAY, but there won’t be any consequences for it.

Not a raised voice. Not a “Shame on you, Mr. President.” Not a non-binding resolution of censure. Not one finger wagged.

We all know what kind of frenzy we’d be looking at if a President with a “(D)” after their name had done half of this with an opposition Congress. We would be seeing an assiduous understanding of the “DUTY” of Congress, a keen grasp of the separation of powers, and a clear, lucid articulation of how ignoring subpoenas en masse was an irreverent mockery of legislative authority. Republicans bringing fidget spinners into chambers and railing with their grandstanding time that they can’t even GRASP what Democrats are on about is the worst sort of bad-faith partisan hypocrisy imaginable….which might matter if today’s GOP had shame.

Those who are worried about what happens now are not being hyperbolic. It is as bad as they’re worried it is. The Senate GOP closed ranks and sold out the interests of the American people to protect its party leader. In doing so, they were derelict in their duty to protect the legislature from executive attacks on the Constitution and that document's mandated separation of powers ("checks and balances"). They handed the keys to the President to ignore the rule of law because their political fortunes are all linked and among them they don’t have enough vertebra to form a single entire spine.

There are no adults in the room and the temperance we were assured Trump had behind his bluster never manifested.

Will Russia’s help be directly enlisted now? No more games. No more red-faced, flying spittle insistences that there was no collusion. Just a transparent series of strategy meetings in exchange for sanction lifting that no one will even bother to try too hard to hide. What about if Trump just starts granting political favors to Republican US state governors who will promise to close a few key polling stations, scrub some registrations, or pull some strings? (Swing states are won and lost by fractions of a percentage. It wouldn’t take more than one voter out of 200 being affected to make a difference.) What if he agrees to trade deals in exchange for campaign funding? What if he just decides to go with the play that works and suddenly it’s pay to play on US foreign aid? (You want that humanitarian aid that Congress has allocated to you? Pick the Democrat you’re going to be announcing a corruption investigation into.) Every nation could be secretly investigating a different democrat. And what if he decides to skip subverting democracy and goes straight for attacking it. ("I have decided it's in 'the best interests of the country' if we postpone the 2020 election until this contentious time has passed.") It’s not like it’s even terribly difficult to imagine Trump tangled up in any of these scenarios.

And perhaps more to the point, now the President can do any of these things so long as the opposition Senate isn’t anywhere close to a 2/3 majority.

It’s illegal, but it’s not like there’re any REAL consequences.

Trump can go as fast as he wants.