Is this necessary?

At about 11:30 P.M. last night, I was in bed trying to not think about how fast a tweet-storm can turn into an actual fire-storm in the internet age. It took a while, but I had finally dozed off. At that exact moment, my cell-phone, which had been quietly charging on the other side of the room with the ringer and all “notifications” off, started blaring a loud, pulsing alarm, exactly like the sound which warns of impending nuclear doom in every nuclear doom movie you’ve ever seen.

Holy shit, I thought. The tiny-handed moron-baby has finally gone too far with his reckless improvised “policies”/bragging/tweeting/blathering/bullying.

I bolted upright and tried to find my glasses so I could see exactly what this emergency was and what I was supposed to do in response (as if there is anything at all you could ever do). I mean, why else would they be sending an alarm unless there was something for me to do about it, right?

Well, after stumbling around in the dark a while and accidentally kicking a terrified cat, I finally learned the nature of the threat. Some idiot woman 60 miles away had gotten into some sort of domestic thing with her idiot baby-daddy, and grabbed up her kid and went “missing”. Obviously, every sleeping citizen up and down the east coast needed to know about this immediately. A child was “in danger”! We must all wake up and, uh, do something about this!

Of course, a couple of minutes later they were found in the backyard and the “AMBER” alert was cancelled. Phew. All’s well that ends well, I guess. Best of all,  Leeann Rickheit got a whole bunch of attention that she desperately craved. I even put her name in this paragraph so she can find it when she Googles herself four hundred times a day. Well done, Leeann.

leann

It took me about 25 minutes of searching the internet to figure out how to turn these “alerts” off on my Samsung Galaxy phone. Then I tried to go back to sleep, but it was difficult because I couldn’t stop thinking about how there might be no more Samsung in the morning. Or Kia. Or LG. Or South Korea. On the plus side, at least I wouldn’t be woken up by the news.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

Today, two questions are of burning interest to defenders of “royalty” worldwide:

1. Why be only a prince and merely a Highness but not Majesty, without any status?

2.  How can we explain to younger generations the usefulness of the monarchical system?

Here at GOML, the problems and concerns of “royals” have always seemed incomprehensible and quaint, and we have absolutely no idea what the answer to either of the questions might be, or, really, what they even mean.

But to Prince Henrik of Denmark, a life of bitterness and anger became his destiny when, in 1967, he married Queen Margrethe II and became the Prince of Denmark.

royal

“What’s the problem with that?”, I hear you asking. The problem is that’s not good enough – that’s the problem, OK? And Henrik is pretty chapped about it, as who wouldn’t be.  It’s an insult and a slight. For half a century, people have been laughing up their sleeves at him, calling him “Hamlet” behind his back, and who knows what else.

What should have happened at the time of the marriage, according to Henrik, is that he should have been named “King Consort”. The way it is, he’s a “Highness” but not a “Majesty”. He has no status! This is bullshit!

He’s now 83 years old and has been steaming about this outrage for 50 years. Today he has announced that he will NOT be buried with his wife when he dies. According to the BBC, she has accepted his decision. An unconfirmed rumor is circulating that her actual words were, “He’s a royal all right, a royal pain in the ass. As far as I’m concerned, you can make him ‘King of the Nitwits’ and he can spend eternity in an unmarked grave.”

OK, I think that may have clarified the whole “Highness vs. Majesty” issue. As for the question of how to explain the usefulness of the monarchical system, well, that remains a mystery.

Do not become deceased

When dealing with the police, that should always be Rule #1: Do Not Become Deceased.

The woman in Minnesota who became deceased last week after calling police about what she thought might be an attack behind her home can be forgiven for not keeping this rule in mind. She was from Australia and perhaps was not aware of her duty in this instance.

deceased

Since she failed to follow this common sense rule, she was unable to resolve the issue that she originally called about. Maybe there had been a rape behind her home as she suspected, or perhaps something else. We’ll never know now. What happened when the police responded to her call was explained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension this way:

“Upon police arrival, a female ‘slaps’ the back of the patrol squad. After that, it is unknown to BCA agents what exactly happened, but the female became deceased in the alley.”

Clearly, the woman should not have become deceased at this time, and perhaps the incident that she called about could have been resolved had she been more careful about meeting this obligation.

This unfortunate lapse has led to the resignation of the Minneapolis Police Chief, and the placing on “administrative leave” of two Minneapolis police officers, which is clearly a tragedy that could have been avoided.

So remember, kids, if you think you might need to call the police for some reason, be sure you are prepared to meet your obligation to not become deceased. If you can’t do that one simple thing, well, there’s just no point in calling them at all.

 

 

Please be advised…

We are apparently now living under a new form of government, the name for which is yet to be coined. It has major elements in common with “kakistocracy”, “kleptocracy”, and “plutocracy”, but none of those terms describe it precisely. “Idiocracy” doesn’t quite get the essence of it either. Neither does “dictatorship”, at least not yet.

But the ground is shifting beneath us daily, and could tilt more completely to any of these designations at any time. And then shift and veer more towards another, or something totally different the following day. I’m leaning towards “Twitterocracy” as the most accurate for now, given recent events.

Two quick examples from just yesterday make good indicators of this new paradigm.

The first is the President of the United States, using his own internet account, and with no consultation with anyone else, impulsively “Tweeting” an attack on a U.S. Senator in his own party, for casting a vote that he disapproves of.

lisa

This is an insidious change in our national discourse. Murkowski, and every other congressperson, is not an employee of the president, and not appointed by him. Each member of the legislature is part of an institution meant to exercise power equal to that of the presidency. Like all representatives, Murkowski was chosen by the people at home, and directed to vote their conscience and her own, which she has done. In choosing to attack someone this way, Tweety is talking directly to those who elected Murkowski, using the bully pulpit to undermine her.

He is also playing with fire, as there will certainly be someone back home who will now regard Murkowski as “the enemy” who lets the country down. And, since the normal way of doing things is clearly obsolete, that person may not bother waiting for the next election to express his displeasure. What I am saying is that Tweety is recklessly inciting the mob here, and there may be tragic consequences, which of course Tweety will deny responsibility for.

And he’s choosing to attack an ally, a member of his own party, and someone whose support he will certainly need going forward! His idea is to bypass the usual methods of persuasion, like calling her on the phone, or inviting her to lunch, or asking the Majority Leader to give her a message from him, or a million other more civilized options that historical protocol offers. Or simply accepting that she voted her conscience and that this is how our system works. Instead, he has decided that bullying works best. For him.

If Mitch McConnell were actually a leader in any sense of the word, this is where he would draw the line. He would tell Tweety, publicly and sternly, to lay off members of his caucus and to do his own job and let the Senators do theirs. But he is not a leader.

All this comes after days of Tweety similarly attacking his own Attorney General, someone he hand picked for his loyalty and seemingly blind support just months ago. Attacking Jeff Sessions as “weak”, etc., is also unprecedented, not to say nutty, just like so many things Tweety has done. I’m tempted to say “everything” he has done, actually, as I’m having trouble thinking of a single example of Tweety observing presidential protocol or tradition. At least, in this case, the A.G. is someone he appointed, not someone elected by others. But that in no way justifies this method of showing displeasure.

Tweety has had many, many opportunities to talk to Sessions face-to-face about his complaints, as they were both in the same building at the same time on several occasions. But Tweety was holed up in “his private residence”, apparently in a FoxNews-induced trance. He chose to shame and humiliate and antagonize Sessions publicly instead. Sessions, it turns out, isn’t even on Twitter, so not only wasn’t the barrage meant for his ears only, it wasn’t meant for his ears at all. At least not directly.  WTF?

The second example is Tweety “deciding” that transgender people are no longer welcome in the military. He woke up in the morning, “consulted with his generals”, picked up his Twitter, and blasted away.

trans

“Please be advised…? Thank you.” That’s it? That’s all it takes now to disrupt the lives of thousands? That’s all it takes to change policy? No bills passed in congress after a spirited debate? Not even an Executive Order? Just 140 characters randomly blasted out to the world?

“Please be advised…”?

What’s next?

“Please be advised that from today forward, you will drive on the left hand side of the road. Thank you.”

“Please be advised that vegetables will no longer be allowed in grocery stores. Thank you.”

“Please be advised that your existing plumbing systems may no longer be used. If you choose to use water, you may purchase approved brands only. Thank you.”

water

Folks, we’re in uncharted territory here. I don’t know if this form of government has a name yet. Any suggestions?

Pardon me

It’s official. Everything you thought you knew about how our government works is wrong. Also, politics, international relations, the press, law enforcement, and every other aspect of public life.

There was a time Before Tweety (B.T.) when Republicans took Reagan’s dictum that you never spoke ill of another Republican to be an immutable law. Trump proved that that was not true.

There was a time B.T. when you knew a presidential candidate would have to produce his medical records to prove he was fit and that he wasn’t insane. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., it was thought a candidate was required to produce his tax returns to assure the electorate that he was honest, to gauge his charitable giving, and to show if there were any conflicts of interest. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., it was thought that, if elected, you had to divest your business interests and put assets in a blind trust to avoid conflicts and to free you to concentrate on the work of the people. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., Russia was understood to be a power hostile to our ideals and way of life, and impeding our ability to make it available to others around the world. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., the F.B.I., C.I.A., and other intelligence-gathering agencies were thought to be working to help us defend ourselves against all manner of attack and subversion. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., it was thought that the role of the press was crucial in shedding light on ambiguous policies and ethical lapses, and that at regular intervals they would be able to ask the questions of those in power that citizens were owed the answers to. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., it was thought that the President was not above the law, and that ultimately he must answer to congress and the courts. We thought the resignation of Richard Nixon proved this. Congress had the power to try him for high crimes and misdemeanors, and, when he saw they were going to do just that, he cut his losses as best he could and resigned in disgrace.

Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford issued a presidential pardon (Proclamation 4311) that granted Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while president. It was controversial because many people thought it was a subversion of our system of checks and balances, and because they wanted to see Nixon tried and punished like any other citizen, which they thought they knew to be the way things should be.

But Ford thought it would serve the country better to just move past the ugliness that Nixon had created in the Executive branch, and that civility and public trust would be restored faster by just ending the agony. Maybe he was right.

Even Nixon never thought that he could escape his persecutors by simply pardoning himself. Why resign and wait for his successor to do it? Why not just do it yourself and retain the presidency and skip all the shame? Why not?

Even Nixon could see that it would be an insane abrogation of the power of the presidency and the public trust to attempt such an audacious and dystopian gambit. Even Nixon saw that it made no sense in the context of the American system.

Everyone could see this was obviously true, and for Nixon to pretend it wasn’t would be to affirm the accusations of his most vicious detractors: it would prove he was an insane megalomaniac, a narcissist with no understanding of the principles American government and justice, and no respect for the citizenry.

But Trump has now proved that even this is untrue. He has pronounced that he has the absolute right to pardon aides, family members, and, yes, even himself. And like everything Trump, he may able to justify it all with some sloppy wording in some statute, some missing comma, some failure to include language that no one ever conceived would be needed, some atom of ambiguity that turns everything his way. In this piece, the Failing New York Times asks the question, “Could Trump pardon himself?”, and answers:

This is not clear. The only limitation explicitly stated in the Constitution is a ban on using a pardon to stop an impeachment proceeding in Congress, and the only obvious implicit limitation is that he cannot pardon offenses under state law.

And like everything Trump, having asserted it or tweeted it or even thought it makes it true enough for his followers and for those who feel they benefit somehow by letting this slow-motion dismantling of our social and political institutions continue.

We thought we knew that a president was “only” a president, and not a dictator, a king, an emperor, a pharaoh, or a God. Trump is proving that even that is not true.

trumpgod

 

Defending Trump

I really don’t know what to make of Scott Adams. As you know, he’s the creator of Dilbert (which I greatly enjoy), a prolific blogger and author, a trained hypnotist and many other things.  He’s clearly a very intelligent guy.

Although he doesn’t come right out and say anything like “I think Donald Trump is a great president”, by the time you’ve assembled all his defenses of Trump and combined them with all his dismissals of Trump’s flaws, there’s just no other conclusion you could ever come to.

follow

He was an early predictor of Trump’s success, a staunch defender (although he would probably prefer something like “explainer”), and, above all else, an admirer. Adams is interested in all aspects of “persuasion” and insists that Trump’s skill set in this area is so much better than anyone else’s that it’s hard to even measure it.

I used to spend more time on the Metafilter website more than I do now, and I was always a little perplexed by their disdain for Adams, who is basically Persona Non Grata there. It was based mostly on his disregarding site rules and protocol. At one point he used another identity to argue for his own points (a little like Trump impersonating his own P.R. guy, now that I think of it), and also for some of his less politically-correct observations. But I always thought they were too hard on him.

After listening to Sam Harris’s conversation with Adams on his Waking Up podcast, though, I’m beginning to think Metafilter was right all along. In this conversation, Adams stretches credulity in his defense of Trump, all the while cleverly “agreeing” with the premise of various questions, like Trump is a liar. Basically Adams’ response is “So what?”, since he only lies about things that don’t matter, and anyway he always lies in “the right direction”, meaning everyone knows kind of what he meant and agrees with his ideas even when the facts he sites to support them are wrong.

In the podcast, Harris asks him a lot of questions I have always wanted to ask a Trump apologist, like how to explain Trump’s involvement with the obvious scam of Trump University. Basically Adams says it was a franchise operation and Trump can’t be expected to control every aspect of how his franchisees behave. Harris says, yes, but what about now that he knows it was a scam, and Adams has more and more unlikely explanations. I recommend you give it a listen. For me it started out as extremely interesting and gradually morphed into infuriating.

Adams explains the reaction of Trump-haters to the things Trump says and does as “confirmation bias” and “cognitive dissonance”. It’s hard to know how to defend yourself against these charges, but it’s interesting to listen to someone with real intelligence jump through hoops to defend Trump – assuming you’ve got your blood pressure meds nearby, that is.

Of course, many people have responded to Adams about the discussion and you may also want to give his post-mortem responses on Twitter a listen as well. Enjoy.

This can’t go on

It’s just not normal. How can we go on pretending it’s normal? Or that it’s OK in any way? Are we so stunned by the rapidity of the change? Are we so ignorant of our own history and principles? Are we so consumed by partisanship that we must ignore the bizarre and outlandish, the inappropriate and outrageous, when it comes from our “team”?

The President of the United States tweeted this on Monday:

courts are political

He was upset because his “Travel Ban” has to be ruled on by a court before it can be made law, and he indulged in one of his now-standard early-morning “tweet storms”, or maybe “twitter tantrums”  describes it better.

tweets

These outbursts do not serve his interests in any way, and certainly do not serve our country’s interests. He is discrediting our system of justice. Who does that help?

The President of the United States has declared that the courts are “political”.

Is this what should now be taught to schoolchildren?

The President cannot, must not, say this. Even if it were true, which, God help us, it better not be, he cannot say this.

He is saying that our system of checks and balances is a sham.

He is saying the idea of an independent judiciary is a sham.

He is saying that any judicial appointment he makes is political.

He is saying that he expects “Republican” judges (there better not be such a thing!) will rule against Democrat plaintiffs, and vice versa.

He is saying he expects any judge he appoints to rule in his favor no matter what the law says.

He is saying that decisions made in his favor are also tainted, just as those that he doesn’t like.

He is saying that any decision passed down by the courts is made not on the basis of legal precedent or constitutional law, but on political grounds.

He is saying that no court decision is justice, but rather politics, so you are right to question decisions you don’t like, or to simply reject and ignore them. They do not carry the weight of “law”, but only “politics”.

He is saying the power of the presidency is not tempered or augmented by the judiciary, but that it is in opposition to it.

He is saying the courts do not function to protect us and our principles, but, like the media and any other institution that questions him, are the enemy. Until you co-opt them for your own team.

He is saying the rule of law is a fiction.

He is saying he does not like or trust our system of government.

He is saying that the authority of the courts and judges is not real.

The President said this. The sitting President of the United States.

Those who admire and trust him will certainly modify their thinking based on his “teachings”, and some will modify their behavior as well. There will be consequences.

FoxNews will “debate” the merits of these statements. They will repeat and support them, perhaps with minor modifications and explanations, rather than go against their “team”, thereby amplifying the effect and compounding the damage.

Those who see Trump for the impulsive, ignorant, narcissistic jackass he is can only shake their heads, yet again, in dismay and wonderment. Or possibly speak out, only to then be accused of God-knows-what by the other “side”. Liberalism? Political correctness? Defeatism? Anti-Americanism? Terrorist sympathies?

Where’s the outrage?