Category: politics

What, Exactly, Did You Expect the Mueller Report To Do?

Ever since Mueller began investigating Trump and the 2016 election, the whole effort seemed to snowball in importance. More and more people began to talk about what the report was going to do. We all watched it develop, and some read so much into the slightest bits of news that would come out. The argument was Mueller was a genius, and he was going to prove once and for all that Trump was crooked. It was all one big masterplan, and once it was complete, the world would know at long last all the Truth about what really happened.

At least, that’s what people came to believe, it seemed. And now the report is finished, and Trump’s Attorney General read it and assured us all that it cleared Trump of any wrong doing. (In other news, Cruella DeVille’s lawyer read over the independent investigator’s report into a string of dognappings and assured the public Ms. DeVille was totally exonerated by its findings, though maybe the report wasn’t ever going to be released to the public . . .)

Of course there’s no small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I’m left wondering what, exactly, people expected to get out of this report. Yes, I realize it was the mythical silver bullet that was going to Solve Everything, but anyone who believes that somehow still believes the problem lies solely with Trump. That if we could just get him out of office, then all would be well with the country again.

As I’ve said before, President Trump is really just a symptom of deep seated problems in America. 90% of Republicans think he’s doing a swell job. 1 in 3 independents think the same thing. Heck, even 4% of Democrats like what he’s up to. Yes, he’s able to cause all sorts of problems from his seat in the Oval Office, but the continued tolerance for him and his approach to politics and life in general isn’t going to go away with the wave of a wand or the lines of a report.

Imagine, for a moment, that the report said Trump was 100% guilty of collusion. That he’d personally called Putin up on the phone and asked him to help win him the election. Imagine that phone recordings of the conversation were even included, complete with a Dr. Evil-style laugh fest at the end of the talk, as they all contemplated how awesome this plan was going to be.

I honestly don’t think even that would have moved the needle enough to do anything other than further divide the country. Yes, it likely would have persuaded more independents, but in this day of Deepfakes and altered media, it’s too easy to dismiss anything. You’d have Republicans claiming the tape was doctored, and they’d trot out evidence of it, then all assure each other that evidence should be believed.

If you think I’m dreaming, then consider for a moment the response by some to the shootings in New Zealand. Livestreamed on Facebook. Manifesto published by the killer online. And yet you still have people claiming it was all done by actors. That it’s one big conspiracy. (I’m not going to link to any of it, and I don’t recommend any of you check out the idiotic arguments. They’re not worth the digital bits they occupy on a hard drive.) Never mind the countless witnesses. The law enforcement. The hospital workers. The news coverage. These people are fully ready to dismiss all of that as a conspiracy.

I understand the hope. The thought that somehow the general public will come to its senses and give Trump the boot. But it’s not going to happen through a Report. Trump’s power is rooted in fear. In making people afraid of people who are different than they are. That the country is changing, and that we are under attack. The only real way to combat that is either to somehow get those people who are afraid to overcome their fear, or to wait for those people who are afraid to be drowned out by people who don’t share that sentiment.

I don’t have solutions in this post. I know yelling at Republicans and calling them names won’t solve anything. The same is true for putting all your faith in Democrats, as if they’re the morally superior party. I personally believe the best shot we have at getting out of this is by breaking out of the two party system and the lie we’ve agreed to believe that one side is Right and the other side is Wrong. But one thing I’m sure of is that it’s going to take a whole lot more than a Report to make all of this go away.

We’ll have another presidential election in 2020. And we’ll see how the country’s feeling at that point. But it can’t be a “right vs. wrong” mentality that gets us out of this. Republicans aren’t 100% wrong, and Democrats aren’t 100% right, or vice versa. If you believe they are, then I’d argue you’re part of the problem too. Dismissing Republicans as “evil” or “bigots” is just another flavor of dismissing the Other.

But at this point, I feel like I’m just turning preachy. My apologies. It’s Monday, and no Report is going to solve any of my problems today, it seems.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

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A Need for National Humility

On a personal level, I think most people can identify when someone has a problem with self-esteem in either direction. There’s the people who are always down on themselves, no matter what. You want to pick them up and tell them everything’s going to be okay. That they should go easier on themselves. Chin up!

But then there’s the people who are so full of themselves, they have a hard time recognizing anything they do wrong. They’re so prideful it damages their relationships, and handling them is a big pain in the patootie.

As I was thinking about the (many) political issues we’re having as Americans these days, one thought drifted to the surface: many of those problems could be handled with more national humility. Excessive pride is seen by many as a character flaw on an individual level; why can’t we recognize it as a problem on a national level as well?

I don’t mean to say we can’t be “proud to be American,” and I’m sure that’s where many might want to take my argument as soon as they hear it. I love my country, and I think we have a lot of wonderful things we do. But I also think it’s important to be able to take a frank look at yourself and realize there are areas that need improvement. Change.

Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan has played entirely into this nationalistic pride vein, fanning the flames of pride to a point that’s not just delusional, it’s unsafe for the global political landscape. Yet I can understand why so many people fall for it. We have a tendency, as a country, to constantly tell ourselves how wonderful we are, even when we’re not. We’ll talk about how our health care is the best. Our education is the best. Our freedoms are the best. Our sports are the best. And never mind any actual data that might get in the way of our opinions.

When you think you’re the absolute best at something, you have no incentive to improve. There’s no need to look to anyone else for an example. No need to consider alternative solutions to a problem. You can just say “I’m the best,” and ignore the rest, which is something Trump has built his entire life around.

Not that this is a problem isolated to one man, though he’s certainly an outgrowth of it. A natural result of decades of an absence of humility on a national level. After all, our nation elected the man. Yes, the election was influenced in various ways, but to me that’s sort of like complaining about the end result of a football game because of some very questionable calls by the refs. You might have a wonderful point, but in the end, it’s not going to change the scoreboard. And if your team was so mighty to begin with, how did they get in a position where one or two boneheaded calls cost them the game?

Trump has already begun to lay the foundation for an argument if he loses the election in 2020. Essentially, he’s telling his adherents the only way he *can* lose is if the Democrats cheat. If they have millions of people vote illegally. And there’s a huge problem with this argument if people believe it. The next natural step is to say, “I don’t have to step down as President, because I actually won.” And if enough people believe that’s true, bad things happen. Civil wars. Just because it hasn’t happened in America in over a hundred years doesn’t mean it can’t happen again.

And the sad thing is I’m not sure the Republican party wouldn’t support his claim. They’ve already shown a readiness to embrace Trump’s rhetoric and ideologies as long as it gets them what they want. “The end justifies the means” seems to have become the rallying cry for many of my fair-minded Republican friends. “What what he does, not what he says” is another one.

But in the end, it’s not worth it to me. I will not support someone who says and acts like Trump, just because some of his professed beliefs or goals might overlap with mine.

My hope is that we can begin to have more national humility. That we can recognize our flaws and stop plugging our ears and shouting about how wonderful we are in every way. If we can do that, as Republicans and Democrats and Independents, then we have a chance of righting the ship and making America nice again. Compassionate again. And maybe even great again.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.



On Michael Cohen

I’ve watched some of the Cohen proceedings while I’ve been at home sick (again!), and I’m not really sure what to say, except how disappointed I continue to be by our government. That we ever got to this point is such a sad state of affairs. That the President’s personal lawyer has admitted to lying to congress. That he’s now accusing the President of all sort of terrible things, and that a large portion of the country believes him.

That instead of handling this in a way even remotely resembling adults, our leading politicians choose instead to spend their time grandstanding, playing to the people at home who either wish Cohen would bring this whole presidency toppling to the ground or wish all those smarmy Democrats would finally be put in their place.

In the end, I just turned it off. As much as I’m against Trump, I don’t believe anything Michael Cohen says under “oath” will have any sort of an impact on the end result. It’s possible, of course, that some of the documents he produces might, if they can be verified, but even they will be tarnished goods, open to skepticism.

The fact that the “hearings” are going on for so long is even more depressing, as each politician wants his or her chance to bloviate into a microphone for their allotted time, until they’re cut off and have to cede the floor to the next chest thumper.

There are so many important things happening in the world. The fact that we have a President who’s acted in a way that set the stage for all of this to happen is disgusting. And that we continue to have a vast majority of Republicans supporting him is even more discouraging. (Currently 89% of Republicans approve. 38% of Independents, and 5% of Democrats.) So of course Republican politicians are all too eager to show how they support Trump as well.

No. Watching the Cohen hearings is a waste of time, giving the people involved exactly what they so acutely desire: a microphone, a platform, and a sea of listening ears.

Depressing.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.



Why I Skipped Watching the State of the Union

Last year I debated watching the State of the Union, a speech I’ve usually watched for most of the last decade, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office. This year I didn’t even think twice. Instead of watching, I was in bed before 10pm, reading a book and going to sleep.

Last year I wasn’t quite sure what a Trump State of the Union would be like. This year, I didn’t need to perch on the edge of my seat to wonder. I’ve seen enough of the man to know what to expect, and so instead of watching it, I read the transcript this morning. (It goes so much faster when you don’t have to listen to the interminable applause that goes on during that event. I’ve never liked that.)

Back when I taught Freshman composition, I would go over speeches with students, looking for the different uses of pathos (appeal to emotion), ethos (appeal to credibility), and logos (appeal to logic). The State of the Union was always an easy target to use as an example, and Trump’s speech last night was no exception. He had WWII veterans kids with cancer present to tug on the heart strings. He had a slew of data that he used to appear logical. And of course he has his persona, which demands that he be listened to because he is Trump. Some of that is because he’s the President now. Some of that is because people watched him fire people on The Apprentice for years.

But when I was teaching students, I didn’t just show the how to spot the different arguments. I wanted them to see how those arguments are sometimes used to manipulate an audience.

In the middle of a speech where you’re being applauded left and right, it’s easy to accept the facts you give as true, even if they’re not, for example. Trump’s often had a trouble with the truth, and he’s built his entire platform around a longing for yesteryear. “Make America Great Again” is nothing if not an appeal to emotion.

He’s not alone in the way he’s done this. Other Presidents did the same thing. Politicians pretty much across the board. But what particularly rankles me about Trump is his insistence that he doesn’t do it. That he always tells the truth, even when he’s lying that instant. He’s had problems with truth from his inauguration on, and I see no need to sit and listen to an inveterate liar be applauded for an hour and a half.

I’d much rather sleep. And so I did.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Political Fallout

Well here we are on the day after election day, 2018. I had a later night than I ought to have had last night, but I just can’t help watching all the results as they pour (or trickle) in. I was following three news sources simultaneously last night. CNN for television results (because I continue to find them the most middle of the road network), FiveThirtyEight for online national analysis (seriously, their liveblog and results graphs were really informative and spot on, particularly after they fixed their model that was giving me a heart attack at the beginning of the evening), and the Bangor Daily News site for local results (which came in far too slowly, but welcome to Maine.)

I wanted to do a couple of things with today’s post. First, to go over some of the things that happened yesterday, because the day proved memorable for a few reasons. And second, to go over the results themselves and give a rundown of my thoughts. First, the events.

In my twelve elections here in Maine, I’ve never had to wait in line longer than 2 or 3 minutes to cast my vote. Yesterday I ducked over before my reference desk shift, thinking I had 25 minutes, so plenty of time to walk over, vote, and come back. It ended up taking me almost an hour. I waited in line for 45 minutes. I counted more than 200 people in line when I left. I’m not sure how much of that was due to higher turnout, and how much of it was due to a more complex ballot. (Maine was doing Ranked Choice Voting for some elections, so we ended up having three different pieces of paper we had to turn in at the end.) In any case, it was surprising.

As I walked up to the voting location, there was the customary crowd of people around the door, asking me to sign petitions or wanting to shake my hand. I’m always, frankly, irritated by this. I don’t want to meet or talk to people when I vote. I feel like they’re being nosy, and I want them to mind their own business. This time there was also a tent set up with a big banner hanging from it. It was pretty text heavy. I scanned it for a moment, then just kept walking. No one was there, so I didn’t think more on it.

Later, I found out the tent was being staffed by a person who was out trying to talk to people he thought might be students registering to vote. His goal? He wanted to “educate voters” about the consequences of registering to vote in a place you don’t permanently live. While nothing he was saying was false, the fact that he was targeting students and listing off potential laws they might end up breaking leaves little to the imagination of what his goal was. I got steamed about it, posted his picture to social media and called him a less-than-flattering word (which I subsequently apologized for, because I shouldn’t have done that). Still frustrating. I suppose I can sort of kind of see what he thought he was doing or how he justified it to himself, but the net result is trying to get people to not vote, which feels pretty sleazy to me.

Despite all of that, we now have results. Over all, I’m quite pleased with how the election went. A few notes:

  • Nationally, it played out about how it was predicted. Republicans took more of the Senate than I’d like, but Democrats came on strong in the House. At least there’s a break on the runaway train that’s been the Trump administration up until now. I would have loved to have seen a big ol’ blue tsunami rush through everything, showing to the country and the world that America won’t stand for continuous racist behavior, but apparently enough Americans are okay with it to support it, either believing A) racism is okay or B) it’s not really racist. Whatever. I’ll take what I can get.
  • Locally, the Democrats cleaned house. We have our first female Governor in Janet Mills, and they took the House and the Senate. I’m happy to see the LePage administration finally exit stage left, and I’m excited to see what the new government comes up with.
  • The bond measure for the university system passed as well, meaning my library will get a renovation in some form, which makes me happy personally.
  • Ranked Choice Voting is actually going to come into play for the Poliquin/Golden House of Representative race, which also is exciting. I’m glad to see it put to use already, and I hope people stick with it. I’d love to see it extended to all Maine elections.

In any case, today feels much better to me than two years ago. While my faith in our country isn’t full restored, I’m encouraged by the process and feel much more optimistic for the future. Again, I don’t have anything against the Republican principles I grew up with. I can get behind a lot of their goals. It’s the methods they’ve been using to achieve them, the ideologies they’ve been embracing, the rhetoric they’ve used, and the leader they’ve chosen that has led me to reject them as a political machine. Until they switch things up, I’m for anything that takes them out of power.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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