The Swamp

I decided to put all of my “controversial” writings (ie. politics) on this blog from now on. I’ve been fairly idle with political commentary for years but I was inspired to start up again, as you might guess, by the election of Donald Trump. There was such an incredible explosion of fear, outrage, and yes, gloating, that I just had to start writing again. My feelings about politics in a nutshell is that everyone is wrong about everything.

Behind The Tweet: Crucify Him

Tonight, on a Very Special Episode of Behind The Tweet, we look into one of *my* tweets.

I’m sure everyone’s heard about the Sean Spicer Incident of 4/11/2017, the one where the press secretary mistakenly tried to compare Syrian dictator Assad to Hitler. I listened to snippets of it, and it’s very clear to me what he was *trying* to say, it’s just that he got tongue-tied, because he was aware that he had suddenly stumbled onto dangerous ground, and his attempts to extricate himself came out really badly. (Seriously, who *wouldn’t* be alarmed if they accidentally started talking about Hitler?) He apologized and corrected his remarks immediately after the press conference, from what I understand.

Of course, the left saw an opportunity and pounced, because in the modern political world, the best way to win a debate is to get your opponent fired. Wait. I’m getting sarcastic already. Let’s reign it in.

I completely agree that Spicer’s remarks were awkward, inappropriate, and factually incorrect.

That’s the end of what I’ll agree with.

I’m not Jewish, nor do I know anyone who is Jewish (at least nobody who has admitted it–but it’s not like people walk up to you and say, “Hi! I’m Jewish! How are you?”), but I certainly didn’t think his remarks were *offensive.*

Before we go any farther, let’s make sure we don’t forget that Syrian dictator Assad is a monster who is directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of quite a few people in Syria (I don’t know the exact figures and don’t even want to speculate, but I’m sure you can find out if you want). That should not be forgotten.

Over the course of Tuesday afternoon, I saw more and more people on Twitter responding to the Spicer remarks. I have three different Twitter accounts which I use to follow news and politics, authors, and gamers, respectively. Authors and gamers I follow tend to have a leftward political leaning, to put it mildly. Actually the majority of people I follow across all my accounts tend to lean leftward. I think the general population on the Internet trends toward the left (but that’s changing). I’ve had to work to find opposing viewpoints on Twitter.

My politics is closer to the center. Socially I go a bit center-left, and with fiscal stuff and foreign policy I go a bit center-right. So you can probably guess where this is going.

The authors and literary agents I follow tend to be in genre fiction, and to say that they are far left liberals is an understatement. I wasn’t aware of just how far left they were until the election, when they immediately started spreading information about setting up Tor and encrypted communications channels because they were apparently afraid they would all be immediately hunted down and killed. (I am not joking about the Tor thing, but I am speculating about them thinking they’d be hunted down.) I chalked it up to authors having vivid imaginations, and still do. Dystopian futures are big in genre fiction, after all. I don’t even blame them for wanting to have encrypted communications channels–I have enough Libertarian in me to believe it’s a great idea to be able to communicate without the government being able to eavesdrop. (I believe it was a gross overreaction to the real facts of the election, though, and a great example of mass hysteria in action, a phenomenon I have trouble grasping unless I see it.)

I saw more and more tweets coming in responding to the Spicer remarks. A lot of people were upset about his comments. I considered most of those tweets to be the “fake outrage” that we associate with modern political opposition. (Some people no doubt are genuinely outraged by events, but it’s easy to lose sight of them amid the torrents of fake/propaganda outrage.) Many tweets were memes, meant to be funny. All the “hold my beer” tweets, etc. I don’t mind those.

But then, toward late afternoon, I saw a tweet from a literary agent I follow who had come to the conclusion that because of Spicer’s remarks, he had revealed himself to be a Holocaust Denier. This was not a “meme” tweet making a joke. This was a dead serious tweet.

That was the last straw. That’s too far.

I’m a believer in defending the rights of people, even politicians, to make mistakes. By which I mean that I don’t believe someone should be crucified, so to speak, just for making a mistake. Somewhere around 2006 I saw the term “gotcha politics,” which was what it was called to end someone’s political career after catching them saying something inappropriate on tape. (I first witnessed this with George Allen’s famous “macaca” incident here in Virginia.) Basically it’s a shortcut way to win a political argument without having to use facts and logic. It’s abhorrant. It has no place in intelligent discourse. But we live in a media-obsessed society that caters to the lowest-common denominator, and political consultants will do anything to win. The press is also fond of gotcha politics now, particularly since the election. I’m very cynical about the press and politics, by the way.

The point is: Spicer made a mistake, he apologized. That’s what humans are supposed to do. He acknowledged his mistake and tried to atone. He followed all the social contract rules. But it’s not enough, apparently. He. Must. Be. Fired.

But here’s what I just don’t understand. The far left is so consumed with their need to “win” a battle against Trump that they haven’t thought through the long-term implications of replacing Spicer. I’m not a huge fan of Trump. He makes me nervous. The last thing we as a country need right now is a smooth-talking, convincing press secretary. Usually, press secretaries charm the pants off of the White House press corp and print whatever the president wants. This is the first time I can remember seeing a press corp that actually challenges the press secretary, and that’s a great thing. *Especially* with President Trump, the great question mark, in the White House. Why would anyone want to change that?

Now, finally, I want to get to the biting tweet that I wrote yesterday evening with all of those thoughts swirling in my mind. That agent’s tweet about the Holocaust Denial pushed me to the point where I felt compelled to put my 2 cents into the debate. I usually tweet on my @endgameviable account, because it happens to be where I have the most followers, and where I “fit in” the most. Except when it comes to politics. I try not to say too much about politics there, because frankly most of my followers are liberals who probably don’t want to see anything outside their bubble. I put most of my centrist political quips on my real name Twitter feed. But in this case I thought that was the audience that needed to hear some pushback. Groupthink drives me crazy. Political satire is important for society to hear, especially when it goes against conventional wisdom. I want everyone to think about every issue carefully, weigh all the facts from every side, and come to their own conclusion. I know it’s not always possible to do that, but that’s the ideal every citizen of democracy should strive toward.

Here’s what I wrote:

I thought about that wording for a long time. I started out with something much harsher. I kept softening it and softening it. I wanted it to be funny, esoteric, satiric, and biting. The best comedy makes people uncomfortable and makes them think. (I’m a big fan of George Carlin.) I wanted people to stop and think about it, and try to figure out what it meant.

I got zero reaction so I assume nobody did that. 🙂 It probably just came across as, “What the heck is that? Is he actually *defending* a Holocaust Denier??”

No, I’m not defending a Holocaust Denier. I would never do that. (Except that I think people should be free to practice whatever idiocy they want as long as it doesn’t hurt me.) Spicer is not a Holocaust Denier so it’s a moot point.

No, I’m not making fun of Christianity. I grew up Episcopalian, and for most of my life I’ve been involved in church music. (That’s mostly behind me now.) So I know all about Maundy Thursday and the Passion and that dramatic moment when Pilate asks what should they do with Jesus, and the crowd shouts, “Crucify him!” Maundy Thursday is one of the most powerful Episocopal services of the year, if you’ve never been.

It just struck me that, since it’s Holy Week, the left’s insistence that Spicer be fired is a very similar situation to the crowds shouting “Crucify him!” on Maundy Thursday, that’s all.

No, I’m not comparing Sean Spicer to Jesus, the Son of God. The only similarity is that they were both on trial in the court of public opinion.

No, I’m not making any kind of comment on Jews, Jewish Faith, the Holocaust, or anything of that nature. I’m aware that it could be perceived as anti-Semitic to make a disparaging remark about the crowds who called for Jesus’ crucifiction. Frankly that’s the only reason I’m explaining my tweet here. , But obviously that’s not my intent. I happen to be in the camp of people who think that the left has become far, far too sensitive about “political correctness.” To the point that I have to write this disclaimer when it shouldn’t be necessary.

The only thing I was trying to say with my tweet was: Nobody wants to live in a world where saying one dumb thing can ruin your career or your life. He who is without sin etc. etc.

Behind the Tweet: Possibility of New Election

It’s time for another episode of Behind The Tweet. This time, another “rogue” account:

“GOP worried if they press Rus-Pres ties & impeach, possibility of new election could occur; smartest play for dems – promise no redo.” – @RogueSNRadvisor

If you still held any lingering doubts about whether these rogue accounts were fake, this should seal it for you.

Either it’s fake, or senior White House advisers are dumb as rocks, which would be even more alarming.

Hopefully I don’t have to explain why this made me laugh out loud, but in case you aren’t aware of how things work in the U. S., the Constitution, the Presidential Succession Act, and the 25th Amendment spells out quite clearly what happens when a president is impeached. Or more precisely, who takes over after a president stops serving.

There is no possibility of a new election. Until 2020.

Vice President Mike Pence will become president if Donald Trump is impeached. (It’s possible, but I think the chances are still slim at this point.)

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will become president if both Donald Trump and Mike Pence are impeached simultaneously. (A very highly unlikely possibility.)

I’m not entirely sure how a new vice president is selected in either of those cases, but I’m sure it’s spelled out somewhere.

The point is: Whoever wrote that tweet is spreading lies and misinformation, essentially trolling liberals.

On Sally Yates

From old drafts, c. January 31, finally remembering to post:

Regarding the firing of Sally Yates as temporary Attorney General: I don’t like the ugliness of it, but Trump is well within his rights to fire her or anyone else who refuses to carry out his directives.

He could have done it gracefully or like a big old meanie, and of course he chose the latter, sounding very much like a tyrannical dictator in his statement. The clear intention is, “You will be loyal to me or you will be fired.” He’s trying to run the federal government like a private corporation.

Anyway, the real mistake that Yates made was being *publicly* disloyal. No administration would tolerate that.

In the larger picture, I’m a little concerned about whole swaths of people in government suddenly trying to defy the president and getting fired. Most of the government is run by an assortment of bi-partisan folks. If all the leftward-leaning partisan folks get fired, it leaves only rightward-leaning partisan folks, and suddenly the everyday workings of the government take a huge swing over to the right wing. That’ll be great for Trump, but possibly not so great for whoever follows him. (Yes, someone else will follow him.)

Piers Morgan Demonstrates Centrism In America

On Real Time with Bill Maher, Piers Morgan did an excellent job of demonstrating what it’s like to be a centrist white guy in America right now. The above clip is just one example.

Say something completely reasonable and true? Get shouted down, because it doesn’t fit the left’s current narrative that the world is ending. And because it comes from a white guy, the opinion is automatically invalid (because the narrative is that of course white guys don’t get it because Trump’s agenda won’t hurt white guys).

I don’t agree with the travel ban but calling it a “Muslim ban” is 100% propaganda. Even calling it a “travel ban” is a bit broad.

Fun with 8 US Code 1182

I watched Sean Spicer’s press conference when I got home tonight, and one part struck me as information I had not heard before. He cited 8 US Code 1182 as the president’s authority to suspend immigration in his Executive Order (around 7:00 in the video). He read it out loud, and it sounded pretty clear-cut to me. It was the first time I heard any mention of where they derived their authority.

I couldn’t help but notice that I heard it first from the Press Secretary and not from any media outlet.

Anyway, I went to my Googles and looked it up to verify it. (I have to take it on faith that Cornell has the real and accurate text of the U.S. Code on their web site.) Here’s the whole section:

(f)Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.

Emphasis mine. I’m no lawyer but that sounds pretty clear to me. Sure looks like the President can basically do whatever he wants with immigration.

Can’t Keep Up

It’s official: I can’t keep up with Trump anymore.

Every day he signs new orders, says new things, writes new tweets, and I don’t have time to keep reading them and trying to figure out what the heck they mean or whether to push the panic button or not.

This was undoubtedly the plan, the way to keep us ordinary citizens from keeping an eye on the government, forcing us to rely on media organizations to distill it down for us, which they always do wrong.

P.S. I don’t think it’s time to push the panic button yet, but this Republican ideal carried forward from the Bush administration of creating a locked-down police state is very annoying.

Weekend Immigration Protests

By the way, there is much more to talk about regarding the Executive Order on Immigration and its impact over the past weekend (detainees at airports, ACLU, stays, etc.), but the news is flying around so fast and furious that it’s basically impossible to sort out what’s real and what’s fiction right now. Depending on who you listen to, everything is either back to normal, or there are armed stand-offs between all three branches of government. (That is an exaggeration for comedic effect, I have not actually heard that–either claim, actually.)

I’m fairly confident nobody is being taken to “black sites” though.

Behind the Tweet: Rumors are true

Here’s another beauty:

That’s completely preposterous. Pure fear-mongering. Throwing gasoline onto a fire. Whatever other metaphor I can think of.

I don’t believe these “rogue” government Twitter accounts are real for one second. I was instantly suspicious the moment I saw them.

Why?

Because real government whistle-blowers go to the press, where they get protection.

Also, you know, I read some of their tweets. Like the one above. They aren’t credible. They’re probably the same anarchists who protest in the streets regardless of who wins an election.

Tonight I’m seeing people circulate the idea that @RoguePOTUSStaff is a Russian disinformation campaign.

I don’t necessarily agree with that either, but I’m at least happy to see the people who were enthusiastically ready to follow the rogue government accounts into battle, are now showing some doubts.

I guess the only way to kill one fiction is to invent an even bigger fiction. 🙂

Executive Order On Immigration

I’m not pleased with Trump’s Executive Order restricting immigration.

It runs contrary to the spirit of America.

I understand the need to vet immigrants, but a universal ban on immigration, particularly banning refugees from war-torn Syria, sends a really bad message to the world that I’m embarrassed to be a part of.

I’m particularly embarrassed by the priority given to Christian immigrants. That, in my opinion, is the work of Mike Pence, who I’m increasingly worried is pulling Trump’s puppet strings.

That being said, I cannot find the specific language in the Executive Order which prioritizes Christians over other faiths. I can’t help but wonder how you prove someone is a Christian or not anyway. Oh, here it is, it’s hidden:

“the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”

So it’s not “Christians” per se it’s “minority religions in the country of origin.”

Regardless, that is a direct violation of the American principle of religious neutrality.

Lest we give up hope, however, here is some good news.

The ban only lasts 90 days:

“I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order”

There is language in the Executive Order which allows exceptions:

“the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.”

And … well, there are elections coming up in 2020.

UPDATE

Saturday night a federal judge in New York ruled that people with valid visas could not be sent back to their country origin. That’s how separation of powers is supposed to work. It’s only temporary, though. The judge’s ruling is only going to help people stuck in airports, it won’t have any effect on future immigration.