One by one

This Maria Butina arrest is uh-mazing. It’s probably the first time in three years I’ve felt a smidgen of hope that the country might come out of this somehow. Just a smidgen, mind, but something!
 
Here’s why:
 
The roadblock we’ve had for holding Trump accountable has been the fact that virtually every Republican in Congress is rubber stamping everything he does, and since they have a stranglehold on control of both houses, we’re basically kind of screwed. There can be no impeachment without their cooperation, and they’re simply not going to cooperate. Even the ones like Flake and McCain who have voiced concerns never back those up with any actual action. 
 
Question is: Why? Why have they been so reluctant to do something about this clear danger to our country? The simplest answer is that most of them feel the same way: They want a white Christian nation in which gobs of money will land in their laps, and are perfectly willing to cheat and destroy lives to make it happen. That’s nothing new; the vast majority of the GOP has been like this for longer than I’ve been alive. The more complex answer: They’re in this whole Russia mess just as deep as Trump is. Not just obvious ones like Devin Nunes and the gang who went to Moscow a couple weeks back, but the whole damned party, or at least a significant portion of it.
 
The first indication that something like this was going on was the FBI raid last May on the Maryland offices of Strategic Campaign Group, a GOP campaign consulting biz with ties to Manafort and Stone. While the raid itself was targeted to irregularities with a specific campaign, it’s entirely likely that the evidence found there had breadcrumbs for a whole bunch of other trails, and the agency has been following those ever since.
The main focus of the Mueller investigation has been the Trump campaign, but it’s been clear from the start that those folks aren’t the only ones who have been playing dirty with Moscow. Trump, after all, would never have been able to push through Putin-friendly policies if he didn’t have cooperation from the rest of the GOP, and Putin wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble to install him if he wasn’t sure that cooperation would be there. So there has to be more going on than just interference with the presidential election.
 
Now that we know Russia was pushing buttons at the NRA, this picture becomes a lot clearer: They weren’t just trying to elect Trump, they were also buying influence with GOP pols via NRA campaign donations. Anyone who got those donations, along with a little nudge to pass Russia-friendly legislation, knew very well where the money originated. Which means a *shitload* of GOP Congressfolk are probably sweating buckets right now.
 
Now comes the tricky part, but it’s also the only thing that might save us. I have no idea if this is how things are going to go down, but under the current circumstances, it at least seems plausible: Rather than starting at the top, trying to take down Trump and probably Pence only to have the rest of the fetid ooze seep into the resulting gap, the indictments are theoretically going to start at the bottom. We’re probably about to see Republicans getting picked off, one by one, as evidence that they knew about the Russian money comes out. If they resign after getting arrested, they may be instantly replaced by GOP governors, which puts us back at square one on those seats, but a fair number of those seats may remain vacant at least until the election. Even if they don’t resign, if those seats are up for grabs in November, the chances of indicted candidates holding onto their jobs are next to nothing. 
And here’s the delicious part: Because so many places have already had primaries, it’s entirely possible that the GOP has absolutely no way to replace many of these candidates with someone else before November. They might try to spark up write-in campaigns for a pinch hitter, but that’s the most they’ll be able to do. They’ll be stuck with the only R name on the ballot being someone who’s in jail. Of course, plenty of voters will still tick that box rather than vote for a Democrat (look at the people who voted for that asshat in Montana even after he was arrested for punching a reporter), but only in the most heavily gerrymandered districts is that going to pay off. Plus, even if the Senator or rep does hang on to the seat, they’re not exactly going to be able to put in their yays or nays from a cell. A technical GOP majority in the House isn’t going to mean all that much of ten percent of the Republicans in those seats can’t cast a vote.
Moreover, if these indictments start coming down, it’s going to be a bloodbath. It won’t be just the actual elected officials getting nabbed, but party desk jockeys, too. Anyone who was involved in coordinating those NRA donations is going to be on the list. Gonna be a little bit hard to run a winning campaign if half of the RNC winds up in cuffs. The overall hit to both image and power the party could take from this would be catastrophic.
This scenario isn’t guaranteed, of course. Any number of things could happen before then to derail this, and there’s a very narrow tightrope to walk to make sure those indictments get in before Trump can start preemptively pardoning everyone. There’s also the fact that a certain contingent of swing voters are likely to be swayed by the inevitable spin that this whole thing is an attempt at a partisan coup, and the destruction of the GOP by us dastardly Democrats. But if this is done well–and I think Mueller can do it–we’ll at least have enough control over the Senate to prevent confirmation of Trump’s SCOTUS pick, and by the time the next session of Congress starts in January, we might have the House majority we need.
And then all that’s left is the impeachment.
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The Last Jedi: Take Two

Finally got a chance to do viewing #2 this past week. I watched with a clearer, more critical eye this time, and I think I’ve dug down into what much of the disconnect may be (aside from the stuff I mentioned before about white dudes who can’t see someone unlike themselves as a hero or protagonist.) Short version: It’s about recognizing that perfection is the enemy of progress.

(Spoilers ahead!)

Star Wars is a generational thing. The first two trilogies were created by Boomers for their own 1950s pulp-sci-fi nostalgia, and for two generations of youth: Gen Xers in the ’70s; Millennials in the 2000s. This most recent spate of films, however,  is largely being created and driven by Gen Xers–those of us at whom this universe was originally aimed. We’re making these new films in part for our own nostalgia, but also to carry on these beloved stories for our own children. Millennials are involved in this, too, but by and large, we’re doing these stories for a younger generation. Not the kids who were born in the ’80s or ’90s, but the ones born this century–Generation Z (or whatever they’re calling the 21st-century kids.)

This being the case, I think one of the reasons this film is resonating so much with some of us yet not with others is parenting. Yes, some parents dislike it and some non-parents love it, but the overarching themes of the story are particularly aimed at and best able to be understood by people who are now telling these stories to their own children. Most especially, one of the key themes–that heroes are not infallible–is an understanding that’s hard to come by until you’ve had a moment of reckoning with your own failings as an adult who’s supposed to be someone for a child to look up to. Continue reading

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Jedi Eye for the White Guy

I’ll be seeing it again later this week, but after a couple of days to process it, I think I’m ready to write something about The Last Jedi (though my memory on details may be a tad fuzzy.)

Fair warning! There will be spoilers. Read at your own risk.

First, to get this out of the way: I loved it. I didn’t have quite the sense of happy surprise I did with The Force Awakens, which is to be expected for a sequel. It also, as many reviewers have noted, has a different tone and pacing to many of the stories that have gone before it. I suspect that may be part of the reason some people didn’t like it so much. There were also some of the usual continuity and plausibility errors, but that’s par for the course for all of these films, so, eh.

There are also, however, some people who have decided to make it a personal crusade to rage on this movie, with a concerted effort to game its audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDB. Interestingly, some of this seems to have been taken up by the conservative bot army on Twitter, too. It’s really odd to see a generic MAGA account purportedly run by a Midwestern retiree suddenly switch from fapping over Trump to ostensible movie criticism. This sort of thing would be expected from the mass of 4chan-spawned racist fanboy/G*mergate dipshits who have now included fetishizing Nazis with their “I’m so oppressed” whining, but having it carry over outside of those circles and into the Russian-bot army is weird. Not sure what the endgame for this particular round of automated trolling is supposed to be, or whether it’s just that since one region of the asshat Twitsphere was going off about it, the bots picked up on it.

At any rate, it’s unsurprising that The Last Jedi is getting the same sort of rageflailing from this crowd as every other blockbuster that has dared to include people other than white dudes among its heroes. Seems that when you get more non-white-dude characters beyond a token Black guy (usually the team’s “muscle”), and a pretty girl who exists primarily as a quest reward for the hero, some folks think they’re now an endangered species. Had to laugh when I got called a racist and sexist on Facebook for noting that, given the massive box office these movies have gotten, the rest of us seem to be happy with the diversity. Indeed, white dudes being only 80% of characters in tentpole blockbusters, rather than 90%, is clearly evidence of impending genocide.

Which leads me to a more-detailed take on this particular one. Spoilers ahoy! Continue reading

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The luxury of apathy

(Note: This is a longer version of a series of tweets I made earlier. If you’re not getting enough of my ranting here, find me there for more!)

Thinking this morning about a dude who was at my caucus a year and a half ago: White. Army-green but not army-issue jacket. Close-cropped hair. There was little time for discussion, and the hall was noisy enough that few could be heard over the din anyway, but this guy had a loud voice, and decided he wanted to dominate the conversation. He spent a good ten minutes telling us about why he was there: He was 30, he said, and had never voted nor been involved in politics before. What changed things for him? Bernie, whom he kept praising to the ceiling.

Oh, FFS, I thought. Continue reading

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The Long Way Down

Another day, another punch in the face when I first read news in the morning. And another one that hits close to home: I’m genderqueer myself, and have a ton of Trans friends. I’ve already been agonizing over the ghoulish health-care bill (I’m expensive to keep alive, and lifetime caps/pre-existing exclusions would kill me), not to mention agonizing about the misery of millions of people facing police violence, deportations and other awful attacks, so this is just one more thing. But the pile of one more things keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I’m wondering when it’s going to topple onto my head.

I know we still had problems. I know there was still plenty of work to do. I know things were very, very far from perfect. Yet I can’t help mourning for how different my life was under Obama. His election gave me a measure of hope I’d never really had before, and for the first time in my entire life, I started to relax a little bit, trusting that there were people in charge who believed in and were working for the right thing. I took a risk on buying a new house. I started saving up to pay for an adoption. I wrote three novels. I had a life, not just a long series of days that each ended in a silent sigh of relief that I had survived. That relative comfort is now gone, and I’m left wondering if it’s ever going to come back, or if I am forever stuck always looking over my shoulder, grieving and angry for the people already suffering, and always wondering when the fragile bubble of safety I exist in is going to pop.   Continue reading

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Rocking the Hard Place

It is my sincere hope that you’re having a good day, or at least are looking forward to doing something nice today, since I’m about to become thoroughly Debbie Downer on y’all. Short version: Settle in, because this administration isn’t dead, yet, and won’t be for a long time, but don’t give up the fight!

Since he announced his candidacy, the Trump-as-politician story has never lacked for something outrageous, often multiple things each week—or even each day. Just when it seems like we’ve reached outrage fatigue, he ups the ante. Some probably have already gone into a complacent state of new normal, but many of us are still paying attention. We wake up, check the news to see what terrible thing he’s done today, and then spend the rest of the day stumbling around in numb horror, a vague sense of queasiness coloring everything we do. It should be no surprise that we’re all eager to believe any hint that somehow, there’s been a break: something has been discovered that will finally, this time, get him out.

Folks, don’t hold your breath. Continue reading

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Blame Olympics: Finals

My previous post on this topic has gotten some good feedback (yay!) but something else has come up this week that’s making me revisit the question: Some rather good data crunching  pointing up the effects of voter suppression on turnout, particularly among Black voters. There’s some really terrific stuff in that thread, and I highly recommend reading it all.

Unfortunately, further analysis doesn’t bear out an assertion that correcting for this would have changed the result. While I don’t at all mean to imply that voter suppression is insignificant—it absolutely is, it’s horrific, and it needs to be stopped—in this particular case, it’s unlikely that it affected the outcome on its own. It factored in, definitely, as I’ll illustrate, but even if we isolated that particular variable, we’d still have the same result.

Let’s take another look at the spreadsheet I assembled for this project: Continue reading

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