The Fates/Winning/Scenes From A Roundtable/Failure/There Are No Fates

Searching for an apt descriptor from classics of the Western canon, various critics of the Trump administration have settled on Shakespearean. That’s fine, one supposes, for the tableau of shifting alliances and familial conniving the Bard excelled at. At the situation’s strange core there is also low comedy, though it oftentimes lacks the sparking wit that has sustained enjoyment of Shakespeare’s lighter work through the centuries (See Bob Corker, the “liddle” Senator).

When it comes to tragedy, though… a better term for the tragedy unfolding around us would be Sophoclean. It feels like our story is careening towards a horror predestined by the Fates, and there’s more than a hint of incest.

The tyrant is a child of Pride
Who drinks from his sickening cup
Recklessness and vanity,
Until from his high crest headlong
He plummets to the dust of hope.

* * *

His legislative agenda is a shambles and he’s running out of allies to insult, but here’s at least one way Donald Trump is winning: he’s exhausted us. Consider the travel ban, the flashpoint for organization in the early days of his administration. Panic and rage exploded at how self-evidently un-American his discriminatory executive order was. It felt like an emergency at the time, and protesters treated it like one, swarming to airports in solidarity. The Trumpists withdrew, licked their wounds and bided their time.

That was January 28th.

Since then, we’ve been inundated with a torrent of outrageous proclamations, unforced errors and head-scratching nonsense. We’ve lurched much closer towards the fascist state the president wants (though he wouldn’t call it that, and there’s some small comfort in the fact he’s a lazy fascist). There have been investigations and intrigues of the palace and so. many. hurricanes.

Amidst the bedlam, a modified version of the travel ban was implemented. The Supreme Court allowed key provisions to proceed in late June and handed Trump another victory on Tuesday. Judging from the collective shrug of major media outlets and bustling airports that are experiencing only the usual inconveniences, society has decided there’s nothing to be done.

And what about ICE’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants? For all the big talk from liberals about “protecting our neighbors” and “sanctuary cities”, their good intentions changed nothing. ICE reported in August nearly a 40 percent increase in immigration arrests during Trump’s first one hundred days.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking it will be any different with DACA.

* * *

Scenes from a Roundtable, Never Completed (August 2017):

Zzyzx: For all the shortcomings of opposition to the president, the recent white supremacist uprising and murder in Charlottesville, and Donald Trump’s inability to call out a murderous and racist part of his base, have put the need for resistance in stark relief. There’s something terribly wrong happening, so it behooves us to ask: what’s happening with The Resistance and what have they accomplished so far?

LadyFabulous: I haven’t seen a lot of uniformity, at least not recently, and I think that’s impeding the resistance. One thing you can say about the conservative movement is those guys know how to put aside pretty differences and join forces. Liberals won’t do that.

Zzyzx: Liberals and leftists both. The tensions there are understandable, because (though this is a gross oversimplification) liberals place their belief in the state and think corrective reforms are the solution, whereas leftists are agitating for full-scale revolution. But I’m seeing a lot of penny ante skirmishes over ideology when we need to be uniting against the white walkers of fascism.

The wall isn’t what it used to be.

LadyFabulous: Oh god yes. That analogy is perfect and beautiful and hilarious.

Whiteside: The problem we still have is the disparity between the reporting on the “violent left” vs. the actual violent right. The left has to figure out how to win the PR war while we are giving credibility to all the things the right has been accusing the left of.

I will say that this stuff in Charlottesville is the first time I’ve really seen the left riled up the way the right gets. And it has cause behind it, so that’s refreshing.

Zzyzx: The last week or so has solidified my view of something that I have long argued: Trump isn’t concerned with fulfilling the basic functions of what a modern president is expected to do. His interest goes only as far as maintaining his power. Given that he’s alienating to all but the most resentful and racist parts of the electorate, he’s playing to that base. And this is a base, by the way, that recently indicated they’d support a decision by Trump to suspend the 2020 election because of phantom “vote fraud”.

LadyFabulous: What the hell kind of a country are we living in? Is that even a thing?! When was that a thing?!

Zzyzx: If he’s relying on a base that has fascist tendencies, and writes off 2/3s of Americans, how is resistance supposed to operate? Legislatively parts of his agenda may be stalled, but he doesn’t need a cooperative Congress if, for example, he takes advantage of a 9/11-style attack to consolidate power. If we’re expecting him to be taken down through legal means, he’s already floated the idea that a president can’t be charged with criminal behavior and hey, maybe he’ll just pardon himself. Additionally, he’s been quietly getting federal judges appointed, and if you know how much he values loyalty, a Trump-leaning judiciary is an unnerving proposition. The 25th amendment can’t be relied upon because it would require his cabinet (a cabinet he could replace at will) to essentially give a vote of no confidence. We may be attending protests marches with a hellish fury but he’s ignoring them, just like George W. Bush ignored the unprecedented protests in the lead-up to the second Iraq war. The Democratic Party as a whole is still resistant to impeachment – though the latest polling now shows a full 40 percent of Americans view that option favorably, a 10 percent jump from February. Democratic politicians are currently content to obstruct and fundraise for their Summer Resistance Jam.

So how do we have an effective resistance?

For starters, I would contend that the opposition from grassroots to lifetime Senators start acting like they’re running out of time instead of playing the one-term and/or crackup waiting game. And after a few weeks of escalating tension with North Korea and Trump’s more open displays of support for white supremacy, thinking in terms of a clock ticking down seems appropriate.

LadyFabulous: Well now I’m terrified. What can we do? Call our congresspeople? Our Senators?

Zzyzx: The things is people have been calling them, especially since the inauguration. Until 2018 – maaaaybe – Democrats are at a numerical disadvantage in Congress.

And the clock ticks.

But I don’t say any of this to despirit anyone. The opposite, actually. We need a sense of urgency. And I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. Someone convince me I’m wrong!

Whiteside: I’m a little more optimistic than you. There have been signs that not everything is as bleak as it seems. There are things that were true before that appear to be true now and it gives me hope that rule of law will be maintained and we won’t have any Executive Fuckery. Like I would expect conservatives, love them or hate them, to be repulsed by white supremacists. At least outwardly. And for the most part that’s been the case. Maybe they aren’t completely compromised? I don’t know. That’s how it seems to me at least.

ThePiedSpicer: At the very least, they are spineless and that worries me. But I lean more Whiteside’s way. It’s not a hopeless situation, just an exceptionally dismal one.

* * *

No one wants to feel like a failure. Many suspect there’s an A to Z plan to fix things, and if only we knew what it is everything would be better. The people united can never be divided, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The distance between what we think we can do and the material reality of attempting to dismantle systemically entrenched wrongs is vast.

When we talk about the Democratic Party these days, we’re never really talking about Democrats. We’re talking about the void they’re incapable of filling and the consequences of their failure.

When we talk about The Resistance, we’re talking about what we’d like to think we’re doing, not what’s really happening.

They’re all failures. We’re all failures. For now.

* * *

The arc of the moral universe does not bend towards justice, because there is no universal morality. There are numerous and often conflicting moral schemas, which depending on the circumstances can lead to transcendental breakthroughs or justify reprehensible acts.

The arc of the universe is towards expansion before violent collapse, countless eons after humanity has ceased to be a problem to itself and the planet it occupies. There is no order beyond prescribed physical laws, and even those get a little wonky.

Terrible things don’t make sense because they don’t have to. They exist regardless of our ability to comprehend them. It is in this way the leader of the United States can impudently shrug about a starling humanitarian crisis in a territory he is responsible for, that people can die of treatable illnesses on the streets, that the peaceful citizens of America commit a truly mind-bending number of mass shootings per annum, that we allow the threat of nuclear winter to hover like a miasma over daily life.

It’s enough to make one give up. Or kick against the pricks. I prefer the latter.

I kick against the pricks not in spite of an uncaring universe, but because of it. If there is no harmonious universal plan, we’ll make the best of what we’ve got. There is no predestination, there are no Fates, there is only us. If we don’t fight for a better world, no one will.

(Year Zero/Day Two Hundred and Sixty-Five)

A Healthy Skepticism

Before anyone gets too excited about this

President Trump, signaling a potential major shift in policy ahead of his first address to Congress, told television news anchors on Tuesday that he is open to a broad immigration overhaul that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes.

“The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides,” the president told the TV anchors at the White House, according to people present during the discussion.

…recall how Trump claimed he was “softening” his immigration stance in August 2016. The administration’s modus operandi is generating chaos and confusion with often contradictory claims. The president’s assertion re: his immigration policy is about as believable as his concern about the country’s rising tide of antisemitic crimes

Scary, alarming, disheartening, unprecedented. Those are just a few of the adjectives used to describe the recent widespread spate of bomb threats that have targeted Jewish community centers and schools in 33 states in the United States and two provinces in Canada. The threats have reached such a crescendo that President Donald Trump will use his speech to Congress on Tuesday night to address the issue, an administration official told CNN.

considering

President Trump appeared to suggest Tuesday that the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the U.S. could be coming from within the Jewish community itself, according to a Pennsylvania state lawmaker present for the comments.

(Year Zero/Day Forty)

Sunday News Corral

Sean Spicer is that boss who awkwardly stands over your shoulder while you try to work.

Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as “an emergency meeting,” staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check,” to prove they had nothing to hide.

Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.

There, he explicitly warned staffers that using texting apps like Confide — an encrypted and screenshot-protected messaging app that automatically deletes texts after they are sent — and Signal, another encrypted messaging system, was a violation of the Presidential Records Act, according to multiple sources in the room.

Frank Rich suggests the rollback on the transgender bathroom rule was just the beginning.

RedadAlertas is a new open-source app that notifies undocumented immigrants when raids are coming.

In Washington State, Governor Jay Inslee has directed employees not to cooperate with the federal government on matters of immigration.

Why does the Trump administration support state rights when it helps their anti-trans agenda but not when it comes to legal recreational marijuana? In response, the State of California and the marijuana lobby are consulting with their legal departments.

Stephen Miller wanted to clarify the public perception of his attitude on race relations.

Free from AK Press through the end of the month: A Tilted Guide To Being A Defendant by The Tilted Scales Collective.

Rather than being a how-to guide, this book offers a way of thinking about criminal charges that is based on defendants’ goals: personal, political, and legal. This book was written by dedicated legal support activists and draws on the wisdom of dozens of people who have weathered the challenges of trials and incarceration.

Support for Obamacare is at an all-time high.

What’s the difference between Tea Party protests and the liberal protests of today? State GOP lawmakers didn’t attempt to legislate their protests away.

“The Screwed Generation”? That seems about right.

The Economist is concerned the president is re-configuring conservatism.

Leftists are so swole these days.

And now for something that will preserve your anonymity online (and let you access the Deep Web, if you’re into that sort of thing): Tor Browser.

The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.

Tor can be easily and safely download here.

It’s day thirty-eight of year zero in Trump’s America…

No Rest For The Weary

From bad to worse: Who fed the Associated Press the National Guard memorandum? Was that a trial balloon, a way to dampen the reaction to the real and confirmed expansion of Trump’s anti-immigrant initiative?

In a pair of memos, Kelly offered more detail on plans for the agency to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand the pool of immigrants who are prioritized for removal, speed up deportation hearings and enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests.

President Trump is costing America more than just its sanity and standing in the world…

Timothy Snyder thinks we have a year or less to defeat TrumpGeorge Prochnik by way of Stefan Zweig seems to think that’s too charitable a timeline.

The Deep State war rages on. Emphasis on rages.

In Russia, Stalin’s popularity is at a 16-year-high.

Donaeld The Unready is a medievalist’s delight.

Should we shut up and listen to the anarchists?

It may have fallen off the mainstream press’s radar, but Standing Rock protesters are taking a “last stand” against DAPL construction.

Millennials are not the problem. Except Stephen Miller, who is near the heart of The Problem.

50 years later, Black Panthers are still fighting for freedom.

Know your gun rights, comrades!  It’s safe to say the Black Women’s Defense League already does.

Paul Manafort’s cell phone was hacked and its contents have been distributed. Maybe.

Now more than ever you need to be careful with your data transmission devices or your data will betray you.

Oh the fascists you’ll kill! The Atlantic on the complicated relevance of Dr. Suess’s political cartoons.

And now for something more upbeat: Meet Yukio Shige, Japan’s cliffside suicide vigilante.

It’s the thirty-first day of year zero in Trump’s America…