Journal of the Virus Year, Entry 2

I went out today for curbside delivery at HEB. Civilized, though my assistant forgot to speak through the passenger window instead of the driver’s. He did sign for me, though. We’re not low on anything, though I’m making due with only the occasional Coke Zero.

My younger son needs a minor operation for his hearing. This was determined just prior to the lockdown. He’s not getting it anytime soon, obviously. H and I are upset about this, but he and L are happy as clams otherwise.

My graduate students are holding in there. Almost all of them in my stylistics class are sticking with it. I also have two students defending their master’s theses in the next two weeks.

UHD is also hanging in there. We’re going to try a Zoom version of Faculty Senate on Tuesday.

I have lost a lot of writing time. Both my conferences this year, in April and May, have been cancelled, which removes some drafting (alas, I had already written two of the three presentations), but even with that, completing the references in my book keeps getting pushed back. I need to hold the line at May 1 or my summer courses will obliterate my chances.

Our Fearless Leader is about to pass an important milestone. The virus is about to kill more Americans than 9/11. If only he were competent, or able to hire and retain competent subordinates, or even capable of communicating a clear plan by qualified experts about this mess two months ago… but he’s not. He never was. Still pleased with your choice, Trump voters? Are those Supreme Court picks and tax cuts still worth it?

Journal of the Virus Year, Entry 1

Well, shit. The world went to hell damn quick, didn’t it?

I stocked the house pretty well around the end of February. The rush on groceries didn’t begin proper until Friday the 13th of March – apropos. That afternoon, our Fearless Leader declared a state of emergency that was apparent weeks ago, and then everyone who hadn’t been paying attention suddenly decided they didn’t have enough toilet paper for the apocalypse.

I went out anyway that night to the local HEB but they closed early at 8pm. Went to Kroger instead. The basics were gone – paper products, wipes, bread, meat, canned veggies. Some diapers and miscellaneous that might be tough to get later I went ahead and picked up. I could have filled my cart with cake and wine, though.

UHD has gone fully online, like every other university since Seattle. I mostly teach online, so that’s not a big adjustment for me, but it is for others. Also, it’s going to sidetrack Faculty Senate for awhile as much of that happens in person, but I’m working on it, in my new half-day professor, half-day daycare for two kids schedule that I’m dividing up with H.

Big changes are coming for higher education during and after the end of this global crisis, and it’s not just more online courses. A full-blown recession is here. The loss of confidence is not going to lift for a good long time. This means better enrollment for UHD, with millions of suddenly unemployed service workers flocking to degrees for lack of a better option. Though, they will need to take on an unprecedented amount of debt to do so.

Our Fearless Leader doesn’t have the vision or will or ethical foresight to make a New Deal for 2020… so I don’t know. There’s too much in the wind to make predictions other than our now-obvious weakness to a pandemic is going to make ideas that seemed crazy just a month ago rather appealing. A service economy without a reasonable health care system is no longer sustainable.

I suggested to a few folks the other week that the coronavirus selected Biden as the Democratic nominee – he’s the tribal pick, the old seemingly wise male who folks rush to when the storm god gets too angry. Now, as a two-time Sanders primary voter, I am more partial to the cantankerous shamans, Warren among them, touting universal health care and anti-corporate policies. It is ironic that if those ideas had been enacted when Sanders first started advocating for them decades ago, they would have put America in a far better position to combat a pandemic. Now we’re helpless in the face of fools who think a virus checks your voter registration before it kills you, or worse, that anyone not wiping their nose on their neighbor isn’t a real Texan.

Maybe the surge in enrollment will produce a generation more aware of the fragility of life. I’m not optimistic.

The Not-Debate of the Impeachment Trial

Seems like forever since I stopped by. I have been writing this blog for 14 years, but never consistently. But I had a thought.

I find the most interesting thing about the impeachment trial is that it is a thorough mockery of dialectic. There is no actual debate, no meeting of the minds. All those doors were closed long ago, and well before the current administration. Probably the last time the U.S. Senate functioned as a forum for reason was Watergate, and that’s optimistic. A pessimist would say it never has, and ultimately the Senate is merely a place to display power.

Not exercise it. Display it. Mostly McConnell’s, of course.

The Senate is the accoutrements only. The desks, the formalities, the procedure, all stifling thought rather than germinating it. There is no more constitutional republic in that room than in a high school study hall. I don’t see how Sanders or Warren or Romney or any of them can stand to be in that stage play for more than a minute or two.

The “legal reasoning” deployed by Trump’s defense team is roughly the same to that employed by Preston Brooks on Charles Sumner’s skull in 1856. I suppose I should give them some credit, though, in their shamelessness; unlike Brooks, they performed their hit in front of the full Senate and C-SPAN. No reason. No rationality. No respect. Just power.

The next decade will be rough for Democrats, I suspect. But when the political pendulum swings back hard, as it always does when it swings too far in one direction, the GOP’s ongoing bizarre fling with cultist would-be fascism will be more clearly seen as a huge miscalculation in expediency.

I say this as the trial is really a political choice between keeping Trump, and Pence serving the rest of the term. This is the GOP’s last chance to eject Trump and reforge a more moderate-friendly party before the 2020 election. They would have had to sell it carefully because agreeing with Democrats on anything is dangerous for their reelections, and they could have done so if they had built the case slowly over a year or so, but no serious groundwork has been laid, so acquittal is a foregone conclusion. They are with Trump all the way.

The reasoning (cough) seems to be that Trump, unpredictable and dangerous as he is, has such a lock on the “base” that this is preferable to the more malleable and passive Pence, who might not be able to retain the most rabid Trump cultists in the swing states.

But that’s a short-sighted solution for November 2020. After that, it gets darker. When Trump is acquitted, he will be uncontrollable. Answerable to no one. If you think the Ukraine call was bad, just wait. No one will be able to rein him in. No amount of evidence will blunt his actions. I don’t know what form his eventual overstep will take. But it won’t be good. He’s not getting better. And then this trial will be a clear missed opportunity.

If I were a conscience-free GOP senator, which I am not, I’d be moving toward Pence. Or, rather, I would have moved toward Pence in 2017. Same policies, more predictable. I wonder if this happened already in a few cases, and we simply haven’t heard about it yet. Perhaps Bolton’s book, or someone else’s, will reveal 25th amendment scenarios that never played out.

Rough seas ahead. Brace yourselves.

Hold fast

Impeachment is picking up steam. House is going to vote. They don’t have to, but now with the writing on the wall, it would be a missed opportunity to not get the Republican sycophants on the record as opposing a slam-dunk case.

It is very important that the inquiry not waver from this point forward. Trump’s rhetoric will only get worse, and his supporters more desperate to slander anyone associated with it, but everyone has to hold fast to allow more people to feel comfortable enough to testify.

The officer that testified today, Alexander Vindman, is a perfect example of that. He knows he will be pilloried by fools. But he makes it possible for more to step forward, including, I would imagine, the original whistleblower.

I was wrong

I was really against impeachment.

Not because I thought it would risk the 2020 election, or that it would die in the Senate automatically, or even if it did stick, we’d end up with Pence.

I was thinking more about how the process had no teeth, and never had, and the ballot box was the only real rebuke.

But I’ve come to realize that even if you have no teeth, it’s still your duty to bite. Impeachment almost certainly won’t lead to removal from office, and it may hand him the election, sure. But two terms of Trump pale in relationship to the cost of not fighting him.

We need to think much farther than 2020, to 2024 and beyond. That means future Presidents and candidates for President need to know there are consequences for treason and incompetence.

So, mea culpa. Impeach now.

Two ways to block/distract a 2020 Trump

Both ideas are essentially duplication.

  1. Convince something like him, but less odious, to run for the Republican nomination. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, is remarkably similar – a celebrity that shifted into politics, but not completely, with a caddish reputation to boot. He is not a natural-born citizen and thus technically ineligible, but that could be turned to his advantage. If not, maybe Chuck Norris is available…
  2. Convince Alec Baldwin to register as a Republican, change his name to Donald Trump, and run for the nomination in the usual SNL regalia, insisting throughout that he is the “real” Donald Trump and the man in the White House is an imposter from SNL. If he maintains the facade save for some tactical fourth-wall breaking, he will take away much of Trump’s oxygen – the media. And if he is nominated? Well, another four years of Trump…

The Problem with Executive Summaries…

…is that it takes some skill to write them, and our Attorney General doesn’t have that skill. I teach report writing, and after thousands of graded reports, I know a dodgy executive summary when I see one. They often are used to conceal relevant evidence that would contradict the agrument in the summary – said evidence is buried in the full report.

This case is curious, though, because Barr did not write the report. Rather than release the report, he ‘summarized’ it – without telling us much at all about what is in it. Most of it is legalese. The evidence and warrant are missing.

Of my earlier predictions, I retract only one – that we would not get to see the full report. I suspect the AG’s tepid opinion, provided by Trump, will not hold for very long. Mueller’s demurral to the AG’s judgment is very interesting…