Abuse is Not Normal

Whether it’s from a spouse, lover, clergy, parent, child, doctor, boss, employee, co-worker, police officer, member of the public, someone online, or the president, abuse isn’t normal and it’s not okay. It’s not okay when it’s from a faceless company against their customers. It’s not okay when it’s approved by a legislature or a church. Abuse is wrong in all of its forms.

There is a fundamental right to live without abuse. How that is best achieved depends on the circumstances, but that it be achieved is not up for debate.

The current executive officeholder is abusive. He has abused his office. He has abused the employees of that office. He has abused the media, and he has abused the public. He slings abuse on our international partners.

It’s not normal, it’s not okay. Having support from a single American to every American does not make abuse okay. Cheering on abuse does not change the fact that it is a violation of humanity.

The normal response to abuse is to cut it off. To separate and avoid the abuser. That’s not always possible.


The current administration engages in all the signs of abuse. They trivialize major problems, including the failure to release Brett Kavanaugh’s records and the jailing of migrant children. Also seen in the pretended outrage that journalists dare question them.

The president goes on regular tirades on social media, lashing out in an uncontrolled and jealous fashion. He isolates the country, scaring off our allies that might speak up against him. He dehumanizes critics. He lies constantly. He threatens retribution for criticism, and in the case of John Brennan, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and others, he and his administration took real and tangible steps to enact retaliation. He has regularly called for investigations into political opponents.


In time, congress may find itself in a position to intervene and stop this abuse. But the media has a vital role today, to not give abuse a platform. Wherever this administration crosses the line to abuse, the media should state it as such.

As media consumers, we also have our role to play. If you read about or watch news or peripheral media covering abusive events, acknowledge that the behavior is abuse, whether the article or presenter does so or not. Whether it’s an individual or group being abused, remember that the real target of public abuse is the observer. The abuser wants you to avoid speaking out, to accept eir dominance. Do not do what e wants.

In due time, this wretched man will be gone. The abusers’ days are numbered. As a society, we should make abuse in all its forms a relic of the past.

18-ish Weeks Until the 2018 Midterms

https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

Handicapping the 2018 Midterms comes down to Mr. Trump, not messaging. The president who makes everything about himself inevitably makes the 2018 elections a referendum on his policies and his abuses.

That’s a bad sign for Republicans. Depending on how the announcement of a replacement for Justice Kennedy goes, and whether confirmation proceeds apace, the wind may be entirely let out of the Muralist voters’ sails. Nobody expects another justice beyond Kennedy to retire, so that’s one fewer reason for Muralists to turn out in 18 weeks.

The party in power does better in midterm elections when voters feel like they’re making an adjustment to their representation rather than having to weigh the overall direction of the country. People don’t like to make weighty decisions, and so when they feel like they’re forced to do, they tend to be irritated that the incumbents have put them in the position.

Mr. Trump has spent his entire time in office sticking his thumb in the eye of over half the voters, including his own. The notion that they’ll reward him for it is a bad misreading of America. And the voters will not reward all of the Republicans who have failed in their duty to conduct oversight of the tyrannical instincts of not just Mr. Trump but his cabinet as well.

Add to that the fact that there are so many Democratic women running, which can fuel female turnout (and to a lesser extent youth turnout). You have whatever spoils the hard work of things like the March for Our Lives and March for Science may offer. There will be people turning out to support public schools and health care.

Democrats also have a message: good governance. Social programs that work. Environmental policies, labor policies, and financial policies that build the middle class.


The man is an abuser. He abuses his office, his employees, his rivals, his friends, his family, his foundation and company, his country. America has no quarter for abuse. We split from an abuser before, and we will split from this one.

But just as there were Loyalists then, there are those who do not see the abuse for what it is. There are evangelicals, by some bad combination of drugs, who support Mr. Trump. Others, Republicans coddled by tax cuts, fetch him Diet Cokes (Mr. Nunes famously took a ride share under cover of night to deliver one to him). They lie for him. They hawk his cheap resorts and cheaper merch. They iron his clothes while he wears them. They arrange backchannels to hostile foreign governments on his behalf.

For that lot, there will be no second act. They will exeunt from public life. We will only be reminded they exist when future documentaries pan across their picture while recounting how foolish humans can be when they don’t bother to self-reflect.

For those worrying over who will wear black robes in the years to come, the only decision you directly have is to vote. Vote, raise your voice. For even though courts can undermine unions, harm women’s rights, and all the other things, they cannot fix the problems they create. The legislators alone can fix the messes left by bad judges. Your voice is more important at the midterms than it is at the general. On average your vote is worth 1.7 votes in the general election (to account for those who don’t vote). It’s worth 2.5 votes in the midterms. That’s nearly a whole other citizen that a midterm voter is counting for.

https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

Republicans are Empowering the (Democratic) States

This time it’s the SCOTUS conservatives’ ruling against workers’ common law right to litigate as a class. But it keeps happening that the Republicans are empowering states to take up the slack on issues big and small.

One of the unmentioned features of the revocation of the right to sue employers for wage theft is that states are victims too. They lose taxes when wages aren’t paid. They may even have a right of eminent domain on the causes of action in arbitration on behalf of employees, which would be a novel turn of law.

When President Trump fled from the Paris agreement, the liberal states stood up. When he uses ICE to attack undocumented workers, the states stood up. On the travel ban and on the right to pee. Up and down the line, they keep pushing the Democrats to take up the slack.

You must understand that power is a fluid. Where it is blocked by a dam, be it gridlock in the Congress or indifference to sanity in the White House, it will flow elsewhere.

With legislative stagnation for so long, we have long recognized the concentration of power in the executive and the dangers that poses. But it is entirely expected. If Congress will not legislate, then the limited powers of executive actions will be stretched to their limits.

And same with judicial powers. The worse that inaction bitrots the law, the more that judges have to intervene to account for equity.

But it’s different with the states. They have their own trilateral governments with their own laws and politics. And to some extent they are in competition against other states. So by pushing a wholly partisan agenda, President Trump is handing wads of capital to places like New York and California, to spend at their leisure.

A less direct example is the inaction in West Virginia, which led to a teacher’s strike for better treatment. That has now spread to other states. What does it have to do with Trump? It’s at least part of the climate of demonstration that his presidency has fomented, the spirit of Parkland and the Women’s March, that lends the nerve to teachers to finally say enough.

It’s the nomination of someone like Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. But it’s also the hopelessness of the current administration. Things aren’t getting better for teachers, and the current administration probably wants them to teach in coal mines, which is all the more reason to take action now, before they hand out the hardhats.

Why Shrink Government?

There are a number of ideas we hear from conservatives which are never explained (at least, I have yet to read a clear explanation; most of the conservative writers I’ve attempted to read are so full of contempt for those who have not yet drunk the punch that they render themselves illegible). They include anti-regulation rhetoric, anti-anti-poverty rhetoric, and anti-government rhetoric. Chief in the lattermost category is the idea to “shrink” the government.

The idea is famously recorded by the Norquip (25 May 2001 on NPR’s Morning Edition):

I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.

The conservative position is that government stinks. That it is a fetter upon the economy. That taxation is a form of theft, robbing everyone of their hard-earned money to provide something they don’t want at a price they can’t afford.

By shrinking government, the thinking goes, they will reduce the harm. People will suffer less tax. The economy will do significantly better. A one-two punch: less tax plus more income. People will have more freedom, particularly to spend that extra money.

Here’s precisely where I get lost. They do not attempt to handle the harm. No talk of pandemic conditions. No discussion of the hapless fools too poor or unlucky that get sucked into the turbines of an economic engine roaring to produce supersonic growth conditions. The best you can get is some hand-wave toward churches that will pray away the pangs of hunger.

But millions of voters find it in their hearts to keep electing these Freedom Caucus types. No regard for the reason government exists, they would happily repeal any regulation just to get another stamp on their conservative-loyalty card.


In all fairness, the image of a gargantuan government comes easily to the imagination. But then, so is the lawless waste, that state of nature. The chief problem with the shrink-government trope is that most of the country is past that sort of thinking.

It’s not a question of bathtub-ready government or beast-sized government. It’s not even a question of right-sizing anymore. It’s just a question of, for any particular program (public or private), with any set of inputs and outputs, is there a better option. And these conservatives are unwilling or unable to engage in that sort of discussion, which is why they should not be involved at all. They should be voted out until they can help with the problems at hand, instead of trying to always return to some fetishistic first-principles analysis of why we should never have left the caves in the first place.

Anyone who really wants to shrink government can start by investing in poor economies so that we won’t need as much aid, military, or border security. The smartest way to accomplish the downsizing is by attrition of the need for the spending.

The Prospects for Federal Legalization of Marijuana

There are enough Republican senators from states where marijuana has been legalized: Alaska (2), Colorado (1), and Nevada (1) to tip the balance in the Senate on a bill to legalize Marijuana federally (or, if possible, at least some compromise that prevents federal law from being enforced in states that legalized).

The House? 26 Republican members hail from states with legal pot:

  • Alaska (1)
  • California (14)
  • Colorado (4)
  • Maine (1)
  • Massachusetts (0)
  • Nevada (1)
  • Oregon (1)
  • Washington (4)

With a split in the House of 239/193 (3 vacancies), the tipping point would be 24 members, which makes it close (and assumes that all Democratic members would vote aye while all non-legalization-state Republicans would vote nay).

Given that eight states have already legalized marijuana, 14 have decriminalized, and 29 have medical marijuana, it is inevitable that federal-level legalization will develop. The question is how close is the Congress from enacting that.

2018’s midterm elections could prove pivotal in the House for the election of a body with enough votes on the matter. You also can count at least four states considering legalization via ballot initiative (Arizona, Florida, Missouri, and Nebraska) plus three more medical initiatives (Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota). Passage would add more representatives to the count.

But assuming it does not, the question becomes how much leverage the legal industries, both recreational and medical, have to get non-legalizing states’ members to cooperate.

For example, the banking industry would see benefits to a change in law allowing for the marijuana industry to participate in the regular financial system. Given that the industry is poised to be worth some $40 billion by the end of the decade, that’s a lot of transactions and contracts for various businesses to profit from.

These subsidiary businesses, which include those who are supply-chain for manufacture, distribution, and marketing of processed products, as well as out-of-state home-growing/horticulture suppliers, all have some level of sway over legislators.

It’s not clear what would happen today, much less in a year or two, if the Congress took up a bill on repealing federal sanction of marijuana. Which gets to the other hurdle: leadership. Speaker Ryan is unlikely to allow such a bill to come to a vote any time soon. The dysfunction in Washington means that there are a number of high-stakes issues currently under consideration, with deals to be made or not. That includes the basic question of funding the government.

Such an environment is not ripe for an issue like marijuana to come up, so it will likely take one of two things (or both): the midterms turning the House into an especially pro-legalization body that’s ready to act, or AG Sessions deciding to crack down in legal states.