Category: life

Eulogy for a suicide

How many years ago was it? A lifetime, I guess.

There used to be a little hacker conference that happened once a year in Cleveland, Ohio, called Notacon.

The first time I heard about it was the second year it was held, and so I attended. I was just starting out in my IT career, and very interested in the subject matter due to a life long enjoyment of playing around with computers.

Sadly, I didn’t come away from the event impressed. It was very amateurish and low budget and seemed like something that some kids would try to pull off before they were ready, trying to imitate adults doing something for real. They had bedsheets for projection screens, none of the talks were happening at the times or in the rooms where the printed schedules had them. It was a pretty sorry event, kind of a clusterfuck.

Well, it was at that. But I shouldn’t have been so negative. I should have seen the potential.

Fast forward a few more years.

I think it was 2009. A guy I knew from the internet, who went by the name Aestetix, I enjoyed his livejournal and reading his thoughts on stuff, was coming into town and needed a ride from the airport. He was speaking at Notacon, which I think was in its 7th year (6th, I went and checked). He said he’d get anyone who helped him out into the conference as his +1. So I volunteered to do it. I wanted to meet this guy and I wasn’t necessarily all that interested in Notacon because of the impression I’d taken away form it. But I figured I’d give it another shot. After all, if they were still doing it four years later, they must have gotten better at putting it on.

I had a great time at Notacon 6. The event had grown up. I met some really interesting people. They were friendly, smart, tech geeks like me, except smarter and geekier and cooler and more friendly. They were better than me in every way, just about. I made friends, I was accepted. Aestetix took me around and introduced me to a bunch of people he was friends with, people associated with 2600, the hacker scene, the demo scene, the info sec scene. 2600 was something I’d read about and heard about for years. I got to meet some actual legendary people: Emmanuel Goldstein, Jason Scott, Dave Kennedy from TrustedSec, Dan Kaminsky, Adrian “Irongeek” Crenshaw, James Myrcurial Arlen, Jameson Lundy, Desirae Gillis, int80, Danyelle Davis, Mark W. Schumann, Joe Peacock, Sigflup, and Notacon’s organizers Froggy and Tyger.

And a young cartoonist named Ed Piskor.

Ed Piskor is dead. He committed suicide. I learned about it just a short time ago.

Apparently after some allegations emerged of some kind of sexual inappropriateness which I don’t know the details of, Ed posted a suicide note on Facebook and then took his life. I’m grateful not to know the details of that, either.

Ed’s suicide note claims that he was guilty of being stupid, innocent of the more serious things that were apparently alleged (and mostly only alluded to in the note), and that he was choosing to end his life not because he was guilty of what he’d been accused of, because of shame and because he felt that he couldn’t get his life or reputation back after what had come out.

So… I guess I didn’t know him all that well. But I knew his work. And I thought he was a bright and talented man, and I liked him. He was a familiar face on my Facebook feed and on my YouTube recommendations, and in that sense, I felt like I knew him. But I really didn’t.

I first met him when I attended his talk at Notacon 6, where he talked about drawing his first comic, Wizzywig, about a young hacker. I thought it was really well written, and a decent amalgamation based on the lives of several real-world hackers whom I’ve heard of and read about.

Ed was nervous to be talking in front of a group of people, and it showed. He was very young and new in the industry. I talked to him afterward and bought copies of his books that he had for sale. He was so reverent of the subject matter. He said he just hoped that he got it right, and he admitted that his biggest fear was that the people he was trying to tell a story about wouldn’t accept what he had done, mashing up their biographies. He was afraid that others would say that he screwed up the depiction, didn’t get it right.

I don’t know that I was ever inside the world of hackers enough to be able to say this with any genuine authority, but I told him not to worry about that, that from what I could see, he did justice to the subject, and captured the spirit of the times and the culture of hacking in the 80s and 90s very well.

Ed inked a portrait of me, in his own style, on the inside of one of the issues of Wizzywig that I bought from him. I had long hair, round glasses, and was wearing a hoodie, as was my style at the time. I followed him on Facebook, and we occasionally commented on each other’s stuff.

I watched Ed’s career take off. After Wizzywig, he wrote a series called Hip Hop Family Tree, which was maybe his best work. He told the story of the hip hop music scene, and drew the book in a style that “sampled” and “remixed” the art style of Marvel Comics artists of the 70s and 80s, particularly Jack “King” Kirby, creating homages to classic comic book panels and covers, replacing them with hip hop luminaries. It was thorough and deep and really well done. It won awards and brought him fame and I guess maybe a little fortune. It was wonderful to see him taking his talents to where they could lead. His art had improved to a whole new level, and you could see the absolute love and, I’ll say it again, reverence, for the subject matter — both the music and the medium of comics.

At this point Ed had come into his own, so to speak, and had developed a public persona that was a bit bolder and more confident than the rookie artist I had met a few years prior. I suspect that he was aware that he was presenting himself to the public, and chose to make himself entertaining. He adopted a kind of standard uniform, wearing Pittsburgh Pirates jerseys and hats, nerdy horn rimmed glasses or sometimes sunglasses, and usually something paying homage to his favorite hip hop and rap act, especially Public Enemy. I’m not sure how “real” this version of Ed was, but it was the version of himself that he seemed to inhabit when he was putting himself out in public. I suspect that it was an amped up version of who he wanted to be when he wasn’t feeling shy or nervous.

Ed went on to do a re-telling of the entire history of the X-Men, called X-Men: Grand Design. This was a hugely ambitious project, intended to organize, streamline, and re-tell the convoluted history of something like 40 years of X-Men stories. It was the kind of project a kid who grew up reading X-Men comics might dream about doing. Well, he pitched it to Marvel, and they took him up on it. Rather bold. But it showed how much cachet he had earned with the accolades he had received from Hip Hop Family Tree. Ed’s career was hot.

As such it was a bigger project than I’m really capable of judging. I read some X-Men comics in my day, but the amount of material there — decades and decades of multiple ongoing books, made it a daunting project to read, let alone write and draw. Chris Claremont, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, and yeah some of the more classic books, reprints from Stan Lee’s time writing the book in the 60s. X-Men were some of the hottest comics for decades and attracted all of the top artist and writing talent. Ed took that material, consolidated and streamlined it, and re-told it, tightening the continuity, and paring it down to what he felt was its essence. It might have been a bit more ambitious than anyone could have handled. I think he was trying to do for X-Men what he’d done for Hip Hop, but I’m not sure it was quite as successful.

Next, Ed went into horror and gore comics, and produced a loving homage to them with his Red Room series. Ed had some connections to underground comics, having been something of a prodigee of Harvey Pekar, and having a kind of lineal connection to R. Crumb through him. And this pedigree gave Ed a bona fide street cred connection to non-Code adult comics which, by their very nature, were controversial and touched on adult topics, from sex to politics to drugs to racism, and were independent rather than subscribing to any particular orthodoxy or ideology. Underground comic books were not about super-powered heroes fighting crime and saving the world. They were about all kinds of things. Mainly they were a medium for the artist to express themselves and their opinions and philosophies on life.

And part of that underground comics scene was devoted to extreme gore and horror themes, stuff that the government had tried to crack down on, and whose resulting crackdown caused mainstream comics to be considered kiddie fare for decades after… until a generation of kids raised on comics grew up and started writing “dark, gritty, real” comics in the late 80s and 90s. Characters like Batman: the Dark Knight, Wolverine, and the Punisher offered a “mature audiences” take on the spandex tights superhero books that kids of the 60s and 70s grew up with. But even then, the non-code books from the independent small presses that constituted the underground were something far and away different. And Ed had an obvious, obsessive fascination with these taboo books and the topics they explored.

Now, Ed’s Red Room work one was not one that appealed to me for its subject matter — I was never into gore or horror movies when I was a kid. And these were especially, gratuitously sick books. He posted panels of his work in progress to Facebook regularly, and I was always surprised that Facebook didn’t take them down for violating Community Standards on violence, nudity, you name it. This was a story about a serial murderer who would imprison and torture victims, vivisecting them for a sick sexual thrill, with basically nothing left to the imagination.

I admit I kindof started to wonder about Ed around this time, and considered reaching out to him and asking him what could possess him to create that stuff, but I didn’t know how to, and not have him just outright reject my attempt at outreach, and tell me to fuck off. After all, he was already committed to the project, and it wasn’t like he could turn back from it by the time I had heard about it. But man the shit he was drawing was twisted, almost inspired in how extreme it was. He was really pushing extreme gore to a level I’d never seen before, and despite not liking the genre, I had seen my share of it. I think, though, that Ed was drawing on a rich history of material from the underground comics that I’d occasionally seen at shops and conventions, as well as slasher films, true crime books, real life serial killers, and that sort of thing. I knew kids in my school days who were into slasher movies, and I figured this was just one of those things that some people were into, but not me, and so I left it at that.

Ed did a YouTube channel with another comics artist, Jim Rugg, called Cartoonist Kayfabe. Wherein they would talk about comics and promote the medium by looking back at its history. They discussed their favorite books and influences, and reviewed newly published material, and occasionally they would have on guests from the industry, names such as Sergio Aragonés and Rob Liefeld. They were always so respectful of the craft of drawing comics, but they could also point out examples of where an artist swung and missed, too. It was usually a 20 to 30 minute video podcast, sometimes going up to an hour or more, just depending on what they had to talk about and how much they got into it. I liked seeing what they were up to each week, and appreciated that what they were doing was helping to promote the art and the industry they were in, it seemed like such a positive thing.

So “shocked” doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I read the news that Ed had died. I am still processing this news, and writing this is part of that process. I do not have any insider knowledge about what happened, or what lead up to his decision to commit suicide. It’s been many years, well over a decade since I spoke to Ed in person. I am nonetheless terribly saddened to learn that his light has left the world. And I haven’t yet come to grips with what darkness must have hastened its departure.

To read what little he put into the suicide note about it, it sounds like from his perspective he was misunderstood and misrepresented by his accusers. I am not privy to what it was that they perceived, exactly, but I can well appreciate how they might have received him if he was trying to be flirtatious with someone and said things that came off as creepy. From what I’ve read about it, what Ed was accused of was inappropriately attempting to groom a fan and aspiring artist was 17 at the time — Ed would have been in his late 30s when this happened. So, yeah, that’s legitimately creepy, I’d say. Sure, age of consent laws wouldn’t make it a crime, and in another century it would have been pretty “normal” for age differences like this, but this is now, and just because it’s not criminal doesn’t make it inappropriate. Apparently Ed had used his fame/success and connections to big names in his industry to try to add to his allure to these women. And, I guess there’s more to it than that. But a lot of i is starting to get taken down as I write this, so I’m not sure I can find out all the details.

Maybe that’s for the best; maybe it’s none of my business. But at least for a short time this was all coming out in public.

But be that as it may, some women (at least two, but it sounds like maybe there were more) came out and shared their stories, and it blew up. Ed’s career imploded. He lost a book deal, an art show deal, and his partnership with Jim Rugg, all in quick succession. And for a guy who probably loved comics for his entire life going back to his earliest memories, and had devoted his entire life to becoming the artist he had become, to see that all fall apart in a matter of days or weeks, I’m sure was too much for him. It must have felt like his life had already ended. And so with nothing else left, he must have felt that there was nothing left for him.

Sometimes guys can be creepy, and they have no bad intentions behind their botched or unwelcome attempts at approaching someone for a little romance or a sexy fling. And then, some guys are genuinely bad people who end up being womanizers or even rapists or serial killers.

I don’t know the other side of it, and I probably won’t ever unless I go digging for it, and I don’t think that it’s something I want to do. I really hope that wasn’t who Ed was. I really hope no one is really like that. But I know that in this world, there are people who are like that. Ed drew some sick shit in his Red Room comics, and he could be prone to some pretty juvenile humor, and a lot of it could be inappropriate. So I find it plausible he could be a creep, or at the very least come off as creepy.

So I can imagine… I just don’t know what to imagine.

Anyway, my imagination isn’t really relevant in this story. The facts are what matter. I don’t have them.

I am here to record a sense of loss for the man I met when I was still young, whose work I knew, and whose career I followed, and counted myself a fan of.

I’m not here to defend what Ed may have done. And I’m not here to pass judgement on him; I will leave that to those who know what he did, as they are entitled to do.

For them, I am sorry for whatever happened to them, for whatever Ed might have done. It is terrible and disturbing to think about, especially not knowing exactly what it was.

And for Ed, I am sorry that it was something that he felt merited taking his own life.

Hot chocolate

I like to drink hot chocolate. That’s not unusual, lots of people like to drink hot chocolate.

I have a problem. I cannot make a decent cup of hot chocolate. I mean, OK, I can, it just takes more effort than it should.

It’s 2024. This should be a solved problem. Maybe it is, but I can’t figure it out.

I used to boil water, add cocoa powder, and drink it, and that was fine. But a few years ago I learned that hot chocolate made with milk is a lot better. And I started getting picky about the cocoa mix and caring about the ingredients list. This would prove my undoing.

I went to one of those fancy coffee shops, one that wasn’t a chain. It seemed like a well run business. One that I could respect and feel good about spending money in, and was worth driving farther and spending more to go to. They didn’t just make tea and coffee for you and sell it to you for consumption right there. You could also buy the stuff and take it home and make it for yourself. That seemed convenient. I bought a container of real cocoa powder which I believed would make an authentic, superior cup of hot chocolate, and felt confident that whenever I was at home and the mood struck me, I would be able to reliably produce a satisfying cup in a short amount of time with convenience, enjoyment, and minimal mess.

I wasn’t even a third of the way to shangri-la. Or wherever the fuck you can get a good hot chocolate at home. Let me tell you.

Heating milk is more complicated than heating water. With water, you basically can’t fuck it up. You get a container, you fill it with water, you apply heat, the water gets hot, you’re good.

With milk, things are complicated by the sugars, fats, and proteins in the milk and how they react to being heated up. Basically, you don’t want to get the milk too hot. You can scorch the milk, and the milk will get this disgusting skin on the top. Scorched milk creates like an advanced polymer bond with the walls of the heating vessel, and you basically need to take out a grinder and polish the shit off to get it clean again, or I guess if you want to you accept defeat gracefully you can just learn to love the brown stains on the insides of your heating vessel. It’s up to you, it’s a free country.

Me, I want to finish with my cleanup and be indistinguishable from the starting state, so that I can preserve a sense of eternal youth and renewal. Building up brown scorched milk on the inside of a sauce pan that I could just throw out and replace every so often when I grew sufficiently disgusted with it is not an approach to life that I would consider. I mean sure the metal could be recycled, but I take it seriously when you buy a pan and they tell you it will last you the rest of your days and can be handed down to future generations. Apparently this means I am hard to please and may never truly be happy.

Anyway, for a while I tried using a sauce pan and put it on my gas range, turned the heat on low and tried to eyeball it to see when it seemed warm enough to use to make hot chocolate. I quickly learned that the human eyeball is not an ideal instrument for measuring temperature. I tried dipping a finger into the milk at various points and learned that this was also not optimal. It occurred to me that there were thermometers, so I tried using one of those. This was a bit of a breakthrough, as it it afforded a repeatable, reliable method of quantifying temperature. I could even leave the thermometer in the milk and monitor its temperature in realtime. This was the start of something.

You might be wondering why I didn’t try using a microwave oven. I don’t own a microwave oven, because fuck microwave ovens. So that ruled out using a microwave oven. Microwave ovens are not for me.

I recognized that a key to hot chocolate happiness would be if I could create a good cup consistently, and that knowing the number of the temperature would be a prerequisite to achieving this. So I wasn’t exactly sure what temperature I should be targeting, but I knew that through trial and error and many thermometer readings I would be able to quickly hone in on the ideal temperature for hot chocolate, my way.

Very early on, I learned that a boil was definitely not necessary. I also learned that bringing the milk to temperature quickly was not necessarily in the best interest of quality. Rather, you want to bring the milk to temperature slowly, gradually, and if you can do this it helps to reduce aggravating the proteins and causing them to turn brown and form that gross skin.

I came to recognize that heating milk on the stovetop was going to be a lot of work. Or rather, would require that I watch the milk like a hawk, and take great care to ensure that I turn the burner on to the precise level that wouldn’t heat the milk too quickly. And that was not easy, because I have a pretty basic oven that was built to be cheap and last a long time and be reliable and safe, but not necessarily be the easiest to dial in to the exact same flame level every single time you turn it on.

Maybe there was another way.

I considered an electric kettle. I had used them to heat water and they worked well for that, although as we’ve already established, that’s a lot easier. But what I liked about the electric kettles is that they have built-in temperature setting and will shut off reliably at the desired temperature. So I thought, why not use an electric kettle.

I tried one, and found that unfortunately most of them are engineered to bring water to temperature as quickly as possible. The way this works, apparently, is that there’s a heating element at the bottom of the kettle, which turns on and heats up to a temperature well in excess of the set temperature you’re trying to get the water to. The heating element then dumps heat into the mass of water contained within the kettle, and through convection the water heats up to a uniform temperature, although probably at any given moment the water very close to the heating element is probably much hotter than the average temperature of the water throughout the kettle. So — you guessed it — this temperature is high enough that it will cause chemical changes in the milk proteins, resulting in scorching and that yucky skin.


Further product research led me to knowledge of the existence of another type of device, called a milk frother. These are used by coffee aficionados, of which I am not one, to produce specialized coffee that use heated milk. That sounded promising. These frothers didn’t just heat the milk up, though, they agitated it to create a foam. This was irrelevant to me, but wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I researched an eventually bought one. A Maestri House CJG8XLAFV Integrated Milk Frother MMF9201 – Moonlight White. It seemed like it would do the job. It was a small unit, holding 400ml of milk, which was just the right amount for a single cup. And since I’m not running a restaurant, and am not a glutton, or a frequent host of hot chocolate parties, that seemed like the right amount for me. It had target temperature settings of 120, 140, and 160 degrees. Fahrenheit, of course. And it was only about $60. I thought for sixty bucks, it would probably solve all my problems. I felt excited, an impending happiness that I had not yet known.

I bought the thing. And it was delivered to my door a few days later. I opened up the package and tried it out. And I learned some new things about the subjective sensation of temperature which frankly I had not been expecting, and therefore surprised me.

First, let me say that the Maestri House design seems pretty smart. The heating element is contained within a base, which you can mount the kettle on, so the heating element is not directly in contact with the milk, which is for the best, and honestly a really good idea. The inside of the container has a little spindle in the center, and on this spindle you can mount a little wire agitator, which spins while the unit is in operation, stirring the milk, and generating the froth. It’s really clever. There is no mechanical linkage that causes this thing to spin. It seems to be done through magnets and a current generated by the electricity in the heating element. So no mechanical linkage means a completely sealed container that doesn’t have a chance of leaking.

That is, unless you overfill the container. See, as milk froths, it occupies a greater and greater volume. And also as the agitator spins, it creates a vortex and the resulting centrifugal forces acting on the milk cause it to climb up the walls of the container, like a frothy milky tornado. And if you add too much milk, this tornado threatens to, can, and will, escape over the top of the kettle. Which is a problem. You don’t want that. So, to hopefully avoid this problem, the designers at Maestri House thoughtfully and helpfully put a mark on the inside of the vessel that says “Max Fill”. As though to suggest that when adding milk, the level should not exceed this level, lest you run the risk of spillage.

Here’s the thing about that. They put the Max Fill mark too high. Or, they made the walls of the kettle too low. Either way, if you put in that much milk, it will overflow. The kettle has a lid, but the lid isn’t really sealed, and milk will make its way out, spilling over the top. And if you weren’t watching, you’ll find that your milk frother is sitting in a big puddle of warm milk on your countertop. And this is a major inconvenience. If you have homeowner insurance, make sure that it covers you against milk tornadoes. If it doesn’t, then you better fill the frother well below this mark. What’s a safe level? Well, you can try to figure that out, and then try to remember it each time you use it.

I thought I’d try just not using the frother. Who needs froth? I just want warm milk. So I removed the agitator, and the manual says that it’s not needed. The thing I found out about that is that without the action of the frother, the milk doesn’t really circulate. So what ends up happening is, the milk close to the heating element in the bottom heats up to the temperature it’s set for, and convection alone doesn’t mix this milk around and result in even heating. The rest of the milk, not adjacent to the heating element, ends up remaining cool. And so the average temperature of the milk ends up being well below the set temperature. And then when the unit reaches temperature and turns off, it turns out that the milk temperature is really well below what you were going for. So, really, it turns out that you really better use that frother to stir the milk so that the warmer milk would mix and evenly heat up the entire volume of milk in the kettle.

But wait. There’s more. It’s not enough that the thing overflows. It also doesn’t feel like it’s as warm as the indicated temperature. Like, if I put water in my electric tea kettle, and set the temperature to 140, I get water that feels like it’s pretty warm. If I stick my finger in it, it feels hot, and I can’t stand to do it for more than a very brief amount of time and I’ll burn myself if I try to do it longer.

With the milk frother, the same temperature feels almost cool. It’s warm-ish, but it’s not going to burn me. If I put my finger in it, or gulp it down, I feel like it’s just barely warm enough to count as warm and not disgustingly tepid. The reason for this, I have come to believe, has to do with the froth. The milk itself might be the temperature indicated, but all the air that has been mixed into the milk by the frothing action isn’t hot. And it’s a considerable amount of air. And it cools the milk down rapidly, and the result is that room temperature air mixed with hot milk results in milk that feels cooler than it really is. You get a sensation of the average temperature of the air and the milk together. So 140F, which could scald you if it was just the milk, ends up feeling like maybe 90F, which is not hot. The Maestri House frother maxes out at 160F, but this feels like maybe 120F. If you drink the hot chocolate immediately and quickly, this is maybe acceptable. But it’s really at the bottom end of the range of what’s acceptable.

The one thing I’ll give the frother credit for is that it doesn’t scorch the milk, and I don’t get a skin on the surface. However, the sides of the kettle do end up getting kind of a thickened milky slime that you’ll want to wash out after every use. So that’s not really great. Like, of course I’m going to need to wash the thing out after use. But if I don’t do it immediately, this milk scum is going to dry out and harden, and make cleaning it much harder. It’s way better to rinse the thing out before that happens, so you quickly learn that you need to do it immediately after pouring the milk into your mug. So then you spend a minute or two rinsing out the kettle, and by the time you’ve returned your attention to the mug, you find that the milk has already cooled to a temperature that basically sucks for enjoying hot chocolate.

I came up with an ingenious hack that works around this, but it feels convoluted and wasteful. Nevertheless, I will share it with you. It involves heating the mug. The easiest way to do that is to pull it out of the dishwasher as soon as the dishwasher is done washing it, and everything in the dishwasher is hot as fuck. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can also just heat some water to boiling, put it into the mug, wait for the water to transfer heat to the mug and get it nice and warm, and then dump the water and replace it with hot frothy milk when the milk is ready. That way, the milk will stay warmer because it doesn’t end up getting heat sucked out of it by the un-warmed mug.

The downside of this hack is that you end up running two different kettles, one for water, one for milk, and you end up feeling like this is wasteful because you’re just throwing out hot water. But you do get a halfway decent hot chocolate this way. It’s just a lot more effort than it should be. You have to fill the milk kettle, not too much, and you have to time the water so it’s hot sooner and fill the mug with it and give it time to warm up, when dump the water, wipe out the inside of the mug so it’s dry, refill with milk, rinse the milk kettle, add cocoa powder, stir. And only then do you get to enjoy.

At that point it’d be easier to walk down to a coffee place and order one. This gives you the illusion of possibility that you might have a social interaction, which could be rewarding. Only that never happens. Nobody talks to people. Just the barista, but they’re just taking your order. And now you had to get dressed and look presentable. And while that may help you feel human and allow you to believe that you’re a functional member of society, it’s just more effort and doesn’t actually pay off in any real way.

So. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve experienced and grown. And yet, I don’t feel like I’ve reached my goal. I feel like I’ve invested capital and time, and yet what I have to show for it still leaves much to be desired. It’s taken up way more of my time than I ever thought it would, and still I don’t have the success that seemed so straightforward and achievable when I set out.

Remembering Pee Wee Herman

I didn’t realize that I would be thinking so much about Pee Wee Herman after hearing about Paul Reubens passing away.

When I was a kid, in the early 80s, it seemed like there was an absolute line between kids and adults. Kids were kids and adults were adults. Kids were allowed to do kid things, but not adult things, and adults did whatever they wanted, but never wanted to do kid things.

I’m not sure, and I’m not saying he did it single handedly, but I notice that for those of us who became adults after Pee Wee, adults seemed a lot freer to continue to enjoy the things that they enjoyed doing as children. We don’t have to hide it, or feel ashamed to enjoy games and toys, comic books, or science fiction or fantasy. We can just enjoy being who we are, and love the things we love to do.

It sure seems like he set us free by his example.

Thank you, Paul. Thank you, Pee Wee.

Not my cup of tea

I made a cup of tea to start my day this morning, as I’ve been doing as a habit for some time. Something about this day recalled a memory.

About 10 or 12 years ago, I was watching a video on youtube of indie gamedev scene darling Jonathan Blow giving his opinions on game development and design, the details of which I don’t recall any longer. But what I do remember was that during this video, Blow made a cup of tea. And while his tea was steeping, he started talking, and then forgot about the tea. By the time he went to drink it, it had steeped for too long. So he proceeded to throw out this cup of tea, and started making another.

This was shocking to me at the time. Who DOES that?

How could Jonathan Blow make a cup of tea and then just throw it out after one sip? It’s wasteful! It’s, like, sinful to waste food! There was a time when men took expeditions at great peril trying to find a way to bring tea from where it was grown to where their people lived. The tea trade has shaped world history in surprisingly profound ways. Empires were built on tea. Nations were conquered and subjugated for it. How could he not respect all of that?

If that had been me, I would have just drank the tea. It would have been a tad too strong, or too bitter, or whatever, and I would have just accepted that and drank it. I probably would have re-used the tea bag to steep 2-3 more cups.

Today, I thought about that.

And who’s right?

Well 10 years later, the horror and shock has worn off, and I’m able to concede that Jonathan Blow wasn’t just being hoity toity because he didn’t want to drink a cup of tea that sat a minute too long.

It’s actually a great life lesson. If you make a mistake, you don’t have to eat it. You can discard it and start fresh.

When you’re a kid, sometimes your parents will force you to eat something that you don’t want to eat, because it’s “good for you” and “builds character”. And then we internalize that lesson and we think we always have to eat our mistakes, that that’s what it means to “own” a “problem” that you have responsibility for creating. Sometimes you’re so poor that the thought of not wringing every last drop of tea out of every single teabag in the box of the cheapest tea you could find in the store makes you feel like you’re in danger of bankrupting yourself with your irresponsible ways.

Only a millionaire would make a cup of tea, find that it wasn’t perfect, and then just toss it away and make another. Watching Jonathan Blow do this felt to me like watching a rich man light a cigar with a burning hundred dollar bill.

But sometimes it’s not a mistake, it’s just a cup of tea. It’s not symbolic of anything. Which costs a few pennies, maybe, in the modern economy. You don’t have to drink it. You can change your mind. You can correct course. And if the tea isn’t made to your liking, you should do what enables you to enjoy life. Make another, do it better.

There are some mistakes in life that we do have to live with, but you don’t have to live with all of them. You can pour out a cup of tea you just made and do it over again, and go on with your life without regret.

*Yawn* wake me up when Scooby-Doo is ready to admit that Freddy is gay.

Velma as lesbian is safe, tame, expected, obvious.

I think originally she was written to be the nerdy, bookish, smart one on the team, and was written to give representation to nerds so they could feel empowerment.

Sexuality for children’s cartoon characters wasn’t a thing. It was taboo. If you drew the Scooby Doo gang naked in the late 60s, they’d look like Barbie and Ken dolls — no genitalia.

Of course it’s fine for humans to be sexual beings, since that’s what we are, and it’s no different with cartoon characters, and if you grow up and you’re still interested in Scooby Doo, and now you want to think about them sexually, go for it.

Everyone in the Scooby Doo gang is a sexual mystery, but exactly what you suspect — just read the clues.

If you grew up crushing on one of the characters, I’m not going to shame you for it. If there was anyone in the group who appealed to me, it was Velma. You could tell under that thick turtleneck she was hiding an amazing body, and she had a restrained energy about her that was just waiting for its awakening.

If the writing team that’s handling the Scooby Doo property wanted to be bold, making Freddy gay (or bi, what’s wrong with bi?) would definitely be the way to go. Freddy was presented as being the masculine, strong, leader type. Making him a gay or bi character without changing that would be amazing. None of the usual gay stereotyping, but still a hint of it in his ascot.

People *want* Velma to be gay, because they want to watch her doing girl-on-girl porn, the way straight men love their fantasy lesbian porn. But people aren’t ready for Freddy to come out, and that’s exactly why he should.

A sad burrito

I got a burrito for lunch earlier.

The cashier told me $10.60. I gave her a $20 and a $1.

She tried to give me the $1 back, I said, “That’s so you can give me back a $10.”

She says “Oh” and gives me a $10.

Since she was trying to give the $1 back to me, she had already entered the amount paid as $20, and so the cash register tells her the change should be $9.40, so she starts counting out $9.40 in change.

I watch her for a couple of seconds, hoping she’ll realize her error, but she doesn’t, so I say, “You already gave me back the $10, I just need the $0.40.”

She got confused, because the cash register told her she owed me $9.40 in change on a $10.60 transaction paid for by a $20. She tried to think about it for a minute, then pulled out her cell phone and ran the calculation on her calculator app.

She ran it twice, and it took like 3 minutes, and I just stood there patiently, waiting for her to catch up. I could have browbeat her with an explanation of how $21 – 10.6 != 10 + 9.4, but instead, I just let her do her thing with the calculator, and she got there, all on her own. Good for her.

I didn’t get angry about it, as it is easy to get angry about someone who derps on a simple math problem, but I am realizing that it’s better not to react that way. I’ve heard this same story told a thousand times, and the teller almost always is telling a “kids these days” story, implying how doomed we are because math education has failed, and hoo boy the new generation coming up sure is frightfully dumb.

The reality is, though, that while math education could be done in better ways, people will always make mistakes now and then, and it’s actually not that big of a deal, nearly all of the time. The times when it could be a big deal, usually those mistakes get caught before they end up causing a big deal.

Math’s important, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t feel like blowing up at someone over my impatience of not getting the coins quickly enough so I can go devour my food.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not some enlightened buddha-saint, either. I get plenty angry enough all the time as it is, but someone making a simple mistake isn’t something to get angry about; I reserve it now for malicious people, who fortunately seem to exist mostly online. But there’s a fuckton of them, and being angry at them takes enough of my time as it is.

So for this cashier, I just let her take the time she needed. She finally realized what I had been trying to tell her, and I joked and said, “I would have kept it, but you probably would have gotten fired.”

She thanked me for being honest and gave me the $0.40.

I walked away and realized that my alignment must be drifting more toward Lawful good.

But really it’s just that I don’t need $9 that badly that I’d watch someone make a mistake in my favor that could lose them their job.

Then I got back in my car, and read the news about Dan Kaminsky, and had to eat a really sad burrito.

Dan was so smart, probably every day of his life he probably felt like I felt like with the cashier a few minutes ago, dealing with computer programmers who made stupid math mistakes that could cost them their job.

I almost called them “computer programmer idiots” in that last sentence, but I went back and edited that out.

The programmers aren’t idiots either, but when you see the same mistakes enough times, it can try your patience and make you wonder what it would take to get the message through to everyone so you could never have to see that mistake made again.

I didn’t know Dan all that well, but we both spoke at the same conference once. He was friends with a lot of my hacker friends who I’ve met in the infosec sphere. He had an absolutely stirling reputation for both brilliance and kindness, and from watching the talks he gave, he was an incredible human being. The world will be less safe without him.

I’m sorry I didn’t know you any better than I did, Dan. You did a lot with your life, and the stories I’m reading now from your friends say even more about the person you were. Thank you for being that person.

Thoughts on the problem of racism in the year 2020

I keep seeing posts from friends with sentiments to the effect of “If you’re a racist, you have no place in my life, so unfriend me” as a response to Trump’s loud and clear message to the Proud Boys in last night’s Presidential debate with Joe Biden.

A couple of things:

* I don’t think that goes far enough. We do not fix racism by distancing ourselves from racists. That only allows them to fester and multiply.

* I am avowedly anti-racist, and probably the most work I do in combating racism is finding it within myself and then removing it wherever and wherever I can.

This is a lifelong process that I could not have done at all on my own.

I recognize I was born in a culture where racism was commonplace, and takes on many forms, some overt and obvious, others insidious yet pervasive. The shit seems normal, because it IS normal. Normal and wrong, but very much normal. Racism is the norm, and we need to change the norm.

One of the earliest things I learned though was that prejudice, stereotyping, and hating people for things that they have no control over, such as the way the look, or where they come from, is wrong, and has caused tremendous suffering throughout our history.

When I speak of racism as being “the norm” I do not mean that most people are actively and affirmatively racist in thought and deed, and admire and agree with or belong to extremist terror organizations like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Proud Boys, etc.

That shit is definitely NOT normal, but it is on the rise, and must be actively fought against.

What IS normal is that families are genetically related. Families support each other and favor each other. This extends naturally to racial identity and so forth. You root for your home team because they’re your home team, and you hate the team from the nearby town, because when they win your games, you don’t get trophies.

Racism begins from that point, and extends into pretty much everything you can think about. And that sort of cultural racism is like the air we breathe. It surrounds us and we don’t even think of ourselves as being immersed in it. We see an empty box as an empty box, not a box that is full of air. And like the air, it is necessary to an extent. We need it to breathe. We need oxygen to burn. We can put fire to good use. We can also burn ourselves and destroy everything we’ve built. We need shelter when the wind is too strong.

That is the way the world is. You can’t hate fire. It’s just chemistry. You can hate what fire does when it is out of control and destructive. You can also find that fire is very useful.

Love and hate are like sides of a coin. Love of self, hate of other. Extend the self to embrace love of all. Or hate everything around you and be consumed in the fire of hate.

Most of us have a fairly short love horizon. The self. Your family. Your child. Your friends. Maybe neighbors, if you have a strong community and good neighbors. The people in your home town. The kids you went to school with. The people who settled a geographic region and have existed there for generations. Not everyone in the world though, not Them. They look different, They turned to Other. They talk funny. They act strange. We cannot share with such people. They are not people. They need to be exterminated.

You can see from the above that the love horizon reaches out to a distance, and between the point of origin rooted at the self and that horizon there is a gradient. For those who’s love is greatest, it pushes all the way past the horizon to include all. For most of us, we fall somewhere short of this. For too many of us, we fall well short.

When we lose the ability to see our neighbor as an Us, and see them as an Other, that is the beginning of our undoing. If we try to turn Racist People into another Other that we can hate, that will be our undoing as well.

We need to recognize that Racists are Us, and that We are Racist. We need to address that fact, head on, and deal with it. We need to fix ourselves. Those of us who have committed to fixing ourselves are obviously not the clear and present danger of a militant radical motivated by racial hate to do violence. Those motherfuckers are indeed where the focus needs to be right now. I don’t know myself how to see Them as Us, and I am so revolted by them that I truly have no desire to. I would rather fight them and kill or be killed. But I know that if we go down that way, many of Us will be killed.

We need to know that just as you can’t live in a world where it is impossible for anything to burn, you can’t live in a world where there is no possibility that the idea that you favor that which is closest and most familiar to you will lead to larger harm outside of a circle that you draw beyond the horizon of your vision. We need to stand taller than that, and see further, so we can draw a circle that includes everyone.

I deprogram myself of racist tendencies on a daily basis. Like a computer defragmenting its hard drive. The way I look at it, it’s like the laundry. The laundry is never done. You get dirty every day, you clean yourself every day. You focus on this, you make your mind right.

I did not make my mind right in a vacuum. I did not make my mind right by being inherently right and just. I did not make my mind right. I am making my mind right. An ongoing process without end. I was put in a particular place and time by fate of birth, and I moved around from there. I picked up things that were readily available around me and built myself. I followed my instinct, and I used my mind. I questioned and I listened. I made judgments and then I questioned those judgments. I worked. I made better judgments.

I am not perfect. My dad was not perfect. My uncles were not perfect at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The founders of the nation were not perfect. We can learn from them. We can follow their example or we can learn from their mistake. And we can do both.

I think of myself as better than a lot of people on this, but still I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. I will always be in the struggle. Even when there are no fires burning, you still need the Fire Department. Those who recognize this see the world as it is.

When there is a fire that is destructive and out of control, you do not reason with it. You fight the fire. You can fight a literal fire in three ways: You take away the fuel. You take away the oxygen. You can take away the heat. We are the fuel. We are surrounded by oxygen. We must deal then with the heat.

My words reminded me of the great wildfires out west. These are the times we live in, now. We must deal with that. When the fire comes and is bigger than anything we can handle, we must run. Sometimes you can get far enough out ahead of it. You may need to do a controlled burn to prevent a wild fire from spreading. I like trees, but sometimes you have to cut down a swath to make a firebreak in order to protect the forest. You get the point. I don’t need to go on torturing an extended metaphor. You can see how it applies here.

I totally get the desire to remove them from your life. I did that with many people. But it doesn’t fix the problem. And as I see it, distancing from Others only serves to increase their Otherness, which is at the root of the problem.

So while it may be necessary in some cases, for mental health, or physical safety, for example, it’s not a solution. Jumping out of a burning building doesn’t put the fire out, but people in the burning building need to get out.

The solution is for people who have the capacity to engage, get close, and then smother the fire, get it under control, and find ways to tame and use fire, turning from a destructive force into a tool that can be used for good.

I know it sounds weird to call racism a tool for good, but that’s not what I mean. I mean turning the love of self from a generator of hate for others and into a love for the expanded self that includes all.

Open World: Video Games and Contemporary Art

Open World opened last Saturday, October 19th at the Akron Art Museum. I attended the opening, and was very impressed with the exhibit. It is a large installation, covering three of the museum’s galleries. The works included cover a wide range of media, from ball point pen drawings to video to prints to sculpture to textiles to interactive media and virtual reality.

Experiencing Cory Arcangel’s I shot Andy Warhol, which is a romhack of Hogan’s Alley for the NES, for art’s sake. And yes, I got the high score.

It’s exciting to see the art world acknowledge the importance and influence of videogames on fine art.

It’s been about 15 years since famed film critic Roger Ebert famously proclaimed that videogames were not art, and could never be. He was wrong about that in so many ways, although to be fair to his argument, we should seek to understand what he meant by that. The word “art” has multiple definitions, and this is a confusing and contentious point, which can trip up many conversations before they even begin as people talk past one another without realizing it. Untangling that mess requires more words than I have time to type here.

But if I can bottom line it, Ebert was wrong, but he had a few good points.

Art is a very broad word, and to think it couldn’t include videogames is simply short-sighted and more than a bit bigoted. To make a pronouncement that games can never be art is arrogant. And of course games are art. Game design is an art, games are comprised of program code, graphics, and audio, and all of these require an artist’s touch in order to come alive.

But no, not every game is a work of high art. Just as not every book or film is art. Not every statue or painting is art. And sure, most video games are thought of primarily as commercial kitch intended for mass entertainment. But sure, a video game can be an object d’art. Why not? There’s an entire genre of videogames called “art games“, which are intended to be experienced as art.

But… wtf is art? Which definition are we using each time we say the word?

Well, that’s an important question, but never mind that. My goal isn’t to write a book about the definition of art, and argue that videogames are, or can be, art. We could spend time exploring that, and it’s not like that wouldn’t be worthwhile. But that’s not my point in writing this post; my point is to talk about the Open World exhibit at the Akron Art Museum, and how you should go see it.

Krista Hoefle

Why not simply go into the world and look at some art, and see if any of it is a videogame? And why not explore the world and find examples of art that show a clear influence from videogames, a clear sign that videogames are culture, that video games are a force that shapes and influences humanity, and has been, for decades, from very nearly the very beginning of the history of computing machines.

It turns out this is a rewarding endeavor. As much as it’s important to think about what art is and isn’t, its much better to experience art, and engage with it.

The exhibit does this very well, I think, by taking a broad survey of different approaches different artists have taken, and the different ways that video games have influenced them in the creation of art.

One of the artworks in the show is a video game: Cory Arcangel’s I shot Andy Warhol, a romhack of Hogan’s Alley for the NES, which simply substitutes images of Andy Warhol, the Pope, Colonel Harlan Sanders, the founder of KFC, and Public Enemy hype man Flava Flav for the usual graphics, to make a statement of some sort, about the historical fact that Andy Warhol was actually shot in real life. What that statement is exactly, I’m not entirely sure. But there it is, a playable video game, presented as art, in an honest-to-god Art Museum. Suck on that, Ebert.

Feng Mengbo‘s Long March: Restart, is another playable videogame, and incorporates numerous sprites from 8- and 16-bit run-and-gun games such as Contra, is another game, but was not playable on the opening day due to technical difficulties.

A lot of artwork that people might think of when they hear “art influenced by video games” would fall under the category of “fan art” — simply, works created by fans, done in homage to a favorite game, or character from a game, or to create feelings of nostalgia. This isn’t really what Open World is going after. The artwork doesn’t serve to celebrate commercial products. But there are a few pieces that might come close, such as the Colossal Cave Adventure quilt made by Krista Hoefle, one of my favorite pieces in the exhibit, or Butt Johnson‘s brilliantly executed ballpoint pen drawings, which simultaneously reference both 80’s video game culture and the Italian renaissance.

Butt Johnson
Butt Johnson

But most of the works in the show are not games. Some are digital works, such as Tabor Robak’s 20XX, or Angela Washko’s “gaming intervention”, The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft. Washko’s investigation of Warcraft players’ attitudes on feminism tends to be buried in the visual chaos of WOW’s cluttered UI and fantastical character avatars, but it is nevertheless interesting for its chat content and the social dynamics she frames and puts on display in the context of a popular fantasy MMORPG.

Many of the works in the exhibit reference games in some way, or excerpt from them. Others borrow cues from the new aesthetic of video game graphics in creating artistic compositions, such as Invader’s pixel art created out of Rubik’s Cubes, or Mathew Zefeldt’s life-size barrel and door from Duke Nukem 3D.

Barrel and Door by Mathew Zefeldt

Still others use games as raw material, taking elements out of them, repurposing or recontextualizing them, turning them into art. Still others use a game to stage a sort of theatrical performance, sometimes called machinima. These often are done for social commentary, as with Joseph DeLappe’s Elegy: GTA USA Gun Homicides, which is especially powerful in its depiction of gun violence through a modded version of Grand Theft Auto 5.

The above only covers about half of the total show, so to see the rest of it, you’ll have to go in person. Open World is up from October 19, 2019 – February 2, 2020, and after that will be travelling to Currier Museum of Art March 21 – June 28, 2020 and San José Museum of Art September 10, 2020 – January 10, 2021.

Nancy Pelosi is dead wrong about impeachment

It is necessary. It is Congress’s duty.

Donald J. Trump, the falsely elected President of the United States, is obviously guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.

This is not a controversial or debatable fact.

Trump was a criminal and a con man all his life, during the campaign, and after being sworn into office after an election that he stole through collusion with foreign agents.

As President, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and then went on national TV and admitted that the reason for the firing was to obstruct justice, because he wanted the investigation into Michael Flynn’s lies about illegal connections to Russia. Michael Flynn was a Russian agent, Trump knew, and he ordered Comey to drop the investigation, and when he didn’t, he fired him.

Trump fired Comey, because he himself is linked to Russia, and worked with them in order to benefit from a psy-ops campaign directed against American voters in order to sway the election to him. In return Trump has given aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, namely Russia and North Korea, by coddling them and by poisoning our relationships with our long-standing allies. This amounts to Treason.

That right there should have been the end of Trump’s presidency. The only reason it wasn’t is that Trump is backed by the Republican Party, and they held power in Congress at the time, and because of their association, Republicans in Congress failed to do their duty to act as a check on the Executive branch, and failed in their duty to enforce the Constitution, and failed in their duty to impeach and remove a criminal President.

There’s a litany of other abuses of power and illegal acts that Trump has undertaken, both as President and as a private citizen and while seeking public office. It’s more than enough.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, now Speaker of the House, doesn’t agree. Pelosi feels that there should be a high bar to impeachment, and that the process should be slow and careful. And there should be a high bar to impeachment. And yet, it appears no bar is high enough for our Speaker.

It’s difficult to imagine what crime would be high enough to warrant impeachment, in Pelosi’s mind, if obstruction of justice and outright treason fail to reach that level.

The authors of the Constitution did not intend for impeachment to be a slow, deliberative process. We elect officials to brief terms in office so that they may be removed by the public if it deems the official to be doing a poor job. For the president, they get a performance review every four years, and if they don’t measure up, the public will remove them. Four years is relatively brief amount of time, when compared to monarchs who rule for life, but it is still a long time. Impeachment is a remedy that is meant to be undertaken in the time between elections, to immediately rectify a situation where the President has committed crimes egregious enough that the situation cannot wait for the next election. Not to take the bulk of the term of office to move slowly toward maybe enforcing the law if it is determined to be politically popular and expedient. We are supposed to be a nation of laws.

With Trump, this started well before Day One in office.

Impeachment articles can be drafted in days or weeks, and a senate trial can be held in days or weeks, or perhaps months at the most. It is not meant for impeachment to happen only at the end of an investigation that takes up half or more of the presidential term in office. It’s ridiculous to suggest that. Robert Mueller’s investigation needs to be thorough, but we do not need to completely track down every last allegation about the crimes of Trump, his Administration, and his private business to know that impeachment is warranted, as soon as humanly possible.

President Obama was already aware of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and had the FBI working on the case before the election.

Obama had enough reason to believe that the election was compromised that he wanted to make a statement to the public about this, but declined to do so when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a rank hypocrite who has never willingly cooperated with anything that President Obama has ever wanted to do, and who has consistently opposed Obama at every opportunity, even when it means contradicting his own previous statements on the record, refused to cooperate with making a joint announcement to ensure the nation’s unity.

Regardless of McConnell’s unwillingness to work with the President on a matter of vital necessity to the security of the nation and its government, this should have been enough to delay certifying the election results, pending the full outcome of the investigation. But, for reasons I cannot fathom, President Obama chose instead to put his faith in the system to do its work to check the power of the President, even after the transition of power to a man who, if guilty of the things it appeared at the time he may have been guilty of, would have had every reason to obstruct that work, and have very little to hold him back from doing so.

Nancy Pelosi has stated that impeachment should not be a political move –that in order to be successful, it must have bipartisan support. This shows a terrible misunderstanding on her part of what impeachment is.

When we talk about partisan or bipartisan support for a measure that Congress is undertaking, normally we are talking about legislative acts — passing bills into law. Impeachment is a different matter, one of investigation into criminal acts by the President.

Laws are laws. Whether an accused individual has broken the law is a matter of facts, not political philosophy. When the Senate votes on impeachment, they are voting yes or no based on the facts presented in support of the charges. A no vote to impeachment is to say one of the following: that the evidence and arguments presented in the trial failed to prove the case, or that the charges are not sufficient to warrant removal.

Again, the charges in the case of President Trump are obviously more than sufficient, if proven, to warrant his impeachment and removal from office. The only question then, is whether the facts can be presented. But Trump has time and again, blatantly and in public obstructed justice, and admitted to obstructing justice. Through his tweets, and through statements given in interviews. Firing Comey over the “Russia Thing” alone was sufficient. And then Trump confessed, quite matter of factly that the reason he did it was because Comey declined to drop the investigation. Game over, case closed. Open and shut. Slam dunk.

Trump should be in prison right now, and by now should be close to a year into a life sentence for conspiring and colluding with this nation’s enemies to defraud the public and steal an election in a bid to further the interests of a foreign government. If Congress were not derelict in its duty.

None of this has anything to do with the fact that Trump ran as a Republican, and that his political positions are abhorrent, or that he’s completely unqualified and incompetent to be in office. None of it. This is about the crimes committed by the President, or by his people, in his name and with his knowledge.

Impeaching Trump is not a political act. It is not a partisan act. It is a matter of law.

Congress’s role as a check to the Executive Branch demands that it act in this matter, in this way. Rather, not impeaching Trump is the political, partisan act. To ignore his crimes, to ignore evidence, to claim that the crimes aren’t crimes, or that his crimes don’t matter, or aren’t important enough, or that laws can’t be enforced against a sitting President because he is the top and somehow the law doesn’t also apply to him, is the political, partisan act. When articles of impeachment are brought to the Senate for a vote, the vote isn’t “I’m a Republican” or “I’m a Democrat”. It’s “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.” A Republican who can’t find a way to vote “Guilty” on this case when the facts show that the President is guilty of committing the crimes he is accused of, is voting “I’m a Republican.” And that is the true political act.

Democratic leadership seems to be against impeachment not because it’s not the right thing to do, but because they can’t successfully do it. But yet, right now the Senate is expected to pass a resolution drafted by the House to check the President on his emergency declaration on the fake border emergency. This, despite that it’s certain that the President will veto and the Senate will likely not have a veto-proof supermajority. Why is it fine to carry forward one measure but not the other?

Finally, impeachment will not divide the nation. The President has an approval rating around 40%. In the last election, his party was overwhelmingly defeated by a public that rebuked him, even with voter suppression and gerrymandering tipping the scales. The nation is united against Trump.

Even among the 40% of his supporters, many of them acknowledge that Trump may have committed crimes, but they support his party and its policies, and that is why they continue to support him. But it’s a political act to impeach him, not to defend him? Hogwash. Removing a criminal from office is not discretionary. It is a matter of duty, required by the rule of law.

Trump himself said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose support. It might be the one true thing that he’s ever said.

It’s quite apparent by now that nothing Trump does will damage the support he enjoys from his die hard base. Ergo, no matter what, the nation is divided. We cannot wait for Republicans who are comfortable aligning themselves to a criminal president in order to “own the lips” to come on board. We must move forward. “Only” 60% of the citizens support will have to do.

As Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi has the power to bring articles of impeachment to the Senate and put the President to trial. The situation requires this of her as a matter of duty. Whether the Senate is comprised of people who are willing to vote to remove or not is immaterial. The facts should be presented, and the public should judge the actions of the Senators who vote on the articles. Present the strongest possible case and if any senator can still vote no to impeachment, let him or her be voted out of office.

Right now, as it stands, Congress is aiding and abetting a criminal President. Sadly, this might have be expected of his own party, although it shouldn’t be. But for the Speaker of the House and member of the opposition party to say that it’s pointless to even try to impeach without bipartisan support, guarantees that the opposition party will never provide that support. News flash, Nancy: You will never get bipartisan support without trying to get it. All they have to do is help their President obstruct, and the crimes will stand. By bringing a case and backing it with proof, either the Senate will do the right thing and remove a criminal President, or it will join the President in his crimes by abetting and covering up.

By failing to bring articles of impeachment in a timely manner, Congress already is abetting and covering up those crimes.

Why is prosecuting treason a political act, but defending treason isn’t? Where are the bipartisan democrats defending the high crimes and misdemeanors of Trump?

Oh, that’s right… sitting in the seat of the Speaker of the House. God damn it.

This cannot be allowed. We do not have a nation of laws if this is allowed to stand. We do not have a constitutional republic. What we have is a kleptocracy of privileged elites who have so much power and influence that they can get away with whatever crime.

If you think you’re against this President, and you’re not impeaching him for his litany of obvious crimes, let’s be clear: you’re not against him.

Nancy, to be clear: If you’re not against the President, you’re with him.