Murray Trudell, 1925-2019

My wife’s grandfather passed away last week. The funeral is tomorrow and we’re heading back to Green Bay for it. We were just there for Thanksgiving and planned to go see him for lunch on the day he died.

It always strikes me that I don’t have much experience dealing with death. I haven’t lost many people close to me, and I haven’t been to many funerals.

I’m reminded of some thoughts on grief from Melanie Walby at a recent event I attended:

Not everything happens for a reason. Some things just suck.

Life will still be good, it will just be different.

Continue reading Murray Trudell, 1925-2019

THanks for Supporting West St. Paul Reader

Back in May I launched West St. Paul Reader. It’s a hyper local news site focused on my town of West St. Paul. It exists thanks to the generous support of a lot of people, from my initial Kickstarter backers to my current Patreon supporters.

It’s been a wild journey, and I’m very grateful for it.

I’ve been writing about West St. Paul here on my personal blog for a while. I think it started in 2014 when we had a hotly contested mayoral election. And it grew from there. It was always a hobby, but it was taking more and more of my time. I write for a living, so that was kind of a problem. I wanted to do something more official and more sustainable. There were stories I just couldn’t tell because it was a hobby. I wanted to do something more.

But I wasn’t sure if it would work. I’ve had a lot of not-so-great ideas over the years that didn’t go anywhere. So I launched a Kickstarter campaign with some trepidation.

It only took five days to hit the initial goal. And it went up from there. That initial boost literally kickstarted West St. Paul Reader. From that initial support I was able to hire a local designer to create a logo, pay a writer to do a post on local taco joints, and hopefully pay some more writers—because it’s important to pay people for their work.

It’s also important to me that West St. Paul Reader is sustainable. I enjoy doing it, but it’s not a hobby. It’s part of my business. It takes a lot of time away from my regular freelance work—and I’ve got bills to pay.

So I’m incredibly grateful to see the ongoing support grow through Patreon. This is a way to support West St. Paul Reader through monthly payments. In return, it helps keep people informed, there are patron-only updates, and other extras.

When an email notification of a new patron comes through, I’ve pumped my first in the air or run a victory lap around my office. It’s exciting because it means this thing is working.

And that has meant some strange and wonderful things. Such as:

For a total of 83 posts.

So to everyone who has made West St. Paul Reader happen, thank you.

If you want to join the team and support West St. Paul Reader you can become a patron.

Taking Stock of the 2020 Democratic Canidates

So I opined on impeachment last week (and I have to say, it feels much more urgent and possible this week), and in the midst of the inquiry the Democrats have another debate. Seems like a good time to take stock of the 2020 candidates.

More than anything, I just want to note my thoughts and moods at this moment in time.

In general, I don’t follow the horse race that closely. I don’t watch the debates, but I do pay attention to where things are at. I’ve had my eye on a few candidates, but I haven’t felt ready to jump in with support yet. The overwhelming number of candidates feels ridiculous (sheesh, go run for Senate!), but I do feel like there are plenty of contenders here that could win and I’d be happy to support.

Continue reading Taking Stock of the 2020 Democratic Canidates

The Impeachment of Donald Trump

I’m sitting here in the first week of the public impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump in the House of Representatives. With so much news and commentary flying around in today’s fast-paced world, it’s hard to capture how we’re actually feeling in a given moment. Rather than adding to the noise, I’m hoping to just capture my thoughts in this moment.

Momentous

First, it’s hard to come to grips with how momentous this moment really is. Impeachment gets thrown around a lot and it’s been threatened against nearly every president. But it’s usually pretty fringe and not taken very seriously.

So to have an impeachment inquiry supported by a majority in the House and public hearings happening, that’s big. It’s only happened with three presidents before, so—as we might expect—Trump is really in a unique class here. Which is not a good thing.

Continue reading The Impeachment of Donald Trump

This Is Who We Are

My wife and I were visiting a church on Sunday. I’d been there a few times, and it was my wife’s first time there. After the service, as we were heading for the door, someone came up and said hello.

There was the usual awkward small talk. Then the woman said, “That’s my wife over there. We came to this church in the ’90s, when it was a real step of faith, whether or not we’d be accepted. Well, when we could finally be officially married, this place was packed to the rafters. That’s the kind of place this is.”

Something to that effect.

I hate visiting churches. But it’s incredible when a single moment can cover over a bad sermon or boring music or a painful encounter. A simple moment that says, ‘This is who we are.’

Rarely does it have anything to do with church marketing.

Turning on the Heat 2019

It’s time for the annual charting of when I turn the heat on.

This year is a bit different because I didn’t actually turn the heat on. I was up north with Milo at a state park and came back to find the heat on.

So I’m told it was 52 in the house. Which seems reasonable. It’s been rainy and cold, and I noticed it was 62 in the house the other day.

Probably about average. This is the third time that Oct. 5th has been the day we’ve turned the heat on 17 years, so that’s something.

Here’s the historical (i.e., nerdy) data:

A Tour of Tragedy

This summer during my annual trip to Kansas to spend time with family, I took a trip of my own to Colorado. I have a hard time resisting the mountains, and this year I caved. But I took a detour on the way to out to visit two historical sites. It was a tour of tragedy.

Less than 50 miles apart in Eastern Colorado are the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site and the Granada Relocation Center, known as Camp Amache.

Continue reading A Tour of Tragedy

Thoughts on the Mueller Report

So I read the Mueller Report. Or technically, Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. I came away with a few key lessons:

  1. Trump and his campaign did not conspire with Russia.
  2. Russia absolutely did attack our election.
  3. Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.

Reading the Report

With all the talk about the report and possible impeachment, and all the lies about the report, it seemed worth reading it for myself.

It’s very long and took me a while to get through—and I read a lot. It wasn’t so much the legalese that made it hard, but the incredible amount of detail. Mueller basically laid out every single rabbit hole they chased down and gave a report on everything, whether there was something there or not. So in many cases there’s a lots of detail about what happened, lots of detail about the laws involved, and lots of detail about why the evidence does or doesn’t support criminal charges.

It’s an exercise in covering your ass.

Thorough and detailed. And that’s what it should be. We’re talking about our democratic process, the very institution that defines our government. It has to be thorough so we know, once and for all, whether something bad happened.

And something bad did happen, regardless of your political leanings.

I don’t know if everyone needs to read the report. It’s so involved, it’s probably not worth it. The legal language mostly isn’t too bad, but there were a few times when it does get intense. The redactions didn’t seem excessive to me either (though it was hard to tell in my ebook version). It is probably worth reading the summary sections, just to know what it says for yourself.

1. Trump Didn’t Conspire With Russia

So the first conclusion I came away with is that Trump and his campaign did not conspire or coordinate with Russia (collusion is a made up word and not a legal thing, as the report explains, so let’s stop using it). At least this report found no evidence of that. And they dug pretty deep, so I think we can have reasonable confidence in the conclusion.

And even though I do not like Trump at all, I’m very happy with this conclusion. What a sigh of relief. The idea that the president of the United States would conspire with a foreign power to get that job—that’s terrifying.

I think this conclusion is good for America, no matter where you are politically.

Trump continually touts this conclusion, as he should. But it’s far from the end of the story.

2. Russia Attacked Our Election

The next big conclusion from the report is that Russia attacked our election. This came in two forms:

  1. Creating social media disinformation campaigns. More than just bots, these included fake social media profiles that organized real life political rallies. These fake accounts were quoted in the media and used to show what “real voters” think. Facebook estimates these fake posts may have been seen by 126 million people. (As propaganda campaigns go, that’s shockingly effective.)
  2. Hacking the computers and emails of campaign officials and election officials. More than just stealing information from candidates (which is still illegal, though Trump seems to endorse this idea), this included trying to break into and comprise our election system. While you might laugh at a silly campaign manager gullible enough to fall for a phishing attempt, it’s a lot more serious when it’s an election official in charge of safeguarding out ballot boxes.

The fact that this happened is startling. Not so much that hackers exist and they do bad stuff, but that the U.S. was specifically targeted and attacked by a foreign government. This wasn’t just ‘fat kids in their mom’s basement,’ this was the Russian government. That’s outrageous.

But what’s really mind boggling about this is the complete lack of a response from Trump. He’s denied that Russia has attacked us for so long, whether it’s back in Helsinki when he took Vladimir Putin’s word over our own intelligence agencies or even now that the report is out and he still jokes about it. He recently met with Putin and joked about how he told him not to hack us.

The president joked with a foreign leader about their attack on our democracy.

Just take a moment to wonder at the madness of that. Imagine any other president doing that. The cavalier way that Trump just dismisses this attack on democracy should be chilling.

I think Trump’s failure to protect and defend American democracy is the real high crimes and misdemeanors in the Muller Report that he should be impeached for.

3. Trump Obstructed the Investigation

The final conclusion is that Trump repeatedly tried to obstruct the investigation. There are a ton of examples of this, some with more evidence or weight that others.

This section of the report got a little hard to follow because there were so many egregious examples and so much legalese analyzing what was required in each case to bring charges or make a case.

It’s mostly Trump trying to cover his butt and get out from under the cloud this investigation cast on his presidency. And his own actions only made it worse.

In some ways I get how people can argue that this is a process crime, and it’s not that big of a deal. Trump personally didn’t do anything wrong with Russia (except for that whole failure to defend the country thing), so who cares if he wanted the investigation over?

Of course there’s that whole rule of law thing. You can’t lead a ‘lock her up’ chant about Hillary Clinton’s emails and then ignore all the actual crimes of your own people (the “best” people, remember?).

But aside from that, what really gets me is that Russia attacked the U.S. and Trump tried to kill the investigation.

The word ‘treason’ has been thrown around a lot in these arguments, but those are actions that might actually deserve the word.

When a foreign government attacks our country, you investigate and get to the bottom of it, no matter how bad it makes your people look. To do anything else is treasonous. To actively try to stop that investigation to cover your own ass—those are not the actions of a president who defends the country, they’re the action of a selfish man worried about his own image.

What’s Next?

So what happens next? Based on my conclusions above, I think Congress should open impeachment hearings.

Of course that hasn’t happened (yet).

Instead everyone is playing politics.

The Republicans are sticking by Trump and claiming there’s nothing in the Mueller Report. They’re clearly deluding themselves. It’s fair to say they’ve neglected their oath of office. And since Republicans control the Senate, even if the House files charges of impeachment, the Senate will never convict.

Meanwhile the Democrats are afraid of public opinion. There’s not enough public support for impeachment yet, so they’re too afraid to go down that road (especially if it will fail in the Senate). They want to win, whether by impeachment or election, and losing impeachment could endanger winning the election. So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has this strategy of building support over time with an onslaught of investigations, but the White House refuses to cooperate and it all just drags on so slowly that the public loses interest.

I’m not surprised this whole thing has become so political.

But what’s buried in all the arguments, theories, strategies, and fake news is doing what’s right. Screw public opinion. Screw whether or not it’s successful.

Integrity means you do what’s right, no matter the result or public opinion.

Neither party seems to have much integrity right now.

And that sets a terrifying precedent. We’re allowing a vanity president to ignore attacks on our country. The message this sends to the world is that you’re welcome to attack our democracy, and we’re too politically immobilized to do anything about it.

The United States has to be more than Democrats or Republicans, each trying to win no matter what. The country has to come before party, and right now both parties and the president seem to be obsessed with themselves.

I’d love to see Donald Trump lose the 2020 presidential election by a huge margin, to have an electoral repudiation of his presidency and his policies. That would be cathartic.

But I also think Trump has neglected the duties of his office, and failing to hold him accountable for that is to be guilty of the same crime.

Hold Trump accountable. Make Republicans vote for Trump over country, and then win or lose you’ve done the right thing.

Last Day for West St. Paul Reader Kickstarter Campaign

Today is the final day of my Kickstarter campaign for West St. Paul Reader. It’s a new site to help inform people about what’s going on in West St. Paul.

The Kickstarter campaign hit the initial goal in less than five days and the site launched. Since then, we’ve been working toward stretch goals and knocking them down.

The campaign ends at midnight tonight (Central Time), so it’s your last chance to back West St. Paul Reader and help us keep people informed.

I’ve been talking about this non-stop for the past month. I’m incredibly grateful for all the support, but I’ll be happy to stop flogging it and just talk about what’s happening.

Like the West St. Paul water tower.

This comment really underscores what West St. Paul Reader is all about:

“Until today, I’ve never seen a photo of the inside of a water tower! Thanks, West St. Paul Reader!”

Matt Pennig

So do me a favor and back the project. Thanks.

Trump’s No Collusion Is Good, Obstruction Is Bad

I’ve tried to stay mostly quiet on national politics of late, because it’s proved so divisive but also from feeling like I’m not adding anything original to the conversation. I’m still not sure if I’m doing that, but sometimes you just need to speak up.

With the summary of the Mueller report, the actual Mueller report, and President Donald Trump’s constant tweets and statements, it’s sometimes easier to just ignore it all.

But I’ve got two main conclusions from all of this:

1. No “Collusion”

The Mueller report did not come up with any evidence that Trump conspired with the Russian government to influence the election.

That’s good. I’m thrilled with that.

As much as I dislike and disagree with Trump, it would be catastrophic for this country to have a president—any president—conspire with a foreign government to win an election. It’s very good news that it does not appear that Trump himself did that.

Trump repeatedly dismisses the entire investigation by saying “no collusion” (let’s just ignore the fact that “collusion” is not a legal term, something Mueller quickly spells out). While Trump is right about this single point, that’s not a justification to dismiss the rest of the investigation.

While this investigation did not find that Trump conspired (which is good), it did find all kinds of wrongdoing (which is bad). Multiple people who were close to Trump (remember that he picks the “best people) have gone to jail.

So this is not a report anyone should dismiss as a witch hunt or a waste of time or resources. Doing so indicates a serious misunderstanding of the nature of the report.

2. Obstruction

The Mueller report makes it very clear that Russia attacked our election:

“There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Robert Mueller, May 29, 2019 statement

Trump has repeatedly denied this fact. Remember Helsinki, when Trump literally took the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies.

Not only did Trump deny Russia’s involvement, but he repeatedly tried to obstruct the investigation. The Mueller report outlines multiple cases of this happening. And that’s a big deal. Again, Muller’s statement:

“When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

Robert Mueller, May 29, 2019 statement

So a foreign government interfered with our democratic election, it benefited Trump, he denied any interference happened, and when his administration began an investigation into what happened, he repeatedly tried to obstruct that investigation.

Trump tried to stop us from finding out what Russia did.

In my mind, that’s high crimes and misdemeanors.

Do What’s Right

Of course now we turn to the highly political question of impeachment. I heard House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat in charge of the House who will ultimately decide whether or not to pursue impeachment, say:

“We want to do what’s right and what gets results.”

-Nancy Pelosi (Fox News)

That’s an odd statement, because those two things don’t necessarily go together.

You can do what’s right and not get any results. That’s called integrity. You do what’s right not because it gets you results, but because it’s what is right.

In the current political climate, the U.S. Senate is unlikely to impeach Donald Trump.

So what?

If he has obstructed justice, then it is the duty of the U.S. House to impeach him. Let the Senate do what they will, but you still do what’s right.

Many Democrats are arguing about the potential political fallout of a failed impeachment. They’re looking for the maximum political gain, going for the crass political win of what gets results.

I think that’s gross.

If Trump has done wrong, hold him accountable. To hell with the political fallout. (And frankly, I think seeing negative political fallout is a miscalculation, but whatever, that’s not why you do it.)

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.