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Just Another Stupid, Pretty Much Illegal Thing Trump Did

When Donald Trump’s extremely selective outrage isn’t just embarrassing, it’s also arguably illegal.

At least, that seems to be the case from where I’m standing. It’s bad enough that most of America is numb to bouts of public violence — terrorism and otherwise — but it’s quite another thing when the President of the United States actively propagandizes such an event and uses it to score cheap points with the rabble.

I’m speaking, of course, about Trump’s public comments — Tweets, mostly — about the suspect in the recent New York City vehicular terrorist attack. What Trump said, and the ease with which he drew out similar sentiments from the Republican Establishment, reveals less a president/role model and more a bully who neither understands nor appreciates that democracy is a process rather than a power structure.

Trump, Terrorism and Due Process

I’m not going to rehash the specifics here or name names, since we all know the story. A man with a public history of psychological problems and who dabbled in religion killed Americans on a sidewalk in New York City with a rented van. It’s awful and unforgivable.

What it is not is an excuse to jettison decency, which President Donald Trump did immediately and publically when he demanded the man be sent indefinitely to Guantanamo Bay, which is where America has been putting its legally fraught inconveniences for far too long already.

GOP stalwart and “maverick” John McCain, also given to very selective bouts of hysteria, practically ran to the President’s side to signal his support for the idea: “There’s no Miranda rights for somebody who kills Americans.”

Except for the part where he’s as wrong as it’s possible to be. If being an American citizen comes with any perks at all, then chief among them is knowing that one will receive fair treatment at the hands of the law. Neither presidents nor senators get to wave away somebody’s rights to due process, “terrorism” charges or not.

And another thing: It should be clear to everybody by now that even the word “terrorism” is a weapon in America, because as soon as reason is found to apply it, an outsized portion of America’s electorate and government seem to believe that’s reason enough to suspend everything to do with the workings of justice. It can’t be allowed to continue.

A President Beats His Chest While a Nation Mourns

Trump turned up the bluster once his echo chamber started picking up the narrative and running with it. “Should move fast,” Trump tweeted on November the second. “DEATH PENALTY.”

It might not feel like it, but the narrative surrounding this man — with no small amount of help from the President himself — now includes the phrase “enemy combatant.” With the word “terrorism” in the mix, it was inevitable. The two are like chocolate and peanut butter.

Here’s the rub, though:

The man in question is an American citizen. Full stop. Not a soldier. Not an “enemy combatant.” If Guantanamo Bay exists for a sound reason or ever did (it doesn’t and didn’t) it was to house war criminals from other countries — not American citizens who kill Americans on American soil. What Trump and McCain propose here isn’t simply an affront and insult to the justice system — it’s comically un-American. There’s no precedent for it, it’s illegal, and it doesn’t even make sense.

It’s not the first time Donald Trump has signaled contempt for the workings of justice and, with it, the concept of civilized society. Even before he “won” the election, Trump was calling for the execution of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl — the famed soldier who departed his post in 2009. Some legal experts contend that Trump’s public comments represent “mitigation evidence” in the case. As a recognizable public figure, Trump’s regular bouts of hysterics tend to get noticed. The folks whose deaths he’s calling for have a right to a fair trial, but he may have so poisoned the well of discourse that there is now no hope for such a thing.

Maybe it’s a good thing if you’re no friend to the death penalty, however, which is arguably the higher road to take in these cases, Trump or no Trump. Regardless:

The very real worry here now is that none of this seems to matter to Trump. Not in living memory has America seen a president less concerned with how badly he’s tarnishing America’s brand throughout the world — “brand” being, of course, a word that should mean something to Mr. Trump.

It’s patently obvious that American presidents are less lawmakers and more tastemakers. They’re supposed to be the best, brightest, and fairest-of-mind citizens we can find and they’re supposed to go forth and demonstrate our values to the world.

Set aside the legal problems for a moment, which are considerable, and ask the more important question: What does Donald Trump say, with and without speaking, about the values of Americans? When he complains he can’t simply compel the Justice Department to harass his political rivals, where does that leave us?

It leaves me not quite daring to say the word “dictator” out loud, because this is America and stuff like that Can’t Possibly Happen Here.


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Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about politics and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, Only Slightly Biased. You can also email her at kateharveston@gmail.com with questions or writing opportunities.

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125 thoughts on “Just Another Stupid, Pretty Much Illegal Thing Trump Did

  1. So, I’m assuming that you’ve previously spoken out against:
    1) The NYPD and Federal monitoring of Muslims in America? (Let us lump in ALL domestic monitoring of americans in there too.)
    2) The FBI “entrapment’ of “terrorists” by having informers agitate them and supply them with the tools to commit their deeds, then arresting them in a big PR event?
    3) The destabilization of various countries: Libya, Syria, Ukraine that took place under the Obama administration.
    4) The targeting and killing of American citizens outside of the US that took place under the last administration. (“There’s no precedent for it” Really? How is targeted killing of Americans in Arabia any different from doing it in the US? A boundary? Certainly not any moral difference.)
    5) And I’m sure you’d support revoking Former Pres Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, since frankly, he never lived up to the award, either in aspiration or in actual fact.

    I’m no supporter of Trump, but if you’re so worried about the American brand, I’m assuming you’ve been complaining about A LOT of stuff that’s been happening over the last 15 years. Feel free to point me to those prior writings.

    And “harass”ing his political rivals”? Not like that ever has before.

    Finally, “It’s patently obvious that American presidents are less lawmakers and more tastemakers. They’re supposed to be the best, brightest, and fairest-of-mind citizens we can find and they’re supposed to go forth and demonstrate our values to the world.” Best and brightest? I have no idea where you got this idea. It certainly isn’t borne out by the facts.

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        • A1:’look, your government has been a pack of cold blooded, murdering heinas for the last eight years’

          A2: ‘but Trump tweeted something awful and probably illegal’

          [#10 The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.]

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        • It’s not hypocritical if you aren’t comparing like events. It is entirely possible that someone simply finds one behavior more outrageous than the other. And you can disagree with that or even criticize that. But it sure as heck ain’t hypocritical.

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          • Sorry dude,

            Criticizing an american president for calling for the death of an american within the countries borders vs not criticizing actually killing an american outside our borders? To use Kate’s exact words: “The man in question is an American citizen. Full stop. Not a soldier. Not an “enemy combatant.” A border seems an awful thin line in the case to segregate the two–where one’s ok and one’s not-or it’s just politics and hypocrisy.

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        • But thats why “whataboutism” has become a much-ridiculed argument.

          First, its a distraction, way of endlessly drawing the conversation away from the actual topic. (What about the plight of the Palestinians?)

          Second, it shifts the focus to the presenter as a person. (I don’t remember Damon criticizing the Balfour agreement, or the Meech Lake Accords)

          Third, its premised on all like things being equal. (Andrew Jackson slaughtered Indians, so who are we to criticize the Holocaust?)

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          • Well the actual topic is, allegedly, “our president sucks”. Ok, I’ll stipulate that for argument sake. But if I go back in time and pull up similar examples of past presidential behavior, the claimant is going to agree with me that “that president sucked as well”, yes? If yes, cool, I support your position. If not, well then, you’re just making a political argument and you have no moral consistency and it’s all about your side being right and just no matter the truth.

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            • If they’re arguing for the truth, it’s more effective to agree with them than to seek their hidden motives. I mean, given an essayist and not a politician – it’s not like anyone here is going to be put into a position of power based on whether you trust their moral consistency or not.

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              • Maribou,

                You’ll have to forgive my cynicism. (But it is why I made the comment about “pointing me to your other writing”) The laundry list of complaints can easy be used to complain about previous presidents and frankly, EVERYTHING all seems to be blamed on Trump. It is getting a tab foolish.

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            • You don’t think there are different degrees of suckitude?

              That it is worth noting that this sucky deed is of a greater degree than the one by that guy back then, and takes us to a new deeper level of suck?

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              • Yep

                Frankly, as towards levels of suckitude, I’d place Bush 2 at the top, followed by Clinton (if only for “the definition of is is”, then Obama, then Trump. But hey, give Trump another 3 years, or maybe 7, and I might re-evaluate.

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          • Not to distract further, but you seriously don’t want to get me started on the Meech Lake Accord. (Not really, I was 10 at the time (but kinda really, I don’t think there’s a Canadian over the age of 35 who doesn’t Have Opinions about that one)).

            Returning to whataboutism, while I don’t agree about Kate specifically, who is writing in the present and shouldn’t be held accountable for the last 20 years of people f’ing up* –

            I do agree that there is a there there, in a more general sense. It is disturbing for me to watch other people, people I know, who defended Obama for supporting or choosing actual death-without-trial of US citizens, flip their lids about Trump’s braggadocio and grandstanding. It is terrible that this guy won’t get a fair trial; it is more terrible that it takes someone as crude and transparently awful as Trump for people to object to this. During the last administration, I took an Info Policy for IT Professionals course as part of my grad degree, and I was absolutely FLABBERGASTED by how inured everyone was to the idea of holding (innocent in that paticular case) citizens without trial, committing assassinations based on sketchy intelligence, etc etc etc. They were just fine with it. 100 percent okey doke because necessary. And these were people who regarded themselves as deeply moral, individualistic thinkers. People who continued to lionize Obama and didn’t understand why my feelings about him, while mostly positive as US Presidents go, were not similarly devoted.

            It seems to me that those people are quite lacking in insight.

            But just because that is a thing that is out there …. doesn’t change the fact that our writers absolutely do not have to prove their credentials and explain their backstory every time they post an essay. Who wants to have to do that? It’s not a friggin’ union. (She said, daughter of two union officials and staunch defender of labor rights, oh, look what I did there;).)

            ——————

            *Seriously, guys, when you come to so many posts with “WELL WHAT ABOUT?” and complaints that you can’t take the writer seriously (@pinky – though the resulting thread was really funny so I didn’t want to mess with it) … Doing that really isn’t a good way to *get people to write for the site*… and by people I don’t just mean the writer you’re dogging, but all of us, including writers you actually enjoy reading – please be more pragmatic. And either disagree with the points made (poking at the problems you see with the post, , would have worked just fine without the complaint you threw in there) – or just ignore posts you don’t find worth your time.

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            • Part of why I did the FTFY was to demonstrate the correct language that (I believe) Pinky was trying to get at. In military circles, Bergdahl is not famous, he is infamous (the number of service members who think what he did was A-OK is pretty small), and he didn’t depart his post (which, again, in the military implies he had permission from his command to leave the base), he abandoned it and was UA (unauthorized absence).

              Yes, it’s pedantic, but for vets like me, it means something.

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              • Yes, I noted and appreciated that you did that, and I understand the distinction. I may not have expressed it clearly, but that’s kinda what I meant by pointing to the difference between pointing out the problems he saw vs complaining about the impossibility of taking the post seriously because of them.

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            • I do recall reading concern among even Obama fans that the executive power vested in him could come back to haunt us. Mostly on the Glenn Greenwald side of the aisle, but still.

              I think many people accepted Obama’s power because they were reassured by his responsible temperment.

              So yeah, i can see the argument being made that Trump is merely using the power Obama first legitimized.

              But that still leaves us with the conclusion that Trump wields that power in a way that makes him unfit.

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              • This is, of course, the problem with investing so much power in a single office (or agency). It quickly, and vastly, reduces the number of actual people who have the wisdom and temperament to be fit for the office, especially given the nature of the selection process in place for the person in that office.

                I mean, we could start with the old adage that people who work so hard to gain power are precisely the people who should never have it, but that runs into it’s own set of problems.

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              • Then that power should have never been given, or through a lack of action, allowed to be taken, by any president.

                We’re now hearing about congress looking into the president’s sole discretionary use of nuclear weapons. No one saw fit to look into it until trip. ABOUT FRICKIN TIME. Not because of Trump though..because we should question to need/utility of having a single point of failure regarding the most destructive weapon known to mankind.

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                • @chip-daniels Of course. And I mean, I guess I’m an Obama fan? Insofar as I’m a fan of any president which is not very far. I would probably fall into the group of people who were doing that here on this very blog; I’d be happy to have dinner with the man, and he did a lot that I admire. But I also have a lot of hard questions I’d like him to answer, and I suspect I wouldn’t be very happy with a lot of the answers. Which is pretty much how I’ve felt since before he got elected, and probably how I will feel 20 years from now.

                  But there were an awful lot of hopey-changey folks around, back then, who are shocked and appalled by stuff they complained about people criticizing 5 or more years ago… and the difference seems to be mostly how crude one president is compared to the other. To some degree I share that, and rationalize it with “yes, because he’s so crude that I cannot fathom how anyone could trust him with ANYTHING”…. but it was unnerving then and I can see how it could be frustrating for folks like Damon now.

                  I wasn’t claiming nor would I claim that it’s anything like a totality. I’m just aware of how much it rankles me, somewhere deep underneath all my “WHY ON EARTH IS DONALD TRUMP IN CHARGE OF ANYTHING?” frustration …. and sympathetic to those whose ranklings are nearer the surface.

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                  • I doubt I could have a non-difficult conversation with someone who held an office higher than state-level. Even the state level offices come with ugly compromises, but they’re typically impacted greatly by things not under your control, so making ugly compromises is necessary and there’s not as much you can do about making them not-ugly.

                    That said, given I accept this as a truism, I have to judge various presidents on the metric of their net, not individual decisions. The idea that Obama and Trump are anywhere near each other on a scale is… an interesting one, to me.

                    I’m probably more sympathetic to Obama about his hard choices than anybody else who has been President since Eisenhower (with the big exception of Holder not seeking criminal charges against anybody related to the financial crisis). And Eisenhower’s conversation would go immediately off the rails because I’d want to talk about the war, not his Presidency.

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                    • I think that as a Canadian who grew up seeing the US from the outside, the various weights of the various metrics in my head are different than yours. (And international popularity is not actually the foremost of them; Canadians have always had a different relationship to the US than the rest of the world.)

                      Domestic policy wise, I actually *like* Obama (despite my grumps about copyright and civil liberties – I do have to weigh things in the balance there, and as you say, net, he comes out way ahead).

                      Diplomacy wise he was fabulous, much better than, say, HW.

                      Immigration is a hand-wave, I certainly think he’d be handling things better right now but he also continued to helm things along a path of much stricter controls and fewer amnesties even when compared to Dubya post 9-11.

                      The only scale I even find them comparable on is that of “allowing the country to keep killing other people and violating basic human rights en masse”. It’s a pretty narrow scale, one that it probably isn’t fair to lay on Obama because he probably would have been impeached if he actually stopped the things he claimed he was going to stop – and one that I expect Trump to move WAY past Obama on any day now…. but Obama had 8 years to get me to conclude “yup, he IS in fact not much different than any other US president I remember” on this particular issue, and it really only took him about … 3? Hard to remember exactly because I’m nursing an upper respiratory infection and it makes my head fuzzy. But I’ve been resenting him about that for a long time.

                      In any event, if I were looking at domestic policy, or even weighing domestic policy equally with foreign policy, or even weighing other, arguably more important, pieces of foreign policy like “unlikely to start world war 3” rather than just this one stop-killing-brown-people-around-the-world-and-helping-people-in-other-countries-kill-each-other-piece?

                      Yeah, there’d be so little comparison I wouldn’t even mention it.

                      But on that one piece I mention, every US president I remember sucks so much I really can’t tell the difference between their actions. And that metric weighs very very heavily to me.

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                      • (Note that I say all this within a context, personally, of a binary switch where

                        All Presidents other than Trump as far back as I can remember:
                        Tolerable even though some much more appealing than others, and all problematic because, well, presidents

                        Trump:
                        Not tolerable make him go away.

                        Like I *literally* had abuse flashbacks every time I saw him or heard his name for months, in the year leading up to the election. (Before that I just managed to avoid him, mostly successfully.) There’s no suggestion from this quarter that he’s *in sum* no different…. for me he’s about as starkly different in sum from almost every other politician on the face of the planet – even the ones that my intellect sees as even worse than him – as it’s possible to get.)

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                • I once wondered if Sturgeon’s law was recursive.

                  I.e., of the 90% that is the crap, is 90%of that crap even crappier? And 90% of what we got from that even more crappier?

                  And then I realize that I’ve actually just invented ‘ranking’ and that was entirely pointless. In fact, the entire concept sorta is, and it’s really doing is drawing a line at 90% and calling everything under it crap.

                  Weirdly, I’ve always thought that Sturgeon was both right, and wrong, and that his law was 100% correct, but not in exactly the way he thought it was. And, even weirder, I think it’s exactly applicable to the presidency, also.

                  The problem with science fiction at the time he invented his law, was that publishers were very bad at filtering it…and by ‘bad’, I really mean ‘didn’t care at all’. This is opposed to other genre book publishers, which did pretty well at selecting good books, or at least well-written ones.

                  90% of all books, in fact, 90% of everything is crap, but a lot of things have _gatekeepers_ that try to publish what they think is the best 20% or whatever, so only half of what the public saw was crap. Sci-fi was failing to do that at that particular moment in time, and it indeed had problems, despite what Sturgeon said.

                  And thus we come to the president. I don’t think the problem is that 90% of presidents are crap, I think the problem is that 90% of people who want to be president are crap…but we’re pretty good at keeping the bottom 80% or so away from the presidency, so only half are crap…or perhaps they are only half crappy, or half of them are 75% crappy and half 25% crappy.

                  Until we, uh, didn’t.

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    • (1) Yes
      (2) Yes
      (3) Yes, although you need to remove the qualifier “under Obama administration” or adjust the list
      (4) Yes, although an American citizen actually serving in a war zone for an enemy power could be legitimately killed (or even targeted), there were cases where that was not so.
      (5) Yes at this point… and in hindsight it was embarrassing to the Peace Prize to dish it out.

      All that said, the Obama administration did not start the Afghanistan war, or the Iraq war, or the “War on Terrah”. I’m not entirely certain it’s kosher to lay all the blame on the administration for doing the best it though it could with a gigantic shit sandwich.

      Finally, Obama was largely popular abroad. So while he may have been bad objectively or selectively or both, he was not regarded as such. Trump, on the other hand, is basically the laughingstock of the world.

      If we’re going to talk about damaging the brand of the U.S., our own opinions of what administrations do or don’t do isn’t anywhere near as important as what the rest of the countries in the world collective opinions are, and they’re bad. He’s barely above where GW Bush *ended* his political career.

      http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/06/26/u-s-image-suffers-as-publics-around-world-question-trumps-leadership/

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  2. How many nuclear weapons has Trump caused to be made?
    Nope. Nope. Nope.
    Very much nope.

    Axis of Evil did SO much damage to the world at large. GWB wins this contest, hands down.

    Trump is a buffoon, and is treated as such by everyone.

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    • Trumps comments (post election) re: Bergdahl could be seen as unlawful command interference. I doubt anyone would pursue that, but one has to wonder how much that factored into the ultimate sentence of Bergdahl.

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      • Note that his comments on the NY attacker basically poisoned the entire jury pool of the US.

        I’m not sure how one can find an unbiased jury pool when the defense lawyer gets to ask “Are you aware that the President of the United States has called for the defendant’s execution”?

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        • Morat20,
          Yes, you get to take only the people who aren’t playing Presidential Theater. Which is… maybe… 1/100th of the populace? Maybe?

          Besides, the job of the defense lawyer is to exclude the worst people in the jury.

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      • Yeah, Obama was found to have engaged in UCI by a Navy Judge when Obama advocated zero tolerance for sexual assault in the military by automatic dishonorable discharge if found guilty. The nomenclature aside though, I don’t believe the POTUS does anything illegal, because the POTUS is not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. With respect to the civilian leadership this is more a procedural safeguard for members of the military.

        That said, I don’t think the civilian leadership should be subject to UCI and maybe we are approaching a day soon where a higher court addresses it.

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        • Like I said, it would be a reach to pursue the claim, but that doesn’t mean his comments can’t have an effect when it comes to the military justice system maintaining the appearance of impartiality.

          ETA: In short, civilian leadership of the military should remember that while they are in charge, they are necessarily removed from the system and should take care when it comes to interacting with the system.

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          • Every president uses the bully pulpit to try and “nudge” justice to fit what they perceive to have been elected for. Obama certainly did it with his “If I had a son...” Its part of politics, and a huge part at that! The main difference is whether or not you like the person on the soapbox.

            Hell, even Senators try to get in on it, witness all the Roy Moore comments lately.

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            • Yes, however…

              A civilian judge can tell a sitting president who attempts to interfere in his courtroom to go pound sand, and the president would have to start looking for a beach or playground.

              A military judge, on the other hand, is legally bound to follow the presidents orders. Now, a president ordering a JAG judge to impose the maximum penalty allowed by law would be issuing an illegal order, but illegal orders are something that has to be adjudicated (IIRC), and are not something that can simply be ignored.

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  3. I generally agree that Trump Isn’t Good. But my own Hot Take is that the American ‘brand’ could use a bit of diminishing (so that the rest of the world starts solving its own problems rather than blame everything on Big Bad America). My other Hot Take is that the Presidency could use more than a bit of dimishing, so that far fewer people treat the President as the Messiah in Chief.

    What does Donald Trump say, with and without speaking, about the values of Americans?

    As many people are fond of noting, President Trump represents the values of a minority of Americans, on the order of about 3 million fewer than the next largest bloc.

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    • 1. Many liberals would agree with you but find the way Trump is diminishing America’s brand name is really bad for the world because of how destructive and cruel it is. They imagined more like Americans growing wise rather than lashing out as we die and other countries learning to ignore us.

      2. The Presidency isn’t going to be diminished until Congress starts deferring less to the executive and acts on their own.

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      • re:2 I agree with you on that. And circling back to this line from the OP

        It leaves me not quite daring to say the word “dictator” out loud,

        I don’t worry about Trump being a dictator, because he doesn’t have the work ethic for it.

        The damage that Trump could do, and the downside of a dimished presidency? Letting the various departments, particularly the ones that are mainly characterized by people with guns, to go feral. An actively neglectful upper management that enables all the worst instincts and organizational dysfunction to come into full bloom. (and a parallel process that gets the feds out of the business of overseeing state and local governments, which affects a lot more people a lot more frequently)

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        • The damage that Trump could do, and the downside of a dimished presidency? Letting the various departments, particularly the ones that are mainly characterized by people with guns, to go feral. An actively neglectful upper management that enables all the worst instincts and organizational dysfunction to come into full bloom.

          Before anyone thinks this is implausible, note that ICE _already was this_, before Trump.

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  4. It’s kind of interesting that Finicum is dead in the ground without a single write up like this, but some how Trump is beyond the pale about someone that actually killed people.

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      • I appreciate your perspective but if we are going apples to apples, the guy in New York was visually waving something that looked very, very much like a firearm, an he is still breathing. One difference is that the feds were at one of these scenes and not the other.

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            • (Note in Texas cops in population centers are being very vocal about taking citizens guns away, which makes me look at them and think, ‘that’s a nice Glock, it would be a shame if something happened to it’.)

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            • Got it. As for why one’s dead and the other alive, the only explanation I can offer is maybe the feds are better shots. It always seems that in reports of people being shot by local law enforcement the ration of hits to misses is pretty low.

              Anyway, I don’t think Kate was decrying the fate of the terrorism suspect, but rather the fact that our motor mouth President was passing judgement on the guy without the benefit of trial. Does she have a liberal bent? Any regular visitor to the site knows her politics. I don’t think that diminishes her point.

              Edited to add: I would think any rational big city cop would be all in favor of strict gun ownership laws that are actually enforced. They, of all people, don’t want to be outgunned.

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  5. “Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl — the famed soldier who departed his post in 2009”

    The magnitude of your spin makes it impossible for me to take this article seriously.

    ETA: I could have cited your “dabbled in religion” comment or your take on Guantanamo Bay instead.

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        • LOL!

          PS if anyone is curious what Pinky is talking about, USA Today had an infographic that suggested that the Texas shooters AR-15 could be modified with a Chainsaw Bayonet. Oddly enough, a chainsaw bayonet does exist, but it’s an $800 novelty item. It’s a novelty because it’s weight makes it completely impractical, it’s a gimmick for people with too much money. So while technically true, it’s one of those things that is needlessly inflammatory for people who don’t know much about firearms, and demonstrates both bias and poor understanding for people who do.

          Also, the picatinny rail you can find on many modern firearms can be used to attach pretty much anything to a firearm as long as you can dream up a way to attach the rail clamps to whatever you want to mount on your rifle.

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            • Given the uncertain origins of the yoyo and the claim that it was originally a hunting weapon for small game, the idea that someone has figured out how to weaponize a yoyo is not beyond the pale.

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              • Check out Guilty Gear X2, where they do use a yoyo as a combat weapon. Unsurprisingly, it’s a Japanese martial art. (I mean, come on, they use rice threshers as combat weapons. A yoyo is better than that)

                I think that’s the game where American guys thought the yoyo-wielding character was Actually A Girl, and were quite distressed when they got to the point in the game when they figured out “I’ve been wanking to a boy.”
                (This was far clearer in the Japanese language edition).

                [I still meant it about not believing me, btw. Giving kids ideas about what they can use yoyos for is probably a Bad Plan]

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            • I read about a weaponized yoyo in a segment of Necronomicon set in the Philippines, but it doesn’t seem like it’d be a hugely useful weapon. If you put blades on it, it would be really awkward to catch on the return to your hand. If you don’t put blades on it, it’s basically a rock on a string, so why not just throw rocks? If you have the blades retract after a certain amount of string has accumualted in the slot, then you need some pretty fancy engineering with finely-engineered things like springs, which you are not going to be able to make very well in a non-industrial environment like the Philippine jungles.

              So I concluded that like a lot of things in Neal Stephenson books, a weaponized yoyo was a novelty that the author magnified into something it never really was, like a whole lot of other things in his books, which is why they’re fun but doesn’t advance the ball of verisimlitude.

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              • Burt,
                That friend I mentioned? The one who took combat yoyo classes? Edited some of Stephenson’s books. His knowledge of swordsmithery was used pretty heavily in some of Bujold’s novels, and that’s as accurate as they come.

                Rocks, when thrown, do not come back to you. A YoYo is like a boomerang or a whip — a long distance weapon that continues to be there after the first attack.

                Plus, have you seen a yoyo? They look like they almost don’t obey the laws of physics. You can do completely unpredictable things with them.

                If you have a rock, you throw the rock. Other person dodges the rock. Repeat as needed.

                Yoyo’s are generally used as a blunt object, and combat yoyos are HEAVY.

                (Combat tops, on the other hand are the sort of idea that is “really? Why?”)

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                • I’m with Kim on this one.
                  What you find in weapons, is that when something approaches two pounds it becomes significantly useful as a weapon. Stones for throwing are handy if your standing on a pile of two pound stones, but if not the string makes sense, not only for retrieval, but the at a distance component.

                  Rope darts, the ones actually made for lethal combat tend to approach two pounds.

                  Meteor hammers can be over six pounds.

                  Bolas vary too much to really parse.

                  Throwing sticks for human to human combat are typically over two pounds.

                  Louisville sluggers are about 1.7 pounds.

                  Medieval warhammers typically about three pounds.

                  Hoplite spear two to four pounds.

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                    • If you intend to be lethal, then yes, small game.

                      If you intend to be less than lethal, well a quarter kilo of hard plastic swinging on a meter of string can be set to moving at a really good clip. I straight yo-yo throw itself might not be all that damaging (painful and distracting, to be sure), but if I couple that throw with a swing from right to left, and aim for the apex to be at a persons head, that will ring a persons bell quite nicely, and if I miss, then my weapon comes back to me, ready for a second try.

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                      • Best I can tell a two pound yoyo falls into the 170 ft.lbs. of force range, which puts it about on par with a .38 ACP.

                        Of course all the force is transferred in a surface wound with little penetration. Bell ring for sure if not a fractured melon.

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                      • I haven’t seen anyone mention the fact that it is possible to miss someone with a yoyo and _still_ hit them, if you throw from the side and the string wraps around them.

                        In fact, honestly, that seems like a better attack than just hitting them. Get one with a long enough string, and throw it with the intent of tying them up. Sorta like a partial bola, except the cord wraps around the thing so it’s easier to deal with.(1) Throw it from one side (either very backhand or forehand) and then move the arm in opposite direction or even jump that way.

                        And there appears to be no way to block that, if it’s moving in such a way it will curve around behind someone, although smart people (Who know how to fight yoyo people, which seems pretty rare) could get their arm out of the way.

                        1) I don’t know anything about bolas, so it’s possible the cord does wrap around already.

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                          • No, I meant a yoyo’s _string_ was designed to wrap around the yoyo, making it easier to deal with until throwing it, whereas bolas do not work that way. I think.

                            I mean, obviously, you could wrap the string around bolas anyway, but I think you’d have to unwrap them before throwing.

                            And now I’m imagining two yoyos attached to one cord, rolled up so they’re next to each other in one hand, and you throw one on one side of someone and then the other on the other. That wouldn’t trap their arms unless you got lucky, it would just fall down…but now you’ve got their feet for a few seconds, which is kinda important in a fight. Basically like using a bola short-range, except you throw the parts independently and it can be held in one hand.

                            Although it is entirely possible I just invented bolas.

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              • It depends on what you are using it as a weapon against and how. Against a person, it’s not as obviously lethal as a gun or sword, but it is a weight on a string, and that is a weapon that has been around for a long time.

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              • If you have the blades retract after a certain amount of string has accumualted in the slot, then you need some pretty fancy engineering with finely-engineered things like springs, which you are not going to be able to make very well in a non-industrial environment like the Philippine jungles.

                If you have the cord tied to the yoyo axis, (I.e, the yoyo set to automatically bounce back up the cord, instead of freely spinning so it will stay out unttil you do the little yoyo-yank to get it), it would be fairly trivial to place the blades where they only hurt people while spinning in the outgoing direction, and not the incoming direction.

                OTOH, when you throw it spins in the outgoing direction on the way out, so it’s likely that would slice you up a bit leaving your hand.

                The best solution, I suspect, would be gloves.

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                • Older bombs have a crazy simple rotating counting mechanism attached to a tiny propeller at the front or back of the bomb. The prop had to spin a set number of times before the war head would arm, to prevent the bombs from detonating if the bomber was getting shot up. It also worked for proximity bombs (prop spins X many times then detonates, where X is computed to be about Y feet above ground). Be pretty simple to use such a counter to set blade deployment and retraction (must spin X times before deployment, blades retract after Y spins).

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  6. There is abundant evidence that President Trump has contempt for the judicial system and faint regard for the rule of law. This is some of it. His decision to outsource judicial appointments to the Federalist Society is another (it’d be okay for him to take their advice, but advice and giving them a signature stamp are different things). Also part of it is his very public frustration with allowing prosectuors and law enforcement the autonomy to exercise their discretion free of political pressures.

    Still, he’s not a dictator yet. Neither of the other two branches are ready to yield power to him and indeed, Congress is beginning to hold hearings on things like restricting his ability to use nukes, which may raise an interesting question about the limits of the Commander-in-Chief power.

    Who knew government could be this complicated?

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  7. …it’s quite another thing when the President of the United States actively propagandizes such an event and uses it to score cheap points with the rabble.

    This is standard for a politician.

    It leaves me not quite daring to say the word “dictator” out loud, because this is America and stuff like that Can’t Possibly Happen Here.

    Turn off the twitter feed, ignore Trump’s verbal baiting, and look at actions. What has Trump actually done to undermine rule of law? Has he ignored any judge’s edict? Even the edicts which basically say Trump can’t do things we’d let normal Presidents do?

    Working yourself up over everything outrageous that Trump says (which is admittedly most of what he says) is a waste of time and outrage.

    I consider the imperial Presidency a problem, but IMHO that problem is going Down under Trump, not Up. Obama (and Bush before him) did various things which seemed good because “our guy was in charge”. Trump demonstrates sooner or later we’ll get someone really nasty with those powers. That the power of government isn’t only useable by good people for good things.

    And I’m very glad we’re learning this by someone who talks a lot about doing it that way and then doesn’t. IMHO we’re in more danger from someone like Obama who seems “nice” and “presidential” and then uses the power of his pen “for good reasons”.

    “So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgxZr6LLS34

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