cabinet of nazgûl

There’s a lot of wild speculation about what will happen when Donald J and his Cabinet of Nazgûl take office in January. Which is completely understandable, given that Donald J is following the Bizarro World approach to cabinet appointments. If he can’t find somebody who is actually opposed to the very existence of the agency he or she would be running, Donald J can at least find somebody who is completely unqualified to run it.

You got a Department of Energy? Let’s see if we can find a guy who earned a Bachelors degree in Animal Science! Let’s see if we can find a guy who earned a D in classes like ‘Veterinary Anatomy’, ‘Feeds & Feeding’, ‘Writing for Professional Men’, and ‘Meats’. Let’s get Rick Perry and put him in charge of maintaining the nation’s nuclear arsenal!

Pundits look at the venal greedheads and amateurish bunglers hired by Donald J to help run his government and say how unprecedented it is. But you know what? It’s not unprecedented at all. We’ve actually seen what happens to a government when it’s run by people chosen primarily for their loyalty to the president or to a political ideology rather than for their qualifications.

We saw it in Iraq.

After the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the Bush administration needed to create a replacement government. It was a unique opportunity — a chance to build a government from the ground up. The Bush folks created a new entity to handle the reconstruction of Iraq: the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The CPA was given the power to enact laws, to print currency, to collect taxes, to deploy police, and to spend Iraq’s revenue. Did the CPA hire experts in administration? Did they hire prize-winning economists or professional accountants? Did they hire scholars in Middle East studies or sociologists aware of the sensitive cultural and religious issues between the various Iraqi tribes and clans? Did they hire experts in logistics to insure material and supplies would get where they needed to go in a timely fashion? Did they seek out public health experts? Did they look for experienced construction managers?

Fuck no. They hired people who were 1) loyal to George W. Bush and 2) shared an ideology that was grounded in Christian conservatism.

Got that? In a Muslim country needing to be rebuilt after a war, the agency tasked with the rebuilding hired Christian conservatives with no expertise in rebuilding or running anything. Want to reopen the Iraq stock market? Put Jay Hallen in charge — a 24 year-old kid working in real estate with no experience or education in finance. Want to rebuild the nation’s health care system? Hire James K. Haveman, who operated a Christian adoption agency in Michigan that urged pregnant women not to have abortions. Got a US$13 billion budget for reconstruction? There’s 23 year-old Casey Wasson — she had no experience in accounting and had just graduated from an evangelical university for home-schooled children, but she thought George W. Bush was aces, so what the hell, let her help manage it. How hard can it be?

Did these rank amateurs and ideologues fuck things up? Oh lawdy, did they. Iraq is what it is today largely because after we preemptively invaded a nation that turned out not to be a threat to us, we put incompetents in charge of repairing all the damage we caused. Sure, we created a situation that encouraged a civil war to break out, but at least we made sure we weren’t giving the Iraqi people any money for abortions.

Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.

Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.

Since Donald J’s Cabinet of Nazgûl aren’t starting from scratch, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to fuck things up on an Iraqi scale. But the lesson is there to be learned. We’ve seen how putting ideology and greed above all can produce an epic shitstorm that can last for decades.

I’ve called Donald J’s cabinet the Cabinet of Nazgûl, but in all honesty that’s inaccurate. The Nazgûl were actually competent at their jobs. Sauron sent them out to do a job, and they did it pretty well. The general incompetence of Donald J’s crew can work in our favor. The men and women in his cabinet don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, which means they’ll spend a chunk of time tripping over their own tiny dicks.

It’s our job to resist and obstruct, to help them to trip themselves up. And if they don’t trip themselves, then we have to do the tripping for them. And trip them again as they try to get up. I hate that obstruction has to be a priority, but it’s that or allow things to get fucked up faster.

It’ll be a long four years, but then we can have Michelle Obama or Kirsten Gillibrand to run against Donald J. It’s not necessary for him to lose to a woman, but it would be SO much sweeter that way.


why do i listen to people?

My Friend: You should get a Twitter account.

Me: I have a Twitter account.

My Friend: No, seriously, you should.

Me: No, seriously, I actually have one. I just don’t use it.

My Friend: Why not?

Me: A hundred and forty characters? It takes me a hundred and forty characters just to clear my throat. I’m not what you’d call taciturn.

My Friend: Don’t know what that means.

Me: Doesn’t matter. I don’t use Twitter.

My Friend: You should so you can see what Trump says.

Me: What? No.

My Friend: Seriously. It’s funny. Scary. Idioic.

Me: Idioic?

My Friend: Idiotic.

Me: I still don’t think so. But thanks for suggesting it.

Another dozen or so exchanges saying almost exactly the same thing.

Me: I don’t even remember my password. Or screen name.

My Friend: You’re stalling — you know you want to.

Me: Okay. If it’ll make you hush.

My Friend: You ‘ll thank me.

Me: No, probably not.



the stink of sanctimony

Ever since the U.S. accidentally shit its collective pants on election day, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles that are basically variations on a theme: longtime Democrats who decided to vote for Trump. At first I thought these articles were interesting. Then they became annoying. Now I’m just sick of seeing them.

Politico published one a couple of days ago. It’s entitled It Was My Primal Scream. And like so many of these articles, there’s a ridiculous subtitle. In this case: A lifelong progressive was so disgusted with her party, she voted for Trump. Will Democrats care enough to win her back? The article is grounded in the experience of one woman, Kim McKinney Cohen. She’s a long-standing Democrat, whose grievances against the Democratic Party pretty much echo my own:

She was incensed in May 2007 when Democrats caved to GOP demands to continue funding the war with no deadline to withdraw troops.

She was mad at Democrats for backing Bush tax cuts and bailing out rich bankers while struggling people lost their homes.

She didn’t like the way Clinton, when her husband first ran for president in 1992 and later, as first lady, handled her adulterous husband’s “bimbo eruptions.”

I could add a few lot more complaints against the Democratic Party and the folks who represent it, but who has time for all that? The point is Ms. Cohen, like a LOT of us, looked at the candidates offered by the Democratic Party — both of them — and came to the same basic conclusion: I’m for this Bernie Sanders guy.

[S]he believed Sanders could repair economic inequality, curb corporate greed and weed out special interests in Washington.

I have to admit, I never really believed Bernie could do all that. I mean, Bernie is a great guy, but he’s not Dick Bong–Ace of Aces (and by the way, if you’ve never read Harlan Ellison’s short story Repent, Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman, do yourself a favor — track it down and read it). The reality is there was simply no possible way Bernie Sanders could do all the things he said he wanted to do. But most of us felt he would try to do them. And that was enough; that in itself was exciting.

When it became clear Bernie wasn’t going to be the candidate, I (reluctantly at first, then enthusiastically) supported Hillary Clinton. This is where Ms. Cohen and I part company.

When Hillary Clinton said dismissively supporters of Donald Trump were “a basket of deplorables,” Cohen had heard enough.

“Well, then,” she sighed, “I guess I’m a deplorable.”

And she voted for Trump. She deliberately, knowingly, willfully filled out a presidential ballot selecting Donald J. Trump to be the President of These United States. She was offended by Hillary’s description of some Trump supporters as ‘deplorable’ so she voted for the guy who said Carly Fiorina was too homely to be president, who mocked a disabled reporter, who insulted the parents of a Muslim serviceman who died in the line of duty. What the fuck was she thinking?

When it came down to it, she was angrier at her own party’s leaders than she was appalled by a man who cozied up to white nationalist and anti-Semitic groups. She wanted to throw it back in the face of her party.

“It was my primal scream,” Cohen says. “I wasn’t gonna take it anymore.”

She didn’t like or trust Hillary, fine. Did she like and trust Trump? I’m guessing not, but she decided to vote Trump because she was angry at the DNC. Okay, we’ve all done stupid things when we were angry, right? Stupid, self-destructive, counter-productive things. And afterwards, we’ve all tried to justify our idiotic behavior. Or, if possible, shift the blame our behavior onto somebody else. Which is exactly what Ms. Cohen does.

Cohen doesn’t regret her radical act of defiance. She feels that by helping take the Democrats to rock bottom, they’ve been ‘given a gift’ to rebuild their party. “I wanted it burned down … so that we could build a new, hopefully more equitable one that meets the needs of all, not only the super-rich.”

A gift. A fucking gift. You see, it’s not her fault Trump got elected. It’s the fault of the Democratic Party for not nominating her preferred candidate. If she can’t have the president she wants, then she’ll vote the worst possible president. That’ll show the Democratic Party. And besides, she’s actually done them a favor, if you think about it. She’s given them a gift — a chance to rebuild the party, to start over after Trump has gutted every less-than-perfect Democratic policy. She’s provided the Democrats with the opportunity to remake their party to her specifications. And if they don’t? Who knows, maybe she’ll vote Trump again.

I loathe the smell of burning self-martyr. Worse, though, is the stink of sanctimony from pillocks who’ll piss in the soup tureen if they think you should have used Tellicherry pepper in the chowder instead of Malabar. That whole “You’re doing it wrong — tear it down and start over, and do it right this time. You’ll thank me for it” thing.

I will most certainly NOT thank you for helping elect Trump because you wanted to punish the Democratic Party for failing to nominate Bernie Sanders. I will curse you for being a self-righteous, self-absorbed fuckwit who would sacrifice the well-being of the tens of thousands of marginalized citizens — people who will suffer real and lasting harm because you indulged yourself in a primal scream. Jeebus Vaseline, you have fucked over a lot of people just to gratify your personal outrage.

And that brings me back to the subtitle of the Politico article:

A lifelong progressive was so disgusted with her party, she voted for Trump. Will Democrats care enough to win her back?

Win her back? No, thank you. There’s already a political party that serves citizens who make rage-based stupid decisions. There’s already a party grounded in temper tantrums. Ms. Cohen chose that party when she voted for Trump. So no, I’ve no desire to see the Democratic Party try to win her back.

Don’t get me wrong. The Democratic Party has consistently disappointed progressives. I don’t like it; it pisses me off. But I understand why it happens. Republicans, for the last twenty years or so, have played to the extreme members of their base  Democrats, on the other hand, have attempted to appeal to a wide swath of the populace. That means progressives rarely get exactly what we want.

And here’s the thing: we shouldn’t get exactly what we want. Nor should mainstream Democrats or conservative Democrats. Nor should Republicans. We should ALL get a bit of what we want. That’s how democracy ought to work.

I want steadfast progressives like Bernie Sanders. I want people who’ll fight hard for progressive policies, and if they don’t get the candidate they want, they’ll fight hard to make the party platform as progressive as possible. I do NOT want progressives who pout and act out of spite.

“I hope I never have to vote for a Republican ever again,” Cohen said.

You didn’t have to vote for one this time. You chose to vote for one. You think the Democratic Party should try to entice you back? Here’s an idea: go piss up a rope.

all i wanted was a donut

I wanted a donut this morning. I love donuts, but I don’t eat them very often. I don’t eat them often because I work at home, and in order to get a donut you have to get dressed and leave the house and go to a place that sells donuts. That’s not a lot of effort ordinarily, but it’s the middle of December and the temperature is only 20F (with a wind chill factor of 8F), so getting a donut was going to require a certain amount of planning and preparation.

The first step was to figure out the location of the closest donut shop. Easy peasy, on account of the Google is your friend. All I had to do was enter Where is the nearest donut shop? and I’d be able to bundle up and be on my way. But I got as far as Where is and the Google offered a few possible autocompletions:

Where is…
the love
my mind

I know where Allepo is. Love, according to the Troggs (who’ve never lied to me, so far as I know), is all around. My mind is right here, searching for a place to buy a donut. But Xur? Where the fuck is Xur? In fact, what the fuck is Xur?

It turns out it’s not Xur. It’s Xûr. And I’m reliably informed he’s an agent of the Nine. Who and what are the Nine? No idea. But Xûr is a vendor who sells exotic weapons, exotic armor, engrams, and consumables in exchange for Strange Coins and Motes of Light. He appears in different locations in the Tower and Vestian Outpost every weekend from 9:00 AM Friday to 9:00 AM Sunday UTC.

Xûr, Agent of the Nine.

Xur, Agent of the Nine.

Xûr doesn’t appear to sell donuts. Besides, I’m totally out of Strange Coins and Motes of Light, so fuck him. But at that point I was curious about the Google’s autocompletion function. So I typed in:

Why does…
ice float
my cat bite me
my back hurt
my eye twitch

All good questions. Ice floats for the same reason anything floats — because it’s less dense than the fluid it’s sitting in. That’s it; no mystery there — just science. Your cat bites you because it’s a cat, and cats do whatever the fuck they want to do, and trying to understand why cats do anything at all is a mug’s game, so just give it up. Science won’t help you there. Your back hurts because everybody’s back hurts. Why should you be any different? And your eye twitches because you’re probably guilty of something shameful. Aren’t we all? Me, I’m guilty of the sin of curiosity (which may also be the reason cats bite).

Maybe about to bite, maybe not, who knows?

Maybe about to bite, maybe not, who knows?

What’s the point of…
the mannequin challenge

Again, good questions. The point of living? See, right there, that’s your problem. You’re expecting there MUST be a point, a purpose, a reason, something outside of yourself that you’re supposed to be doing. Let that shit go, dude. It’s clearly making you miserable. If there’s a point, part of it is NOT to make yourself miserable. But if you MUST make yourself miserable, go find a cat, let it bite you, then ask the cat why. The mannequin challenge? No idea. Seems silly, but fun for a lot of folks. That’s probably point enough. The point of Instagram is the same as the point of masturbation: it’s easy, it’s fun, it doesn’t hurt anybody, and it’s something you should probably do in private. And the point of marriage is, and always has been, about property. Getting it, keeping it, securing it, passing it on. I know that’s not very romantic, but there it is. It’s got nothing to do with what the Troggs were singing about.

What is the meaning of…

Oh, c’mon people, really? You’re asking your computer to explain the meaning of life and love? Okay, skipping over the fact that that’s just sad, what makes you think there’s just one single meaning? Hell, there are dozens of different meanings for the word ‘run’ and that’s a pretty simple word. Here’s an idea: keeping the words love and life in mind, look at photographs of 1) a cat, 2) a wedding, and 3) Aleppo. Does that help? No? Then stop fretting about it. And speaking of Aleppo, let’s talk about deplorable.

We can actually define this. It comes from the Latin prefix de- meaning “entirely” and plorare, meaning “to weep or cry out”. Combined, it became deplorare, meaning “to bewail, lament, give up for lost”. Although now deplorable as an adjective means “very bad, shocking or regrettable”, originally it referred to the regret we feel for people who’ve been given up as lost forever.


It’s appropriate to move from the current meaning of ‘deplorable’ to the meaning of Christmas. I should probably admit here that I’m not a Christian, but really this Christmas business isn’t complicated. It’s a lovely story about a poor, pregnant Middle Eastern couple forced to travel maybe 90 miles on a donkey in order to register for a census created by an occupying army to determine tax levies. It’s about an innkeeper who, out of compassion, finds room for this couple to shelter in. The woman gives birth to a baby. Okay, from that point on it’s all angels singing, and wandering kings arriving with esoteric gifts, and animals that bow and speak, but that’s just gravy. The heart of the story is the notion of good will and peace on Earth. Whether you’re Christian or not, peace and good will and hope and love (however you define it) and compassion underlie the meaning of Christmas. And that’s all good stuff

Yes, we still have the horror of Aleppo,. Yes, we still have folks who are proud of their modern deplorableness. And yes, the cat will still bite you. But watch A Charlie Brown Christmas or the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol (start at the two-minute mark), and listen to the Troggs. Get yourself some Strange Coins and Motes of Light.

I had a point when I started this, but I’m damned if I can remember what it was. It was probably a good point. But I still don’t have any donuts.

the continuing adventures of comrade trump, russian mole

Darth Putin: Do you know what I would like, Comrade Trump
Comrade Trump: A wall?
Darth Putin: No
Comrade Trump: A taco bowl? I know where you can get the best…
Darth Putin: No, not a taco bowl

trump-taco-saladp2Comrade Trump: Oh, I know! To grab some woman by the pussy!
Darth Putin (sighs): No, what I would like is a businessman who knows how to work with Mother Russia
Comrade Trump: That’s me!
Darth Putin: I already have you, Comrade Trump.
Comrade Trump: Oh, right
Darth Putin: Do you recall what were we discussing, comrade?
Comrade Trump: Cabinet appointments!
Darth Putin: That’s correct. Very good. We were discussing possible nominees for the Secretary of…
Comrade Trump: Of Energy!

putinp2Darth Putin: Comrade, what did we say about interruptions?
Comrade Trump: That I shouldn’t do it?
Darth Putin: Or?
Comrade Trump: Or no num-nums from Melania.
Darth Putin: Very good, comrade. We were discussing your new Secretary of State.
Comrade Trump: I got this guy — terrific guy, you’ll love this guy — his moral compass is maybe wonky, but…
Darth Putin: I would like somebody with no moral compass at all. Somebody who’s spent his entire career capitulating to the interests of Mother Russia. Somebody, comrade, with no immediate concern for the environment — or anything, really, other than increasing his own wealth and glorification.
Comrade Trump: That’s me!
Darth Putin (sighs): Comrade Trump…
Comrade Trump: Oh, right. You already have me.
Darth Putin: I was thinking perhaps somebody who has already been awarded the Russian Order of Friendship.

putin-and-tillersonp2Comrade Trump: Order of Friendship, that’s a really terrific Order. Classy. One of the best. An honor for…
Darth Putin: Rex Tillerson.
Comrade Trump: I know a Rex Tillerson! Runs Exxon-Mobil. Supported Jeb Bush. I gotta find some way to punish that fuckin’ weasel. Maybe I’ll…
Darth Putin: Rex Tillerson would be an excellent choice for Secretary of State.
Comrade Trump: A tremendous choice. Love the guy. Knows how to cut every corner to increase shareholder value. Sweetheart of a guy.
Darth Putin: It’s your decision, Comrade Trump. I’m confident you’ll do the right thing.
Comrade Trump: Rex Tillerson, absolutely. First rate man. Couldn’t ask for a better Secretary of Educa…
Darth Putin: State.
Comrade Trump: Secretary of State. You know, this politics stuff is work. Makes me hungry. There a KFC around here somewhere?
Darth Putin: You may go now, comrade. Dasvidania.


tip your little hat

Jackanapes (noun) 1 (obsolete) A monkey. 2. (dated, pejorative) a : an impudent or conceited fellow, an absurd fop, b : a saucy or mischievous child.

mid-15c., from ‘Jack of Naples‘, with ‘of Naples’ rendered ‘a Napes‘ in vernacular. Orig., a man who exhibited performing apes; an organ grinder and his tame monkey. Usage note: originally in the singular form: jackanape, Later ref. pertained primarily to the ape. Farmer & Henley say ‘originally, no doubt, a gaudy-suited and performing ape.’

Many people are saying the J. in Donald J. Trump stands for Jackanapes. I don’t know; I’m not saying it, but many people are. Many tremendous people. Maybe it’s the Chinese, or it could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds, nobody knows. Probably not Russia. But many people are saying it.


A little advice for Mr. Trump. If you hear the music of a hand organ, look around. If you can’t immediately see the monkey at the end of the leash, it’s because you’re the monkey. Hold out the cup and tip your little hat. And don’t forget, Putin the Organ Grinder owns that little hat, and the cup. And the leash.