happy meal memorial day

You guys! Tomorrow is…wait, are you ready for this? Sit down. Just sit your ass down and get ready for some news! You guys, tomorrow…and I’m not making this up…is Memorial Day AND the unofficial first day of summer AND Burger Day! How cool is that? Totally cool, is how cool.

I know this is true on account of this is the actual headline and lede from USA Today:

National Burger Day: Juicy burger deals Monday collide with Memorial Day

Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer and a popular day to grab a burger. This year, there’s an additional reason to enjoy a beef patty whether you attend a holiday weekend barbecue or go to your favorite restaurant. Monday is National Burger Day and several restaurants are celebrating with deals.

Sweet Jeebus of the Pickle, aren’t we lucky? Honor dead soldiers AND get a good deal on a bacon cheeseburger, all on the unofficial start of summer! You guys, is this a great country or what? I declare, this calls for…you know what this calls for? I’ll tell you. It calls for poetry!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is about as American as a poet can be. His son got all shot up during some battle in the Civil War, so our boy Henry put out a chunk of poetry about war and all. Take it away, Henry!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

Rest and sleep, comrades…after you’ve had your burger! For a limited time, you can get the Carhop Classic at Sonic for US$2.99! You guys, we’re talking about a quarter pound double cheeseburger and medium tots! OR you can get yourself a classic signature slinger and medium tots, also for just under THREE BUCKS! Holy crap, is that a real deal? (Hint: yes, it’s a real deal.)

You know who else is the real deal? Joyce Kilmer, that’s who. Yeah, I know, he’s got a girl’s name and he wrote that poem about trees that every kid in America learns at some point, but there’s more to him than that. He was a soldier, you guys. In the War to End Wars. And he churned out some poetry before he got himself shot in the head and killed by a sniper before the Second Battle of the Marne. Okay, Joyce, you’re up!

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

You know what else cleaves the sky? The new Chili’s Chili Burger, that’s what! You can cleave the sky with one for only US$6.99 Monday–BUT you have to mention National Burger Day. You can also get the Classic Bacon Burger or an Oldtimer with Cheese for the same price, but you still have to mention National Burger Day. You fail to say National Burger Day, you’ll have to pay full price. Life is full of risks like that, you guys.

Paul Fussell, there’s a guy who understood risk. He wasn’t really a poet, though, but I’m going to include him on account of his precise explanation of the progress of fatalism among combat troops is basically poetry. During World War II, in some battle in Alsace, our boy Paul spent a morning sucking dirt in a hole while most of his unit was wiped out by machine gun fire. But even though he escaped the direct fire in the morning, that afternoon what was left of his troops came under artillery fire and poor Paul took a nasty bunch of shrapnel in the leg.

So, what have you got to say, Paul?!

It can’t happen to me.
It can happen to me.
It is going to happen to me.
Nothing is going to prevent it.

And nothing will prevent you from getting half off a Wendy’s Baconater (the offer is good one-time per customer). That’s two (2!) quarter pound beef patties with six (ohmygod 6!) strips of bacon. There’s not a single veggie to duck! PLUS you can ger yourself a Frosty for only fifty cents! You guys, that’s a meal that won’t wound your wallet!

The unofficial beginning of summer, National Burger Day, AND Memorial Day. A great deal! A great burger! A great holiday! You guys, a great country!

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respect

If you ever doubt the pernicious effect Comrade Trump has on the social and political fabric of this unfortunate country, look at this statement by Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League:

It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.

This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.

First he acknowledges that taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem was NOT an unpatriotic act. He then creates a policy that’s based entirely on what he’d just admitted was ‘a false perception.’ From the beginning, NFL players taking a knee was about social justice and police violence against unarmed black men. It was never about the flag or the national anthem.

Which is disrespectful? Silently taking a knee during the national anthem…?

This new NFL policy is cowardly bullshit made in deference to a bullying POTUS who lies and is willing to corrupt any person or institution that he dislikes at any given moment in time. Goodell goes on to say this:

[A]ll league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.

Forced ‘respect’ isn’t respect; forced ‘patriotism’ isn’t patriotism. It’s just compliance. This sort of submission to bullying is not only injurious to the concept of a free society, it also encourages Comrade Trump to continue to lie and bully others. For example, this morning Trump doubled down on his bullying, saying:

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the county.”

Cowardly bullshit from a draft-dodging bully who hasn’t ever in his life willingly made any sort of sacrifice for his country.

…or a draft dodging tax-evader hugging the flag?

Goodell and others have described the locker room option as a compromise between respect for the flag/national anthem and the right to protest. Again, that’s cowardly bullshit. It would be cowardly bullshit even without the hypocrisy of having admitted the protest was NOT unpatriotic. Limiting protest to a closed room out of sight is NOT a compromise; it’s a cowardly and underhanded strategy to silence the protest.

But here’s a true thing: NFL teams are private companies, and the First Amendment doesn’t prohibit private companies from stifling political speech. The NFL has a legal right to cave in to Trump’s bullying.

But here’s an even more important true thing: the NFL can force players to either stand during the national anthem or hide their protest in the locker room — but in doing so, they erode genuine respect for the flag, for the national anthem, and for the United States. True patriotism, true respect for the things that make this nation great sometimes means confronting ugly truths.

Taking a knee to protest injustice is by far more patriotic than submitting to the demands of a bully.

our ignorant president

First, let me point out that by calling Comrade Trump ‘ignorant’ I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. To call him ignorant is simply to say he’s lacking in knowledge. Everybody is ignorant about some things. Trump, who has lived by the credo that bigger is better and ostentation is impressive, is ostentatiously ignorant about a lot of things. One of which is counterintelligence.

A LOT of people are ignorant about counterintelligence; they don’t understand what it is or how it’s practiced. There’s no reason they should be familiar with it, But, sadly, Trump is POTUS; he should understand it — especially since a counterintelligence operation was put into place to protect him from Russian influence.

Let me repeat that bit, because it’s important. A counterintelligence operation was put into place to protect candidate Donald J. Trump from Russian influence. That’s the heart of this whole mess.

Back to basics: counterintelligence is the gathering of information to protect something or someone from acts of espionage. The goal of counterintelligence isn’t to find evidence of a crime; it’s to identify and monitor foreign intelligence activity, then render it ineffective.

That leads us to kompromat. What the hell is kompromat? It’s a Russian term, a portmanteau, the squishing together of two words — in this case ‘compromising’ and ‘material’. Compromising material, of course, is what’s used to blackmail somebody. But kompromat combines blackmail with what’s called ‘black public relations’. With ordinary blackmail, the blackmailer says “Do this or I’ll make the compromising material public.” Kompromat is more subtle; the compromising material is publicly teased out. Rumors are started, questions are asked, hints and suggestions are made — all of which are damaging to the person being blackmailed, but none of the damage is necessarily fatal. Kompromat is the Death of a Thousand Cuts coupled with the implication that those cuts can be stopped and the wounds healed…but only if the compromised person cooperates.

The Russian secret services didn’t invent kompromat, but they are well-known to be masters at it. They routinely try to acquire kompromat information on foreign politicians and businessmen — and Trump has been doing business with some really shady Russians since the late 1990s. He’d had a string of bankruptcies, most of which he’d been able to lawyer his way out of while his investors lost their shirts. This led to every major U.S. bank refusing to lending him money. But those shady Russians had deep pockets and were willing to open them.

Here’s the weird and dangerous thing about post-Soviet Russia: there’s no way to differentiate between oligarchs and former intelligence officers and political figures and organized crime gangsters and legitimate business people. It’s not just that these different groups cooperate with each other, it’s that they’re often not really different groups — they’re often all interconnected. These are the people who provided Trump with financing when nobody else would. He literally owes these people. That makes him vulnerable.

By the summer of 2016, the FBI were aware from at least two different sources that at least four significant members of the Trump campaign were in contact with known Russian intelligence/criminal elements. So the FBI launched a counterintelligence operation to find out what the Russians were up to. If they hadn’t done that, they’d have been derelict in their duties.

Again, the first goal of counterintelligence is to identify and monitor foreign intelligence activity. This has to be done covertly in case the activity is actually innocent. It was, after all, entirely possible that nothing suspicious was taking place between those Trump campaign members and the Russians.

What Trump, out of ignorance, doesn’t understand is that this counterintelligence work was done to protect him, protect his campaign, and protect the democratic process from Russian interference. Out of ignorance, Trump is apparently under the impression the FBI ‘infiltrated’ his campaign in an effort to ‘spy’ on it and entrap his campaign staff into breaking the law. Again, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt by saying he’s just ignorant rather than suggesting he’s actually complicit.

“There was NO COLLUSION with Russia! It’s a WITCH HUNT! Deep State Fake News total disaster ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?”

BUT if you look closely at how Comrade Trump has behaved toward Russia and Putin, it looks a LOT like complicity. If you look at Trump’s refusal to implement the sanctions voted by Congress, if you look at Trump’s policies toward the Ukraine, if you look at Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that Russia interfered with the election, if you look at just about everything Trump has said or done about Russia — well it looks a lot like a successful Russian kompromat campaign.

Ignorance is the best case scenario.

forgetting

Yesterday we had the school shooting. Today we’ll name the victims. We’ll create a makeshift memorial, with teddy bears and balloon hearts, with heartfelt handwritten notes and painfully sincere poems, with photos of the dead before they became the generic dead. Today we’ll swear to remember them and keep them in our hearts and prayers forever.

“To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High School – we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever…” — President Comrade Donald J. Trump

Like so much of what Trump says, this isn’t true. We won’t be with the victims and their families forever. Tomorrow — maybe later today — we’ll start the forgetting.

Not the parents, of course. Not their family members and their friends. They actually will remember the dead and grieve for them. But the rest of us? Well, school shootings are like buses; another one will come along pretty soon. Most of us will retain a better memory of the last bus we took than we will of individual victims of any school shooting.

We’ll forget. That’s just a fact. Back in December of 2013, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, I made a similar comment about another school shooting victim.

Yes, a 17-year old girl got shot, but if it weren’t for the Sandy Hook anniversary thing, the national news media would probably have ignored it. Still, they did what they could with what they had. They emphasized the Cute White Girl Who Loved Horses angle, making her a classic innocent victim. They found some really nice high school photos of her. What was her name? Kaylee? Claire? Callie? Something like that — pretty sure it starts with a ‘k’ sound. She got shot in the head. With a shotgun. Nobody wants to hear about that. And nobody other than her friends and family will remember her in a couple of weeks. Same with what’s-his-name, the school shooter. Karl.

Her name was Claire Davis. She died ten days after she was shot. She and the shooter were the only physical casualties of that event. In the discussion that followed that post, I was taken to task by the mother of one of Claire’s classmates.

“Claire died and a entire community cares. My daughter was in that school. Many students will have post traumatic stress disorder due to this shooting. We care about this and it has nothing to do with the media. You came across very callous in this post and whatever you tried to communicate got lost in that.”

That, sadly, is exactly what I tried to communicate: that we’ve become callous, that we’ve become numbed by the sheer number of mass killings. There are so many mass killings and so many victims — so many dead, so many wounded and maimed — that as a nation, we can’t keep track of them. We identify them as individuals shortly after they’ve been killed; we give their names, we mention something specific about them in an effort to stress the magnitude of the loss, we try to say Look, this is a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life, and now that potential is GONE.

But the reality is there are just too many of them. Ten yesterday, seventeen a few months ago, three a few days before that, fifty-some in Las Vegas, a dozen here and there and they’re all inevitably clumped in the public mind as generic victims. We don’t remember them. We can’t.

But we should try.

This is Claire Davis. She was seventeen years old. She was a student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. She loved horses. She was a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life. She was shot on December 13, 2013 and died ten days later.

Her name was Claire Davis.

they don’t say that anymore

Making America great again, that’s what this fuckwit says he’s doing. Another school shooting, eight to ten dead, explosive devices scattered in and around the school, and this guy’s first response? Strap on his pistol (because Texas is an open carry state), grab an American flag, slap a Trump/MAGA hat on his melon, and head to the scene to stand up for the Second Amendment.

And the other guy in this short video? The one who is outraged by the fuckwit with the flag? His answer is that we need prayers. Prayers. I suppose it’s better to ask for prayers than to strap on your little friend and start a one-fuckwit Second Amendment parade. But prayers? Hasn’t helped yet, has it. Hasn’t made America noticeably great again.

And the patriots at FreeRepublic? They know who is responsible.

“[S]ingle mother whores having children indiscriminately because they don’t need a father figure. Their bastard children growing up without morals, values or ethics. An utter sense of depravity and lawlessness. Liberals have only themselves to blame for this chaos.”

“False flag event to distract from yesterday’s IG Horowitz report on illegal acts by FBI to whitewash Clinton email investigation. As the heat increases against the deep state, watch for more of these.”

“The deep state is the group who covered up Holder’s, Obama’s, Brennan’s, Rices’s, Clapper’s, Lynch’s and Clinton’s crimes, who then tried to to stage a coup against a rightfully elected president by creating a completely fictitious narrative about collusion with the Russians. They’re funded by a global cabal that includes the wealthiest families on earth. The same families who financially fund both sides of World Wars.”

Single mothers, liberals, the Deep Fucking State. How can you possibly reason with people like this? They also know how to put an end to school shootings.

“Perhaps time to bring back public hangings.”

“It’s time to arm the teachers and students.”

“Ban violent video games. Hollyweird’s crap spewing violence is also not a help to these unstable kids of leftisms rotten fruits.”

Ban video games. Hang offenders in the town square. Arm everybody. Carry a flag to the site of a school shooting. That’s how to make America great again.

I rarely get discouraged. I’m an optimistic person by nature. But it guts me to know that this shit is NOT going to stop. It guts me that the people with the authority and power and the goddamn obligation to reduce this shit aren’t going to do it. It guts me to admit that this county, which has done great things in the past, isn’t capable of greatness now. And won’t be for the foreseeable future.

Kids used to say “I never thought something like this could happen at my school.” They don’t say that anymore.

bracing for disaster

Almost actual headlines and reporting from the Honolulu Star Advertiser (perhaps with an occasional minor editorial change).

Lava spatter activity starts from a new fissure

The Tsunami Warning Center reported that an earthquake occurred Saturday offshore, magnitude 4.3. No tsunami is expected, however some areas may have experienced shaking.

The new fissure began erupting at about 6:30 a.m. today and was sputtering lava 100 feet into the air. It appeared in a cow pasture. Minor spattering activity from the fissure is diminishing and no significant lava flow was issued from this area.

Officials say it’s possible there may be an explosive eruption. This could generate dangerous debris near the crater as well as ashfalls up to tens of miles downwind.

Residents are advised to be on the alert in the event of possible gas emissions and volcanic eruption. There may be little to no advance notice to evacuate, so take this time to prepare.

The Pahoa Community Center and Kea’au Community Center are open. Food will be provided and the shelters are pet-friendly.

the haspel file

I have a great deal of respect for Gina Haspel, Comrade Trump’s controversial nominee to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I respect the fact that she’s done field work — and by ‘field work’ I mean the serious, no shit, secret, risky work of actual spy tradecraft — and she’s done it in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. We don’t know exactly what she’s done, of course, but she apparently did it well enough to rise through the ranks to become a big hat in the clandestine service. That’s a tough gig, by any measure.

But now she’s being touted to run the entire CIA, and that’s a whole nother gig entirely. So it’s necessary to remember this: good operatives don’t necessarily make good administrators. Being good in the field — any field — requires more than a skill set; it requires a very different attitude toward the work. People who do dangerous work and do it well generally share a belief that they can bend or break the rules, whatever those rules are. They believe they can do stuff ordinary folks can’t or won’t — and they’re usually right. The ones who aren’t right don’t last. That’s true of spies, of soldiers, of firefighters, of just about any gig that involves taking calculated risks.

Here’s an example. In 1998 a Marine aviator was contour flying in an EA-6B Prowler out of the Aviano air base in the Italian Alps. He was flying at 550 mph at a height of around 260 feet through the mountains and valleys when his wing clipped the cable supporting an aerial tramway for tourists. The cable snapped and a gondola carrying twenty people fell. All of them died.

The pilot and copilot were both charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide, and eventually the pilot served a prison sentence. But — and this is a horribly ugly truth — that pilot was displaying exactly the sort of attitude you want in a combat aviator. You want combat pilots who are confident enough and skilled enough to be  aggressive risk-takers. Well, you want pilots who are successful aggressive risk-takers. Again, the ones who aren’t successful don’t last.

That’s the thing. People who are good in the field aren’t necessarily good citizens. They’re not necessarily good people. The very qualities that make a person effective in the field generally disqualify them from running things. Gina Haspel has lasted for thirty years, most of which was in the clandestine service. That’s a testament to her skill as a spy and her willingness to do whatever she needed to do to get the job done. Every intelligence agency in the world relies on people like Gina Haspel.

And that’s exactly why she should NOT be the DCIA. She’s been the sort of agent who personifies the reasons field agents need oversight. Somebody has to be around to keep a collar on these folks, because they are all about getting results. I’m not surprised Gina Haspel ran a black site at which torture took place. I’m not surprised she destroyed video recordings of those torture sessions. I’m certainly not surprised that she claimed the torture produced actionable intelligence, or that she refused to categorically state torture was immoral. Nor am I surprised that she told Senators she wouldn’t resume the practice of ‘enhanced interrogation’.

You don’t last thirty years in the CIA without the ability to lie convincingly.