dezinformatsiya

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m inclined to think that when US intelligence agencies warn the president that one of his closest associates is being used as a conduit for a disinformation operation directed by a hostile foreign nation and aimed at a national election, the president probably ought to be concerned. Maybe even consider doing something about it. And by ‘doing something about it’ I mean stopping it.

But we’re talking about President Comrade Trump and Russia. We’re talking about Rudy Giuliani and the 2020 presidential election. So ‘doing something about it’ isn’t going to involve stopping the Russian disinformation operation. ‘Doing something about it’ involves spreading it. ‘Doing something about it’ involves embracing it.

I wrote about this a couple of days ago, calling it ‘the most embarrassingly bad disinformation op imaginable.’ Don’t get me wrong — the underlying concept of the op is a classic Russian dezinformatsiya scheme. It’s a variation of the old negligent-spy-accidentally-leaves- briefcase-with-compromising-information-on-the-subway routine. Somebody finds the briefcase, looks inside, discovers the manufactured compromising information, reports it, and the disinformation gets spread organically. As a scheme, it’s very sound.

But Jeebus Microdot, Rudy Giuliani really fucked this up. And Trump was warned about it. According to news reports, Trump’s fourth National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien (and right there you already have a serious problem — four national security advisers in three years is a disgrace) met in person with Trump to caution him that “any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia.”

Rudy Giuliani and Andrii Derkach

For well over a year, Rudy had been dealing with Andrii Leonidovych Derkach, a former Ukrainian security officer who is considered to be a Russian intelligence asset. I’m being polite and conservative when I say he’s ‘considered’ to be an asset. This guy actually graduated from the FSB Academy back when it was still called the Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB. It’s basically Spy School. Derkach’s thesis topic…and I am NOT making this up…was “Organization and Conduct of Meetings with Secret Agents”. Derkach should be walking around with a lapel badge saying, “Hi, my name is Andrii, I’m a fucking spy!” Back in 2020, a lot of folks thought Derkach would be the Ukrainian Putin. although that hasn’t quite worked out for him. Last month the US Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach for running an “influence campaign” against Joe Biden (and by ‘sanctioned’ I mean they froze all of his property interests in the US and prohibited Americans from engaging in transactions with him or entities owned by him). THIS is the guy Rudy was meeting with to gather ‘information’ about Joe Biden’s son Hunter. This is precisely why the National Security Adviser told Comrade Trump to distance himself from any Biden-related crap Rudy might drop on his desk.

Did Trump follow that advice?

Yeah. Exactly.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not claiming Derkach and Rudy were behind the three wet laptops allegedly containing compromising material on the Bidens that were accidentally left on the subway forgotten at the computer store. I’m just saying that it resembles a classic Russian dezinformatsiya scheme. And I’m just saying Andrii Derkach has been working in Russia’s interest for some time. And I’m just saying Rudy Giuliani is no longer the clever New York lawyer he once was. And I’m just saying Trump has no ethics at all and will use any tactic he thinks might give him a momentary advantage over an opponent.

Really, is anybody even remotely surprised that Comrade Trump would ignore the warning of his fourth National Security Adviser? Is anybody even remotely surprised that Trump might promote an illegal Russian disinformation operation if he thought it could help him win an election?

We have seventeen (17) days to the election. It’s time to return Comrade Trump to the shelf. Go vote.

trump and socrates

Somebody at the White House needs to remind Comrade Trump that he’s still the President of These United States — and that a big chunk of his job is to pay attention to what’s going on in the nation. Anybody who has spent any time at all on social media or watching any actual news show on television has heard of the QAnon conspiracy theory. I mean, back in 2019 the FBI designated QAnon as a “domestic terror threat” because of the group’s potential to incite extremist violence. That’s the sort of thing that ought to grab a president’s attention.

But somehow QAnon and the national security threat it poses seems to have largely slipped right by Donald Trump’s keen eye. During his town hall last night, he said this:

“I know nothing about QAnon…I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it.”

Trump, who is a narcissist of the first water (okay, quick but pointless digression…’of the first water’ refers to the way they used to grade the clarity and translucence of diamonds…c’mon, you know you wondered about that), wants us to believe he knows nothing about a group that has him at the heroic center of their belief system. He may not be aware of exactly how loopy the QAnon community is, and he may not think they’re a terrorist threat, but it surpasses belief that he’s unaware of their love for him.

But then again, Trump has displayed an uncanny ability to NOT know things. Here are a few of the things he’s admitted not knowing anything at all about.

— QAnon
— Russia paying bounties on Coalition troops in Afghanistan
— Steve Bannon’s involvement in a fundraising campaign to support the building Trump’s wall
— WikiLeaks
— the Proud Boys
— a recent bungled incursion into Venezuela
— Dr. Stella Immanuel, the woman who says masks don’t work and insists there’s a cure for Covid-19
— the Air Force refueling at Prestwick airport in Scotland and staying overnight at Trump’s expensive Turnberry golf resort a 40 minute drive from the airport instead the many hotels within a few minutes of the airport
— Rudy Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are currently awaiting trial for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, campaign finance fraud, and lying to the Federal Election Commission
— David Duke and the KKK

That’s a LOT of important stuff NOT to know about, especially given the fact that knowing about important stuff like this is a critically important part of the POTUS job description. I’m not even mentioning the stuff Trump obviously knows about, but hasn’t really bothered to deal with. Stuff like Saudi Arabia murdering and dismembering a Washington Post reporter. But we can safely say the scope of his ignorance is matched only by his amazing expertise in an astonishingly wide array of fields of knowledge.

Here are a few things Trump has said he knows more about than…well, anybody.

— drones
— ISIS
— tax law
— the horror of nuclear
— campaign finance
— social media
— forestry
— courts
— immigration system
— trade
— negotiating
— infrastructure
— tariffs
— renewables
— Cory Booker
— the Federal Reserve
— the military
— windmills and wind energy
— banking

Socrates, the Greek philosopher and minor character in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, said this: “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” It sounds a lot more impressive in Greek. But basically, he was saying an individual can only know a limited amount of stuff, and what that person knows isn’t much at all compared to what the individual doesn’t know.

But Trump is no Greek philosopher. When he says he doesn’t know something, there’s a decent chance he knows enough to lie about knowing it. And when he says he knows more about something than anybody else, he’s absolutely lying.

I suspect Trump isn’t as knowledgeable as he claims. I suspect he’s not as ignorant as he claims. In fact, I suspect D.J. Trump is what those of us in the justice biz call ‘a lying sack of shit’ (DISCLAIMER: I am no longer in the justice biz, and haven’t been for quite a while, but I can still recognize a lying sack of shit when I see one).

I’m not say I know more about lying sacks of shit that anybody else, but spotting lying sacks of shit is like riding a bike — you never really forget how to do it.

october surprise

Originally, a ‘surprise’ was an unexpected attack. It comes from the Latin sur meaning ‘over’ or ‘above’ and prendre meaning ‘to grasp or seize’. A surprise party, originally, was a stealth military detachment that ambushed the enemy.

The political phrase ‘October Surprise’ has a vaguely weird history. It grew out of the 1980 election between President Jimmy Carter and his challenger, Ronald Reagan. It appears to have been coined by William Casey, Reagan’s campaign manager (and a former OSS officer who, after Reagan was elected, became the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency). Casey was concerned that Carter was secretly arranging the release of 52 American hostages held by Iranian revolutionaries, and would announce the deal just before the November election. ‘October Surprise’ has also been used to describe an alleged secret deal between Iran and Reagan operatives to prevent the release of those hostages until after Reagan won the election and was inaugurated (and, in fact, Iran announced the release of the hostages literally minutes after Reagan’s inaugural speech).

Almost every election since 1980 has included some sort of October Surprise —  an event designed to irreparably damage one candidate’s chances and boost the other’s. Few of them work; fewer still are actual surprises. That includes yesterday’s ham-fisted absurdist political theater. We’ve all been expecting a ‘surprise’, of course. But even given Team Trump’s reputation for bungling political schemes, this ‘surprise’ was badly managed. Comically bad.

Here’s the basic accusation as reported by the New York Post. Somebody (Hunter Biden) brought three damaged laptop computers to a Delaware computer store for repair in April of 2019. The owner of the store (unidentified in the original report) claimed to have found an email on one computer’s hard drive — an email from Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, thanking Hunter for the opportunity to meet Joe Biden, who was then Vice President. Scandal! Hunter Biden and his daddy are corrupt! Biden must be defeated in the coming election! Scandal!

John Paul Mac Isaac (This should not be taken as an indictment of men wearing kilts).

Right. Now let’s ask a few questions — the sort of questions a 14-year-old fan of cop shows on television would ask.

Who is this unidentified store owner?
— He turns out to be kilt-wearing Trump supporter John Paul Mac Isaac.

Who brought the three laptops to Mac Isaac’s shop?
— Uh…we don’t know. Mac Isaac says he has a ‘medical’ condition that prevented him from recognizing the person who brought in the laptops. Also, nobody signed any sort of repair authorization form or receipt for them. But the person allegedly said his name was Hunter Biden.

What evidence does he have to prove the laptops were brought in by Hunter Biden?
— At least one laptop had a ‘Beau Biden Foundation’ sticker on it, plus there was an email addressed to Hunter Biden on that laptop, plus there were sexually explicit images featuring Hunter Biden.

Did Hunter or anybody return to the shop to retrieve the laptops? Or called to inquire about them?
— Uh…no. After ninety days Mac Isaac said he made repeated attempts to contact Hunter Biden without success.

What did Mac Isaac do when he discovered the email?
— He contacted the FBI. No, wait…first he made a copy of the email (and apparently the sexual images) which he gave to Rudy Giuliani. No, wait…he gave the copy of the material to Rudy’s attorney, then he turned it over to the FBI. No, wait…the FBI got in touch with him about the material, then he gave it to them. Or maybe he gave it to the FBI, who later sought his help in accessing the material.

Is this the same Rudy Giuliani who has been working for a couple of years with known Russian intelligence operatives to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden to hurt Joe Biden’s election chances?
— Uh…yes, it is.

Why did Mac Isaac give the material to Rudy’s attorney before giving it to the FBI?
— Because he doesn’t trust the FBI. He seems to think maybe the FBI (possibly in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee) murdered Seth Rich (who worked for the DNC) because Rich knew ‘the truth’ about the DNC emails stolen by Russian intelligence operatives sources and provided to Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and the Trump campaign. He also thought maybe the FBI might kill him too. So he made a copy of the material and gave it to Rudy’s attorney as insurance. He said he didn’t tell the FBI he’d made an ‘insurance’ copy, but that they would have assumed he would make such a copy to protect himself.

Why would Mac Isaac give the material to the FBI if he thought they might kill him if they knew he had the material?
— Uh…because of reasons?

What meta-data could we obtain from the email?
— Uh…none. The New York Post only had a pdf file of the email, not that actual email. So there’s no header information, no metadata. Just a picture of the alleged email.

How did the New York Post get this material?
— It was provided to the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor, Emma-Jo Morris, by Rudy’s attorney. Ms. Morris apparently became the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor yesterday, when she wrote the story. She has written three other political stories for the Post. All three were written yesterday. All three are about Hunter Biden.

What did Emma-Jo Morris do before becoming the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor yesterday?
— She booked guests for Fox News personality Sean Hannity.

Is this the ‘smoking gun’ October Surprise Republicans claim it to be?
— Nope. It’s not smoking. It’s not even a gun. It’s not a surprise. But it IS October.

This is perhaps the stupidest, worst prepared, least convincing, most desperate October Surprise ever. It’s the most embarrassingly bad disinformation op imaginable. It’s like Laurel and Hardy teamed up with the Keystone Kops to create a conspiracy theory. If the person responsible for this is in Russian intelligence, I’m going to guess he’s looking at a long drop from a high window, an acute case of cement poisoning following an incident of deceleration trauma.

very good people

Really, when you think about, who is really at fault here? I mean, back at the end of April the President of These United States suggested his followers should ‘Liberate Michigan’. It would have been unpatriotic not to take the president at his word. So a couple of weeks later, a group of ‘patriots’ arrived at the state capitol building to discuss issues involving the tyranny of mask-wearing with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other lawmakers.

Okay, so yes, they may have arrived for those friendly discussions armed with semi-auto rifles and handguns, but this is America…or used to be before Obama tried to turn the nation into a gay socialist guitar-strumming pedophile ring. Anyway, they just wanted to talk to Gov. Whitmer, that’s all. And President Trump realized that. He said:

These very good people were just angry, that’s all. They just wanted their lives back, which is understandable since Gov. Whitmer STOLE THEIR LIVES by asking them to wear masks and avoid gathering in large virus-sharing groups. Trump felt Gov. Whitmer should try to be reasonable, listen to the angry armed men threatening her and other Michigan lawmakers, give them a chance to screamsplain rationally why she was wrong.

But no, she wouldn’t do that, the bitch. Now look what she made them do.

Explaining the charges against Gov. Whitmer

Really, whose fault is it that these thirteen very good people felt forced to concoct a plan to kidnap her and put her on trial for…okay, it’s not clear exactly what she’d be put on trial for. Being a bitch, probably. Being a ball-cutting bitch by undermining their authority — undermining their very manhood — by trying to make them look like mask-wearing pussies. But the important point — the point everybody seems to be overlooking — is that they always intended to give her a trial. Did she give them a trial before ordering them to wear gay masks?

No. No, she did not.

Prosecutor’s opening statement.

They were going to give her a trial, that’s how reasonable they were. A fair trial. Okay, maybe the judge would be somebody involved in the kidnapping. And yeah, the jury pool would probably have to be drawn from folks involved in the kidnapping. But hey, still a trial, right? She’d have had a chance to defend herself and explain why she was being such a bitch, right? You’d think she’d thank them for giving her that chance, wouldn’t you.

But no. She’s showed no gratitude at all. Hell, she didn’t even thank Comrade Trump after his own personal Federal Bureau of Investigation disrupted the plot to murder kidnap … wait, was it really even a kidnapping? Was it? When you really look at it closely, wasn’t it really more like a citizen’s arrest? Followed by a fair trial. I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Whitmer trial jury pool.

You invite a woman at gunpoint to accompany you of her own free will, you give her a chance to explain her ridiculous behavior, you agree not to punish her until after she’s had her say, and is she even the least bit grateful? See, that’s the problem with putting a woman in charge of anything other than the kitchen. They’re just too emotional.

And now the lives of these thirteen very good people are going to be tarnished. It’ll be hard for them to get a decent job. They may even lose their guns. Is that fair?

‘i just didn’t want to’

He has speech writers. We’ve all seen The West Wing, we know there’s a department in the White House for people who carefully craft the president’s speeches — who take the president’s thoughts and ideas, and use them as a framework for a speech. But, as in everything else, Comrade Trump thinks he knows better.

So instead of giving a speech reassuring the American public that he’s doing everything the doctors tell him in order to return to the White House, Trump presents a rambling, unfocused, semi-dishonest, off-the-cuff monologue. In it, he says”

“I had no choice, because I just didn’t want to stay in the White House. I was given that alternative. Stay in the White House, lock yourself in. Don’t ever leave…I can’t do that. I had to be out front.”

This is maybe the most honest thing Trump has ever said to the American public. “I just didn’t want to. I had to be out front.” He just didn’t want to wear a mask or follow the medical protocols that could keep him and his supporters safe. He had to be out in front of an audience of admiring supporters.

That attitude not only led us to a body count of over two hundred and ten thousand American citizens, it not only led us to economic disaster, it not only led us to a housing crisis and an education system in turmoil, it also led us to the craziest goddamn moment to date in administration filled to the brim with crazy goddamn moments. I’m talking about that appalling scene at the White House when Trump returned from Walter Reed in Bethesda.

They planned this. Some deranged group of people in the White House — probably the same group that thought it would be good optics for Trump to stand in front of a church and hold up a Bible for 45 seconds — thought it would be dramatic for Trump to leave Marine One, climb the steps to the Truman Balcony, present himself to the American people, and take off his mask.

And hey, they were right. It was dramatic. It was dramatically stupid. It was dramatically offensive. It was dramatically arrogant and dramatically undermined any notion that Trump had learned a damned thing from his time at Walter Reed. Or that he’d learned a damned thing during his three and a half years as POTUS. In fact, it dramatically undermined the notion that Trump had ‘beaten’ Covid; he was clearly struggling to breathe as he stood on the balcony.

He took off his mask, people. He has Covid — an infectious disease spread primarily through airborne particles emitted through the mouth and nose — and he took off his mask to show the world…what? That he was tough? That he was courageous? That he was manly?

What Comrade Trump showed the world was that he was still the same arrogant, ignorant, feckless yobbo he’s always been. It showed the world he still doesn’t give a rat’s ass for anybody other that himself.

The butcher’s bill at this moment stands at 213,462 dead in the United States. Last night 421 Americans died from Covid. Four hundred people died from Covid last night. We’re seven months into the pandemic. It’s not going to get better until we can get people to stop spreading the virus. And that actively contagious fucker stood on the Truman Balcony and took off his mask.

thomas rymer is okay by me

It would be hard to believe if it weren’t so perfectly on-brand. We’re 212,000 corpses into the Covid pandemic, but Comrade Trump decided to throw a largely mask-free announcement party for his shiny new Supreme Court nominee — who, by the way, got the Covid over the summer, and somehow nobody thought to mention it. And hey bingo, after the party, a whole bunch of self-important Republicans started getting all Covidy.

We’re talking at least a couple of senators, a couple of reporters, a few White House staffers, and a scattering of generic Trump supporters — all testing positive for the Covid. Including Comrade Trump his ownself, and his wife.

Deliberately holding a maskless gathering during a pandemic is just flat out arrogance and negligence. But it gets worse (it always gets worse with Trump, doesn’t it). Apparently Trump got the Covid (we don’t know quite when because nobody in the Trumpverse ever seems to tell the truth), then spent a whole day wandering around maskless, pretending he didn’t have it. He exposed a LOT more of his own staff and supporters to the Covid, including an intimate roundtable of a couple dozen top GOP donors at one of his failing golf clubs.

Again, it would be hard to believe if it weren’t so perfectly on-brand for Trump. This is the guy who disbanded an operational pandemic response team, then after the Covid showed up, created a new pandemic response team, only to ignore and contradict their scientific advice for political and public relations reasons. He’s basically dismissed the team (has anybody heard from Fauci or Birx lately?). This is the guy who refused to wear a mask himself, who mocked others for wearing masks, who deliberately and knowingly invited large crowds of yelling followers to his rallies, who publicly dismissed the severity of the Covid while privately acknowledging how deadly it was. So it’s not entirely surprising that he’d meet with his supporters knowing he was almost certainly contagious.

Trump at Walter Reed, pretending to work.

Now he’s in the hospital. Flown there by helicopter. Being treated by a cadre of the best doctors. Being given a special experimental drug cocktail that isn’t available to ordinary folks. In a luxurious hospital room — unlike the crowded hallways in which many New Yorkers died during the early days of the pandemic. He’s in the hospital, pretending to work, but we don’t really know his medical status. Three and a half years of lying by Trump and his staff has taught us not to believe anything they say. He could be fine, he could be dying; as I write this, we just don’t know because nobody is talking and we couldn’t trust anybody who did talk.

A couple of days ago I said it was unseemly and callous to express happiness that Comrade Trump got the Covid. I still believe that, despite the fact that Trump his ownself has been unseemly and callous about the deaths and suffering of hundreds of thousands of American citizens. As a Buddhist, I have to believe he is deserving of compassion. But he hasn’t earned any sympathy.

Thomas Rymer with a wee doggie.

In 1678, Thomas Rymer published The Tragedies of the Last Age Consider’d, in which he examined the ways in which literature tried to reconcile the demands of justice with those of pity. He coined the phrase ‘poetic justice.’ That’s usually interpreted as ‘vice must be punished and virtue rewarded’. But it’s more than that. Rymer believed true poetic justice also required logic to triumph. It’s not enough to simply punish the wicked; poetic justice demands an ironic twist of fate in which a character’s own wicked behavior brings about their downfall.

That Comrade Trump is in Walter Reed being treated for the Covid is true poetic justice. He’ll probably recover from the Covid in time to lose the election. That will also be poetic justice. There’s also a decent chance the ‘law and order’ president, after he leaves office, will be charged with a variety of state and federal crimes. More poetic justice.

I won’t celebrate Trump’s illness. But I will celebrate poetic justice. Thomas Rymer is okay by me.

it is what it is

First let me say this, because this is important: expressing happiness that Comrade Trump has tested positive for Covid-19 is unseemly and callous — just as unseemly and callous as those people who expresses happiness that Justice the Notorious RBG died.

That said, I understand and can appreciate the poetic justice of it. He had access to the best medical advice in the world, he had access to the world’s most reliable information about the pandemic, he had the ability to take the world’s best precautions against the coronavirus, he had the power to significantly make the US safer against Covid-19 transmission — and he just flat out decided NOT to take advantage of any of that.

Comrade Trump is sick.

Why? Ignorant narcissism. He ignored the experts, he assumed he knew more than they did, he assumed nothing could hurt him because he was well protected, and he quietly encouraged his staff NOT to wear masks. Several White House staffers and members of the Secret Service guarding Trump have tested positive for Covid over the last couple of months, but Trump took no notice.

After Hope Hicks, with whom he’d been in close contact, tested positive, Trump still went to a fundraiser at his Bedminster Golf Club, where he didn’t wear a mask. All those people have now been exposed. Amy Coney Barrett, his SCOTUS pick, has been exposed. Kayleigh McEnany, the WH press secretary has been exposed, but she didn’t wear a mask during yesterday’s press briefing, so all those reporters have been exposed. Trump’s Chief of Staff has been exposed, as have all the people he’s been in close contact with. Hope Hicks was maskless at the presidential debate on Tuesday; the WH didn’t bother to alert the Biden campaign when she tested positive. They had to learn about it on the news.

None of this had to happen. Most of this could have been prevented IF Trump hadn’t been an ignorant narcissist. IF he’d listened to the experts. IF he’d worn a mask and encouraged — no, if he’d mandated — others to wear a mask whenever they were in groups.

But no. Comrade Trump didn’t do that. He was reckless and stupid and now he’s got the bug. I’m not happy about that. But I’m not sad about it either.

It is what it is.