you don’t have to roll the dice if you’ve already won the game

Credit where it’s due, and all that. You have to hand it to Vlad Putin. That guy — he put together a few fairly small teams of operatives, handed them a relatively small budget, and told them to go forth and fuck up the 2016 presidential election.

And they did.

Hell, they probably had a good time doing it. After all, it turned out to be fairly easy. It was basically a two-pronged approach. Prong One: create public doubt in the integrity of the election process itself. That would handicap the administration of the eventual winner regardless of who it was. Prong Two: exacerbate the already existing divisions within US culture. Just encourage everybody to hate everybody else just a little more. That would make the nation much more difficult to govern.

That’s it. That’s all they had to do. Easy peasy lemon breezy.

It was made even easier because they had a ready-made candidate. Seriously, if you sat down at a table to design a presidential candidate who to be a Russian intelligence asset, you’d want somebody who was:

  • already corrupt as fuck
  • massively ignorant about everything a president should understand
  • narcissistic to a degree that it met the standard for a personality disorder
  • completely devoid of personal loyalty or patriotism
  • insecure enough to be easily manipulated through flattery
  • resentful, impetuous, malicious, vengeful, petty, unwilling to learn, and lazy.

Why is Vlad smiling? I think we know.

So, clearly, Donald Trump. Right? I don’t think Putin believed Trump had any real chance of winning. Trump didn’t need to win in order for Putin’s plan to succeed. All Putin wanted/needed to do was to foment social discord and bugger up the election system.

The easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to do those two things? Poison social media, The Russians flooded social media with lies, half-truths, rumors, and conspiracy theories. Some of the lies were so outrageous and ridiculous that only lunatics would believe them (a pedophile ring run by lesbian Hillary Clinton out of a tunnel beneath a pizza parlor — who the hell is going to believe something like…ah, right, never mind). But it didn’t matter than some of the lies were so ridiculous. You tell an outrageous lie in order to make less outrageous lies seem more probable. Folks who hear and dismiss the Pizzagate lie would be more open to believing the Benghazi lies. Or the Hillary-has-brain-damage-from-a-fall lie.

And once those lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories were out there in the social media sphere, the Russians could count on the Trump campaign to echo them, spreading them even more widely and making them seem a tad more legit.

I don’t know if the Russians expected the entire Republican Party to help out, but they did. And they did it with enthusiasm. They spread the lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories with all the passion of spawning salmon. Not because they believed them, of course, but because it was to their advantage politically. I’d like to think the Russians were surprised to see Republicans so keen to undermine the electoral process, but I’m naive like that. I mean, surely the Russians wouldn’t have expected that, when their rat-fucking became obvious, the Republicans would not only refuse to acknowledge it, but would go so far as to threaten President Obama that if he made a public statement about it, they’d respond by calling it a partisan attack. Surely the Russians wouldn’t have expected Republicans to be that awful. Would they?

Yeah, okay, maybe.

Guy shouldn’t be smiling at all.

And finally, the Russians spread as much internal division as they could, pitting Hillary’s people against Bernie’s people, against Jill’s people, even against Gary Johnson’s people for fuck’s sake (although I suspect Gary Johnson’s ‘people’ were just folks who said I don’t know who he is, but he’s not a socialist or a woman, so I’ll vote for him).

Anyway, it all worked. Trump was elected by fewer than eighty thousand votes cast in three states. Since then, almost every international action he’s taken as president has benefited Russia. He’s weakened NATO, he’s insulted and alienated our traditional allies, he’s cozied up to tyrants and excused their behavior, he’s refused to accept the advice or listen to the suggestions of acknowledged experts in foreign relations, he’s pulled out of established treaties, he’s abandoned the Kurds who did most of the killing and dying in the fight against ISIS, and he’s completely corrupted the reputation of the United States. Right now, no other nation in the world has any reason to trust the word of the U.S. government.

Guy’s got good reasons to be smiling.

Again, credit where it’s due. Vlad Putin dropped a few rubles on a lottery ticket and he won. And guess what. He’s picked the same lottery numbers for the next election. And hey, with the help of Comrade Trump and the Republican Party, he’s already won. Even if Trump loses the 2020 election, even if he’s impeached and removed from office, even if everybody in the Trump administration ends up in prison, Putin has already won. Because any Democrat who wins the election will have to spend a massive amount of time and effort and money to clean up after the motherfucker.

And that serves Russian interests, Vlad fuckin’ Putin. Comrade Donald fuckin’ Trump. Jesus suffering fuck, they really did it, didn’t they.

war crimes

There have been Trumps in the United States since 1885, when Friedrich Trumpf emigrated here from Kallstadt, Bavaria to 1) escape poverty and 2) avoid mandatory military service. His failure to serve, combined with his failure to notify the authorities of his departure, led to a royal decree banishing Trump from ever returning to what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria.

Since their arrival in the U.S. Trumps have had the opportunity to serve their adopted nation in two world wars, the Korean war, Vietnam, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They haven’t. Not a single member of the Trump family has spent a day in uniform (to be fair, Trump’s parents sent him to a private military school when he was an unruly, wayward 13-year-old). Comrade Trump his ownself famously dodged military service during the Vietnam war through a bogus medical deferment.

That’s okay. We don’t have any mandatory service in the U.S. and it’s hard to blame anybody for not wanting to fight in that particular war (or any war, for that matter). I can fault with the system that allowed Trump to dodge conscription because of his family wealth, but I don’t fault him personally for not wanting to fight.

I do, though, fault him for celebrating war. I do fault him for using the military as a prop. And I especially fault him for honoring war criminals. I fault him for interfering in the military justice system to benefit murderous fucks like Eddie Gallagher.

If you’re not familiar with the Gallagher case, here’s a quick take. He’s a Navy SEAL Special Warfare Operator. He’s done eight combat tours; he’s been trained as a sniper, as a medic, and as an explosives expert. He’s been awarded two bronze stars and was, apparently, under consideration for a silver star. He’s also been accused of multiple war crimes. He was acquitted of some of the most serious crimes (murdering at least two civilians — an old man and a young girl) because of the absence of physical evidence (it’s hard to collect DNA evidence from sniper victims in a combat zone). Basically, Eddie Gallagher is a hero who is also a murderous fuck.

Loyalty is a big deal in the military. First loyalty is to your buddies, then it spreads out to your squad, to your platoon, your company, your battalion, and so on in an expanding circle. Because loyalty is such a big deal, it’s incredibly telling that Gallagher’s squadmates reported his criminal behavior repeatedly. It’s telling that they were willing to testify against him in court. It’s telling that they were so concerned about him, they even sabotaged his weapon — they altered the optics on his sniper scope — to keep him from killing innocent civilians.

Eddie Gallagher in Iraq.

Here are two really really ugly truths. First, the military has a need for people like Eddie Gallagher — people who are murderous fucks. They need people who are willing and capable of doing horrible things. There are situations in combat, for example, when it might be necessary to kill children. It appalling that we ask people to be prepared to do that, but it is sometimes necessary. Here’s the second ugly truth. We need to punish those murderous fucks who act indiscriminately. We need laws to regulate war, to define and distinguish between what murderous fucks can and cannot do. Murderous fucks are only useful to the military when they can effectively channel their murderous fuck potential. There are really good reasons the military talks so much about ‘good order and discipline.’

The military tends to treat their murderous fucks the way a family treats a lecherous, drunk uncle at a holiday gathering. They try to quietly control them, to put limits on their opportunities to be drunk and lecherous, to keep it in the family unless their behavior becomes so awful they have to notify the police. The military will demote their murderous fucks, they’ll re-assign them to posts where they have fewer opportunities to be murderous fucks, they’ll discharge them from the service, and when it’s absolutely necessary they’ll prosecute them for war crimes.

Eddie Gallagher in handcuffs.

When Comrade Trump, the President of the United States, interferes with the prosecution and sentencing of murderous fucks — when he absolves them of their crimes, when he celebrates them, when he says he actually wants them to campaign with him — he essentially erodes the necessary restraints the military puts on them. In effect, Trump encourages murderous fucks to become more fucking murderous.

This would be egregious in any president. It’s especially galling in a president who knows nothing about military life, a president whose entire family has avoided any sort of military service. Eddie Gallagher is as unfit to serve in the U.S. military as Comrade Trump is to be the Commander-in-Chief.

craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history

Okay, a quick heads up. I’m going to write a really long sentence. Really long. The kind of sentence writing instructors warn students never to write because readers will either lose interest in the subject and decide to go see what’s on television, or get massively confused halfway through and have to start again at the beginning. It’s going to be longer than the sentence you just read. It’s a long sentence because the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history demands long sentences. So you’ve been warned.

Yesterday, at the same time Congress was holding the first public impeachment hearing to determine if Comrade Donald J. Trump is fit to continue to occupy the office of the President of the United States, Trump was meeting with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, who last month launched a military offensive that bore all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kurdish forces who had been the chief ally in the U.S. fight against ISIS for years until they were suddenly, unexpectedly betrayed by Trump’s inexplicable decision — which came immediately after a late-night phone call with the president of Turkey — to remove U.S. military forces from the Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria.

This was an extraordinary conjunction of events, even by the loopy standards of the Trumpverse. As I said earlier, it’s the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history. While two patriotic career civil servants (one of whom is actually a deputy assistant secretary of state specializing in anti-corruption efforts) were testifying under oath that Trump had betrayed his oath of office by engaging in corrupt activity, Trump was publicly celebrating a different corrupt betrayal — and doing it with the corrupt dictator who directly benefited from the betrayal. Not only that, Trump openly confessed to a war crime. Although he’d claimed he pulled U.S. forces out of Syria to bring them home, yesterday he said this:

“We are keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.”

This is a clear violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions, which categorically states pillaging (taking something of value from a location seized in a time of war) is prohibited. It’s also perfectly on-brand for Trump, who argues that corruption committed in the open doesn’t count.

This is the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history. Democrats and civil servants are systematically and methodically demonstrating the corrupt practices of the Trump administration while Republicans are spouting insane conspiracy theories and mocking Congressional witnesses for drinking water (I am NOT making this up) and POTUS is calling himself a ‘big fan’ of a foreign dictator who a few weeks ago had openly insulted him by saying he’d thrown Trump’s threatening letter in the trash. What the actual fuck is happening here?

How can all this crazy shit be happening at the same time? It almost makes you want to believe in astrology, because it would be nice if we could explain it all away by pointing to some lunatic arrangement of planets. That would actually make it less crazy; that’s how goddamn crazy this moment is.

And don’t even think about pulling me aside and whispering, “Forget it, Jake…it’s Chinatown” because it’s NOT CHINATOWN. This is NOT a Chinatown situation. Sure, Kurdistan is as dead as Hollis Mulwray, and Trump is treating the Constitution the way Noah Cross treated his daughter, but this isn’t policing in Los Angeles in the 1930s. It’s actually possible for us to know whether our foreign interventions are helping victims or exploiting them.

Okay. Okay, I got a tad carried away and veered off into a tangent that probably won’t even make sense to folks who’ve seen the movie. Sorry. That’s what living in the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history will do to you.

There’s another public hearing schedule for tomorrow. Maybe it’ll be less crazy. Or maybe Comrade Trump will hold a press conference with Ming the Merciless. I’m not going to rule it out.

Somewhat Related Editorial Note: If you haven’t seen Chinatown, WTF is wrong with you? Go watch it. It’s brilliant. Cynical, yeah, but one of the best films ever made, even if it was made by Roman Polanski — and there’s a tangent I’m going to avoid while I still retain some semblance of self-control.

a discussion about the impeachment process

Democrats: You know, we think Comrade Trump maybe probably did some crimes, so we’re going to investigate.

Republicans: YOU LOST THE ELECTION GET OVER IT!!!

Ds: It appears Trump has possibly violated the Emoluments Clause. And also maybe committed a bit of tax fraud. Plus probably illegally diverted monies from the military by declaring a fake emergency at the border. Also too, maybe illegally dangled pardons to accused criminals in an effort to shape their testimony.

Rs: FAKE NEWS!!!

Ds: Oh, and then there’s that extortion of foreign governments to hurt a possible political rival. That’s on top of the obstruction of justice stuff.

R: YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO OVERTURN THE ELECTION!!!

Democrats discussing the impeachment process with Republicans.

Ds: There’s a whistleblower, you know.

R: A DEEP STATE LIAR!!! THIRD HAND HEARSAY!!!

Ds: Seems pretty credible, really.

Rs: TRUMP’S PHONE CALL WAS PERFECT!!! HERE’S A COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT!!!

Ds: Well, it’s not really complete, is it. Or even a transcript.

Rs: FAKE NEWS!!! BIDEN’S A CROOK!!!

Ds: We have several career diplomats and foreign service officers who corroborate the whistleblower.

Rs: DEEP STATE TRAITORS!!! NEVER TRUMPERS!!! NO FIRST HAND WITNESSES!!!

Ds: Oh. Okay, here’s a first hand witness.

Rs: HE WAS BORN IN UKRAINE!!! HE SPEAKS UKRANIAN!!! CAN’T BE TRUSTED!!!

Ds: His parents fled Ukraine when he was three to seek freedom. He’s a career military man, a combat veteran who awarded a Purple Heart for his wounds.

Rs: THE HEARINGS ARE HELD IN SECRET!!! WHAT ARE YOU HIDING???!!!

Ds: Republican committee members can attend the hearings and ask questions.

Rs: THERE’S NO FORMAL IMPEACHMENT VOTE!!!

Ds: We don’t need one. But hey, okay, we’ll have a formal vote.

Rs: TOO LATE!!! DEEPSTATETRAITORS!!! WHERE’S THE SERVER???!!! BENGHAZI!!!

Ds: Benghazi?

Rs: WE NEVER SAID BENGHAZI!!! THE TYPEFACE ON THE IMPEACHMENT HEARING RULES IS WRONG!!! STOP THE WITCH HUNT!!! NO MORE SECRET HEARINGS!!!

Ds: We’re going to start holding public hearings.

Rs: !!!???

Ds: I know, right?

Rs: BOOING PRESIDENTS IS RUDE!!! TRUMP KILLED THAT ISIS GUY!!!

Ds: Well, that was the Army, but yeah, we’re glad al-Baghdadi is no longer a…

Rs: STRANGLED HIM WITH HIS BARE HANDS!!! RIPPED OUT HIS LARYNX WITH HIS TEETH!!!

Ds: Uh…

Rs: WITH HIS TEETH!!!

Ds: Uh, I don’t…

Rs: SHUT UP!!! THERE WAS A DOG!!! A DOG!!!

Ds: …

Rs: WE WIN!!! PRAISE JEEBUS!!! MORE GUNS!!! MAGA!!!

senate might do the right thing maybe

An interesting thing happened in the Senate recently. Senator Lindsay Graham, who has the moral courage of a blancmange, said he would ask the Senate for a resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry. That wasn’t the interesting thing, of course. Since the death of his friend John McCain, Graham has morphed into Comrade Trump’s attack poodle — alternately snarling at Trump’s critics and wagging his tail in the hope that Trump will give him a treat.

The interesting thing is what happened after Graham made that announcement. He didn’t get universal Republican support. Let me just say that one more time; Graham DID NOT get total support from Senate Republicans for a resolution condemning the impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives. A month ago, that wouldn’t have happened.

So Graham sort of tempered the resolution. Instead of a savage condemnation of the impeachment itself, Graham presented a request for a more transparent process. And even that watered down version failed to get total support from his Republican colleagues. Only 44 of them signed on.

Lindsey Graham, Republican Attack Poodle, South Carolina.

Granted, that means only nine Republicans refused to go along with the weakened version of Graham’s resolution — but hey, that’s how erosion works. And remember, he offered this resolution AFTER Trump called on Republicans to get tougher against the impeachment process, and AFTER the Republicans in the House staged their Charge of the Lightweight Brigade into the SCIF for pizza. Despite those stunts, nine Senate Republicans still couldn’t bring themselves to support a weak resolution against the impeachment process.

And remember this: we haven’t yet had any public testimony from the most damaging witnesses against Trump.

At this point, it’s almost a certainty that the House will vote to ITMFA. We’ve always assumed Senate Republicans would refuse to vote to convict if Comrade Trump was impeached. That’s still the safe bet. But Graham’s resolution shows some weakening in his support. The thing is, we can be fairly confident that few, if any, of them support Trump because they like him. Or trust him. Or believe in his ability to lead the nation. They support him out of fear and their own self-interest. They know Trump is bleeding support from every sector except evangelical Christians. They also know the only way Trump can win re-election is through a combination of foreign interference, voter suppression, and gerrymandered precincts. They’ve got to be asking themselves if that’ll be enough to save them. Or if they’d be better off to drown him before the election drags them down with him.

Nobody really likes or trusts this loudmouth asshole.

So it’s possible…it’s actually within the realm of possibility…that a combination of public testimony, a corresponding shift in public sentiment, Trump’s own continued erratic and destructive behavior, along with a politician’s cockroach-like sense of self-preservation MIGHT be sufficient to sway enough of those hateful Nazgûl motherfuckers to vote to convict him and remove him from office.

It would be a LOT better if we could count on Senate Republicans to simply do what’s best for the country, but c’mon…that ain’t gonna happen. But maybe we can hope they’ll manage to do the right thing even if it’s for the wrong reasons.

the trash party

There used to be Republicans I disagreed with, but still respected. I could list names, but it doesn’t really matter because that Republican Party no longer exists. It’s gone, it’s history. Republicans with integrity are now creatures of myth.

The Republican Party as it exists today is…well, trash.

I kinda hate saying that. To call someone ‘trash’ has been insulting since the 16th century; even Shakespeare used trash to refer to worthless, contemptible people. But if the adjective fits…well.

It’s not just that the GOP has abandoned an internally consistent conservative ideology (or anything resembling an internally consistent ideology), or that they’ve completely abdicated any interest in governance, or even that they have no respect at all for truth, decency, law, compassion, science, or the U.S. Constitution. I mean, all that is horrible, but that’s not what makes them trash.

What makes them trash is the joy they seem to take in pissing all over the traditions and norms they claim to represent. Wednesday’s stunt was a perfect example. Matt Gaetz pulled together a squad of knuckleheads and decided to interrupt a deposition being held in the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility used for sessions involving issues of national security. Why would they do such a boneheaded thing? There are their stated reasons (all of which are the most rancid types of bullshit) and there are the real reasons.

You can put them in suits, but they’re still trash.

Here’s how Gaetz introduce the event to the media (because of course they alerted the media):

“I’m gathered here with dozens of my congressional colleagues underground in the basement of the Capitol, because if behind those doors they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election, we want to know what’s going on.”

Gaetz got a couple of things right. The basement is underground and the doors to the SCIF were closed. It was underground because that’s where basements are, and the doors were closed because 1) you always close the doors to keep out the noise made by fuckwits in the hallway, and 2) when you’re deposing a witness about issues of national security, the operative term is security. The entire point of holding it the SCIF was because it’s right there in the goddamn name. The information is sensitive.

But the claim that the point of the deposition (and the impeachment hearings) is to ‘overturn the results of an American presidential election‘ is stupid on a galactic scale. Overturning the election would mean Hillary would become president if/when Comrade Trump is impeached and convicted. That won’t happen. We’d end up with Mike Pence. So impeaching Trump is basically like curing Ebola and getting genital herpes. Nobody wants that, but with treatment it’s something we can live with.

Another thing — if Gaetz and his cadre of chucklewits wanted to know what was going on behind those closed doors, all they had to do is ask their Republican colleagues who are attending those sessions. About half of them could have actually attended the deposition if they’d wanted; they sit on committees that are cleared to attend. But there’s no drama in that.

Comrade Trump, Trash-in-Chief

Those are Gaetz’s stated reasons for crashing the SCIF. The real reasons? There are a couple of those. The first is because that’s all they’ve got. Lies and stunts and insults and scams. That’s all the Republican Party is now. A party of head-fakes.

They barely make any pretense at legitimate governance. Legitimate governance requires political parties to propose policies grounded in principle. Different parties have different principles, of course, but the policies would still be directed in good faith toward what the party sincerely believes is the common good of the public.

Principles, good faith, sincerity, common good of the public — that shit is gone from the Republican Party now. It’s been replaced with naked self interest. And even that self interest can be set aside for the perverse glee of publicly ‘owning the libs’. And that’s the second real reason Gaetz and the Chucklewits invaded the SCIF —  because they knew it would piss off Democrats, and because they knew they’d get away with it.

That’s what makes them trash.

wetting the beak

It’s like this. Remember when young Vito Corleone is driving his delivery truck down the street in Little Italy, just trying to make semi-honest living, and suddenly Don Fanucci of the Black Hand swings aboard? And Vito looks at him like “Dude, what the actual fuck are you doing, swinging aboard my goddamn truck? I’m working here.”

Newbie gangster can’t even drive a damn truck without some Black Hand mobster in a white suit slotting in and giving him a ration of shit.

Then Don Fanucci explains. He says:

“Young man, I hear you and your friends are stealing goods. But you don’t even send a dress to my house. No respect! You know I’ve got three daughters. This is my neighborhood. You and your friends should show me some respect. You should let me wet my beak a little… Tell your friends I don’t want a lot. Just enough to wet my beak.”

That’s basically what Comrade Trump did during his phone call with the newly-elected president of Ukraine. But he wasn’t looking for dresses for Ivanka. He was looking for dirt on Joe Biden. And, like Don Fanucci, he didn’t care how President Zelensky came by the dirt — or even if the dirt was true. He just wanted the dirt. According to the ‘transcript’ the White House released to the public, Trump says:

“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot… I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation… I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”

If anything, Comrade Trump was nastier than Don Fanucci. Imagine if Fanucci had said, “Vito, paisan, you got a new baby, you got a nice apartment with a toilet you don’t have to share with neighbors. You want to keep those things, you should wet my beak, capiche?” That’s basically what Trump said in his chat with Zelensky.

Zelensky needed some Javelin missiles — these are portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles — to keep the Russian Army from seizing more Ukrainian territory. Trump basically told him, “Look, you guys got Russians at your gate. You need missiles. I got missiles. You can have those missiles. I’d love to give you those missiles. But first you got to wet my beak.”

Comrade Trump is not your daddy’s mafia don. He’s a cheap imitation, made in China, shoddy construction.

But here’s the thing. In the old mafia movies, they play up the concept of omertà. The Sicilian Mafia code of silence. You don’t rat. Ever. You get caught, you stay quiet. It’s a matter of honor, of discipline, of loyalty. You don’t rat.

Comrade Trump is no mafia don. He has no honor, he has no discipline, he doesn’t inspire loyalty. The Trump administration is comprised entirely of rats-in-waiting. His people aren’t soldati. They’re not made men. They’re sycophants. They’ll turn on Trump in a New York minute to save their own asses.

And like Don Fanucci, Trump will eventually get what’s coming to him. Okay, I admit the analogy breaks down here. Nobody is going to drop Trump the way Vito did Fanucci, and nobody would really want that. But right now the House Judiciary Committee is wrapping a metaphorical towel around a metaphorical revolver and is waiting for a metaphorical Feast of Saint Rocco.