led by a donkey

Okay, then. Let’s face it, when a Republican candidate can grab a reporter by the throat, throw him to the ground and punch him, and still get elected to Congress, it’s time for Republicans to officially change their name from the Republican Party to the Republican Horde. Or, if you prefer, the GOH — the Grand Old Horde.

It’s an appropriate term. horde. It comes from the Turkic and Mongolic term ordu, which originally referred to a nomadic encampment. Over time the term was applied to a roving patriarchal militaristic social system grounded in the concept of raiding for plunder. Raid other nations, raid other cities, raid other tribes, raid related tribes if necessary. Take what you can carry, burn the rest, move on. By the early 1600s, the term horde was used to describe any noisy, unruly, uncivilized gang.

Actual Mongol Horde

We have a president who has no political or religious ideology other than personal profit and self-aggrandizement. We have a president who doesn’t just lie, but whose lies are totally self-serving and are easily revealed as lies. He leads a Republican Horde intent on enriching themselves at the expense of others, with no long-term consideration for the future. Think of the Mongol Hordes, only instead of guys with long mustaches riding on ponies, drinking kumis and airag, and shooting at folks with little bows, it’s white guys in suits sneering at liberal snowflakes. Think of the Dothraki from the Game of Thrones, only instead of brawny, bare-chested warriors, it’s pasty white guys who brag about grabbing women by the pussy while denying them health care.

Republican Horde

Actually, I’m being unfair to Mongols (and probably to Dothraki). The Mongols may have been plunderers and pillagers, but they had some strict codes of behavior. For example, the Yasa forbade Mongols to eat anything in the presence of another without inviting that person to also partake in the food. It also forbade anybody from eating more than his comrades. It insisted any passing wayfarer who arrived during a meal should be allowed to join in the meal without asking permission. Of course, it also demanded that a hunter who let an animal escape during a hunt be beaten with sticks, and that anybody who urinated into a stream be put to death — which seems a wee bit harsh, but those things put the health and welfare of the community at risk.

Republican Horde

I’m inclined to think the folks who belong to the current Republican Horde wouldn’t hesitate to eat in front of the hungry. I think they’d casually deny wayfarers from joining a meal. I think they’d protect a member who let an animal escape during a hunt (so long as the Republican Elders had enough to eat) and they’d probably cheerfully piss in the river — not just because they don’t care who lives downstream, but because it would amuse them.

Republican Horde

There’s a saying often attributed to Genghis Khan:

An army of donkeys led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a donkey.

He might have actually said that, I don’t know. I do know Chabrias, the Athenian general, said something very much like it some fifteen hundred years earlier. I wouldn’t put it past old Genghis to have stolen the line. I’ve no doubt modern Republicans would lift if without a moment of hesitation. It is a good line, after all; I might steal it myself some day. However, it doesn’t apply to the current Republican Horde.

They’ve become an army of donkeys led by another donkey.

what does that tell you?

I read the news every morning while I caffeinate myself. Since it’s the nature of ‘morning’ to arrive frightfully early, while I’m still in a stupor, I tend to follow a general pattern of news-reading. First, I run through my Google News thang, which allows me to rummage through a lot of different news sources. Then I usually read either the local newspaper or the Washington Post. I generally read them both, just not in any particular order. Finally I look at a couple of political blogs. By the time I’m done with those, my coffee is gone and I’m relatively alert.

“I say, I’ve noticed the most curious thing in today’s newspaper.”

I mention all that because of an odd thing I noticed this morning. Almost every news source had a unique headline story about Comrade Trump. Most often the major news venues simply offer a slightly different version of the same news story, but not this morning. The Post had an article suggesting Trump and Dana Rohrbacher were paid by the Russian government. The New York Times had a story claiming the Trump campaign was aware that General Michael Flynn was under investigation for his contacts with Russia even before he was named as Trump’s National Security Adviser. And Reuters had a piece about the frequency of Flynn’s meetings with various Russian diplomats and agents.

There were a couple of other news agencies that had stories about Trump himself or about his campaign, but I don’t recall offhand what they were. The odd thing was that at least half a dozen different news agencies or sources had half a dozen Trump headline stories. All different, but still all about Comrade Trump.

What does that tell you? I’d suggest it tells us there was an organized leak by somebody (or a few somebodies) from an investigative or intelligence agency. I don’t know who — maybe the FBI, maybe the CIA, maybe the NSA. But they gave each news agency a different story, all of which were negative about Comrade Trump.

“No, really? And then what happened?”

Not only that, they leaked all those different stories on the same day. What does that tell you? I’d suggest it tells us they’ve got more negative stories in their pocket. Otherwise they wouldn’t dump them all at once. (Although I suppose it could indicate a single news source who wants to unburden himself before he gets caught and fired.)

Because I try to be fair, I have to admit it’s possible that each of those news venues independently uncovered a different news story about a different facet of Trump-related scandal and coincidentally decided to publish them all on the same day. It’s possible. But I think it’s improbable.

I suspect we’ll see more whisperings in the next week or two.

bottom line

Over the weekend I heard somebody run with the ‘give the guy some time’ defense of Comrade Trump. You’ve surely heard this. “Sure, he’s made some dumb moves, but the bottom line is he’s only been on the job a few months. What do you expect?”

That’s a good question. No, wait…it’s a really stupid question. What do we expect? The guy is the goddamn President of These United States. We shouldn’t have to be concerned about whether he meets some minimal tolerable standard. This isn’t Pass/Fail, for fuck’s sake. But sadly, that’s where we are as a nation. We’re actually forced to ask if Donald J. Trump is capable of meeting the bottom line.

The bottom line. It’s about as perfect an expression of a concept as you could ever want. It literally refers to the final profit and loss figure of any enterprise, which is located on the bottom line on an accounting page. Even the term bottom is absolutely perfect. It’s derived from a Proto-Germanic root word, buthm, meaning the ground, earth, soil, the lowest level. There is nothing below the bottom. 

So, bottom line — what’s the very least we expect from the President of These United States? What are the minimal set of behaviors and beliefs we reckon are acceptable from the person who runs the United States government? A few things immediately come to mind.

Is it true? I dunno. Maybe. Probably. Who can say?

A certain degree of honesty. Nobody expects POTUS to be perfectly honest about everything. There are things that, for security reasons, need to be kept secret. We’re all adults; we know this. We may not always like it, but we understand the need for incidental presidential fibbing. Hell, most of us are even okay with the occasional bald-faced presidential lie IF it’s in the best interest of the nation. But at the same time we expect the president NOT to lie casually. Or frequently. Or blatantly.

Comrade Trump violates that expectation. He lies easily, he lies often, and he lies brazenly — even if the lie is obvious. The scope of the lie doesn’t seem to matter; he lies just as easily about issues of national importance as he does about trivial crap. He’s not just indifferent to the truth; he so indifferent to it that we’re forced to wonder if he’s even aware he’s lying.

That’s unacceptable. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that our president isn’t a habitual liar. The leaders of other nations share that expectation. When it comes to matters of trade or security — not to mention times of international crisis — other national leaders need to be able to trust that the U.S. president isn’t lying his ass off. At this point, nobody can fully trust Comrade Trump will deal honestly with…well, with anybody.

Whaddya mean, I got to listen to Congress? Who elected them to…oh. But still, c’mon.

A basic grasp of how the U.S. government functions. Yeah, government is complex. No single person can be expected to understand every facet of every organization and agency that comprises the U.S. government. But as citizens, we expect the president to have a working knowledge of how our government is supposed to operate.

Comrade Trump violates those expectations. If you google Trump doesn’t you get the following predictive searches:

understand executive orders
understand checks and balances
understand separation of powers

Okay, executive orders are maybe a tad confusing, but the concepts of checks and balances and separation of powers? That’s basic stuff. The first three articles of the U.S. Constitution are devoted to it. You know — three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, the judiciary. None of them is superior to the others, each operates independently, but are held in check by the other two. For example, POTUS can negotiate treaties, but the Senate has to approve them. Congress can make laws, but the courts determine if those laws are constitutional. The courts can send folks to jail, but POTUS has the power to pardon them. POTUS can propose a budget, but Congress decides whether to fund it. Basic stuff, like I said. American kids learn this in middle school or earlier. But they’re a mystery to Comrade Trump.

That’s unacceptable. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that the president should be as familiar with this stuff as your average fifteen year old kid. It’s ridiculous that Comrade Trump has to be periodically reminded what the president can and cannot do. He’s NOT the king — he’s not even the CEO of America Inc. — he’s just the guy who temporarily occupies the office.

Go fuck yourself. Go. And then fuck yourself. In that order.

An elementary notion of decorum. I’m not talking about whether he knows what fork is for the salad. I’m talking about preserving and maintaining the dignity of the office of the President of These United States. In the words of Joe Biden (who, let’s face it, wasn’t always the most decorous and dignified person in the room), it’s a big fucking deal. We expect our president NOT to be a jerk in public. When the president is out and about with his wife, he should be polite to her. It’s none of our business whether or not he loves his wife, but it IS our business that he treats her with respect. When visiting officials and dignitaries arrive at the White House, he should be polite to them. It doesn’t matter if he likes or dislikes Angela Merkel. She’s the Chancellor of Germany — shake her damned hand. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that our president doesn’t disgrace the nation, doesn’t embarrass the citizenry, doesn’t wantonly insult others. It’s not asking too much to expect the president to comport himself a degree of restraint and a certain amount of grace.

Comrade Trump violates those expectations. He’s consistently rude and boorish — to his wife, to his staff, to visiting dignitaries and diplomats, to his predecessors, and to others in general. He’s quick to ridicule folks he disagrees with, to insult his detractors, to disparage anyone he feels is in any way inferior, and to malign anybody he sees as any sort of threat. At the same time, he compliments authoritarian figures and tyrants. He praises Russia’s Putin, Duterte of the Philippines, Turkey’s Erdogan — but he calls President Obama “a bad (or sick) guy” and accused him of “trying to destroy Israel” and being “the worst president in U.S. history” as well as being “weak” and “insane”.

That’s unacceptable. As citizens we deserve a president who isn’t a continuous source of shame and embarrassment. We deserve to be represented by a person who treats others with a modicum of respect. We deserve a president who is self-confident and mature enough to respond to slights and insults with restraint and sensibility. We deserve a president who isn’t a flaming asshole.

Bottom line: he can’t get any lower.

So, here’s the bottom line then. We expect the president to be moderately honest, to be as conversant with the basic functions of the government as a middle school student, and not to be a jerk. We expect him not to pout, not to whine, not to blame others, and not to have tantrums. We expect him NOT to behave like a spoiled child acting out at the Burger King.

Bottom line — we expect the President of These United States to act like a fucking adult.

comrade trump will leave his hat on

You know what’s disheartening? I’ll tell you. The recently published Reuters interview with Comrade Trump. Wait, let me amend that. Any interview with Comrade Trump. Hell, let me amend that again — any interview with almost anybody about Comrade Trump. They’re all disheartening, and they’re disheartening for the same reason.

Here’s the reason: Trump is a fuckwit. An arrogant fuckwit. An arrogant fuckwit who is unaware of his own arrogance and fuckwittery. There’s not even a word to describe the staggering degree of arrogant fuckwittery the man exhibits.

For example, this from the Reuters interview:

“This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

He thought it would be easier. He thought being President of These United States would be easier than running a branding chop shop from Trump Tower. He’s surprised to find running an entire nation is more work than his previous gig. Jeebus Pericles, that is just so completely fucking astonishing. And what makes it even worse is the undeniable fact that Trump’s doing a shitty goddamn job of it. The job is harder than he thought and he’s not even doing it well. It’s not just that Comrade Trump is fumbling around in the dark without a flashlight. It’s that he’s so woefully unprepared that he doesn’t even know flashlights exist.

Not sure why it’s so dark in here.

Worse still, Trump can’t be bothered to listen to the folks who know anything about flashlights. Six days — six days — after he took office he dismissed entire senior staff of the State Department. Almost none of them have been replaced. In March he fired about half of the 93 U.S. Attorneys — the chief federal law enforcement officers within a particular jurisdiction. None of them have been replaced.

Every so often Comrade Trump acknowledges that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing. Health care? “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Nobody except anybody who’d spent five minutes thinking about health care. North Korea? “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy.” Imagine what he might have learned if he’d managed to listen for fifteen minutes. NATO? “They asked me about NATO and I said ‘NATO is obsolete’ not knowing much about NATO. Now I know a lot about NATO.” No. No, you do NOT know a lot about NATO. You only know a little bit more about NATO than you did before, because before you knew nothing at all. A little bit more just seems like a lot when you’re completely fucking ignorant.

Tomorrow is Comrade Trump’s hundredth day in office. It takes about a hundred days for most presidents (not counting William Henry Harrison, who died after 32 days in office) to gain their footing and develop their stride. Not Trump. Trump’s still stumbling. In the dark, sans flashlight. All he’s really succeeded in doing in these hundred days is to scatter glass all over the floor. Because he likes the sound it makes when it shatters.

Pretty soon he’ll probably decide to take off his shoes.

the news — it ain’t for sissies

See, here’s the problem: there’s just too much shit happening. I have some very simple and very general criteria for selecting topics for this blog. They include (but are most certainly not limited to) the following:

  • shit I find amusing
  • shit I find infuriating
  • shit that alarms me
  • shit engages my interest or curiosity
  • shit that makes no sense
  • shit I think people ought to be thinking about but aren’t
  • shit that usually makes sense but doesn’t in this particular instance
  • shit that’s hilarious
  • shit that makes me want to punch somebody in the throat
  • shit that ought to be in the news but isn’t

It used to be I could read the news in the morning and it was usually fairly easy to pick out one or two things that fit several of those criteria. And then I’d think about that thing for a bit, then start banging out words in a row. Easy peasy Socrates-y. It was all blue sky and fair winds.

But then Comrade Trump got sort of elected. Now everything is happening all at once, and all the time. Shit has got out of hand, so to speak. Now I read the news and I’m screaming “Bank left! Bank left! Don’t turn this corner, Rick!” Now I read the news and what I see is this:

  • shit I find interesting, but alarming and infuriating, that makes no sense, but is somehow hilarious and yet makes me want to punch somebody in the throat.

Shit has become complicated. I’m talking about shit like this: Devin Nunes steps down from simultaneously leading and deliberately undermining the House investigation into Comrade Trump’s multitudinous connections with Russian agents who actively engaged in dozens of covert and illegal operations designed to subvert the U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump after it is revealed he (and we’re back to Nunes here) willfully misled the public and the members of his investigative committee about information he secretly obtained that he claimed supported Trump’s unfounded claim that he’d been illegally wiretapped by President Obama (but which didn’t actually support that claim at all), said information which came from White House operatives (one of whom apparently used to work for Nunes) whose names he refused to release.

And that’s just Nunes. Hell, that’s just Nunes on one particular day. Toss in similar news items about Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and just about every venal sumbitch on Trump’s Cabinet of Nazgûl PLUS the fact that Comrade Trump can’t seem to go for more than about 75 minutes without doing or saying something that’s so profoundly ridiculous/incompetent/offensive it makes your eyes water — and hey, it’s sort of paralyzing.

It used to be that I read the news in the morning and I felt informed. Now I read the news and I feel like I’ve escaped after taking fire from all directions. I feel like plucky Flying Officer Terry Waine — I’ve made it through today’s bombing run, but the fuselage is rapidly shredding around me and flames have erupted in the cockpit. And I still have to turn back and try to rescue Boots.

And then, after I crash-land back at base, I’ll have to do it all again tomorrow. It’s exhausting, is what it is.

nunesghazi

In the constellation of Republican Fuckwittery, Devin Nunes has always been among the dimmest of stars. It’s not because he’s stupid, it’s — wait, let me rephrase that. It’s not just because he’s stupid, it’s also because until recently he’d never done anything worth anybody’s notice.

Nunes was your basic Republican Drone — anti-science, climate change denier, anti-choice, Koch Brothers addict, anti-tax, anti-Planned Parenthood, pro-Citizens United. Very pro-Citizens United. So pro, in fact, he supported the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, which made it harder for the IRS to discover the names of donors to so-called “social welfare” nonprofit groups, which made it easier for funds from foreign sources (like, for example, Russia) to be used to covertly influence U.S. election politics.

But in 2015, that began to change. Based on his education (he has a B.S. in agricultural business and an M.S. in agriculture) and his extensive experience (he was appointed to be the California State Director for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development section) Nunes was selected to become the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

And lawdy, that boy has made a name for himself now. Let’s take a look at how Nunes has distinguished himself recently, shall we?

  • Served on Comrade Trump’s presidential transition team.
  • Announced the intelligence community had no evidence of contact between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team.
  • Rejected calls for him to subpoena Trump’s tax returns to determine if there were financial ties to Russia.
  • Rejected demands for a House select committee to conduct an investigation into the Trump-Russia connection, saying “There’s nothing there.”
  • Called Michael T. Flynn, Comrade Trump’s National Security Adviser “the best intelligence officer of his time.”
  • After Michael T. Flynn resigned due to lying about his ties to Russia, said the Intelligence Committee wouldn’t investigate Flynn’s ties to Russia because, “From everything that I can see, his conversations with the Russian ambassador — he was doing this country a favor, and he should be thanked for it.”
  • Defends Comrade Trump’s tweets about his ‘wires being tapped’ illegally by President Obama.
  • Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on the intelligence committee, is hired by the White House counsel’s office to work on national security matters.
  • Admits there’s no evidence Obama illegally wiretapped Trump.
  • Says maybe there’s evidence Obama illegally wiretapped Trump.
  • Holds Intelligence Committee hearing at which FBI Director James Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers (Director of the National Security Agency, Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, and Chief of the Central Security Service) say Trump was not wiretapped.
  • Visits a source at the White House (wait, where is Michael Ellis working now?) who shows him a report stating the Obama administration may have accidentally captured communications between Russians and Trump and/or his associates.
  • Informs Comrade Trump about the report.
  • Announces the report to the news media at an impromptu press conference.
  • Remembers he’s the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and informs them of the report. Promises they’ll get to see the report.
  • Admits to everybody that the report stated the surveillance was legal and focused on Russian operatives, not Trump or Trump’s advisers, or the Trump transition team.
  • States he won’t reveal the name of his source, not even to other members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (Wasn’t there somebody who worked for Nunes on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who recently got a job at the White House?)
  • Fails to produce the report under question to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Cancels a scheduled public hearing with James Clapper (former Director of National Intelligence), John Brennan (former C.I.A. director), and Sally Yates (recently fired Acting Attorney General, who warned the Trump administration about Michael T. Flynn, the also recently fired former National Security Adviser).
  • Tells reporters “Nothing has been canceled. Everything is moving forward.”
  • Tells reporters there’s no reason for him to recuse himself from the investigation.

Let’s face it, Nunes is a fuck-up. He’s unqualified to lead this investigation and he’s a fuck-up. He’s a partisan hack whose hackery is limited because he’s a fuck-up. He’s a fuck-up who was out of his league when he was the California State Director for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development section.

Wait, let’s let Brando have the last word on Devin Nunes:

it ain’t hoo-ha

I have been unreasonably and uncharacteristically busy for the last couple of weeks. There’s been SO much to rant about and so little time for any serious (or semi-serious, or even farcical) ranting. As much as I’m capable of actually hating anything, I hate being too busy to have fun.

But I’m never too busy to read the news — and I have a very broad definition of news. Sometimes it includes Vanity Fair, and this morning I read an article by Graydon Carter entitled The Trump Presidency Is Already A Joke. Carter (who, by the way, has hair that’s as architectural as Trump’s, but where Trump’s hair is Escher-esque, Carter’s is more Frank Gehry) makes the fairly obvious argument that Comrade Trump is a cartoon figure rather than an earnest administrator, but at the end of the third paragraph he writes something astonishing.

The thing is, if Trump has made any sort of arrangement with the Russians—Kremlin, oligarchs, F.S.B., Mob, or any combination of the four—to drop the Obama-era sanctions in return for past favors, the hoo-ha surrounding his Russian connections now makes that almost impossible to deliver. Whatever support he has received from the Russians over the years presumably came with promises of a payback. If Trump can’t follow through on this, he might be in serious trouble.

Let me offer a different perspective on what ‘the thing is’. The thing is that if those sentences were written about anybody in political life OTHER than Trump, they would have been written as part of a political obituary. That’s what the thing is — that Comrade Trump, after just a couple of months in office, has so eroded the concept of integrity in government that a comment about the president’s possible collusion with a foreign power is relegated to the third paragraph.

Let’s just take a moment and unpack what Carter wrote.

…if Trump has made any sort of arrangement with the Russians—Kremlin, oligarchs, F.S.B., Mob, or any combination of the four…

Shorter version: if Trump committed treason with Russia.

…to drop the Obama-era sanctions in return for past favors…

S.V.: by accepting a bribe.

…the hoo-ha surrounding his Russian connections now makes that almost impossible to deliver.

Not so S.V.: The multiple investigations by Congress, the FBI, and the Treasury Department, coupled with the long-overdue increased scrutiny by news agencies have hosed Trump’s ability to follow through on his treasonable arrangement.

Whatever support he has received from the Russians over the years presumably came with promises of a payback.

S.V.: Putin expects to get his beak wet.

If Trump can’t follow through on this, he might be in serious trouble.

S.V.: Putin will cut a bitch.

Of course, it’s not just Trump who’ll be in serious trouble. And it’s not just his coterie of greedheads and fascist ideologues, who’ll be in serious trouble. These United States will be in serious trouble. Hell, These United States ARE in serious trouble. No matter what happens now, Putin wins. The very fact that this fuckwit occupies the Oval Office has compromised the integrity of the U.S. and undermined our confidence in democracy.

The most ridiculous facet of this tectonic mess is that it’s entirely possible — even probable — that Putin played Comrade Trump for a chump. It’s possible/probable Trump just saw collusion with Russia as a business arrangement that would give him an edge over his competitors, not as treason. It’s possible/probable that Trump fell victim to the old gambler’s adage: if you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you’re the sucker.

In the past, Trump has always been able to stroll away from a bad deal. When he fails, he declares bankruptcy or gets a loan from his family or enters an arrangement with some dodgy financier. You don’t get to walk away from Putin. I’m not saying Putin is Keyser Söze. He’s more like Keyser Söze’s younger brother. The respectable member of the Söze clan. Keyser Söze in a suit and tie. When he’s not riding bare-chested on a fucking horse.

Graydon Carter ends his article with this bit of bullshit:

Trump’s legacy and that of his family could end up in tatters. The self-lauded Trump brand may well wind up as toxic as the once self-lauded brand of another New York-Palm Beach family: the Madoffs.

Trump’s legacy. The only people who give a rat’s nasty ass about the Trump legacy are people named Trump.

I’m pleased the editor of Vanity Fair is already writing about the end of the Trump presidency. But I wish he wouldn’t minimize the scope and magnitude of Trump’s transgressions. Even if he was played for a chump, Donald Trump is still personally responsible for seriously degrading and corrupting the office of the President of These United States, and for casually pissing on the very idea of governance.

That ain’t hoo-ha.