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.

faith, hope, and tax exempt charity

You guys, I’m a tad confused about this latest — well, one of the latest — scandal involving Comrade Trump and some really trashy shit. I’m talking about Trump being forced to cough up a couple million US dollars in damages for “misusing funds from a tax-exempt charity.” Here’s what confuses me: I’m not sure which particular charity scam is involved.

Is this the ‘charity’ Trump founded with the millions of dollars given to him by the guy who runs (or ran…does he still run it…did he ever really run it…does it still exist? I have no idea) the Global Fake Wrestling Event of the World (or whatever it’s called) and whose wife was appointed by Trump to run the Small Business Administration? Or is it the ‘charity’ that held events at various Trump golf resorts to raise money to help kids with cancer, while it was actually pouring the cash into the resorts themselves or was redirecting the cash to other ‘charities’ connected to Trump’s family or business interests?

“Look, I’m trying to be nice here. But get your sticky fuckin’ hands off my desk, okay?”

Maybe it doesn’t matter which charity scam Comrade Trump is being punished for. The important thing is he won’t be able to do it again. Well, not in the State of New York. In addition to fining Trump, the judge also forced him to “submit to extra monitoring of any future charitable activities in New York” in order to prevent future “persistent violations of the law.”

You guys, how bad is it that the President of These United States can’t even be trusted to run a charity to help kids with cancer? Pretty fucking bad, is how bad.

In the dimension of time and space we used to inhabit, something like this would signal the end of a president’s administration. But here in the Trumpverse, it’ll be replaced by another scandal in…oh, maybe about forty minutes. And then it’ll be forgotten.

All we can do is bow our heads and pray to the Sweet Bearded God of Goats to have mercy on us and burn this whole motherfucker down to the topsoil.

Or, you know, we could vote.

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!!!

buy me some peanuts & impeach the motherfucker already

Comrade Trump doesn’t really like ordinary people. He likes to keep his distance from them. He only eats in the White House or at one of his own hotels, and with guests he invites. He only plays golf on his own golf courses, also with guests he invites. The only crowds he encounters are those at his rallies, where he knows he’ll get cheers and unconditional support. As much as possible, Trump avoids coming into contact with people who haven’t been carefully selected and approved in advance.

Until last night.

Last night he attended game five of the World Series. He’d spent most of the day being celebrated and celebrating himself for having given the order for a Delta Force team to kill or capture Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Clearly, he expected that celebration to continue at the ballpark.

It didn’t.

Some fans displayed a large banner reading “Impeach Trump”. A group of veterans behind home plate held up signs stating “Veterans for Impeachment.” When the park introduced some members of the military, the crowd began to cheer — but when the introduction included Comrade Trump, the cheering immediately turned to boos. Loud boos, measured at around 100 decibels. That’s just slightly less loud than a chainsaw. And if that wasn’t enough, a large segment of the crowd began chanting “Lock him up! Lock him up!”

Watching Trump’s face change at the moment he realizes he’s being booed was almost painful. I’d have felt sorry for him if he wasn’t such an awful person who’s done so many awful things to so many people.

The moment Comrade Trump realizes the cheers for the troops had turned to boos for him.

A lot of conservatives and pundits DID feel sorry for him. They chided the fans who booed, and chastised the people who applauded the booing. Joe Scarborough, who as much as any pundit is responsible for normalizing Trump’s pre-election behavior, tweeted the following:

This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what happened. When crowds at a Trump rally chanted “Lock her up!” that was an orchestrated chant advocating the imprisonment of a political opponent. When fans at the World Series chanted “Lock him up!” that was a spontaneous reaction from ordinary people defying a lawless president and wanting him to be held accountable for his crimes.

The people upset by the chants and boos at the ballpark seem to believe Comrade Trump needs to be enclosed in a safe, dissent-free bubble at all times. Worse, those people seem to believe he actually deserves that.

Those people are frightfully fucked up. But they are a perfect example of a serious socio-political problem. Right now we have a president, backed by a political party, who maintain the president should not — and, in fact, cannot — be held accountable for any of his actions while he holds office. And we have an opposition — a resistance — who the president and his party believe should be constrained by tradition, by courtesy, and by law from even attempting to hold him accountable. That’s a wild-ass asymmetrical use of power.

But here’s the thing: there’s more of us than there are of them. Comrade Trump made the mistake of showing his face in public. He almost certainly won’t do that again. But everybody saw what happened when he did. And nobody is going to forget it. That includes Republicans in the Senate.

A few days ago I wrote that it’s possible — not probable, but possible — that the Senate might actually vote to convict Trump after he’s been impeached by the House. What happened last night, on what should have been Comrade Trump’s biggest and best day of his presidency, is going to lurk in the minds of those senators like Freddie fucking Krueger on meth.

And they should be afraid.

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.

walking a post

This is small beans compared to his betrayal of the Kurds, but this morning Comrade Trump is putting the full range of his inadequacies as Commander-in-Chief on display. I’m talking about this tweet:

Two things. First, we do NOT train our boys…wait, three things. First, what’s with this ‘our boys’ bullshit? It’s not as if either of your boys (or either of your daughters, for that matter, or even your own vile self) was patriotic enough to put on the uniform and walk a post. I’m going to come back to this ‘walk a post’ business in a bit.

Second, we do NOT train troops to be killing machines, and we don’t want them to be that. We train them to kill, yes, because that’s always a fundamental facet of military duty. But we impose careful restrictions — rules of engagement — about when and where troops are allowed to kill the enemy. The fact is, indiscriminate killing doesn’t aid in any military objective. Unauthorized killing is a crime, even in the military. In fact, the Uniformed Code of Military Justice is clear that troops are only required to follow lawful orders.

Walking a post.

Third, the very reason Maj. Golsteyn is being tried for murder is BECAUSE he killed somebody in an unlawful way. Here’s what we know happened, and what we suspect happened. We know Golsteyn, a Green Beret, was leading an operation combined with Marine forces during the battle of Marja. We know two Marines were killed and three others were wounded by an explosive device while breaching a doorway. We know they detained the man suspected of making that bomb, and that the materials to make bombs were found in his possession. We know Golsteyn and his unit took the suspect back to their base.

We also know Golsteyn (and others) later took the man off base and killed him. We suspect they buried him in the traditional shallow grave, then returned later, dug up the body, and burned it. We know/suspect this because Golsteyn has admitted it — first to CIA interviewers and later on FOX News. The reason we say ‘suspect‘ is because Golsteyn’s lawyer maintains the killing, the burial, the disinterment, and the burning were part of a fantasy.

We also know this: during the fight in Marja Golsteyn proved himself a hero in other ways. He helped track down a sniper targeting his troops, he helped save a wounded Afghan soldier, and he coordinated multiple airstrikes. He was initially awarded a Silver Star for those actions — and that was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, which is the second highest medal of valor, just below the Medal of Honor.

I totally understand why Golsteyn wanted to kill the guy. But it’s a violation of every code and law of war to summarily execute prisoners. The fact is, a person can behave heroically AND illegally. The heroism may mitigate the illegality but it doesn’t expunge it. Golsteyn, a hero, isn’t being prosecuted for killing the enemy; he’s being prosecuted for illegally killing a man.

Comrade Trump is incapable of understanding that. And let’s face it, he doesn’t really care about Golsteyn. He doesn’t really care about the battle of Marja or the dead bombmaker. He’s only making a cheap demonstration to suggest he’s ‘for’ the troops, and to insinuate that anybody who disagrees with him is somehow ‘against’ them. His tweet is entirely self-serving.

Standing a post.

Okay, walking a post. Civilians will probably wonder what the hell that even means. Allow me to ‘splain. There are eleven general orders all troops in every branch of the military are required to learn. They all concern the duty of walking a post. Here are the general orders:

  1. To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
  2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
  3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
  4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guard house than my own.
  5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.
  6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me all orders from the commanding officer, field officer of the day, officer of the day, and officers and petty officers of the watch.
  7. To talk to no one except in line of duty.
  8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
  9. To call the petty officer of the watch in any case not covered by instructions.
  10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
  11. To be especially watchful at night, and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.

Walking a post.

This is basic stuff, but it demonstrates the concept of military duty. I mean, that’s a LOT of stuff to remember considering all you’re really doing is staying awake, walking around, and keeping an eye open for anything out of the ordinary. It’s dull, thankless work, but it has to be done. And take careful note of general order five: to quit my post only when properly relieved. That means IF you’re walking a post and you’re unlucky enough to have some ugly shit come down on you — an enemy attack, a fire starts, an explosion happens, a swarm of killer bees arrives, a tornado drops on you — you’re expected to stay right there at your post and just deal with it. Let me repeat that: you’re expected to stay there and deal with it. That’s your duty. That’s your job.

That guy you see in the movies, the one with the binoculars who’s scanning the horizon line? He’s walking a post. That guy you see walking back and forth in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? He’s walking a post. That guy you see apparently wandering around a barracks yard at three in the goddamn morning? He’s walking a post.

Walking a post.

On every military installation in the world, every minute of every hour of every day of the year, regardless of the weather and circumstance, you’ve got some poor bastard doing his duty, walking a post. Because that’s what it takes to keep your people safe.

Keeping people safe is also the duty of the President of the United States. Comrade Trump is derelict in his duty.

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.