first you catch a tuna

See, this is exactly what happens when you elect somebody whose arrogance is fueled by ignorance. You end up with a president who makes bad decisions about problems he doesn’t understand, without any awareness of the consequences.

As late as one hour before the decision was to be announced, administration officials privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind, according to a person familiar with their thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity without authorization to comment on it.

This particular quote from The New York Times is about Comrade Trump’s DACA decision, but it applies to just about every important decision he’s made in his time in office entire career. As a businessman, Trump was used to entering negotiations, telling folks what he wanted, then wandering off feeling self-satisfied while his crew of lawyers and managers banged out the details and tried to find ways to implement some/most of what Trump wanted. If it worked, Trump assumed it worked because he was a savvy negotiator; if it didn’t work, then it was the fault of his staff.

“Nobody understands the system better than me.” For Trump, the ‘system’ is this: “I want a thing done; somebody go do that thing.” He apparently thought that would work just as well in government. Obamacare? Crime? International trade? Immigration? North Korea? When Comrade Trump said “I alone can fix it” what he actually meant was “I’ll tell my people to handle it.”

I think Trump is legitimately surprised to discover that ‘his people’ can’t just handle stuff for him in government. I suspect he really assumed that if he told his people — in this case, the Republican Congress — he wanted a health care bill, that it would just happen. Remember this? “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” It’s NOT complicated if all you do is say “I want this thing done.” Remember when Comrade Trump had dinner with Chinese president Xi Jinping and suggested China should lean on North Korea to stop missile testing? I suspect he actually believe China would act as ‘his people’ and, you know, do something, after which missile testing would just stop.

For his entire life, I believe Trump has simply assumed ‘managing’ meant ‘giving orders’. If he wanted a tunafish sandwich, all he had to do was say “Fetch me a tunafish sandwich.” He didn’t have to think about the person whose job it was to make the sandwich. In fact, it probably never would have occurred to him that before the tunafish sandwich process could even begin somebody had to go out on a boat and catch a goddamn tuna.

A tuna is a massive fish. The average size of a bluefin tuna? Six and a half feet. Somebody has to catch the big bastards, somebody has to take them apart, somebody has to process them and jam them into a tiny can. Somebody has to make that can. Hell, somebody has to mine the metal necessary to make the can. Somebody has to take those cans of tuna from the processing plant and deliver them to markets. Somebody has to grow and harvest the wheat to make the bread for the sandwich.

If you bother with the details, you realize that making a tunafish sandwich is incredibly complex. A tunafish sandwich costs millions of dollars.

Comrade Trump has made a decision affecting the lives of 800,000 young men and women whose parents entered the U.S. without proper documentation with the same level of concern and attention that we give to ordering a tunafish sandwich at the local deli. That’s reprehensible.

Editorial Note: Yes, I know ‘tunafish’ is properly ‘tuna fish’. And yes, I know ‘tuna fish’ is redundant since there aren’t any non-fish tuna. But I like tunafish as one word, and there it is.

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no effect at all

Last night Comrade Trump once again inflicted himself on the public. He read a speech (and damn, it’s physically painful to watch that guy struggle with the written word — and it’s pathetic how often the written word exceeds his ability to read it) in which he gave a vague outline of an approach to the colossal ongoing fuck-up in Afghanistan.

But let’s ignore the excruciating delivery of last night’s speech. Let’s also ignore the lies and bullshit peppered throughout the speech (though the lies and bullshit are deserving of attention). Let’s just look at Trump’s central point:

We will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.

Yeah, no, none of that is going to happen. We won’t break their will. The British didn’t; they fought three wars against various Afghan factions over a period of 80 years — from 1839 to 1919 — and never broke their will. The Russians didn’t; they fought a really brutal war against the Afghans for almost a decade — from 1979 to 1989 — and never broke their will. The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001 — nearly sixteen years — and we haven’t broken their will yet. It just ain’t gonna happen. We need to accept that reality.

And no, we won’t dry up their recruitment. An ongoing war that’s often depicted as a war against Islam is, by its very nature, a self-sustaining recruitment campaign. The fact that Comrade Trump his ownself reinforces the notion that it’s a war against Islam only bolsters their recruitment. We need to accept that reality too.

And no, we won’t keep them (whoever they are) from crossing our borders. Even if we enact some truly abhorrent and draconian immigration laws, it’s impossible to fully protect the borders of the U.S. The border with Mexico is about two thousand miles long; the border with Canada is about twice that. And those are just the land borders. Getting into the U.S. is even easier from the sea. One more reality we need to accept.

Acceptance doesn’t mean we should give up. It just means we need to set realistic goals. It’s stupid to make public statements that we’re going to absolutely do something we absolutely can’t do. So no, we won’t keep them from crossing out borders, we won’t dry up their recruitment, and we won’t break their will. All of which is to say no, we won’t defeat them either, no matter what Trump might say.

There are a LOT of reasons why the U.S. can’t win a war in Afghanistan, but there’s one overarching reason — and it’s actually something Comrade Trump alluded to in his speech (well, the speech somebody wrote for him). He said the U.S. cannot allow our Afghan enemies to:

…believe they can wait us out.

But they already believe they can wait us out. And they’re right. They can wait us out. The same way they’ve waited out every attempt to invade and conquer the region over the last couple of thousand years. There’s a reason Afghanistan is known by historians as the ‘graveyard of empires’.

Alexander the Great invaded it some three hundred years before the Common Era and managed to hold parts of it…for a while. Genghis Khan did the same in the 13th Century and managed to rule parts of it…for a while. Tamerlane did the same a century later, and the Mogul emperors after that, and the Sikhs after that. They all held various bits and chunks of the territory…for a while. Then the British noodled in, and we know what happened to them. Then the Russians. Now the U.S. is there.

Same shit, different invader. In almost every invasion, the Afghan tribes have been outgunned, out-technologied, out-resourced, and often out-fought. But they’ve never been out-waited. Never.

Why? Because they’re operating on a radically different understanding of time and place than the invaders. They live there. They know the invaders, regardless of who they are or where they’re from, will eventually want to leave. The simple fact is the Afghans don’t need to win; they only need to persist. If it takes a generation or two of low intensity guerrilla warfare until their enemies get fed up and find a reason to go home, they’re okay with that. They’ve done it before.

“Afghans will secure and build their own nation, and define their own future.”

That’s from Trump’s speech, and it’s a classic case of stupidity fed by willful blindness. The Afghans have been securing and building their own nation for a couple thousand years. They are defining their future. Right now that definition includes killing U.S. and NATO troops and booting us out of their country. There’s yet another reality we need to accept.

Trump read a speech — he read it very badly, not that it matters — and that speech will have as much effect on the outcome of the Afghanistan conflict as his troop increase. No effect at all, except to extend the pain a bit farther into the future.

The world has changed, of course. The U.S. isn’t going to suffer any apocalyptic Retreat from Kabul, we’re not going to face any Battle of Maiwand. We’re just going to face a slow episodic bleed — and the bleeding will be contained within the small proportion of the citizenry that volunteers to serve in the military. Which means most folks won’t care.

So there it is. No effect at all.

many sides

The president — and man, I cannot tell you how it sickens me to refer to that colossal lying fuckwit as ‘the president’ — said this in response to the violence in Charlottesville yesterday:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

Fuck you. Fuck you from many sides. Only one side decided to gather at Charlottesville to champion hate and white supremacy. Only one side arrived carrying firearms and wearing military gear. Only one side carried flags made infamous by genocide, and flags made infamous by lynching and church-bombing and racial assassination. For that matter, only one side wore MAGA hats. The truth that only one side instigated the violence is so obvious that to dispute it is, in effect, to support and promote the violence. Which is exactly what the president did. So fuck you, Trump, fuck you and your lies about many sides.

There was only one side that Made America Ashamed Again. That side could be represented by Vanguard America, a group devoted to what they call ‘American fascism.’ Those polo-shirted fuckwits toting tiki torches and shouting “Blood and soil” on Friday night? They were chanting the motto of Vanguard America. This group advocates one side supremacy. Given the power, they wouldn’t allow many sides to even exist. The Vanguard America manifesto specifically calls for an:

America based on the immutable truths of Blood and Soil. A multicultural nation is no nation at all, but a collection of smaller ethnic nations ruled over by an overbearing tyrannical state. Our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed.

The most powerful nation, there’s the clue. Not the greatest nation, not the most civilized, not the most free, not a nation of many sides, not the most open or the most welcoming nation. The most powerful. You know who wants the most powerful nation? People who are afraid. People who are afraid and want to dominate those they’re afraid of. People who hate. People who drive muscle cars (of course, it would be a muscle car) into a crowd of peaceful protesters.

James Alex Fields, the driver of that car, was associated with Vanguard America. They deny he was a member, of course, despite the fact he was photographed with the group yesterday, carrying a Vanguard shield and dressed in their usual Vanguard-emblazoned white polo shirt and khaki pants. Have you noticed how often groups that espouse the belief that only one side is legitimate tend to wear uniforms?

Blood and soil. Only one side at Charlottesville was eager to spill blood on the soil.

Me, I like a many-sided world. I love a many-sided world. I may not like or agree with some of those sides, but a many-sided world is a healthier, a more vital and a more interesting world. Yet the only time Trump and his hate group supporters refer to many sides is when they’re trying to diffuse responsibility, when they’re trying to spread the blame, when they’re trying to dodge their own culpability.

Trump is culpable. Not for the racism or white supremacy or hate itself, but for nurturing and encouraging racism and white supremacy and hate. He created a petri dish of racial resentment and gender hostility and class rage that spawned what happened over the last couple of days in Charlottesville. He didn’t drive that car into the crowd, but he helped create an environment that made it possible for James Alex Fields to do it.

 

in which i explain why i call him comrade trump

Hey, you guys! Remember when something like forty-seven hundred different United States intelligence services said Russia interfered with the presidential election and Vlad Putin said, “Nuh uh” and Donald Trump believed Putin? Is Trump a fucking idiot or what? (Hint: he is a fucking idiot.)

And remember just a few days ago when the U.S. Senate voted 98-2 to sanction Russia for interfering with the presidential election, and Donald Trump said, “Oh, c’mon, stop picking on Russia, leave Brittney Putin alone!” but signed the bill anyway on account of he’s a weasel? And he did it in private, which is really really unusual because Donald Trump just loves to sign things in front of an audience? Remember that, you guys?

And also too, you guys, remember like a day or two ago when Brittney Putin decided to expel 755 people from the American embassy and consulate staff in Russia on account of the U.S. Senate voted 98-2 (ninety-fucking-eight to two!) to sanction Russia for interfering with the presidential election, and Donald Trump totally thanked Brittney for punishing the U.S. embassy in Russia?

You guys, listen you guys, people ask me, they say “Hey, Greg, why do you call him Conrad Trump?” and I have to explain it’s not Conrad, it’s Comrade, and then they want to know why I call him Comrade.

You guys, this is why I call him Comrade Trump. On account of he’s deep in the pocket of Russian oligarchs, on account of he’s smitten with Putin the Strongman, on account of he was elected only through the assistance of the Russian government, and on account of given a choice between standing up for the U.S. or sitting in the lap of Russia, Trump always — every fucking time — chooses Russia.

Every. Fucking. Time. So, that’s why. In case you were wondering (you were totally wondering, weren’t you).

anatomy of a sinkhole

It works like this: water soaks into the ground — maybe through rainfall, maybe through a leak in a water main, the source doesn’t matter. If the bedrock beneath the ground is soluble, like limestone or gypsum, then the rock begins to dissolve. This creates a cavity — a hollow space under the ground. That hollow space may begin to fill up with water. Over time the cavity grows; the weight of the soil itself and any structures above ground causes the ground to collapse.

Boom — you’ve just lost your house and your new Ford pickup.

Now imagine this. The bedrock is the United States. Russia is deliberately leaking the water. Comrade Trump and his Government of Nazgûl comprise the cavity. Democracy is the house. You’re the Ford pickup.

A lot of people think Russia’s goal in colluding with the Trump campaign was to get him elected. It wasn’t. Their goal was to undermine democracy by eroding and weakening the bedrock. They only needed to incrementally increase the level of vitriol and hate and suspicion among the electorate in order to create a less stable United States. The fact that Trump was elected was, I suspect, an unanticipated dividend. Regardless of who eventually got elected, Russia would have succeeded just by injecting more acidic water into the bedrock.

Here’s the good news: sinkholes can be repaired. The process requires a lot of work, but is fairly simple.

  1. Clean the area. Remove any trash, rubbish, and other debris from the depression.
  2. Determine the extent of the hole by careful excavation and probing.
  3. Incrementally fill the depression with clean fill soil that has a high amount of clay and low amount of sand. Do NOT use gravel or rock as fill, because water will trickle through the gaps and create another sinkhole.
  4. Continue this process until the depression is filled in.

It’s to be hoped that the bulk of this work will be done by Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel in charge of the Russia investigation. But it would help if Congress would get off its ass and do its job. It would also help if Republicans stopped chucking gravel and rock into the hole.

 

a roach in the spaghetti

Yeah, it’s not treason. This is treason: 18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Do you see the problem? Did Comrade Trump Jr. levy war against the U.S.? Nope. Did he adhere to any enemies? Nope. Adhere, in this context, basically means ‘join’. Did he give aid or comfort to the enemy? Nope, not really. Aid and comfort — that phrase doesn’t have any strict legal meaning, but in general it’s about giving (or even making an attempt to give) some sort of substantial assistance or material support. Trump the Lesser is a despicable creature, but he didn’t commit treason.

Nevertheless, you could make a solid argument that Comrade Trump Jr. is still a traitor. A traitor, after all, is just somebody who betrays their country. Colluding with Russia to influence the election makes him a traitor, even if he didn’t commit treason.

This oleaginous, French-cuffed fuckwit cannot be trusted.

I’ve heard some folks arguing that all Trump Jr. was doing was gathering opposition research. Balderdash (this is a wonderful word, by the way; it was originally an Elizabethan term for a jumbled mix of liquors — you know, like at a party when folks pour three kinds of wine, some beer, and half a bottle of gin into a bowl and call it ‘punch’ or something. When you drink balderdash, you speak balderdash).

Okay, I got distracted there. As I was saying, balderdash. I’ll even add an exclamation point here, because it’s warranted. Balderdash! Opposition research is a sleazy but common practice. What Comrade Trump the Lesser did was sleazy, but not at all common.

It’s important to remember that Putin wasn’t supporting Trump the Elder because he thought he’d be a good president. He wasn’t really supporting Trump at all. He was just fucking with the electoral system in order to destabilize the U.S. If Russia could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral process, then that would weaken the authority of the next president, regardless of who got elected.

Let’s not forget, Russia didn’t just illegally obtain and distribute emails. They also invented and promoted false narratives. Like that Pizzagate bullshit. Like the bullshit about Hillary Clinton’s health, or her relationship with her aide. They flooded social media with bots that promoted bullshit stories. Putin-Russia deployed a LOT of different attacks. If one failed, there were a dozen others. None of them needed to succeed entirely in order for the plan to work. The combined effect was enough to cast doubt on the authenticity of the election.

I got a bowl of pasta for you, tremendous bowl, best ever, just for you. Don’t ask questions, just eat.

The lawyer with whom Comrade Trump the Lesser met — even if she was entirely innocent (which is exceedingly unlikely, but still possible) — is inextricably linked with the folks who DID do all that other stuff.

Right, time for an analogy. What do you do if you see a cockroach sitting in a bowl of spaghetti? Do you try to untangle the roach-touched noodles from the rest of the bowl? No. You chuck out the entire bowl of spaghetti.

That Russian lawyer is a noodle in a roach-tainted bowl of spaghetti. Trump Jr. knew the spaghetti was tainted. But he was willing — even eager — to serve it to the public.

two presidents, two speeches, one astronaut

First, a bit of history. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a satellite into orbit around the Earth. This was what scientists call ‘a big fucking deal’. It caught the U.S. entirely off guard, and it took about a year for us to get our shit together.

That really began when President Dwight Eisenhower created the National Space Council, with the idea that the nation really needed an agency dedicated to developing policies regarding space. You have to remember, this was back when the idea of human space flight was still pretty much science fiction.

Three years later, the Soviets launched Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the Earth. And once again, the U.S. was standing around with its thumb up its collective butt. But this time President John Kennedy sat down with the National Space Council and they came up with the most audacious policy goal ever. They decided “You guys, you know what we should do? We should totally go to the goddamned moon.”

“Our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men.”

At that point we were still having trouble putting folks in orbit. Sending them to the moon was completely nuts. But Kennedy liked the idea and announced the policy in a speech given in (I’m not making this up) Texas. It was a terrific speech. Kennedy quoted William Bradford, one of the founders of the Plymouth Bay Colony:

“[A]ll great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”

And Kennedy was just getting started. He said:

“[T]he eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.”

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

What’s equally astonishing is that Kennedy told the American public that it was going to cost them to send people to the moon. He flat-out told them “all this costs us all a good deal of money” and informed them their taxes would be raised to pay for it. That’s not all; he also told them there wasn’t any way for them to know if it was going to be worth it. “I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.”

And hey, the people responded and said “Dude, let’s go do it.” And we did. We went to the goddamned moon, inspired by a president who was adventurous and thoughtful and wicked smart. Over time, the idea of space exploration became less interesting to people, and we returned to the practice of standing around with our thumbs up our collective butt.

“Our journey into space will not only make us stronger and more prosperous, but will unite us behind grand ambitions and bring us all closer together. Wouldn’t that be nice? Can you believe that space is going to do that?”

Until a few days ago. That’s when Comrade Trump signed an executive order that re-established the National Space Council. Like Kennedy, Trump gave a speech.

“The future of American space leadership — we’re going to lead again. It’s been a long time. It’s over 25 years, and we’re opening up, and we are going to be leading again like we’ve never led before. We’re a nation of pioneers, and the next great American frontier is space. And we never completed — we started, but we never completed. We stopped. But now we start again.”

Yeah. We’re starting again. With another crazy idea. Not inspirationally crazy — actually crazy. Trump asked NASA to conduct a study to see if we could put astronauts on the first test flight of the agency’s new rocket and crew capsule. Got that? He wanted to put living people in the first test flight of a new rocket. Because he feels strongly about space and security.

“I’ve felt strongly about it for a long time. I used to say before doing what I did — I used to say, what happened?  Why aren’t we moving forward?

And security is going to be a very big factor with respect to space and space exploration.  At some point in the future, we’re going to look back and say how did we do it without space?”

I’m pretty sure at some point in the future, people will look back and say ‘What the fuck is wrong with this guy?’ I’m pretty sure people were saying that even while Comrade Trump was ad-libbing from the remarks some speechwriter wrote for him.

Buzz Aldrin, fondly remembering the days when they sent monkeys into space.

“It is America’s destiny to be at the forefront of humanity’s eternal quest for knowledge and to be the leader amongst nations on our adventure into the great unknown.  And I could say the great and very beautiful unknown.  Nothing more beautiful.”

Nothing more beautiful than the unknown. What a fucking idiot. Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, attended the signing ceremony and stood near Comrade Trump while he spoke. After his speech, Trump made a show of signing the executive order. Aldrin, who was clearly unimpressed, looked over Trump’s shoulder and said “Infinity and beyond” — the catchphrase of Buzz Lightyear, the buffoon-hero character from Toy Story. Trump’s response?

“This is infinity here. It could be infinity. We don’t really don’t know. But it could be. It has to be something — but it could be infinity, right? Okay.”

It has to be something. It could be infinity. Right? Sweet Jeebus Galileo, this guy is actually the president. I weep.

HAL, close the pod bay doors, please.