very powerful and very stupid

About four decades ago (I could be more precise, but does a year or two really matter here? I think not) the fourth Doctor Who, while on an unnamed jungle planet, was attempting to negotiate a treaty between…okay. Okay, wait. That was probably a tactical error, mentioning Doctor Who and a jungle planet. I suspect some folks will jump ship as soon as they hear ‘Doctor Who’. Which is a damned shame, since Doctor Who is (aside from being a cheesy science fiction television show with cheesy alien monsters) a font of wisdom and uncommon common sense.

But I’m going to ask you to bear with me a moment, because Doctor Who…okay. Okay, wait. I’ve a better idea. Let’s pretend I never mentioned Doctor Who at all. Instead, let’s pretend I said Doctor Martin Luther King. Everybody respects Doctor M.L. King. Much better. Right, here we go, then.

Who would you trust? The Fourth Doctor Martin Luther King…

About four decades ago the fourth Doctor Martin Luther King, while on an unnamed jungle planet, was trying to negotiate a peace treaty between two warring tribes (the Tesh and the Sevateem). He said this:

The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit the views.

The truth of this is being played out on an almost hourly basis by Comrade Trump and his administration. Trump (although it staggers the very foundations of reality, he really is the actual President of These United States) is both very powerful AND very stupid. He’s being helped in this insidious crusade by a gutless cadre of complicit Republican toadies in Congress, and is often supported by a clueless news media that feels bound to report whatever Trump says, even when it’s a blatant fucking lie. And they usually report it without acknowledging the fact that it’s a blatant fucking lie.

There was a time, early in his administration, when I believed some facet of the Truth would catch up to Trump. At that point, in my innocence, I thought he’d resign in a huff rather than face the deeper embarrassment of getting tossed out. That way he could claim he left on his own terms, that he could have stayed in office if he really wanted to, and that he left because he had better things to do. “You didn’t dump me, I dumped you.” That sort of thing.

…or this guy?

I no longer think that’s likely. Oh, I still believe some aspect of the Truth will catch up to him. I still believe Comrade Trump will leave in disgrace. I just don’t think he’ll leave voluntarily. Or easily, or quietly, or with any dignity. I think he’ll wreak as much havoc as he can before he’s forced out the door. I think he’ll take hold of the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, refuse to let go, and will be screaming obscenities and threatening to burn the entire motherfucker down before he leaves.

Another thing the very powerful and the very stupid have in common: they refuse any responsibility for their actions. If something goes wrong — when something inevitably goes badly wrong — it’s always the fault of somebody else. The idea that they might be held answerable for their conduct fills them with bitterness and outrage.

Oh, and by the way, the title of that Dr. Who episode I mentioned earlier? The Face of Evil. Seriously. I’m not making that up. Also? In the very next episode, the Doctor speaks about “the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.” Clever guy, that fourth Doctor Martin Luther King Who.

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adding insult to the office

If you read or listen to the news in the morning, it’s always distressing to wake up to the reality that Comrade Trump is still POTUS. But lawdy, some days are just more difficult than others. This is one of them.

Trump is rage-tweet-vomiting again. He began with a three-tweet rant quoting Tom Fitton of the right-wing group Judicial Watch:

The Strzok firing is as much about the Mueller operation as anything else. There would be no Mueller Special Councel to investigate so called collusion but for the machinations of Strzok & his colleagues at the top levels of the FBI. We know this guy was corrupt and had anti-Trump animus. Strzok and others at the FBI should be criminally investigated for the way the conducted this investigation. Instead, Mueller is pretending nothing went wrong. He used Strzok, he used the Clinton DNC Dossier…the whole thing should be shut down. The Strzok firing shows that the fundamental underpinnings of the investigation were corrupt. It should be shut down by the courts or by honest prosecutors.

It’s hard to even know where to start with this wall of bullshit. You need an abacus to keep track of all the errors and outright lies. Was Strzok instrumental in creating the Special Counsel investigation? Nope. Is there any indication that Strzok is corrupt? Nope. In fact, the Inspector General report clearly stated there’s no evidence that Strzok’s dislike of Trump influenced any investigative decisions.

In fact, the ONLY accurate information in all of that is this: Peter Strzok was fired from the FBI. And let’s face it, that was essentially a political act to punish a career law enforcement professional for the sin of thinking Comrade Trump is unfit to be the President of the United States.

Tom Fitton

But this is pretty much what you expect from Trump and Tom Fitton. Who IS this Fitton guy? He’s on the Board of Directors of Judicial Watch, which describes itself as a ‘watchdog’ group. You’d think, as a frequent FOX News analyst on judicial behavior and as a member of Judicial Watch, Fitton must be a lawyer. Or at least has a background in law. Or maybe some significant professional experience in law enforcement. Or a graduate degree in some area of criminal justice. Or even an undergrad degree in a related field. But no. Tom Fitton has a B.A. in English. Oh, and he was a talk radio host on a conservative station.

Fitton is probably best known for his ‘work’ on the Benghazi attack. He posited the theory that the attack was actually part of an Obama administration conspiracy. Obama, he claimed, wanted Libyan militants to kidnap Ambassador Stevens. That would allow Obama to do a prisoner swap — Stevens for terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman (the blind cleric convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing). It’s not clear why Obama would go to such elaborate lengths to free Abdel-Rahman, but it probably had something to do with him being a wily secret Muslim. Unfortunately, Stevens was accidentally killed during the assault, so the plot failed. In an interview, Fitton admitted there was no actual evidence to substantiate his claim — but he asserted that lack of evidence was, in itself, evidence of the Obama cover-up.

The sneering, volatile, cruel, self-centered, would-be tyrant who occupies the White House.

This is the sort of person Comrade Trump looks to for expertise and support. Every day Trump occupies the White House is an insult to the nation, every day he remains in office further degrades the presidency, every day he attacks the institutions of democracy is an offense against the men and women who work to protect it.

And every morning I wake up and read what new outrage Comrade Trump has committed is a gut-churning reminder that we can’t for a moment stop resisting.

putin’s pocket

Had a buddy tell me “I can’t get interested in the Manafort trial, since it’s not about Trump.” I told him, “Dude, of course it’s about Trump.”

I sorta kinda lied to him. I mean, it IS about Trump since it’s about the Russians, and you can’t throw a ruble without hitting Comrade Trump. But it’s not directly about Trump. At this point in the trial, it’s as much about Vladimir Putin’s pockets — and who Putin has tucked away in those pockets — as anything else. Allow me to ‘splain, since Rick Gates has finished testifying. Just follow the numbers.

Rick Gates, who 1) worked for Paul Manafort for several years before 2) becoming Trump’s deputy campaign director, and who has 3) already pleaded guilty to a handful of felonies, testified that he helped Manafort, 4) who was Trump’s actual campaign director, 5) commit a buttload of felonies by 6) covering up Manafort’s numerous overseas bank accounts in which Manafort 7) hid and laundered the millions of dollars he earned by 8) helping get Putin-supported Viktor Yanukovych elected as president of Ukraine before 9) Yanukovych was run out of his country for 10) stealing hundreds of millions of dollars, after which 11) Yanukovych found asylum in Russia, where 12) he bought a house for US$52 million. Okay, that bit about Yanukovych buying a house really isn’t relevant to the case, but it shows what sort of company Manafort keeps.

Putin and Yanukovych

Gates also 13) helped Manafort illegally obtain 14) more than US$20 million dollars in bank loans by 15) falsely inflating his income and 16) failing to disclose debts, including so-called ‘loans’ totaling around $60 million from 17) Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is usually described as 18) Putin’s favorite industrialist. Loans without a repayment date are 19) a common way of laundering money.

Putin and Deripaska

So what we have is Gates and Manafort siphoning off a lot of illicit coin from Russians. What does that have to do with Comrade Trump? Good question. Here’s the answer.

While Manafort was running the Trump campaign, some unidentified campaign aides pressured the Republican National Committee to make a change — the ONLY change the Trump campaign insisted on — to the official Republican Party platform. The change was to remove a call for the U.S. to provide arms to Ukraine in response to the Russia invasion, occupation, and annexation of the Crimea province. Why did the Trump folks want to make that change? The answer seems to be: because Putin wanted Crimea.

Gates and Manafort

So here’s the thing: Gates testified that he was in the pocket of Manafort, who was in the pockets of the Ukrainian Yanukovych and oligarch Deripaska, both of whom are in the pocket of Vladimir Putin. LOTS of evidence suggests that pocket is also occupied by Comrade Trump.

So, yeah. Dude, of course the Manafort trial is about Trump.

alchemy, hermetically-sealed trump, zosimos of panopolis, and other stuff

A lot of folks I know are baffled by Comrade Trump’s apparent popularity among Republicans. As of this week, 84% of Republicans approve of his job performance. That’s huge. How is it possible, they wonder, for them to support a president who blatantly tells lies, who has repeatedly cheated on his wife, who routinely bullies and vilifies his critics, who brags incessantly, who claims to be a Christian but is ignorant about Christianity, who deliberately undermines the nation’s law enforcement and intelligence services for his own political purposes? How the hell is that possible?

The simple answer is…wait. Hold on. Have you ever known me to give a simple answer? No fucking way. So allow me to digress. And I mean seriously digress. I’m going to explain Comrade Trump’s apparent popularity by turning to Zosimos of Panopolis.

Zosimos of Panopolis, with an alembic.

You’re almost certainly asking yourself (well, you’re actually asking me, but…wait, never mind), Who the hell is or was Zosimos of Panopolis? He was an Egyptian alchemist and mystic who lived at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century AD. Zosimos wrote one of the earliest books on alchemy. In it, he describes several devices invented by an earlier alchemist known as Mary the Jewess (who was also known as Mary the Prophetess…because apparently only men can be prophets, which is a whole nother thing I haven’t time to get into, along with that whole ‘Jewess’ business). One of those devices was a…okay, wait, I feel another tangent coming on. The early alchemical practices were known as the ‘hermetic arts’, for Hermes, the Greek god of science and art. One of the devices invented by our Mary — not the one I’m going to mention in a bit, but a different apparatus — was an airtight container. This is where the phrase ‘hermetically sealed’ comes from. Cool, huh? I now return you to the original digression.

Zosimos’ book credits Mary with inventing the alembic (although this is probably not so). What’s an alembic? It’s a sort of gourd-shaped container with a hollow half-ball thingum on top, from which a tube runs…well, hell, just look at the illustration below.

An alembic.

An alembic basically works like a moonshiner’s still. You put a liquid in the container, heat it until it creates steam or vapor, the steam rises into the upper ball where it cools by contact with the walls and condenses, the condensation then drips down the tube into another container. This is the process of distillation, and it works whether you’re trying to create alcohol or perfume or medicine.

That distilled liquid is the essence of the original liquid. If you take that essence, put it back into the alembic and distill it again — and do it a total of five times — you end up with a quintessence. A very pure form of the original liquid.

Right. Now apply that concept to political parties. In 1944, 38% of U.S. registered voters identified as Republican (41% were Democrats, 20% were Independents). As of July 11th of this year only 26% of voters identify as Republican. Although the numbers have fluctuated, there has been a steady decline in Republican numbers (as well as a more gradual decline in those identifying as Democrat (30%), with a corresponding increase in Independents (41%)).

We’re talking political distillation here. A slow process of separating out impurities. Both political parties have been distilled, though Democrats, who’ve historically been more tolerant of ideological impurity, remain considerably less pure. Both parties have boiled off Independents, though at radically different rates.

But here’s the thing: after the distillation process — after all the good stuff has been boiled away — there’s still stuff left in the bottom of the alembic. That, you guys, is the modern Republican party. After a few decades of boiling, Republicans are left with a residue of mostly older white Christian uber-nationalist racists. Among whom Comrade Trump is immensely popular.

Faust, with an alembic and your basic homunculus.

Oh, and back to our boy Zosimos of Panopolis for a moment. In his book, he includes a series of mystical dream/vision sequences (remember, we’re talking 3rd and 4th century Egypt here; they were hot for that dreamy-visiony stuff). In his dream, Zosimos meets “a priest of inner sanctuaries” who proceeds to chop Zosimos up. boils the bits, and from the steam he creates a creature that is “the opposite of himself.”

The idea of an alchemically-created homunculus is said to have influenced an alchemist named Johann Georg Faust, who was possibly the inspiration for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s drama of a man who made a pact with the devil. The notion also intrigued another alchemist named Johann Conrad Dippel, who was born in (and I swear I am NOT making this up) Castle Frankenstein in the village of Darmstein. Dippel was almost certainly the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s character Victor Frankenstein, who created the monster that…well, this could go on forever, couldn’t it.

The residue left at the bottom.

Anyway, it’s all down to alchemy, Zosimos, Mary the Jewess, Mary Shelley, and…and at this point I’ve totally lost track of my point. But that’s why Comrade Trump is so popular.

it’s rats all the way down

Back in the 17th century, this dude named Samuel Butler wrote a — okay, wait. Trust me for a bit. This is actually going to relate to Comrade Donald J. Trump and his ex-buddy Michael Cohen. Honest, I wouldn’t lie to you. Not about this anyway.

Right, so back in the 17th century, this dude named Samuel Butler wrote a mock heroic poem about the adventures of a knight-errant called Hudibras and his squire Ralpho. It was basically a British rip-off of Don Quixote. At one point in the poem Hudibras gets himself in trouble and winds up in the stocks. In order to get released, he promises to flagellate himself — which, of course, Hudibras really doesn’t want to do. So his squire tells him that breaking that promise is really sorta kinda holy. Almost saintly, in fact.

For breaking of an oath, and lying,
Is but a kind of self-denying;
A Saint-like virtue: and from hence
Some have broke oaths by Providence
Some, to the glory of the Lord,
Perjur’d themselves, and broke their word

Lying and perjury. That brings us to Trump and Cohen. Cohen has now claimed that Comrade Trump was aware of the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower before it occurred. You’ll remember this was the meeting at which Trump the Lesser, Manafort, Kushner, a few other folks, sat down with a Whitman’s Sampler of Russian agents in order to get ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton. This is Collusion 101. Fundamental collusion stuff.

When hard words, jealousies, and fears / Set folks together by the ears / And made them fight, like mad or drunk / For Dame Religion, as for punk

Trump the Elder, of course, denies it. Totally denies it. Denies the absolute hell out of it. This morning he tweeted (and Jeebus, how embarrassing is it to have a president whose main form of…aw, fuck it, never mind) the following:

I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam

This leads to the obvious question: “Is Comrade Trump lying?” Which leads to the obvious answer: “Ha ha ha what? Yeah, of course he is, this is Donald Fucking Trump, y’all.” Let’s pause for a brief moment and review the various accounts Trump has given of that meeting (not verbatim).

— Meeting? What meeting? There was no meeting.
— Oh, that meeting. Yeah, there was a meeting, but it was about adoption. Oh, and I didn’t know about it.
— Okay, okay, the meeting was about getting dirt on Crooked Hillary, but the Russians didn’t have any.
— Well, maybe they had some, but they didn’t offer it to us.
— Okay, yeah, they offered some dirt, but it wasn’t very good dirt. Did I mention I didn’t know about it?
— Well, okay, it was moderately good dirt, but we didn’t take it. And besides, I didn’t know about the meeting.
— Okay, we took it, but we didn’t use it.
— Okay, let’s say maybe we took it and maybe we used it, who can say? It was a long time ago and memories keep changing, and anyway, so what?

In other words, Comrade Trump has lied about this event like a thousand different times. We certainly have no reason to believe him now. But here’s the problem with dealing with Trump and anybody Trump has dealt with regularly: all of these fuckers lie. They lie all the time about anything at all. It’s as natural to them as water is to a goldfish. It’s the environment in which they live and function.

I’d like to believe Cohen is telling the truth about this — that Trump DID know about the meeting in advance. But Cohen, like Trump, is an inveterate liar and the thing about liars is that they lie. So who the hell knows?

Okay, back to Hudibras for half a moment. Here’s maybe the most famous line from the poem: “I smell a rat; Ralpho, thou dost prevaricate.”

I smell a rat. A lot of rats. I don’t know if Michael Cohen is telling the truth this time. I assume Trump is lying. It’s very possible they’re both lying. I mean, it’s possible Cohen has no idea whether or not Trump knew about the meeting, and he’s lying about it because he’s pissed at Trump and would like to drop him deeper in the shit. And it’s possible Trump did know about it and is lying because he’s a fucking liar. It’s also possible Trump didn’t know about it, because his campaign was run by crooks and amateurs so stupid they couldn’t pour piss out of a boot.

But I know this much. When it comes to Comrade Trump, I smell a rat. A whole nest of rats. It’s rats all the way down.

Editorial Note 1: That ‘I smell a rat’ line is usually attributed to Patrick Henry, speaking during the Constitutional Convention in 1776. But Butler wrote his poem a century before that took place. He owns the line. There’s some useless information for you.

Editorial Note 2: You probably know the turtle anecdote, but here it is in brief. William James gave a lecture on astronomy and the structure of the solar system. Afterwards, he’s accosted by an old woman, who claims the earth can’t revolve around the sun because the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle. “And what does that turtle stand on, madam?” “It stands on the back of a larger turtle.” “And pray, what does that turtle stand on?” “You’re a very clever man, Mr. James, but it’s turtles all the way down.”

classic trump

Comrade Trump’s latest tantrum/threat is quintessential Trump. It’s the distillation of all things Trump times five. He’s decided to ‘explore’ avenues for removing the security clearances of half a dozen senior national security and intelligence officials who’d served in the Obama administration. We’re talking about John Brennan (former CIA director), Michael Hayden (former CIA director), Susan Rice (former national security adviser), James Clapper (former director of national intelligence), James Comey (former FBI director), and Andrew McCabe (former FBI deputy director).

What makes this classic Trump? I’m a tell you.

  1. It’s petty, malicious, and vindictive. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with a straight face, claimed these folks have (and I’m not making this up) have “politicize(d) and in some cases monetize(d) their public service and security clearances” by “making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president.” Basically, they’ve criticized Comrade Trump and his handling of…well, just about everything in regard to national security. So they must be punished.
  2. It’s mostly pointless. None of these folks currently attend national security briefings. Revoking their security clearances will have absolutely no impact on the daily lives of most of them. As far as I can tell, only Hayden holds a position on the board of a private sector company that technically require a security clearance, which means he’ll likely lose some income. But in general, this move is like taking away their access to lockers in a gym they no longer attend.
  3. It’s incompetent. At least two of the people Trump wants to deny a security clearance have already lost their security clearances. When Comey and McCabe were fired (by Trump) from the FBI they automatically lost their clearances. The only reason they’re included on the list is because a) they’ve criticized Trump and b) nobody in the Trump administration could be bothered to check a few basic facts before announcing a plan of action.
  4. It’s inconsistent. Trump claims these folks have politicized and monetized their clearances, so they should have those clearances revoked. Yet his own former national security adviser (Gen. Michael Flynn, remember him?) retained his security clearance despite the fact that he stood on stage during the Republican National Convention and led the crowd in cheering “Lock her up!” He even kept his clearance after Trump learned he was under investigation for his dealings with Russia — the same dealings which led to his firing. Now that is some serious politicizing and monetizing of a security clearance. And lawdy, the Flynn scandal is small beans compared to that of Jared Kushner, who was given access to highly classified intel despite having to ‘correct’ his clearance application four times because he ‘forgot’ to include dealings with foreign officials, including…yeah, that’s right, Russians.
  5. It’s actually harmful to national security. Among the many detrimental aspects of the Trump administration, one of the most deleterious is its casual destruction of institutional knowledge by removing experienced people from positions of authority for political or ideological reasons. It’s bad enough in agencies that handle domestic concerns (like education and health care), but it’s a catastrophic loss in agencies that are concerned with international affairs. Past administrations have always relied on the expertise and experience of the administrations they replaced. Trump only relies on people loyal to Trump.
  6. It’s being implemented in a swarm of lies. This is no surprise. Comrade Trump seems unable to do anything without lying about something.

Top contender for Most Blackmailable Public Figure.

So, classic Trump. A mean-spirited, amateurish, contradictory move that not only won’t accomplish what he hopes it will, but will actually damage the nation — all accompanied by lies.

What’s most ironic about this is the fact that Comrade Trump, with his dodgy financial deals and a very long string of extramarital affairs, almost certainly wouldn’t be able to obtain any sort of security clearance at all if he weren’t POTUS. If there was a contest for Most Blackmailable Public Figure, Trump would be considered a front-runner.

This is the world turned upside down. And backwards. While drunk. And in heels. With one heel missing.

 

a hold on the cranky pants

Hey, you guys! Remember when Comrade Trump got all cranky-pants over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem on account of they hated America and were black (not necessarily in that order)? And remember when the big hats of the NFL (hint: rich white guys) decided to make Trump uncranky by coming up with policy that said Dude, you can stand for the national anthem or you can park your ass inside the locker room, but we ain’t having you taking no knee in public like some communist or something? Remember that?

Well you can stop remembering it. On account of it doesn’t apply anymore. For the moment. The NFL Players Association responded to the NFL’s Park Your Ass rule by saying, “What? You got to be joking, right? I mean, c’mon, this is America.”

Then what happened is this: the Associated Press (aka Enemy of the People) got hold of the Miami Dolphins’ new code of player conduct. Which basically said, Dude, you violate the rule and take a knee during the anthem, then you don’t get to play for, like, four games. And the NFLPA said, “What? You got to be joking, right? Four games? I mean, c’mon, you don’t get sat down for four games if you beat up your girlfriend or get caught with drugs. Four games? Seriously?”

So the NFLPA filed a grievance, because c’mon, four games. And the NFL said, “Whoa, let’s not get hasty here. Baby, you know I really love you.” So now the NFL and the NFLPA are in Football Couples Therapy, trying to make things work and rekindle their old romance. They released a joint statement.

The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue. In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy. No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.

See that ‘constructive dialogue’ bit? Totally right out of the couples therapy handbook. Pretty soon I expect a mediator will sit both the NFL and the NFLPA down and tell them, “Look, you can be right…or you can be in a relationship.”

The joint statement also included some bullshit about “reflect[ing] the great values of America” which I don’t quite understand. I mean, we’re talking about a group of genetic mutants who dress in high-tech protective gear in order to repeatedly bang into each other with enough force that almost half of the current players show some evidence of traumatic brain injuries and 96% of autopsied players (don’t panic — they wait until the players are actually certified dead before doing the autopsy) displayed chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure I want folks giving themselves brain damage for public entertainment to be one of the “great values of America.” But hey, the good news is that the people who pummel each other for our amusement may not be forced choose between engaging in a peaceful protest or parking their asses in a locker room. At least not for a while.

This may all change when Comrade Trump hears about it and it’s time to rile up the rubes before the mid-term elections.

ADDENDUM: Comrade Trump tweeted (of course) about this last night:

The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!

Uh, no. It’s NOT in the contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart. As far as that goes, no, it’s not a National Anthem debate. It’s a police misconduct debate that Comrade Trump hijacked for racist, political reasons. And I think the American people must now take a stand. First time complicity with Russia, lose the midterm elections. Second time complicity, out of office.