it would have been better in náhuatl

I had very good reasons for missing Comrade Trump’s 3rd of July speech at Mt. Rushmore. First, it was a Friday evening, and I needed to watch an episode of a 2018 British cop show that streams on Acorn. Second, it was Trump giving a speech — which meant it would either be an ad-libbed hateful rant full of free-floating racism or a dreary monotonous recitation of buzzwords interrupted too frequently with adverbs and adjectives. And third, I’d rather watch an episode of a two-year-old British cop show translated into classical Náhuatl than listen to Trump give a speech.

But I read it this morning. And let me just say this: Lawdy.

At least the aircraft weren’t Russian.

The speech reads like it was written by H.P. Lovecraft, if Lovecraft had a limited vocabulary and was writing for Twitter. It was awkward at best, full of woefully clumsy and ridiculous dark images of modern American. It was profoundly paranoid.

“Our children are taught in school to hate their own country. And to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but they were villains. The radical view of American history is a web of lies. All perspective is removed. Every virtue is obscured. Every motive is twisted. Every fact is distorted and every flaw magnified until the history is purged.”

History, totally purged. You know, they warned us this would happen if we took pale Jeebus out of the schools and substituted many-tentacled Cthulhu.

The entire speech was deeply weird. Trump seemed to confuse the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Or maybe he thought they were the same war, it’s hard to say. He apparently thinks protesters are trying to bring down statues of Revolutionary War figures who sang a song written a century or so after they died.

“In toppling the heroes of 1776, they seek to dissolve the bonds of love and loyalty that we feel for our country and that we feel for each other. Their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America…. By tearing down Washington and Jefferson, these radicals would tear down the very heritage for which men gave their lives to win the Civil War. They would erase the memory that inspired those soldiers to go to their deaths, singing these words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic: ‘As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free while God is marching on.'”

Trump ended the evening by telling us that “American freedom exists for American greatness” and that our legacy has something to do with champions and monuments. Then, of course, there were fireworks.

Very pleased with himself.

This entire event was perfectly in keeping with the Trump brand. It was a hateful, divisive, political speech full of lies. It was given in a location considered sacred by the native population (who objected to the event). It was given during the worst pandemic in a century (which was exacerbated by Trump’s failure to take it seriously), with no real attempt to reduce transmission of Covid-19 by using face masks, and no real chance of any social distancing (in part because the 7500 audience seats were zip-tied together to reduce the likelihood of them becoming obstacles in case an emergency escape was necessary during, say, a wildfire). And it concluded with a fireworks display (the first in more than a decade because a long term infestation of pine beetles has turned the local Ponderosa pine population into something resembling kindling) during a period of moderate drought.

The whole thing would be comical if it weren’t real.

everything would have been knocked down

Task force. Originally, it was a naval term. Specialized ships from different fleets and squadrons would be temporarily assembled to work as a group to perform a single defined task or activity. After the mission was accomplished, the various ships would return to their normal duties. The ‘task force’ concept has been widely adapted.

Comrade Trump signs an executive order creating a task force to protect…wait…statues?

It’s a great concept, an effective administrative tool, and if used wisely, a task force can be incredibly efficient. If used wisely is the operative phrase in that sentence. Here’s an example of the wise use of a task force. In 2013, the Obama administration created the Pandemic Prediction and Forecasting Science and Technology Working Group. It was comprised of members from eighteen different federal departments and agencies, including the National Security Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense.

Mass burial of Covid-19 victims.

Their job was to “mitigate large‐scale outbreaks by predicting more accurately when and where outbreaks are likely to occur, and how they will progress.” They did this by monitoring and analyzing a myriad of minor social disruptions which, on their own, might not be alarming, but when considered in context could indicate a potential disease outbreak. If, say, the price of pork in Country A suddenly increases, it could mean the hog farmers in Province X have been forced to slaughter a lot of their stock because of a localized swine disease. Taken in conjunction with an increase in Province X’s hospitalizations for flu-like syndrome, it could suggest the first seeds of an epidemic. Task force experts could then be sent to Province X to work with Country A to find out just what the fuck is going on. Then deal with it locally, and prevent the spread to Province Y — or worse, Country B.

Brilliant. By the way, if you’re curious, you can read a report on the PPFSTWG (which, I agree, is among the worst acronyms ever) here. And yes, this is the pandemic response team which the Trump administration disbanded because…well, who the hell knows why.

Let me repeat myself for a minute. A task for is an effective administrative tool, and if used wisely, a task force can be incredibly efficient. Here’s an example of a task force NOT used wisely. Comrade Trump has issued an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a task force to “protect historic landmarks against vandalism and destruction” from “violent anarchists and rioters”. Homeland Security, you’ll remember, is the agency created in 2002 in response to the 9/11 attacks; its stated mission is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. Now, apparently, they have to redirect resources to preventing members of the public from painting ‘Black Lives Matter’ on statues of Confederate generals.

This statue of Andrew Jackson is now safe.

You may be asking yourself if it’s really necessary to create a federal task force to protect statues. Good question. Here’s what Trump had to say about it (and I am NOT making this up):

“I took out an old act, the statues and monuments. And we’re going to have thousands of people in Washington last week. And nobody showed up because they get a 10-year jail term now. They pushed down a statue. They — they even touch anything. It’s a very tough act. You couldn’t get a thing like that approved today. I took it out and we used it and you see the difference. You haven’t seen any rights. You haven’t seen people doing things lately. And the reason is 10 years in prison. If they knocked down a statue, now it started with Confederate soldiers, and then they started hitting George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. And they started hitting Thomas Jefferson. And you know, I’m going to a very special place this weekend, as you know, very beautiful monuments called Mount Rushmore, and somebody said they want to see that come down, that’s never coming down. And we’re going to, uh, run it the way I’ve been running it. Very tough. Now, we had to see what was going on for a period of a week, week and a half. Once we saw what was going on, I did this act last week, a week ago, a little more than a week ago. And it’s been very powerful because people don’t want to go to prison for 10 years for knocking down a statue. And most of these people they’re anarchist or they’re agitators, most of them don’t even know what they’re knocking down. You know, whether it’s Andrew Jackson, they were doing Andrew Jackson the week ago. Almost got it down but I had people go in that were very strong and they went and did a good job. The ropes were up, everything was ready, we got just in time. Andrew Jackson was a great general and a good president, very good president and probably two term and we did a good job. If I weren’t here, this all of Washington would have been knocked down. That’s what would have happened. You would have had Washington knocked down with somebody like a Biden where there’s no law, there’s no order. Everything would have been knocked down, but I’m here.”

There you go. Trump’s here, with a task force. Otherwise everything would have been knocked down.

Yesterday, there were 51.097 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and a butcher’s bill of over 130,000 dead. But at least Trump has saved a statue of Andrew Jackson, the president who signed the Indian Removal Act (which resulted in at least 15,000 native American deaths — or about 11.5% of a pandemic).

lying, ignorant, or delusional?

So, what do you think? Is he lying? Ignorant? Or delusional? Me, I’m inclined to go with lying, with ignorant coming in a close second — but it’s impossible to completely rule out delusional. I could be talking about any number of Comrade Trump’s recent comments, but I’m focusing on this one particular Tweet for now.

He’s not entirely wrong about that whole ‘scandal of our times’ business. But the scandal is we have a president who is either lying about the coming election, ignorant of how mail-in balloting is done, or suffering from paranoid delusions. It’s got to be one of those.

I’ve voted by mail. It’s dead easy, and its secure. Here’s how it worked for me:

After you fill out the ballot, you put it in an envelope labeled ‘Secrecy Envelope’, and seal the envelope. The Secrecy Envelope is then placed in an ‘Affidavit Envelope’, which you have to sign and date and seal that as well. The Affidavit Envelope is then placed in the ‘Return Envelope’, which also has to be sealed. All of these envelopes are the old-fashioned lick-and-seal type, not the fancy new remove-a-strip-and-press type. If you want to vote Absentee, you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of saliva.

What I didn’t say — and didn’t know at the time — is that the Return Envelope had a unique barcode for each ballot to insure the individual ballot corresponded with the envelope. Nor was I aware that my signature on the Affidavit Envelope could be quickly compared to my signature which is kept on file by the local election office (you’ll recall you had to sign up to vote the very first time; you also signed in to register for every earlier in-person election).

That level of voting security — signature verification, ballot barcode verification — is only the beginning. The ballot itself has been tested to insure the ballot scanners will read ONLY authentic ballots, and only authentic ballots for that particular election cycle. The scanners aren’t able to read ballots from previous election cycles, even if those ballots were created to use the same scanning system.

But wait, there’s more. There are 3,007 counties in the United States. There are another 236 first-order administrative divisions, which are basically counties by other names (for example, Louisiana has parishes instead of counties, Alaska has boroughs, and the District of Columbia has…well, the District of Columbia). Why is that important? Because there is NO national ballot.

That’s right. Every voting jurisdiction designs and creates its own unique ballot. We’re talking the typeface, the weight of the paper used for the ballot, the size of the ballot, the phrasing of the text instructing the voter on how to vote by mail, the envelope in which the ballot is mailed to the voter, the security envelope containing the marked ballot to be returned, and the actual return envelope. These designs are deliberately changed from election to election.

So in order for Comrade Trump’s claim that “millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others” to be true, those foreign countries (and ‘others’ — I have no idea WTF he could possibly mean by ‘others’) would have to exactly duplicate thousands of distinctly different ballot packets unique to every voting jurisdiction in the United States for the 2020 election cycle PLUS be able to match the signatures on file of the individual voters they were attempting to impersonate.

To believe that could happen, Trump would have to be delusional. Which, let’s face it, isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Ignorance, on the other hand, is not just a possibility but almost a certainty; he’s profoundly ignorant of how government works. But I’m opting for lying, simply because that’s Trump’s natural response to almost everything.

more than a little odd

First thing this morning, a text: Greg, old sock, this Berman thing, it’s a little odd, don’t you think? I think you should stop calling me ‘old sock’. But yes, it’s a little odd. Well, it’s odder than that. It’s really seriously odd.

Late on Friday Attorney General William Barr announced, “Geoffrey Berman is stepping down as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.” Later on Friday, Berman announced, “Nope.”

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York ain’t going nowhere, thank you very much.

That just begins to touch the surface of how odd this is. Normally (and c’mon, nothing has been normal since Trump slithered into the Oval Office) a US Attorney is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. That pretty much gives POTUS the ability to fire a US Attorney if he wants to. And that’s exactly what Trump did to the prior US Attorney for SDNY, Preet Bharara (which is a whole nother scandal). Trump being Trump, after he fired Bharara, he wanted to put his own guy in the SDNY slot. He made an interim appointment of a guy who’d done some part-time volunteer work for the Trump transition team. Geoffrey fuckin’ Berman. That’s right, the guy Trump is now trying to fire.

But here’s the thing (in case you were wondering what the thing is): Trump being Trump, he got distracted by some shiny object and never bothered to actually nominate somebody to fill the SDNY position. That meant the Senate never had anybody to confirm. So after about four months, the Chief Judge of SDNY “entered an order on behalf of a unanimous court appointing Berman U.S. Attorney pursuant to its authority under 28 U.S.C Section 546(d).”

This probably means Berman has the appointment indefinitely, until the Senate confirms someone nominated by the president. Since he was appointed to the gig by the federal court, he can probably only be fired by that court. (I keep saying ‘probably’ because I don’t think this has ever been tested; no other administration has been this incompetent.) The only other way for Trump to get rid of Berman is to formally nominate somebody to be the US Attorney of SDNY, and for the Senate to confirm them.

Attorney General William Barr after meeting with President Trump checks to make sure he still has his wallet.

So there’s that. Now the real question is this: why does Trump (through Barr) want to get rid of Berman five months before the presidential election? We can only speculate, of course, but the speculation can be based on what we know Berman has been investigating. For example:

  • campaign finance violations that grew out of the indictment against Michael Cohen
  • the Jeffrey Epstein case and any allegations that Trump may have been involved
  • Rudy Giuiliani’s potentially illegal campaign contributions as well as his shenanigans in Ukraine.

That suggests Berman may be on the verge of announcing some legal action against one of Trump’s associates. Or one of Trump’s children. Or Trump, though that seems the least likely possibility. In any event, firing–or attempting to fire–Berman at this point in time seems like the act of a desperate administration.

Just as important — no, wait. More important is that the attack on Berman is just the latest of AG Bill Barr’s blatant attempts to interfere with the course of justice to benefit Comrade Trump. In the 16 months since he was appointed, Barr 1) misrepresented (okay, lied about) the Mueller Report, claiming it found no evidence of obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation, 2) interfered in the sentencing of Roger Stone (also regarding the Russia investigation), 3) is attempting to dismiss the case against confessed felon Michael Flynn in regard to the Russia investigation and related corruption, 4) is dropping the case against the Russian individuals and agencies known to have interfered with the 2016 election, 5) authorized a political appointee to conduct a second investigation into the investigation of Russian interference apparently because he didn’t like the result of the DOJ Inspector General’s earlier investigation of the investigation, 6) issued a DOJ opinion that extorting a foreign nation to investigate a political opponent was NOT a violation of the law, 7) lied about the peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square AND 8) deployed armed DOJ personnel from various agencies (with their affiliation deliberately masked) to clear those protesters from Lafayette Square in order for Comrade Trump to hold a three minute photo op.

So yes, this situation is a little odd. Everything about William Barr is odd. Everything about the entire Trump universe is so fucking odd that the scale and scope of the oddness is impossible to understand without a spreadsheet the size of Utah.

The good news, though, is that Berman doesn’t appear willing to go quietly. Or at all. The bad news is, just like everything else related to the Trump administration, this ugly situation is going to get even uglier before it’s resolved.

Note: Just learned that Jay Clayton, who Trump and Barr wanted to replace Berman, has absolutely NO prosecutorial experience. Worse, Clayton used to represent Deutsche Bank, the only western bank that would lend Trump money after his numerous bankruptcies. Deutsche Bank has been in trouble for laundering money from Russian organized crime.

Odder and odder by the minute.

i really don’t care, do u?

This particular long national nightmare started five years ago today, when Comrade Trump stepped onto the escalator in Trump Tower. The United States has been going downhill ever since. It’s been a long, strange, ugly trip from that escalator to the ramp at West Point.

Let him take the escalator. This is fine.

A lot has been made of Trump’s awkward, hesitant trek down that ramp. It was the source for a lot of speculation about his physical health, a lot of long-distance diagnosing, a lot of unpleasant wishful thinking that his health was rapidly declining. Whole histories have been written about Trump’s strange inability to drink water with one hand and his lubberly relationship with any sort of inclined exit.

I don’t care if he’s bathmophobic.

To borrow a phrase from Melania’s closet, I really don’t care, do u? Seriously, I would completely overlook Trump’s inability to drink water with one hand, I’d absolutely ignore his apparent fear of stairs and ramps if he was otherwise fit to occupy the office of POTUS. I’d disregard those things even if I disagreed with his policies if he was otherwise fit to occupy the office of POTUS. I don’t really need a president to be in prime physical condition (though it would be nice); I don’t really need a president to agree with me politically (though, again, it would be nice).

I DO need a president who is reasonably honest, who hires competent advisers and listens to them, who isn’t easily manipulated, who is willing to learn, who makes an effort to understand the workings of the government they lead, who isn’t a total narcissist, who is willing to admit making a mistake, who will put the good of the nation before their own personal interests.

I don’t care if needs assistance to drink water.

Give me a competent, honest, thoughtful president in a wheelchair. Give me a president who is intelligent and interested in the world and has cystic fibrosis. Give me a capable, curious, well-read president with a cleft palate and who suffers from a morbid fear of heights. I don’t care if the president needs a seeing-eye dog so long as they are otherwise fit to occupy the office of POTUS.

There are SO MANY reasons Comrade Trump is NOT fit for office. His apprehension when faced with stairs or a ramp is irrelevant, his ineptitude at drinking water in public is totally immaterial. What matters is he’s willfully ignorant, he’s compulsively dishonest, he’s unwilling or unable to put aside his own self-interests, he’s lazy and impulsive, he has no core values, he’s an authoritarian racist who has no regard for the Constitution or representative democracy. Those are all valid reasons to remove him from office. We don’t need any other reasons.

president uxb

Remember a couple of years ago when the US seem to bumble from one crisis to another? One crisis would end, then as soon as we caught our breath, another would start? And remember how the number of crises expanded and the time between them contracted, so we had more crises more often, without any time to catch our breath between them? And now here we are, dealing with multiple crises happening all at the same time.

It was predictable. Hell, it was almost inevitable. This explosion of crises has been building since 1995, when Newt Gingrich began to mix the hydrogen of politics with the chlorine of partisanship, which eventually turned the Republican Party into a fucking time bomb. Max Bodenstein would have seen this coming.

I say it was ‘almost inevitable’ because Republicans could have defused the bomb. They could have stabilized the process, reduced the partisanship, and impeded the likelihood of explosion. They had an excellent opportunity after Gingrich was forced to resign from Congress for ethical reasons. They had an even better chance after the tragedies of the 9/11 attacks. Given the extraordinary circumstances–a period in which most Americans were eager to band together as a nation–setting aside partisanship would have been not only politically astute, but would actually further national interests.

President UXB, not yet rendered safe.

But they didn’t. They have not only refused to try to unite the nation, they have exacerbated minor political predicaments into crises (numerous government shut-downs over partisan policy issues), and created crises where none existed (Hilary’s emails). They have chosen to accelerate the explosive process Each crisis leads inexorably to the next, and the crises have cascaded one after the other more and more quickly. Each smaller explosion has led to a larger, more powerful explosion as the various crises build on each other.

This is going to continue until November when, it’s to be hoped, Comrade Trump will be defeated in the presidential election. Even if he is defeated, the potential for some sort of political kinetic disassembly will continue until January, when the transfer of power takes place. A big bang is almost certainly coming. The only questions are how bad the explosions will be, and whether any remnants of representational democracy will survive.

NOTE: uxb = unexploded bomb.

the bluto party

You know what? It’s time we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘anybody who is paying attention to what’s happening right now in the United States’) stopped thinking of the Republican Party as a legitimate political party — because they’ve stopped acting like one. A political party is just a collection of people who share the same general ideology and hold the same general political positions in regard to governance. The operative term there is ‘governance’. Based on their behavior, Republicans no longer believe in governance; they only believe in ruling.

Seriously. The folks who represent Republicans now have abandoned the notion that every political party should be subject to the same rules and laws. Since Trump took office, Republicans have gutted congressional oversight, they’ve perverted the advice and consent process, they’ve twisted the concept of judicial review. Worst of all, they’ve changed the executive branch from being just one of three co-equal branches of government into…well, Bluto. What Bluto wants, Republicans deliver.

In fact, Republicans have become the Bluto Party.

Bluto, if you’re not familiar with him, was Popeye’s nemesis. A loudmouthed, blustering, bully who tries to get what he wants through brute force and/or trickery. In the Popeye cartoons Bluto takes on a variety of guises — sometimes he’s a fellow sailor, but he’s also shown up as an evil professor, a wicked hypnotist, a lecherous lifeguard, a devious sheik, a generic thug.

It’s the same with modern Republicans. They take on various guises, but they all behave like Bluto. You can put Bluto in a suit and a tie, but he’s still Bluto. You can put him in a drawing room or an orchestra pit, but he’s still Bluto. You can spray him with a gentleman’s cologne, he’s still Bluto. You can dress him in judicial robes, still Bluto. There is absolutely nothing you can do to unBluto him. He’s Bluto to the bone.

“You’d better lock up your doors today.
‘Cause Abu Hassan is on his way.
Go in hiding when I come riding
from me and my forty thieves.

Your wife and children, your money too,
I’ll steal them from you before I’m through.
I’m out gunning, so start in running
from me and my forty thieves.

My gang’s the roughest,
But I’m the toughest,
and that’s no lie.
You’ve got to hand it
to this bad bandit,
because I’m a terrible guy.

Comrade Trump, of course, is the bull goose Bluto. All lesser Blutos must bow to him. He’s released the inner Bluto in every Republican in government. For example, Bluto says it’s perfectly okay to ignore subpoena if it’s issued by congressional Democrats. Bluto argues (in front of Bluto-dominated courts) that a congressional subpoena MUST have a legislative purpose. But Bluto Republicans in congress have a long (long, long, long) history of issuing subpoenas for purely investigative purposes — even when those investigations have repeatedly turned up nothing.

I’m basically saying ALL Republicans in government now are Bluto. Republicans in Congress — Bluto. Republicans in the Justice Department — mad Bluto. Republicans who’ve been place in federal courts even when rated unqualified — totally Bluto. You may say that it’s not fair to paint all Republicans with the same brush, and I suppose you’d be right. But I’m of the opinion that if they’re benefiting from Bluto Republican behavior and not calling it out, then they’re Bluto too, and just as guilty as every other Bluto.

The only comfort to be found in this is that Bluto always gets his ass kicked in the end. I mean, it works that way in the cartoons. So I’m sending spinach to Joe Biden and every other Popeye motherfucker running a campaign against Bluto.

really well

I’m old enough to remember this:

Washington state officials confirm first coronavirus death in U.S.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It wasn’t yesterday, though. It was 78 days ago. The first reported Covid-19 death, according to the news reports, was “a man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions.” This article also included this stunning news:

“This marks the first virus-related death in the U.S. amid an outbreak that has exceeded 85,000 confirmed cases around the world.”

Let me repeat that. 85,000 confirmed cases around the world. NOT deaths, just confirmed cases. NOT in Washington state, NOT in the United States, 85,000 cases in THE WORLD. 78 days ago. The United States had 22 confirmed cases.

When I started writing this, there were 90,203 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the US. Let me repeat that as well. In the last 78 days, we’ve had an additional 90,202 confirmed Covid-19 deaths. Deaths, not cases. Deaths. By the time I finish writing this, we’ll likely have another thirty or forty more.

This morning, Comrade President Trump tweeted this:

More than 90,000 Americans dead in 78 days. That’s more than 1,100 Americans every day. Almost 50 Americans dead every hour. We’re doing REALLY well, medically? What the fuck does that even mean?

Just 78 days ago, Trump said this:

“Additional cases in the U.S. are likely, but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover and we think that will be a statement we can make with great surety now that we’ve gotten familiar with this problem. They should be able to recover should they contract the virus. So, healthy people, if you’re healthy, you will probably go through a process and you’ll be fine. Since the early stages of the foreign outbreak, my administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to confront the spread of this disease.

There’s no reason to panic, at all.”

No reason to panic. Healthy people will probably be fine. Probably. Unless they’re one of the 90,000 Americans who died in the last 78 days. I know I keep repeating that, but Jeebus on toast, we’re talking 90,000 dead in 78 fucking days. And it’s not stopping. There were 90,203 when I started writing this; now there are 90,311 (although, in fairness, I did take some time to play with the cat and make myself a late breakfast, but Jesus suffering fuck that’s still a hundred more dead folks in just the last hour or so).

You’ll probably be fine. We’re doing REALLY well, medically.

Yesterday 38 of the 50 states reported more deaths. Despite that, Comrade Trump is encouraging every state to relax pandemic precautions in the name of ‘the economy’ (whatever that means). You know that question folks always ask — your house is on fire, you only have time to grab one thing, what do you grab? Most folks say they’ll grab something of irreplaceable sentimental value. Family photos, something like that.

The United States is on fire. Trump grabbed the economy and he’s leaving the rest of us to burn.

One more time. 78 days. 90,332 dead. We’re doing REALLY well, medically. Nothing makes sense anymore.