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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civility

It all goes back to ancient Rome. It was the first real city of the Western world; it’s been a city for twenty-eight centuries. In the early days of Rome, its citizens were known as cives. To be a citizen of Rome was a big deal. A huge deal. An absolutely massive deal. Being a Roman citizen meant you had civitas — you belonged to collective body of all citizens, you were an integral part of the social contract that bound all cives together.

Being a citizen conferred both rights and responsibilities on a person, and one of those responsibilities was to be civil — to behave in public life in a manner befitting of a Roman citizen so as to maintain civic order. As the Roman empire stretched out across Europe, it spread the idea of civitas — a process by which other peoples in other lands were civilized. Important people in ‘client’ states could become civitas sine suffragio, citizens of Rome (lacking only the right to vote). It was said a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world without any fear of molestation, shielded by the words Civis Romanis — “I am a citizen of Rome.”

It was largely bullshit, of course. The Roman army was full of murderous bastards who engaged in all manner of appalling war crimes. Roman politicians were as greedy and corrupt as any. Those ‘client’ states undergoing ‘civilization’ all began as conquered nations. The glory of Rome came at the expense of subjugated people.

But the concept of civitas was, and still is, important. The concept helps make the world a better place — a place where people treated each other decently, with respect and courtesy, with civility. That’s a fine thing.

Today, a member of the Trump administration can’t walk the face of the known world without molestation; they can’t even order a meal in a decent restaurant without being harassed. A lot of folks today are decrying this lack of civility. They’re right to do so.

But they need to remember that civility — that civitas — is a social contract that begins at the top of the social food chain. Civitas confers rights on its citizens, but it also burdens them with certain social responsibilities.

This is really pretty simple. If you belong to a political administration that enforces cruel policies on its people, a political administration that routinely lies to the people about matters large and small, that protects and enriches the powerful at the expense of the weak, then you’ve violated the concept of civility and you aren’t worthy of its protection.

If Sarah Huckabee Sanders wants to be treated with civility, then she has a moral duty to treat others with civility. That’s the contract. Civility has to work both ways.

a deep and visceral hatred

A couple of days ago I wrote about the Inspector General’s report on how the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation — the report that Republicans are claiming ‘prove’ the FBI was complicit in a conspiracy to prevent Comrade Trump’s election. I pointed out there were contemporaneous new reports demonstrating the exact opposite — that senior FBI agents were suspected of deliberately leaking anti-Clinton material to Trump supporters (and specifically to Rudy Giuliani). I also confessed that after reading a couple hundred pages of the 500+ page report, I started skimming.

It’s too bad I started skimming. Because it turns out on page 387 there’s a long section of verbatim testimony from Loretta Lynch, who was the Attorney General of the United States during the FBI investigation. And among the things she said was that the New York office of the FBI was a roiling cauldron anti-Clinton fury. Not in those exact words, of course, but…well, let’s just cut and paste what she said.

I knew that the laptop had been handled in a case out of New York. And so I said, you know, we have to talk about the New York office…and the concern that both you [McCabe] and I have expressed about leaks in the past. And I said, do you think that this was the right way to deal with the issue, the concern about leaks?… He didn’t have much of a response. But we were having a conversation…. And I said, you know, I’ve talked, you and I have talked about that before….

And then I said, now, we’ve got to talk about the New York office in general. And he said yes. And I said we both work with them. We both know them. We both, you know, think highly of them. I said, but this has become a problem. And he said, and he said to me that it had become clear to him, he didn’t say over the course of what investigation or whatever, he said it’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton. And he said it is, it is deep. It’s, and he said, he said it was surprising to him or stunning to him.

You know, I didn’t get the impression he was agreeing with it at all, by the way. But he was saying it did exist, and it was hard to manage because these were agents that were very, very senior, or had even had timed out and were staying on, and therefore did not really feel under pressure from headquarters or anything to that effect. And I said, you know, I’m aware of that…. I said, I wasn’t aware it was to this level and this depth that you’re talking about, but I said I’m sad to say that that does not surprise me.

And he made a comment about, you know, you understand that. A lot of people don’t understand that. You, you get that issue. I said, I get that issue. I said I’m, I’m just troubled that this issue, meaning the, the New York agent issue and leaks, I am just troubled that this issue has put us where we are today with respect to this laptop.

What she’s basically saying is this: 1) the senior staff of the FBI’s NY field office hated Hillary and supported Trump, and 2) it was the NY field office that investigated Anthony Weiner’s laptop on a matter unrelated to the Clinton email investigation, 3) but when they discovered that Weiner’s former wife, Huma Abedin, Clinton’s close aide, had backed up some work emails, they 4) notified the agents who investigated the emails, AND 5) leaked the information to Republican members of Congress who were Trump supporters, which 6) led Comey to re-open the investigation a few days before the election, which (according to Nate Silver) probably cost Clinton the election.

Comrade Trump’s claim that the FBI favored one candidate over another is accurate. But, as usual, he’s also lying about it. They were actively sabotaging the Clinton campaign. Trump is almost certainly POTUS today because of political interference by the FBI.

Heads should roll — but sadly, the wrong heads are on the chopping block.

one strzok and you’re out

Odds are you won’t read the 500+ page report by the DOJ’s Inspector General (and nobody would blame you, because mostly it’s pretty dull and repetitive), but here it is if you want to. I intended to read it, but I couldn’t take it. After the first couple hundred pages, I started skimming.

Seriously, it’s a job of work. The name of the department that published the report is a job of work in itself: the Department of Justice Inspector General Oversight and Review Division. And the title of the report? Prepare yourself:

A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election

There are a lot of interesting little details in the report, but almost all the attention will get focused on two points. Point One: Comey gets spanked. Point Two: Peter Strzok gets spanked. Comey, though I think he’s an honest guy, deserves the spanking because he acted like a sanctimonious prig (well, okay, he wasn’t acting; he IS a sanctimonious prig). Here’s what the report says about Comey:

Comey’s unilateral announcement was inconsistent with Department policy and violated long-standing Department practice and protocol by, among other things, criticizing Clinton’s uncharged conduct.

In other words, he fucked up by issuing the statement that said Clinton hadn’t done anything that merited prosecution, but she was still negligent in the way she handled her email. The report also stated that:

…in making this decision (to notify leak-prone Republicans that a search warrant had been issued for a computer indirectly related to Clinton a few days before the election), Comey engaged in ad hoc decision making based on his personal views even if it meant rejecting longstanding Department policy or practice.

In other words, he fucked up again by being a sanctimonious prig. However, the IG also found that neither of Comey’s fucked up decisions were “influenced by political preferences” for or against either candidate.

Not that it matters to Comrade Trump or Republicans in general. They’re still claiming the report showed Trump was right to fire Comey (despite Trump having admitted on national television that he fired him because of “this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia”).

Here’s the thing: just about everything you’ll probably see in the news media for the next couple of weeks will be Republicans claiming the IG’s report proves Comrade Trump’s claims of a FBI ‘witch hunt’ are legit (HINT: they’re not). They’ll base those claims on two pieces of contradictory information.

First, the report spanks James Comey for his statement about the Clinton email investigation (that while there was nothing criminal about the way she handled her email, he was of the opinion that it was negligent). Trumpettes will argue this validates his decision to fire Comey. (HINT: it’s a bullshit argument since Trump admitted on camera that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.)

So yeah, Comey deserves his spanking. FBI agent Peter Strzok, maybe not so much (in my opinion, of course). Comrade Trump and other Republicans have been claiming Strzok was part of some shadowy Deep State FBI cabal determined to sabotage the Trump campaign. Why? Because of text messages he shared with Lisa Page, who was 1) his lover and 2) Special Counsel to the Deputy FBI Director. Strzok and Page weren’t pleased with the idea that Donald J. Trump might become POTUS, and weren’t shy about saying that in their private text exchanges. Here’s what Trump and the Complicit Republicans consider to be the money shot:

Page: He’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!

Strzok: No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.

The IG report states this exchange “implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” I suppose it could imply that. IF Strzok and Page were the leaders of a desperate but plucky band of anti-Trump commandos operating deep within the halls of the FBI. But I’m inclined to think it’s more likely he was simply saying ‘We the voters of the U.S. will stop it.”

One of these guys has spent his life serving his nation in the military and in the FBI as a counterespionage agent. The other is a malicious twit.

And, in fact, the IG report also says this:

“[W]e did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.”

Trump and the Complicit Republicans aren’t mentioning any of that, are they. They’re too deeply committed to the notion of politically motivated sleeper cells lurking in FBI offices all across the nation.

And hey, guess what. There IS evidence of politically motivated FBI agents trying to influence the election at that point in time. The Strzok-Page text was dated August 8, 2016. If we look at actual headlines from actual newspapers and actual news sites around that time (November, 2016), this is what we see:

The anti-Clinton insurgency at the FBI, explained.

The FBI is Trumpland: anti-Clinton atmosphere spurred leaking, sources say.

Has the FBI Gone Full Breitbart?

Rudy Giuliani Confirms FBI Insiders Leaked Information to the Trump Campaign.

FBI is ‘Trumpland’ and agents are leaking to harm Clinton.

All of these contemporaneous articles, without exception, are about how much the FBI distrusted Hillary Clinton and were actively trying to help the Trump campaign. There’s your Deep State FBI conspiracy, right there. And note that in at least one of those articles we have Rudy Giuliani bragging about how FBI agents had leaked privileged information directly to him and to the Trump campaign.

What is Rudy Nine-Eleven saying now? This:

“Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like Peter Strzok. Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week.”

Is anybody in the news media suggesting Rudy should be investigated about FBI leaks? Is anybody saying Rudy should be in jail? Sadly, no.

What it comes down to is this: the Inspector General is doing exactly the same thing it spanked Comey for. It’s being a sanctimonious prig. The IG report essentially says ‘There’s nothing actually wrong here, but we can see how it might appear that way, so we have to do better.’ And, just like they did with the Comey announcements, Comrade Trump and his Complicit Republicans will twist that into an admission by the FBI that they were guilty.

What gets lost in all this, of course, is the fact that one candidate was actively colluding with a hostile nation to sway a presidential election. We’re so busy making a fuss about not coming to a complete halt at a Stop sign that we don’t see the bank robbers in the getaway car.

 

punch bowl

Okay, let’s just acknowledge this right up front: Canada is nice. If Earth handed out a Miss Congeniality prize, Canada would win. Canada is the neighbor everybody wants. Canada wouldn’t just lend you their shovel if you asked to borrow it, they’d offer to help you use it — then, when you failed to return the shovel, they’d wait for a few months then ask to borrow their own shovel back so they could help a Nigerian orphan hold a funeral for a beloved stuffed Koala bear named Tulip. Canada is the type of nation that comes to a complete halt at stop signs, even when there’s no traffic. If you ask Canada how it’s doing, it’ll say “Just fine, thanks” and mean it. And then Canada will ask how YOU are…and it’ll mean that too.

You have to be a total jackass to piss off Canada. It’s pretty easy to piss off France and Italy, and it’s really not hard to get Germany to make a face at you. The U.K. is fairly piss-offable, but that’s partly because they really enjoy making harumphing noises. It’s hard to tell if Japan is pissed off or not; Japan can play poker. But Canada? You have to be a total jackass and work hard to piss off Canada.

Comrade Trump, unfairly forced to listen to somebody talk about something other than him.

Comrade Trump did it. Did it easily. Trump’s super power is the ability to drop a turd in the punch bowl. And let you know he did it. And that he did it just because he knows it pisses you off, and because he’s sure he can get away with it. In other words, Trump is a total jackass.

At the end of every G7 summit for the last 40 years, they’ve issue a statement “guided by our shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and our commitment to promote a rules-based international order.” It’s a general affirmation of their common principles and economic aspirations. The language of the statement is nitpicked by policy experts from all seven nations, making sure there’s nothing in it that will offend anybody while still being hopeful. All seven nations agree on the statement and sign it. You can read the 2018 joint statement here.

After arriving late for the G7 breakfast, Trump arrives late for a Gender Equality meeting.

Comrade Trump signed it. Well, wait…I don’t think Trump actually signed it himself, because he left early. He came late to meetings, told the G7 leaders they ought to allow Russia back into the group (they’d kicked Russia out after it invaded and seized Crimea along with a big chunk of Ukraine), imposed tariffs on their goods, got pissy when they said they’d impose tariffs right back, refused to wear headphones for translation when other G7 leaders spoke, then left the summit early. And Canada was fairly polite through all that. At the news conference at end of the summit, Prime Minister Trudeau answered a question from the press about imposing counter-tariffs against the U.S. He said:

“I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something we relish doing. But it is something that we absolutely will do. Because Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.”

Comrade Trump believes he has the right — even the obligation — to push people around. He…get this: he ordered his people still on the ground in Canada to officially rescind the U.S. signature on the joint statement. Seriously, after hearing Trudeau say Canada won’t be pushed around, Trump (who’d been complaining that the U.S. was tired of being pushed around) had a tantrum and said he’d unsign the joint statement. Not only that, he had his cadre of spokespersons accuse Trudeau of ‘back-stabbing’ and ‘betrayal’.

Total jackass. Trump went to a summit with an incredibly receptive and friendly group of nations who’ve been allied with the U.S. for decades, and managed to alienate them. After which he insulted them. He essentially dropped a turd in the G7 punch bowl then got pissed off because they didn’t like it.

And now Trump is about to hold another summit with the Aggressively Reckless and Paranoid Boy King of North Korea (a nation which, let’s face it, unlike the members of the G7, isn’t disposed to be friendly to the U.S. to begin with). A summit for which Trump said he didn’t really need to prepare. A summit with a hostile nuclear state that’s threatened “unimaginable” destruction of the U.S.

I don’t know. Maybe it’ll turn out okay. But I’m not confident. It’s one thing to drop a turd in the punch bowl when you’re among friends. It’s another thing altogether to drop a turd in the atomic stew when you’re meeting with an unstable dictator you called Little Rocket Man. I figure the best case scenario will be that Trump agrees to give Kim Jong Un a nuclear submarine in exchange for a chance to run a beauty contest for the ‘Army of Beauties’ that cheered on North Korean athletes in the Winter Olympic.

I don’t even want to think about the worst case scenario.

 

respect

If you ever doubt the pernicious effect Comrade Trump has on the social and political fabric of this unfortunate country, look at this statement by Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League:

It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.

This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.

First he acknowledges that taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem was NOT an unpatriotic act. He then creates a policy that’s based entirely on what he’d just admitted was ‘a false perception.’ From the beginning, NFL players taking a knee was about social justice and police violence against unarmed black men. It was never about the flag or the national anthem.

Which is disrespectful? Silently taking a knee during the national anthem…?

This new NFL policy is cowardly bullshit made in deference to a bullying POTUS who lies and is willing to corrupt any person or institution that he dislikes at any given moment in time. Goodell goes on to say this:

[A]ll league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.

Forced ‘respect’ isn’t respect; forced ‘patriotism’ isn’t patriotism. It’s just compliance. This sort of submission to bullying is not only injurious to the concept of a free society, it also encourages Comrade Trump to continue to lie and bully others. For example, this morning Trump doubled down on his bullying, saying:

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the county.”

Cowardly bullshit from a draft-dodging bully who hasn’t ever in his life willingly made any sort of sacrifice for his country.

…or a draft dodging tax-evader hugging the flag?

Goodell and others have described the locker room option as a compromise between respect for the flag/national anthem and the right to protest. Again, that’s cowardly bullshit. It would be cowardly bullshit even without the hypocrisy of having admitted the protest was NOT unpatriotic. Limiting protest to a closed room out of sight is NOT a compromise; it’s a cowardly and underhanded strategy to silence the protest.

But here’s a true thing: NFL teams are private companies, and the First Amendment doesn’t prohibit private companies from stifling political speech. The NFL has a legal right to cave in to Trump’s bullying.

But here’s an even more important true thing: the NFL can force players to either stand during the national anthem or hide their protest in the locker room — but in doing so, they erode genuine respect for the flag, for the national anthem, and for the United States. True patriotism, true respect for the things that make this nation great sometimes means confronting ugly truths.

Taking a knee to protest injustice is by far more patriotic than submitting to the demands of a bully.

the one promise he’s trying to keep

Comrade Trump basically wants to undo everything President Obama did. No, that’s not right…he doesn’t want to just undo those things; he wants to degrade them, to minimize them, to prove them worthless, to eradicate them. He wants to piss on them.

He says he wants to do something similar, but better. Obamacare? Piss on it and replace it with something better. Climate accord? Piss on it, replace it with something better. Nuclear disarmament in Iran? Piss on it, replace it with something better.

The problem — wait, I just said ‘the problem’ as if there’s only one problem. There are dozens of goddamn problems. You’d need an abacus to keep track of all the problems, starting with the twisted psychology of a man so insecure he feels compelled to piss on everything his predecessor did. But right now I’m just talking about the fundamental problem of the fact that Trump is completely focused on the pissing and not giving any actual thought to the ‘something better’.

Oh, he talks about ‘better’. He promises some vague, gilded fantasy of ‘better’. He assures everybody there’s a beautiful and magnificent Trump-branded ‘better’ that won’t cost nearly as much as expected. It’ll be ‘better’ and he’ll invoke some form of magic ‘negotiation’ spell to guarantee most of the costs will be borne by somebody else. It’ll be so much ‘better’ — we’ll work out the details later, but you won’t believe how much ‘better’ it’ll be, trust me.

You know what? Ain’t nobody who really trusts Comrade Trump. Nobody, not even those Republicans in Congress who say they do. Ain’t nobody trusts him on account of he lies and he has a really long history of cheating people who trusted him.

This smug, self-satisfied, duplicitous fuckwit isn’t to be trusted.

So yesterday Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement with Iran. In his announcement, he said this (and I swear, I am NOT making this up):

“Today’s action sends a critical message: The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them.”

Okay, yeah, you have to agree yesterday’s action sent a critical message. But not the message Trump thinks it sent. The message is this: The United States can no longer be trusted to abide by its agreements. As of now, any threat made by the U.S. is potentially empty. Any promise made by the government of the United States is only valid until the next election. And any promise made by this president is hollow. When Comrade Trump makes a promise, it’s necessary to understand he doesn’t actually know what a promise is, he fails to understand the purpose of a promise, and he hasn’t a clue how a promise works.

In his announcement, Trump also said this:

“Iran’s leaders will naturally say that they refuse to negotiate a new deal; they refuse. And that’s fine. I’d probably say the same thing if I was in their position. But the fact is they are going to want to make a new and lasting deal.”

The fact is, Iran had a deal. Trump backed out of it. And by backing out, Trump assured Iran that any new deal they might strike with the U.S. would be just as worthless as the last one. There’s absolutely no reason, no incentive for Iran to bother negotiating a deal with the United States. And hey, guess what: there’s no reason for any other nation to consider making a deal with the U.S. about anything. Because Comrade Trump isn’t to be trusted, which means right now the U.S. isn’t to be trusted.

Wait…I was wrong. I said Comrade Trump doesn’t understand the concept of a promise; I said he isn’t to be trusted. That’s not exactly true. He promised to piss on everything Obama did, and he can be trusted to do everything in his power to keep that promise.