so far

Over the last few days, three bits of seemingly unrelated news caught my attention and sort of took up residence in my brain.

News Bit the First: After two years of investigation, a Trump Justice Department inquiry launched by vindictive Republicans into allegations of 1) financial corruption by the Clinton Foundation, 2) criminal activity by Hillary Clinton in the Uranium One deal, and 3) still another probe into the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server was quietly ended. No report was issued, no announcement was made, no comment was given — the investigation just ended with the conclusion that there was absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing.

News Bit the Second: There’s been an ongoing social media discussion about the reluctance of men — particularly men who would be casting votes for Academy Award nominations — to see Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women. Why? Apparently because it’s about women. Apparently because these men feel the male characters in the film are ‘two-dimensional, largely ornamental and relegated to the background.’

News Bit the Third: It appears Senator Bernie Sanders may have said — or somehow suggested — that a woman couldn’t win a presidential election in 2020. It seems highly unlikely to me that Bernie would have said that — or that he would believe that to be the case — but the guy tends be blunt and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he said something that could easily be interpreted that way. In a way, it doesn’t matter if Bernie actually said it or not. The sad fact is, the electability of women shouldn’t even be a matter of discussion. But it is.

Obviously, these three seemingly unrelated bits of news aren’t unrelated at all. I don’t need to point out what they have in common. I don’t need to say it’s incredibly stupid that it’s 2020 and women are still dealing with this shit.

But I DO want to say that it’s impressive as hell that they ARE dealing with it. That Hillary Clinton could get three million more votes than Trump, still lose the election, and yet still have the strength of character to continue to speak out. That Greta Gerwig can make an absolutely amazing film, get denied a Best Director nomination, and yet still have the strength of character to celebrate the actors in her film and their nominations. That Elizabeth Warren could create the idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, be denied the Director’s position by Republicans, run for a Senate seat against the incumbent Republican, win the seat, was warned by Mitch McConnell NOT to read a letter by Coretta Scott King, read it anyway, got formally rebuked (“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted”) and still had the strength of character to run for president.

I am astonished that so many women have continued to stand firm, speak out, and fight for fundamental fairness despite living in a culture that is punishing, denigrating, often hateful, shaming, and for some reason even denies them pockets in their clothes.

Pockets, for fuck’s sake. How women find the patience to resist burning it all down is beyond me. And they could do it. If every woman — every low paid office clerk, every admin assistant, every receptionist, every woman executive, every housekeeper and baker and welder and doctor and truck driver and police officer — if every woman decided to not go to work for one day, the entire world would come to an abrupt halt. If they decided not to go to work for two days, whole economies would collapse.

But nevertheless, they persist. They do go to work. Every goddamn day.

So far.

we can’t

Y’all already know this, but I’m going to repeat it just so we’re clear. Comrade POTUS Donald Trump ordered the targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani, a high-ranking military officer of Iran — a nation with whom the US is not at war — during the general’s public visit to Iraq, which offered no objection to his visit. The question we have to ask, of course, is this: why in the hell did Trump decide to have Soleimani assassinated?

Trump initially said Soleimani had to be killed because “he was planning new attacks on American targets.” Attacks, plural. He repeated this claim, and got more specific, at his campaign rally in Ohio last night. Comrade Trump said this:

“Soleimani was actively planning new attacks and he was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad, but we stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold. So at my direction, the United States military eliminated Qasem Soleimani and ended his rampage through not only that part of the world but much bigger parts of the world he was all over.”

Multiple attacks on more than one embassy. Members of Congress (in both political parties) who were eventually briefed on the assassination have said there was no mention of any plans by Soleimani to attack any embassy. Still, Trump is making the claim — and the claim makes him look decisive and determined and concerned about the welfare of US embassy staff. It’s almost certainly a lie.

Another take on the assassination is buried deep in a Wall Street Journal article. It offers some uglier insight into Comrade Trump’s decision-making process:

Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

This makes Trump’s decision to have Soleimani assassinated sound like nothing more than an attempt to shore up support in his coming impeachment trial. It’s probably true.

It’s barely making the news. This is the United States we live in now. We have a president who almost certainly had a foreign military leader assassinated in order to strengthen his political situation in Congress, and because Trump is who he is and because Republicans have protected him for so very long, it’s just another day. We were this close to a shooting war…and Republicans just shrug it off.

The United States used to be a fairly decent country. Those days are gone, and sometimes it seems like we’ll never get them back. It makes you want to sit in a dark room and mope. But, of course, we can’t.

Well, we can. But no, we can’t. We can’t. We really can’t.

you don’t have to roll the dice if you’ve already won the game

Credit where it’s due, and all that. You have to hand it to Vlad Putin. That guy — he put together a few fairly small teams of operatives, handed them a relatively small budget, and told them to go forth and fuck up the 2016 presidential election.

And they did.

Hell, they probably had a good time doing it. After all, it turned out to be fairly easy. It was basically a two-pronged approach. Prong One: create public doubt in the integrity of the election process itself. That would handicap the administration of the eventual winner regardless of who it was. Prong Two: exacerbate the already existing divisions within US culture. Just encourage everybody to hate everybody else just a little more. That would make the nation much more difficult to govern.

That’s it. That’s all they had to do. Easy peasy lemon breezy.

It was made even easier because they had a ready-made candidate. Seriously, if you sat down at a table to design a presidential candidate who to be a Russian intelligence asset, you’d want somebody who was:

  • already corrupt as fuck
  • massively ignorant about everything a president should understand
  • narcissistic to a degree that it met the standard for a personality disorder
  • completely devoid of personal loyalty or patriotism
  • insecure enough to be easily manipulated through flattery
  • resentful, impetuous, malicious, vengeful, petty, unwilling to learn, and lazy.

Why is Vlad smiling? I think we know.

So, clearly, Donald Trump. Right? I don’t think Putin believed Trump had any real chance of winning. Trump didn’t need to win in order for Putin’s plan to succeed. All Putin wanted/needed to do was to foment social discord and bugger up the election system.

The easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to do those two things? Poison social media, The Russians flooded social media with lies, half-truths, rumors, and conspiracy theories. Some of the lies were so outrageous and ridiculous that only lunatics would believe them (a pedophile ring run by lesbian Hillary Clinton out of a tunnel beneath a pizza parlor — who the hell is going to believe something like…ah, right, never mind). But it didn’t matter than some of the lies were so ridiculous. You tell an outrageous lie in order to make less outrageous lies seem more probable. Folks who hear and dismiss the Pizzagate lie would be more open to believing the Benghazi lies. Or the Hillary-has-brain-damage-from-a-fall lie.

And once those lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories were out there in the social media sphere, the Russians could count on the Trump campaign to echo them, spreading them even more widely and making them seem a tad more legit.

I don’t know if the Russians expected the entire Republican Party to help out, but they did. And they did it with enthusiasm. They spread the lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories with all the passion of spawning salmon. Not because they believed them, of course, but because it was to their advantage politically. I’d like to think the Russians were surprised to see Republicans so keen to undermine the electoral process, but I’m naive like that. I mean, surely the Russians wouldn’t have expected that, when their rat-fucking became obvious, the Republicans would not only refuse to acknowledge it, but would go so far as to threaten President Obama that if he made a public statement about it, they’d respond by calling it a partisan attack. Surely the Russians wouldn’t have expected Republicans to be that awful. Would they?

Yeah, okay, maybe.

Guy shouldn’t be smiling at all.

And finally, the Russians spread as much internal division as they could, pitting Hillary’s people against Bernie’s people, against Jill’s people, even against Gary Johnson’s people for fuck’s sake (although I suspect Gary Johnson’s ‘people’ were just folks who said I don’t know who he is, but he’s not a socialist or a woman, so I’ll vote for him).

Anyway, it all worked. Trump was elected by fewer than eighty thousand votes cast in three states. Since then, almost every international action he’s taken as president has benefited Russia. He’s weakened NATO, he’s insulted and alienated our traditional allies, he’s cozied up to tyrants and excused their behavior, he’s refused to accept the advice or listen to the suggestions of acknowledged experts in foreign relations, he’s pulled out of established treaties, he’s abandoned the Kurds who did most of the killing and dying in the fight against ISIS, and he’s completely corrupted the reputation of the United States. Right now, no other nation in the world has any reason to trust the word of the U.S. government.

Guy’s got good reasons to be smiling.

Again, credit where it’s due. Vlad Putin dropped a few rubles on a lottery ticket and he won. And guess what. He’s picked the same lottery numbers for the next election. And hey, with the help of Comrade Trump and the Republican Party, he’s already won. Even if Trump loses the 2020 election, even if he’s impeached and removed from office, even if everybody in the Trump administration ends up in prison, Putin has already won. Because any Democrat who wins the election will have to spend a massive amount of time and effort and money to clean up after the motherfucker.

And that serves Russian interests, Vlad fuckin’ Putin. Comrade Donald fuckin’ Trump. Jesus suffering fuck, they really did it, didn’t they.

it’s worse than that

The Republicans are lying. But it’s not just lying; it’s worse than that. The Republicans are also spreading disinformation. Disinformation is deliberate misinformation intended to distract and deceive. Disinformation is worse than a lie because it’s meant to cast the concept of truth itself into doubt.

Here’s a lie: Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 presidential election with the intent to help Trump. It’s demonstrably not true. Ukraine was responsible for the meddling in the 2016 election — that’s a lie, but it’s worse than that. It’s disinformation. It’s designed to deliberately mislead people, to plant misinformation into the discussion. Disinformation forces truth-tellers to dispute both the lie and the false information as well.

Let me say it again. Republicans are lying, but worse than that they’re spreading disinformation. But it’s even worse than that, the disinformation is part of a Russian intelligence campaign. It’s designed both to aid Russia in its invasion of Ukraine and to sow dissent and discord in the domestic politics of the U.S.

The Russians are really very good at this. They didn’t invent disinformation, but they were the first nation to develop it as an cohesive intelligence strategy. Even the term ‘disinformation’ itself was created as disinformation. In the 1920s, a Russian black propaganda program began using the term dezinformatsiya, suggesting it was translated from a French word (désinformation), which didn’t exist. That allowed them to claim the concept had a Western origin. With the creation of mass media and the internet, disinformation in the post-Soviet era has become a critical facet of both the Russian military intelligence and the SVR — the Russian Federation’s foreign intelligence service.

And, again, Republicans are disseminating a disinformation campaign designed by an intelligence agency hostile to United States’ interests. It’s worse than that. At this point, they’re doing it knowingly. Fiona Hill told them under oath that the idea that Ukraine was behind the 2016 election ratfucking was “a fictional narrative” created by Russian intelligence. But even if they dismissed her sworn testimony, Congress was briefed by U.S. intelligence agencies that “Russia had engaged in a years-long campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election.”

Treason for the tackiest of motives — partisan politics.

They know. They know it’s a lie, but they still tell it. They know it’s disinformation, but they still spread it. They know it’s a critical element of a Russian intelligence operation, but they continue to repeat it. They fucking know, and they don’t care. They are, in effect, providing aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States. That’s treason.

It’s worse than that. It’s not treason for ideological reasons, or treason for money, or treason as an act of dissent, or even treason for personal power. It’s worse than that; it’s treason for the tackiest of motives — partisan politics.

craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history

Okay, a quick heads up. I’m going to write a really long sentence. Really long. The kind of sentence writing instructors warn students never to write because readers will either lose interest in the subject and decide to go see what’s on television, or get massively confused halfway through and have to start again at the beginning. It’s going to be longer than the sentence you just read. It’s a long sentence because the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history demands long sentences. So you’ve been warned.

Yesterday, at the same time Congress was holding the first public impeachment hearing to determine if Comrade Donald J. Trump is fit to continue to occupy the office of the President of the United States, Trump was meeting with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, who last month launched a military offensive that bore all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kurdish forces who had been the chief ally in the U.S. fight against ISIS for years until they were suddenly, unexpectedly betrayed by Trump’s inexplicable decision — which came immediately after a late-night phone call with the president of Turkey — to remove U.S. military forces from the Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria.

This was an extraordinary conjunction of events, even by the loopy standards of the Trumpverse. As I said earlier, it’s the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history. While two patriotic career civil servants (one of whom is actually a deputy assistant secretary of state specializing in anti-corruption efforts) were testifying under oath that Trump had betrayed his oath of office by engaging in corrupt activity, Trump was publicly celebrating a different corrupt betrayal — and doing it with the corrupt dictator who directly benefited from the betrayal. Not only that, Trump openly confessed to a war crime. Although he’d claimed he pulled U.S. forces out of Syria to bring them home, yesterday he said this:

“We are keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.”

This is a clear violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions, which categorically states pillaging (taking something of value from a location seized in a time of war) is prohibited. It’s also perfectly on-brand for Trump, who argues that corruption committed in the open doesn’t count.

This is the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history. Democrats and civil servants are systematically and methodically demonstrating the corrupt practices of the Trump administration while Republicans are spouting insane conspiracy theories and mocking Congressional witnesses for drinking water (I am NOT making this up) and POTUS is calling himself a ‘big fan’ of a foreign dictator who a few weeks ago had openly insulted him by saying he’d thrown Trump’s threatening letter in the trash. What the actual fuck is happening here?

How can all this crazy shit be happening at the same time? It almost makes you want to believe in astrology, because it would be nice if we could explain it all away by pointing to some lunatic arrangement of planets. That would actually make it less crazy; that’s how goddamn crazy this moment is.

And don’t even think about pulling me aside and whispering, “Forget it, Jake…it’s Chinatown” because it’s NOT CHINATOWN. This is NOT a Chinatown situation. Sure, Kurdistan is as dead as Hollis Mulwray, and Trump is treating the Constitution the way Noah Cross treated his daughter, but this isn’t policing in Los Angeles in the 1930s. It’s actually possible for us to know whether our foreign interventions are helping victims or exploiting them.

Okay. Okay, I got a tad carried away and veered off into a tangent that probably won’t even make sense to folks who’ve seen the movie. Sorry. That’s what living in the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history will do to you.

There’s another public hearing schedule for tomorrow. Maybe it’ll be less crazy. Or maybe Comrade Trump will hold a press conference with Ming the Merciless. I’m not going to rule it out.

Somewhat Related Editorial Note: If you haven’t seen Chinatown, WTF is wrong with you? Go watch it. It’s brilliant. Cynical, yeah, but one of the best films ever made, even if it was made by Roman Polanski — and there’s a tangent I’m going to avoid while I still retain some semblance of self-control.

faith, hope, and tax exempt charity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, you know, we could vote.

a discussion about the impeachment process

Democrats: You know, we think Comrade Trump maybe probably did some crimes, so we’re going to investigate.

Republicans: YOU LOST THE ELECTION GET OVER IT!!!

Ds: It appears Trump has possibly violated the Emoluments Clause. And also maybe committed a bit of tax fraud. Plus probably illegally diverted monies from the military by declaring a fake emergency at the border. Also too, maybe illegally dangled pardons to accused criminals in an effort to shape their testimony.

Rs: FAKE NEWS!!!

Ds: Oh, and then there’s that extortion of foreign governments to hurt a possible political rival. That’s on top of the obstruction of justice stuff.

R: YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO OVERTURN THE ELECTION!!!

Democrats discussing the impeachment process with Republicans.

Ds: There’s a whistleblower, you know.

R: A DEEP STATE LIAR!!! THIRD HAND HEARSAY!!!

Ds: Seems pretty credible, really.

Rs: TRUMP’S PHONE CALL WAS PERFECT!!! HERE’S A COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT!!!

Ds: Well, it’s not really complete, is it. Or even a transcript.

Rs: FAKE NEWS!!! BIDEN’S A CROOK!!!

Ds: We have several career diplomats and foreign service officers who corroborate the whistleblower.

Rs: DEEP STATE TRAITORS!!! NEVER TRUMPERS!!! NO FIRST HAND WITNESSES!!!

Ds: Oh. Okay, here’s a first hand witness.

Rs: HE WAS BORN IN UKRAINE!!! HE SPEAKS UKRANIAN!!! CAN’T BE TRUSTED!!!

Ds: His parents fled Ukraine when he was three to seek freedom. He’s a career military man, a combat veteran who awarded a Purple Heart for his wounds.

Rs: THE HEARINGS ARE HELD IN SECRET!!! WHAT ARE YOU HIDING???!!!

Ds: Republican committee members can attend the hearings and ask questions.

Rs: THERE’S NO FORMAL IMPEACHMENT VOTE!!!

Ds: We don’t need one. But hey, okay, we’ll have a formal vote.

Rs: TOO LATE!!! DEEPSTATETRAITORS!!! WHERE’S THE SERVER???!!! BENGHAZI!!!

Ds: Benghazi?

Rs: WE NEVER SAID BENGHAZI!!! THE TYPEFACE ON THE IMPEACHMENT HEARING RULES IS WRONG!!! STOP THE WITCH HUNT!!! NO MORE SECRET HEARINGS!!!

Ds: We’re going to start holding public hearings.

Rs: !!!???

Ds: I know, right?

Rs: BOOING PRESIDENTS IS RUDE!!! TRUMP KILLED THAT ISIS GUY!!!

Ds: Well, that was the Army, but yeah, we’re glad al-Baghdadi is no longer a…

Rs: STRANGLED HIM WITH HIS BARE HANDS!!! RIPPED OUT HIS LARYNX WITH HIS TEETH!!!

Ds: Uh…

Rs: WITH HIS TEETH!!!

Ds: Uh, I don’t…

Rs: SHUT UP!!! THERE WAS A DOG!!! A DOG!!!

Ds: …

Rs: WE WIN!!! PRAISE JEEBUS!!! MORE GUNS!!! MAGA!!!