70+ days of shit to clean up

Let’s be wildly optimistic for a bit. Let’s assume Comrade Trump is soundly defeated in five days. Let’s also assume he calmly accepts the results of the election (hey, I did say ‘wildly optimistic’). That still gives him 70-plus days to fuck up the United States. It’s a lot easier to assume he’ll do some revenge-fucking than to assume he’ll quietly accept defeat. He will leave a LOT of shit for other folks to clean up.

I’m just guessing here, of course, but I suspect one of the things he’ll do is ruthlessly enforce the executive order he signed last week. This was a singularly nasty bit of work designed to make it easier for a president to fire career civil servants. To Trump, career federal employees are part of some faceless Deep State whose purpose, he believes, is to interfere with whatever he wants to do. In fact, that Deep State are the two million men and women who work in federal government turning presidential wants and wishes into formal policies that conform to the law, then implementing those policies. For example, when Trump says or tweets he wants to cancel the order for a new Air Force One (which he did), the Deep State career civil servants immediately begin the complex process of canceling an Air Force procurement order. Because that IS a complex process and can’t be done overnight, Trump complains the Deep State is thwarting him. Never mind that Trump changed his mind about canceling the order, he just hates being thwarted.

“You get fired, and you get fired, and you too, everybody gets fired.”

So I suspect there’s a good chance Trump will do some vengeance-thwarting on those thwarters. There’s a good chance he’ll fire more than a bunch of anonymous career professionals; he’ll very likely fire the heads of agencies he feels weren’t sufficiently loyal. FBI Director Christopher Wray, for example. And CIA head, Gina Aspel. Anthony Fauci will be toast. Probably a few more.

There will likely be a massive destruction of official records in the 72 days between the election and the inauguration of President Biden. Yeah, that’s illegal, but Trump and his people have shrugged off other obviously illegal behaviors. Like using Air Force One or the White House for political events without paying for them out of campaign funds. We’ve seen them refuse to honor legal subpoenas, we’ve seen them use WhatsApp to dodge leaving an official record, we’ve seen them insist Trump’s tweets are official records and thereby subject to the Presidential Records Act (also insist they’re just Trump’s personal opinions, so NOT subject to the Presidential Records Act). We’ve seen them normalize illegal acts and not be held accountable for them, so it’s not a big stretch to assume they’ll engage in an orgy of document destruction and erasure.

“But me, I’ll get pardoned. By the greatest and most unappreciated president ever. ME!”

Finally, most of us probably expect a tsunami of presidential pardons. He’ll likely pardon everybody involved in the Russia investigation, and all his cronies and financial contributors, and all of his kids, maybe his wife, and he’ll probably try to pardon himself. Of course, he can only pardon people for federal crimes; there can still be state investigations and prosecutions.

But assuming a Biden win, we can expect a whole lot of ugly to follow. There will be a LOT of shit to clean up. Let’s face it, Trump, his family, and his supporters — they’re the types of folks who’ll take a dump in the toilet and let the incoming administration discover and flush it.

insult politics

At some point today or tomorrow Amy Coney Barrett will be given a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Has she earned that seat? I don’t know, probably not–or at least not yet–but it doesn’t matter; it’ll be given to her anyway. Is she qualified? I don’t know, maybe, but it doesn’t matter; it’ll be given to her anyway. Do the American people support her? Some do, some don’t, and it doesn’t matter; it’ll be given to her anyway. At some point today or tomorrow Amy Coney Barrett will be given a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.

It will be given to her in the same way SCOTUS seats were given to Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. It will be given to her as a display of raw political power. It will be given to her as an expression of the modern Republican Party’s sneering disregard to representative democracy. It will be given to her as a demonstration that Republicans in the Senate can do whatever they want and Democrats are helpless to stop them. It’s the legislative equivalent of the Trumpist slogan Fuck your feelings.

It’s hateful aggressive bullying, plain and simple. It’s the same thing Trump supporters are doing all across the nation. It’s deliberately coughing in the face of a person wearing a mask. It’s driving trucks decked with Trump flags and signs through a BLM demonstration, honking horns and shooting people with paint guns. It’s purposely mispronouncing Kamala’s name. It’s openly carrying semi-auto rifles into the coffee shop, into the supermarket, into the state capitol building. It’s a flag saying ‘Make Liberals Cry’. It’s blocking access to ballot boxes and harassing voters. It’s calling the police to report a black person for being a black person doing what a white person can do. It’s a t-shirt that says ‘Free Michigan, Fuck Whitmer’.

Modern Republicans didn’t invent insult politics. They’ve been around for centuries. It’s been written that the Roman emperor Caligula planned to appoint his favorite horse, Incitatus, a consul of Rome–the highest elected or appointed office in the Roman Republic. It didn’t happen, but it’s a classic example of insult politics.

I’m not comparing Amy Coney Barrett to a horse. Unlike Incitatus, Barrett may, in fact, be qualified to sit on a high court bench. Even the Supreme Court. It doesn’t matter, because she’s not being given the seat because she’s the best candidate to fill it. Republicans could have chosen any of dozens of interchangeable, reliably conservative judges who’d vote the way they expect her to vote. They chose her because she’s a Catholic woman, and would give them a chance to accuse Democrats of being against religion and women. They chose her because it’s easier to bully somebody when you think they can’t or won’t fight back.

Giving a SCOTUS seat to Amy Coney Barrett is a deliberate insult. It’s a general insult to democracy, and a very specific, intentional slap in the face to Democrats. Giving her a seat is an insult to the Supreme Court. It could be said it’s an insult to Amy Coney Barrett herself, because it’s entirely possible she could have earned a spot on the Supreme Court. (The same is true of Gorsuch, who might have earned a seat; it’s not true of Kavanaugh, who lacked the temperament and probity to occupy a SCOTUS seat.)

The fact that Barrett is willing to accept a seat on the Supreme Court as a gift is, sadly, telling. It meant she didn’t have to answer any tough, important questions during her confirmation hearing. Does a president have the power to delay an election? The US Constitution offers a clear answer: no. Elections are held “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November.” But Barrett declined to give an answer, because it didn’t matter; she was to be given a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. Should a president commit to the peaceful transfer of power? The answer is obvious: yes. But Barrett declined to give an answer, because it didn’t matter; she was to be given a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.

My objection to Amy Coney Barrett isn’t grounded in her politics. Well, not entirely. My objection is the rank hypocrisy of Senate Republicans and their disregard for the process of democracy. They could have waited to give her the seat until after the election. They could have waited for the American people to speak their minds through their votes. They could have chosen NOT to just giver her a seat on the Supreme Court. But no. They could have acted decently and honorably. But no. They did what they wanted because they knew nobody could stop them, because they had the power to impose their will on American society.

That’s all there is to it. At some point today or tomorrow Amy Coney Barrett will be given a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States as a testament to the conservative commitment of pissing off Democrats.

julienne politics

Right, that’s done then. The final debate. I watched it. I didn’t learn anything new (and didn’t expect to). I knew it wasn’t going to change my vote (partly because I’ve already voted and partly because there are only two candidates and one of them is an ignorant misogynistic Russian intelligence asset, which makes the choice pretty easy). I guess I watched it out of a sense of social obligation. One of these elderly white guys is going to be running the nation; I should do them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say.

These aren’t real debates, of course. They’re what we’ve settled for in the US because viewers don’t have the patience for an actual debate. And let’s face it, candidates are too afraid of making a mistake to engage in a real exchange of ideas, so what we end up with instead is political marketing.

That’s not entirely a bad thing. The whole idea of marketing is to get people interested enough in something — a product or a service or a candidate — to make some sort of financial or emotional investment in it. To buy it. Or support it.

During the ‘debate’ last night, Uncle Joe Biden, the career public servant, occasionally turned to the camera and directly addressed the voters at home. He promoted his Prez-o-matic, telling folks it would make them safer, keep them warmer, heal their wounds, clear the air, and create mounds of julienne fries in just seconds. On the other hand, Comrade Trump, the businessman, the self-proclaimed marketing genius, never addressed the voters directly. He spent the evening either telling the moderator that his Trumpco Dicer was the best kitchen tool ever invented until China broke it or claiming Biden’s Prez-o-matic made black people sick.

To her credit, Kristen Welker, the moderator, gave both candidates the chance to do some direct marketing with her final question of the night. “Imagine this is your inauguration day. What will you say in your address, to Americans who did not vote for you?” This is what Trump would say to people who didn’t vote for him:

“We have to make our country totally successful, as it was prior to the plague coming in from China…. We had the best Black unemployment numbers in the history of our country. Hispanic, women, Asian, people with diplomas, with no diplomas, MIT graduates; number one in the class, everybody had the best numbers…. Success is going to bring us together. We are on the road to success. But I’m cutting taxes, and he wants to raise everybody’s taxes and he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a Depression, the likes of which you’ve never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell, and it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country.”

Here’s what Biden would say to people who didn’t vote for him:

“I’m an American President. I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me, and I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope. We’re going to move; we’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear. We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities, enormous opportunities to make things better…. I’m going to say, as I said at the beginning, what is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency, honor, respect. Treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I’m going to make sure you get that.”

In a normal election cycle, the contest would come down to a simple question: If you were shopping for a kitchen tool, who would you buy it from? Who would you trust to provide you with a reliable, fully functional, ergonomic, easy-to-use, dishwasher safe utensil? Which product do you want on your kitchen counter — the Trumpco Dicer or the Biden Prez-o-matic?

But this is not a normal election. In this election the makers of the Trumpco Dicer are promoting a broken product. In a way, it doesn’t matter whether or not China broke it; they haven’t repaired it. In addition, they’ve spent their advertising money on fast food and trucknuts, so they’re broke; they can’t produce many product commercials. Instead of promoting the Trumpco Dicer, they’re trying to make it more difficult for you to buy a Biden Prez-o-matic.

It’s lousy marketing of a lousy product.

not even a dog

Yesterday on Facebook I responded to a post by one of my senators (Charles Grassley, who at one time was a principled conservative but has devolved into a hypocritical party hack) who chastized “Democrats & liberals in the press” for not giving enough attention to the Hunter Biden Laptop Lunatic Conspiracy Theory. I said this in response:

Generally, advancing a Russian disinformation operation is considered unAmerican. Sad to see you taking such a position.

Several Trump/Grassley supporters took me to task for suggesting the laptop fuss followed the pattern of a classic Russian dezinformatsiya scheme (which it totally does).

— “Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Monday said that Hunter Biden’s laptop “is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign”.”
— our TDS Delusion is blinding you!! Hunter’s ATTORNEY contacted the computer shop, wanting to retrieve his client’s laptop!!! If this laptop has been in FBI custody since Nov. or Dec., 2019, HOW DID RUSSIA GET AHOLD OF IT, OR HAVE ACCESS TO IT??
— YOUR TDS IS IN THE WAY!! THIS LAPTOP, NOW CORROBORATED BY HUNTER’S ATTORNEY, IS LEGIT AND HUNTER HAS A PEDO PROBLEM AS WELL AS LOTS OF MONEY THAT HE AND “POP” HAVEN’T PAID ANY TAXES ON!!
— oh here we go again, everytime a Democrat gets caught dirty the ” Russians” did it, learn a new tune numbskull
— So you think just because the MSM isn’t covering this that it doesn’t exist?? WOW – and you call me stupid and gullible?? It is NOT a LIE, and when Joe-Joe and Hunter go to prison, maybe you’ll believe it then!! The laptop was corroboated by Hunter’s own attorney, plus Hunter’s buddies, Bevan Cooney and Devin Archer, who are both facing prison time for all of these crazy financial deals; they have now turned over 26,000+ e-mails which are also on Hunter’s laptop!! They were in on this; flipped on their buddy as they go to prison, and Hunter gets to be free FOR NOW!! Since Joe-Joe got half of all of the money, just think of all the taxes that Joe-Joe did NOT PAY on all those millions!! Hope the IRS pays him a visit!!
— has nothing to do with the Russians. It is left wing bias by Twitter and Facebook.
— FOX Tucker Carlson verified it today.

Where to start? Maybe with the claim that Hunter Biden’s attorney ‘corroboated’ the idea that the laptop belong to his client. George Mesires, the attorney in question, told the Washington Post, “We have no idea where this came from, and certainly cannot credit anything that Rudy Giuliani provided to the NY Post.” So no, that dog don’t hunt.

What about the suggestion that since the laptop has been in FBI custody since late 2019, there was no way for Russia to “GET AHOLD OF IT“? It would indeed be difficult for Russians (or anybody else) to get access to a hard drive stored in an FBI evidence facility. It would, though, be relatively easy for Russians (or anybody else) to load disinformation onto the drives of three laptops and deliver them to a strip mall computer repair shop in Delaware run by a legally blind Trump supporter and claim they were the property of Hunter Biden (who, by the way, lived in California at the time, which makes it improbable that he’d fly to his daddy’s home state to get his computers repaired). So no, that dog don’t hunt either.

Well, how about the claim that Hunter Biden “HAS A PEDO PROBLEM“? This nasty bit of bullshit was launched by a photo printed in the NY Post article. It shows the front of a subpoena form that doesn’t list a recipient or identify anything the recipient is required to produce. However, there appears to be writing on the back of the form which has bled through to the front (in reverse, of course), and includes a signature that could be that of FBI Special Agent Joshua Wilson, who has worked on child pornography cases. There’s literally nothing on the form to indicate the subpoena was for Hunter Biden, or that it involved a laptop, or that child porn is involved. So no, that dog don’t hunt and is probably asleep on the porch.

One of many dogs that just don’t hunt.

So what about the fact that Tucker Carlson “verified it”? Let’s just remind folks that a federal judge just dismissed a slander lawsuit against Carlson after agreeing with Carlson’s own lawyers that “given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statement he makes.” In other words, Carlson’s employer, FOX News, admits that he is full of shit and can’t be relied on as a fact witness. In fact, the Biden laptop ‘scandal’ was so thin that FOX News refused to report it as news. That didn’t stop FOX commentators (like Tucker Carlson) from talking about it incessantly, of course. But it’s worth noting that even Breitbart, a normally reliable engine for lunatic right-wing conspiracy theories, was skeptical about the story. So no, that dog don’t hunt and it may not even be a dog.

DNI John Ratcliffe momentarily not kissing Trump’s pale plump ass.

But hey, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe…what about his claim that the laptop in question “is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign“? If you can’t trust the DNI, then who can you trust? Sadly, you really can’t trust the DNI IF the DNI is John Ratcliffe.

Let’s first acknowledge that Ratcliffe, a notorious Trump ass-kisser, is Trump’s fourth DNI in just under four years. Let’s also acknowledge that the first time Trump nominated Ratcliffe to be DNI (after Trump forced DNI Dan Coats to resign after Coats agreed that Russia implemented a disinformation op to help elect Donald Trump in 2016), the nomination had to be withdrawn because even Trump supporters in the Senate felt Ratcliffe wasn’t qualified and couldn’t be trusted not to politicize intelligence issues. In the interim, there were two other DNIs; Joseph Maguire, who was fired for briefing the House Intelligence Committee that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump and was planning on doing it again in 2020, and Richard Grenell, a Trump supporter without any intelligence experience who also couldn’t be confirmed by the Senate. After Grenell, the Senate confirmed Ratcliffe as DNI on a party line vote (because at that point the GOP had basically given up any hope of checking Trump). Although he’s only been DNI for five months, Ratcliffe has routinely violated norms by mining and declassifying material (mostly dealing with Hunter Biden and Ukraine) that might help Trump’s re-election campaign.

The CIA’s assessment of the laptop ‘scandal’ is that it’s likely a dezinformatsiya operation “probably directed” by Putin and his top aides, implemented by Russian asset Andrii Derkach in Ukraine, with the presumably unwitting assistance of Rudy Giuliani (is Rudy really that stupid? Maybe.). More than fifty former senior intelligence officials–including former Trump administration officials–have signed a letter stating the laptop ‘scandal’ “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” The FBI, which has custody of the laptop hard drive, has reportedly opened an investigation to determine if this is a Russian disinformation operation.

So no, the Ratcliffe dog don’t hunt, and isn’t a dog, or even a mammal. It’s more of a slime mold–a eukaryotic organism not known for hunting.

But I’ve got a shiny new nickle that says during tomorrow night’s debate, Comrade Trump will repeatedly accuse Joe Biden’s son of being corrupt and possibly a pedophile on national television. That in itself is reason enough to vote him out of office.

dezinformatsiya

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m inclined to think that when US intelligence agencies warn the president that one of his closest associates is being used as a conduit for a disinformation operation directed by a hostile foreign nation and aimed at a national election, the president probably ought to be concerned. Maybe even consider doing something about it. And by ‘doing something about it’ I mean stopping it.

But we’re talking about President Comrade Trump and Russia. We’re talking about Rudy Giuliani and the 2020 presidential election. So ‘doing something about it’ isn’t going to involve stopping the Russian disinformation operation. ‘Doing something about it’ involves spreading it. ‘Doing something about it’ involves embracing it.

I wrote about this a couple of days ago, calling it ‘the most embarrassingly bad disinformation op imaginable.’ Don’t get me wrong — the underlying concept of the op is a classic Russian dezinformatsiya scheme. It’s a variation of the old negligent-spy-accidentally-leaves- briefcase-with-compromising-information-on-the-subway routine. Somebody finds the briefcase, looks inside, discovers the manufactured compromising information, reports it, and the disinformation gets spread organically. As a scheme, it’s very sound.

But Jeebus Microdot, Rudy Giuliani really fucked this up. And Trump was warned about it. According to news reports, Trump’s fourth National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien (and right there you already have a serious problem — four national security advisers in three years is a disgrace) met in person with Trump to caution him that “any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia.”

Rudy Giuliani and Andrii Derkach

For well over a year, Rudy had been dealing with Andrii Leonidovych Derkach, a former Ukrainian security officer who is considered to be a Russian intelligence asset. I’m being polite and conservative when I say he’s ‘considered’ to be an asset. This guy actually graduated from the FSB Academy back when it was still called the Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB. It’s basically Spy School. Derkach’s thesis topic…and I am NOT making this up…was “Organization and Conduct of Meetings with Secret Agents”. Derkach should be walking around with a lapel badge saying, “Hi, my name is Andrii, I’m a fucking spy!” Back in 2020, a lot of folks thought Derkach would be the Ukrainian Putin. although that hasn’t quite worked out for him. Last month the US Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach for running an “influence campaign” against Joe Biden (and by ‘sanctioned’ I mean they froze all of his property interests in the US and prohibited Americans from engaging in transactions with him or entities owned by him). THIS is the guy Rudy was meeting with to gather ‘information’ about Joe Biden’s son Hunter. This is precisely why the National Security Adviser told Comrade Trump to distance himself from any Biden-related crap Rudy might drop on his desk.

Did Trump follow that advice?

Yeah. Exactly.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not claiming Derkach and Rudy were behind the three wet laptops allegedly containing compromising material on the Bidens that were accidentally left on the subway forgotten at the computer store. I’m just saying that it resembles a classic Russian dezinformatsiya scheme. And I’m just saying Andrii Derkach has been working in Russia’s interest for some time. And I’m just saying Rudy Giuliani is no longer the clever New York lawyer he once was. And I’m just saying Trump has no ethics at all and will use any tactic he thinks might give him a momentary advantage over an opponent.

Really, is anybody even remotely surprised that Comrade Trump would ignore the warning of his fourth National Security Adviser? Is anybody even remotely surprised that Trump might promote an illegal Russian disinformation operation if he thought it could help him win an election?

We have seventeen (17) days to the election. It’s time to return Comrade Trump to the shelf. Go vote.

trump and socrates

Somebody at the White House needs to remind Comrade Trump that he’s still the President of These United States — and that a big chunk of his job is to pay attention to what’s going on in the nation. Anybody who has spent any time at all on social media or watching any actual news show on television has heard of the QAnon conspiracy theory. I mean, back in 2019 the FBI designated QAnon as a “domestic terror threat” because of the group’s potential to incite extremist violence. That’s the sort of thing that ought to grab a president’s attention.

But somehow QAnon and the national security threat it poses seems to have largely slipped right by Donald Trump’s keen eye. During his town hall last night, he said this:

“I know nothing about QAnon…I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it.”

Trump, who is a narcissist of the first water (okay, quick but pointless digression…’of the first water’ refers to the way they used to grade the clarity and translucence of diamonds…c’mon, you know you wondered about that), wants us to believe he knows nothing about a group that has him at the heroic center of their belief system. He may not be aware of exactly how loopy the QAnon community is, and he may not think they’re a terrorist threat, but it surpasses belief that he’s unaware of their love for him.

But then again, Trump has displayed an uncanny ability to NOT know things. Here are a few of the things he’s admitted not knowing anything at all about.

— QAnon
— Russia paying bounties on Coalition troops in Afghanistan
— Steve Bannon’s involvement in a fundraising campaign to support the building Trump’s wall
— WikiLeaks
— the Proud Boys
— a recent bungled incursion into Venezuela
— Dr. Stella Immanuel, the woman who says masks don’t work and insists there’s a cure for Covid-19
— the Air Force refueling at Prestwick airport in Scotland and staying overnight at Trump’s expensive Turnberry golf resort a 40 minute drive from the airport instead the many hotels within a few minutes of the airport
— Rudy Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are currently awaiting trial for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, campaign finance fraud, and lying to the Federal Election Commission
— David Duke and the KKK

That’s a LOT of important stuff NOT to know about, especially given the fact that knowing about important stuff like this is a critically important part of the POTUS job description. I’m not even mentioning the stuff Trump obviously knows about, but hasn’t really bothered to deal with. Stuff like Saudi Arabia murdering and dismembering a Washington Post reporter. But we can safely say the scope of his ignorance is matched only by his amazing expertise in an astonishingly wide array of fields of knowledge.

Here are a few things Trump has said he knows more about than…well, anybody.

— drones
— ISIS
— tax law
— the horror of nuclear
— campaign finance
— social media
— forestry
— courts
— immigration system
— trade
— negotiating
— infrastructure
— tariffs
— renewables
— Cory Booker
— the Federal Reserve
— the military
— windmills and wind energy
— banking

Socrates, the Greek philosopher and minor character in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, said this: “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” It sounds a lot more impressive in Greek. But basically, he was saying an individual can only know a limited amount of stuff, and what that person knows isn’t much at all compared to what the individual doesn’t know.

But Trump is no Greek philosopher. When he says he doesn’t know something, there’s a decent chance he knows enough to lie about knowing it. And when he says he knows more about something than anybody else, he’s absolutely lying.

I suspect Trump isn’t as knowledgeable as he claims. I suspect he’s not as ignorant as he claims. In fact, I suspect D.J. Trump is what those of us in the justice biz call ‘a lying sack of shit’ (DISCLAIMER: I am no longer in the justice biz, and haven’t been for quite a while, but I can still recognize a lying sack of shit when I see one).

I’m not say I know more about lying sacks of shit that anybody else, but spotting lying sacks of shit is like riding a bike — you never really forget how to do it.

october surprise

Originally, a ‘surprise’ was an unexpected attack. It comes from the Latin sur meaning ‘over’ or ‘above’ and prendre meaning ‘to grasp or seize’. A surprise party, originally, was a stealth military detachment that ambushed the enemy.

The political phrase ‘October Surprise’ has a vaguely weird history. It grew out of the 1980 election between President Jimmy Carter and his challenger, Ronald Reagan. It appears to have been coined by William Casey, Reagan’s campaign manager (and a former OSS officer who, after Reagan was elected, became the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency). Casey was concerned that Carter was secretly arranging the release of 52 American hostages held by Iranian revolutionaries, and would announce the deal just before the November election. ‘October Surprise’ has also been used to describe an alleged secret deal between Iran and Reagan operatives to prevent the release of those hostages until after Reagan won the election and was inaugurated (and, in fact, Iran announced the release of the hostages literally minutes after Reagan’s inaugural speech).

Almost every election since 1980 has included some sort of October Surprise —  an event designed to irreparably damage one candidate’s chances and boost the other’s. Few of them work; fewer still are actual surprises. That includes yesterday’s ham-fisted absurdist political theater. We’ve all been expecting a ‘surprise’, of course. But even given Team Trump’s reputation for bungling political schemes, this ‘surprise’ was badly managed. Comically bad.

Here’s the basic accusation as reported by the New York Post. Somebody (Hunter Biden) brought three damaged laptop computers to a Delaware computer store for repair in April of 2019. The owner of the store (unidentified in the original report) claimed to have found an email on one computer’s hard drive — an email from Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, thanking Hunter for the opportunity to meet Joe Biden, who was then Vice President. Scandal! Hunter Biden and his daddy are corrupt! Biden must be defeated in the coming election! Scandal!

John Paul Mac Isaac (This should not be taken as an indictment of men wearing kilts).

Right. Now let’s ask a few questions — the sort of questions a 14-year-old fan of cop shows on television would ask.

Who is this unidentified store owner?
— He turns out to be kilt-wearing Trump supporter John Paul Mac Isaac.

Who brought the three laptops to Mac Isaac’s shop?
— Uh…we don’t know. Mac Isaac says he has a ‘medical’ condition that prevented him from recognizing the person who brought in the laptops. Also, nobody signed any sort of repair authorization form or receipt for them. But the person allegedly said his name was Hunter Biden.

What evidence does he have to prove the laptops were brought in by Hunter Biden?
— At least one laptop had a ‘Beau Biden Foundation’ sticker on it, plus there was an email addressed to Hunter Biden on that laptop, plus there were sexually explicit images featuring Hunter Biden.

Did Hunter or anybody return to the shop to retrieve the laptops? Or called to inquire about them?
— Uh…no. After ninety days Mac Isaac said he made repeated attempts to contact Hunter Biden without success.

What did Mac Isaac do when he discovered the email?
— He contacted the FBI. No, wait…first he made a copy of the email (and apparently the sexual images) which he gave to Rudy Giuliani. No, wait…he gave the copy of the material to Rudy’s attorney, then he turned it over to the FBI. No, wait…the FBI got in touch with him about the material, then he gave it to them. Or maybe he gave it to the FBI, who later sought his help in accessing the material.

Is this the same Rudy Giuliani who has been working for a couple of years with known Russian intelligence operatives to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden to hurt Joe Biden’s election chances?
— Uh…yes, it is.

Why did Mac Isaac give the material to Rudy’s attorney before giving it to the FBI?
— Because he doesn’t trust the FBI. He seems to think maybe the FBI (possibly in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee) murdered Seth Rich (who worked for the DNC) because Rich knew ‘the truth’ about the DNC emails stolen by Russian intelligence operatives sources and provided to Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and the Trump campaign. He also thought maybe the FBI might kill him too. So he made a copy of the material and gave it to Rudy’s attorney as insurance. He said he didn’t tell the FBI he’d made an ‘insurance’ copy, but that they would have assumed he would make such a copy to protect himself.

Why would Mac Isaac give the material to the FBI if he thought they might kill him if they knew he had the material?
— Uh…because of reasons?

What meta-data could we obtain from the email?
— Uh…none. The New York Post only had a pdf file of the email, not that actual email. So there’s no header information, no metadata. Just a picture of the alleged email.

How did the New York Post get this material?
— It was provided to the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor, Emma-Jo Morris, by Rudy’s attorney. Ms. Morris apparently became the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor yesterday, when she wrote the story. She has written three other political stories for the Post. All three were written yesterday. All three are about Hunter Biden.

What did Emma-Jo Morris do before becoming the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor yesterday?
— She booked guests for Fox News personality Sean Hannity.

Is this the ‘smoking gun’ October Surprise Republicans claim it to be?
— Nope. It’s not smoking. It’s not even a gun. It’s not a surprise. But it IS October.

This is perhaps the stupidest, worst prepared, least convincing, most desperate October Surprise ever. It’s the most embarrassingly bad disinformation op imaginable. It’s like Laurel and Hardy teamed up with the Keystone Kops to create a conspiracy theory. If the person responsible for this is in Russian intelligence, I’m going to guess he’s looking at a long drop from a high window, an acute case of cement poisoning following an incident of deceleration trauma.

shitshow

Pity the transcribers who had the Herculean task of trying to accurately record what the candidates said in last night’s…last night’s what? You can’t call it a debate. CNN’s Dana Bash probably described it best. “It was a shitshow,” she said.

Before the shitshow, representatives for both candidates agreed on a set of rules: who would speak, when they would speak, how long they would speak, how long the candidates would have to respond. Both candidates agreed to those rules. Only one attempted to follow them.

Last night Comrade Trump was his own anarchist jurisdiction. He was the ‘law and order’ president who refused to follow the ‘law’ of the debate and set fire to order. The worst thing about Trump’s behavior last night wasn’t just that he was disruptive, discourteous, and dishonest (though he was), and it wasn’t just that he seemed unwilling to follow rules he’d agreed to, it wasn’t just that he seemed to think the rules didn’t apply to him. The worst part wasn’t even Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacy. Hell, the worst part wasn’t even that he refused to say he’d accept the result of the election.

The worst part of the shitshow was that Trump seemed incapable of restraining himself. The worst part was that he appeared to lack basic self control, that he was unable to hold himself in check, that he couldn’t curb his behavior. Trump literally seemed helpless against his own infantile impulses. That’s terrifying.

To his credit (or shame) Trump did what he always wants to do. He controlled the stage, he drew all the attention to himself, he sucked all the oxygen (and intelligence) out of the room, he made everybody react to him. He didn’t do that through any sort of authority or personal charisma or a command of the subject matter. He did it by being a flaming asshole.

Biden was flummoxed, both by Trump’s antics and by Chris Wallace’s inability to hold Trump in check. Biden and Wallace were there for a debate; Trump was there to create a shitshow, to debase the process and discourage everybody from participating. Trump was there to get people to turn off their televisions and swear off politics forever. Trump was there to demoralize decent people and incite racists.

Shitshow

The winners of last night’s shitshow were Putin and the Proud Boys (yes, I know…band name or Saturday morning cartoon show). Russia has to be delighted to see how degraded US politics has become, how ineffectual our leader is, how chaotic the United States is under Trump. The Proud Boys have a new logo: Stand By. The racists were given marching orders: be prepared to take on Trump’s enemies.

There were no losers last night–only victims. The victims were decorum, civil discourse, the electoral process, the United States, democracy.

Vote. Everybody needs to vote. Don’t let anybody or anything stop you from voting.

Accompanying Music: Creedence Clearwater Revivial

Down on the corner
Out in the street
Putin and the Proud Boys are playin’
Bringing chaos and deceit.