a thin sheet of hate

It was explained to me, in very polite terms I should note, that I was completely wrong when I said modern evangelicals supporting Trump were promoting “a gospel of white supremacist rage and victimhood.” The evidence that I was wrong?

If you look at the Evangelicals For Trump website, you’ll see a number of African-American and Latino models sporting Trump products specifically designed for African-American and Latino supporters.

I’m willing to be convinced that I might be wrong. I’ve been wrong a LOT in my long, semi-wicked life, so I’m open to the possibility that I might be wrong about this. I did as I was asked to do. I looked at the Evangelicals for Trump website.

Okay, granted, the landing page (is that what it’s called?) shows a sea of white faces with one singularly Aryan-looking kid. But that’s just one photo. And besides, the proof I was told I’d find was about the products being sold. And hey, right there in the upper right hand corner is a ‘SHOP’ button. So I clicked on it.

Sure enough, a couple of pages in you can find black and Latinx models dressed in Trumpwear with slogans like ‘Black Voices for Trump’ or ‘Latinos for Trump’. There were also Trump straws (pack of 10 for US$15) and ‘Get Over It’ t-shirts and camouflage dog bandanas and Trump/Pence snowflake wrapping paper and ‘Women for Trump’ ball caps and Trump/Pence playing cards and Space Force bumper stickers and…

Wait. Snowflake wrapping paper? Space Force bumper stickers? How does any of that fit into evangelism? Trump plastic straws? I don’t get the religious angle here. So I went back to the landing page and read this description of the site:

Evangelicals for Trump will engage the Christian community to help re-elect President Donald J. Trump in 2020. Through re-affirming support for President Trump, evangelicals across the country will work to deliver a second term – ensuring that pro-life initiatives, religious freedom, and the appointment of conservative judges are kept as a top priority for four more years.

Well, okay. I know that ‘pro-life’ is code for ‘anti-abortion’ so I can see the religious angle in that, even if I don’t agree with it and think it’s hypocritical. I’m also aware that ‘religious freedom’ as it’s commonly used by evangelicals means the promotion of a specific style of Christianity along with the quiet, indirect suppression of non-Christian religions. I don’t think that’s very Christian, but it’s certainly ‘religious’. But conservative judges? That’s entirely political.

Why, on a website devoted to evangelical supporters, isn’t there any mention of more traditional Christian values? Why don’t we see anything about “Love your neighbor as yourself” or “If a man strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek” or “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Those are pretty fundamental tenets of Christianity.

Evangelical Christians claim they are called to spread the gospel — the teachings of a person who called on them to care about the poor, the suffering, and the outcast. Yet there’s no mention of the poor, the suffering and the outcast here. There’s no mention of morality or civic virtue. There’s only merchandise to be moved.

Why is this site promoting Trump rather than evangelicalism or Christianity? The answer is found in the small print.

This website, mobile application or other digital or online application or service is operated by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

Evangelicals for Trump isn’t a religious site; it’s a political site. It’s got nothing to do with Christianity or evangelicalism; it’s only about raising campaign money. Yes, there are black and Latino models wearing Trumpwear, just as my critic claimed. But they’re not included because modern evangelism supports diversity. They’re included because Trump will sell anything to anybody if he can make a profit off it.

Here’s a sad, ugly truth: Donald Trump corrupts everything he touches. He’s corrupted the Republican Party; he’s corrupted the Christian evangelist movement. There’s no better metaphor for that than Trump/Pence Snowflake wrapping paper.

Trump claims he made it safe for Christians to say ‘merry Christmas’ which is a lie on a massive scale. His followers insult liberals by calling them ‘snowflakes’ to suggest they’re delicate. The only reason this wrapping paper exists is so Trump supporters can believe in the illusion that they’re somehow ‘winning’ by insulting liberals. That’s about as far from the spirit of Christmas as you can possibly get — which makes it perfectly on brand for both Trump and modern evangelicalism.

Wrap religion in a thin sheet of hate and sell it to the gullible. There it is.

doesn’t make sense

Somebody explain this to me. On 27 December, a rocket attack on a base in or near Kirkuk killed an American — a contractor for the Department of Defense — and wounded a bunch of US troops. The US responded with air strikes against Iranian-sponsored militias, which killed 25 people. That pissed off Iranian sympathizers in Baghdad, who proceeded to partially overrun the American embassy. And that is apparently what led Comrade Trump to blow the shit out of Qasem Soleimani.

Iranian militants

Okay, that’s all stupid in itself. But that isn’t what I want explained. THIS is what I want explained to me. On 5 January, an attack by al-Shabaab on a base in Kenya (on the border with Somalia) killed three Americans — two DOD contractors and a member of the US military — and destroyed about US$500 million worth of aircraft and high-tech surveillance equipment. The US responded with a strongly-worded commitment “to pursue the perpetrators of the attack.” In other words, the US basically said they’d just continue to do their job.

al-Shabaab militants.

That’s what I want explained. Why one attack by Islamic militants (which resulted in a single US death) sparked such massive retaliation while a similar attack by Islamic militants (which resulted in more deaths and more destruction) resulted in nothing more than a further commitment to fulfilling the mission.

I know the Trump trump administration won’t truthfully explain anything to anybody. It’s silly of me to expect them to explain this. If an explanation exists, I suspect it’s stupid. Like, say, Trump wants headlines; the news media pays attention to Iraq and Iran; nobody really cares who gets killed in Africa; Trump wants/needs/demands more and bigger headlines.

I want this to make sense. I know it won’t make sense. But I still want it to.

what we were afraid of

This is exactly what we knew would happen, what we were afraid of. We knew there’d come a time when Trump would step into a pile of his own shit, and we were afraid he’d ignore any sensible advice from experts and make uninformed and impulsive decisions that would make matters worse.

But Jesus suffering fuck. We actually believed there would BE experts around him to offer that sensible advice. It never occurred to most of us that Trump would scrape away every upper level career professional from almost every federal agency. The ones he hasn’t fired have resigned.

And you guys, they’re still resigning. These are folks who most of us have never heard of, folks who’ve spent their careers doing the hard, unrecognized work of gaining expertise in fields we don’t even know exist, and doing it in order to insure the US makes sound policy decisions. Folks like Tina Kaidanow, a career Foreign Service member who is an expert in Russian and Eurasian affairs. She resigned last week, the fifth senior official to leave in the last seven days. Randall Schriver, a big hat in Asia policy — gone. Jimmy Stewart (yeah, that his actual name), the top guy in charge of personnel and readiness — gone. Steven Walker, a leader in DARPA — gone. Kari Bingen, the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, the second-highest ranking civilian intelligence expert — gone. That’s just in the last week.

In their place, Trump has installed a cadre of evangelical yahoos eager for the Rapture and a bunch of ideological fuckwits who evaluate policy by how much it pisses off liberals. Republicans who ought to be guiding the president have abandoned calm, thoughtful, reasoned policy decisions. That leaves us with an emotionally unstable, willfully ignorant, recklessly impulsive, and easily manipulated president making rash decisions based apparently on a toxic combination of panicked self-interest and a desperate need to feel powerful and in control.

And you guys, I really hate to say this, but an emotionally unstable, willfully ignorant, recklessly impulsive, and easily manipulated president making rash decisions based apparently on a toxic combination of panicked self-interest and a desperate need to feel powerful and in control is the BEST CASE SCENARIO.

The worst case scenario? It sounds like a bad conspiracy novel, but it’s frighteningly possible. The worst case scenario is that Vladimir Putin has some sort of leverage over Trump and is using it to quietly reduce (or eliminate) US influence in the Middle East and Eurasia. That creates a socio-political power vacuum that Russia is happy to fill. That scenario sounds completely fucking paranoid, but the scary fact is that almost every policy Trump has implemented in the region has been detrimental to US interests and beneficial to Russia.

The really bad news? It’s all going to get worse. Maybe much worse. At some point Iran will respond violently to the assassination of Soleimani. The impeachment process is going to make Trump even more emotionally labile, as will the financial investigations into his sketchy business dealings. As will his general anxiety over the 2020 election.

In fact, I suspect by the time he appears before Congress to deliver the State of the Union speech, he’ll be so keyed up anything could happen. He might read a tightly rehearsed speech; he might get angry, go off-script, and deliver an obscenity-laden rant about how unfairly he’s treated; he might refuse to give the speech altogether; he might show up and bite the head off a live chicken.

These are weird, scary times. We expected weird scary times. We were afraid Trump would behave in weird, scary ways. This is exactly what we were afraid of.

bringing starbucks to a poo fight

The problem with Democrats…one of the problems with Democrats…damn it, one of the whole galaxy of problems with Democrats is the entirely wrong-headed notion that they have to act as if Republicans still have integrity. Democrats know the Republicans are an ideologically hollow party now. They know it with mathematical certitude. And yet they continue to pretend Republicans retain some tattered shreds of decency, honesty, and the virtues of rectitude.

That’s not the modern Republican Party. THIS is the modern Republican Party:

Kevin McCarthy is the House Minority Leader. There’s literally nothing in his tweet that’s true. The FBI did NOT break into Trump’s campaign, they did NOT spy on him, and since there was nothing to cover up they did NOT try to cover it up. This has all been firmly and openly established. This tweet is a series of blatant lies.

The modern Republican Party is a party of lies. Kevin McCarthy was elected as Minority Leader by his fellow Republicans in the House. This is a guy who received campaign donations from Lev Parnas, one of Rudy Giuiliani’s Ukrainian stooges who was trying to flee the US when he was arrested at the airport. This a guy who was actually caught on tape saying, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: [former GOP Congressman Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump.” This guy is now openly lying to support the president he claimed was owned by Russia.

This is what the Republican Party has become. Treating Republican Party officials as if they have any integrity at all is like bringing Starbucks to a poo fight. The Republicans will take the Starbucks, drink it, claim it’s been poisoned, and continue to throw shit. The Democrats will frantically search for a receipt (which the Republicans will claim is forged) to prove they actually bought Starbucks to bring to a poo fight — not even recognizing that you have to be massively fucking stupid to bring Starbucks to a poo fight. Republicans know it’s stupid. They know they can lie all they want and get away with it. And they’re laughing their asses off.

There it is, right there — confused, gullible Democrats contending with vicious, venal Republicans. That’s why a shrinking population of Republicans can continue to hold power over a larger Democratic populace. This has to stop if we want to stay a democratic Republic.

I’m not saying Democrats need to throw poo like Republicans. I’m saying Democrats need to stop pretending that the Republicans are doing anything other than throwing poo. Democrats have to stop pretending that Republicans aren’t deliberately and knowingly throwing poo. Democrats need to say, openly and often, that throwing poo is immoral, that throwing poo is criminal, that it’s unAmerican, that throwing poo serves Putin. The DNC needs to start making political adverts linking GOP poo-flinging with Putin; they need to make adverts with former Republicans (especially those who used to hold political office) stating the only way to put an end to Republican poo-flinging is to remove the poo-flingers from office.

Democrats need to destroy the illusion that Republicans are still the ‘loyal opposition.’ There’s nothing loyal about the modern Republican Party. They’re not loyal to conservative principles, they’re not loyal to the US Constitution, they’re not loyal to the United States, they’re not loyal to anything other than a desperate need and desire to hold on to power.

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.

speaking of guns…

Imagine this scenario: a guy wearing an ‘antifa’ baseball cap stands in front of the mayor’s house, where he uses a bullhorn to shout, “If Trumpers get to the point where they start killing us, I’m going to kill them next. I’d slaughter them and I have a detailed plan on how I would wipe out Trumpers.” He then goes on a national radio program and describes that detailed plan. It involves identifying Trump supporters, finding out where they live, breaking into their homes at night, and killing them while they’re asleep.

Do you think that might make the news? Do you think that might get widely reported? Do you think you’d see segments on that in the evening television news? Do you think FOX News would devote entire opinion shows to the threat of violence against conservatives?

Bet your bony ass they would. And hey, guess what. That actually happened. The first part, I mean. You know, the guy yelling in front of the mayor’s house and going on national radio and outlining a half-baked plan to murder folks in their sleep. That’s the part that actually happened. Except the guy was a Trump supporter, and the plan was to slaughter members of antifa. And it barely made the news at all.

Shane Kohfield.

I am NOT making this up. This guy Shane Kohfield (a Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq) went on the Lars Larson radio show and laid out his plan to organize a mass slaughter. It was a stupid, ridiculous plan that had no chance to actually be implemented, but still. This is what Kohfield said:

“First​, veterans ​[will] join antifa social media pages and groups and get names of most active members of social media, along with getting the arrest records from rallies and write down all the names they see, as well as use arrest records. The veterans will use background check programs to find home addresses of all the members of antifa using the intelligence they had gathered​.

The veterans will take a map of the cities where members of antifa are known to live there. Grid overlays will be placed over the maps of the cities. The veterans will be broken down into squads. Each squad will be assigned its own grid and given a list of names and addresses in their assigned grid square. … The veterans would use Route4Me to find the most expedient route to hunt down the most violent members of antifa in their beds at night until every one of them was gone and every city in America, if need be, in a single well-coordinated night.”

Kohfield told Larson he didn’t actually intend to USE the plan. He just created the plan. You know, just in case. The plan, he suggested, was his response to the threat antifa posed to conservatives and the Constitution. Kohfield apparently believes the next step in the logical progression of anti-fascist violence is to go from 1) punching nazis during a demonstration to 2) tossing milkshakes on nazis to 3) murdering conservatives and Trump supporters.

Kohfield also sent his plan to Republican Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy Seal now representing Texas in Congress. He reportedly told Crenshaw that if Congress didn’t act to stop antifa, he’d have no choice but to begin systematically killing them. Crenshaw gave the letter to the U.S. Capitol Police, who forwarded it to the FBI, who handed it to the FBI’s Portland office, which tossed it to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. Clackamas County is in Oregon.

Why does that matter? Because back in 2017 Oregon passed an ERPO law. ERPO stands for Extreme Risk Protection Order. That’s the fancy name for a red flag law. These laws allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition a court directly in order to temporarily restrict an individual’s access to firearms IF that person shows signs of being a danger to themselves or others.

Shane Kohfield

Kohfield lives with his dad, who apparently told the police, “I can’t say that he won’t kill someone.” Kohfield’s dad also said his son was taking medication for bipolar disorder, drinking heavily, and had become increasingly agitated. So the police did what they were supposed to do.

They took Shane Kohfield’s guns away. A pistol, a shotgun, and two rifles — one of which was an AR-15.

But here’s the thing. Don’t hate Shane Kohfield. Disagree with his politics. Be afraid of him, maybe. Be glad he doesn’t have access to firearms right now. But don’t hate him. Have some compassion for him. He did his time in military harness, and he’s paid a price for his service; Kohfield receives disability payments for the physical and psychological injuries he sustained during his tours in Iraq. He deserves a measure of respect for that.

Here’s the other thing: red flag laws work. They not only help protect the general public, they also help protect folks like Shane Kohfield from doing something they’d probably regret later. Assuming they’re still alive. I doubt Kohfield appreciates it — and I can’t blame him for that. But the laws work.

One last thing: only 17 states currently have red flag laws.

he’d sell them weeds

Jeebus on toast. This guy, I declare.

This is exactly the sort of tone-deaf, massively bone-headed thing Comrade Trump would do — assuming it’s not just another off-the-cuff lie he’s telling, which is entirely possible. Only a fuckwit like Trump would secretly invite the Taliban to the United States. The Taliban — the people who literally made it possible for al Qaeda to crash commercial jets full of innocent passengers into each of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon (not to mention the disrupted attack that ended in an empty field in Pennsylvania. And to do it secretly? On the anniversary of that attack? That’s got TrumpThink written all over it.

But even though it completely fits in with Trump’s brand of idiocy, it’s still Trump. So we always have to ask if it’s a lie. Always. Because this would be a classic Trump sort of lie. It’s self-aggrandizing and dramatic. But IF he invited the Taliban to the U.S. for any reason at all, would he have invited them to stay at Camp David? No, probably not. He’d almost certainly have invited them to stay at a Trump property. That sounds like snark, I know, but it’s not. I’m sincerely convinced Trump would try to find a way to make a buck off of peace talks.

So I’m inclined to think this whole Taliban business is wrapped in a cocoon of lies. It’s probably not entirely a lie, or even mostly a lie. But I’d bet my paycheck (if I had a paycheck) that it involves a complicated and terribly dumb string of semi-related lies wrapped around a single kernel of truth.

But here’s the thing: we absolutely should be talking with the Taliban in order to find some way out of the now-pointless war in Afghanistan. And I have no problem with talking to them here in the U.S., though that seems awfully premature. But regardless of how and where it’s done, Comrade Trump should NOT be involved.

Nobody trusts him. Nobody believes him. Nobody can rely on him to honor a deal or keep a promise. He’s lied to and cheated on all of his wives; he’s lied to and cheated hundreds of businesses with whom he’s signed contracts; he routinely tells blatant lies to the public and to the news media; he’s negated treaties with our nation’s closest traditional allies and he’s cozied up to our enemies. Everybody — everybody — knows Trump is capable of changing his mind at any moment for any reason or perceived slight. Comrade Trump simply cannot be trusted on any level.

There’s an old Bedouin saying: La taqul bur lin twkyh. “Don’t say it’s wheat until you harvest it.” The Taliban aren’t Bedu, but I think the saying still applies. They aren’t stupid. They know Trump will sell them wheat and deliver only weeds. So it’s unlikely any serious peace talks will take place while Comrade Trump is in office.