a much different president

Okay, let me get this straight. Comrade Trump (noted author of How to inherit Millions from Your Daddy and Still Go Bankrupt Like Half a Dozen Times and POTUS) met with Kim Jong Un (noted evil dictator, fratricidal rocket fetishist, and open friend of Dennis Rodman) in what journalists called a ‘summit’ and Trump called ‘another great historic deal which many people say is what I do better than anybody else ever, I can tell you that, believe me.’

Here’s what Kim got by meeting with the former leader of the free world:

  • Legitimacy as a world leader.
  • A weaker relationship between the U.S. and South Korea and Japan .
  • A cessation of U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
  • A rift between the U.S. and NATO.
  • A free ride on human rights violations.

Here’s what Trump got by meeting with a brutal dictator who has starved his people in order to afford more rockets:

  • A one page document re-affirming the same vague commitment to denuclearization that DPRK has made seventeen times since 1985.
  • A promise to return military remains from the Korean War.

It’s not exactly bupkis. Let’s call it it bupkis-lite. I mean, it’s nice that DPRK has agreed in principle to return the dead bodies of U.S. troops killed half a century ago. But we probably could have got them to agree to that in exchange for, say, letting them buy a bit more grain to feed their people (which would also allow U.S. farmers to earn a little extra coin).

Tweedle Dum and Tweedle I Don’t Know What the Fuck.

Still, we’ve got that one page document. Does it include, say, a timetable for denuclearization? Nope, nothing like that. What about a system of verification? Nope, not even hinted at. Maybe a shared definition of what  denuclearization is? No fucking way. But Trump apparently thinks if we show KJU and DPRK a little trust, it’ll all work out.

Here’s a telling example from the post-summit news conference:

Q: Mr. President, the joint statement does not talk about verifiable or irreversible denuclearization. Is that a concession on the part of the United States?

A: No, not at all. If you look at it, it said we are — let’s see here. It will be gone. I don’t think you can be any more plain.

I don’t think you can be any more fucking stupid. It will be gone. A few months ago Comrade told his supporters that ‘Little Rocket Man’ was unstable, a madman who murdered his own people and a serial liar who couldn’t be trusted, so there wasn’t any point in even talking with him. And they agreed. Now, after a couple of hours of photo ops, Trumps says he totally trusts KJU to keep his vague promises. And they agree.

Comrade Trump engaging in the Pull-My-Finger mode of international diplomacy.

If Trump says it, it must be true. Which leads me to another exchange in the news conference:

Q: What do you, President Trump, expect Kim Jong Un to do about the human rights record regarding the North Korean people?

A: They will be doing things. I think he wants to do things. You would be surprised. Very smart. Very good negotiator. Wants to do the right thing. He brought up the fact that in the past they took dialogue or never were like we are which has never been like what has taken place now. They went down the line. Billions of dollars were given and the following day the nuclear program continued. This is a much different time. This is a much different president in all fairness. This is very important to me. This is one of the, perhaps one of the reasons I won.

There you have it. DPRK will be doing things. And let me repeat Trump’s most salient argument. In the past they took dialogue or never were like we are which has never been like what has taken place now.

Nobody could be any more clear than that. Only Comrade Donald J. Trump could have negotiated this deal. This is a much different time, and in all fairness, he’s a much different president.

 

Advertisements

the haspel file

I have a great deal of respect for Gina Haspel, Comrade Trump’s controversial nominee to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I respect the fact that she’s done field work — and by ‘field work’ I mean the serious, no shit, secret, risky work of actual spy tradecraft — and she’s done it in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. We don’t know exactly what she’s done, of course, but she apparently did it well enough to rise through the ranks to become a big hat in the clandestine service. That’s a tough gig, by any measure.

But now she’s being touted to run the entire CIA, and that’s a whole nother gig entirely. So it’s necessary to remember this: good operatives don’t necessarily make good administrators. Being good in the field — any field — requires more than a skill set; it requires a very different attitude toward the work. People who do dangerous work and do it well generally share a belief that they can bend or break the rules, whatever those rules are. They believe they can do stuff ordinary folks can’t or won’t — and they’re usually right. The ones who aren’t right don’t last. That’s true of spies, of soldiers, of firefighters, of just about any gig that involves taking calculated risks.

Here’s an example. In 1998 a Marine aviator was contour flying in an EA-6B Prowler out of the Aviano air base in the Italian Alps. He was flying at 550 mph at a height of around 260 feet through the mountains and valleys when his wing clipped the cable supporting an aerial tramway for tourists. The cable snapped and a gondola carrying twenty people fell. All of them died.

The pilot and copilot were both charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide, and eventually the pilot served a prison sentence. But — and this is a horribly ugly truth — that pilot was displaying exactly the sort of attitude you want in a combat aviator. You want combat pilots who are confident enough and skilled enough to be  aggressive risk-takers. Well, you want pilots who are successful aggressive risk-takers. Again, the ones who aren’t successful don’t last.

That’s the thing. People who are good in the field aren’t necessarily good citizens. They’re not necessarily good people. The very qualities that make a person effective in the field generally disqualify them from running things. Gina Haspel has lasted for thirty years, most of which was in the clandestine service. That’s a testament to her skill as a spy and her willingness to do whatever she needed to do to get the job done. Every intelligence agency in the world relies on people like Gina Haspel.

And that’s exactly why she should NOT be the DCIA. She’s been the sort of agent who personifies the reasons field agents need oversight. Somebody has to be around to keep a collar on these folks, because they are all about getting results. I’m not surprised Gina Haspel ran a black site at which torture took place. I’m not surprised she destroyed video recordings of those torture sessions. I’m certainly not surprised that she claimed the torture produced actionable intelligence, or that she refused to categorically state torture was immoral. Nor am I surprised that she told Senators she wouldn’t resume the practice of ‘enhanced interrogation’.

You don’t last thirty years in the CIA without the ability to lie convincingly.

 

the dicknoggin conspiracy

Imagine a foreign country — oh, let’s call it the Republic of Dicknoggin. Imagine the government of Dicknoggin has decided to implement a covert campaign against These United States.

Imagine that deep cover Dicknoggin agents manage to get  themselves installed as administrators of federal agencies. Once in place, they create conditions that will make the air dirtier, the water less potable, food less safe, energy production less clean, working environments more dangerous, gun violence more likely, civil liberties more at risk, poverty more cruel, international crises more probable and more deadly, health care less available and more expensive, and schools less effective.

Imagine Dicknoggin agents using social media to undermine public belief and trust in US systems of justice. Imagine them claiming the FBI and the Department of Justice are actually controlled by a shadowy group of conspirators whose mission is to destroy the very government they work for. Imagine them hinting that those few federal law enforcement agents who weren’t actually criminal were nonetheless incompetent or possibly corrupt.

Imagine covert Dicknoggin agents being nominated and confirmed to lifetime terms as judges, who’ll decide how US laws should be interpreted and applied. Imagine Dicknoggin agents working at the state level to determine who should be able to vote and when voting can take place and how those votes are counted. Imagine Dicknoggin agents seducing and subverting religious leaders with promises of policies that favor their specific religious beliefs.

Imagine if the Republic of Dicknoggin actually existed and instituted those sorts of measures against These United States. It would be seen as a belligerent act by a hostile nation. It would be seen as a type of warfare.

Dicknoggin policy roundtable

Folks, the modern Republican party are Dicknoggins. It’s easy — and, for that matter, it’s sort of comforting — to think these Dicknoggins are acting out of ignorance. Or greed, or a lust for power and authority. It would be nice to believe they’re fucking up the country because they don’t know any better, because they simply fail to understand the very real consequences or the long-term implications of their actions.

I’d like to believe that, I really would. I’d like to believe the Dicknoggins are just fuckwits. But when you consider how widespread their actions are, how every facet of the government has been turned on its head, it suggests that this isn’t an accident. It suggests it’s deliberate.

So if you sometimes feel like the modern Republican party has declared war on These United States, that they’re intentionally destroying the things you love about this nation, then your feelings might actually be justified.

shit is broke, folks

You guys! Remember when Comrade Trump was reading his State of the Union speech out loud and said, “I call upon on all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people.” Remember that? And remember when he said, “Let’s come together, set politics aside and finally get the job done.” C’mon, it was just a few days ago, you surely remember that, right?

Yeah, didn’t nobody believe him. Partly on account of he was just reading something somebody else wrote, but mostly on account of we knew it would only be a few days (or hours) before he was insulting and demeaning folks who disagreed with him. Or folks who just didn’t praise him enough. Or folks who were women. Or black. And sure enough, here’s Trump this morning:

Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper! Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!

You’re probably thinking something like “Yeah, well, Trump’s a dick.” Or “Yeah, well, it’s Monday and this is pretty much what Trump does on Mondays because he’s a dick.” Or “Why doesn’t some adult take the phone away from that mucilaginous motherfucker?”

This guy — notta dick.

But see, here’s the thing: Comrade Trump has just accused somebody — wait, not just your basic somebody, but an actual ranking member of Congress — of committing a felony. We’re talking about the unauthorized disclosure of classified information here. You guys, that’s a direct violation of 18 U.S.C. § 798. You pull shit like that, and the Feds can arrest your ass, prosecute your ass, and if your ass gets convicted, toss your ass in prison for ten years. This is what those of us who’ve done time in the criminal justice biz call a big fucking deal.

If any other president in the history of These United States had publicly accused a member of Congress of doing shit like this, there’d be…okay, I don’t know what there’d be, on account of no other president in the history of These United States has ever been that fucking stupid or that fucking reckless. But after a year in office, we’ve become so inured to shit like this that we think, “Yeah, well, Trump’s a dick” and we move on with our day.

This guy — total dick.

Shit is broke, people. Shit is broke and it’s going to take a whole lot of fixing up to unbroke it. And we can’t even start unbroking it until we kick Trump’s Kremlin-shaped ass out of office.

So organize, you guys. Organize and resist. Resist openly and often. And vote in November. Vote for the candidate who is least likely to be a dick. Let’s make politics as dick-free as possible.

the sacred investigative process?

This morning Comrade Trump had this to say on Twitter:

The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!

In favor of Democrats. Against Republicans. What absolute bullshit. The FBI was established in 1935 and…well, wait. Okay, it was first established in 1908, but back then it was just the Bureau of Investigation and basically what it did was investigate the Mann Act, which made it a federal crime to transport a woman or a girl across state lines for the purpose of “prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” This was also called — and I’m seriously not making this up — the White-Slave Traffic Act. because apparently nobody cared if women of color were transported across state lines for any damned reason at all. But I digress.

This fucking guy…

In 1935, the BI was formally renamed the FBI. Its first director was J. Edgar Hoover. A Republican. Here’s a list of the political affiliation of every single FBI director:

  • J. Edgar Hoover — 1935-1972, Republican
  • Clarence Kelley — 1973-1978, Republican
  • William Webster — 1978-1987, Republican
  • William Sessions — 1987-1993, Republican
  • Louis Freeh — 1993-2001, Republican
  • Robert Mueller — 2001-2013, Republican
  • James Comey — 2013-2017, Republican
  • Christopher Wray — 2017-present, Republican

You may have noticed a distinct absence of Democrats appointed to head the FBI. What does that tell you? It tells you the three Democratic presidents who appointed FBI directors (Carter, Clinton, and Obama) all deliberately chose a person (okay, a white man) who was in the opposition party.

You think that was an accident? Nope. They each chose an FBI director who was more certain to be independent of the president’s political agenda. Because that’s the fucking job — to be independent of ANY political agenda.

This other fucking guy…

And Comrade Trump? Fired Comey when Comey refused to promise allegiance to him personally. Hounded Deputy Director Andrew McCabe out of office after he refused to promise allegiance to Trump personally. Now Trump and Republicans in Congress are claiming the leadership of the FBI comprises some sort of pro-Democratic cabal secretly determined to undermine his presidency.

You think that is an accident? Nope. It’s a poorly disguised attempt to immunize a president who was elected in part because of Russian ratfucking with the election, a president who has financial ties with some seriously shady Russian oligarchs, a president who has attempted to obstruct the investigation into the interactions between his campaign and Russian intelligence agencies.

Assuming Comrade Trump and the Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee release the Nunes Memo to the public today (and I can’t see anything stopping that), then they’re basically shitting on that ‘sacred investigative process’.

It’s really hard for me to understand how anybody can be that despicable so consistently.

three things that happened

First Thing:

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat representing Missouri, made a motion to insure the salaries and death benefits of members of the military would still get paid through the shutdown. She said,

“I want to make sure that tonight we send a very clear signal that we don’t want one moment to pass with there being any uncertainty of any soldier anywhere in the world that they will be paid for the valiant work they do for our national security.”

She asked the motion be approved without objection.

Second Thing:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, responded to her motion. He said,

“I object. My hope is that we can restore funding for the entire government before this becomes necessary.”

The motion to approve pay and military death benefits was tabled.

Third Thing:

It became necessary.

A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crashed early Saturday morning in California, killing two soldiers.

In case you were wondering why we shouldn’t base congressional decisions on Mitch McConnell’s hopes.

By the way, members of Congress will continue to receive their full pay during the shutdown.

trying times

Chelsea Manning is apparently running for the United States Senate to represent the State of Maryland. I say ‘apparently’ because although she’s filed her intent with the Federal Elections Commission (which will allow her to raise campaign funds), she hasn’t yet filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections — which is necessary if she wants to actually appear on the primary ballot.

She’s running to replace Senator Ben Cardin. Cardin is usually rated as one of the most liberal Democrats in Congress. He’s a consistent F with the National Rifle Association, he’s been a proponent of the Affordable Care Act, he supports Net Neutrality, he’s been consistently in favor of raising taxes on higher income earners, he voted against the war in Iraq, he’s been active in expanding protections for foster children, and he’s fought for stricter ethical standards in government. Cardin also recently released a report on Russian efforts to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States.

Senator Ben Cardin (D – Maryland)

I like and, for the most part, respect Ben Cardin. I’m not a fan of his open Zionism and I question his occasional willingness to consider environmental compromises, but overall I think he’s been a good legislator. I don’t know enough about Chelsea Manning to like her, but I respect the way she accepted responsibility for leaking classified military and diplomatic information.

I completely understand why the military and the diplomatic corps needs to keep secrets. I also completely understand why there are times those secrets need to be revealed. Most leakers and whistleblowers try to avoid responsibility for their leaks. They want the information out there in the public, but they don’t want to suffer the consequences of leaking the information. Chelsea Manning, to her credit, leaked the information, got caught, pleaded guilty to some of the charges, went to trial on some others, and got sentenced to 35 years in prison.

There are folks who consider her a hero, and there are folks who see her as a traitor. Both arguments have merit, in my opinion. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. Sometimes betraying your country is heroic; sometimes standing up for your country is cowardice. I’m not terribly interested in whether Chelsea Manning is a hero or a traitor or both; I just want to know what her ideas are.

Chelsea Manning

So here’s me — I like and respect Cardin, I respect Manning. Some people have said she shouldn’t run a primary campaign against a solid, reliable, mostly liberal Democrat. To which I replied, “Piss off…let her run. Let her engage in the marketplace of ideas, and let the good people of Maryland decide which candidate’s ideas they like the best.”

I still feel that way. But I have to say, Manning’s campaign announcement video makes me wonder what the hell her ideas are. Here, watch:

It’s not just that the video is awkward (though it is), or that her voice-over is wooden (and lawdy, it is). The thing about the video is that with a different candidate and a different voice-over, this could easily be a right-wing nutcase propaganda piece. This is what she actually says:

We live in trying times. Time of fear, of suppression, hate. We don’t need more…or better…leaders; we need someone willing to fight. We need to stop asking them to give us our rights. They won’t support, they won’t compromise. We need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves. We need to actually take the reins of power from them. We need to challenge them at every level. We need to fix this. We don’t need them anymore. We can do better. You’re damned right we got this.

Substitute a short-haired Aryan face for the image of a trans woman, exchange the footage of the Nazi rally with a BLM rally, and replace the voice-over with a deeper, more menacing voice and that video would be appropriate a pro-Trump candidate.

I really like the idea of more trans folk running for office. I also like the idea of old privileged white guys — even those who are solid Democrats — being challenged by younger and more diverse candidates. And I really like the idea of shaking up the Democratic Party, which has been a moral and political Tower of Jello these last few years.

But that video? It’s grounded in fear, not in change. It’s not about politics, even; it’s about Chelsea Manning. It suggests that the world is in turmoil and in order to fix it we need a trans woman. And hey, that may be true. But being a trans woman isn’t, in itself, enough. Be a trans woman with ideas and tell us what those ideas are.

If you want to take the reins of power, first tell me what you want to do with them.