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.

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.

follow the money

Never mind the US$750 Comrade Trump is said to have paid in taxes. Sure, that’s infuriating — but it’s not (or shouldn’t be) the the main story. The main story is the hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. The debt that’s coming due in the next few years. The main story is this: to whom does he owe that money? From where did the cash come, the cash that allowed Trump to buy golf courses and build more hotels and condominium towers?

We know that in the mid-1980s Russian organized crime figures (and remember, there’s little to distinguish between Russian organized crime, Russian banking systems, and Russian intelligence services) began to launder money through Trump real estate. We know that because several federal prosecutions came out of it and a number of condos in Trump Tower were seized by the government.

Trump Tower, Manhattan

We know that by the early-to-mid-1990s, the Trump Organization was deeply in debt. We know the Trump Plaza Hotel, Trump Regency Hotel, and Trump Castle Casino were all losing money. We also know the hotel and entertainment industries are attractive ways to launder money. We know that by 1995, US banks began to refuse loans to Trump because he was a bad risk. We also know that Trump turned to foreign banks and entities for help. First to Deutsche Bank and a few year later to the Bayrock Group. Deutsche Bank has a long history of working with Russian organized crime; they were caught in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme and had to pay fines of about $630 million. Bayrock was formed by a former Soviet official from Kazakhstan. Trump’s main contact in Bayrock was Felix Sater; in 1998 Sater pleaded guilty to a $40 million stock fraud scheme run by Russian organized crime.

We know that throughout the 90s and into the 2000s Russian oligarchs (again, remember, you don’t become an oligarch without being indebted to Putin) and organized crime figures working for Semion Mogilevich (the head of an international Russian organized crime cartel) continued to buy more than 65 Trump properties in New York, Florida, and Arizona. We know the Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank helped Trump finance a struggling Trump-branded hotel in Toronto. We know that in 2008 Trump sold a Florida mansion to Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million, twice what Trump paid for it four years earlier. Ryboloblev has been indicted in Monaco on criminal charges of corruption, influence trafficking, and something called ”violation of secrets of a criminal investigation.” He was also implicated in the murder of a business rival, Evgeny Panteleymonov. However, the charge was eventually dismissed after a witness suddenly recanted his testimony.

Palm Beach, Florida mansion sold to Dmitry Rybolovlev

We know another associate of Semion Mogilevich, Vyacheslav Ivankov (a vory v zakone with ties to Russian intelligence services) was a frequent guest at Trump’s Taj Mahal casino. According to the FBI, Ivankov was often comped “for up to $100,000 a visit for free food, rooms, champagne, entertainment, and transportation in stretch limos and helicopters” by the casino. Casinos, of course, are attractive sites for money laundering. The Taj Mahal casino was fined for violating anti-money laundering rules 106 times in its first year and a half of operation. Ivankov had been hiding out in Trump Tower for months before being arrested by the FBI and charged with extorting $2.7 million. When arrested, he had seven different passports under different names and countries. After serving a prison sentence in the US, Ivankov returned to Russia and was eventually murdered by a rival organized crime cartel.

Trump Taj Mahal casino

We know the daughter of Viktor Khrapunov, the former governor of the East Kazakhstan Province, bought three Trump SoHo condos. We know Khrapunov has also been accused of a number of construction and real estate frauds, as well as money laundering. The $3.1 million purchase of the Trump condos was allegedly made with money stolen from the government of Kazakhstan. Khrapunov has financial ties with Bayrock. In 2008 Khrapunov chartered a Russian Tupolev Tu-154 and flew to Geneva, Switzerland with 18 tons of cargo, which reputedly included antiques, jewelry, works of art and other highly valuable items. Interpol has issued a red notice for the arrest of Khrapunov.

Trump International golf club in Aberdeen, Scotland

We know Eric Trump told James Dodson, a golf reporter, that the Trump Organization was able to expand their property holdings because “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” Golf courses, by the way, are also popular with money launderers. Trump own 17 golf courses, both in the US and abroad.

We know…well, you get the picture. Over the last three decades Trump has had a LOT of financial support from Russian oligarchs, Russian banks (and banks from former Soviet Republics), and Russian organized crime. And once again, it’s impossible to distinguish between Russian organized crime, Russian banking, and Russian state intelligence services.

That Trump only paid $750 in taxes for a couple of years may be an outrage, but the more serious problem is his financial debt. That amount of debt is a clear security concern. It’s impossible to get a security clearance with significant debt (which may be the reason neither Ivanka nor Jared Kushner weren’t given security clearances until Trump insisted on it). We don’t know who floated Trump the money to make the purchases of his golf courses and hotels and condos. It’s reasonable to suspect much (or most or all) of it came from sources connected with Russia.

As I’ve said here, and here, and here, and here, and probably elsewhere, I think Putin has something on Trump. I think Trump is in Putin’s pocket. I think Trump is compromised and that explains why he so often seems to be furthering Russian interests and ignoring the interests of the United States.

russian ratfucking

It never stops, does it. Last week yet another whistleblower filed a complaint with yet another Inspector General accusing the Trump White House and Trump-appointed agency officials of yet another abuse of authority by censoring yet another report outlining ongoing attempts to interfere with the 2020 election by Russian intelligence agencies.

This time it was Brian Murphy, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Before he went to work for DHS he was a Marine and an FBI agent. Not what you’d call a ‘liberal’. He was ordered “to cease any dissemination of an intelligence notification regarding Russian disinformation efforts…because it ‘made the President look bad’.” Murphy objected (because Russia was running a disinfo campaign) and complained to his superiors. He was subsequently demoted.

There are very few core principles in the Trump administration, but included in them are the need to protect Putin and to deny Russian ratfucking of the 2016 election and the upcoming 2020 election. You have to wonder why that’s so important.

Who appears to be in charge here?

In May of 2018 I suggested that Trump’s insistence that the FBI ‘infiltrated’ his 2016 president campaign in an effort to ‘spy’ on it and entrap his campaign staff into breaking the law was a matter of ignorance rather than complicity. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I thought perhaps he simply didn’t understand that the FBI, by opening a counter-intelligence investigation into his campaign, was trying to protect him from some of his campaign staff who were in wildly inappropriate contact with Russian intelligence agents and/or Russian criminal elements. If the FBI hadn’t attempted to find out what the Russians were up to, they’d have been derelict in their duties.

What the FBI discovered was a series of attempts by Russian intelligence operatives to penetrate Trump’s campaign. Sadly, those attempts were actually welcomed by some campaign members. Not only were they eager to accept material that had clearly been stolen from Democrats by Russian intel agencies, they never considered reporting it to the FBI. Worse, when confronted by the evidence, those staffers lied about it. Lied repeatedly, and actively hampered the investigation. That’s a clear demonstration of guilt.

Who seems to be subordinate here?

By July of 2018, after the weird and horrifying Helsinki summit, I was far more willing to believe that Trump’s currying to Russia wasn’t just a matter of ignorance. I began to accept the probability that Putin had something on Trump himself — some sort of kompromat. I figured it was likely something to do with money laundering and/or criminal conspiracy rather than something personally embarrassing (like the alleged ‘pee tape’). In any event, it looked less like stupidity from inexperience and more like cooperation and complicity with Russian influence agents. I couldn’t think of any other probable explanation for his behavior at Helsinki.

By January of 2019, I was ready to accept that Trump was, in fact, a Russian intelligence asset. Not a ‘spy’; Trump lacks the emotional stability and the skill set required to be a spy. But he has a personality that makes him exceptionally vulnerable to Russian exploitation as an asset: he’s emotionally needy, he’s driven by greed and ego, he’s at least immoral if not amoral, he’s both shameless and easily insulted, he has no real sense of loyalty or patriotism, he has no qualms about cheating and assumes everybody cheats, and he’s willing and able to lie about anything. Trump is easy to manipulate.

Who is in control here?

The sad fact is, willing or not, since he took office Trump has furthered Russian interests and increased their international presence, and at the same time damaged US interests and surrendered US leadership on the world stage. He’s created a wedge between the US and NATO — to Russia’s benefit. He’s given Syria a free hand to commit war crimes — to Russia’s benefit. He’s withdrawn US influence in Iraq by abandoning the Kurds, allowing Russian troops to assume control of military bases and stations built by the US military. He’s essentially legitimized Russia’s illegal seizure of Crimea. He’s fought against and/or failed to impose sanctions against Russia despite bipartisan support in Congress. He’s refused to acknowledge, let alone act on, reports that Russia has paid the Taliban bounties to kill US troops serving in Afghanistan.

Domestically, he’s been willing to disregard the collective opinions of the US Intelligence Community on issues like Russian interference in the US election, and accepted Putin’s claim that Russia wasn’t involved. He’s not only undermined the efforts of the FBI and CIA to disrupt Russian interference, he’s appointed agency administrators who have leaned on their agencies to mute any criticism of Russia.

Who is most confident here?

I’m NOT saying Trump is run by Putin or Russian intelligence agencies. They don’t need to run him. On his own, he’s brought chaos and exacerbated existing divisions in US society. Russia helped him get elected (and are trying to help him stay in office), but after that all they had to do was stand back and let Trump be Trump. It was a low-cost, low risk, high reward black op — almost certainly the most successful and cost effective black op in modern history.

The idea that the President of the United States might be — and probably is — a Russian intelligence asset should be absurd. It should be laughable. Sadly, it’s not. The evidence keeps mounting up. It’s entirely possible — and, again, this is shocking for me to say — it’s entirely possible that if Trump is re-elected, representative democracy in the US may come to a crashing halt.

Lawdy, I hate saying that. I hate that it’s actually necessary to say it.

hocus pocus hoax

Let’s just acknowledge this reality: anybody who seriously uses the phrase ‘Russian hoax’ can be immediately disregarded. Doesn’t matter whether they’re referring to the Mueller investigation or just generally talking about Comrade Trump’s insidious machinations with Russia, if they say the terms Russia and hoax together and mean it, anything else they say can be dismissed.

I know, I know. That sounds extreme. And it is. Under normal circumstances, I’d argue against a policy like that. But the phrase has been in use long enough that anybody who offers it as a serious explanation for Trump’s various scandals has lost all credibility. In fact, the notion that there is such a thing as the Russia hoax is, itself, a hoax.

Okay, wait. We need a tangent here. A big meandering tangent taking us back to the 17th century and a guy named Thomas Ady. Ady was interested in witches and witchcraft. Not in the standard 17th century ‘How to Catch a Witch and Do Terrible Things to Her’ way, but in a more intellectually rigorous way. He wrote a couple of books to expose of the various bullshit techniques used in that time to identify and convict alleged witches. He also wrote that what passed for ‘magic’ or ‘witchcraft’ was mostly either natural phenomena or trickery.

In his book A Candle in the Dark he wrote about “common Juglars, who go up and down to play their Tricks at Fayrs and Markets.” He spoke about one such person:

[M]ore excelling in that craft than others, that went about in King James his time, and long since, who called himself, the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus tabantus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery.

A ‘juggler’ back then was an entertainer who performed tricks of dexterity and sleight of hand. Not just the sort of toss juggling we see now, but also ‘magic’ tricks. The name by which this one most excellent Juglar performed gave us the term hocus-pocus as a sort of ‘magical’ invocation. And hocus-pocus is where the term ‘hoax’ comes from. A hoax is deliberately creating a malicious fabrication and convincing people to believe it.

Comrade Trump’s entire career has been built on a foundation of hoaxes. The hoax that he was a good student, that he was a successful entrepreneur, that he was a financial genius, that he was a savvy businessman and a brilliant negotiator. His history suggests none of that is completely true, and much of it is a lie.

Perhaps his greatest hoax has been convincing his followers to believe that secretive Deep State government officials and career federal law enforcement officers (most of whom are lifelong Republicans) in conjunction with leaders of the Democratic Party collaborated to create a massive cabal designed to thwart the improbable presidential campaign of a failed businessman and reality television showman. He’s convinced his followers that these three groups, despite their long-standing ideological differences and hostility, came together in the short time after his nomination but before the election and agreed to impede his agenda by waiting until after the election to accuse him of colluding with Russian intelligence agents.

Now that is some serious hocus-pocus, right there. That’s a hoax on a galactic scale. Anybody who believes that — anybody who is capable of believing that — is somebody whose opinions can dismissed. Normally, I’m willing to entertain almost any argument if it forces me to support my position. That’s healthy, I think. But there comes a point at which you just have to accept that verifiable evidence doesn’t matter to Trump’s most faithful followers.

He said he pulled a rabbit out of his hat. I believe him. Why would he lie about that?

Let’s go back to Mr. Ady for a moment. He had to deal with the 17th century version of Trump supporters.

[T]hey ingage me to answer to a story, which they would compell me to beleeve, or else to goe see where it was done; but if it happeneth (as often it doth), that I make it appear by Scripture, that it is absurd or impossible…or that I shew them the story, in any of the afore said Authers, who have been the Authors of many vain fables, then they presently fly to another story, as vain and absurd as the former, and that being answered, they fly to another, saying, Sir, what do you answer to this? in which manner of disputes I have heard sometimes such monstrous impossibilities reported and affirmed to be true, (for they had it by credible report) as would make the Angells in Heaven blush to hear them.

This morning Comrade Trump is frantically trying to defend himself against the revelations in Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book. His defense is full of ‘such monstrous impossibilities…as would make the Angells in Heaven blush.’ I don’t believe in angels or heaven, but I do believe in an open exchange of ideas and views. However, that sort of exchange is no longer possible with anybody who, at this point, believes in the ‘vain fable’ of a Russia hoax.

a constant cascade of calamities and coincidence

The thing about Comrade Trump and his Constant Cascade of Calamities is that they come at us so fast that we don’t have time to process any given scandal because there are two or three other scandals slamming into us. Not only that, but we have scandals nestled inside of other scandals like Russian matryoshka dolls. The result is we exist in a perpetual state of calamity-shock.

What? It’s a coincidence. Could happen to anybody.

Here’s an example. Last week we learned that Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf…okay, wait. According to the Government Accountability Office, Wolf was not a legitimate Acting Sec. DHS. Why? Because his predecessor, Kevin McAleenan was not legitimately appointed as Acting Sec. DHS. Why? Because his predecessor, Kirstjen Nielsen, bungled the paperwork attempting to change the rules governing temporary appointments to ensure McAleenan (Trump’s pick for the gig) would get the Acting position. BUT even if Wolf had been legally appointed to the Acting position, he’d still be invalid since he was appointed under the Vacancies Act, which clearly states an Acting secretary can only serve for 210 days from when the position was made vacant, and Wolf has been doing the job for more than 250 days. Two weeks ago Trump said he’d officially nominate Wolf for the Sec. DHS position — but he hasn’t actually done it.

Okay, so last week we learned Chad Wolf had personally blocked publication of an unclassified DHS memo reporting that “Russian malign influence actors” would be trying to interfere with the US election by “denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health.” This, of course, just happens to be one of Trump’s primary arguments against Biden. But it’s probably just a coincidence that Trump’s DHS chief buried a memo that showed Trump was using a campaign attack also being used by Russian intelligence agencies.

What? Shit happens, what’s a guy to do?

But wait. Last week another unclassified DHS memo was leaked to the news media. That memo reported that in March “Russian malign influence actors” began “spreading disinformation” about the absentee and mail-in voting system. The memo stated “Russian state media and proxy websites…criticized the integrity of expanded and universal vote-by-mail, claiming ineligible voters could receive ballots due to out-of-date voter rolls, leaving a vast amount of ballots unaccounted for and vulnerable to tampering.” The Russian proxy websites also claimed “vote-by-mail processes would overburden the U.S. Postal Service…delaying vote tabulation and creating more opportunities for fraud and error.”

And hey, guess what. Comrade Trump has also been attacking the integrity of voting by mail, saying it increased the potential for fraud and would overburden the USPS. Another shocking coincidence between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies.

What? How should I know? These things happen.

Speaking of coincidences (and the Constant Cascade of Calamities), Louis DeJoy, Trump’s hand-picked Postmaster General, has made significant structural changes to the US Postal Service, which…okay, wait. It needs to be said that DeJoy was supposed to divest himself of financial conflicts of interest before accepting the Postmaster General gig. But he apparently still retains a stake in XPO Logistics, which has charged USPS about US$14 million in the past 10 weeks for managing transportation and providing support during peak times. It also appears that DeJoy became influential in GOP circles (and therefore a candidate for positions in the Trump administration) by urging his employees to donate to Republicans and attend political fundraisers at his home, then manipulating the company’s finance and payroll systems to give ‘bonus payments’ to employees who donated to help reimburse the cost — which is what folks in the law enforcement biz call “a crime”. DeJoy is being investigated for this now.

Anyway, DeJoy implemented significant structural changes to the US Postal Service which has resulted in delays in mail delivery. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what Trump AND Russian intelligence malign influence actors said would happen.

A suspicious person might think all these coincidences aren’t all that coincidental.

What? I mean, come on, what? Would I do that?

BUT — and this is the important thing — all of those nested matryoshka scandals were just one part of the larger matryoshka scandal that included the ‘Troops are suckers and losers’ scandal and the 190,000 Covid-19 deaths scandal and the roughly 29 million people unemployed scandal and the Trump advising voters in North Carolina to vote twice scandal and the withholding of funds to ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ scandal and the fake camera store owner in Kenosha scandal and the ‘planeload of Antifa’ scandal and the scandal about the 600 loans totaling $100 million of the Paycheck Protection Program that went to companies that are barred or suspended from doing business with the federal government. And those are just the scandals I can remember. You know, from the last week.

It’s been like this for nearly four fucking years. The Trump Administration has been beating the American public senseless with their coincidental Constant Cascade of Calamities. And he promises, if re-elected, to keep it up for four more years. At least. MAGA, and all that.

dammit bernie

I was SO proud of Bernie Sanders for acknowledging that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election in his favor. Unlike Comrade Trump and his cadre of Nazgûl supporters, who are actively abetting the Russian attack on our national elections, Bernie spoke out and condemned the interference. He said, “I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear. Stay out of American elections. And as president I will make sure that you do.”

How can you NOT respect that? Especially when you compare it to Trump’s tantrum and childish denial of facts.

But here’s the thing: I have a weird and dysfunctional relationship with Bernie. I like the guy. I like his consistency. I like that he’s been remarkably steady in his beliefs and opinions — not just recently but for decades. I like most of his values and I agree with most of his policies. And yet I’ve never been able to go all in for Bernie because time and again he does something that flat out pisses me off. Or disappoints me. I’ve spent a lot of time saying, “Dammit, Bernie.”

It’s not just Bernie. There are a lot of politicians (or other folks) I like and respect that make me say Dammit. Dammit Bill Clinton. dammit Rashida Tlaib, dammit Kirsten Gillibrand, dammit Al Franken, dammit dammit dammit dammit. And now, once again, dammit, Bernie.

Dammit, Bernie, you knew about this for a month. A month, for fuck’s sake, and you didn’t say anything. That, in itself, wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. I mean, there could be lots of valid reasons for not reporting it. Maybe an intelligence agency asked you not to reveal the information to the public for some obscure spy reason.

But apparently that wasn’t the case. Dammit, Bernie, you were apparently (and I say ‘apparently’ because to my knowledge you haven’t given any other reason) just reluctant to acknowledge it. That’s bad. Understandable, but still bad. And dammit, Bernie, then you made it worse. You got pissy with the Washington Post for reporting the story. And then you made it still worse by suggesting the newspapers broke the story right before the Nevada caucus in order to hurt your campaign.

Here’s a True Thing, Bernie: bad news is always bad news, so if you want to control HOW that bad news is released, release it yourself. Release it under your control. If you dawdle and somebody else releases that bad news in a less flattering way, then that’s on you. A fucking month, you knew about this — and yet you weren’t prepared to answer questions about it when the story broke. At the very least you should have had talking points prepared, you should have had a strategy in place. Really, you should have dealt with this a month ago.

I don’t think you were deliberately trying to hide the information; I suspect you just saw it as an unwanted distraction. I suspect you treated it the same way you treated the bothersome chest pains you said you ‘disregarded’ because you didn’t have time to deal with them. I mean, that’s a classic guy move — ignore it, assume it’ll go away. I suspect every guy ever born has done that.

But dammit, Bernie, if you’d held a press conference soon after learning about Russian interference and denounced the interference using the very same language you used recently, you’d have been universally praised. But you didn’t. Now you come across as cranky and snarky and resentful and bitter. Now it seems like you’re blaming others for your own mistakes. Those are the qualities that made me stop supporting you in 2016.

Dammit, Bernie you’re so much better than this. And it pisses me off that you sometimes seem to forget that.