1/6/21 – fick herum, finde es heraus

January 6th. For me, it’s the birthday of Sherlock Holmes (and Joan of Arc, if you prefer religious martyrs). For you maybe it’s the Feast of the Epiphany, which is something of a big deal if you believe in that sort of thing. If you live in Dublin, you might think of the 6th as the anniversary of the Night of the Big Wind in which a storm in 1839 damaged or destroyed about a fifth of all the houses in the city. Speaking of disasters (or martyrs of a different sort), it’s also the wedding anniversary of Henry VIII’s short marriage to Anne of Cleves.

Lots of stuff taking place on the 6th. It’s also the day when both houses of Congress will meet to officially record the electoral college vote, which was taken on Dec. 14 to confirm the results of the 2020 election on November 3rd (SPOILER: Uncle Joe Biden won 306 votes to Comrade Trump’s 232 votes). Normally — as if ‘normal’ still had any meaning — that vote would be just a formality.

But we live in a post-normal grotesque Trump-shaped world. This January 6th, Josh Hawley (the spider-brained junior Senator from Hobby Lobby Missouri) has announced he’ll challenge the certification of electoral votes. That will force every member of Congress to publicly support either the actual election results OR the theory that Satan-worshiping, cannibalistic sex perverts among Democrats and Hollywood elites conspired with Republicans in Name Only, in cooperation with traitors in the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice, to insert an algorithm developed for the dead Venezuelan president Cesar Chavez into voting machines manufactured by a Canadian-based corporation that switched votes from Comrade President Trump to Uncle Joe Biden so that China will…fuck, I forgot what China is supposed to get out of this. Cheap soybeans, maybe?

Comrade Trump and GOP wanker Josh Hawley sing ‘I gotta be me’ at Attention-Seeking WhoreCon.

Anyway, while that freakish shitshow is taking place inside Congress, outside on the streets of DC, there’s going to be a pro-Trump rally. It’s hosted by Women for America First. You may be asking, “Greg, old sock, who are these Women for America First?”

I’m glad you asked. First, stop calling me ‘old sock’. Second, on their website, WfAF describe themselves (and again, I’m not making this up) as a “21st century suffrage movement” which gives “women the tools and a safe place to speak out – even when the haters come after us and try to shut us up just because we are women.” It’s clever of them to assume and anticipate that they’ll be hated, then to preemptively deflect that hate by claiming it’s because they’re women, not because of their fascist totalitarian views. They probably see themselves as modern Joans of Arc; their website is suffused with the self-pitying scent of burning martyr.

The coming God, Guns & Bullshit rally.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in DC on the 6th, but I’m pretty confident it won’t bear any resemblance to a woman’s suffrage rally. Comrade Trump is hot for this rally. He’s tweeted (of course he did) that it’s a ‘protest’ rally, and that it’ll be big. “Be there, will be wild.”

That seems a safe prediction; the previous two pro-Trump rallies (on 11/14 and 12/12) were pretty wild. Proud Boys and other right-wing extremists roamed around the streets, attacking anybody they suspected of being Antifa or BLM supporters or lizard people. There’s every reason to believe that will happen again on the 6th. The Proud Boys are especially upset right now because the Hotel Harrington — their preferred hotel — has decided to close its door to guests from Jan. 3 through the 6th. Why? Out of “concern and desire for everyone’s health and safety.” Basically, it’s because the staff hate the Proud Boys and because the hotel’s management doesn’t want the Harrington to be known as a magnet for racist hooligan fuckwits.

Trump, being Trump, seems to be tacitly encouraging the Proud Boys and the loopiest elements of Qanon — and that’s spooking the hell out of DC’s many law enforcement agencies. The DC metro police, the uniformed Secret Service, the federal Park police, the Capitol police, the Federal Protective Service — everybody is on edge, everybody is worried. Not just because of the potential for violence, but because nobody knows how Comrade Trump will respond to it. WaPo has reported, “Government officials fear that if violence spreads, Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize the military” in an attempt to ratfuck the results of the election.

Proud Boys slogan — FAFO, fuck around, find out. It’s more impressive in German.

This is basically what Michael Flynn (former US Army general, former Trump National Security Adviser, Qanon dickhead, self-confessed liar, and felon) has advocated. He suggested right out loud that Trump “could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states [won by Biden] and basically rerun an election.”

That sounds like the plot of a bad Bruce Willis movie. Until you remember that in recent weeks Trump has replaced a LOT of career Pentagon officials with a job lot of inexperienced, fever-brained Trump supporters. It sounds ridiculous until you remember that his pet Attorney General recently resigned, and that Trump has threatened to fire both the current directors of the FBI and the CIA. It sounds ridiculous until you remember the vast majority of Republicans in Congress have stood around playing with their dicks while Trump has casually, deliberately violated almost every presidential norm and tradition (not to mention a number of laws). Congressional Republicans might voice ‘concern’ if Trump does try to invoke the Insurrection Act, but there’s absolutely no reason to believe they’d try to stop him.

And if that’s not enough to make you wet your pants, remember this: just a few days ago Trump threatened to attack Iran after Iranian-supported militias in Iraq launched some missiles at the US embassy in Baghdad. Trump tweeted (of course he did), “If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”

Think this over: what would Comrade President Trump consider doing if he thought it would help him stay in power? Destroy the Republican Party? Spark a riot in DC? Start a little war in the Middle East? Burn a third of a million American Joans of Arc in the nation’s Covid wards?

I hate to say this — I truly hate to say it — but things may be owl-shit crazy right now, but I’m afraid things could get even owl-shit crazier starting on January 6th, 2021.

toggle election

Republican Friend: I’ve been a moderate Republican all my life. I voted for Trump last time, but I didn’t think he’d actually win. I can’t bring myself to vote for him this time.
Me: Great. Glad to hear it.
RF: Don’t be too glad. I’m not voting for Biden either.
Me: Those are the only choices. Trump or Biden.
RF: I’m voting for Jo Jorgensen.
Me: Who?
RF: Jo Jorgensen.
Me: Who is Jo Jorgensen when she’s at home?
RF: She’s the Libertarian candidate.
Me: So you’re voting for Trump.
RF: No, I’m voting for Jorgensen.
Me: Same thing.
RF: No, it’s not. I’m voting my conscience.
Me: Bullshit. You’re dodging your conscience.
RF: No, I’m not. I said I can’t bring myself to vote for…
Me: Yeah, I know what you said. And I know what you meant. You mean you don’t want to feel any responsibility if Trump is re-elected.
RF: No, that’s not it.
Me: Bullshit. That’s exactly it. You don’t want to vote for Trump, but you’re not going to do anything to prevent him from being re-elected. You’re more concerned with soothing your conscience than with protecting the Constitution.
RF: That’s not true. Biden won’t fix the nation’s prob…
Me: Does Jo Jorgensen have a popcorn fart’s chance of winning?
RF: No, but that’s not the point. The point is…
Me: Fuck your point. This is a toggle election. The choices are truly binary. Yes or no. Up or down. On or off. Biden or Trump. Those are the only choices.
RF: I have to vote my conscience.
Me: Fuck you and fuck your conscience. You’re a coward.
RF: I’m not a…
Me: You’re dodging all personal responsibility to act for the good of the nation. It’s no different than saying you oppose the pandemic but won’t wear a mask. Fuck you.
RF: It’s not like that at all.
Me: Did I just say ‘Fuck you’? I believe I did. Fuck you again.
RF: Are you angry with me?
Me: Shut up. Go away. Fuck you and everybody you know, you fucking coward.
RF: I understand you’re upset.
RF: Hello?
Former Republican Friend: Hello?

gloom of trump

You’ve heard it a million times, often incorrectly. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. It’s the creed of the United States Post Office.

The Post Office is maybe the most democratic institution in all of These United States. You put any sort of reasonable address on an envelope, slap a fifty-five cent stamp on it, stick it in your mailbox and the Post Office will send somebody right to your house, fetch that envelope right outa your mail box, and carry it to that address, usually within one to three business days.

Delivering mail in the rain during a damn pandemic.

Don’t matter if that address is in Manhattan or Boise or some farm house outside of Broken Bow, Nebraska. Some poor carrier in Sidney, Montana has to drive a mail route nearly two hundred miles long to deliver the mail to 272 mailboxes. There are 176 folks who live along a 30-mile stretch of the Magnolia River in Alabama who get their mail delivered by boat. A native tribe, the Havasupai, who live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon get their mail after an eight-mile trip down the canyon using mules. Mules. You got a legit address, the Post Office will deliver your mail. And yeah, even if it’s raining or snowing or hot or gloomy AF.

Delivering mail by a damn mule train.

The USPS isn’t perfect, but considering the massive scale and scope of their mission they do a damned good job. Again, First Class postage is only fifty-five cents. If somebody asked me to walk the thirty feet to my mailbox in the rain in exchange for fifty-five cents, I’d tell them to piss off.

But Comrade Donald Trump is deliberately wrecking the Postal Service. Deliberately. And he’s doing it for the most corrupt reason: to make it harder for US citizens to vote during a pandemic.

He replaced the Postmaster General — Megan Brennan, a woman whose 34-year career with the USPS began as a letter carrier, who was familiar with every operation inside the USPS from personal experience — with Louis DeJoy, a man with no USPS experience at all. DeJoy is a major donor to the Trump campaign; over the last four years he and his wife have contributed more than US$2 million to the Trump campaign and other Republican causes. Trump is also considering DeJoy’s wife to be Ambassador to Canada. In her financial disclosure statement, she noted she and her husband own “between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in assets in USPS competitors or contractors.”

Delivering mail in a damn boat on a damn river.

That’s what we call ‘a conflict of interest’. Any harm DeJoy does to the USPS not only helps Trump, it helps DeJoy’s businesses. He was obligated to divest himself of those holdings within 30 days of his appointment. Has he? We don’t know. He’s stated “I’ve done what is necessary to ensure that I am and will remain in compliance with those obligations” but I confess I find it impossible to uncritically accept the word of any Trump appointee.

Since his appointment in June, DeJoy has 1) instituted policies that deliberately slow mail delivery, 2) discontinued the practice of carriers delivering mail by the end of the day if it results in overtime, 3) informed the states they can no longer mail ballots to voters at the bulk rate of 20 cents but must pay the First Class rate of 55 cents (nearly tripling the cost of mailing ballots), 4) reassigned or displaced thirty-three senior USPS officials who have decades of experience, disrupting the chain of command, 5) instituted a hiring freeze, and 6) encouraged career USPS officials to take early retirement.

That’s just since the middle of June.

Delivering mail in a damn snowstorm.

This isn’t just Trump eroding faith in a trusted US institution, it’s deliberate sabotage of the Postal Service. It’s clearly intended to disrupt mail service as we approach an election that very likely will hinge on mail-in ballots. And Republicans in Congress will aid and abet Trump in another step toward authoritarian government.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But Trump will.

safe to assume

This is just my opinion, but it seems to me that the Trump administration has demonstrated an uncanny ability to do the worst possible thing at the worst possible moment for the worst possible reasons. For example, changing the process for reporting Covid-19 cases during the biggest spike in Covid-19 cases.

Even if we give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt (stop laughing, it’s just a hypothetical example) and accept that they just want to ‘streamline’ the reporting process, it’s still a phenomenally idiotic point in time to do it. I mean, the CDC has been collecting and reporting hospitalization data for decades. Everybody is familiar with the system, everybody knows what to do, everybody knows the data is unfiltered by the government and pretty reliable. Everybody knows they can use that data as a foundation for planning.

Why are all these refrigerated trucks parked outside of hospitals? It’s a mystery.

Sure, that system is being challenged by a shocking number of Covid-19 cases. We’re talking about national daily infection rates of more than 50,000 new cases a day. A day, for fuck’s sake. Tens of thousands of cases every day from thousands of health care centers scattered all over the US. The fact that the CDC’s system is handling and publicly reporting all that data shows how stable and robust it is.

But the Trump administration has decided to route that data through a private corporation. A private corporation run by a Trump supporter. A Trump supporter and long-time GOP donor who got the US$10.2 million contract through a no-bid process. A contract that requires health care centers to learn an unfamiliar protocol that includes several additional types of data, some of which isn’t usually collected by some state health agencies. The phrase ‘recipe for disaster’ comes to mind.

The worst possible decision at the worst possible time for the worst possible reasons. Well, I’m assuming the worst possible reasons. It’s safe to assume the Trump administration is acting out of the worst possible reasons, because that so often turns out to be the case. It’s theoretically possible somebody in the administration truly and sincerely believes the shift in data collection is being done to make the process more transparent and more simple. But there are people in the Trump administration who truly and sincerely believe prayer is an effective tool in the fight against gun violence. And teen pregnancy. And climate change. And, I don’t know, forest fires. Halitosis. The outcome of football games.

This isn’t to suggest Comrade Trump is actually driving refrigerated body trucks. He doesn’t have a commercial driver’s licence.

So yeah, it’s probably safe to assume this plan to shift Covid-19 data collection from a familiar robust system used by the CDC to a new protocol created by a private company owned by a Trump supporter is designed to control what information the public gets. To turn the data into a political tool. To cook the books and make the pandemic seem somewhat less catastrophic than it is. To benefit Trump.

It’s safe to assume everything Trump does is to benefit Trump. Everything.

abuse of power

On 5 February of this year the United States Senate acquitted Comrade Trump on two impeachment charges: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. In the 157 days since then, Trump has:

  1. Fired Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence (‘acting’ because Trump fired DNI Dan Coats in August, 2019) because his subordinate Shelby Pierson, an expert on election security, had briefed members of the House Intelligence Committee saying Russia interfered in the 2020 election to help Trump. Maguire was replaced by Richard Grenell, a vocal Trump supporter.
  2. Fired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Director for European Affairs for the National Security Council, who testified in the impeachment trial. He also fired Vindman’s twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman.
  3. Fired Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the European Union, who testified in the impeachment trial.
  4. Fired John Rood, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, who had certified that Ukraine had met all the anti-corruption standards, making it eligible for the foreign aid Trump wanted to withhold in exchange for ‘a favor’.
  5. Fired Michael Atkinson, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, because he found a whistleblower complaint involving Trump’s Ukraine call to be credible and forwarded it to Congress, as required by law.
  6. Fired Glenn Fine, acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense, who’d been appointed to head the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee which oversaw the spending of Covid-19 funds voted by Congress.
  7. Fired Christi Grimm, the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services who’d filed a report saying that the nation’s hospitals were suffering from severe shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies, contrary to Trump’s claims.
  8. Fired Steve Linick, the Inspector General of the State Department, who was conducting an investigation into whether Sec. of State Pompeo had used government employees to run personal errands for him.
  9. Fired Mitch Behm, the acting inspector general for the Department of Transportation and a member of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, who was investigating a claim that DOT Secretary Elaine Chao had given preferential treatment to the state of Kentucky, which is represented by her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  10. Pardoned 1) Lt. Michael Behenna, who’d been convicted of murdering an Iraqi civilian and sentenced to 20 years, 2) Conrad Black, a friend/supporter/biographer of Trump, convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice, sentenced to 3.5 years, 3) Pat Nolan, Republican lawmaker convicted of racketeering and soliciting illegal campaign donations, sentenced to three years, 4) Maj. Mathew Goldsteyn, charged with murdering an Afghan citizen, pardoned before trial, 5) Lt. Clint Lorance, convicted of two counts of murder, attempted murder, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice, sentenced to 19 years, 6) David Safavian, Republican lawyer/lobbyist, Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, convicted of obstruction of justice and three counts of perjury, sentenced to six years, 7) Bernard Kerik, Trump supporter, former NYPD commissioner, Fox News consultant, convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to four years.
  11. Commuted criminal sentences for 1) Ted Suhl, who ran faith-based behavioral healthcare treatment centers for juveniles in Arkansas, a friend of Trump supporter Mike Huckabee, convicted of bribery, sentenced to seven years, 2) Rod Blagojevich, former Gov. of Illinois and contestant on Trump’s Apprentice reality show, convicted of extortion and 10 counts of wire fraud, sentenced to 14 years, 3) Judith Negron, friend of Kim Kardashian, convicted of multiple counts of healthcare fraud and money laundering, sentence to 35 years and US$87.5 million in restitution, 4) Roger Stone, friend and associate of Trump and career Republican ratfucker, convicted of seven felonies, sentenced to four years.

That’s what Trump has done in the 157 days since Republicans in the Senate voted to acquit him of abuse of power. There are still 115 days until the presidential election. There are 79 days between election day and inauguration day. Assuming Trump loses the 2020 election, that means he has 194 days to continue to abuse his powers.

(Photo: Jim Vondruska)

We know Republicans in Congress won’t act to stop his abuses. We know Attorney General William Barr will enable Trump to continue to abuse his power. We know that Democrats in Congress will be outraged and complain, but are either too timid or too disheartened to even try to hold him accountable.

That means the only real resistance will come from us, from the people, through whatever legal and semi-legal means we have available. If we give up as well, then there’s really no hope left for the United States.

everything would have been knocked down

Task force. Originally, it was a naval term. Specialized ships from different fleets and squadrons would be temporarily assembled to work as a group to perform a single defined task or activity. After the mission was accomplished, the various ships would return to their normal duties. The ‘task force’ concept has been widely adapted.

Comrade Trump signs an executive order creating a task force to protect…wait…statues?

It’s a great concept, an effective administrative tool, and if used wisely, a task force can be incredibly efficient. If used wisely is the operative phrase in that sentence. Here’s an example of the wise use of a task force. In 2013, the Obama administration created the Pandemic Prediction and Forecasting Science and Technology Working Group. It was comprised of members from eighteen different federal departments and agencies, including the National Security Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense.

Mass burial of Covid-19 victims.

Their job was to “mitigate large‐scale outbreaks by predicting more accurately when and where outbreaks are likely to occur, and how they will progress.” They did this by monitoring and analyzing a myriad of minor social disruptions which, on their own, might not be alarming, but when considered in context could indicate a potential disease outbreak. If, say, the price of pork in Country A suddenly increases, it could mean the hog farmers in Province X have been forced to slaughter a lot of their stock because of a localized swine disease. Taken in conjunction with an increase in Province X’s hospitalizations for flu-like syndrome, it could suggest the first seeds of an epidemic. Task force experts could then be sent to Province X to work with Country A to find out just what the fuck is going on. Then deal with it locally, and prevent the spread to Province Y — or worse, Country B.

Brilliant. By the way, if you’re curious, you can read a report on the PPFSTWG (which, I agree, is among the worst acronyms ever) here. And yes, this is the pandemic response team which the Trump administration disbanded because…well, who the hell knows why.

Let me repeat myself for a minute. A task for is an effective administrative tool, and if used wisely, a task force can be incredibly efficient. Here’s an example of a task force NOT used wisely. Comrade Trump has issued an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a task force to “protect historic landmarks against vandalism and destruction” from “violent anarchists and rioters”. Homeland Security, you’ll remember, is the agency created in 2002 in response to the 9/11 attacks; its stated mission is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. Now, apparently, they have to redirect resources to preventing members of the public from painting ‘Black Lives Matter’ on statues of Confederate generals.

This statue of Andrew Jackson is now safe.

You may be asking yourself if it’s really necessary to create a federal task force to protect statues. Good question. Here’s what Trump had to say about it (and I am NOT making this up):

“I took out an old act, the statues and monuments. And we’re going to have thousands of people in Washington last week. And nobody showed up because they get a 10-year jail term now. They pushed down a statue. They — they even touch anything. It’s a very tough act. You couldn’t get a thing like that approved today. I took it out and we used it and you see the difference. You haven’t seen any rights. You haven’t seen people doing things lately. And the reason is 10 years in prison. If they knocked down a statue, now it started with Confederate soldiers, and then they started hitting George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. And they started hitting Thomas Jefferson. And you know, I’m going to a very special place this weekend, as you know, very beautiful monuments called Mount Rushmore, and somebody said they want to see that come down, that’s never coming down. And we’re going to, uh, run it the way I’ve been running it. Very tough. Now, we had to see what was going on for a period of a week, week and a half. Once we saw what was going on, I did this act last week, a week ago, a little more than a week ago. And it’s been very powerful because people don’t want to go to prison for 10 years for knocking down a statue. And most of these people they’re anarchist or they’re agitators, most of them don’t even know what they’re knocking down. You know, whether it’s Andrew Jackson, they were doing Andrew Jackson the week ago. Almost got it down but I had people go in that were very strong and they went and did a good job. The ropes were up, everything was ready, we got just in time. Andrew Jackson was a great general and a good president, very good president and probably two term and we did a good job. If I weren’t here, this all of Washington would have been knocked down. That’s what would have happened. You would have had Washington knocked down with somebody like a Biden where there’s no law, there’s no order. Everything would have been knocked down, but I’m here.”

There you go. Trump’s here, with a task force. Otherwise everything would have been knocked down.

Yesterday, there were 51.097 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and a butcher’s bill of over 130,000 dead. But at least Trump has saved a statue of Andrew Jackson, the president who signed the Indian Removal Act (which resulted in at least 15,000 native American deaths — or about 11.5% of a pandemic).

but not unexpected

…but not unexpected. That phrase gets a lot of exercise when we’re talking about the behavior of Comrade Donald Trump. The president’s response was irregular, but not unexpected. The president’s comments were undiplomatic, but not unexpected. It’s a nice way of saying ‘Yeah, as usual, Trump is being an asshole’.

Friday evening, Trump announced he was firing Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. In his letter, Trump stated, “[I]t is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

What’s actually vital to Trump is that everybody in his administration MUST be willing to publicly support whatever crazy-ass thing Trump wants to do. Anybody who disagrees or challenges him has to go. When it comes to following the law or following Trump, the law has to step aside.

Comrade Trump signing the two-trillion-dollar covid-19 stimulus package.

Atkinson followed the law. When he received a complaint from a whistleblower in the intelligence community about Trump’s communications with the president of Ukraine, he had an obligation to determine if the complaint was credible and urgent. He decided it was, so he notified Congress — which is exactly what he was legally required to do.

From that moment on, Atkinson’s career in federal government was doomed. He followed the law instead of ‘protecting’ Trump. Same thing happened to James Comey, to Andrew McCabe, to Jeff Sessions (who actually deserved to be fired, but for other reasons), to Col. Alexander Vindman (and even his brother, for fuck’s sake, whose only sin was to be born a twin). Trump attempted to fire Robert Mueller, but couldn’t. All of that was wildly inappropriate. But not unexpected.

Trump didn’t fire Atkinson just to be vindictive. He’s also sending a message to other Inspectors General — including the newest one. That new two-trillion dollar stimulus package? One reason it was delayed was Democrats insisted the bill include a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery — somebody to monitor how the Treasury Department hands out the loans and loan guarantees to businesses. Somebody whose job was to keep Trump corruption to a minimum. The bill also states the new IG MUST notify Congress IMMEDIATELY if the Trump administration withholds information requested by investigators. Because if there’s one thing we know for certain about Trump, it’s that he’s going to pull some sort of nasty-ass scam and then refuse to answer any questions about it.

Trump really really didn’t want a new IG to oversee the stimulus loans, but eventually he had to give in. At least in theory. But this is Comrade Donald Trump (remember in the last paragraph we said he’d pull some nasty-ass scam? Here we go.). In addition to signing the bill, Trump also issued a signing statement…you know, to ‘clarify’ how he interprets the bill. He told Congress he intended to treat the “requirement to consult with the Congress regarding executive decision-making” as “hortatory but not mandatory.” Yeah, I know…there’s no way Trump knows what ‘hortatory’ means. But basically Trump is saying he’s going to consider that ‘requirement’ to just be an earnest suggestion, which he can ignore if he wants to. He also said he won’t “treat spending decisions as dependent on prior consultation with or the approval of congressional committees,” which is a nice way of saying he intends to hand out the money to whoever the fuck he wants to and Congress can kiss his ass. He ends his signing statement by saying, “my Administration will continue the practice of treating provisions like these as advisory and non-binding.” This, in essence, is Trump making farting noises in the direction of Congress.

Comrade Trump signing a statement saying he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants regardless of the law and Congress can pull his finger.

With that signing statement and the firing of Atkinson, Trump is basically telling the new stimulus IG, “Dude, you’re just there for show. Stay quiet, don’t ask too many questions, don’t interfere, just sit in your office, look out the window, and continue to cash those sweet sweet government checks. Or say goodbye to your career and your pension, because, dude, you know I will fire your ass in a skinny minute.”

What Comrade Trump is doing is borderline illegal, immoral, pathologically unethical, utterly reprehensible, and corrupt as fuck. But not unexpected.

trump, burr, and the missing worldwide threat assessment

Here’s a curious thing. Last month Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Tar Heel Circle (which is more formally known as The North Carolina State Society of Washington DC). That’s not the curious thing; members of Congress routinely meet with ‘important’ people from their home state — business owners, social leaders, local politicians.

This smarmy fucker knew.

The curious thing is what Burr told those ‘important’ people. He warned them about a virus coming to the U.S. He told them it was “much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history. It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” You know, the pandemic that killed millions of people worldwide. He talked about travel restrictions and schools closing. He talked about how the military might need to be mobilized.

Here’s another curious thing. At the same time Burr was giving his speech, Comrade Trump was assuring the public that “the coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.” He acknowledged a small number of US citizens had become ill, but “they’ve gotten very much better. Many of them are fully recovered.” We know, of course, that wasn’t true.

Had we been told the truth, the butcher’s bill wouldn’t be so high.

Here’s yet another curious thing. Every year in January or February, the US intelligence community provides the House and Senate intelligence committees with a briefing on global threats. That briefing is usually accompanied by a public hearing and the publication of an unclassified report called the Worldwide Threat Assessment. This year, the public hearing for the 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment was canceled. It hasn’t been rescheduled. The report, which is usually unclassified, was suddenly classified.

One more curious thing: Senator Richard Burr, who issued that dire warning to the ‘important’ people of the Tar Heel Circle, is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee that first learns the details of the Worldwide Threat Assessment.

More curious things. In 2017, the Worldwide Threat Assessment said this about the threat to public health:

“A novel or reemerging microbe that is easily transmissible between humans and is highly pathogenic remains a major threat because such an organism has the potential to spread rapidly and kill millions.”

The 2018 WTA:

“A novel strain of a virulent microbe that is easily transmissible between humans continues to be a major threat, with pathogens such as H5N1 and H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus having pandemic potential if they were to acquire efficient human-to-human transmissibility… a severe global influenza pandemic could cost the equivalent of 4.8 percent of global GDP—more than $3 trillion—and cause more than 100 million deaths.”

The 2019 WTA:

“We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or largescale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.”

We can, I think, safely assume the now-classified 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment repeated what the last three WTAs said. We can, I think, assume that what Senator Burr reported to the ‘important’ people of North Carolina came directly from the 2020 WTA. We don’t have to assume that information was kept from the general public for at least six weeks; we know that’s true. Six weeks during which the US government failed to respond to a health threat they knew was coming. Six weeks in which the Trump administration could have prevented needless sickness and death.

We can’t blame every Covid-19 death on folks like Trump and Burr. But we can hold them responsible for a lot of them.

They knew. They knew it was coming. These fuckers deliberately downplayed the threat to the public while warning the ‘important’ people.

We need to see the 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment report. We need to know what they knew. We need to hold all of these fuckers accountable. We need to toss them out of office. We need to publicly name them and shame them. We need to hang the scope of this pandemic around their necks and make them wear their shame every day for the rest of their miserable lives.