that kind of thing happens

In April of 2008, Lt. Michael Behenna — an Army Ranger and platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division — was part of a convoy traveling north of Baghdad. A roadside IED detonated, killing two of Behenna’s platoon members and badly wounding several others. In war, that kind of thing happens. Bombs explode, people get killed and maimed.

An intelligence report linked a man named Ali Mansur to the attack. Mansur, like a lot of unhappy, resentful Iraqis, was suspected to be a member of al-Qaeda. He may have been al-Qaeda. He probably was, given that he was in Iraq with a Syrian passport. In any event, Mansur was detained and for two weeks he was interrogated by intelligence officers. They were unable to confirm a link between Mansur and the IED, so they ordered him released. That kind of thing happens in modern war; you can’t always distinguish the enemy from the disgruntled, or the disgruntled from the innocent. Innocent people get caught up and punished unfairly; guilty people walk.

Lt. Behenna was ordered to return Mansur to his village. Instead, Behenna and his platoon took the handcuffed prisoner to a secluded location near a railroad bridge. They used their knives to cut off his clothing. Without any authorization, they continued to interrogate him about the IED. Eventually they removed Mansur’s restraints, and at some point Lt. Behenna shot him twice, killing him. In war, that kind of thing happens. Troops under a massive amount of stress sometimes act irrationally and against orders. Sometimes in war, it’s not really clear what counts as rationality. If you send young men and women to war, some of them will commit war crimes.

The next day villagers found Mansur’s naked body, burned, stashed in a culvert below the railroad bridge. In July, Behenna was relieved of his command and charged with murder. Two of his platoon members and his interpreter testified against him at his court martial. The interpreter testified that Behenna told Mansur he was going to kill him, but had assumed it was just a threat to frighten Mansur. Behenna claimed he was acting in self defense when he shot Mansur. He testified Mansur had made an attempt to seize his weapon. Which is entirely possible. If I’d been questioned by military intelligence for two weeks, then told I was to be released but was instead taken to a remote area by the troops who had accused me in the first place, had my clothing cut off me, and was threatened with death while being interrogated again — if they removed my restraints, I might try to grab that guy’s weapon too. That kind of thing happens when you’re desperate and have nothing to lose.

In 2009, Behenna was found guilty of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. After a number of appeals and requests for clemency, his sentence was reduced to 15 years. Behenna was released on parole in 2014, having served less than five years. That kind of thing happens in the justice system, both civilian and military. There’s always a tentative and uneasy balance between justice and punishment.

Lt. Behenna and the men of “Mad Dog 5” — 5th Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

Yesterday, President Comrade Trump gave Behenna a full pardon. Trump has issued eight pardons to date. His other pardons include

  • Dwight and Steven Hammond — cattle ranchers who threatened US Forest Service officials, and whose 2012 convictions for arson of federal property sparked the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by right wing terrorists.
  • Dinesh D’Souza — right wing pundit, conspiracy theorist, and provocateur who pled guilty to campaign fraud in 2014.
  • Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby — Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff who was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and one count of making false statements in regard to leaking the identity of an undercover CIA agent in an effort to discredit arguments that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — the pretense behind the Iraq War.
  • Kristian Saucier — a machinist’s mate in the U.S. Navy who was convicted of taking photographs of classified areas of a nuclear submarine, and who destroyed evidence after being questioned by the FBI. Saucier was given a less than honorable discharge and sentenced to a year in prison. His lawyers argued he deserved a lesser sentence because Hillary Clinton had classified information on her personal server and received no punishment. His lawyers also agreed the two cases were different, and that Saucier knew what he was doing was illegal.
  • Joe Arpaio — Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona and birther conspiracy theorist, who was convicted of contempt of court for refusing to comply with the court’s order to stop its racial profiling practices.

See a pattern? You can defy court orders, endanger national security, expose the identify of a NOC CIA agent, commit campaign fraud, commit arson, or murder a suspect in a war zone and burn his body; you do that and still receive a full pardon, if the president likes you. That kind of thing happens when hostile foreign nations influence a US election in order to elect an ignorant, narcissistic, malignant, compliant conspiracy theorist as President of the United States.

NOTE: I have a lot of compassion for Mr. Behenna. He and the men of Mad Dog 5 suffered horribly. In the IED explosion, one of his men was literally cut in half. Nobody can experience that kind of thing and not be affected by it. If he believed Mansur was responsible for that, I don’t blame him for wanting to execute the man. You can read a more detailed account of what happened at SCOTUSblog.

But here’s the thing: if you send people to war, they’re going to commit war crimes. It’s a given; we need to acknowledge that ugly truth. But even in the most horrific conditions we have to maintain military discipline and the rule of law. Behenna was an officer; he swore an oath; he knew what he was doing when he took Mansur to that bridge; he knew it was against orders. He did it anyway, and he tried to cover up his crime.

I have compassion for Behenna. But he’s not deserving of a pardon.

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head explodes

One of the many unacknowledged problems with having a fuckwit as president is the frequency with which logical folks have to hip-check less-than-logical folks about really stupid stuff. Take, for example, this recent adventure in Trumpian fuckwittery:

“[T]hey say the noise [of wind turbines] causes cancer.”

It’s blatantly and profoundly stupid, right? But in an effort to be fair to Comrade Trump, some folks — even intelligent folks — might ask if there’s any basis in reality for the claim. Here’s a non-Barr summary of a conversation I had this morning:

Friend: I dunno, maybe the deep thrum of a wind farm can maybe possibly cause some form of cancer? Maybe?
Me: Nope.
Friend: I mean, if noise at a certain frequency can make your head explode, then why can’t it also cause cancer?
Me: What? I mean, what?
Friend: Sound at a specific frequency can make your head explode. You know…like glass.
Me: No it can’t.
Friend: I think it can.
Me: I’m pretty sure it can’t.
Friend: Pretty sure?
Me: Fuck you, it can’t. It just can’t.
Friend: Pretty sure?

So I — and I can’t believe I’m actually writing this — checked. And hey, I was right. It turns out a dry skull does have some acoustic vulnerabilities, mostly between the 9 and 12 kHz frequencies. But even prolonged exposure to concentrated sound in that range will, at most, cause a dry skull to vibrate a bit.

But here’s the problem: we’re not walking around with dry skulls. We’ve got them encased in layers of soft, soggy tissue and muscle. It’s like wrapping your head in a thick coat of bacon. That’s not all; inside that skull is a thickish fluid, and floating in that fluid is a hefty wad of squishy brains. All of that wet material would act as an acoustic dampener and would prevent your skull from shattering and your head exploding.

The low-frequency infrasound of a turbine farm might give you a headache, but it’s not going to give you cancer. And sound can’t make your head explode. Listening to Comrade Trump speak might make you wish your head would explode. But sorry, nope, ain’t gonna happen.

a short list of things that are more national emergencier than a wall

— health care
— gun violence
— climate change
— ocean pollution
— noise pollution
— light pollution
— every fucking kind of pollution
— protecting the Mueller investigation
— Sarah Huckabee Sanders
— equal pay for the US Women’s Soccer team
— urban e-scooters
— single cup coffee makers
— the men’s rights movement
— angry white men
— men
— televisions as big as autopsy tables
— the novels of Dan Brown
— Ann Coulter
— de-clutter fascists
— individually-wrapped ‘cheese’ tiles
— slasher movies
— WalMart
— the Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot
— everybody wearing ear-buds or headphones everywhere
— all those damned Kardashians
— sex robots
— Peeps-flavored coffee creamer
— drones
— kids living with their parents after age 25, or 21, or maybe 19
— designers who make women’s clothing without pockets
— everybody associated in any way with the Trump administration
— Trump

“I just want to stand on top of the Wall and piss off the edge of the world!” Tyrion Lannister

Comrade Donald Trump would be wise to hire the smallest Lannister, who at least understands the most important function of a wall.

classic trump

Comrade Trump’s latest tantrum/threat is quintessential Trump. It’s the distillation of all things Trump times five. He’s decided to ‘explore’ avenues for removing the security clearances of half a dozen senior national security and intelligence officials who’d served in the Obama administration. We’re talking about John Brennan (former CIA director), Michael Hayden (former CIA director), Susan Rice (former national security adviser), James Clapper (former director of national intelligence), James Comey (former FBI director), and Andrew McCabe (former FBI deputy director).

What makes this classic Trump? I’m a tell you.

  1. It’s petty, malicious, and vindictive. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with a straight face, claimed these folks have (and I’m not making this up) have “politicize(d) and in some cases monetize(d) their public service and security clearances” by “making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president.” Basically, they’ve criticized Comrade Trump and his handling of…well, just about everything in regard to national security. So they must be punished.
  2. It’s mostly pointless. None of these folks currently attend national security briefings. Revoking their security clearances will have absolutely no impact on the daily lives of most of them. As far as I can tell, only Hayden holds a position on the board of a private sector company that technically require a security clearance, which means he’ll likely lose some income. But in general, this move is like taking away their access to lockers in a gym they no longer attend.
  3. It’s incompetent. At least two of the people Trump wants to deny a security clearance have already lost their security clearances. When Comey and McCabe were fired (by Trump) from the FBI they automatically lost their clearances. The only reason they’re included on the list is because a) they’ve criticized Trump and b) nobody in the Trump administration could be bothered to check a few basic facts before announcing a plan of action.
  4. It’s inconsistent. Trump claims these folks have politicized and monetized their clearances, so they should have those clearances revoked. Yet his own former national security adviser (Gen. Michael Flynn, remember him?) retained his security clearance despite the fact that he stood on stage during the Republican National Convention and led the crowd in cheering “Lock her up!” He even kept his clearance after Trump learned he was under investigation for his dealings with Russia — the same dealings which led to his firing. Now that is some serious politicizing and monetizing of a security clearance. And lawdy, the Flynn scandal is small beans compared to that of Jared Kushner, who was given access to highly classified intel despite having to ‘correct’ his clearance application four times because he ‘forgot’ to include dealings with foreign officials, including…yeah, that’s right, Russians.
  5. It’s actually harmful to national security. Among the many detrimental aspects of the Trump administration, one of the most deleterious is its casual destruction of institutional knowledge by removing experienced people from positions of authority for political or ideological reasons. It’s bad enough in agencies that handle domestic concerns (like education and health care), but it’s a catastrophic loss in agencies that are concerned with international affairs. Past administrations have always relied on the expertise and experience of the administrations they replaced. Trump only relies on people loyal to Trump.
  6. It’s being implemented in a swarm of lies. This is no surprise. Comrade Trump seems unable to do anything without lying about something.

Top contender for Most Blackmailable Public Figure.

So, classic Trump. A mean-spirited, amateurish, contradictory move that not only won’t accomplish what he hopes it will, but will actually damage the nation — all accompanied by lies.

What’s most ironic about this is the fact that Comrade Trump, with his dodgy financial deals and a very long string of extramarital affairs, almost certainly wouldn’t be able to obtain any sort of security clearance at all if he weren’t POTUS. If there was a contest for Most Blackmailable Public Figure, Trump would be considered a front-runner.

This is the world turned upside down. And backwards. While drunk. And in heels. With one heel missing.

 

a hold on the cranky pants

Hey, you guys! Remember when Comrade Trump got all cranky-pants over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem on account of they hated America and were black (not necessarily in that order)? And remember when the big hats of the NFL (hint: rich white guys) decided to make Trump uncranky by coming up with policy that said Dude, you can stand for the national anthem or you can park your ass inside the locker room, but we ain’t having you taking no knee in public like some communist or something? Remember that?

Well you can stop remembering it. On account of it doesn’t apply anymore. For the moment. The NFL Players Association responded to the NFL’s Park Your Ass rule by saying, “What? You got to be joking, right? I mean, c’mon, this is America.”

Then what happened is this: the Associated Press (aka Enemy of the People) got hold of the Miami Dolphins’ new code of player conduct. Which basically said, Dude, you violate the rule and take a knee during the anthem, then you don’t get to play for, like, four games. And the NFLPA said, “What? You got to be joking, right? Four games? I mean, c’mon, you don’t get sat down for four games if you beat up your girlfriend or get caught with drugs. Four games? Seriously?”

So the NFLPA filed a grievance, because c’mon, four games. And the NFL said, “Whoa, let’s not get hasty here. Baby, you know I really love you.” So now the NFL and the NFLPA are in Football Couples Therapy, trying to make things work and rekindle their old romance. They released a joint statement.

The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue. In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy. No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.

See that ‘constructive dialogue’ bit? Totally right out of the couples therapy handbook. Pretty soon I expect a mediator will sit both the NFL and the NFLPA down and tell them, “Look, you can be right…or you can be in a relationship.”

The joint statement also included some bullshit about “reflect[ing] the great values of America” which I don’t quite understand. I mean, we’re talking about a group of genetic mutants who dress in high-tech protective gear in order to repeatedly bang into each other with enough force that almost half of the current players show some evidence of traumatic brain injuries and 96% of autopsied players (don’t panic — they wait until the players are actually certified dead before doing the autopsy) displayed chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure I want folks giving themselves brain damage for public entertainment to be one of the “great values of America.” But hey, the good news is that the people who pummel each other for our amusement may not be forced choose between engaging in a peaceful protest or parking their asses in a locker room. At least not for a while.

This may all change when Comrade Trump hears about it and it’s time to rile up the rubes before the mid-term elections.

ADDENDUM: Comrade Trump tweeted (of course) about this last night:

The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!

Uh, no. It’s NOT in the contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart. As far as that goes, no, it’s not a National Anthem debate. It’s a police misconduct debate that Comrade Trump hijacked for racist, political reasons. And I think the American people must now take a stand. First time complicity with Russia, lose the midterm elections. Second time complicity, out of office.

 

one strzok and you’re out

Odds are you won’t read the 500+ page report by the DOJ’s Inspector General (and nobody would blame you, because mostly it’s pretty dull and repetitive), but here it is if you want to. I intended to read it, but I couldn’t take it. After the first couple hundred pages, I started skimming.

Seriously, it’s a job of work. The name of the department that published the report is a job of work in itself: the Department of Justice Inspector General Oversight and Review Division. And the title of the report? Prepare yourself:

A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election

There are a lot of interesting little details in the report, but almost all the attention will get focused on two points. Point One: Comey gets spanked. Point Two: Peter Strzok gets spanked. Comey, though I think he’s an honest guy, deserves the spanking because he acted like a sanctimonious prig (well, okay, he wasn’t acting; he IS a sanctimonious prig). Here’s what the report says about Comey:

Comey’s unilateral announcement was inconsistent with Department policy and violated long-standing Department practice and protocol by, among other things, criticizing Clinton’s uncharged conduct.

In other words, he fucked up by issuing the statement that said Clinton hadn’t done anything that merited prosecution, but she was still negligent in the way she handled her email. The report also stated that:

…in making this decision (to notify leak-prone Republicans that a search warrant had been issued for a computer indirectly related to Clinton a few days before the election), Comey engaged in ad hoc decision making based on his personal views even if it meant rejecting longstanding Department policy or practice.

In other words, he fucked up again by being a sanctimonious prig. However, the IG also found that neither of Comey’s fucked up decisions were “influenced by political preferences” for or against either candidate.

Not that it matters to Comrade Trump or Republicans in general. They’re still claiming the report showed Trump was right to fire Comey (despite Trump having admitted on national television that he fired him because of “this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia”).

Here’s the thing: just about everything you’ll probably see in the news media for the next couple of weeks will be Republicans claiming the IG’s report proves Comrade Trump’s claims of a FBI ‘witch hunt’ are legit (HINT: they’re not). They’ll base those claims on two pieces of contradictory information.

First, the report spanks James Comey for his statement about the Clinton email investigation (that while there was nothing criminal about the way she handled her email, he was of the opinion that it was negligent). Trumpettes will argue this validates his decision to fire Comey. (HINT: it’s a bullshit argument since Trump admitted on camera that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.)

So yeah, Comey deserves his spanking. FBI agent Peter Strzok, maybe not so much (in my opinion, of course). Comrade Trump and other Republicans have been claiming Strzok was part of some shadowy Deep State FBI cabal determined to sabotage the Trump campaign. Why? Because of text messages he shared with Lisa Page, who was 1) his lover and 2) Special Counsel to the Deputy FBI Director. Strzok and Page weren’t pleased with the idea that Donald J. Trump might become POTUS, and weren’t shy about saying that in their private text exchanges. Here’s what Trump and the Complicit Republicans consider to be the money shot:

Page: He’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!

Strzok: No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.

The IG report states this exchange “implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” I suppose it could imply that. IF Strzok and Page were the leaders of a desperate but plucky band of anti-Trump commandos operating deep within the halls of the FBI. But I’m inclined to think it’s more likely he was simply saying ‘We the voters of the U.S. will stop it.”

One of these guys has spent his life serving his nation in the military and in the FBI as a counterespionage agent. The other is a malicious twit.

And, in fact, the IG report also says this:

“[W]e did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.”

Trump and the Complicit Republicans aren’t mentioning any of that, are they. They’re too deeply committed to the notion of politically motivated sleeper cells lurking in FBI offices all across the nation.

And hey, guess what. There IS evidence of politically motivated FBI agents trying to influence the election at that point in time. The Strzok-Page text was dated August 8, 2016. If we look at actual headlines from actual newspapers and actual news sites around that time (November, 2016), this is what we see:

The anti-Clinton insurgency at the FBI, explained.

The FBI is Trumpland: anti-Clinton atmosphere spurred leaking, sources say.

Has the FBI Gone Full Breitbart?

Rudy Giuliani Confirms FBI Insiders Leaked Information to the Trump Campaign.

FBI is ‘Trumpland’ and agents are leaking to harm Clinton.

All of these contemporaneous articles, without exception, are about how much the FBI distrusted Hillary Clinton and were actively trying to help the Trump campaign. There’s your Deep State FBI conspiracy, right there. And note that in at least one of those articles we have Rudy Giuliani bragging about how FBI agents had leaked privileged information directly to him and to the Trump campaign.

What is Rudy Nine-Eleven saying now? This:

“Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like Peter Strzok. Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week.”

Is anybody in the news media suggesting Rudy should be investigated about FBI leaks? Is anybody saying Rudy should be in jail? Sadly, no.

What it comes down to is this: the Inspector General is doing exactly the same thing it spanked Comey for. It’s being a sanctimonious prig. The IG report essentially says ‘There’s nothing actually wrong here, but we can see how it might appear that way, so we have to do better.’ And, just like they did with the Comey announcements, Comrade Trump and his Complicit Republicans will twist that into an admission by the FBI that they were guilty.

What gets lost in all this, of course, is the fact that one candidate was actively colluding with a hostile nation to sway a presidential election. We’re so busy making a fuss about not coming to a complete halt at a Stop sign that we don’t see the bank robbers in the getaway car.

 

in which i confess i was wrong about trump’s cabinet

I was mistaken. In the past I’ve referred to Comrade Trump’s appointments as the Cabinet of Nazgûl. I was wrong.

I mean, it seemed appropriate initially. After all, the Nazgûl were nine men (men, what a surprise) who had “obtained glory and great wealth” in life before succumbing to the dark, corrupt attraction of Sauron’s power. And like the characters in Tolkien’s novel, these men “one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thraldom” of Comrade Trump.

But here’s the thing about the Nazgûl: the reason they were Sauron’s “most terrible servants” was that they were competent. They were good at their jobs. They understood their role, and they fulfilled it professionally. That can’t be said of Trump’s current crop of advisers. These guys would be best described as cartoon villains — except that they have actual power.

I was wrong; this is NOT Comrade Trump’s cabinet.

John Bolton, a certified conspiracy crank who makes Yosemite Sam look like a damned diplomat, is going to be the new national security adviser. This is a guy George W. Bush couldn’t get confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations despite having a Republican-controlled Senate. This fucking guy has advocated the preemptive bombing of both North Korea AND Iran, because that worked so well in Iraq. This beef-headed motherfucker has publicly suggested the Russian hack of the DNC might have been a false flag operation by the Obama Administration. Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee revealed that this deceitful sonofabitch bullied intelligence analysts into saying Cuba — Cuba, an island nation whose claim to fame is its ability to keep a 1944 Dodge in running order — had developed a sophisticated bio-weapons program. And Comrade Trump thinks it’s a good idea to make this canker-brained bullshit artist his national security adviser — his third in fourteen months.

John Bolton, National Security Adviser in waiting

This is clearly a disastrous decision. Which means it’s perfectly in keeping with Trump’s decision-making process. It’s the same process that resulted in putting Kellyanne Conway in charge of the opioid crisis because…well, who the hell knows why she was put in charge. She was probably in the room at the time.

Is there any good news in Bolton’s appointment? Yeah, sorta kinda. Bolton probably won’t last very long in his position. He draws too much attention, and Trump wants all the attention focused on himself. Also, Bolton criticized Comrade Trump’s handling of Russia, saying, “Trump got to experience Putin looking him in the eyes and lying to him, denying Russian interference in the election.” I can’t imagine Comrade Trump putting up with that sort of talk for any length of time. I suspect Trump will kick him into the canyon in the not too distant future.

The only saving grace of the Trump administration to this point is that Trump is too fucking incompetent, too fucking stupid, too fucking ignorant, and way too fucking uninterested in anything other than himself to do Sauronesque level damage to the nation. We don’t have a Dark Lord; what we have instead is a cheap-ass, shallow gilt tinplate, jumped up Grima Wormtongue — a lying coward who abuses women, steals from others, and kisses Vladimir Saruman’s ass.

Jeebus on toast — you know, this used to be a halfway decent country.