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Friday, August 12, 2022

Loose Lips Sink Ships


How can we expect another to keep our secret if we cannot keep it ourselves.
Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims


What did Trump take?

What was in those classified documents?

What did the FBI find in the basement of Mar-a-Lago? 

More importantly, what did Trump intend to do with that information? 

I don't know. 

I don't know what his intentions were, because there's no way to know what he was thinking. Revenge? Profit? Self-aggrandizement? Maybe he thought the information would exonerate him at some future point in history. 

Maybe it was more like Gollum and the One Ring: Mine! My Precious! 

I don't know. 

Even if Trump tells you, most of the time he's about as coherent as a rat trapped in a hot box and his story changes from minute to minute as his feverish brain scampers madly about trying one excuse after another until he fastens onto a narrative that works for his fanatical dogmatic supporters. 

I don't know. 

I don't presume to know at this point. 

Because to really understand what Trump's intentions were, you'd need to know exactly what classified documents he took. 

You have to know what those documents were, what they say, what they pertain to, how they were obtained by Trump and what exactly they meant to him personally from moment to moment. 

We're likely never going to know any of that ("We" being the general public). 

Now, yes, there are reasonably credible reports that the documents involved both nuclear weapons material and SIGINT and if true, this is extremely troubling. 

Nuclear weapons materials and SIGINT, this is some of the most sensitive material there is.

"Nuclear Weapons material" covers a lot of ground. 

That information has its own special classification and is very, very closely guarded, and it could be anything from how the weapons work, to their estimated reliability, to how many we have, to where they're stored and deployed, to how they might be activated, to who they're aimed at. 

We know Trump was obsessed with the US nuclear arsenal. 

We know he often thought about using that vast power, whether against nature or our enemies. We don't have to guess, he said so, over and over. 

We know he was particularly interested in the age of the weapons and the state of the arsenal's aging technology, again because he said so, over and over, and we know he very often attempted to make political hay with those issues and score points from his opponents. 

So, perhaps that's what the documents pertain to. 

But we will likely never know, either vaguely or for certain, because that information is some of the mostly closely held secrets this nation has and for damn good reason. 

SIGINT, well, that's even more dangerous. 

SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) is highly, highly sensitive information. It's what the National Security Agency (NSA) does. 

That's what I used to do for a living, for more than two decades. 

SIGINT is the intercept and analysis of signals, usually electronic but not always. Most of the time those signals are some form of communication, between humans, between machines, between instruments, and any of myriad variations in between. But SIGINT may also be derived from non-communications signals such as radar or other sensors systems and perhaps other things I'm not going to talk about. It is a vast, vast field of intelligence, broken up into many, many sub-specialties, and it changes constantly following advances in the state of the art. It can involve the intercept of rudimentary decades old forms of communication such as morse code sent via simple on and off carrier wave, to communications so sophisticated that you could barely even comprehend the technology without enormous processing power to assist you. The modern US signals intelligence system is the end result of literally centuries of effort, sacrifice, and expense -- most of which you've never heard of and will likely never know. This source of intelligence, like other intelligence, can give our nation and our allies advantage not just in war, but also in diplomacy, in economics, in just about everything. And yes, it can most certainly be abused (and has been, Watergate being an infamous example and one of the few we can sort of talk about) which is why it is so very, very important to have systems in place to ensure control, protection, and release of that information. 

I'm going to focus primarily on SIGINT for the rest of this essay, because that's my area of experience and expertise. 

I'll leave the nuclear stuff to those who are experts in that area. 

Now, while it's true that a president can declassify most anything SIGINT related, (it's my understanding he cannot declassify information regarding nuclear programs) it's extremely problematic for any president to do so in any sort of impulsive or cavalier fashion. 

The fallout (yep, I did that on purpose) could be devastating to national security. 

(Yes, really -- and I suspect you react the same way I do to the words "national security" used as justification for anything these days, given how abused that phrase is, but nevertheless here we are)

Certain information can only be gathered in a certain way. 

Sometimes that information is the end result of decades of effort and billions of dollars and no matter what you think of the US government and the power and potential for abuse of these systems, compromise may very well result in destabilization of global political structures and could very well result in far, far worse things than you've already imagined -- from war to the complete collapse of economic and social systems.

The very fact that we have certain information, or that we even know that it might exist, reveals things to our adversaries. 

That information might have cost lives to obtain, ours, theirs, innocent bystanders. 

This is not hyperbole. 

Revealing that information, even its existence if not what it actually says, might cost more lives, ours, theirs, innocent bystanders. 

Again, this is not hyperbole.

For example: say some of those classified documents contain information that could have only been gotten by an agent in place. I.e. a spy. 

The very fact that that information exists tells the enemy that source exists. 

Look up Israeli spy Eli Cohen to see what happens then -- he may have saved his country, but it cost him his life. 

The source doesn't have to be a spy. 

And it probably isn't.

Sometimes information can only be obtained from a particular methodology. 

For example, the intercept of electronic communications, i.e. SIGINT. And sometimes that intercept can only be achieved via a particular means. 

For example: During WWII, British cryptologists at Bletchley Park led by a guy named Alan Turing broke German encryption early in the war, i.e. the infamous "Enigma" cipher, specifically the naval variant used by German Oberkommando der Marine to direct U-Boats in the Atlantic. 

Breaking the Enigma cipher was the result of an enormous effort, one that literally cost many lives (directly and indirectly) and what would be billions of dollars today. In the current vernacular: a Moon Shot. 

Being able to intercept and read those transmissions told the Allies exactly what enemy was doing. In detail. 

But the intelligence that resulted from that incredible achievement couldn't be used.

Or could not be used directly. 

Because unless there was another way the allies could have obtained it, one obvious to the Germans, use of that SIGINT to avoid or kill U-boats would immediately tell the German High Command their communications were being read in detail by the Allies.

If the Germans knew their military communications were compromised, they would have immediately stopped using that method and changed to something else we might not have been able to break in time.

And all of those lives, all of that money, all of that vast effort would be for nothing and many, many more allied Navy and Merchant Marine seaman in the Atlantic supply conveys would have died. 

More than that, the Battle of the Atlantic might have gone another way. 

Another example from that war is the Japanese JN-25 naval code, and you can read about that particular effort on NSA's own webpage here. (You can also visit the National Cryptologic Museum, outside of Fort Meade, just north of Washington D.C. and see the actual machines used to break that code, along with authentic Nazi Enigma machines, and other more modern equipment from the Cold War and later used by American codebreakers and information warfare specialists -- some of which I myself once worked with. And if you do visit the museum, stand for a moment in the lobby before the Memorial Wall, where the names of those who gave their lives to these efforts are listed. I knew some of those men and women personally. As I said, not hyperbole).

Now, yes, Franklin Delano Roosevelt could have just said, fuck it, I'm declassifying this stuff. Hey, Adolf, I'm reading your mail, up yours, you Nazi goon, ha ha! 

He could have done that and it would have been legal. 

I don't know that he would have survived it, but he could have done it. 

I hope you can see that there would have been grave consequences -- starting with the fact that both of those SIGINT efforts I mentioned as examples up above were first pioneered primarily by our allies and trusted to us in the strictest of confidence. Disclosure of that SIGINT would have not only done great damage to the United States, but also our many allies in that war and moreover would have put other nations into a position of not being able to trust us. 

Today, SIGINT is vastly more complicated. Vastly more difficult. And even more sensitive. And the repercussions of its careless disclosure could have disastrous results. 

So when a president, Trump, Biden, whoever, says, I'm just going to declassify this and make the information public, there's a process you have to go through. 

Because if that information isn't sanitized, then very likely you are revealing far more than you intend. 

Unless those documents are first examined by experts, by people who know what to look for, then you might not even be able to calculate what an adversary might learn from them -- meaning, there's no way for those sworn to defend this country to even begin to figure out if our own systems are compromised or what new threat from the enemy might result.

For example: If those documents do indeed contain SIGINT, then they are marked with specific classification markings, including codewords that designate the compartment of special intelligence they fall under. 

Yes, compartment. 

Just because you have a clearance, doesn't mean you get to see everything. 

SIGINT is something called Sensitive Compartmented Intelligence, SCI. 

It's maintained inside something called a Sensitive Compartmented Intelligence Facility, a SCIF. 

Ah, you've head that term before, haven't you? SCIF, that's where Congressman Matt Gaetz chose to make TikTok videos and post to the internet -- and you have no idea how utterly insane that is. If I had done that, I would have gone to jail. 

That aside, the key to that classification is the word "compartmented."

Just because you're cleared to see the information in one compartment, doesn't mean you are allowed to see information in another. You have to be read into each compartment, you have to understand the requirements of each compartment individually and what they cover, and you have to have a need to know that information. 

Those compartments are designated by codewords

Those codewords are on the documents. 

So, even if you're not cleared but you somehow find out the the codeword, say you're a reporter for example, and you do enough digging, eventually you can figure out with a reasonable degree of certainty exactly what those documents might pertain to even if you don't know exactly what they say. 

In other words, you call tell what country, program, or target that intel might pertain to.

And the very fact that information exists in the first place, the very fact that compartment exists, and that Trump was so interested in it that he swiped it, tells you something -- might in point of fact tell our enemies something, and give them systems, facilities, and specific people to target for more information. 

So, there has to be a process.

The president can't just wave his hand and say these documents are now declassified!

Well, okay, he can, but there are problems:

“I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”
-- President Trump, via tweet, Oct 2020

That's Trump, waving his tiny hand. 

I have authorized the total declassification of any and all documents pertaining to my political enemies!

Any and all documents. 

Any and all. 

Except, you never saw any of that, did you? 

You never saw any declassified documents pertaining to Trump's alleged "greatest political crime in history."

And you really think you would. If it was the greatest political crime in history, I mean.

Trump said he "authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents" pertaining to what he called "the Russia hoax"

So where are those documents? 

Where? Still classified. Still stored safely in their respective SCIFs. That's where. 

Because that disclosure would have likely been highly classified SIGINT, either phone records, texts, emails, something, from US citizens or SIGINT intercepts of our adversaries -- and this might perhaps even be the very documents recently recovered from Mar-a-Lago. And he supposedly had information that would put Hillary Clinton and everyone he hated in prison. Or at least he thought he did, though it's unlikely he actually saw anything concrete himself -- thus the caveat "any & all documents." He figured if he just shotgunned it out there, somebody, the "analysts" at Fox News and OAN would find something, anything (and, of course, ignore any information that didn't fit the narrative).

So, where are those documents? 

Trump could declassify anything, right? That's what his rabid supporters are telling us right now, aren't they? He had a right to do whatever he wanted and he wanted Hillary Clinton in jail and he declassified any and all documents pertaining to the greatest crime in history. 

He gave the order in public, via tweet. 

You saw it. You can still see it, if you look in the right database.

So, where are those documents? 

Yeah, funny thing. When the public and News agencies attempted to obtain these "declassified documents" via the Freedom of Information Act, Trump's very own Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said: 

“The president indicated to me that his statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification or release of any particular documents.”

Heh. 

In other words, Trump's order couldn't be carried out. 

Not without grave damage to National Security.

Any and all? What does that even mean? Where do you start? Where do you end? What systems and methodologies does that order encompass? What other information does that impact? What agencies and personnel might that compromise? What is the cost, in dollars, in people, in effort? Who's responsible? Any and all? Who decides what's relevant? What's the timeline? 

The ramifications and reverberations are endless and unpredictable and uncontrollable. 

Trump might have damaged his political enemies, but somebody somewhere finally got it through his thick empty skull that the damage to Trump himself would have been far, far worse because he would be seen by Americans, including those in his own party and the entire intelligence community, as the guy who completely blew up National Security. 

Folks, classification doesn't exist in a vacuum. 

Intelligence doesn't exist in a vacuum.

There is never a piece of information that is its own compartment, classified unto itself without any connection to any other piece of information. We live in an age of vast, complex, interwoven information and that information can be, and often is, manipulated by those who would do us harm -- foreign AND domestic.

Yes, domestic. 

You ever wonder why all those big trucks with the militia stickers have Medium Frequency whip antennas in the back? Because they're convinced the government will monitor or shut down phone service, and so they have CB radios and codes to communicate. And they are not wrong. 

They are openly preparing to be domestic enemies.

Some already are.

Some have already openly declared war on the United States, in the name of their leader, Donald Trump. One was shot dead by the police yesterday. 

What if those documents contain SIGINT collection on those people Trump said he loved? 

Enemies, foreign and domestic. 

You might not be thinking about this stuff, but they certainly are. 

And you don't have to look much beyond January 6th, 2021, to see it. 

What did Trump take? 

I don't know. 

You don't know. 

The media doesn't know. 

The FBI probably does, but they're not going to tell you. Merrick Garland isn't going to tell you. Joe Biden isn't going to tell you. They can't

And Donald Trump sure isn't going to tell you (he might make something up, but you'll never see any proof of its veracity)

There are hints, rumors, speculation, but we don't really know and we likely never will. 

And thus we likely will never know exactly why he took those documents or what he intended to do with that information. More importantly, at this point, we don't know the depth of the breach. We don't know who has seen these documents. We don't know the extent of the damage to national security. 

And there is damage to national security.

There is. 

The very fact that Trump was able to take classified documents likely regarding some of our nation's mostly closely held secrets and stash them in a golf course is proof of that. 

Right now, intelligence agencies, years, decades of effort, hundreds, thousands of lives, billions upon billions of dollars might be at risk because of it. 

We just don't know. 

Those who guard this nation, the ones who keep the wheels turning and the lights on and who every day stand against the fall of night and who may thus one day end up on a forgotten memorial wall in some dusty museum no one ever visits, the ones Trump and his supporters call the Deep State, the Swamp, they are right now in damage control mode, just trying to figure out what's been compromised -- and the worst part is they may never be able to fully assess the damage. Meaning we will have to operate in an assumed compromised state until systems can be changed, upgraded, or shut down and other sources of information developed. 

And that means those out there on the pointy end of the stick, the ones Trump called suckers and losers, are in even more danger. 

What did Trump take? 

I don't know. But the very fact that he could walk out of the White House with classified material shows you that we as a nation need much better oversight and control of this process. 

Trump's own supporters often talk about "our way of life." 

And that's ironic, because the very foundation of our way of life is that the president is not a king and he can't just wave his hand and make it so. 

This material does not belong to him, it belongs to us

The president is not above the law. 

I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.
-- Maryanne Trump Barry, retired federal judge, Donald Trump's sister, regarding Donald Trump's presidency



Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Mind If I Play Through?

 

I made a joke. 

It was in bad taste. 

Deliberately so.

But then, nowadays? What's good taste? 

See, Ivana Trump died. She fell down the stairs. "Accidentally," I'm told. 

That's terrible. A tragedy. 

Sincerely. 

I wouldn't want that to happen to anyone. I mean, I don't have much use for rich socialites, but I certainly didn't wish her ill. She was once married to Donald Trump after all and her kids are... well, let's just say she probably suffered enough. 

Or, maybe not. 

Because Donald Trump had her buried on his golf course. 

Donald Trump buried his ex-wife on his golf course. 

Donald Trump had the woman who divorced him for "cruel and inhuman treatment," the woman Trump had to pay $14 million to and hand over his mansion in Greenwich, that woman, buried on first hole of his golf course in New Jersey. 

But wait, there's more!

Given Trump's record of grift and revenge combined with naked greed, he likely did it because under New Jersey law, designating Trump National Golf Course as a cemetery -- even if there's only one grave on the whole vast estate (and there is, only one grave) -- means that the property is now exempt from both taxes and sale or seizure for collection of judgements against the company that owns it, i.e. Donald Trump. 

I mean, goddamn, that's the punchline to a at least a dozen late-night monologues. 

So, I made a joke. 

Crass? 

Insensitive? 

Disrespectful? 

You bet. And why the hell not?

Don't speak ill of the dead? Depends on the dead. Why do I owe these horrible people any respect whatsoever, living or dead? The Trump family, her own goddamn kids, had her buried on a fucking golf course owned her ex-husband for a tax break. I'm not sure where my wisecrack ranks, disrespect-wise, compared to that, but I'm not going to lose any sleep worrying about it. 

Also...

Well, you know me. Sometimes I make comments that are bait. 

And once the waters of Twitter were chummed, well, it didn't take long for the outraged bottom-feeders to start circling 'round. 


Pretty big talk from Andrew The 766956302nd. 



Oh, probably a lot of things, but you're right. You're right. 

Suggesting they turn Melania into omelet topping was wrong. 

Given the amount of silicon involved, the responsible woke thing would have been to recommend plastics recycling. 



Yeah, I'm the one with the giant Trump signs in my yard and plastered all over the back of my car. 

Next to those Confederate flags. You know, a nation of slaver seditionists who only lasted four years and have been defunct for a century and a half now? 

Who's obsessed again?

Anyway.  

I could go on, and if you're really interested in every response, you can peruse my Twitter feed for yourself. No, It was this guy, Jeff, angry old white man with his technology impaired off-center, up-the-nose laptop selfie, who I was waiting for. 

Like I said, bait. 

And he didn't disappoint. 



I hope they spread you over a pile of cow shit, he says. 

Fair enough, I suppose. The roses will look good. 

Me? I hope my readers have me stuffed and set on a concrete pedestal in front of your house, giving you the finger for all of eternity. Every time you look out your window, every time you mow your grass,  every time the priest comes over for dinner, there'll I'll be. Up yours, Jeff! 

Hell, for that matter, I'd be thrilled if you put my petrified carcass right next to Ivana on the sixteenth green and Trump can kiss my bronzed ass every damn day. 

Make him earn that tax break. 

That said, what's your problem? 

What are you mad about? 

You, you Trump voters? You Republicans? Isn't this what you wanted?

Well, isn't it? 

Isn't this exactly the world you want?  

This kind of crass, unfeeling, laugh-at-other's-misfortune world? 

That's the guy you love, the guy you follow, the ideology you embrace. That's what you voted for, isn't it? 

This is you, right? 


This is you, right here. Fuck your feelings, Snowflake! 

You mad, Bro? 

You sad, Cuck? Awww. 

That's you, isn't it? 

Sure it is. I mean, you laughed when Trump flopped around on stage, flapping his arms, making weird noises, awwww, ooohhh, laaaaaaaa, mocking a disabled reporter. 


That shit was fucking funnee, wasn't it? Sure, it still is, to you. 

That's the MAGA world you wanted, wasn't it, Pussy?

Pussy, cuck, snowflake, soyboy, that's what you call people, don't you? I mean, you sure as hell don't use those terms out of respect, do you? 

Hell no. 

Crass, uncouth, ill-manned, uncultured, insensitive, that's what you voted for. That's what you wanted. 

You hate the fucking elites with their effete manners and emasculated decorum. 

That's why you proudly call yourself politically incorrect.

You're Unwoke. Grab 'em by the pussy and hold on! You're a 60-year-old man, but you're finally one of the cool kids. It's funny to own the libs, isn't it? Ha ha, grow a thicker skin, Beta! 


Right? That's you, isn't it? 

You're furious, every day. Aren't you? You're mad about everything, Black Lives, teachers, kneeling, masks, Antifas, Trans people, you got a whole damn list. Your pronouns are "fuck off" and "AR-15" and you're not on social media to make any friends and you're not afraid to let everyone know it. 

Because you got no respect for anyone whose identity doesn't conform to your idea of how America should be.

I mean, that's you, isn't it? 

You're so not woke you're damn near in a coma! And you're proud of it. 

Proud? Hell, you love it. You love every nasty, hateful, spite-filled insult. Shifty Schiff. Little Rocket Man. Little Jeff Zucker. Cheatin' Obama. Crooked Hillary, Crazy Maxine Waters. Crazy Jim Acosta. Pocahontas. Crazy Bernie. Creepy Joe. Nervous Nancy. You absolutely loved it when Trump lowered the political dialog to grade school level. Ha ha, hilarious! Suck it, libs! Die mad! 


When Cottoncandyhair McBonespurs called veterans like me "suckers and losers," where was your outrage? 

No, to you that was just Trump saying it like it is. 

That's what you love about him, don't you? That he says what you think, how you think word for word, and he's not afraid to say it out loud. 

You cheered when Joe Wilson shouted "YOU LIE!" at President Obama in the middle of a State of the Union speech. Oh, you did, don't deny it. You still think that was great and you want more of it. Keep calling 'em out, Joe!


This, right here, this is the ugly, mean, gun-toting, crass, ignorant, jeering face of your ideology. 

This is who you are and you're damn proud of it. 

You're finally one of the cool kids, finally part of the in-crowd, you're one of the bullies now and man it feels good. This is who you've always wanted to be. As far back as you can remember. Isn't it? Yeah. Remember how you laughed when Rush Limbaugh called Michele Obama a "Silver Backed Gorilla?" 

No? 

I do. I remember. 

No outraged protest from you then, was there? 


No, you loved every insult. Every jape. The hate made you feel special, better, superior. Every time Rush, or Glenn Beck, Anne Coulter, Alex Jones, et al, called a woman a slut or made a gay joke or was a racist. Funny shit, man. Funny shit. And so true, right? Yeah, they ought to give Rush a medal...

My joke?

My disrespect? My insensitivity? My glee at your loss and tragedy? That's the world you asked for. 

That's everything you ever wanted. 

That's your callous ideology. 

That's your miserable political party, every damn day. 

And that is your crass sophomoric hateful ignorant bully of a president. That's everything you ever loved about him. 

That is the world you wanted. 

You're one of them now, just like you always wanted to be. 

Choke on it. 


Friday, July 22, 2022

Democracy Harder

 


What makes me worry today is the alarming decline in the trust in democratic institutions - political parties, parliaments, political leaders. Less and less people are going to the polls in most advanced democracies.
--Ivan Krastev, political scientist
  Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna


President Biden's polls at all time low!


Biden's approval rating falls to a new low!

Biden's support among Senate Democrats reaches new low!

The Left's disappointment with Biden is a new low!

Low, lower, lowest. Things are looking pretty grim for Biden. 

Well, I mean, you can sort of see where they're coming from, can't you?

Biden hasn't done enough, has he? 

Biden hasn't done enough when it comes to fixing the Supreme Court.

Biden hasn't done enough about codifying abortion Rights.

Biden hasn't done enough about ensuring and extending LGBT Rights.

Biden hasn't done enough to end the war in Ukraine.

Biden hasn't done enough to address Climate Change.

Biden hasn't done enough to stop gun violence in America.

Biden hasn't done enough about healthcare and what ever happened to Medicare for All anyway?

Biden hasn't done enough to stop inflation.

Biden hasn't done enough to secure our borders or fix our immigration system.

Biden hasn't done enough to stop the spread of COVID and now there's the Monkey Pox.

Biden hasn't done enough to lower gas prices.

Biden hasn't done enough to promote sustainable energy.

Biden hasn't done enough to wipe out student loans.

Biden hasn't done enough, not nearly enough, to bring the former administration to justice.

Biden hasn't... well, no point in flogging a dead horse. I could go on, but you get the idea. 

And that's only a partial list of disappointment from the Left. You don't want me to start listing the Right's complaints, you really don't. 

Left, Right, one thing we can all agree on: Joe Biden just hasn't done enough, has he? So disappointing. I mean, Biden fist-bumped a Saudi Prince for God's sake!

It's okay, you can say it. 

We're all feeling it, aren't we? 

Joe Biden, what a goddamn disappointment...

Except...

Well, funny thing...

Joe Biden is doing precisely what we elected him to do. 

That's right. 

Joe Biden is doing exactly what he was elected to do. Yes, he is. 

Joe Biden is exactly the president we all asked for. Well, most of us anyway. 

Joe Biden is exactly the guy the Left wanted. 

And Joe Biden is exactly the guy most of the Right wanted, even if they won't say it.

Joe Biden is doing exactly what we elected him to do. 


Joe Biden isn't Donald Trump.


That's it, that's the whole thing, right there. 

That's what we elected Joe Biden to be. Not Donald Trump. 

Remember? Vote Blue, no matter who? 

Remember? I'd vote for a ham sandwich with rancid mayonnaise, so long as it's not Donald Trump. 

Remember? Anyone but Trump?

Remember? That's what we said. That's what I said. That's what you said. 

We elected Joe Biden to be not Trump. 

That was the whole thing. 

We didn't elect Joe Biden to remake America. We didn't elect Joe Biden to implement some radical progressive agenda of unicorns, rainbows, and socialism. We didn't elect Joe Biden to be some icon of liberalism. We didn't elect Joe Biden to give us universal healthcare like they have in civilized countries, or to take away all the assault rifles, or to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and heal the sick. We didn't elect Joe Biden to bring about peace on earth and some miracle of universal brotherhood and understanding. 

No, Sir. 

Oh, certainly, we hoped he'd maybe do some simple things like address student debt, but that's not why we elected him. 

We elected Joe Biden to be not Donald Trump. 

That's it.

And in point of fact, Joe Biden is doing a bang up job of being not Trump. 

Now, Biden might not be the most eloquent speaker, but when he talks he makes sense, even if he stumbles over a word or two now and then. 

Biden might not be much at foreign policy, but he hasn't started any wars -- though he did finally end one after 20 years. Maybe he could have done it better, but then again maybe not, either way, the war is over for us. 

Biden hasn't screwed up any international agreements or threatened Mexico or started a trade war with China or even shoved some foreign leader out of the way so he could be on camera. 

Biden might not be all that current when it comes to science, but he hasn't suggested nuking any hurricanes either. Or nuking any countries for that matter. 

Biden might not be the world's biggest women's rights advocate, but he hasn't appointed any drunk rapists to the Supreme Court either. Or any religious nutters, for that matter. And I'll remind you that he pointedly went against his own religion in support of abortion -- something you'd never, ever, see the former guy do. 

Biden might not be the staunchest ally LGBT people ever met and maybe he came late to the party, but he is an ally and you sure won't see him trying to keep LGBT people out of the military or dismissing their contributions to America or treating them as anything less than full equals. 

Biden might not be the most accessible President we've ever had, but he isn't calling The Press the enemy of the people and daily endangering the lives of reporters -- or openly mocking disabled ones for that matter. 

Biden might not have done everything he could to welcome immigrants to this country, but he's not trying to turn America into a prison surrounded by walls and barbed wire and armed goons. 

Biden might not be any Ronald Reagan when it comes to facing down the Russians (Reagan really wasn't any Ronald Reagan either, but never mind), but Biden for goddamn sure isn't writing love letters to foreign dictators either, or greasing up old Vladimir Putin for a hotel deal in Moscow. 

Biden might fall off his bike once in a while or trip going up the stairs to Air Force One, but he has yet to spend a quarter of his presidency on the golf course at our expense. 

Biden could certainly have handled the pandemic better, no argument from me, but he's also not out there every day promoting conspiracy theories and pseudo-science and deliberately getting people killed. And yes, Biden got COVID despite being vaccinated, but he admitted it up front and because he listened to the doctors he's got a mild case and he's still working without endangering others instead of having to be airlifted to Walter Reed and then going on a I Love Me tour of the crowd while still infectious. 

But, yeah, no doubt there is a hell of a lot of things Joe Biden could be doing better. 

But the one thing that Joe Biden is doing just fine at is being NOT Donald Trump. 

Biden is doing a fucking stellar job of being not Trump. 


And that's exactly what we elected him to do. 


What's that? 

What's that you're mumbling over there?

That's a hell of a weak sauce endorsement you say? 

No. 

No it's not. 

Not at all. 

See, I never expected Joe Biden to be any great president. 

I never expected, and I certainly never told you, dear reader, that Joe Biden would be anything other than not Trump. 

Because in 2020, that was good enough.  And it still is. 

If all we ever get out of Joe Biden's presidency is not Trump, I'm okay with that. 

Hell, I'm better than okay with it and you should be too. 

Because I don't honestly know how much more of Trump this country could have taken and survived.  You've seen the testimony. You've watched the January 6th Committee. You, Left, Right, whoever you are out there reading this, you know what happened. You know what Trump is, and what he and his fascist thugs were planning to do. You heard it in their own words. 

What happened on January 6th, 2021, was a pretty good indicator of what could have happened on a much larger scale if Trump had won. 

Because if Trump was president right now, those seditionists, those insurrections, those MAGA goons who stormed the Capitol, they'd be running the damn country right now. And they'd very likely be visiting violence on us, on you and me, right now, instead of looking at prison (no matter how lame most of their sentences are). Trump would be up there, right now, egging them on instead of screaming in impotent fury and throwing his lunch at the wall in Bedford. 

If Joe Biden wasn't president right now, no matter how disappointing you think he might be, things would be one hell of a lot worse. 

So, what am I saying? 

You should be happy with mediocrity? 

You should settle? 

You should be happy with not Trump and that's good enough? 

Yes. 

That's what I'm saying and, man, I just bet that pisses you off, doesn't it? 

It's okay. Be pissed. Stay pissed, we're going to need that energy. 

But, see, we could have had the president you wanted. 

We could have had the leader you wanted. The one who would have been an order of magnitude more than just not Trump. The one who had a plan. The one who would have been more than just a lukewarm ally. The one who would have ripped Vladimir Putin a new orifice and shoved a couple of American tanks up there. The one who didn't come around to your viewpoint at some late date but who'd been there all along, loudly, out front on every issue you hold dear, all of her life. 

You could have had that president. 


But America didn't want her either. 


And so, here we are and I am reminded of 2010 like it was yesterday. 

See, back then, we had the president you claimed you want. Young. Charismatic. Eloquent. Brilliant. Educated. Honest. Hard working. And he cared deeply about all the things you say you do. He'd fought for those things his whole life. It was personal to him. He wasn't born to it, he worked his way up to it every damn day of his life. 

And just like now, the Right hated his goddamn guts. Loathed him. Despised him. To the point of utter and absolute madness. 

He just kept on, fighting for those things we all claim matter to us. Nothing ever got him down. He'd play a game of ball at lunch, and then be right back at it. You'd never catch him throwing his lunch at the wall in childish rage. He was an adult, one we could be proud of. 

But two years into his presidency, well, you were disappointed. 

After two years, he hadn't done enough

And you were disappointed. 

Just like now. 

And so, you didn't show up. 

And you handed Congress over to the fucking Tea Party. That'll teach him. Burn it all down. 

Remember? 

No? 

I do. I kept the tweets, the emails, the DMs. I remember. 

And, boy, if you were disappointed before, oh man, once Obama was hamstrung by a blood-maddened  batshit insane Congress of kooks, nuts, and conspiracy theorists who fought him over everything no matter how trivial or benign and shouted lunacy at him during every State of the Union speech like the uncivil, uncouth raging louts they are, well, yeah, talk about real disappointment. 

But it was too damn late then, wasn't it? Yeah, you sure showed him, didn't you? 

Oh sure, once the burn-it-all-down crowd got a taste of what arson actually looked like, they were scared enough to get their asses to the polls in 2012 and make sure things didn't get any worse. But, by then we were fighting a delaying action without any chance at all for that real progress you say you really want. 

I mean, we had a chance to build a better future for America, but in 2010 we threw it all away. 

Because we were disappointed and mad because the guy we elected didn't get it all done in two years. 

And goddamn if we aren't right here again

On the cusp. 

Only worse. 

Now, for sure and for certain Joe Biden isn't any Barack Obama. 

Biden isn't even a Hillary Clinton. 

But he's the guy we elected to do one job -- and he's doing that about as well as anyone could at this point. 

Should we demand more than just not Trump? Should we still hope for that better future we once believed in? Of course. Absolutely. But you're not going to get it if you don't show up come this November. You can't even hope to hold the line, hope that things will at least not get worse even if they don't get better, if you don't show up. 

If you do to Joe Biden what you did to Barack Obama, we are all of us screwed. 

And yeah, I've heard it. I've heard the sneering contempt of the "LOL, just vote harder" crowd of Lefties. 

I've read their tweets and their blog posts and their articles in the Daily Beast and their emails to me and I hear their sneering contempt. They want change. Real change. And they want it now, they're tired of waiting. They want you out knocking on doors, pounding the pavement until your feet are bloody, shaking the trees, community activism, burn the motherfucker down if needs be!

And they're not wrong. 

They're not. 

But none of that matters if we don't all show up and vote harder. 

Activism without voting is the sum of fuck all. It's really just that simple. 

Well, unless you really do decide to burn it all down, but I've been in the middle of civil war and you can keep it. 

If we once again hand Congress over to the bitter wretched dregs of miserable conservative ideology, the MAGA goons, the sorry ragged descendants of the Tea Party, the credo of swaggering proudly ignorant louts, well, then you're going be in for some serious disappointment indeed. 

Folks, one thing you learn in the military, in war, in disaster: things can always get worse. 

Things can get a lot worse, very fast. 

No matter how bad things are, the situation can always -- always -- get worse. 

Unless you stop it. 

I don't know if Joe Biden will be the guy I vote for in 2024. I don't know if he should be. Eight years is a long damn time indeed to be satisfied with just not Trump. Not fascism. Not getting any better but at least not getting any worse.

Maybe someone better will come along in the next two years. 

Someone young and charismatic, smart and educated, eloquent, someone who cares deeply about all the things you and I do and who has the courage to turn this country around. 

I don't know. 

I honestly don't know. 

Maybe the best we can ever hope for in our lives now is just not Trump. Maybe, in our disappointment and apathy, that's what we've done to ourselves. Maybe that's all there's left for us and our slowly dying Republic.

I don't know. 

I sure hope not. I hope we can turn it all around. I hope we can leave the nation in better shape than we found it for my grandkids. 

But for now, this is where we are. 

This is what you voted for, own it. And 2024 is a long way away at the moment. 

What matters right now is this moment. 

This moment right here. This election. 

And if you want a better nation, if you want to even hope for a better nation, a better world, a better future for our kids, then you have to be better citizens NOW in this moment. 

Ignore the polls. 

Put your disappointment aside.

And show the hell up. 


I haven't trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I've never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.
-- Erma Bombeck


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

When Good Men Do Nothing


 

The lack of faith is not doubt. It is certainty.
Abigail van Buren


Have faith. 

That's what you tell me. 

Have faith. Just believe. 

Have a little faith, Jim. The DOJ is moving quietly. Building a case. Have faith in Merrick Garland.  These things take time. 

Like a dying Shepherd Book saying to Malcolm Reynolds, "I don't care what you believe in, just believe."

Just believe. 

Have faith. 

Why? 




Faith? 

That's long wait for a train that don't come, so long as I'm already quoting Firefly

Why the hell should I have any faith that Donald Trump will finally get what's coming to him?

Why should I have any faith in the Department of Justice? 

Why?

Go on, tell me. It's been a grim couple of weeks, I could use the laugh.

Have faith.

You've got to be kidding me. 

Trump was impeached twice

Nothing. Not a mark on him. Hell the MAGA crowd loves him even more for being impeached, for owning the libs. Ha ha! Still here, Chumps!

The Mueller investigation was going to bring him down. 

Have faith, you said, as it dragged on and on. You'll see. Mueller will get him. And ... again, nothing. In fact it was Mueller and the FBI who ended up laughingstocks. Oh, Mueller might have been right, but without an indictment? Trump and Republicans could spin it however they wanted, and oh boy did they. Russia! Russia Russia! Doesn't matter what the Mueller Report actually said, the only thing that matters is Trump didn't go to jail. Once again, he owned the libs ha ha, Losers! 

Okay. But what about New York? Any day now, they're gonna bring charges. 

Indictments. Any day now. 

You'll see. Real soon. Yeah.

Except that day just never seems to come. Trump delays and appeals and denies and it just goes on and on and on until one day it just quietly goes away. He paid somebody off or they dropped the charges like they always do. What's that? Oh, yeah, that New York thing. Yeah, whatever happened to that? Nothing, that's what. 

Georgia, though, right? 

Oh, we got him now! Yeah. Georgia. Election fraud. He's going down! Republicans, the Republican state government, yeah, they're gonna indict Trump any minute now! Just watch! 

Any minute now. Yeah.

Any minute. 

You'll see. 

Trump has been the center of a criminal enterprise for decades. Fraud. Confidence games. Bad real estate deals. Mob connections. Decades? Hell, his whole life. His father. His grandfather. His goddamn kids. Crime is the family business. 

And...

Nothing. 

They're all still walking around (or riding around in a golf cart as the case may be). 

Hell, Trump's talking about running for president AGAIN. 

Nothing ever sticks to this guy, not even hairspray. 


Why the hell should I have any faith that he's going down this time? 


What in Trump's history would give me any faith at all? 

What in America's history? 

Shit, we pardoned fucking Nixon, right? He got away with it. People look back on him now with fondness. Oh, Tricky Dick, he was a crook, but he loved America! 

Ronald Reagan sold weapons to our enemies -- literally sold weapons to our enemies -- and we did nothing. Less than nothing. We let him get away with treason right out in broad daylight. Oh, that's just Ronny. You know how he is. And the Lieutenant Colonel who led that caper? Yeah, he got a pardon and he's a fucking hero nowadays with his own radio show. 

If Trump was a business woman who happened to trade some stocks, he'd have spent a couple months in jail next to Martha Stewart. 

If Trump was a Jew who scammed a bunch of people out of their money, he'd be in prison next to Bernie Madoff. 

If Trump was a poor black man who tried to pass a fake $20, some overfed cop would have knelt on his neck until he was dead right next to George Floyd. 

But rich powerful white men like Trump?

Nothing.

They get away with it. 

And they get away with it every day in this country. 

Trump's been getting away with it for his whole damn life. 

And...

Oh, what's that? 

What? This time it's different, you say? 


LOL


Yeah. 

Sure it is. 

People like Trump have been stirring up violence since long before this country was founded. 

Shit, take a look at the Supreme Court lately, there's some violence for you. 

How about the rich sons of bitches who implode the economy every other decade? Last time you lost your jobs, your homes, your savings, your retirements, your kids' college funds, your businesses, the whole damn world economy flatlined because some unbelievably rich assholes tried to make themselves even richer. 

And not one of them, not a single one of them was ever once held to account. 

They got away with it. 

Hell, they didn't even lose any money. They got richer. They became even more powerful. 

Don't believe me? Look up John Thain. 

Right now, rich white men like the Kochs are pulling the strings, squeezing you at the pump, at the grocery store, getting fatter and richer and even more untouchable at your expense, while their gullible foot soldiers blame everybody but those actually responsible. 

The MAGAs who stormed the Capitol? They're going to jail. 

But their leaders? The rich powerful white men who egged them on with fistpumps on national TV? 

Nothing. Not one of the people actually responsible have been indicted, let alone send to jail. 

And that's important. 

Because in a very few short months, Americans are going to the polls to vote in the midterms. 

And who they blame for their (alleged) misery is going to determine what happens next. 

Now, your vote is already fighting an uphill battle. 

As any number of you have repeatedly pointed out to me over the years, the game is rigged. 

And you're right, it is. 

It's all sorts of rigged and always has been. 

But, now Republicans have turned disenfranchisement into a goddamn sport. From new laws making it impossible for poor minorities to vote, to armed voter intimidation at the polling stations, to impossible Voter ID laws, to gerrymandering, to rigged election maps, to gaming the Electoral College, to just out and out passing laws that give Republican state legislatures the power to simply ignore voters and declare whoever they want as the winner. 

And now they've got a Supreme Court that will gleefully let them get away with it. 

But that doesn't mean your vote doesn't count. 

It means your vote counts more than ever.

Every single vote against these fascist assholes is vitally important. 

Every single one. 

There's no margin at all. None. Zero. 

Every single vote counts. Some of these races are going to be decided by a hundred votes, by less than ten, by one vote. 

One vote.

Your vote.

But...

It's the midterms. 

Half the country barely shows up for the General Election, the midterms are a disaster. 

Especially when the (Left, liberals, progressives, undecideds, whatever term you want to use for whatever part of the population who allegedly still opposes this galloping fascism) barely shows up on a good day. 

Yeah, yeah, I hear you screaming in rage at me. WE SHOWED UP!

Sure, you show up. 

But the truth is that a hell of a lot of the "resistance" doesn't. 

They just don't. 

You can get mad at me for saying that all you like, but if even half the eligible voters show up for a midterm, we call that a good turnout. I know it. You know it too. So there's no point in pretending otherwise. 

And yes, maybe -- just maybe -- this time, given recent SCOTUS decisions enough people will be pissed off to turn out in record numbers. Maybe. Let's hope so.

But I wouldn't count on it if history is any guide. 

Look, you can trace the rise of Trump and the howling mindless mob of MAGAism right back to the midterm elections of 2010 when the country was mad at Obama for not fixing everything fast enough and not giving them a baby unicorn to boot, and so they handed Congress over to the fucking Tea Party out of spite. 

So, forgive me if I don't have much faith in the sustainability of your outrage. 

And again, you can get mad at me for saying it out loud, but there it is. Go look up the voter numbers for 2010, you'll see. I can go back and pull up the screen caps of the comments I read back then, but you don't need to take my word for it, we live in the Information Age, go look for yourselves. 

Trump is the direct (heh) intellectual descendent of the squawking mindless miserable ignorant racist misogynistic clanging violent fanatical hate that was the Tea Party. 

But more than that, where we are right now is the direct result of what happens when good people don't show up. What's that quote about triumph of evil and good men doing nothing? You know the one, even if you incorrectly attribute it to Edmund Burke or Ben Franklin. 

And why?

Why don't they show up? Why do good men stand by doing nothing and allow evil to triumph? 

You don't have to look very far. 

You don't have to guess. You don't have to take my word for it. You don't have to run a poll and hope for honest answers. Why don't they show up? They'll tell you. They are telling you. They've been telling you. 

Look, folks, I interact with something like half a million people every day and I'm neck deep in Americans telling me why they're not going to show up. 

They're not inspired. 

They're sick and tired of nothing ever changing, that things not only don't get better, they're getting worse. 

They're mad Joe Biden hasn't delivered them the pony they were promised, just like they were mad at Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy -- and probably George Washington too. 

They're sick of shitty choices. 

They're sick of the people they had to vote for not making bold moves to save the Republic. 

And yes, I have mocked that attitude, those very words, right here, over and over and admonished Americans to grow up and do their pragmatic duty anyway.

But still, there it is. 

Most of all they're pissed that rich white men are never held to account. 

And you know what? I am too. 

You bet I am. 

Look, I hate to be this way, I do, but there are Mafia Dons in prison right now looking at Trump like, goddamn, when are they gonna indict this guy? 

I mean, Tricky Dick Nixon was a piker compared to Trump. 

At this point I don't really care if they arrest Trump for outstanding parking tickets. Something. Anything. 

Because if we hit the election without an indictment, then it's over. 

It's OVER.

This isn't about justice. 

This isn't about "The Law."

This is about politics

And politics are about appearance. About what the public believes. 

Politics are about being inspired. 


You're right. It's about faith


If we go into this election with America believing Trump and his cronies will again get away with it, if we don't have faith -- real faith -- that this time these goddamn crooks are going to prison, then the people who need to show up won't, and those who want to own the libs will

And you don't have to look any further than 2010 to see it coming. 

Yeah, Merrick Garland is the guy who put away Timothy McVeigh, I got it. So what? 

I hear the lawyers cautioning me to patience. Slow, steady, build a case, ironclad, so Trump can't wiggle out. I got it. I hear you. 

I hear you. 

But you're not hearing me. 

Slow and steady won't win this race. 

And we've heard these promises before. 

There is literally no history you can point to in Trump's past to prove your case that this time, at long last, he'll finally get what's coming to him. None. 

The public has to believe that this time something will actually be done.

A firewalled, tightlipped DOJ might be good for Justice, but right now it's bad for Democracy

You can win the battle and lose the war.

That's what happened to Hillary Clinton. She won all the battles, but she lost the war. 

Clinton was educated, experienced, prepared. Trump was ... Sarah Palin with better hair and a spray tan. Proudly sexist. Loudly racist. A blustering, bombastic, bloviating ignoramus. 

Remember the debates? 

Clinton answered all the questions. Succinctly. Competently. With knowledge and experience. She had a real plan for everything. Trump never answered a single question. His responses showed his utter ignorance, his complete inability to address reality, to answer a single question in a straightforward manner. The guy was a fumbling idiot, utterly ill-prepared to be president of the Country Club let alone America. 

And yet, they called the debates for Trump. Because the crowd hated Clinton, she was too prepared Republicans said, too smug and confident like she thinks we owe her a vote said Democrats. And they loved how Trump put on a show.

You saw it. 

Republicans saw it. 

And they elected him anyway. Because they knew they'd get what they wanted -- and they did. 

Because politics isn't about what's right. 

It's about who wins the mob. 

That's what Mueller didn't understand. He was a lawyer. A G-Man. An FBI Agent. A professional. He thought he could just put the evidence on the table and America, Congress, the Justice Department, would do the right thing. 

Do I need remind you how that turned out?

Of course, they weren't going to do the right thing. Not when Republicans, Christian Conservatives, the hardcore Right, they finally got what they wanted. 

Then 2020, and yeah, we threw Trump out of office, but he owned us all anyway, didn't he? 

Republicans got what they wanted. Yes they did. They got rid of Roe v. Wade. Sure, we won the battle, won the election.

And lost the goddamn war. 

And now they're coming for more and they're probably going to get it. 

Roe was just the first fort to fall. Now they're coming for the rest of it, like Nazi tanks plowing through the forest around the Maginot Line. They're coming for everything you said you care about. Everything from same sex marriage to contraception to voting rights to gun control to the climate to education, all of it. They said so. 

And you can hear the roaring of their army approaching. 

If you don't show up this time, there's going to be no way to stop them. 

Every single vote matters. 

Every one. 

And if those who need to be inspired, who are disgusted by politics as usual, who already hate their choices, who are convinced that nothing ever changes and the only solution is to burn it all down, if those voters aren't given at least a reasonable hope that this time the old rich white man who did this to us will be held to account, then they aren't going to show up. 

They will not. 

They will hand the Republic over the horrible remnants of the Tea Party just to watch it burn. 

They said so. They've been saying so. And they have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to carry though with not showing up. 

Quod Erat Demonstrandum. 

This isn't about indicting Trump. 

This is about what kind of country we want to live in. 

This is about the supreme court. It's about rights. It's about gun violence. It's about who can marry who. It's about who can vote. It's about autonomy over your own body. It's about keeping the goddamn church out of government. It's about the environment. It's about the economy. It's about decent jobs. It's about healthcare. It's about feeding the hungry. It's about what we can teach in schools. It's about history and who gets to write it. It's about who is a full citizen of this country and who is not. It's about all of that and so much more. 

Most of all, this is about the future we leave to our kids and our grandchildren. 

Have faith?

No. 

Faith is for invisible gods who live in the sky. Not government. 

Americans needs to know that the Department of Justice is going to bring these seditious sons of bitches to justice. All of them. Especially Donald J. Trump. 

We need to know it. 

We need proof, not faith. 

Folks, we won every battle in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. 

And still lost the wars. 

Well, maybe we didn't exactly lose those wars, but we sure as shit didn't win them either. 

And that, right there, is the metaphor. 

It's not enough to just not lose. 

It's not enough to just hold the line. 

You have to win. You have to win hard, decisively, overwhelmingly, in enough numbers to not only fix what these fascist bastards have already broken but to send them back into the sewer where they belong, to push the faces of these goddamn Nazis down into the muck and hold them there until they stop kicking. 

Is it fair? That people are like this? That voters are fickle? That politics isn't about truth or fact but rather putting on a show? 

Hell no it's not fair. 

But that's how it is. 

And if you want to win, then Merrick Garland has got to move. Now. 

You tell me to have faith. 

Well, then you have to give me something to have faith in. 

More than that, the American people shouldn't have to have faith.

America should know with certainty, or at least a high degree of confidence, that the government they elected will do the right thing. 

You've heard me say many times: If you want a better nation, you have to be a better citizen.

And that is true.

BUT, in America, citizens and government are inextricably tied together, one and the same, and therefore the converse is also true.

Thus: If you want better citizens, you have to be a better government. 

For Merrick Garland, that time is now. 


I do respect people's faith, but I don't respect their manipulation of that faith in order to create fear and control.
-- Javier Bardem


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Recap: June 8, 2022

 


There's a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
With every move he makes
Another chance he takes
Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow


Secret Agent, man. 

It's maybe not as cool as it first sounds. 

News this morning is that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's spokeswoman this week was finally forced to register as a foreign agent. 

That's right, a foreign agent. 

As in an agent of a foreign power. 

It seems that after an investigation by the Department of Justice, Christina Pushaw, disclosed that she had in fact worked as a foreign agent between 2018 and 2020 for a Georgian politician. 

Georgia. 

Not the US state north of Florida. 

No, Georgia the country, the former Soviet Republic, now in a de facto state of war with Russia. 

War with Russia, yeah, but that's good, right? 

That makes us allies, doesn't it? 


Well...


Now, none of this was really a secret. 

Pushaw was pretty open about it. In fact, that might be what landed her a job with Ron DeSantis. It was surely on her resume. I worked for a foreign president, man. 

A president. I mean, that's got to look good on a resume, doesn't it? 

Doesn't it? 

Except the foreign former president Pushaw worked for was none other than Mikheil Saakashvili, but Ron DeSantis probably heard "President of Georgia" and thought Brian Kemp and signed her up. 

Saakashvili, for those of you not keeping up with foreign despots, was the 3rd President of Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

At first Saakashvili seemed like a decent guy, pro-NATO, pro-West, anti-Russia. 

That's good, right? 

Well...

By his second term in office, he'd become so corrupt and authoritarian, Georgia was essentially a police state not that much different from when it was under Soviet rule. A lot of innocent people were disappeared or ended up in prison -- which, now that I think of it, probably looked pretty good to Ron DeSantis. 

(An interesting footnote of Saakashvili's time in office was a deal he personally inked with Donald Trump to build a Trump Hotel in Georgia. Make of that what you will)

Georgians were fed up and Saakashvili -- facing violent revolution and a pretty high probability of being executed in the public square -- resigned, fled the country, and was stripped of his citizenship. 

He eventually ended up in Ukraine...

(This is where you shout: Ukraine? Ah HAH!)

...and through a series of convoluted shenanigans, became the governor of the Odessa Oblast (oblast means something like "administrative district"), a region along the Black Sea right smack next to the recently Russian annexed Crimea. 

A lot of people in Odessa Oblast (according to Russia) reportedly lean towards Russia, which is a pretty weird place for a guy who is supposedly anti-Russia to fetch up. 

He also ended up with Ukrainian citizenship -- since the Georgians had kicked him out of their country and it was a requirement for being Governor of a Ukrainian administrative region. 

Predictably, things in Odessa didn't go well. 

Or rather, just like Georgia, things went well at first. Saakashvili was for a while perhaps the most popular politician in Ukraine. But, just like Georgia, eventually things went to hell and he resigned due to, you guessed it, corruption. 

Corruption, which he blamed on the president of Ukraine. 


You see where this is going already, don't you? 


Ah hah, indeed. 

Saakashvili formed a new political party called the Movement of New Forces -- which is probably totally not ominous sounding at all. 

For about a decade if there was a revolution, an uprising, or some sort of war between Russia, Georgia, and Ukraine, Saakashvili was right in the middle of it and if you're getting shades of Roger Stone crossed with Stephen Miller with bit of a Steve Bannon and Lee Atwater for leavening, you're not the only one. 

He was eventually stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship. 

Then had it reinstated. 

And then returned to Georgia (sneaking into the country via a containership as an illegal immigrant) where he tried to lead a revolution to overthrow the government and got himself arrested. 

He famously went on a hunger strike in prison.

Georgia (along with pretty much everybody else) seemed perfectly fine with him starving himself to death as a solution to everyone's problem. 

But eventually, due in part to agents working on his behalf in places like, oh, you know, the United States (ah hah) he was moved to a hospital and then to a military medical prison where he presently resides. 

Now, I'm leaving a lot out.

A lot. 

You can go read up on Saakashvili for yourself. There are plenty of sources, so you don't have to take my word for it. 

A lot of people, American and otherwise, see Saakashvili as a villain. 

A lot of people, American and otherwise, see him as some sort of revolutionary hero. 

It really depends on where you stand. He's a complicated guy who is inextricably linked to the politics, corruption, crime, revolution, and war in Russia, Georgia, and Ukraine. 

But, however you see it, the bottom line is that from 2018 to 2020, Christina Pushaw was working as his (unregistered) agent here in the US, for which she was reportedly paid $25,000 according to the Washington Post.

She was recently notified by the DOJ that her work as a foreign agent violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and she has now filed for retroactive registration. 

There might be criminal charges, but given the DOJ's recent record, I wouldn't count on it. 

It happens. 

Oh yes, it does. As violation of the law goes, this unregistered foreign agent business happens a lot more than you'd think and no one really seems to give much of a shit about it. Hell, getting caught for casual violation of FARA is almost a mark a pride in certain political circles and $25,000 is chump change compared to some of the dark money American politicians are raking from foreign sources bent to the manipulation of America and hostile to our interests. 

The ironic part is that Pushaw herself claims to have reported others to the Justice Department as alleged foreign agents (some actually were, and in at least one case were convicted of violating FARA, which later became part of the Mueller Investigation).


That's not the point. 


Well, okay, it is. 

But it's not the whole point. 

The point here is that the people who scream the loudest about "Hunter Biden" and some vague shadowy undefined Biden family criminal involvement in Ukraine are themselves neck-deep in foreign entanglements, literally taking money from Russian and/or Ukrainian interests.

It's almost like they're trying to distract you from their own actions. 

And yeah, this is where you again shout ah HAH!

Given DeSantis' repeated attacks on the Biden Administration and his not-so-secret political ambitions, that fact that his spokesperson worked as a foreign agent for a guy smack in the middle of the Russian, Georgian, and Ukrainian wars, is at best a major conflict of interest. 

For a political party that claims to hold the moral high ground, these people sure do seem to spend a lot of time down in the swamp. 

And it's damn funny how Russia seems to be in the middle of it all. 

Damn funny, indeed. 

Beware of pretty faces that you find
A pretty face can hide an evil mind
Oh, be careful what you say
Or you'll give yourself away...
-- Secret Agent Man,
    Written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri
    Performed by Johnny Rivers


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Gun Posts


Since a bunch of you are asking in the wake of the latest outbreak of gun violence, here are the essays:


The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10. Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11. Two in the Bush
Part 12, Excuses
Part 13, Arm the Teachers
Part 14, The cowardice of Responsibility.


What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity

I don't have the will anymore to write anything new about this madness. 

Nothing will change until we as a nation find the goddamn strength to stand up to this murderous insanity and actually do something about it. 



Sunday, April 3, 2022

When Fascism Comes to America

 

“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism


Ukraine.

As we in America wake to pictures and reports of horrifying war crimes committed by Vladimir Putin's forces, innocents -- hands tied behind their backs -- lined up and executed, the bodies of children, women, men, thrown into ditches or left in the streets, I would remind you of this:

"Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia? I'm serious. Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which by the way I am."
-- Tucker Carlson, Fox News

"This is genius. Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine -- of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful."
-- Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States

"I'd say that's pretty smart. He's [Putin] taking over a country -- really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in."
-- Donald. J. Trump

"I don't need a ride, give me ammunition. The fight is right here. But we also have neighbors to the north who need freedom and need to be liberated, and we need that right here at home as well."
-- Lauren Boebert, Congresswoman, 

I could go on all day, quoting various Americans who support the idea of genocide. 

But, I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. 


Russia learned from the Nazi invasion of their own country. 


Oh, most certainly, they had already committed horrifying slaughters of their own, too many to name in the 1920s and 30s. As someone on my Twitter timeline noted: Hitler had nothing to teach Stalin. Russia already knew all there was to know about brutality. 

But when the Nazis invaded Russia, it gave Stalin justification for that Soviet brutality. 

Or perhaps validation is a better word. 

Whatever word you use, Russia carries that idea to this day, i.e. they were brutalized by their enemies and so any savagery on their part today is justified by that terrible history. 

That's why any appeal to humanity and the rules of war go unheeded by Vladimir Putin. 

Russia took the ruthless lesson of their brutal history to heart and it informs how they wage war: target the innocents, burn the hospitals, slaughter civilians, destroy the infrastructure, and thus reduce a nation's ability to fight back. You have only to look at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to see the broad outlines of this doctrine. 

Trump, Carlson, et al look upon that brutality, that savagery, that ruthlessness, and they see exactly what Russia sees. 

Strength.

Power. 

And willingness to do whatever violence is necessary to achieve your goals. 


And the brutal means are justified by the idea that you yourself are the real victim of this violence. 


Trump, and far too many Americans, admire Vladimir Putin because they see themselves as victims just as Russia does. 

They see themselves as oppressed, put down, because the world is changing. 

They feel themselves diminished because others who have been traditionally marginalized in our history are now gaining rights and privileges and an unashamed place in our society. 

You have only to look to Fox News and OAN right now to see those who speak for this brutal Republican ideology, you can daily see them threatening similar violent revenge on Americans for a thousand imagined slights. 

See the comments of Ron DeSantis, Florida Republicans, Laura Ingraham, et al. and how they fully intend to use the power of their office to punish Disney over trans rights. 

Listen to the words of Donald Trump and who he admires. 

Listen to the MAGAs who support him: he says what we think!

Listen to Republican Congresswoman Lisa McClain speaking at a Trump Rally in Michigan yesterday when she declares that migrants crossing the border are all “terrorists, convicts, murderers and rapists.

Listen to Texas Republican Robert Foster: 

Some of y’all still want to try and find political compromise with those that want to groom our school aged children and pretend men are women, etc, I think they need to be lined up against a wall before a firing squad to be sent to an early judgment.”

That's how it starts.

You see yourself as a victim. 

You see The Other as terrorists, murderers, convicts, and rapists. 

You paint The Other as the worst possible thing you can think of, Satan worshipers, pedophiles, criminals, subhuman, the Enemy. 

You use that rhetoric, revenge, get even, and you tell those most privileged by your society that they are the real victims. 

And when you gain power, you use the mailed fist of government and the military to crush your opponents -- and to keep that power, you'll need to carry through on your promise. 

You'll have no choice but to actually line up those you hate against the wall and put a bullet in their heads. The mob who raised you up to power will accept nothing less than blood. 

That's where it starts. 


And it ends with the bodies of innocents shot in the head and dumped in a ditch.


You remember when Trump as President threatened to send the Army into Chicago? 

And Republicans cheered that idea? 

You remember when that same president sent goons dressed in unmarked military garb to Seattle to secretly arrest "ANTIFA" and "BLM?"

And Republicans cheered.

When he paraded tanks through our capital? 

And Republican cheered? 

Do you? 

It's all part of the same mindset, one that ends in war and genocide. 

We must not only stop what's happening in Ukraine, we must stop it before it happens here. 


For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power!
-- Joe Biden, 46th President of the United States