The ordeal of Kathy Griffin

The self-crucifixion of Kathy Griffin has nothing to do with political correctness. It has to do with a Hollywood egomaniac who went way over the line (when it was Obama in a sniper target you all flipped out), and then had the pathetic audacity to claim that she was some sort of victim, trying to make herself the martyr of the resistance, knowing how much money that might mean. She dominated the news for a day or three, burying whole news cycles of genuine tales of horrors that Trump is inflicting upon the Constitution, working people, women, children and the poor. Her publicist must have been thrilled to death. But real blood on London sidewalks popped that balloon real quick. Nothing makes stage blood look sillier than real blood. Her publicist must have despaired. Damn that ISIS anyway, stepping on Kathy’s big finish. It’s too bad reality isn’t happening on a Hollywood set. Too bad reality ain’t reality TV. But maybe Hollywood should stop trying to score ratings and higher ticket prices by loudly announcing themselves as our consciences. We don’t need celebrities to tell us how to think. We don’t need comics to feel our pain. You have to be goddamned fool to think that Jim Carrey proclaiming that comedians are the last line of resistance against Trump is anything more than celebrity ego inflated to the size of the Hindenburg. Oh the humanity.

Kathy Griffin And Her Attorney Lisa Bloom Hold Press Conference

Oh Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me?

Seriously, Trump probably believes that.

His approval rating is down to 35%, while 43% want impeachment proceedings to begin. He responds by turning more and more to his base, that 35%. I suspect he believes that the reason the 43% is bigger than his 35% is because it’s composed in large part of Californians and illegal aliens, seriously, he probably thinks that, and that there are more voters and real Americans in his base than not. These polls are MSM lies, fake news, he says, or FAKE NEWS!!!! It’s obvious following his tweets that he gets nearly all of his news from Drudge and Breitbart and their ilk, and that is his reality, and these poll numbers mean nothing. His tweets and policies and appointments will get more and more strident and offensive, and he’ll do more of his Trump Country rallies before crowds of fanatical supporters who perceive things exactly as he does. One third of the country and our president live in an internet reality where facts are only what they care to believe, no one is there to counter them in their beliefs, and Trump is winning victory after resounding victory, the most successful president ever. Sad.

Mad King Donald

Went offline for a few hours and come back and Twitter has gone berserk and Trump has fucked up more than anyone thought possible. Giving away classified information to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador, in front of Russian reporters no less. Imagine being that stupid AND being president. And imagine there were enough people that stupid to vote for him. It’s not like no one knew just how stupid he was. He proved it every single day of the campaign. Most people realized how stupid he was, too, and there were millions more people not stupid enough to vote for him than there were people stupid enough to vote for him.  But the dumbfuck gets elected anyway. That is some system we have. The brightest constitutional minds of their time somehow built a device that ensured that eventually the stupidest man ever to run for president would win even if most people didn’t vote for him precisely because they knew he was too stupid to be president. And to think they designed the system to avoid people as stupid as Donald Trump from ever being elected president. Because the brightest constitutional minds of their time knew damn well how disastrous a really stupid head of state could be. Europe was littered with the memories of countries ruined by unbelievably stupid kings. They were determined that would never happen to their new republic. It’s too bad they’ve been dead now for so many hundred years. I’d just love to see the look on their 18th century faces when they saw that the Enlightenment made possible the least enlightened president imaginable. To them it would be inconceivable that a free people could bring forth someone as loutish and thick and ill tempered as the most inbred simpleton ever to sit his fat decadent ass on a throne. Which is how bad a president Donald Trump is. We once rebelled against a king as obnoxiously incompetent as our president is now. Mad King George, they called him. We call ours Mr. President.

Ya know, the Roman Empire did not decline and fall. It did not rot away. It was not even close to rotting away. Indeed, in the fifth century it was doing pretty damn good, its economy thriving, and it was more stable socially and politically than it had been in quite a while. But then the people in charge of its western half made a whole series of really stupid impulsive decisions and suddenly, with little warning, the western Roman Empire was no more. The Eastern Roman Empire lived on another thousand years. They didn’t make the same stupid decisions. There’s a price to paid, sometimes, for putting incredibly stupid people in charge. They fuck shit up.

Mad King Donald is fucking shit up. Impeach him.

Kim and Trump and fire and brimstone

North Korean military doctrine is essentially that of the Soviets of World War 2. The Red Army in that war used artillery like no one else…they’d quietly mass batteries and mobile rocket launchers in numbers not seen anywhere else in WW2 and unleash sudden and astonishingly violent barrages that would stun those under them and pretty much annihilate anything left in the open. They could do this along fronts hundreds of miles wide. There was a German general named Heinrici who became brilliant at guessing just when one of the barrages was imminent and would withdraw his army to a secondary line so that all of the barrage’s violence would fall on empty trenches. But that is not an option the South Koreans have at the moment, since the North Koreans have all their artillery trained on Seoul.

It’s a lot of artillery, too, hundreds if not thousands of very large caliber guns, dug into deeply fortified batteries–a Japanese specialty in WW2, that one, and probably also studied by the North Koreans–and each fortified battery would probably require bunker busting bombs to destroy them. My concern is that if North Korea were to respond to any US attack by opening up on Seoul as they have been promising for decades–it’s their variety of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.), you attack us, we destroy Seoul–that the bombardment will be massive and incredibly violent in a way that only those who have been subjected to one would appreciate. Which limits those who have subjected to one to Germans and their Eastern Front allies, or the Japanese in Manchuria in 1945, and all them are long dead and not being interviewed on the news.

Which means that the Mutually Assured Destruction value of having hundreds or very large cannon and rocket launchers trained on the city of Seoul doesn’t really hold if people in charge on the other side cannot fathom just how incredibly destructive an old fashioned WW2 style Red Army artillery bombardment could be. We don’t have those in war anymore. For one thing, armies are much smaller now, and battlefields ar smaller, and wars much smaller. Wars aren’t even as big as they were a generation ago. In fact what makes the Syria War so destructive despite the relatively small numbers of combatants involved (maybe half a million of all sorts from regulars to occasional militia; the Iran-Iraq War involved two million full time soldiers) is the combination of a Syrian military completely steeped in classic Soviet military doctrine–hence the destructive overkill–assisted by the Russians themselves, doing to Aleppo what they did to Grozny. Not that this should have been unexpected. Back in the 1980’s the Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian city of Hama rebelled, and Assad’s dictator father Hafez Assad (imagine a meaner Bashar Assad) ringed the city with hundreds of the heavy artillery batteries the Soviets has given him to fight Israel and pounded it into submission for a solid month with a violence that surpassed even Aleppo, which, after all, took years to obtain the same result. (They also leveled buildings with tanks, and filled the sewers with diesel and set them aflame.) Even quashing a rebellion was sometimes done in much bigger ways a generation ago.

But we think smaller now. The US drops a non-nuclear bomb a zillionth the size of the bomb that flattened Hiroshima and social media is in hysterics thinking the end of the world is upon us. This was one big scary bomb, but not an atomic bomb. A hundred years ago they dug mines under the opposing trenches and filled them with TNT and blew enormous holes in the ground with vastly more explosive power than in Mother of All Bombs. And Britain’s giant Grand Slam bomb in WW2 might have been even heavier than the MOAB (they used it to punch holes in the twenty foot thick concrete ceilings of u-boat pens, and the explosions were so powerful it would disturb the ground underneath as well, weakening the foundations. And this was in 1945.) When we obsess and fantasize about a not exactly high tech bomb–it’s not a smart bomb, even, and the Russians have a bomb that is technologically simpler (using the air itself as explosive fuel, a technology invented by the Luftwaffe) and yet four times as powerful–we forget just how destructive an old fashioned massed artillery barrage can be. Just a bunch of big cannons that can fire a shell thirty or forty miles, and have it land within the city of Seoul, population ten million. Add in short range rocket launchers that can be fired from further distances. Admittedly Seoul’s distance from the DMZ is about the limit for heavy artillery and rocket launchers (so the north end of the city will take much more of a beating than the southern end) and we can assume that North Korea has to have their batteries closely packed together within range. So it’s not like they have all of their estimated 8,500 cannons and 5,000 mobile rocket launchers aimed on the South Korean capital. But they have a lot of them there. Yet even if the North Koreans have only 500 guns within range and they only manage twenty rounds each–an hour’s work–before being blown up themselves, that is ten thousand very large high explosive artillery shells landing on Seoul. Which is about the equivalent of a good sized bombing raid in WW2. Or a bombing raid on Pyongyang in the Korean War, for that matter, bombing raids we’ve forgotten about, but the North Koreans haven’t.

The most optimistic estimates, the ones who believe North Korea’s vaunted artillery potential is mostly bluff, say the number of shells landing on Seoul would only be in the high hundreds. Apparently that’s a good thing, only several hundred. The North Koreans themselves promise a rain of fire and brimstone (Kim Il Sung invented brimstone) and the most paranoid of disinterested estimations see hundreds of thousand of shells falling. We can safely say it will be somewhere between several hundred and several thousand shells falling on Seoul, possibly as early as this weekend if Trump is as mad as he likes to pretend he is. I say that given that the North Koreans learned the art of war, as they used to call it, from the military academy in Moscow (Kim Il Sung, like Ho Chi Minh and many of Mao’s generals, was trained there) I think it might be on the safe side to assume that the North Koreans could potentially lay down one hell of an old fashioned long distance heavy artillery barrage on Seoul, like the one the Russians unleashed on Berlin in 1945. And it’s also safe to say that there is nothing the South Koreans can do about it, if Trump really wants to nail Kim Jong-un. Because right now the fate of Seoul is in the hands of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. And you think you are having a bad day.

What did the president know and when did he know it?

The reporting in the Washington Post makes clear that both Trump AND Pence have been aware that Flynn had been compromised by Russian intelligence, and have been aware for some time. We are not sure now how all the investigating into this will go. The press will be focusing on this with extraordinary intensity and with a White House that leaks like no other….and will now begin gushing like the Oroville Dam. Congressional investigations are inevitable. A special prosecutor seems at some point to be likely. And the FBI and CIA and several other agencies have been investigating as well, indeed, Flynn’s resignation seems to be the result of those investigations. And should both Trump and Pence be found to have been party to a conspiracy to hide the fact that Flynn had been potentially turned by Putin, then both Trump and Pence could be forced to resign. None of this is likely, but it is well within the realm of the possible without resorting to paranoid conspiracy thinking. In which case, unless Pence were to go first and a replacement chosen by Trump before Trump resigned, Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, will be president. People are no doubt talking to Ryan about this right now, telling him he has to be ready because there is an outside chance that he will constitutionally required to take the path of president. And that is how weird this is getting, and getting there so fast. Because we simply do not know. How much did the president know, I have heard asked several times on television tonight, and when did he know it. If you are old enough to remember the Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker’s double question to John Dean will send chills down your spine. It seems so impossibly unlikely that any of this could happen, but then Watergate began as an odd little burglary, and this seems to be so much more.

The source of Trump’s power

I think many of us–maybe most of us–have forgotten that Betsy Devos’ purpose is to essentially shut down the Dept of Education. She wasn’t brought in to run the place but to dismantle it; not to support public education but to begin its replacement by private education. And she could be very good at this sort of thing. It would be like putting a hardcore pacifist–Father Philip Berrigan, say–in charge of the Defense Department. The goal would be to reduce the department and its policies to the lowest, least intrusive level possible. You have to understand that. That’s why, to her partisans, all the objections to her lack of expertise were completely irrelevant. Because hopefully there will not be much of a department left to run anyway.

The same thing with the head of the EPA. And HHS. They don’t need to know how to maintain, all they need to do is tear down. This is revolution. It’s not reaction. It’s revolution. We are the counter-revolution. This is as deep and fundamental a struggle as there has been in this country, as profound as the change brought about by the Reagan Revolution and the New Deal. The thing was, both FDR and Reagan swept the electorate and Congress in mighty waves. Trump won with three million fewer votes than the loser, and holds a small lead in Congress. His power now is based almost completely on the terror among establishment Republicans of the hold that Trump has on his base. And that base includes most–perhaps two thirds or more–of the Republican party. That is, when Republicans face their primary voters, they will be looking at almost all hardcore Trump supporters. And if Republicans in the House turn against Trump, it is assumed that they will be swept away in the primary by rabidly pro-Trump voters who throw all their support to a pro-Trump challenger who will be backed to the hilt by a vengeful Donald Trump.

Just about every single Republican member of the House faces this problem. Only a third of the Senate does (only a third of the Senate’s six year terms are up for election every two years), though all but one of the eight GOP Senate seats coming up in 2018 are in states that Trump won strongly (Nevada being the exception.) It is this, and only this, that keeps the entirety of the House GOP and all but a few of the Senate GOP licking Trump’s boots every day, no matter what he says. And it is this, and only this, that is Trump’s source of political power right now. But as long as Trump holds the GOP in congress by the short hairs like this, just about every outrageous cabinet pick and every executive order and every crazy tweet and every idiotic foreign policy stumble will be supported by this Republican Congress. And unless Trump’s base cracks–and there’s nothing saying even blatantly treasonous revelations about he and Putin could shake their frightening devotion–Trump will still maintain this hold on his party. This is why he seems to play to his base only. His devoted followers represent maybe a third of the electorate, but they are eighty or ninety per cent of those who vote in Republican primaries. And that is all Trump needs to carry out his revolution. Successful revolutionaries are rarely popular with everybody. But they know who in power to shoot to get their way. Of course, unlike Steve Bannon’s role model Lenin, Trump can’t actually execute anyone. But he can tweet with deadly accuracy. The first Republican congressman who gets out of line will find that out.

Paranoid chant

I keep thinking of Russia, of Russia….

I am thinking that at least part of the reason that senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham folded on Rex Tillerson is that without Tillerson there is no State Department presence in the White House. Foreign policy would be controlled by ultra-nationaliist Stephen Bannon, who wrote Trump’s extremist inauguration address, and National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who is under investigation for his contacts with Russia and whom much of the intelligence community (both in the US and internationally) assume is a Russian intelligence asset. Keep in mind that both McCain and Graham, as senators, have been briefed on the investigation into Flynn and know much, much more than either the press or public. The notion that they have to approve a nominee for secretary of state who is also close to Vladimir Putin must turn their stomachs, but intelligence probably shows that, unlike Flynn, there is no evidence that Tillerson is actively colluding with the Russian government. And Tillerson, at least, judging by his answers to the senators during his hearing, might provide a moderating hand. Right now we look to a general named Mad Dog Mattis, as secretary of defense, to be the sole moderating force in the Trump administration’s foreign policy.