Honestly.

There’s a small kerfuffle going on over in the Twitterverse over the New York Times interview with the Current Embarrassment. Maggie Haberman took exception to the rest of Twitter taking exception to the reporters’ abject stenography of the man’s usual incoherent ramblings, and her ratio[1] is about what you would expect.

Have a look:

Etc.

The tl;dr is that we expect the New York Times to dig a little deeper, to confront this fraud with questions that make it clear that he’s a fraud, and not to let him run amok through the truth.  There are those who say that it’s obvious that he’s a fraud just from the transcript, but that is not the case.  If it were, the NYT and the Washington Post wouldn’t keep running similarly uninformative stories about his die-hard voters who still think he’s saving us all from the hellscape of the Obama administration.

Here would be my point if I were to jump into the fracas: at no point in the last six years and especially in the last two has Donald J. Trump even once shown a grasp of legislative or policy matters. Not. Even. Once.  Revealing this to us in an interview once again without any kind of followup question is really really pointless.  You think you’re making it obvious that he’s an idiot, but we already know that.  His followers refuse to know that.  Why keep doing it?

But tweeters who are more likely to be noticed by the NYT than I are already making that point.  I’ll stick to #Lichtenbergianism and my Precepts.

—  —  —  —  —

[1] The ‘ratio’ is kind of new intertubes-speak for the ratio between your retweets and your comments.  When your comments — which usually indicate disagreement — start outweighing your retweets, you know you’ve stepped in it.

Oh dear.

Here go read this.  Don’t want to click on it?  What if I were to tell you that the headline is

This Man Is Launching Himself in a Homemade Rocket to Prove Earth Is Flat

?

It’s easy to laugh at this guy, but every day we see the same thing all around us.  I was guided to the article from a friend’s post on Facebook, and just a few posts before that some guy was ranting about “Benghazie” and how come we hadn’t investigated that, henngh??

When someone pointed out the seven or so endless, fruitless congressional investigations and linked to a Wikipedia article, his response was, “I don’t get my facts from Wikipedia.” (The linker pointed out the 30+ references at the end of the article and noted acerbically that perhaps Mr. Whacko didn’t get his facts at all.)

This is where we are, folks. It’s an appalling repeat of the 1840s when the Flat Earth theory first popped up: shyster pitch-men who may or may not believe what they’re selling to the rubes; the appeal to Scripture as an absolute truth; the scalding vituperation towards science and fact; and the refusal to countenance any evidence that contradicts the Holy Word of whoever it is that’s telling you that the Earth is Flat.

You see it in the Alabama senatorial race, where all news is fake. You see it in the Sandy Hook truthers. You see it in all the commenters on the Current Embarrassment’s Twitter feed. (No link — you’re on your own there.)

And this from a crowd who used to scorn liberals for holding “relative values” and for wanted to teach skills and process instead of “facts” in schools.

Here’s your amygdala on drugs…

…or at least that’s the only reasonable explanation for this:

This is the chart Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Derp) plopped out the other day during the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.  They were interviewing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some of the lesser-brained were asking/demanding that Sessions launch a special prosecutor to investigate ALL THE CLINTON URANIUM, KENNETH!

Okay. Let’s remind ourselves that a) Hillary Clinton didn’t approve anything, much less the sale of “all our uranium” to Russia; b) eight different federal agencies had to sign off on the deal, which c) involved allowing a Russian company to invest in a Canadian company that mines uranium in the U.S., and d) no American uranium was allowed to leave the country…

… so what the hell is this chart supposed to be telling us?

Actually, this is an easy question to answer.  This chart is telling us LOOK, A CLINTON! so that the amygdala-based lifeforms can get their life-sustaining shot of fear and anger.  There is no logical pattern to the chart.  It does not present any kind of evidentiary trail or connections. It’s just a conglomeration of buzzwords that make the wingnuts buzz.

Gohmert, who is not the sharpest spork in the knife drawer, was probably quite serious in presenting this chart.  If it were someone else, one might suspect him of being cynically manipulative, but Gohmert’s brain  — and the brains of everyone like him — actually works like this: lots and lots of ill-defined code words that swarm around his amygdala, giving him the energy to continue living.

If I were an elected representative in that meeting, I would be tempted to ask my esteemed colleague from Texas to walk us through the chart. On national television. I would probably interrupt to ask him to clarify the connections between items.  I would definitely ask him to state his conclusions in simple, declarative sentences.

Because I’m a mean, mean man.

This is who is voting on tax reform, people.

A thought experiment

Whenever we have yet another mass shooting in the country, the usual cry is that because of the Second Amendment we can’t do anything about restricting gun ownership in this country.  Proponents of guns will throw up all kinds of slippery slope arguments about restricting types of guns, numbers of guns, or ammo, and demand that the rest of us answer their unanswerable questions.  Or they throw up smokescreens about “mental health” and “banning cars” and other non sequiturs.

So, no, gun humpers, I am not going to engage in your hypothetical impossibilities.

Instead, let’s try this.  Imagine that this country is largely gun free.  You know, like the rest of the industrialized world.  Don’t pretend we had to have a way to get there.  Just assume that’s where we started, with no “Second Amendment” or other shibboleths that allow anyone to own an arsenal.

Imagine we live in a United States without the gun deaths we now have, a country without guns.

Now, let’s imagine you want to convince me that the country needs to become the United States we now have, with stockpiles of weapons and ammo, and daily gun deaths, and mass shootings every other day.

What are your arguments?  Remember, there is no “Second Amendment.”  You need to convince me that our actual current status is where we want to move towards.

Or if this is too hard, then pretend I’m Australia, and convince me why I need to become the United States.

Take all the time you need.

Honey, please

I haven’t ranted nearly as much as I could, given the opportunities that abound in our nation today.  Part of it is that the opportunities are such a fire hose.  I feel like I’m in one of those money grab booths: I’m being bombarded by all the outrages of the Current Embarrassment and I just can’t seem to grab just one.

Somehow, though, I was completely struck dumb by one of the outrages that flew past yesterday — YESTERDAY, KENNETH! — so you know it had to be spectacular.

For some reason, in the midst of the Mueller indictments/arrests/pleas, John Kelly, chief of staff and supposed “adult in the room,” chose to go on Laura Ingraham’s show and defend the Confederacy.  The topic was Confederate monuments — for some reason — and Kelly said, and I quote, “… the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

Wait, what?

My reaction, and that of the entire internet, can be summed up thusly:

WHAT THE HELL, JOHN KELLY? A lack of compromise caused the Civil War?? A lack of compromise on what, exactly?

I can’t even. Once again I am rendered dumb by the brazenness of this administration.  I will let Ta-Nehisi Coates do the honors.

UPDATE: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on the kerfuffle, i.e., Robert E. Lee being a dedicated slave-owner and similar niggling details: “All of our leaders have flaws, that doesn’t diminish their contributions to society.”

Wait, what?  She went on to list some of those men: “Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, Kennedy” — niftily giving John F. Kennedy two personæ in the process.

Okay.  Let’s see if we can suss out the problem with Sanders’ statement.  Here’s a quiz:

Sarah, sweetie, I know you’re from Arkansas, but ROBERT E. LEE WAS NOT ONE OF “OUR” LEADERS. This is a very, very hard concept for us Southerners to understand, but IT IS TRUE, KENNETH.

Here’s the answer key to the quiz.  Don’t peek.  I SAID, DON’T PEEK, KENNETH!

 

Funeral oration

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate the life of Bill Jones, who had a great life, one of the best, believe me. Didn’t he have a great life?

I’d like to just say that Bill’s cousin Edna has been very appreciative of all I’ve done for the family in this difficult time. And she doesn’t even go to my church, and she’s telling me what a great job I’ve done, isn’t that great? Thank you Edna for your kind words.

I’d like to have gotten by the house for a visit, but honestly I just couldn’t. Y’all live on the other side of the interstate, and it’s much more difficult—so much traffic, you wouldn’t believe the traffic. So big.

Bill Jones was born June 16, 1952, and died last Thursday of a heart attack. So sad. Not as sad as Ed McClintock’s pancreatic cancer, now there was a sad death, a real disaster. You should all feel proud of Bill’s heart attack.

This is a great funeral, isn’t it? One of the best, believe me. I know people are talking about how will the family pay for it—I know y’all’ve been struggling—and I don’t even want to think about how it will impact your contribution to the church. I know we’ll have to have some discussion about finances, won’t we?

Speaking of finances, did you see the new church vans? Air-conditioning, cruise control, they’re the best. We got such a deal on them, a great deal, the best. I know they’re a comfort to you in this time of grief.

Thank you all for coming. I gotta be going—I’m heading out to Vegas. Got some funerals to do there, too!

An open letter to my legislators

Dear Senator Johnny Isakson, Senator David Perdue, and Representative Drew Ferguson:

I’d like to thank you for your unwavering support of the man who shot 600 party-goers in Las Vegas. Your principled stance to support his actions has not gone unnoticed.

By standing athwart any attempts to prevent a recurrence —or by simply saying nothing— you have guaranteed that it will happen again. This is what America has come to expect from you, and I say well done!

I appreciate that you feel required to express regrets over the “senseless deaths,” and to offer your “heartfelt prayers and sympathies,” because certain things have to be said. The forms must be observed, after all. But I can tell that your true “sympathies” lie with the man who smuggled an arsenal into a hotel room and opened fire on the crowd below. If they didn’t, you would be joining those who call for prompt legislation to combat this so-called violence.  But don’t!  Stand firm!

It’s okay, too, if you feel compelled to use counterexamples and analogies that deflect the naysayers, like “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” That’s a good one! I also like the one about people using knives and fertilizer bombs—also effective when you don’t really want to stop the “senseless deaths.” Keep that up—we love it!

Oh, and the whole “now is not the time” or “we shouldn’t politicize these deaths”—I think those are very effective!  They buy you time to wait for all the sturm und drang to die down so you can get back to business.

I’m sure there are those who hope to influence you to do something—anything—to prevent another lunatic from shooting more U.S. citizens than have been killed in any one day in Afghanistan or Iraq, but stand firm! Keep doing what you’re doing! I understand your position completely, and I support you.

Yr obt,
Dale Lyles

Wanna quickie?

Too bad. You’re getting one anyway.

Steven Mnuchin, who is the Current Secretary of the Treasury, has made a name for himself defending U.S. citizens’ economic rights asking for a government plane to take him on his honeymoon and for marrying a woman who probably pays $1,795 for t-shirts.

And now with his boss being hilariously on the wrong side of the Colin Kaepernik racial justice issue,[1] Mnuchin has jumped feet first into the deep end. Here, go read.

Here are some thoughts.

1.

“On their own time”?  Like ESPN’s Jemele Hill did on her own Twitter account?  And your orange boss still called for her to be fired?  Let me say that again for the hard of thinking: the President of the United States called for a citizen to be fired for disagreeing with him.  On her own time.

2.

“The owners should make a rule”?  I think I might steer clear of the word owners in this situation, Steven.  It’s terrible terrible awful optics.  Which, Steven, because you’re rich and white and completely insulated from everything that is not rich and white, you will never see, Steven.  Can I call you Steven?

3.

“…this is about respect for the military…” THE MILITARY? How godfupping Fascist can these people get before we vomit them out of our system?

Okay, I’m done.  Thank you for listening.

—————

[1] Among other things.

This is offensive.

Not the photograph, certainly.  This is the inestimable Jon Hamm, star of Mad Men and general all-round very handsome guy. (Personally I value his talent for comedy over the much-vaunted Mad Men.)

No, the offensive part of this is the shirt.  It’s made by some concern named Berluti, and it costs $730.

The New York Times did a profile of Mr. Hamm—can I call you Jon?—which was innocuous enough: he talks about his rehab, his recent movies, and the death of his dog.  A general puff piece for Baby Driver and the upcoming Marjorie Prime.[1]  And salted throughout are the typical fashion shots of a good-looking celebrity wearing nice clothes comfortably.

But.

The $730 shirt (and $85 tank top) was just the start.  We also got:

  • $560 shoes
  • $1,795 t-shirt
  • $7,995 jacket

(It was noted that Jon was wearing his own jeans, label unidentified.)

I have issues with you people.  A world in which someone can charge $1,795 for a t-shirt and then someone else can take a photo of that t-shirt and publish it as a clear advertisement for that item is not a equitable world.  My presumption is that the New York Times does this sort of thing because it has readers who will pay $1,795 for a t-shirt.  Readers who can pay $1,795 for a t-shirt.

I don’t know about you, but I doubt the contents of my closet add up to much more than $1,795 and they are certainly not equal to the $7,995 jacket.  If I were ruthless and gave away all the suits and jackets and dress shirts/slacks/ties that I am not likely to wear any more, my entire wardrobe could be replaced for less than $1,000—and even that’s excessive in my eyes.[2]

My Lovely First Wife and have often tsked over clothing like this through the years and joke that even if we won the lottery we’d never pay that much for clothes, and I like to think we mean it.  Because in our souls we know that to pay $1,795 for a t-shirt means that you have so much money that cost means nothing to you.  Money means nothing to you, and that’s dangerous in a world where money means life and death for most of the people in it.

Yes, paying more for an item because it’s well-made and likely to last makes sense. (See the Sam Vimes ‘Boots’ Theory of Economic Injustice.)  But paying $200 for a jacket that will last you 10–20 years is one thing; paying $7,995 for a jacket because it has a specific company’s name on it—that’s problematic.

So when you hear the Republican Congress talk about “tax reform,” understand that what they really mean is cutting the taxes of the richest among us: giving more money to the people who can and will pay $1,795 for a t-shirt.

$1,795 for a t-shirt.

—————

[1] Marjorie Prime is a play I have proposed directing at NTC since it premiered; it is not yet available for the likes of us.

[2] Although I will confess that the zippers on $10 shorts from Rose’s are not well-made.  So I’ll pay $30 for decent shorts—but not for a t-shirt.

At least it’s an answer

Back in February, I emailed our senators a simple question:

On Dec 24, 2016, I emailed you to ask if you agreed with the president’s tweet that we should restart the nuclear arms race.  You haven’t answered.

Now it appears that the president, in a private talk with Putin, has denigrated the limitations of the most recent START agreement.

If this proves to be the case, will you support a nuclear arms race?  If so, to what end?

Yesterday I received a reply from Johnny Isakson:

 Thank you for contacting me regarding North Korea. I appreciate hearing from you and I am grateful for the opportunity to respond.

Kim Jong-un has chosen to follow along the same destructive path as his father, Kim Jong-il. Kim has refused to comply with regional and international pressure to discontinue North Korea’s nuclear weapons program by carrying out a nuclear test and launching short and long-range missiles. In July 2017 alone, North Korea has conducted 2 missile tests, and 22 since November 2016.

It is clear that Kim Jong-un’s repeated, unacceptable and deplorable threats cannot be allowed to continue. I support the additional sanctions placed on North Korea through H.R.3364, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, and urge the President to implement this law fully.

North Korea has continued to show a severely reckless attitude toward the welfare of its own citizens by committing serious human rights violations and by continuing to pour resources into nuclear weapons. We must continue to support our allies that live under constant threat from North Korea, and we also must urge China to place greater economic and political pressure on the Kim regime. North Korea has shown that it is a threat to the entire world, not just the United States. Without China participating in this negotiation, it is near impossible to hold North Korea accountable. Additionally, I am strongly in favor of increasing our missile defense capabilities and working to ensure that we are prepared for any missile threat.

We as a nation must keep all of our options available, including the use of force if necessary, to protect the American people and remove the threat of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

(highlights mine)

At least I think he’s answering my nuclear arms race question.  Since none of my congresscritters have been at all responsive to my requests for position statements, I stopped tallying them over at the Easy Answers page.  I may have sent something specific to North Korea at some point, either via email or ResistBot.  Who can remember?  We’ll just pretend that this answers my nuclear arms race question.

Because it does.

The Trumpsters are hooting and flinging poo because their Current Embarrassment isn’t afraid to call North Korea’s unstable leader names, unlike his wussy predecessors who used sanctions and suasion to keep things calm-ish on the peninsula.  He’s not afraid to threaten nuclear annihilation to the madman who rules that country.  That’ll show him, crow the Trumpsters—USA! USA!

Neither they nor their Chief Poo Flinger ever think that they will also kill the 25 million humans who are trapped in the Hermit Kingdom, nor of the 51 million humans who live next door in our ally, South Korea, nor of the 127 million who live in Japan.  That’s not important. Showing Kim Jong-un who has the bigger club is what’s important.[1]

So if we need an analogy to help us understand the difference between the “Bomb them!” crowd and the deliberate approach pursued by sane politicians, I offer this video:

Obama, the Bushes, Clinton: they’re the English police dealing with a crazy man.  The Current Embarrassment: he’s the St. Louis police department.

I suppose it all boils down to which end result you’re after.

—————

[1] And by “club” I mean “penis.”