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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The Beltway’s Forrest Gump Takes Down Donald Trump

So Bob Woodward went out and found the "named source" Trumpists were clamoring for: Boss Trump himself.

Following a bitter dispute over an anonymously-sourced article in The Atlantic that quoted their hero calling American war dead in a French cemetery "suckers" and "losers" for being fool enough to serve their country, nothing less would have convinced them.

What's more, Woodward had Trump on tape, in his own voice, confiding to the veteran Washington journalist that he understood exactly how infectious and deadly the Covid-19 virus was, and explaining his policy of lying to the public lest he provoke a panic.

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Trump's 'Sleepy Joe' Slur Is Direct From The Kremlin -- And It's Fake News

In the real world, that is to say the non-televised part of our lives remote from social media, we would shun somebody who went around spreading ugly rumors about neighbors, relatives or co-workers. Not that it never happens. I have a woman friend who resigned from a local charity after a clique of rivals spread a false tale that she'd slipped into dementia, poor thing.

She decided that she wanted nothing more to do with them.

Alas, from the gossips' point of view, the smear campaign worked. Not that my friend isn't better off without them. More than anything, the pretense of compassion made her furious. In time, they'll probably turn against each another, because that's what such people do.

Indeed, something quite similar has been going on in the U.S. presidential campaign. With the help of Russia's infamous Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, the rumor's been spread that Democratic nominee Joe Biden, poor thing, scarcely knows his whereabouts, mistakes his wife for his sister, believes that he's running for the U.S. Senate, and more.

For months, I've been getting emails from Trumpists claiming that Biden can't so much as speak in complete sentences or utter coherent thoughts at all. It's all over social media. Like my woman friend's phony consolers, some express empathy for poor Uncle Joe, cruelly tricked by ruthless Democrats into serving as a stalking horse for the so-called "Squad," four minority Congresswomen with left-of-center views.

Smart and sassy as she is, it's amazing how much Rep. Alexandria Octavio-Cortez scares some Republicans.

Most of my correspondents appear to have been bamboozled by a doctored video making it appear that Biden, who has stuttered all his life due to a speech impediment having nothing to do with intellectual capacity, can scarcely speak. More recently, according to the Washington Post, "White House social media director Dan Scavino shared a manipulated video that falsely showed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seeming to fall asleep during a television interview, complete with a fake TV headline."

In reality, a 2011 video of a confused interview with singer Harry Belafonte was intercut with a few seconds of Biden looking downward as he listened to another speaker at a 2020 Town Hall. Snoring sounds were added. The whole thing was entirely fictitious.

Readers may recall that, also with Russian help, Trump's 2016 campaign portrayed Hillary Clinton as virtually at death's door.

Boss Trump himself has been all over the Biden-as-dotard theme, taunting his rival as "Slow Joe," "Sleepy Joe" and the like, along with sneering remarks about him hiding in the basement, etc.

For those of us resident in the visible world, the most obvious question about such clumsy propaganda has been: What are the Trumpists going to do/say after the Democratic convention, once Biden has spoken to millions on national TV, and proves to be clear-spoken and damn near eloquent? As, indeed, he did during the Democrats' TV show and has continued to do in campaign appearances ever since.

Naïve question. Trump turned on a dime, asserting that Biden was obviously hopped-up on some performance-enhancing drug. He demanded that drug-tests be administered before the forthcoming candidate debates (always assuming that Trump himself shows up.) Biden has ignored him, much as Hillary Clinton ignored the same demand in 2016.

It's all "kayfabe," a term of art for fictive storylines used to get professional wrestling fans worked up before pay-per-view grudge matches—strictly part of the promotion. Also what Trump probably intended when he tweeted about "constant negative press covfefe" that time. As a veteran of WWE promotions, he knows all about it.

Meanwhile, it just may be significant that the Department of Homeland Security tried to hide a report documenting that the theme of Biden's impaired mental health came directly from the Kremlin. It cited numerous reports on Russian state media outlets Sputnik and RT (Russia Today) dating back to last September. DHS claimed it deep-sixed the document because it was "poorly written." Yeah, right.

The chicken-and-egg question of whether Putin or the Trump campaign invented the smear isn't worth pursuing. The purpose of such propaganda isn't to persuade; it's almost the opposite. If Trumpism, like its Russian cousin Putinism, has proved nothing else, it's that adepts believe whatever they need to believe.

Everybody else stays confused. Mere reality be damned. Indeed the crazier the political conspiracy theory—witness the QAnon superstition—the more it excites some people. There's an element of psychological projection involved too, because occasional verbal stumbles aside, it's not Joe Biden who talks gibberish, non-sequiturs and contradicts himself daily.

It's Trump.

In the final analysis, Kremlin-style propaganda doesn't have to make sense. Its ultimate goal isn't to establish what Trump aide Kellyanne Conway memorably called "alternative facts." It's to deny that there's a verifiable reality at all.

Because where there is no truth, there is only power.

Why Most Soldiers -- And Most Americans -- Will Oppose Boss Trump

Here are two interesting political straws in the wind: According to a recent poll in the Military Times, active duty service-members favor Joe Biden over Boss Trump in the upcoming election, 41-37. Given that a poll on the same date in 2016 showed Trump favored by 20 points over Hillary Clinton, this looks like a significant shift.

Almost half of uniformed soldiers (49.9 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of Trump compared to 38 percent favorable, marginally worse than his reputation among civilians.

This too: media critic Eric Boehlert's Press Run website has compiled the bad news about Trump's TV ratings. Not only did the Democratic National Convention draw many more viewers nightly than the Republican event a week later, but "Trump's convention acceptance speech was the lowest-rated one in primetime history, drawing 24 million viewers. (John McCain's acceptance speech drew 39 million viewers in 2008.) Trump drew fewer viewers than Joe Biden did for his acceptance speech the week before."

Several million fewer. Indeed, if the Trump administration were a TV show, it might be on its way to cancellation. "Trump's tepid Nielsen numbers are bad news for the president," Boehlert notes "since he's obsessed with television ratings."

He often boasts about his lofty ratings, even when he has to make them up. Press Run cites an instance in November 2018 when Trump claimed that 9.2 million viewers tuned in to watch him on Fox News Sunday. The actual viewership was 1.7 million.

Could be he's simply over-exposed. Appearing on every night of the GOP convention may have been a mistake. You can hardly turn on the TV without seeing Trump's scowling mug. Americans, Boehlert notes, aren't crazy about reruns. It's nevertheless significant that Neilsen ratings for the Republican show were down 25 percent from the 2016 convention.

Almost needless to say, Trump claims the numbers are rigged.

It's easy to predict that he'll call the Military Times poll crooked too, if he doesn't simply snarl at any reporter who asks about them and flee the podium. Between insulting John McCain's Vietnam War heroism and begging off a World War I memorial service in France because he might get his hair wet—French, German, British and Canadian leaders braved the rain—Trump has done little to inspire respect among soldiers.

Most telling is that "Only about 17 percent of those surveyed felt the White House has properly handled reports that Russian officials offered bounties for Afghan fighters to target and kill American troops, an issue Trump has dismissed as unreliable intelligence."

Given that 81 percent in the U.S. military view Russia as a significant national security threat, Trump's cowering before Vladimir Putin and belittling of NATO have also hurt.

Maybe he can throw himself a big parade, like Kim Jong Un.

Meanwhile, the chaos, disease and disorder president appears to believe that only stoking racial strife can help him eke out an Electoral College win. (I'd say there's no chance of Trump winning a majority; he'll be fortunate to lose the popular vote by fewer than five million votes.)

Back when that platoon of self-styled militiamen made their way into the Michigan statehouse, Trump tweeted LIBERATE MICHIGAN. Would he encourage White House visitors carrying AR-15 assault rifles? Me, I wondered what was going to happen if one of those dopes pulled the trigger.

Well, we learned the other night in Kenosha, didn't we?

And then the next night in Portland. Is there anybody in the USA who thinks the violence won't escalate?

See, you don't get order without law. And a chief executive who urges supporters to bring guns into politics, or the police to rough-up suspects, as Trump has done repeatedly, fosters lawlessness and chaos.

But somehow it's supposed to be Joe Biden's fault. Apparently because Democrats generally oppose cops shooting black men in the back. So here's what Biden said in Pittsburgh on August 31: "I want to make it absolutely clear…Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It's lawless. It's plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change and only bring destruction."

Biden's since doubled-down: "[Trump] wouldn't even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others," he wrote. "He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it."

Look, call your friendly neighborhood criminal defense lawyer. You can't plead self-defense if you're breaking the law: such as a minor parading around with a gun he's not legally permitted to carry while defying a curfew. Trump can't pardon the Rittenhouse kid either. Murder's a state, not a federal charge.

Meanwhile, anybody who doesn't understand that violence and thuggery exist at both political extremes can't have been paying attention since…

Well, since when? Chicago in 1968? Berlin in 1933?

Trump Feels Utter Contempt For His Army Of Marks And Dupes

Perhaps you remember what some called the "Information Superhighway," and how it was going to deliver us to wisdom and enlightenment. Alas, it hasn't quite worked out, has it?

More like the Freeway of Delusion, it would appear.

In the era of social media and satellite TV, millions of Americans who struggled with tenth grade biology now fancy themselves experts on infectious diseases and their treatment. Real scientists and genuine expertise they deride as "elitist."

Never mind that the United States of Trump has accumulated almost 24 percent of the world's Covid-19 deaths with four percent of its population. The same government that makes you wear pants in public now requires masks. It's tyranny, they say.

Boss Trump dispenses quack cures on national TV, even as millions of his supporters enlist in an online political cult that basically recapitulates the themes of the Salem witchcraft trials of the 1690s.

The ongoing wonder is how individuals so gullible as to subscribe to QAnon can be capable of holding down jobs, getting the trash to the curb each week, or even dressing themselves without help.

Last week, Trump described this parliament of loons as patriots "who love our country" and not so coincidentally love him—a holy warrior whom they believe is secretly conducting a subterranean battle against Satan-worshiping, cannibalistic pedophiles led by Hillary Clinton.

It's a festival of lunacy the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when a score of human beings, dogs and even barnyard animals were executed for witchcraft, most by public hanging.

Much of the Salem evidence was "spectral," that is, ghosts. Almost needless to say, there was a lot about women having sex with demons and, to quote one victim's confession, "the dark rituals which bind them together in service of Satan."

Historians partly blame an outbreak of rye ergot—a fungus that forms hallucinogenic drugs in bread. But there's always a strong element of authoritarian religion and sexual fantasy to these things. People bored and bewildered by ordinary life get their rocks off imagining Hillary abusing and torturing children. It's pornography for True Believers.

If you want to know how crazy it can get, Google "QAnon" and "adrenochrome." That's a drug allegedly harvested from the pituitary glands of tortured children. Hillary and Huma Abedin are supposedly addicted. (Hint: it's a make-believe high invented by Hunter S. Thompson in his stoned classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)

Anyway, how long do you suppose before Kamala Harris is accused of witchcraft?

My man Charles P. Pierce saw this stuff coming in his terrific book Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.

Pierce describes the Three Great Premises of Idiot America:

1.) "Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units
2.) Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough
3.) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it."

Enter Donald J. Trump, reality TV tycoon and professional wrestling shill. Possessed of absolute contempt for his audience of dupes, Trump runs his political campaigns exactly like a WWF promotion.

Heroes become heels in the blink of an eye. One day you're Secretary of Defense Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, and the next day you're out. A loser, a has-been, a never-was. It's happened over and over.

Knowing very little and utterly without shame, Trump can believe virtually anything that's convenient for him to believe at any given moment—confident that his "base" will follow him almost anywhere.

Keeping track of his more than 20,000 documented lies is virtually impossible—much less refuting them. Two weeks ago, CBS correspondent Paula Reid asked him why he keeps claiming that he, and he alone, was able to pass the "Veterans Choice" bill that was, in fact, signed into law by President Obama in 2014. He turned and stormed out of the press conference.

How much follow-up have you seen?

Last Monday, Trump claimed that the Democratic Party cut the words "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance during their national convention. Absolutely false. He just flat made it up. Video evidence is readily available.

He alleged that Democrats planned to circulate 80 million mail-in ballots to non-registered voters and dispatch operatives to collect them.

Totally illegal, totally imaginary.

Meanwhile, Trump wages war on mere reality. Anything he doesn't want cultists to know, he calls a "hoax." CNN's Brian Stelter has been keeping track. Writing in the New York Times, Stelter documents Trump crying "hoax" 18 times in 2017; 63 times in 2018, and a "a whopping 345 times" last year. "[A]fter the news broke that Russia paid bounties to militants for killing American service members, Mr. Trump tweeted, it's "just another "HOAX!"So who are you going to believe America, Trump or your lying eyes?

The Bedrock Values Of An Irish-American Democrat

It's always tempting to write about politics in portentous terms. Joe Biden as the last Irish Catholic Democrat, passing the torch to a new multi-ethnic coalition, something like that. Indeed Biden himself has described his candidacy as transitional—speaking mainly in generational terms, a 77 year old politician embarking on what could be his final campaign.

"I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else," he said among younger Democratic candidates last March. "There is an entire generation of leaders that you saw standing behind me. They are the future of this country."

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Biden Is Cruising While Trump Is Losing It

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden did something simultaneously clever and stupid recently in full view of TV cameras. He went bicycle riding with his wife Jill at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with no helmet.

Smart because it's basically impossible for a 77 year-old man to look like anything but a total dork in a helmet—summoning for geezer Democrats the image of Michael Dukakis riding in a tank, the photo op blunder that may have settled the 1988 presidential election.

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The Trump Cult’s Kool-Aid Is Clorox On Ice

Rule One in every cult is to ignore everybody except Dear Leader. He alone can explain the worldwide conspiracy against himself and his acolytes. Alternate sources of information cannot be trusted. It's all Fake News, demonic lies from the pit of hell calculated to deceive.

Rule Two is that only Dear Leader can protect and save you.

So ignore all the hearses. Pay no attention to the so-called "fact" that the United States, with roughly four percent of the world's population, has 24 percent of the coronavirus pandemic's fatalities. 158,000 corpses? Those people were all going to die eventually anyway.

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Moms, Dads, Teachers, Vets Stand Up To Boss Trump's Personal Gestapo In Portland

"Down with the Wall of Moms!"

"Death to the Leaf-Blower Dads!"

In George Orwell's classic novel 1984, members of the Inner Party stood in front of their telescreens daily to revile Big Brother's enemies and exult in his power. "Long live Boss Trump!"

Just so Fox News' excited coverage of Portland's "Wall of Moms" in their Covid masks and bicycle helmets confronting Trump's mercenaries in full combat gear. A second group calling themselves "Leaf-Blower Dads" are using lawn equipment to force tear gas barrages back into in the faces of the Storm Troopers who fired them.

Classic American ingenuity, if you think about it. Also a reminder that in Portland, the majority of dangerous, violent "anarchists" Boss Trump warns against are unarmed women and suburban men with yards and garages who know their way around Home Depot.

But they're not having an invasion of Trump's personal Gestapo: paramilitary forces wearing no insignia, with no badge numbers or names, and accountable to nobody.

People are coming out in thousands to defend their community from an invasion. There's also a "Wall of Vets," and "Teachers against Tyrants." That's why Portland's mayor, Oregon's governor and its two U.S. Senators have demanded the Federal agents' removal. They'd had the situation under control before the troops arrived. Which is not to nominate protest leaders for sainthood. There are opportunists and fools of every political persuasion.

Also, history teaches, provocateurs all too willing to smash windows, loot and burn for purposes of their own. During rioting at the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968, some of the angriest hotheads turned out to cops impersonating anti-Vietnam war activists.

In Portland, however, Boss Trump's crowing about his agents tear-gassing Mayor Ted Wheeler as he addressed protest marchers ("They knocked the hell out of him," he boasted on Fox News) was received with contempt: the bravado of a flabby blowhard who's hidden behind bodyguards all his life. He has approximately the same chance of winning Oregon's electoral votes as I do—and I'm not on the ballot.

If that offends you, dear reader, riddle me this: what would have been your reaction if a phalanx of anonymous, masked Federal agents had assaulted, say, a Tea Party demonstration during the Obama administration?

If you're a conservative, it might be like Paul Rosenzweig's, a career Republican who was one of Kenneth Starr's keenest sleuths in the Great Bill Clinton Sex Investigation. Writing in The Atlantic, he argued that invading Portland "is a complete corruption of conservative ideals. There is nothing conservative about unconstitutional police activity, and there is nothing conservative about unilateral federal intervention in state affairs. Those are the acts of an authoritarian."

Rosenzweig and co-author Arthur Rizer also quote Tom Ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush: DHS "was not established to be the president's personal militia."

See, while prating about being a "Law and Order president," Trump is doing everything he can to provoke violence, hoping it will frighten suburban voters into holding Joe Biden somehow responsible—despite Biden's history as a pro-cop liberal throughout his long career. Also to somehow distract voters from the 150,000 Americans who have died due to his negligence and incompetence in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of course when Richard Nixon successfully played the "Law and Order" card in 1968, Lyndon Johnson was president. Nixon's opponent was Vice-president Hubert Humphrey. So far polls show that Trump has had no success convincing anybody outside his hardcore base that others are responsible for the violence he's working so hard to provoke.

But there are three months to go, and discord is spreading across the country. Seattle, Oakland, Louisville, Aurora, CO, etc. Rival groups are carrying guns and itching for a fight.

In Austin, a man carrying an AK-47 got shot to death by a man in a car suspected of trying to run civil rights marchers down. The mayor of Richmond, VA has alleged that "white supremacists marching under the banner of Black Lives Matter" violently disrupted an otherwise peaceful protest.

The only things restraining Trump are his cowardice and fear of getting caught. "Rightly or wrongly," writes my man Charles Pierce "this puts the responsibility on the protestors themselves…it's time for the burning of police stations and other acts of violence to stop. It's time for folks to stop hurling themselves mindlessly into the face of faceless law-enforcement."

Way past time, actually. In Portland (and elsewhere), activists could foil Trump by simply staging demonstrations some distance from Federal property. Let the Trump Troopers gas each other. Activists need to shout down apostles of violence; turn vandals and arsonists over to legitimate law enforcement. Above all, emulate John Lewis, the great civil rights icon lying in state, who understood the folly of rioting and the overwhelming moral authority of non-violent mass resistance.

Roger Stone Is A Wise Guy — So Treat Him Like One

Even amid the endless torrent of malevolent incompetence that characterizes the Boss Trump regime, some days stand out. One such was his Friday night commutation of career lowlife Roger Stone's 40-month sentence for lying to Congress, obstructing a congressional investigation, and witness tampering. The federal judge who handed it down described Stone's crimes as "covering up for the president."

Specifically, he obstructed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In the immediate aftermath, Stone bragged to veteran journalist Howard Fineman about why he lied and who he was protecting. "He [Trump] knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn't."

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Boss Trump Incites The Resentment Of Losers

Pity the poor white man; he just can't catch a break in this country.

If that strikes you as an unpromising theme for a presidential campaign in the year 2020, you must not be an adept of the Trump cult. Seemingly running as the reincarnation of Jefferson Davis—the Mississippian who served as the one-and-only president of the Confederate States of America—Boss Trump travels from sea to shining sea appealing to the resentment and self-pity of those whose ancestors lost the Civil War.

Even if they had no such ancestors. Not every paleface who gets all tingly and aroused by Trump's dark intimations of cultural warfare is descended from slave owners or rebel soldiers. Unrepentant racists are actually a dying breed across the South. Indeed, you'd think that the state of Mississippi's decision to remove Confederate imagery from its state flag would give even Trump pause. Not to mention NASCAR's banning of the Stars and Bars. Bad for business, you see. After all, who defends slavery anymore?

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Play Ball? Better To Wait Until Next Year

So we were having dinner when my wife said, "It still feels weird that you're not going into the TV room to watch baseball later on. Kind of sad, really."

Now, supposedly, I've gotten a reprieve. Commissioner Rob Manfred has ordained that major league baseball is coming back in late July: a 60-game schedule followed by the regular playoff schedule and the World Series.

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Beyond His Engorged Ego, Trump Sees Nothing

That Associated Press photo of a disheveled, exhausted Boss Trump trudging across the White House lawn with his tie undone clutching MAGA hat in his hand appears destined to become the classic portrait of his reign of misrule: the beginning of the end.

As usual, the debacle in Tulsa, with its acres of empty blue seats, was everybody's fault but Donald J. Trump's. A classic case of over-promising and under-delivering. "We've never had an empty seat, and we certainly won't in Oklahoma," Trump had boasted. Oops!

Hundreds of thousands were anticipated; maybe 10,000 showed. Maybe. The Big Crybaby's campaign alibis that non-violent protesters scared his supporters away from the Tulsa rally. Protesters and the news media that is, which unfairly publicized rising Covid-19 infections there and across Oklahoma.

But it wasn't Black Lives Matter or the largely imaginary Antifa that threatened violence, it was Trump himself. "Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand," he tweeted a couple of days before the debacle "you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene."

People were going to get hurt.

(Hey, darlin', how about we load up the kids and go see the riot?")

On racial issues, Boss Trump's invariable message is "Let's you and him fight." He's running as the candidate of the white people in the red states, period. A gang of bearded white guys in camos carry AR-15s into the Michigan statehouse and he tweets "LIBERATE MICHIGAN." But let Black Lives Matter activists march and chant in city streets, and they're "thugs" and "terrorists."

Thanks to criminals who use civic disorder as an excuse to loot and burn, Trump's threadbare race-baiting plays with a many of his supporters. However, one can't help but notice the growing proportion of white Americans—and not just college kids—among protesters marching in the wake of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis. The nation's conscience has been touched.

Now me, I have no use for NASCAR whatsoever. The noise alone would make me crazy. It's also my view that nothing involving an engine can be properly called a sport. That said, the sight of large contingent of NASCAR drivers and pit crews rallying in support of Bubba Wallace after an anonymous coward left a noose in the African-American driver's garage, couldn't help but make one wonder if maybe this time around, things are going to be different.

Message: racial hatred is for losers.

Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, a winner of eleven NBA championships, has been outspoken about racial justice all his life—even back when it was widely resented by sportswriters and fans. Today, at age 86, Russell writes of his hope that outrages like George Floyd's death "are forever behind us and that real, lasting change will finally be realized. Our lives depend on it."

Should that happen, Trump will be the last one to hear about it. Nothing outside the orbit of his engorged ego interests him. This is a guy who thinks people are wearing face masks during a viral pandemic to express their opposition to him. A ordinary sociopath would have understood that asking people to sign waivers agreeing not to file lawsuits if they got sick or died as a result of attending the Tulsa rally was no way to draw a crowd.

Indeed, it's a testimony to the Trump Cult's hold over his perfervid "base" that anybody showed up at all. After all, the greatest country song about the city is about "livin' on Tulsa time." Not dyin'.

(There's another wonderful song called "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma," but it's about homesickness. And tractors.)

So was Trump joking or was he deadly serious when he told supporters at the Tulsa event that he'd ordered "his people" to cut back on Covid-19 testing? Perhaps because she recognized that actually giving such an order would have indicated a depraved indifference to human life, the press secretary I call Dollar General Barbie—a Harvard Law graduate costumed as a country singer—told reporters that her boss was pulling our collective leg.

A real kidder, Boss Trump.

The man himself, however, insists that he was dead serious. "Cases are going up in the U.S." he tweeted on June 23, "because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!"

People would still be sick, see, but nobody would know it. Good for Trump, bad for everybody else. Or so he must imagine, because he's really not all that plugged in to reality.

Faced with a choice between Trump as sadist and Trump as liar, the White House is going with liar for now.

So far, there's no evidence he's actually ordered anybody to fudge the data. But the election campaign's only getting started.

‘Defund The Police’ Is Just Another Political Suicide Note

"No, I don't support defunding the police," Joe Biden told CBS News recently, thereby keeping Democratic hopes for his presidential candidacy alive.

Has there ever been a dumber political slogan?

"Demilitarize," definitely. "Reform," absolutely. But "Defund the Police" is just plain stupid; a political suicide note. What does it even mean?

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Tom Cotton’s Soft-Core Fascism Shames The Times

As one who's had a number journalistic disputes with the New York Times, I've long been mystified at the newspaper's lofty reputation among educated readers. The Times's woeful performance during the 2016 presidential election alone—from its promotion of the Breitbart-inspired Uranium One "scandal" to its obsession with Hillary Clinton's accursed emails and James Comey's grandstanding—ought to have put people on warning.

What's more, if expressing crackpot views were an obstacle to being published on the Times opinion pages…
Well, let's just leave it at that, shall we? One farce at a time.

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Desecrating Religious Shrines And Endangering The Nation

Watching Boss Trump's authoritarian street theater in front of St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, I had three related thoughts: first that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Chaos is Trump's only talent. Empowered by false bravado and Daddy's (and/or Russian Mob) money, Trump blunders into something he does not and cannot understand—the casino business, airlines, professional football, now the US government. He listens to nobody, makes one foolhardy blunder after another, bankrupts or otherwise destroys the enterprise, betrays everyone who trusted him, and blames everybody but himself for the disaster.

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Gullible, Stupid, Perhaps Dangerous: QAnon's True Believers

Whenever somebody assures me that everything happens for a reason, it's normally my practice to tiptoe quietly away.

People are only trying to be nice. The notion that every kind of personal misfortune—each terrible accident or harrowing diagnosis, every pious wide-receiver rehabbing a bad knee—are all part of God's plan to test our individual faith and resolve is most often a well-intentioned sentimental gesture.

Have faith, is all they're really saying. You're strong enough to handle it.

It's when people start getting specific about exactly what God's plan consists of and where fate and history are taking us that all that the trouble starts. Folly and madness invariably follow. Once they bring the unintelligible prophecies of the Book of Revelation into it, it's too often a one-way trip to Crazytown with no return ticket.

So it is with the burgeoning religio-political cult calling itself "QAnon," as described in an extraordinary piece of journalism in The Atlantic by Adrienne LaFrance. She correctly notes that "[t]he power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power—its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process—was not."

Can I get an amen?

I would argue that the historically unprecedented capacity of Froot Loops and lone dementoes of every kind and description to wind each other up online constitutes as grave a threat to the republic as anything since the Confederate States of America. In his 1704 satire A Tale of a Tub, Jonathan Swift depicted the religious zealots of his day gathered in a big circle, each with a bellows inserted into the posterior of the fellow in front of him, first pumping each other full of hot air and then discharging it in each other's faces.

QAnon's exactly like that, except online.

Remember that sad sack from North Carolina who shot up a Washington, D.C. pizza joint in December 2016 because he'd convinced himself that Hillary Clinton was operating a child sex and torture ring in the basement of a building that didn't actually have a basement?

Well, it turns out that he was a prophet.

LaFrance quotes University of Miami political scientist Joseph Uscinski, who studies conspiracy theories. Whether of the left or right, what they all have in common, he says is "acceptance of the following propositions: Our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places. Although we ostensibly live in a democracy, a small group of people run everything, but we don't know who they are. When big events occur—pandemics, recessions, wars, terrorist attacks—it is because that secretive group is working against the rest of us."

In October 2017, somebody calling himself "Q," see, began posting cryptic comments on online sites where right-wing zealots gather. Posing as an intelligence professional embedded deep in the "deep state," he predicted the imminent arrest and conviction of Hillary Clinton in the aforementioned child molesting conspiracy.

Needless to say, this hasn't happened nor ever will. Also needless to say, however, millions of gullible nitwits obsessed with Hillary's multiple homicides began wetting themselves in anticipation. (It's occurred to me that the manufacturers of Depends adult diapers could be behind the whole thing.)

Supposedly, see, special counsel Robert Mueller and Boss Trump himself were secretly working together to destroy Hillary's evil cabal. Also participating is the late John F. Kennedy, Jr., who was either foully murdered by Hillary in 1999 or Q's secret identity. Initiates differ on this question.

Seriously, they do.

Others believe that Q is none other than Trump himself. I remain agnostic on the question. But either way, Q kept dropping online clues, and nothing kept happening. The cult grew steadily larger. Then came the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic, with its intimations of Apocalypse, and a whole new cast of international malefactors got added to the suspect list: George Soros, Bill Gates, Rep. Adam Schiff, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

And now Joe Biden, recently accused of being a "child molester" by no less an authority than Donald Trump, Jr.

Two and a half years on, LaFrance summarizes, and the "QAnon belief system looks something like this: Q is an intelligence or military insider with proof that corrupt world leaders are secretly torturing children all over the world; the malefactors are embedded in the deep state; Donald Trump is working tirelessly to thwart them. ("These people need to ALL be ELIMINATED," Q wrote in one post.) The eventual destruction of the global cabal is imminent, Q prophesies, but can be accomplished only with the support of patriots who search for meaning in Q's clues. To believe Q requires rejecting mainstream institutions, ignoring government officials, battling apostates, and despising the press."

Well, I suppose everybody's got to have a hobby.

How seriously to take this particular threat to public sanity? Come November, we may find out.

America Needs A Tough Leader, But Trump Is A Mere Bully

Real men don't wear masks.

Everybody else in the White House has to wear them, and Boss Trump reportedly yells at people who get too close. But he's no sniveling Democrat taking sensible precautions.

Of course, real men also don't wear cake makeup, girdles or platform shoes. For that matter, most don't spend hours each day on their damn hair.

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