Today is the release of my friend and colleague Scott Jones' first book, Open. A memoir of coming out in an evangelical family and larger Christian community, it is courageous and moving. Run, don't walk, to Amazon and get it now!
A mainstream Republican Senate candidate has apparently embraced an alt.right conspiracy theory so deranged it can't be explained with a straight face. Or at least, couldn't be until it got supplanted by QAnon.
Pizzagate teaches that the Clintons, John Podesta, and a bunch of other globalist Zionist liberals are part of an international ring of pedophiles. Or to be more specific an international ring of pedophiles that isn't the Catholic Church. But I digress. This ring of pedophiles--I forgot to mention, they're Satanists too--hold their orgiastic devil-worshipping rituals with kidnapped kids in the basement of a DC pizza joint.
I am not making this up.
But despite its obvious absurdity, the delusion gained enough traction online that soon the trailerparks were abuzz with tales of left-wing kid-rape. So much so that one lackwit, armed of course, went into the pizza joint demanding to see the basement where the children were imprisoned. Imagine his disappointment when he learned that there were neither kids nor basement. Luckily he turned himself in, but not before letting go a round.
So Pizzagate gained its currency through a network of online slimeblowers including Infowars, second anus of Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones, and Breitbart, captained by mottled marsh-dweller Steve Bannon. But prominent among them was Mike Cernovich, well known to incels in their moms' basements for his advocacy of "men's rights."
Cernovich is now part of the campaign bus tour of Kelli Ward, who is fighting the good fight to keep Arizona red and stupid in 2018. Ward is the Republican Party's nominee for the Senate seat opened by Jeff Flake's retirement. She was interviewed in her alternate universe last night by MSNBC. Pressed on her implicit endorsement of Cernovich's conspiracy theories, she explained only that she wanted to "reach his audience." In other words, she wants crazy people to vote for her.
This would not be quite so alarming if it hadn't followed President Donald Trump's recent Twitter demand that social media stop deleting the accounts of fascist hate-speechers and conspiracy theorists. By mere days. Coincidence?
That's what they want you to think! Connect the dots!
Trump's inexplicable and highly public confession has provoked a fecal geyser visible from space.
As you read this, members of his legal team are sprinting down the hallway in a half squat, shoving staffers out of the way and pounding on bathroom doors like Fred bellowing for Wilma in the Flintsone's closing credits. Trashbags filled with reeking and sodden trousers are lined up in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue waiting for collection by guys in hazmat suits.
See, their boss--for no apparent reason--just admitted, in a tweet, that the purpose behind the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his highest advisors and a bunch of Russians was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Which, contrary to what Lord of the Undead Rudy Giuliani gibbers, is a clear violation of federal law.
True, politicians do try to get dirt on one another all the time. And it's not illegal.
So long as it's not from Russians.
52 USC Sec. 30121 makes it unlawful For "a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make. . .
a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election
Trump's defense, so far as it can be divined from the leaking hacks still willing to appear in public in his defense, appears to be threefold: first, that information--dirt--is speech protected by the First Amendment; second, that dirt is not a "thing of value"; third, that Hillary got Russian dirt via the Steele dossier.
I guess when you're sitting in a cushion of your own stool you have to say something. Point by point:
Political information is not protected speech. If it were, so would insider information or intellectual property. Doesn't warrant further discussion.
Second, of course "dirt" is a thing of value. Politicians pay for it. A lot.
Finally, whoever paid for the Steele Dossier paid for it. Thus, it is neither a donation nor a contribution--the acts prohibited by the statute. Accordingly, there is no arguable criminal liability for whoever bought it, because they paid for it. To be clear, the statute doesn't prohibit any candidate from staying in a Russian hotel--but it does prohibit staying in a hotel if Putin's paying for it.
So that's why Trump spokespeople look so uncomfortable. They're covered in shit.
Yesterday, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory appeared front-and-center, self-identified with t shirts and signs, at a Trump rally. Future historians will consider this to be an inflection point as stark as the Reichstag Fire. QAnon is a disordered Messianic fantasy in which Donald Trump and elite units of the military are poised to strike--in a countercoup called "the Storm"--against a globalist Deep State conspiracy comprising not only the Clintons, Obama, the Democratic Party, the diplomatic corps, and the media, but also many Hollywood figures, and in its more baroque manifestations, Freemasons and of course Jews. The Deep State's objective? World dominion and protection of its network of camps, farms, and bordellos stocked with brainwashed children for their pedophile Satanic orgies.
I am not making this up.
That these mental defectives feel comfortable publicly acknowledging their delusions at a Presidential rally marks another several turns in our tightening spiral down history's drain. The post below originally appeared June 4 and addresses not only the underlying tenets of the cult, but the Administration's ties to it.
Lovable caricature of a blue collar mom--though oddly I don't recall my own blue-collar mom ever comparing black people to apes--Roseanne Barr is notable not only for racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism, but an affinity for conspiracy theories. Leaving aside the question of whether the former are characteristic of Trumpism, there's no doubt that the latter is.
Barr herself latched onto some deeply troubled storylines long before her faceplant last week. Her posts on 4Chan--a message board that seems to be peopled by the kind of guys with homemade tattoos that you see running rides at carnivals--approvingly reference not only the now-well-known fantasy that liberal billionaire George Soros is a former Nazi zonderkommando, but the more obscure notion that Donald Trump has secretly liberated hundreds of children a month from sex slavery. (A later post will address the alt.right's obsession with pedophilia.) Ask yourself who could believe that Donald Trump could do a good deed in secret and wonder how Barr is allowed to have a driver's license.
The conspiracy theory is, of course, an element in the Trump toolbox as essential as the hammer. After all, his political career was launched in Birtherism, a racist fantasy that seemed to be predicated on the assumption that no black person could legitimately achieve the presidency. As we've spun further and further down the Trumpworld rabbit hole, many of us have forgotten the rallies in which he gleefully announced to cheering goobers that he "couldn't believe" what his "investigators" were "digging up" in Hawaii. We have also forgotten the press conference, during the campaign, at which he proclaimed that Obama had been born in America, without explanation or apology.
That's all been buried under the mountain ranges of brazen bullshit he's shoveled out since--historic inauguration crowds, massive voter fraud depriving him of a popular vote win, Spygate one week, Mueller tampering with the midterms the next.
There are two alternative explanations for the primacy of the conspiracy theory in Trump's public worldview. One is a cynical recognition of the gullibility of his trailer-park constituency and the ease with which its resentment can be directed at elites. The other is much, much darker.
As noted above, Roseanne is fixated on child sex trafficking. This is nothing new on the fringe right. But a year ago, it spawned a theory so bereft of supporting evidence and connection with consensus reality that it may have killed political satire for a generation. And almost wound up killing real people as well --Pizzagate.
It's impossible to recite the elements of the theory with a straight face. But here they are: Prominent Democrats, including John Podesta and Hillary Clinton, are pedophiles.
Wait. Really. There's more.
Being pedophiles, they need a steady supply of children to rape. (Please imagine Hillary Clinton having sex with a child or adult of either gender and tell me whether you still want to live. Bet you don't!) So they're part of an international ring of pedophiles that kidnaps children and sells them into sex slavery.
But wait--you said there'd be pizza!
And there is. Several of the hacked Podesta and DNC emails referred to a nice family place in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of DC called Comet Ping Pong Pizza. Apparently some DNC staffers liked to hang out there. For reasons still unclear, elements of the alt.right, being apprised of those references, decided that must have been where Podesta, Hillary, and all their Democratic chums were violating kids in the basement.
Well, duh. Where else, right?
The first Facebook posts on the "story" appeared in late October 2016. Yes, just before the election. Almost immediately it went viral, spraying across the twitterverse like projectile diarrhea. Later investigation found that many of the originating accounts were owned by what we now know were Russian bots. But many of the likes and retweets came from Trump operatives, including Michael Caputo. For a brilliant and very detailed account of the original story and its social-media-abetted spread, see these articles in Rolling Stone and Reveal.
Of course it didn't stop with a couple of kazillion retweets. Celebrated fantasist and bankrupt-in-waiting Alex Jones lit up Infowars with new and improved versions of the story that included Satanic blood ceremonies; apparently, once Hillary had satisfied her desires with shrieking tween girls--not making this up--he slaked her bloodlust by chopping them up for convenient disposal.
Other outlets informed their breathless consumers that Comet Ping Pong's menu contained coded clues as to what was going on in the basement--"CP" stood not for "Cheese Pizza" but "Child Pornography."
Shortly mottled marsh-dweller Steve Bannon stirred in his sodden weeds and got Breitbart onto the bandwagon. Not to be outdone by other sites touting confirmation by entirely imaginary NYPD investigations, Breitbart Radio went right to the top in an interview with Blackwater Security founder and major Trump donor Erik Prince--remember that name--who not only confirmed the story but expanded on it, adding details like multiple trips to Caribbean sex islands on a private jet owned by Clinton-pardoned financier Mark Rich. Hoo boy--is that Hillary evil, or what?
But things worked out as they worked out and the Russkis nudged the Electoral College Trump's way. The story, unfortunately, did not end there.
A couple of weeks after the election a sad addled man named Edgar Welch armed himself with an AR 15--the Schizo Special--and drove up to DC to free those poor kids from the Comet Ping Pong basement sex dungeon.
But Comet Ping Pong doesn't have a basement.
One can only imagine his frustrated rage as he bounced around the kitchen flipping open doors in his desperate search for freshly-violated children and still-engorged Democrat Satanists looking for more. Luckily he didn't go the usual crazed-gunman route and shoot up the place before turning the weapon on himself. He did let one round go, though, before surrendering to the SWAT team, which I'm sure for the people who were there was plenty.
TRUMP AND PIZZAGATE
Remember when I told you to note the name of Erik Prince? There was a reason for that.
Erik Prince delivered a full-throated and highly detailed endorsement of the Clinton pedophilia fantasy on Breitbart Radio. Breitbart is controlled by Steve Bannon, who in addition to tireless advocacy for a healthy lifestyle succeeded Russian vampire Paul Manafort as Trump's campaign manager. Breitbart is bankrolled by Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who, with Bannon, control the now-bankrupt Cambridge Analytica, the datamining and psychometrics firm that microtargeted Facebook ads--possibly with Russian assistance--during the 2016 election.
But that's beside the point. Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, the famously uninformed and inarticulate Secretary of Education. But wait--there's more! Not only is Prince the sibling of a member of the cabinet, but also an apparition that appears Zelig-like every time the Trumps are doing dirt. For example, Prince met with a Russian plutocrat, Kiril Dmietriev, in the Seychelles a week before the inauguration in what now appears to have been part of the effort to set up a Washington-Moscow back channel. He's also separately proposed that the war in Afghanistan be privatized and the President create a separate spy network reporting directly to him, outside the normal intelligence structure, and presumably beyond oversight.
So to recap: You have a Trump contributor, the brother of a Trump cabinet member, going on a media outlet owned by Trump's campaign manager, to support the claim that the Clintons are pedophile sex traffickers.
But wait--there's more! In addition, Prince has been circulating the truly crazy notion that George Soros--the billionaire that antisemitic nutters love to hate--is financing a Clinton-backed coup against the Trump administration. It's called the Purple Revolution. Why? Are you blind? Because both Clintons wore purple when she conceded the election!
Christ, do I have to paint a picture? Draw a map? All the evidence is right there!
TRUMPWORLD AND CONSPIRACIES
As I said earlier, there are two potential explanations for Trump's penchant for the conspiracy theory. The first being the more benign--his people like them. The rubes who continue to support him feel as though their rightful place in the world has been usurped by mysterious forces beyond their understanding or control---China, immigrants, globalists, tree-huggers, black presidents--why not tie them all together? And God knows he never pays a price for it--we've forgotten Birtherism, which is about as crazy and blatantly racist a slander as has ever disgraced American politics. Yet there he is in the White House.
But there is an explanation much darker. And that is that Trump believes these mad fantasies. Not because he's insane. But because he knows they can happen. If the bare essentials of what's out there so far are true, it is entirely possible that the Russians used an already-compromised American businessman to launder money and spread nutty lies about a popular President. They encouraged him to run for President himself as a vehicle for further disinformation. They hooked him up with a campaign manager already in their pocket, who in turn led him to a social media consultants they could work with. And much to their surprise he won.
Trump really believes in conspiracy theories. Because he's deep in a conspiracy himself.
Congratulations justly owed to Shawn Crawford, the Sage of Tulsa, for his landing of a regular Monday column at 3 Quarks Review! Shawn recently became Executive Director of the Tulsa Library Trust and the Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. A loyal friend and valued colleague, he has recently promised to open his eyes next time his picture is taken. Seriously--this is a reason to look forward to Monday!
Taking a break from his defense of what Congressional staffers decorously call his "Sandusky Problem," coatless Ohio Republican James "Jimmy the Chimp" Jordan sparkplugged a move by the Freedom Caucus to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Citing unspecified high crimes and misdemeanors, his colleagues in the Caucus--who jokingly refer to themselves as "Caucasians"--seek the removal of a federal official who, coincidentally, is in charge of the investigation of President Trump.
Before he shaved off his pelt and learned to stand more or less upright, Jordan served as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Also on the staff at the grappling powerhouse was Dr.Richard Strauss, whom matmen alumni recall as having used "examinations" as an opportunity to fondle their genitals, sometimes to the point of orgasm. Strauss had a locker next to Coach Jordan, and the developing evidence suggests that Strauss' proclivities were widely known on the team.
Jordan, on the other hand, claims to have been completely blindsided by the Strauss story. The image above is taken from a press conference in which he emphatically says, "If I saw Strauss with his hand around a wrestler's balls, like this, squeezing and jiggling, you can be damn sure I would have said something." Jordan paused for emphasis before adding, "Damn sure."
One of the few things likely to deter a blue-wave Democratic House from impeaching Donald Trump is the prospect of a Pence Presidency. The Hoosier Ayatollah is, after all, a would-be trailer-park theocrat intent on imposing what amounts to Christian Shari'a law on the United States.
These anxieties, however well-founded. ignore an entirely constitutional mechanism that would enable Congress to implement the popular vote results of the 2016 election. Despite the fat man's delusional babbling, abetted by his GOP coconspirators, about millions of fraudulent votes, all evidence shows that he lost nationwide by a substantial margin and only won in the Electoral College through seventy thousand pivotal votes cast in key Wisconsin and Michigan districts targeted by the GRU with the help of Bannon-controlled Cambridge Analytica. Sound like conspiracy theory? Already confirmed fact. But wait for Mueller, chum.
Over the past days and weeks, even some GOP moderates are getting a little queasy about the fat man's performance. Openly weeping with fear at Helsinki, for example. Gibbering word salad in an attempt to explain it. Pulling the security clearances of four-star generals who criticize him. And given that between them Michael Cohen and Robert Mueller have some really, really bad shit in the files it's extremely unlikely that purple-state GOP senators are going to go down with the ship when the Articles of Impeachment come up to them for trial.
But wait--that makes Pence President! Same-sex couples headed to the crematoria the very next day!
Not so. First, there's a body of evidence that Pence, who's thus far sidestepped public scrutiny by pretending to be an early-model Westworld host, was involved in the Flynn fiasco and Comey firing. Enough in themselves to get him out of the way with the rest of Putin's White House apparatchiks. And even if that weren't enough, there's an argument that Pence aided and abetted treason by failing to exercise his authority under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Granted, he'd need a majority of the Cabinet too, but not even trying is grounds when faced with the imminent threat to national security that is Trump.
Right then. That's Trump and Pence sorted. So who's President?
Why, the Speaker of the House. Which if the present Democratic leadership takes power in the Blue Wave will be Civil War veteran Nancy Pelosi.
But let's just play this out. Let's say that a Democratic Congressman from any New York district that Hillary Clinton can claim as a residence can be induced to resign. (To be Secretary of Whatever the Hell He Wants, but leave that aside.) The Governor then appoints as his interim replacement Hillary Clinton. Who is then elected Speaker by acclamation.
Timing might be tricky--Democratic senators from Hillary-hating red states might have a hard time voting for impeachment if it meant a Clinton presidency. Yet it would give the Senate an opportunity to right an historic wrong.
And wherever he is, making Frank Underwood smile and nod at the camera.
Now that Trump has proven his worth as a statesman by taking a load of Putin's semen in the face, it has become clear that an adequate response to Russian aggression must rest with Congress. Luckily, its path is clear.
Previous sanctions against the shambling medieval holdover have failed in part because they are aimed against the Russian people and what passes as its economic system. Thus, they have had a disproportionate impact on ordinary people while having no effect whatsoever on the sleazy-glitzy--sound familiar?--oligarchs who actually call the shots.
So how can you really hit the Russian ruling class where it hurts?
Easy--make them stay in Russia.
Russia--if he were talking about a country full of brown people---is what Trump would call a shithole. Its economy, despite its enormous geographical size, is smaller than Italy's. And that economy is based exclusively on extraction--oil, gas, minerals--so when those are gone, the kulaks will be down to selling their kidneys on the dark web. Its life expectancy is declining, in part because among the commonest cause of death in adult males is drowning while drunk. Really. And while their military does include a formidable nuclear capacity, it is sadly underfunded and undermaintained. Remember the Kursk? It was once the pride of the Soviet navy, a cruise-missile-capable nuclear sub. In 2000, during maneuvers, two badly manufactured torpedoes blew up onboard, and it sank in shallow water. Russia, suspicious as always of outsiders, refused offers of British and Norwegian help. Thus the twenty-three crewmen who survived the initial explosion suffocated in the dark.
This explains why so many oligarchs spend as much time as possible outside their country. They like good food, sunshine, and strippers who don't wipe their asses with their fingers. This, coupled with a desire to hide as much money as possible from the boss, has led them to buy as much luxury real estate in America as they could grab, money being no object. (And of course one of their preferred sellers was Donald J. Trump, but that's a subject for another day.) The result of Russian real estate investment here has been to drive up the cost of high-end properties in major US and European cities--and when the high end goes up, so does everything else. So Russian real estate investment has hurt middle-class American homebuyers. Thus, keeping Russians out of the US not only hurts them, but helps us.
But wait--what if the Russians retaliate? What if the Russians won't let us visit Russia?
Uh--so what? Who cares?
So I call on the Republicans in both houses of Congress to take a page from their fearless leader's playbook: a total Russian travel ban!
So I'm in the Walmart in Monroe, New York--don't ask--listening to my favorite podcast, Stuff to Blow Your Mind. For those still suffering in darkness, STBYM is the jewel in the crown of the How Stuff Works network. Helmed by polymaths Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick, it delivers at least weekly an incisive, exhaustively researched hourlong discussion of topics on the frontiers of science or at the intersection of science and philosophy. Recent offerings have included three separate episodes on the physics of black holes and a fascinating colloquium on quantum immortality.
That day I'd already had time to listen to pieces about sexbots--just what you think, and apparently due to arrive about the same time as the driverless car, which should work out pretty well for all concerned--and the dangers lurking in artificial neuroplasticity, which it seems isn't going to be all effortlessly acquired languages and abandoned bad habits.
The third show I heard that day was Listener Mail. About halfway through was an email from an egyptologist discussing a 1200 BCE letter from father to son that seemed to undercut Julian Jaynes theory of the bicameral mind and the sudden emergence of consciousness in Homeric times. When the hosts brought up my name and The Rage of Achilles I dropped my Subway coffee--Walmart has everything--and said "son of a bitch!" loudly enough to make nearby babies cry.
I was escorted out by security, but it was worth it.
Okay, so Achilles didn't actually meet the sexbots. But I got to use this cool picture. And you really owe it to yourself to subscribe to Stuff to Blow Your Mind.
A shoutout is due friend and colleague Shawn Crawford for the recent publication of "Righteous Wheels" in Blue Mountain Review. It's an excerpt from a memoir in progress concerning--in part--growing up very Baptist indeed. But judging from the image above--it illustrates Shawn's blog at Calliope Crashes--there have been a few bumps in the road to salvation. Yes, quite a few.
Read it. Right now.