A new theory of Trump

>> Friday, July 21, 2017

Lately, my junk e-mail folder has been accruing conservative spam.  I have a couple of non-exclusive hypotheses for this.  One explanation is that I seem to get a lot of junk e-mail that appears to be directed to a digital doppelganger whose name could be compressed and truncated into something that would produce my e-mail address if he'd registered for it before I did; this gentleman (yes, he appears to be male) would, based on how some of my spam is addressed, be an elderly, conservative African-American who resides or previously resided in Pennsylvania.  The other likely explanation is that somebody, a friend, acquaintance, or nemesis who had my e-mail address has signed me up for spam from certain websites as a joke or prank or annoyance.

You find yourself conflicted by this kind of thing: on the one hand, it's annoying to get some of these mailings even if they go straight to a spam folder and can be deleted en masse and unread.  On the other hand, they are an insight into the Other America, and frankly some of them are pretty funny (although they surely don't mean to be).  And then there's the skepticism I have about clicking on any de-registration links, seeing as how telling them not to send something to my e-mail would confirm they had a live one, not to mention the risk of exposing yourself to some kind of cyberattack if the source site is actually phishing.

Plus, on top of all else?  The possibility, as unbelievable as it may seem, that one of these random junk mailings, should you open it and read it, will give you the insight you've been missing the entire time, the insight that may very well explain the true hidden agenda of the Trump administration and things like the President's recent New York Times interview.

The e-mail I received this week is a spam flier from something called... well, merely naming them doesn't quite do things justice, so here's their masthead:


An anxiety aggregator clickbait site for conservatives, in short.  All the news that's misfit to print.  Discover the truth, read about the world going to hell in a handbasket, click on this headline, no, click on this one, click the headlines, all the headlines, click like the fate of the world depends upon it, which it does!  Also, advertisements.  And it was the advertising, not the headline, "Thousands of Mink Dead After Activists Release 38,000 From Fur Farm," that opened my eyes.  I was blind, and now I see.  No, not because they wanted to sell me glasses.  Because they wanted to sell me this:





Now, my first reaction to this was exactly what I anticipate yours to be: inarticulate laughter, seeing as how it seems improbable that Dr. Ben Carson could research his way out of a paper bag if you left one end of it open for him.  But that ad was only the advert at the top of the e-mail for the product they want to sell the elderly right-wing paranoids of America.  No, the big reveal came down at the bottom of the mailer, with the follow-up advert-disguised-as-a-headline:



Now, my first reaction was... well, I don't know if it was your first reaction or not; your first reaction may have been identical to your reaction to the first ad--what kind of research, etc.; but my first reaction was to wonder why Dr. Carson was trying to snort a brain.  Is he smelling it for freshness?  Kissing it?  Is there some kind of taste-testing that brain surgeons perform as part of their work, the way a chef or bartender might check to see if a dish or glass needs something?  Salt, maybe?  That is an extremely strange photograph.  I am not sure what is happening in that image.  Maybe it is just a kiss: maybe Dr. Ben Carson really, really loves brains, and I don't mean in a Return of the Living Dead sort of brain-loving sense, but maybe more in the Hugo the Abominable Snowman will name him "George" sense.  Though, in which case, maybe you should... I don't know how hugging and petting and squeezing and patting and petting and rubbing and caressing a brain fits in with modern surgical sterilization procedures, but... forgive me, I'm not a doctor and I do not at all mean to overstep professional boundaries and expertise, but maybe the brain stays in the head?  Usually?

But then my eyes re-read the lines beneath the weird check-the-brain-for-freshness photo (I wonder of they're like eggplants and you can tell the gender from the shape of where the root connec--never mind), and it took me another re-read and maybe even a third to be the charm, and something connected--

"Ben Carson's Newest Research Triples Memory In 21 Days!"  [emphasis added and all that]

"Memory," did it say?  "Memory"?!  They're claiming, as improbable as it may seem, that Dr. Carson is researching memory?

And that's when I understood.  Or, maybe that's overstating, insofar as I have no evidence for what I am about to propose other than a snake-oil advertisement disguised as a news headline in a spam e-blast sent out in the hope it will reach somebody dumb enough to buy unprescribed non-FDA-approved memory enhancement pills online from persons unknown.

What if... what if the reason for the Trump Administration's behavior to date is... that Ben Carson has the entire Administration on drugs?!

I mean, think about it: you're Dr. Ben Carson, brain specialist extraordinaire, a scientific maverick who has licked things no other researcher would dare to lick.  They called you mad, mad, MAD!!!, M@DDFSFDDFSD! in medical school, but you persisted, guided by a unique vision and the knowledge that you, and you alone, could find a cure for memory.  Lapses.  Memory lapses.  You should probably clarify that in a future draft.  Yes, memory, that elusive quality of the mind that has eluded philosophers and scientists alike for millions of years, and you could be the one to solve the great enigmatic mystery!  You!

But you need test subjects, and test subjects are expensive and hard to get.  You can advertise for them, but then you get that weirdo in a diaper knocking at your door at 3 a.m. again.  You can hire them, but that's expensive and RFP paperwork is confusing and eats up time from the all-too-brief mortal span during which you should be sciencing all the science you can science.  Lab rats are sort of traditional, but their brains are small and tend to get stuck on the end of your tongue and you always end up either messing up the brain trying to get it out of your mouth or you end up having to swallow it, destroying years of valuable research.

And then you get this opportunity to work in Washington DC as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, hobnobbing with all these folks who, as it happens, have lots of stuff to remember, stuff like having secret meetings with Russian agents is wrong, and whether you promised to get rid of healthcare for people or give everybody all the healthcare, and that you're not supposed to tell everybody you meet about the cool spy stuff you learned yesterday, and where your tax returns are, and who Napoleon was, and just, just, just so much stuff.  And these folks, they'll help a buddy out, right?  There's a pill, you say?  To cure memory?  Sign me up for ten bottles!  No, wait, double that, make it twelve bottles!

And now you're really fracking with gas!  Everybody in the Administration is now taking your not-yet-patented memory pills, why, Attorney General Jeff Sessions just ordered six more jars of Doctor Carson's Memory Magic (trademark pending) and is snorting them... from a Pez dispenser... which is actually a problem and kind of disturbing, because, I dunno, probably shouldn't do that but if you're gonna, maybe you ought to grind them up or something?  Jared and Steve don't want to say anything that might be taken as a slight, so they're just slipping them to each other in one another's meatloaf and ice cream (only one scoop apiece, sad) and wowee, they are rememorizing the hell out of everything--why, Bannon didn't even realize he spent six hours standing in front of Albert Bierstadt's "Rocky Mountain Landscape," memorizing every last detail of it (obviously) to the point that he knew so much about the painting he couldn't even answer any questions about it because he didn't know where to begin describing it!

It all makes sense, doesn't it!  I mean, maybe it makes sense.  It could make sense.  Okay, okay, fine, a mix of stupidity, cupidity, profound ignorance, and maybe just a smidge of incipient senile dementia (seriously, did you read this week's NYT interview?!) would, possibly, maybe, maaaaaybe satisfy Occam's Razor's demand for parsimony better than my new theory that Dr. Ben Carson has the entire upper levels of the Administration tanked to the gills on a really ineffective memory enhancement treatment.  I mean, "ineffective" in the sense of, "Dear God, you're only making it worse" sense, obviously.  And there's the rebuttal, admittedly, that a lot of the people we're discussing seemed pretty stupid even before they started grabbing Dr. Carson's hand and aggressively jerking it towards them under the pretense of a civil handshake.  So that's two strikes against my explanation.  Fine.  Go on and win with your... "logic," and your... "evidence."

But, and give me this much: you have to admit that Ben Carson going around the White House giving everybody he meets his new "memory enhancer"--you have to admit that it's a pretty great theory on the merits, if not on the actual, you know, evidence side of things.  My theory, which is mine, that is to say, this theory that belongs to me--you know, either you already got that reference or you didn't, and I'm too lazy to link because I'm really just trying to wrap up here; as I was saying, my theory ought to be true, and I'm going to embrace it periodically and suggest you do the same even if you don't really believe, even if I have utterly failed to convince you, because in the years of sorrow and frustration ahead it may be a small spark in the darkness to imagine Ben Carson bursting into the Oval Office to announce that he's here to make sure nobody suffers from memory aga--MEMORY DEFICITS, YOU KNOW, FORGETTING STUFF, IS WHAT HE MEANT TO SAY--as he was starting to say in your imagination before you closed your eyes to sleep, he's here to cure the evil scourge of memory forever.



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The not ready for prime-time players

>> Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events.
- Donald J. Trump, Jr., July 9th, 2017.

Of course, it seems a bit obvious that this statement is nearly certainly a through-and-through lie considering it's (a) at least the third version of Trump, Jr.'s meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya (the first being that there was no meeting at all, and the second being that there was maybe a meeting but no campaign issues were discussed at all), and (b) this version is contradicted by Trump, Jr.'s e-mails, released by the man himself in an apparent attempt to achieve transparency by shooting himself and thereby making himself a window.

But never mind that for a moment.  Consider this: one of Trump, Jr.'s petulant responses to the blow-back from his self-administered fatal wounds was to tweet, "Obviously I'm the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent... went nowhere but had to listen," as if this resolved anything, as if he was obligated to take the meeting and to do nothing but lie about it afterwards.

If only, oh if only, we had any kind of example to look to for an instance of a political campaign being offered potentially damaging material under the table and what they ought to do about it.  Say, oh, just for an entirely hypothetical example, suppose that a campaign was offered a video and strategy book from their opponent's debate prep prior to a televised debate, just to cite a what if something that really happened happened?


Here's what Gore's campaign did: they contacted the FBI, and the Bush campaign, and there was an investigation and an indictment and a mail fraud conviction that came out of the whole affair.

All of which, of course, were options for Mr. Trump, Jr., before, after, or during his meeting that he denied for months and months and then apparently mischaracterized.  Had he reported Veselnitskaya's contacts with the campaign to the FBI and or FEC and wanted to not-comment on them, he certainly could have so; "I cannot comment on Russian attempts to contact my father's campaign because of certain ongoing investigations I'm not at liberty to discuss," is only 137 characters in length and fits easily into a tweet (substituted the comma inside the quotes with a period and see for yourself, ye doubters and cynics).  And if the New York Times dug deeply and discovered Trump, Jr., was an honest broker and law-abiding citizen, who would be the hero of that tale, hm?

We're talking about this at all, in short, because whatever the President's eponymous son did re: the didn't-have-it-no-wait-you-meant-that-meeting-I-guess-we-did-but-it-isn't-what-you-think-okay-maybe-it-totally-is magical meeting was not ethical, nor prudent, nor legal.

And there's one more point about all of this that is the real reason I decided to write this ("Finally, VanNewkirk, and about goddamn time!"), if you're still with me and haven't nodded off.  It's very much worth mentioning that the Gore campaign, back in 2000, wasn't only motivated by Boy Scoutism, Fair Playness, and Legal Asscoverism:

[Texas Democratic Party chair Molly Beth] Malcolm and other Democrats suggest the materials were leaked as part of a political sting operation aimed at trapping Gore in possession of confidential information. The two presidential candidates will meet in the first of three high-stakes debates on Tuesday.

Gore's team, in short, considered the possibility they were being played.

Which, if the Trumps were as smart as they keep telling us they are, surely might be something that would have occurred to them if an angel--or a "government attorney" coming directly from Moscow--was due to arrive "with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father."  A reasonable person might wonder, "Are we being compromised by the Russians?  Or by the Clintons?  Or by Sacha Baron Cohen?!"  In the era of bumbling provocateurs like James O'Keefe, gotcha filmmakers like Michael Moore, and "We'll just keep the cameras running until you look stupid" late night television like The Daily Show, might you respond to an e-mail offering a meeting with a mysterious Russian lawyer by ringing up the local FBI field office and asking if you should take this meeting, or if you should take it in a room packed with more bugs than a Fourth of July cookout in Southern swamp country?

You might, you know.  You just might.

This is the thing, and the point of this whole bit: there's no reason to take Donald J. Trump, Jr., at his word when his word has been changing for months and months now.  But if you do, if for some reason (no good reason at all) you decide to, the man is an idiot and a fool by his own admission.  The man lacks the minimal common sense and sense of self-preservation and sense of caution we expect of those in public service and that is the natural habit, for better and worse, of the political class in any democracy... well, in any government, ever, actually.  The natural state of the politician is to reasonably expect to be stabbed in the back by the people standing to his front and back, which can be irritating to the general public when it leads the politician to be mealy-mouthed and eight-faced and noncommittal about what he had for breakfast much less where he stands on an issue, but has the virtue of allowing the public to generally feel safe that its secrets and trust can be kept by one who assumes every motive is ulterior.

The Trumps, perversely, lack this basic quality.  And rather than this lack making them more honest, or more transparent, it merely makes them more stupid, and more dangerous.  As when the President blabbed--again to the damned Russians--about secret intelligence in a way that was, while not particularly specific (apparently), nevertheless specific enough for the Russians to be able to deduce where we got it from and how and from whom in a way that most likely burned sources, jeopardized lives, and made our allies less wont to share future secrets with an unreliable and loose-lipped partner.  

Junior's admission, should you take it at face value (and, really, honestly, even if you don't, even if you correctly assume he's a lying liar who lies), is only proof that he (and his family, and their advisors, and circle) are in far over their heads, kiddies who have strayed from the relative safety of the shallow end into deep waters that, admittedly unusual in a neighborhood pool, are notoriously shark-infested and poisoned.  (Shark-infested?  Try Xothian-infested, the secret squamous spawn of Cthulhu itsself reaching up from the depths with their unholy tentacles to grab the legs of incautious swimmers and drowning babes like Jared Kushner and Donald J. Trump, Jr..)

What kind of idiot takes a meeting with someone he doesn't know, represented as a foreign government's lawyer who is eager to discuss information stolen from an American citizen on behalf of nefarious hinted-at interests, but who could be anyone at all from said skullduggering foreign agent to an actress hired by a struggling YouTuber to show up in a Natasha Fatale getup with an accent stolen from Walter Koenig and a lipstick camera tucked in her cleavage?  Well, it turns out that Donald J. Trump, Jr., wants you to think he's just that kind of idiot.

Probably because he doesn't want you to think he's a felon.


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