Will you do the fandango?

Of all of the foul beasts that Trump has attracted to the White House so far, I think Anthony Scaramucci is the most overtly Trumpian.  The rest of the bunch have been weird, but this guy is clearly and unabashedly nothing but a crass gangster.  It’s a bit like visiting a highly dysfunctional family where everyone is just barely holding it together but then the one truly psychotic uncle shows up who just doesn’t give a flip about anything and starts speaking his mind.

One just wonders where the whole thing goes from here.  It’s clear that Trump never had a plan for winning the election.  All of this was never supposed to happen.  He was supposed to spend the rest of his life basking in the adoration of those who were sure he would have kept all of his campaign promises if only he had been elected.  Instead, he will have to settle for basking in the adoration of those who think he has kept or will keep them.

The latest addition (and outburst) of Scaramucci is simply the next step in the trajectory that the administration has been on from the beginning of the campaign.  Whenever things are going bad, find a way to make them worse.  Erase the chaos of yesterday with the chaos of today.  Keep the masses in fear of the morrow.

I love this passage from the NYT today:

The clash between Mr. Scaramucci and Mr. Priebus offers a case study in how the Trump White House operates, a conflict divorced from facts, untethered from the basics of how government works, enabled by the lack of any organizational structure and driven by ambition, fear, animosity and envy.

You can also read the story in USN&WP, NBC, POLITICO, and The Hill.  For the unabridged version from the source, see Ryan Lizza’s article in the New Yorker.

This little imbroglio seems to stem from the fact that the Mooch found out his financial disclosure report is public and that someone caught wind that he and Trump had invited Sean Hannity and some other Fox folks to the White House.  As shameful as I would find those guests, it’s hard to imagine why anyone in the current administration would find this leak embarrassing.  For that matter, what could be more embarrassing than inviting Anthony Scaramucci himself?

usa-politics-white-house-scaramucci

Scaramouche, scaramouche…

The new press secretary and the new communications director for the US administration seem to be settling in to their new positions.  The former seems to be going for the ‘good cop’ version of the old press secretary and the latter seems to be living up to his namesake.  The number of people trying to figure out what exactly a Scaramucci is has evidently skyrocketed.

***

I don’t like to single-source, but I thought the Democracy Now (!) interview with Joshua Green was interesting enough to reference here.  (Green has just released a book entitled, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.)  The interview includes this account:

But in the course of my reporting, I asked Steve Bannon—I said, “You know, when you were at that Vatican conference”—and this wasn’t just a Vatican conference, this was a group of far-far-right conservative Traditionalist Catholics. Bannon name-checked a man named Julius Evola, who was an Italian intellectual and Benito Mussolini’s fascist ideologist at the beginning of World War II. And I said, “Steve, if you’re not an anti-Semite and a Nazi and a white supremacist, as you’re often charged with being, but you say you’re not, why is it that you are familiar with people like Evola?” And he said, “Oh, you know, when I developed my ideas about nationalism, I went back and was looking for an intellectual edifice to kind of inform these ideas. And to find nationalist thinkers, you really have to go back to the 1930s and the 1940s, when those ideas were ascendant. But the real guy who influenced me,” Bannon told me, “was an man named René Guénon, who was Evola’s intellectual godfather.”

Guénon has a fascinating biography. He was born in France in the late 19th century to a Roman Catholic family, practiced occultism, Freemasonry, and later converted to Sufi Islam and observed the Sharia, which is a very unusual guru, it seemed to me, for a guy like Steve Bannon, who is so virulently Islamophobic. But Guénon was the founder of a religion, a kind of religious philosophy, known as primordial Traditionalism. That’s capital-T Traditionalism. And primordial Traditionalism holds that there is common spiritual truths, unifying spiritual truths, at the heart of ancient religions, like the Hindu Vedanta, Sufism, medieval Catholicism, even paganism. And these are original spiritual truths that were revealed to mankind in the earliest ages of the world but had been lost in the West by the rise of secular modernity.

So, Bannon, who was raised in a very traditional Catholic family, who went to a right-wing Catholic military high school and has been steeped in this right-wing, Western sieve curriculum, believes, as Guénon does, that we are entering a dark age, that the rise of the Enlightenment in the 1500s has led us toward apocalypse, and that if he can’t prop up traditional values and do what Guénon had hoped to do, which was to, quote, “restore to the West a traditional civilization,” then mankind is going to be destroyed. And that is his animating belief.

There are some interesting folks in the wheelhouse right now.

Will you do the fandango?

Sperm, brains, and China

A new report suggests that sperm counts in men in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have decreased by half in the last forty years.  According to lead researcher Dr Hagai Levine,

“Eventually we may have a problem with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.”

sperm-study-graph

The report doesn’t dwell too much on the why part of this finding.  Still, the implications are disconcerting.

Another  newly-released study looked at the (postmortem) brains of NFL (and other) football players and discovered that almost all of them had brain damage.  More specifically, they were diagnosed with Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a “progressive neurodegeneration associated with repetitive head trauma.”  A summary breakdown of the study, as illustrated by the Los Angeles Times, looks like this:

player brains

Finally, China seems to be fortifying its border with North Korea (as described in USN&WP, Fox, CNN, Newsweek, Business Insider, and, for those who can afford the subscription, the WSJ).  All of these articles set out to explain why China is doing this.  Unfortunately, the one thing they all fail to explain is why China is doing this.  Maybe the Chinese got an advance copy of the sperm report.

Jeff Sessions

I know–you’re thinking the title of this blog entry should be Sean Spicer.  Or, maybe, Gerald R. Ford.  Sure, those are good back-ups.  But, it was just a matter of time before poor Sean would have been thrown from the bull and it was just another matter of time before the US navy ran out of real presidents to name their big boats after.  It’s not like they can call them Cadillacs.

Jeff Sessions is in the news (albeit a bit buried) because he now seems to be caught up in the Russia scandal along with so many others in the administration.  Also, his limited hangouts are becoming progressively less limited (First he didn’t meet with the Russians, then he didn’t recall, then they didn’t talk politics, then maybe they did but not about the election, then maybe about the election but nothing important…).  I guess you have to be pretty dirty to become the US attorney general and all but it does seem like kind of a shame when the guy gets to do a photo op after the major take down of darkweb black markets AlphaBay and Hansa and then, instead of kudos, gets busted for having illicit meetings to support the Trump campaign AND gets publicly dressed down by Trump in return.  I’d love to be in a bar having a beer with Jeff and Sean right now.  At least one of them would be happy.

Ramble on

President Trump fascinates me.  That’s probably pretty clear at this point in the blog.  I love reading transcripts of his monologues.  There a bit like those mysterious dot posters of the early 1990’s that seem to contain no image until you stare at them blankly and let your eyes go out of focus and then, all of a sudden, a field of red and orange and blue dots turns into a porpoise or a space shuttle or something.  I feel like that reading Trumpian streams of consciousness.  The words are recognizable (like dots) but the sentences are ungrammatical and incoherent.  But then, at the paragraph level, sometimes I start to understand what he’s trying to say, especially on topics about which I already know what he thinks (like whether he’s right about this or the best at that or guilty of anything).

So, true to form, his latest interview with the mother of all fake news outlets, the ‘failing’ New York Times offers a smorgasbord of entertaining thoughts.  Most folks seem worked up about Trump’s dismissive comments about the attorney general or threats to Robert Mueller’s investigation team.  Of course, it’s right to pluck out these nuggets, I suppose, especially as they relate to the administration’s efforts at a counterattack to the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russian interests, including the Russian mob.  But it’s also just enjoyable to ponder who Trump is playing to when he says things like

“I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.”

I really wish Trump comments came with citation notes.  His enemy, the New York Times reported the speech neutrally.  They did note that the Poles in attendance liked it (I imagine there was some self-selection involved).  The Times actually collected comments about the speech from several sources and points along the political spectrum, although I didn’t see any surprises.  Still, it was interesting to hear a Stephen Miller speech again.  Ok, I didn’t actually mean to spend that much print on that comment, I just thought it was funny.  Also, it came right before this exchange regarding the French president, which is really what I wanted to quote:

TRUMP: He [President Emmanuel Macron of France] called me and said, “I’d love to have you there and honor you in France,” having to do with Bastille Day. Plus, it’s the 100th year of the First World War. That’s big. And I said yes. I mean, I have a great relationship with him. He’s a great guy.

HABERMAN: He was very deferential to you. Very.

TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.

TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.

_________

TRUMP: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.

I think that may be all I really know about the French president right now.

Random momentous events

A bunch of things have happened that have been building up for a while.  I’m not sure if they’re important, but here they are.  Several nations have decided that having nuclear weapons is bad.  (None of these nations have nuclear weapons.)  China has decided (somewhat uncharacteristically) to set up a foreign military presence.  Chinese scientists teleported a photon.  An iceberg came loose.  And humans are causing Major Extinction Event number six.  Otherwise, things are fine.

North Korea’s ICBM

Well America, Happy Fourth of July.

North Korea now has missiles that can reach American shores.  I won’t say that Fox had the best reporting on this, but, considering the response from the U.S. administration, I think it is fair to say that Fox is the most appropriate source for this story, in that, if anything, I’m guessing they did what they could to make the U.S. president sound competent.  But, of course, there’s only so much anyone can do.  Here is the story by Fox (and the Associated Press), with a bit of color commentary thrown in from yours truly.  (Here is the story from the fake news sources (NYT, WP, Reuters, CNN) for those inclined to believe them).

North Korea successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time on Tuesday, U.S. officials confirmed to Fox News.

The ballistic missile flew longer than any North Korean missile test conducted by the rogue regime to date, U.S. Pacific Command said — meaning Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship may now possess the ability to strike Alaska.

North Korea launched previously a missile on Mother’s Day that flew for 30 minutes and reached an altitude 1,000 miles higher than the international space station. But Tuesday’s missile flew for 37 minutes and reached a height of 1,500 miles, leading missile experts to conclude it could have reached a target 4,000 miles away, putting Alaska in its cross-hairs.

The U.S. on Tuesday requested a closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting to deal with ramifications from the missile launch.

“The threat is much more immediate now,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters prior to the launch. “So it’s clear we can’t repeat the same failed approach of the past.”

He added: “So the president has directed us not to do that, and to prepare a range of options — including a military option, which nobody wants to take, right?”

So, according the the United States National Security Adviser, the president has directed him not to repeat the failed approach of the past.  I wonder what the failed approach of the future will look like.  Exciting times!  Because, you know, like, totally nobody wants the military option, right?

Vice Adm. James Syring, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, previously said, if it didn’t already exist, it would only be a matter of time until North Korea was able to attack the U.S.

And yet, regrettably but undeniably, North Korea does indeed exist.

“We have to assume that the capability exists today to attack the United States,” Syring said.

If the U.S. decides the threat posed by North Korea is too great, the nation has options.

Ooh, options!  I love options!  What are they?

For the first time since the 1990s, the Pentagon ordered two U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups to be positioned off the Korean Peninsula last month. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said the U.S. could use other means to undercut and diminish Pyongyang.

Ah, aircraft carriers.  Great deterrent, because North Korea wouldn’t dare to sink those.  Kim Jong Un knows that would anger the United States and make him look powerful.

“We do have covert capabilities, and I think it would be wise for the United States to use those covert capabilities as a way to continue to undermine the North Korean government,” Panetta said. “If they do anything stupid, it could end their regime, period.”

Spies in North Korea.  That’s what you’ve got?  And, you’re thinking their worried about doing stupid things that would end their regime?  You mean, like testing ballistic missiles?  And you couldn’t even be bothered to find someone currently in the administration to say something this dopey–you had to dredge up Panetta?

Russia and China, in a joint statement released by each country’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, tried to de-escalate the situation by proposing that North Korea declare a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests and the United States and South Korea refrain from large-scale military exercises.

They do understand which countries they’re trying to be reasonable with, right?

The statement was issued following talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is set to have a bilateral meeting with President Trump on Friday at the G-20 summit in Germany. The North Korea crisis is now likely to be one of the topics the two leaders will discuss.

Ya think?

North Korea claimed its launch marked the “final step” in creating a “powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth.” State media said it was ordered and supervised by dictator Kim Jong Un, according to Reuters.

Well, not quite anywhere, but Kimmy Boy is about as interested in making factual statements as is Big Daddy Don-O.

President Trump immediately responded to the launch in a flurry of tweets.

Why do his tweets always come in flurries.  Ok, deep breath.  How bad could they be?

“North Korea has just launched another missile,” Trump wrote. “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

Mic drop.  The leader of the free world has tweeted.  Now the world will take America seriously!

The launch sends a political warning to Washington and its chief Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, while also allowing North Korean scientists a chance to perfect their still-incomplete nuclear missile program. It came on the eve of the July 4 holiday, days after the first face-to-face meeting of the leaders of South Korea and the United States, and ahead of the G-20 summit set to take place in Germany.

The missile test could invite a new round of international sanctions, but North Korea is already one of the most sanctioned countries on Earth. U.N. Security Council resolutions ban it from engaging in any ballistic activities. Since late 2012, North Korea has placed two satellites into orbit with long-range rockets, each time triggering new U.N. sanctions and worldwide condemnation.

Sanctions.  Wait, did we go through all of the options yet?  Weren’t we going to talk about options?  Aircraft carriers, spies, sanctions…are we missing anything?  What about Dennis Rodman?

Last year, North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth atomic bomb tests and claimed a series of technical breakthroughs in its efforts to develop long-range nuclear missiles. The fifth nuclear test in September was the North’s most powerful atomic detonation to date.

In their meeting last week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump vowed to oppose North Korea’s development of atomic weapons.

I, too, make this vow.  With all three of us on board, I think we can solve this.  But I’m not moving to Seoul anytime soon.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.