Friday, May 19, 2017

On witch hunts

Oh, poor Donnie Trump.  It's an unprecedented witch hunt!

This, I cannot resist.  I actually teach a course called "Interrogating Bullshit."  I detest what we often call "magical thinking," and the root of "witch hunt" is, of course, the hunt for demonically magical entities (fuck off, self-righteous, hippy-dippy wiccans).  I have written about some of my heroes here before, like George Carlin and Frank Zappa.  Another one?  James Randi:  The Greatest Debunker Ever.  If you don't know about him, there is so much out there, but here is a quick video to introduce you to him.

If you want to have more fun at the expense of that asshole, Uri Geller, here's a quick master class in trolling a douchebag:

Magic is fake.  Witches, psychics, spoonbenders... In order to hunt for them, you have to accept the premise that there is something real in the world that is scientifically unsupportable.

The attraction to using the term, "witch hunt," for some vast, communist conspiracy, of the kind that operates in the psychosis-addled mind of General Jack D. Ripper, then, seems apt.

And so, when we think of a political witch hunt, we think of the hunt for Russian collaborators in some conspiracy too far-fetched to be true.

And here we are, with a President claiming that he is the victim of a witch hunt amid accusations of connections between him, his associates, and Russia.  In any normal circumstance, with any normal politician, "witch hunt" would be the exact right term to use, which brings me back to a variation of the same point I have been making repeatedly.  Trump is not a politician.  "Politician" is not a slur, and Trump's outsider status is not an exonerating factor.  If he were a normal politician, it would be absurd to think that there might be some nefarious thing going on with Russia.  (Then again, what about Dana Rohrabacher?  Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy were "joking" about him, in addition to Trump...)

Then again, Michael Flynn.  Paul Manafort.  Carter Page.  Jeff Sessions!  Jeff Sessions lied about having met with the Russians during his confirmation hearings without even being prompted about it!  Trump's own words, regularly praising Putin, and asking Putin to intervene.  Putin's actual intervention on his behalf.  Trump's known financial ties in the past to Russians, and his continued refusal to release his tax returns.  His firing of Comey, and his admission of the reason!  On national fucking tv!

Yesterday, Trump claimed that he never told Comey to back off of Flynn, but... yeah, fuckin' right.  Trump is a pathological liar, and for all the complaints that anyone can make about Comey (I've made plenty), I've never heard anyone call him a liar.  All we learned from that is that there are obviously no tapes.  (If there ever were, they have been destroyed by now).

Yes, it is insane to think that a US President might be tied to Russia, but the facts on the table are insane.  This is the bizarre nature of the witch hunt.  The wording suggests that accepting the premise of the hunt requires rejecting the idea that normal rules apply.

What we already know demonstrates that they don't.  If I had to guess, I would guess that we won't get prosecutable evidence of collusion with Russia.  Then again, Trump admitted to obstruction of justice already by admitting why he really fired Comey within days of everyone calling bullshit on the administration's flimsy initial justification, so who knows what trouble he'll get himself into?  Trump is... not a smart man.

The hunt for a witch is the hunt for that which does not exist.  Just ask Christine O'Donnell.*  The question is about the kind of laws that are being broken by the existence of that which you are hunting.  Physical laws cannot be broken.  Political laws can be broken as long as those charged with enforcing them look the other way.

Hey, remember Jason Chaffetz?  The Chair of the House Oversight Committee who is demanding Comey's memos?  So, apparently, he is stepping down at the end of next month rather than waiting until the end of the term, and some are trying to push him out of the Oversight Committee even before that.  I'm sure that's a total coincidence, right?  Right?!

*What, you thought I'd get through a long post about politics and witchcraft without mentioning her?


  1. Two things:

    1) "All we learned from that is that there are obviously no tapes. (If there ever were, they have been destroyed by now)."
    Not necessarily. Problem is that Congress made a law after Watergate requiring that if tapes are made, they be kept. There have been rumors since Watergate of presidents using a taping system (well, digital, but let's not focus on semantics) since then. Let's assume those rumors are true, so that tapes were made and continue to be made. If Trump's people thought that there is worse stuff on the tapes (remember: we STILL don't have proof that Nixon ordered the break-in!) that folks could get in trouble for, then they wouldn't release one tape because that opens the floodgates. Second possibility: Trump made the threat hoping that Comey (who would have been in a position to have heard the rumors of the taping system many times over the years) would back down, thinking that there might actually be something bad for Comey on the tapes. Trump was hoping that Comey wasn't sure what happened, and hoped that his threat would make Comey doubt himself. Rational only if you don't know jack shit about Comey....which, Trump doesn't.

    2) Chaffetz. He isn't getting pushed out. He's always been a loyal attack dog; I take most of his recent stuff as just trying not to get attacked by holier-than-thou folks at his next church function. I don't think he's getting pushed out; I think that he has always been a slimy little douchebag, and as such, he's jumping ship for a payday. Why end of June? Because once he announced his retirement, talks about who is going to pay him more intensified, and he landed a gig already. Occam's razor for Jason Chaffetz has always been pure, naked self-interest.

    1. 1) Occam's razor says there were never any tapes, and Trump is a bad poker player. You can't gaslight Comey, so it was obviously an empty threat. Besides, do you really think Trump would obey the law and preserve recordings that incriminate him? I don't. If there were tapes, he'd have no qualms about breaking the law and destroying them.

      2) Politico's story (to be taken with much salt, as with all Politico stories) says that the pressure to step away from the Oversight Chair is partially about him turning up the heat on the Comey stuff. Timing on the early resignation is awfully suspicious anyway, you must admit...