Government Brownouts

For most of Barack Obama’s second term, referencing the “government shutdown” would present no difficulties of listener comprehension. It was a one-time closure of the everyday functioning of the federal government triggered by intransigent Republicans for spurious philosophical reasons. It was, in fact, The Shutdown, deserving of its definite article.

Shutdowns in the Trump era are destined to be multitudinous. They are in their brevity less like a full power outage and more like a brownout. A light flickers as Rand Paul takes a “principled moral stand” before service resumes, then our shambolic government lurches forward.

As Whiteside put it, we’re just glad Rand’s found a hobby.

Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal: He was what he was. Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance. Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

The day after the election, the bare-bones transition team that had been set up during the campaign hurriedly shifted from Washington to Trump Tower. The building — now the headquarters of a populist revolution —­ suddenly seemed like an alien spaceship on Fifth Avenue. But its otherworldly air helped obscure the fact that few in Trump’s inner circle, with their overnight responsibility for assembling a government, had any relevant experience.

Ailes, a veteran of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41 administrations, tried to impress on Trump the need to create a White House structure that could serve and protect him. “You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff,” he told Trump. “And you need a son of a bitch who knows Washington. You’ll want to be your own son of a bitch, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: John Boehner, who had stepped down as Speaker of the House only a year earlier.

“Who’s that?” asked Trump.

As much as the president himself, the chief of staff determines how the Executive branch — which employs 4 million people — will run. The job has been construed as deputy president, or even prime minister. But Trump had no interest in appointing a strong chief of staff with a deep knowledge of Washington. Among his early choices for the job was Kushner — a man with no political experience beyond his role as a calm and flattering body man to Trump during the campaign.

It was Ann Coulter who finally took the president-elect aside. “Nobody is apparently telling you this,” she told him. “But you can’t. You just can’t hire your children.”

On the Sunday after the immigration order was issued, Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski, arrived for lunch at the White House. Trump proudly showed them into the Oval Office. “So how do you think the first week has gone?” he asked the couple, in a buoyant mood, seeking flattery. When Scarborough ventured his opinion that the immigration order might have been handled better, Trump turned defensive and derisive, plunging into a long monologue about how well things had gone. “I could have invited Hannity!” he told Scarborough.

After Jared and Ivanka joined them for lunch, Trump continued to cast for positive impressions of his first week. Scarborough praised the president for having invited leaders of the steel unions to the White House. At which point Jared interjected that reaching out to unions, a Democratic constituency, was Bannon’s doing, that this was “the Bannon way.”

“Bannon?” said the president, jumping on his son-in-law. “That wasn’t Bannon’s idea. That was my idea. It’s the Trump way, not the Bannon way.”

Kushner, going concave, retreated from the discussion.

Trump, changing the topic, said to Scarborough and Brzezinski, “So what about you guys? What’s going on?” He was referencing their not-so-secret secret relationship. The couple said it was still complicated, but good.

“You guys should just get married,” prodded Trump.

“I can marry you! I’m an internet Unitarian minister,” Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.

“What?” said the president. “What are you talking about? Why would they want you to marry them when could marry them? When they could be married by the president! At Mar-a-Lago!”

Excerpted from Michael Wollf’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

–David Smith, Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says in explosive book

U.S. President Donald Trump blasted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Wednesday as having “lost his mind” in the fallout over damaging comments Bannon made about Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. in excerpts from a new book.

Trump, who had continued to speak privately with Bannon after firing him in August, essentially cut ties with his former aide at least for now in a blistering statement issued after Bannon’s comments came to light.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said.

–Steve Holland, Trump breaks with Bannon, says former White House aide ‘lost his mind’

Strange Untruths

We thought we’d been numbed to the outlandishness of Donald Trump’s fabrications. They came at such a frequency over the past 16 or so months that most of the utterances the mentally unraveling president has made were consigned to the junk inbox of our minds. Sometimes, though, there are truth-deficient boasts so divorced from the world the rest of us live in we can’t help but take a perverse pleasure in their extravagance.

“Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news — it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

[T]he U.S. hasn’t experienced a fatal crash by a passenger jet since February 2009, making it impossible for Trump’s policies to have caused the number of deaths to drop any lower.

Barring his removal from office, we have to wonder where this ends. Will he claim he singlehandedly wrote the Declaration of Independence? That he discovered fire and invented the wheel? That crime has fallen consistently since the first season of The Apprentice?

Will his strange untruths (or delusions) lead him to claim “I didn’t even take credit for leading Seal Team Six in the daring raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, even though I could have. That’s just the kind of humble guy I am. It’s why I wrote the hit single ‘Humble’ and let Kendrick Lamar rap it.”?

We’ll know soon enough.

(Year Zero/Day Three Hundred and Fourty-Seven)

See What America Searched For In 2017

Through its “Year in Search 2017”, Google Trends positions itself as the finger on the beating pulse of the interests of our country’s internet users. And while they have the data, their data consists only of the words people physically typed out.

That’s where Rise of the Lizard People comes in. Using a method known only to ourselves that we won’t bother to explain, we’ve gathered the top feelings and thoughts driving frantic Google searches of two-thirds of Americans as the year went sideways and rolled off a cliff.

Searches

1. Oh god we’re all going to die aren’t we?

2. I’ll probably be paying for porn again now that the Internet is no longer free.

3. Are there any male public figures who *aren’t* complete scumbags?

4. That’s a lot of hurricanes.

5. Oh good, another horrible mass shooting. This seems fine.

People

1. Are we sure this puffy cheeto is actually in charge?

2. Paul Ryan has a smirk that needs to be wiped off his stupid face.

3. I’d forgotten all about Aaron Hernandez.

4. Poor Melania. But then, she did marry him, didn’t she?

5. Mile Ye-uh… hmm. Milo Yoknowpolice… hmm. There we go. Thanks, Google’s auto-populate feature!

News

1. Nazis. Actual Nazis. And the president appears to be okay with this.

2. You’d have to be an idiot to go blind staring at the solar eclipse. I’m just going to double check what not to do so I’m not one of those idiots.

3. Bitcoin will make me obscenely rich, I just know it…

4. Remember when social media used to be fun?

5. This will be the last upsetting article I read before I go to sleep, I swear.

How to…

1. Become wealthy so net neutrality’s repeal doesn’t affect me.

2. Get rich so I’m not on the wrong side of tax reform.

3. Make so much money I can afford health care in America.

4. Seek refugee status in Canada.

5. Stock a bunker with enough supplies to last me the next 3 – 7 years.

What is…

1. That feeling where you want to scream but if you start then you’ll never stop screaming?

2. A spinning fidget?

3. The point of being the richest nation in the world if we’re working so hard to deny the poor housing and medicine?

4. Anti-fun? Oh, wait, no, it’s “Antifa”. Are you sure it’s pronounced like that?

5. The year where Baby Boomers will be too old to hold political office?

(Year Zero/Day Three Hundred and Thirty-Four)