Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson. The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.

Argument 1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military. To demonstrate how little lay people know, Kelly provided a long, detailed explanation of what happens when a soldier is killed in battle: the body is wrapped in whatever is handy, flown by helicopter, then packed in ice, then flown again, then repacked, then flown, then embalmed and dressed in uniform with medals, and then flown home. Kelly provided a similar amount of detail about how family members are notified of the death, when, and by whom. He even recommended a film that dramatized the process of transporting the body of a real-life marine, Private First Class Chance Phelps. This was a Trumpian moment, from the phrasing—“a very, very good movie”—to the message. Kelly stressed that Phelps “was killed under my command, right next to me”; in other words, Kelly’s real-life experience was recreated for television, and that, he seemed to think, bolstered his authority.

Fallen soldiers, Kelly said, join “the best one per cent this country produces.” Here, the chief of staff again reminded his audience of its ignorance: “Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any of them. But they are the very best this country produces.”

The one-per-cent figure is puzzling. The number of people currently serving in the military, both on active duty and in the reserves, is not even one per cent of all Americans. The number of veterans in the population is far higher: more than seven per cent. But, later in the speech, when Kelly described his own distress after hearing the criticism of Trump’s phone call, the general said that he had gone to “walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.” So, by “the best” Americans, Kelly had meant dead Americans—specifically, fallen soldiers.

The number of Americans killed in all the wars this nation has ever fought is indeed equal to roughly one per cent of all Americans alive today. This makes for questionable math and disturbing logic. It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one’s country becomes the ultimate badge of honor. Growing up in the Soviet Union, I learned the names of ordinary soldiers who threw their bodies onto enemy tanks, becoming literal cannon fodder. All of us children had to aspire to the feat of martyrdom. No Soviet general would have dared utter the kind of statement that’s attributed to General George S. Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”

2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do. Kelly went on a rambling explication of speaking to the President not once but twice about how to make the call to Myeshia Johnson. After Kelly’s son was killed while serving in Afghanistan, the chief of staff recalled, his own best friend had consoled him by saying that his son “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one per cent.” Trump apparently tried to replicate this message when he told Johnson that her husband, La David, had known what he was signing up for. The negative reaction to this comment, Kelly said, had “stunned” him.

A week earlier, Kelly had taken over the White House press briefing in an attempt to quash another scandal and ended up using the phrase “I was sent in,” twice, in reference to his job in the White House. Now he seemed to be saying that, since he was sent in to control the President and the President had, this time, more or less carried out his instructions, the President should not be criticized.

–Masha Gessen, John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup

Look On The Bright Side

It’s tempting to see doom and gloom in the events unfolding around us, but perhaps we’re looking at things the wrong way.

I recently interviewed a rich, straight white male Trump voter for a different perspective on the state of the union. Unfortunately, he was adamant the conversation be “off the record” for fear of “class warfare” and “being guillotined by an impromptu mob of angry peasants” who would then “use [his] intestines to make belts”. He did however assent to allowing me summarize the general thrust of his convictions.

Things are going better than you think

Don’t get fooled by the three-ring circus FAKE NEWS spoon-feeds you. Things are actually going really well. ICE is rounding up people I’ve never met but nonetheless don’t like in record numbers, the police are protecting my property, the stock market is doing me a solid, and the swamp is being drained of scum. From where I’m standing, everything is going extremely well.

Puerto Rico is recovering

One month after the disaster, only a third of Puerto Ricans lack potable drinking water. How great is that? They’re well on their way to recovery… so long as they don’t do anything unpatriotic that forces the president to withdraw FEMA support early.

A new world war would actually lessen income inequality

A lot of people live in fear of a military conflict with North Korea, a move that could trigger another world war. And yet a lot of these same people claim to care about income inequality. Typical liberal hypocrisy. In “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, economist Thomas Piketty noted that income inequality was reduced following both the first and second world wars, probably because there were less competition in the job market. These little Lenins should be begging The Donald to give the Rocket Man fire and fury!

Tax cuts!

Do I really have to explain this one? The tax cuts I’ve been personally promised will help my bottom line. I’ll remove that extra money from circulation by placing it in shell companies in foreign countries or locking it up in banks with extremely favorable interest rates. Eventually some it might return into circulation when I purchase certain luxury items or in the form of tips to restaurant workers and escorts. It’s simple trickle-down economics!

The traitors are being rooted out

Grieving families of fallen soldiers? Traitors. Republican politicians who aren’t completely loyal to the greatest president who ever lived? Traitors. Anyone who still has “the feels” because KILLary lost? Most definitely traitors. Trump’s playing incredible 12-dimensional chess so he can figure out who to line up against the wall and shoot when the time comes.

Wow. Rise of the Lizard People is willing to admit we have a strong bias against optimism in these trying times. We know we’re lucky to live in America, where freedom is handed out like cotton candy on Free Cotton Candy Day. But every day is Free Cotton Candy Day in this great nation of ours! Consider our eyes open and our hearts ready to accept the warm orange radiance of the Supreme Dealmaker.

(Year Zero/Day Two Hundred and Seventy-Four)

The Darkest Timeline

Fans of Dan Harmon’s pre-Rick and Morty joint Community have spent a lot of the past year referring to the events unfolding as “the darkest timeline”; that is, the timeline where the confluence of random events has led to the most disasterous outcome.

Though an entertaining proposition to explain these benighted times, I didn’t take it seriously until today, when

In an extraordinary — albeit veiled — attack, former President George W. Bush delivered a scathing assessment Thursday of President Trump and his policies, suggesting he has promoted bigotry and falsehoods to the detriment of the country and its values.

Speaking at a policy seminar in New York, the nation’s 43rd president never mentioned Trump by name. But his target was unmistakable.

“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush said. “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”

“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children,” he said at another point. “The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

George W. Bush is a voice of reason against Trump? Dubya, the war criminal who destabilized not only Iraq but much of the Middle East? Dubya, the buffoon whose criminal negligence was response for the severity of the Hurricane Katrina humanitarian crisis (remember how nearly two thousand New Orleans residents [often poor, often black] died?). Yeah, that guy. If this is the darkest timeline, surely Bush the Sequel is the grinning troll.

(Year Zero/Day Two Hundred and Seventy-Three)