Department of Defense

Your National Security Council (Flynntastic | Great)

#downhill | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's incoming National Security Adviser, listens during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, 17 January 2017, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

There is a moment in the New York Times’ account of “Turmoil at the National Security Council” in which the Trump administration pitches apparent incompetence as an asset:

In a telephone conversation on Sunday afternoon, K. T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, said that early meetings of the council were brisker, tighter and more decisive than in the past, but she acknowledged that career officials were on edge. “Not only is this a new administration, but it is a different party, and Donald Trump was elected by people who wanted the status quo thrown out,” said Ms. McFarland, a veteran of the Reagan administration who most recently worked for Fox News. “I think it would be a mistake if we didn’t have consternation about the changes―most of the cabinet haven’t even been in government before.”

It remains uncertain just how that should make anyone feel any better, but at least we know why McFarland is there.

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Your Morning Misty Memory

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Photo: Dennis Cook/AP)

This is just for the hell of it, because I had cause to think of it the other day. Never mind.

Hart Seely for Slate, circa 2003:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is an accomplished man. Not only is he guiding the war in Iraq, he has been a pilot, a congressman, an ambassador, a businessman, and a civil servant. But few Americans know that he is also a poet.

Until now, the secretary’s poetry has found only a small and skeptical audience: the Pentagon press corps. Every day, Rumsfeld regales reporters with his jazzy, impromptu riffs. Few of them seem to appreciate it.

But we should all be listening. Rumsfeld’s poetry is paradoxical: It uses playful language to address the most somber subjects: war, terrorism, mortality. Much of it is about indirection and evasion: He never faces his subjects head on but weaves away, letting inversions and repetitions confuse and beguile. His work, with its dedication to the fractured rhythms of the plainspoken vernacular, is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams’. Some readers may find that Rumsfeld’s gift for offhand, quotidian pronouncements is as entrancing as Frank O’Hara’s.

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A Note on the Republican Clown Car

Kamon Dreams and Stranger Things: Detail of frame from 'FLCL' episode 5, "Brittle Bullet".

There is little about Timonthy Egan’s blistering critique of the Republican Clown Car that we might call … er … ah … not unkind:

Last election cycle, the Republican presidential field was a clown car, holding the thrice-married Newt Gingrich lecturing about values, the pizza magnate Herman Cain fending off sexual harassment claims, and Michele Bachmann confusing John Wayne with a serial killer. That was just the front seat. This time around it’s a clown bus, with as many as 17 Republicans expected to compete for the nomination.

Most of them are unelectable, to say the least. But can any of them get out of the party’s winnowing period without saying things they picked up in the far right netherworld? Probably not. As previous gaffe-a-matics have shown, it pays to be crazy. And for many Republicans, crazy is the new mainstream.

† † †

There is no ceiling for crazy in Texas, nor political consequence. This year, the Lone Star State’s most odious export is Senator Ted Cruz, who also has some concern about the nefarious designs of our military, and those Walmart tunnels. He couldn’t just say, as the Pentagon did, that our troops would soon be conducting a long-planned field operation, called Jade Helm 15. He had to dog-whistle to the mouth frothers.

“I understand a lot of the concerns raised by a lot of citizens about Jade Helm,” said Cruz. “It’s a question I’m getting a lot, and I think part of the reason is we have seen, for six years, a federal government disrespecting the liberty of citizens.” Dwight Eisenhower — look him up, Texans — is rolling over in his five-star grave.

If you don’t think the inability to distinguish a military exercise from a totalitarian takeover disqualifies you from leading the free world, Fox News has a hosting chair for you in its studios. That’s where Mike Huckabee promoted his brand of Gomer Pyle politics over the last few years, building a following for quack health remedies and Christian victimhood.

It is not so much a matter of being funny because it’s true. Rather, this bit that reads like comedy is, at the very least, a little sad because it really, really is happening. Now and then it is easy enough to fancy that what voters really want is a spectacle, but the problem with that notion is the proposition that every spectacle must be a bacchanal of ignorance and clodhopping disgrace.

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Egan, Timothy. “Fringe Festival”. The New York Times. 8 May 2015.

Absurd

Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 6 May 2015.

This is important: Over the years we witness much political wrangling over our American military. Even the question of whether our service members should answer to the law can become fraught with the cheap politics of patriotism. But a question has been nagging at me for years: Why do conservatives get to abuse our service members this way?

Via msnbc:

The perils of political paranoia in Texas (MaddowBlog, 29 April)

Cruz sympathizes with ‘Jade Helm 15’ conspiracy theorists (MaddowBlog, 4 May)

Walmart, Pentagon try to knock down conspiracy theory (MaddowBlog, 5 May)

Fearful Texas GOP base amuses nation with conspiracy panic (TRMS, 6 May)

Two points:

(1) Look me in the eye and tell me our service members would do it. I dare you.

(2) This insulting nonsense has reached the top valence of American politics, with at least three Republican presidential candidates joining in: Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

There is no point three.

This is absurd.

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Image note: Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 6 May 2015.

Last Month’s List o’Links

Transgender pride

Notes from the Culture Wars:

Kevin Thornton, or, queer alt country on being gay and forty in the twenty-first century. (HuffPo)

Paige Lavender on Texas and the transgendered. (HuffPo)

Tresa Baldas tries to explain the unfortunate intersection of compassion, hatred, and your doctor. (Detroit Free Press)

Sam Levine, and this time it’s Kentucky and the transgendered. (HuffPo)

Cavan Sieczkowski on Freud on homosexuality. (HuffPo)

• Two reports, from Tammy Mutasa and Casey Weldon on a die-in demonstration at Fountain Square, Cincinnati, calling attention to violence against transgendered. (WLWT, WCPO)

• Education? State? Justice? Jennifer Bendery reports that the transgendered also have the Department of Defense on their side. (HuffPo)

• At this point, Michael Tomasky’s piece tying social conservative politics to the precipitous decline spectacular crash of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential ambitions to … Jerry Falwell. (The Daily Beast)

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