Hitler invades Poland, Arshile Gorky, 1939
Photo credit: Arshile Gorky / WikiArt

Trying to make sense of a crazy world.

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Ready for some great escapist fare? Want to read something heartwarming, something that will really make you feel good? 

Then skip what follows. 

Sorry for being, well, a bit sardonic, but I’ve been thinking lately about the challenges of telling you about things that are not exactly happiness-inducing. 

Much of what I report may make you feel overwhelmed — powerless to do anything about all the things that so overburden your psyche. There is just too much… stuff out there. 

Believe me. I get it. 

Trying to cope with the barrage of daunting issues and wall-to-wall lunacy, sometimes I wonder what the point is of even trying to be a journalist. 

Maybe it would just be easier to be a stand-up comic. Certainly, the material just writes itself. (On the other hand, the comics have been lamenting that they can’t do comedy anymore either. Part of this is the scourge of the perpetually offended… but more importantly, it’s impossible to top the clownish absurdity of Herr Donald Trump and the MTGs of today’s Washington.) 

Speaking of suitable material, you probably read that, in the latest episode of The Real Housewives of the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito’s wife flew an upside-down flag at their house in a petty dispute with neighbors. I couldn’t help being reminded of “The Upside Down” universe from the sci-fi series Stranger Things

With the ideologically engineered court majority that has pretty much stopped looking at any case on its actual merits, I feel as if we all now inhabit The Upside Down. 

Equally wacky is the GOP clown-car express from Washington to New York, as some of the nuttiest Republicans traveled to the courthouse to amplify the insanity and show their fealty to Trump. 

The good news is that anything that gets them out of the Capitol for any length of time can only benefit the country. If it keeps up next week, it might be a good time for the working majority to vote in a new speaker, say, Hakeem Jeffries. Just sayin’.

But, as a comic might say, seriously, folks, what a cast of jesters they are! 

I read this headline in the NY Daily News:

Congress compared to ‘Jerry Springer Show’ as reps MTG, AOC, Crockett hurl insults: video

And I thought: Is that fair to the late, great master of studio fistfight spectacles? Even Jerry Springer — who, despite his trashy but highly lucrative career, was something of an idealist and humanist — would have hated to be compared to what now passes for legislating.   

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire 

Speaking of The Upside Down, and how far everything has gotten from the normal, consider this:

Trump’s legal team’s core effort in his NY trial consisted of portraying Michael Cohen as a liar. Anyone see the double-dip irony here? How do you go after someone for being a part-time liar when your own client is practically a full-time liar?

Besides, Cohen’s lying was in the service of Trump, because lying was an integral part of his job. 

If anyone can rival Trump and Co. for full-time deception though, it is Fox News and other MAGA-friendly media. Thus the delicious irony of their slamming Cohen as not credible. 

And one of the biggest con jobs they are pushing is the narrative that the linch pin for the defense is destroying witness credibility.  

But Cohen’s testimony isn’t even central to the prosecution! It was merely used as a road map for Trump’s own documents and evidence — the real evidence on which the entire case is based.

All of this is of course the backdrop to that essential duty Americans had in 2016 and 2020 and are now being asked to perform again: deciding which candidate we dislike least. 

Not enough people are troubled by the prospect of the US democracy morphing into a soft dictatorship, or, worse, a hard one. 

Try listening to conversations of random strangers. Is it Trump that troubles them? Or the coaching of their local team? 

Are they even aware of the caliber of the dysfunctional MAGA acolytes Trump wants to put in charge of the zillion things the federal government does that profoundly affect us all — like tax legislation; funding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; meeting the payroll for federal workers and such? 

People like this guy, Johnny McEntee, a former (and future) top Trump aide you can see on TikTok bragging about giving money — fake money — to homeless people with the express purpose of getting them arrested when they try to spend it. “So I’m actually like helping clean up the community, you know, getting them off the street.”

What fun! What a wholesome activity! Such a Good Samaritan! 

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is motivated solely by the blandishments of stardom, willing to do and say anything to be a social media success, building an audience through controversy, and was just clowning around — after all, he labeled it “Just a Joke. Everyone calm down.” — let’s pause to note that this man was, for real, Trump’s director of the office of personnel management, notorious for purging everyone seen as “insufficiently loyal.”

McEntee is a senior adviser to the odious Project 2025 (which details Trump 2.0) — and he would likely be in charge of implementing its innocuous sounding Schedule F — intended to fill all posts with Trump lackeys. 

Many news organizations reported this, but they remain guilty of treating the nonstop heinousness as quasi-entertainment. They stop short of stitching it all together and showing the public the mindset of our next leadership team — which apparently hasn’t registered with the likes of rapper Cardi B, who, upset about the course of current “wars,” announced that she won’t support either Trump or Biden.

Despite the perfidy of Trump and his minions, the tragic truth is that Cardi B is by no means alone in her misguided logic. There are enough who think that way to put Trump & Co. back in the White House.

Impunity of His Imposture

I was contemplating our present “nonsense desert” while taking a sanity break to read a book by a favorite author I became aware of a few years ago: Herve Le Tellier’s Enough About Love.

This passage was about a fellow who as a teenager would discuss various books with his circle: 

…his vehemence [was] in proportion to his ignorance of the texts. When he comes to read them properly, later, he will blush as he remembers the idiocies he uttered, and marvel at the impunity of his imposture.

For some reason, the delectable phrase “impunity of his imposture” stopped me, and instantly I thought of Trump. Then, of course, I noted that, although the first part of the formulation and the last could be applied to Trump, the middle part most certainly could not. Trump is no reformed bullshitter. He continues to show little to no self-awareness, and little sign that he actually reads, rather than, at best, just absorbing “feelings” about things, always based on whatever serves him at the moment. 

Hardly better are those who, like McEntee (or even Cardi B?), perhaps do read, or know, just a bit. They serve to remind us how a scant amount of “information” or “research” can become a formidable weapon for ignorance or public harm, thanks to their celebrity or their use of available megaphones. 

Dealing with The Upside Down

What to many is an already foul-tasting election punch is further contaminated by the Kool-Aid dumped in by RFK Jr. 

Commenting on Bobby’s perpetual shape-shifting (which ironically seems not a problem for the mishmash of constituencies excited by him), a colleague of mine said: “I think — in light of the worm and mercury and all — he should write down his positions on Post-it Notes, my go-to method, so he doesn’t forget his deeply held convictions and reverse them on a daily basis.”

And speaking of saying whatever sells, by the time you see this, three weeks will have passed since Trump announced he would reveal whether he supports banning drug-induced abortions, “over the next week or two.”  

TIME’S UP. Where is the legacy media in holding that man accountable? Why aren’t they doing their jobs? 

Speaking of doing our jobs, one hope for us is that, as I am periodically reminded through personal experience, a certain small segment of the new generation seems savvy about the treacherous terrain that is their future.

I personally am looking for the best of these people and would like to welcome them to join our  news nonprofit, WhoWhatWhy. If you are someone of this sort, or know someone who is, please reach out. 

If I had my druthers, and enough people, I’d put them to work bulldogging the big names that ruin everything for the rest of us.  

We could focus a journalistic eye on the architects (or perhaps owners?) of our “Upside Down,” that collection of oligarchs busy skimming the tax-free profits and parading them on social media like troubled adolescents — e.g., Mr. Jeff Bezos, or Mr. Elon Musk, who gets extra points for his support of right-wing dictator types around the world, soliciting and receiving favors and business from them.

In the matter of Musk, one finds a bit of solace in the fantasy that his juvenile, self-destructive trajectory — which still somehow charms and entertains — may bring about a day of reckoning for him. 

Which prompted this thought: 

After it all collapses for Elon, here might be his next office — in Moscow.

Elon Musk, MUSKA

Photo credit: Russ Baker / WhoWhatWhy

No, that building is not actually in Russia; I walked past it the other day in New York and I have no idea who put that graffiti there or why, but the image — and the notion of a chastened, defeated Moscow Musk — did bring a momentary smile to my face.

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  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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