The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan

Good Friday afternoon Widdershinners.  I’m assuming everyone survived Fat Tuesday and is joyful in their Lentous deprivation.

First, thanks goes to DYB for his insightful and personal post on Tuesday concerning the Ukraine crisis.  I hope that was his first of many contributions to the Widdersphere.

It’s a nasty little fact, but at some point in a democracy someone has to govern.  Unfortunately, governing by the Sneering John McCainsound bite and Twitter-wisdom seems to be the new order of the day.  Any issue lasting longer than one news cycle is so 2010.  If something isn’t dissected, answered, and solved within 24-hours, something must be wrong since no crisis should go unadorned by the comical stylings of the punditocracy.

With the rooster not having crowed on the third day, John McCain had worked up a terminal case of mouth-frothing spit pearls over the Ukraine situation.  In front of AIPAC, he went into full-blown Clint Eastwood mode — not the genial Clint conversing with an empty stool, but the Gran Torino Eastwood of “get off my yard” dialed up to “get off my planet!”

Kindly not publicly using the “f-bomb” he utilized the alliteration of “feckless foreign policy” before an AIPAC crowd whose lack of foreign policy understanding is only surpassed by their eagerness to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”  Even though “consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds,” it might be illustrative to take a short walk back through recent history to catalogue the reactionary nature exhibited by “Dirty Harry” McCain.

Since 2008, whereupon Russia invaded Georgia and McCain declared, “We are all Georgians,” he has advocated to stay in Iraq, stay in Afghanistan, use force in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Pakistan, and most ominously, Iran.  If there is a fire, there’s nothing like a good dose of kerosene.

Lindsey Graham TutuThen you have his fraternal twin, Lady Lindsey, who went all Girl, Interrupted about Russia.  The Lady declared every time the President talked about foreign policy he found himself a victim of uncontrollable eye-rolling — not an all together unique facial tic given its predominance when the Lady hikes up his crinoline and does the cancan for the boys down at the D.C. Manhole.

This type of conduct didn’t used to be acceptable or tolerated.  Politics was supposed to end at the water’s edge, but not any more.  Even Republican Robert Gates has taken to the editorial pages to tell these blustering blovinators to “cool it!”

The unwillingness to take the mantle of governance isn’t just in foreign policy, it is rampant on the domestic front as well.  Another vote to repeal Obamacare, the fiftieth in fact, another show hearing to repeat the mantra of Benghazi, IRS, or Fast and Furious, and then call it a good legislative day.

On Wednesday, after Darrell Issa had flogged and fluffed on Fox News Sunday about Lois Lerner being ready to talk about the IRS, she again did as she was instructed months ago and invoked the Fifth Amendment.  Issa claimed her attorney said she was ready to testify.  Of course back in the world of reality, Lerner’s attorney denies any such conversation.

In his zeal to put a ribbon around Wednesday’s “show hearing,” Issa actually cut off the microphone of Rep. Elijah Cummings — a violation of the House rules and an unheard of breach of decorum for any committee, not just one chaired by someone who invented a thingamabob called the “Viper Alert.”

Darrell Issa

Darrell Isn’t

Issa’s committee has received over a half-million documents, there has been a full independent investigative exoneration of each and every accusation, and the government has spent to date, $14,000,000 on a fool’s errand of chasing a unicorn of conspiracy.  As inconvenient as they might be, facts are stubborn things.

Is there any karmic doubt about why Issa’s name is an anagram for “I ass.”

Just last week, I wrote about the Republicans railing against the uber-presidency, monarchy, totalitarian government, and imperiousness.  A week later, he is now feckless, ineffective, and inviting global upheaval while he’s Benghazing, IRSing, and rounding up guns here at home.

Dana Milbank calls it “Operation Oxymoron” while I think it is more like a Monty Python skit of a “gelatinous Godzilla?”  No matter how critics couch it, we would all be better off if the next time someone cries, “Lights, camera, reaction,” the ensuing words surprised everyone and for a change concentrated on “good policy“.

This is an open thread.

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Good morning Widdershin friends. Here’s hoping the first smile you see today is your own.

Perspective...

Let me begin this morning by saying nothing in this post should be taken in any way to lessen the horrors we witnessed last week in Boston — from the deaths to the disfigurements to the months and years of rehabilitation for the victims. The events as they unfolded truly were acts of terror, but unless they are put in perspective they are stultifying if left in isolation without comparison. A little perspective is what I offer today.

Since 9/11 we’ve had twelve years where we have waged a War on Terror. Waging a war on a tactic is quite possibly an unending war of indeterminate duration — quite different than anything this country has ever faced. No one can tell us when or if we can ever declare victory and in the ensuing twelve years, every person who has carried out an act characterized as terror has either been an American or has had permanent residency status.

All told in 9/11 we suffered approximately 3,000 U.S. deaths. In waging wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, increasing Defense Department appropriations by $500 Billion a year (recurring), untold hundreds of billions on “black ops” through the CIA and NSA, increases in Homeland security, replacing equipment, caring for veterans, and paying interest on all the money borrowed to wage wars on credit cards, the cost of this “War on a Tactic” can’t be effectively calculated beyond Trillions of dollars.

Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmer authored a book called The Three Trillion Dollar War, but many say that’s not close. I’ve seen estimates as high as $6.0 Trillion, but few estimates are lower than the $3.0 Trillion figure. When you consider the future medical costs and disability payments for veterans  in the years ahead at $900 Billion, personally I tend to favor the higher end estimates of $6.0 Trillion.

The death of 3,000 souls is gut wrenching, but for a moment consider in the same twelve years there have been approximately 360,000 deaths from guns, 576,000 deaths from hospital acquired infections, between 480,000 and 960,000 deaths from misdiagnoses, 432,000 deaths from the flu, or 57,600 deaths from workplace accidents. All of these pass without so much as a whimper as an afterthought on the frailty of life. If anything, there isn’t a call to spend another nickel on addressing any of these and in most cases, the wrongheaded austerity crazed Congress wants to cut spending if not eliminate the spending altogether.

Boat LandPerspective is important — especially due to the fact that when you boil politics down to its essence, it is about setting priorities. Twelve years ago, as shell-shocked and traumatized as the nation was, we allowed ourselves to be blindly led into the Afghan War and lied into the Iraqi War under the guise of fighting a “War on a Tactic.” Terror is a tactic, not a combatant, not a country, and certainly not a set of recognized beliefs.

Over the last week, the conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck have worked overtime to conjure all manner of dark conspiracies (I will not link to either of these miscreants). And of course, the network for those with enlarged amygdalae, Fox News has all but declared war on Islam — beating the drums to indict the world‘s 1.6 Billion Muslims by the acts of an infinitesimally small number of jihadists. To analogize, it is the equivalent of painting the world’s Protestants by the acts of Westboro Baptist Church.

If not for the use of future oriented words like “could be, might be, likely to, speculated that, thought to have,” Fox News would have been nothing more than dead air this past week.

We fell prey to this scaremongering and mob mentality twelve years ago, let’s hope through twelve years of warring on a tactic we have at least gained a little perspective.

This is an open thread.

  Many of you are not old enough to remember this classic poster of the Vietnam era, but one hung in my daughter’s nursery.  I honestly don’t remember too many years of my life that there has not been a state of war – cold, hot, or lukewarm.  I guess the 15 year period between the fall of the Soviet Union and 09/11 is pretty much the most peaceful times that I have ever known.

War is exhausting, in every sense of the word.  War is costly in blood, treasure and emotion as well.  Sadly, war appears to be an intractable part of the American persona, with some wars placing an indelible blot on the American soul.  All seem to place an incredible strain on American resources of all stripes.

The physical toll is obvious. Battlefield deaths occur in every war.  50,000+ of my generation died in the jungles of Vietnam.  300,000 never came home from the War Between the States.  The statistics on survivors are ugly as well. War wounds at one time were generally inevitably fatal, but amputees managed to survive the early American wars nonetheless.  Shell-shocked vets of the First and Second World Wars came home, and tried with varying degrees of success to re-assimilate into society.  Korean vets managed as well.  Then came Vietnam, and all hell broke loose.  Improved triage and surgical techniques saved the lives of many young men who then came back to a society unprepared for their needs.  1973 sowed a spike in unemployment.  The VA hospital system was overrun with veterans requiring care.  The VA denied the toxic effects of Agent Orange for many years, and still couldn’t keep up worth a damn.  I don’t even want to think about those men who came back with a plethora of symptoms( that anyone who had taken a semester of basic chemistry could have identified) who were told that there could be no possible correlation between their exposure to a highly toxic defoliant and how they were feeling.  The veterans of the First Gulf War then came up with a problem dubbed “Gulf War Syndrome”, a persistent state of fatigue, widespread muscular pain, predilection toward substance abuse, and a spike in birth defects of their offspring.  This, too, took many years to obtain official recognition.  The latest of the Oil Wars has produced survivors of some pretty hideous blasts, who will have long and complex recoveries. 

Even the 09/11 survivors and rescue personnel have developed some pretty exotic health problems.  First hailed as America’s heroes, they are now pretty much shuffled aside.  The cancer rate us well above that of the general population, but somehow no one in our government seems to get the correlation.  Perhaps we should allow our legislators to stand in an enclosed room and breathe in asbestos, mercury, tungsten, dioxide and lead.  Then they might just get the picture.

The emotional toll of war is indescribable.  I remember eating supper to the daily body count provided by David Brinkley.  I remember as the young wife of a naval officer flinching every time that the doorbell rang.  There were fourteen funerals in my tiny little town for those who did not make it back.  My current place of residence has lost eight men to the Gulf.  Very little of this had to be, and I am having trouble wrapping my brain around the necessity if their sacrifices.  To what end have all of these families had their lives undergo such upheaval?

The financial toll of war is astronomical.  I was stunned to learn that the US has yet to pay back all of the money that it borrowed to finance the Revolutionary War.  (Every time I read a credit card statement, I think of this application:  “If you pay $….. per month, you can be paid off faster than the US has satisfied its Revolutionary War debt.”  One of the pundits ferreted out the fact that air-conditioning the Green Zone has set the treasury back almost three billion dollars thus far.  Back in the day, most war materials were made in the United States, so at its very worst war provided for a booming  economy, but now – not so much.  Estimates of the actual dollar outlay by the American taxpayers vary greatly, but nevertheless this represents money that our own people could be using  other purposes.

So, before we pass yet another decade mired in quicksand, I hope that Americans will rousingly convince They Who Wish To Lead Us that we’ve had it.  No more dead or maimed kids until we’ve found a way to care for those that we already have.  No more money spent to bribe Afghani drug lords until are homeless are fed and sheltered.  No more up-armored Humvees until American streets are safe and resurfaced.  No more school construction in Kabul until we’ve finished up with Kankakee.  No more nation building until we’ve fixed our own.  Also, please don’t waste your time trying to get me to fear my neighbor who owns a Dunkin’ Donuts. They haven’t harmed anyone, and  it won’t work.

This is an open thread.

The death of Osama bin Laden has evoked any number of emotions.  The initial reaction of the American people bordered on “ding, dong, the witch is dead” and has fanned out through the entire gamut of emotions thereafter.  Yes, the architect of 09/11 has met his maker, but that’s about all we know.  We haven’t seen the pictures, and I for one have seen a sufficient number of dead people riddled with bullets to last me a lifetime.  I’ll take their word for it, especially when bolstered by dank threats emitting from the remnants of Al Queda.  As for the terminal event itself, as illustrated by Rachel Maddow, we know that two, three or four helicopters landed in bin Laden’s complex and killed his son, killed or wounded the wife that bin Laden was/was not using as a shield, and bin Laden was shot while having/not having a gun in his possession .  The government of Pakistan is muttering darkly about having its sovereign borders invaded by American troops while denying knowledge of his presence just as vehemently as they did when Secretary of State Clinton mentioned that they must be aware of his whereabouts last year.  Oh, and by the way, keep sending that foreign aid, please, and the Pakistani military who couldn’t seem to find bin Laden on a street full of retired military officers less than a mile away from their military academy could still use some help.  Take that for what it’s worth, please.

Essentially all we know is that bin Laden is dead.  Despite Sen. Lindsay Graham’s unhappiness, I for one am pleased that the US Navy followed Moslem custom to the best of their ability and buried him within twenty-four hours.  (Doubtless the Koran does not cover at-sea burials, however.)  In many ways, I wish the current political environment had permitted capture and trial.  All of these folks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed included, should be tried by the World Court.  Saddam Hussein should have been tried by the World Court as well.   If it’s good enough for Milosevic, it should have been good enough for Hussein.  That said, what’s done is done and we should now go forward to the best of our ability.

When we went into Afghanistan, I seem to recall that we were chasing Al Queda.  Oh, and looking for bin Laden.  While there, we were trying to do a little nation building along the way.  Somehow, this has all gotten FUBAR’d to no end.  The good news is that Al Queda is pretty well out of Afghanistan, but the bad news is that the Taliban has enjoyed a resurgence.  The good news is that some roads, schools and hospitals have been built, but the bad news is that their cost is all out of proportion to the results.  Hell, even the author of  Three Cups of Tea  stands accused of fraud.  This is one seething hot mess.  The only good news (of sorts) is that the mujahadeen who were nicely armed by Reagan through the intercession of the Pakistani intelligence officers with Osama bin Laden, have become better shots. 

Hamid Karzai has stated unequivocally that he wants US troops out of Afghanistan asap.  President Obama stated in a speech given at Fort Campbell, home to the Special Forces as well as the 101st Airborne, that he plans to begin troop withdrawal this summer.  The Pentagon has mixed feelings.  In an April 29, 2011 post in The New York Times,  the Pentagon warned that gains were “fragile”.  This from the aforementioned article:

WASHINGTON — Tangible progress has been made in expanding security across Afghanistan, the Pentagon reported on Friday, saying that successes on the battlefield over the past several months could be attributed to the 30,000 additional troops sent to the war by President Obama.

Anybody else getting the feeling that all the gains have been made by the additional troops?  Check this out:

But the optimistic tone of the report was tempered by assessments from senior officials in Kabul and Washington that the Talibanand other insurgent groups were expected to attempt spectacular counterattacks, perhaps in the near future.

Fighting across Afghanistan usually increases each year with the spring thaw, and Pentagon and military officials say they expect insurgent leaders to make a major effort soon to prove that their loss of territory to Mr. Obama’s troopA senior Pentagon official agreed that the latest update’s tone was more optimistic, even if cautiously so, than that of previous reports, which since 2009 have described the security situation in Afghanistan as deteriorating. Congress requires the progress reports twice a year.

American, allied and Afghan forces have halted the insurgency’s momentum and have achieved “tangible progress in some really key areas,” the Pentagon official said.

Echoing a view often expressed by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, the official warned that the assessment clearly noted that the advances were fragile and reversible.

“It does show progress,” said the official, who briefed reporters under ground rules imposed by the Pentagon that precluded identifying him by name. “It also points out that we do have a resilient enemy,” the official added.

Ah, yes.  This could also  be a real bellweather of the Afghani sentiments toward OBL.   As far as having Afghani forces ready to stand up, read on:

There remain significant shortages of foreign trainers, hampering the development of Afghan security forces, the official noted. And progress in economic development and governance has not kept pace with advances on the battlefield. In addition, corruption across all levels of government puts the military’s gains at risk.

“There is still a lot to do,” the official said. He agreed with military and intelligence officers who said that the public should “expect spectacular attacks” by the insurgency.

We should probably note here that all corruption should not be laid at the feet of the Afghan government.  From everything I have read of late, some of that should rest squarely at the feet of some hand-picked American contractors who have yet to render an accounting of money spent on incompleted projects.

So, what have we got?  The Afghanis want us out, the President wants us to begin withdrawing, the Pentagon and congressional Hawks want us to stay probably forever.  We’re damned if we stay and we’re damned if we go.  Probably the best bet would be to do what’s best for the people of the United States.  It would be hard to walk away from women and children who are clearly at risk at the hands of the Taliban, and we’re going to have to take a deep breath and ask ourselves if we can actually affect the situation in any sort of tangible way.  We might just have to face the fact that there are people in the Middle East who do not wish us well.  We might just have to come up with a different solution.  If not, then we need to try to convince ourselves that things can change for the better by simply hurling our children and our money in the general direction of Afghanistan and hoping for the best.

Obviously, I’d like to leave.  I keep coming back to the fact that neither Genghis Khan nor the British Empire nor the Soviet Union could hold on to Afghanistan. One of my favorite Kipling poems, The Young British Soldier, says it best:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen.

Afghanistan is where empires go to die.  I’d like for my country to leave before that happens.  In order to encourage them to do so, I offer The Black Bear, the pipe tune by which the British Army traditionally retreats to barracks:

Bring them home. Bring them all home. Perhaps if things had been different, the outcome might have been better. However, since giving a pig a set of wings rarely makes it into an eagle, just bring them home.  About face, America.  Look toward home and put your resources there.

This is an open thread.

I watched General Petreaus discuss Afghanistan as though there were no limits to our engagement there.  I have heard both SOD Gates and SOS Clinton state that the deadline of July 2011 is actually anything but a deadline.   We can’t “Just walk out and turn off the light”.  There appears to be no appetite to stay with the public, but there appears to be no  appetite to pull out within the government.  This is the ultimate impasse.

The costs of the war has easily topped one trillion dollars.  We have been there longer than any other previous war.  Now, General Petraeus had some success with Iraq, and I suppose that I should give the man a chance.  However, being as how Congress is unable to find any money whatsoever for either the extension of unemployment benefits or the creation of new jobs, I find myself wondering why I should be thrilled that the US is spending billions to bribe drug lords.  These days are becoming more and more reminiscent of the end of Vietnam –  minus the relatively decent economy, of course.

Perhaps the populace would find its voice should the draft be reinstated.  Perhaps then the faceless warriors would become more personal.  Perhaps if ourselves or our children were to become fodder for the war, we would be every bit as engaged as the Sixties, when the nation erupted in displeasure.

Speaking of the Sixties!  During his brief campaign for the Democratic nomination for President (March 16-June 4, 1968), Robert F. Kennedy inspired us to become a better nation.   During those 81 days, RFK shared his anger over poverty and hunger in Americans and his passionate wish to end the war in Vietnam.  One of his most memorable speeches came on March 24, 1968, when he said  “Together we can make ourselves a nation that spends more on books than on bombs, more on hospitals than the terrible tools of war, more on decent houses than military aircraft”.    Since RFK spoke those words, we have experienced 42 years of  worldwide war and chaos, with the gap between rich and poor ever-widening.   He also warned us of a gross national product which did not include all people, and of mindless violence.   Amazingly, we find ourselves in almost the same damn place – spending more on war than books, hospitals and/or houses ; with a GNP that excludes large groups of Americans; with crowded prisons and escalating violence – with no end in sight.  These words ring as true today as they did during those 81 days in 1968.

This is an open thread.

Much to no one’s surprise, President Obama has relieved his hand-picked Afghan Commander of duty.  General McChrystal has had experienced some episodes of suicidal candor in the past, but nothing quite like the latest episode.  There was also the whole cover-up for the friendly fire demise of Pat Tillman thing.  As for the present situation, one would think that the General should  have realized that a writer for Rolling Stone would be somewhat less sympathetic to the war effort than, say, a representative of Soldier of Fortune might be.  Nevertheless, General McChrystal and his staff spent several days slicing and dicing the Vice-President, “Bite me” Biden, along with almost everyone else save Secretary of State Clinton to the point of committing offenses commensurate with courts martial. I honestly have to wonder if they were drinking to excess at the time, as I have overheard plenty of such conversations, but never with civilians, much less a reporter from a left-leaning magazine.  Even generally sympathetic Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham could think of nothing to say in Gen. McChrystal’s behalf.

Now, having had the dubious distinctions of being both an Army kid while still in grade school and the spouse of a Naval officer, I can assure you that the military is in general rather contemptuous of civilians.  They are not at all into the whole civilian command thing, and work around it as much as possible.  Also, promotions and salaries are much better during times of war than during times of peace, so the military isn’t really vested in the whole beat your swords into plowshares thing.  Further, McChrystal and his staff are all Special Ops.  They used to be called Black Ops, then Psy Ops which sheds some light onto the breed of men (and the occasional woman) involved.  They are bright, they are dedicated to the point of being hard-core, and they have their own particular ways of getting things done and their own peculiar points of view.

General McChrystal and his staff were uncomfortable with the rough July, 2011 deadline of the Afghan war, as they honestly believe that at least another decade will be needed to turn things around.  They were happy with the surge, and would like another, please.  Clearly they were quite unhappy with the Ambassador and the Special Envoy (maybe this is why they had no comment on Hillary – Obama really did work around her).  Neither the general nor his staff knew quite how to go about training Afghani soldiers, and I’m not certain why anyone would bother.  The Afghanis have fought tooth and claw against everyone from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union, using all the ferocity of men fighting a defensive war, which is clearly how they view all intruders, including this latest intrusion on our part.  We have yet to grasp the basic concept that not everyone seems to want what we have.

General Petraeus will now step in.  (Perhaps his near-syncopal episode at the hearing was actually a premonitory swoon.)   Unfortunately, General Petraeus will inherit the same flawed plan built around the same flawed thesis as General McChrystal has had , and may not have any different results.  Even if he does, what will we do with it if we win?  Spend another ten years and another ten billion dollars insisting that unwilling people cobble together a democracy that we may then have to spend more time and money to hold?  Spend another decade and another bucket of cash bribing war lords?   Or settle for some controlled areas vs. some ruled by the Taliban in the same fashion as Vietnam?  Will we sit back some years later and watch as Kabul falls?  Just sayin’.

This is an open thread.

In the war that we’re “winning,” the thousandth American died yesterday. 

I’ve laid my flower. How about you?

I can’t say anything more about this. I’m wearied to death of bloodly, unending, amoral wars that feed our military-industrial complex and our imperialistic desire to control oil, gas and water that lies under foreign sand. But hey, I couldn’t do any better than Arthur Silber did recently, anyway. I’ll just quote him then, shall I?

In the decades since Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead first appeared, widespread, ungraspable violence and cruelty have become more and more common. The concept “depravity” has been rendered close to meaningless. When so much of what happens every day, here and abroad, is so unfathomably depraved, what does it signify to state that another 40 murders of innocent human beings represent still one more monstrous act, or that the torture of another dozen or three dozen or a hundred innocent human beings is unforgivably evil, or that the rape of another 10 or 30 or 50 girls and women constitutes a crime so immense in its magnitude that it makes all commentary completely beside the point, and even itself obscene?

None of it is fully real. Most of it is never even noticed. None of it appears to matter, not in ways which cause a critical number of people to resist in ways which might momentarily slow down the machinery of cruelty and death. If some people should notice, they’ll watch, jeer and take pictures.

We’ve been treated to a remake of Night of the Living Dead, this time in full, bloody color, to enhance our enjoyment and pleasure. And we’ve descended still lower, if that is even possible. Basing my judgment on a few articles I read when it was released five years ago (I would never watch such a film today, for any reason at all), it appears we have movies (and at least one sequel) that celebrate torture, in exquisite, excruciating, drawn-out detail.

Yuppers. And the fundiegelicals burble about abortion as if THAT is murder. WTF is wrong with these people? How can anyone care more about embryos and fetuses than about adults who are risking their lives for our country? And what is wrong with our world, that an evil, warmongering tyrant like Barack Obama is given the Nobel Peace Prize?

This is an open thread.


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Kellyanne Conway’s new job

Take the kids to work? NO!

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed

You go gurl! h/t Adam Joseph

“The” Book

Nice picture of our gal

Time till the Grifter in Chief is Gone

Hopefully soonerJanuary 21st, 2021
2.2 years to go.

Mueller Time!

Wise Words from Paul Ryan

B-I-N-G-O!

Only the *best* politicans bought by the NRA

Marching for their lives

Perfect Picture

Rudy: oh shit the pee tape IS real!

Need Reminders?

Never too early to shop for Christmas

“Look this way”

Manafort’s Jail Photo

Indeed who?

Trump spam

IOW Dumb = Happy?

Simply Put

Ironic

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