He Turned Me Into a Newt!

Quoting old movies is fun, particularly when they involve surreality.  Government functions are almost entirely surreal, but quoting them is rarely fun … unless Trump is somehow involved.  Love him or loathe him or something in between, he’s brought fun quotes back to self-governance.  And with them come the witch hunts.

There are ways to tell if someone is a witch.  What do you do with witches?

Burn them!

And what do you burn apart from witches?

Republican officiocrats who work for a loathably abrasive New York democrat twitter freak holding the White House as a republican that the Deep State Swamp is desperate to delegitimize because he’s declared war on it.  In other words: more witches.

Never mind that Medusa sold foreign policy futures to foreign government agents in the guise of contributions to her and Cuckold Bill’s charitable foundation.  The real issue is that members of the Trump campaign met with Russian government provocateurs who − wink wink nudge nudge, your wife’s a goer − had “information” on Medusa that would “bring down” her campaign.

Therefore, he’s made of wood.

And this contact wasn’t disclosed on the security questionnaire, which means he lied.  The only reason you lie about something this substantial is to hide the truth.

Therefore, he weighs as much as a duck.

The officiocrat’s security questionnaire was amended four times, and now contains hundreds more foreign contacts.

Therefore …?  A WITCH!! BURN HIM!!

Time the fuck out.  Has anyone ever completed one of those security clearance questionnaires?  I have.  Multiple times.  I’ve held a clearance for most of the time since 1980 when I joined the Air Force.  It is form SF86, in case anyone wants to follow along.  It can be found online.  Giving answers that can be construed as lies by those wishing to do so is trivially easy, for the form was devised by bureaucrats and their legion of loyyers.

The current version [as of 2014] is 157 pages long in its raw form on paper, including instructions and multiple release of liability and signature pages.  Paper applications are no longer accepted; it is now completed online requiring a government login ID and irrationally long gibberish password that cannot be remembered and must never be written down.  You will be calling the toll free help desk repeatedly to have your password reset.

You may not advance to the next section of the form until the current section is completely answered.  Unless you are fresh from the womb, you will have scores of addenda and explanation pages to add information.  These addenda are needed for families larger than you and two parents and one sibling, for any travel farther afield than the local Walmart, and for anything you’ve done more complex than buying a stick of gum.  God forbid you have a relative − to include in-laws − born in a foreign country.  I have such an in-law.

But still, I’m an incredibly boring individual with a relatively small family and no social or civic affiliations to speak of.  I’m a libertarian and thus have no meaningful political affiliation, either.  One investigator in the 90s looked at me and my paperwork and said, “Ah … N J.”  I quizzed, “N J?”  He replied, “Non-joiner.”

My most recent clearance application ended up being 380+ pages long.  …Not including instructions and signature pages.  It took me over five weeks to complete.

The online form has pull-down menus for standard fill-in-the-blanks.  But just try explaining where your father-in-law came from.  He’s been living in the US since the age of 9, but was born in a village in Yugoslavia to German parents.  He spent the first 7 years of his life in Nazi, and then Soviet, prison camps.  The online form no longer lists Yugoslavia as a legitimate nation [I used Angola, since it was listed first and I was not about to dignify their inept system], nor does it accept his home town.  The village itself was obliterated de facto by the Wehrmacht and de jure by the follow-on Tito government.  After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the specific location may be in Serbia, or Bosnia, or Slovakia, no one is quite sure.  Not that it matters anyway; it’s gone.  His naturalization document lists a naturalization center in the US no longer in existence and therefore not in the pull down list.  His naturalization is identified by a certificate number using a layout no longer recognized as valid − not enough digits.  My father-in-law is just generally suspicious, I suppose.

Explaining this one fairly trivial matter that I covered in one paragraph took − I recall − 15 additional pages on the SF86.  Maybe more.  One’s eyes tend to glaze over after a certain amount of useless necessity.  In any event, it took 15 pages too many.

But then comes the sections of the questionnaire that has caused Trump teammates so much trouble, and which would cause me the same trouble were I a republican party officiocrat instead of a mere libertarian DoD data analyst: section 19, about halfway through form SF86, “foreign contacts”.

I have been on eleven cruises, and I’ve met literally thousands of foreigners.  Most were wearing name tags, and many of those who weren’t told me their names.  I wrote down none of them.  With the exception of maybe a half dozen, I couldn’t tell you much more about them than their first name, sometimes not even that.  There is Pedro [last name unknown], the effusively friendly manager-slash-head waiter of a little cantina [forgot the name] on the second floor over a souvenir shop [forgot the name] on the main tourist drag [forgot the name] of San Miguel on the island of Cozumel.  We visit the place for lunch every time we’re there.  Pedro’s head is shaped like a bowling ball, if that helps the investigators any.

There is Major Tom [last name unknown], the unofficial greeter for the nation of Belize, and head of the Belize City Chamber of Commerce.  He runs several tourist excursion operations, including one we took our first time there.  He used to be in the Belizi army − hence his title of Major.  He looks like a young Ricardo Montalban, or did the last time I saw him.

There is Ngede [last name unknown], our Indonesian head waiter on not one but two cruises, on two different ships … and what are the odds?  Highly suspicious if I were a republican officiocrat.  He has his First Night patter down: the nearest any English-speaker can ever come to pronouncing his name is “g’day”, so just say G’day.  He has an advanced degree in engineering, but works as a waiter on US cruises because at $10 a day plus tips he makes more than an engineer in Indonesia. …where you have to be politically connected [i.e., the correct race, the correct tribe and the correct religion, none of which includes him] in order to get a job that pays more than twenty-five cents an hour.  He is now considered extremely wealthy among his countrymen … at least on his time off when he goes back home.  He showed us how to make a rat out of a linen napkin.

There’s the guy on Cayman who runs Moby Dick’s − the stingray encounter excursion.  His name is Richard something, and he’s from England.  He charges almost $100 American for a thirty minute boat ride and a bucket of squid to twenty folks at a time to feed the stingrays tamed by generations of hand-feeding on a sandbar in the sound.  Wouldn’t know him on sight.  He was thoroughly unremarkable, apart from being well-tanned.

On the ship, I try to find one of the bars with a particularly attractive bartender and get my glass of before-dinner wine or after-dinner drambuie from her.  The last two cruises these bartenders were in the form of a cutey from Ukraine, and a hotsy from Brazil.  I impressed the Ukrainian by knowing how to say please [pazhalsta], thank you [spaseeba], goodbye [da svedanya] and I’m bored [mnya skuchnya] in Russian.  I made my bartender from Ipanema laugh by butchering the words to Mas Que Nada.  I have long forgotten their names.

But by far, the most memorable foreign contact I had was a little boy, maybe four years old. He was paying close attention to the cracks in the sidewalk while walking with his mother, an attractive twenty-something, and older brother, maybe seven years old.  This was down one of the back streets of San Miguel on Cozumel.  I was searching for a cheap cantina serving actual Mexican tacos.  The older brother was in navy blue shorts, starched white shirt, and a solid black tie.  His shoes were polished black.  He was going to school, and mom was walking him there.  I was approaching them on the sidewalk, and as we neared I smiled and said, “Hola.”  Mom smiled back, and the older brother looked puzzled.  Both said “Hola.”  The four year old boy, though, looked up from the cracks under his feet, directly at me.  He pointed and announced, in surprise, “Mama!  Gringo!”

His mother was mortified, and stammered a Spanish apology interlaced with scolds directed to her child.  I laughed and told her “De nada.”  I still laugh when I replay it.  But that was it; that was the entire foreign contact.  I never quizzed them for their names.  Were I a republican officiocrat I’d be required to.

Section 19 of form SF86 requires full names, addresses, dates and places of birth, employer[s], all nicknames, not to mention affiliations, and purposes, and outcomes of all foreign contacts.  Per instructions, it limits the contacts required to be disclosed to those of “close and continuing” nature, but one’s definitions of “close” and “continuing” are extremely subjective, and might well rely on political partisanship.  Very few of the items under foreign contacts allow for the option of declaring “I don’t know”.  “I don’t remember” is not permitted at all.

As someone who’s had a clearance for over thirty years and a Top Secret clearance for all but my four years in the Air Force, I know exactly what they’re trying to get at here.  They want to know if a clearance candidate has ever encountered any foreigner who went out of his way to indicate that he was trying to dig for information about things he shouldn’t be digging for.  “Has any foreigner you’ve ever encountered asked you nosy questions about what you do, who you do it for, or otherwise acted like a spy?  If yes, list as many details as possible.

That’s what they’re trying to ask, but they don’t.  Instead, they require that anyone wanting a security clearance from the US government act like a spy themselves every time they encounter a foreigner, by getting full names, addresses, dates of birth, employers, the foreigners’ affiliations and purposes for existing … none of which anyone ever does.  You don’t go on a cruise with a notebook and stubby pencil demanding the names of every vendor hawking his souvenirs upon every passer-by.

Come in! Come in! We have condition air.  Feel all cool and cold while buy your pretty wife a necklace, eh?

Not until I know your full name, date of birth, nationality, who you work for, and what civic groups you participate in.

… yeah, not gonna happen.  As a result, almost everyone filling out this form leaves these things out.  And no one cares that you leave these things out.  …unless you’re a republican officiocrat working for an outsider president that everyone loathes because he’s harsh, abrasive and an outsider who’s declared war on the Deep State Swamp which creates − among other things − obscenely obstreperous national security clearance questionnaires.

Section 20 of form SF86 inquires after “foreign activities”; subsection A deals with foreign holdings, of which I have zippo.  Oh, drat.  I have a self-directed IRA which has mutual funds which hold foreign stocks and bonds.  Subsection A is trying to find out if I have meaningful holdings.  Never mind that “meaningful” is arbitrarily and subjectively determinable itself.  Ah, the hell with it; “No”.

Do I own, or plan to own, property in a foreign country.”  Yes, I plan to retire to Mexico.  I like Mexico.

Give the date of purchase, or planned purchase.  Where do you plan to purchase property, and what price are you paying for it?”  What? The hell?  I veered off onto one of the “explanation” pages with the following:  Listen, guys, if you think I can give you the speculative date and speculative location and speculative price of a speculative purchase of a retirement home for a speculative retirement and have this information mean a single god damn, then you must think I have a crystal ball.  If I had a crystal ball I’d be using it for personal enrichment and wouldn’t need a job which requires a clearance.  I plan to retire in Mexico, at some point, don’t know where, when, or how, but a guy can dream.  That’s all I’m saying about it.

I’m not going to describe the other 5 pages of this subsection.  Needless to say, it’s more of the same useless necessity.  Each item must be answered; “I don’t know” is not usually accepted.

Subsection B: foreign business, professional or government contacts.  Uh oh.  I’ve had literally hundreds of contacts with foreign government agents. … that I know about.  Knowing the nature of government, I’ve probably had dozens more government contacts that I don’t know about.  Eleven cruises, multiple port calls each cruise, encountering customs agents, port security wonks, police − in Limon Costa Rica, we were trying to find an outlet for the local coffee so I could bring home a few pounds of whole beans.  Had a conversation with dos policia who knew bupkus English.  With my formal Spanish lessons ending in 7th grade forty years prior, and my informal Spanish picked up in bits and pieces [Dos cervezas, por favor.  Muy Frijo.  Donde es el baño?] … my wife reports it was an amusing conversation to watch, and it would undoubtedly have been fun to participate in had I not been hung over.

Do I have to list these government contacts, to include full name, nationality, government agency and rank or title, date[s] and purpose of contact and all “offers” made?  I do if I’m a republican offiocrat working for the aforementioned outsider president loathed by the Deep State Swamp.  Does el policia pointing me at a bodega which sells coffee beans constitute an “offer”?  If I’m a republican officiocrat, yes.

Additionally, I’ve undoubtedly run across government agents burrowed into excursion outfits watching for illicit activities − you know what those Americans are like when they get closer to the source of their recreational drugs.  Many Americans attempt to score their own while visiting drug exporting nations, and their arrogant self-absorption is a direct contributor to the unsolved murders of dozens of us a year.  But do I know they are undercover government agents?  No I do not.  Does it matter?  Do I have to list them as well, even though I don’t know who they are?  Only if I’m that republican officiocrat.

There are another 7 pages of this subsection that I won’t go into.  All items must be answered; almost none apply.  “I don’t know” is only acceptable for a small portion of the items.

Subsection C: foreign travel.  Once again: eleven cruises.

Specific dates [which I no longer know] for each nation visited.  And for each nation describe once again the information previously inquired after in section 19.  This was the section that was trying to, but did not, ask, “did any foreigner get too nosy about things that are none of his business?

It had taken me three weeks to get to this part of form SF86.  I’d long ago exceeded my tolerance for bureaucratic impertinence, and used one of the many “explanation” pages to freeform the following paraphrased blowback: Lookit, my wife and I have taken one cruise a year between 2004 and 2012, and one year we took two when we had both our parents along.  You have much more access to the dates of our cruises than we do at this point; all I can tell you is that they were usually in May.  We’ve met thousands of foreigners, and over a hundred foreign government weenies, and not one of them was any more forward than to pester us about emptying our wallets in their particular store.  No one asked what I do, or who I do it for, and no one especially asked if I had any government secrets to give out.  The only thing any of them wanted was my business.

I bawled out the apparatchik in the Deep State Swamp with irreverent, impetuous scold.  And once again, does this matter?  The answer is, once again: only if I am a republican officiocrat working for the well-loathed outsider New York democrat holding the White House as a republican and who declared war on the Deep State Swamp.

The nature of government bureaucracy is to evolve into an endless stream of gotchas.  It is these gotchas that are levied against anyone chosen to be the witch du jour.  You would have to be blind or a partisan shill to fail or refuse to see who is being gotchaed at the moment.  The republican officiocrat was doing opposition research during the presidential campaign, and was contacted about gaining opposition candidate spice.  He showed up to get the spice and met two Russians, neither of whom said, “Hey!  I’m with Moscow and work for Putin!” thus cluing him into it being a government contact.  The meeting was short, and the subject was not juicy gossip about Medusa; it was about US sanctions that resulted in Moscow curtailing Russian adoptions to the US.  The meeting was abandoned and none of the players ever met again.

Section 19 of SF86 requires − per instructions − “close and continuing” contact with foreign nationals to be disclosed.  A single meeting with a female Russian loyyer and her [from all accounts] silent partner is neither “close” nor “continuing”.  Unless, of course, you have it in for the republican officiocrat and the well-loathed guy he works for.  Therefore … a witch.

In contrast, the encounters with my bartender from Ipanema, occurring each day of the cruise before dinner for a glass of wine, and after dinner for a glass of drambuie was, in comparison, intimate and perpetual.  Even though I no longer remember her name − it was five years ago now − I learned much more about her than any republican officiocrat ever knew about the two Russians.

But it doesn’t matter because I’m not a republican officiocrat working for a New York democrat playing a republican president on twitter, and who declared war on all the jealously self-important bureaucrats who spend their days constructing 157 page long gotchas with which they can play king for a day.

King?  Pffft.  We didn’t vote for them.

You don’t vote for kings.

How’d they get to be kings then?

The Deep State of the Swamp, arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Regulation, signifying by authoritarian providence that they, the bureaucrats, should rule this land.

Listen, mysterious functionaries lying in ambush distributing arbitrary rules is no basis for a system of government.  Supreme executive power derives from broad support of the masses, not from some farcical procedural ceremony.

I fart in your general direction.


You’ll be dead in a minute.

BU-U-U-URN him!!


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