Long division.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Some good news (or at least not bad news): The U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria obviously haven’t led to a terminal nuclear conflict; not yet, anyway. That said, this was another loathsome destructive exercise by three imperial powers intent on maintaining at least symbolic dominance over their erstwhile colonial possessions. We’ve heard all the flimsy justifications for this action – the need to enforce the prohibition on use of chemical weapons, the need to alleviate the suffering of innocents, etc. None of it holds any water.

While it’s good that a class of weapons is at least nominally banned, it’s hard to see a substantive difference between gassing people and blowing their legs off, or piercing their skulls with fragments of depleted uranium shell casings, or dropping white phosphorus on them, or enforcing a medieval siege that results in more than a million contracting cholera (i.e. biological warfare). And if Trump, May, and Macron are concerned with the suffering of innocents, they can start addressing it by not supporting Saudi war crimes in Yemen or Israeli executions of Palestinian protestors. Then there’s the legal question. I can’t speak for Britain or France, but Trump has no legal authorization to attack the government of Syria. It appears as though their argument on this issue is might makes right; that’s transparently illegitimate.

The result when every power pursues their own interests.Restraining a Trump administration powered by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo is going to be difficult. It isn’t made any easier by internal divisions evident on the left. Clearly we don’t need to agree on everything to agree that American intervention in Syria is a bad idea and shouldn’t be done. There’s a natural tendency to turn conflicts of this type into a kind of zero-sum game between bad players and good players; this is not unique to the left, obviously. There are people on the left who support the rebellion in Syria and those who think it’s populated entirely by terrorists. Likewise, I’ve heard leftists essentially align themselves with the Assad regime and others call for its overthrow.

There are bad players on all sides of this conflict, obviously, and every power is pursuing their own interests. I don’t have to agree with Assad’s rapacious military assaults to agree that we shouldn’t attack his government, largely because American intervention has such a bloody history. (I would say it always fails, but that would entail the assumption that our military policies are intended to do our victims some good … which is never the case.) I’ve never been a fan of Vladimir Putin, but I understand Russia’s decision to intervene in the wake of previous regime-change efforts on the part of the U.S., all of which have resulted in failed states, hundreds of thousands of dead, and worsening political turmoil. I haven’t seen convincing evidence one way or the other with respect to who used chemical weapons two weeks ago, but the question is irrelevant – the solution to this conflict does not involve American military force. Period.

If the left (and center-left) can coalesce around the basic principle of non-intervention, grounded in solid legal, moral, and historical arguments, we will have a better chance at holding off the Bolton-Trump assault on the Middle East.

luv u,

jp

Minutes to midnight.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

After a week like the one we’ve had, I feel like I have to write this quickly. We are literally on the brink of a major power conflict brewing in Syria, and it’s hard to see how it can effectively be prevented. An apparent chemical attack has, once again, triggered the Pavlovian imperial response from Washington – namely that no problem can’t be solved by dropping high explosives on it. The trouble is that the Syrian conflict is so complicated, with major regional and global powers backing different factions in pursuit of their own narrow interests (and civilians be damned). So while the Trump cabal claims to want to strike at Bashir Al Assad’s government, they can hardly do so without hitting Russian personnel.

Mr. Atomic Clock himselfThreats are being exchanged, partly via Twitter, and this is becoming a very volatile situation. A situation like this makes clear why the Democratic/Liberal approach of blaming everything on Russia is short-sighted and foolish. Trump is now under pressure to be “tougher” on Russia, and it seems he is willing to move in that direction. So in a sense both major political groupings are either pushing for war or indifferent, and that’s a dangerous state of affairs, particularly with this venal, unstable, insecure president. Oh, and did I mention that Monday was John Bolton’s first day on the job as National Security Advisor? Jesus.

Earlier this year the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand on their doomsday clock to 2 minutes before midnight – the nearest their estimate of risk has come to nuclear Armageddon since 1953. I think they are on to something. President drunk uncle bigot, the Twitter troll, is a crack head, but what he does in his evident dementia is demonstrate how out of control presidential power has become. The power to destroy the world should not be in the hands of the president. I would argue it should be in no one’s hands, but so long as the capability exists, it should be subject to extensive review by more than one branch of government. The more people involved in this process the better. After all, we’re talking about blowing up the whole planet – we should require our war-hungry leaders to keep asking different people until they find someone sane enough to say “no”.

I hope I am just being alarmist about this. All I can say is that, whatever happens in the next week or two, it’s going to be a long, painful three years.

luv u,

jp

Donnie’s excellent adventure.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

It’s been quite a week for our low-rent gropen-fuhrer, and as of this writing it’s only Wednesday. First we saw him re-tweet Euro-fascist videos, then excoriate the FBI in response to Flynn’s indictment, followed by a full-throated endorsement of Alabama Senate Candidate, state Supreme Court Justice (twice removed), and mall stalker (many times removed) Roy Moore on Monday, opening of vast Western lands to oil and gas development on Tuesday, and U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday. Throw in little details like the travel ban being reinstated by the Supreme Court Tuesday, his allies in the Senate passing a draconian “tax” bill (larded with much else besides) the weekend before, and stepped up provocative war games on the Korean peninsula this week, and you’ve got … well … just what you voted for, America.

Trump lighst the fuse. Again.The Jerusalem announcement basically lights a fuse that’s been rolled out and set for decades. As Trump pointed out, Congress has voted for this more than once, passing resolutions in support of the shift by large bipartisan margins. In terms of the fundamentals, it’s a minor step, but as a symbolic gesture, it has the potential for disaster. I’m certain it is already being used as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabab, and what have you. Another tremendous gift to jihadists the world over. Trump may as well take out full-page ads for them, plaster billboards all around the Muslim world, and flood Facebook with pop-ups – Al Baghdadi wants you!

There’s a temptation to frame this clusterfuck as something uniquely Trump, but that doesn’t even begin to hold water. Trump is truly a reflection of America’s worst tendencies, a fun-house mirror for us to peer into with fascination and horror. But having a drunk at the wheel of the wrecking machine that is Imperial America is only marginally different than having a college professor in the driver’s seat. Yes, Trump is worse than even a neoliberal Democratic administration – court appointments and judicial decisions alone confirm that much. But America as it is currently configured is designed to kill and destroy on a massive scale, regardless of who is running the show. Destruction is the default position, and like any large exploitative enterprise, this machine has its ways of perpetuating itself. Every family Trump (or Obama) shatters in Yemen or Syria or Iraq generates more hatred against us. Our bombs and policies like the Jerusalem decision are investments in future conflicts that will fuel the military machine long after we’re gone.

It’s not hopeless, people. We live in a democratic society. We can change how we do things, but we have to get started … like, now.

luv u,

jp

 

Middle passage.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Trump was on the road this week, touching base with traditional allies, shaking his fist at traditional foes, making occasional awkward statements and non-sequiturs but generally doing what is expected of him as official high protector of the empire. Amazing how quickly even a low-intelligence loose cannon like “The Donald” will snap into place when there are longstanding economic and imperial ties in play.

At the helm of the Death Star. Who knew it was in Saudi Arabia?Much as he criticized Saudi Arabia during the primary campaign and even the general election, it was all smiles and bows and the dangling of manly swords when he arrived in Riyadh, not to mention threats against Iran and its embattled Shi’a allies in Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere. Then there’s the humongous arms sale, allowing Saudi to continue the bloody Yemen adventure that Trump will not mention but can’t stop funding with U.S. taxpayer dollars. (My money’s being used inappropriately. Someone call Mick Mulvaney!)

I have to think that the institutional elites that most benefit from the imperial profit machine probably don’t much mind Trump as a foreign policy president. His ignorance very likely is, in their eyes, his most positive attribute. The man knows nothing about any of the regions he is likely to visit as president. That means he can be steered into preferred policies by his aides. He is the proverbial empty vessel, even more so than George W. Bush was – at least Bush had some vague sense of his own objectives and a team of fanatical, experienced bureaucrats to fill the void between his ears. With Trump, there’s none of that. He’s truly at sea.

Empire abhors a vacuum, and so the absence of leadership is filled with the priorities of the forever-state. This is not a conspiracy theory – every empire that has lasted as long as ours has a structure of governance and self-perpetuation. It’s that great self-driving car, running over people of color by the thousand in thirsty pursuit of the next filling station. That’s why the pieces all fall into place, and the policy stays within certain boundaries, sometimes jiggling a little leftward, occasionally lurching to the right, but never crossing the line.

When I say “never”, I mean other than that one time with Dubya Bush when his reckless war-making tested those limits and brought on the correction we saw in 2006 – one of the most amazing periods in recent history. I suspect Trump’s correction will come from some other quarter, but I guess we will see.

luv u,

jp

Just like old times.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

This probably isn’t a wise practice, but I sometimes view Morning Joe as a bellwether of establishment opinion, particularly regarding foreign policy. Their panel covers the spectrum from neocons to liberal interventionists – a narrow span to say the least. And they appear to be as happy as the proverbial pig in shit about Trump’s recent cruise missile attack in Syria. Both the liberal interventionist wing and the neocon wing have been highly critical of Obama’s failure to start a unilateral, extra-constitutional war with Syria back in 2013, so this past week was sweet validation for them all. As a group, they seem anxious for evidence that Trump’s administration is “normalizing” and settling in to the usual, conventional insanity, so they tend to jump on every lurch towards the institutional consensus.

Mother of all BullshitAnd clearly, there is a solid, institutional consensus on American foreign policy. It’s a relatively small box that contains, on one end, the Obama approach, then the center-left liberal interventionist school (Clinton, Samantha Power, etc.), followed by the center-right establishment Republicans (James Baker, Kissinger, etc.), the hot-head interventionists (McCain, Graham, Cotton), and the neocons (Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Elliot Abrams, etc.). In terms of blowing things up and killing people, there isn’t a lot of distance between any of these groupings, and they all share a common imperial worldview. The encouraging development for the Morning Joe crew is the notion that Trump has now put himself in that box.

If this turns out to be a feature, not a bug, of the Trump Administration, the 2016 general election had no impact on foreign policy at all. Policy-wise, Trump appears to have put himself pretty close to Obama on that score. He maybe has a little more bomb than Obama, but it’s basically the same stuff, and the Morning Joe crowd has little to say about that. I sometimes wonder if these people remember last year, let alone 16 years ago. Do they remember that W. Bush ran a hair to the left of Gore on foreign policy – no “nation building”, right? – then pivoted back to the center-right of the consensus box after a few months (certainly after 9/11).? Obama did something similar. It’s pretty simple: presidents put out pleasing rhetoric during campaigns, then peddle back to the default policies when they win office.

Now Trump has dumped the MOAB super bunker-buster bomb on Afghanistan. What is this routine¬† now, bomb-drop Thursday? I guess we’ll see … next Thursday.

luv u,

jp

Bigfoot.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Another week on foreign policy, mostly because it has been so heinous lately. The gas attack in Syria was particularly upsetting, in part because there was video footage of the aftermath (unlike in the case of the U.S.’s Al Ghayil raid in Yemen that killed a score of civilians, including nine children, or the bombing in Mosul last week). The Syrian regime, once again, is doing the one thing they do in response to a restive population: kill and torture. They literally know nothing else. That said, there seems to be a universal media consensus that the United States should fly its bombers in there and start blowing the place apart, as if that has ever made anything better over the past 50-60 years. (Spoiler alert: it hasn’t. It has made things exponentially worse.)

Trump arrives at a decision.Then there was the missile launch in North Korea. Deliberately provocative, yes, though again, our military rules on that peninsula – we’re constantly running joint exercises with the South Korean military that can only be seen as provocations by Pyongyang. Trump is going to take this up with China this weekend in his cheesy Florida resort getaway, but that just marks a continuation of the same disastrous policy. North Korea wants to talk to us, not China. This only possible way to reduce this massive threat to human existence on the Korean peninsula is provide Pyongyang with some guarantees of non belligerence. That is simply not on the table.

How will the Trump administration react to all of this, aside from blaming everyone else (e.g. their predecessors, the Muslims, the Chinese, immigrants, etc.)? It’s a little hard to say. Either one could blow up in our face on a moment’s notice. It sounds to me like Trump is leaning toward differentiating himself from Obama on Syria – that is, taking a more interventionist stance. That appears to be supported by the jabbering classes, as I mentioned earlier. (I heard a congressman from the GOP hair-gel caucus on Thursday’s Morning Joe urging a “no-fly zone” and suggesting that, if we hit Russian personnel or assets in the process, well, that would be “on them”.) This is how world wars start, so one would hope that whatever money laundering Trump has done for Russian oligarchs over the years, it will give him enough reason to at least adequately de-conflict with the Russian military before going all Lindsay Graham on Damascus.

Korea may be just as problematic, since I don’t think Trump owes a lot to Chinese fixers. They may be crazy enough to lob a bomb over there – we’ll have to see. Scary times.

luv u,

jp

P.S.¬† Spoke too soon. Trump is bombing Syria. This is getting really ugly. The TV commentators all have their “war faces” on, talking to admirals. Trump did a hostage-video style pre-taped announcement last night (strangely, from a podium, reading off of two teleprompters as if there were an audience – the sound quality was horrible). Everyone is beating their chests: American credibility has been restored. (Apparently no one in the world thought we would attack at random anymore, even though we’ve been doing it non-stop for 16 years.) Bigfoot is stomping around.

A look overseas.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Another turn at the fire hose. Man, this is kind of dizzying. We’ve just seen a week in which the President has essentially undone the clean power plant rules, scuttled the Paris Accords on climate change, approved the Keystone XL pipeline project, and escalated his attacks on undocumented residents and on the poor miserable souls in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen who cope with our bombs on a daily basis. I could write five posts, but that would take the rest of human history, so suffice with this sorry tirade on foreign policy.

Making Mosul great (again).I didn’t want to let the week go by without saying something about the hundred-plus killed in a coalition raid in Mosul. Civilian deaths have been on the rise in that conflict since our military began its air assault on the more densely populated western side of Mosul. Well, that’s predictable enough. We are fighting the legacy of the previous decade’s catastrophic policy, which was itself a response to another previous decade’s catastrophic policy, and so on. ISIS or ISIL is Al Qaeda in Iraq 2.0, drawing on ex Baathist military personnel for many of its cadres, as well as disaffected Sunni youth, targeted by both the U.S. and the Baghdad government. The destruction/”liberation” of Mosul will not change the fundamental problems that prompted these people to turn, in desperation, to the extremists they once fought against.

We are also doubling down in Syria, now with hundreds of Special Forces on the ground. And as actual journalists like Anand Ghopal have reported, the U.S. is effectively fighting in tandem with the Syrian government, particularly in places like Palmyra, where nominally pro-western groups like the Free Syrian Army cannot operate. Our bombers hit a mosque a few weeks back – like the Mosul raid, our military denied it, then gradually admitted it. Each one of these generates more converts to the jihadi cause, and contributes to another catastrophic policy that we will be grappling with in the next decade.

Then there’s the bleeding sore that is Yemen. The Intercept’s Iona Craig has reported extensively on the Al Ghayil raid that killed dozens of civilians in a mountainside village on the pretext that Al Qaeda leadership were in hiding there. They weren’t – some low-level operatives were reportedly in one of the buildings. The village has been in the thick of the Yemeni civil war, and residents thought the U.S. attackers were Houthi rebels – hence the armed resistance. Again … this “highly” successful raid appears to have aided the side we officially oppose in that fight, though that’s a minor consideration in light of the heavy casualties suffered by the people of Al Ghayil.

Only eight weeks in and these conflicts are getting even more septic. Not a good sign.

luv u,

jp

Consenseless.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

The Syrian meltdown is horrible to watch, and thanks to the fact that much of the killing is being done by official enemies of the United States, we are actually able to watch it. The Syrian regime is doing the only thing it knows how to do – killing and torturing those who oppose it. The Russians, too, have only one speed on their killing machines. Lebanese Hizbullah fighters are there to support the regime, just as the regime and the allied government of Iran was there to help them in their time of need – it’s hard for me to blame them, frankly. But the true crime of Syria is that there are many players involved in this senseless war and their all pursuing their own agendas.

Syria? Nope. It's Yemen.The United States has had dogs in this fight for years, despite what you’ll hear on bullshit broadcast outlets like Morning Joe. They have provided covert support to rebel groups in Syria since before the uprising, so there’s little doubt that some of those fighters assumed – as Chalabi did with regard to Iraq – that Uncle Sam would swoop in and save the day, Kosovo style. The notion that the United States could somehow fix this problem through the application of military force has remarkable currency among politicians, pundits, and talking heads.

Everyone from Clinton to McCain to Joe Scarborough talks about no-fly zones like they’re as simple as pitching a tent in the backyard. My guess is that their conception of this pulls from their memories of the Gulf War aftermath, when the U.S. established no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. That required very little additional firepower because we had already blown the country up, destroyed its air defenses, its command and control infrastructure, and so on. Syria still has all that stuff, plus the Russian air force.

Sometimes broken stuff stays broken (see Iraq). I don’t condone Russia’s role in Syria, but it seems pretty clear why they intervened: they saw what happened with various other failed states we created through our interventions over the past fifteen years, and they’re determined not to let that happen to one of their client states. They have obviously gone way, way too far, and we are seeing every lick of it. What we’re NOT seeing is what’s happening in Yemen, which we could truly bring to an end with a stern phone call.

Our responsibility as a nation to protect innocent lives is most acute in those areas where we have the most influence. We can rail against abusive foreign leaders until the cows come home to little effect, but when we’re picking up the tab, as in Yemen, it’s incumbent upon us to act. If you’re really worried about human suffering, tell Obama to do so before he packs up and leaves.

luv u,

jp

Stays in Vegas.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

We were treated to the third and final presidential debate this week, moderated by Chris Wallace of FoxNews. I can’t decide which I found more annoying – the ridiculous utterances by the candidates themselves or the clueless pundit commentary on what a great moderator Wallace was. Maybe MSNBC is planning on hiring Wallace, I’m not sure – it seems like they were blowing him pretty hard the morning after, even though he apparently cribbed questions from the Peterson Institute and Operation Rescue. “Partial birth abortion,” really? And no questions about climate change, of course. What a great news man.

Real sense of proportion.I could sit here an write about the obviously outrageous statements made by Trump over the 90 minute program, but you’ve probably heard enough of that. Suffice to say that the guy proves his unsuitability for the office of the presidency every time he opens his big yap. No one should need additional convincing, but alas … this is America. No, what astonishes me is some of what gets discussed (and what doesn’t get discussed) in the wake of these debates. That in itself is enough to make you want to rip your own head off. Take Syria. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, it’s pretty much a consensus that the Syrian conflict is a failure of the Obama administration on the scale of Bush’s Iraq invasion. Scarborough himself regularly refers to the conflict with terms like “holocaust” and “genocide”, which is frankly offensive.

I have never been a fan of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, but the comparison with Iraq doesn’t pass the laugh test. For one thing, more people were killed in the Iraq conflict than thus far in Syria, and that was entirely down to us. Syria is a civil war stoked by extremist remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq (thank you, Bush and Cheney) and other elements covertly supported by the US (thank you, Obama), facing off with an ossified authoritarian regime that knows only one thing: crush dissent. The Morning Joe crew is apparently disappointed that we didn’t roll into Syria in 2013 and turn it into an even broader international conflict, which would have resulted in open war with Iran, probably Lebanon, and maybe Russia. Would Scarborough want one of his sons to fight that war? Doubt it.

Nothing out of either candidate last night gave me any confidence that we wouldn’t get more deeply involved in this wretched civil war after January 21.¬† It’s up to us as a nation to make certain that the war fever we heard last night stays in Vegas and doesn’t guide American policy moving forward.

luv u,

jp

Rights and wrongs.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Remarkable week in so many ways. Where to begin? At the beginning.

Attack at Attaturk Airport. The horrendous bombing in Turkey was reportedly the work of three Central Asian extremists, presumably with ISIS though the group has not as of this writing taken responsibility for the attack. Two things come to mind in the wake of this atrocity. The first is that the Syrian conflict is this decade’s gathering place for psycho-fanatical killers from every corner of the region, just as Iraq was in the 2000s, Bosnia in the 1990s, and Afghanistan in the 1980s; hence, jihadists from Uzbekistan as well as the gulf. Second, ISIS is in a love-hate relationship with the Turkish government like the one between the Taliban and Pakistan. This is a monster Turkey (with our support) helped to create, and tragically it’s preying on their good people. Sickening.

Tenney: NY-22's own little Trump cloneRestored Right to Choose. The Whole Women’s Health decision by the Supreme Court has moved the needle in a positive direction on the abortion issue for the first time in many years. I’m hoping that this is the death knell for this generation of TRAP (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) laws taking hold across the country over the past few years. What the anti-choice crowd will try next is anyone’s guess. Another example of why, on the basis of the Supreme Court alone, it is well worth bothering to get out and vote the right way this fall. Just saying.

Primary Colors. Speaking of voting, New York had its federal office primary … another in a series of primary days in the Empire State. What a stupid system! In any case, my home congressional district (NY 22) only had a contest on the Republican side. Our incumbent is the centrist Republican Richard Hanna; those vying to replace him in his party are all significantly to his right: Claudia Tenney, who once referred to Oneida Indian leader Ray Halbritter as “spray-tan Ray” on Twitter; businessman Steven Wells, whose ridiculous commercials appeared to suggest that he would keep ISIS out with a chain link fence at the border; and some other conservative asshole. Tenney won, so now our district stands a fair chance of lurching significantly to the right of where it’s been pretty much my entire life. Tenney will run against Kim Myers, a mainstream Democrat from the Binghamton area.

Suggest people get their asses out and vote for this Myers person, even if she’s not a white-hot progressive. The last thing we need is to be represented in Washington by an anti-choice bigot like Tenney.

luv u,

jp