The color of power.

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What a horrendous week for New Yorkers. Condolences to those affected by this ghastly Halloween attack. Don’t wait for words of encouragement and sympathy from the big cheese – he’s too busy attacking your senator on Twitter. Literally insult upon injury, but not surprising. It’s also been a pretty rough week in Puerto Rico, still reeling from Hurricane Maria, and of course in Somalia, in the aftermath of that horrific bombing. I could go on, but what’s the point – you know it. Sad thing is, none of these people will get any reasonable amount of moral or material support from the current administration. The reason couldn’t be clearer: too many dark people, and no potential Trump voters.

How low can he go?Not that Somalia has been treated like anything other than a doormat in previous administrations. Trump, though, has singled out Somali refugees in America for criticism, sowing hatred and distrust among his legions. The refugees are black, like the family of La David Johnson, and like the Congresswoman that is a family friend of theirs, and like the football players taking a knee, and … need I go on? Puerto Rico, well … that place is full of dark people too, and so they’re not going to get the kind of help that goes to Florida and east Texas. It just seems like whatever belligerent stand Trump takes, there are dark-skinned people on the other side of it.

I suppose I should consider it fortunate that crypto-racists have a tendency to reveal themselves gradually, however unintentional that process might be. Case in point is Trump’s Chief of Staff, General Kelly, who launched into a gratuitous character assassination attempt on Florida Congresswoman Wilson (hint: she’s African American) using a story that was easily dis-proven, as the event he was describing was captured on video. In remarks to the New York Times, Kelly praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee and opined that the Civil War was the result of a “lack of ability to compromise”. I think Lawrence O”Donnell had it right when he suggested that Kelly – who grew up in the same area of Boston as O’Donnell did – is channeling a racist upbringing in what was a caldron of prejudice against black people, brown people, anyone other than the Scotty B’s of the world.

Let us face it. In this culture, white, heterosexual people are normative; that is the default position. Anyone else needs qualification and justification. So when a crazy cracker shoots up 500 people in Las Vegas, we won’t ask ourselves what the problem is with these rich, white Christians. But when a crazy ass Uzbek mows down a bunch of innocent people for no reason, all Muslims are expected to apologize. That’s a power relationship at work.

luv u,

jp

The fallen.

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Four special forces soldiers were killed in the African nation of Niger earlier this month, and the Trump administration doesn’t want to talk about it. There’s been no discussion of what our policy is in Niger or more broadly in that region of Africa, no information on the circumstances of the men’s deaths, no nothing. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Yemen raid that went bad just a couple of weeks into Trump’s tenure, except that they HAD a story for that one and it turned out to be as bogus as a Linkletter million dollar bill.

Another thing the Niger incident echoes somewhat more dimly is the Benghazi attack back in 2012. You know, four dead Americans, questions about how much support they received from Washington, and so on. So I imagine Trey Gowdy will start holding hearings on this quite soon, right? (Trey? Are you out there, Trey?)

What they DON'T want to talk about.Okay, so, the thing MSNBC has latched onto is Trump’s call to one of the relatives of the lost soldiers in Niger and his comments surrounding presidential condolence calls in general. This seems like a red herring. The fact is, Trump radiates a sense of not caring about anything that happens to military people. This just points to what I’ve contended for some time now; that Trump is all of our worst tendencies balled up into a big, fat, greasy wad of nothing. He doesn’t care about lost soldiers in much the same way that most Americans don’t care – at least, not enough to step away from their televisions or to put their forks down. Sad, as Trump would tweet, but true.

Do Americans wonder why our military is operating in places like Niger, Chad, etc.? My guess is that they don’t, since both the government and the media are not taking a close look. One freelance journalist working in that region, Amanda Sperber, commented on Democracy Now! that she found it surprising that Americans weren’t aware of our presence in Niger; that we have, among other things, a drone base in that country. Why? Because we the people don’t make it our business to question these deployments. We don’t have to pay (at least, for the time being) and we don’t have to fight, so we essentially don’t give a fuck.

We will become a civilized people the moment we start treating our service personnel as if they were members of our immediate family. When we get to that point, maybe Trump will adjust his behavior … or, even better, be sent home.

luv u,

jp

Wanting more.

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It’s hard to overstate how disturbing the news has become over the last couple of weeks. Gradually some elements of the Republican political establishment are beginning to acknowledge the obvious fact that Donald Trump is fundamentally unfit for the office of the Presidency. Astonishing. Why someone like Senator Corker wouldn’t have realized this more than a year ago, when he had the opportunity to help prevent this disaster, defies belief. Like his colleagues, it obviously wasn’t as important to him as having a Republican president – any Republican president – who would sign legislation and implement the extreme right policies his party has long advocated. They did everything in their power to put an unstable man in the most powerful office on earth and place the nation in jeopardy just to gain marginal political advantage.

Maybe THEY buy it.Now Corker and his colleagues can feign surprise when the bonobo they elected throws feces at them from his perch in the White House. And because the Tennessee Senator has announced his retirement, he can channel his colleagues’ unease when Trump (a) demonstrates he knows nothing about America’s nuclear strategy or the history of that strategy, (b) breezily demands we return to an arsenal of 32,000 warheads, and (c) makes a habit of cryptically threatening to start World War III on the Korean peninsula. The man is a terrorist, plain and simple – hinting that there’s some kind of “storm” coming, teasing some violent response or initiative, then dropping a smirking “you’ll see,” like a petulant four-year-old. Fit for the presidency? The man isn’t even qualified to be dog catcher.

I wish this were the kind of joke that so many people think it is (including many of Trump’s core supporters, who revel in the discomfort of liberals and the like), but it’s not. Trump is alluding to some kind of military action in the near future, probably regarding North Korea. Any action commenced by the United States stands the very real risk of provoking a counterattack on Seoul, South Korea – a city of 20 million people and no small number of Americans – plus the involvement of China and perhaps Russia (China’s leaders have said that they would respond to an unprovoked attack on North Korea by the U.S.) That is the World War III scenario that Corker is alluding to. Even short of that, we could be looking at loss of life in the hundreds of thousands within a very short period of time – far beyond anything we’ve seen in decades. (Congo may be an exception, though that conflict took place over many years and in some respects is still ongoing.)

In my humble opinion, it’s 25th Amendment time. Will anyone in the senior leadership of this administration put the country before his or her career? Remains to be seen.

luv u,

jp

Brinksmanship redux.

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It’s a little hard to sort out what to write about this week. The catastrophic hurricane that hit Texas or the one that’s bearing down on Florida? North Korea? DACA? What the hell … welcome to the Trump era, when everybody drinks from a firehose. What a non-stop freaking joy this administration is. I will leave to more able correspondents (like David Sirota) the telling of how Trump and the congressional Republicans have worked overtime over the last few months to make east Texas more vulnerable to this kind of disaster. As unprecedentedly powerful storms line up to cause havoc around the Caribbean and up the coast, no doubt the climate change deniers will continue to strip away what little protection people have from flooding, the release of pollutants, and bankruptcy (particularly in a place like Puerto Rico).

Highly predictable.Then there’s North Korea. Perhaps the most remarkable piece of this crisis is the total lack of voices in favor of doing the right thing. From the various talking heads (mostly foreign policy establishment people, retired generals, current generals, and conservative think tankers), I keep hearing that there are military options, however limited, and that it’s either strike or learn to live with a nuclear-capable North Korea. Of course, we have had that for a while. We have lived with a nuclear-capable Russia and China for a long time. I also hasten to add that the world has lived with a nuclear-capable United States for even longer. My feeling is simply that if they can live with us, we can live with them … just as we have for about a decade.

Here are a few things  that you won’t hear on the talk shows: 1) This is not the cold war. It is not an ideological battle, for chrissake. No one is interested in emulating North Korea, and they aren’t trying to export their model of governance to anyone else.  2) We don’t have to demonstrate that we are stronger than them. They know this in their bones since we destroyed their society in the 1950s. Our strength is the central reason why they’re doing this. 3) This situation is not China’s fault, nor is it their responsibility. North Korea’s dispute is with us, not China … or even South Korea. They and the Russians have encouraged us to take reasonable steps to disarm this time bomb: hold off on military exercises, build confidence, etc.

An NPR correspondent this week asked if diplomatic approaches would make us look “weak”. This is the mentality that leads to war. North Korea is not Germany in the 1940s. Appeasement doesn’t apply here. That only works when you’re weak and they’re strong.

luv u,

jp

Sanctuary found.

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Just heard that Texas’s asinine SB4 anti immigrant bill has been blocked by a federal judge a day before implementation. Now perhaps more undocumented people in Houston will make their way to safety in the midst of this catastrophic storm. It’s conceivable that more than a few people’s lives will have been saved by this decision, though it remains to be seen what will happen on appeal. Texas’s useless governor is determined to push this point with the full support of the Trump Justice Department, furiously waving the bloody shirt of immigrant crime, murder, rape, etc., to make their bigoted followers happy.

Why trust is important.Of course, as police chiefs all over Texas and, really, across the nation know, the effect of this broad policy will be the precise opposite of what Trump, Sessions, and Abbott claim. It doesn’t take a criminologist to understand how this works. The police don’t have omniscience; they rely on people who see something to say something, as the slogan goes. Without the cooperation of people in the community, they can’t effectively do their jobs. Undocumented aliens are not going to step forward if they believe that police will detain them because of their immigration status. The Texas Governor can assure them all he wants that if they haven’t committed a crime they have nothing to fear – that obviously counts for nothing. The police would be severely constrained by this law. If they don’t report undocumented individuals to ICE, they can be fined and even prosecuted. So what the hell is Abbott talking about?

The broader policy is the core problem here. We have a president and an attorney general dead set on targeting undocumented aliens. They have lit a fire under ICE, turning them into Trump’s promised deportation force, which he mentioned during the campaign. What that has meant thus far – and what immigration attorneys are saying – is that in order to get their numbers up, ICE agents are grabbing the easiest people to get. It’s not MS13 that has to worry; it’s the young people they prey on, because they are the low-hanging fruit. This is particularly the case if (and I mean when) Trump cancels DACA. And again, if young, school-age people and their parents are afraid to talk to the police, how are the police going to protect them from gang members? Not going to happen.

So the result of this sickening policy will be Trump’s vision: a higher percentage of the remaining undocumented will be lawbreakers. A self fulfilling prophecy.

luv u,

j

Middle passage.

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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

Dumpster fire.

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Every time I see that standard shot of the White House on one of the major networks, I expect to see a plume of black smoke rising from an open window. This administration promised to be a major dumpster fire and it hasn’t disappointed, the firing of FBI Director Comey this week (as he was requesting an expansion of the Trump Campaign/Russia probe) being just the latest flare-up. As predicted by some of the more observant commentators, the leaks began almost immediately – the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal all posted pieces that put the lie to the various hastily concocted stories flying out of the White House. If they’re not hiding something very, very compromising, they’re doing a tremendous imitation of it.

Trump, day 110.The thing about dumpster fires – or any trash-fueled conflagration, for that matter – is that they conceal as well as destroy. It’s hard to ascribe intentionality to the Trump administration; they are without a doubt the dumbest box of rocks that ever rolled into the oval office, so the idea that they could cook up some massive deception campaign is kind of ludicrous. If they are not deliberately distracting people with their antics, they are certainly playing the role of the useful idiot. I’m not suggesting they’re running interference for Russia or anything like that. What their ineptitude facilitates more than anything else is the steady progress of the broader GOP agenda – namely, massive tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling of our rudimentary social safety net, scuttling the ACA, pulling down regulatory constraints on industry, and so on.

We face some major threats. One is that Trump will launch another war as a means of changing the conversation. Another is that a terror attack will flip the script, as it did in 2001, and we will be riding the revenge juggernaut to the end of the Earth, literally. But not least among these is the threat that the Republicans will get most if not all of what they’re calling for. They already have Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Don’t think the Senate won’t pass some version of their draconian health care reform / tax cut. These are less dramatic outcomes, but no less destructive of our society.

Trump probably has extensive ties to Russian gangsters, just as he has with the domestic variety. It will likely come out eventually, but I warn you – don’t be distracted from the real work that’s going on in Congress right now.

luv u,

jp

Waiting to happen.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized

There’s a lot of Trump news this week, but I wanted to return to the subject of Korea since that has such enormous potential for disastrous loss of life. The North test launched four ballistic missiles, setting off a firestorm of media coverage and a torrent of speculation from military and diplomatic spokespeople. As usual, most of it misses the mark by a mile. The New York Times articles on the developing crisis mention only in passing the massive join military exercises currently underway by the U.S. and South Korea. One wonders how many rounds, missiles, etc., are typically expended in such exercises.

North Korea's war memoriesUPI reports that there will actually be two joint exercises underway over the coming weeks; one a ground, air, and naval exercise that will include landings (i.e. mock invasions of the north). The other is more a command exercise involving the new THAAD anti-missile system the U.S. is installing in South Korea. So think about this – a practically constant stream of large scale drills, and now a missile battery that threatens to negate what Pyongyang likely thinks of as its nuclear deterrent. Got that? Now combine that with something utterly unknown to Americans – the kind of paranoia that stems from having been invaded and bombed out of existence six decades ago. That may have something to do with these missile launches.

How will the Trump administration react to these tests? It’s hard to say, but if I were to guess I would suggest that their reaction might be similar to the tack taken by the last GOP administration. Dubya (Bush 43) put North Korea on the “Axis of Evil” short list for invasion, perhaps just to make Reverend Moon happy, but I’m not certain of that. That in and of itself might have been the best argument for developing a deterrent. Combined with other factors relating to our long history with Pyongyang, it’s a compelling case. I don’t condone their nuclear weapon design and production programs, but it’s not hard to work out why they might want such weapons. Deterrence, and a prompt to get the United States to a negotiating table. They don’t want six party talks, or three party talks … they want one on one with America, because we are their principal adversary.

This standoff should have ended decades ago. The fact that it’s happening while Trump is president is testament to that very painful truth.

luv u,

jp

The king’s speech.

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How did you spend that prime time hour this past Tuesday night? I will admit to watching the entire Trump address to a Joint Session of Congress, and I have to say … it’s evident he hired a speechwriter sometime over the past six weeks. His inaugural was a patchwork hodgepodge of paranoid tropes and random utterances, crudely constructed by the likes of Miller and Bannon with some input, most likely, form Trump’s demon spawn. Wednesday’s speech was full of craven ideas and scapegoating, but it was comparatively well-crafted. Someone massaged the prose a bit, inserted some lofty rhetoric and clever turns of phrase. I think that accounts in large measure for the “tone” difference TV commentators have been crowing about ever since.

Maytag Repairman-in-ChiefAnd the substance of the king’s speech? Nauseating, in my humble opinion. The truly low points for me were the jingoistic celebration of the widow of that Navy Seal killed in that botched Yemen raid, the announcement of a special Homeland Security office tracking victims of immigrant crimes, the promise to raise the already bloated military budget by 10% … I could go on. Of those three, the first one was strange in that Trump had previously (that day, I believe) thrown his generals under the bus for that failed mission, on Fox News. (Plus, the Navy Seal’s father is hopping mad about it, and rightfully so.) But point to a war widow, and politicians will always stand up and cheer. It’s their way of channeling our relief that we are no longer called upon to fight wars or to pay for them up front. Cynical in the extreme.

That extended riff on the victims of immigrant crime was particularly disturbing. They are setting up an office (with the acronym VOICE, no less) to do something like what Der Sturmer used to do to German Jews – namely, front page any violent crimes committed by individuals in that group as a means of stoking outrage against the entire group. It’s an effective tactic, and the Trump bots are embracing it wholeheartedly. (I got into some mini-Twitter wars with a couple of them after the speech.) It’s up to us to push back on this and to encourage our representatives to do the same.

Let’s face it – it’s going to be a long, long four years. Perhaps even longer. So we need to start building now.

luv u,

jp

Week one.

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Well, we got through the first week alive. That’s the good news. I had the creeping fear that Herr Mr. Hair might mistake the biscuit for his smartphone one early morning and, in an attempt to throw Twitter shade on Alec Baldwin, mistakenly launch World War III. That didn’t happen, but it has been a busy start to what promises to be a very problematic presidency. There has been the usual flurry of shiny media objects, which in Trump world amounts mostly to diversion tactics, drawing the press’s attention away from the crucial legislative and executive actions that form the core of the Republicans’ reactionary agenda.

Get the big picture.The most effective way of distracting the media is by attacking them head-on, which we saw last weekend when Sean Spicer marched into the White House press room and delivered a stern lecture to the fourth estate, mostly based on outright lies and falsehoods. It was a remarkable performance, worthy of a pre-teenager, and pure Trumpist arrogance/ignorance. All presidential administrations lie; the Trump cadre, however, is distinctive in that they tell painfully obvious lies – lies that require no research to disprove. Many of their transparent lies are rooted in Trump’s overheated ego: the whining about the relative size of his inaugural crowd, the fable about millions of fraudulent votes in California, and so on. The press should just slap the “lie” label on this trash and soldier on.

It’s what lies behind the lies that should be our focus. The voter fraud accusation is the opening salvo in Trump’s effort to nationalize the ongoing GOP war on minority voters. This will start with an investigation along the lines of his inquiry into Obama’s birth certificate. (“You won’t believe what my people are finding.”) And while the mainstream press has reported that Trump’s fellow Republicans have backed away from this, Paul Ryan’s response was instructive. He essentially said that voter fraud was a “concern” in Wisconsin that the state addressed through voter I.D. legislation and other measures. Those responses helped deliver that Wisconsin to Trump, of course. So, with respect to legislative “solutions” to so-called voter fraud (i.e. voting on the part of people who don’t typically vote for them), Trump and Ryan are on the same page.

Bottom line: Keep your eye on Congress and on the executive orders and memorandums flying out of the White House, and respond accordingly. That’s where the real fight is now.

luv u,

jp