Take a memo. Please.

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The reverberations of Trump’s rampaging State of the Union speech had barely faded before he started tweeting like an arrested tween. His wild claims about the Nunes memo, reflective of the fevered rhetoric proffered daily by his favorite network, were contradicted by the content of the memo itself, a selective, shabby attempt to draw the public’s attention away from the Mueller investigation with an almost laughable claim of concern for Carter Page’s civil liberties. Why do major modern political scandals always turn on weak spindles like Page and – for Hillary Clinton – Weiner? Maybe that’s the only kind of spindle we’ve got.

Porter sighted with two notorious racists.This, again, feels like a big distraction from what the administration and the congressional majority are actually doing. If we’re obsessing over one or the other revealing memo, we’re not thinking about recent surveys – including one by CNBC – that indicate that the vast majority of large businesses have no intention of spending their tax savings on hiring people. That’s no big surprise, but it’s probably worth mentioning once in a while, right? After all, misguided workers who voted for Trump should be given the opportunity to understand that you can’t trust the rich to help anyone but themselves, and that tax cuts are a poor investment in job creation.

Still, the administration will trot out the handful of examples that seem to fit their narrative, even if they don’t. I’m sure they’ve crowed about AFLAC, even though practically none of their sales workforce is eligible for the bonuses they promised so loudly. This is what they do with immigration and other issues – they essentially hold up the exception and claim it’s the rule. Doesn’t matter … think about the memos! The last few days they have been pushing this story about the FBI agent texts suggesting Obama was “keeping tabs” on the Clinton email investigation – subgenius senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) is their wingman on this conspiracy theory. My guess is that they are using this to distract attention away from the fact that one of Trump’s chief aides is a serial spouse abuser who can’t get security clearance to save his life … and yet he STILL handles top secret, burn-after-read briefings for the President. In other words, they don’t want you to think about what an insufferable ass General Kelly is, not to put too fine a point on it.

Just another week in paradise. Is it November yet?

luv u,

jp

In with the old.

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It’s manifestly obvious that Trump is an incompetent boob, grandfathered into the presidency by virtue of that mother of all mulligans served up by our founding fathers: rich white guy can’t win the support of the majority, so kick it to the electoral college. (Apparently Trump’s win came as a real shock to his family and himself.) That said, it would be a mistake to suppose that his ignorance is in any way blissful for the opposition – quite the contrary. The President and his party are making tremendous strides across a broad front, setting policies that will take a generation to turn around. Nothing less than that.

World's most effective boneheadI’ve written about the speed-dating approach to judicial appointments; suffice here to say that Trump has broken a first-year record on this. (These are lifetime appointments, mind you, and his picks are ghastly from a left-progressive standpoint.) He has also made a full frontal assault on regulations, removing the ban on fracking on public lands, fines for abusive nursing home care, safety requirements for blowout protectors on deep-water oil drilling operations, the fiduciary rule requiring financial advisors to put their clients’ interest ahead of their own, and so on. Other great accomplishments of the last year include loosening the already weak DOD restrictions on civilian casualties, trashing net neutrality despite massive, broad-based opposition, and canceling national monument status for large swaths of land in western states, thereby opening them up for resource and mineral extraction. There’s a lot, lot more, but I will stop there.

As we start the new year, we are faced with some truly grave prospects regarding this administration and the GOP agenda more broadly. Trump’s terrifyingly childish nuclear threats are bad enough in and of themselves – this tragic-comic display could easily result in terminal thermonuclear war, no joke. If we survive the year, we will be grappling with part two of the wrecking crew’s plan to tear down what’s left of America’s social safety net, from the ACA to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security – programs we all rely upon to some extent. In that respect, this is merely an extension of a long-term project; a “generational” obsession, to borrow Speaker Ryan’s favorite modifier. That is going to be a fight, my friends.

So 2018 is looking a lot like more of 2017. No rest for the weary. Just keep your marching shoes handy, and plan on voting as if your life depended on it.

luv u,

jp

Donnie’s excellent adventure.

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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

 

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.

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

Dumpster fire.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

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