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

 

Kim Jong Saud.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

The Saudis have destroyed a key airport in Yemen, a point of entry for crucial aid shipments, making the grim prospect of a major famine even more likely than before. This happened the same week that the Kingdom apparently chose to hold Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri against his will, by some accounts, and forced his resignation (Hariri now disputes this) in an effort to sow discord in a country that survived a 15-year sectarian civil war. This multi-pronged effort to roll back Shi’a influence in the region is largely the handiwork of Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (or “MBS” as the folks in the know call him), a man who is taking the blood-stained legacy of Saudi’s extremism up to the next level.

Meet Sal the Butcher.Praised by many in the American imperial class as a “modernizer”, Prince Salman has leveled neighboring Yemen over the past two years, turning it into one of the world’s most deadly war zones. This attack was probably born of the Iran nuclear deal; perhaps Yemen was the bone thrown to a disgruntled kingdom after an American war with Persia was averted. The fight in Yemen is an extension of Saudi’s longterm efforts to remake the Arab world in its own image. Its principal enemy used to be Arab nationalism, championed by Nassar and others. Now that that wave of leaders is past, Iran and Shi’a populations are in the crosshairs, and the trigger has been pulled repeatedly – in Bahrain, in Syria, and most devastatingly in Yemen.

I don’t want to place responsibility for this disgusting war solely at the feet of MBS and his autocratic government. They could not do what they’re doing without military and diplomatic support from the United States. If we told them – firmly – to stop, they would stop. The fact that it continues demonstrates a desire on the part of Washington – and elements of both major political parties – for the conflict to continue. It’s similar to the situation in Korea in that there is an obvious solution to the problem and the fact that we fail to grab it up suggests more than stupidity and stubbornness. The other similarity is that MBS’s swagger is like that of Kim Jong Un, only our leaders appear willing to eat it up. Really disturbing.

I strongly suggest you contact your congressional representatives and tell them in no uncertain terms that this conflict has gone on long enough and it is time for the killing to stop. Senator Chris Murphy appears to have gotten the memo – now let’s see if we can get others on board.

luv u,

jp

Short takes (July edition).

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Another one of those weeks spent drinking from the political firehose. I’m going to try to run through a few of the items that have been top-of-mind for me over the last few days. Let me know if my list looks anything like yours.

Saudi-US cooperation at workYemen Horror. The WHO reported that cholera is spreading like wildfire in war-ravaged Yemen, infecting more than 400,000 people with almost 1,900 deaths attributed to the outbreak. This is in addition to the many thousands killed by the Saudi-led and U.S.-supported terror bombing of this unfortunate country. Since Congress is all about sanctions this week, one would hope they would consider slapping a few on the freaks running this horror show from Riyadh. Fat fucking chance. This is a bipartisan atrocity and it will only stop when we insist upon it.

Cracker abuse. Trump is unloading on his pal Jeff Beauregard Sessions, talking as though the AG’s job consists entirely of running interference against any investigative probes that come too near the President. Can’t say as I feel sorry for that racist old cracker – at his age, he should know better how to pick his friends. Better start ironing that bedsheet, Jeff-boy.

Trumpcare Fail. Okay, this started out to be a rant about John McCain and how he was dragging himself back to Washington right after surgery to deny millions of other Americans the ability to, well, have surgery when it’s needed. I was going to say that you can never count on him to do the right thing, but then he shocked me by doing the right thing, so credit where credit is due – he helped to kill the Obamacare repeal. I say Obamacare repeal because that’s what it has always been. The GOP has been waging political war against this thing called Obamacare for seven years, except that Obamacare doesn’t really exist. That’s why they seem to be having so much trouble agreeing on how to get rid of it – they keep stepping onĀ  popular provisions of the ACA that are lying around like rakes, waiting to hit them in the face. Mitch McConnell blames the Democrats, of course, but it’s really just about him and his party. This is a big fail, fucker. Suck on that.

Drop the T. Trump announced by Tweet that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the United States military. This has thrown the service into a state of uncertainty and caused tremendous consternation among those who recognize our transgender comrades as human beings worthy of our love and respect. In other words, mission accomplished, Donald! Your alt-right supporters in the little mustache brigade are probably over the moon right now. They’ve probably already forgotten what you’ve said about Sessions. (Of course, they’re probably ADD.)

Manatee in a Suit. Gingrich was interviewed on NPR Morning Edition this week (7/26) and proceeded to throw the entire Justice Department under the bus in an attempt to make his new BFF Trump look a little better. Aside from hawking a book by Sidney Powell, the most hated man in America called the Justice Department “a extraordinarily left-wing institution” citing campaign contributions and decrying the Mueller probe as a “fishing expedition.” Wow, what a crackpot. The left wing conspiracy keeps expanding – last week it was Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski being tagged “leftists” by Limbaugh and others; this week it’s our entire federal law enforcement establishment.

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

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

Look away!

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Break out your banjos; looks like we have a new A.G. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions will now oversee the Justice Department, which includes the FBI, U.S. Attorneys offices across the nation, and (gulp) the Civil Rights Division. (Now I know why the chorus of Dixie goes, “Look away! Look away!”) Dark times indeed, except that this is just part of the story, because we now have anti-public education zealot billionaire Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, former Breitbart editor and longtime white supremacist Steve Bannon as a permanent member of the National Security Council, retired general and current crackpot Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor …. shall I go on? This just in: elections have consequences.

Look away! Look away!Of course, the most problematic member of the administration is the man himself. Only 20 days into this regime and it feels like forever. In a way, it might as well be three years in. I keep hearing pundits, like sometime Trump adviser Joe Scarborough, saying that he needs to dial back the motor mouth a bit …. as if that is ever going to happen. Why the hell would he? It’s worked very well for him so far. Anyone who has ever worked for a small businessperson knows how that works. The man is going to impugn the judiciary when it goes against him and praise it when it decides in his favor, period. Separation of powers, constitutional laws and traditions – none of that means anything to him. He has dictatorial tendencies, and we have placed him into the most powerful office on the planet. Nice going, people.

Okay, before I descend into a Winnebago Man – like tirade, let me talk about what isn’t different about this administration. One thing is that they hide their bad military decisions behind the soldiers who are killed by those decisions. Previous administrations have done this more artfully, but no less cravenly. I’m referring specifically to the raid in Yemen, which has many troubling implications, but which by all accounts was a Rescue One-level disaster, resulting in the death of a Navy Seal, wounding of others, the destruction of an aircraft, and the killing of perhaps two dozen civilians, including children. Spokeswalrus (sorry, walruses!) Sean Spicer announced that to call this raid anything less than a success is to denigrate the sacrifice of the lost Navy Seal. This jiu jitsu move is well practiced – the deep implication is to deflect blame on the dead guy, while making it sound like you’re outraged that others aren’t properly honoring him. Effing disgusting.

So something old, something new. Either way, it’s going to be a long four years.

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

Burning man.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Watching the Trump campaign this week, I am reminded of a collection of bad movie scenes my brother curated back in the 1990s under the title, Destination: Brain – we informally referred to it as “The Greatest Hits”. As bad sci-fi movie aficionados, Matt and I loved to watch select passages from some of mankind’s worst films but found it tiresome to sit through 90 minutes of boring dreck just to get to that “sweet spot” of bad acting, cheap specials, horrible dialog, etc. Matt cut together Destination: Brain so that we could enjoy those poetically bad movie moments extracted from context, and yet given new meaning by their juxtaposition with other poorly-wrought scenes.

Winning!In any case, one of our favorite scenes was from a cheap-ass Frankenstein knock-off with a bunch of no-name actors and the clumsiest monster you ever saw. There is a climactic laboratory scene in which the monster’s arm catches on fire, and he runs around the lab, screaming, trashing the place from end to end. That’s what I think of when I look at where Trump has gone over the last week or so – a crazy-ass Frankenstein’s monster set on fire and spreading his conflagration to everything he touches. Better that he should do it during the campaign than in the oval office, am I right?

I am no fan of Ross Perot, but watching the news cover these serial sexual abuse allegations brings to mind the Texas billionaire’s studied but folksy rejoinder, “This is just sad.” Every minute spent covering this pissing match is another minute of not talking about the serious issues that face us. Not that the mainstream media and the dominant political culture need any excuses to avoid discussion of global climate change, or the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons, or the continuous state of war we’ve been embroiled in since 2001, or you name it. The notion that anyone should need more information about Trump’s past in order to vote against him is … well, it’s just sad. (The idea that any of these allegations would surprise any sentient American over the age of 25 is in itself beyond absurd.)

Tomahawk Thursday. We’re firing missiles into Yemen, nominally in response to missiles fired at our vessels in the Gulf. Of course, we are in so deep with the Saudis bombing Yemen into the stone age that the Houthi rebels (or as NBC calls them, the “Iranian-backed Houthi rebels”) do not distinguish between the U.S. and Saudi. You can kind of see why. That war sucks, and we can do something about it. The fact that we don’t is a crime.