Monday, January 13, 2020

Searching For Intelligence

This headline in the Washington Post can be interpreted in several ways:

Senior administration officials struggle to explain intelligence behind killing of Soleimani

Yeah, I get it that they’re talking about what the spies and drones knew and when they knew it and what they delivered to the Situation Room.  We all saw “Dr. Strangelove.”  But it also brings up the impression that no one really knew who was the brains behind this.

We all agree that Soleimani was a bad guy in the service of a sworn enemy, and getting him off the board was advantageous in strictly tactical terms.  But was it necessary and did he pose an imminent threat, any more than say Kim Jung-un, with whom Trump has been sending birthday cards?  The reality is that the people who were in favor of taking him out cannot agree on who said what and who called the shots, and more importantly, there wasn’t anyone who had the courage to say to Trump that this extreme measure was a lizard-brained response, most likely motivated by the fact that it was, consciously or otherwise, a reaction to the articles of impeachment.  The fact that the administration notified Congress after the fact  — something the Republicans raised holy hell when a Democrat does that — tells us that this was a get-back for the congressional leadership having the nerve to question the executive branch.  The attack notice was classified, probably because it started off with “Neener, neener.”

Trump would not be the first to make up shit about an adversary to justify doing something extreme — does the Gulf of Tonkin strike a familiar chord? — and the timing is always suspicious; Republicans have been swift to point out that Bill Clinton launched an airstrike in Iraq as his impeachment trial got underway.  But in the case of Trump, he lies about everything and with such alacrity that it reminds one of the time the perpetual drunk driver plows into a parked car and claims that this time he hadn’t touched a drop.  And his Obama Derangement Syndrome is so overwhelming that he will find anything at all anywhere to bring his predecessor down regardless of the cost because he knows he will never be as well-liked, admired, and as cool.

We have yet to learn the lesson that combining military strategy with political ambition is a formula that is doomed to end in body counts.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Getting To The Point

Via Hunter at Random, this is why I like Pete Buttigieg.

Jake Tapper: Let me just ask you, some of your Democratic opponents including senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who I’ll be talking to shortly, called the strike a “assassination.” They say it’s an assassination. Do you believe it was an assassination?

Pete Buttigieg: I am not interested in the terminology. I’m interested in the consequences and I’m interested in the process. Did the president have legal authority to do this? Why wasn’t Congress consulted? It seems like more people at Mar-a-Lago heard about this than people in the United States Congress who are a coequal branch of government with a responsibility to consult. Which of our allies were consulted? The real-world effects of this are going to go far beyond the things that we’re debating today and we need answers quickly.

Meanwhile, pundits and idiots (often a redundancy) are getting all twitterpated because Elizabeth Warren used the word “assassination.”  That is entirely beside the point but it’s a perfect example of how the nutsery can create a meaningless distraction so as to avoid the real issue: Trump is starting a war because he’s been impeached.  People will die because of it.  And he’s committing more impeachable offenses to do it.

That’s the point.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Spare Us The Gruesome Details

Trump seemed to relish in telling the world how he alone caught and killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

At a special Sunday morning press conference in Washington D.C., Trump described the way U.S. Special Operations Forces attacked Baghdadi’s compound and killed him in such graphic and explicit detail that some intelligence professionals worried he may have revealed, again, too much about sources and methods.

But Trump knows great television when he sees it, and he was enthusiastic about the images he was watching from the White House situation room Saturday night. “It was absolutely perfect, as though you were watching a movie,” he said.

That may have the makings of a trailer for the inevitable movie that will be made of this operation, but there are some things that are off and off-putting.

First, the graphic descriptions trivializes the background work that the professionals put into it, making it more like Halo night than a military mission.

Second, as noted, his overkill, so to speak, and his inclination to put out pictures and details may reveal too much to those watching and who may reverse-engineer the operation.

Lastly, it’s just wrong to glorify this kind of operation.  America should not dance on the graves of its adversaries.  The Special Operations Forces certainly don’t want that kind of exposure, and this kind of spectacle is more in line with something a narcissistic dictator would pull off, puffing out his paunch to prove to the world he’s a badass when in reality it’s telling us he’s an insecure bully, clinging to power by sheer fear of being called out.  He made it clear that while Obama may have been in charge when they got Osama bin Laden, he was going to out-do him, not because Baghdadi represented a threat to the world but because he just had to score a point in his feverish quest to put down Barack Obama.

Oh, and telling the Russians that the operation was underway before notifying Congress tells the world who he really reports to.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veterans Day

One hundred years ago today — November 11, 1918 — the guns fell silent across Europe, marking the armistice that brought an end to the fighting in World War I. It used to be called Armistice Day. Because it falls on a Sunday, tomorrow will be the official holiday to commemorate Veterans Day.

It’s become my tradition here to mark the day with the poem In Flanders Field by John McCrae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872-1918)

I honor my father, two uncles, a cousin, a great uncle, many friends and colleagues, and the millions known and unknown who served our country in the armed forces.

My father (left) and his twin, 1944

Friday, April 13, 2018

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Monday, April 9, 2018

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Just A Reminder

In case you’ve been missing George W. Bush, just remember that it was fifteen years ago yesterday — March 20, 2003 — that he led us into a war with Iraq based on lies, deception, misinformation, propaganda, and with the complicity of Democrats who were too afraid of their own conscience and losing their election to resist him.

Some estimates place the total war dead at over a million.

So no, as horrible and dangerous as Trump is, he hasn’t done that. Yet.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017