Monday, December 11, 2017

Another Invisible Campaign in the Phony "War on Terror"...

Jim at RAW likes to hit on the "fake news" aspect of the so-called War on Terror that has obsessed and dominated the public face of U.S. foreign and military policy since 2001. As such it's worth noting that this past week, while the U.S. government was busy making things worse in the Middle East a combination of Iraqi, Syrian, and Iranian Shiite troopers and SovietRussian and U.S. flyboys and advisors put paid to the last remnants of the Islamic State as an actual physical polity.

This news was met with massive indifference by the Trump Administration, presumably because the success had nothing to do with His Fraudulency's vaunted "plan" to defeat the daeshi maneuver forces and if it doesn't magnify the Orange Leader it doesn't count.

But, also, this immense silence from the very people who typically clatter on so loudly about the "threat" of "radical Islamic terrorism" points out the extent to which that clatter is purely for domestic consumption. News that reassures the Common Herd that these wannabe Saladins really are nothing but a gang of raggedy-ass fellahin less likely to be a hazard to life and property than bathroom falls and defective Christmas lights isn't useful for keeping the public fearful and submissive to the sort of misgovernment that Sun Tzu warned was the danger of prolonged wars.

In the last post Mike asked "why are we still there?" in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other Middle Eastern boobytraps. This, to me, is a perfect example for the way it points up the why; We the People have no real metric to assess the pointlessness of these misadventures, largely because there is a substantial portion of our own "leadership" that profits from that ignorance and the resulting fear.

Will the destruction of the physical Islamic State destroy the "Islamic State" as a generator of a predictable amount of death and destruction? No. Will it solve the deep social, political, and economic problems of places like Iraq and Syria that help produce the sort of destructive energies that produced the Islamic State in the first place? No.

Is, and has, the united States actually done anything constructive to address these problems? No. Indeed; the primary effect of U.S. military and foreign policy in the region has been everything bin Laden hoped for in 2001. The entire region is now less stable, more volatile, and more bitterly divided than ever before.

Except that the "Islamic State" is no longer an actual "state".

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Our Iraqi 'allies' in the fight against the daeshi headchoppers appear a bit miffed about the Trumpanzee's latest foreign policy disaster.

Both official Baghdad politicians and Qudsforce-backed militias are threatening US interests in Iraq.  The US embassy is probably well fortified.  But the 5200 GIs in Iraq are not.  And they now all are being targeted by the very people they have been helping to get rid of the jihadis.  Go figure that.  How could anybody have known that might happen just because the idiot in the oval office decided to move an embassy (irony alert!).  Their blood is on his hands.  Same for the troops in Syria and Afghanistan.   Tell me again why we are still there?

You have to wonder also how the Wahhabi imams in the land of Saud are going to take this.  Will the crown prince drop his unofficial alliance with Tel Aviv?  If not, will he survive?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"A Republic, if you can keep it"

We have not.

A tax measure that provides a road map to increased inequality in one of the already-most-unequal industrial democracies and shreds the social safety net woven in the depth of the Depression to prevent a hard turn to fascist or communist revolution, and that is "supported" by, at most, a quarter of the citizens of the affected polity (and that in the midst of a relentless, unashamedly vicious barrage of lies from the ruling party that suggests that at least a portion of that 25% would fall away if they understood how nakedly plutocratic this legislation is) is as close to the definition of "taxation without representation" as I can think of short of a genuine occupation government.

If our political system has devolved to the point where a coterie of neo-Gilded Age fantasists can impose their Sharia Law on three-quarters of the populace, then we have put a wrap on the American Experiment.

In a truly republican nation this would decorate Pennsylvania Avenue with a festive holiday display of heads on pikes.

It has not and will not.
And, as such, we have no one to blame for our failure to keep our own republic but ourselves.

Update 12/6: And a reminder that, as vilely oligarchic as the GOP has become domestically, it, and it's current Chief Executive, are aggressively moronic internationally, as well.

I suspect that the derp behind this reflects the degree to which 1) the Fraudulency Administration is chock-full of people whose understanding of geopolitics ends with the Little Golden Book version of the New American Century, and 2) Trump "foreign policy" is really not about foreign policy but providing red meat for the base. The Right has been jonesing for going all-in on Israel for some time now, but previous administrations (largely with functioning hindbrains, even if as evil as that living inside the carapace of Darth Cheney) punted on the Jerusalem move for the very reasons pointed out in the linked article; it provides no real geopolitical advantage for U.S. interests in return for one more brick in the wall of Arab ire.

I know that several here have taken me to task for being "angry" about all this.

But, frankly, what else is there? I live in Blue Oregon. Outside of helping defenstrate the reptile Walden there is no more I can do to make Oregon a force for the 20th Century in D.C. And yet, here I am, like Smokey the Bear watching these vandals burn the forest of the America I grew up in down around me in hopes that a tangle of Gilded Age weeds will grow in its place. And that briar patch will be what my kids have to grow up in, an America more like the sort of America that drove men into the streets of Homestead to be shot down by formed troops.

I don't want that, and I don't understand how anyone not in the American aristocracy would.

And yet, here we are.

Monday, November 27, 2017

This is NOT normal

I'm sorry. It's just...not.
Here's an excerpt from the Thanksgiving oration that the 45th President of the United States gave to a group of servicepeople:
"But, I mean, we have equipment that -- nobody has the equipment that we have. And it's sad when we're selling our equipment to other countries but we're not buying it ourselves, okay? But now that's all changed. And the stuff I said -- the stuff that we have is always a little bit better too. You know, when we sell to other countries, even if they're allies -- you never know about an ally. An ally can turn. You understand. You're going to find that out. But I always say, make ours a little bit better. You know, give it that extra speed. A little bit -- keep a little bit -- keep about 10 percent in the bag, because what we have -- nobody has like what we have, and that's what we're doing."

1. We were selling our "equipment" to other countries but not buying it ourselves...but now we are.

2. Our "allies" are treacherous bastards that will turn on us - "you're going to find that out".

3. So we ensure that whatever of this "stuff" we sell to our "allies" is 10 percent worse - slower, weaker, less accurate, something that's not "in the bag" - than what we kit ourselves out with because, well, treacherous bastards.

I know that we tend to lose track of the moron signal amid the blabbering noise from this joker, but...c'mon. Seriously?

Scene: Office of the Ministry of National Defense, Seoul, Republic of Korea, afternoon. A tall, severe looking man enters and crosses to his desk, staring intently at his phone. He presses a button on the intercom panel.

Voice (translated from Korean): "Yes, Minister Song?"
Song Young-moo: "Sang-mi, can you please ask Vice-Minister Lee to come in for a moment, please?"
Sang-mi: "Certainly, Minister."

The Minister of Defense leans back against his desk, staring at his phone with an irked expression. Several moments later the main door opens and a shorter, plumper man enters. The Minister looks up at him and holds out his phone.

Song: "Did you see what that fucking Yankee idiot said last week?"
Lee: "Which fuc..oh, Trump? I dunno. What particularly idiotic thing was it this time?"
Song: "The...he...oh, hell, just look at this."
He passes the phone over to his subordinate, who scrolls down quickly.
Lee: "Oh, c'mon, boss. That's just Trump. His mouth moves while his brain is in neutral. You know that. Don't mean nothing."
Song: "Nothing? Really?"
Lee: "Sure. You know Americans, they just talk and talk with their head up their ass, and this Trump, well, you met him. He's like the lights are on but nobody's home. He can't possibly mean that guff. If it was true he'd be killing every arms deal Lockheed and General Dynamics and Raytheon will ever make. Not even that spray-tan dope could be that fucking stupid."

There's a long pause. Both men look at each other with growing horror.

Lee: "No problem, chief. I'll call our people in California right away. One of my guys is bonking one of the QA/QC people at BAE Systems; he'll have an answer for us by morning. Oh, and I'll get the PVO to give me a quote for S-400s, and see if the Israelis are still interested in selling Arrow-3s. I've got some people in Johannesburg, too, I'll see what they're willing to move."
The Vice-Minister is already pulling out his phone as he heads for the door. Minister Song slumps back against his desk as the door closes behind his subordinate and punches the intercom button angrily.
Song: "Where did my wife tell you to hide the soju, Sang-mi?"
Sang-mi: "Minister...I..."
Song: "I'm in no mood for fucking around, Sang-mi. Dig up that bottle or I swear, Imma walk down to the bodega down the street and pay cash for the cheapest, nastiest booze I can find and you can explain that to my wife."
Sang-mi: "I've got it right here, Minister."
Song: "Good. Straight up, and call the Air Force Chief of Staff and tell him I want to talk to his zoomie ass most quick smart. Thanks."
He sighs, and stares out the window as he waits for his drink.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Not doing it.

I thought I'd revisit this post from a year ago, in which I noted that:
"...the GOP in it's present incarnation really offers only two policy "things":

1. Working for open oligarchy, and
2. Comfort for white nationalism, Christian theocracy, and fear of the "others" (whether those others are gay, or brown, or Muslim)

I know that sounds harsh, but...that's really it, isn't it? It's all tax cuts and privatize and deregulate and unshackle Wall Street and shove the homos back in the closet and no abortion and open carry everywhere. "Small government"? Sure...unless you count the DoD. Or the NSA.

There's no GOP vision of a future United States that doesn't really come down to a return to the Gilded Age, is there?"
For which I was castigated as "...unpersuasive and mean spirited."


Now that we've had a year of open corruption on a scale that would have made U.S. Grant pale with disbelief and Warren Harding green with envy, a year of fire and fury, blowhard tweets and idiotic name-calling, a year of selling off the national patrimony to crony capitalists, of trying to yank medical insurance away from poor people, a year that included a tax measure that prohibits you from deducting your home mortgage, medical expenses, state taxes, and what your kid's teacher spends on crayons but lets me deduct the cost of my private jet, a year dominated by a federal government run by people who seem to have carefully watched the vile doings of every cartoon villain ever scripted and then turned to Skeletor and announced "Here. Hold my beer."

Is there really anyone who still thinks I was "unpersuasive and meanspirited"?

Jesus wept. Yeah, in one sense I WAS unpersuasive. I honestly didn't think these people could be this appalling. Yep. I didn't see that coming. I didn't think that it was possible for a grown human with a functioning hindbrain to WANT to act like a fucking cartoon movie villain.

And here's the thing.

It's pretty damn easy to destroy a social contract. And that's what's going on right now.

For about fifty years we lived with the social contract hammered out by the New Deal. The wealthy would give up a little of their wealth, the middle class a little less, and in return we'd get labor and social peace. Since the old and sick didn't have to fear dying penniless they could stop fighting the ownership class' greed. So our country still had very few rich and many poor, it just wasn't quite so vicious about it. The sort of riots and strikes and radicalism that tore the country in the 1880s and 1890s and Teens and Twenties. The sort of thing that produced the Russian Revolution and then Italian fascism and then the Spanish Republicans.

And that's going away now, folks, if the people who run things in D.C. have any say about it.

You and I are going back to the future, to a New Gilded Age where the rich do what they can and the poor suffer what they must.

And you know what's so infuriating about that?

It's that that's not even good for the idiot plutocrats that are pushing it.

You think "regulations" are the problem? Try going back to the time before the Clean Air and Water Acts, when you could dump anything and everything into the air and water and not give a shit who it poisoned.

You think financial regulations are a problem? Try going back to financial "panics" every other decade, as used to slam the nation in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

I'm here to warn you. I'm here to be MORE unpersuasive and meanspirited. Dammit, people, this isn't just a political disagreement. The Trumpkins and their allies have turned out to be far worse than anyone every thought they could be. They are demolishing the very society built on the social contract of the New Deal. They're doing the goddamn best to return the U.S. to the social, economic, and political environment of 1890.

And if that happens, assuming that rising seas and violent storms don't do the job first, we're going back to a time that almost none of us can conceive and no living American remembers.

But for those of us not in the two-yacht family I can tell you - it was NOT a good time for us.

I wish I had faith that We the People would recognize this and band together to defeat and destroy it. But then I see that damn near two-fifths of my "fellow citizens" think that the Tangerine Toddler, Crock-o-bile Dumm-ee, is doing a heckuva job and I despair.

As we used to say about Dubya's Great Mess-o-Potamia:

Unless We the People, unless you and me and him and her get together and kick these damn Trumpkins dead square in the ass, we are all so, so, SO fucked.

Monday, November 13, 2017

CRS Syndrome

Before he died, former LTC Hackworth used to rant occasionally about the U.S. Army's CRS problem. "CRS" stood for "Can't Remember Shit", and it was symbolic for the Army's predilection for forgetting the hard-earned lessons of previous wars. A perfect example that jumped out at me when I read about it was the troubles along the MSRs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was almost as if the services had stuffed the hard lessons learned about convoys in Vietnam down the memory hole and had to re-learn the same lessons all over again, at the usual cost in blood and treasure.

Here's another lesson from Vietnam we seem to have forgotten; sending Americans to fight small dirty wars in small, corrupt places in the unpaved parts of the world don't result in those shitholes becoming less corrupt but, rather, in corrupting the Americans.

As Charlie Pierce points out, this CRS problem goes all the way back to the beginnings. In his hearings on the Vietnam War, SEN Fulbright said:
“Under our system, Congress, and especially the Senate, shares responsibility with the President for making our Nation's foreign policy. This war, however, started and continues as a Presidential war in which the Congress, since the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin episode, has not played a significant role.

The purpose of these hearings is to develop the best advice and greater public understanding of the policy alternatives available and positive congressional action to end American participation in the war."
Given their recent enthusiasm in kiboshing any sort of limits on what they see as the open-ended 2001 AUMF the Trumpkins have neither interest in nor worries about not limiting this endless whack-a-muj game the U.S. has been playing for 16 years now.

Somewhere in a dingy bar in Valhalla Sun-tzu reminds Dave Hackworth what he said about the problems inherent in fighting long wars, and Hack replies that, no shit, Sherlock, it is for that exact reason that the dopeslap was invented, and that the only problem is that nobody in the U.S. government seems willing to use it on the dumb bastards than need it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Da Nang

Lots of news focus on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Viet-Nam.  Most of it seems to be on Trump/Putin talking and what will come of that. 

I am more interested on any one-on-one meeting between Trần Đại Quang and Xi Jinping.  Will they bury the hatchet on what the Viets call Biển Đông (East Sea) and the Chinese call their South Sea?  Same for any meets between Xi and President Duterte, Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia, and the Sultan of Brunei.  And what is Trump's position on the Spratly and Paracel Islands?  Did he use his 'art of the deal' when he was in Peking to offer Xi something he could not refuse?

But in any case I'm happy that Donnie finally made it to Viet-Nam.  I suppose his heel spurs have been cured.  Looks like they are staying here:

Better quarters than what we had 50 years ago at LZ Baldy or Charlie Ridge.