About greg

Just another bozo on the bus.

so far

Over the last few days, three bits of seemingly unrelated news caught my attention and sort of took up residence in my brain.

News Bit the First: After two years of investigation, a Trump Justice Department inquiry launched by vindictive Republicans into allegations of 1) financial corruption by the Clinton Foundation, 2) criminal activity by Hillary Clinton in the Uranium One deal, and 3) still another probe into the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server was quietly ended. No report was issued, no announcement was made, no comment was given — the investigation just ended with the conclusion that there was absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing.

News Bit the Second: There’s been an ongoing social media discussion about the reluctance of men — particularly men who would be casting votes for Academy Award nominations — to see Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women. Why? Apparently because it’s about women. Apparently because these men feel the male characters in the film are ‘two-dimensional, largely ornamental and relegated to the background.’

News Bit the Third: It appears Senator Bernie Sanders may have said — or somehow suggested — that a woman couldn’t win a presidential election in 2020. It seems highly unlikely to me that Bernie would have said that — or that he would believe that to be the case — but the guy tends be blunt and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he said something that could easily be interpreted that way. In a way, it doesn’t matter if Bernie actually said it or not. The sad fact is, the electability of women shouldn’t even be a matter of discussion. But it is.

Obviously, these three seemingly unrelated bits of news aren’t unrelated at all. I don’t need to point out what they have in common. I don’t need to say it’s incredibly stupid that it’s 2020 and women are still dealing with this shit.

But I DO want to say that it’s impressive as hell that they ARE dealing with it. That Hillary Clinton could get three million more votes than Trump, still lose the election, and yet still have the strength of character to continue to speak out. That Greta Gerwig can make an absolutely amazing film, get denied a Best Director nomination, and yet still have the strength of character to celebrate the actors in her film and their nominations. That Elizabeth Warren could create the idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, be denied the Director’s position by Republicans, run for a Senate seat against the incumbent Republican, win the seat, was warned by Mitch McConnell NOT to read a letter by Coretta Scott King, read it anyway, got formally rebuked (“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted”) and still had the strength of character to run for president.

I am astonished that so many women have continued to stand firm, speak out, and fight for fundamental fairness despite living in a culture that is punishing, denigrating, often hateful, shaming, and for some reason even denies them pockets in their clothes.

Pockets, for fuck’s sake. How women find the patience to resist burning it all down is beyond me. And they could do it. If every woman — every low paid office clerk, every admin assistant, every receptionist, every woman executive, every housekeeper and baker and welder and doctor and truck driver and police officer — if every woman decided to not go to work for one day, the entire world would come to an abrupt halt. If they decided not to go to work for two days, whole economies would collapse.

But nevertheless, they persist. They do go to work. Every goddamn day.

So far.

stinks

Just pointing out the obvious here, but Comrade Trump always does what he accuses other folks of doing. There’s this from this morning:

And there’s this from Friday in an interview (on FOX News, which is the only place Trump feels safe enough to give an interview) with Laura Ingraham:

“Here we are, split-second timing, executed like nobody’s seen in many, many years, on Soleimani? Can you imagine they want us to call out and speak to crooked corrupt politician Adam Schiff? ‘Oh, Adam, we have somebody that we’ve been trying to get for a long time. We have a shot at him right now. Could we meet so that we can get your approval, Adam Schiff?’ And he’d say, ‘Well, let’s do it in a couple of days.’ ‘Oh, OK, let’s wait a couple…’ It doesn’t work that way, number one. Number two, they leak. Anything we give will be leaked immediately.”

He accuses Schiff of ‘totally making up a conversation’ but does exactly that his ownself. Hell, he even did it during the interview with Ingraham.

“I think Nancy Pelosi and Schiff — you know, because he’s corrupt. I mean here’s the guy stands up at the United States Congress and repeats a conversation — except it was a fraud, he made up a conversation.”

This Trump guy, he’s a textbook case of psychological projection. Textfuckingbook. Seriously. Here: a defence mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.

Is that not Comrade Donald J. Trump? It so totally is. Even our old friend King James went on about this. “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Okay, somebody would probably have to explain to Trump what a ‘mote’ is, but still.

I am so tired of this guy. It’s going to take a long time to get rid of the stink of Trump. A long time.

we can’t

Y’all already know this, but I’m going to repeat it just so we’re clear. Comrade POTUS Donald Trump ordered the targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani, a high-ranking military officer of Iran — a nation with whom the US is not at war — during the general’s public visit to Iraq, which offered no objection to his visit. The question we have to ask, of course, is this: why in the hell did Trump decide to have Soleimani assassinated?

Trump initially said Soleimani had to be killed because “he was planning new attacks on American targets.” Attacks, plural. He repeated this claim, and got more specific, at his campaign rally in Ohio last night. Comrade Trump said this:

“Soleimani was actively planning new attacks and he was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad, but we stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold. So at my direction, the United States military eliminated Qasem Soleimani and ended his rampage through not only that part of the world but much bigger parts of the world he was all over.”

Multiple attacks on more than one embassy. Members of Congress (in both political parties) who were eventually briefed on the assassination have said there was no mention of any plans by Soleimani to attack any embassy. Still, Trump is making the claim — and the claim makes him look decisive and determined and concerned about the welfare of US embassy staff. It’s almost certainly a lie.

Another take on the assassination is buried deep in a Wall Street Journal article. It offers some uglier insight into Comrade Trump’s decision-making process:

Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

This makes Trump’s decision to have Soleimani assassinated sound like nothing more than an attempt to shore up support in his coming impeachment trial. It’s probably true.

It’s barely making the news. This is the United States we live in now. We have a president who almost certainly had a foreign military leader assassinated in order to strengthen his political situation in Congress, and because Trump is who he is and because Republicans have protected him for so very long, it’s just another day. We were this close to a shooting war…and Republicans just shrug it off.

The United States used to be a fairly decent country. Those days are gone, and sometimes it seems like we’ll never get them back. It makes you want to sit in a dark room and mope. But, of course, we can’t.

Well, we can. But no, we can’t. We can’t. We really can’t.

a thin sheet of hate

It was explained to me, in very polite terms I should note, that I was completely wrong when I said modern evangelicals supporting Trump were promoting “a gospel of white supremacist rage and victimhood.” The evidence that I was wrong?

If you look at the Evangelicals For Trump website, you’ll see a number of African-American and Latino models sporting Trump products specifically designed for African-American and Latino supporters.

I’m willing to be convinced that I might be wrong. I’ve been wrong a LOT in my long, semi-wicked life, so I’m open to the possibility that I might be wrong about this. I did as I was asked to do. I looked at the Evangelicals for Trump website.

Okay, granted, the landing page (is that what it’s called?) shows a sea of white faces with one singularly Aryan-looking kid. But that’s just one photo. And besides, the proof I was told I’d find was about the products being sold. And hey, right there in the upper right hand corner is a ‘SHOP’ button. So I clicked on it.

Sure enough, a couple of pages in you can find black and Latinx models dressed in Trumpwear with slogans like ‘Black Voices for Trump’ or ‘Latinos for Trump’. There were also Trump straws (pack of 10 for US$15) and ‘Get Over It’ t-shirts and camouflage dog bandanas and Trump/Pence snowflake wrapping paper and ‘Women for Trump’ ball caps and Trump/Pence playing cards and Space Force bumper stickers and…

Wait. Snowflake wrapping paper? Space Force bumper stickers? How does any of that fit into evangelism? Trump plastic straws? I don’t get the religious angle here. So I went back to the landing page and read this description of the site:

Evangelicals for Trump will engage the Christian community to help re-elect President Donald J. Trump in 2020. Through re-affirming support for President Trump, evangelicals across the country will work to deliver a second term – ensuring that pro-life initiatives, religious freedom, and the appointment of conservative judges are kept as a top priority for four more years.

Well, okay. I know that ‘pro-life’ is code for ‘anti-abortion’ so I can see the religious angle in that, even if I don’t agree with it and think it’s hypocritical. I’m also aware that ‘religious freedom’ as it’s commonly used by evangelicals means the promotion of a specific style of Christianity along with the quiet, indirect suppression of non-Christian religions. I don’t think that’s very Christian, but it’s certainly ‘religious’. But conservative judges? That’s entirely political.

Why, on a website devoted to evangelical supporters, isn’t there any mention of more traditional Christian values? Why don’t we see anything about “Love your neighbor as yourself” or “If a man strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek” or “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Those are pretty fundamental tenets of Christianity.

Evangelical Christians claim they are called to spread the gospel — the teachings of a person who called on them to care about the poor, the suffering, and the outcast. Yet there’s no mention of the poor, the suffering and the outcast here. There’s no mention of morality or civic virtue. There’s only merchandise to be moved.

Why is this site promoting Trump rather than evangelicalism or Christianity? The answer is found in the small print.

This website, mobile application or other digital or online application or service is operated by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

Evangelicals for Trump isn’t a religious site; it’s a political site. It’s got nothing to do with Christianity or evangelicalism; it’s only about raising campaign money. Yes, there are black and Latino models wearing Trumpwear, just as my critic claimed. But they’re not included because modern evangelism supports diversity. They’re included because Trump will sell anything to anybody if he can make a profit off it.

Here’s a sad, ugly truth: Donald Trump corrupts everything he touches. He’s corrupted the Republican Party; he’s corrupted the Christian evangelist movement. There’s no better metaphor for that than Trump/Pence Snowflake wrapping paper.

Trump claims he made it safe for Christians to say ‘merry Christmas’ which is a lie on a massive scale. His followers insult liberals by calling them ‘snowflakes’ to suggest they’re delicate. The only reason this wrapping paper exists is so Trump supporters can believe in the illusion that they’re somehow ‘winning’ by insulting liberals. That’s about as far from the spirit of Christmas as you can possibly get — which makes it perfectly on brand for both Trump and modern evangelicalism.

Wrap religion in a thin sheet of hate and sell it to the gullible. There it is.

doesn’t make sense

Somebody explain this to me. On 27 December, a rocket attack on a base in or near Kirkuk killed an American — a contractor for the Department of Defense — and wounded a bunch of US troops. The US responded with air strikes against Iranian-sponsored militias, which killed 25 people. That pissed off Iranian sympathizers in Baghdad, who proceeded to partially overrun the American embassy. And that is apparently what led Comrade Trump to blow the shit out of Qasem Soleimani.

Iranian militants

Okay, that’s all stupid in itself. But that isn’t what I want explained. THIS is what I want explained to me. On 5 January, an attack by al-Shabaab on a base in Kenya (on the border with Somalia) killed three Americans — two DOD contractors and a member of the US military — and destroyed about US$500 million worth of aircraft and high-tech surveillance equipment. The US responded with a strongly-worded commitment “to pursue the perpetrators of the attack.” In other words, the US basically said they’d just continue to do their job.

al-Shabaab militants.

That’s what I want explained. Why one attack by Islamic militants (which resulted in a single US death) sparked such massive retaliation while a similar attack by Islamic militants (which resulted in more deaths and more destruction) resulted in nothing more than a further commitment to fulfilling the mission.

I know the Trump trump administration won’t truthfully explain anything to anybody. It’s silly of me to expect them to explain this. If an explanation exists, I suspect it’s stupid. Like, say, Trump wants headlines; the news media pays attention to Iraq and Iran; nobody really cares who gets killed in Africa; Trump wants/needs/demands more and bigger headlines.

I want this to make sense. I know it won’t make sense. But I still want it to.

what we were afraid of

This is exactly what we knew would happen, what we were afraid of. We knew there’d come a time when Trump would step into a pile of his own shit, and we were afraid he’d ignore any sensible advice from experts and make uninformed and impulsive decisions that would make matters worse.

But Jesus suffering fuck. We actually believed there would BE experts around him to offer that sensible advice. It never occurred to most of us that Trump would scrape away every upper level career professional from almost every federal agency. The ones he hasn’t fired have resigned.

And you guys, they’re still resigning. These are folks who most of us have never heard of, folks who’ve spent their careers doing the hard, unrecognized work of gaining expertise in fields we don’t even know exist, and doing it in order to insure the US makes sound policy decisions. Folks like Tina Kaidanow, a career Foreign Service member who is an expert in Russian and Eurasian affairs. She resigned last week, the fifth senior official to leave in the last seven days. Randall Schriver, a big hat in Asia policy — gone. Jimmy Stewart (yeah, that his actual name), the top guy in charge of personnel and readiness — gone. Steven Walker, a leader in DARPA — gone. Kari Bingen, the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, the second-highest ranking civilian intelligence expert — gone. That’s just in the last week.

In their place, Trump has installed a cadre of evangelical yahoos eager for the Rapture and a bunch of ideological fuckwits who evaluate policy by how much it pisses off liberals. Republicans who ought to be guiding the president have abandoned calm, thoughtful, reasoned policy decisions. That leaves us with an emotionally unstable, willfully ignorant, recklessly impulsive, and easily manipulated president making rash decisions based apparently on a toxic combination of panicked self-interest and a desperate need to feel powerful and in control.

And you guys, I really hate to say this, but an emotionally unstable, willfully ignorant, recklessly impulsive, and easily manipulated president making rash decisions based apparently on a toxic combination of panicked self-interest and a desperate need to feel powerful and in control is the BEST CASE SCENARIO.

The worst case scenario? It sounds like a bad conspiracy novel, but it’s frighteningly possible. The worst case scenario is that Vladimir Putin has some sort of leverage over Trump and is using it to quietly reduce (or eliminate) US influence in the Middle East and Eurasia. That creates a socio-political power vacuum that Russia is happy to fill. That scenario sounds completely fucking paranoid, but the scary fact is that almost every policy Trump has implemented in the region has been detrimental to US interests and beneficial to Russia.

The really bad news? It’s all going to get worse. Maybe much worse. At some point Iran will respond violently to the assassination of Soleimani. The impeachment process is going to make Trump even more emotionally labile, as will the financial investigations into his sketchy business dealings. As will his general anxiety over the 2020 election.

In fact, I suspect by the time he appears before Congress to deliver the State of the Union speech, he’ll be so keyed up anything could happen. He might read a tightly rehearsed speech; he might get angry, go off-script, and deliver an obscenity-laden rant about how unfairly he’s treated; he might refuse to give the speech altogether; he might show up and bite the head off a live chicken.

These are weird, scary times. We expected weird scary times. We were afraid Trump would behave in weird, scary ways. This is exactly what we were afraid of.

there will be a blood price to pay for this

I’m not at all sad that Qasem Soleimani is dead. As the leader of the Quds Force, he’s been responsible for a LOT of deaths, including those of US troops. But I’m outraged and alarmed by how and why he was assassinated.

First, this act seems a clear violation of Executive Order 12036, which includes a prohibition against assassination. “No person employed by or acting on behalf
of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in,
assassination.” You can call it a ‘targeted killing’ but that’s just a polite way of saying assassination.

Second, even if you’re willing to violate that Executive Order, openly assassinating the leader of the Quds Force is deliberately provocative. We’re talking 10-20 thousand special ops troops who specialize in unconventional warfare and intelligence activities. These guys are extremely loyal to Soleimani, and they know how to conduct terror operations. The Quds Force is capable of striking targets in the US mainland, but are FAR more likely to take vengeance on more convenient targets. That means every member of the US armed services located in the Middle East. And every person who works for any US agency in the region. And any US non-governmental organization. And any US businessperson working in the area. And their families. I don’t know who the most likely targets would be — but if I were considering retaliation, I’d set up coordinated attacks on US special forces commanders.

Third, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk from experts at terror operations, it’s exceedingly stupid to commit the assassination in the capital city of a third nation. That necessarily embroils that nation in the conflict, which is especially stupid when your embassy in that third nation has been mobbed by protesters for days. Iran and Iraq aren’t natural allies, but this assassination will make them both more hostile toward the US. What makes this even worse is that the US no longer has any real allies in the region — and it’s made doubly worse by the fact that Comrade Trump recently betrayed the only allies the US could count on (the Kurds). Nobody in the region has any reason to trust the US. Sadly, nobody on the globe has any reason to trust the US to keep its word about anything.

Fourth, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk from experts at terror operations, AND you’re willing to do this in a third nation in a region in which you have no allies, it’s wildly irresponsible and risky to do it after you’ve spent three years gutting your diplomatic corps and undermining your intelligence agencies. Even if other nations COULD trust the US, we’ve replaced most of our professional diplomats and intelligence analysts with political hacks and amateurs.

Finally, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk, AND you’re willing to do this in a region in which you have no allies, AND you’ve spent three years trashing your diplomatic corps and intelligence agencies, you should NOT have two different US agencies giving two different reasons for committing that assassination. Did we assassinate Soleimani to A) deter future Iranian aggression (as the Pentagon says) or B) prevent an imminent attack by Iranian terrorists (as the State Department says)? Pick a fucking story and stick with it.

It’s all so very sad and so unnecessary. The sad and terrifying truth is this: there will almost certainly be a blood price to pay for this recklessness. It won’t be paid by Trump’s family, it won’t be paid by the children of members of Congress or the children of the wealthiest clans in the US. That blood price will most likely be paid by poor and working class kids who enlisted in the military after graduating from high school.

That’s the ugly truth haunts me more than anything. I’m not at all sad that Qasem Soleimani was killed. But I’m sick at heart that his assassination in this manner will almost certainly end up killing kids in uniform.