john kenna and three spoilers

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed legislation to remove the statues of leaders and soldiers of the Confederate States of America from the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol. The vote was 285 to 120. The 120 members of Congress who voted to keep the statues of Confederates were all Republicans.

(SPOILER #1: The Confederate States of America was an illegal and unrecognized breakaway entity of eleven US states that, from February 8, 1861, to May 9, 1865, fought in a bloody, armed rebellion against the legitimate government of the United States of America in an effort to maintain an economic system grounded in human bondage.)

The statues include:

CSA President Jefferson Davis — owned 113 slaves; believed the right to own black slaves created the foundation for white equality (I’m not making that up).
CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens — owned at least 30 slaves; said the Confederacy was built upon “the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”
CSA Gen. Joseph Wheeler — owned as many as 300 slaves; in Dec. of 1864, when hundreds of liberated slaves followed Union Gen. Sherman’s forces on their ‘March to the Sea’, Wheeler’s troops came across app. 600 former slaves stranded by US forces on the banks of the Ebenezer Creek — they killed and drowned many, captured and resold the rest back into slavery.
CSA Gen. James Z. George — owned app. 30 slaves; believed African slaves should be treated ‘fairly’ but weren’t capable of ‘responsible citizenship’; changed Mississippi’s post-war constitution to enable illiterate white men to vote while excluding illiterate blacks.
CSA Gen. Wade Hampton III — owned app. 3000 slaves; post-war he was elected governor of South Carolina with help of the Red Shirts militia, which used violence to suppress black voting; an estimated 150 black freedmen were murdered during the campaign.
CSA Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith — owned an unknown number of slaves, one of whom (likely his half-brother) accompanied him as a servant during the Civil War (and later became Jacksonville, Florida’s first black doctor); Smith was the last CSA general to surrender.
CSA Col. Zebulon Baird Vance — owned 18 slaves; believed emancipation of black slaves was a threat to white purity; said the mind “recoils in disgust and loathing from the prospect of intermingling the quick blood of the European with the putrid stream of African barbarism.”
CSA soldier John E. Kenna — owned 0 slaves; joined the Confederate Army at age 16, after the war became a politician noted for improving the Kanawha River navigation system and defending the president’s power to fire executive branch officials.
CSA soldier Edward Douglass White — owned app. 60 slaves; after the war he took part in the Battle of Liberty Place–an attempted insurrection against the Reconstruction state government of Louisiana by the Crescent City White League, a paramilitary terrorist organization made up largely of Confederate veterans; they occupied the statehouse, armory, and downtown for three days before arrival of Federal troops that restored the elected government; he was eventually appointed to the SCOTUS, where he voted to uphold Jim Crow laws stripping black Americans of civil rights.

You may be wondering 1) why the National Statuary Hall even has statues of men who betrayed their nation in the defense of slavery, and 2) why anybody would support keeping the statues of traitors in the Capitol Building (especially after that building had been assaulted by an insurrectionist mob attempting to disrupt the legitimate election of a new president). The answer to both of those questions is as follows: a lot of Republican politicians are massive assholes and/or racists who are okay with folks overthrowing the legitimate government if it will put Republicans in charge.

(SPOILER #2: 121 Republicans in the House voted also against certifying Arizona’s electoral outcome and 138 House Republicans voted against certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral outcome even though both states certified their election results as legitimate.)

I’m glad the statues are being removed…but I’m also a tad troubled by the inclusion of John Kenna. The resolution pertains to statues of “any individual who served voluntarily at any time as a member of the Armed Forces of the Confederate States of America or of the military of a State while the State was in open rebellion against the United States.” And yeah, that’s John Kenna, right there.

John E. Kenna

Here’s why I’m troubled. Kenna was just a grunt. An enlisted soldier. But his statue is being treated as equally offensive as that of the president of the Confederacy and the military leaders of the CSA. Kenna was only 16 and had little education when he joined the CSA, he never held any high military rank, neither he nor any of his family owned slaves, there’s no written record of him promoting slavery or white supremacy before or after the war. But his statue is being given the same treatment as the statue of Jefferson Davis.

Did Kenna fight on the wrong side of the war? Absolutely. But he was just a kid. Did he fight against the legitimate government of the United States? Yep, he did. But he was just a kid. Did he fight in favor of an economic system that dehumanized black people? Yes, he surely did. But he was just a kid. Did he believe slavery was right? I don’t know…maybe. Probably, since he grew up with it and didn’t know any better because he was just a kid. My guess–and I admit I have nothing at all to base this on–is that Kenna had no more sense of what he was fighting for or against than the kids who fought in Vietnam. My guess is John Kenna went where he was told to go, shot who he was told to shoot at, and did what he thought was his duty.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it. You make choices, even as a kid. And you own those choices, even if you were acting out of ignorance. John Kenna volunteered to put on the uniform and fight for the Confederacy. So his statue has to go. Has to.

John E. Kenna

But we don’t have cheer for it. We can celebrate the removal of the leaders of the Confederacy, the men who knew what they were doing and why. But when we remove Kenna’s statue, we need to remember the reality that enlisted personnel are tools that our leaders use for their own purposes.

(SPOILER #3: Think about John Kenna when you hear that South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has authorized a Republican billionaire to fund the deployment of her National Guard troops to the Mexican border at the request of Texas Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott.)

freedoms and other stuff

Praise be, Ammon Bundy has just announced he’s running to be the governor of the great state of Idaho. Well, to be fair, he first announced he was running to be governor of Idaho about a month ago–but the Idaho Deep State tried to prevent him. They insisted that in order to hold a high office in Idaho–hell, in order to even attempt to hold a high office in Idaho–you first have to be registered as a voter in Idaho.

It’s that sort of communist bullshit that keeps good American patriots from being in government, which is corrupt anyway. But hey, Ammon jumped through their commie lesbian hoops and registered to vote, and now he’s really truly no-shit running for governor. In his announcement, Ammon told his followers,

“I’m running for governor because I’m sick and tired of all of this political garbage just like you are. I’m tired of our freedoms being taken from us and I’m tired of the corruption that is rampant in our state government.”

Without our freedoms, America would be just like China or Iran or Canada. Without American freedoms people like Ammon’s daddy wouldn’t be able to graze cattle on land he didn’t own for free. I mean, his poor daddy would be expected to pay grazing fees to the US government, just like the other 20,000 ranchers in the area. That ain’t right. If you make the Bundy family pay grazing fees, you might just as well open up high school bathrooms to pedophiles and boys in dresses playing girl’s basketball.

Ammon Bundy has opinions and a cowboy hat.

And Ammon, he stood up for Idaho’s freedoms time and again. When the government came to move his daddy’s cattle off government land in Nevada (which, okay, is not in Idaho), Ammon blocked their way with an ATV. They tasered poor Ammon, just like he was black or maybe an Indian. Tasered him twice. Ammon, he was so soul-hurt by the way his own government treated him, that he went on Fox News and told the nation about it. He said,

“If someone came in, busted into my house and abused my children, and so I call the cops, they don’t respond, and then I take them to court. I show up at the courtroom, look on the stand, and it’s the very person that abused my children looking down at me in a black robe. How in the world are we going to get justice in that court?”

Okay, it was cattle and not children. And okay, the cattle weren’t abused. And yeah, okay, it was federal land, not Bundy’s house. And okay, maybe it was federal land officers and not local cops. And it was the feds who took them to court, not Ammon. And sure, this was in Nevada not Idaho, but freedoms is freedoms. How can we expect justice from a government like that? That’s a government that will ram Critical Race Theory down the throats of Christian bakers.

Ammon also defended Idaho’s freedoms when he and a couple dozen armed fellow patriots seized control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon (which, okay, is also not in Idaho) to protest the conviction of two men who’d committed arson on federal lands. Okay, maybe those two men didn’t actually want Ammon defending their freedoms, especially by an armed occupation of federal lands that weren’t even the same federal lands they’d committed arson on, but sometimes a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

Ammon Bundy is a man (and he has rights, just like Commander Waterford), and what he and his fellow patriots had to do was seize and occupy a federal wildlife refuge, break into the refuge’s safes, steal money and cameras and computers, desecrate some so-called ‘culturally significant’ sites, (which were just graves of Indians who’d been dead a long time) because freedom isn’t free. When a man and his armed buddies can’t spend 41 days protecting freedom on a federal facility, you might just as well put Hillary and AOC in charge and make us all pay dues to Antifa.

Ammon Bundy standing up for freedom by sitting down in a comfy chair.

And that’s not all. Ammon also defended Idaho’s freedoms–all of them–by protesting the phony Covid hoax mask mandate and refusing to leave the Idaho capitol building (which is totally in Idaho), after which the Idaho Deep State arrested him and charged (probably in violation of the Constitution) with trespassing and resisting arrest. And if that’s not bad enough, when he was supposed to be tried, they wouldn’t even let him into the courthouse, because he patriotically refused to wear a mask. Ammon was then banned from entering the Idaho Capitol for a year. Which was probably just a fake false flag ploy to try to prevent him from becoming governor and keeping Idaho safe from BLM homo-terrorists.

But now that he’s registered to vote, they can’t stop him from running for governor. Ammon promises to “bring that same vigor and willingness to stand for what is right [that he’s shown in the past] to the state of Idaho.” He pledges that as governor, ain’t nobody going to “take away gun rights, freedom of religion and parental rights” from patriotic Idahoans. Idaho needs a simple rancher (and okay, Ammon’s not technically a rancher, but only because he doesn’t own a ranch and doesn’t own any livestock and technically owns a truck repair company and an apple orchard, but he does wear a cowboy hat) to show them the way to prosperity and success. Praise be.

compromise? what is this ‘compromise’?

I refuse to believe Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, is as naive as he presents himself. I mean, a couple of weeks ago he was (or at least he said he was) confident the Senate would approve a bipartisan plan to create an independent commission to examine the 1/6 insurrection. He actually said out loud that he believed there would be “ten good, solid patriots” among the Senate Republicans who’d vote for the commission.

Was he right? Nope.

This week Manchin proposed a ‘compromise’ on voting rights. Democrats, of course, want sweeping legislative protections designed to make elections secure and accessible to every eligible voter. Republicans want legislation designed to make elections limited as much as possible to Republican voters; Democrats can go fuck themselves.

It’s hard to come up with a compromise between those two positions. But Manchin, bless his heart, tried. And he actually cobbled something together that was inadequate, but at least offered a semi-reasonable starting position. He pared the Democratic wishlist down to the bone, and added a few points that Republicans advocated. You can read the actual text of the compromise, but here are the main points of his plan.

The Good Stuff:
— Election Day would be a public holiday. Everybody gets the day off to go vote.
— At least 15 days (including two weekends) of continuous early voting in federal elections
— Automatic voter registration at the DMV for citizens, allow people to opt out if they didn’t want to appear on the voting rolls
— A ban on partisan gerrymandering, districts decided by computer models
— At least 7 days notification of a change in polling location

The Not-Good Stuff:
— Doesn’t require no-excuse mail-in balloting
— Doesn’t require convenient ballot drop boxes for early voting
— Doesn’t prevent states from requiring extra ID security measures for people requesting mail-in ballots
— Doesn’t require a paper ballot backup

It’s…well, it’s pretty much what Manchin claimed he wanted; it’s a compromise. Not a good compromise, but a compromise. It includes provisions which both Democrats and Republicans want, and provisions to which both parties object. You know…a compromise. So of course, Republicans have rejected it out of hand. They rejected it because it’s a compromise–and because Manchin himself is being a horse’s ass about the filibuster, the Republicans don’t have to compromise on anything.

Senator Joe Manchin — will he prove Aristotle was right?

It MUST be clear even to Joe Manchin that the GOP is no longer interested in representative democracy. Again, I don’t think Manchin can be accused of naivete. At this point in time–and frankly, this was obvious during the Obama administration–to believe Congressional Republicans have any interest at all in compromise or bipartisanship is NOT naive. Naivete at that level is tantamount to stupidity.

Aristotle (yeah, I’m calling in the Greeks) believed the function of the brain was to cool the blood–that it wasn’t involved in the thinking process. Joe Manchin may provide an argument in Aristotle’s favor.

just when you thought it was safe…

It’s the beginning of summer on Amity Island, DC. Beach weather. After our pandemic year, we’re all looking to relax and take it easy, to get our lives back to something like normal. Young people, feeling invulnerable, hold an impromptu beach party. Drinking. Flirting. Playing guitars. Skinny dipping in legislative waters.

The next morning, the remains of a lithe and vibrant young election result was found washed up on the beach. Noted legislative expert Dr. E. Warren examines the cadaver.

“The height and weight of the election result can only be estimated from the partial remains. It has been severed in mid-thorax. There are no major organs remaining. May I have a glass of water please? Right arm has been severed with massive tissue loss in the upper legislative musculature. This was no boating accident! This is what happens with the non-frenzy feeding of a large legislative-eating great white filibuster.”

This was no boating accident.

According to Dr. Warren, “The great white filibuster is attracted to the exact kind of splashing and activity that occurs whenever human beings go legislating civil rights. You cannot avoid it.” She convinces Police Chief Uncle Joe Biden to alert the Amity Island DC authorities. She tells them, “There are only two ways to deal with this problem: you either kill the animal, or cut off its food supply.” Chief Uncle Joe wants to warn the public, close the beach loopholes, keep democracy alive. But…

But Joe Manchin is the Mayor of Amity Island, DC. He says, “I don’t think either one of you are familiar with our problems! Amity is a political town. We need political dollars. I don’t think you appreciate the gut reaction people have to these things, Chief. It’s all psychological. You yell ‘Point of order!’ everybody says ‘Huh? What?’ You yell ‘Filibuster,’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.The beaches must stay open.”

The weekend comes. Political families gather at the beach. Adults are wearing sunscreen, sitting in beach chairs reading trashy novels, glancing up now and then at the young legislation playing noisily in the shallow water…the shallow water thirty feet from shore, where most filibuster attacks take place.

Da dum. Daaa dumm. Daaa dumm. DadumDadumDadum.

As Senators and ordinary citizens watch in horror, the filibuster strikes. An innocent Commission on the Insurrection is savagely attacked in full view of the people. Attacked, killed, dragged under the water, and eaten while politicians stand on the beach, helpless to stop the massive filibuster.

Sinema makes her presence known.

Their fears confirmed, Chief Uncle Joe consults a quirky, eccentric, grizzled local legislative renegade–Sinema. The chief asks Sinema to help find and kill the filibuster, to keep democracy safe. She says, “It ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills or naming a post office. This filibuster, swallow ya whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, down you go. I value my neck a lot more than that. I’ll find this filibuster for democracy, but I’ll catch it–and kill it–for attention.”

The three of them–Chief Uncle Joe, Dr. Warren, and Sinema–go out to sea in Sinema’s ancient fishing boat, the Ego. She’s unimpressed with Dr. Warren’s anti-filibuster cage. “You go inside the cage? Cage goes in the water? You go in the water? Filibuster’s in the water? Our filibuster?” She begins to sing, quirkily, “Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies….”

Chief Uncle Joe is put to work ladling chum–bloody bits of minor legislation and judicial nominations–into the water to attract the filibuster. And sure enough, it appears. It’s enormous, gargantuan, a monstrous bloody-toothed freak of nature–a ravenous, insatiable creature of mythical proportion.

Da dum. Daaa dumm. Daaa dumm. DadumDadumDadum.

The filibuster approaches.

We’re gonna need a bigger Congress,” Chief Uncle Joe says. Sinema sees the filibuster up close and is staggered. She turns to Chief Uncle Joe and says, “When you have a place that’s broken and not working, and many would say that’s the Amity Island DC today, I don’t think the solution is to erode the laws of nature. I think the solution is for islanders to change their behavior and begin to work together with the filibuster.

Sinema turns her boat around. They head back to the harbor, where Mayor Manchin is waiting at the dock. Sinema and Manchin stand by silently while Republicans prevent future beach closures. The filibuster is still out there, still hungry, still waiting just below the surface.

Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.

the moon is made of semi-soft brie

Because I have chores to do, I decided it was time to snorkel through the murky, fetid waters of FreeRepublic and see how those ‘patriots’ were responding to the Recent Welcome News (the RWN being that New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance has convened a grand jury to conduct a criminal investigation of Comrade Trump and the Trump Organization). I expected to see anger, resentment, victim-whinging, and threats (which, to be fair, is what I expect from FreeRepublic regardless of the issue). My expectations were met.

I found a discussion thread entitled The Left is Anticipating President Trump’s Indictment but They Haven’t Thought About What That Means to Everyone. It began with a long introduction involving (and I’m not making this up) the author’s role in helping “a very senior CIA officer” convert to Catholicism. Somehow, that conversion process included a discussion of politics, in which this alleged CIA officer supposedly said this:

“What separates us from the Third World in our politics…are the twin concepts of peaceful transfer of power via the ballot box rather than by military intervention and the unwritten and unspoken principle that victors do not use the police power of the state to punish the vanquished.”

And hey, aside from the slur against the so-called Third World, I agree. I thought perhaps somebody on Freep actually understood that trying to violently overturn the will of the voters is a bad thing. Silly rabbit. He was, in fact, talking about the ‘political persecution’ of Comrade Trump by a vindictive Socialist Biden administration. If Trump is indicted/arrested/tried/incarcerated, he argued, then the next Republican POTUS will necessarily feel obligated to persecute his Democratic predecessor.

The next Republican president will be under enormous pressure to take a similar Democrat scalp. To be on the safe side and make it hurt, hell [sic] probably have to take down several prominent Democrats.

The reasoning here is fascinating, in a perverse way. I mean, the underlying premise (that Comrade Trump is honest, decent, truthful, patriotic, faithful, loyal, and selfless AND actually won the 2020 election) is so flawed and blatantly false that the entire combustible world has to be turned upside down and inside out in order to support it. It’s like saying, “Since we all agree the moon is made of semi-soft brie, clearly the moon landings must be fake; a brie surface lacks the tensile strength to support the weight of the Apollo Lunar Lander.”

Comrade Trump expressing confidence he won’t be indicted.

The ‘patriots’ of Freep had a variety of responses. Some are certain Trump will never be indicted because he didn’t commit a crime. Some believe Vance lacks the cojones to indict Trump. Many are convinced (or claim to be convinced, or are eager to claim they’re convinced) that a Trump arrest will spark another Civil War. Some seem to believe Democrats want a Civil War because “[T]hey think they can win it…they hold, however tenuously, the presidency, and both houses of Congress (wait, wut?)…the FBI and CIA are aligned with them…the military is going full woke…they control almost all media outlets. And some argue nothing at all will happen if Trump finds himself in an orange jumpsuit, because too many Americans are cowards and the institutions of US democracy are already too corrupt.

Re: “The next Republican president will be under enormous pressure to take a similar Democrat scalp. To be on the safe side and make it hurt, hell probably have to take down several prominent Democrats.”
That is absurd. The GOP will do NOTHING – even if by some miracle we win a national election. The Trump DOJ, the Trump FBI, the Trump Intelligence Community, and the Trump appointed Judges, did NOTHING to stop the rampant criminality of the Democrat Party.

It’s simply impossible for these fuckwits to consider that Trump’s claims of election fraud were so obviously false that even his own appointees in the DOJ, the FBI, the IC, and on the courts couldn’t take them seriously. No, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Intelligence Community, and even those federal judges appointed by Trump–ALL of them must be completely corrupt, all of them must have turned their backs and stared vacantly into the sun while Democrats openly rigged the election in all 50 states in order to steal the election from Donald Trump. It’s obvious. There’s no other explanation.

Since the moon is made of semi-soft brie, the moon landings must be fake.

liz cheney? really? fuck.

See, I assumed that when Comrade Trump lost the election, a lot of Republicans in Congress would be secretly relieved to be rid of him. I thought they’d be glad to see the back of an ignorant, petulant, vindictive, corrupt, serial liar who was completely lacking in self-discipline, decency, and honesty, and who had absolutely no sense of loyalty to others.

That was before the January 6 insurrection. After Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, eager to disrupt the Electoral College vote, and apparently willing to assassinate Trump’s vice president, I believed a lot of Republicans would be openly relieved to be rid of him.

Lawdy, was I ever wrong. I mean, sure, I knew there’d be some weasels–unprincipled hacks like Gym Jordan and Matt Gaetz and…what’s the name of that Republican weasel from California? (Okay, I google ‘Republican weasel from California and Devin Nunes was the third result.) But I guess I believed that even the worst Republicans would still support the concept of the peaceful transition of power.

And hey, I was right about that. Sorta kinda. I mean, Liz Cheney IS one of the worst Republicans. She’s awful on just about any political metric you could name. Despite the fact that her sister Mary is a married lesbian, Liz opposed marriage equality. Like her daddy, the former vice president, Liz DOES support torture (yeah, okay, she calls it ‘enhanced interrogation’ but that shit is torture). She’s opposed to expanding voting rights, and supports most of the new state GOP anti-voting legislation. She voted to end the protection of grey wolves in the Endangered Species Act. She suggested the texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page were evidence of a coup and they should be investigated for treason. She voted WITH Trump 93% of the time. She is completely fucking awful.

And yet, Liz Cheney is being hailed as something of a hero. Why? Because she’s one of the few principled conservatives left in public office. Yes, her principles are appalling and backward and short-sighted–but she’s consistent with them. She did, after all, publicly condemn Trump when he abandoned our Kurdish allies when it was politically convenient for him (and for Russia). But at the same time, she suggested Trump’s decision was possible influenced by the Democrat’s attempt to impeach Trump (you know…that first time he was impeached).

This is the state of the modern Republican Party. One of the most horrible GOP politicians is also one of the few who holds consistent principles, and is the only real hope they have of remaining a viable (if selfish and amoral) political party rather than a loosely-affiliated collective of white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, religious bigots, and rabid fucking whackos (or is it ‘whackoes’?).

Next week the House Republicans will likely vote Liz Cheney out of any position of power. The week after that, there’s a better than average chance they’ll toss her in a stream to see if she floats (while chanting ‘Burn the witch!’). In the meantime, Republicans in Arizona are re-re-recounting presidential ballots, only this time they’re looking for evidence of bamboo, because somebody somewhere said it was possible that forty thousand fraudulent ballots were flown into Arizona from China, and that’s where bamboo grows. Jesus suffering fuck I am NOT MAKING THAT UP.

Help us, Cheney-wan Kenobi, you’re the GOP’s only hope.

forget it joe, it’s afghanistan

There are things you can fix, and things you can’t. There are things you have a moral obligation to try to fix even if you can’t possibly fix them. There are things you believe need to be fixed, but aren’t actually broken. There are fixable things you believe you understand, but you’re wrong. There are fixable things that are none of your fucking business regardless of what you think about them. And when you’re in the middle of things, it’s hard–probably impossible–to know which things are which.

There’s a movie about that. Chinatown. Released in 1974. (I’m going to ignore the legitimate issues about the director, Roman Polanski, because for once I’m going to try to stay tangent-free.) Here’s the backstory of one of the main characters, and a short precis of the film’s plot (and yes, that means there are spoilers).

The backstory–Jake Gittes has a small private investigator business in Los Angeles. He’s a former police detective who worked in the notoriously corrupt Chinatown neighborhood. He became disillusioned (all movie PIs are disillusioned; it’s the law) partly because he was working in a culture whose norms and rules he didn’t understand, partly because of the endemic corruption, and partly because the actions and motivations of the Powers That Be (in both the Chinese and political communities) were concealed from him and inscrutable to him. When his client, Evelyn Mulwray learns he’d been a detective in Chinatown, she asks:

Evelyn Mulwray: What were you doing there?
Jake Gittes: Working for the District Attorney.
Evelyn: Doing what?
Jake: As little as possible.
Evelyn: The District Attorney gives his men advice like that?
Jake: They do in Chinatown.

As little as possible. Jake’s disillusionment was compounded when he attempted to help a Chinese woman. He says, “I thought I was keeping someone from being hurt and actually I ended up making sure she was hurt.” That same scenario plays out in the main plot, much of which is taken up with a long, brilliant McGuffin. It draws Jake into a situation in which he feels an obligation to rescue his client, Evelyn, and her daughter from an ugly situation involving Evelyn’s father–a multimillionaire developer. Once again, Jake finds himself in a situation in which the rules/laws aren’t clear to him, in which he doesn’t understand the motives or actions of the people involved, and where his attempts to help result in more harm. Had he done ‘as little as possible’ things may have worked out better, even if the situation itself remained awful.

In the final scene, his client is dead, the bad guys win, and Jake is not only helpless, he’s also partly responsible. He sees her body, mutters “…as little as possible” and is ordered away from the scene by his former Chinatown detective partner. As he’s being led away, one of Jake’s current employees tells him, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

This scenario is being played out with President Uncle Joe and the decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. It’s a culture–actually, a number of inter-related ancient tribal cultures–we don’t understand, cultures that operate on traditional rules and norms unknown to us, with values and ethics that are often alien to us, with goals that are foreign to us. The US and our Western allies have been attempting to resolve our involvement relying on OUR cultural norms and OUR values to achieve OUR goals. Forget it, Joe. It’s Afghanistan.

We had a valid reason (at least in my opinion) to intrude militarily in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda had used that nation as a training ground and recruitment center for the 9/11 attacks. We had a legit reason to go after al Qaeda. After that, things got…loose.

The fact is, no foreign adventure has ever succeeded in Afghanistan. Alexander the Great, whose Macedonian army basically walked over every army they’d fought, got caught up in a long guerrilla-style war in Afghanistan. He never fully succeeded in pacifying the various Afghan tribes. Before he died, Alexander said, “May God keep you away from the venom of the cobra, the teeth of the tiger, and the revenge of the Afghans.” Various Muslim invasions succeeded in converting most Afghan tribes to Islam, but never completely controlled the area. The Mongols, under Genghis Khan, occupied much of the area for quite a long time, but their empire also fell apart. Nobody held the area as long as Timur the Great–but it’s worth noting that Timur was known as Timur the Lame (or ‘Tamerlane’ as he was called by Europeans) because of wounds he received fighting Afghan tribes. After Timur’s empire failed, the Sikhs attempt to invade Afghan territories several times without much success. The British invaded three times in the 19th and early 20th centuries–and got their asses kicked each time. Russia invaded three times–in 1929, 1930, and finally in 1979–and got their asses kicked each time.

And, of course, the US (and NATO) invaded in 2001. We know how that worked out.

But here’s the thing the Afghan tribes have always known and the thing foreign invaders never seem to figure out: the Afghans don’t have to win any wars; they only have to keep fighting at some level, and eventually the invaders–no matter who they are, or where they’re from, and how powerful they are–will leave. The various Afghan tribes are unconcerned about foreign military deadlines or the domestic political necessities of foreign powers or the costs those powers incur; they’re operating on God’s time, and they measure cost on a different scale.

President Uncle Joe’s decision to pull out troops is just an acknowledgment that Afghanistan is Chinatown. Doesn’t matter if we had a legit reason for being there, doesn’t matter if our long low-level war of occupation was a genuine attempt to help the Afghan peoples (and I’m not convinced it was), doesn’t matter what our motives were. Like every other invasion force in Afghan history, we’ve almost certainly done more harm than good.

There’s a scene in Chinatown in which Jake Gittes speaks with Noah Cross, the millionaire developer behind all the misery that’s taking place. Cross inhabits a world where laws and rules of ordinary decency don’t seem to apply–a world that’s as ambiguous and perplexing to Jake as that of Chinatown, a world that’s just as baffling and complex as our involvement in Afghanistan.

Jake Gittes: How much are you worth?
Noah Cross: I have no idea. How much do you want?
Jake: I just wanna know what you’re worth. More than 10 million?
Noah: Oh my, yes!
Jake: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?
Noah: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.

That’s why we’re in Afghanistan. The future. Their future, our future–we think we can make it better. We think we have the means and the power and the right to make it better. We think we know what ‘better’ means.

We don’t. We just don’t.

Forget it, Joe. It’s Afghanistan.

covid on the floor

February 12, 2021 — HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s statewide mask mandate that had been in place since July was lifted Friday by Gov. Greg Gianforte. Gianforte, a Republican, promised the day after assuming office in January that he would lift the state’s mask mandate once there were liability protections in place for businesses and health care providers. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Gregory Holzman, resigned from his post Thursday, the day after Gianforte announced he would lift the mask mandate.

April 6, 2021 — BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for COVID-19. The Republican governor’s office released a statement Monday evening saying that after experiencing mild symptoms a day earlier, Gianforte was tested “out of an abundance of caution.” All of the governor’s in-person events have been canceled, and he plans to work from his home in Bozeman. His staff will be be tested for the virus Tuesday.

Moron

Dr. Gregory Holzman: There are multiple reports across the nation of people stepping on Legos and hurting their bare feet.
Gov. Gianforte: Fake news. I’ve never stepped on a Lego. I’ve never seen a Lego.
Dr. H: Legos are real. People are dropping them on both coasts. It’s only a matter of time before Legos get dropped here in Montana. We should consider a boot mandate until we can isolate the people who are dropping Legos.
Gov. G: A boot mandate? That would be an infringement on the freedom of Montanans. Besides, only a few people in Montana have stepped on Legos.
Dr. H: Until we can identify who is dropping Legos, a boot mandate will prevent widespread foot injuries. We need to stay ahead of the problem.
Gov. G: I’m not going to issue a boot mandate when only a hundred or so Montanans have stepped on a Lego.
Dr. H: But the number of instances of people stepping on Legos is increasing. Happily, recent research indicates boots may not be necessary; shoes will be equally effective.
Gov. G: First you say boots, now you say shoes. Maybe you’re wrong about shoes too. Besides, most people who step on Legos recover.
Dr. H: Thousands of Legos…probably tens of thousands…are on the floor in Montana now. People are stepping on them at an unprecedented rate. A shoe mandate is vital.
Gov. G: Okay, I’ll suggest people should start wearing shoes, but I’m not going to make it mandatory.
Dr. H: The hospitals are being overwhelmed with foot injuries from people stepping on Legos.
Gov. G: Okay, I’ll issue a shoe mandate. Happy now?
Dr. H: Foot injuries are leveling off. There are fewer reports of Legos being dropped on the floor.
Gov. G: I’ll remove the shoe mandate.
Dr. H: No, it’s too early. Some of your own staff may have stepped on a Lego. We need to keep the shoe mandate in place a little bit…
Gov. G: I’ve removed the shoe mandate.
Dr. H: I quit.
Gov. G: Ouch. What the hell did I just step on?
Dr. H (muttering): Moron.

And that’s today’s lesson.