While the republic continues its ongoing journey to hell in a hand-basket in front of us because one of our "major" parties is willing to be in league with the Devil (or at least a hostile foreign power) in order to hold power, even if it means, well, the republic going to hell in a hand-basket, your talking dog managed to eke out a finish in his 50th marathon (the goal of 50-states is stuck now at 21 states plus 2 Canadian provinces and D.C., but we're still working on it!) It was a lovely day, albeit still too hot, on the boardwalk at Rock Rock Rock Rockaway Beach (btw, please note the album title.).
I would be remiss if I failed to wish Vladimir Putin a happy 65th birthday, the same wishes apparently being sent to him by people all over Russia.
By now, you are doubtless well-versed in "the worst mass shooting in American history," which took place in
Orlando Las Vegas. Before I go all "meta-" on yo' asses, I'm going to give you two well laid out thought pieces.
The first is from Vox, and gives seventeen things you need to know about America's uniquely high level of gun violence. For example, with four per cent of the world's population, we have about half of the privately owned guns, states with the tightest gun control laws have the lowest levels of gun violence, most gun deaths are suicides, we average-- average-- around one mass shooting a day... that sort of thing.
And this alleged parody from The Onion's blog, purportedly by Paul Ryan, bizarrely makes a point I have been trying to make for a long time: the mass shootings are more closely related to political inattention to mental health issues than they are to poor gun control policy. Seriously: the United States has always had an insane number of (and reverence for) firearms-- probably more guns than people during the course of my own life anyway. What is different these days, uniquely so, is that now insanely powerful weapons that should never, EVER be in private hands are in the hands of people with mental health issues, in a society that can't be bothered to go through the irritating, time-consuming process of trying to sort them out when there is a far more profitable opportunity simply to prescribe extraordinarily powerful pharmaceuticals, which might or might not have some side effects (such as delusions, or suicidal or even homicidal ideations.)
Or as I like to put it, when you have a failing culture, a failing economy, a failing educational system, a failing foreign policy, the millions of miserably unhappy people that go along with all of that "winning," together with the most powerful (and mind altering) pharmaceuticals that have ever been created along with the ability to privately own arsenals of military grade weapons, what could possibly go wrong? I should throw in how unhealthy our people are, with such details as the United States having the world's highest obesity rate, for example. That's a feel-good thing all by itself (and immensely profitable for both Big Pharma and Agri-business.)
You see where this is going? The actual powerful are well aware that the rubes feel much more powerful if you throw them a few bones. One of those bones, of course, is historical racism, the brilliant and long-standing means by which the powerful have prevented (almost uniquely on Earth) the development of class consciousness here, because poor/working class White people have been conditioned to believe that their enemies are poor/working class people of color, and that their "friends" are their (invariably) White overlords of the upper classes. It's a hell of a trick, and you need look no further than the election of Donald Trump by white people (Ta-Nehisi Coates handles the subject brilliantly); people can delude themselves into thinking it had to do with economic insecurity of the White working class all they want, but it's the divide and conquer trick, stupid. (BTW, Bill Clinton, good one with Ricky Ray Rector; it's the economy stupid and America's first Black President MY ASS.)
Where was I? Oh yes. Bones thrown to the rubes to make them feel so powerful that they wouldn't even dare DREAM of taking on the actual powerful who are actually making their lives miserable. Yes. The other of those bones thrown to the rubes here in the USA (the only industrialized country and one of only two in the world that does not have any kind of mandatory paid leave for child-bearing, btw)... is ready access to guns. And I mean GUNS. Not just hand guns, but long guns, and military grade semi-automatic weaponry that can (and usually is) easily convertible to fully automatic. Man does we love our guns! And the worse the reports of mass shootings like the one in Vegas get, the more gun sales go up (talk about win-win!)
(Yes, I know Barack mentioned that the poor rubes in... was it rural Pennsylvania?... cling to their "guns and religion." Barack, man, their guns are their religion.) So, my point is, like racism, which is enshrined in the First Amendment (again, the United States, pretty uniquely, finds racist, hateful, even threatening speech in that regard to be constitutionally protected), the incidence of gun ownership, also pretty uniquely in the United States, is now constitutionally enshrined. Obviously, the Constitution could use some amending, but given where things presently stand, maybe we should just leave it alone for the time being, but my point is simply, more or important than the "legal" enshrining is the cultural enshrining of these things.
So again, what is "different"? Ah, that's where I was going, wasn't it? The question I should be asking is
What makes these young Scotsmen so keen to kill themselves? what is it that makes so many Americans so unhappy that they turn to our healthcare system for relief, only to be prescribed bad-ass pharmaceuticals that might make them "feel better," but also might help make them obese, or even more unhappy, or even suicidal or homicidal? And the answer is shockingly simple. It's... wait for it... reality.
Most people don't do anything real anymore. And what's worse, the most exalted "value" we have (that would be "money") is itself a complete fiction, entirely absent in nature, and virtually unknown throughout human history until remarkably recently! These days, of course, the zombie apocalypse is now evident on virtually every street, as people mindlessly stare at their screens or shout into the void as they walk down the streets, utterly oblivious of their surroundings (often as they sometimes amble in front of moving vehicles, or perhaps the driver is ensconced talking, texting, or otherwise oblivious or where they actually are). And otherwise, you are likely to go to work and watch bouncing electronic impulses on a cathode ray tube (whether words or moving images), and then come home and do much the same. And then you realize that dicks like Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook owners have become some of the richest people in the world by providing nothing... not merely nothing "of value," but NOTHING. That's right: Gates and Jobs provided at least arguably superior operating systems to make computers run "better," if you accept the premise that they did. And Bezos is delivering more and more crap to you via UPS from Amazon (even as he decimates America's once-employed-a-lot-or-people brick and mortar retail apparatus). But Zuckerberg and people like that? NOTHING. AT. ALL.
Actually, much worse than nothing. What they gave us with their mediocre quality high school level computer programming was a means of intermediating relationships that used to be real. That's right: you used to send your friends birthday cards, or call them on the phone (or better yet, throw them parties and give them hugs.) Now, you "like" them, "friend" them, "follow" them, "poke" them... all with quotes around, because NONE OF IT IS FUCKING REAL.
But this is how people lead their lives now, whether with Facebook, or other anti-social "media." Throw in shockingly low workforce participation, and miserable, poorly paid, ever-more automated workplaces (if you're lucky enough to be working at all), the unbelievable number of single-person households, the insane isolation of suburbia (and for that matter, everywhere else), and you get... really unhappy people. In other countries, there are broad connections of family, or church, or community, or even "the people." Here, capitalism has been merrily breaking down all of those human connections for a really long time.
Which takes us to where we are now: really unconnected, confused, unhealthy, unhappy, financially vulnerable (less than half the country even has a few hundred dollars to their name for an emergency car repair, for example)... is it any wonder that, when you throw in the usual cultural tendency to quick, easy sounding answers, people will turn to badass drugs and, all too often, to badass weaponry?
Alrightie then. Your mission is to quite literally get real: do real things. Garden, exercise- outside, talk to people (face to face), hug your loved ones... the whole bit. And maybe the love we can start to generate will crowd out the existential emptiness that is slowly killing us, and all-too often, leading others to quickly kill us.
The first post on this here blog popped up sixteen years ago, today. The original format of this blog was as a two-column "point-counterpoint" between moi, then "the left-leaning dog," and the former blogger known then as "the rabid dog" and later known as "the raving atheist," that lasted a couple of months or so, before the current one-column forum whereby "the talking dog" became the sole voice here. And so here we are.
"Blogs" were then a new phenomenon, as the much younger internet (although then, as now, a little too dependent on gambling, porn and fraud) had not yet supplanted "legacy" newspapers, magazines and much of journalism, and further, blogs were the province of genuine independent voices, and there were very few "professional" bloggers.
Oh, did I mention that it was also one week after September 11th, an event for which I had a front row seat so close that it put me out of a job as the office building was shut down for months? (And of course, Mrs. TD and I live (as does the loquacious pup when she's home), and still do, about a mile downwind of WTC here in Brooklyn).
And so a winding journey of witnessing and observation the events of the 21st century unfolded, with you as a fellow witness. And an interesting 21st century it has been: September 11th led directly to a "global war on terror," including a war in Afghanistan that is already the longest war ever engaged in by the United States (with no end in sight, apparently ever), as a consequence of that war (one of many), a gulag to house alleged prisoners of war of that conflict established at an American military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba which has been the subject of independent journalism here (my most recent interview and the over seventy other related interviews can be found here), a follow-on war against Saddam Hussein's in Iraq that would ultimately destroy the underpinnings of American moral and financial authority as well as killing thousands and wounding tens of thousands (and countless Iraqis), the election of America's first Black President (my Columbia college classmate) Barack Obama, a financial crisis followed by a recession that has probably eviscerated much of America's middle class, the rise of Wall Street casino tactics (derivatives, derivatives on derivatives, zero or even negative interest rates, etc.) that will probably finish us off as well, and then the piece de resistance, the deliberate election of an unqualified buffoon (apparently with the help of the Russian state thanks to a shockingly unsecure internet) as President of the United States whose mandate is simply to undo whatever the Black President did. Some unfortunate trends- rising health care costs (along with declining "health outcomes"), income and wealth inequality, climate change, the zombification of the populace thanks to the "smart phone," and the increasing number of global refugees- are all increasing.
What began as the ravings of an angry 38-year old have become more of the musings of a less angry, but perhaps more troubled 54-year old: obviously, I have lived most of my life now in whatever "order" there has been so far. Indeed, TD Dad has passed on (though thankfully most of TD Familia is still around). My daughter was less than two sixteen years ago at the start of this blog; now she has started college. While I suspect we will have left a world for her generation, the shocking selfishness of the baby boom generation will have rendered it, most likely, a less pleasant world than what we inherited. Perhaps the next generations will, by necessity if for no other reason, act more responsibly in every sense- morally, environmentally, financially, and what have you. I can only hope so, even as I observe only glimmers of hope, amidst a large-ish holdover to (or if you like restoration of) "traditional" values like bigotry, ignorance and superstition.
Don't know. As with the original post on 18 September 2001, we are nearing Rosh Ha Shanah, the Jewish New Year, a traditional time for reflection (before we come to the Day of Atonement just ten days later). And this is as good a time as any for reflection. The format has allowed an independent schnook with a keyboard access to reach every other schnook with a keyboard on Earth. Thanks for following along. We'll see what the next sixteen years bring.
And so, it's September 11th again. For some people, life doesn't get any better.
For the rest of us, it seems, maybe we should use this moment to "take stock," for some level of genuine introspection.
We recently passed the twelve year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, whose ferociousness was at least thought to have been assisted by man-made climate change (hurricanes are strengthened by warmer water), and the response of the American people, aside from doing nothing, was ultimately to elect a man who not only denied the existence of climate change at all, but who promised (a promise he kept) to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, and who is hellbent on policies designed to increase global temperatures as fast as possible. Naturally, Ameircans are blissfully unconcerned about the fact that twelve years on, we have seen, for example, devastating "Superstorm Sandy" wreak havoc here in the New York area, and, of course, Hurricane Harvey devastate Houston last week and most powerful Atlantic storm ever Hurricane Irma devastate Florida even as I type this (after it rampaged across the Caribbean leveling a number of islands). But enough people prefer the illusion of normalcy so that, at least in the allegedly "advanced" United States, man-made climate change is still "an issue." So be it. A disproportionate number of people stupid enough to have such beliefs live in danger of the results, I suppose; perhaps God will sort it out after all.
Not so much with the other issue: American "hegemony." After the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the United States found itself as "the sole super-power." We could, of course, have quickly taken down the scope of our military reach (hundreds of garrisons around the world), decommissioned our massive stockpile of nuclear weapons aimed at the no longer extant Soviet Union, canceled contracts for weapons systems, etc. Instead, almost immediately we picked a rather large scale fight with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and formed a massive coalition, with a massive American presence, leaving a rather large footprint in the Arab world (especially Saudi Arabia) to contain the vanquished Saddam. This in turn led directly to a backlash, as "the Infidels" were in the Saudi kingdom, home of two of Islams holiest places, and al Qaeda was apparently formed to "address" this, rather violently, including attacks on the Khobar towers in Saudi itself, American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the U.S.S. Cole then in Yemen, culminating in the events of Sept. 11th. With some irony, al Qaeda arose from elements of the Afghan Mujahadeen, an American financed guerrilla group designed to pester the Soviets in Afghanistan, which the Soviets eventually did quit, shortly before the USSR imploded.
Unlike climate change, where, notwithstanding the preference of seemingly controlling elements of the American power structure (and a huge part of the population) to deny something they don't like, one can certainly talk about it. With issues of American hegemony that pretty much led right to 9-11, perhaps not so much. The late Susan Sontag was vilified for this short essay in the New Yorker (third from last) in which she dared question that linkage; I'll quote it:
The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards.
Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.
Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.
We're sixteen years on, and none of those questions has been asked, as the United States doubled down again and again, with another massive war in Iraq, its longest war ever in Afghanistan (with no end in sight), potential engagements everywhere, "terrorism" having morphed into the "lone wolf" variety of night-club shoot-ups and vehicle crashes (although transportation systems are still targeted), only, of course, we can throw in the pressures of sixteen more years of unaddressed global warming coupled with Middle Eastern unrest to add a humongous refugee problem in Europe (the decision to take out Qaddaffi in Libya didn't help that either). Oh, and our relations with Russia are bad (that nation probably interfered in our recent election, and though no one wants to say it, may have manipulated enough electoral levers to install Donald Trump over the rightful winner), with China not so good, and North Korea may have the means to hit us with a nuclear ICBM. For her part, Hillary Clinton is touring the country complaining about all the things that cost her the election (including whining at Bernie Sanders, the man who tried to not talk about "her damned emails," and, in a spirit of non-introspection, minimizing her own disastrous decisions to rely on big data and not on the actual reports of her campaign field operations and freaking go to Wisconsin and Michigan). And while we're at it, we're still holding 41 men at Guantanamo (our current President promises to "fill it up with bad dudes," though no one else wants to), and we have a massive national security state that captures all your emails and phone calls (even as it lacks the manpower to read and listen to them). Oh, and since everything is digitized, hackers have stolen your social security numbers, account numbers and everything else you thought was "secure." But that's ok, because you have the latest I-phone.
And so here we are, sixteen years on. My daughter, who was then less than two, and who has no memories of a "pre-9-11 world," has started college, where, among other things, she is studying history and international relations, two things that Sontag noted most Americans, at least, would rather avoid. Maybe her generation will set about to build a more rational world (a world that will have less available resources for that generation, as we are hellbent on squandering them for our temporary comfort). We can hope. Because it seems to me that most Americans are ultimately unflappable, that is, whether it's 9-11, or Katrina, or Sandy, or Orlando/San Bernadino, or now Harvey and Irma, they don't seem to want to think about anything at a meaningful level.
I get it; as Sontag said: "Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy." Think about that--the abiding power of narrative over reality-- as we celebrate 9-11's not particularly "sweet" sixteenth.
Run, don't walk, to this piece in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates called "The First White President." For those wondering why so many were obsessed with "the White working class," and what that had to do with an election where the circus clown (Coates prefers "carnival barker") Donald J. Trump prevailed in every economic category of White people for no reason other than that he was White (to be fair, I would add that he was also male)... Coates gives us the rather unsettling answers.
Coates's thesis, which has the troubling attribute of evidence, is that the handing of the potential to destroy all life on this planet to a clown simply because of his race might be either the ultimate demonstration of White privilege or the ultimate expiation of White guilt (though most people on this planet are not even White).
Next month will mark the sixteenth anniversary of this blog, not to mention the sixteenth anniversary of America's Own Reichstag Fire[TM], September 11th (and now, as then, I still work a city block or so from the WTC complex).
Still trying to reconcile the fact that the winning combination of the minority of American voters managed to install an actual circus clown as President, at a moment when the American Empire is coming apart at the seams anyway, largely as a result of the decisions made as a result of... the aftermath of September 11th. Specifically, the endless expenditure on blood and treasure in Western and Central Asia has resulted in military adventures that literally sucked the life blood out of the American spirit (and economy). They have been also been used as pretexts to justify universal surveillance on virtually every communication on Earth that technology will permit to be monitored, torture, even more cruel and arbitrary treatment of prisoners (both military and civilian, Joe Arpaio), and evidently as cover for financial institutions to rig the financial world to explode (which it did in 2007 and 2008, and might be ready to again).
And at a moment when the leader of the nation (such as he is and it is) might consider appropriate for genuine introspection, we have, instead, a man who thinks that his own P.T. Barnum-like impression of a poor person's idea of a rich person is more important than the Presidency that he has somehow stumbled into (thanks again, Hillary), and so, instead of even asking the irritating Ed Koch-ish "how am I doing?" insists on touting his non-existent accomplishments, with "I'm doing great, right? What a turnout for me!" When, instead, he should be expressing sympathy and compassion for victims of a horror.
The disconnect between the clown show that now passes for national discourse and, ahem, reality is nothing short of exhausting.
I'd suggest that fewer and fewer of you were following along with whatever it is I'm trying to do, but even Sitemeter has gone ahead and given up! So... hopefully, I'm not just yelling into the void. In any event, GTMO is still an abomination, and Andy and Candace are on the beat; I hope to have some more interviews one of these days, and I do keep playing with a "more substantial written product" in this area... stay tuned.
A bittersweet time (aside from the shitshow of state)... August coming to an end, summer to follow shortly thereafter; the Loquacious Pup has gone off to college; Donald J. Putin is up to over 400 followers... such is life-- a cyclical thing, which we forget at our peril (even as too many of our countrymen insist on telling us that they are stupid and racist and that they resent being called stupid and racist.) Pshaw.
Alrightie. Hey, keep the faith, fight the power, etc. Never have people of goodwill been needed more; your efforts may not appear to be immediately rewarded, but... karma... just saying.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists (including the Ku Klux Klan) were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a vehicle plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing at least one and injuring at least nineteen.
The Governor of Virginia had declared a state of emergency, and even
Il Douché the President tweeted something on the subject, without, of course, mentioning his base those actually responsible for the violence, i.e. the White supremacists themselves, or the specific incident.
please God our next President Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah (#PresidentHatch) to actually condemn the violence.
It is not without irony that I have just returned from a week long visit to Hungary, a fascinating and beautiful country, but one with its own troubled history of fascism (and whose hard-right anti-immigrant leader Viktor Orban was actually among the first-- and the first EU leader- to congratulate
Il Douché the President on his electoral victory.) I understand Big Boss Vladimir Russian leader Vladimir Putin will actually be visiting Hungary for the second time this year later in August.
Alrightie then. If we couldn't do so before, we can now officially say that there is now a body-count to the President's overt racism (which, after all, got him "elected" in the first place, assuming you accept the sadly bipartisan, but ever more unlikely narrative that actual voting machines and tallies weren't hacked). We can only say that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's work now takes on a new urgency (even assuming that the President's amateurish and ill-advised tit for tat posturing with nuclear armed North Korea doesn't get us all killed).
We have completed what has probably been the longest six-months in American history (even as shockingly little apparently happened, while what we have come to believe was a functioning government is quietly being dismantled affirmatively or otherwise suffering rather malign neglect in front of us, and our nation's standing in the world deteriorates perhaps more rapidly.)
Is this the start of the race-war that Mr. Trump and his supporters have been trying to bait now since long before the election? We can only hope that calmer heads prevail (and strangely, we have to hope that one of those calmer heads belongs to Kim Jong Un.)
The old Chinese curse has clearly come true for us: we live in interesting times.
Long-time GTMO prisoner and "child soldier" (apprehended and taken to GTMO when he was fifteen years old) Omar Khadr will receive ten million dollars in compensation for mistreatment he received in custody as well as an apology from... wait for it... Justin Trudeau's Canadian government. You didn't think that Donald Trump's #AmericaFirstmeansRussiafirst government would have done anything like that, did you?
Well, I didn't. And it didn't.
Happy fourth of July. Given how much "great work he is doing" according to our current American President, I link you to Frederick Douglass's Fourth of July address (Rochester, NY, 1852).
It's Dominion Day in the Great White North (funny that expression in light of developments in the soon-to-be-former-superpower to its South)... and there were well-attended celebrations of Canada Day on its 150th anniversary.
No context; just puttin' it out there.
Oh... isn't he dreamy?
It seems that the Trump Administration has announced the first military commission charges in a really long time, in this case, charges against Indonesian national Riduan “Hambali” Isomuddin for orchestrating the 2003 Bali bombing. Interestingly, I always seem to find that my life parallels the ruling class in some way (either I or Mrs. TD have, for example, met the last two U.S. Presidents). I say all that because the charges have to be referred to a Pentagon official with the title "convening authority" (that's who decides if GTMO military commission charges go forward to trial). The convening authority is... Harvey Rishikof, who is an NYU Law School classmate of... oh, you kind of know already. And unlike my college classmate Barack, whom I knew in passing, I knew Harvey quite well.
So, we'll send a message to Harvey, assuming you're listening! Here's the message: for the sake of the victims, if charges against Mr. Isomuddin are appropriate, they should be referred either to court martial (assuming jurisdiction for same), or else to a U.S. federal court, period, end of story. The sole purpose of the military commissions is, was, and always will be to cover up torture, and I understand that Mr. Isomuddin had a full panoply of torture himself. The federal courts can deal with it: if we have to admit that our nation did really bad things, so be it. If the price of that is Mr. Isomuddin walks, so be it.
Because, Harvey, we are now in one of our darkest hours as a nation. We have elected a mean-spirited buffoon who really doesn't care about governance, and is willing to just hand over major decisions of war and peace and life and death to others that no other President would or has done. Which means, I suppose, that maybe you have some independence here. OK. Exercise it, please, PLEASE. GTMO is down to 41 men-- the 9-11 trials have bogged down for years and look like they will bog down for decades. The military commissions only existed to cover for torture-- we could, and routinely do, try terrorism acts everywhere else on Earth in our federal courts with a very high conviction rate. This is the time.
Not agreeing that the commission trial should go forward doesn't mean that the prisoner goes free: it seems that our courts are just fine with holding the 41 remaining men at GTMO for "the duration" (at least the never-ending Afghan conflict, if nothing else). That's its own separate set of insane injustices, but for another time.
Just as one of your predecessors abandoned a commissions case noting the obvious torture that the defendant had suffered, you have a similar opportunity to do the right thing and say, no, sorry, on net, the victims of the Bali bombing deserve better than to have a proceeding bog down over the question of the abuse that the United States and its allies subjected the suspect to; if he's referred to federal court, fine (or a court-martial if possible), and otherwise... cabin the commissions to the currently pending cases.
We are in a dark moment; subjecting anyone- even our worst enemies- to star chamber "justice" to cover up torture they suffered at our hands, will only make this darker. Do the right thing, Harvey. Please.
For everyone else, we have now come to a watershed moment, without any notice from "the media." This President campaigned on restoring torture, apparently, because in what passes for his mind, he believes it is "effective." At what is left to the imagination. The military commissions exist for the sole purpose of sanitizing Bush-era torture. This President has delegated virtually all military matters to "the generals," some of whom were pretty damned aggressive in their previous management of matters GTMO. Some of whom may well think the military commissions are useful for their own purposes. What? Don't know; could be scary. All we know is that the Obama Administration, for the many legitimate criticisms one could make of it, held back on pressing too many military commissions cases. Now, it seems, the generals and the military are un-tethered, and can do what they want. The apparent yielding of civilian command of the military to the military itself is a remarkable development. We need to make this a bigger issue than the media will present it as. We just do. Or we will go down a slippery slope to tyranny (possibly via an "inverse coup," or some other means) faster than you can imagine.
As is often the case, I must temper my remarks by noting my personal exhaustion: I had a "short finish" (31 miles out of the official length of 40) in yesterday's BUS Anniversary Run in Queens (Alley Pond Park), followed by today's NYRR Retro 5-Miler in Central Park to mark the NY Road Runners Club's 59th anniversary. Seems a big weekend for running club anniversaries.
And speaking of things that have been around a while, what can we say about the President's ongoing feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, which resulted in the President pouring salt on the wounds of Londoners with tweets critical of their mayor's call for calm after the recent multiple attacks in London that left at least seven dead.
Among other things, the President called for the U.S. Courts to back him in his desired "travel ban" (even though his own legal team is trying to argue it isn't a travel ban.) Anyway, the President's policy appears to be to never leave behind an opportunity to drive a wedge or put distance between the United States and its traditional allies. Perhaps this can be explained by kompromat to Putin's Russia (isolating the United States, especially from Europe, certainly must bring a smile to Vladimir Vladimirovich). I believe, however, that most things with the President can, unfortunately, be explained all too easily.
Mr. Khan is one of the few Muslim mayors of a major Western City, and for that reason alone, it seems, the President must oppose and attempt to humiliate him. Just as, it seems, the President must try to repeal "Obamacare" (and send over 23 million people, a huge number of them presumably his own voters, into the realm of not having health insurance) as well as to take the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord (notwithstanding that his executive orders largely repealed many of the measures intended to implement it already and the Paris agreement requirements were ultimately "voluntary") for no reason other than to attempt to sully the legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama; in short, both Khan and Obama have dark skin, and that seems to be the principal guide to Mr. Trump's policies.
And the thing is, say what you will, it is this petty school-yard racism that won him the Republican nomination and ultimately the Presidency, and is still holding his base together (albeit less overwhelmingly than he once did.) Which means that a huge number of Americans continue to believe that, as long as it is done in the spirit of racism, it is o.k. to crap on our allies, isolate the country in terms of near universal agreements (we now join Syria and Nicaragua in being on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Accord) and and even sentence millions of Americans to go without health insurance as our population ages and likely sickens.
Which means that this petty, counterproductive, hateful bullshit is likely to go on for the foreseeable future. Isn't that special?
I'm coming into the party a bit late, so I'll jump in with this piece noting that top Congressional Democrats are calling for a report on Jeff Sessions role in the clusterfuck known as the Jim Comey firing. Thing is, right now we not only have Dick Nixon, without the brains or experience, but on coke, in the Oval Office, but an entire party of treasonous enablers whose sole concern is that they can get right wing judges and policies and more tax cuts for the rich. They (Paul and Mitch, and your committee chairmen, I mean YOU) don't give two shits about the fact that a hostile foreign power has undertaken to interfere in the entire gigantic project known as democracy in the West, through the simple expedient of computer hacking and other activity designed to selectively disrupt elections (though, fortunately, so far at least, only English speaking countries have been stupid enough to actually fall for it.)
And so here we are. This President, thus far, has sacked three high profile officials (former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and now former FBI Director James Comey) whose portfolios included investigation of his own campaign, its officials (including presumably himself) and their involvement- up to and including deliberate collusion- with Russia and its operatives in order to at least disrupt and quite possibly to change the outcome of the recent national election. And Comey was ignominiously sacked for made up cause, notwithstanding that Comey's own actions probably handed Trump the presidency. Even still it seems, Comey was taken aback by a demand for a pledge of personal loyalty, not to the Constitution, but to der Führer. The relevant movie, it seems, not being All the President's Men, but simply, The Godfather, as nothing short of kissing the Don's (funny that) ring would suffice.
And that's just it. Was this another Saturday Night Massacre (my own theoretical account is here), with Donald Trump in the Nixon role of trying to rid himself of a meddlesome interlocutor? I tend to think it's more Bowling Green Massacre- a completely made-up grievance (what was it again, his handling of the Hillary emails? his showboating? his loss of confidence among FBI rank and file?) Or was it simply that he was pressing the (real) Russian involvement investigation rather than (Bowling Green Massacre again) made up "Obama wire-tapped me" claim?
Let me bottom line this for you. Our institutions were designed to block a man like Donald J. Trump from getting anywhere near this position. They have failed us. Mr. Trump, aside from a dearth of public experience (he is of course the only man ever to assume the presidency while never holding either public office or military rank) is also devoid of character, let alone respect for the institutions he is now in charge of. Further, his instincts are those of a tyrant in charge of a family business. Unfortunately, he has a strong racist streak which comes genuinely, whether calling for the executions of the Central Park 5, for which he refuses to apologize even after they were exonerated, to his leadership role in the Obama birth certificate
controversy LIE, to his well-known assaults on Mexicans ("rapists and murderers") and Muslims on the campaign trail-- aberrant, racist views which were appallingly popular among Republican primary and ultimately general election voters.
And of course, a President who is both insecure about his popularity, and legitimately concerned about holding his base since he has done everything in his power to alienate all but his most hard-core supporters, has given his supporters the red meat of a travel ban of people from Muslim countries (struck down by the courts), or an immigration crack-down including deportation of undocumented people whose sole offense is being undocumented, or gratuitous reversal of Obama-era environmental regulations (and the House "Obamacare repeal") which seem not to be about policy but trying to disrespect the legacy of the Black President (and who can forget the "Obama wiretapped ME in the [Holy confines of] the Trump tower"
And amazingly, he is obsessed with the fact that he is not getting fawning press coverage for his appalling excuse for a "government" (which features little more than, as feared, the expression of his own grievances interspersed with his family's attempts to profit from his Office)... oh wait, he did appoint a remarkably un-empathetic hard-right wing (naturally White male) judge to the Supreme Court. Well, Gorsuch is certainly more red meat for the base... but where was I?
Oh yes. His "100 days" have shown an amazing paucity of accomplishment for a man whose own unfortunate popularity carried his party to control of both houses of Congress as well as the presidency.
Which is kind of the only good news. It's true that he is desperately trying to undermine the few checks and balances that there are when the president's own party controls Congress (see above re: strategic firings of those investigating him). But it's also true that there's no evidence that there's anything behind his bravado (see my own "April 1st" interview). We have nothing but a scared little man with extremely limited intellectual capacity, tiny hands and a big mouth; even he knows he's not remotely up to the job, and worse, has chosen to surround himself with sycophants rather than capable operatives, but despite all this, he is still obsessed with good p.r., even though he's not only not entitled to any, but isn't going to get any (except, of course, from sycophant "media" that uncritically cheer-leads for him).
In short, Herr Drumpf ain't Herr Hitler: Hitler knew what he was doing. Doesn't mean someone as unstable and incompetent as the current holder of the presidency in that position isn't extraordinarily dangerous. But, it seems, as long as they get their right-wing judges and tax cuts for the rich, and there are enough hardened racists in the party to keep his approval numbers in the 80's or about among Republicans, his Congressional enablers aren't going to take away the punch bowl or the keys. The republic has suffered fools and survived before.
Surviving this is going to take "all hands on deck" from people of good will; and even with that, we'll still need some luck.
Everything I want to say on the subject has been said better by Professor Lemieux concerning what's wrong with the chattering
classes, to wit, God forbid political coverage tell us the actual substance of a policy, such as the abomination that just passed the House of Representatives that purports to repeal the suddenly-popular-package-of-health-insurance-programs-best-known-as-ACA-or-Obamacare.
Bottom line to Chris Cillizza (formerly of WaPo, now trading his superficial wares at CNN) is that the Democrats sang the lines from a song by "Steam," "Na na na na hey hey goodbye" (or whatever they did) upon passage of the bill in the House [btw, pure payback as the Republicans did that to the Democrats back in the early 90's]... where was I... oh yes... Mr. Cillizza is appalled at the bad sportsmanship... if only our lawmakers behaved "in a more civilized way" the public would like Congress better. Never mind that the substance of the vote would kick tens of millions of people off of health insurance for no reason other than so that extremely rich people would pay even lower taxes than they already do (and health insurance companies' CEOs can get even more obscene bonuses, on which they would pay lower taxes).
Professor Lemieux hearkens back to the 2016 campaign (hell, all campaigns within memory) to note the extraordinary vacuousness of coverage-- the outright anathema to many in the media (yes, Mr. Cillizza, you included, and especially) to cover anything except personalities, and especially anything superficial (especially if it was bad about Hillary), and stay away from actual policy as if it were the plague.
And the nation's reward is that we have a political plague upon us-- the oldest President on record, while being the only one never to hold either public office or military rank (or indeed, so much as an actual job other than working for his own father), whose only saving grace is that he is actually too incompetent (and yes, stupid) to actually implement much of the really harmful policy that he has promised at his Nuremberg-style campaign rallies (which he is still conducting).
And it is in this spirit that we can observe his actually celebrating the potential dismemberment of one of the great advances in public health (at least in terms of sheer number of people brought into the regular system, regardless of any critiques one may level at Obamacare). Perhaps it's not too much of a stretch to see the possibility of actual plague-like consequences of increased mortality?
But why so serious? Who can forget Mr. Cilizza in this:
Fortunately, we have the best meta-takedown ever, right back at ya':
In your face!
Could this Politico piece linking the Hasidic Jewish group Chabad, Putin's Russia and Trump amount to a "unified field theory of #Trumprussia"?
Certainly, many of the names are there; I believe that, perhaps, a Rosetta "Bayrock" might be a better explanation, as that name has come up before. Obviously, my good friend Donald J. Putin follows the issue more closely than I.
Now that it seems, at a superficial level (an extraordinarily superficial level, because it is bullshit), an argument can be made that the gratuitous firing of 59 (why that number?) Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase somehow takes the Trump/Russia/election interference issue off the table. Those paid to make this argument make it notwithstanding that Syrian jets have taken off from the very airfield we supposedly bombed to oblivion... which, of course, supports the premise that the whole thing is a damned kabuki, possibly even involving the Russians orchestrating the chemical weapons attack precisely so that Trump could launch missiles and look "presidential."
In short, anything goes and nothing matters; the problem is, if you live in, say, Syria, you are under assault from the Russian-backed regime, the "rebels," the Islamic State, and God knows whom else... and Mr. Donald J. "I care so much about the widdle Syrian children" Trump also purports to bar those fleeing the violence there from entering this country as refugees no matter how "extreme vetted" they might be. And since governance by the cable-t.v.-news-cycle might not properly consider the "consequences" of impulsive action, we don't know what they will be.
Of course, Neil Gorsuch has been shoved down our throats as the next Supreme Court justice... so the question becomes how much longer Mr. Trump will be needed, particularly if the vaunted competence and thoughtfulness he showed with the health care
dismembering reform is applied to tax cut for millionaires and billionaires reform and "infrastructure"? Damned if I know.
Still, it seems like most of what we need to know is out there in front of us; the irony is how few hearts and minds knowing the actual objective truth will change.
Thus sayeth T.S. Eliot somewhere or other. As you know, it's the 1st of April, a day for "fooling." And indeed, in the history of this blog, I have often used the occasion for fun, such as my most-viewed-post-of-all time, this interview with former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld. Using my patented blog-interview format, I also presented interviews with notables such as Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, and just last year, Donald J. Trump.
Thing is, we are now in a world where everything goes and nothing matters, the world's most prolific liars accuse others of spreading "fake news," the most obvious lies are deemed "alternative facts," and much of what transpires seems designed as a clever artifice (by a hostile foreign power no less) to advance false news stories benefiting one candidate (though seemingly not one party). In short, we have arrived at "the end."
April Fool's jokes are no longer really that funny, given where "reality" has gone. Indeed, I'm finding the blog format (at least mine, where I spend at least a little time exploring and discussing something) to be cumbersome-- quite frankly, I can't keep up, and the irony is that the stupid, but frenetic Twitter format, which
I my good friend Donald J. Putin (btw, please follow me my friend Donald J. Putin at twitter) has taken up residence is better suited to a news cycle of potentially dozens of (often insane) events a day.
I don't know; it seems to me that nothing this insanely frenetic-- particularly from a candidate who had no plan if he won-- can possibly go on indefinitely, but then, what do I know? All I can say is that I find myself "humor challenged." I'll just suggest we all take a moment of silence for the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre.