Trump boldly goes…

…to Afghanistan!

One thing you have to admit about President Donald J. Trump is that he has never wavered from his one overarching, bedrock principle: Look Out For Number One!

He doesn’t pussyfoot. He doesn’t flip-flop. He doesn’t waffle. What you see is what you get. Cover your own ass if you want to win and winning is all there is. There are no other issues or principles that matter.

A new poll shows that the Tweeter’s approval ratings in the three key rust belt states that gave him the presidency have not budged. He’s still their guy.

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Nothing matters to these people except “Obama is a Muslim” and “Lock Her Up”. Don’t bother reminding them of the Tweeter’s solemn pledge to get us out of the Afghan quagmire, tweeted (what else?) over and over again for years:

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Yesterday, a breathless nation awaited his long-promised brilliant plan for defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban, and was rewarded with a bold new policy: Into the Quagmire! It’s the only way! Kabul or Bust! More troops for the generals! More fodder for the cannons! Any reports of my abandoning the platform I was elected on are Fake News!

Of course, this announcement was made in the brilliant Trumpian style of pre-blaming others for its eventual failure.  He said he had always relied on his instincts in the past, had been hugely successful doing so, and that his instincts had been to get out of Afghanistan. But his “generals” had now claimed this was wrong and so he will reluctantly follow their advice.

Perfect. If, somehow, doing the same thing we’ve been doing fruitlessly for 16 years now magically produces positive results, then Trump’s a genius and a visionary and the best leader we’ve ever had. If it produces nothing but more body bags and years of grief for everyone involved, well, Trump is still a genius and a visionary – remember those instincts of his? The generals are to blame and will certainly pay with a good, public, career-ruining Twitter-shaming at the appropriate time.

Winning!

Best of all, no one now remembers or cares about the events of last week. It was only a few days ago that we all realized we had reached a historical inflection point and that Trump had to go.  He couldn’t bring himself to unambiguously criticize Nazis. Completely unprecedented and inappropriate for an American president of any party.  Remember? That was the straw that broke the camel’s back! No? OK, then. Never mind.

And if you don’t remember last week, I won’t bother trying to remind you of the week before. That was when the world was going to end because Trump recklessly dared the North Koreans to do something in Guam. Fire and fury, baby.

Tweety is winning. And all you losers who want to doubt him can just go home to Loserville and enjoy your loserpalooza.

 

 

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Screwie speaks: Terrorism, Murder, War

I was sipping a gin-and-tonic on my tiny, urban “deck” yesterday, reflecting on how fast the summer speeds by when you’re living on the wrong side of the political looking glass, when I saw my cousin Screwie roll up at the end of the driveway on his fixie. He seemed agitated as he chained his bike to the railing with the “Do Not Chain Your Bike Here” sign on it. That boy is a born anarchist.

I didn’t quite hear what he was muttering as he came toward me – I just picked up the words “Not Terrorism”, so I knew I was in for an earful.

“Hey”, I said. “Want some gin?” I was just being polite as I saw that he had his usual six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon with him, and I knew I wasn’t going to have to get up. He plopped down in the other Adirondack chair.

“Anything wrong? You seem a little distracted. In fact you seem like you’re gonna pop a vessel”.

“Yes, there’s something wrong,” he sneered. “Barcelona is wrong. Barce. Fucking. Lona.”

“Yeah, such a great place. Awful. Terrorism”, I offered, knowing full well it didn’t matter what I said.

“Yes it’s awful,” he said, “But it’s not terrorism.”

“What are you talking about? Of course it’s terrorism. A twenty-something Jihadi drives a van through an unsuspecting crowd, killing a dozen or more, probably screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ for all I know. How do you figure it’s not terrorism?”

Screwie says, “Because there’s no ‘terrorist’ objective. Terrorism is meant to accomplish something – to get the victims to modify their behavior somehow. The bad guy wants you to ‘end the occupation’ or ‘release the political prisoners’ or ‘recognize the caliphate’ or ‘stop publishing cartoons that offend me’ or ‘stop supporting the apostate royalty’. Or something.

“Sometimes they just want you to be so uncomfortable and afraid you’ll move out of wherever you are and leave it to them. But terrorists want something, and the implication is that when you give it to them, they’ll quit blowing things up and go back to being humans.”

“Hmm”, I astutely responded. “So you’re saying the Barcelona guys had no ‘terrorist’ objective. I guess I see that. So, if it’s not terrorism, what do you think it is?”

“I think it’s murder. But it doesn’t matter what I think. It’s what they think that matters. Until we understand what they think they’re doing, there’s absolutely no hope we’ll ever get on top of it.”

“And what do they think it is, if I might be so bold to inquire?”, says I.

“They think it’s war. They have no objective beyond killing you. They don’t care if you promise to recognize the caliphate, or if you require everyone in Europe to wear a burqa or anything else. They just want you dead. If they lose two of theirs blowing up or running over eighty of yours, it’s a huge battlefield win. Multiply it by a zillion and you get the picture of what they think they’re doing. And the point is that the battlefield is everywhere in their war, not just Syria or Afghanistan or wherever else you might want to think it is.”

“Crack another PBR and try to enjoy what’s left of the summer”, I offer.

“Don’t be a wise-ass. No one likes a wise-ass. Look, remember after 9/11 when we all were trying to understand what it was about? ‘Why do they hate us?’ was the mantra.  Remember the Wall Street Journal guy who went up into the mountains so he could get the al Qaeda side of things, and put the word out so that we could all understand their thinking and their grievances? Daniel Pearl was his name.

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“When he got there, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed cut his head off. We were all totally confused. Pearl was going to give them a platform and they killed him? Are they crazy? We still don’t get it.

“They don’t care about a platform. They don’t care about getting their message out to us. They don’t care about compromise or negotiations or getting you to do some particular thing, after which they’ll go back to being like everyone else. What they care about is making you dead.

“The reason we were so shocked by 9/11 and by every attack that’s come after is that we didn’t understand that they had declared war on us and were proceeding accordingly. We were arguing about whether their ‘crimes’  should be treated as civil or criminal offenses, where to try the bad guys and under what law, what rights they should have, and so on. And we’re still thinking that way.”

“So what are you saying?” My cousin’s getting inside my head now. “If treating these guys as terrorists or criminals isn’t going to work, what’s the right answer?”

Screwie seems a little spent now that he’s got these thoughts on the table. He takes a long pull on his beer and says, “That’s above my pay grade. But I’ll tell you this – Step One is to understand what they think they’re doing and we’re not close. It’s the third-rail of political incorrectness to agree with them that it’s all-out war. And who needs it? I’d rather sit here and drink beer than go out and shoot someone. Who wouldn’t?

“But it’s really not so hard to take Step One if you’re up to it. It should have been done long ago. Bid Laden put it right out there in black and white in his 1998 Fatwa. Why not take him at his word? Like the other side does.”

“Huh? Remind me”, I respond with my usual brilliance.

“It’s short and sweet”, Screwie says. “I have the important part committed to memory. It says,

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it… “

The sun was starting to set. I looked up the end of the driveway and saw a kid with bolt cutters working on Screwie’s bike lock. But I didn’t mention it. Why stir things up?

Leo Frank and the logic of the alt-Right

If you’re like a lot of other people, this week you’re scratching you’re head trying to figure out what Nazis chanting anti-semitic slogans have to do with removing Civil War monuments. GOML is here to help.

First, let’s just clear the air about what Charlottesville was about. It was a “Unite The Right” rally, not particularly focused on the Civil War, and one of many planned in various parts of the country. There are nine similar rallies planned for next week alone in places like L.A., Pittsburgh, New York, Seattle, and the Google campus in Mountain View.

Turning this into a discussion of taking down symbols of the Confederacy is misdirection.

And, just for the record, here’s what Robert E. Lee said when asked about building a monument to the Confederate troops at Gettysburg:

“I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

“As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated, my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; [and] of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.”

And one other point: for all you Southerners who insist the Confederate side was not fighting to preserve the institution of slavery, but rather resisting the encroachment of federal government on the rights of the states to govern themselves, please be quiet. The only “States’ Rights” that anyone cared about was the right to continue the institution of slavery, on which the southern economy was based, and in which white southerners, in the main, deeply believed.

Still, the South is the natural place to try to “unite the right”, as racist and anti-semitic bacteria has always seemed to find a friendly petri-dish in which to grow there. The connection between white southern grievance and “foreigners” is central here in the thinking that outsiders are coming to take their jobs away and control them.

The belief of the various White Nationalist groups has always been that Jews would control and undermine local businesses, that the migration of black people to the North would  saturate the labor market, and that Catholics would steal the rest of the jobs from Americans.

That’s the crux right there: for these people, Jews, African-Americans, and Catholics are not “Americans”.

The KKK and the Anti-Defamation league were both born in the South at the same time, precipitated by the same event. They arose following the death of Leo Frank. Or, to be more accurate, the lynching of Leo Frank. Today is a good day to remind everyone who Leo Frank was because it was on this day, August 17, in 1915 that he was murdered.

Leo Frank was a 31-year old mechanical engineer, working in his uncle’s pencil factory in  Atlanta. Frank had graduated from Cornell in 1906, where he had been on the debate team, his class basketball and tennis teams, played a lot of chess, and was generally a happy and well-adjusted guy. He moved to Atlanta in 1908 and married in 1910. He was active in the Jewish community in Atlanta and became president of the B’nai B’rith fraternal society there in 1912.

He was accused (wrongly, as almost every scholar and historian now agrees) of the strangulation murder of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old child of the confederacy from nearby Marietta.

He was convicted at trial primarily on the testimony given by the janitor, Jim Conley, who most historians now agree was the actual perpetrator. The verdict was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court on the basis that the trial was a travesty and that the verdict was driven by anti-semitism.

Frank had been sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison. From this Wiki:

The case attracted national press and many reporters deemed the conviction a travesty. Within Georgia, this outside criticism fueled antisemitism and hatred toward Frank. On August 16, 1915, he was kidnapped from prison by a group of armed men and lynched at Marietta, Mary Phagan’s hometown, the next morning. The new governor vowed to punish the lynchers, who included prominent Marietta citizens, but nobody was charged. In 1986, Frank was posthumously pardoned by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, although not officially absolved of the crime. 

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913, with the Frank case being specifically mentioned by the founder, Adolf Kraus. Also, from the Frank Wiki:

After Frank’s lynching, around half of Georgia’s 3,000 Jews left the state. According to author Steve Oney, “What it did to Southern Jews can’t be discounted … It drove them into a state of denial about their Judaism. They became even more assimilated, anti-Israel, Episcopalian. The Temple did away with chupahs at weddings – anything that would draw attention.” Many American Jews saw Frank as an American Alfred Dreyfus, both of whom were seen as victims of antisemitic persecution.

And the Klan was also revived by the trial:

Two weeks after the lynching, in the September 2, 1915 issue of The Jeffersonian, Watson wrote, “the voice of the people is the voice of God”, capitalizing on his sensational coverage of the controversial trial. In 1914, when Watson began reporting his anti-Frank message, The Jeffersonian’s circulation had been 25,000; by September 2, 1915, its circulation was 87,000. On November 25, 1915, a group led by William Joseph Simmons burned a cross on top of Stone Mountain, inaugurating a revival of the Ku Klux Klan.

The ADL and the KKK have remained on opposite sides of many arguments in the century since these events. Until the Tweety administration, the momentum of history was clearly operating against the forces of intolerance, as it became less and less acceptable  to hang on to or espouse the old views. And in recent decades, Jewish Americans have felt less pressure to deny their heritage to gain acceptance as Americans.

For reasons best known only to himself, the President of the United States has chosen this moment to once again release the genie of hatred from its bottle. Leo Frank is not resting peacefully tonight.

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Tweeting towards Armageddon

Only 200 days into the current administration and we are apparently on the brink. Another brilliant accomplishment for the man-baby!

The last time talk of nuclear strikes was so public and scary was in October, 1962. The Soviet Union had installed missiles in Cuba, and President Kennedy had to figure out what to do about it. He understood that the greatest threat he faced during the crisis was the accidental triggering of an action because of a misunderstanding, a misperception, or a miscommunication. He was very careful with the words he used and strictly controlled the messages coming from others in his administration.

He had read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” not long before, a book which focuses on how WWI got started, and the thought of just how easy it was to blunder into war was very much on his mind. He asked his generals how many Americans would die  if a single missile struck the U.S., and was told 600,000. He immediately pointed out that this was more than all the casualties of the Civil War, and that we hadn’t come close in 100 years.

J.F.K. had served with distinction in the Navy in WWII, and was a serious student of war, history, and the presidency. He had a lot to draw on to make the important decisions needed, and he succeeded in averting war and getting the missiles out of Cuba.

Donald J.Trump, on the other hand, brags of never having read a book, successfully dodged military service, and demonstrates over and over that he knows little of war, history or the presidency.

The bluster that’s been coming out of North Korea has rarely been taken seriously in recent years, and Kim Jong Un has been regarded as an eccentric, somewhat comical pariah. But with Tweety carrying the nuclear football, things have changed. His “leadership style” is the same as that of Kim Jong Un. They both “value” unpredictability and will say anything. In the case of Donald J. Trump, his “thoughts” almost always take the form of 140-character tweets, and they are never validated or vetted by anyone else beforehand. Tweet first, ask questions later is the rule he has lived by.

This is an excellent recipe for the accidental triggering of nuclear war. But unlike incendiary tweeting on other subjects, there will be little opportunity for walking it all back, “explaining” what was really meant, or blaming others as is his wont (there is already some viral disinformation blaming Bill Clinton for North Korea’s nuclear program).

I would imagine there are very few Europeans, for example, who would say there is any difference between Trump and Kim at this point – neither can be trusted and neither seems to be making any more sense than the other.

In 200 days, Trump has managed to reduce the status of President of the United States to the level eccentric, somewhat comical pariah.

But in the mind of the man-baby, “standing up” to Kim in this way is a unique “accomplishment”, and completed faster than anyone else in history! Best of all, talk of Russian meddling in the election has been knocked off the internet, and everyone knows your approval ratings get a huge bump when you start a war!

Well done.

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Fire and fury, shock and awe

Yesterday, your Tweeter-in Chief responded to the news that North Korea now has the ability to hit New York with a nuclear weapon this way:

 “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Bluff and bluster. Dumb and dumber.

It doesn’t matter one bit that North Korea would lose in a nuclear exchange with the U.S. Everyone else would lose, too.

We would lose plenty. Even if the fat lunatic running things over there didn’t get a shot off, we would be saddled with a huge humanitarian crisis. Having broken it, we would own it, a lesson we apparently never get tired of not learning. Does the fat lunatic running things over here have a plan for “the day after”?

And if Kim Jong-un did manage to nuke a U.S. city, who will say that was a worthwhile cost to bear to shut him up?

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Our ally, South Korea, would lose more than anyone. Seoul is only 35 miles from the North Korea border. The damage to their population would be huge and the entire Asian and world economies would take an incredible hit.

China would face a huge immigration problem. Guam would be obliterated.   The world would turn against us (even more than they already have, if you can imagine that). ISIS would be emboldened, and would achieve a huge proxy victory just by doing nothing.

I’m not even going to think about the environmental catastrophe that would result.

If you want to hear a very interesting analysis of the four possible approaches we have for dealing with this, and why none of them are good, have a listen to this.

Spoiler alert: the least worst option is to let the North Korean man-baby have what he wants.

The millions who enthusiastically voted for Donald J. Trump only nine months ago may be finding out very soon what a huge mistake they made.

Ken Starr, please be quiet.

The other day Kenneth Starr said that the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller might be overstepping its bounds, and should not turn into a “fishing expedition”. He said the original “gravaman” of the investigation was Russian collusion in the election, and that it would be inappropriate to go beyond this question into other areas.

On hearing this, everyone who remembers Ken Starr’s years-long quest to find something, anything, that would reflect badly on Bill Clinton threw up a little bit in their mouths. CNN filed this story under the headline “Ken Starr killed irony today”.

For those too young to remember, Ken Starr was the “Independent Counsel” charged with investigating the potential wrongdoings of Bill and Hillary Clinton in a failed 1970’s real estate development called “Whitewater”. The Clintons lost money on this investment, there was never any wrongdoing found , and they were never charged with anything. There was no “there” there.

Starr was appointed to head a three-judge panel to investigate “the scandal” in 1994, just a year and a half into the Clinton administration. Even though there was never anything to it, Republicans were bound and determined to keep the travesty going, and Starr moved from one subject to the next until, with the investigation finally winding down in 1998, he got wind of some inappropriate sexual conduct  between Clinton and an intern named Monica Lewinsky.

The Lewinsky scandal became a 24/7 cable news obsession in 1998, basically blocking out the sun and other real news for months on end. It led ultimately to Clinton’s impeachment trial for lying under oath about the nature of his relationship with Lewinsky. He was absolved and continued in office.

Today is the anniversary of the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The bombings were carried out by operatives of Osama bin Laden, and presaged the 9/11 attacks. 224 people were killed in the bombings, including 12 Americans, and 4500 were wounded.

On August 20, 1998, Clinton ordered a retaliatory attack on bin Laden’s sanctuary in Afghanistan and 70 missiles hit three al Qaeda sites there, killing 24 people, but not bin Laden. 13 missiles hit a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, killing a night watchmen.

But because of the relentless and idiotic persecution of Bill Clinton by Ken Starr, who had clearly exceeded the “gravaman” of his original investigation, none of these events were regarded as particularly alarming or even newsworthy, and, tragically, none led to any increased effort to neutralize al Qaeda.

Instead, the events were reported, mainly but not exclusively by the young FoxNews network, as “wagging the dog”, meaning Clinton trying to create a distraction to get Monica Lewinsky off the TV for a day or two. A typical example of the coverage from the Washington Post:

Several Republicans yesterday raised the issue expressly. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said: “After months of lies and deceit and manipulations and deceptions — stonewalling — it raised into doubt everything he does and everything he says,” Coats said.

Administration officials said yesterday they had anticipated criticism that Clinton was following a “Wag the Dog” strategy — so-named after the recent movie in which a president tries to draw attention away from a sexual scandal by staging a phony war — but had no choice but to ignore it.

Perhaps there is a legitimate discussion about Mueller’s scope to be had now, but Ken Starr should not be part of it. His past transgressions and current hypocrisy exclude him. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that without this biased, self-important, corrupt and disingenuous fool, we may well have succeeded in limiting al Qaeda’s ability to carry out the 9/11 attacks.

To Ken Starr, I would say, “Thanks for nothing and shut the fuck up.”

Mother of Exiles redux

On July 4th, I wrote about how America is still the greatest country in the world because of the ideals laid out in the founding documents and elsewhere, e.g. in the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.  My point was,  “If we come up short in trying to make those ideals reality, that’s one thing. But if we abandon them altogether, we are lost.”

The New Colossus described Lady Liberty as the “Mother of Exiles”, and for the millions who saw those words for the first time on entering New York harbor, it validated all the sacrifice,  hardship, and uncertainty they had faced to make their way here.

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Among those millions were the antecedents of Donald J. Trump and many others in the current administration, including Stephen Miller, the vile little worm who is “policy adviser” to your president.

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A couple of days ago, Miller was explaining the administration’s new immigration policy, which drastically reduces the number of legal immigrants we will accept, requires them to speak English, etc., and he got into an exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta, who asked Miller if these new rules honored the spirit of Lazarus’ poem.

Miller took the opportunity to say,

“the poem that you’re referring to was added later. It’s not actually part of the Statue of Liberty.”

No duh. So what? It was added because that’s what the statue meant to us (and the world), and continued to mean for the next 115 years. Until now. Miller dismisses it as something like graffiti that needs to be cleaned off.

Maybe the time is now at hand when we can no longer claim to be the greatest nation on earth because of our ideals. Maybe we are now officially lost.

I have often said that the Germans, of all people, should not presume to provide moral guidance to anyone. Not for another hundred years or so, by which time the project of re-writing history to expunge their crimes will surely be complete. I have said that until then, they can just keep their teutonic pie-holes shut and let others criticize us.

Well, maybe their time has also come sooner than I imagined. Here are some images from their Rose Monday parades a while back. You decide.