Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Pelosi Problem


Some of Our President's most ardent supporters mightily resent that burdensome restriction of their religious liberty that stops them from burning witches.  The first one they would consign to the flames, of course, would be Nancy Pelosi, whose least flattering photos have appeared in more Republican campaign commercials than Ronald Reagan and George Washington combined.

So what is it about Pelosi that makes her the GOP's go-to personification of evil?  Democratic Speakers like Tip O'Neill or Jim Foley never incurred such vitriolic animosity, although they were every bit as partisan and every bit as powerful.  What makes Pelosi so "special?"

Correct!  You got it on the first guess!  She's a woman.  Conservatives are staunch upholders of "traditional values" — and what deeply held belief is more "traditional" than misogyny?  To the conservative mind, the very idea of a woman exercising great power is unsettling — frightening — as unnatural as a cat quoting the Book of Revelation (or, perhaps, a black president.)

It's kind of pathetic: the chief motivator of conservatives in general, and the Republican base in particular, is fear.  Xenophobia, usually defined as fear of strangers, has a more generalized definition: fear of anything perceived as strange.  It's a debilitating condition.

Personally, I think it's time for the gerontocracy to give up the reins, but if Pelosi becomes Speaker again, it will be fine with me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Khashoggi, part two



I suppose this is conjecture, but it really feels right: Erdogan went public with lurid details of Jamal Khashoggi's murder because the Saudis didn't respond to his first blackmail attempt.  MbS couldn't imagine that anybody — especially the President of the United States of America — would be all that upset by the loss of a troublesome journalist.  After all, nobody paid much attention to the Kingdom's numerous other egregious abuses; how much difference could one more dead body make?

MbS was right about Tr*mp, of course, but others were less sanguine, and/or more opportunistic.  Under pressure, all MbS could do was "blame the help;" but given that the Turks almost certainly do have audiotapes, and possibly video as well, we can expect the negotiation of some very inexpensive "loans" to Turkey by the Kingdom in the near future.

Nobody actually believes the latest Saudi narrative, and even some Republicans will resist looking like complete idiots by pretending to swallow it — but it's the best anyone can do right now.  Will the whole thing blow over before Congress can curtail US participation in war crimes in Yemen?  As the Magic 8-Ball might say, "Ask again later."

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Real Khashoggi Question


A journalist is missing, probably dead, and whatever happened to him can be attributed to the government of Saudi Arabia.  That certainly is upsetting, but one wonders why it has drawn more media and Congressional censure than ongoing war crimes in Yemen; the imprisonment of women's rights advocates, including one sentenced to death; the imprisonment and near-fatal flogging of a mildly dissident blogger; the kidnapping and mistreatment of the Prime Minister of Lebanon; the Qatar blockade; and an host of other abuses.

Oh, yeah, there was that little matter of the Saudi royal family's involvement with al Qaeda prior to 9/11.

Jamal Khashoggi's reputation for "liberalism" dates from when he lost his job as editor of the Saudi journal Al Watan for failure to censor an article suggesting that Ibn Taymiyya, the 14th century founder of Wahabbism, may have been less than infallible.  It was just a minor glitch, though — more significant, since the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were close ties to ousted defense minister Turki al-Faisal.  One suspects that most of Khashoggi's royal friends were among those rounded up by MbS for the great Ritz Carleton shakedown.

Clearly, criticism of MbS is enough to get a person murdered these days, but there seems to be one question nobody is asking: why did Turkey go so public so soon, and what's in it for Recip Tayyip Erdogan?  It would have been easy enough for the Turks to pretend ignorance: instead, they leapt at the chance to spread grisly tales of torture and dismemberment, thereby revealing a practice of bugging foreign embassies and consulates.  (Nobody actually will believe the "Apple watch" story.)

My guess is that Turkey is tired of being pushed aside as America's favored partner in the Middle East, especially now that Erdogan has tanked the Turkish economy.  How can Americans complain about a little Turkish authoritarianism when the Saudis are so much worse?  The release of Evangelical agitator Andrew Brunson signals renewed Turkish interest in close partnership with the United States — not just an end to sanctions, but some sort of financial rescue.

Crown Ponce Jared won't like the idea, and neither will his "uncle" Bibi: a falling out with MbS will throw their alleged "peace plan" into disarray.  It won't go over too well with American corporations heavily financed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund either.  Stay tuned for the next exciting episode!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Next point of business, please...


Now that he's confirmed, let's just hurry up and get the postmortem behind us.

Kavanaugh's chief qualifications for the Court are that he will be dependably pro-corporate and pro-plutocrat.  Born to wealth, power, and privilege, he never will find anything in the Constitution that might threaten the prerogatives of his class; and he'll vote to expand those prerogatives whenever the opportunity arises.  He might not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, but he'll happily approve states legislating it into irrelevance.  After all, if some high school drunk knocks up one of his daughters, she won't have any trouble securing a safe, medical abortion.

Had Democrats genuinely wanted to stop Kavanaugh because of his moral failures, Feinstein's office could have had a quiet word with the White House Counsel while Kavanaugh was just a name on a list — but they said nothing.  It was only after he was nominated that Blasey-Ford's story –and her name– were leaked to the press.  Once her name was public, she had no choice but to testify.  Republicans may have been the ravening beasts, but Democrats were the ones who tossed her into the arena.  Throughout the entire sorry spectacle, Blasey-Ford was the only individual who behaved well .

Clearly, women will be better off if Democrats capture the House next month, and the same is true for anybody who is not part of the so-called "one percent" — but those who want the kinds of change that genuinely will make a difference have to do more.  We have to grab the Democratic Party by the neck and shake out the corporatists, the neoliberals, and the rest of the entrenched leadership.  When Bill Clinton and his "New Democrats" moved the Party to the right, they abandoned its principles.  It's time for real Democrats to take our Party back.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A few more briefs...



Brexit
It's going badly for Theresa May.  Apparently, EU leaders are not about to let the UK "have its cake and eat it," so the prospect of a hard Brexit looms ever more likely.  The idea of giving the British public a vote on the terms of an agreement, should there be one, is gaining popularity.  With support from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbin, British voters might get the choice of remaining in the EU — but Corbins is unsure what political ramifications might ensue for Labour.

Migrant kids
Thousands of young migrants are being transferred from shelters, where they are entitled to schooling and access to legal representation, to tent encampments along the Mexican border, where they receive neither.  The number of minors in detention has climbed rapidly due to Tr*mp administration policies that put potential US sponsors in jeopardy of deportation.  Despite all the other crap in the news, let's not forget the kids.

Oh, yeah, Kavanaugh...
Yes, Kavanaugh's angry testimony in the latest round of hearings was designed to impress the usual "audience of one," and that objective certainly figured into Lindsey Graham's fit of pique as well.  For those wondering why hired gun Rachel Mitchell was pushed aside when it was Kavanaugh's turn, I'd suggest it was so the judge would not have to be seen thundering angrily at a woman.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

In Case You Forgot...


Last week, a terrorist attack by Arab separatists in predominantly Persian Iran killed twenty-five and wounded at least seventy others.  Iran blamed the attack on a group financed by an ally of the United States.  In all likelihood, that claim was correct, and the American ally was either Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

Although the carnage was appalling, it was insignificant compared to what the alliance of Gulf State monarchies continues to visit upon Yemen, with financial and logistical support from the United States.  Bombing attacks are carried out with virtually no effort to avoid civilian targets, and medical facilities, such as hospitals maintained by Doctors Without Borders and other international aid groups, seem to be particular favorites for destruction.  A shipping blockade creates widespread malnutrition and a lack of medication to combat an epidemic of typhus. A UN report points up clear violations of international law, and a strong suggestion that war crimes are being committed.

Members of Congress from both parties have expressed concerns, primarily in response to particularly egregious actions like the bombing of a school bus that killed forty children, but the power to end US involvement lies with the Administration.  Sadly, Our President's bromance with Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes an end to US involvement unlikely. “We have not seen any callous disregard by the people we’re working with.  So we will continue to work with them, [to] reduce this tragedy,” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who does not appear to be working at it especially hard.

Current American preoccupation with the sexual history of an entitled frat boy seeking a seat on the Supreme Court has pushed Yemen to the back pages of the press, but Americans should not forget that their tax dollars are funding atrocities.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Briefs


Kavanaugh
Anybody who ever was a drunken high school boy can have no doubt that He Did It, whether he remembers it or not.  If he does remember, he'll lie about it — but far more disqualifying are the lies he already told during his 2006 confirmation hearings for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, regarding his service in the Bush administration.  He was an adult by then, and presumably sober.

Trade War
China's threat to respond to the latest Tr*mpian tariff escalations by disrupting US supply chains must be taken very seriously, given that key components of important manufactured products just are not available outside of China.  Even unregenerate supply-siders like Larry Kudlow are able to see that; Our President, though, only will listen to his paleo-mercantilist trade advisor, Peter Navarro.  Can mainstream corporatist Republicans stop them?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Big Lie
Jaws agape, anybody who has been paying any attention at all over the past forty years stared in amazement as Our President declared that Democrats want to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  Will his base believe him?  As Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, "in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods."