Sunday, December 1, 2019

Afghanistan update


Last week, Our President pardoned two turkeys and three war criminals.  Then he flew off to Afghanistan, where he announced resumption of peace talks with the Taliban.  The Taliban's response: "Huh?"

Presumably, this means negotiators will take up where they left off, with the Taliban agreeing not to attack NATO forces as they fully withdraw; and to hold separate peace negotiations with the Afghani government – in China.  While this is not good news for more westernized, urban Afghanis – particularly women – the frequently innocent victims of US bombing raids won't mind at all.  Anyway, nobody seems to have a better idea.

Clearly, the Taliban must recognize that a treaty with the United States may not be worth much, given US withdrawal from the Iran pact; and it's unlikely that Taliban leaders will feel any great obligation to follow through on their own commitments once foreign troop are gone from their country.  It's also unlikely that they will see a bitterly divided Afghani government as a credible negotiating partner, given the ongoing dispute between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah regarding who actually won the past couple of elections.

Of course, most Americans really don't care what happens in Afghanistan once our troops come home: so America's longest war finally may be coming to an end.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Too much television


I've never been inclined to binge-watch TV — even the most dramatic and convoluted fictions just can't hold my interest for more than an hour or two.

Then I got hooked on the impeachment inquiry — not for new revelations nor even for the inevitable confirmations of my preexisting beliefs.  I was hooked on the human drama: the personalities of the witnesses, and their distinctive responses to the singular circumstances of Congressional scrutiny.  It was "reality television" at its best.

The career diplomats (aka "deep state") expressed a degree of moral clarity rarely encountered in our day-to-day lives.  I felt I could trust Alexander Vindman with all my passwords and account numbers; Marie Yovanovitch's grace under fire tempted me to join in the standing ovation she received as she exited the hearing room; Fiona Hill's testimony, of course, was literally breathtaking; and the earnest courage of the less senior diplomats, who disobeyed Tr*mp's orders to ignore Congressional subpoenas, was genuinely inspiring.

The most interesting character study, though, was Gordon Sondland.  Gregarious, self-assured, and puckishly self-deprecating at times, he came across as somehow likeable as he sought to thread a narrow path between perjury charges and presidential revenge.  His role in the Congressional teledrama was, to me, Shakespearean: a "man of parts" brought down by vain ambition — and wishing he'd blown that million bucks on anything else.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Quick take


Many were amused when Lindsey Graham suggested that the Tr*mp administration is just too incompetent to hatch a plan which would force Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.  Well, Tr*mp & Co. certainly were too incompetent to get it right.  Sondland's amateurism and Giuliani's dementia made sure of that: they got caught.

I think it's just as amusing tha their incompetence – and Tr*mp's – are now the basis of the Republican defense against impeachment.  "Ukraine got the money," they say.  "There weren't any investigations."  Right.  The plan didn't work.  They got caught.

Clearly, Jim Jordan was added to the intelligence committee to provide sound bites for Fox.  I can't help thinking his greatest qualification is that he, like Tr*mp, actually believes the conspiracy theories about Ukraine, rather than Russia, being responsible for the 2016 election interference; and that it was done to benefit Democrats.  The Red Hats, needless to say, happily will believe it as well.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Next?


Virtually all the talking heads are in agreement: Our President will be impeached by the House and acquitted in the Senate.  This is based on the irrefutable fact that Republicans are so deep in his sh*t all they can do is pretend they can't smell it.  That leaves them struggling to agree on a strategy to defend him; and at the moment, it looks like all they have are Giuliani's conspiracy theories.

Our President, it appears, sincerely believes in those conspiracy theories, so you can be sure he regards "believing" them as a test of loyalty.  Needless to say, the conservative media (and the Russians) are doing a pretty good job of selling them to the loyal Republican base.  The Nazi "big lie" stratagem still works — and social media helps it work even better.

Just for entertainment value, I'd love to see public testimony from Rudy Giuliani.  (I know I'm not supposed to laugh at the handicapped, but in Rudy's case, I'll make an exception.)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Quick Takes


Obliged to juggle alternative realities on a daily basis, is it surprising that Mick Mulvaney was, shall we say, a bit confused?

Let's start a pool!  How long will it be before Rudy Giuliani goes under the bus?

Vladimir Putin is the only world leader likely to bring a semblance of peace to Syria.  If that happens, should he be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize?

We all know we're not supposed to judge people by their appearances, but sometimes you just can't help it!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Saving the Republican Party


As I'm sure you've noticed, Our President is batshit crazy — and he's been getting worse.  As impeachment pressures grow, his general demeanor is deteriorating and his rants and rage-tweets are increasingly bizarre.  Up to this point, Republican efforts to rationalize Tr*mp's irrationality have been strained, but effective enough to mollify his base.  The Zelensky phone call opened some cracks in GOP unity– even at Fox News – but none large enough to do real damage.

The Erdogan phone call, however, is different.  Tr*mp's base may not understand much, but they understand treachery and betrayal; they recognize a stab in the back when they see it.  After years being told of the bravery and loyalty of the Syrian Kurds – consistent "good guys" in all the media – Tr*mp's abandonment of America's allies against ISIS has to feel like a gut-punch to his admirers.  Real damage has been done, and none of the President's arguments for American self-interest or realpolitik is likely to reverse it.

In other words, Tr*mp's chance at a second term took a serious hit over the past few days; and since a narrow win in the Electoral College looked like his best  path to victory, the situation is dire.  A serious drubbing by Democrats in 2020 will endanger Republican control of the Senate as well.  What's a Bible-thumping stooge of the plutocracy to do?

Here's an idea: sidestep that embarrassing impeachment inquiry and invoke the 25th Amendment. With all due sympathy for his "illness," dump Tr*mp and give the presidency to Pence.  Our Vice-President has kept a low enough profile over the past three years to maintain his undeserved reputation for moral probity.  He could win.

It won't happen, of course.  Pence doesn't have the chutzpah to start the ball rolling, and the sycophants, enablers, and co-conspirators in the Cabinet would be too terrified to follow through.  Still, should you happen to run into Charles Koch any time soon, pass the idea along: he just might like it.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Продовжуйте поширювати шмальц


You don't have to read Ukrainian to figure out Volodymyr Zelensky's basic approach to dealing with Our President.  The "reconstructed transcript" of their telephone conversation omits any mention of the incomparable sexiness of America's First Daughter, but nobody will be too surprised if it shows up in a later edition.  The joint press appearance at the UN offered more of the same: Did Zelensky feel "pressured" by Tr*mp?  Of course not!

In the meanwhile, it's hard to argue that Biden won't be hurt by his son's lucrative employment by an Ukrainian oligarch.  Hunter's sinecure may have had no impact on America's foreign policy whatsoever, but the optics are terrible.  The "electability" argument for Biden's nomination has suffered a severe hit.

It will be a mistake if Democrats ignore Tr*mp's numerous other abuses of power to zero in on the Ukraine affair.  Those other abuses, including the numerous instances presented in the Mueller Report, demand greater scrutiny over the course of the impeachment inquiry: ignoring them is tantamount to endorsing them.

On the lighter side, congressional testimony on Ukraine by Rudy Giuliani promises to rank among the funniest absurdist comedies in TV history, and may require creating a new category for the Emmy Awards.  Granted, one shouldn't be laughing a senile dementia – but as a (Medicare) card-carrying geezer, I'll claim special dispensation to LMAO.