Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Briefs


Jon Ossoff
A vast majority of the people who voted for Tr*mp also voted for Romney, and the same people voted for Karen Handel. The big winners were the consultants and media outlets in what the Times called "the Lululemon-and-loafer subdivisions of Dunwoody and Roswell."

Otto Warmbier
Warmbier was far from the first young man to lose his life for doing something trivial and stupid, albeit most such deaths do not have geopolitical consequences. Tr*mp now admits his China-North Korea policy is dead. For China (and South Korea), keeping the North stable is more important than restraining its military capability.

The American Health Care Act
It's pretty clear that a lot of Congressional Republicans wish the whole "repeal and replace" controversy would just go away. Fingers crossed, maybe it will.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Muddying the Waters


Tr*mp's friend Christopher Ruddy was interviewed on the PBS NewsHour last night.  I had to watch the interview three times.

 According to the CEO of the conservative media outlet Newsmax, Our President is "considering" firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.  Ruddy also noted that Mueller had been personally interviewed by Tr*mp as a possible replacement for James Comey as FBI Director the day before he was appointed special counsel.  So, what are we supposed to make of this?

There is no doubt that Republicans would love to delegitimize Mueller's investigation: special investigations always find something, even when the original focus of those investigations comes to nothing. (Think of Whitewater.)  Tr*mp's base would not believe anything bad about their hero even if he did shoot somebody on 5th Avenue — but the rest of the country might not be so cooperative.

If there actually was collusion between Russian intelligence and the Tr*mp team, I'll eat one of those red caps.  Why would Russia bother to "collude" with loose cannons like Carter Page or Eric Prince?  Of course, that doesn't mean mean Tr*mp associates were not compromised by Russian agents — and who knows what kinds of financial connections might come to light?

Pointing to Mueller's meeting with Tr*mp — not to mention Tr*mp family connections to Mueller's law firm — just might help to shake public confidence in Mueller enough to limit the length and scope of his investigation.  Tr*mp won't fire Mueller — even he's not that stupid — but Republicans will do all they can hold him in check.

Friday, June 9, 2017

That "meddlesome priest"



Just a few things the major media failed to emphasize:

     ✽ Bill Clinton's tarmac meeting with Loretta Lynch on June 27, 2016, was the straw that broke the camel's back for Comey, leading to his July 5 hatchet job on Hillary.  Did Bill intend to screw her, or was it just passive aggression?  You decide.

     ✽ The persistent parsing of the word "hoping" by Senator James Risch is a pretty clear indicator that the Utah Republican really believes Tr*mp is guilty of obstruction of justice.  As Queen Gertrude said in Hamlet (Act III, Scene II), "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

     ✽ Somebody would have had to explain to Tr*mp who Becket and Henry II were, and the relevance of the "meddlesome priest" comments.  He probably didn't get it.

Correction: an earlier iteration of this post substituted "turbulent" for "meddlesome."  Although more frequently cited as Henry II's description of Becket, it was not the analogy employed by Comey.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Foreign . . . policy?

Vulcan mind meld?
 
Can Tr*mp even find Qatar on a map?  Pretty clearly, "his" generals neglected to mention the two enormous American military bases there before he launched the tweetstorm that created his latest international dumpster fire.

To anyone who has been paying attention, the Saudi problem with Qatar is clear: Qatar maintains lines of communication with Iran.  Saudi accusations that the Qataris "support terrorists," including IS and al-Qaeda, are the height of hypocrisy.  Al-Sisi may be more justified in his dislike of Qatar, based on Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood: after brutally overthrowing the Brotherhood's democratically elected government in Egypt, al-Sisi might not feel much confidence in the organization's renunciation of violence back in the 1970s.

So, Tr*mp's profound geopolitical ignorance has left America's military and foreign policy establishments scrambling to clean up his mess, even as they scramble to close the rifts he created with NATO allies on his recent European trip, and his alienation of the British arising from his responses to the terrorist assault on London.  He's already antagonized Mexico and Canada — even Australia!  Who's next?  (Probably not Russia.)

It helps to remember what "America First" meant the last time it was a popular political slogan: isolationism — and "peaceful co-existence" with the Nazis.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Afghanistan


Tr*mp's "foreign policy" consists of listening to "his" generals.  The generals want another 5000 troops to "stabilize" the country — not to win, mind you — we couldn't win with Obama's far larger "surge" — but just to delay losing the war until they're all "honorably" retired.  Who knows?  It might even lead to a round of negotiations!

Attempts at negotiation to date have been fruitless, largely because neither side seems to have much to offer the other.  Well, it's time to think outside the box.  Here are some ideas that just might work:

• Afghan government will be decentralized, with regional chieftains and warlords retaining their local power and meeting in a traditional loya jurga to make decisions that affect the nation as a whole.

• All foreign forces will leave Afghanistan, with Afghan leadership committing to subdue or expel foreign Islamist forces, including IS and al-Qaeda.

• NATO nations will contract to purchase the entire Afghan opium crop, thereby maintaining the Afghan economy and sharply reducing the availability of opioids on worldwide markets.

• Afghanistan will contract with multinational corporations based in NATO countries to exploit its deposits of rare earths and other minerals, creating cash incentives for all parties to the negotiations.

• The West will commit to end all efforts to influence Afghan religious practices, and let the Afghans handle their own political corruption problems in whatever ways they see fit.

A general consensus has emerged that "nation building" does not work, and that attempts to foment cultural revolutions in the Third World create nothing but chaos and antagonism.  If the West can live with Saudi Arabia under Sharia law, it can extend the same courtesy to Afghanistan.  Cultures change at their own rates, each in accordance with its own needs.

I'll pick up my Nobel Peace Prize in person, provided I can fly first-class.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Briefly

Middle East
Islamophobic?  Not Tr*mp!  The biggest difference between Sunni and Shi'a, it seems, is $110 billion in military contracts.  Okay, absolute despots who quietly finance radical jihad may not be the nicest people in the world, but why let a few little human rights get in the way of a sweet deal? Meanwhile, the Iranians were putting unprecedented pressure on their own religious radicals in a exercise of something that looked a hell of a lot like democracy.
     (Breaking fake news!!! The "prayer note" Tr*mp slipped into the Wailing Wall said, "No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.")

Budget
The President's budget proposal is understood as an opening bid in a negotiation, designed to lower the adversary's expectations and leave room for expected "giveaways." The Tr*mp document is so extreme that a "compromise" could wind up looking like Paul Ryan's wet dream. The objective of every Republican since Reagan has been to further fatten the fat cats while thoroughly screwing everybody else.  Tr*mp, the alleged "populist," continues the tradition — in spades.

Turkey
Even Erdogan's goons attacking Kurdish and Albanian protesters in downtown DC failed to draw press attention to the extension of "emergency powers" in Turkey in the service of political repression. One can only hope that a criminal investigation into Michael Flynn's employment by Turkey will draw a little more attention to the ongoing decimation of Turkish democracy.  Erdogan paid Flynn a lot more than the Russians did.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WannaCry: What if . . . ?


You won't actually need any hard evidence to believe this, will you?  Oh, good!  I didn't think you would.

So the usual sources are blaming North Korea for the WannaCry ransomware attack, a reflex response when they can't think of anything better.  I can think of something better!  First, let's review the "facts" that have been made available.

The attack exploited a vulnerability in Windows first discovered by the NSA, then "mysteriously" leaked on the darkweb.  Microsoft promptly released a patch to block that vulnerability, which was automatically downloaded and installed on the newest version of its operating system, protecting all those who had paid for the software.  The scale of the attack was unprecedented, as was the publicity surrounding it.  Almost none of those targeted have paid the suspiciously low ransom to have their data decrypted, possibly because the scale and publicity of the attack makes it seem unlikely that the hackers ever would keep their promises to the victims.

So who's been hurt?  Well, there were those using older versions of Windows, like the British National Health Service — starved for cash under the Conservatives, and still limping along on Windows XP for want of money to pay for an update.  Then there were the vast numbers using pirated versions of Windows, especially in Russia and China, whose systems couldn't download the patch.  Also, presumably, there was a tiny fraction who had paid for the latest version of Windows but had the automatic update feature off.

Now, as they like to say in Latin, cui bono?  Who benefits from a worldwide attack, especially considering how all of the ransom money actually paid is still sitting in inactive Bitcoin wallets?  Who, perhaps, has been royally pissed off because of all the piracy of Windows software, and not terribly pleased with those who figure they don't need all the bells and whistles of Windows 10?

Microsoft had access to all the code involved; Microsoft's good customers had the patch in advance.  Just one more step is necessary: if it turns out that you can recover all your data just by buying and installing the latest version of Windows, well . . .

This conspiracy stuff is fun! 😈