Saturday, December 21, 2019

Speleunking the Wine Cave

If you were a gay multimillionaire hoping to change America's stereotype of gay men, could you find a better avatar than Pete Buttigieg?  He's articulate and intelligent (Harvard, Oxford), a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and good-looking – but not at all effeminate.  He's comfortably out, and happily married.  Who could ask for more?

It's safe to assume that a lot of the early money that turned a small-city mayor into a viable presidential candidate came from wealthy gays; and entirely understandable that they wouldn't be comfortable with press coverage of his fund-raising events.  Democrats being Democrats, none of his opponents is willing to say that his sexuality detracts from his "electability" — but a "wine cave" sounds like exactly the sort of place a cabal of mega-rich gays would like to hang out and be gay together.  The coding is subtle, but clear.

Personally, I have a different problem with Mayor Pete: it's hard for me to trust someone who seems to have prepared a list of accomplishments prerequisite to political power while still in high school, and then carefully checked off each item, one by one.  It makes me wonder if that person has any higher objective than power itself.  I'm not at all clear regarding why Pete Buttigieg wants to be President of the United States; and it bothers me.

It was inevitable that one of his opponents, however subtly, would have to inject sexuality into the primary debates.  I'm just sorry it turned out to be Elizabeth Warren.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Quick takes

• I can't help thinking that if the Inspector General investigated ten random FISA applications, he'd probably find the number of problems he found in the Carter Page application is about average.  The problem is that the FISA court is secret, so FBI agents can cut corners without much chance of getting caught.  Most of the fruits of FISA warrants remain secret, even after they're executed; and secrecy always invites abuse.

• The impeachment proceeding is just the latest manifestation of an epistemological crisis: apparently, Pat Moynihan was wrong, and you can have your own facts.  For godfather of the current crisis, I nominate Rupert Murdoch, who brought the spirit of British tabloid journalism to American television.  It's hard to stay involved in the ongoing "drama" in Congress when everybody's already guessed the ending.

• I'm curious to see how the Liberal Democrats fare in tomorrow's British election, with their straightforward, unequivocal support for remaining in the EU.  It wasn't that long ago that the LibDems propped up a Conservative minority government.  Might they do the same for Labour?

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.