The Pity Party

 

Lisa Murkowsky and Susan Collins will vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
Manchin, Heitkamp, and Donnelly are likely to vote to confirm as well. In my opinion, it won’t even be close.
It’s nice to see Harris, Booker, Schumer being all angry today and promising to block the nomination, but it won’t happen.
This battle was lost in November of 2016 when Dem’s anointed a deeply flawed presidential candidate, thinking Trump was a joke who could never win.
The joke is now on us.
I’m not exactly sure what the Democrat’s strategy is now. It apparently is politically important to appear to be putting up a good fight, even though we and they know they’ll lose in the end.
Have the refugee children been reunited with their parents yet?
Has ICE been abolished yet?
Has Trump been impeached yet?
Have we saved Dodd-Frank yet?
Have we rolled back the billionaire tax cuts yet?
Has any Democrat besides Paul Krugman pushed back against Trump’s asinine trade policies?
Have the Democrats come up with an energizing, emotionally resonant message yet, other than Not-Trump?

Remember, we now have a president who is on-the-record opposed to breast-feeding.
Democrats now have 194 House seats out of 435.
Democrats now have 46 Senate seats out of 100.
Democrats have 14 governorships out of 50.
Democrats have 20 state attorneys general out of 50.
There have been a few accomplishments, notably defeating a Klansman/ pedophile in the Alabama special election, introducing a fresh congressional candidate in NY’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and retaking the governorship of New Jersey
( thanks largely to the dismal unpopularity of Chris Christie).
Oh, and Chuck Schumer has put Maxine Waters in her place for her lack of “civility”, when she’s one of the few who is showing a pulse.
Reality check time, Dems. You’re rapidly becoming irrelevant.
Than maybe a little “tough love” before this Trump cluster-fuck gets totally out of control?
Denial…anger…bargaining…depression…acceptance is not an effective political strategy.

Witch Hunt

Yesterday we watched the real witch hunt play out in the House of Representatives, led by Tea Party pinhead Trey Gowdy, and abetted by his two goons, Louis Gohmert and Bob Goodlatte.
It was, of course, a last ditch attempt to once again smear the Special Prosecution of the Trump administration by attacking the political bias of Peter Strozok, an agent who was removed from the case over a year ago.
But it was really just a show trial, a chance for Trump bootlickers in Congress to go on TV and to huff and puff and hold their collective breath until they turned red, and then try to outdo one another with phony bravado and indignation.

The inquisitors had obviously worked out in advance the tactic of concluding their questioning with a long-winded, accusatory statement, then not allowing Strozok to respond.
The same three of four questions were asked over and over for 9 hours all in a desperate quest for a big “gotcha” moment that never came. Strozok bravely fought back against the nerd assault, for which he was then castigated for being uncooperative.
The lowest of the low points came when the chrome-domed eunuch Louis Gohmert attacked Strozok’s integrity by wondering how many times he lied to his wife about the affair he was having.
And all of this in defense of our pussy-grabbing whore monger president!
So much irony! And all of it wasted on Trump’s thick-headed base.
Meanwhile this morning, back in the real world, Mueller’s team handed down 12 indictments of Russian spies accused of hacking the 2016 election.
And somewhere else today, Donald Trump is being genitally fluffed for his upcoming private money shot with Vlad Putin. We certainly don’t need a congressional hearing to know which of those two is the dominant partner.

Be Very Afraid!

MSNBC informed me today that these are “scary times” because of the data breach with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. And Congress is salivating to come up with any regulation of social media to make things less scary, although I don’t think there is a single member of congress who even has a clue as to how this stuff works.
I’ve posted about this hysteria before so here’s a quick review: when a smartphone application asks you if you are willing to give up all of your personal data in exchange for downloading a free app, simply click on the choice that says “Decline”. Easy-peezy.
And if you encounter a story in social media that purports, for example, that Hillary Clinton in running a kiddie porn operation out of a D.C. area pizza joint, and you look at the story and say “Hmmmm. That’s plausible!”, then you’re really too stupid to even matter.
But that seems to be at the heart of the matter before congress, and why these, according to MSNBC, are “scary times”.
And yes, I understand the value of hyperbole in the 24/7 cable news game.
As a matter fact, MSNBC has been multi-tasking today, providing a muted drumbeat for some kind of military punch in Syria. The network is traipsing out the lineup of military types that you might remember as “Oh, those guys that were so wrong about Iraq?” You know, Jack Jacobs, Barry McCaffery. William Kristol, etc.
I wonder if we’ll see Paul Wolfowitz or Mary Cheney on a MSNBC “roundtable” soon.

The “progressive” network is no stranger to war mongering. They were, at best, complicit in the run-up to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The cynic in me assumed that was because NBC’s parent company at the time was General Electric, who provided the guts for the Tomahawk Missiles the U.S. loved to rain down on the towel-heads.
Here’s Chris Matthews reacting to W’s moronic USS Abraham Lincoln “mission accomplished” moment:
“He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics. … He looks for real. … [H]e didn’t fight in a war, but he looks like he does. … We’re proud of our president. … Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president.”
Trump, Bolton, Mattis, along with the rest of the Republican phony tough guys are all perfectly capable of fucking up this situation on their own. They don’t need the “liberal media” as co-enablers.

The Adults in the Romper Room

The most current narrative about our callow boy-president is that the so-called “adults in the room” will work to modulate Trump’s worst impulsive tendencies.

The “adults” include Trump’s chief-of-staff, retired Marine general John Kelly, defense secretary, retired Marine general “Mad Dog” James Mattis, national security advisor, retired Army general H.R. McMaster, and secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, These adults are held in thrall by most of the mainstream media which oohs and aahs their collective adultness on a daily basis, without apparent qualm that most of them are military men running a civilian government.

H.R. McMaster, like James Mattis, is routinely celebrated for reading books (unlike our Commander-in-Chief who is routinely assumed to have never even opened a book). McMaster even wrote a book, Dereliction of Duty, which critiques the performance of our political leaders during the Vietnam era and was widely noted during McMaster’s congressional confirmation as Director of Homeland Security, a post he abandoned when another retired general, Russophile Mike Flynn, was fired from Trump’s White House staff.

Dereliction of Duty seizes upon one of the most over-worked and discredited memes about Vietnam,  that we coulda gone in and won that sucker had the politicians not tied  our hands militarily. That theory, of course,  overlooks the fact that over 700 million tons of U.S. bombs were dropped on that country and that 1.1 million North Vietnamese combatants were killed in action during our involvement. If that was hand-tying, I’d hate to see “gloves off”.

And, like most revisionist histories of ‘Nam, Dereliction of Duty never addresses the question of what exactly the U.S. would have “won” had we killed another million North Vietnamese.

But what’s ironic about McMaster’s book is his wholly un-original hypothesis that Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, aided and abetted by military advisors like General Maxwell Taylor, routinely lied to the American public about the progress and the strategy of the war. The irony, of course, is that McMaster now serves a president who lies before he even falls out of bed in the morning and spends the rest of his waking day just making shit up as he goes along. Apparently McMaster has no problems working for the kind of serial liar he denounces in Dereliction of Duty.

Another of Trump’s adult advisors is chief-of-staff John Kelly. Kelly is so obsessed by Trump’s ridiculous border wall concept that he predicts that the whole $200 billion boondoggle will be completed within 2 years and will go a long way to keeping “tremendous threats” safely south of the Mexican border. Kelly seems a little spooked by the threat of international terrorism as well, stating about terrorism:

“It’s everywhere. It’s constant. It’s nonstop. The good news for us in America is we have amazing people protecting us every day. But it can happen here almost anytime.”[31] He said that the threat from terrorism was so severe that some people would “never leave the house” if they knew the truth.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ major contribution to the administration seems to be to “soften” the tone of Trump’s belligerent, half-assed comments on foreign policy while never once refuting anything Trump actually says. At no point has Mattis even hinted that Trump’s sophomoric “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded” comments  might be inappropriate in the middle of a nuclear showdown.

As for Tillerson, he gets an “incomplete” on this grade card since he hasn’t done a god damn thing, including appointing an ambassador to South Korea, which might come in handy about now.

The U.S. is in the midst of a decades-long era of “low intensity conflict”, a euphemism for perpetual and continuous war. Trump’s “adults” are old hands at this game, experientially and philosophically. It’s where the money is, after all, and these adults know on which side the bread is buttered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Vietnam Postscript

DSC00331I wasn’t at all sure what to expect in my visit to Vietnam. Probably a lot of Pho, I figured, that bland noodle dish that has become ubiquitous in west coast strip malls. Part of my confusion was because Vietnam is a communist country, and I had little idea what exactly that even meant anymore. Waves of goose-stepping soldiers and boastful displays of missile launchers, as we recently witnessed in Pyongyang?   Glum internal-security apparatchiks keeping a watchful eye on anything non-conforming? A grim population of robotic drones, their shoulders to the wheel,  grinding out 12 hours workdays? A stark unavailability of consumer goods?

Actually, none of those clichés turned out to be reality. No soldiers, few cops, a friendly, albeit  reserved, population, and stores, galleries, and boutiques dealing in luxury goods. In the center of Saigon is a 5-story shopping mall, named Saigon Centre, “your fashion destination”, that makes the Century City Mall in L.A. look like a flea market.

DSC00395In the southern coastal area, the beaches are lined with high-end resorts, mostly catering to European tourists, fancy, French-inspired restaurants, and beachfront Tiki bars, along with the quaint fishing villages you would expect to see. Mui Ne beach, near the fishing town of Phan Thiet, is the kite surfing capital of the world. Yes, commies kite surf.

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Most of the tourists I bumped into in the more affordable beach areas were Russians , by and large a dour and humorless lot, clad in their uniforms of tank-tops, baggy shorts, and rubber flip flop sandals, swilling beer and vodka from mid-morning on. The high end resorts were populated mostly by slender, fashionable Asians, sipping Mojitos and taking selfies. The locals were concentrated in nearby fishing coves, mending their nets and selling their catch, or drying anchovies in the sun in preparation for the production of their famous fish sauce, nước mắm .

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Apparently the South China Sea, unlike the oceans off the coast of the United States, are still fertile with sea life. In Mui Ne, locals and tourists have their choice of dozens of seafood restaurants, all serving fresh catch, creatively prepared Vietnam/French style, in hot pots, wrapped in banana leaves, pan fried, raw, or steamed.  One local restaurant where I dined one evening, Vietnam Home, had a menu that offered up grilled cobra, marinated ostrich, crocodile, fried lizard, curried sea eel, and barracuda, in addition to the more mundane dishes like fried snapper. The atmosphere at Vietnam Home was, to say the least, “casual.

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Residents of Ho Chi Minh City still refer to it as Saigon, and  the old, ornate French architecture co-exists alongside shiny new high-rises. The streets are teeming with motor scooters and pedestrians. In fact, there was little on display, either culturally or economically, that screamed “communism”. Marijuana is openly sold and smoked on the side streets and, at night, young Vietnamese hipsters pack the bars and discos.

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There is the Ben Thanh central market (cleaner and more orderly than similar ones found in Latin America), along with a few other reminders of Vietnam’s 2nd world status. Aside from the Gothic and Romanesque architecture, some of the remaining vestiges of the French occupation include hundreds of little open-air coffee shops, family owned and operated, along with lots of food stalls selling ham-and-cheese baguette sandwiches, known locally as bánh mì  . Yes, there is also Pho. I did not sample it. I would prefer to imagine it better than the chicken soup version available in the states.

DSC00361Aside from trying to wrap my mind around abstractions like “communism”, “socialism” and “planned economy”, I obsessed a bit on the war and what thoughts the Vietnamese people harbored when confronting American tourists. After all, it was my generation and my country that shredded and incinerated their country, while dispatching 2 million souls in the process. I did visit the War Remnants Museum, originally called the The Exhibition House For Crimes of War and Aggression ( the name altered as part of the 1995 deal that allowed trade between the U.S. and Vietnam). There  was still a pavilion devoted to American war crimes, that included dozens of enlarged photos of the aftermath of the My Lai massacre and the effects of agent orange. While viewing the depressing exhibits, the Dylan song A Hard Rains Gonna Fall kept looping in my brain. It was, to say the least, a sobering experience.

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The only conversation about the war I had in Vietnam was with a Mekong Delta tour guide who spoke decent English. He took a somewhat sanguine approach to the war, suggesting that neither the U.S. combatants nor the Vietnamese resistance had much choice in the matter. He told me about his father, a “collaborator” who had provided some kind of conveyance service to Americans in Saigon, but then fled in fear when the Army of North Vietnam triumphantly entered the city in 1975. He died of cancer after 9 years of exile in the Soviet Union, never seeing his family again.

Meanwhile, all I could think about was a tidbit from history. Ho Chi Minh was a notorious admirer of America’s revolutionary history and practically begged the U.S. to merely recognize his revolution, unsuccessfully of course. When he drew up the constitution for the new country he would ultimately lead, this was the preamble: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It has taken centuries of war and occupation, first by the Chinese, then by the French and the United States, and years of recriminations, re-education camps, and purges, but my feeling is that Vietnam is finally approaching the ideal embedded in those famous words.children of saigon

 

Stacy Taylor

Radio maverick, writer, escape artist

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