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.


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 .


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.



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.


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.


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


The Election is Rigged

The U.S. voter in the presidential election of 2016 is fucked.

How we got to this pathetic juncture, ostensibly choosing between one or the other of the most detested presidential candidates in electoral history, is pretty straightforward. The United States, despite the trite and continuous rallying cries of American exceptionalism, is a stupid and uninformed country.

That’s why, in the days after 9-11, the most memorable signs of U.S. patriotic solidarity were  massive American flags flying from the roofs of gas-guzzling SUV’s, and Country & Western singers drawling childish, bellicose ditties about “shock and awe”, and kicking Muslim ass.

That’s why the cretinous George W. Bush could  tell Americans that the most patriotic act they could perform was to go shopping, while, like a political pickpocket, he was simultaneously cracking down on civil liberties at home and lying this country into a tragic war in Iraq.

And few of us back then gave a shit. “Let’s nuke the sand niggers!” was the rallying cry of the American mob, which then had the audacity to whine about energy independence while driving trucks that got 8 miles-per-gallon.

Bush was the proverbial one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind, just slightly smarter than his demented supporters, skillfully manipulating with fear a paranoid public that was already softened up for warrant-less wiretaps, NSA anal probes, and jingoistic and chauvinistic political rhetoric. In what other environment could a smug prick like Dick Cheney, a certified war criminal that should have been hauled before the Hague a decade ago,  enrich himself financially on the blood of American soldiers and the destruction of Iraqi civilization?

Those who stood up to these atrocities were marginalized as traitors and cowards.

And then we gave a negro the keys to the kingdom and the whole thing began to seriously unravel.

This is the toxic environment that spawned such idiocies as The Tea Party movement, open-carry fanaticism, birtherism,  the so-called “sovereign movement”, and a palpable intolerance for anybody or anything strange or foreign. Ironically, while tea baggers and their freshly-minted enablers in Congress were whining about marginal tax rates and Obama’s birth certificate, the American middle class was being gutted by a cabal of sleazy investment bankers and Wall Street charlatans that, to this day, have not been held accountable for the rape of the American economy. But when the Occupy Wall Street folks mustered up the gumption to stand up to the insanity, the lies, and the thievery, they too were marginalized as losers, un-American free-loaders who couldn’t or wouldn’t  find suitable employment.

And let’s not downplay the media’s role in all of this, wallowing as it does in the raw sewage of “pussy gate”, Hillary’s trail of murdered interlopers, Anthony Weiner’s cock shots,  Bill Clinton’s “serial rapes”, and that’s to say nothing  about its daily bread-and-butter programming: the sheer monotony and banality of traipsing out campaign “surrogates” to argue incessantly over shit that only political insiders care about. All the while, exalted commentators speak the nonsensical journalistic argot of the moment, rattling on about “optics”, “pivots”, “narratives”, “outliers”, and “paths to victory”.

And that’s the so-called “mainstream media”. No small wonder that millions of Americans are turning to imbecilic “alt” news sources like Breitbart,  Prison Planet and Info Wars, websites operated by sweaty, drug-impaired paranoiacs like Alex Jones and Matt Drudge who just make shit up and get away with it.

So is it really all that surprising,  in the national election of 2016, that we are left with a nearly untenable choice between a globalist, Wall Street insider, a self-styled heir to American political “royalty”, running against an intellectually challenged, minority-hating ignoramus who is willing to say or do anything to get into the White House?

Take America back? Too late. We are too fat, stupid, and lazy for anything more strenuous than regurgitating somebody else’s ridiculous talking points and watching sports on TV.

We have only ourselves to blame for this mess because we looked the other way for way too long as we whistled through the graveyard.







Stacy Taylor

Radio maverick, writer, escape artist

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