UKRAINE: WHAT WE SHOULD KNOW

Russian House of Soviets, Lenin on Moscow Square. St. Petersburg.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

  • The 2014 uprising in Ukraine, the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government were severe blows to the pride of Vladamir Putin and the Russian establishment/oligarchy.
  • Added to the economic importance of Ukraine is the profound cultural centrality of Ukrainian history as part of the Soviet Union, and the political significance of the independence gained by the Ukrainian people.
  • Putin has reportedly never gotten over the breakup of the Soviet Union, the independence of Ukraine or the movement of the Ukrainian people towards the West.
  • As was pointed out in the Ukraine World Podcast, Putin and the Russian oligarchy have never conceived of Ukraine as an independent state.  They have never considered Ukraine as independent and cannot now accept the status quo.
  • As Timothy Snyder pointed out, Putin and Russia have never considered Ukrainians as anything but vassals.  They do not even negotiate with Ukrainians, but with the West over Ukraine.
  • And, the status quo, as unpalatable as it may seem, may not remain the status quo much longer.
  • Putin may feel that the window of time for pressuring Ukraine back into the Russian sphere is rapidly closing.
  • Not long after Biden took office, Russia announced itself fed up with the status quo relating to Ukraine and NATO expansion.
  • Also, around the first of the year, Zelensky expressed more publicly than he had in the past, an interest in Ukraine joining NATO.
  • Since Ukraine is not currently a member of NATO, there is no automatic responsibility of the West to react if Ukraine is invaded.  If Ukraine joins NATO, however, this changes completely.
  • Note: I cannot see after withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden involving military troops in any conflict in Ukraine.  Putin, of course, knows this and it adds to the likelihood of intervention.
  • There is, of course, a great deal of debate about whether Putin intends to invade or just threaten.  But, as has been pointed out, not only is there an unprecedented movement of troops, but also a structuring of support for an invasion, like locating medical supplies near the border. 
  • It would probably be an error to suppose that Putin’s choice is binary.  Even though U.S. officials persist in talking about the choice as either an invasion with a full scale military operation and seizure of territory, or backing down and not invading.  But, as others point out, Putin has stated that he would never invade any territory unless he were certain of victory.
  • So, a number of regional experts foresee an operation that includes pinpoint strikes and then strategic withdrawals.  The object, according to these commentators, is to destroy Ukrainian military capability.  Occupation is not the goal.
  • Putin, so the theory goes, wants to demonstrate to Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet Block that all their efforts towards independence can be negated easily and quickly, leaving them vulnerable and back inside the Russian sphere.
  • While there have been strides in the development of Ukrainian military capability, it cannot even compete with the highly technological, mobile Russian military expertise.
  • Putin pursued economic strategies to block Ukraine from moving out of the Russian sphere of influence and toward the west.   
  • In 2014, it became evident that that strategy had failed.  Ordinary people rose and drove out the pro-Russia president who had to flee to Moscow to keep from being imprisoned.  The Ukrainians made their choice clear when they drove out a Russia friendly president and ushered in the pro-western government.
  • Putin saw this as a coup engineered by the West and the CIA to divide the Russian sphere of influence.  So, Putin seized Crimea. 
  • Putin intended to demonstrate that he cares more about the fate of Ukraine than the west.
  • Putin also sees the writing on the wall in the policies and actions of Zelensky.  In early 2021, Zelensky’s government began cracking down on Russian controlled media inside Ukraine and a Russian connected oligarch.  The government also participated in military exercises with Western forces.
  • Putin’s actions have actually alienated people in Ukraine.  Polls indicate that more people than when Zelensky first took office support joining NATO and a move toward the West.
  • Putin, evidently, does not believe this.  He has indicated that a move toward Russia is the will of the people and that Russian forces would be welcomed, regarded as liberators. 
  • And, Putin may estimate that a war now could be less costly than later.
  • While U.S. officials bandy around the threats of “sanctions” according to specialists, Putin has been sanction proofing the Russian economy since 2014. 
  • And, sanctions on Russia will affect powerful interests around the world.  In order to enact meaningful sanctions, Biden would not only have to take on the Russians, but banking and other interests internationally.  There is little indication that he is prepared to do this.
  • What Putin wants is not to annex Ukraine, but to influence it.  He wants to alter and control the structure of security in Eastern Europe.
  • While this mobilization near the border of Ukraine may be only an example of “coercive diplomacy,” the intent is to keep Ukraine out of NATO and get an agreement to limit NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.
  • If Biden agrees to this in order to avoid a war, he will violate the concept of self determination that has influenced policy in the post-war era. 

Sources:

Podcasts:

The Daily, NYT (12/8/21) Interview with Moscow Bureau Chief, NYT, Anton Troianovski

Ukraine World Ep. 58: The New Russian Attack on Ukraine.

Ukraine World Ep. 57: Ukraine in November 2021.

Like Sharks in Charge of Water Safety: Elie Mystal and the Supreme Court

Elie Mystal, of the Nation Magazine, is a national treasure. 

He is like a breath of fresh air in the middle of the stale, phony, self-serving, power and celebrity worshiping hosts and commentators appearing regularly on corporate news.

One, just one of the reasons I love him is that he rolls his eyes on national television.  Another reason I love him is that he tells the truth and talks like a regular person.  He doesn’t use ten words with one will do, and he doesn’t surround every statement he makes with a boat load of qualifying phrases.  

He rolls his eyes, he tells the truth, he doesn’t obfuscate because (unlike almost every other person appearing on corporate news) he is not afraid.

The right is not afraid of stealing Supreme Court seats, lying, cheating, rigging elections, subverting justice and a whole host of other things.  The center, however, is a culture of people who are afraid.  They are afraid to see the truth right in front of their faces, afraid to confront depressing and distressing facts, afraid of the very possibility of offending somebody, afraid of being inconvenienced, afraid of not perhaps, maybe not getting some job they haven’t even thought of yet.

I spent almost a decade out of the country.  When I returned, I was astounded to hear a student tell me she couldn’t take an internship at World Wildlife (World Wildlife, not the Communist Party) because she might someday want to apply for a job with the State Department.  This is who we have become.  The right, the Republican party is fighting 24-hours-a-day to establish a Christo-fascist authoritarian government and those in the center are afraid of their shadows.

On Thursday, Nicolle Wallace, MSNBC, spent an entire segment of her program listening to people lionize the members of the January 6 Commission for considering, considering referring Steven Bannon to the Justice Department for criminal contempt.  But, as Eli Mystal pointed out on CNN this morning, the whole process of the referrals to the Justice Department is nothing but theatre.

What every news program and every host should have been pointing out is that the Committee has (but is not using) the right of inherent contempt.  Using this right, the Congress can jail people who don’t abide by subpoenas until they do abide.  They don’t have to refer the matter to the Justice Department and wait for Biden’s (wimp noodle) hatchet man, Merrick Garland to act. 

In addition, inherent contempt means that people like Bannon will be jailed and stay jailed until they provide the information that was subpoenaed.  Going down the criminal contempt path and referring to the Justice Department, assuming Garland will prosecute  (which he will not) and assuming a conviction, only punishes the offender for not cooperating.  It does not secure the information needed. 

So, the House Commission investigating the coup attempt should be shamed and criticized for not taking the path designed to get the information we need.  Instead, they are heralded as heroes, patriots, courageous public servants.  The Nicolle Wallace program last night became a virtual campaign ad for Benie Thompson and the other members.  Not once, did Wallace or any of the members of the panel she assembled tell the American people that what the Commission was doing was a sleight of hand maneuver to look like they were doing something and not doing it.

Similarly, the Commission Biden appointed to study the Supreme Court expansion was “designed to fail.”  As Mystal wrote in April when the commission was formed: “Biden’s choices confirm the worst fears court reformers had about the president: He doesn’t want a solution; he wants an excuse to do nothing.”

Quoting from Eli Mystal’s article IN APRIL:

“Instead of creating a commission of high-minded reformers or bare-knuckle politicos, Biden has created the quintessential government committee that is purposefully designed to accomplish nothing. The “Commission on the Supreme Court” isn’t even allowed to make policy recommendations on what to do about the Supreme Court. It is merely supposed to “study” the issue, which is like hiring a chef to draw pictures of food instead of cooking a meal. When Republicans take power, they don’t commission a book report on what they should do with the courts. They show up to Washington prepared to reshape the judiciary from day one. Biden showed up prepared to read a law review article.”

“Perhaps even more troubling, instead of balancing some of the center-left people on the commission with more, or any, outspoken advocates of court reform, Biden went the other way and put Federalist Society scholars and judges in there to drag the whole thing to the right. I cannot recall the last time a Republican president bothered even to consult a Democratic voice, never mind a genuinely left voice, on how to proceed with a matter related to the Supreme Court. But Democrats continue to act like they need a hall pass from Republicans before they take any action.”

Their inclusion—again, at the expense of some of the individuals who have been actively fighting these people and their conservative takeover of the courts—is insulting.

It’s also a giant waste of time. Donald Trump appointed 226 fire-breathing conservative judges to the federal bench in just four years; we are 20 months away from a midterm election during which Democrats might lose their tenuous grip on power; yet Biden’s committee on studying whether we should maybe, possibly try to fix the court will spend 180 days dickering with Federalist Society people about what Thomas Jefferson would do.”

This report did exactly what it was intended to do, provide cover for Biden who doesn’t have the stomach to expand the Supreme Court (or get rid of the filibuster for that matter).  As Mystal pointed out, the commission itself was composed of people who make their living arguing before the Supreme Court.  Appointing a commission like that is like appointing the sharks to supervise water safety.

In addition, the commission had nothing to say, nothing, about ethics and the Supreme Court.  The Supreme court is the only judicial body in the country with absolutely no ethics regulations.  There is no requirement for members of the Supreme Court to recuse themselves from cases in which they might have an interest.  There is nothing to prevent the wife of a sitting Supreme court Justice to participate in a coup attempt to overthrow the government.  Ethics complaints filed against Bret Kavanaugh were summarily buried after his appointment to the Supreme Court. 

But, the Biden administration, so widely hailed on corporate news spins its wheels, claims the high ground and does nothing.

Sources:

Eli Mystal

Del Rio Refugees

FRIDAY 24 SEPTEMBER

A number of people on Twitter have been asking why refugees are congregating at Del Rio, Texas and why most of them are Haitians. 

From available sources, this is the best I can do.

The Border

A large number of the people congregated at the border around Del Rio, Texas are Haitan.  It is estimated that most of these people have not recently fled Haiti, but have lived in Central or South America for several years.

The displacement of Haitians is the result of an increase in human rights violations in the past decade in addition to several disastrous earthquakes and hurricanes.  It is estimated that the 2010 earthquake alone displaced1.5 million people.   

Initially countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Panama welcomed the immigrants because they provided cheap labor.   

But, as the pandemic’s effects caused tightening economic conditions, Haitian immigrants increasingly faced a backlash. 

It is thought that for most of these refugees, U.S. residence was always the goal, but an increasingly racist backlash in host countries prompted the current move. 

In addition, after Biden took office, immigration rules for Haitians changed.  In May, the Biden administration extended temporary protected status for 150,000 Haitians already living in the U.S.  

Several experts have argued that many Haitians, in response to the changed immigration rules, mistakenly thought that they would be accepted if they appeared at the border.

Rumors picked up and repeated on social media often cause mass movements of people.  For example, shortly after the assassination of Haiti’s president, hundreds of Haitians flocked to the embassy in Port-au-Prince carrying their belongings after false rumors spread on social media that the U.S. was handing out humanitarian visas.

But why Del Rio?  The only explanation I can find is that the entry point at Del Rio is not as heavily dominated by the cartels as other entry points.  Again, word of mouth and social media posts, likely identified Del Rio as a remote site where refugees were less likely to be victimized by cartel members.

Reading:

New York Times

The Nation Magazine: Biden’s disastrous deportation of Haitians https://www.thenation.com/podcast/world/biden-haiti-deportation/

AP: Racism in immigration policy https://apnews.com/article/immigration-race-and-ethnicity-mexico-haiti-asylum-seekers-a81ac1148118db38824d2d8f62139b87

  • Haitians are granted asylum at a lower level than other national groups.

USA Today: How did so many Haitians End up in Del Rio

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/09/21/what-led-haitian-nationals-migrating-u-s-southern-border/8419170002/

  • Natural disasters and dysfunctional governments have prompted a steady flow of immigrants.
  • The end goal of most was always the U.S.
  • 2010 earthquake displaced more than 1.5 million. 
  • Brazil was facing a labor shortage and therefore welcomed fleeing Haitians. 
  • Brazil extended residence visas in 2014 and 2016.  By August 2020, there were more than 143,000 Haitians in Brazil.
  • After the needs for cheap labor ran out, Haitians faced increasing pressure to leave and shrinking opportunities.
  • Increasing Human rights violations in Haiti over the past 10 years prompted immigration
  • In August, the State Department issued an advisory urging American not to visit Haiti due to “kidnapping, crime, civil unrest and covid.

Human Rights Watch

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/09/21/us-treatment-haitian-migrants-discriminatory#

Significant Events in Haiti

2021 August Earthquake

2020 Hurricane Laura

2018 Earthquake

2016 Hurricane Matthew

2012 Hurricane Sandy

2010 Earthquake, Cholera epidemic Port-au-Prince

Significant Political events

1492 – Spain colonises the island of Hispaniola after the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Two hundred years later Spain cedes the western half to France. Plantations worked by slaves of African origin produce sugar, rum and coffee that enrich France.

1801 – Former slave Toussaint Louverture leads a successful revolt and abolishes slavery.

1804 – Haiti becomes independent under former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who is assassinated in 1806.

1915 – United States invades Haiti, withdrawing in 1943 but keeping financial control and political influence.

1937 – In the worst incident of long-standing rivalry with neighbouring Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitians in border area are massacred by Dominican troops on the orders of dictator Trujillo.

1957 – Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier takes power with military backing, ushering in a period which sees widespread human rights abuses.

1964 – Duvalier declares himself president-for-life. His dictatorship is marked by repression, enforced by the feared Tonton Macoutes secret police.

1971 – Duvalier dies and is succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude, or “Baby Doc”. Repression increases. In the following decades, thousands of Haitian “boat people” flee by sea to Florida, many dying on the way.

1986 – Popular revolt forces Baby Doc to flee Haiti to exile in France. Lieutenant-General Henri Namphy takes over.

1988 – General Prosper Avril takes over from Namphy in a coup.

1990 – Avril declares a state of siege amid protests but resigns ahead of elections under international pressure.

1990 – Former parish priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist champion of the poor, wins Haiti’s first free election. He is ousted in a coup in 1991.

1994 – U.S. troops intervene to oust military regime and Aristide returns. U.N. peacekeepers deploy in 1995 and Aristide protege Rene Preval is elected president.

1999 – Aristide is elected president for a second term despite disputed results.

2004 – Political unrest forces Aristide to flee but the country descends into violence.

2006 – Preval wins election.

2008 – 2010. Series of protests, triggered by food shortages, a cholera outbreak and then over elections.

2010 – A catastrophic earthquake kills between 100,000 and 300,000 people, according to various estimates, causing widespread damage in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. Despite an international relief effort, the country is all but overwhelmed, exacerbating political, social and economic problems.

2011 – Michel Martelly wins second round of presidential election.

2012-14 Frequent anti-government protests fueled by corruption and poverty. Demonstrators demand Martelly resign.

2017 – Jovenel Moise, a banana exporter-turned-politician, is declared winner of 2016 presidential election.

2019 – Moise steadily amasses power and rules by decree after Haiti fails to hold elections due to political gridlock and unrest.

Thousands take to the streets chanting “No to dictatorship” and calling for Moise’s resignation.

Compiled by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Nick Macfie

2021 – Moise is shot dead after gunmen open fire with assault rifles in his private residence on July 7.

2021 – A 7.2-magnitude earthquake strikes western Haiti on Aug. 14, likely causing high casualties and widespread disaster, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The Leader of Your Party: Afghanistan

I am a cynical person.  It takes a lot to amaze me. But, twice in the past couple of years I have been utterly and completely astounded by the blatant manipulative nature of the corporate media.  I don’t know exactly why this should be so.

Years ago, I wrote a book about ideology, the media and the invasion of Panama.  I started off the book relating a story of sitting in my study watching the coverage of the invasion.  The invasion.  That’s what it was called by the news media in the beginning because that was what it was.  It only took a few hours, however, until otherwise respectable news people became cheerleaders for the clearly illegal invasion.  And, also within a few hours they started referring to the invasion as “Operation Just Cause.”

I kid you not.  Major news anchors would say: “We are covering Operation Just Cause” using the name given to the invasion by the military.

I wouldn’t at all be surprised (although I would be disgusted) if by Monday, the major corporate news outlets started referring to the Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan as “Operation Just Ending to a Forever War.”

Another reason none of this should surprise me is that I sat and watched the outrageous effort on the part of MSNBC news to destroy Bernie Sanders’s candidacy after he won the Arizona primary.  I have photos on my cell phone of Joy Reid’s devastated face when she had to report Sanders’s win, a win that was multi-ethnic and that included union members who refused to obey their bosses and voted for Sanders. 

After that primary, MSNBC anchors (especially Reid) went into overdrive to help the DNC prevent Sanders from being nominated and promoting Joe Biden.  There was nothing subtle about it.  Chris Matthews even said on his dreadful nightly show that Bernie Sanders would take people like him (Matthews) out in Central Park and execute them.  (We can only wish).

Now, this time, corporate news, especially MSNBC, is busily trying to whitewash Biden’s ill-conceived and disastrously bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan.  They are doing it for the same reason they worked to destroy Bernie Sanders – to promote and protect Joe Biden.

Since early last week I have been watching with growing alarm the Taliban take over Afghanistan.  Every time I looked at an article with a map of who controlled territory in Afghanistan the Taliban’s control expanded.  I had read with shame and disbelief about the decision to abandon Bagram air force base in the middle of the night without even consulting and informing the local governments.

I had read with disgust about the “negotiating” between the Trump administration and the Taliban.  Who in their right mind would even think of “negotiating” with the Taliban?  But, that was Trump and the dangerously ill religious zealot Pompeo.  We had elected Biden to change things.

Then, I watched with utter horror and incomprehension as Joe Biden doggedly continued to pursue a policy of total withdrawal from Afghanistan by a specific date even in the face of mounting evidence that we could not even get all the Americans out much less all the Afghans who fought with us and for us.

I was 24 when the U.S. withdrew from Saigon.  I had nightmares about those scenes well into my 40s and I had been an anti-war activist who worked with SDS.  I opposed that war.

I opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But, even the most anti-war activist can make a distinction between going into a war and getting out of one.  I opposed the war in Afghanistan but once we were there, had been there for 20 years, we owned it.  We couldn’t just walk away as if we had never started any of this.

But that was evidently exactly what Joe Biden intended to do.  I just could not wrap my mind around it.  Who was this precipitous withdrawal intended to please?  To what constituency was this supposed to appeal? 

Added to this, the behavior of Biden and his administration was so Trumpian it made me sick to my stomach.  Biden appeared on television doubling down on his decision to pursue this ill planned and ill conducted withdrawal.   He would not even admit that there had been any mistakes.  It was a “do you believe me or your lying eyes” strategy.  I thought we voted for Biden to stop that kind of behavior.  Ned Price (from whom I expected more) and Jake Sullivan spouted bureaucratic-speak nonsense from the podium trying to legitimate the policy.  They were both utterly terrible at it.  They lied and obfuscated with evasive eye movements and even hostility when they were asked to answer legitimate questions.

It reminded me of the “I’m the smartest person in every room” hubris of the Obama people who have always felt that criticizing or even questioning Obama’s policies or behavior was tantamount to treason and also a personal affront.

On the corporate news, in an attempt to protect Joe Biden, hosts minimized the chaos and the impact of the set of decisions Biden made with regard to this withdrawal from Afghanistan.

As Charlotte Rampell wrote, otherwise rational people seem to be having a great deal of trouble distinguishing between the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the way in which this particular withdrawal was carried out.  They are having trouble and they are having trouble for a reason, they wish to protect Joe Biden.

As one former Republican, Matthew Dowd, hosted on several of the programs last week said, Democrats should circle the wagons around Joe Biden, support the president, because that’s what the Republicans would do.  So, this guy is treated like an oracle because he is saying was that we should support the leader of our party whatever he does because he is the leader of the party. 

As someone tweeted recently: You can unwaveringly support your ethics and morals or you can unwaveringly support the leader of your party, you can’t do both.  

I Hope I’m Wrong: Afghanistan and biden

From an interview this morning with Leon Panetta, it seems likely that members of the corporate Democratic Party elite are advising Joe Biden to come out and take responsibility for the decision to precipitously withdraw from Afghanistan, and to admit that it was a mistake.

It has been reported that when Joe Biden was Vice President and Obama was thinking about withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden went to Obama and counseled him not to listen to the generals, to withdraw. Obama didn’t follow Biden’s advice, but it looks as if Biden followed his own advice. He didn’t listen to the generals. That doesn’t appear to be working out very well for Biden and it has created a humanitarian disaster.

It is unlikely that Biden will accept responsibility. He may make some gratuitous statement that “the buck stops here.” But, I am willing to bet he also spends time outlining how the fault lies everywhere but with him and his administration.

Support for this comes from the reaction of the White House for the past week. Not only have they refused to take responsibility, they have issued a statement essentially blaming Donald Trump. They have as well blamed the Afghan government, corruption, the intelligence community, the Afghan “will to fight,” essentially everybody involved but themselves.

The amount of nonsense that has come out of the mouths of administration officials like Jake Sherman, Ned Price, Blinken and John Kirby is just breath taking. There is very little chance that Biden will do anything but dig himself deeper into this hole than he was a week ago.

I may be wrong. I hope I am wrong. But, I’m probably not.

“it was not the outcome we had anticipated”: afghanistan

During the past few weeks the corporate news media has been studiously ignoring the disastrous military and humanitarian crisis shaping up in Afghanistan.  They have been doing so, I think, because the crisis makes Biden look feckless, ruthless, and incompetent. 

For so long, there was almost nothing on the corporate news, but every day it was possible to read about astonishing advances by the Taliban.  Every day estimates of how much of Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban increased, and estimates of how long it would be until the Taliban took over Kabul decreased.

I am no foreign policy expert, but even I could see that the Biden withdrawal of forces in Afghanistan was accelerating a Taliban takeover of the country.

The negotiated “peace plan” was non-existent.  I never understood what was being “negotiated” with the Taliban in the first place either by the Trump or the Biden administration.  One reporter late this week said that the “negotiated” peace process was not only on hold, it was in the basement with the door locked. 

And who had the bright idea that the Taliban could be negotiated with in the first place?  The group is defined by a suicidal religious refusal to compromise or negotiate with the modern world. 

Let me be clear, I did not support the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq but even I acknowledge that once you have invaded and occupied a country you can’t just walk out and leave everyone who has fought with you at the mercy of the enemy.  You cannot just withdraw without considering the implications for the population you are leaving behind.

But this is precisely what the Biden administration seems to have done.  They either didn’t consider the implications for the population, or they didn’t care.  I’m not sure which is worse.

Reports today (Friday) are that members of the Biden administration knew that this disaster was coming.  The Joint Chiefs warned them.  But the Biden administration decided that the disaster was inevitable (although they have denied this reality).  One official was quoted by Peter Baker as saying: It’s a tragedy, but it’s not our tragedy.  Who would say something this crass and unfeeling? There is not even much of a pretense of having any empathy with the abandoned population.

And in an effort to make the chaotic, precipitous, and disastrous withdrawal look better, the Biden administration has blamed everyone in sight – except themselves.

Evidently, the defense department that costs us trillions every fifteen minutes, just couldn’t manage to plan a withdrawal from a country they had occupied that didn’t create a humanitarian crisis.  How can that be?

Gen. John Kirby, in a painful press conference today, said the Afghanis had every conceivable advantage in the war.  A reporter asked Kirby how the Afghanis could have every conceivable advantage and still be losing.  Kirby balked at the rudeness of the question, then evaded answering it.  He went on to list all the advantages the Afghanis had (airplanes, an air force, more soldiers, etc.).  So, according to Kirby, the Afghanis have all these advantages and it’s just a great fucking mystery why they are losing.

The people of this country are told repeatedly that we have the greatest military in the history of the world, but that military just can’t figure out how after twenty years of supplying and training and fighting, to get the Afghanis in a position to hold their own against the opposing force. 

Earlier this week I listened to a podcast where the panel was pointing out that supply lines were a problem in Afghanistan.  Supply lines?  Twenty years and they haven’t figured out how to secure supply lines?  Even my cat knows not to go further away from the door than he can safely run back should there be a threat.  And they can’t figure out secure supply lines?  I just find this preposterous.  What the bleeding devil have they been doing for twenty years?

A lot of the feedback on Twitter consists of people arguing that the very fact that we have been in Afghanistan for twenty years legitimates the withdrawal. But, nobody is objecting to the withdrawal, it’s the way the withdrawal is carried out. 

As Paul Riekhoff said on Nicolle Wallace’s show the other night, this was a “reckless” withdrawal.  Riekhoff’s honesty about the situation made me wonder if the producers on MSNBC knew what he was going to say. (The next night I don’t think Wallace even talked about Afghanistan). Riekhoff lambasted the Biden administration’s withdrawal.  And Riekhoff, like Kevin Baron from Defense One, stated flatly that the administration was not “leveling” with the American people. 

The refusal to “level” was painfully obvious in the Pentagon presser this afternoon with Gen. John Kirby.  Kirby couldn’t even bullshit with any talent the obfuscation was so blatant.  Kirby stood at the podium and spewed nonsense.  He looked like a man experiencing a severe attack of piles as he fielded questions from reporters. 

He was fine with questions like that from MSNBC’s Pentagon correspondent.  After a day when every conceivable TV pundit repeated like a parrot: “The administration was not surprised with what happened but at the speed with which it happened” she asked if the administration was surprised at the speed with which the take over had happened.  Seriously?   

Another reporter doggedly tried to get Kirby to say that Kabul was “isolated.”  “Would you say Kabul was isolated?”  He asked repeatedly.  Kirby verbally danced all over the universe refusing to say that Kabul was “isolated.”  We all fucking know that Kabul is “isolated.”  What is the purpose of a journalist taking up valuable time trying to get Kirby to say the word?  Kirby said everything under the sun else except that Kabul was “isolated.”  What goddamn difference does it make if he uses the word?

I don’t think I have seen such a blatantly pathetic Pentagon press conference since Vietnam, and even then the brass talked the bullshit with some panache.  Kirby just seemed to be desperate to finish, desperately uncomfortable, resentful of meaningful questions.  John Kirby is a bad liar and bullshitter. If they are going to try to pass off this level of (do you believe me or your lying eyes) bullshit, they need to get another spokesperson.

And, it seems that we should have learned (with the best military in the history of the world) that the solution to a badly thought-out war is not (or should not be) a badly thought-out withdrawal.  Evidently not.

But the thing that keeps sticking in my craw and going through my mind for the past few days is why?  How could the Biden administration be so inept as to create this situation?  Who was this precipitous withdrawal designed to please?  I just can’t think of anybody placated or pleased with this hair-brained withdrawal.  Why, after breezing through the deadline in May that the Trump administration had set, did Biden rush headlong into this withdrawal that seems so badly planned.

I will give just one example.  On another podcast about Afghanistan the commentators were pointing out that the Taliban ratchets up fighting in the Spring and then makes a big push over the summer.  Then, I suppose because of the weather, they retreat to bases in Pakistan in the fall and fighting dies down.  The panel members were pointing out that if Biden had just waited over the summer and pulled out most of the troops in the fall, it would have helped immensely.  So, what was the problem with that small change?

And there another thing that keeps going through my mind.  This is in response to a comment made on the Majority Report (a great podcast).  The guest was saying that there are many competing factions represented within the Biden administration – progressives (damn few), conservatives, moderates, hawks.  When some policy or appointment comes up that sparks strong opposition among these groups, they fight it out vociferously.  Fine. But when all this fighting and debate occurs, when positions are entrenched, Biden evidently does not step in and make a decision so everybody can go on.  Biden refuses to take make a decision that might alienate somebody and so everybody retreats to their respective corners.  The result is that nothing gets done.  The example that was being talked about was an appointment that had remained vacant for months.

I can’t keep from wondering if something like that happened here.  There was such strong disagreement about what to do, everybody was fighting and pushing and Biden just walked away (sort of like he’s doing in Afghanistan) and nothing got done. The withdrawal just ticked on without Biden taking control.  It was easier to do nothing than to make a decision.  Now, the administration is facing not only a humanitarian crisis, but a political disaster.

I have watched Fox News, OANN, and that other channel of Steve Bannon’s in the past two days.  You can bet they are making hay over this situation.  And, to my great discomfort and consternation, I agree with some of the commentary. 

A final thing that makes me uncomfortable about this situation is how similar it is to the way Democrats are handling the serious threat Republicans pose to the continuation of democracy. 

Democrats are so engorged with hubris, so convinced that the world is the way they want it to be, they are leading us into disaster at every turn.

I fear that they are going to do with Republicans exactly what they are doing with the Taliban – negotiate without reason, rely on the good intentions of murderous men determined to assume power at all costs and then when these men pull off a religious based authoritarian take over, wring their hands and say it was not the outcome they had anticipated.  

opinion: charles blow, voting rights and biden

It is a sad comment on the state of our politics that Charles Blow feels the necessity to apologize for a mild, but crucial criticism of the Biden Administration.

MORNING NEWS RUNDOWN

News Roundup

Police

  • On the internet: Video after video of police officers behaving abusively, escalating situations, cursing at people, threatening them, intimidating them, killing them, all over the country.  CNN has an expert on to explain that our brains work differently when we’re under stress. 
  • The “stress professor” and the Vanderbilt guy both agreed that we need more training for police.
  • I’ve been involved in criminology in one way or another for fifty years.  I did research on female police partners and male use of deadly force in the 70s.  Training is not the problem.  Minneapolis, for example, spent a small fortune on training. 
  •  Police culture will win out over all the training and policy in the world.
  • If you look at the Derek Chauvin case as an example, Chauvin didn’t take the stand because basically his defense is that he didn’t do anything wrong and that he would do it again if he had the chance.

Authoritarians

  • It appears that Alexander Navalny is dangerously close to dying.  In the past, he told colleagues he couldn’t understand people using hunger strikes to advance their cases.  It seemed, to him, merely a way to hand the state a tool.  But, evidently the situation for him in prison was so bad, he resorted to using his own body as a tool to try to get help.  It’s unlikely to work. The world stands by and watches. 
  • Gary Kasperov, former Russian chess player and current activist, pointed out on Twitter that the West continues to deal with Putin as if he were some quasi-democratic head of state.  Kasperov noted that Biden’s decision to turn around a ship to try to appease Putin was the wrong tactic.  Autocrats, kleptocrats, authoritarians view offers of compromise as weakness.
  • Biden deals with Putin the way the Democrats deal with the Republicans.  When will they learn that authoritarians cannot be compromised with or appealed to?

Corporate News

  • Joe Scarborough, who helped elect Trump, is now back to his rabid Republican heckling.  It is difficult for me to understand how anybody could think that Scarborough was an ally.  He and the dreadful Mika were up Trump’s ass until Trump threatened to reveal their adulterous affair.  People need to remember we have Mika on tape asking Trump’s permission to ask him a “hard” question.  Morning Joe as outlived its usefulness if it ever had any.  It belongs in the Chris Matthews trash bag of programming.  MSNBC needs to do better. 
  • While I’m on MSNBC, the nightly news programs continue to use Jason “island of misfit black girls” Johnson as a commentator.  He lost his job at the Root for his nasty, racist comment about the women who worked for Bernie Sanders, and MSNBC punished him with a few weeks off air.  But, he’s back now with a vengeance.  Joy Reid loves him because she actively worked to destroy Sanders’ campaign.  The lesson here?  You can say anything and get away with it if it’s about Bernie Sanders or his campaign. 

Cats

  • The new feral cat we are socializing woke me up at 3:30 in the morning because his food bowls were empty.  I’m wide awake, but he’s back asleep, stretched out at the foot of the bed on a quilt. They learn so quickly.  Cats are the masters of psychological manipulation.  His name is Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Where we are and how we got there. Corrupt AGs, Anti-democratic DNC

Under the category of “Where we are”

The Attorney General of Texas was awaiting trial on securities fraud charges when he actively lobbied Donald Trump for a pardon.  How can a man who has been charged with securities fraud and who used the powers of the office of the Attorney General to harass the enemies of his cronies, stay in power?  And, now, after lobbying Trump for a pardon why is he still in office?

Under the category of “How we got here”

The DNC pushed new untried technology into the Iowa caucus process in 2020.  The story was that the DNC wanted to know in real time exactly what the vote count was.  But, the new technology was a disaster and the Iowa vote count was also a disaster.  Because the new technology caused such a chaos, the win was not immediately announced and this left Pete Buttigieg a window to declare himself the winner.

The upshot of all this was to deny Bernie Sanders, who polls showed was going to win Iowa in a landslide, crucial momentum, and an untold amount of free publicity which would have come with a clear win.

The DNC has plead incompetence, which is, I suppose, better than admitting that they interfered in the process deliberately to deny Sanders a clear win. 

And, it is important to remember that Pete Buttigieg quit the run for president and endorsed Biden right on cue, along with all the other corporate democrats.  As a reward, Buttigieg has just been named Secretary of Transportation.

In talking about his fitness for the job, Buttigieg said that he had always liked transportation as a kid (had a train set?), and that he had proposed to his partner at an airport.  You can’t make this up.