Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A Year+ After The Protests, And We Have This


Thirteen months ago, Fox News pointed out

A renewed focus was placed on the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd on May 25 while in he was in police custody in Minneapolis. His death sparked protests and riots throughout the country. Many celebrities attended protests, but others have used social media to promote campaigns they’ve donated to in response to the unrest, including bailing out protesters who have been arrested by police, groups that seek to make calls to “defund the police” and reality and political advocacy groups for the Black community.

Celebrities from Bieber, Justin to Weeknd (B to W), some sincere and some not, recognized a marketing opportunity when they saw it. However, so did the corporate sector and, listing 73 companies, Forbes reported "numerous companies have made public statements against racism and injustice and announced donations and other displays of support since the death of George Floyd unleashed protests across the United States starting on May 26th."

It has been over a year and some municipalities, counties, and states have shifted a portion of their funding from policing to social services while others simply have increased spending on law enforcement. The responses have varied widely and though it is too soon to determine what impact (if any) all this has had on social justice or criminality, we do know that violent crime has surged nationwide.

People have noticed. Therefore, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that, in what is inarguably the most pressing issue of the day, police officers generally have not been chastened. Emboldened, possibly; chastened, definitely not. NBC reports

Police unions in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Seattle; and Syracuse, New York, have pushed back against vaccination requirements, as has the union representing state police in Massachusetts.

This week, just days after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Education Department employees must receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27, the city's largest police union told its members in an email that it would take legal action to defend their "right to make such personal medical decisions" if they faced the same requirement.

The president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, determined not to comply with the vaccine mandate advocated by the city's manager, falsely maintained "This vaccine has no studies for long-term side effects or consequences. None. To mandate anybody to get that vaccine, without that data as a baseline, amongst other issues, is a 'hell no' for us." Throughout the nation

Reluctance among officers — front-line workers whose jobs often involve extensive community contact — to get vaccinated has raised public health concerns. An outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant in a police force could also pose a risk to public safety.

"The delta variant is not like previous Covid lineages, and unvaccinated people in their 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s — meaning the ages that people are in law enforcement — are going into hospitals," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and a co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development....

According to data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit in Washington that tracks law enforcement deaths, Covid-19 killed more officers in 2020 than gun violence, car accidents and all other causes combined.

While it is not clear what percentage of officers across the country have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, vaccination rates for two of the country's largest departments are below the national rate.

Chicago, which has the country's second-largest force, does not track vaccinations. In Los Angeles, which has the third-largest department, 47 percent of employees had been vaccinated as of July 21.

A police spokesman said last Friday that 47 percent of New York's uniformed and civilian employees had been vaccinated.

Hotez said that "if you look at New York, in terms of vaccination rates," 79 percent of residents 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine. That means members of the police department are more vaccine-hesitant than the general population, he said. 


 


Police interact with the public and are "first responders," as we've been reminded repeatedly since September 11, 2001. It's time for them to act like it. However, in too many instances, they've now decided they would rather endanger lives than safeguard them. Too bad. We're the police and you're not, and we're going to do what we're going to do." If you- or they- die as a result, that's just too bad.

"Black lives matter" was the rallying cry of the protests which followed the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, yet many, if not most, police officers are determined "to serve and protect" and will do so regardless of anyone's race. For the huge number of police officers who refuse to get vaccinated, though, it's the lives not only of blacks but of all other people which they're willing to put at risk.

 



This blog is going on hiatus until Labor Day, when I hope you'll be gracious until to return.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Critic Makes Maher's Point


In his "new rules" segment Friday night, Bill Maher attacked two right-wing Johns, the Republican governor of South Dakota, American chauvinism.... and is condemned by a journalist/broadcaster of the left:




Citing his experience talking to immigrants, Bill Maher, in the video included in the tweet, had noted

Blind hatred of America is just as blinkered as blind love. And we Americans should really get some perspective on where we live.....

I have never been a "rah, rah America" type and in fact have often made fun of Republicans in the past for being overly sentimental because they're the ones who tear up at military flyovers and get a boner when the governor of South Dakota rides into a biker really dressed like a painting of Teddy Roosevelt.

Being old and white (and wishing I were rich), perhaps I have no standing to note what should be obvious. That is in part that if you possess the perspective Hasan lacks, you undoubtedly would reject both blind love and blind hatred of America. 

If discussing health care in the USA, it's "whataboutism" to note that we have a superior system than in, say, Honduras (if in fact we do). Comparison to other affluent societies, such as predominate in western and northern Europe, would be more appropriate.

But Maher wasn't talking about health care.   After criticizing John Boehner and John Roberts, the latter over voting rights, Maher observes

But liberals, as usual in this era, have now gone too far in the other direction. They under-romanticize America. They have no perspective....

In Saudi Arabia, grown women can be jailed for doing the kinds of things we think of as routine without the permission of a male guardian. China rounds you up if you're the wrong religion and puts you in camps. More children in Burkina Faso work than are in school. Only 5% of Burundians have electricity. The homicide rate in Honduras is eight times what it is here. The inflation rate in Venezuela is 2,719%. The Philippines in the last five years have put to death 27,000 low level drug dealers, my old job. In North Korea, people starve to death....

There is a reason  Afghan mothers are handing their babies to us. And we should take them. Americans right now should take Afghan refugees into their homes and into their neighborhoods....

Most people will not do so

but that doesn't make us the bad guys. We're not the bad guys Oppression is what we were trying to stop in Afghanistan. We failed, but any immigrant will tell you we've largely succeeded here. And yet the overriding thrust of current woke ideology is that America is rotten to the core, irredeemably racist from the moment it was founded, and so oppressive, sexist and homophobic.

When the Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the Soviet Union did not take in Afghan refugees beyond some officials from the government the USSR had propped up and the mujahideen had overthrown. But many thousands of Afghans, rescued by USA marines, will be welcomed to the USA (as well as to a few other nations) in the wake of the withdrawal of American and allied forces.

The USA isn't the only western republic which is accused of being oppressive and racist. A Canadian, Zionist, and human rights activist picks up on another lack of perspective, if not blatant hypocrisy:

 


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Coup Fans


Most of the tweets in response to Bitecofer agreed with her:

Right. Right. Right. Right. I had no clue who he was or what he looked like. Then I saw the video.

Exactly. White woman victim of black male violence scenario straight out of "Birth of a Nation." 

Why mess with the classics?

Yeah. It was so puzzling until you see the color of his skin.- Sadly, it is now obvious.

At least there was one tweet a little humorous, for someone remarked "the right showing their true colors."

My issue isn't with Lieutenant Byrd.  A few days before he emerged from the closet of anonymity to which he was entitled, I tweeted that the police officer who had shot and killed Ashli Babbitt should be seriously considered for the Congressional Medal of Honor. I believe the same now, marginally more so after seeing on television the excerpt Bitecofer linked to.

But we must stop assuming that attacks on social media upon the individual who killed Ms. Babbit are racially motivated. There had been for months on the right a vague rumor that it was known who the officer. However, if he was identified by name, I did not hear it, neither did many people, and there was no mention of his race. Forbes in mid-January had reported that a

Monmouth University poll—conducted June 9 to June 14 in a survey of 810 adults—found 47% of Republican voters say “legitimate protest” is an “appropriate term for the U.S. Capitol incident on January 6,” while 39% of independents and just 13% of Democrats say the same.

Roughly half of Republicans offering an opinion believe that breaking into the Capitol, destroying property, and threatening to hang the Vice-President constitute legitimate protest. In these circumstances, we shouldn't be surprised that a lot of people believe that shooting an unarmed "protestor" is is tantamount to murder, and that the perpetrator should go to hell, drop dead, or be shot dead himself.

For most, race is a supplemental characteristic, an aggravating factor. It is not the primary motivator of their extremism.  But the more Democrats or liberals/progressives suggest it is, the likelier it is that the left is viewed as determined to scapegoat white Americans and tear the country apart. Save the attack for voter suppression and where it otherwise matters.

 


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Tweet Of The Day- Jesus


Jesus is the topic for today. Some people would say that he should be the topic every day, but they usually carry with them a political agenda, and typically the wrong political agenda. This guy is correct:

 


Unquestionably, Jesus did not "come to accumulate the worst aspects of American imperialism, capitalism, chauvinism, violence and bigotry into the Christian religion." He couldn't have come to do anything to the Christian religion because it did not exist before him.

Neither did Jesus Christ come for any explicitly political reason, especially as "Christ" means "the anointed one." It would be comforting, to secular humanists to believe that Jesus came into the world specifically to cure the sick, aid widows, feed the hungry, and house the homeless. Alas, that Jesus took human form, he himself emphasized, not "to abolish the Law or the Prophets (but) to fulfill them."

People can choose not to believe that was Jesus' aim. But the same book (Bible) that includes that explanation in the gospel of Matthew is the same that attested to Jesus' humanitarian, compassionate ways. To believe the latter is to believe the former; to disbelieve the former is to disbelieve the latter. Accepting only one side of Jesus Christ without the other is a luxury truth does not afford us.

So Chris Hedges has it right, including his apparent lament that the "mainstream" church should denounce Christian political extremists as heretics. They should not do so in the name of left-wing politics nor even to portray Jesus as a sort of love all minorities politician. They should do so because to wrap oneself in the flag of Jesus to rationalize a political perspective is to deny that he came into the world to save sinners thus breaking the enmity between God and mankind. If you wish, choose not to believe that Jesus existed; but you are thereby deciding the kindler, gentler Jesus also did not exist.

Of course, this does not suggest that believing Christians cannot be involved in political issues or even partisan politics, nor that Christian belief cannot inform a believer's political ideology. However, Jesus' point was not to energize conservative politics, nor even to curb it, for which there is much need.

This fellow, with politics probably far more conservative than mine, understands this better than most:



 





Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Having It Both Ways


The New York Times led the paper over the weekend with a “news analysis” by Peter Baker that implied that Biden — in ending a war that had dragged on for nearly two decades, in a move supported by a strong majority of regular, non-journalist Americans — had trashed his long reputation for empathy and that the threat to the safety of U.S. allies also showed incompetence on a level rivaling Trump. The story was published on a weekend when the Pentagon evacuated a stunning 11,000 people in an operation in which not a single American has died.

CNN’s Brianna Keilar — anchor of its not-opinion morning show “New Day,” but also the wife of an active-duty Green Beret who writes frequently of being a military spouse — has also struggled to contain her anger at the Afghan withdrawal, writing an analysis and tweeting frequently about the “moral injury” of it all. Big-time journalists like Keilar or her CNN colleague Jake Tapper — whose reporting on U.S. troop valor in Afghanistan became a book and a movie, The Outpost — have a personal connection to these events that they don’t seem to feel for the world’s other tough stories like (for example) China’s ethnic cleansing of its Uighurs.

The problem is that the average American who’ll never go to Afghanistan is totally dependent on the news media to understand what is happening there. The chaos and “Biden fiasco” narratives seem hard to unlock, even as the accelerating success of the evacuation seems to have become the more up-to-date news. What’s more, the endless replays of desperate Afghans clinging to the wing of a U.S. jet, now several days old, seem to crowd out needed discussions of issues like how America spent more than $80 billion training an Afghan army that then refused to fight, or when the so-called experts who promoted this war think would have been a better time to end it, as the 20th anniversary loomed.

Bunch thus criticizes the media for generally a) ignoring other, even more serious, stories such as genocide in Xinjiang; b) ignoring other issues pertaining to Afghanistan, including the financial resources expended by the USA, the failure of the Afghan army to fight, and c) allowing the President's critics not to offer an alternative.

In the last several years, even after the Trump Administration negotiated a virtual surrender at Doha and President Biden announced the withdrawal of soldiers, there was nary a hint of criticism of the war from most of the mainstream media, CNN perhaps especially. Those outlets knew what the polls indicated, that a solid majority of Americans wanted out.

In the commentary ("analysis") to which Bunch links, Keillar writes

In Afghanistan, thousands of translators, cultural advisers and other Afghan support staff who worked and fought alongside American troops will be left to the mercy of the Taliban if the US doesn't get them out of the country.

For many Afghan war vets here in the US, it's a violation of a promise at the core of the military ethos: you don't leave a brother or sister in arms behind.

For veterans of the Afghanistan campaign

It's a war they couldn't win. But even when you lose a war, there are some very important things you can still keep, or at least hope to: your friends who got you through, your values, your word.

The botched exit in Afghanistan could cost veterans that too.

Sorry, no. There are tens of thousands of individuals who have been airlifted out of a country now completely controlled by a brutal, sadistic bunch of religious extremists, whose victory was a foregone conclusion once withdrawal of American troops took place. 

The "unscripted ending of the war" is a part of the war. Leaving was never going to be clean and easy, except in the imagination of Keillar and, judging by her implication, some veterans of the war. The airlifts and the continuing danger to the people left behind are a function of the war and the withdrawal. If they are dissatisfied with the Taliban's deadline, which will curtail the rescue mission, they should suggest a military alternative.

If Brianna Keilar- and the "so-called experts" to which Bunch refers believe that the USA should have remained in Afghanistan, they need to have the courage to tell us so. If instead they are satisfied that the USA pulled out, they need to summon the intellectual integrity to acknowledge the nearly unavoidable result of the policy, popular with Americans and little questioned by media, chosen by President Biden.


 


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Odd-Looking Victory


In the video below, Kyle Kulinski shows a portion of an interview of John Bolton by CNN anchor Brianna Keilar. The exchange at 4:34:

Keilar: Did the U.S. lose the war in Afghanistan?
Bolton: No, I don't think- we walked away from t. I think it's a huge mistake.
Keilar: How can you- walking away? How is that not- I mean, can you explain what you mean by that?
Bolton: Because we weren't defeated.



 


Bolton a moment earlier had stated that the withdrawal may lead to terrorism in Afghanistan; strengthening of extremists in Pakistan "and the risk of a Pakistani Taliban takeover " of the government in Islamabad, which would give the insurgents "control of dozens or scores of nuclear weapons"; and loss of "our ability to watch on the west of Afghanistan what Iran is up to." But we didn't lose.

So  Kulinski asks rhetorically "John, what would victory even mean? What would include- what goals would have to be met in order for John Bolton to say 'yea, we won?"

Bolton isn't alone in refusing to concede national defeat. He is nearly alone in suggesting the possibility of specifying the dangerous implications he believes likely to accrue from an American withdrawal. Coupled with the refusal to acknowledge defeat, it is a dangerous stance, one which can be marshalled to advocate other misadventures on behalf of a nation still insisting it is "exceptional."





Saturday, August 21, 2021

Not Stupid, Not Crazy


At the beginning of the panel discussion on Friday evening's "Real Time with Bill Maher," the host introduced Afghanistan as a topic by remarking (at 15:58 of the video below)

What do you do when- oh, I don't know, a guy like Donald Trump gets elected President somehow and you've got this ridiculous clown in this office, this buffoon, he's both stupid- I've always said that- he's stupid and crazy. That's a hard trick to pull off. But he is.

He's stupid and he's crazy. O.K. So everything he did was fuc*** up with crazy and stupid and didn't work. And then- thank God, we elect- got him out of office and the adults are back in charge.



He is ignorant, or at least he was until he became President of the USA and learned a little about government. He may be emotionally unbalanced. However, "stupid and crazy" is different. On Wednesday night, Mehdi Hasan, substituting for Chris Hayes on "All In," talked to Dr. Peter Hotez and to Olivia Troye, director of the Republican Accountability Project and adviser to Vice President Pence, wherein she participated in the White House Coronavirus Task Force. In an intriguing, and extremely significant, exchange:

HASAN: Olivia, I have to ask the question. I know I`ve asked you this before, but I`m going to ask again. Dr. Hotez mentioned, you know, Trump would have been in briefings. You just mentioned that there were these meetings where these things were discussed.

Did Donald Trump ever pay any attention to any of the science or any of the details in any meeting you saw him in or heard about him attending?

TROYE: So, this is why this is so frustrating to watch. Donald Trump paid attention. He understood the science. At times, he would ask questions about it. He would repeat the questions back. And it was fully cognizant of the fact that he actually was tracking the situation. And at times, he understood how dire it was, which is why he himself has been vaccinated. And which is why you see people like Abbott right now, right, they`re taking these treatments that have been told that are helpful when you have COVID, even though he`s been vaccinated.

All of these people understand the science, which is why this is so egregious because they`re actually putting their own supporters at great risk repeatedly. And it`s negligent and it`s irresponsible leadership and they know that they are doing it....

Donald Trump paid attention. He understood the science. At times, he would ask questions about it. He would repeat the questions back. He was fully cognizant of the fact that he actually was tracking the situation. And at times, he understood how dire it was, which is why he himself has been vaccinated.

Troye describes an individual who is neither crazy, instead "fully cognizant of the fact that he actually was tracking the situation." And she describes someone not at all stupid, for "he understood the science.... and at times, he understood how dire it was." Months later, once a vaccine became available, he responded as any rational individual would do and got vaccinated.

There were nearly 400,000 deaths from SARS-CoV-2 in the USA on Donald Trump's watch and it was no accident.  All along, President Trump was not stupid or crazy, but somewhat calculating and fully engaged. He understood and was fully cognizant of the situation.    He spent the final eleven months of his presidency downplaying the coronavirus, impeding efforts of states to respond to Covid-19, discouraging the wearing of masks, encouraging large gatherings, and in myriad other ways encouraging the spread of death.

He didn't do it because he was stupid or crazy, because he was neither. He did it because he believed the weak and physically inadequate needed to die. It was not the product of psychosis or stupidity but of simple, unvarnished evil.




Friday, August 20, 2021



Reporter asks

The President also said there is no national security interest, no national interest, in Afghanistan. I'm a little confused by that. Can you explain why there is no national interest n Afghanistan, why did we have troops there for twenty years if there is no national interest in Afghanistan?

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby responds

We had a significant interest in being in Afghanistan, to our national security, twenty years ago. You've heard the President talk about this. The goals was to defeat, decimate Al Qaeda, to prevent Al Qaeda from launching attacks on the homeland from Afghanistan. We did that.

Mission accomplished! It was great that the USA invaded Afghanistan twenty years ago, and great that we've now left. It's a perfect world.

Obviously, a question of why soldiers were dispatched to Afghanistan twenty years ago with no national interest involved is much better posed to the President who actually dispatched those soldiers.

Kirby's answer, though, is revealing.  His argument rests on two propositions: a) the incursion twenty years ago prevented Al Qaeda from attacking the USA; b) the withdrawal will not reinvigorate Al Qaeda to the extent that it will be able to launch terrorist attacks it would not otherwise have been able to.

Either may be true, neither may be true, or one or the other may be. Kirby notes Al Qaeda is degraded, though Biden had (inaccurately) claimed it is "gone" from Afghanistan. (Note: age takes its toll.) That may be enough.

Or not.   As The New York Times summarized, "The Taliban are in power again without the help of Al Qaeda, and they have understood that they lost their government and their country in 2001 because of Al Qaeda. " However, the other is  "American intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan will be degraded with no military or diplomatic presence on the ground and with American troops and drones based hundreds of miles away."

Or perhaps both will prevail. The Taliban may tread carefully because Al Qaeda got the Taliban in trouble the first time around. Yet, whatever intelligence capabilities we had in Afghanistan we probably no longer have.  It's a situation which can confuse anyone, particularly a reporter who would ask today's Pentagon about a perceived national security interest 20 years before Joe Biden became President.

 


Thursday, August 19, 2021

In The Name of Religion


National Review columnist and forced-birth extremist Alexandra DeSanctis  has attacked MSNBC columnist Dean Obeidallah for "an absurd and tone-deaf opinion piece" in which he  "argues that Republicans must be insincere in condemning the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan because they themselves oppose 'women’s rights.'” DeSanctis writes that Obeidallah argues

that, while “nobody is saying the GOP and the Taliban are equally bad,” pro-life Republicans can’t sincerely oppose the Taliban’s egregious violations of women’s rights because GOP lawmakers themselves have voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and joined in filing a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It’s one thing to support legal abortion, as Obeidallah does, but it’s another entirely to compare the Taliban’s misogynistic policies — such as, for instance, forbidding women to show any skin or attend school or drive a car — to the eminently reasonable pro-life view that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy does not extend so far that she can end the life of the unborn child in her womb.

Presenting an argument neither updated nor refuted, Glenn Easterbrook, then of The New Republic, in 2002 wrote an article (subscription required) entitled "Term Limits," in which he summarized the scientific evidence pertaining to the beginning of life.  An objective analysis of the piece would lead the vast majority of readers to the conclusion that, according to most criteria, life as we know it does not commence until at least several months into pregnancy.

That's passive-aggressive, so more directly: pro-life advocates are dead wrong when they argue that life begins at conception. It does not, and a belief that it does is incompatible with holding blameless- as state laws invariably do- a woman who evidently has committed murder by seeking and procuring an illegal abortion.

Obeidallah maintains

Look, nobody is saying the GOP and the Taliban are equally bad. But in just the past few months, we’ve seen Republicans champion measures to deprive women of freedom over their own bodies, as well as oppose laws to protect women from violence and ensure that women are paid the same wages as men. And they’ve done so, at least in part, to impose their religious beliefs on all others.

They've done so, and for that reason.  Vaccination requirements are to be waived if an individual claims an exemption based on religious faith.   Thanks to the Trump Administration and the US Supreme Court, private employers and non-profits can opt out of the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act by waving a religious get-out-of-jail free card. Fourteen months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the City of Philadelphia, even with has a strict nondiscrimination policy, must contract with Catholic Social Services, notwithstanding the latter's refusal to certify same-sex couples for adoption. The Establishment Clause gives way to a constitutional right to a government contract.

What individuals, companies, and non-profits claim as their religious beliefs allows those entities to be above the law, exempt from requirements imposed on all other individuals.  No one is above the law, except that some are.

Christians, Jews, and other religious groups don't impose punitive, almost lethal, punishment as the Taliban does. But if National Review's DeSanctis believes that there is no moral equivalence between the right-wing and religious fanatics in central/south Asia, she needs to explain this from the ethically defective Lauren Boebert:


While Boebert doesn't speak for the Republican Party, she is a GOP congresswoman in good standing. The (valid) premise is that the Taliban's policies are a direct consequence of their extremist Islamic beliefs, albeit a perversion of their religion.  Those beliefs are going to be imposed upon the entirety of Afghanistan as they implement Sharia law.  Lauren Boebert approves, no Republican has criticized her, and the entire Party is powerfully confirming Dean Obeidallah's point.



 




Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Zealots, Far More Deadly



No one can possibly get this question wrong. Is Michael Moore correct or invoking moral equivalence here?



Moore is correct. The Taliban are religious nuts and we have our own. And he is invoking moral equivalence.

Actually, not religious nuts. Far more seriously, they're religious fanatics. Sexist, murderous, religious fanatics. We in the USA have our own religious "nuts."  They, too, are fanatics- the most extreme of Christian evangelicals; Opus Dei among Roman Catholics; Lubavitcher Chasidim, arguably the most radical of Orthodox Jews.

They are different from the Taliban..  They don't require men to pray continuously and wear a beard or else submit to a beating. They don't prevent girls from being educated or some women from pursuing certain occupations. They don't torture women for leaving their home without a suitable male escort nor enforce a dress code with violations punishable by death. Collaborating with the enemy in any fashion may lead to execution.

They are radical Islamists. They are not normal Muslims and differ dramatically from other Muslims. But they are religious extremists in the East, and there are Christian (to a lesser extent, Jewish) religious extremists in the West.

That's where Moore, who recognizes that we have religious extremists in the developed world, is wrong.  Ours don't regularly walk around with rifles and shotguns intending not only to intimidate the majority who don't agree with them, but who also intend to use those firearms to exterminate their enemies.

They're religious nuts and we have our own,  MIchael Moore maintains.  But tomorrow I will still be alive after criticizing religious extremists and you will be alive even after reading about it. It's a claim many Muslims in Afghanistan cannot make about the radical Islamists who are will shed a lot of blood in an effort to remake their country into their own image.




Monday, August 16, 2021

Not Afghanistan



A guy who describes himself as "retired C.I.A.":

We shouldn't fight wars for reasons of national pride, nor resist ending them because of fear of humiliation. If we choose to continue a military presence abroad, there needs to be a better reason, even from someone with such a great surname.

President Biden also may fail to recognize the stakes. Biden in 2010 had told Richard Holbrooke that the USA was not in Afghanistan to preserve womens' rights and earlier this year told CBS' Margaret Brennan

There are a thousand places we could go to deal with injustice. I can think of ten countries where women and/or children and/or people are being persecuted or being hurt. But the idea of us being able to use our armed forces to solve every single problem that exists throughout the world is not within our capacity.

The question is- is American's vital self interest at stake or are the vital self interests of one our allies at stake. And the fact that they have a system in parts of Afghanistan, as they do in parts of Pakistan, as they do in parts of other countries, that we're going to send troops because there is not- human rights are not being valued the same same degree that we are, that's a different story about sending combat troops....

After eight years during of a President not prioritizing the interests of our allies and four years in which a President actively undermined them, it is encouraging to have one who is vitally concerned with the self-interest of allies. (Presumably, Biden was unaware that when he said "women and/or children and/or people," he was suggesting women and children are not people.)

Biden correctly notes that the issue is whether the interests of our nation or of our allies is at stake. Brennan had helpfully asked Biden about Holbrooke's belief that the American military must remain in Afghanistan to safeguard the rights of women.  Biden then, credibly, noted that human rights are lacking in numerous countries across the world.

But of course the issue is not human rights or, more specifically, the rights of women. A much broader concern must be terrorism.  In light of the stunningly rapid deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan, a range of politicians, retired members of the military, and other pundits have sounded an alarm about Al Qaeda.

This has come about rather suddenly- about as sudden as the Taliban's recent march through Afghanistan.  From the time Biden announced on April 14 the decision to withdraw from the country until the collapse begun last week, there were few warnings about the possibility of Al Qaeda resuming its operations in Afghanistan as a staging area. Then-President Trump had declared the Middle East ISIS-free, and that was that, aside from an occasional article in the print media. Now, alarm.  

The dire predictions that Afghanistan now will become a hotbed of terrorism and- more importantly- a sort of homeland for terrorism may or may not become reality.

That is why it is so difficult to assess accurately the consequences of the withdrawal.  Womens' rights, left to radical Islamists who distort Islam to their own end, will deteriorate dramatically and Afghanistan probably will end up even worse off than when the American military invaded in 2003.

But no one cares. No one, except possibly the Iranian government and Jimmy Carter, cares about Afghanistan. The issue is the future of terrorism and no one can determine definitively what that is, other than the geniuses saturating the airwaves of cable news the past several days.

 


Sunday, August 15, 2021

A Live Possibility


Keith Naughton, the co-founder of Silent Majority Strategies, is convinced that South Carolina senator Tim Scott, whom he lauds for "charisma and savvy," is a shoo-in for the GOP vice-presidential nomination n 2024.  However, in a column in The Hill, Naughton cautions

Scott’s main priority should be to stay out of the Trump orbit. Anyone who gets drawn into Trump-world inevitably is expected to toe the Trump line, whatever that is on any given day. Whether his various vendettas, impulsive endorsements or spurious election-theft complaints, Scott would be saddled with all the Trump baggage — and never treated as anything but a useful appendage by Trump.

Nevertheless, he argues "an (sic) popular minority candidate could be just the ticket to put a Republican over the top in 2024." Therefore

the vice president slot would be an easy score for Scott, provided he does not make the mistake of running for president. Unlike in the Democratic Party, where pushing aside the female minority Kamala Harris as the next presidential nominee would be politically impossible, Republicans have no such qualms. Nobody is going to step aside for Tim Scott. In addition, only once has a GOP nominee selected a former primary opponent for VP.

For Scott, the shrewd move would be to stay out of the presidential primaries and carefully position himself for the number two spot. Other than Scott, only Nikki Haley offers helpful identity politics credentials, but her criticisms of Trump, followed by pleading to get back in his good graces has damaged her significantly. That leaves Scott, by far, in the best position.

Naughton is on to something. Tim Scott is not likely to be the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2024, yet only because there are dozens of other prospects- governors, Senators, figures in private industry, even celebrities. The logical selection may be a woman, or an individual who has been a more vociferous, or by contrast less loyal, supporter of the former President. He (less likely, she) could be someone deemed more likely to help the ticket secure its base or instead deliver to the GOP a swing state's electors.  (Obviously, South Carolina is locked up for a Republican presidential candidate.)

Moreover, it's a long way to the 2024 Republican National Convention. Nonetheless, Tim Scott already checks an important, though generally overlooked, criteria for a Republican candidate.

He has positioned himself as a victim. In his rebuttal to President Biden's State of the Union address of April, 2021, the Senator claimed

I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping. I remember, every morning, at the kitchen table, my grandfather would open the newspaper and read it — I thought. But later, I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example.

I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called “Uncle Tom” and the n-word by progressives, by liberals. Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time.

The last statement is inaccurate, given that the subject of this charge responded by noting "not in any way did I ever suggest in the piece that Scott's great-grandfather lived a privileged life."  Still, Scott's attack was savvy.  As the 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon warned in a sentiment first expressed by Thomas Swift,  "It is well said in the old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’"

According to Scott, he has been "pulled over for no reason"- though to maintain support on the right, he excludes the phrase "by police."  He has been "followed around a store" while shopping. He is (frequently, by implication) "called 'Uncle Tom' and the n-word by progressives."

Have no pang of conscience, lost sleep, or doubt about American exceptionalism. Not to worry - Tim Scott is so sure that America is not racist that he asserts "Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country."

The last statement may be valid. it could be that Tim Scott is an anomaly, one of very few people followed around in stores, regularly condemned by a racial epithet, and stopped by police simply because he is black. Maybe innumerable others have been similarly stereotyped but there are so many redeeming qualities of racial brotherhood regularly exhibited  that "racist" is too broad an accusation. Or perhaps he holds to the traditional view of racism (as do I) that it refers only to a belief in the inherent inferiority of a race rather than the garden variety of hostility and bigotry.

Although a sense of decency should compel Scott to explain how the USA is not racist if in light of what he (claims he) has undergone, the betting here is that the juxtaposition of sentiments was calculated and strategic. Scott wanted Republicans everywhere to know that he is on the America, Best Ever team, and that his teammates can remain unapologetic. Simultaneously, he'll play the victim and better yet, the victim called the n-word by progressives and liberals. Grabbing the chance to whine without blaming conservatives and the other usual suspects is a win-win. 

Tim Scott lays out a pattern of being profiled without acknowledging its persistence in society nor offering any solutions. He has pronounced America not racist but can offer conservatives and Republicans the opportunity to boast of voting for a man who has felt the "pain" of being black in America.

At this early date, there are dozens of viable prospects to be the GOP vice presidential nominee. Tim Scott, as a phony extraordinaire, is one of them.


 


Friday, August 13, 2021

Do Not Ignore The King



India Walton can do us all, if not herself, a favor.

On June 22, 2021 Walton defeated incumbent Byron Brown in the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo, seemingly ending Brown's bid for a fifth term. The Intercept's Akela Lacy then wrote of the union organizer and activist

As the Democratic nominee in a heavily Democratic city without a Republican contender, Walton will all but definitely win Buffalo’s general mayoral election in November. A former member and representative for 1199 SEIU (the union that endorsed her opponent), and backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party, and the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Walton will be the first mayor in the U.S. identifying as a socialist in more than half a century.

However, a few days later, Brown announced that he would mount a write-in challenge in the heavily Democratic, mid-sized Rust Belt city. And now

If the Buffalo mayoral election was held today, a majority of likely voters say they would vote for incumbent mayor Byron Brown over Democratic nominee India Walton, according to an exclusive WIVB/Emerson College poll.

Brown has a 10-point lead in the poll, with 50.2 percent of respondents supporting the mayor in his quest for a fifth term versus 40.1 percent who said they’d vote for Walton. 7.9 percent of respondents said they were unsure and 1.9 percent said they supported someone else.

Asked whether their opinion of the two candidates is favorable or unfavorable, opinions of Walton were mixed while Brown was viewed very favorably. Moreover, a plurality expressed an unfavorable view of socialism, responding to a question that may as well have been planted by Brown, who has claimed residents "have said to me that they do not want a radical socialist occupying the mayor's office in Buffalo."

For balance, the pollsters might have asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable impression of the real estate industry- reportedly backing the incumbent- or of the rights of renters, given that Walton, according to Lacy, has "focused on strengthening tenants' rights." 

Alas, there was no such question which would have provided needed balance. But Walton has the advantage not only of being the only candidate on the ballot, but also of being the Democratic nominee.

The challenger must maximize that advantage.  She can do so by requesting the endorsement of arguably the second most important Democrat in the nation and most influential Democrat-President Biden included- electorally.

A few days after the elections, in which Democrats underperformed, House Majority Whip James Clyburn denounced the slogan "defund the police," remarking

We saw the same thing happening here. We can’t pick up these things just because it makes a good headline. It sometimes destroys headway.

As an example, Clyburn cited the defeat of South Carolina US Senate hopeful Jaime Harrison, who ended up beaten comprehensively by the incumbent Republican Lindsey Graham in a race many had hoped he would win after he turned a longshot campaign into a real contest.

“Jaime Harrison started to plateau when ‘defund the police’ showed up with a caption on TV, ran across his head,” Clyburn said in a separate Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“That stuff hurt Jaime. And that’s why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I’ve always said that these headlines can kill a political effort.”

These headlines can kill a political effort.  It appears that Clyburn is deeply concerned with the strength of the Democratic Party and getting Democrats elected. And he is no ordinary Democrat, nor an ordinary African-American Democrat. He is a kingmaker, as Bernie Sanders, and more recently Nina Turner, have found out.



So let's put the South Carolinian to the test. The Democratic Party nominee for mayor of a major American city, albeit one in decline the last several decades, is in danger of losing a race no Democrat should lose. India Walton should contact Jim Clyburn and ask- plead, if necessary- for his help.

Clyburn has made it clear that he is no socialist and has little patience for the most outspokenly progressive members of his caucus. He is aligned with the moneyed interests which dominate the establishment wing and still holds most of the power in the Party. But he has immense influence among Democratic voters and politicians, particularly in the African-American community. He also is a Democrat- or so he fervently maintains- and his support might make the difference for the candidate Democratic primary voters opted for in a free and fair primary.

 Clyburn is likely to decline, as India Walton probably realizes. But we don't know that, and neither does Walton. For the good of her Party and herself, she should give him a chance to call her bluff.




Thursday, August 12, 2021

If Only We Could Vaccinate Masks


No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

                                                                                                     -H.L. Mencken, 9/18/26

 

Even eight years of Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6) and of George W Bush and four years of Donald J. Trump did not convince me that Mencken was right. However, now

Parents of school-aged children are supportive of some, but not all coronavirus restrictions as kids gear up to return to the classroom this fall, a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation released Wednesday shows.

A majority of parents — 58 percent — don't want their child's school to require COVID-19 vaccinations. The results were split along party lines, with 66 percent of Democratic voters supporting vaccine requirements compared to just 13 percent of Republican voters, but even among Democrats the rate was lower than the 82 percent who have age-eligible children who have already received the vaccine.

The question was premised on the FDA fully approving the use of a Covid-19 vaccine in children. Yet

.... most parents do support mask requirements for students and staff who remain unvaccinated, though it's not clear what percentage backs masking for those who have received their shots.

If respondents are being honest, parents would rather their children wear masks throughout the school day (other than, presumably, while eating) than to have them vaccinated. 

This is barely comprehensible and suggests H.L. Mencken's perspective would apply today. Mencken referred to "intelligence." But whether "intelligence" or "common sense" or some other word most accurately describes the American people (at least the ones in this survey),  something is seriously awry.

However, thinking is far more awry, and dangerous, among residents of Franklin County, Tennessee, who have taken displeasure at wearing masks to a frenzied extreme:

 


"Reassuring"

"I do not believe you're an idiot but..." As we travel down memory lane, recall the moment in a presidential debate early i...