Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Lessons of 9/11 and the Price of "Freedom"

By New York Bureau Chief A. Cahan
with Vincent Boom-Batz, M.D., Medical Correspondent

Not the graphic you were expecting on the 20th anniversary of 9/11?  Think we're forgetting the terrible losses of that day?  

Are you forgetting that thanks to the mishandling of the COVID pandemic this country is losing the equivalent number of 9/11 deaths every two days, or fewer?

Don't see the connection, Hamilton Burger?  Just wait a minute.

We won't forget the more than 3,000 Americans who lost their lives on that stunning day.  But we also don't forget what happened after that, unlike a surprising number of our still-breathing fellow citizens.

Immediately after 9/11, the world came together to support the United States and pledge its support to take down the al-Qaeda terrorist gang that perpetrated that evil deed.  Even Iran joined the fight against al-Qaeda.  But Toronto David Frum, then doing business as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, still said they were part of the triangular Axis of Evil along with Iraq and North Korea.

Two days after 9/11, the Queen of England, not known for public shows of emotion, ordered her Coldstream Guards to play The Star-Spangled Banner as a gesture of solidarity:

That was September 13, 2001. One day later

Three days after 9/11, George W. Bush had already decided he would use 9/11 to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. 

The reasons remain obscure, although the best that can be deduced from the neocon fever dreams is that, like Michael Corleone, they wanted to take care of all the family business at once. Unlike Michael Corleone, though, they had no f***in' idea of what they were doing.

The cost of this unforced stupid error was immense, and is still climbing today.  The first casualty (well, maybe the second, after truth), was the global unity engendered by 9/11.

As for the later casualties, here's a handy chart:


At the risk of stating the obvious, that's a lot of people who didn't have to die.  Had George W. Bush not perverted the unity and patriotism generated by 9/11 to flog his lethal insane wars, most of them would be alive and perhaps well today.

Why did all these people die?  According to George W. Bush and his fellow Republicans it was all about – freedom. In his words:

In Iraq, the [U.S. occupation] Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council are also working together to build a democracy....And we're working closely with Iraqi citizens as they prepare a constitution, as they move toward free elections and take increasing responsibility for their own affairs.... 

Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands. American and coalition forces are sacrificing for the peace of Iraq and for the security of free nations.

....The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. (Applause.)

Of course not everyone got to enjoy this wonderful freedom:

 
 
 
 

And back home in the United States, there were victims, mostly Muslim, of the post-9/11 hysteria fanned by the Bush Administration (despite Bush's occasional pious claims that Islam was not our enemy).

Just today, Slate's Amicus podcast recounts the brazen assault on Constitutional rights and international law perpetrated by Republicans in the name of freedom. And Washington Week, in between not very fascinating accounts of what Peter Jennings said in the ABC newsroom that morning, managed to provide some airtime for Muslim journalists who didn't recall America as being a bastion of freedom for them.

Here' what a dangerously subversive, um, candidate for the New York City Council, Shahana Hanif, recalls about that time:

So throughout undergrad is when I was really able to understand the violence enacted by our government with the Patriot Act, the creation of the NYPD demographics unit, the formation of ICE—that all of this was happening. These horror stories were caused by harmful, violent, xenophobic, Islamophobic legislation.

The evidence suggests that 9/11, in addition to being a terrible tragedy, did not in fact usher in a new dawn of freedom.  Rather the opposite.  

Which bring us to the current day.  As of last week, the total COVID-19 death count in America has exceeded 658,000, with no end in sight.  On September 9, more people died of COVID-19 than on September 11, with a new 9/11 toll added every 48 hours:

Source: The New York Times

And why is this catastrophe happening?  Once again, it's in the paper of record:

Three studies that drew data from different U.S. regions evaluated the protective power of the vaccines. One looked at more than 600,000 virus cases in 13 states, representing about one quarter of the U.S. population, between April and July, and concluded that individuals who were not fully vaccinated were far more susceptible to infection and death from the virus.

They were 4.5 times more likely than vaccinated individuals to become infected, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die from the coronavirus, the study found. 

People are dying because they refuse to get vaccinated (except for children under 12, who have no choice). They're also dying because some refuse to take simple steps to limit transmission, like wearing masks indoors.

And why is that?

Just like 2003, mass death is caused by “freedom.”

And who is making the specious argument that requiring masks and vaccines is an assault on freedom? If you guessed the same people who told us after 9/11 that we had to invade Iraq for freedom, you win:

If the need for federal action last week seemed clear, the response in some quarters to Biden’s announcement was hostile.

Several Republican governors, including in Texas, Georgia, and South Dakota, vowed to fight the mandate in court.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Biden and the Democrats had “declared war against capitalism” and he pledged to “fight them to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.” [Just like Fort Sumter? – Ed.]

Even before the president spoke on Thursday afternoon, the Federalist, a right-wing publication, assailed the vaccine-and-testing plan as “a fascist move.” 

Ah yes, who could forget Mussolini and his evil fascistic drive to improve public health in Italy?

It's hard to know how much of this crap is a sincere perversion of liberty properly understood (which does not include the liberty to run red lights and drive drunk), how much is pandering to the perpetually lunatic angry Republican base, and how much is the cynical calculation that the worse the pandemic gets, the more the Republican midterm chances improve.

We don't care. All we know is that just like the aftermath of 9/11, Republican contempt for facts and relentless pursuit of partisan political advantage no matter the cost to the Republic have led to ridiculous claims that the defense of “freedom” requires the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

On this 9/11 anniversary, the pandemic losses serve as a useful reminder that Republican disinformation is just like the toxic rubble pile at Ground Zero: it kills for years.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

These f**kin' guys, Ch. 39,255

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator with
Justice Correspondent Scott V. Sandford

For fifty years, the Republican Party, at first cynically and then because it had been captured by Christian dominionist reactionaries, has packed the courts with anti-abortion zealots eager to send women back to the days of Lysol and coathanger abortions.

Last week they succeeded.  

In an unsigned opinion whose cowardice was only exceeded by its legal incoherence, five Republican Justices, including two sex offenders, decided they would not stay the enforcement of the Texas abortion bounty hunter act even as they acknowledged it might well be unconstitutional under current Supreme Court precedent.

Why?, you may ask.

Here's the totality of the legal reasoning that these five cowardly extremists offered to the millions of Texas women now denied their Constitutional right to abortion, as summarized by Justice Sotomayor:“Today, the Court belatedly explains that it declined to grant relief because of procedural complexities of the State’s own invention.”

Oh. 

Billy Kristol joins the Resistance

But courts have the power to enjoin state action pending judicial review precisely to allow them to sort out these daunting procedural or any other complexities while not burdening those whose Constitutional rights may be being taken away.

And we're not going to dive too deep into the ridiculous effort by Texas Republicans to immunize their anti-abortion bounty-hunter law from federal judicial review, except to point out that there is nothing that bars a federal court from enjoining the enforcement of an unconstitutional statute by prohibiting state officials, like judges and clerks, from doing so.   

The Supreme Court actually said so, when it held in 1948 that state court judges could not enforce racist deed covenants: “State action, as that phrase is understood for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment, refers to exertions of state power in all forms. And when the effect of that action is to deny rights subject to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is the obligation of this Court to enforce the constitutional commands.”  Shelly v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 20 (1948).

Anyway, our point here is not to belabor the ludicrously slender rationale offered by the five reactionaries after Justice Sotomayor blew it to bits.  Instead, we want to focus on a subsequent outrage: the cries of ex-Republican bloviators and gasbags that after decades of working to empower the Republican Party and all it stands for, they are shocked, shocked to discover that their Party oppresses women.

Our first example is Billy “Wrong About Everything” Kristol, who has taken to Twitter to express his undying solidarity with the women of Texas:

Speaking of men getting off scot-free, let's remind ourselves of Billy Kristol's sordid past.  For decades, he's carried the bags for a miserable lot of Republicans all of whom devoted themselves to telling women what they could do with their own reproductive systems.  He was really hoping they would invade every country in the Middle East to show how big and strong we are (and how did that turn out, Billy?).

Kristol loyally served anti-abortion VP Dan Quayle

But among other postings, he was the Chief of Staff for dumb as a bag of hammers Vice President Dan “Potatoe” Quayle.  Quayle was added to the Republican ticket to appease hard-right zealots unsure of George H.W. Bush's fidelity to their core principles, like denying women the right to a safe and legal abortion.

Here's Kristol's former boss on the topic:

Quayle, who said he opposes abortion except when the mother's life is in jeopardy, made the statement when reporters here asked whether the Maryland woman raped by Massachusetts murderer William Horton Jr. should have given birth to Horton's child if she had become pregnant. He said Horton's 1987 rape while on a prison furlough program approved by Michael S. Dukakis would not have justified an abortion.

Today marked the third time recently that Quayle has said he thinks rape victims should not get abortions if they become pregnant.

Remember all the times that Billy Kristol was so concerned about a woman's right to choose that he criticized his boss for trying to take it away?  Neither do we.

Republican hypocrite #2, come on down!

 

Oh, wow, has she ever opined on the importance of abortion rights before?  Well, after John Kerry refused to vote for an idiotic bill treating fetuses as persons for the purposes of imposing criminal liability, our staunch protector of women's rights then doing business as George W. Bush's campaign flack had this to say:

''John Kerry began this process as the duckling of the far left and hopes to emerge at his convention as the swan of the heartland,'' Ms. Devenish said. ''Only the truth about his record will prevent this phony makeover of the nation's most out-of-the-mainstream senator.''

Oh, wow, indeed: refusing to vote for an anti-abortion dog whistle made John Kerry out of the mainstream, in which Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney swam so happily?

Fast forward to 2008, when our women's rights heroine was trying to foist Sarah Palin off as qualified to serve as Vice President.  

Her views on a woman's right to choose were clear to even the meanest intelligence (not surprising as they emanated from one):


What part of that did Nicolle Wallace not understand?

Cue Ed McMahon: “Well, that must be every single Republican coatholder, shill, and apologist who pretends they weren't aware of the anti-abortion rights positions of the hacks they so spinelessly supported for decades.  EVERY SINGLE ONE!”

Not so, Republican breath.

We saved the most shameless and odious for last:

What has Rick Wilson been doing for his entire political career? If you guessed flacking for odious Republican anti-abortion stooges by smearing their Democratic opponents, you won! 

Wilson got his start in politics as a field director for former President George H.W. Bush's 1988 presidential campaign. During that campaign, according to CNN, Wilson was mentored by Bush strategist Lee Atwater...

Too bad about those Democrats, Rick

In 2002, Wilson was a media advisor for then-Rep. Saxby Chambliss' U.S. Senate campaign. In one notable ad, Wilson and others in the campaign attacked then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) over his votes for funding to the Department of Homeland Security. ...Cleland had pushed to give DHS employees civil service protections, pitting him against President George W. Bush on the issue. But the ad’s copy suggested that he had opposed the creation of the department itself.”

Wilson told the site of the ad's creation, saying, "... It is an ugly ad. It is a hideously looking ad because we wanted people to focus on the votes. The mechanism itself is pretty simple and basic [namely, lying – Ed.]. We knew back then that saying the words ‘against the president’s vital homeland security efforts’ [would work]."...

During the 2008 presidential election, Wilson was responsible for the creation of ads attacking then-Sen. Barack Obama (D) for his relationship with pastor Jeremiah Wright...

 Wilson's firm Intrepid Media also worked for a super PAC in support of Marco Rubio's presidential campaign.

George H.W. Bush?  Who appointed Long Dong Thomas, the deciding vote in the Texas abortion bounty hunter debacle?  All those other Republican hacks who consistently opposed abortion to appease religious extremists?  

Indeed, it's hard to think of any single political consultant who was more responsible for this week's decision than this bombthrower.

And now he's the protector of women's rights?  Hoh-kay.

You might say what's the big deal? If there are scores of Republican bag-carriers who have come over from the dark side, isn't that a good thing? Well, yes and no.

Bringing more folks into the tent is a good thing. But pretending that their 50 years of effort to overturn Roe doesn't really mean anything falsfies history. It was their efforts that brought women to the currtent crisis. Those five Republican clowns didn't drop from heaven, like rain over Mt. Kisco. They were the product of decades of efforts of Rick, Nicolle, and Billy, not to mention many more.

We think that if these ex-Republican bomb throwers really want to be readmitted to the human race, they need to face their sordid pasts honestly and atone for their sins.  It's the right time of year!

And as they continue to earn huge bucks from their current notoriety, it would be only fair of them to contribute some substantial portion of their loot to a fund that flies poor Texas women to states where, at least today, abortion is available.  

The most important lesson from the current debacle is that actions have consequences.  Don't let Billy, Rick, Nicolle, George, Toronto Dave, Meaghan, and all the other f**kin' guys pretend otherwise.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The disasters mount, but we've got a twofer!

 

By Immigration Editor Emma Goldman
with Justice Editor Scott V. Sandford

Not since 1968 have the terrible events of recent days have come so thick and fast.  It's easy to lose track of each catastrophe as a new one emerges.  But before they fade from living memory, like the efforts by the previous President to overthrow the United States Government last January, let's spend a minute on a couple of them.

And the good news is: we've got a fix!

As the Afghanistan debacle slides towards its inevitable conclusion, once more drenched in American and Afghan blood, it turns out that even those lucky enough to escape from the Taliban face many obstacles to finding a safe haven, whether in the United States or elsewhere.

For example, it turns out that, according to The Washington Post, some of our Afghan allies and their families evacuated from the madness of Kabul have not been able to get beyond – the tarmac of Dulles Airport (itself named for a notorious warmonger and incompetent Secretary of State who until Mike Pompeo had been regarded as the worst Secretary of State in the history of the Republic):

Once again, America welcomes people
who seem a little different
  
 

Afghan evacuees arriving in the United States are running into new problems as they land: Hours-long delays have left hundreds stranded on planes parked at Dulles International Airport outside Washington as they wait to be processed and cleared for entry.

All flights carrying evacuees to the United States are being funneled from interim stops overseas to the airport 25 miles outside the nation’s capital. The lengthy process for thousands of new arrivals includes biometric and biographical screening, as well as coronavirus testing.

The delays are the most recent example of the massive challenge confronting the U.S. government as it has raced to evacuate and resettle tens of thousands of Afghan families

We understand the need for biometric and security screening, but couldn't some bureaucrat have foreseen this problem and we don't know rented some rooms as the Dulles Courtyard by Marriott where desperate Afghan families could be isolated in modest comfort and dignity?  Or taken an inventory of surplus Government buildings that could be converted for temporary housing for refugees?

Speaking of which, let's not let the terrible news from Afghanistan drown out all the other bad news from last week. Here's one gem, brought to you courtesy of two elections in which the popular vote loser snuck in due to a bent Supreme Court decision and an idiot FBI director covering his own ass in public, respectively:


A pretty obscure order from the Supreme Court even by their own standards.  It may be hard to understand, although the last sentence gives the game away.

What's going on here?  The American Immigration Lawyers Association provides some background:

On August 13, 2021, [some stooge] U.S. District Judge [in Amarillo,Texas] issued a nationwide injunction directing the Biden administration to reinstate the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as “Remain in Mexico.” This Trump-era policy required asylum seekers to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings. Those hearings were held in secretive tent courts along the border and were the site of numerous due process violations. Upon taking office, President Biden ended enrollments into MPP and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rescinded the program on June 1, 2021. The Biden administration has worked to bring in over 13,000 formerly MPP individuals into the U.S. to resume their removal hearings.

The Amarillo judge wasn't a-hankerin' to
hear the Department of Justice arguments

Briefly, Judge Kacsmaryk found that the Biden administration illegally terminated MPP because it failed to take into account certain considerations. For example, Judge Kacsmaryk reasoned that the Biden administration ignored whether the government has the detention capacity to hold all asylum seekers and migrants subject to mandatory detention in deciding to end MPP. [Spoiler alert: it does not]

In issuing this injunction, Judge Kacsmaryk accepted as true many of the Trump administration’s claims about the program, including that ending MPP is the cause for the recent rise in border crossings.

Before we go any further, one fun fact: in 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had held that the MPP had not been legally authorized and was thus void.  Its injunction was vacated because the Biden Administration had agreed with the Court and ended the MPP. 

Another fun fact: the Migrant Protection Protocol was the brainchild of grifting white supremacist hatemonger Stephen Miller.  We can't be sure but we suspect he came up with the Orwellian name: the Protocols are designed to do the opposite of protect; they are intended to hurt asylum seekers by forcing them to remain unprotected in Mexico in violation of U.S. asylum law.  It's like Andy Gropo calling his behavior as Governor the Subordinate Women Protection Program.

So you've got the Law West of the Amarillo calling a decision to stop tormenting asylum seekers by making them wait in tents in dangerous Mexican border towns “arbitrary and capricious.”  And you had the Ninth Circuit last year calling the decision to impose such torment unlawful.

What's a Supreme Court to do?  Especially in an area of exclusively federal competence (immigration) and in a field in which courts have traditionally deferred to the executive (conduct of U.S. foreign policy, in this case vis-á-vis Mexico).  

Might as well do something useful with the building

If you guessed forced Biden to keep the illegal Former Loser Grifter policy in place, you've won a dream date with Brett Kavanaugh! And Squiffy, and the rest of the weight-lifting club! Pro tip: better wear a one-piece bathing suit under your kilt.

In their defense, how could the Supreme Court know that the Amarillo injunction at issue intruded into a core Executive power? Except by reading the submission of that well-known immigrant-rights group, the Department of Justice:

Notwithstanding the “danger of unwarranted judicial interference in the conduct of foreign policy,” .. the district court would -- at the behest of States who may concededly gain nothing -- supervise the good faith of the diplomacy needed to reestablish a version of MPP that would function effectively in August 2021 and thereafter.

And the Supreme Court could hardly be expected to comprehend just how awful, unjust, and illegal the Rot-in-Mexico program was, right

The district court’s mandate to abruptly re-impose and maintain that program under judicial supervision would prejudice the United States’ relations with vital regional partners, severely disrupt its operations at the southern border, and threaten to create a diplomatic and humanitarian crisis.  

So where are we?  Short answer: who knows?  There's no doubt that the MPP created terrible suffering, up to and including sexual assault and death, which are apparently not matters that trouble the deep jurisprudential thinkers down in Amarillo

The policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols, mandates that non-Mexican asylum return to Mexico as they await hearings in the United States. It has resulted in the creation of makeshift camps where hundreds of migrants have waited for weeks, if not months, in squalid and unsafe conditions. In some cases, migrant families have opted to send children across the US-Mexico border alone.

Lawyers for the asylum seekers called the government's policy illegal and said that in the months that it has been in effect "reports of murder, rape, torture kidnapping, and other violent assaults against returned asylum seekers have climbed."

Sounds hopeless?

Not to the Spy.

If the Supreme Court assigns zero harm to people living unguarded in tents, then perhaps they would like to try the experience for themselves. In turn, the Afghan refugees now rotting on planes in Virginia could be processed someplace safe and well-guarded: the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill. There's lots of space, a big cafeteria, and even a basketball court.

Maybe a few months of doing whatever it is they are doing, seemingly unrelated to law, in tents on the lawn in front of their building will give Brett “One-Eyed Wonder” Kavanaugh, “Long Dong” Thomas, John “the Bongmaster ” Roberts '76 and Spooky Amy among others a new respect for the hardships faced by asylum seekers and the appropriately modest role of the Supreme Court in dictating the foreign relations of the United States.

Or maybe not.  But at least the taxpayers of the United States will be able to use one of the buildings they own for its intended purpose: justice.

STOP PRESS: As we go to press we have learned of another easily guarded Washington landmark that is currently going almost entirely unused but would be ideal for housing and processing Afghan refugees:




Sunday, August 22, 2021

From the Archives: War is Hell, which spells bad news for the President!

By Aula Minerva
Spy Archivist

The collapse of the Afghan Army and Government, and the difficulties that ensued, have been big news in all media, and the consensus is clear: it's all Biden's fault!  

Treating the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan’s capitol over the weekend as a shocking event in the wake of U.S. troops withdrawing from the war-torn country, the press eagerly jumped into the blame game. In the process, they diligently did the GOP’s bidding by omitting key context in its rush to pin the blame for a 20-year, extraordinarily complex and heartbreaking military and foreign policy failure on a single man who took office just seven months ago.

Turning over their platforms to partisan Republicans and pro-war military experts, the media seemed eager to portray President Joe Biden as one being swallowed up in “crisis,” even as his call to withdraw troops has drawn overwhelming, bipartisan support at home.  

How could Joe Biden have screwed up so badly, after 20 years of bipartisan success in Afghanistan? How come he didn't realize that the Afghan Army would evaporate in a matter of days? Everybody knew, right? 

Funny story:


 Who was Biden listening to, anyway?  The New York Times offers a clue:

Speaking at the Pentagon, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said intelligence predictions of when the Afghan security force would stop fighting and of the government collapse varied widely.

“There are not reports that I am aware of that predicted a security force of 300,000 would evaporate in 11 days,” General Milley said.

Imagine relying on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before taking action. What kind of schmuck listens to his top generals?  Not Biden's predecessor.  

This attack on a President for relying on what he was told in trying to navigate the chaos of the abrupt end of a 20-year war caused us to wonder if there was anything in the Spy's archives that might provide some precedent for such criticism.

 We found some.

From The Massachusetts Spy, December 25, 1944:


From The Massachusetts Spy, August 31, 1864:

 



From The Massachusetts Spy, December 15, 1776:


 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Hot Air Force readies for one last Afghan strike

Dispatches From the War Fronts:

The Hot Air Force Takes Wing Again
Destination: Kandahar, Herat, Kabul

by War Correspondent Douglas MacArthur with
Meta-Content Generator A.J. Liebling in Washington

Twenty years of futile war in Afghanistan have reached their its inevitable climax, thanks to the incompetence, corruption, and illegitimacy of the Afghan Government we have propped up since 2002.  This has given rise to, among other things, questions:

But to its credit The New York Times provides some answers:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The surrenders seem to be happening as fast as the Taliban can travel.

In the past several days, the Afghan security forces have collapsed in more than 15 cities under the pressure of a Taliban advance that began in May. On Friday, officials confirmed that those included two of the country’s most important provincial capitals: Kandahar and Herat. ...

This implosion comes despite the United States having poured more than $83 billion in weapons, equipment and training into the country’s security forces over two decades.

Building the Afghan security apparatus .... produced an army modeled in the image of the United States’ military, an Afghan institution that was supposed to outlast the American war.

But it will likely be gone before the United States is. ....

It started out great!

The United States’ 20-year endeavor to rebuild Afghanistan’s military into a robust and independent fighting force has failed, and that failure is now playing out in real time as the country slips into Taliban control....

But even before that, the systemic weaknesses of the Afghan security forces — which on paper numbered somewhere around 300,000 people, but in recent days have totaled around just one-sixth of that, according to U.S. officials — were apparent. ...

Soldiers and policemen have expressed ever-deeper resentment of the Afghan leadership. Officials often turned a blind eye to what was happening, knowing full well that the Afghan forces’ real manpower count was far lower than what was on the books, skewed by corruption and secrecy that they quietly accepted.

And when the Taliban started building momentum after the United States’ announcement of withdrawal, it only increased the belief that fighting in the security forces — fighting for President Ashraf Ghani’s government — wasn’t worth dying for. In interview after interview, soldiers and police officers described moments of despair and feelings of abandonment.
 

It sounds as if the whole Afghan War was the military version of “Weekend at Bernie's:” there was no extant Afghan state or government and as soon as we stopped propping it up, it fell down dead.  We saw this movie in 1975 and thought we had learned our lesson.

But wait – what's that sound we hear in the distance?  Is it the Cavalry?  Even better, it's the 101.1st Hot Air Force, ready to fight again from their air-conditioned Washington offices or, with luck and enough Koch Brothers dark money, from their cedar decks overlooking Vineyard Sound or at least Chesapeake Bay.

Yes, it's the same stalwart band of brothers (and a few sisters) who sent your sons and daughters into harm's way in Afghanistan and Iraq and kept them there long after it was clear to even the meanest intelligence, by which we mean President Former Loser Grifter, that their lives were being squandered for nothing.

They're back!  Here's Hot Air Force Col. Fred Kagan landing on the New York Times Op-Ed Page urging more decades of carnage:

Sending additional troops into Afghanistan could have allowed the United States to carry out the withdrawal safely without severely disrupting military support. When the president ordered the pullout, there were some 3,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. One thousand or 2,000 additional troops deployed for less than a year could have made a significant difference. They would have allowed Gen. Austin S. Miller, .. to continue supporting the Afghan security forces while simultaneously prepping the withdrawal.

Is HAF Generalissimo Freddie Hiatt AWOL?

And one year would turn into two, and then four, and then eight, just as President Biden learned when the military pulled the same argument on his boss back in '09. Afghanistan was the Roach Motel of war: American troops could check in, but they could never check out, because there never was a real Afghan nation to build or military to support. 

By the way, who is Col. Fred Kagan and how did he earn his Hot AF wings? 

Frederick W. Kagan is a senior fellow and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. He was part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s civilian advisory team in Afghanistan in 2009 and advised three commanders of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan.

And the great job he did in 2009 qualified him to launch the HAF over the same targets eleven years later. 

But wait there's more.  He was one of the principal architects of George W. Bush's 2007 surge of troops into Iraq which ensured that the whole mess would be dumped into Obama's lap, but led to the creation of a strong, stable, pro-Western anti-Iran democracy in Iraq, at least in Col. Kagan's fevered dreams.

Speaking of veteran Hot Air Force commanders, what's up with Generalissimos Freddie Hiatt '76 and Billy Kristol, who relentlessly promoted the pointless war in Iraq that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions more suffering the wounds and dislocation of war, and the creation of the corrupt feeble Iranian client state that is modern Iraq?

Generalissimo Freddie, still entrenched in his Fortress of Bloviation at The Washington Post is AWOL, having delegated the Afghan clean up to his columnist Colbert King:

But as with Vietnam, a weak and unstable Afghan government can only make tragedy, disaster and American losses worse.

Say it ain't so, Freddie. 

Do you mean that the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center doesn't justify eternal war in the Middle East and Central Asia? If so, could you think of any other time you might have shared this conclusion with a grateful nation?

And what about the HAF's brains trust, Gen. Billy Kristol?  Don't tell me after decades of pushing endless war and torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and God knows where else, he's sitting at the HAF Officers' Club bar sucking down g-and-t's.

There's good news tonight, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea.  Gen'l Billy is still fighting from his bunker in Chevy Chase:


Now he's interested in avoiding a humanitarian disaster?  Do tell, Billy:

Would a bold intervention now commit us to sustain a military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely? Not necessarily, but there is a strong case for an enduring military presence there, in order to combat terrorists and help defend our nation, as well as to honor our alliance with the people of Afghanistan.

And where's the brains of the HAF, Billy Kristol?

Just because something has lasted for 20 years without apparent progress doesn't mean it's going to last forever. 

Don't take it from us. In the words of Republican stoic philosopher Marjorie Taylor “I always make those noises when I'm working out” Greene: “We all have to die sometime.” This has been proven hundreds of thousands of times in the last 20 years by Iraqis and Afghanis, so it's got to be true.

We're not here to trivialize the dangers to the thousands of Afghans who helped us, only to have their visa applications trapped in endless red tape, and to Afghan women.  But we can't build a just, fair, and equal Afghan society unless that's something that Afghans desire.  Sadly, the evidence compels the conclusion that they don't, or at least not enough to fight for it.  

And we don't really need to hear heart-rending humanitarian appeals from the Hot Air Force, who brought us waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and hundreds of thousands of lives needlessly lost or ruined.

Even less compelling is their second argument, recycled from Vietnam-era talking points:

Withdrawal from Afghanistan is abandoning our allies in the middle of the fight. What would such abandonment tell the world about American character and reliability in future moments when we look to make alliances in our strategic interests? 

It would tell them what they know already: the United States is not prepared to lavish blood and treasure forever on a country that lacks the will to fight for itself. That was true in Vietnam, and it's true today in Afghanistan. 

We'll ask another question: what will it say about the United States if the Hot Air Force manages to drag out the inevitable in Afghanistan for years or decades?  

It will tell the world that we're a nation of schmucks who can no longer distinguish truth from lies, or important national interests from empty talking points.  

Of course, the 2016 election told the world that already.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Republicans let children sicken and die. And you're surprised?


By Spy Medical Editor Vincent Boom-Batz, M.D. with
Florida Correspondent Jenny Herk

The news out of Florida continues to appall.  While this is an evergreen lede, the current pandemic carnage is especially poignant:


And parents are terrified about sending their under-12 and thus unvaccinated children back to Florida's notoriously sh***y schools without any protection, like masks, from infection, suffering, and death:

The overwhelming majority of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Florida are unvaccinated. Of the more than 10.5 million fully vaccinated Floridians, approximately 0.019% are in a Florida hospital with COVID-19, said Mary Mayhew, president of Florida Hospital Association.

“COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida have doubled in the last two weeks, with younger, healthier individuals getting COVID-19 and being hospitalized,” Mayhew, who called the vaccine a lifesaver, said.

Despite the surge in cases and hospitalizations, at a news conference Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated his general opposition to restrictions, lockdowns, business closures and mask mandates.

Mayo Clinic scientists spreading
pro-mask propaganda

“In terms of imposing any restrictions, that’s not happening in Florida," the governor said. "It’s harmful, it’s destructive. It does not work.”  

All lies from Gov. Ron DeSantis (R – Death) of course. Masks are not harmful. Masks are not destructive. Masks work.  We know this because real scientists with real expertise backed by real evidence say so:

Mayo Clinic researchers recently published a study that shows the proper use of masks reduces the spread of respiratory droplets. The findings strongly support the protective value and effectiveness of widespread mask use and maintaining physical distance in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

So, whom are you going to believe? A thirsty reactionary Republican or the world-class health professionals located in that well-known hotbed of socialist disinformation, Rochester, Minnesota?

For the Republican base, the answer is easy and obvious.  And that has life-long Republican hatchet men and plug uglies who now can't abide what their beloved citadel of freedom has become pulling out what remains of their hair, including Sarah Palin's former campaign manager:

Oh, really? It reminds us of the scene in Galaxy Quest when the aliens forget to turn on their human image projectors and Tim Allen sees them as they really are:

L to R: Gov. Ron DeSantis, Gov. Greg Abbott, Cancun Ted Cruz

Like you never noticed this before, Steve?

We can help him, because lots of us noticed decades ago the fundamental characteristics of Republican, um, thought that led to the sacrifice of children for the political advancement of white supremacists.

The first and most obvious Republican characteristic is cruelty.  While this has been a feature of Republican policies since the Hoover Administration, it only became a hallmark of Republican political culture under the Former Loser Grifter, whose entire political career and indeed life was built on cruelty to others, whether the women he raped, the contractors he stiffed, or the family members he swindled.

The point to remember is not that the FLG was cruel; it's that his cruelty was the basis of his appeal to Republican voters, like these:

And the anti-FLG Republican gasbags may want to think about their love of violence and torture in the Bush Administration.  We're sure they'll get back to us.

The second is the love of an unyielding batsh*t crazy extremism. As the proud 1964 GOP standard-bearer said: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice . . .”

That's why Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not to mention:

In December 1961, he told a news conference that "sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea." That comment came back to haunt him for years, as did remarks about making Social Security voluntary and selling the Tennessee Valley Authority. 

We'll get back to some of these foundational Republican norms.  Speaking of extremism, let's just recall the Republican opposition to gun safety measures in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook and Parkland student massacres:

Even after a horrific event like the school shooting in Florida, where 17 people were killed, more gun control would be compromising those first principles. For them, compromising those principles would be even more horrific and detrimental to society than any shooting. 

When your “principles” are more important that the body count of children slaughtered in their schools, that my friend is extremism. But not just that.

It's a Republican-specific version, which is treating white privilege as freedom.  And the only freedoms that count are the ones enjoyed by privileged white men.  We can't explain this any better than Paul Krugman, so we'll just cut and paste:

the link between vaccine refusal and Covid deaths is every bit as real as the link between D.U.I. and traffic deaths,... But why are people on the right so receptive to misinformation on this subject, and so angry about efforts to set the record straight?

My answer is that when people on the right talk about “freedom” what they actually mean is closer to “defense of privilege” — specifically the right of certain people (generally white male Christians) to do whatever they want. ...

Why, for example, are conservatives so insistent on the right of businesses to make their own decisions, free from regulation — but quick to stop them from denying service to customers who refuse to wear masks or show proof of vaccination? Why is the autonomy of local school districts a fundamental principle — unless they want to require masks or teach America’s racial history? It’s all about whose privilege is being protected.

The reality of what the right means by freedom also, I think, explains the special rage induced by rules that impose some slight inconvenience in the name of the public interest — like the detergent wars of a few years back. After all, only poor people and minority groups are supposed to be asked to make sacrifices.

Or, as Republicans would call it, a waste of money
Any action, no matter how reprehensible, can be framed as a freedom: the freedom to tie tin cans to dog's tails, the freedom to run red lights, the freedom to grope your State Police bodyguard. This perversion of the concepts of freedom and liberty led Samuel Johnson to remark at the time of the American Revolution: “How is it we hear the loudest yelps about liberty from the drivers of negroes?” We've been wresting with that one since 1619. 

But it's not just race; it's class, money, and power as well.  It's no accident that while Floridians suffer and die, DeSantis has been out of town auditioning for dark money from Republican plutocrats sucking down gin in green and pleasant white havens like Petoskey, Michigan, suburban Milwaukee, San Diego, and Las Vegas.  DeSantis knows that the hard-eyed money men, in Russell Baker's famous expression, want to invest in a white Republican who will protect their pocketbooks against the claims of the undeserving poor.  If DeSantis can ignore the pleas of parents terrified about sending their children into super-spreader schools, they can be sure he will not spend a dime of their pelf to feed, house, and succor the poor and unfortunate.

Which may explain the long-held article of Republican faith that government is the problem.  If government could work, then folks might start asking why billionaires shouldn't kick in a portion of their vast wealth the way middle-class homeowners pay a property tax.  Ever since St. Ronald of Bitburg declared that government wasn't the solution, it was the problem, the Republican plutocrats have cheered.

They know full well that this claim is just a distraction for the rubes angered over insults like a Black President.  Government works great for them: its courts and police protect and defend their property, while high-priced lawyers manipulate the legal system to insure the predatory rich never have to answer for their evil deeds.  Just ask the Sacklers.

It also explains why those plutocrats lavishly fund a series of dark money institutions designed to promote their pro-rich policies as nothing more than good ol' American libertarianism.  They succeeded, albeit with the invaluable assistance of the orange-faced FLG who disdained masks because they would smear his greasy bronzer.  Now Americans loyally parrot the line that forcing them to wear masks indoors is an attack on liberty.  We should just be glad that so far they have not reached the same conclusion about wearing pants.

While they love the parts of government that defend their interests, like the paramilitary police and fully militarized National Guards that spring into action to defend their property and generally keep the poor in the their place, there are parts they hate.  Republican hatred of public schools goes back generations, originally based on the fears that they will have to pay taxes to pay for those schools.   More recently, they have attacked public schools because their unionized but still modestly paid teachers tend to vote and worse yet organize Democratic, so that defunding the schools has the tonic side effect of starving a key pillar of Democratic support.

Thus it came as no surprise when the Republican Florida Board of Education decided to undermine school districts with sensible public health measures like masking by letting parents get state money to pull their little bricks out of those schools and into segregation academies, uh, private schools.  

He's right - the Southern Border is wide open!
In addition to the interlocking ideologies of white supremacy, bent libertarianism, hatred of government, and exalting protecting the rich, there are at least two political factors.  The first is the scorched-earth opposition that Republicans have employed to frustrate Democratic-led government.  This first erupted in 1993, when, after an era in which Republicans occupied the White House for 20 of 24 years, Republicans decided that anything else was a perversion of the natural order.

Soon we got screaming Republican Newt “Polish that Rocket ” Gingrich whipping up his party into a frenzy of angry and total opposition.  Matters only got worse when the next Democratic President rode into town like Sheriff Bart.  Today it is an article of Republican political strategy that Democrats must be treated with contempt.  Thus DeSantis said he didn't want to hear criticism about his life-threatening COVID decisions until President Biden had secured the Southern border.

Now we've been to the Southern border of Florida and it's pretty wet and mucky.  We aren't sure who is invading from there besides pythons and alligators, and there's no way Biden can stop them.  

Finally explaining why DeSantis has gotten away with his reckless if not batshit crazy opposition to sane public health measures is the inability of supposedly reputable practitioners of journalism to call him out.  A recent analysis in the New York Times faithfully spoon-fed the threadbare rationalizations of DeSantis flacks for his bizarre decision to do nothing while Florida burns with disease.

But don't worry – according to the New York Times, it's all good for DeSantis.  As long as not every child in Florida sickens and dies, he'll be able to claim that the casualty list is a small price to pay for freedom and full strip clubs.  In a piece that could have been written about the political acumen of Vlad the Impaler, the Times concluded:

If, however, Florida comes through another virus peak with both its hospital system and economy intact, Mr. DeSantis’s game of chicken with the deadly pandemic could become a model for how to coexist with a virus that is unlikely to ever fully vanish.

Not since Neville Chamberlain have so many died for peaceful coexistence.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Lost and The Furious: Stop the Steal!

They seem nice
 

By Nellie Bly
Spy Washington Bureau

Will the Former Loser Grifter run again?

Gee, we don't know.  Will Ben and Jennifer's PR team leak more romantic photos until they get the production deal they're looking for?

(We gave the wild bears the week off, so we looked elsewhere for obvious questions that can only be answered in the affirmative.)

That didn't stop author Michael Wolff from writing a New York Times op-ed, excuse us, guest essay, to offer his answer.  Did he write the piece to generate publicity for his new book, which, since he didn't send us a copy, we won't plug here?  Where are the wild bears when you need them?

Here's his not terribly surprising answer:

I know the obvious: Donald Trump will run for president again.

But to be fair to the modest, self-effacing Mr. Wolff, he makes a few excellent points:

He can’t be Donald Trump without a claim on the presidency. He can’t hold the attention and devotion of the Republican Party if he is not both once and future king — and why would he ever give that up?

He wouldn't. 

But that wasn't actually the most arresting part of Wolff's column. What caught our eye was Wolff's analysis of the bulls**t claim that the Former Loser Grifter lost the 2020 election because it was “stolen.”

We know he'll never drop that preposterous claim, no matter how much evidence falsifies it. We thought that was because he was an empty narcissist would couldn't face the fact that he was badly beaten, by 7,000,000 votes. That's a lot of votes.

But we were, wait for it, wrong. Yes, it can happen. It's true enough that the “stop the steal” shtick does serve as a balm to the FLG's ego, like groping innocent women or Adderall.

According to Wolff, though, it's so much more:

But perhaps most important, there is his classic hucksterism, and his synoptic U.S.P. — unique selling proposition. In 2016 it was “the wall.” For 2022 and 2024 he will have another proposition available: “the steal,” a rallying cry of rage and simplicity.

Wolff's thesis is that the FLG's endless whining about the election he lost is in fact another huge jolt to his hate-addled base, as thrilling and addicting as tales of Mexican assassins, fake news, hordes of faceless government storm-troopers breaking down your door and injecting you with Bill Gates's microchips, or the crank they brew in their trailers.

Can this be true?  In a country still reeling from pandemic, insurrection, climate change, and the results of generations of plutocracy (leading to the immiseration of much of the FLG's base), is the most important issue really “the steal?”

Let's put on our police uniform, including Kevlar vest, helmet, and shotgun, rev up our war-surplus tank and play Joe Friday for a minute.

The first thing Officer Friday would ask the victim of a theft, we think, is “what was stolen, ma'am?”

Is it really the election?  One thing we've learned about angry white supremacists over the last 50 years is not to assume that what they tell us is true.  Does anyone now think that the enraged attack on President Obama for daring to provide health care for all was really based on white racist concerns about the – budget deficit, as we were repeatedly told in 2010?

Given that not one of the “stop the steal” ravers can provide anything resembling a fact supporting the stolen-election narrative, we think that the election is only one aspect of a larger allegation of theft.

Consider the neo-Nazi “white replacement theory,” a formerly fringe notion asserting that the increasing diversity in the American population is in fact a mortal threat to the glorious White Race, because underachievers like Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, and Sunisa Lee will shove aside deserving hard twerking [Surely, working? – Ed.] white people like Donny Jr., Chuck Woolery, and Rudy Giuliani.

Sounds nutty, no?  Yet it has become a mainstream principle of angry white supremacists in part because it is spewed out on a nightly basis by raving racists like Turkey Breast with Giblets and Stuffing Carlson:

Carlson has often used his show to launder white nationalist ideology, and his recent attachment to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, “white genocide” narratives, and race war fearmongering is the culmination of years of violent and racist rhetoric. 

No wonder he's the highest rated Fox “News” prime time attraction, outpacing the woman who bites the heads off of chickens and the high-pitched carnival barker.

It will be recalled that the FLG started his rise to the Presidency by claiming that Mexico was sending assassins, rapists, and robbers across the border to steal heavens knows what.

Look Mee-Maw, we stopped the steal!

The FLG's enraged white mob is angry about what they regard as a steal, but it's a steal of much more than one election.

It's a theft of everything they have held dear throughout the sordid history of white supremacy in the United States, all rooted in the notion that white men, assisted by their loyal submissive wives, have the inherent and inalienable right to power and riches.  Any change to that sacred order is by definition a steal, whether it is giving people of color the right to vote (now being successfully attacked by white racists in red states), health care, or any other measure of social wealth and dignity. 

And when you fear that you're losing everything that makes you feel superior there's no length that you won't go to to protect what you see as rightfully yours, up to and including seizing the Capitol and hanging Mike Pence.

There's a lot of hilarious Tweeting about how stupid the FLG is, but he's always been smart enough to play to and inflame his white supremacist base, while doing nothing to ease any of their afflictions.  If you didn't think back in 2015 that it would work, who's the stupid one?

And if you don't think it can work again in 2024, then how smart are you?

In fact, relentlessly pimping the white-supremacist “steal” narrative, combined with Trumpublican assaults on the right to vote, could be a winning formula for the second FLG term and the subsequent larceny of American democracy.

That larceny is being carried out every day and in plain view, in states like Texas, Georgia, and Florida.  The only way to stop it is to enact Supreme Court-proof voting rights legislation.

Right now, the outlook is not good, because the Administration doesn't want anything to threaten their miserable gnawed bone of infrastructure spending.  But no one in their right mind would sacrifice democracy for bridges.  Who wants to drive on a newly-paved highway if the destination is a fascist-adjacent hate-based oligarchy?

We'd like to report a theft in progress.  Will anyone respond? 


UPDATE, 2100Z:  Don't believe me?  Maybe you'll believe Richard Hofstadter!