Lazy Caturday Reads: So Much Winning!

Maine Coon Cat

Good Morning!!

Trump threw a tantrum and forced a partial government shutdown that will force some government employees to work with out pay and others to be furloughed without pay. Merry Xmas from the fake “president.”

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump’s shutdown stunt is an act of needless stupidity.

As it became apparent Friday that no agreement could be reached on a stopgap spending measure, President Trump warned that a shutdown would “last for a very long time.” Affected is about a third of the government workforce — about 800,000 employees — in key departments, including Homeland Security, State and Justice. Because of the weekend and upcoming Christmas holidays, the impacts of a shutdown may not immediately be felt, but there should be no mistake that curtailment of these government agencies will impose costs across Washington and the country.

That seemed to be of little matter to Mr. Trump, who last week boasted he would be “proud” to shut down the government, glad to “take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.” He changed his tune on Friday in trying to shift the blame to Democrats for not going along with his demand for money to build a border wall he once promised would be financed by Mexico. Nothing better illustrates the needless stupidity of the shutdown than Mr. Trump’s claim to be taking a stand for border security when one of the agencies being caught up is Customs and Border Protection.

Himalayan Cat

Any doubt that it is politics — not principle — driving Mr. Trump was erased when he flip-flopped this week on the stopgap spending bill. He signaled he would sign on to a measure, passed by both House and Senate, without wall funding, but then buckled to criticism from the conservative media.

The likes of Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh are determining Trump’s domestic policies. His foreign policy are being run out of Moscow and Istanbul and he is being celebrated by the Kremlin, Iran, and the Taliban for his decisions to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan.

Julia David at The Daily Beast: Russia Gloats: ‘Trump Is Ours Again.’

The Kremlin is awash with Christmas gifts from Washington, D.C. and every move by the Trump administration seems to add to that perception. On Wednesday, appearing on the Russian state TV show “The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev,” Director of the Moscow-based Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies Semyon Bagdasarov said that the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is “struggling to keep up” with the flurry of unexpected decisions by the U.S. President Donald Trump. The news that Mattis decided to step down sent shock waves across the world, being interpreted as “a dangerous signal” by America’s allies.

Norwegian Forest Cat

Meanwhile, the Mattis departure is being cheered in Russia. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Upper House of the Russian Parliament, has said that “the departure of James Mattis is a positive signal for Russia, since Mattis was far more hawkish on Russia and China than Donald Trump.” Kosachev opined that Trump apparently considered his own agenda in dealing with Russia, China and America’s allies to be “more important than keeping James Mattis at his post,” concluding: “That’s an interesting signal, and a more positive one” for Russia.

Jubilation was even more apparent on Russia’s state television, which adheres closely to the Kremlin’s point of view. The host of the Russian state TV show “60 Minutes,” Olga Skabeeva asserted: “Secretary of Defense Mattis didn’t want to leave Syria, so Trump fired him. They are leaving Syria.”

The Washington Post: U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria is ‘a dream come true for the Iranians.’

 One of the biggest winners of President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria will be Iran, which can now expand its reach across the Middle East with Washington’s already waning influence taking another hit.

The abrupt reversal of U.S. policy regarding its small military presence in a remote but strategically significant corner of northeastern Syria has stunned U.S. allies, many of whom were counting on the Trump administration’s seemingly tough posture on Iran to reverse extensive gains made by Tehran in recent years.

Ragdoll Cat

Instead, the withdrawal of troops opens the door to further Iranian expansion, including the establishment of a land corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean that will enhance Iran’s ability to directly challenge Israel. It also throws in doubt Washington’s ability to sustain its commitment to other allies in the region and could drive many of them closer to Russia, an Iranian ally, analysts say.

“This is a dream come true for the Iranians,” said Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, a defense consultancy in Dubai. “No longer will Iran take the Trump administration seriously. It’s an isolationist administration, it will no longer pose a threat, and Iran will become bolder in its actions because they know this administration is more bark than bite.”

NBC News: Taliban greets Pentagon’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan with cries of victory.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — News that the White House had ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan provoked widespread criticism that the move would kneecap efforts to broker a peace deal to end America’s longest war.

But there was one group on Friday celebrating the reports — the Taliban.

Senior members told NBC News the news was a clear indication they were on the verge of victory.

Siberian Cats

“The 17-year-long struggle and sacrifices of thousands of our people finally yielded fruit,” said a senior Taliban commander from Afghanistan’s Helmand province. “We proved it to the entire world that we defeated the self-proclaimed world’s lone super power.”

“We are close to our destination,” added the commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the group’s leadership had prohibited members from talking to the media about current events. He added that all field commanders had also been told to intensify training efforts to capture four strategic provinces in the run up to the next round of talks between the U.S. and Taliban, which are expected in January.

Are you tired of winning yet?

The Syria pullout has “Thwarted ‘Major’ Operation Targeting ISIS,” according to Bob Corker. From The Daily Beast:

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee revealed on Friday that the U.S. military was planning a “major clearing operation” targeting ISIS before President Donald Trump decided abruptly this weekto withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.

“One thing that hasn’t been reported is, we were six weeks away from a major clearing operation that has been planned for a long time. I got briefed on this a year ago—with ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said Friday on Capitol Hill, referring to the area where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to be hiding.

Chartreaux Cat

Trump’s decision, which at least partly led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, has rattled congressional Republicans, who have questioned the wisdom of withdrawing from Syria before ISIS is fully eradicated. In defending his decision, Trump claimed that the extremist caliphate has been defeated, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a top Trump ally, called that claim “fake news,” and said America’s adversaries will benefit from Trump’s order.

I’ll wrap this up with three opinion pieces:

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: It’s official. We lost the Cold War.

Perhaps the timing of George H.W. Bush’s death last month was merciful. This way he didn’t have to see America lose the Cold War.

Bush presided over the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. But the triumph he and others earned with American blood and treasure over 71 years, defeating the Soviet Union and keeping its successor in check, has been squandered by President Trump in just two.

Trump’s unraveling of the post-war order accelerated this week when he announced a willy-nilly pullout from Syria, leaving in the lurch scores of allies who participated in the campaign against the Islamic State, throwing our Kurdish partners to the wolves, isolating Israel, and giving Russia and Iran free rein in the Middle East. Then word emerged that Trump is ordering another hasty withdrawal, from Afghanistan. Trump’s defense secretary, retired Gen. Jim Mattis, resigned in protest of the president’s estrangement of allies and emboldening of Russia and China.

Egyptian Mau Cat

The TV series “The Man in the High Castle” imagines a world in which Nazis won World War II. But we don’t need an alternative-history show to imagine a Soviet victory in the Cold War. We have Trump.

David Rothkop at The Daily Beast: Mattis’ Message to the World: Trump Is Out of Control. The gist:

Mattis, who took his duty very seriously, came to the conclusion that the value of such checks was now gone. Repeatedly—in Helsinki with Putin, in Singapore with Kim, in his defense of Saudi Arabia’s murderous crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, in his attacks on the FBI and the intelligence community, in his rejection of facts obvious to all—Trump has shown he cannot be controlled from within the administration.

Now, we can expect even worse. The checks on his relations with Putin within the administration are gone. The experienced hands are few and far between and the policy process is non-existent, the most dysfunctional in U.S. history—which suits both Trump and Bolton. Bolton and Pompeo, Iran hawks and apologists for the Saudis, the Israelis, and other Gulf states, will have more freedom. Relations with the military, already bad, will sour. Stephen Miller will gain stronger control over our border and immigration policies which suggests more human rights abuses are ahead. Our allies will have few champions and even less trust in the administration.

All this will happen because today Trump’s most highly regarded aide sent a message to the world and in particular to those responsible for presidential oversight on Capitol Hill. The president is not only outside the mainstream in his thinking, he is out of control. The man who controls the world’s most powerful military and the resources of the world’s richest government, is beyond assistance, beyond redemption, beyond influence other than by our enemies and his greed and narcissism.

Susan Glasser at the New Yorker: The Year in Trump Freakouts.

Bengal Cat

President Trump is ending the year as he began it: outraging Washington with a Twitter diktat, one that was cheered in Moscow and jeered on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday morning, the city awoke to an unexpected Presidential announcement that Trump was unilaterally pulling American forces out of Syria, despite having agreed this fall that U.S. troops would remain on the ground there indefinitely. Trump portrayed the decision as both a final victory over the Islamic State, which had overtaken much of the country from the Russia-supported regime of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, and the fulfillment of a campaign promise to exit the Middle East. A full-scale bipartisan freakout ensued, culminating late Thursday with the long-awaited, long-feared news that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would join the procession of Trump officials calling it quits. Was it a direct result of the abrupt about-face on Syria? “I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to the President, “because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.” What we do know is that all the chaos at year’s end is a powerful reminder that the manner in which the President operates is so outside of any normal parameters for governing, so disdainful of process, and so heedless of consequences that his decisions don’t resolve crises so much as create them.

It is, of course, possible to have a reasonable policy debate over whether U.S. forces belong in Syria, given the military’s small footprint (about two thousand troops), the haziness of American objectives, and the fact that there is no political appetite for an expanded intervention in the country’s long-running civil war. But it is not possible with Trump. The retired Admiral James Stavridis, the former commander of nato forces, called the President’s decision “geopolitically the worst move I have seen from this Administration.” Others disagreed, seeing in Trump’s move a disaster in process that otherwise resembled President Barack Obama’s desire to withdraw from the endless conflicts of the Middle East. “Trump is very capable of doing intelligent things in very stupid ways,” Ian Bremmer, the head of the geopolitical-analysis firm the Eurasia Group, said in an interview with CBS on Thursday morning.

It is hard to get past the stupid, though.

It certainly is “hard to get past the stupid” with Trump. I haven’t even scratched the surface of today’s news. What stories are you following? Please share.


42 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: So Much Winning!”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

      I never even knew that was possible … but thankfully, the Board of Governors is still there.

      • dakinikat says:

        oh and all of this officially makes us a Zimbabwe level banana republic … politicizing the Fed will really fuck with the financial markets and the value of the dollar because it creates inflation expectations.

        • quixote says:

          Once he really messes with people’s — in which I generously include Congresscritters’ — portfolios, shit may get real.

          Although the problem with waiting for the crazy to hit your personal wallet is that it could well already be too late.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    When will it end? Who will finally end it? What happens next?

    America and our allies cannot bear much more of this ignorance and insanity. We are in the hands of unqualified lunatics holding a disregard for the US Constitution. There is absolutely no integrity in this administration. We are at such risk here.

    Anyway, I will be out of town for several days so I am wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in advance

    Hoping 2019 brings us something good for once.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      hahahaha too funny

      The cat pictures are wonderful. I just lost my 16-year old Himalayan, Shane, in September. He succumbed to kidney failure after a bout with hyperthyroidism, which we cured with radiation (long story). Anyway my himmie was seal-point with a natural face, not the flat Persian face. Himalayans are absolutely gorgeous and so loyal and loving. Very peaceful placid cats with Persian temperament.

      He’s the only one I had that never fought with the others. My beautiful movie star. ❤

  5. Sweet Sue says:

    She looks more like a Norwegian Forest Cat to me. Hope you’re feeling better, BB

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. OG says:

    I have a daughter now out on furlough. Hope it does not last long. A lot of people are going to be hurt.

    On the troops, I believe it is time for us to get our troops out if both Syria and Afghanistan. And the rest of the middle east. And quit supporting Saudia Arabia in their war on Yemen. Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough and get out. There is not and never has been any hope for victory in Afghanistan any more than there was in Viet Nam. Same with Syria. Time to face the facts and leave.

    Have a good next week to everyone. And a good new year.

    • quixote says:

      The stupid wars are stupid, no question about that. But making everything even stupider by handing it over to Isis / Taliban / Erdogan / mullahs is NOT the solution.

      Once the US got in, the only even partial solution was nation-building. The real thing, not bullshit where you figure out how to suck all the wealth out of a country. In the time they’ve wasted, they could have accomplished a lot for a tenth the spend. But nooo. “We don’t do nation-building” (Donald Rumsfeld, like, 2004.)

      • OG says:

        There is no possible way we could have done or could now do nation building anywhere in the Middle East. Just not an option. They do not want our nation building help.

        • quixote says:

          Disagree. I spent time in Afghanistan (long ago). When the US first showed up to kick out the Taliban, the Americans were welcomed. Seriously. People lined the roads and passed them flowers. Not a lot of flowers, and with cautious expressions, but there was a desperate hope that maybe things might finally get better.

          IF, big if I know and not something the US or anyone else does, but IF the US had, for instance, provided scholarships to women, helped *locals* build schools (not given some fat contract to some fat cat), provided *locals* with assistance to improve hospitals and medical care and, especially, maternity care, then it would have made a real difference.

          If things had gotten better, even just a bit, the Afghans are capable of working with even the smallest of hope. I wrote about that once here.

  9. quixote says:

    I’m pretty sure the chain of events leading up to the Dump following Erdogan’s orders — which it turns out he didn’t actually want followed literally since he may be smart enough to know it’ll blow the Middle East up (even more) — anyway, the chain of events is that Erdogan has the Khashoggi tapes and something else which likely ties the Dauphin Jared to that mess and to collusion with the Saudi monster Crown Prince.

    Erdogan had been threatening to release what he had to get leverage over Trump. And, as we know from watching his behavior with Putin, if you have good blackmail on Trump, he’ll do anything for you.

    So my bet is that’s what’s going on here. He’s blowing the Middle East up to protect Ivanka. (I doubt he cares about Jared, but I get the impression Ivanka is the only person in the world, outside of himself, he even knows exists.) The way he’s making a geopolitical and domestic mess out of everything for that isn’t even on his radar. It’s not part of any plan or strategy about anything, except saving himself.

  10. Enheduanna says:

    BB – Buzzfeed still on the Falwell/cabana boy story:

    https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/aramroston/jerry-falwell-affidavit

    There is a picture of Granda at the link – he’s very handsome.

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. dakinikat says:

  13. bostonboomer says:

  14. NW Luna says:

    Beautiful cat pics! Thank you, they are so enjoyable.