Monday Reads: The Official End of the American Century is Here

Image

Félix Vallotton, Landscape of Ruins and Fires, 1914

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I miss my Dad every day. I miss talking to him and the way he used to call out baseball games to me in his last days including the little league championship.  He was many things but perhaps more than any thing he was defined by his service in the Army Air Corps during World War 2 where he flew missions that sped the Allies movement on the ground to Berlin and Victory and freed the French and Belgian people from German Occupation.

He never spoke about it much but when he did the stories were fascinating.  My favorite was when his squad flew under Jimmy Stewart and he described how that rich voice filled the com.  He had a picture of his crew that he kept by his favorite reading chair along with family pictures. He would always tell me that the solider that took that picture never came back the day after he took the photo from a mission that was particularly harrowing. The unstated truth was that Dad’s bomber and crew were fortunate to get back to England.

I suppose it’s only fitting that we are seeing  the last of the so-called “greatest generation” during every patriotic event.  They are aging and dying as is the fate of all humans. The dynamics of the 20th century ended with a world order established by the dynamics of both World Wars but definitely the War against Fascism.  It’s odd that I always thought so much of what was dubbed the American Century would last through at least my lifetime if not my children with modifications and improvements.  I still figured that the US would be firmly planted as the standard bearer as more joined those ranks. As of this weekend, I no longer believe this to be the case.

Image

Michelle Possum Nungarrayi (Australian, b. 1968), Bush Fire Dreaming, 2010. Acrylic on canvas, 120 x 91 cm

We currently have no standards to bear under the Trumpist regime and I now believe that we have fallen beyond any grace we may have earned during the American Century.  The world forgave us many sins from Vietnam to even the disastrous invasion of Iraq.  They may have actually had some hope for us as we signed with other nations agreements to trade, address climate change, and work with Iran to find a more stable situation with less fear of nukes.

We have lost whatever grace we earned now because we have allowed a group of aggrieved white nationalists with a twisted version of Christianity to grab power. They brought us Trump. They plotted and planned a cleansing of the Republican Party who rolled over with belly up to get their votes for policies supporting the rich and greedy.  Establishment appeasement failed and now End Timers and White Nationalists have that party wholesale.

As we lose our grip on world leadership, I can only hope that its future hands are not those of Russia and China although Chinese dominance of the global economy will only grow and the multilateral agreement to keep that in check was also one of the things Trump tossed out even though it was the product of a few administrations and not solely that of Obama’s.  Just as we left so many nuclear pacts, we have also left the Paris Accord and Australia is burning with no aid from us.  It is likely a harbinger to what may happen in California and other of our southwestern states.

I had this realization last night as some of the inevitable things happened as a result of Trump’s desperation to become a war time president to possibly boost his re-election chances and his ego during impeachment.  We–as a nation–must find a new way eventually but one that will not put us as a shining city on the hill.  Let us hope we will not stay firmly in pariah nation status.  I do know this.  A country should NEVER put into power a group of people whose vision of redemption and heaven includes the end of the world.  Iran chose that path 40 years ago.  We have joined them in that same messianic, deluded vision and Fuck Pence and Pompeo and all they stand for.

Image

Eugene von Guerard, Bush Fire between Mt. Elephant and Timboon, Australia, 1857

With those depressing thoughts on my mind, let’s get to my suggested reads.  My Thanks to author Rabih Aalameddine (@rabinhalameddine) whose tweets those morning provided these hellish versions of war and fire.

No one knows what’s coming next.  However, every one that’s every had anything to do with the markets the last four decades knows that when these things happen it will leader to higher oil prices and stock prices for defense firms.  Everything else will head downwards.  This is from Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance.

Oil extended its gains, briefly surpassing $70 a barrel in London for the first time since September, as Middle East tensions flared after the U.S. assassinated one of Iran’s most powerful generals.

Futures rose as much as 3.1% on Monday as the U.S. State Department warned of a “heightened risk” of missile attacks near energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. Prices later gave up some of the gains. President Donald Trump reiterated threats of retaliation should Iran “do anything” and vowed heavy sanctions against Iraq if American troops are forced to leave OPEC’s second-biggest producer.

The clash is fanning fears that a wider conflict could disrupt supply from the region, which provides almost a third of the world’s oil. Prices haven’t hit these levels since an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in September — which the U.S. blamed on Iran — briefly halted about 5% of global output.

“Crude has some more risk pricing to do,” said Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group in Bethesda, Maryland, and former White House oil official under President George W. Bush. “We are going to grind through the $70s up toward $80 Brent as Iran calibrates and executes its retaliation.”

Image

John Martin, The Great Day of His Wrath, 1851

As I just said,  fuck Pompeo. a chief messianic delusionism advocate and all around horrid person.  This is from WAPO: “Killing of Soleimani follows long push from Pompeo for aggressive action against Iran, but airstrike brings serious risks”.

The greenlighting of the airstrike near Baghdad airport represents a bureaucratic victory for Pompeo, but it also carries multiple serious risks: another protracted regional war in the Middle East; retaliatory assassinations of U.S. personnel stationed around the world; an interruption in the battle against the Islamic State; the closure of diplomatic pathways to containing Iran’s nuclear program; and a major backlash in Iraq, whose parliament voted on Sunday to expel all U.S. troops from the country.

For Pompeo, whose political ambitions are a source of constant speculation, the death of U.S. diplomats would be particularly damaging given his unyielding criticisms of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton following the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and other American personnel in Benghazi in 2012.

But none of those considerations stopped Pompeo from pushing for the targeted strike, U.S. officials said, underscoring a fixation on Iran that spans 10 years of government service from Congress to the CIA to the State Department.

“We took a bad guy off the battlefield. We made the right decision,” Pompeo told CNN. “I’m proud of the effort that President Trump undertook.”

Pompeo first spoke with Trump about killing Soleimani months ago, said a senior U.S. official, but neither the president nor Pentagon officials were willing to countenance such an operation.

For more than a year, defense officials warned that the administration’s campaign of economic sanctions against Iran had increased tensions with Tehran, requiring a bigger and bigger share of military resources in the Middle East when many at the Pentagon wanted to redeploy their firepower to East Asia.

Trump, too, sought to draw down from the Middle East as he promised from the opening days of his presidential campaign. But that mind-set shifted on Dec. 27 when 30 rockets hit a joint U.S.-Iraqi base outside Kirkuk, killing an American civilian contractor and injuring service members.

On Dec. 29, Pompeo, Esper and Milley traveled to the president’s private club in Florida, where the two defense officials presented possible responses to Iranian aggression, including the option of killing Soleimani, senior U.S. officials said.

Trump’s decision to target Soleimani came as a surprise and a shock to some officials briefed on his decision, given the Pentagon’s long-standing concerns about escalation and the president’s aversion to using military force against Iran.

One significant factor was the “lockstep” coordination for the operation between Pompeo and Esper, both graduates in the same class at the U.S. Military Academy, who deliberated ahead of the briefing with Trump, senior U.S. officials said. Pence also endorsed the decision, but he did not attend the meeting in Florida.

Image

by Elbert Hubbard, published 1914

So, the push to assassinate an Irani general. was made by two proponents of heaven comes if we blow up the right people and then the world and a former Defense Lobbyist.  Isn’t that just ducky?  So, in game theory, we frequently speak of second and third order conditions which basically occur in a game that occurs over time when one party makes a move and then there are more moves to come. “Stategery” was never a strong point for any of the Neocons who just wanted to “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”.  It continues to look the same way with the Trumpists.  This is from Axios  that is part of the media trying to chase the next moves that have so far included expulsion of US and allied troops from Iraq and Iran annoucing it will take revenge and it will ended its nuclear pause.

The Trump administration tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade top Iraqi officials to kill a parliamentary effort to force the U.S. military out of Iraq, according to two U.S. officials and an Iraqi government official familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution today calling on the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, after the U.S killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and a leader of an Iraqi militia with a drone strike near Baghdad airport.

  • This resolution could ultimately lead to the U.S. military being forced out of Iraq. But the outcome remains uncertain, and the prime minister who needs to sign it recently resigned.

“I think it would be inconvenient for us, but it would be catastrophic for Iraq,” said a U.S. official familiar with the Trump administration’s effort to block the vote. “It’s our concern that Iraq would take a short-term decision that would have catastrophic long-term implications for the country and its security.”

  • “But it’s also, what would happen to them financially,” the official added, “if they allowed Iran to take advantage of their economy to such an extent that they would fall under the sanctions that are on Iran?” (Countries can be subject to the sanctions if they engage in certain kinds of trade with Iran.)
  • “We don’t want to see that. We’re trying very hard to work to have that not happen,” the official said.

The United States is disappointed by the action taken today in the Iraqi Council of Representatives,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

Image

Rufino Tamayo – Children Playing with Fire – 1947

The NYT has more information on the Iranian decision to ends its participation in Nuclear Restrictions.

When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.

But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.

Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.

Iran did stop short of abandoning the entire deal on Sunday, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and its foreign minister held open the possibility that his nation would return to its provisions in the future — if Mr. Trump reversed course and lifted the sanctions he has imposed since withdrawing from the accord.

That, at least, appeared to hold open the possibility of a diplomatic off-ramp to the major escalation in hostilities since the United States killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the second most powerful official in Iran and head of the Quds Force.

But some leading experts declared that the effort to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomacy was over. “It’s finished,” David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview. “If there’s no limitation on production, then there is no deal.”

Image

Paul Klee, Fire in the Evening, 1929

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced an initiative to address the Authorization of Use of the Military or the so-called War Powers Act today.  This is from the Speaker’s web page.

Last week, the Trump Administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials.  This action endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.

As Members of Congress, our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe.  For this reason, we are concerned that the Administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution.

This week, the House will introduce and vote on a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran.  This resolution is similar to the resolution introduced by Senator Tim Kaine in the Senate.  It reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.

The House Resolution will be led by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.  Congresswoman Slotkin is a former CIA and Department of Defense analyst specializing in Shia militias.  She served multiple tours in the region under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.

Image

Henry Darger’s hands of fire

Here’s some news on the responses from Congress at NBC News: “Pelosi announces war powers resolution as tensions with Iran escalate. Pelosi said “the Trump administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials.”

On Sunday, Iraq’s Parliament voted to ask its government to end the presence of U.S. troops in the country, while Iranian state TV reported that Iran will no longer abide by any limits of the 2015 nuclear deal — an agreement Trump withdrew from in 2018.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, D-N.J., wrote to Trump asking him to “immediately declassify in full the January 4, 2020, war powers notification you submitted to Congress following the U.S. military operation targeting” Soleimani.

“It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner,” the senators wrote. “An entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification.”

Speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said members of Congress “will be briefed, but they should also calm down” and “celebrate” Soleimani’s death.

She said it was “fine” for Trump to order an airstrike killing Soleimani without congressional authority, comparing it to former President Barack Obama ordering the mission to kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

There’s some news from the Democratic Primary Front.  Former Candidate Julian Castro has endorsed Elizabeth Warren.

Mr. Castro announced his endorsement on Monday morning, just days after he ended his own bid for the White House. In a statement, Mr. Castro cast Ms. Warren as the logical extension of his campaign’s social-justice-driven message, which seeks to correct inequities through targeted policy proposals. He will campaign with Ms. Warren this week, joining her Tuesday night at a rally at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn.

Image

Ralph Albert Blakelock (American, 1847-1919), Forest Fire, ca. 1890

David Leonhardt argues that Amy Klobucher is the candidate that can beat Trump.  He likens her to Harry Truman of all people.

So where are you supposed to find a comfortably electable, qualified candidate who won’t turn 80 while in office?

Senator Amy Klobuchar has become an answer to that question in the final month before voting begins. She has outlasted more than a dozen other candidates and has two big strengths: A savvy understanding of how to campaign against President Trump and a track record of winning the sorts of swing voters Democrats will likely need this year.

Klobuchar, to be sure, is not a finished product as a presidential candidate. Too often, she sounds like a senator speaking in legislative to-do lists rather than a future president who can inspire voters. That tendency — along with too much needling of other candidates, instead of focusing on her own message — was evident in the most recent debate.

Yet she still emerged as one of the debate’s winners, and she is enjoying a burst of new attention. She raised more than twice as much money, $11.4 million, in the fourth quarter of 2019 than the third quarter. When I ask top Democrats which candidate has the best chance of beating Trump, Klobuchar is often their answer. If party leaders still chose nominees, she might now be the favorite.

In that way, she reminds me of another Midwestern senator who once seemed too ordinary to be president: Harry Truman. In the summer of 1944, an even more perilous time for global democracy than now, Democratic Party grandees chose Truman as vice president with the belief that he would soon be president, given Franklin Roosevelt’s declining health.

Truman was (as Klobuchar is) a loyal Democrat with populist leanings whom many Republicans, both senators and voters, nonetheless felt some affection for. He had a folksy manner and heartland accent. He was also a long shot for the nomination when the process began. The analogy extends to Klobuchar’s best-known weakness: Truman had a temper, too.

And it’s epiphany, you may now eat king cake!!!

I’m haunted by dreams of fire and animals.  It’s been three nights in a row now and the horror of Australia is getting to me.  Here are some suggestions on where you can donate funds if you feel so inclined and you are able.

And now, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


He Finally Did It Friday Reads

The interior view of a munitions factory showing the production of 15 inch shells by women factory workers. There are winches hanging from the ceiling and large steel shell cases sitting on wooden trolleys in the centre of the image.

Shop for Machining 15-inch Shells by Anna Airy. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2271)

Happy New Year!

I wish I could say this with a lot of hope in my heart but after last night’s late news we’ll be lucky at this point if we avoid World War III.  Also, this time there will be no allies because Cadet Bone Spurs thinks we can just go it alone and has managed to offend every friendly country in the world.  His Maximum Pressure approach to the world has not only left us friendless but more likely facing increased violence around the world.

Trump’s freaky christofascists have been frothing at the mouth for their mythical end times.  I suggest they grab a bucket and go help Australia if they’re really all concerned about the earth ending in fire.  Problem is my freakish friends, according to your specific mythology, a Temple has to exist that no one’s built yet so I’d think twice about travelling any where around the world or signing up for the diplomatic corps or the marine corps for that matter.  We are just one target rich environment now.

Since this assassination reminds me a bit of the Arch Duke Ferdinand one that kicked off World War I I decided to give you some paintings from the period.  This collection comes  from the UK’s Imperial War Museum: “6 STUNNING FIRST WORLD WAR ARTWORKS BY WOMEN WAR ARTISTS.”  You can read the backstories on the painters and their work at the site.   Basically, the IWM commissioned the women to capture the women’s effort in the so-called War to End all Wars.

So, here’s what’s gone down so far.  The U.S. directly targeted and killed an Iranian general that was, in fact a very bad man.  However, there are a lot of very bad men in the world that need to disappear and if they did, no one would care.  This one has quite a few people that care about him and they all have no problem with dying for a cause as they’ve proven over the last 40 years.   This is from the NYT: U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Qassim Suleimani, Commander of Iranian Forces”.

Iran’s top security and intelligence commander was killed early Friday in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, American officials said.

The commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed along with several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran when an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the airport.

General Suleimani was the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades, and his death was a staggering blow for Iran at a time of sweeping geopolitical conflict.

The strike was also a serious escalation of Mr. Trump’s growing confrontation with Tehran, one that began with the death of an American contractor in Iraq in late December.

The interior view of a canteen with flags of the allied countries hanging like bunting along the top of the room. On the right the room is crowded with soldiers awaiting their meal. In the foreground and left are women preparing to serve them.

Christmas Day in the London Bridge YMCA Canteen, 1920, by Clare Atwood. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 3062)

Please tell me we didn’t do all this for a Defense Department Mercenary Contractor.  I have yet to hear who this person actually was but if it’s the result of Rumsfeld’s war privatization efforts I’d totally believe it.

It took awhile for the Defense Department to take credit for the assassination of Suleimani and others so we all got our news from Iraqi and then Irani state TV.  Sort’ve like we always hear about news about Russia from Russian State TV first.  The Spawn of the Orange Swamp Thing seemed to  know more about the attack than just about any one but definitely more than Congress and the all important Gang of 8 who handle that sort’ve thing for the country.  Here’s a bit from Hill Reporter: “Deleted Tweet From Eric Trump Hints He May Have Known About Strike Against Iranian Military Leader Days Ahead Of Time’. Doesn’t that bring you comfort and joy or the season?  You know, Peace on Earth, Good Will to Man and all that jazz?

The protests that broke out around the embassy got an off the cuff tweet from Eric the Dim.

Those protests broke out on December 31 of last year, according to the New York Times. On that same date, Eric Trump sent out a tweet, which has since been deleted. Twitter user @realTuckFrumper had a screengrab of the tweet, which suggested military action was coming forth.

“Bout to open up a big ol’ can of whoop ass,” Eric Trump’s tweet read. It was followed with a flag emoji.

Other users on social media also verified the tweet as being legitimately posted by Eric Trump on that date. There’s no indication or confirmation that he was indeed aware of military action occurring later on in the week, but the words from Eric Trump caught many people’s attention after the airstrikes were announced.

A view along the cloister of an abbey, in which there is a row of beds filled with patients on the left. In the left foreground three nurses tend to a male patient, who sits up in bed.

The Scottish Women’s Hospital: In The Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont, 1920, by Norah Neilson-Gray. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 3090)

The UK Guardian has a subtle lede this morning over an Op Ed penned by Mohammad Ali Shabani.  “Donald Trump’s assassination of Qassem Suleimani will come back to haunt him. The Quds force leader had the status of national hero even among secular Iranians. His death could act as a rallying cry”

The US has assassinated Qassem Suleimani, the famed leader of Iran’s Quds force, alongside a senior commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. To grasp what may come next, it is vital to understand not only who these men were but also the system that produced them.

Nicknamed the “Shadow Commander” in the popular press, Suleimani spent his formative years on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein – who at the time enjoyed the support of western and Arab powers – was attempting to destroy the emerging Islamic Republic. But few remember that his first major mission as commander of the Quds force – the extraterritorial branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards – was involved in implicit coordination with the United States as it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The Taliban were, and to some extent remain, a mutual enemy. That alliance of convenience ended in 2002 when US president George W Bush notoriously branded Iran a member of the “Axis of Evil”.

In the years after, Suleimani laboured to bleed the US military in places like Iraq. He succeeded. After having spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of troops, Washington withdrew from Iraq – partly as a result of Iranian pressure on the Iraqi government – in 2011.

But Suleimani had little time to celebrate. His attention was turned to containing fallout from the Arab spring, focusing his energy on propping up the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. That development saw the creation of a region-wide network of Iran-backed militias numbering more than 100,000 men, unprecedented Iranian military collaboration with Russia and the transformation of Hezbollah into a force capable of operating on significant scale outside Lebanon’s borders.

By 2014, when he successfully halted Islamic State’s attempt to overrun Iraq, Suleimani was feted as a hero among Iraqis, alongside the local commanders including al-Muhandis. The same response was evident in Iran, where he quickly became a household name and was rumoured as a potential future president – a trend that was strengthened by the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

So the US has not merely killed an Iranian military commander but also a highly popular figure, viewed as a guardian of Iran even among secular-minded Iranians. And with the assassination of al-Muhandis, the Trump administration has put itself in the position of having killed the operational commander of a large branch of the Iraqi armed forces.

Some will characterise the killings as a huge blow to Iran’s proxy capabilities and wider policy in the region. But such an approach ignores how the Iranian system is structured.

a soldier is lying propped on his elbow in an enclosed space, while a female figure in uniform lights his cigarette.

In an Ambulance: a VAD lighting a cigarette for a patient, by Olive Mudie-Cooke. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 3051)

As reported last night on MSNBC by a very shaken Andrea Mitchell on The Last Word,  this is exactly why Israel–who could’ve taken him out at a moment’s notice–never gave it a second thought.  The second and third order conditions were considered to be worse than any benefit from the assassination.  Mitchell actually interviewed SOD Mike Esper in what turned out to be an interview worth dissecting. 

Even more disturbing was an interview later on a special Rachel Maddow with “Brett McGurk, who served as special envoy on the global coalition to defeat ISIS under Pres. Obama and Pres. Trump, talks to Rachel Maddow about the serious implications of the strike on Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force.”  You may watch the video but here’s the bottom line: ” McGurk on US strike on Soleimani: ‘We need to presume that we are now in a state of war with Iran’.

Iraq is truly in a bad place now.  And, I know, it’s not like we haven’t put them in a bad place since Dubya’s adventures there at the behest of all those Chicken Hawk Cabinet members of his.  But, this Op Ed from the UK Independent describes the situation in more detail “Iraq’s worst fears have come true – they are now at the centre of a proxy war between the US and Iran. General Qassem Soleimani made a terrible mistake in the final weeks of his life by underestimating the popular protests across Iraq. Donald Trump has made a bigger one in killing the influential commander.”  This is written by Patrick Cockburn.

I spoke to Abu Alaa al-Walai, the leader of Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, a splinter group of Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of whose camps had been destroyed by a drone attack in August. He said that 50 tonnes of weapons and ammunition had been blown up, blaming the Israelis and the Americans acting in concert. Asked if his men would attack US forces in Iraq in the event of a US-Iran war, he said: “Absolutely yes.” Later I visited the camp, called al-Saqr, on the outskirts of Baghdad where a massive explosion had gutted sheds and littered the burned-out compound with shattered pieces of equipment.

I saw other pro-Iranian paramilitary leaders at this time. The drone attacks had made them edgy, but I got the impression that they did not really expect a US-Iran war. Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, told me that he did not think there would be a war “because Trump does not want one.” As evidence of this, he pointed to the failure of Trump to retaliate after the drone attack on Saudi oil facilities earlier in September that Washington had been blamed on Iran.

In fact, events developed very differently from what both I and the paramilitary commanders expected. A few days after I had spoken to them, there was a small demonstration in central Baghdad demanding jobs, public services and an end to corruption. The security forces and the pro-Iranian paramilitaries opened fire, killing and wounding many peaceful demonstrators. Though Qais al-Khazali later claimed that he and other Hashd leaders were trying to thwart a US-Israeli conspiracy, he had said nothing to me about it. It seemed likely that General Soleimani, wrongly suspected that the paltry demonstrations were a real threat and had ordered the pro-Iranian paramilitaries to open fire and put a plan for suppressing the demonstrations into operation.

All this could have been disastrous for Iranian influence in Iraq. Soleimani had made the classic mistake of a successful general in imaging that “a whiff of grapeshot” will swiftly repress any signs of popular discontent. Sometimes this works, often it does not – and Iraq turned out to belong to the second category.

General Soleimani died in the wake of his greatest failure and misjudgement. But the manner of his killing may convince many Shia Iraqis that the threat to Iraqi independence from the US is greater than that from Iran. The next few days will tell if the protest movement, that has endured the violence used against it with much bravery, will be deflated by the killings at Baghdad airport.

 

The interior of a canteen filled with female workers. There is a counter to the right of the composition, and tables occupied with women in overalls and cloth caps to the left. There is a queue at the counter, with several women holding large white cups.

Women’s Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford, 1918, by Flora Lion. © The rights holder (Art.IWM ART 4434)

This Dexter Filkins piece in The New Yorker from September 2013 is a good place to read a profile on Soleimani.   The NYT also has a profile “Qassim Suleimani, Master of Iran’s Intrigue, Built a Shiite Axis of Power in Mideast. The commander helped direct wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and he became the face of Iran’s efforts to build a regional bloc of Shiite power.”  This link is for that article  which was published today.

General Suleimani was at the vanguard of Iran’s revolutionary generation, joining the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in his early 20s after the 1979 uprising that enshrined the country’s Shiite theocracy.

He rose quickly during the brutal Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. And since 1998, he was the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ influential Quds Force, the foreign-facing arm of Iran’s security apparatus, melding intelligence work with a military strategy of nurturing proxy forces across the world.

In the West, he was seen as a clandestine force behind an Iranian campaign of international terrorism. He and other Iranian officials were designated as terrorists by the United States and Israel in 2011, accused of a plot to kill the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, one of Iran’s chief enemies in the region, in Washington. Last year, in April, the entire Quds Force was listed as a foreign terrorism group by the Trump administration.

But in Iran, many saw him as a larger-than-life hero, particularly within security circles. Anecdotes about his asceticism and quiet charisma joined to create an image of a warrior-philosopher who became the backbone of a nation’s defense against a host of enemies.

He was close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Friday issued a statement calling for three days of public mourning and “forceful revenge,” in a declaration that amounted to a threat of retaliation against the United States.

“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission,” he said.

All this means is that many Shia Islam followers in quite a few countries are not going to let him go quietly into the great night.  It also means that Congress will have another likely investigation on its hands which means a lot more on Nancy Peolosi’s To Do LIst.

So, this is a long post and it has taken me a good deal of time to compile but I hope it will give us a basis for conversation today.  I hope that your New Year will be wonderful and that you will be surrounded by all the family, love, and happiness you deserve!!!  May all Goodness in the Universe protect us on this where yet another war seems inevitable!

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?

Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.

John Lennon

 


Sunday Reads: Baghdadi?

This:

So…what can that be about?

Here are a few thoughts on the matter:

In other what the fuck news:

Another point to be made:

Did y’all see this?

Let’s end this…

…as an open thread.


Monday Reads

Monday Strikes Again!

So, BB and I could not figure out anything that made sense about the “Q Anon” stuff that was a press hot item last week.  Do you remember back in the day before the internet was overtaken by commercial interests and most of its denizens were academic nerdy types like me?  Well, folks started inventing real life versions of fanfic games including maps, and secrets, and treasures that may have followed a reality set up by a game console game. Most of it was just really bad fanfic too.  The entire QAnon thing just read like really, really bad fanfic to me. and that is what it now appears to be.  Its motivation was to evidently drive boomers nuts and it’s evidently a leftie bro thing. The nonsensical conspiracy site was called “Bread Crumbs.”

According to Q, nearly every president before Trump was a “criminal president” who was part of an evil global organization of Satanist pedophiles. It also claims members of the US military who are not working for the global pedophile cabal supposedly approached Trump and begged him to run for president so that they could purge the government of the deep state operatives without a military coup.

Q claims Trump is not under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, but that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are. And Trump is actually working with Mueller.

Q regularly drops clues that followers call “crumbs,” which are meant to predict things. For instance, he claimed John Podesta would be arrested or indicted Nov. 3, 2017 — which, of course, didn’t happen

See, bad fanfic. But the bottom line, with tons of documentation at the Buzzfeed piece citied here is that it was a hoax which finally makes sense to me.  Imagine bored dateless BernieBros in a basement some where ….

“Let us take for granted, for a while, that QAnon started as a prank in order to trigger right-wing weirdos and have a laugh at them. There’s no doubt it has long become something very different. At a certain level it still sounds like a prank. But who’s pulling it on whom?” they said.

They also point to the fact that even this article runs the risk of being sucked into the QAnon vortex and just adding more fuel to the fire. “If [QAnon’s] perpetrators claimed responsibility for it and showed some evidence (for example, unmistakeable references to our book and the Luther Blissett Project), would the explanation itself become yet another part of the narrative, or would it generate a new narrative encompassing and defusing the previous one?”

So, now that’s cleared up the press can leave it alone.  There are real things out there.  That sucking sound you hear are wages and wealth going to the richest of the rich.

On May 8th, Brookings officially launched a new initiative on the Future of the Middle Class. Through this initiative, we will publish research, analysis, and insights that are motivated by a desire to improve the quality of life for those in America’s middle class and to improve upward mobility into its ranks. We have already wrestled with how we define this group, considered its changing racial composition, and called upon experts to outline major policies geared toward improving its fate. But why all of this attention? Here are seven of the reasons we are worried about the American middle class.

Today, I feel the “dismal” in the dismal science meme.  Retirement prospects for many Boomers includes Bankruptcy.

For a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy.

The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.

Driving the surge, the study suggests, is a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.

The transfer has come in the form of, among other things, longer waits for full Social Security benefits, the replacement of employer-provided pensions with 401(k) savings plans and more out-of-pocket spending on health care. Declining incomes, whether in retirement or leading up to it, compound the challenge.

Well, that’s no surprise.  It’s also no surprise that Trump is behaving badly on the World Stage again. “Trump signs order reimposing sanctions on Iran – a move the EU said it ‘deeply’ regrets.”  Well, we knew Bolten had to be getting something to help with all that Putin Ass Kissing.

Donald Trump has signed an executive order reimposing sanctions on Iran – a move the EU said it “deeply” regretted.

Three months after he revealed he was pulling the US out of the seven-party Iran nuclear deal, Mr Trump announced the reimposition of wide range of sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation. Three months after he revealed he was pulling the US out of the seven-party Iran nuclear deal, Mr Trump announced the reimposition of a wide range of  of sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation. A second set will be reimposed in a further three months.

“[The Iran nuclear deal] a horrible, one-sided deal, failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb, and it threw a lifeline of cash to a murderous dictatorship that has continued to spread bloodshed, violence, and chaos,” Mr Trump said in a statement.

“Since the deal was reached, Iran’s aggression has only increased.  The regime has used the windfall of newly accessible funds it received under the JCPOA to build nuclear-capable missiles, fund terrorism, and fuel conflict across the Middle East and beyond.”

In the aftermath of Mr Trump’s unilateral decision in May, the other parties to the 2015 deal – Russia, China, Germany, France, the UK and the EU – vowed to stick with the deal and to and continue to trade with Iran. Several companies, such as French-based Airbus, felt obliged to pull out of a deal with Iran, rather than risk sanctions from Washington.

The revoking of licensees to the company and its rival, Boeing, saw the aircraft manufacturer lose out on a $39bn deal with Tehran for new planes. Easing sanctions such as this was a major inducement get Tehran to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 under President Barack Obama.

The executive order signed on Monday, which will come into effect at midnight EST, releases to the purchase or acquisition of US currency Iran, the trade in gold and other precious metals, materials such as graphite, aluminium, steel, coal, and software used in industrial processes. They also target the country’ automotive sector.

The remaining sanctions to be reimposed on November 5 relate to Iran’s port operators and energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors. Crucially, they will also target its oil industry and foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.

It’s like he’s single handedly destroying our economic, world order, and the environment.   This news is awful but typical Trump policy.

Two of America’s biggest steel manufacturers — both with deep ties to administration officials — have successfully objected to hundreds of requests by American companies that buy foreign steel to exempt themselves from President Trump’s stiff metal tariffs. They have argued that the imported products are readily available from American steel manufacturers.

Charlotte-based Nucor, which financed a documentary filmmade by a top trade adviser to Mr. Trump, and Pittsburgh-based United States Steel, which has previously employed several top administration officials, have objected to 1,600 exemption requests filed with the Commerce Department over the past several months.

To date, their efforts have never failed, resulting in denials for companies that are based in the United States but rely on imported pipes, screws, wire and other foreign steel products for their supply chains.

The ability of a single industry to exert so much influence over the exclusions process is striking even in Mr. Trump’s business-friendly White House, given the high stakes for thousands of American companies that depend on foreign metals. But the boundaries of trade policy are being tested by the scope of Mr. Trump’s multifront trade war with allies and adversaries alike, which includes tariffs on up to $200 billion worth of goods from China and possible tariffs on automobiles and auto parts.

And the psychic trauma will only increase:

But after watching Trump for all this time, there’s no reason to beat around the bush on this question anymore. Donald Trump is a racist, and we all know it. He could barely have tried any harder to convince us. Not only did he turn himself into a political figure by making himself America’s most prominent birther, he repeatedly demanded to see Barack Obama’s high school and college transcripts, on the theory that Obama couldn’t possibly have been smart enough to get into Columbia and Harvard Law School on his own merit. He ran a white nationalist campaign for president, and said that the judge in his Trump University fraud cause couldn’t be fair because “He’s a Mexican” (in fact, the judge is an American). On multiple occasions he retweeted racist memes from white supremacists. In a White House meeting about immigration, he said that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and complained that once Nigerian immigrants had seen the United States they would never “go back to their huts” (Nigerian immigrants are one of the most highly educated groups in America). He meets a group of Native American war heroes, and decides to bring up the fact that he insults Elizabeth Warren by calling her “Pocahontas.” And of course, he called non-white nations “shithole countries” and averred that a group of neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis were “very fine people.”

So we know who Donald Trump is, and why he says what he does. The fact that much of what Trump says about African Americans is performative—a public show meant to keep his base angry—doesn’t mean that the bigotry isn’t sincerely felt.

This is a good reminder that Trump’s 2020 campaign will be no less built on hate than his 2016 campaign was. In fact, it could be even more so. Trump will no longer be able to plausibly argue that there’s a system controlled by an elite that’s keeping regular people down, since he and his party are the ones with all the power. So it’s likely that he’ll rely even more heavily on white nationalism to get re-elected.

The weirdest thing happened Sunday in a Twitler Special that basically was a confession to collusion and to a cover up.

Donald Trump has admitted for the first time that his son met a Kremlin-connected lawyer in 2016 to collect information about Hillary Clinton, but insists the meeting was legal.

In one of a series of Sunday morning tweets issued in apparent reaction to a CNN report, the US president wrote: “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”

That explanation differs entirely from one given by Trump 13 months ago, when a statement dictated by the president but released under the name of Donald Trump Jr read: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago.”

The 2016 meeting is pivotal to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion investigation, though Trump’s tweets appeared aimed at conveying the message that he is not worried about Donald Trump Jr’s exposure to the inquiry.

He made the remarks as one of his lawyers warned the special counsel against trying to force the president to be interviewed.

The dude seriously keeps admitting to crimes. Why can’t we lock hIm up?   “President Trump changes story in Twitter rant admitting Trump Tower meeting was to gather intel on Hillary Clinton.”

The President’s latest social media meltdown was in reaction to what he called a “complete fabrication” in Sunday’s Washington Post claiming Trump was concerned “innocent and decent people,” including his son Donald Trump Jr., could be hurt by Mueller’s probe exploring links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

“This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere,” he wrote. “I did not know about it!”

Thirteen months ago, Trump gave a different explanation for the meeting between his eldest son and parties alleging ties to the Russian government. A July 2017 statement credited to Don Jr. and later discovered to have been dictated by the President read: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago.”

Though the President maintains he knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting prior to its taking place, his former fixer Michael Cohen, who has reportedly indicated a willingness to cooperate with Mueller’s team, has allegedly said otherwise.

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he had “bad information” when he personally argued that the meeting was about adoption.

So, this is just an open news dump thread!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Happy Motherhood is a Pre-existing Condition Day!

Happy Mother’s Day….

Or as one person in the Twitterverse puts it:

 

(If you aren’t following @OhNoSheTwitnt you should…)

 

 

It is a strange Mother’s Day for me, I am not sure how to approach the day. My mom’s results from her latest CT scan were not good. The chemo treatment has not been working, there is new tumor and it looks like she has run out of options. So today, on this Mother’s Day, I am faced with the reality that eventually I will be spending a Mother’s Day without my Mama. I don’t want that. And this sense of eminent loss is so overwhelming, that my days are becoming a cycle of playbacks. When she is up, I want to watch a movie with her…whatever she wants to watch. I want to spend that time laughing at funny scenes, or enjoying a film that we both appreciate. It is the same thing daily, and believe me…we have seen some of these films many times, but I want to capture those feelings once more. I don’t want to lose them. That is what it comes down to this Mother’s Day. Grasping those hours so that I can recycle them later…it is all I can do.

So, with all that being said, the disasters of the day seem to pass by me…until I watch Maddow, then I am back into my mood where I am unable to focus on anything. Here are some news stories for you this morning, my commentary on them will be minimal at best. Basically, the shit has gone beyond my comprehension of what kind of corruption and scandal it takes to bring a politician down. tRump could kill someone on Fifth Avenue, and get away with it…and still remain in the White House as President. I don’t think anything is going to happen, it is over. We are all fucked.

Now for the news:

 

Take a look at this thread on twitter:

 

 

 

Now, check this out:

Trump Compared to Cyrus the Great – Talking Points Memo

Fox Host Jeanine Pirro says Donald Trump fulfilled biblical prophecy by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Full video at the link.

Here is the quote:

Trump fulfilling ‘Biblical prophecy’ by moving embassy to Jerusalem says Judge Jeanine Pirro in bonkers rant

The move, she said, “Sent a huge signal to Iran, and Shiite Muslims, that we stood with the more moderate Sunnis.” (ISIS and Al Qaida are both Sunni; there has never been a major terrorist attack on the United States led by a Shiite group.)

“Trump has assured the world that his word is worth more than any former U.S. president,” she said. “His word is more than any treaty, and stronger than any UN resolution.”

And then she got Biblical.

“Jerusalem is the one and only capital of Israel,” she said. “By Trump putting his impermada on what has been history for the last 3,000 years—and that’s it has been the people’s capital of one people’s country or one kingdom. That people is the Jews and that country is Israel.”

She said that Israel is the foundation of our Judeo-Christian nation.

“Donald Trump recognized history, he like King Cyrus before him, fulfilled the Biblical prophecy of the God worshipped by Jews, Christians and, yes, Muslims, that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state and that the Jewish people finally deserve a righteous, free and sovereign Israel.”

With Fox peddling these “coins” that have the tRump is King Cyrus symbolism propoganda…it adds to the rest of the big picture.

 

Former Trump campaign aide is helping Russian firm shed sanctions – CNNPolitics

A former senior campaign and transition aide to President Donald Trump recently inked a deal to help a Russian oligarch’s conglomerate shed sanctions the Trump administration slapped on them last month.

Bryan Lanza, who is in regular contact with White House officials, is lobbying on behalf of the chairman of EN+ Group, an energy and aluminum firm presently controlled by Oleg Deripaska, according to several sources. Deripaska is a billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and was the target of US sanctions imposed last month. Lanza is also a CNN contributor.
Lanza is representing the chairman of EN+ Group, but not Deripaska directly. The company is seeking to reduce Deripaska’s ownership in the company enough to be freed from US sanctions. Deripaska is expected to maintain a substantial stake in the company.

You can read about more tRump lobby connections at the link. Names like Corey Lewandowski, Brian Ballard, Jason Miller have all opened up their own DC firms. All the while, keep in mind:

 

 

 

But…it is all just a normal day in Washington:

Oh, this also happened on the quiet:

Perry Halts Nuclear Arms-Into-Fuel Project

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has formally ended construction of a facility meant to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium and uranium into fuel for reactors, a key element of the nation’s commitment to containing the global nuclear threat.

Perry executed a waiver Thursday to terminate construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

A day earlier, Perry called it a “historically questionable” expenditure in testimony before Congress about the Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal, which includes $220 million toward closing the project, and $59 million toward replacing it with a so-called “dilute and dispose” approach to surplus nuclear material.

Yeah, King Cyprus…I mean tRump is gonna need all those nukes to “dilute and dispose” of over there in Iran…right?

Iran nuclear deal: Iranians worry about impact of US sanctions | Iran News | Al Jazeera

Iran’s parliament is expected to debate emergency legislation, after US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of the nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister is in China as part of a whirlwind diplomatic tour, to rescue the agreement.

Inside Iran, people are bracing themselves for the possibility of more hardship from sanctions.

Video report at the link.

 

Just one more thought on hardship…and motherhood…

 

John Kelly’s ‘Family Separation’ Recalls Slave Era Practice of Selling Parents Down the River – Truthdig

John Kelly, White House chief of staff, is an immigrant-hating bigot, as demonstrated by a long series of Draconian statements and measures that would have embarrassed most normal people into a lifetime vow of silence in their wake.

Kelly bizarrely defended Confederate slave drivers of the 1860s as having lived at a time before the evils of slavery were apparent to moral people. Haiti abolished slavery in 1804, Mexico in 1824 and Tunisia in 1846. But Kelly’s assertion becomes a little more understandable in view of his NPR interview on May 11.

On undocumented immigration, Kelly’s interview went like this:

Kelly: “But a big name of the game is deterrence.

NPR: “Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.”

Kelly: “It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.

NPR: “Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?”

Kelly: “I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

Kelly’s doctrine of “deterrence” of undocumented immigration into the US through family separation is undergirded by a special kind of sadism and ignorance combined. First of all, villagers in Honduras are not going to know about Kelly’s policy. Second, they are so desperate that many will take the risk anyway. Third, it is wrong to pounce and take US citizen children away from their mothers and fathers all of a sudden, giving them no time to make alternate arrangements. As for foster homes, with all due respect to the dedicated people who often run them, social science has proven that they are the biggest producer of a criminal class in the US. Children growing up without strong parental role models have a much greater chance of ending up in prison. Yes, that’s right. Social science says that if you want a safe society, don’t deport the parents of US citizen children.

Under Trump, ICE (which was only created recently and should be decommissioned) has been routinely doing things like traumatizing families by arresting undocumented parents when they come to pick up their children at school, in front of the eyes of the children, and leaving the latter unattended. The agents are not wrong to enforce the law, but this sort of tactic is clearly the result of instructions from Kelly and his successor, and is deliberate psychological warfare on American citizens.

Kelly’s self-satisfaction with getting rid of unwanted adults and putting their children, our fellow US citizens, in “foster care or whatever” (!!!) can only be compared to one phenomenon in American history.

Back in the days of slavery, white slave owners in the mid-Atlantic states like Kentucky used to separate fathers and sometimes mothers from their children and “sell them down the river” to the big plantation owners of the deep south.

Brown and black slaves were, like undocumented immigrants, not citizens and so they were not conceived by white elites as fully human persons. Hence, their families could be divided at will and parents could be sent far away, never to see their children again. They were treated like thoroughbred animals.

Kelly went on to slam these immigrants for not knowing English and for being unassimilable and having no skills. In fact, as conservative godfather Milton Friedman argued, they wouldn’t come here if they weren’t finding jobs that locals would not or could not fill. As for language and assimilation, Kelly’s own Italian-American side of the family came without English and remained here without citizenship for decades.

Cole then proceeds to quote the tweets showing Kelly’s own family background, which proves John Kelly’s own family members is one of those “illiterate” immigrants “and could not speak English 10 years after arrival.”  Yeah, these people…wtf is it with them?

And while all that is sinking in…this tweet should really be the icing on the Mother’s Day cake:

I don’t want to end on a bad note…

So, I have pictures.

First some fun ones:

DragCon is happening this weekend:

Those kick ass heels…a bit of marginalia to ring in the occasion? Quinn Cummings has been posting some awesome pictures on her Instagram feed:

View this post on Instagram

@bufffaye #dragcon2018

A post shared by Quinn Cummings (@quinncummings) on

So please click the link up top and enjoy!

Sticking with the Medieval times a bit:

Elvis…he was a style icon…before he became a style icon!

 

Smooth huh?

 

And lastly, I wanted to share a few pictures from my daughter’s wedding, they are in a slideshow below.

 

Have a good day, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

This is an open thread.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.