Friday, September 17, 2021

Not All Milleys

General Mark Milley is being praised these days for his efforts to restrain a clearly deranged president. But, Max Boot writes, there is no guarantee that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be as wise as Milley:

There is, alas, no shortage of right-wing extremists in the military. See, for example, a supposed resignation letter from an Army lieutenant colonel named Paul Douglas Hague that has ricocheted around the Internet in recent days. The Defense Department already mandates 17 different vaccinations for various personnel. But Hague was said to have resigned to avoid taking a vaccine for covid-19, ludicrously claiming that it signified a “Marxist takeover of the military and the United States government.”

There is absolutely nothing stopping Trump or some other future Republican president from appointing someone with far-right views such as Hague’s as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. In other words, we cannot count on future generals resisting a power-mad, would-be authoritarian in the Oval Office as Milley did.

The potential for another Trump to try what the present Trump did is always there. Legislation is required to reign in a president's unfettered ability to use nuclear weapons:

Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation to prohibit the president from a first use of nuclear weapons unless Congress has declared war. That would still allow a president to respond to a nuclear attack but would take off the table the kind of “wag the dog” scenario that so worried Milley. Other experts have proposed going even further by mandating that any presidential nuclear order would have to be ratified by the next two people in the line of presidential succession, normally the vice president and House speaker.

It is imperative for Congress to pass some such limitations on the president’s nuclear-use authority before another unhinged president takes office. We suffered badly enough under Trump; 400,000 Americans died of covid-19 while he was in office and insurrectionists invaded the U.S. Capitol. Yet it could have been far worse — and could still be in the future if we don’t act today.

Will it happen? We'll see.

Image: axios

Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Bad Mood Election

There's a bad mood in the air. Susan Delacourt writes:

This election campaign, soon to be over, has essentially been a bad mood looking for a place to land.

It isn’t just those wild-eyed crowds dogging Justin Trudeau’s tour and expanding the support of the People’s Party of Canada, either.

For Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, all the roiling, negative emotions running loose in this campaign may make the difference between victory and defeat on Monday. The sheer closeness of that red-blue contest, in fact, would seem a testament to a lack of widespread enthusiasm for either option.

Trudeau’s biggest problem isn’t the ugly mob anger he’s denounced so frequently along the trail. It is anger’s close relation — disappointment — and the prospect of disillusioned former Liberals flocking to the New Democrats and other parties.

O’Toole’s biggest problem, on the other hand, is anger that threatens to weaken his party from either side.

Both of the main contenders are deeply distrusted by certain voters:

Some disaffected Conservatives don’t find O’Toole sufficiently aggrieved and are drifting to the People’s Party, the outlet for white hot resentment of everything from pandemic restrictions to Trudeau. Other potential voters — those disappointed Liberals, for instance — may be worried that the face of the Conservative party remains too angry and negative, even after all O’Toole’s efforts to put a confident, smiling face on the campaign.

O'Toole claims to be attracting disaffected Liberals:

“Look, I will tell you I’m blown away by the number of prominent former Liberals, current Liberals voting for us in this election,” O’Toole said. “There are dozens that talk to me personally and some may even talk about it this week.”

He says he likes to see himself as a leader who “is not showing contempt for people that haven’t voted for us in the past.” One wonders whether this memo has gone out to MPs who have made their mark casting Liberals as evil over the past few years — Pierre Poilievre, for instance, or Michelle Rempel.

Justin claims that the other parties are selling cynicism:

The Liberal leader is accusing the other progressive parties — whether that’s the NDP, the Greens or the Bloc — of fuelling a lot of this disappointment, to the point of outright cynicism. Rather than accuse the Liberals of not doing enough, Trudeau says, their strategy in this campaign has been to say that the government has done absolutely nothing — on reconciliation, on income inequality or child care.

We're not happy campers. One wonders how happy we'll be when this election is over.

Image: The National Post

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

New Lies

The Republicans are trading in new lies. Dana Milbank writes:

On Tuesday morning, one of the most senior and important Republican senators used one of the most prominent settings in official Washington to level one of the most serious allegations possible against the commander in chief. And his charge was based on an utter fabrication.

Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, used a hearing intended for sworn testimony from the secretary of state on the Afghanistan withdrawal to allege that President Biden is mentally incompetent.

Risch first devoted his opening statement to continuing the long-running Republican narrative. “We know for a fact the president of the United States is somewhat disadvantaged here in that someone is calling the shots. He can’t even speak without someone in the White House censoring it or signing off on it,” the senator claimed. “As recently as yesterday, in mid-sentence, he was cut off by someone in the White House who makes the decision that the president of the United States is not speaking correctly. … This is a puppeteer act.”

Risch insisted, again, that “it happened yesterday at the Interagency Fire Center. It was widely reported. … Are you telling this committee that this does not happen, that there is no one in the White House who pushes the button and cuts him off in mid-sentence?”

After yet another back-and-forth on the matter, [Antony] Blinken finally told the senator: “I really don’t know what you are referring to.”

There’s good reason for that: It didn’t happen.

It was a blatant lie -- like the lie that the election was stolen. An entire political party unashamedly sells lies. It now performs only one function. Like a very large cesspool, it manufactures and spreads excrement -- tons of it.

Image: dreamstime.com



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

More Or Less?

This election, Susan Delacourt writes, is all about change: How much do you want? More or less?

It’s one of the most fundamental questions in any election campaign, but the pandemic has made it incredibly complicated in 2021 — especially for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

But this is 2021 and the country finds itself in the middle of an election campaign during the time of COVID-19.

So Trudeau has spent a lot of time talking about how he needs a mandate for big, post-pandemic change. “Really big changes, coming in the next weeks and months,” the Liberal leader reiterated on Monday.

The dynamic of this election is the opposite of the usual dynamic. Normally, O'Toole would be the agent of change. Trudeau would represent the old guard. But "security" is everywhere in the Tory platform:

Hence the Conservatives’ surely not accidental emphasis on security all through their platform — called “Secure the Future” — and their presentation of O’Toole as a stable dad from the suburbs who will ratchet down drama in Liberal-led Ottawa.

In the final days of the campaign, O'Toole is engaged in ad hominem attacks on Trudeau:

“I’m a new leader,” said O’Toole, who likes to mention that these days. “Canadians deserve better than a leader concerned only about his own power. But this is a pattern, day after day, month after month, year after year. The only thing he and the Liberal party prioritize is their own survival, more of the same spending and debt, $424 million per day, with more of the same on its way, more of the same corruption.”

We'll know in a week.

Image: The Toronto Sun


Monday, September 13, 2021

Hedges on 9/11

On the anniversary of 9/11, Chris Hedges offered these thoughts:

The explosions and collapse of the towers, however, were, to me, intimately familiar. I had seen it before. This was the familiar language of empire.  I had watched these incendiary messages dropped on southern Kuwait and Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War and descend with thundering concussions in Gaza and Bosnia. The calling card of empire, as was true in Vietnam, is tons of lethal ordnance dropped from the sky. The hijackers spoke to America in the idiom we taught them.

The ignorance, masquerading as innocence, of Americans, mostly white Americans, was nauseating. It was the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. It was the greatest act of terrorism in American history. It was an incomprehensible act of barbarity.

For Hedges, 9/11 was a case of what goes around, comes around:

We did not, and do not, grasp that we are the mirror image of those we seek to destroy. We too kill with an inchoate fury. Over the past two decades we have extinguished the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who never sought to harm the United States or were involved in the attacks on American soil. We too use religion, in our case the Christian faith, to mount a jihad or crusade. We too go to war to fight phantoms of our own creation.  

And so, the cycle continues.

Image: Reuters

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Shame Of It

I was never a fan of George W. Bush. He made some terrible decisions that had far-reaching consequences. But, yesterday, in a speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, he spoke the unvarnished truth. Jennifer Rubin writes

In perhaps the most important words spoken in his political career, Bush in his remarks at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 drew a straight line between the 9/11 terrorists and the 1/6 terrorists. “We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within,” he said. “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit." He added, "It is our continuing duty to confront them.” Bush’s words were an indictment not only of the violent MAGA insurrectionists but also, implicitly, of his party that coddles them and the leader whom the 1/6 terrorists wanted to install by force. 

These days, there are few Republicans willing to speak the truth and point out the obvious:

The Republican Party continues to minimize, deflect and ignore the 1/6 terrorist attack. Can one imagine in the wake of 9/11 Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking senators as a "favor” not to investigate the 9/11 attacks? Consider the reaction had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insisted we not bother investigating 9/11 because the other side was simply seeking to score political points. One can only imagine the reaction if, after a foreign attack premised on the big lie, Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and the other Republicans proceeded to make challenges to the democratic process based on the same conspiracy theory advanced by foreign terrorists.

Rubin has it right:

Bush’s bluntness was a refreshing antidote to the usual blasé treatment of a radicalized Republican Party that embraces “children of the same foul spirit” as the 9/11 terrorists. The press, the ecosystem of donors, activists and operatives, and even, to an extent, the Democrats all treat Republicans as a normal political party within our democratic system, rather than as the enablers of a “foul spirit” and violent extremism. They shy away from labeling Republicans as “1/6 truthers” when the GOP’s effort to direct blame away from the actual terrorists is no better than claiming 9/11 was an inside job. (McCarthy and his cohorts insist it’s Pelosi who should be investigated.)

These days, George W. is a lonely Republican. And that's the shame of it.

Image: CNN

Saturday, September 11, 2021

No Debate

I tried to listen to the English language leaders debate. I turned it off after about forty-five minutes. It wasn't a debate. Michael Harris correctly characterizes it as "a third rate cage fight:"

The confrontation that everyone was waiting for, Trudeau versus O’Toole, never materialized in any coherent way. Given that one of those two men will be prime minister in just ten days, at least according to the current polling, it was a squandered opportunity of monumental proportions.

Had there been a substantive exchange between the two leaders, Trudeau would have been able to probe some of O’Toole’s signature platform policies that have now been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Those costings reveal that the Conservative party’s child care plan, for example, is nowhere near what the public was led to believe it was.

The way Erin O’Toole has been selling the Conservative plan, families would get a direct cash infusion through an improved child-care tax credit, roughly equivalent to the Liberal cash promise. The Liberal plan is to send $29.8 billion to the provinces over five years, with the goal of creating $10-a-day child care.

“It turns out that the Conservatives would replace the nearly $30-billion in child-care transfers to the provinces with just $2.6 billion in child tax credits to individuals. The Conservatives will honour the first year of deals signed by the Liberal government, delivering provinces a one-time transfer of $3.1 billion. But thereafter, the Tories would replace child-care transfers with a child-care tax-credit worth approximately 91 per cent less,” [The Globe and Mail's] the editorial board wrote.

And there were lots of other nasty personal exchanges:

[Annamie] Paul offered to “educate” the Bloc leader about the reality of racism. Blanchet replied that it was not an offer, but an insult. The Bloc leader already felt aggrieved after the moderator had earlier raised the issues of racism and xenophobia in a question about Quebec’s Bill 21.

Paul was also involved in another vitriolic exchange, after she claimed that Trudeau was not really a feminist, reminding the audience that he had driven two strong women, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, out of his party over the SNC-Lavalin affair.

It was these clips that made the news broadcasts.

The moderator, Shachi Kurl, was on a power trip. She cut leaders off, not allowing them to give explanatory answers.

This was no debate. It was a Canadian version of The Jerry Springer Show.

Image: Sean Kilpatrick, Canadian Press