What’s the use

The UN Security Council met today in special session today to discuss yesterday’s chemical weapons incident in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun, the death toll from which is now up to at least 72. Nothing came of it, because the UN Security Council is set up, pretty much by design, to do nothing on any matter of controversy.

First of all, here’s what the media is reporting about what happened in Syria yesterday. I almost said “here’s what we know about what happened,” but then we don’t actually know what happened, we only really know what the press is reporting to us.

  • First of all, questions about cause aside, all the evidence collected from the scene that I’ve read about is consistent with the idea that the victims were exposed to a nerve agent. That includes the way the gas behaved (chlorine gas, for example, dissipates much more quickly than this stuff did) and the symptoms observed by medical personnel. Sarin seems to be the likeliest possibility, but it certainly could have been something else, or sarin in combination with something else.
  • Second, we know that somebody affiliated with the Syrian government and possessing an air force in Syria, either the government itself or Russia, bombed Khan Shaykhun yesterday. Nobody denies this. Hell, they reportedly did it again today.

That’s the stuff that seems fairly certain. Now we get into the question of causation, which is of course being disputed.  Continue reading

NEEDED: Better Quality Lies

The White House fired Steve Bannon today.

Well, not totally. He was removed from his controversial and wholly unwarranted seat on the National Security Council. Bannon has no, as in none, as in zero qualifications to sit on the NSC apart from the fact that he sets the white nationalist, xenophobic, anti-Islam agenda for the administration. This was clear from the beginning, especially when Bannon was given a permanent NSC role while people whose jobs are actually national security-related, like the chair of the JCS and the Director of National Intelligence, weren’t given permanent NSC seats (both, by the way, had their seats restored in today’s shakeup). Between the public/media criticism that attended Bannon’s initial NSC appointment and the appointment of new National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, a guy who, if nothing else, appears to take the professional conduct of the NSC seriously, there was no place there for Bannon anymore. He had to go.

Of course, the administration can’t say that. But the reason they’re giving for removing Bannon is so unbelievably lame that you have to wonder if these guys are even trying anymore:

A White House official said that Bannon was placed on the committee in part to monitor Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and never attended a meeting. He’s no longer needed with McMaster in charge of the council, the official said.

If there was anybody in the Trump administration whose views on the world, foreign policy, and national security aligned with Bannon’s, it was Michael Flynn. Moreover, Flynn was Trump’s Favorite General™, chosen to fill the most influential national security role in the administration despite myriad evidence to show that, temperamentally at least, he was a bad choice for the gig. He’s gone now, fired over meetings he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition that he apparently concealed/lied about, and now we’re told that Bannon was put on the NSC to “monitor” Flynn, as though the administration had concerns about him from the beginning.

What a crock of shit. If the administration had concerns about Flynn, serious enough that Bannon needed to be on the NSC to “monitor” him, why appoint him in the first place? Because Trump wanted him so badly? If that were the case, Trump probably wouldn’t have fired him so easily. Bannon is “no longer needed” with McMaster running the NSC probably because McMaster isn’t interested in turning the NSC in a ideologically-driven shop given over to pushing Bannon’s and Flynn’s pet theories about war with Islam, the global Legion of Doom amassing to destroy America, threats to Christendom and the white race, etc. So, in reality, it would be more accurate to say that Bannon is no longer, you know, wanted.

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No winners

The biggest problem I find I’m having with trying to follow the Michael Flynn story is that it’s hard to distinguish the actual, verifiably crazy parts of the story from the parts that are being overhyped by the press. Because a lot of this story is genuinely ridiculous. A National Security Advisor resigning under a cloud of scandal less than a month into the first term of a presidential administration is a singular event in American history. This White House’s total inability to get ahead of the story, and this president’s inability to speak coherently on this or, really, any other topic, are both unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The implication that the deep state and/or intelligence community is trying to bring down a presidential administration is similarly unprecedented (or nearly unprecedented, if you’re a JFK conspiracy theorist). There’s a lot of wild shit going on right now.

But also, as this “what we know” piece from the New York Times makes clear, this story has blown up into a major scandal with relatively little factual reporting underpinning it. There are suggestions of serious wrongdoing, dossiers full of possibly compromising information, potentially nefarious scheming with Russian agents, and much more, but at this point they’re mostly just theories.

This is all by way of saying that I’m starting to doubt my own ability to digest and consider the various twists and turns this story keeps taking, largely because my brain starts to turn to clay after two or three articles. But it occurred to me this evening that, while there’s obviously no way to tell how this story is going to end, there aren’t really any winners to be found in it. It would be easy to argue that the American people are winning to the extent that this scandal could sink the Trump administration, but at this point we’re still stuck with Trump plus we now have that aforementioned deep state move to undermine an elected government, which is dangerous in principle. And even if Trump is brought down, that leaves us with President Mike Pence, and you’ll forgive me if I’m not prepared to break out the noisemakers and champagne over that possibility.

Continue reading

What’s it all about then (subscriber post)

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled over the past two and a half weeks–well, longer than that, really–over the issue of what the Trump administration is really on about. The bad things they’re doing are really “head fakes” to cover the really bad things they want to do. They’re laying the groundwork for an executive branch coup by pre-emptively blaming the judiciary for a future terrorist attack. Steve Bannon is really running the country in Trump’s name. They want to give the opposition “protest fatigue” so that they can go about their real agenda in peace. They’re all KGB moles. Etcetera.

I’m guilty of this myself, to some extent. I’ve attributed motives to their early moves on Iran that may be too clever by half. But I’d like to suggest that, while I don’t think it’s wrong to think about the Trump administration’s larger goals–Trump himself may be a massive idiot, but it would be a big mistake to assume his whole administration is just stupid–I also think that, when we’re all trying to discern those larger goals, the key to understanding the Trump administration could be deceptively simple. At least when it comes to Islam and much of their foreign policy, they are, in short, who we thought they were: Islamophobes who don’t care what kind of carnage they leave in their wake as long as they get to have a war with Islam.

I’m trying something new with this post. Periodically I’m going to start writing for my Patreon subscribers only as a way to reward them and (hopefully) raise money. You can find the rest of this post here, and I hope you’ll consider going there and contributing something to the upkeep of this blog. I’m not changing models and I’ll still write plenty of free pieces here, but this is a new wrinkle I’m trying out. Thanks for your support!

ISIS gets involved in Turkish politics

In my opinion (I realize these things are subjective), the biggest/worst story of the past five days has been the New Year’s Eve terror attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul. A single gunman reportedly dressed as Santa Claus and armed with a Kalashnikov opened fire in the crowded club, killing 39 people and sending another 69 to the hospital. The shooter is still at large as of the time I’m writing this, but images of him have been circulated and at one point it was believed he was a 28 year old Kyrgyz national who may have actually fought with (and therefore been trained by) ISIS in Syria. However, I’m not sure whether the Kyrgyzstan connection still holds, because the Kyrgyz national who was initially fingered by Turkish authorities seems to have been cleared of any potential involvement. Because this is Turkey, where wide dragnets are the norm (I’m expecting to be picked up in connection with July’s failed coup any day now), 14 people have already been arrested in connection with the attack–though, again, the shooter himself isn’t among them. The Turkish Parliament has responded to the attack by extending a state of emergency that was imposed in July, and then renewed in October, for another three months.

ISIS claimed credit for the attack, saying that it had targeted “Christians” celebrating an “apostate holiday.” The idea that only Christians were celebrating in that nightclub is almost certainly a lie, but while NYE is not a religious holiday per se, on the Islamic/Hijri calendar it’s also not actually the new year. The commemoration of an important date on a different calendar could be painted as apostasy by somebody looking for an excuse to go kill people.

But the real purpose of this attack was to destabilize the Turkish state politically. Continue reading

Just Us

During one of my myriad recent stints sitting around in either an airport gate or a hospital waiting room, I saw this “feel-good story” from CBS:

When a hungry Cameron Nelson walked into a Chick-fil-A in Avon, Indiana, last week he looked toward the counter and couldn’t help but stare — not at the menu, but at the young employee standing in front of it.

The teenager, Jakeem Tyler, was counting change on one hand. His other arm was wrapped in a sling and he was wearing a neck brace.

“We sneeze too hard and decide to call in, but he’s workin’ like nothing’s wrong,” Nelson thought to himself.

As soon as Nelson stepped up to the counter and placed his order, he asked Tyler, “What happened?”

Tyler explained he was recently involved in a car accident.

“He [said he] was working cause he needs the money and also wants to feed the homeless for Christmas,” Nelson wrote in a Facebook post that has since gone viral with more than 5,000 shares.

Nelson was impressed.

Jakeem Tyler seems like an impressive human being, so I can understand being impressed by him. But I have to say my immediate reaction to this story was mostly disgust, at CBS, for taking the story of a teenager forced to go right back to work after a car accident and turning it into some uplifting tale of perseverance instead of the absolute indictment of the 2016 United States of America that it actually is. What kind of a nation is this where we deny people the right to heal from a serious injury before they have to go back to work?

Continue reading

So, uh, is anybody gonna do anything about this?

So I really have no idea what to make of the story that the CIA believes Russia interfered with the election in order to get Donald Trump elected. On the one hand, this is the agency that brought you, among other things, vials of “Iraqi” “anthrax” at the UN, but on the other hand, if there’s one thing the CIA ought to be able to recognize, it’s when one country’s intelligence community is trying to interfere with the democratic process in another country. Also, if I may, fuck any Republican pulling this shit:

If the CIA had evidence that another country (any other country, Malta, who cares) had engaged in active interference in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid had talked the Obama administration out of saying anything about it, you’d find John Cornyn screaming and nude on the White House lawn. But the interference, if there was any, benefited his candidate, so OMG BO-RING, this has been going on for years, I mean my God can you just let it go already? Fuck him.

All I’ll say about the substance of this story for now is this: now what? If these charges are true then, you know, this is kind of a big deal, especially if it’s also true that Moscow compiled a fair amount of material on Trump and the Republicans but didn’t release any of it. So…OK? Are anonymous leaks to The Washington Post and a bunch of hand-wringing on Twitter and cable news really all we’re going to get here? If there’s really evidence that Russia engineered Trump’s election, is somebody going to actually do something about it? If not, then what the hell are we all on about? President Obama has ordered an investigation to be completed before Trump’s inauguration, but, like, what will that mean? Say the agency learns that Donald Trump’s real name is “Jeff Putin” and he’s Vlad’s long lost brother–what happens then? Anything? Nothing? I’d just like to know where this could go and whether anybody in authority is actually willing to put themselves on the line over it, beyond giving quotes to the local newspaper. So far the only thing we can say for sure is that Trump and the intelligence community are going to hate each other, and Trump’s “Russian Order of Friendship”-winning Secretary of State pick isn’t going to help heal the rift.

Hi, how’s it going? Thanks for reading; attwiw wouldn’t exist without you! If you enjoyed this or any other posts here, please share widely and help build our audience. You can like this site on Facebook or follow me on Twitter as well. Most critically, if you’re a regular reader I hope you’ll read this and consider helping this place to stay alive.