Well, We Have to Bomb Somebody!

 

Coming soon…

 

I think just being around Donald Trump makes everyone dumber. Not that I thought Chris Christie was ever an astute foreign policy thinker, but yeesh

“It’s unacceptable to allow this kind of stuff in our country and for us not to fight back, and we need to fight back, and that’s all these people understand,” Christie told the radio show. When the hosts smartly pressed the New Jersey governor on exactly where that fight should take place, he responded: ““You gotta get over there and start making them pay where they live. It’s an ugly and difficult thing but if we don’t get over there, they’re coming here, and they showed it again this weekend.”

Count the cliches!

  1. “that’s all these people understand.” This is always a good one, because it makes you sound really tough and realistic. Look, I don’t like violence, but it’s the only language we have in common. No translation needed. You should generally crack your neck after you say this.
  2. “start over there”. This is fantastic. It deals with the “if we stop them there, they won’t come here” reasoning which was one of the big reasons for why we are  supposed to fight ISIS in Iraq, even though the invasion created the conditions for regional collapse. But it’s even better because Christie has no idea what “over there” he’s referring to. As Will Bunch said, he “wants the U.S. military to drop bombs on Port St. Lucie, Florida,” since that’s where Mateen lived.
  3. “making them pay where they live”. He got this directly from a movie. I’m not sure which one. Maybe a cheap knockoff of The Sopranos, one in which the hero is a tough-talking, and tougher-acting, governor, played by Steve Schirripa. I’m not saying Christie wrote this movie (working title: The Boss of Jungleland), but I’m certainly not saying he didn’t.
  4. “ugly and difficult thing”. Translation: this’ll be great, but I have to use the somber face.
  5. “if we don’t get over there, they’re coming here, and they showed it again this weekend.” Mostly a repeat of number 3, because Christie literally has less than three sentences worth of foreign policy knowledge, but with a neat little bow that highlights the cruel absurdity of everything he is saying. They showed again that they’re coming here, like 30 years ago, and creating sexually-confused psychopaths who wrap their hatred up with the thinnest veneer of religion.

The thing is, this incoherent nonsense is essentially no different than what you hear from Lindsay Graham, who, anti-Trump charm tour notwithstanding, still believes we have to invade literally everywhere or we’re all gonna die. There isn’t a major GOP foreign policy “thinker” who doesn’t advocate this in some form or the other. We have to go there so they can’t come here. Action simply for the sake of action. The Max Power way. Christie isn’t saying just because he’s a dumb guy on foreign policy. He’s saying this because it is perfectly in line with his party’s mainstream ideas.

I don’t know guys. Newt “Bring back HUAC!” Gingrich has some strong credentials, but if Christie keeps sounding like such a dumbass he might get that Veep nod.

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Trump and “Crooked”, Thieving Soldiers: I Mean, He’s Sort of Right

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“Oh, good, the news is on!” -Donald Trump

So Donald Trump in a rally yesterday took the politically…unusual step of accusing American service men and women of theft in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Iraq, crooked as hell,” Trump told a crowd in Greensboro, North Carolina. “How about bringing baskets of money – millions and millions of dollars – and handing it out? I wanna know, who are the soldiers that had that job? Because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be.”

This isn’t the first time he’s gone down this road, either.

“They were going through Afghanistan paying off, I want to know who were the soldiers that are carrying cash of 50 million dollars? Cash! How stupid are we?” he said at a September rally. “I wouldn’t be surprised those soldiers, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cash didn’t get there, I have to be honest.”

His spokewoman, the impeccably-named Hope Hicks (turn out to vote), said that he was referring to Iraqi soldiers stealing the money, a rare case of cover-your-ass by the campaign, because this seems to be the one area in which he fears to tread. Accusing our boys and girls of being thieves? That’s suicide. But he clearly didn’t mean Iraqis. One, they weren’t given the bags full of money, and two, well:

“More than 100 enlisted military personnel have been convicted of stealing funds, bribery, and contract rigging while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, crimes the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity valued at $52 million in a 2015 report.”

So, yeah- Trump was right. Maybe exaggerating, certainly a wild conspiratorialist, imagining these veterans living large and laughing at us simps, but still, this did happen. And more so, it points to the insanity of these wars, the incredible waste of money (and of course lives, and honor, and any possibility of even weak regional stability, but let’s stick with money). We spent close to two trillion dollars in Iraq, a lot of it to crooked contractors who inflated prices building a simulacrum of safe areas in the Green Zone. We rented out war priorities to mercenaries. We relentlessly bribed leaders who could turn on us the next day without more bribes.

And that’s why this is the third rail. We can talk about the war in Iraq being a “mistake”, and most of the country is in agreement, but getting into why it was a mistake is dangerous ground. We never talk about the outsourcing of fighting, and we never talk about how the war was driven by money, but paid for in blood. (Here I don’t mean that Bush went to war to make money for his friends, but it was an inevitable outcome of bad intentions).  It was cheap and tacky and cruel, and there is no doubt that its cheap and tacky and cruel nature influenced people who were there, these little pieces flung around with bags of money. Why can’t they have a taste? Everyone else is.

To look at why there was so much corruption is to understand that everywhere our economic system touches becomes just as corrupt. So we gasp when someone insinuates such a thing about the military, whom we’ve mostly all agreed to never criticize. That’s partly understandable, of course, but also dangerous. Not just because it excuses when they do something wrong, but to admit that the military, our boys and girls in uniform, can be corrupted is to look at the whole system in a bare and unflattering hanging-bulb light.

So it is weird that Donald Trump, who never met a lie he didn’t like, and vigorously defend even when every fact in opposition is thrust in his face, accidentally stumbles on to a truth. It’s even more telling that this is the one in which he immediately backtracks.

 

The Borges Retrospective: Borges the Film Critic

The Borges Retrospective:

To make the claim that Borges is well-read is like walking up to a stranger, preparing to brandish your dueling gloves, and proclaiming that water is wet. His vast and endless erudition is, along with his blindness and fascination with Angl-Saxon lore, one of those most striking things about him. There seems to have been little he hadn’t read, and little he didn’t remember. Even after blindness overcame him, he still had the library in his head, and if he didn’t recall a line exactly, could get someone to read it to him by remembering the book, and where it was located on his vast shelves (Hitchens, who has written many times and movingly about meeting Borges, spoke in Hitch-22 about having the honor of reading to him).

(Sidenote: one of the limitation of this series is not being able to talk about everything, so I do want to share his quote on blindness, from “The Other”, in which the old Borges meets his younger self. “When you reach my age, you’ll have almost totally lost your eyesight. You’ll be able to see the color yellow, and light and shadow. But don’t worry. Gradual blindness is not tragic. It’s like the slowly growing darkness of a summer evening.” Has a more beautiful and aching line about the enveloping process of decay ever been written?)

So, given his incredible range of reading, it stands to reason that he’d be a fine literary critic, being able to weave the vast tapestry of the human story into all his writing. What might strike readers as surprising is his proficiency as a film critic in the early days of cinema, as silent movies turned into talkies, and as the medium grew up. It is hard to imagine him as taking time away from his books, but he did, and often. I confess it delights me to imagine the young Borges, sitting in a darkened theater, in the cool the juxtaposes the Buenos Aries summer, head filled with ancient myths and knife-fights, and watching a giant ape palm a screaming blond.

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Waukesha Diversion Week: What Waukesha Wants

Waukesha Diversion Week!

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Image from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

To the city of Waukesha, that unassuming Milwaukee suburb, the request seemed like a no-brainer, and coming as it did before the Great Lakes Compact was signed, seemed like a sure bet. The aquifer from which it drew its water contained naturally-occurring radium, and the growing community of 70,000 felt that they needed a cleaner and safer source.  Reasonably, they looked not-very-far-east, some 20 miles, to the shores of Lake Michigan, which contains some six quadrillion gallons of water, and provides more than a billion gallons a day for drinking. The initial Waukesha request, at less than 20 million gallons a day, seemed reasonable.

And certainly, it made sense. They were a “collar county”, straddling the Basin, with the eastern part of the county firmly within its natural borders. The Compact provides exceptions for straddling cities and counties, provided that they can meet a strict set of standards.

Wisconsin Counties within Great Lakes Basin

(Images from Waukeshadiversion.org)

Now, if you were the town fathers of Waukesha, you would feel that there is a certain didactic madness to any opposition, a sort of pecksniff tyranny not just of geology, but of pedagogy as well.

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