Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pawn to Cleveland Four

Franklin Foer has a sinister theory of the affinity between Trump and Putin. Is it crazy? I report...

Foer points out that Putin has a history of supporting right-wing thugs and crooks in Europe.

Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump. Over the past decade, Russia has boosted right-wing populists across Europe. It loaned money to Marine Le Pen in France, well-documented transfusions of cash to keep her presidential campaign alive. Such largesse also wended its way to the former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who profited “personally and handsomely” from Russian energy deals, as an American ambassador to Rome once put it. (Berlusconi also shared a 240-year-old bottle of Crimean wine with Putin and apparently makes ample use of a bed gifted to him by the Russian president.)

There’s a clear pattern: Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. He’s been a patron of Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. Joe Biden warned about this effort last year in a speech at the Brookings Institution: “President Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit.” Ruptures that will likely multiply after Brexit—a campaign Russia’s many propaganda organs bombastically promoted.

The destruction of Europe is a grandiose objective; so is the weakening of the United States. Until recently, Putin has only focused glancing attention on American elections. Then along came the presumptive Republican nominee.

Donald Trump is like the Kremlin’s favored candidates, only more so. He celebrated the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with feeling. He is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s devotion to the Russian president has been portrayed as buffoonish enthusiasm for a fellow macho strongman. But Trump’s statements of praise amount to something closer to slavish devotion. In 2007, he praised Putin for “rebuilding Russia.” A year later he added, “He does his work well. Much better than our Bush.” When Putin ripped American exceptionalism in a New York Times op-ed in 2013, Trump called it “a masterpiece.” Despite ample evidence, Trump denies that Putin has assassinated his opponents: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that.” In the event that such killings have transpired, they can be forgiven: “At least he’s a leader.” And not just any old head of state: “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.”

I'm hoping that all you Putin Pussies out there can make a good case as to why this is BS.

Mysterious Matter

I have in front of me one of the most complex and baffling assemblages of technology ever created. A thousand or more confusing options and choices are presented to me at every turn. It's also delicate and fragile.

I speak, of course, of my first digital SLR.

Fortunately it has an idiot mode, which I learned just well enough to show that I can take bad pictures even when everything but the inevitable human element is automated.

Perhaps I will learn to download them to my computer today.

Word/Bond Nonsense

Ted Cruz had a little Q&A with RNC delegates over his refusal to endorse Trump. One of the low lights occurred when a weeping Dimbo attacked him for failing to keep his debate "promise" to support the nominee of the party. Cruz had a fairly good answer, basing his opposition on Trump's slander of his father and insulting his wife, but I think that there is a better one: Nobody who isn't willing to go back on a political pledge when the good of the country requires it is qualified for the Presidency or any other high office. Politicians who hold political office, in particular, have a much higher duty in the pledge they made to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Nobody should be President who is completely bound by that foolish consistency that Emerson called the hobgoblin of little minds. Some pledges, like promising to support the Party's nominee no matter what, or to not raise taxes, no matter what, are perniciously foolish on their face, but the Republican party has been particularly bedeviled by these stupidities.

Now, however, they have a nominee whose word is just whatever came out of his mouth last, and whose only sincere impulse is to look after himself. I just hope that the country is not quite as foolish.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Celebrities Have Problems Too

I saw that Tom Hiddleston was quoted as saying that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift may have wondered: "Does that mean I have to kill him when his month is up?"

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Trump On NATO

That Treaty? Nevermind.

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

I think I see why Putin loves him.

In Case Any Ambiguity Remained

Laura Ingram pulls out her Hitler salute for the conclusion of her RNC speech:

Want some context?

For older memories:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Post Soviet Russia

I am always a bit perplexed at how quick some of the loudly anti-Communist are to embrace fascism. Perhaps they see it as some kind of opposite to Communism, but I don't see it - instead it's more like another face of the same disease. Or maybe they are just more like the American Capitalists who rushed into Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany, eager to make a buck selling them the rope to hang them with.

I don't know, but some of them are quick to swallow the propaganda put out by some of the same apparatchiks (or their cousins) that used to do the same for the old USSR, and to salute the old KGB guy who runs it now. They should probably read Arkady Ostrogovsky's new history of post Soviet Russia - but they probably won't. From the Prologue:

It was after midnight and I was making final changes to this book when I learned that Boris Nemtsov, a liberal politician once groomed to be president of Russia, had been shot six times in the back on a bridge just yards away from the Kremlin. It was the most resonant political assassination in Russia’s post-Soviet history, and it did not seem real. I knew Nemtsov well— he was more than a journalistic contact. Of all the Russian politicians I kept in touch with, he was the only one I considered a friend. He was charismatic, determined, honest, unpretentious and very full of life. Now his large body lay on the wet asphalt, covered by black rubbish bags, with the cupolas of St. Basil’s behind him: his was a postcard murder.

...

Nemtsov’s murder marked the first anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its “hybrid” war against Ukraine. Now the violence ignited over the border had returned to the homeland. The war in Ukraine, stoked and fanned by the Kremlin, has not just devastated a former Soviet republic that dared to break free from its grip. It has devastated Russia itself— its sense of decency and moral fiber. It has turned xenophobia and aggression into a norm and civility into an offense.

Nemtsov was a good man who tried to stop the war. In the state media this has earned him the title of “national traitor” and “American stooge.” In the weeks before his death he was demonized on television. Soon after that hate banners carrying his image were hung on building facades with the words “Fifth column— aliens among us.”

Ostrovsky, Arkady (2016-06-07). The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War (Kindle Locations 50-56). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Roots

Ali H. Soufan in the NYT:

THURSDAY’S terror-by-truck attack in Nice, France, was shocking in its outcome — 84 people killed and hundreds injured — but not in its methods. Jihadis have long called on sympathizers to transform everyday vehicles into instruments of mass slaughter.

Six years ago, Al Qaeda’s English language magazine, Inspire — the publication that taught the Boston Marathon attackers how to manufacture pressure-cooker bombs — explicitly encouraged “lone wolves” to ram pedestrians with their cars. More recently, the Islamic State’s principal spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, has called for similar tactics. Over the past few years, vehicle attacks without the use of explosives have taken place from Israel to Canada.

...

If we are serious about eliminating this threat, the West has to make some major changes. First, and most obviously, we have to recognize that the Islamic State’s occupation of large sections of Iraq and Syria is not a distant tragedy, but the driving force behind these attacks, operationally and inspirationally.

Theoretically, the United States leads a coalition of 65 nations against the Islamic State. In reality, most of these countries do little besides talk tough. Even those that do contribute in a meaningful way — and that includes France — rarely go beyond airstrikes and the occasional special forces raid. Not only has this lackadaisical approach failed to defeat the Islamic State; its failure plays into the group’s claim to be invulnerable and chosen by God. The same goes for other extremist organizations that hold territory, like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the various groups vying with one another for control of coastal Libya.

...

The West may be tired of war, but to borrow a phrase, war is not tired of us. We must refocus and redouble our efforts against the Islamic State and its ilk, even at the risk of getting embroiled in another expansive military campaign — though we should also rely on local Arab and Muslim allies to provide the ground forces. Only by destroying the Islamic State as an organization can we delegitimize it as a source for global terror.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Coup Coup Kachoo

Not likely to be good news, no matter who wins.

Ghostbusters

I haven't seen the new Ghostbusters, so I don't have any firm opinions, though I understand that it's become something of a feminist touchstone, what with the new female cast. I'm a little nervous about its prospects though, on the basis of the trailers I've seen which aren't even slightly funny.

My kids must have been perhaps 4 and 6 when we got the original Ghostbusters video. They immediately became transfixed, insisting on watching it every day if we would let them. So I've seen it several dozen or perhaps even hundreds of times. I became convinced that it was a true masterpiece, an all but perfect mix of scary, funny and sensual. The deadpan humor of Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis was critical, as was Reitman's directorial touch. The rest of the cast was also great.

My favorite line: "Back off man, I'm a scientist."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

One More Time

Why does ISIS still exist and hold territory?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

NATO and Europe's Ridiculous Fantasies

The latest NATO meeting was about how Europe can continue to get the US to keep protecting it from its hungry neighbor to the East. Europeans like the idea of being protected without having to make more than symbolic efforts to protect themselves. Tiny countries with the population of a small world city think they should be able to keep their own customs, borders, toy armies and national independence without bearing much of the cost.

Europe has sufficient population and more than sufficient economic power to protect itself, but it is unwilling to make the kind of sacrifices of petty jealousies that would make it strong. What it needs is what the thirteen colonies of the original United States finally recognized they needed - a unified nation with a unified politics, economy and military.

Chances of that actually happening anytime soon would probably challenge the probabilistic fantasies of Star Trek's Mr. Spock.

If Putin's man Trump wins the election, though, Europe might find out the cost of its inability to unify.