Elections and Their Consequences


Elections here, elections there… we’ve got elections everywhere!

trump painting satanWith the American midterms just two weeks away, It goes without saying that most liberal progressives, democrats and independents are hoping to see a ‘blue wave’ overturn the stranglehold the Trump administration has on all three branches of government, and the Supreme Court.

Widespread reports of gerrymandering and voter suppression, however, are indications that the Republicans, unable to run on their non-existent record, are ready to lie, cheat and swindle to keep their power. In previous decades and administrations, the Attorney General would have stepped in aggressively to stop this abuse, but under AG Jeff Sessions, the corruption ensues without check.

GOP old white men in undiesMany are looking to millennials to start that wave of resistance, but from articles and interviews I’ve read, a lot of millennials can’t be bothered; they think their voices will not be heard, and there seems to be a belief that the kids can take back the country once the last of the old white guys in power die off.

They’re not counting on the “farm teams’ .. the Kavanaughs and the Paul Ryans, ready to pick up the slack from the McConnells and Grassleys as they die off. And they’re counting on there being a country left when they’re finally ready to get involved.

We’ll have to keep all appendages crossed that there is still some justice and democracy left in America, that will see the election allowed to play out without chicanery. But I will not take any bets on that happening.

ford notwithstandingMeanwhile, I sure hope that most Torontonians and other Ontarian citizens are planning to cast an informed vote this week in our municipal elections. With all of the meddling that Ford did in cutting our city council in half, and with his nuclear use of the notwithstanding clause to force his will on the citizens of Toronto, not much time was left for some of the candidates to explain their positions on important issues affecting our city.

Ford gave incumbent mayor Tory the greatest gift of all when he tinkered with the electoral machine. With all of the confusion and chaos, it’s most likely that the great unwashed will do what they always do when their cheese is moved – simply vote for the person with the most recognizable name on the ballot.

And that’s a damn shame, because that’s essentially how our world has gotten into the mess it’s in today – voters who once made an effort to be informed and knowledgeable have been replaced with angry, populist, knee jerking votes AGAINST the status quo, rather than votes FOR progress.

I get it; we’re living in a world where we have to instantly react to once shocking events on an hourly basis. There’s just been too many non-stop fireworks going off daily since January 2017, and that makes it hard to be able to pin down the truth and the facts about atrocities most people of the west struggle to contemplate, let alone deal with mentally.

Remember when the ‘Resistance’ were warning the world that they must not ‘normalize’ Trump and his horrific, racist, bigoted ways? Well, it’s happened. That many haven’t yet realized that it’s happened is in itself proof that it’s happened.

jamal-khashoggiTake the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the American resident and Washington Post journalist. At the beginning of October, he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. He was there to obtain a document verifying his divorce so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée. But like the old commercial once said, “He checked in, but he never checked out.”

Khashoggi had been persona non grata and self exiled from Saudi Arabia since November 2016, when he wrote a mild rebuke against the perils of a new president, Donald J. Trump. ” The expectation that ‘Trump as president’ will be starkly different from ‘Trump as candidate’ is a false hope at best,” were the words that Khashoggi wrote about Trump’s stance and rhetoric on the Middle East.

For this ‘crime’ he was banned from all social media, including journalistic writing, making television appearances, and attending conferences. He self-exiled to the United States six months later.

On October 2 he was lured to the consulate, where a team of 15 Saudi Arabians, including one autopsy expert with a bone saw, ‘interrogated’ (tortured) him to death, and then dismembered his body so that it might be disposed of more easily.

The grisly truth of his kidnapping, torture and murder are known to us thanks to what is most likely the ‘bugging’ of the Saudi consulate; Turkey originally claimed to have found the audio recording of the encounter on Khashoggi’s Apple Watch, but tech experts have said it is not very likely. However the information was retrieved, one thing is certain; the American government knew the truth about the murder almost immediately, but covered up the story.

investigating KhashoggiIn the three weeks since the murder, people have struggled to come to terms with this act of violence. Some can sort of understand bits and pieces of what happened, but balk at simple truths, like a photo from the Associated Press showing a cart filled with cleaning supplies that arrived at the consulate just hours before an investigation of the premises was due to occur. Spies, torture, dismemberment.. all of this they can swallow .. but a cleaning cart? That just butts up too closely to normalizing traumatic death, and their mental processes shut down rather than absorb the photo.

MBSBut the most shocking actions have all have been done by Trump and his administration, who have, from the beginning, and with full knowledge of not only the murder, but of U.S. intelligence intercepts showing that MbS had ordered that Khashoggi be lured to Saudi Arabia, known full well that the Crown Prince had ordered the detention, likely with an intent to torture and murder the writer. They later speculated that it was likely that his disappearance in Istanbul was a substitute plan that went sideways.

And yet Trump, with that knowledge, with audio tapes documenting the blood curdling sounds, pretended that he did not believe that MbS was involved, and actually offered a tentative excuse in advance of the Saudi’s excuses, that it might have been ‘rogue killers’ who did the deed.

This, despite solid information that the 15 Saudi Arabian assailants had arrived on private government planes, rode to the consul in diplomatic vehicles, were greeted and welcomed at the consulate by the officials in charge, and did the actual torture and murder in the consul’s own office, later returning to Saudi in the same manner they’d arrived.

The US president has deemed that the investigation that Saudi Arabia did into their own culpability in the murder is credible, and an ‘important first step.’

” The Saudi Arabian government announced Friday that Khashoggi died after a fistfight at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and that 18 Saudis had been arrested for further investigation while Deputy Director of Saudi Intelligence Ahmed al-Assiri had been dismissed.” (CNN)

trump and saudi orbTrump’s not sure that the US should take action, but if they do, he doesn’t want it to impact the imaginary arm sales and jobs that he believes may be arriving, some time .. really soon .. maybe within ten years. But with nothing on paper or signed, and those imaginary job numbers rising by the day, it’s clear that his words are just more lies intended to protect his, and his son in law’s, personal financial relationship with the Saudis.

We’re now learning of a phone call, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, between Jared Kushner and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman where the young prince asked “why the outrage?” (Wall Street Journal)

Other people are not at all sure that the Saudis should be allowed to skate on the assassination of an America resident.

“After 2+ [weeks] of dissembling, the Saudi ‘explanation’ is not remotely credible,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution tweeted. “Nor is the MBS myth, at least not anymore.” She continued: “The end result of this horrific saga is a weaker, more isolated Saudi Arabia [and] a less effective US-Saudi partnership. And no justice for the innocent victim.” (Washington Post)

Even Trump’s own party is finding it increasingly difficult to defend this cowardice on the president’s part.

” New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that the Saudi statement is “far from the end.”

“This is far from the end and we need to keep up the international pressure. Congress did its part when we invoked Global Magnitsky Act for a presidential determination. Now President Trump must follow the law,” Menendez said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker warned against assuming that the Saudis’ “latest story holds water” and stressed that the U.S. must assess Khashoggi’s death under the Global Magnitsky Act, which sanctions human rights offenders. 

isis vs saudi“The story the Saudis have told about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance continues to change with each passing day, so we should not assume their latest story holds water,” Corker tweeted Friday.. “They can undergo their own investigation, but the U.S. administration must make its own independent, credible determination of responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder under the Global Magnitsky investigation as required by law.” (CNN)

trump msb bloodshake

However, for those for whom there is no bottom to a moral ground, they are carrying on blithely, raking in the dough. While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reluctantly cancelled his trip to the “Davos in the Desert’ conference due in November, he’s still set on going to an anti-terror finance meeting soon to occur in Riyadh. Now THAT is irony.

“There was no actual condemnation by the administration of this human rights atrocity, no defence of a free press, or of the right of Americans (residents or citizens) to travel safely. The administration looks feckless, and if it continues down this road, will earn the ridicule and disdain of Americans, our allies, and all free peoples.

In allowing the Saudis to delay this long, and failing to demand audio recordings allegedly capturing the murder, the administration has become an accessory after the fact, an enabler of nearly unimaginable evil.

What’s more, Trump looks pathetically weak. His childlike willingness to adopt a transparent lie so as to avoid taking action will certainly entice other despots to engage in similar acts of brutality.” (Washington Post)

But what’s going on back at Saudi Arabia HQ? Strangely – the crown prince may not be on as solid a ground as he once thought. The young prince – blood-thirsty and naive – may be the King’s favorite son – but he’s not the only son, or even grandson, available to carry on the legacy of the Sauds.

It would seem that MbS drastically misjudged how the world would react to the Khashoggi murder. And don’t forget that when the shit hit the fan, it was down to his daddy, 82-year-old King Salman, who had to call Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, to explain why his ‘special’ boy should not be too harshly judged.

what they do to others they will do to youMbS has done some horrific things in his 16 month run-up to Monster In Charge. He has been given free reign to reshape the kingdom to his own vision, and along the way, has arrested and imprisoned scores of human rights and women’s rights activists, along with pursuing a war in neighboring Yemen where routine flouting of human rights and international battlefield rules have led to the death of at least 10,000 civilians and displaced an estimated 2

million overall.

King Salman has literally spent a ‘king’s ransom‘ to cement a strong relationship between Saudi Arabia and America, but MbS may have severed that connection with just one bone saw.

It is hard to predict what will happen next, to either the United States or Saudi Arabia. However, it is becoming increasingly visible that MbS may simply not be ready to assume the reins of power he so eagerly grasped just 16 months ago. And his daddy may be about to show him just what real power looks like when wielded by a real monarch.

 

Meanwhile.. back in Washington, DC ….

republicans spineless

 

 

WhatAboutery and the Innocents of Bowling Green


It’s become ubiquitous, since January 2017. Every time another horror is unleashed upon the American nation, in the name of the president of little brain and less compassion, his faithful attendants dutifully beat history’s bushes to find something similar that they can throw out as a stumbling block to sanity.

“You dare to say it’s wrong to separate children from their parents at the border? Well, what about when American citizens break the law? They don’t get to see their kids either!”

And then they poke each other in the arm and giggle, thinking that they are terribly clever, and have stopped all further discussion in it’s tracks.

Tu-Quoque WhatAboutProblem is – the explanation they are using – the ‘what about’ – is a variant of something called the tu quoque, a well known logical fallacy. It is the proverbial ‘red herring,’ the ‘pot calling the kettle black, ‘ a strategy of false moral equivalences”. It is the defending of the indefensible. This tactic is meant to discredit an opponent and an argument, by basically saying that their complaint is hypocritical. It is used to derail a point while making it appear that the one defending the atrocity is the more knowledgeable, and the one purer of heart.

illegal whataboutismAnother tactic of ‘whataboutery‘ is to defend doing nothing whatsoever, and maintain the status quo, is by implying that there’s no point in – say, strengthening environmental protections, because some other country has no regulations at all in regards to polluting the environment.

Whataboutism says a wrong can’t be a wrong, because somewhere, at some time, another wrong occurred, and that, therefore, the two wrongs combined, make a right. If nothing can be deemed wrong, as long as we can think of examples of things that are worse, then there is no point in ever correcting any negative actions or impulses

So where did this type of argumentative defence come from? Well, it is actually used primarily for propaganda purposes, and was honed and perfected by Russian operatives during the Cold War, in order to confuse and ‘turn’ American operatives.

russian propaganda 101“When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Soviet response would be “What about…” followed by an event in the Western World. … The tactic saw a resurgence in post-Soviet Russia, relating to human rights violations committed by, and criticisms of, the Russian government. The technique received new attention during Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine. Usage of the tactic extended to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. (wikipedia)

It’s by no means that recent of a development. As long as you’ve had people with power harming people, you’ve had apologists defending those people’s actions.

It’s just rather alarming that the Trump administration has made it such an integral part of rationalizing actions that would be clearly considered human rights violations and treasonous actions under any other president.

This need for the Trump administration to defend the indefensible has lead many a pseudo intellectual to follow the same path, essentially tearing the fabric of reality apart in an attempt to make it fit within the parameters they have now been given.

KellyAnne Conway is probably the best example of someone who has so mastered this concept and defence that she almost … ALMOST … sounds like she has a rational and verifiable point every now and again. The trouble is, a picking apart of her sped up excuses and misdirection generally exposes the myriad of holes in her argument.

bowling green massacreConsider one of the earliest examples of her flim flamming baffle gab, the famous “Bowling Green Massacre” allusion, said with a straight face in February of 2017, with the full power of the government behind her.

When Conway defended the president’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, she told MSNBC that two Iraqis who came to the US and had been radicalized “were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green Massacre.”

While she eventually admitted that she ‘misspoke’ in alluding to a non-existent event, on two more occasions she alluded again to a massacre that never actually happened. Her intent was to stir up fear and paranoia, with the end goal being an attempt to scare American citizens into an acceptance of a Muslim travel ban.

 

” On 29 January, speaking to Cosmopolitan.com, she was even more specific about the non-existent event: “[T]wo Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined Isis, traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills, and come back here, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.”

And on the same day, Conway was captured on video telling TMZThere were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined Isis, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers.”

Conway and Trump stragegist Stephen Miller are most likely the masterminds behind the promulgation of this typically Soviet response to criticism. it is hardly likely that the entire House, Congress, and president suddenly and spontaneously seized upon this very Russian form of talking point without having been carefully coached in how to use it to their best (Republican) advantage.

The ‘what about-ers’ are sneaky; they want to take the spotlight off the problem at hand, and change the obvious villain in the piece to someone other than the one they are championing, and in the process, make themselves look not only terribly clever for connecting some little known or potentially false dots, but also to appear virtuous and pious for directing your attention to some lesser known atrocity.

That the massacre/slavery/explosion may have happened a hundred years ago, and under entirely different circumstances is immaterial, because they’ve resurrected that moment and are demanding you defend it now, today – or give up your criticism of their actions .. now, today..

Acting like dealing with a current problem just adds to the enormous stack of problems needing to be dealt with is, at the core, just a way of saying that one is too busy to get involved in this new problem being addressed. It’s an attempt to find a way to avoid getting involved, due to already being overloaded with too many other philosophical problems.

moral failure of AmericaSadly, the end result of whataboutery as a tactic highlighting the misdeeds of others, is, in the end, an admission of complete moral failure, or as Cardinal Cahal Daly noted, “one of the commonest forms of evasion of personal moral responsibility.” It’s a highlighting of the truth that only people who know themselves to be guilty of something “can find comfort in finding others to be just as bad or worse. ” (Merold Westphal, philosopher)

It also has to be noted that there can be a terrible backlash for those who can always find a way to defend the offences of others, as those excuses may actually be used to discredit one’s own actions.

“No American politician in living memory has advanced the idea that the entire world, including the United States, was rotten to the core.” Masha Gessen, The New York Times.

In one of the most shocking moments of the U.S. presidential campaign in 2016, then candidate Trump responded to a question about his feelings on the treatment of journalists, teachers and dissidents by Turkish President Erdogan by saying that the United States had a lot of problems dealing with it’s own civil liberties, and so, had little right to be a ‘good messenger’ to other countries. And in one of his many defences of Russia’s Putin, Trump said,

For Trump and his minions … America is just another shit hole in a world of shit holes where everyone is potentially a murdering criminal to be feared.

I’m not really sure how that belief or attitude is supposed to make America that ‘great’ of a country, now or ever.

whataboutism poster