Connecting…

I used to watch a television show hosted by a guy named James Burke called ‘Connections.’  Great show.  It’s a bit dated, now, but still highly entertaining.  Basically, he shows how one thing led to another, sometimes intentionally, sometimes, not so much.  He kind of infected my brain.  I like looking for connections, these days.  I stumbled upon one the other day.  My connection?  How the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980’s led directly to the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City.

Mr. Burke does his connections in a very entertaining way.  This one is presented in what might be called a more…matter-of-fact style but it’s really quite simple.

September, 1980 – July, 1988: Iran and Iraq fight a war that leaves both countries treasuries depleted.
August 2, 1990: After receiving “permission” from the US, Iraq invades Kuwait.
August 3, 1990: Saudi Arabia objects to Iraq’s invasion
1990: Osama Bin Laden offers to send his “Afghan Arabs” to defend the Saudi border from Iraqi incursion. The Saudi royal family spurns the offer and turns, instead to “infidel” Americans for assistance, enraging Bin Laden.
August 8, 1990: The US begins massing troops on the Saudi Arabian border and tells Saddam to back out of Kuwait.
January, 1991: The US military pushes Saddam out of Kuwait. The base the US built in Saudi Arabia for 41’s invasion, Prince Sultan Air Base, remains intact and in use.  Bin Laden considers the presence of Americans on holy soil an insult to Islam.
September 11, 2001: Al Qaeda initiates the plan to use airliners to crash into the Pentagon and the WTC – and the towers come down.

The thing that gets me is that at any point, the trajectory of events might have been changed.  Kuwait might have been better about their OPEC obligations.  The US might have discouraged Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait.  The Saudi’s might have taken advantage of Bin Laden’s offer.  There are, of course, many more pieces to the puzzle.  I’ve only highlighted six of them above.  But…just to be thorough, the entire chain of events, large and small, are detailed below, if you’re interested.  (If not, you’ve seen the highlights…)

September, 1980 – July, 1988: Iran and Iraq fight a war that leaves both countries treasuries depleted. US arms manufacturers (among others) supply weapons to both sides.
1988: Osama Bin Laden forms Al Qaeda (‘The Base’).
1989: The Soviet Union withdraws from Afghanistan. Bin Laden also leaves Afghanistan and returns to Saudi Arabia.
July, 1990: Saddam Hussein complains that Kuwait is slant-drilling into a shared oil field and exceeding it’s OPEC quota, depressing world oil prices and hurting Iraq which needs the revenue to recover from it’s war with Iran. Saddam decides to invade Kuwait.
July 25, 1990: Saddam asks April Glaspie, the American Ambassador to Iraq, if the US would have any objections to such an invasion. Glaspie replies, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960’s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America…”
August 2, 1990: After receiving “permission” from the US, Iraq invades Kuwait.
August 3, 1990: Saudi Arabia objects to Iraq’s invasion claiming incursions into Saudi Arabia. Iraq insists the incursion was an error.
1990: Osama Bin Laden offers to send his “Afghan Arabs” to defend the Saudi border from Iraqi incursion. The Saudi royal family spurns the offer and turns, instead to “infidel” Americans for assistance, enraging Bin Laden.
August 6, 1990: The UN imposes sanctions on Iraq.
August 8, 1990: The US begins massing troops on the Saudi Arabian border and tells Saddam to back out of Kuwait. Saddam stays in Kuwait despite a UN order to leave.
January, 1991: The US military pushes Saddam out of Kuwait. On the day the operation is launched, it’s called ‘Operation Iraqi Liberation’. People opposed to the action immediately jump on the fact that the acronym is ‘O.I.L’. The name is quickly changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The base the US built in Saudi Arabia for 41’s invasion, Prince Sultan Air Base, remains intact and in use. The base operates under US standards, meaning, in part, that American women are in Saudi Arabia and allowed to visit surrounding areas without head coverings – a sin in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden considers the presence of Americans on holy soil an insult to Islam.
April 3, 1991 – The UN passes Security Council Resolution 687 setting the terms for the cease fire in Iraq and establishing the international weapons inspection team known as UNSCOM.
1991 – 1998: UNSCOM encounters various difficulties. Iraq is not fully cooperative.
December 29, 1992: Al Qaeda makes it’s first attack, a hotel bombing in Aden Yemen. The hotel was bombed because American troops had been stationed there. The troops had already left and no Americans were injured in the blast.
February 26, 1993: Several middle eastern men try to blow up the World Trade Center using a van full of explosives in an underground parking garage. The plan is to topple one tower into the other. The first tower fails to fall. Ramzi Yousef is called the mastermind of the attack. He received financing for the operation from his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Yousef and Mohammed had envisioned a larger plot, later known as the Bojinka Plot that involved, among other things, hijacking an aircraft and using it as a missile to attack CIA headquarters. Osama Bin Laden is not implicated in this attack, though Yousef had trained in Al Qaeda camps.
1996: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed takes the plan to use airliners to attack America to Osama Bin Laden.
1997: Osama Bin Laden claims he never knew Ramzi Yousef but confirms he knew his uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
November, 1997: Iraq charges that US spies on the UN team are planting bugs and expels all American weapons inspectors. Iraq says they will accept non-US inspectors and continue to cooperate with UNSCOM.
1998: UNSCOM is withdrawn at the request of the United States in preparation for Operation Desert Fox, a joint, 4-day bombing mission carried out by US and the United Kingdom. The justification for the strikes was Iraq’s failure to comply with UN resolutions despite UNSCOM’S own estimate that 90 – 95% of Iraqi WMD’s had been destroyed.
1998 – 2002: No weapons inspectors in Iraq.
January, 1999: US admits using spies on weapons inspection teams to plant surveillance devices. (New York Times.)
October, 2000: Saddam realizes he’s been betrayed by the US. He decides to create an oil market that trades in Euros. (The US created the world oil market and requires all players to use US dollars…) The world laughs at Saddam because the Euro isn’t as strong as the dollar and his new market isn’t very popular.
September 11, 2001: Al Qaeda initiates the plan to use airliners to crash into the Pentagon and the WTC – and the towers come down.
October 7, 2001: Bush 43 invades Afghanistan, ostensibly because Bin Laden might be there. He isn’t.
September, 2002: In a letter to Hans Blix, Saddam Hussein invites UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq to “remove any doubts Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction.”
November 2002: Weapons inspectors (now known as UNMOVIC) return to Iraq.
February, 2003: The Euro strengthens against the dollar and Saddam’s oil exchange is less funny to the world – certainly to the US.
February 5, 2003 – Colin Powell appears before the UN. He presents some scary drawings and threatening imaginings that Iraq might, maybe, perhaps still has. None of them are correct.
February 14, 2003 – Hans Blix, UN Chief Weapons Inspector appears before the UN along with Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Blix refutes most of Powell’s unfounded assertions and claims the only remaining violation is in a missile that can fly farther than it’s supposed to if it catches a good tailwind. The missiles are being dismantled. ElBaradei disputes Powell’s claim that Iraq still has a nuclear weapons program.
March 18, 2003: The US invades Iraq anyway.
April 30, 2003: Bush 43 pulls most American troops from Saudi Arabia – a key demand of Osama Bin Laden. This move ends the threat from Osama over the “insult to Islam” of having Americans on holy Islamic soil.
June, 2003: The Iraq oil exchange that operated using Euros is shut down. Iraqi oil returns to being traded in dollars.
May, 23, 2003: Bush 43 disbands Iraq’s army but doesn’t take any of their weapons. Out of work and cast-out from society, the fired soldiers become rebels, many of whom become major contributors to ISIS.
December 30, 2006: The US brutally “executes” Saddam Hussein.
2009: Barrack Obama is given the Nobel Peace Prize in the hopes that he’ll do something to create peace in the Middle east. He doesn’t. The “end date” comes on George’s Wars but Obama manages to keep both of them going in one form or another in thrall to the military/industrial complex. As of this writing (May, 2018), the death and destruction initiated by Bush 43 and that Dick Cheney continues…
May 2, 2011: Osama is killed by Obama. Evidence indicates Osama had been living in Pakistan this whole time…

As a bonus, if you look at the entry for October, 2000 you’ll see the REAL reason the US invaded Iraq: the oil trade…

Let the World Ignore Him…

Image: BELGIUM-NATO-DEFENCE-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY-MEETINGI shouldn’t be, I know, but I’m always surprised whenever I rediscover there are people out there who don’t seem aware that Fox “News” is a political propaganda machine.  It’s not a credible news outlet, despite it’s misleading name.  It’s just an attack machine aimed at any individual considered an enemy by whomever is running the show that day.  Barack Obama was a favorite.  If he said “up”, Fox “News” said “down.”  Simple.  Always oppose.  It’s just what attack news is all about and always has been.

You may not be aware that when this country was born, well-positioned people sponsored entire newspapers to be their voice to the populace, specifically creating papers run by editors loyal to whatever cause the sponsor was promoting at the time.  In that same tradition, Fox “News” is set up by rich people to benefit rich people.  They’ve taken advantage of a certain mindset in this once-great nation and those minions keep Fox going by parroting whatever they hear on ‘Fox and Friends’ or Hannity.

Mostly, the adherents of Fox are old.  Really old.  Scared of dying, they become frightened of everything else, too, and Fox is there to make sure the fears seem real and justified.  It’s actually unkind.  These people don’t think well anymore.  Fox “News” is terrorizing old people and weak thinkers to further their own political agenda and they do so with great effect.  And now, we’ve got a group of those gullible, weak-thinkers in the White House…

I don’t know exactly how long Trump has been a Fox viewer but I’d guess it goes all the way back to when his brain first calcified.  The self-described master of the Art of the Deal – which, apparently, is NEVER honor an agreement – doesn’t seem to understand that Fox “News” doesn’t know – or even care – if what they say is true.  “True” isn’t relevant.  Only attack is relevant.  As such, they attacked everything the Obama administration did, good and bad.  But Trump, apparently, never figured out that it’s just a ploy so, like most Fox viewers, he actually believes the crap they spew.

When the world made an agreement with Iran, Fox trashed the deal.  Sure, they had to make up details in order to attack it but they’re always happy to make things up over at Fox and so…attack they did.  Not because it was a bad deal.  Fox trashed it because Obama was in office when it was finalized.  That’s it.  It was the attack message of the day: Obama = bad.

So, naturally, our National Embarrassment has used faulty information to make actual, real-life decisions about the world at large, including Iran.  Trump just did what Trump does: pull out of an agreement that has already been made and start agitating for “a better deal.”  Was the Iran agreement the very best deal in the history of deals?  Probably not.  Was it the complete and utter failure Fox told Trump it was?  Not in the least.

Smart people, so-called “intellectual elites” in the Fox crowd, tried to stop him.  Emmanuel Macron came from France to try to stop him from pulling out.  Angela Merkle came from Germany to try to stop him.  Intelligence agencies from around the world insisted the deal was working as planned.  But Macron and Merkle – people who DO know what they’re talking about – don’t hold the same sway with the dotard as Fox and Friends – people who clearly DON’T know what they’re talking about.  So, Trump pulled out of the deal, anyway.

At first, I was a little concerned.  Outside of Fox “News” and Trump’s calcified brain, everybody knows that ending the deal is setting Iran on the path to nuclear weapons right away.  But, as is the case with everything regarding this maladministration, one doesn’t jump right in and start making predictions.  It’s better to wait a day or two, think about things; watch things unfold a bit.  I pretty quickly realized that the rest of the world knows that Trump is untrustworthy, dishonorable, and just plain fucking dumb…um…not at his intellectual best.  So the rest of the world has put the US on hold, as they should have done.  They’ll get back to us just as soon as we solve our problem.  In the meantime, the world is moving forward without us.

That thought gave me comfort.  Sure Trump can be counted upon to do the wrong thing, make the wrong move.  But the rest of the world doesn’t have to pull out just because Trump did.  I’m guessing that even as Donnie was holding up his paper to demonstrate that he can still write his name, the rest of the world was on the phone to Iran reassuring them that they’ll stay in the deal.  Sanctions, for example, don’t have much effect if the rest of the world won’t honor them and I’m hoping the rest of the world won’t honor them.  (And, yes, that is what it has come to: most Americans hoping the rest of the world can hold out against America!  Thanks, Don…)

Then I see this headline in the Guardian:  US threatens European companies with sanctions after Iran deal pullout.  Think about that for a second.  Trump made the wrong move for the wrong reasons.  Now he’s threatening US allies if they don’t make the wrong move with him.  You might want to read that again: Trump is threatening US allies if they don’t make the wrong move with him.  Our allies…

I’ll tell you this: I hope the world defies Trump despite the threats.  They just need to hold out for a little while.  We’ll correct our error and dump Trump as soon as we can.  Then we’ll be able to rejoin the world community as grownups, not petulant brats…

You Chose Out…

When I was young, ‘you chose out’ was a fairly common refrain from parents across the land.  Back in those days, children were allowed to play outside…unsupervised!  (I know!)  I wrote “allowed.”  I meant “forced.”  Once you chose to go outside, you stayed outside until dinner – for which you’d better not be late.  It was a kind of “you made your choice, now live with it.”  I’ve got to offer that same advice to conservatives, these days…

It seems they’re all worked up over these ongoing investigations into our National Embarrassment and the swamp creatures that surround him.  There’s this District Judge in Virginia, T.S. Ellis, whose head is WAY too far up a Fox “News” hole, who decided to defend his President.  He repeatedly expressed his opinion that the prosecution of Paul Manafort, Trump’s one-time campaign manager, was really about Mueller’s investigation into Trump.  Mueller’s investigation has alleged criminal wrongdoing by Manafort.  According to CNN, ‘Manafort has asked the judge to review Mueller’s authority to bring charges in an investigation that began well before the special counsel’s appointment and focused on actions years before the campaign.’  Ha, ha…good one!  I’ve got just one word for you.

Whitewater.

Whitewater was a failed land development deal in which Bill and Hillary Clinton lost money – in 1979.  In 1992 (13 years after the fact) a Resolution Trust Investigator named Laura Jean Lewis was looking into a Savings and Loan owned by Jim and Susan McDougal – friends of the Clintons and co-investors in the Whitewater deal.  She submitted a criminal referral to the FBI.  Both the Arkansas District Attorney (sure, possibly biased) and the FBI concluded that the referral lacked merit but that didn’t stop Lewis from pursuing the matter.  After all, when has “lacked merit” ever mattered to conservatives?

Lewis continued to issue referrals for another couple of years and in 1995, testified before the Senate Whitewater committee – because the Senate had convened a Whitewater committee to look into charges that lacked merit from now 16 years prior.  Initially, a guy named Robert Fiske was appointed to investigate as special prosecutor.  In may of 1994, Fiske issued a grand jury subpoena to the sitting President and his wife.  (The subpoenaed documents were reported as “missing.”)  In June, 1994, Fiske made an announcement that no criminal charges should be brought and that he was about to conclude his investigation.  So, the GOP fired him – they accused him of having a conflict of interest because he’d been appointed by Clinton’s Attorney General – and replaced him with Kenneth Starr.

Starr seemed to have had an agenda.  He enlisted the testimony of a guy named David Hale.  Hale was in trouble for embezzlement from his own insurance company.  He received a reduced sentence after suddenly “remembering”, in 1993, that the Clintons had pressured him to make a loan to Susan McDougal – a remembrance he hadn’t made during his initial testimony in the original FBI investigation in 1989.  Susan McDougal refused to answer questions about the investigation.  Starr held her in prison on contempt charges for 18 months.  McDougal has always maintained that Starr offered her “global immunity” from other charges if she would cooperate with the Whitewater investigation.

By April of 1998, Starr had pretty much concluded the Whitewater deal was a non-starter.  In September of that year, Starr issued his infamous “Starr Report” which mentioned Whitewater only in passing.  But they had found a blowjob.  Even THAT didn’t stop the GOP.  They appointed yet another “independent” counsel, Robert Ray, who, in September, 2000 (and 60 MILLION dollars later) issued a report that said, “This office determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either President or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct.”

So…do special prosecutors use little fish to try to catch big fish?  Heck yes, they do.  Is investigating charges from YEARS prior “out of bounds”?  It doesn’t seem so.  CAN someone continue to investigate even after multiple “final” reports state no factual basis for the charges exists?  Yep.  Might a sitting President be subpoenaed?  Absolutely!  Might that same sitting President be charged with offenses that have nothing whatsoever to do with the charges that launched the initial investigation?  Ask Monica Lewinsky…

I’ll tell you this: ALL of these lovely little legal niceties regarding a sitting President were established by conservatives in their “witch-hunt” against Bill Clinton.  Do conservatives now get to change their own precedents because the target of an investigation is a Republican?  No.  No, you don’t.

You chose out…

 

It’s the Pettiness…

Ok, so French President Emmanuel Macron tried a charm offensive with our National Embarrassment in an effort to talk him into staying in the Iran Nuclear Agreement.  There were smiles, many flattering words, much hand-holding.  Macron even brought a tree to the White House as a gift.

According to the Guardian, ‘The tree came from Belleau Wood, north-east of Paris, where 1,811 Americans died in a ferocious battle in June 1918.

In a tweet, Macron said: “100 years ago, American soldiers fought in France, in Belleau to defend our freedom. This oak tree (my gift to [Donald Trump]) will be a reminder at the White House of these ties that bind us.”’

They even planted it together in a big White House show…TreePlanted

So, then the meeting continues and, at some point, Macron becomes clear that Trump is too polluted by Fox “News” to understand actual, real-world details and seems poised to back out, despite Macron’s efforts.  (As of this writing, no decision has been announced…but c’mon…it’s Trump, fercrissakes.  If he can find a way to do the worst thing, he will…)

Now, to be fair, this realization seems to have irritated Macron who then went on to address a joint session of Congress and used the time to…well, I’m going to say “challenge”…pretty much everything our poor pseudo-leader thinks.

Now?

TreeGone

See that little yellow spot between the lamppost and the tree?  THAT’S where Macron’s gift was.  Apparently, Trump is okay with crapping on the memory of 1,811 American soldiers if he disagrees with something you say.  That’s just petty.  The tree has to go because Macron is smarter than Trump?  I’ll tell you this: pettiness is the mark of a small man…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It seems Michelle Wolf is in trouble with conservatives after calling Sarah Huckabee-Sanders a liar.  Apparently, she should have used the preferred “alternative facts”.  The thing is, Sanders IS a liar.  Hell, she’s paid to lie.  That’s her job.  She accepted the job.  She does it every day.  She knows she’s lying.  Everybody else knows she’s lying.  Does it hurt her feelings to be called a liar?  No, though she might pretend it does.  It seems like advice people shouldn’t need but really, if you don’t want go down in history as a liar, don’t lie!  Just a thought…

Band of Brothers (Pee-Wee Edition…)

I own a small swimming pool service. By “small”, I mean one guy: me. The work is tedious and mind-numbingly boring but it’s honest work and it pays the bills so…I keep showing up. Some pools have a protective barrier called a safety cover. It’s not the little, blue bubble-wrap thing you sometimes see. It’s the cover that runs on tracks, driven by a motor. I actually saw a person walk across one, once. (She was a little old lady and it was an accident. DO NOT try that trick at home…) Anyway, one opens the cover using a key switch and the key is located pretty much anywhere the pool builder wants it to be, often down in the box where the motor that runs the reel resides.

I live in Black Widow country so I never reach down into a cover box without giving it a good look first. (At NO point do I schedule ‘Get bitten by a Black Widow’ in my day…) So, I’m at this one pool and, after having checked the box and opened the cover, I did my thing. Time to close the pool back up. I have to keep a bit of an eye on the cover as it runs on and off the pool to make sure it doesn’t bind but I don’t have to focus too closely on it so while the covers open and close, it’s a nice opportunity to look around at the landscaping and such.

So I’m squatting down by the pool, holding the key, kind of half paying attention to the cover when my peripheral vision catches some dark object on the cover passing by right next to me. It wasn’t there when I opened the cover so it naturally drew my attention. “Hey, a snake,” I think to myself. “I wonder where he came from?”. I focus more closely. “Oh, shit, that’s a Rattlesnake!” My eyes lock with his and I realize the snake has focused in on me, too. That’s not a comforting feeling. I moved away…fast! The snake didn’t move at all…

Now I’m a little embarrassed. As the existential panic passed, reason returned. The snake had passed so closely to me that if I had known it was there and been ready for it, I could have reached out and touched it without stretching at all. Of course, had the snake known I was there and been ready for it, he could have reached out and “touched” me, too. But by the time I had done my little life-saving scramble/stumble, the cover had carried the snake away from me far enough that I was probably safe before I ever moved. Probably…

The snake never broke it’s gaze with me. I decided he was probably trying to figure out what had happened to his dark little safe spot and just where the hell I had come from. So, using the lid to the cover box as a shield, I finished closing the cover. The snake never moved, except for it’s head which bobbed a bit as it kept watch. Really, pretty gracious of the snake to allow me those few moments to regain my composure…

So now I’m done and I can leave, except…no. I decided it probably wasn’t cool to leave a Rattlesnake on the cover and NOT warn the homeowner, Dan. So, I set down my tele-pole and knocked on Dan’s door. I detailed the situation – leaving out my little scramble – and Dan and I went over to look at the snake. He and I began discussing possibilities. You can’t really attack the snake on the cover without damaging the cover. Do we think the snake can get off of the cover by itself? Is it better just to let it do so? What if it just goes back down into the cover box?

As we’re considering variables, another guy shows up in the backyard carrying some plants. It’s to my discredit that I never got his name. He’s an “action” kind of guy and moves the story along but because I never got his name, he’s going down in history as “Dude.” So, Dude shows up, says, hello, and then realizes what we’re looking at. We catch him up on events. Then the deep discussions begin. There’s some sharing of stories about other Rattlers. Some stories of mountain lion sightings. Some talk about trying to move the snake at hand. Zero action. I laugh and comment about the specter of three apex-predators being held at bay by a single Rattlesnake that has YET to move beyond lifting it’s head.

Dude decides the snake is sitting is a small pool of water. As such, he’s probably too cold to make any fast movements. Dan and I agree that’s possible but, in truth, I didn’t see any small puddles under the snake. Fortunately, no small puddles under any of the apex predators, either, so…even score so far. Dan asks me if I think he can use his pool net to move the snake. For those of you not familiar, pool nets come with a lowered front edge for scooping so I consider that it may be possible. Then again, there is a specific tool for catching snakes and it’s NOT a net. It seems, to me, if a net was a good snake catching tool, snake catchers would use them.

Dude decides he’s going to try anyway. He grabs my tele-pole and net and moves toward the terrifying, existential threat that is this snake – which has, surprisingly by now, STILL not moved…except it’s head. We KNOW he’s not dead because of that head and it seems sufficient to indicate extreme caution. As Dude approaches his quarry, questions enter his mind. How fast is a Rattler? How far can a Rattlesnake jump in a strike? How are we going to get our guest OUT of the net after we’ve gotten him in? Turns out, none of us had any of that information immediately at hand. But Dude, being a man of action, starts trying to scoop the snake.

You might not be surprised to find that the snake did NOT want to be in a net. So now we know: Rattlesnakes strike FAST! And they strike over and over and over again, given the chance. Fortunately, he was only killing hell out of my net…but then he kind of jumped away, down the cover, rattle rattling all the while. Dude wasn’t giving up, though. He moved closer and tried to net the snake again. Similar results. Worse, each time Dude tried, the snake was moving closer to the cover box, which would have made him inaccessible. Dude was in the fog of war, though, focused completely on the snake and preparing to make another run so Dan and I suggested he stop. That’s when I realized the error in Dude’s approach.

I asked Dude to give me the net and stood on the opposite side of the pool. Using the net, I was able to “help” the snake lift up over the edge and move away, across the deck. As the three of us stood there, victorious, watching the snake slither away, we realized that it had a large bulge in it’s middle. In fact, the snake wasn’t that big. It was just in the middle of lunch when all of this started. That explained the lethargic attitude. After all, who doesn’t feel that way after a large meal?

Still, I’m now solid on the concept of the ‘Band of Brothers.’ Dude, Dan, and I had faced our enemy together in a life or death struggle and we had won! We had fought bravely, if not decisively, and brought honor to ourselves and our families. The snake was off the cover. None of us ever thought to kill it. For some reason, victory, for us, was in getting the snake off the cover unharmed. It crawled across the deck and up a rock wall where it found itself a nice, little crevice and disappeared. As it disappeared, Dan said, “That’s the part of the yard I was planning on working in tomorrow…”

Not In The News…

It sure is tough writing about politics, these days.  With our vaunted “fourth estate” in tatters, it’s hard to even know what’s going on.  Have you seen the cleverly edited video in which newsreaders were ordered by Sinclair Broadcast Group to read a script supposedly decrying the practice of forcing newsreaders to read scripts that “ some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think…”  These pieces are called “must-runs” as in, the given station is ordered to run them whether they agree with the content or not.

But when you get ownership groups pressing their agendas by using their platforms to complain about ownership groups using their platforms to press their agendas it becomes that much more difficult to figure out who’s trustworthy and who’s not.  Here’s a hint: American broadcast media is NOT trustworthy.  Print media is better because you have time to linger and think about what’s being presented but if it originates in America, you should assume it’s owned by one of the five companies that own most media in this once-great nation and accept that you’re getting either useless fluff or carefully edited news…

My greatest complaint tends to be around what’s NOT reported.  I’m not talking about conservative bubble “stories” only THEY get because they have their super-secret decoder rings.  (“Why, oh why won’t the mainstream media cover THIS?”  “Um, because it’s bullshit?”)  I’m talking about REAL news stories that don’t get carried for reasons that serve the owners.

As an example, these days, we’re treated to a semi-regular feature in which someone is asked for their “best” example of Trump/Russian collusion.  The most common answer I see is the pee tape.  (And how great IS it that we all get to talk about the President of the United States of America and a “pee tape”?)  They don’t ask me, though.  MY best example of possible Trump/Russian collusion is about a Tanzanian bank that operated mostly in Cyprus, FBME, or the First Bank of the Middle East.

It’s closed now.  Pretty good timing, if you ask me.  But before it was closed down, it was a known haven for Russian money laundering.  Some of the Russians laundering money were VERY close to Putin.  Do you know who else stands accused of laundering money through FBME?  Well, that would be Paul Manafort, the one-time campaign manager for Trump.  Manafort denies the charges.

Turns out?  Deutsche Bank was a Correspondent Bank for FBME.  A Correspondent Bank is one that provides financial services for the “partner” institution – wire transfers, accepting deposits and documents, that sort of thing.  Oh, and Deutsche Bank is, far and away, Donald Trump’s biggest lender.  Nobody else will lend to the guy anymore.  He’s too big of a risk.  But Deutsche went out of it’s way to find borrowers who were out of favor with more…respectable institutions and they found the Donald…

I’ll tell you this: in fairness to our crap media, Robert Mueller has played it pretty close to the vest when it comes to the details of his investigation – as he should.  But the Guardian from the UK covered it, so it was clearly “coverable.”  I guess it’s just more fun to salivate over Stormy Daniels’…um…accusations…

Syria’s Not The One…

A thought for my left-leaning brethren about Syria.  It’s been a widely held belief on the left that, sooner or later, our National Embarrassment is going to start a war as a distraction from all of his various and sundry investigations and self-inflicted wounds.  The result is, when a missile strike is issued, there’s not just concern but something of a group freak-out that “this is it.”  I think it isn’t and I’ll tell you why: France.

Do you remember when many Americans started calling the French “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” and eating “Freedom Fries” instead of French Fries?  That was because 43 and that Dick Cheney wanted to launch their illegal invasion on a foreign, sovereign nation based on trumped up “evidence” and France refused to allow the US to use French airspace for an attack they felt had no basis in reality.  (They were right.)

I’m not sanguine about declarations from the US government.  The fact that the UK goes along with the story doesn’t impress me, either.  The US and UK have been shown to conspire for oily purposes before and surprise is no longer on the menu for me where that’s concerned.  But France still seems to think verifiable evidence has a role in military conflicts.  I think it also matters that Macron doesn’t much like Trump (although the two seem to getting along a little better, these days).  I doubt they would “buddy up” for a military engagement lightly.

So when France came on board, I felt better that there was a solid basis for the action.  As it happens, France is MORE than “on board.”  France claims they directed the action, keeping the strikes to chemical weapons plants and slowing the so-called “President’s” roll a bit.  I’ll tell you this: if France thinks the evidence supports the position that it is, in fact, Assad using chemical weapons, I’m going to be comfortable that this is not just a distraction…