This Seems Bad

The coronavirus isn’t that much deadlier than the common yearly varieties of flu – it’s frightening mainly because there’s no vaccine and it’s mutating so rapidly. (The common flu kills A LOT of people, by the way. 50,000 or so last year in the US.)

But that being said, ignore for the moment the official tallies and scenes of quarantines outside of China – hope that you never see any news entity put out a story like this, because it is saying, in so many words, “We are prepared to write this city off.”

Salute to Wuhan Citizens for Their Sacrifice – Global Times, China

CAT TALK!

cat-looking-out-window - Tech/Life Ireland

If you don’t like cats, that’s fine. Please continue.

If you DO like cats and think your cats are beautiful perfect fluffballs that never mean anyone any harm, that’s fine. Please continue. (Also, never get them vegan catfood. It’s arguably a scam and if it isn’t, it will do them actual harm. Cats are carnivores that cannot survive without meat. If you are uncomfortable with this, please do not own a cat.)

So, the main religious argument between cat owners – indoors vs outdoors. (And it very much is a religious argument – in that both sides have valid points and neither side will ever convince the other) I come down firmly on the “indoors” side of the argument. If you never let a cat get outside, the cat will not WANT to go outside – its territory is the same space as your living space. It will patrol it and watch for interlopers and walk alongside you as you go about your day. Cats are territorial beings, and you have helped establish your territory as their territory.

Whereas outdoor cats – once you let them outdoors once – JUST ONCE – you will never be able to stop them, ever again. (Cats are more clever, and quicker than you are. It is known.) Their territory is now as far as they can roam. And roam it they will.

The problem is when those come into conflict. Specifically, there is a neighborhood outdoor cat who has taken to specifically teasing and tormenting my indoor cat. S/he will remain outside HER window, hissing, teasing and otherwise establishing dominance, and all my cat can do is get EXTREMELY upset.

I’m thinking I need to get some sort of cat repellent scent for my back yard. Or perhaps a sturdy stick.

Iran Attacks Air Base Al Asad

Al Asad Missile Attack Nearly Killed 150 US Troops, Destroyed 30 Aircraft:  Report | Military.com

Some brief comments on the situation:

  • We dodged a bullet and are not at war. Pause and reflect on how lucky we as a nation and world are that things did not go differently.
  • The day after the Iranian missile strike, civilian satellite photography of the damaged air base made clear – these are not your father’s Scuds. Unlike the previous times Iran shelled Baghdad with missiles (the Iran-Iraq war, which for the majority of its length was a combination of World War 1-style trench warfare and badly aimed missiles aimed at population centers) the targets were precisely hit.
  • On the other hand, missile defense does actually work. Most of the missiles aimed at the Erbil special forces base were shot down or malfunctioned (and given the damage at Al Asad, almost certainly the former). The weakness of missile defense? It’s really, really expensive. That’s why Al Asad didn’t have any – they were protecting more vulnerable targets.
  • Not only were the missiles well-aimed, they were also aimed specifically to cause no casualties (and Iran warned the Iraqi government before the strike took place, knowing it would be relayed to the US). Afterward they communicated via three different interlocuters to the US directly that no further retaliation would occur if the US stood down. Given the raw fury throughout Iran this past week, this was a major show of an entirely different kind of strength.
  • Thankfully, the US responded in kind; it would have been all too easy to blindly flail in response, and Trump and his Fox News support system have been howling a willingness to do exactly that. It appears Trump’s inner pacifist (which does exist, strangely enough) won out over Trump’s outer bully.
  • There has been a lot of commentary over Trump’s performance at his speech yesterday morning; he was late (almost certainly because he insisted on a last-minute ham-fisted edit somehow blaming Obama for the crisis) and slurred and stumbled through his performance. As always, the likely truth is far less interesting than the conspiracy theories – he almost certainly was slurring thanks to poorly fitting dentures (he is nothing if not vain) and most likely has had almost no sleep since the crisis began. Trump is not a young man and sycophantic reports to the contrary, not in very good health. It’s amazing he could stand upright given the past few days.
  • The takeaway from all this, I fear, is that the incompetence of this administration is spreading throughout the government. Yesterday Republican Senators were briefed on the initial strike against Soleimani and many off the record (and a few on the record, such as Mike Lee and Rand Paul) noted how slapdash and unconvincing the presentation was. When you fire everyone who doesn’t agree with you politically, you may not like what you have left.
  • Australia is still on fire. And Puerto Rico has no power (again) thanks to earthquakes and malicious federal neglect.

So, We Just Attacked Iran

No photo description available.

Some loosely connected notes:

  • from the day America collectively woke up and said “we elected WHAT?!?”, one of the more disturbing questions is what Trump would do in an actual international crisis. We now have an answer to this question: “not much” combined with “make it infinitely worse”. Not really surprising.
  • this is, without a doubt, a direct consequence of James Mattis resigning as Defense Secretary. Mattis despised Soleimani from his time commanding the 1st Marines in Iraq and defending against an insurgency Soleimani advised, armed and improved. And I can state with almost 100% certainty that Mattis would never have gone along with this killing.
  • closely related: the fact that the military came up with this option, planned it out, and presented it to Trump for a yes/no decision (quite literally all he is capable of – there is a hilarious interview from the election where a friendly Fox News interviewer is trying to explain to a bumbling Trump who Soleimani actually was) indicates a very disturbing shift in the highest levels of our military command. Prior to this, the US has had many opportunities to assassinate Soleimani (and the US has never been shy about assassinating people it deemed dangerous or enemies) and declined every time because it would start a war with Iran. Including, memorably, when we did kill someone (Imad Mughniyeh, the #2 Hezbollah commander) and waited until Soleimani, whom he worked closely with, was not in the area. Something has changed and that is disturbing, profoundly.
  • closely related to THAT: despite the darkly hilarious insistences from Pompeo that all of this is our attempt to “de-escalate tensions” (because I often slug people in the grocery store and then loudly yell “why doesn’t everyone just calm down”), quite literally within 24 hours we tried to bomb another Iran-linked Iraqi militia commander. The target was actually in Beirut in the time and instead a convoy of medics was blown up. I believe at this hour the Pentagon is still insisting the airstrike was not the work of the US. Because, you know, it was one of those OTHER air forces flying ground attack missions in Iraqi air space. Also, the dog ate my homework. The combination of a poorly planned attack, a bungled execution, and then a fumblingly laughable attempt at denial at precisely the worst possible time imaginable implies that our military command has been infected with Trumpism. Symptoms include mind-boggling stupidity, a willingness to use military force without question, and a refusal to think of consequences or plan more than 4 hours in advance. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, THAT should frighten the hell out of you.
  • in case you’re not frightened enough yet – Iran WILL respond. It will not be the wisest or most moral course of action, but neither traits have been hallmarks of the Iranian leadership and they see Soleimani’s death as a direct challenge to their continued leadership. (Who would be next? Rouhani? Khamenei?) Likely avenues of response: missile/drone strikes into Saudi Arabian refineries and desalination facilities (because they very correctly see the Saudi leadership as a proximate cause of this aggression), attempts at high-casualty attacks into Israel (because killing Jews is always popular in that part of the world and Israel has been the staunchest ally Trump could wish for), and assassination attempts against US military commanders anywhere in the world security is lax. (I discount a cyber attack against US infrastructure simply because it hasn’t happened yet and would be the easiest to initiate. Iran wants blood, not metal.)
  • in response to THAT, expect a hot mess of escalation and counter-retaliation. One thing NOT to expect is a no-shit full invasion of Iran, because the US does not have enough troops in the area (we would need, well, all of them, similar to Gulf War 1), no friendly governments in the area bordering Iran (save Afghanistan, and the terrain in the Afghan/Iran border is, to put it mildly, not the best, to say nothing of the war already ongoing) and no way to keep a full-scale invasion supplied. What we CAN look forward to is a lot of bombing, because we’re pretty good at that regardless of geography. It will solve absolutely nothing, but we’re past that point anyway.
  • No, this isn’t World War Three. It’s the Forever War, chapter 2020s. And that’s grimly worse, because you see, it never ends.

What If We Impeached Trump And No One Showed Up

PolitiFact | How the impeachment articles against Trump are similar to, and  different from, Clinton and Nixon

So yeah, the impeachment. Not a fan.

I know, I know. It was necessary – in fact it was inevitable, from the first day of Trump’s candidacy, since he was ferociously against even bothering to learn what was legal, much less following those laws.

But as long as we have a two-party system where one party is utterly immune to reality, any engagement between the two is either pointless shadow-dancing (today) or all-out take-no-prisoners warfare (the election next year). Anything else simply doesn’t fit.

Ironically, it could have easily been different. There was an argument privately mooted by some Republicans earlier that it could be argued that Trump’s conduct in l’affaire Zelensky, while morally awful and worthy of condemnation, did not rise to the level of impeachment and removal. And this could – and would – be vehemently argued by partisans on both sides. But it at least acknowledged a shared reality of basic facts.

Unfortunately, we are ruled by a clinically insane person (narcissistic personality disorder, to be precise) who could never allow such a discussion. His conduct was not only legal, it was PERFECT!!! And impeachment was a HISTORIC INJUSTICE, worse than THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS! (I have to note, this is not hyperbole on my part, but actual terms used by the President today.) And the Republican party is complicit in enabling his insanity – whether out of cowardice at a fear of being turfed out of office by Trump-adoring primary voters, or out of a lust for what little power trickles down to them in such a regime, it no longer matters. The price of this enabling, for the Republican party, is a literal denial of reality.

Thus the spectacle today, of Democrats trudging through speech after speech saying that yes, the President did impeachment-worthy things, following Republican after Republican declaiming loudly that (and again, literally none of this is made up) the President’s conduct was perfect, the Democrats have wanted to impeach him from the day he took office, none of them could find “the Ukraine” on a map (I wonder if the GOP focus-grouped using the incorrect, Russia-friendly term for the country, it was used so frequently), the process was unfair because Congress isn’t allowed to impeach people after they were elected, Pelosi is the real person worthy of impeachment, and Jesus Christ was treated fairer by Pontius Pilate than Trump has been.

The two party system is shattered. Either the Republicans somehow cleanse themselves of the taint attendant to being thralls of the Trump regime, or what few elections remain to us will be not civil discussions of determining the best choice, but a battle of, literally, right versus wrong.

Our democracy is not in danger of dying – it is almost dead. And it will take a great many people acting outside their narrow self interest to counteract that.

So, yeah. Not a fan.