Sunday, May 21, 2017

Last Call For Fix Our Mess Yourself

Not sure which American paternalism towards the Muslim world will be worse, Dubya's "We have to fix this for you savages"post 9/11 or the Trump regime's official position of "OK we wrecked your countries when we tried to fix them so now it's completely up to you to do so, see ya."

President Donald Trump urged Arab and Islamic leaders on Sunday to unite and do their share to defeat Islamist extremists, making an impassioned plea to "drive out" terrorists while toning down his own harsh rhetoric about Muslims. 
Trump singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups. His words aligned with the views of his Saudi Arabian hosts and sent a tough message to Tehran the day after Hassan Rouhani won a second term as Iran's president. 
The U.S. president did not use his signature term "radical Islamic terrorism," a signal that he decided to employ a more moderate tone in the region after using the phrase repeatedly as a presidential candidate. 
"Terrorism has spread all across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land," Trump told leaders from dozens of Muslim majority countries representing more than a billion people.

"A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists. Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your communities, drive them out of your holy land and drive them out of this earth."

That's funny Donny, you could apply that last paragraph to Trump voters here.

Of course since the Trump regime is currently trying to do everything it can to piss off the world's billion or so Muslims and drive them from, you know, the United States, I'm thinking that most of the world's Muslim leaders will simply tell Trump to go get impeached so we can have Obama back or something.

I wish.

The Long And Winding Road Ahead

As much as it pains me to do it, Andrew Sullivan's analysis on where the country goes from here politically after arguably two disastrous weeks for Trump is correct, and that answer is "Trump, his regime and his cultish followers are going precisely nowhere".

These are, it seems to me, the two unstoppable narratives grinding our politics to a halt. The status quo in Washington — an unhinged, unfit, mentally disturbed narcissist as POTUS fast losing any faint credibility with even his own staffers — is utterly unsustainable. In a serious crisis, more than half the country won’t believe a word the president says. The White House is barely functioning; legislation is completely stalled; next week’s trip abroad will have everyone watching from behind a couch; the FBI and CIA are reeling; there’s almost no one in the State Department; no presidential due diligence is applied to military actions; the president only reads memos when his name is mentioned in them; a not-too-smart and apparently mute 35-year-old son-in-law is supposed to solve every problem in the country and world; and the press secretary is hiding in the bushes. No one has any confidence that the president couldn’t throw us into a war or a constitutional crisis at a moment’s notice. Nothing this scary has happened in my lifetime. 
And yet around 35 percent of the country still somehow views every single catastrophe Trump perpetrates on America and the world as either a roaring triumph or a huge middle finger to the elites, and therefore fine. For them, everything is sustainable. When Republicans can shrug off giving top-secret Israeli intelligence to the Russians, there is nothing they cannot shrug off. We are not talking about support for various policies here. We are talking about the kind of following a cult leader has. In poll after poll, around 80 percent of Republicans still approve of the job Trump is doing. Still. That’s why the GOP leadership, even as their agenda evaporates, are leery of taking Trump on. His hold on their own voters is tighter than theirs is. It’s tighter than Nixon’s because Trump has built a reactionary movement from the ground up and taken over an entire party. He can communicate with them in ways no other Republican can. And there is no way on earth he is ever going to go quietly, if he agrees to go at all. 
That’s why I have a hard time figuring out how this ends, even though it must end. Even if the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation hits some pay dirt, I can see Trump surviving if he cannot be proven to be directly implicated. He’s already setting up the case: He’s being subjected to an historically unprecedented witch hunt, remember? And there’s no institution or person he won’t blame or destroy in his bid to save himself. Just ask his former creditors. If he’s up against the wall, he will treat the Constitution the way he treated his banks. Or say the Dems manage to regain the House next year, and hold impeachment hearings. Wouldn’t that simply galvanize support for Trump as he fights back against the “deep state,” the “swamp,” the GOP, and what Hannity calls the propaganda media circus — and render 66 votes in the Senate to convict him a pipe dream? Part of me wonders if he’d quit even if he’s beaten in the next presidential election? Isn’t it always rigged when he loses? 
In some ways, I think the best analogy for Trump is O.J. Simpson. Even if we all know he’s guilty as sin, even if his own supporters see the flimflam behind the claptrap, even if the evidence is staring us in the face, he’ll never lose his core support. For 35 percent of the country, he’ll never be guiltier than the system he’s challenging. The best we can hope for is a Democratic House in 2018 and a grinding, grueling attempt to minimize the already enormous harm Trump has done in the meantime. We can pursue that outcome while hoping our cold civil war doesn’t get hot — because this is beginning to feel like the 1850s.

The reality is Trump isn't going anywhere without a critical mass of his own supporters abandoning him.  That will not happen, which is why as (as much as I hate to admit it) the talk of impeachment, criminality, and wrongdoing remains necessary but will simply not result in his removal.

What it will take for the Republic to rid itself of Trump, I cannot tell you.

Sunday Long Read: Canaan Able

It's been more than seven years since the massive earthquake flattened Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, seven years since the UN and US showed up vowing to rebuild and help 1.5 million displaced.  What followed was one of the largest humanitarian and foreign policy failures in history, one we would still be talking about today if it wasn't for the magnitude of the Haitian disaster being eclipsed by the other major humanitarian disaster of the Obama era in Syria.  This week's Sunday Long Read examines this legacy this failure as it still stands as a huge favela-like slum city outside Port-au-Prince, the ragtag, sprawling mess of the "city" of Canaan.

A city is made of two parts: the physical and the political. The physical comprises what people need to sustain life in a particular place; the political determines how they live it.

In Canaan, the physical forms each time someone claims a piece of land. If a plot appears unused, he might ask around to be sure. If the land is indeed already claimed, he offers a small amount of money for the rights to it. He hires masons to line the plot’s edges with concrete blocks; iron rebar flowers up from the corners. At that point, construction usually pauses, since most people migrating here lack enough money to build a house all at once. In the meantime, the foundation reinforces the claim until the builder can follow through with an actual home. It’s common to find goats and chickens grazing where bedrooms have yet to take shape, giving some plots the appearance of a sort of cinderblock petting zoo.

One morning, in a sector where a dozen or so of these concrete foundations were taking shape, I met up with Salma Simeus, whom I found walking one of his goats, straining to hold it back as it pulled toward a group that had begun devouring some nearby bushes. Simeus was born in Haiti’s agrarian central plateau, where, as a young man, he became attracted to volunteer work, raising money to help neighborhood kids attend school and organizing seminars to educate people about matters of health and disease. In 2000, he moved to Port-au-Prince to study at a local college, settling with his wife, Marie Celestin, in Tabarre, a sector tucked into the mountain that forms the backbone of the city. When the earthquake struck, he persuaded a nearby NGO to donate such staples as food and soap, which he immediately distributed to his neighbors.

Unlike others in Tabarre, the couple’s home wasn’t leveled by the earthquake. But after taking in so many displaced relatives and neighbors, their house became impossibly crowded. Rather than kick anyone out, Simeus and Celestin went looking for land on the eastern edge of Canaan, eventually landing in Onaville, where they moved into a zinc-and-plywood shelter built by TECHO, a volunteer NGO that had arrived after the earthquake. The TECHO structures were insufferably hot and prone to collapsing, but they were better than nothing. Soon enough, Simeus began volunteering for TECHO to create a list of people in need of shelter.

Celestin, meanwhile, began using her training as a nurse to help treat injuries and illnesses, advising people on such things as what medicines to buy, how to manage their diabetes, or how to prevent cholera. When one woman went into labor, Celestin delivered the baby.

Because of his and Celestin’s volunteer work, Simeus became a de facto leader in Onaville. He embraced the role, and began a campaign to beautify the area, which included getting a local artist to paint a mural and organizing residents to make street signs for the neighborhood’s dirt roads and alleyways.

“We wanted Onaville to be a grand village,” Simeus said as we watched a group of masons working on a foundation nearby. The idea was that it would serve as an example for other Haitian communities. “The garbage we throw on the streets here gets washed away to Miami,” he said, gesturing west toward the sea. “People see that, and that’s not the image we want.”

As time went on, international NGOs and agencies began offering funds to help beautify Canaan. The responsibility of trying to direct that money into Onaville fell to Simeus. Eventually he became a volunteer liaison between the NGOs and residents, conferring over one project or another. He became a man of many hats—or more precisely, many shirts: Once, between meetings, he took off his white Habitat for Humanity shirt and replaced it with a blue polo, then untucked a Red Cross lanyard from underneath. “Habitat doesn’t like you to have relations with another NGO,” he said. “I have an Oxfam shirt too.”

As Canaan takes on permanence, so does the corruption and despair revolving around the Hatian government and the NGOs running it...but there is still hope here among the rubble.

For now.

Gotta Grandfather In That Hate

While New Orleans may be in the process of finishing the removal of monuments to the Southern Age of Slavery, Alabama Republicans are making sure their Confederate symbols remain as beacons of feel-good white supremacy forever.

Alabama lawmakers of Friday approved sweeping protections for Confederate monuments, names and other historic memorials, as some Southern cities rethink the appropriateness of keeping such emblems on public property. 
The measure "would prohibit the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument" that has stood on public property for 40 or more years," it reads. Changes to names or memorials installed between 20 and 40 years ago would need permission from a new state commission. 
African-American lawmakers opposed the bill at every step of the legislative process, saying argued that solidifies a shameful legacy of slavery. 
"You say we are protecting history. We are not protecting history. We are protecting monuments that represent oppression to a large part of the people in the state of Alabama," said Sen. Hank Sanders, an African-American Democrat from Selma.
Supporters argued that the measure should protect all kinds of history — not just Confederate symbols. 
Sen. Gerald Allen, the bill's Republican sponsor, criticized what he called a "wave of political correctness" wiping out monuments to people he said were historically significant even if they had their personal flaws. 
The legislation would also apply to schools named to memorialize people. 
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey added an amendment, which lawmakers approved, to clarify that schools could change locations and do renovations, but not change names. The amendment came after lawmakers raised concerns that schools, which are often named for people, could not do renovations or relocate under the bill's directive.

And so it goes in a country of "freedom" built on centuries of slave labor.
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