Cut the Crap: It’s Torture

Buried in an article about the Senate majority leader’s waning power is a paragraph that probably slipped by the radar of all too many:

The same routine is playing out on the nomination of Gina Haspel, the deputy CIA director, to replace Pompeo. Most Democrats have voiced opposition, before she has even had a hearing, and Paul also intends to vote no because of her role in harsh interrogations during the Bush administration.

“Harsh interrogations?” Get it straight: it’s torture. T-O-R-T-U-R-E. There’s already a perfectly good English word that perfectly describes how the Bush II regime ordered some of its prisoners treated. No need to waste ink or pixels on some longer neologism.

Torture is torture and torture is wrong no matter who does it. It doesn’t cease to be torture or to be a moral abomination just because the USA and not some foreign power happens to be the one doing it.

Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
— George Orwell

The Secret North Korea Talks

Some points:

  1. It’s a good thing that talks, and not threats of nuclear annihilation, are happening.
  2. It would have been far better if the threats of annihilation had never happened.
  3. We got lucky that the threats stayed mere threats.
  4. Trump is still Trump, and thus an unreliable partner for anyone to cut a deal with, so we may well go back to threats (or worse) of annihilation.
  5. Trump is also emotionally immature, which leaves him vulnerable to being manipulated in any dialogue with an adversary.
  6. North Korea is still a very difficult problem to solve, thus an overall solution remains highly unlikely.
  7. The secret talks in all likelihood were not planned to help Pompeo’s chances of being approved as Secretary of State; such a claim gives the Trump regime far more credit for being able to effectively plan and govern than it has exhibited to date.

Some Thoughts on Comey and Trump

Comey Deserved to Be Fired for How He Handled the Clinton Investigation

A lifelong Republican, who has now openly admitted that he treated an investigation into a Democratic candidate for office different than he would have normally treated an investigation? And, of course, he treated it differently than he did a corresponding investigation into the Republican candidate for the same office in the same election. If you’re the head of a law enforcement organization that’s supposed to avoid even the slightest hint of partisan bias, that’s a fireable act.

Yes, there’s all the other factors which Comey cited that made it a hard decision. That doesn’t matter. Being director of the FBI is a hard job; that’s not precisely new news. If Comey can’t do the hard job he was hired to do, he should have been replaced by someone else who more likely could.

There’s No Way Trump Could Have Fired Comey Without It Looking Bad

By the time he fired Comey, Trump had already revealed himself to be an extremely ethically compromised individual: he had invited a hostile foreign power to interfere in the election that brought him to power, that hostile power had actually intervened, he had a lifetime of sociopathic behavior behind him, and he had expressed to Comey and other top Federal employees that the new president valued personal loyalty above all else. And, of course, Trump himself was under investigation.

Of course it was seen in the worst possible light when Trump fired Comey. How could it not have been?

Trump is Incapable of Serving as President

He’s not only incapable by the standards of personal integrity (he doesn’t have much, if any, of that), he’s situationally incapable.  Even if he were to magically (and unbelievably) start behaving like the most virtuous president ever, it wouldn’t much matter now. He has simply dug too deep of a hole for himself.

The situation he’s presently in (as a result of the consequences of the past actions) makes it impossible for his motives to not be questioned in the most fundamental ways. This makes him unable to lead effectively.

The Takeaway

Comey deserved to be fired, and so does Trump. One down, one to go.

More on Syria

Why did I claim earlier that the missile attacks are “mostly for show?” Because that’s what they genuinely appear to be. There’s no sign of any broader strategy existing. Quite the contrary: after all the dust settled, Cadet Bone Spurs strutted around boasting “Mission accomplished!”

Assad’s forces were attacked by US missiles last year and it had no lasting impact. There’s no reason to believe the long-term effect of the most recent attack will be any different.

Finally, there’s no reason to take the Islamophobe-in-chief’s professed humanitarian concern for Syrians very seriously. The same guy who’s tried to ban Muslim immigration and who’s blocked most such refugees from finding asylum here? Give me a break.

The Latest Round of Russia Appeasement

Why? It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Trump is a Russian asset, because he’s been blackmailed into it by them. There’s the pee video, which as I just posted, probably is real, and then there’s Trump’s long past history of business financial issues and transactions with the Russian oligarchy. The Russian ruling class is almost certainly exerting financial coercion on him as well.

Why now? Because of something touched on in another recent post. The fascist part of Trump’s base positively admires Putin’s Russia, because it is the sort of right-wing authoritarian state they dream of. It’s his way of trying to kiss and make up to them after having double-crossed them on Syria. Also, the Russian ruling class is upset about said double-crossing. They need some kissing and making up, too, and bigly.

Filibuster Pompeo and Haspel

The Washington Post is wrong when they counsel supporting the Pompeo nomination. They might think they’re being bipartisan, but they’re actually overlooking opportunities for productive bipartisanship.

Simply, they’re failing to think tactically, possibly because they misunderstand what motivates a decent chunk of Trump’s base. Most likely this is because they really are affluent coastal elitists who really don’t understand what they call “flyover states.”

Non-interventionism has long been part of the “America First” rhetoric that Trump spews for political gain. Consider how Rand Paul has vowed to filibuster the Pompeo and Haspel nominations.

Or look at cartoonist Ben Garrison. He’s a total Trump worshiper. Except that recently, he’s been having a few second thoughts about Trump. He doesn’t like John Bolton at all, and he’s not a big fan of bombing Syria, either.

In general, there’s been no shortage of criticism of Trump for bombing Syria coming from various places on the political right.

I’ve personally run into more than one Trumper online who is a non-interventionist. The mess that the Iraq War turned out to be served to increase the number of that crowd on the political right; this is one of the secrets to why Trump prevailed. And this time, the war hawks are even starting to make some anti-Trump neocons like George Will uneasy.

Thus, blocking Pompeo and Haspel seems likely to be a good wedge issue with which to help fracture Trump’s base. It’s not just the morally correct thing to do; it’s tactically shrewd realpolitik as well.

Groff Mystery Solved

Groff is an old-school text formatter that’s shipped with every Mac. Why? Because Macs are Unix systems under the hood, and the documentation for all the command-line tools is in Groff, because the Unix manuals have always been in Groff (or some very similar predecessor).

Being sort of a diehard, until fairly recently I’ve used Groff for typing letters, a résumé, and such. Why not? I know it, and it still works fine. Why spend time learning something else?

Well, it worked fine until a year or so ago, then I noticed (after upgrading MacOS) that most of the fonts seemed to have vanished. If you’d use a font other than Times Roman, it would tend to just use Times Roman anyhow, but with the spacing of the other font. Total ugly mess.

After ages of wondering what’s up (and doing web search after web search to research the issue), I finally found what Apple broke. Not Groff; it still works fine. It’s the Mac’s built-in PostScript tools that are broken.

Historically, PostScript devices have all supported a set of basic core fonts. Groff as shipped just uses those fonts. It knows their metrics but it has no other data about them. It assumes the device will know how to render them. For some reason, Apple’s pstopdf tool has ceased to support most of those fonts.

The fix is to use install and use Ghostscript, which still knows about the core PostScript fonts. Or, in my case, simply to use Ghostcript, which I had installed some time ago, having used it before I became aware of Apple’s pstopdf tool.

That said, it’s a fairly limited suite of fonts that Groff knows about by default, and it’s a pain to install other ones. Groff doesn’t understand normal TTF or OTF files (in the normal system locations for such installed files) like most other programs do. The tools to generate the files that Groff can understand are both (a) poorly documented, and (b) prone to getting tripped up by anything a font does that’s the least bit unusual (albeit legal and allowed).

Add that to Groff’s extremely limited support for mixing text and illustrations and lack of Unicode support, and it’s time to use something more modern for most purposes. Still, it’s nice to know the trick for getting the system documentation (and my old documents) printing normally again.

Some Thoughts on the Syria Bombings

  1. Who knows if it’s all a deliberate attempt at diversion? It would certainly be in character for any leader of an authority hierarchy to divert like this. It would particularly be in character for a sociopathic narcissist like Trump to do so. On the other hand, it does really seem likely that Assad did use chemical weapons again, and the UK and France (neither of whose leaders have much love for Trump) did cooperate with Trump in the attacks.
  2. It’s mostly for show. It’s almost impossible to achieve anything by air strikes alone. I seriously doubt there’s any will to go in on the ground in a serious way. Even if there was, there would be huge ethical concerns about doing so, and huge lack-of-trust concerns about just who is doing the intervening.
  3. Trump said some tough things about Russia tonight. That doesn’t matter so much as many might think it does. Talk, as they say, is cheap. If it’s limited to talk, and there is continued appeasement of Putin behind the scenes, it’s obvious that the talk was meaningless. Remember, the last time that Trump bombed Syria, he called Putin first so that Russia could get their men and materiel out of harm’s way before the bombs fell. Also, the expulsion of Russian diplomats after the chemical attack in the UK is less meaningful than it appears, because Russia is free to simply replace them.
  4. Any rhetoric about “brutal tyrants and murderous dictators” is basically meaningless coming from a guy that pals around with the likes of Putin and Duterte.

Told You So

Nine years ago, the “Tarnac Nine” were a subject of frequent right-wing hyperventilation, as if society was on the verge of being plunged into chaos by a violent left-anarchist insurrection. Now, they’ve been mostly exonerated; only a few minor charges have survived judicial scrutiny. Of the charges that survived scutiny, only two offenses, committed by only one of the Nine, were judged serious enough to merit any punishment.

Contrary to the right-wing fear-mongerers, there simply was no terrorist plot. And by this time nearly everyone has forgotten about the (mostly forgettable) work the Nine were associated with.

But it took nine years to fully deal with the charges. Nine years of having lives seriously disrupted, motivated by nothing more than the Establishment fearing those who are fearless to question authority and hierarchy.