Why Did Nancy Pelosi Go to Taiwan?

W.J. Astore

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan was a disaster. It angered China, provoking a military response (missile firings and the like) that could escalate into something far worse. It interfered with cooperative efforts between China and the U.S. on vitally important fronts such as climate change. And it featured a startlingly incoherent speech by the Speaker in which she implied Benjamin Franklin was an early U.S. president as she proceeded to misquote and butcher his sentiment on liberty and security. Jimmy Dore does an excellent job here of allowing Pelosi to slay herself with her own words:

So, why did she go to Taiwan? Putting aside her own conceit and vainglory, she went for two reasons. The first was domestic politics. Just as the Democrats have (falsely) accused Trump and the Republicans of being soft on Russia, the Republicans have (falsely) accused Biden and the Democrats of being soft on China. Pelosi’s trip was meant to inoculate the Democrats against charges of “softness” vis-a-vis China. Meanwhile, as both major political parties accuse the other of being “soft” vis-a-vis regional powers (China, Russia), the military-industrial complex continues to cash in with record-setting “defense” budgets.

The second reason is connected to the first. Pelosi’s trip has generated the response the military-industrial complex was looking for from China. Thus on NBC News today, you see the following article that touts a resurgent Chinese military and how it constitutes a major threat to U.S. imperial dominance in the Pacific. The conclusion you’re supposed to draw from this is simple: China is a big-time threat to America, therefore we must spend even more money to “rebuild” America’s military to meet that threat.

There’s possibly a third reason, and that is the unreliability of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as deliverers of a coherent message. Both Biden and Harris rely heavily on teleprompters; when they depart from the script, Biden is liable to blurt out inappropriate remarks that need to be “walked back” by aides, whereas Harris has a tendency to laugh inappropriately to cover her confusion. It’s doubly ironic that the Speaker of the House, sent to speak for America and the Democrats, spoke so poorly and confusingly.

This is no laughing matter, since diplomacy depends on clear communication. Certainly, the Chinese are speaking clearly with their military exercises and diplomatic warnings. That America’s leaders can’t speak clearly and exercise sound judgment is assuredly the clearest sign yet of U.S. decline, a decline that will not be arrested by throwing more money at the military.

Sound policy requires sound leaders. Whatever else one might say, the words of Biden, Harris, and Pelosi are unsound, marking them as not just ineffective leaders but dangerous ones.

I keep this globe in my office. It comes in handy to remind me of America’s “global reach” and “global power.” You can see how close Taiwan is to mainland China, and also how far Taiwan is from the U.S. But of course U.S. hegemony has no geographical limits, hence the presence of roughly 750 U.S. military bases globally. The world is not enough, since the U.S. must dominate space and cyberspace as well. Perhaps Nancy Pelosi should give her next muddled speech from low Earth orbit. Or the Moon?

Bully Boys with Bull Bars

W.J. Astore

Even as gas and diesel prices soar along with global temperatures, American vehicles continue to get bigger. In my first Air Force job in 1985, I had a friend who drove a classic Ford Bronco. It was a little bigger than a jeep and truly meant for off-road adventures in Colorado where four-wheel drive is a necessity. Nowadays, Ford trucks and SUVs are much more likely to resemble military vehicles like Humvees or even MRAPs. Bigger is better, especially for the truck makers and fossil fuel companies, who profit much more by selling and fueling steroidal trucks than Ford Escorts or hybrids.

But there’s a darker side to these steroidal, quasi-military vehicles on America’s roads, notes Stan Cox today at TomDispatch.com. They’re being used to intimidate, to bully, even to injure and kill people that the drivers of these vehicles don’t like. Typical targets are protesters for the BLM movement or women trying to protect abortion rights. When Dodge named their Ram pickup, I really don’t think they meant you should use it as a battering ram, but that seems to be crude animus motivating more than a few white male drivers today.

This phenomenon isn’t just limited to flyover states like Kansas, where Stan Cox lives. Here in Blue Massachusetts, I recently saw a pickup that was proudly flying a “Fuck Joe Biden” flag, modeled after Trump MAGA flags. Heck, I don’t much like Joe Biden, but I don’t feel the need to mount a giant flag on my vehicle to that effect. I guess I’m just too humble or shy — or sane.

Steroidal trucks are nothing new in America, and I’ve seen plenty with stickers that say “No Fear” or even “Fear This.” (You learn quickly to give these idiots on wheels a wide berth.) But using these trucks to hurt people is truly cowardly. What kind of young men are we producing?

The wars are coming home again, America. Just look around at all the mini-tanks in America’s parking lots and driveways.

A final caution: Beware of bully boys with bull bars, coming soon (though I hope not) to a protest near you. If you stand your ground, they might just run you over — and in some states you’ll be to blame for blocking their way.

So use common sense and get out of their way. You’re not the coward: they are.

Fear this!