We aren't sure how much method to place in Donald Trump's madness. Right on the heels of the outrage over his diplomatically incorrect telephone conversation with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen comes word that he's appointed Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as the next US ambassador to China—news that will apparently be welcome in Beijing. The New York Times says that Branstad describes China's exceptionally authoritarian President Xi Jinping as an "old friend." Reuters tells us Branstad said he's had a "30-year friendship" with Xi, and added: "The president-elect understands my unique relationship to China." A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson reciprocated the warmth, calling Branstad an "old friend" of China.
Backed by unrelenting Russian air-strikes, Syrian pro-regime forces are now making rapid advances into rebel-held eastern Aleppo. The fall of the city's Masaken Hanano district is a harsh symbolic blow, as it was the first area the rebels took in the summer of 2012. There is a mass exodus of residents ahead of the regime forces. Up to 20,000 have been displaced just over the past 72 hours, the Red Cross said Nov. 29. (BBC News, BBC News, AFP) But there is really nowhere to run. "This week I've changed locations three times," a medic in east Aleppo said via social media. "In the shelter, we had dead people who we couldn't take out because the bombardment was so intense." (Reuters; Orient Net) Regime forces are apparently continuing to use chemical weapons. The activist Aleppo Media Center tweeted disturbing photos of what it said were victims of a chlorine attack in east Aleppo.
This is very telling. While Kremlin mouthpiece RT is now bashing the anti-Trump protesters in the US, China Daily is gushing with enthusiasm for them. At first, this seems a little counter-intuitive. In some obvious ways, Trump's victory is good news for Beijing. Trump says he will pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on his first day in the White House. (BBC News) On the campaign trail, he blasted the TPP as "a disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country." (ChinaWorker) Beijing views the TPP as a bid for US dominance in the Asia-Pacific region, and a reaction to China's territorial ambitions and superpower aspirations. Just as the US-backed TPP excludes China, Beijing is pushing a rival Pacific Rim trade initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), that excludes the United States. After the US election results, China's Commerce Ministry announced a new push to conclude negotiations on the RCEP. (Reuters)
Well, this is pretty hilarious. Kremlin mouthpiece RT, long promoted as some kind of "alternative" by lefties in the West, is now baiting the anti-Trump protesters as paid pawns of George Soros, the fave bugaboo of yahoos, paranoids and anti-Semites. Embarassingly, even at this late date, the (always dubious) FreeThought Project is touting Russian media reports making this claim. We stated months ago that Putin and Trump were in league, hoping to instate a fascist world order after the January inaurguation. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, who ironically continue to be glorified by "leftists," obviously played a strategic role in this global coup, now on the cusp of being consolidated. Certainly, the jubilation at Donald Trump's election by the forces of Russo-fascism couldn't be more blatant.
The New York Times on Nov. 21 released Donald Trump's "short list" for cabinet appointments—compiled based on "information from the Trump transition team, lawmakers, lobbyists and Washington experts." The picks for Homeland Security are particularly notable. Joe Arpaio, his long reign of terror as Maricopa County sheriff finally ended by federal indictment and getting booted by the voters this year, is now being considered to oversee the Border Patrol and entire federal immigration apparatus. From his election in the early '90s, Arpaio ran a "Tent City" detainment camp for undocumented immigrants and others caught up in his sweeps. In an unsubtle moment in 2010, caught on film and reported by Pheonix New Times (despite his transparent later denials), he actually responded to a question at a public meeting about whether he would start using "concentration camps" by boasting: "I already have a concentration camp... It's called Tent City."
Assad regime and Russian warplanes resumed their bombardment of Aleppo Nov. 15 after the "humanitarian pause" announced last month. Damascus state TV boasted of "precision weapons to target terrorist positions," of course. Activists on the ground report an assault of unprecedented intensity, with bombs falling virtually constantly. The assault had been threatened in mass text messages sent to residents of rebel-held east Aleppo by the regime, instructing them to leave within 24 hours. The campaign of targeting hospitals has resumed, and eastern Aleppo is now without a single hospital operating at full capacity, the Syrian American Medical Society reports. One of those struck this week was a children's hospital, forcing staff to evacuate babies to safety. (EA Worldview, CNN, Nov. 19; CNN, Nov. 15)
In a "worrying reversal" for global anti-drug efforts, the latest annual report from the United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC) finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 43% over the past year—with a total estimated yeild of 4,800 tons compared to 3,300 tons in 2015, The area under poppy cultivation increased 10% according to the report—clocking in at 201,000 hectares (496,681 acres), up from 183,000 hectares (452,200 acres). Simultaneously, there was a 91% decrease in eradication across the country—with no eradication reported at all in the top producing provinces. "It is very disturbing to see a considerable increase in poppy cultivation in the north which may be linked with a deteriorating security situation in the region," said Andrey Avetisyan, UNODC's chief in Afghanistan, at an Oct. 23 Kabul press conference.
The appointment of Stephen Bannon, head of "alt-right" (read: white nationalist) website Breitbart News, as Trump's senior counselor removes any doubt about the new order that awaits the United States. All those who seek to reassure us that Trump will moderate once in office point to his appointment of GOP chairman Reince Priebus, longtime pillar of the party's establishment, as his chief of staff. They are reading it precisely backwards. This does not represent Trump tilting to the establishment. It represents the Republican establishment embracing open fascism. This is the same Bannon who in a 2014 e-mail to one of his editors, wrote of the Republican leadership: "Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that's the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty." Hate has now won, and the Republican leadership has utterly folded to it. Any other reading is merely an illustration of Oscar Wilde's maxim: "The basis of optimism is sheer terror."