View From Your Table

By Rod Dreher

Segovia, Spain

Happy New Year! Here’s the first VFYT of 2019 — and it’s from Spain, where the tradition is to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Read all about it:

Americans may giddily greet the New Year downing a glass of champagne and grabbing a kiss at the drop of the ball. But the first 12 seconds of the Spaniards’ New Year are somewhat quieter and more intense, as everyone focuses on eating all 12 of the “miraculous grapes” that symbolize 12 lucky months ahead.

Eating the grapes pretty much guarantees starting off the year with a little adrenaline rush, and most likely some laughs. While the goal of getting the 12 grapes down in time can spark a contest of who is más macho around the table, the biggest challenge is more likely to be not gagging as you cram them in your mouth and try to swallow while laughing hysterically.

Feliz año nuevo, Spain — and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.

And here’s some yummy seafood from Washington state:

Tacoma, Washington

Says the reader:

Lilliwaup Oysters & great clam chowder at our favorite waterfront restaurant overlooking Commencement Bay in Tacoma

…read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Five Political Predictions for 2019

By Daniel R. DePetris

It’s the end of the year, that time when most political prognosticators have to eat crow and admit that their predictions were wildly off the mark. I’ve had to mournfully admit fault myself: my biggest recent error was my dismissive attitude toward Senator Bernie Sanders when he announced his presidential candidacy.

Still, such prognosticating is pretty much a requirement if you’re going to be a pundit. So without further ado, here are five more big political predictions for the new year. Let’s hope my mouth won’t be too full at the end of 2019.

1. Democrats versus Trump will head to the Supreme Court.

Soon after being handed the gavel of the House Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters will subpoena President Donald Trump’s tax returns. Waters will do this without first sending a letter making a formal request, a slight Trump will use to lambast House Democrats as conspiring to undermine and humiliate him.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney will reply to Waters that Trump will not cooperate with her subpoena, which will ensue a lengthy fight in the courts over the limits of executive power. The court battle will provide grist for everyone—for Trump, it will be a convenient distraction to keep his base tight; for the Democrats, it will be a high-profile example of progressive energy taking the fight to the president.

2. A little-known Democratic presidential candidate will make waves.

In the first two months of the year, the expected Democrats begin making their presidential announcements. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Amy Klobuchar, Eric Garcetti, Andrew Gillum, and Beto O’Rourke will all throw their hats into the ring. Most of these candidates, however, will be unable to gain much traction with a Democratic electorate divided between moderates, progressives, activists, big business, and big labor. A virtually unknown aspirant, however, will have a stellar, Obama-like night during the first televised debate. Thereafter, he or she will excel at retail campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire.

It could be Congressman Eric Swalwell, former Obama Cabinet officer Julian Castro, or New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Or it could be none of those three. But the candidates we consider frontrunners today will no longer be the frontrunners in 2019.

3. Joe Biden will quit politics.

The “will he, won’t he” of a Joe Biden presidential run will finally be decided by Biden himself in February 2019. The septuagenarian former veep, who has run for president twice before and has gotten nowhere both times, will decide to spend the golden years of his life with his wife and family. After 40 years in politics, affable Joe won’t be able to picture himself reminding Americans of their better angels or participating in the nastiness that is politics today.

4. Matt Whitaker will block public release of the Mueller report.

Special counsel Robert Mueller will finalize his investigation and send his report to Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who has never been supportive of the inquiry. Using his powers as …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Hey, America, civility and coming together rests in our hands this year – It doesn’t come from government

By George Goens Civility and coming together rests in our hands – not the government’s hands, political parties, or special-interest groups. We can change things and it doesn’t take an act of Congress. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Graham and Our Confused Syria Policy

By Daniel Larison

Adam Taylor comments on Lindsey Graham’s recent claims about Syria policy:

What explains Graham’s newfound optimism about Trump’s plan to leave Syria?

Well, there is one big but rather confusing reason. In Graham’s retelling, Trump’s plan to leave Syria sounds suspiciously like a plan to stay in Syria — one that could be extended indefinitely, too. Speaking to reporters Sunday, Graham described Trump’s Syria plan as a “pause situation” rather than a withdrawal.

Graham is an interventionist fanatic, so it should raise red flags about the supposed Syria withdrawal that he is no longer concerned about it. It is possible that Graham is spinning what Trump told him and trying to box the president in with these public statements, but if that were the case Trump would presumably reject Graham’s interpretation in a series of angry tweets. The fact that Trump hasn’t done that suggests that Syria withdrawal isn’t happening or will happen so slowly as to make little difference. Graham describes Trump’s Syria policy this way:

I learned a lot from President @realDonaldTrump about our efforts in Syria that was reassuring. (1/3)

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 30, 2018

Taylor observes:

Considering these three elements, a full withdrawal would not be possible in the immediate future.

If U.S. forces are still supposed to remain in Syria long enough to make sure that “Iran doesn’t fill in the back end,” that is essentially indistinguishable from the earlier Bolton position of an indefinite military presence until Iranian forces leave. It makes no difference to U.S. security whether or not Iran keeps some of its forces in Syria or “fills in the back end” after our withdrawal, and it is not our government’s responsibility to police any part of Syria for any length of time.

It can’t be stressed enough how unnecessary and illegal an American military presence in Syria is. Keeping troops there has nothing to do with U.S. or allied security, and the most vocal advocates of keeping them there indefinitely are driven by an obsessive hostility to Iran that blinds them to the costs and risks of further involvement in Syria. Congress never authorized any U.S. mission in Syria against anyone, and no president had the authority to order U.S. forces into harm’s way in that country. Our Syria policy for at least the last four years has been in flagrant violation of the Constitution and international law, and it has been divorced from U.S. interests from the very beginning.

…read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Deroy Murdock: Trump should promote the wall — from the Oval Office

By Deroy Murdock A major arrow remains in President Trump’s quiver as the partial government shutdown drags on: He should address the nation from the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk regarding the border wall. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Mattis and Our Bankrupt Iran Policy

By Daniel Larison

James Mattis’ tenure at the Pentagon ends today. Sina Azodi and Barbara Slavin consider what his departure could mean for the future of Iran policy:

The retired Marine general had policy differences with the president about Iran as well. While a supporter of containment, Mattis advocated remaining within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). His departure tilts the balance in Trump’s national security team in favor of more hawkish individuals who have openly advocated regime change as the ultimate solution to US differences with the Islamic Republic.

When Mattis resigned, I warned that his successor would likely be more of a yes-man and less willing or able to restrain the president’s belligerent tendencies. That might seem like a strange thing to say until we remember that Mattis was responsible for curbing the president’s desire for a much larger military response against the Syrian government in the spring of this year, and according to some accounts he was a major obstacle to an attack on North Korea in 2017. Trump supporters have been quick to credit the president for de-escalation and limited intervention that happened because Mattis restrained him, and they have been equally swift in shifting blame for his escalations of other wars to the people around him. Mattis was unwilling to end our current pointless and illegal wars, but it is also true that he was responsible for keeping Trump from starting new ones.

Mattis shared the administration’s Iran obsession to an alarming degree, but as Azodi and Slavin point out his departure removes one of the only counterweights inside the administration to the much more rabid Persophobes in Bolton and Pompeo. It could also mean one less obstacle inside the administration to an attack on Iran that Bolton and Pompeo have wanted for many years. Azodi and Slavin continue:

Left atop Trump’s national security team is national security adviser, John Bolton, a so-called “offensive realist” who has long pushed for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities. Bolton also distrusts multilateral agreements and has close ties with the Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK, an Iranian opposition group with a past history of assassinating American citizens.

The other survivor so far of Trump’s reality show administration is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. A self-described “counterpuncher,” Pompeo, who replaced the more moderate and less Iran-phobic Rex Tillerson, has also suggested in the past that US should consider attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

U.S. forces may be withdrawn from Syria in the coming year (or maybe they won’t be), but that doesn’t mean that war with Iran has become less likely.

…read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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The U.S. Is On the Side of Terrorists and War Criminals in Yemen

By Daniel Larison

The Washington Post reminds us how the Saudi coalition war on Yemen helps Al Qaeda:

Last year, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a powerful Yemeni Islamist warlord, accusing him of being a “prominent military instructor” and fundraiser for al-Qaeda who had also at one point “served with” the Islamic State and financed its forces.

But Abu al-Abbas is not on the run. He is not even in hiding.

By his own admission, Abbas continues to receive millions of dollars in weapons and financial support for his fighters from one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, the United Arab Emirates, undermining U.S. counterterrorism goals in Yemen.

The Saudi coalition’s cooperation with and support for members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been an open secret for many years. Back in August, the Associated Press published one of the most detailed reports on the coalition’s practice of buying off and recruiting AQAP members as part of their war against the Houthis. Members of the coalition have been working with and supporting known terrorists for years, and they continue to do so even now. Meanwhile, U.S. officials keep justifying U.S. support for the coalition’s war on Yemen by claiming that Saudi and Emirati cooperation on counterterrorism is so very important. The war on Yemen has strengthened jihadist groups both directly and indirectly, and this is just one more example of that. The U.S. continues to support a war that not only benefits jihadists by sowing chaos, but it also backs the governments that directly finance and arm those same terrorists.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the Saudi coalition also includes the war criminals of Sudan. This is also not news, but it is good that it is getting more attention. Mark Perry previously reported on the coalition’s use of Sudanese Janjaweed militia in Yemen in a story for TAC earlier this year. Here is a New York Times report saying much the same thing over the weekend:

Almost all the Sudanese fighters appear to come from the battle-scarred and impoverished region of Darfur, where some 300,000 people were killed and 1.2 million displaced during a dozen years of conflict over diminishing arable land and other scarce resources.

Most belong to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, a tribal militia previously known as the Janjaweed. They were blamed for the systematic rape of women and girls, indiscriminate killing and other war crimes during Darfur’s conflict, and veterans involved in those horrors are now leading their deployment to Yemen — albeit in a more formal and structured campaign.

The Saudi coalition uses the foot soldiers of Sudanese genocide to aid in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen, and they have been doing so for years. The U.S. continues to assist a coalition of governments that includes one that has already committed genocide and also includes several more that are in the process of committing the crime of mass starvation against the people of Yemen. There …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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