Petty Tyrants in the Missouri Legislature

Missouri has an extremely Republican state house and senate. However, Missouri also has Kansas City and St Louis, which are Democratic strongholds. Personally, I live in Kansas City so I know a lot more about what goes on here.

A while back, Kansas City got Uber to agree to some regulations after extensive negotiations. And Uber, being the right-wing company that it is, went to the Missouri legislature because the Missouri legislature is also right-wing. Together, Uber and the legislature are currently trying to make the previously negotiated regulations illegal.

Another thing: Kansas City attempted to raise the minimum wage but the Missouri legislature made it impossible for any municipality to raise the minimum wage. It goes on and on, not just with Kansas City but also St Louis and Columbia.

The Missouri legislature, full of Republicans who criticize the federal government for overreaching, doesn’t allow for local control. It’s the one of the more shockingly hypocritical things that the Republicans do and it happens in every state.

You may have heard about what happened at the University of Missouri. There were some racist stuff, protests that not enough was being done, and then the football team got on board and the whole thing exploded until the MU leaders were forced out. Right? Pretty rough summary, I know, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Now, the Missouri legislature wants to seize control of the University of Missouri. The university isn’t conservative and the legislature really can’t abide by that. It’s not like MU handled the protests well. No, the legislature is mad that MU handled it at all.

The legislature prefers suppression of dissent rather than dialogue or, you know, finding a solution. They prefer ignoring problems, which you can tell because the Missouri highway system is in shambles and they do nothing because it’s easier to ignore the problem than allocate some funding on what is clearly a bipartisan issue.

What I’m getting at is, the Missouri legislature is full of scumbags who abuse their power as lawmakers to attack anyone they disagree with. As you may have gathered, it makes me very angry but can’t do anything about it because they’ve manipulated redistricting to give themselves a permanent control of the legislature.


Russia and Syria

I’ve been coming across a lot of interesting takes on Russia pulling out of Syria. There’s the idea that Russia played it smooth and that Putin is savvy as hell. I won’t disagree with that, but to compare how Russia dealt with the Syrian situation to how the US did is absurd. Russia backed Assad instead of some random ill-prepared rebel alliance. We know why the US backed the fractured rebels, but why did Putin back Assad?

First, let’s check out the motivations. Russia got involved with Syria for a few reasons: 1) to prop up a client state and thereby preserve the ability to project influence. 2) wage war on Russian extremist militants. 3) show off new Russian military hardware that’s totally on sale now! 4) to present themselves as a genuine superpower. 5) to reinsert themselves into the world at large after their castigation by the West for the debacle in Ukraine.

Now, basically every one of those was a slam dunk. All the goals were achieved. But five months? Five months doesn’t win a war. Five months is NOTHING. So, you know, why only five months? From Slate:

But over time, the mission’s costs have soared and the benefits have waned. As for costs, the Russian air force ran out of “smart bombs”—munitions that can hit targets with pinpoint accuracy—after the first few days of airstrikes (this is why its jets hit so many civilians and hospitals), and it is now fast running out of dumb bombs as well. In other words, in addition to his many economic and political problems at home, Putin cannot keep this up for much longer.

It’s not just the money drying up. It was genuinely a good time to go. Here’s a few choice quotes from a New York Times article:

“Syria doesn’t have to be a slippery slope,” Mr. Tabler said. “Putin actually demonstrated you could intervene, bomb, put troops on the ground and still get out. They effectively changed the situation on the ground, and kept the regime from collapsing.”

HOWEVER. Right before this, it says:

“He clearly set out to buy time for Assad, and that worked,” said Derek Chollet, a former State Department and White House official in the Obama administration, referring to Mr. Putin. “But he made the situation in Syria demonstratively worse. When you go in without scruples, it’s fairly easy to succeed.”

Which is interesting, but not entirely accurate. The Russians got a peace deal. Sure, they committed some hardcore human rights violations that the US couldn’t have gotten away with, but to say the situation is worse, that is not true. That shit was already really bad and now there’s a tenuous peace.

So here’s we’ve got Russia, with an economy in shambles but with a serious desire to make Russia great again. And they go do their thing in Syria. It sorta works? Yet, everything isn’t exactly peachy in Assad-land.

Russia is leaving. That’s no secret. But, Iran is quietly slinking away too. From the National Interest:

The Israeli report, according to which Iran is withdrawing all of a 2,500-strong fighting force while leaving 700 military advisers in Syria, is consistent with a brief comment by Secretary of State Kerry in a Congressional hearing less than two weeks ago that Iran had withdrawn a “significant number” of its Revolutionary Guard Corps troops from Syria.

And there’s this fascinating tidbit from that Slate article I mentioned before:

Putin’s exasperation with Assad has been clear for a while. After Russian airstrikes allowed Syrian ground forces to recapture Aleppo, a chest-thumping Assad declared that he would now proceed to reconquer all of Syria—until Moscow diplomats slapped him down. Just days ago, when Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem proclaimed that there would be no talk of elections or a political transition in Geneva, Moscow once again told him to pipe down.

Assad may not want to be a client state, but the fact is, there’s no choice in the matter. It’s either get a solution now or slowly fall into the black hole of instability and perpetual revolution (looking at Libya here).

Assad doesn’t really have much of a choice anymore. Putin has put him in a situation that doesn’t have any good outcome except bowing to Russian interests. First, in terms of military, Assad doesn’t really have much to offer. From Foxtrot Alpha:

Although Russia has left Assad in a far better tactical position than before their intervention, strategically he remains very vulnerable with few military cards left to play should the fighting reignite.

This puts Russia in a nearly perfect position to attempt to broker a solution to the conflict on an international stage. Once again, such a solution would be partial to Moscow’s interests—but it could very well include using Assad as a sacrificial pawn.

With this in mind, you can see why Russia agreed to stop its cooperative hammer and anvil operation against Syrian rebels in the battleground metropolis of Aleppo. If they had finished the job, and Assad’s forces took the entire city and continued their hunt for rebel forces with the help of Russian air power, the rebel threat would be almost totally diminished. Without that threat to the Assad regime in place, there would be far less leverage when it comes to pushing Assad to the negotiating table.

All in all, there’s something very interesting going on and it is nothing like what the US wants. The US uses pretend goodwill to try and help countries, which of course, that means the US fakes compassion to get whatever it wants. But the US has to pretend.

The Russian people lay down no such demands of the Russian government. Putin has run on the exact same platform as Trump. Make Russia great again. Well, this is it. Will it fail? Who knows. It certainly might. As the Slate article pointed out, Russia frequently surprised the world, be it Syria, Ukraine, or way back in Afghanistan. But just because it’s a surprise doesn’t mean it actually ends well for Russia.

make russia great3