Category Archives: Politics
Commentary on the US ways of politics
My take on the latest uproar
The brat (my word) in the Whitehouse has decided that we need to be “protected” from terrorists native to countries that have never perpetrated a mass attack on anyone in the US. His ban on those from 7 countries in the Middle East and Africa (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen) is the first step to a complete ban on all Muslims (unconstitutional). Just give him time. Along the way, he sows disrespect for our justice system on Twitter by attacking judges whose opinions or decisions cross him.
The Donald is always right, never wrong about anything he on which chooses to have an opinion. If only he had some real knowledge to back up those tweets! What does he know about those countries, their histories, their cultures? Does he really think that because a person is a Muslim, that person is “bad”? Does he understand that no one in the US has been killed by any person from those 7 countries?
More twitter tantrum on judge Robart’s original decision:
“Ridiculous” to try to protect the separation of Powers outlined in the Constitution? And why is Trump having fearful nightmares about “bad people” who do not, in fact, pose a threat? Women and children threatening? Our “President” has a bad case of paranoia based on little but scare mongering pushed by Breitbart, Fox News, and the Drudge Report. We do not make America GREAT by showing the extent of our fears to the world, and lashing out against anyone who disagrees with the man a few of us elected to the Presidency.
What ethics? Trump’s “newsconference” proves, as if there were any doubt, that he has no idea of ethics. He’s the spoiled child who insists on having his cake and eating it too, both the Presidency and his business, all for the glory of Trump, and to the sorrow of all those Americans who thought he would be their savior. Seems to me that he would rather have his business than be President, and it may possibly happen that he will get his choice. How long will Americans put up with the kind of childish behavior he showed on Wednesday – piles of papers so we’d see how impossibly complicated divestiture would be for him, a baseless attack on a CNN reporter, and an imported audience of employees who cheered and applauded like those at his rallies. Not all of us are stupid enough to be fooled.
It wouldn’t hurt to remember the history lessons we once knew about state sponsored propaganda and the kinds of skepticism needed when approaching performances like Trump’s Wednesday news conference. I wonder if it will be as easy or easier even to stage such performances once in the Whitehouse. Common sense says we’d best be on our guard against manipulation by TV performance by a man who is something of an expert showman and manipulator.
Popular vote or no, she didn’t win, and while I’m sorry she didn’t break the glass ceiling, I think she was her own worst enemy. The emails on the server in the basement and “the basket of deplorables” did enormous damage for the opportunities they gave her critics. One also got the sense that especially in the early appearances on TV with her nose in the air and body language seeming to see all the rest of us as beneath her – she entitled after all those years of hard work – to be elected President just because she felt she’d worked hard enough to earn it. The sense that she felt entitled to the office merely because of who she was I think turned off a lot of people.
There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate for President (or any other office), but perhaps there should have been more deep thought at the DNC and in the higher reaches of the party about the Clinton legacy and what that would mean to the millions of those who felt forgotten by Washington and voted for Trump. I voted for her, but I was never happy about it. The thought of both of them back in the White House curdled. What if there were more Libyas? Worse ones? What if there were more careless dismantling of protections put in place to free us from the vagaries of financial melt downs?
And if she and he were so darned intelligent, why did they think that using a private email server was such a great idea? Was it really so very “convenient”? Were they just playing with the new technology without knowing enough to realize the risks? After the experience of intense criticism about the emails, wouldn’t you think she’d warn others near her to beware of what they said in emails in case of hacking? It’s not as if hacking was unknown in 2015 – 16. Our own NSA was doing its share of it on foreign leaders and got caught in the act. The stupidity (ignorance) of intelligent people is sometimes appalling and inexcusable.
And now we’re stuck with Trump. What a tragedy!
Libya, the blunder
The Globalist today had an essay by Hardeep Puri who was President of the UN Security Council in August 2011 and November 2012. He pins responsibility for the present mess in Libya on feelings of guilt in the West over its inaction in Rwandan genocide in 1994 during Bill Clinton’s Presidency. The use of military force was supposed to rid the country of Libya of a terrible dictator and protect the people from his supposedly brutal treatment of his population. There was no government structure as the west might recognize such. Gaddifi was all there was. This was to be “humanitarian regime-change”, at least that was how it was sold. And the result?
The result is out there for the world to helplessly watch – a desperate migration crisis leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees either dead or deserted, and an unraveling country overrun by mercenaries, militia, and the world’s worst nightmare today – the ISIS – with a paralyzed government at the apex.
Whether the West likes it or not, there is a reason the Libyan “mad dog” managed to rule the country for 42 years. The articulation of pro-Gaddafi sentiment and demonstrations in what’s left of Libya testify exactly to that.
Our adventure in Iraq has taught us nothing, and sadly, it could still be true that we will sell ourselves on the idea humanitarian “rescue” of a country we do not understand.
Assad and Syria
An article in the Boston Globe dated yesterday expresses the Russian view that all of Syria must be “liberated” before there can be any move toward removing Assad from power. Regime change seems to have become a western knee-jerk reaction to dictators without much thought as to what, if anything, is to replace the hated present regime. Assad is definitely not a “nice” man. He’s directly responsible for the deaths of thousands and the destruction of some of his own country’s cities. He could have avoided much of the bloodshed by talking with the protesters back in 2011, but he chose to shoot them instead. The battles that followed have led to terrible destruction of once beautiful cities. We’ve all seen the photos many times over, and well as the pitiful ones of children caught in the battle.
Brutal though he may be, his is the only government there is in Syria since we can’t really claim that the so-called Caliphate in Raqqa is anything like a recognizable government, unless, of course, the West is looking to make sure they seize power over the whole country. The theory that there are “moderate” islamists that deserve support seems to be just that, a theory. While there may be individuals who embrace some western ideas, they have undoubtedly left by now, or are busy fighting over bits of territory among themselves.
From Josh Landis’ Syria Comment:
The sad truth is that those hoping for a quick resolution to this crisis are likely to be disappointed. Contrary to expectations, the US is unlikely to enter into war with Russia over Syria. The moral argument for intervention cannot out-weigh the immense risks that the US military would be taking were it to engage in a direct and costly war with Russia. Despite the hawkish rhetoric of Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, chances are that once in the White House, she will come to the same conclusion about using American military force as President Obama. Real world constraints reduce the chance that US will deploy force in Syria. The Syrian opposition and their backers will be forced to rethink their current path.
Most policy makers involved in the Syria crisis insist that “there is only a political solution to the Syria crisis.” The unstated problem with this argument is timing. Can a political solution be arrived at before a clear military winner emerges on the battlefield? Mustn’t one side realize that it has no choice but to accept a settlement before both sides will come to the table? The answer to this question is clear. No political solution can take place before a clear winner emerges on the battlefield. The longer this process is delayed, the longer the crisis will drag on, and the greater will be the death count.
Based on our sad experience in Iraq, I find these arguments persuasive. Everyone who thinks should read Ehsani’s entire post, even though it’s unlikely now that we’ll try what failed so miserably in Iraq in Syria. For once, the Russians seem to be right.
There’s another interesting piece from Aaron David Miller at the Wall Street Journal Blogs well worth a careful read.
Hillary outperformed The Donald. She will probably be the one to sit in the Oval Office for at least the next 4 years at least. In a way I’m glad of that, and in another way, it scares me. It’s long past the time when the US should have a woman President, so that makes me happy. This particular woman, however, was present for most of the poor decisions of Bill’s presidency that led to the economic crash – the loosening of regulations, repeal of the Glass-Steagel, and beyond that, her early support of the Iraq War (regardless of what she says now in hind sight) and the regime change in Libya. The main Republican “issues” like the email server and Benghazi to me seem bogus.
At the time when the Clintons were running the Apple Mac email server on a G4 machine in their basement, they had what could arguably be called the most secure system available for their purposes. Having run Mac servers in the same period myself, both for web sites and email, I had to study the security of the system vs the Microsoft server software run on PC’s which was never very secure from hacking.
It’s been my experience that most people don’t even know what a “server” is, or how it operates to send and receive emails and serve up web pages. Users just want to know that the system works for them to get their communications done. Most of us have come to take for granted that we can freely send and receive messages and web pages over the Internet, and we don’t bother ourselves with how it works, unless we have been stung by one of the many viruses that attack PC systems and even then we hand the “broken” box to an “expert” technician expecting it to be completely fixed in a day or two. Offices, commercial or government that do not spend for technical assistance, updates and firewalls suffer the consequences of “penny wise, pound foolish” spending. Recent scandals (Yahoo! and the GPO) prove my point.
What none of the reports, FBI or media, tell us is how reliable or easy to use the State Department servers were at the time. Were they “down” for lengths of time that made it inconvenient to use them for busy diplomats and their assistants for work that was time critical? Since Secretary Powell also had used another server during his time as Secretary, it’s quite possible that the government servers were not as reliable as they might have been in which case Clinton’s use of her Mac server would have been common sense.
In any case, Hillary and The Donald didn’t get into all that during the debate, thank goodness! That’s just me letting off steam. They didn’t touch on the Benghazi tragedy either. The person or persons who sold our government officials on the rosey possibilities of regime change from autocratic rule to democracy by force of arms from outside the countries involved are responsible for the many and continuing tragedies of Iraq, Syria and Libya. There was only a brief argument about leaving troops in Iraq where The Donald showed himself to be ignorant. George W. Bush signed the status of forces agreement with Maliki which required the withdrawal of all US troops between 2007 and 2011, not either President Obama or Secretary Clinton.
I’m afraid I’m not an gung-ho supporter of Hillary for President, but I do think she’s the best deal we’ve got as a country at the moment. Donald Trump brings on unpleasant and scary memories of Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s, and I’m not at all comfortable with the the prospect of him as a possible President of the USA. I can only hope that American common sense will prevail one more time and save us from a terrible fate.
Note: On the email controversy. please read this article: It says some of what I mention above and more.
Who lost Iraq?
Iraq was never really ours to lose, so the blame game going on in Washington and London is really some kind of a farce. If you really want to know what happened that brought us to today’s disintegration of the country, just take a good long look at this article in Vanity Fair by David Rose which appeared in 2009:
The game was up in 2004 when people like Paul Wolfowitz were more interested in “proper channels” and his personal view of Iraqi Sunnis as “Nazis” in ignorance of who they actually were or their circumstances. Reading the article again brings back the anger at the total stupidity of what happened in disbanding Saddam’s army, and allowing the shias to bring in Iran back in 2004.
In truth, Iraq was lost before the war ever started in all the lies told in order to get our soldiers there. The fact that the war was illegal has never been accepted by those who supported the effort, even when that support came from so-called “humanitarian” concerns. Now these same people want us to make the same mistakes all over again, putting our military noses in one way or another into what has become a regional sectarian war between the various sects of Islam. We have absolutely no business getting involved again.
They want us to do air strikes. On what? And on whom? All airstrikes have accomplished in that part of the world is chaos and more chaos. Look at Libya and Iraq. What earthly good did any of those strikes ever do? More drones to kill more civilians and innocent bystanders? Now wouldn’t that just make us more popular!
I don’t get it. Why is it so hard for Conservatives to see that depriving people of the programs that help keep them alive like food stamps and unemployment insurance hurts the businesses that depend on them more than leaving those programs in place. If few people have the funds to spend, aren’t we starting down a path toward more recession. Few or no customers means little or no business and no new jobs. It can all become a vicious downward cycle.
Why is it so hard to see that giving tax cuts to the rich does nothing to make customers of those who spend the most on essentials? The rich just put their extra into more investments that fail to put anyone back to work. How did we lose the lessons of the 1930’s so quickly? What blinded us? Selfishness? “Trickle-Down Reaganomics”? The whole world seem stuck on that failed idea.
Pete Seeger has passed away, but we still have the songs he wrote. Maybe if more people sang them loudly, we have something nearer to common sense.
A few months ago (back in March) I wrote about how people were ignoring what was going on in Iraq. Once President Maliki sort of threw us out, people in the US seemed to think we’d had a complete victory, and that this “Young Democracy” would flourish just as the Bush administration had sold its propaganda to us. It’s amazing to me how gullible the American people are. There was no chance that Maliki was going to do anything in Iraq except become the kind of government that was all they’d known since the advent of Saddam Hussein. It was just going to be Shia authoritarianism instead of Sunni dictatorship. In spite of his promises to the contrary, Maliki has never made any real attempt to include Sunnis in his government. He even went so far as to chase some of them out of the country and throw others in jail. People who were members of Parliament. The Vice President. Sunni fighters were rarely welcomed into the army or the police and lost access to jobs and paychecks to support their families. Support was withdrawn from the members of the “Awakening” which had turned to help the Occupiers. He sent in his “special” troops to break up a peaceful demonstration, and that was the last straw before the latest explosion.
Anger and resentment has been building among the Sunnis since the Americans left. It is not surprising, especially with the turmoil going on in Syria, that jihadi fighters have returned and helped the rebellious Sunni in Anbar province retake Fallujah.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for the marines who fought and gained the city back in 2004. They thought they were doing the right thing. They fought hard, hand-to-hand in many cases, and lost a lot of comrades in the bloodiest of bloody battles. Many came home missing body parts and with severe cases of PTSD. Even so many thought they had done the right thing in answering the call to war. Those responsible for sending them and lying to the American public about Saddam’s connection to 9/11 and his WMD have never been held accountable for their betrayal of the public trust and the trust of their soldiers. The prize those leaders sought was never to be had, no matter what they did to engineer something that looked a bit like representative government in Iraq.
It’s a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.
From Hoover to the NSA; Raines’s to Snowden
The New York Times today has an article and a video on the 1971 robbery of a small FBI office in Pennsylvania. The video is stunning:
It brings back an entire era for those of us old enough to remember it. The protesters became paranoid for very good reasons. They knew the FBI was watching everyone it could. The Agency didn’t have the same kinds of tools it does today, but the attitude and the justification for secrecy was the same (“National Security”). The difference was the numbers of people who would not accept that what the FBI was doing was right. People today have let their fears control them and inhibit their objections to the NSA’s shenanigans, but it has taken the same kind of gutsy individual courage to expose the facts as it did then. The only difference is that the Raines and their friends were able to maintain their secret identities for 42 years. Edward Snowden didn’t have that chance. Neither did the reporters who worked with him, because apparently government has become even more paranoid about covering up it secrets than it was during the Nixon/Hoover era. We should give that difference some real deep thought.
Excessive secrecy in government has always led to abuse, but the abuse has so far equally found a way to leak out into public. It makes you wonder why government in a democratic republic like ours keeps trying to pry into the lives of its citizens to protect itself from them, and other phantoms of their imaginations, when its greatest strength lies in openness and truth. Maybe that has something to do with why democracies have never succeeded for long. It’s past the time when Americans and their government let fear overrule common sense.