Friday, February 27, 2015

THE FOUR POLITICAL DISASTERS

As I look back over my long life, I notice four major disastrous actions since WW-II.

The first happened under President Eisenhower when the CIA helped overthrew a duly elected democratic government in Iran* and our relations with Iran have gone downhill ever since.  At the behest of the forerunner of BP (Anglo-Persian Oil Company), the British government requested that the U.S. overthrow the government of Mohammod Mosaddegh   Defenders of Eisenhower say that the CIA went rogue in doing so and Eisenhower didn't know about it.

The second was when President Reagan failed to react militarily to the embassy attacks in Lebanon and Kuwait plus the Beirut Marine base bombing.**  Instead he cut and ran which emboldened terrorists who concluded that the U.S. wouldn't react to their machinations which eventually led to the U.S. getting involved militarily in the quagmire of the Middle Eastern politics.

The third involved President George W. Bush (Bush-43) who got us involved militarily in the middle eastern quagmire in Iraq.***  I think that it was appropriate for the U.S. to get involved militarily in Afghanistan after the World Trade Center airplane attacks killing nearly 3,000 people.

The fourth also involved President Bush (Bush-43).  His opposition to regulation of the financial industry**** resulted in a financial collapse of the economy from which we are still digging out although the stock markets and corporate profits have been very good

You might ask what about Vietnam and President Johnson?  At the time of the Vietnam war, I would have included it as a major disaster and in terms of lives lost it is.  Today, however, we have friendly relations with Vietnam, and they are an important trading partner with which we have diplomatic ties.  President Bush (Bush-43) went to Vietnam twice and wanted to sign a trade agreement with them, but the Senate disagreed.  We may have to wait for my generation to die out before full economic relations are achieved with them.  Korea was another major problem at the time, but, since the Korean War, South Korea has developed into an economic power, and, in spite of the hostile nature of North Korea, the area seems stable with South Korea being an ally of ours.  President Eisenhower did us a favor by ending the Korean War.  In contrast, I don't see the Middle East countries becoming important U.S. allies within say the next 30 yrs, but I won't be around to see if I am right.

Even WW-II resulted in Japan and Germany curiously becoming important allies of the U.S. and major economic powers.  Because of problems involving religions and former colonization, I don't see that happening with the Middle East.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d'├ętat
** http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/10/19/1147106/-Breaking-Ronald-Reagan-refuses-to-call-embassy-attack-an-act-of-terror; http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/176699.pdf
*** http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/870845/Iraq-War
****http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_crisis_of_2007–08; http://www.umsl.edu/~dibooglus/personal/financial%20crisis_revised.pdf

THE POLITICS OF CRITICISM

Rudy Giuliani mentioned something profound in his blast at president Obama.  He was upset that Obama sometimes criticizes America.  Now this really is a key difference between conservatives and liberals.

For reasons I don't fully understand, conservatives feel that you should only think good about America.  They are serious about this and there was even a move in Colorado to remove all critical things about America from the school history books.  It is a part of the makeup of conservatives and probably stems from their not liking change.  After all, if everything is good, why change?

Liberals, on the other hand, think America can be improved and that it is part of the American makeup to do so, so they tend to have a stream of problems they see in America that ought to be fixed and make a more perfect Union: women should be able to own property, women should have the right to vote, slavery is immoral, Jim Crow is immoral, minorities should be able to vote, schools should be desegregated,  the poor should have livable housing, buying a home should be color blind, hospital emergency rooms should be open to all, prescription drug insurance (Medicare D), low cost health insurance should be open to all (ACA), women should get equal pay as men in the same job, homosexuality shouldn't be a criminal offense, consenting adults should be able to marry the same sex, parents of American children should be able to stay in America.  I've probably forgotten a few.  Note that some of the liberal concepts were done by Republican Presidents, e.g. emergency rooms should be open open to all and Medicare D.

Not all liberal ventures have worked out.  For example: the high rise complexes for the poor bred crime.  When you think about it, if you put a lot of "failed" people together, you won't get success.  Now many of these high rise communities for the poor have been pulled down.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

EVERYTHING NOW ON THE TABLE

Rudy Giuliani's malicious comments on our president (e.g. He doesn't love America.) surprised many conservatives who felt the comments were in bad taste because the Republican Party is now trying to be respectable.  The problem is, however, that these sort of comments are closely held by many (most?) in the Republican base.  Every once in awhile, a political candidate's real thoughts come out and often they are not pretty.  For a previous example I might mention Mitt Romney's comments about the 47% who don't pay any income taxes to the Federal government.  It really is true that many (most?) of the wealthy feel the poor are poor because they are lazy.  I have heard it from a number of my conservative friends.  President Ronald Reagan felt this way (the poor are poor because they want to be poor).  He fought his way out of poverty so everyone should be able to do it if they had any gumption.  While Ronald Reagan's rise to wealth is admirable, it overlooks the difficulties in escaping poverty

A major change in our political system came when Mitt Romney politicized  the Benghazi attack during the 2012 Presidential campaign.  In contrast Democrats were quiet on the two embassy attacks (Lebanon* and Kuwait**) and Marine barracks bombing with 241 Americans killed during President Reagan's term.  No doubt the lack of U.S. military action led to emboldening terrorist attacks that are with us still.  It used to be that politics stopped at the American shores, but no more.

So it should not be surprising that now congress is making foreign policy decisions without consulting the President of the United States by inviting Prime Minister Netanyaho to address congress, who is apparently against any sort of agreement with Iran to stop their pursual of a nuclear weapon.  The departure of Republicans from letting America speak with one voice on foreign policy will hurt our foreign relations immeasurably, but they don't seem to care.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_United_States_embassy_bombing
The Beirut embassy bombing 1983 killed 63 including 17 Americans.  In 1984, another embassy building was bombed killing 22 including two Americans.
 ** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Kuwait_bombings
Actually seven bombings killing six and wounding about 90 more, no Americans.
*** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Beirut_barracks_bombing

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TRYING TO MAKE THE UNWORKABLE WORK?

Reports today (February 17, 2015) are that polls are showing something like 47% of Americans polled are in favor of boots on the ground in Iraq.*

It has been proposed that the Sunni countries develop a force and get rid of ISIL requiring "boots on the ground."  Respected Richard Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations, has been one prominent person to call for such a force.**  Does anyone really believe that the White House wouldn't like such a move?  It is such a great idea that one wonders why the Sunni nations aren't already developing such a force?  One should take into account that even Haass says such a force is a long shot.  Can there be something in the Sunni psyche that we Westerners don't understand?

We need to recall that Turkey has provided a highway for radicals to join ISIL.  There are Saudi's that are said to have provided ISIL with some funds.

Well, for one thing, I wouldn't be surprised if the leaders of the Sunni nation's are sitting around saying to each other, "Cool it, eventually the U.S. won't be able to resist providing cannon fodder (boots on the ground) and mop up ISIL."  I don't know whether Obama will be able to last out his remaining two years with out invading Iraq again with combat troops.

I've heard it said that the Iraq army is really a loose confederation of Shiite militias.  You have to wonder if the Shiites in Iraq are trainable into an army?  After all we already spent 8 yrs before training them and at the first test a whole army did cut and run.  I think a problem is corruption.  I've heard that the leaders of that army were bribed to disappear and that some even joined ISIL  In a country where corruption is so endemic (so I hear), it may be that any government forces are weak even to the point of defending themselves.

This morning I also heard on Morning Joe that the Sunni tribal leaders will not work to overthrow ISIL if Iran is involved, and they seem to be involved in such Iraq forces (militias) that are effective.

Are we trying to make something work that is not workable?  The only way to hold Iraq together seems to be through a brutal dictatorship, a conclusion "we" do not like.  So it seems like it is past time to let Iraq divided into three countries: Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdistan.

* http://www.ibtimes.com/obama-approval-rating-isis-slides-ground-troops-favored-more-americans-poll-1818610
** http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8f5ff39a-2c39-11e4-8eda-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3S1dGTZS2 (A second option would be to create a pan-Arab expeditionary force, one with units from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and possibly Egypt. )

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WHEN REALITY ISN'T ENOUGH

I suppose that all of us have embellished our lives at some time to some extent, but, if you are a celebrity, it can have severe consequences when found out.  The latest to fall prey to this is Brian Williams who is the anchor and managing editor of NBC nightly news, now suspended without pay for six months for embellishing his memories of a helicopter flight in Vietnam during the war.*  The problem isn't that he said this once, it is that he has repeatedly said it.  And now there are questions about his exploits in Hurricane Katrina, and Israel's war with Hezbollah and even his account of being held at gun point in his youth.  Brian Williams is hardly alone on this problem and I'll give three famous examples.

Consider Vice-President Joe Biden .  His run for the Democratic Presidential nominee became unraveled when it was revealed that he had plagiarized 5 of the 15 page report: A few days later, Biden's plagiarism incident in law school came to public light.[26] Video was also released showing that when earlier questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, Biden had stated that he had graduated in the "top half" of his class, that he had attended law school on a full scholarship, and that he had received three degrees in college,[25][78] each of which were untrue or exaggerations of his actual record.[25] **  He did graduate from the University of Delaware with one degree in a double major of history and political science, and he did get a law degree from Syracuse University where he apparently had his expenses covered in various ways but had only a half time scholarship rather than a full scholarship.  But reality was not enough.

Then there is Mike Barnicle who had a 25 yr career with the Boston Globe ended by an accusation of plagiarism over some jokes from a 1977 book by John Carin called "Brain Droppings." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Barnicle).  I am happy to say that he has made a nice recovery, and I often see him on Morning Joe.

Lastly , let's look at Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize winning political historian, accused of lifting passages from three other books without quotation marks though she did cite the sources.***  Nonetheless, she lost her position on the PBS NewsHour.   She too is making a nice comeback.

I do have questions, however, about "big business' writers who have researchers and other helpers who sometimes even do part or all of the writing and are lucky if they get an acknowledgement.  Not surprisingly, the CEO, author, of this group can "write" many books compared to those who do it all themselves.  But I have written elsewhere on this sort of thing and will not repeat it other than to say that movies give the best recognition, and I think the automobile companies give none at all except for the patron (the company name):.****  Also, I was surprised in finding two cases where authors were sued for plagiarizing themselves (!) because it is the publisher who holds the copyright of published papers and not the author.

 * For a sympathetic account of these questions, see" http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/02/10/brian-williams-rescue-plan-crumbles-as-friends-plead-for-mercy/.
 **http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Biden
*** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doris_Kearns_Goodwin
**** http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2011/06/credit.html

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

PREISELBEEREN (Biographical)

    (Dedicated to `Niece' Nancy Doe)

A visit to my uncle's place is always a bit unreal. He married a girl from Latvia - that's a part of Russia now - and her mother, who lives with them, comes from there too. Naturally, they know a lot of languages. Well, my uncle really doesn't know any other languages, but he does know a lot of snatches of this and that. Even when they speak English, it's sort of different. As my aunt once said when my uncle put something in a particularly strange way, "Sush! The neighbors will say, `That lady next door, SHE is strange by way of tongue, and that husband of her's, HE is not much better.' " Kind of neat, don't you know.

Then there was the time when we came home from a German delicatessen - they are always going to strange food stores - with several bottles of different kinds of fruit juices among other things. One of these was called Preiselbeerensaft - that's German. So we all had a luncheon of the rolls and sausages, and they also had smoked eel - naturally, I drew the line at that - and some of the juices. So my uncle asked of no one in particular, "What do you suppose Preiselbeeren is called in English?" There followed a lot of discussion, but neither my aunt nor her mother could think of the American term. Finally, my uncle says, "Maybe it's red currant?" It did sort of look like red currants in the picture on the label. Well, his mother-in-law knew that wasn't right, but then she started groping for the German word for red currant. So after a while my uncle said, "Hmm, I guess that is Johannisbeeren." To which his mother-in-law replies, "Yes, of course, but, if you knew, why did you think that Preiselbeeren is red currant?" Then he says, "Well, I thought there might be several words for red currants grown in different areas." "Oh," his mother-in-law replied doubtfully.

My aunt then said that Preiselbeeren grew on a low bush, sort of like cranberries. "Oh, yes!" my uncle says. "I've heard that in Europe they have a cranberry, but it grows on land rather than in a swamp."  Now, you have to admit that is a different sort of conversation.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

OBAMA'S PRAYER BREAKFAST SPEECH

Last Thursday (February 5th, 2015), President Obama gave a brief speech at the the National Day of Prayer Breakfast,* in which he preached acceptance of religious diversity with love in America.  Though he never mentioned Islam in the speech, his point was that Christians should treat all faiths with a sense of humility because there were Christians too who have committed atrocities in the name of Christ so we American Christians should treat those of other faiths with love (e.g. not specified but he includes the American Muslims).  For Republicans, or perhaps I should say Conservatives with a capital C, humility is not their strong suit, I say trying to express humility myself.  So as might be expected, Conservatives were all over him the next day.  Morning Joe, for example, went apoplectic over Obama's short speech saying how dare he bring up something 700 yrs ago like the Crusades or even something supposedly settled by war around 150 yrs ago with a Civil War in this country.  Lest one not be aware of how much humility is preached to Christians, I include a source quoting humility in the Bible below.**  (Note added February 11, 2015: Three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC, were fatally shot by a 46 year old man.  See  http://on.aol.com/playlist/most-popular-159813/videoid=518645763).

As a nation, we Americans are not humble.  Some Conservatives like to talk all the time about American Exceptionalism.  I was taught as a child , however, that I should not brag.  If I am exceptional, I should bare it lightly.  In fact, with all this talk about American Exceptionalism, I wonder if the people bringing it up are doing it to reassure themselves, because they have doubts.  Make no mistake, others see Americans in their land as arrogant.  Remember the Vietnam period and the 1958 book by  Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, "The Ugly American.?" that was also made into a well received 1963 movie.***

Perhaps you get the idea that I thought that the Presidents short speech was very good.

* http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamas-speech-at-prayer-breakfast-called-offensive-to-christians/2015/02/05/6a15a240-ad50-11e4-ad71-7b9eba0f87d6_story.html
** http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-humility-20-scriptures-on-being-humble/
*** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ugly_American.  The hero of the movie was an American engineer who did try to adopt himself to the rural part of an Asian country - Burma and help the locals improve agriculture.