Posts tagged ‘Iran’

It’s Always About the Money

No, today is not about our “stable genius” who is neither.  Just as an aside, most of us know we are way smarter than he is (don’t equate being a successful salesman and crook with being smart, i.e. acquiring money) because we know we would never be smart enough for the job of president.  But that is again a sign of how we use the acquisition of wealth as a sign of intelligence and success.  Seeing and listening to most of the billionaires that back President DFF, their one identifying characteristic is not intelligence, but an outlook on life and facts through the lens of greed and selfishness.  Maybe a dash of lack of compassion for their fellow-man necessary to their greed and selfishness.

But I get side tracked.  Look at Iran today and the real root cause of the unrest there is their financial insecurity as their expectations have not matched reality (and the failure of many of their financial institutions).  What got them out in the streets is not the Bill of Rights, but money or the lack thereof.  What will get Americans into the streets and probably finally end President DFF’s reign will not be that he is destroying the Constitution or a danger to our national security, but when the economy turns south as it inevitably will.

Money has become the currency of freedom and choice.  Maybe it always has been.  Think about the roots of the economic inequality we see today.  Money equates power and that power provides the method to acquire more money and tilt the playing field in your direction. And you can never have enough.  Money in a capitalist society like ours is security.  And hence we measure everything from success to intelligence in terms of money.

One off shoot of that is how many (dumb) Americans feel confident in President DFF because we now have a “businessman” with the reins of government.  A Trump fool commented the other day to look at the job growth under trump.  The economy is humming and Wall Street has never been higher according to them as a measure of his success.  If that were measures of our feelings of security (and it is for the 1%) then Trump is all set for a second term.

But let me burst a few bubbles.  Let’s take on the businessman assumption first.  A successful business man makes money (see, the ultimate metric for success and intelligence) and increases the value of the company for shareholders.  He does it in a way that out does his competition, not work with them.  In fact, as we watch the big guys, they do things that try to stifle their rivals.  It is called microeconomics and monopolies.  But the country’s success is based upon how we do in the aggregate, all businesses, not just one or two big ones.  It is called macroeconomics.  A business person is one who is least equipped to understand and facilitate that.  The competition is the enemy in their little minds and you can see that in President DFF’s idea about winners and losers.

Second on job growth, all we are seeing is a continuation of the job growth curve that was established under Obama.  We seem to forget (clouded by the security of our money today) that Republicans wrecked the economy and under Obama, both the stock market rebounded in giant leaps, but employment under Obama actually rose faster than it is under Trump.  To say it another way, all the “great business man” has done is not upset the Wall Street apple cart yet.  And that is a big yet.

And on that Wall Street thing, yes, if you own stocks and your income is dividend driven, happy days are here again, but what of the workers?  Is that wealth flowing down?  Are wages rising at the same rate as profits?  We still use the wealth of Wall Street to measure our wellbeing when the reality for most working Americans is that it has no measurable effect.  Sure if it crashed there would be an impact, but the wild profit taking on the ballooning price of shares may just be a troubling sign that a correction is coming.  Some measure.

So the key to upending both the Republicans and Trump is about money.  When enough Americans feel the pinch, only then will they go to the streets.  They may say it is about our Constitution or our rights, but it is their feeling that they are losing their security (read money in our society) under these nitwits.  I don’t mean to demean the Women’s march because it really did give us hope.  I am simply saying that until enough Americans feel their security threatened through their financial security, nothing really changes.

Here is the problem with all that.  Economies grow and contract.  Cycles are the universal accepted norm in a capitalist society.  Our approach to smoothing out these so we don’t have the Great Depression or the recent Great Recession was regulation (Glass Segal) coupled with monetary policy (interest rates and the supply of money), and thanks to the great economist John Maynard Keynes, government spending when private enterprise has rolled up into a fetal ball.  The later one is almost dead because Republicans are loath to spend on anything except themselves (tax cuts).

But they still happen and they have little to do with who is in office, only how we try to respond to them.  Thus, we swing back and forth between Democratic or Republican control of our government seeking security meaning a roaring economy that serves us all.  Sadly, we are focusing on the wrong thing, money instead of security because we equate the two.  Note that both parties have become “the party of business” as though this will solve anything.  Republicans are the Party of the big businesses, and Democrats got lost in entrepreneur politics to save us.  It offered no solution for middle America except move and get and education, neither realistic for the middle aged industrial worker. And neither solution, Democratic or Republican will ever solve the underlying problem, real security in a capitalist world.

Think about it.  In recent history we careened from George H. Bush to Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama, and now to President DFF, and when you step back, none of them solved the underlying problem of security and a better life for our children.  Economic inequality just kept increasing. All the solutions proposed simply tinkered with the existing system that favors the wealthy, one more compassionate than the other, but still tied to the big banks and Wall Street as the measure of success.

There is a glimmer of hope.  Bernie got it.  It’s not about the money, it is about the security.  Many European countries get it. Sure capitalism is the engine of prosperity, but not uncontrolled.  Uncontrolled it damages everything around us while it produces money for the few. It is simply a tool and one of many.  Let capitalism be capitalism constrained only when it hurts us (economically, socially, or environmentally), but then more fairly share the profits toward building security and a better tomorrow.  That would be a guaranteed healthcare system, retirement system, safety net, and advanced education.  That would be infrastructure investments for our future that allows that constrained capitalism to grow and prosper, not for the few, but for all of us. That would be a government who invests in R&D, and takes science and data seriously.  That would be a complete rewiring of our economy.

Our economic system is presently wired to increase economic inequality, which then produces a distribution of power to affect that economic system unevenly in favor of those that have. The gross economic inequality we see today drives so many of our problems like unaffordable cities, politics controlled by money, stagnation of wages, and the lack of inertia to change the system.  Racism whose power to hurt comes from the economic disadvantages of those it is used against gets nullified.  It goes on and on.  Right now the Republicans, in their belief that fewer restrictions on a system already grossly unfair to us will work better for all of us, are in charge. See the latest tax bill and its consequences for who it really helps.

Soon the reckoning will occur and the Democrats will have the government again.  But if we fail to recognize that it is about security and how government can establish that baseline security for all of us, that levels the playing field where the truly exceptional can be exceptional, we will just keep pinging back and forth between parties while our future just gets dimmer and dimmer.  That is really what it is all about.  We don’t need to just throw out the Republicans in 2018, but to throw out those Democrats who are still too wedded to the old system.  Yeah, change, real change, is very, very hard.

Note: Republicans believe self-servingly that the best way to help everyone and grow the prosperity for all (that is not the same as growing the economy) is an unrestrained market place.  That is their whole flow down approach to the economy.  Make me rich you will be too.  It is also informed by the view of mankind where there is a level playing field out there so if you are suffering you deserve it.  Then throw in that they are basically fearful people, resist change, and underlying all of it is I got mine, fuck you (selfishness breed by fear), and you get a world viewed through lenses that filter out reality.  Of course it is hidden underneath hammocks for the poor and removing regulation and freeing the market place will make us all better off.

But the market place already operates by rules or their would not be a market place, just chaos.  And the important thing for you to note here is that those rules favor the wealthy.  So when you hear don’t regulate the market place, it is smoke and mirrors for don’t change the rules that favor me.  It really is that simple.

Pre-Debate or Morning Follies

First the Follies.  Of course everyone is covering the hostage release (or detainees) and of course we are getting the glass half empty or half full analysis.  My thought as a person who had to manage some really big projects and make tough decisions is that if you listen to these people you would be paralyzed into inaction.  There are always downsides.  You make the best decision you can at the time and move on.  Sadly, Monday morning quarterbacking now offers career opportunities in the media with Republicans who have screwed up just about everything they touch telling us how to do things different. Who was it who said nattering nabobs of negativism?  Spiro Agnee, a Republican I believe. 

The best piece of advice I heard today, especially with my experience as an escort officer for a Vietnam war POW, was from a journalist who had been held captive.  He begged the media to leave them alone for awhile and let them decompress.  They won’t of course, since the story is always more important than the person.  Just one nasty atheist aside.  A relative of the missionary who was released was thanking God for the missionary’s release.  What exactly did God have to do with it?  How do I get a job like that where if anything goes right you get all the credit and if it goes wrong, you weren’t anywhere near it, unless of course you were punishing some metropolis for their godless ways?

Okay, on to the debate.  Debbie Wasserman Shultz was on Reliable Sources (CNN) this morning and was asked right off the bat about why not have more debates.  Ten minutes into the interview she still hadn’t answered the question.  Now with Bernie nipping at Clinton’s heels, some of Hillary’s folks realize few debates are hurting her, not helping her and the moderator raised this point and asked again if she would consider more debates. We got a long diatribe on how there are many avenues for candidates to get their message out.  Again she did not answer.  

Now in my mind the whole Democratic debate thing from the scheduling times to the number is a total, and you will pardon my language here but unlike Debbie, I will to be direct, a goat fuck.  I guess Clinton thought she would be a shoo-in, and Debbie thought it would be a good idea to limit the debates for the presumed shoo-in.  It was stupid.  They left most of the media coverage to go cover Republican debates muting their message and ability counter Republican lies, and the candidates were scheduled in time slots very few Americans were going to watch.  When Democrats in the Party questioned it, Wasserman Shultz saw it as mutiny and tried to silence them.  

Here is the problem:  Wasserman Shultz obviously set up the schedule to favor Clinton and that is dividing the Democratic Party. The new young Democrats enthusiastic about Bernie wonder if the fix was in.  Second, she has shown qualities of double speak that makes Republicans look like amateurs.  It is every thing that puts voters to sleep and is what most of us think has to go. If these voters are turn off, they will not come out and vote.  And that brings me to the Hillary issue.

Here is the reality and all of us who are Progressives get it:  If Congress does not change, nor will our country.  The only way that electing a Democratic President will really brings change other than obstructing more Republican nonsense is that if we get the Congress back  we can pass bills that matter.  Bernie and his campaign get that.  We really have to have a voter revolution with impassioned voters that come out and vote and that is what Bernie is exciting.  

Hillary is in the process of alienating those impassioned voters by panicking about Iowa and New Hampshire and deciding to attack Bernie on bullshit.  Today she characterized him as a flip flopped on guns.  Yes he did change his mind about his policies, but the flip flop is an attack to his integrity.  It is a character attack and she will badly fail there and alienate the very voters she needs.  The single payer attack on Bernie was also lame.  I could write his rebuttals that would eat her lunch.  Has she not ever “flip flopped”.  Gay marriage comes to mind.  But that is not the war we want to be fighting and if she goes down it, it will be self defeating.  She can eat his lunch on foreign affairs.  So co-opt his good stuff, stay above small minded politics, and when you win the nomination, charge up his base with his ideas.  But what do I know.

What’s It All About Alphie?

Saudi Arabia, our good friend who just put to death an Iranian Shiite Cleric for speaking out against Saudi Arabia’s fomenting of violence in other countries, has cut off relations with Iran and tensions are rising.  I don’t think this has anything to do with religion except that religion has always been used as a lever of power.  The NYT provided us a good read this weekend on what was the differences between the Sunnis and Shia Islam.  It was Shakespeare’s historical England.  It was who had the more “legitimate” claim to leader of the religion (read country/caliphate).  And then it was assassinations run wild to game the power.  It was about power, not a faith in God, that was only the excuse to forgive the murder. Religion justifying murder and chaos as it ever was.

And that is what is going on here.  There is a power vacuum in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia is maneuvering to fill it.  The ISIS issue by contrast is a true religious war.  They are out to establish a caliphate (religious state) across the world. In the short-term they are trying to fill that vacuum and they will kill anyone who is not religiously pure.  Saudi Arabia and Iran are out to establish political control for their own security and power reasons.  Religion is just a useful tool as it always has been in these power games.

Probably in the most shameful display of lack of either political courage or principles, none of the Republican candidates have come out and condemned what is certainly an execution for exercising free speech in Saudi Arabia.  “But the Saudi’s are our friends and Iran is our sworn enemy.”  Hello?  Saudi Arabia has the most tyrannical government on the planet.  Iran is the most westernized and hungers for engagement.  Saudi Arabia has been part and parcel of the funding of most of the violence in the Middle East.  Iran is no angel, but if we are looking for a country to lead toward westernization and engagement, it would be Iran, not Saudi Arabia.  Meanwhile we arm the Saudis to the tune of billions of dollars each year.

One final thought on all of this.  It is about power, simple and raw.  It is not really about religion, although religion has always been a useful ally of those seeking power.  We should treat it as such.  Peace in the Middle East, while a goal we all strive for, will not be a lasting one if it is some tyrannical government denying the rights of humans and disrespecting minority rights.  I would say Western values, but these Western values are human values.  The Middle East has not got there yet.

And I will say one more thing about the Muslim world. In my mind it is a drab and dingy world where human aspirations are modulated by religious totalitarianism.  Where is the Shakespeare, the Bob Fosse, the Gene Kelly, the Jane Austin, and the Susan B. Anthony?  Where is the joy in music and art?  Where is the growing innovative class that can change the world?  I will tell you where it is, held back by the shackles of their religion that has not evolved with the modern world.  Every time I see a Muslim women covering herself from head to foot, I wonder how they think this is a religious sign of their faith more than it is sign of their suppression and demeaned class.

I would argue that Western values as embodied in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence are really universal values of the human state.  Our inability to make this argument, or so far have refused to try, has given ISIS a leg up.  But we must understand that countries and religions that deny these basic rights are doomed to strife and revolution because humans, once they know there is an alternative will strive for what is basic to our nature, to be who we are and to live our life expressing that.  This should guide our policy in the Middle East, not some idea of a good “friend” like Saudi Arabia that shuns these beliefs.

As for our Republican cohorts, they think reliable partners who keep the peace by whatever means is just fine.  It is a mistake we have made throughout our history and in the end turns us into the bad guy.  You know for a party that likes to tout freedom and our Constitution, they certainly do not walk their talk.

Update:  There is one way to think about what would appear to be a ham-handed move by Saudi Arabia.  That is that there is a power struggle within Iran over the Iran Nuclear deal, hard liners against, moderates for.  By executing the Shiite cleric they exacerbate that split and cause more dissension in Iran.  It’s a power play.

If Everyone has a Gun, Someone is Going to get Shot (Part II)

First this little tidbit to get your morning going:

The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that has drawn in the United States and Iran.

The arrival in Yemen of 450 Latin American troops — among them are also Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers — adds to the chaotic stew of government armies, armed tribes, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias currently at war in the country. Earlier this year, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana.

Yep, the whole world is festering with unhappy souls, and we are arming them to the teeth.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Okay, I promised to solve the Middle Eastern crisis in one simple blog.  You know, it is a great responsibility and not easy trying to save the world from my iPad in the morning, usually in one page or less.  But somebody has to do it because our mainstream press asks really important questions like, “Marco, what non-politician would you like to sit down and have a beer with?”  If that weren’t bad enough, he answered Malala who is probably underage and a Muslim (doesn’t drink).  I rest my case on the brain trust that is running for President on the Republican side.

Okay, the common perception is that ISIS is the problem.  So the easy answer (see Lindsey Graham) is to send in our troops and wipe them out.  However, we have the vacuum problem.  Who fills the vacuum after we go or do we just stay there forever being the policeman of the world? It’s what we did before. You get the problem.

But there really is a more fundamental problem which many have pointed out has to be dealt with or the problem just keeps raising its ugly head. This problem is the lust for  religious totalitarianism that cannot abide any other beliefs.  It is not just Islam, Christianity has this in its blood stream also, but we have a more tame version where if you don’t believe the “right” way you are just damned to hell.  God will get you in the end and that is good enough. That’s actually a comforting thought for us atheists since we think God is a figment of the imagination anyway.  And I am always reminded of priest and pastors who are “right” thinking, sexually abusing their flock.

The good news, like Christianity, most Muslims are quite happy with live and let live, so part of the solution is to mobilize them against the more crazy Muslims.  When we see shows like The Book of Mormon, being played out as The Book of Mohammed, we know we have arrived.  All kidding aside, just getting the discussion going without death threats within the Muslim world would be a big start. So whatever we do, that has to be part of the solution.

The next thing we have to do is recognize that what we have been doing does not work, period.  And from Libya to Yemen to Syria to Iraq and Afghanistan, our many varied approaches have yielded very little unless of course you manufacture and sell arms or more sadly, if you are in the medical rehabilitation field.  Oh, and it has worked swimmingly if you sell dilapidated boats to refugees.  So we have a region in chaos, millions migrating to Europe, and ISIS and al Qaeda exporting war to our shores.  Not what I would call a success.

So we throw everything we think we know away.  That includes established borders and who are our friends and foes.  Next we have to lay out our goals.  I know this is Project Management 101, but apparently those in charge could use a little.  Here would be my goals:

  1. Destroy ISIS and al Qaeda (and the idea of intolerant religions)
  2. Separate the warring factions and quit trying to get them to hold hands (Iraq)
  3. Stand behind our American principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (did I forget minority rights (Think women here)?)
  4. End the refugee crisis

For Goal 1, we make whatever deals we have to except allowing a war criminal like Assad to remain in power.  If we do let him stay in power, it will be self-defeating and violate Goal 3.  There are going to have to be some Americans involved and NATO has to step up to the plate, along with primarily Arab ground troops.  This includes putting the screws to Pakistan who have nurtured al Qaeda and the Taliban in their territories.

As part of this, we are going to have to establish a no-fly zone and using NATO  forces secure it so the refugees do not have to go to Europe (Goal 4).  This will also require massive humanitarian aid, to build a modern place to be safe while the nuts can fight their wars elsewhere.  Cause trouble and out you go. This could even become a proving ground for a modern Arab government, but tightly managed by NATO to ensure no backsliding.

To make the deals to in fact get an Arab force to fight ISIS and al Qaeda (and maybe Assad), they have to know that they get some of the spoils.  Since we have seen how promising an inclusive government does not work, they get to control the areas they win (Goal 2).  Iraq would probably become three areas (remember Joe Bidden said this years ago), Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish.

Syria could go the same way.  Turkey is in for a rough comeuppance. Since they have facilitated the flow of oil and people into and out of Syria. Russia is not going to like this, but they either play along or get confronted.  Better now than later.  They can either play and have a role in a new Syrian government or they become part of the problem. The whole pack of nations has to clamp down on the flow of money and arms.  Remember this is a world solution to a creeping cancer.

Finally, the big one, Goal 3.  This is really what brings the Middle East into the 21st century and makes us a more civilized world. We help them separate and survive only as long as they promote the values of life, liberty, and happiness.  If they become like Saudi Arabia, they are just a ticking time bomb and will eventually go off, and not peacefully.  If we are going to solve this, we have to recognize that some cultures are not just different, they are destructive to the human spirit.  We have to use our force, influence, and money to become the good guy again.

One last thing.  We are not going to be the policeman of the world.  If it doesn’t work out, we walk away and let them fester in stupidity.  The only time we (NATO) get involved is if like ISIS, they start posing an international problem.  Then we squash them.  See, that was not so hard. Now with this framework in hand, and France now probably fully on board, let’s see if we can make some headway because this is a world problem and only a world solution will work.

The Fantasyland of Republicans – Foreign Affairs

Friday I finally broke down and tried to set the record straight on what Republicans claim President Obama did with the economy, and the actual facts (An Example of the Fantasyland Republicans Live In) indicate they are living in an alternate universe (The Shape We are In, Really).  So today, since our mainstream media just prefers to be ring masters rather than purveyors of the truth, I thought I would examine the present state of foreign affairs given the disaster Republicans describe and the reality of our choices.

Let’s keep this fairly simple and lump them into the Middle East (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan), China, and Russia.  Those appear to be our major challenges and let’s look at where we are and whether President Obama’s foreign policies have been a disaster as Republicans claim, or the result of really no good options.

Let’s start with the Middle East.  Jeb! Bush told us in the Republican debates that his brother kept us safe.  I guess he forgot about 9/11 and the 4000+ who died, or the CIA briefing prior to 9/11 warning of a terrorist attack with airplanes. It is that alternate reality thing.  Every challenge we face today in the Middle East is a direct result of our tragic decision to invade Iraq and upset the delicate balance between Sunnis and Shiites. Even Jeb! admits that we made some critical mistakes in “managing” Iraq.

The Middle East has always been a fairly brutal balance of Shiia and Sunnis.  We tore that balance asunder, and empowered Iran in Iraq when we remove their most diligent foe, Saddam Hussein.  There was no al Qaeda in Iraq until we created the chaos and void in Iraq by invading and horribly mismanaging that invasion.  Our decision to invade has been blamed on bad intelligence, but the Bush Administration managed the intelligence to get the answers they wanted.

Okay with a little history injected into reality, the first major claim by Republicans is that President Obama was too quick to withdraw from Iraq.  They forget George’s part in this and they forget that we don’t get to decide these things in a vacuum.  President Bush negotiated the withdrawal dates. This was a status of forces agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the United States, signed by President George W. Bush in 2008. It established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. combat forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011  So we left as per the agreement and were out December 16, 2011.  We might have stayed longer but immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops could not be obtained from the Iraqis.

So what choices did he, the President, have?  Staying without the SOFA would have put our troops at extreme risk and subject to the Iraqi political system.  Republicans would have gone bat shit.  Iraq is an independent country and to stay would have been an invasion.  Would staying maybe have helped?  More important was it even politically feasible?

How much longer were the American people going to prop up Iraq with our blood and treasury?  With the Republican’s love for balanced budgets, what would we not pay for in America so we could fight an endless war in Iraq?  Oh, and what happened to the $26 billion we spent to train and equip these Iraqis to fight their own battles.  I won’t get into the Sunni/Shite issues internally, but it is something we simply can’t solve.  The bottom line is there was no choice really. Stay forever and referee or let them decide their own destiny.

Iran is an interesting player here in that they are our best ally against ISIS and fighting with Iraq to defeat  them, but an ally of Assad of Syria.  They also support various terrorist groups against Israel. So along comes the Iran Nuclear Agreement and all Republicans are against it, and most would tear it up.  I have addressed this before (The Iran Treaty) but suffice to say there are no viable options.

Republicans say we just need to reinstate the sanctions and negotiate a better deal.  It is fantasy.  The other five countries that made the sanctions really effective are moving ahead with relations.  It would hurt us internationally as not honoring our agreements, question our ability to lead in the world, and shorten the time Iran has to a nuclear weapon.  The Republicans just hate Obama and don’t want him to have a win. But in playing politics and creating a fantasy solution, they are putting America at risk.

Syria is another total quagmire.  Assad is a brutal dictator and there was and is an internal revolt against him.  Republicans wanted us to pour weapons into the area (still do).  Remember who we gave weapons to to get the Russians out of Afghanistan,  Yeah, that would be the Taliban.  So blow back was the biggest consideration.  Those old unintended consequences of handing out weapons.

So who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?  Note also that ISIS is one of the best equipped terrorist groups in the world and most of their weapons are American.  Thank you Iraq.  To further complicate the issue is that the Russians have been supporting Assad and have a strong presence there.  Then there was the red line Assad crossed using chemical weapons, but in lieu of a bomb strike, he gave up his chemical weapons.  Now the Russians are building an airfield to support Assad who is fighting ISIS and other rebels.

So let’s look at the Republican criticism.  First is that we should have supported the rebels, but which ones?  Saying we knew or know who is who, and we could not be sure the weapons would just end up in the hands of ISIS. See how we trained Kurds in Turkey and then the Turks gave them up to ISIS.  So it was a total crap shoot as to what would be the least worst outcome.

Next was the red line language.  Should we have bombed Assad keeping our promise and showing how tough we are?  Maybe, but it would have involved conflict with the Russians and Assad agreed to turn over his stockpile of chemical weapons (which he did), which was the issue in the first place.  Some (MCain and Graham) want us to  send in troops, but  to fight whom in this chaotic situation*?  Republicans would have you believe if we just talked tougher, none of this would have happened.

I am still waiting to hear what they would do now (Except for Linsey Graham who is clear we need to fight the war over there).  So lot’s of criticism, based mostly on an oversimplification of the complications and potential blowback, and then no specifics on what they would do going forward.  Do we really want to be involved in another Iraq and fight the Russians too?

Okay let’s move out of the Middle East and look at some of our other problems.  No matter what we do in the Middle East, it will be a mess and we will own it.  And keep in mind our invasion of Iraq started this whole unraveling.  So let’s talk about Russia.  Russia invades Crimea and if we would have rattled more sabres, they would have not done that according to the Republicans.  Is Crimea in our national interest and is it worth a ground war with Russia?  The same can be said about Ukraine.

So lets send in tons of weapons according to the Republicans.  Just how much blood do we want to be responsible for?  Could this escalate to involve more than just Ukraine and Crimea?  The option to this is to put sanctions on the Russians which we and the Europeans did.  And while Republicans again claim that if we had just been tougher with the Russians, they would not have dared do this, they ignore Russian nationalism as they beat their own nationalistic chests.

And of course the real issue is what do they offer as a way forward that our European partners will go along with?  Russia is facing major economic problems with the crash of oil prices and what they might do could be scary.  But let’s talk tough and maybe start another war in Europe.  It is not so simple is it? They seem to forget that NATO has to play.

Finally China. The Republican’s view of China is that somehow they have rigged the system against us and are taking advantage of us.  So we should use tariffs, bluster, and China bashing.  Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, suggests we cancel the planned visit to America by Xi Jinping, China’s leader. The Donald tells us that U.S. markets seem troubled because Mr. Obama has let China “dictate the agenda.”  We have no idea what that means. Maybe he is talking about China’s undervalued currency, that does not exist anymore.

Chris Christie tells us that the reason U.S. markets were roiled by events in China was U.S. budget deficits, which he claims have put us in debt to the Chinese and hence made us vulnerable to their troubles.  The trouble with that is we have been buying back our debt, Japan owns more of our debt than China, and no one can explain how that debt impacts our own markets since interest rates have stayed at almost zero.  The real issue that caused the markets to fall was the fear of falling demand in China that would impact the world economy.

As Paul Krugman points out, “‘Obama is endangering America by borrowing from China’ is a perfect political line, playing into deficit fetishism, xenophobia and the perennial claim that Democrats don’t stand up for America! America! America! It’s also complete nonsense, but that doesn’t seem to matter.’  The reality is that China is trying to keep its economy strong and a strong Chinese economy makes our economy strong.  We should be wishing for their success, not trying to create a Chinese Cold War.

So when you look at the world and our choices, real choices, it is really not so simple and President Obama has tried to walk a careful road with a very bad hand dealt to him by Republicans.  But they have created an alternate reality where George Bush kept us safe, and all we need to do is act tough and everyone will fall in line.  Well, to be believable, that toughness has to be carried through with actions, and just how many wars do you really want to be in, going it alone?  

So elect Republicans and believe their simple minded view of the world and our options.  Just be on notice that this time your kids just might have to pay the price for this alternate reality.  It was a false reality that Iraq had WMD and it would be a cakewalk.  Now we want to buy into their fantasyland again?

Thursday News Follies

What do you think are say the top five issues facing the country that we should be discussing when considering candidates?  Well here is mine:

  1. Global Warming
  2. Economic Inequality
  3. Immigration
  4. Foreign Affairs (Middle East and Russia)
  5. Infrastructure Investment

Now others are possible and the order may change depending on your focus.  Civil and voting rights could be right up there, along with the surveillance state we have become.  But my point is that right now the campaign in the media is primarily about Republicans, and we are getting nonsense:

  • A Once Sunny Jeb Bush, Bristling in the Long Shadow of Donald Trump
  • Republican Party asks Candidates to Sign Loyalty Pledge
  • Republicans Weigh New Ways to Upend Iran Deal
  • Donald Trump Says Jeb Bush Should Stop Speaking Spanish

Except for Immigration, they are carefully staying away from anything that matters:  Global Warming does not exist or we can’t do anything about it.  Economic Inequality will be solved by lowering taxes (primarily for the wealthy) and get rid of pesky regulations (sound familiar?).  Immigration, well, we just deport them all and construct a giant wall.  On Foreign Affairs, we just need more bluster, but no one is telling us what that means.  And Infrastructure Investment?  Totally silent.

On the Iran deal, one has to ask why all Republicans are against it.  Do they hate Iran or Obama.  This one is a no brainer and as Roger Cohen put it this morning calling it a disaster avoided:

… if the deal had unraveled in Congress, so would America’s standing as a global power. Russia, China and the European Union would have concluded that the United States is unserious. To negotiate over years a tough compromise obliging Iran, among other measures, to slash its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent and its operating centrifuges by two-thirds, and then walk away in a righteous and deluded funk — well, that’s not how America won the respect of the world. It did so by being consequential in hot wars and cold.

…  I said a disaster had been averted. A disaster has also been revealed. It is that not one — not one — of the 301 Republican members of Congress (the largest Republican majority since 1929-31) supports the deal, despite the overwhelming evidence that the accord, while far from perfect, is the best achievable — as almost all Democrats concluded after often agonized review.

So what does a thinking person reading all this conclude?  Republicans have become a disaster for the country with recycled ideas that have failed us, and neoconservative leanings that would result in another war.  The have become so partisan, they cannot do what is best for the country. Meanwhile our media instead covers their distracting nonsense than to point out the real peril the Republicans represent.  In order to pretend you are fair and balanced you have to print the nonsense above and pretend they are making sense.  They are not.

UPDATE:  During my knee exercises this morning I listened to 30 minutes of Hillary’s emails and Inflategate.  Nothing about the major issues that face the country or what the candidates are actually proposing.  Is this a great country or what?

Do They Have a Plan or Why Things Never Change

Republicans hate Obamacare but have you seen what they would replace it with?

Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood because the word planned makes them ill, and for some reason controlling women’s bodies appeals to them.

Republicans are against lifting the embargo in Cuba and just want to keep failing while Europe gets a strong business foothold there.  Why do you continue a policy that everyone knows failed? Aparently because they have to be punished yet we are only punishing ourselves.

Republicans want to vote no on the Iran Nuclear treaty, but their alternative, except the war option, are from fantasy land   Just negotiate harder (tell that to China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany) and that the sanctions won’t fall apart when we don’t approve this treaty (tell that to the other 5 countries who want to trade with Iran).

Republicans want no change in climate policy so that King Coal (which has been dying for years) does not have to pay for the damage it does to the environment and the massive profits from oil and gas are not impacted.  But we are killing our planet, but not to worry,  all this heating is just a natural process, which of course it is.  Add CO2 and watch the heating.  A nuclear explosion is a natural process.  Does not mean it won’t be a damaging one.  Hear the squealing when they are up to their asses in water.

Republicans want no change to immigration laws except build a giant wall. How do we pay for it.  Couldn’t they get higher ladders or deeper tunnels?  How does that deal with the estimated 11 million here illegally or the Dreamers.  Oh wait, the Donald said deport them.  It is another fantasy solution.  We would have a major disruption to our economy and might be guilty of, if not war crimes, gross violation of human rights.

Republicans want more tax cuts for the wealthy (job creators), paid for by cuts to our safety nets and investment in America.  So even though we have seen that trickle down doesn’t work, austerity in the form of cutting government spending depresses the economy, and roads, bridges, water treatment systems, railroads, and airports don’t build themselves, how does this help?

Well, you wanted to see why nothing ever changes and we make no progress.  In a word, conservatives.  We just keep dancing aroung the same issues over and over because they want to keep things just the way they are and they do.  It should be getting fairly obvious who the problem is at this point. So when you are getting mad as hell and won’t take it anymore, ask the guy/gal who is feeding your anger how his/her anger is going to get anything done.  What’s his/her plan?

Who Said it Best Today:  Congressman Levin via Roger Cohen

Congressman Sander Levin is the longest serving Jewish member of Congress and he had this to say about the Iran deal:

“In my view, the only anchors in public life are to dig deeply into the facts and consult broadly and then to say what you believe.”

Levin’s reflection led him to the sober, accurate conclusion that the agreement is “the best way to achieve” the goal of preventing Iran from advancing toward a nuclear weapon, an outcome that will make Israel, the Middle East and the world “far more secure.” Not the ideal way, the perfect way, or a foolproof way, but, in the real world of ineradicable Iranian nuclear know-how, the best way attainable. That is also the view of other parties to the deal — the not insignificant or unserious powers of Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

Roger Cohen goes on to lay out the reality of the deal and our “friends” who are against it:

It is intriguing that, along with Israel and Republican members of Congress, the most vociferous criticism of the deal has come from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have had it with what they see as American fecklessness. They have been convinced since the Iraq invasion that the United States is pro-Shia (read pro-Iran). They are so persuaded of Iran’s anti-Sunni imperial designs that they have embarked on an indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen with the purported aim of stopping the Houthis, seen as Iranian proxies.

Here is a defining moment.  If you are against this deal you are living in fantasy land or you simply prefer war to a chance at peace.  Either way, we have a real window into who serves the country and the best interest of their constituients and who is playing politics for personal aggrandizment.

Greece, Iran, and Global Warming:  What They Tell Us About Republicans

There were multiple stories this morning in the NYT about the austerity and rules changes being forced on Greece by the troika (ECB, EC, and the IMF) and how it will be an absolute failure, counterproductive to even the intrests of the debt holders.  But the troika mudddles on although the IMF has raised the issue that if there is not major debt relief, they won’t play. Joseph Stiglitz (Noble Economist) wrote a piece, along with one from the editorial board.  

Now the problem is austerity and a hard currency that cannot be devalued.  Welcome to the Republican’s economic policies.  They want a strong dollar, and austerity either in the form in one case of a balanced budget, or severe cutbacks to government spending to fund tax cuts to the wealthy.  You want to create another Greece, it will not be by reigning in or disbanding the Fed, but by following Republican economic ideas.

Next up is Iran and in paticular, the Iran nuclear treaty, and Fareed Zakaria on GPS basically hammered the Republicans for living in Fantasy Land.  There is no alternative to the deal.  Any new sanctions would be ignored by China and Russia who want to make deals with Iran, and that goes for our other European Partners.  So what is their alternative? Well that would be military action, sooner rather than later.  

The treaty gives peace a chance.  May or may not work, but it is our best shot.  And our partners, specifically China and Russia do not war in the Middle East.  But Republicans don’t care.  That my friends is the Republican Party and people ought to wake up.  They are slow walking us to another Middle East war because it is good for their Party, not the country.

Finally we have the latest report this week from a well known and respected climate scientist, say we may have the impact of rising water levels completely wrong:

The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.

Okay, it has not been peer reviewed and of course there will be lots of criticism.  But what if he is right?  Say goodbye, in most of our lifetimes, to coastal cities.  Think that might have a dire economic impact?  That the planet is heating is not in debate.  That we ignore the consequences and do nothing about it falls directly on Republicans, who are still in denial about a warming planet.  

So I will ask again, if they have all this so badly wrong, what else do they have wrong?  Just about everything.  If you want to know why the United States is fading as a power, a mover, and a shaker, look no further than the Republican Party that stares at its navel and wonders what else they can do to get fatter and richer. “Wait! Let’s restrict a woman’s right to choose, fight gay marriage with religious freedom laws, deny funding for anything that smacks of global warming, further erode the safety net for tax cuts to the wealthy, and make sure Obama does not get a win on Iran.  Once we are in power again we can redo the Bush years with a Middle East War and a collasping economy.”  That my friends is what the Republicans are offering you.

Choosing Hope Over War

Did you listen Sunday to all the whining about the Iran deal?  My God, it lets them have ballistic missiles (after 10 years).  They will get lots of money to carry on their terrorist activities (unless the political pressure at home that was the catalyst for this deal has much of the money spent internally).  In 10 or 15 years they could then build a bomb.  Yeah, but with no agreement, they can do it today.  What about all the other issues we have with Iran, like their holding of Americans and political prisoners?

This criticism is going on in a vacuum of what the talks really were, a UN sactioned treaty about nuclear weapons with five other nations playing, most importantly Russia and China.  The discussion in this country carries on a fantasy that we controlled all the cards and more importantly, we can just reject this thing and go back to sanctions.  Neither one is true.  Raising the political prisoners card opens the door to taking more political prisoners for political pawns.  Why encourage that?  Assuming Iran is going to completely capitulate is naive at best.  They have their own political problems*.

Let’s just examine the biggest fantasy, that we can just walk away.  The UN won’t.  What that means is that the U.S. sanctions will remain in place, but the rest of the world will start buying their oil and selling them weapons (read China and Russia).  And of course the Europeans will jump in there if they see money making opportunities.  So the Great Satan stands alone and tries to inflict pain on the only country in the Middle East that really does have a well educated population that yearns for things Western and are critical to solving Iraq and Syria.

And take a gander at who is against it.  All the smart people that got us into a war in Iraq.  And as I have opined before, every Republican on the planet because they hope to sully the President in 2016.  I really dispair watching Democrats pick this thing apart to sooth their Jewish constituency.  This is what is best for America and the world, not your right wing Jewish friends who fund your campaigns. And of course there are our good friends the Saudis whose human rights record is close to eclipsing Atilla the Hun’s.  Oh, and don’t forget the hardliners in Iran.  Think about it:  Our Neocons and the hardliners in Iran are on the same page.

I guess the part that is most frustrating about this “debate” is that it is a no-brainer.  Hope or war.  That’s it.  To turn this down, starts the country down the road to war with Iran, and this will be no minor war.  The whole Middle East will erupt in a free for all.  So do the cost benefit analysis.  What have you lost if you enter into this agreement.  Sure Iran can use some of the money to continue supporting terrorist and disruptive activities in the Middle East.  We can block that and deal with it directly. They can eventually build a weapon**, but they can now, so?

What we gain is real hope.  First, we prevent a weapon being built and reduce their capacity to do so later. Second, we open up other anvenues of dialogue with the only country in the Middle East capable of helping us in Syria and Iraq.  Third, as Iran modernizes, they too will have to deal with an educated population that wants to engage with the West.  So sure they could violate the agreement.  Sure they can eventually build a weapon** if they choose.  But if they do we are back to where we are now with the choice of military action.  But we gain a chance to change the world and especially the dynamics in the Middle East.  How could you not go for it?

*Note:  Americans are one egocentric bunch.  We like to image the bad guys as, well, the bad guys, but think about this from Iran’s perspective.  First, they know oil is a limited resource and the day will come when you have to move on. Second, nuclear eneregy is their best option and they have their own uranium.  Next consider the world around them.  BeBe wants to nuke them for spitting on the sidewalk.  The Sunnis hate the Shiites and we are arming the Sunni capital of the world, Saudi Arabia.  They understand the threat of ISIS and are the only (beside the Kurds) effective force in fighting them.  And of course you have the United States singing songs like, Bomb, Bomb, Iran.  Would you not be looking to secure your future with weapons?

**Note:  Do you remember MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction which was our strategy for keeping the Russians at bay?  If Iran built a weapon and used it, we would know in an instant and we have enough weapons to destroy Iran 10,000 times over.  If it gets to that, Iran builds a weapon, to use it would be suicide.  What we really ought to be worrying about is North Korea.