Posts Tagged With: foreign affairs

ANOTHER WIN FOR DYSFUNCTION

Last time I wrote about the deal emerging in negotiations to limit Iran’s capability to achieve nuclear weaponry. I pointed out that in its efforts to reach some sort of nuclear arrangement with Iran, the Obama administration is very likely to reach some terribly wrong agreement. Like allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium which is at the very core of a nuclear bomb. Or like setting a term-limit on the agreement reached to only 10 years. Which means that at the start of the 11th year, Iran could very easily start to assemble nuclear weapons on their assembly lines. In the meantime, Iran gets the benefit of a relaxation of all economic sanctions that most of the world has placed on it. Oil production would dramatically increase, and the Iranian economy would boom. But even worse than this deeply flawed treaty is the action of 47 Republican senators in sending a letter to the mullahs that exercise iron-clad control over that country. The letter, in effect, stated that any agreement reached between the Obama administration and the Iranian government will be short lived because when the Republicans take power in less than 2 years, they will likely chuck it into the garbage can. For mind-boggling recklessness and sheer outright stupidity, this action is almost beyond comprehension.

Let’s start with the premise that has supposedly been woven into the American landscape since the end of WWII. That premise states that the political divide in this country stops “at the waters edge.” This means that we can bicker internally about all sorts of political issues; but when it comes to dealing in foreign relations and with foreign governments, we speak with one united voice. How else can we successfully achieve our foreign policy objectives? As an analogy, lets turn back the clock to early 1940, when the Nazi military was on the march throughout Europe. The Roosevelt administration had established a “lend-lease” program to supply England with the vital weaponry it needed to fight Hitler’s troops as they threatened to invade the British Isles. If isolationist Republican senators who were opposed to this program had sent Hitler a letter at the time, saying “don’t worry about lend-lease. When we win the election slated for later this year, we’ll just toss that whole lend-lease operation into the trash bin.” One can only imagine the tragedy that would have ensued. Fortunately for us, and the rest of the free world, no such letter was ever sent. But that hasn’t stopped modern day Republicans, whose antipathy, or outright hatred of everything Obama, from going deeply beyond the waters edge.

The GOP excuse for writing that letter was that they wanted to explain to those crazy kids, the ayatollahs, that so-ruthlessly run Iran, about the intricate points of the U.S. constitutional form of government.  Right. If you believe that one, I’ve got a bridge that connects Brooklyn with Manhattan that I’ll sell you real cheap. First of all, by writing to the ayatollahs, the most fanatical and hate-mongering segment of Iranian society, and telling them that any pact reached with the current administration isn’t worth the paper its printed on, only reinforces the ayatollahs doctrine that the U.S. can never be trusted. That the U.S. is the great satan that must be destroyed, along with Israel, of course. That it’s an absolute moral imperative for every Moslem to seek the total destruction of the U.S. and Israel. So, any effort on the part of our current administration to reach some form of reasonable accommodation with Iran is now pretty much out the window.

At the heart of such recklessness is the GOP’s undying antipathy toward Obama and his administration. It explains the daily gushing river of vitriol and venom directed against not only Obama, but his Attorney-General Eric Holder, as well. The first black President and the first black Attorney-General of the United States. Day after day, this vitriol pours forth from Fox News and right-wing-whacko talk radio. But who could possibly infer that there’s anything racial going on here. A Rush Limbaugh or any of his wannabes would, of course, never admit to that.

The Republican mantra of hating everything Obama is further illustrated by the Attorney-General situation. Toward the end of 2014, AG Eric Holder announced that he was resigning and would leave office as soon as a new AG has been approved by the Senate. President Obama thereafter announced that he was nominating a New York prosecutor named Loretta Lynch to be the replacement AG. She would be the first black woman to occupy that office. The Senate panel overseeing such nominations declared that she was well-qualified and approved her nomination for a full Senate vote. The problem is that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, refuses to schedule such a vote. On the one hand, confirming Lynch’s nomination would be the quickest way to be rid of the despised Eric Holder.  On the other hand, Loretta Lynch would just be another Afro-American carrying out Obama administration policies. A female Eric Holder. What a conundrum. To vote her down would allow the racial disease within the Republican Party to become too obvious, even for voters that hardly pay any attention to such matters. So, at this point, it appears that the GOP has no end-game strategy, other than endless delaying tactics, until, they hope, time runs out on the Obama presidency.

Such is the state of of American politics in the year 2015. Every time one might think that we’ve hit a new low in political dysfunction, polarization, and hyper-partisanship, the political class seems to sink us even deeper into the quagmire of mud and slime. And it’s only going to get worse in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

 

 

 

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TAKING INVENTORY

As 2013 winds down to its dreary conclusion, a look back over the year would seem to be in order. Both internationally and here in the U.S., events generally did not go well. From the hysterics surrounding the rollout of ObamaCare and the general dysfunction and demonization of political opponents in our so-called government, to to the triumphs of tyrants and murderers abroad, 2013 will not make the hit parade of winners over the years, decades or centuries, past or future. So lets us start with the “unpleasantness” occurring overseas before we swing back to what has taken place in this country.

Take Greece. Please. (Still attached to that old Hennie Youngman joke.) Greece, as we all know, has long been considered the cradle of democracy, if not civilization itself. Between Plato, Socrates, Homer and others, Greece has profoundly enriched western civilization and culture with literature, art, philosophy, etc. But modern day Greece, as we further know, has been an economic basket case. The country has been in a virtual state of bankruptcy for at least the last 6 years, and its economy would have been driven down to the very depths of depression if it hadn’t received continual cash infusions from wealthier European countries such as Germany. So, as what usually happens in societies that are suffering hard economic times, extremism on a broad scale has raised its ugly head.

A political movement in Greece called “Golden Dawn” which espouses a neo-Nazi philosophy, has been steadily gaining political muscle and influence. Much like the race riots caused by Nazi brownshirts in 1920s Germany, the Greek police have generally stood on the sidelines while Golden Dawn’s para-military squads have rolled into action, spewing forth hate and violent demonstrations against anyone deemed genetically inferior. And much like Hitler and the Nazis in the 1920s, Golden Dawn, once considered a fringe group known for its stiff-arm salutes and Holocaust denials, has now achieved at least 15% support and growing, among the Greek populace. They also have 18 seats now in the Greek parliament. Emboldened by their rising popularity and parliamentary successes, Golden Dawn has embarked on an ever-increasing level of racial violence and street demonstrations which have resulted in scores of deaths. And why not? This was the same route so successfully taken by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis on their road to political domination. So, in addition to the economic misery the average Greek citizen is expected to suffer through, they now have to combat the rising tide of right-wing fanaticism. And I would submit that all this is all going on under most Americans radar screens.

I’ve written before about the other on-going, long-term,  festering foreign policy  problems that the U.S. tends more and more to walk away from. In 2013, the rising tide of U.S. isolationism gathered increased momentum. Both the political left and right in this country have entered into an unholy alliance to disengage from foreign affairs. For example, the one thing that Ted Cruz, on the far-far right, complimented President Obama for, was not taking military action in Syria. Even though bloody dictator Basher Assad has now slaughtered about 130,000 of his on people in a never-ending civil war. Even though Assad crossed Obama’s red line in the sand by using chemical warfare in killing hundreds of Syrians. Even though Assad orders bombings of Syrian cities, killing hundreds on a daily basis. But who are we to intervene? Certainly not the leader of the free world. Not anymore.

I’ve also written before about how Iran, the leading world sponsor of terrorism, is first-down and goal to go on the one yard line, as far as acquiring nuclear weaponry. About how, in 2013, we’ve eased up on the economic sanctions placed on Iran in attempting dissuade the ruling mullahs from crossing that goal line. In return for relaxed sanctions we’ve gotten supposed negotiations which appear to be going no-where. About how absent any direct military action by this country in bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, they will almost certainly come into possession of dirty bombs. And, about how, given the growing isolationist tendencies in the U.S., the chances of such military action are about….less than zero. Because we all know how well isolationism worked out in the past; say just before WWII. The one thing I’ve learned in life is that there’s always a price to pay for every action, or inaction, as the case may be. That free lunch everyone’s always looking for-it just ain’t there.

Moving back to our shores, 2013 saw an increasing amount of dysfunction and polarization among the American public and its representatives. We saw the Government shut down for weeks in October, as both parties created one phony crises after another to further their political agendas. Any thought of actually enacting something beneficial for the American public evaporated like the morning mist. As a result, the decades-long decline of the American middle-class continued unabated. Average annual income for middle-class families declined from about $56,000 before the recession to about an inflation-adjusted $51,000 currently. Meanwhile, the richest one or two percent saw their wealth grow considerably higher. We are becoming more and more like a third-world banana republic, where the one percent richest elite will rule the rest of us peasants. Republicans, smelling blood in the water, are attacking the highly Democratic ineptitude in rolling out ObamaCare. The GOP figures that the ObamaCare failures in 2013 will give them an absolute lock on winning both the House and the Senate in 2014, and perhaps they’re right. Won’t life in America be fun then. So to my thinking, 2013 has recorded a pretty dismal record when it comes to the betterment of mankind’s future.

Meanwhile, dysfunction will still be the order of the day, come 2014. Starting early next year, another Government shutdown is looming over the debt-ceiling debacle. And I haven’t even discussed the enormous progress made in  the ecological degradation of our planet during 2013, and sure to continue as 2014 unfurls. (I’ve written about that previously, if anyone is interested.) So raise a glass of good cheer come New Year’s Eve. After all, the fun just never stops coming.

 

 

 

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THE ABYSMAL OR THE ABYSMALER

Even though the presidential election has long since passed, I’m still getting e-mails from both the Republican and Democratic parties asking for donations. I guess, these days, as soon as one election is over it’s time to start campaigning for the next one. Thus, the race is already on for the congressional elections in 2014, followed by  the next presidential race in 2016. The early favorites in 2016 are Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Marco Rubio for the Republicans. So if you thought the previous election cycle was the height of obnoxiousness, be prepared for this obnoxious overkill to continue nonstop until the end of time. In any event, when the Republican e-mail arrived, instead of a donation I sent back my own e-mail. I said that I considered the Republican agenda to be, on the fiscal side: trickle-down-economics, tax-cuts for the rich, and slashing government assistance to the poor, the sick and the elderly. On the social side it was anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-immagration, and anti-gun control. I told them to let me know when any of that stuff changes, and then, maybe I’ll toss a few shekels into the kitty.

On the Democratic side it becomes more complicated. While usually operating with the best of intentions, Democratic ineptitude is so mind-boggling, that Democrats themselves, become their own worst enemies. (There used to be a saying in Washington, that the Democratic version of a firing squad was to form a circle.) A perfect example is Obamacare. It was the Democrats intent to enact universal health-care, certainly an admirable goal. But instead of doing it smartly, they bungled the whole enterprise, and now everybody hates the resulting legislation. The smart way was to have legislated Medicare for everyone, from the moment of birth. When Obama became President in 2009, the Democrats had a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. Within 6 months they could have passed a 10-page piece of legislation that would have given everyone the right to enroll in Medicare from the moment one was born. If anyone couldn’t afford the very modest Medicare fees, they could be enrolled in Medicaid. To pay for all this, Congress could have passed a 5-10% value-added tax, (sales tax) on all products except for food and medicine. This is how all the first-world countries of the world pay for their universal health-care, which they all have.

Instead, the Democrats screwed around for 2 years and finally passed this 2600 page Frankenstein, who everyone opposes, including the health insurance companies which initially supported Obamacare. It would be as if you were planning a trip from Baltimore to Boston; but instead of booking a direct flight between the 2 cities, you booked a flight that went from Baltimore to Atlanta; to Denver; to Phoenix; to Los Angles; and then back to Kansas City; on to Chicago; and then, finally, to Boston. Now major headaches loom as the new law is supposed to be implemented starting later this year and early 2014. Most Republican governors in the 30 states they control are vowing not to implement the health exchanges that are at the heart of Obamacare.

Democratic ineptitude shows up in other areas as well; such as the weak economy, huge and mounting budget deficits and disintegrating foreign affairs. Unemployment numbers remain stubbornly high as the economy barely limps along like a wet noodle. That alone will be enough to doom Democratic chances for complete congressional control in 2014. Plus, Democrats are refusing to acknowledge the damage that is being wrought by a gargantuan accumulated budget deficit nearing $17 trillion, and annual deficits running in the vicinity of $1 trillion. While China has bought about $1 trillion, and other nations own smaller portions of our debt, the largest debt-holder by far, is the Federal Reserve System. As I pointed out last time, that is the height of an incestuous relationship-one government agency buying the debt issued by another government bureau. It means printing up and flooding the market with dollars which become more and more valueless, thus risking hyper-inflation. Right now interest rates are at historic lows; but when they start to rise due to inflationary pressures, it will cost the government hundreds of billions of dollars more to pay the interest on the debt. Eventually, there won’t be enough money left in the world to service our debt; and at that point the entire economy will collapse.

On the foreign affairs front, North Korea is threatening us with nuclear war while Iran plows ahead unchecked with their development of a nuclear arsenal. In Syria, between 70-80 thousand civilians have been killed in a civil war that has been raging on for 2 years with no end in sight. So, if you feel that the bad guys around the world are on the ascendency, there is ample justification for those beliefs. Yet we have an incredibly weak foreign policy of “leading from behind,” while evil appears to be triumphant.

I know that many young people feel that all these “political” problems are beyond their scope of attention. It’s stuff for the old fogies to be concerned with. Besides, there is so many more important issues to worry about, such as which of the Kardashians is getting divorced or having a baby, or who will be the next American Idol. But just the opposite is true. Seniors like myself can probably muddle through the rest of our lives until it’s time to go cloud-dancing, before the really, really bad stuff comes crashing down. It’s young people in their 20s or 30s or even 40s that will have to face the consequences of a collapsing economy or nuclear, world-wide disaster, if world events continue on their present courses. So young people here, and around the world, really need to pay attention and attempt to change the course of these destructive human events.

Thus, when I get requests from 2 political parties asking for donations, I view them as a choice between the abysmal and the abysmaler, and it’s not a very entertaining choice. Both parties, these days, seem far more interested in winning elections and grabbing power, than in fixing the overwhelming problems that beset us. So for the time-being, I think I’ll keep my money in my wallet, and view the world as it spins on its wobbly axis.

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AT THE WATER’S EDGE

There used to be a saying, back in the day, that politics stopped at the water’s edge. What it meant to convey was that although there could be great debates and divisiveness about domestic policy and issues, when it came to foreign affairs, we should always present a united front to the rest of the world. Liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, when it came to foreign policy issues, it was in the best interests of our country that we would all act as one. This thinking stemmed largely from the time shortly before World War II, when our foreign policy was basically isolationism. Although storm clouds indicating mammoth wars were about to begin in Europe and the Pacific, most Republicans and some Democrats too, believed that having vast oceans on our east and west coasts would somehow protect us from becoming involved in those conflicts. The Roosevelt Administration tried desperately to assist England as it fought for its very existence against the maniacal evil of Nazi Germany. But a largely isolationist Congress refused to let Roosevelt engage Hitler militarily.

Of course, the folly of isolationism came abruptly to an end in December 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans would not give us immunity from being involved in the rest of the world’s affairs. Thereafter, a new breed of Republicans, known as internationalists, started getting elected to office, and isolationism was supposedly a discredited and dead issue. As I stated earlier, foreign policy was deemed to be at the water’s edge by this new wave of Republicanism,  where neither party would criticize the other on such matters. That began to unravel around the 1960s when Republicans began using foreign policy as a campaign issue, by stating that the Democrats were “soft on communism” especially when dealing with the old USSR and Red China. Those were the times when the cries from right-wing circles went forth such as: “Better dead than red, or lets kill a Commie for Jesus.” Ronald Reagan especially exploited the soft on communism theme in winning the presidency twice in the 1980s. We probably spend about one or two trillion dollars extra in defending against the “red menace.” In the end, the old USSR collapsed under its own unmanageable weight, and Red China became a market, instead of Marxist economy, and today is one of our largest trading partners, as well as holding about a trillion dollars of our debt. The Viet-Nam war, where we lost about 58,500 men, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese that were killed, was another exercise in the futility of fighting the “red menace.” Today we also have extensive trade agreement with the government of Viet-Nam, the same government we had fought against in vain decades before. Funny how unforgivable irony can be when recounting the foibles of man’s history.

All this came to mind a few days ago when Mitt Romney was fast to assault President Obama with the charge that having a weak foreign policy led to the deaths of 4 US ambassadorial members in Libya. He made this charge, of course, before any facts were known or verified. Once the facts were known, Romney was proven wrong, but apparently little things like facts will not dissuade the Republicans from attacking Obama”s foreign policy initiatives. No more stopping at the water’s edge this time around. Of course, to be fair, the Democrats strongly attacked George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraqi war, so I guess both parties have waded into the water and it’s now up to their necks. But getting back to Libya, as well as other Arab or Islamic nations, it would be useful to understand the rage, turmoil and protests going on against any US presence in that part of the world. To do this, lets look at the facts this time.

Arab or Islamic countries in the Mid-East (Iran is Islamic but not Arab) have some of the most wretched economies in the world. Living conditions are often deplorable, and the the unemployment rates, especially for young men, are through the roof. Thus, you have tons of young men with tons energy, but with no outlets such as job opportunities, to release that energy. For tens if not hundreds of thousands of young men in their late teens, or twenties, or even thirties, their days consist of a dismal process of sitting around with no hopes for decent employment or a satisfying future. They have already given up on any prospects that their lives will, in any way, ever amount to anything. Their futures have already been taken from them. Thus, these young men with no hope or prospects, make fertile breeding grounds for the vile and hate-mongering radical islamists and terrorists, ever eager to wreck vengeance on the US, Israel and the West in general.Those that seek power through hate, as has been shown throughout history, will always look for willing followers among those that believe they have no future. And this is exactly what happened in Libya, Egypt and throughout the Mid-East. Using the slightest pretext, such as the making of a piece of garbage anti-Islamic film, tens of thousands of protesters, almost all young men, took to the streets in rage and anger, burning American and Israeli flags, setting fires to Embassy buildings, and in the worst case scenario, murdering 4 innocent diplomats in Libya. That rage and protest gave young men who had no other prospects, a new purpose for living. If it wasn’t for the pretext of a bad, hate-filled movie, the violent protesters would have come up with some other excuse to wreck their vengeance. And to try to score political points off those events could be considered perhaps a new low in mudslinging in American politics.

Just one more point I want to make about the presidential race. A few weeks back Mitt Romney  made the curious statement before a campaign crowd, that if young people couldn’t find decent jobs, they should borrow money from their parents and go into business for themselves. And I thought, of course, why didn’t I think of that when I was young. All those years I worked for someone as an employee, I could have started my own business and been the boss instead. I could have asked my parents to loan me their entire life savings, all $164.82 worth, and gone into the venture capital business like His Mittness did. Again, why didn’t I think of that?

 

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