Category Archives: corruption

16China’s strategy clear


 

In a world of regional conflicts, new fighting in the high Himalayas in Bhutan sheds further significance on Beijing’s world strategy.

Bhutan, an incredibly beautiful retreat in the heart of the highest mountains in the world with only a million inhabitants, was a “protectorate” of British India. It, and a half dozen other frontier states – including Nepal with 30 million – drifted either into incorporation, semi-independence or independence [Nepal’s 30 million] in the new Subcontinent divided basically between predominantly Moslem Pakistan [later Pakistan and Bangladesh] and India [with its Islamic minority almost as large as Pakistan’s population].

In late June Beijing accused India of sending border guards from Sikkim, one of the Himalayan kingdoms that eventually became part of India, on to the Doklam plateau in Bhutan. [Bhutan maintains no formal relations with China.] Historically Bhutan  was linked geographically to Tibet rather than India below the Himalayas.]  China accused the Indians of trying to obstruct road construction. New Delhi did admit it had approached the Chinese crew warning them against disturbing the current status.

Indian and Chinese forces have clashed in various parts of the 3,000-mile frontier – much of it either disputed or indefinitely marked – since 1962. Then as a result of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s pushing the Indian demarcation of the British Indian border – apparently with the assurance from his chief foreign policy advisers, V.K. Krishna Menon, a Communist sympathizer, that Moscow would intervene with their Chinese Communist ally to prevent violence. Instead, the Indian military – heirs to the great British Indian Imperial tradition – suffered a devastating blow which brought the Chinese into the lowlands on the south side of the Himalayas but then with a rapid unilateral withdrawal.

Since then, there have been clashes between them– especially after their occupation of Tibet and the flight of the Dalai Lama, its religious-civil leader, to India in 1950, where he leads a government in exile among Tibetan refugees. Despite Pakistan’s one-time alliance and heavy dependence on U.S. arms, Islamabad has drifted into an alliance with Beijing

As American influence and aid has diminished, Beijing’s role in Pakistan – which already had nuclear weapons – has grown. China has been given permission to establish a naval base at Gwadar, on the Iranian border at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. An official announcement came just a few days after U.S. Navy SEALs conducted a secret raid to kill Osama Ben Ladin in Pakistani when relations between Washington and Islamabad took a nosedive.

Beijing plans for Pakistan to play a major role in China’s “Belt and Road”, a $1.4-trillion global trade plan, a rebuilding of the historic Silk Road from China’s west to the Persian Gulf and Europe. If the Chinese are successful, it could shift the global economy and challenge the U.S.-led order. Islamabad is banking on receiving more than $50 billion in Chinese loans and grants including a pipeline to bring Mideast oil and gas to China’s western province of Sinkiang.

Pakistan leadership – always fraught with division and corruption — has just lost its prime minister after a court’s ruling on his massive corruption. Some Islamabad politicians see China as its new “equalizer” with the U.S. and Indian relationship – after the decades of New Delhi’s alliance with Moscow — increasingly stronger. Prime Minister nahrenda Modi, during a two-day visit to Washington in June, called on Islamabad to end its support of terrorism, supporters of the Kashmir state disputed between the two neighbors.

American aid to Pakistan, once the third-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, is expected to total less than $1 billion in 2016, down from a recent peak of more than $3.5 billion in 2011.

The Trump Administration is again face to face with a decision: should it continue military and economic aid to nuclear armed Pakistan in order to win whatever support there is for the West among its elite or throw in the towel to what has become a Chinese ally in Beijing’s strategy to reach around India to extend its political influence based on its rank as the world’s No. 2 economy?”

 

 

Sws-08-04

Taking responsibility


We may never get to the end of the Susan Rice story.

History tells us that Rice rattled off a false tale on several networks after the attack and death of Four Americans – including the ambassador to Libya — in the Benghazi. Her detailed lie was that the deaths were the result of a semi-spontaneous anti-American demonstration occasioned by broadcasts from the then pro- Muslim Brotherhood broadcasts from radio Cairo that had spread throughout the Arab and Moslem world.

The truth was, of course, that the Libyan jihadists had plotted to kill Americans for some time, that the local U.S. diplomatic corps had been pleading unsuccessfully for weeks for additional defenses against what it knew were plots against them. Although Rice’s performance was almost immediately exposed, she suffered no particular consequences and continued as a high national security official.
The Rice story has barged into the headlines again with the revelation that she “unmasked” American citizens who, presumably, were only incidentally recorded in secret U.S. intelligence agencies’ search of communications for important leads. Theoretically such persons were protected unless specific requests were made for their identity by Administration officials, presumably because they would lead to further insights on the principal target of the surveillance.

When word eked out that Rice had been responsible for “unmasking” some of these names, she initially denied the role. But, again, she has backtracked and admitted that it was she who unasked some of these conversational participants. Why? is not yet to be explained since theoretically she was only a recipient of intelligence as she served as the 24th United States National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. It was in this role as a consumer of intelligence that she had access to the surveillance but theoretically had no authority except in unusual circumstances to direct its contents, a role for the several American intelligence agencies who produced the material for the president’s office to examine.

What is still at issue is whether having “unmasked” various U.S. persons who fell into the hands of the surveillance teams, she passed this material on to others in the Obama Administration, perhaps to be used against the Republican candidate in the run up to the presidential election last fall. Rice says she did no such thing, but given her record of stretching the truth, there is considerable speculation that is precisely what she did do.

It is here that we begin to enter the territory of does the punishment fit the crime?

Much too often recently, in “the swamp” in Washington that Donald Trump says he was elected to drain, there has been no penalty for either skirting the outer reaches of the law or, indeed, breaking it.

Instead, American public and private life has fallen into the speech formula of “taking responsibility” for the infraction. That epithet has moral and propaganda implications but it does not actually penalize the miscreant. In most cases, he [or she] either does not pay the price in dollars and cents for his failure to conform to the law nor does he surrender privileges and prestige that surround the position that has been violated. The most notorious example, of course, is Hillary Clinton’s use of her private e-mail [for whatever reason] to move official documents, which among other things increased their exposure to foreign espionage.

In both these instances of outright violation of the law, Hillary Clinton has announced that she “takes responsibility” for these missteps. But she has paid no other price.

This new version of the formula “I take responsibility” but requires no actual pain or suffering — either in prestige or in wealth – has eroded the whole concept of right and wrong in public life. It may be too late to fill the widening gap. But an effort ought to be done to take up this responsibility.

Sws-04-06-17

Caesar’s wife


One of the most ancient parables in Western culture is the tale of Caesar’s wife. For those who have forgotten or escaped a classical education, the story goes that after the death of his first wife in childbirth [when he also lost his son], Caesar chose to marry again. Having reached the heights of the Roman Republic as Pontifex Maximus, the elected chief priest of the state religion, Caesar’s new wife would play a collateral role.
To acquire the necessary helpmate, Caesar turned to Pompeia, whose family like his had fought on the losing side in the Roman civil war of the 80s B.C. Following protocol for the Roman gentry, Pompeia was honored with a banquet and celebration as the “grand goddess”, a celebration attended only by women of high ranking families.
But a young male patrician named Publius Clodius, apparently in an effort to seduce Pompeia, managed to enter the charmed circle disguised as a woman,. When he was discovered, he was put on trial. But he was not convicted despite all Caesar’s efforts.
However, Caesar refused to accept the verdict He divorced Pompeia, declaring publicly that “my wife ought not even to be under suspicion.” Caesar’s call on the appearance as well as the reality of stringent morality has given rise to the daily proverb, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion!”
Leaving aide for the moment all the other accusations of corruption and perfidy thrown at Hillary Clinton, the fact that she is running for the highest office in the land requires the invocation of “Caesar’s law”. A corollary to Caesar’s law is that the higher an individual in public life reaches for office, the more stringent should be the requirements that he fulfill the appearance as well as the proof of incorruptibility. Public morality, even with all its inadequacies through the ages, remains the bulwark of democratic government and its institutions.
There is no doubt that former Pres. Bill Clinton has further muddied the waters – whether with or without the collaboration of Attorney-General Loretta Lynch. Both as lawyers and current or former holders of high public office, would have had to know that any contact between them would be open not only to scrutiny but to condemnation. That Ms. Lynch now publicly acknowledges that it was a mistake to have met with the spouse of a subject of FBI investigation, and that she would not do it again [were she given the opportunity]. It is further complicated by the possibly Bill Clinton may become a co-defendant in the affair of the Clinton Foundation and its donors and, again, the appearance of their attempts at influence the affairs of government through the Clintons. It is more than conclusive that neither courted nor abided by Caesar’s Law.
It will take a Solomon, to invoke another icon of Western jurisprudence, to know where adequate and correct public policy now leads. As Ms. Lynch has said publicly, her meeting with Bill Clinton has cast a shadow over the whole process of investigation of Hillary Clinton’s activities. The refusal, thus far, of Ms. Lynch to exclude herself from participation in the whole investigation as a minimal step in the right direction, is incomprehensible. The Clintons’ defenders who point to the fact Ms. Lynch’s deputy is also an Obama appointee is beside the point.
Indeed, one of the first steps toward righting this sinking moral and legal ship is the appointment of a widely accepted public figure with a judicial background to take on the role of special prosecutor in this affair. Nothing less would remove it from the nest of intrigue and conflicting interest which this Administration has brought to it.
sws-07-03-16

Twilight for social democracy


Ironically, at a time when American politicians are flirting with social democratic concepts, their historic parties are fading in Western Europe where those political slogans originated.
The prime example is Spain. There the PSOE [Partido Socialista Obrero Español], the Party of the Spanish Worker, the country’s oldest, has weathered many crises. During the 40-year-long Franco dictatorship, it maintained its role as the principal anti-Communist left opposition operating among refugees in France.
After governing in Madrid 21 of the last 39 years, the PSOE will probably lose its commanding position in this month’s elections, even losing role as leader of Spain’s left where the majority of the voters self-identify. Shorn of their old Soviet attachment and command structure, a revolutionary movement on the left, Podemos, and a right of center party, are likely to reduce the PSOE to less than 20% of the vote. Spanish political theory is highly influential throughout the whole Ibero-American world, and Latin American styles are almost certain to follow – as already demonstrated in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and soon in Venezuela, where left-wing regimes are being ousted.
The loss of popularity of the social democrats in Spain echoes throughout Western Europe where for more than a half century they have played a dominant role. In Germany, the original home of social democratic concepts, the socialists are polling new lows. The ruling French Socialists have become increasingly unpopular under their Pres. François Holland, in part because he has adopted a program of economic and labor reforms ignoring traditional socialist nostrums.
In the early 90s, Italy’ socialists – in the early postwar years with a Soviet line by far the largest party, an ally of the Communists — under their first prime minister, Bettino Craxi, was almost wiped out by corruption. Three Socialist deputies committed suicide as a result of the scandals. Splinters of the early socialist parties, from anti-Communist to those fellow-traveling in the Soviet era, have joined forces forming the Socialist Party (PS), renamed Italian Socialist Party (PSI) in 2011. But many former social democrats have deserted the socialists for four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s bigger tent, largely a right-of-center grouping.
Europe’s social democrats have become discredited through their growing association with the policies of the moderate right — austerity, deregulation, liberalization and free trade. Virtually the whole technocratic community has seen these as necessary economic measures to restore prosperity. These have been increasingly seen by the media and among many younger politicians as the cause of Europe’s present economic decline.
But as voters of the traditional left have grown bitter as they saw their party of the welfare state, the public sector and of the blue-collar workers, reverse its governing strategy. That feeds a growing separation between social democratic politicians who view these policies as the only options as jobs have disappeared and economies flattened and the street, always ready to find leaders for protest and violence..
In Spain, an inconclusive general election last December left the socialists in a dilemma: either adopt the centre-right promises of tax cuts and more supply-side reforms, or bend to a new left that calls for an end to austerity and channels the anger of the mob.. In the U.K., this dilemma has produced a new leftwing leadership in the Labor Party, But whether, even with the conservatives in disarray over the question of withdrawal from the European Union, they have a formula to gain power is dubious.
It seems unlikely that this paradox won’t be present for the European socialist movement for the indefinite future. Whether it has application to the American scene – current political fashions to the contrary – seems highly unlikely. The U.S. economy, while not roaring forward, still is the envy of most of the Western world, with few calls even from the “progressives” for the nationalization and “socialization” of the major industries.
sws-06-22-16

Hillary’s E-mails, Obama and Common Sense


Not a lot that is being said by The Talking Heads makes sense in the case of Hillary Clinton’s E-mails.
First of all, everything would tell us that any domestic or foreign political figure would be interested in the very fact that a specific subject had reached the Himalayan heights of the Secretary of State’s eyes. She is, after all, in addition to her vast power and influence as the decision-maker after The One in foreign relations matters, one of the most powerful figures in government.. And, of course, the secretary of state is the fifth in line to the presidency in the event a catastrophe eliminates the vice president, the speaker of the house, the majority leader of the house, and the pro temp leader.
It may well be, as many government officials have long argued, that too many documents are “classified”, said to be of lesser importance than their originator believed when he accorded them a secret status. But, as is obvious, that decision must be left with the originator of the document, not to be trifled with by the recipient. And as some of the released e-mails indicate, not only did Clinton disregard the classification, but she instructed subordinates in the State Department to remove the classification, acknowledging that she knew their significance even if she did not agree with its evaluation.
It is probably impossible for third parties, unless they are directly involved and know the subject matter, to evaluate the damage done by Clinton’s purposefully declassification. It is not even self-evident why she did it. But one has to assume that there are such things as state secrets, many of them in fact, and the necessity to prevent their disclosure to enemies foreign and domestic is an obligation all government employees or political appointments take on in their oath of office as well as the commonsensical performance of their duty. This, Clinton did not do.
Again, a good deal of speculation has gone on about whether the continuing inquiry into the matter of her e-mails will result in an indictment by the Attorney General of this Administration. It is, of course, possible that Loretta E. Lynch., who after all was confirmed with a bi-partisan vote based on her record for judicial perspicuity and balance, will proceed to authorize a prosecution after the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] inquiry is completed with evidence for an indictment of Clinton. Its results according to all the speculation in Washington would seem to lie in that direction.
But it appears for her to do so would require great political bravery, and probably self-sacrifice, judging from the President’s TV interview April 10. In that interview, he made it clear that he already has taken a decision that nothing in the investigation would incriminate Clinton. It bears noting, of course, that for a former supposed university law professor – of course, he was instead a part-time instructor and then a rather poor one by all accounts – the President has violated one of the principal axioms of executive conduct. That is that no executive should offer a public appraisal of a future verdict while any judicial or police inquiry is under way. He has done it, of course, repeatedly. Sub judice in the law, means according to the dictionary, “under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere”. That would include, and above all, by the president of the United States as the chief executive officer and enforcer of our laws.
Last, and perhaps most important, for some time the Mainstream Media have been talking about the Attorney-General’s office and the Justice Department as another branch of what has until now been considered a three part government, executive, legislative and judicial. That still remains the case. The Justice Department and its head under Pres. Obama remains, as it has always been, a part of the president’s cabinet – not mentioned in the Constitution. And, therefore, it is under his jurisdiction and control. Given his now infamous public statement, it seems unlikely that any justified prosecution of Clinton will be pursued for whatever miscarriage of justice. At least not until 2017 at the earliest.
sws-104-12-16

Saudi Arabia: It’s time!


With gas [and oil] gushing out of our shale deposits and the Persian Gulf states [now including Iran courtesy Pres. Obama’s appeasement policies and lifting of sanctions], it is time to readjust our policies toward the oil exporters, not least Saudi Arabia.
U.S. policy, rightly or wrongly, has put up with too much guff from the Saudis for decades because it was the arbiter of world oil prices and the cost of our own growing imports.
But all that is a part of the past for the foreseeable future.
In fact, the Saudis – and now the Persians, are pumping like mad, while counter intuitively, attempting to set up agreements to limit the fall in prices. In a recession-prone world economy increases in consumption are severely limited. We doubt that their attempts, now even supposedly including the high-cost Russian producers, will bear any more fruit than such attempts to set up cartels in the past. Even the vaunted Organization of Petroleum Exporters [OPEC] was only partially able to control prices for a short time in a formerly much narrower market.
As American exports grow – they have already started – so will the free for all.
What brings all this to mind is the idiotic report that the Saudis have just zipped off one of their star soccer players’ Mohawk to the consternation of his fellow teammates on the sidelines of an opening sporting event because it was considered “un-Islamic”.
Unfortunately, most of the individual Saudi billionaires’ nefarious actions are not as ludicrous, and indeed are a major menace to world peace and stability. It is no secret that Islamic terrorists often get their financing from Saudis, perhaps even indirectly from the rather fragile and multifarious Saudi government of the ruling family.
The Saudis are already shaking in their boots from the growing thrust of the Tehran mullahs to carve for themselves a Shia regional hegemony. Tehran’s ability to reach across the Shia-Sunni divide to become the sponsor and supplier of Hamas in Gaza, originally a creature of the arch-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood, makes the case. Our former Sunni Persian Gulf allies’ growing suspicions of Obama’s strategic intentions in the area have even driven them into a tacit alliance – as is the case with Egypt – with their old sworn, bitter, blood enemy, the Israelis.
To expect the Obama Administration, with its total absence of foreign policy experience – and now successes in seven years — to subtlety move in on the Saudis to end their Islamic excesses is probably too much to ask. But to do so effectively would go a long way toward defusing the radical Moslem terrorist sects now, unfortunately, coagulating in Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
With its continuing hold on Syrian and Iraq territory, despite what Obama has called a gradual campaign to unseat them, Daesh is the prime menace to international peace and security. The incremental additions to American force being used against them – the Administration has just quietly moved B52s into closer range in the region – is not the way to go.
Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have all taught us the simple lesson that if you go to war, it must be with the anticipation as so many generals have said, that all war plans are kaput once the first shot is fired. It is, ultimately, as another American general so succinctly put it, a case of who gets there the “fustest with the mostest”. Obama’s “subtleties”, based on his lack of real knowledge of history and experience surrounded by advisers who have even weaker credentials, have retaught us this lesson.
sws-04-12-16

Pure drinking water


In all the political arguments about government – its size and purviews – there is one uncontestable axiom: government’s first obligation is to supply security including access to pure drinking water. It comes as a profound shock that one of our state governments, among the richest and most sophisticated, Michigan, has apparently not only failed to achieve this goal but allegedly was aware that its cost-cutting and other measures were responsible. It’s a scandal generally associated with the most impoverished and corrupt of third world countries, not an American state and federal government.
As always in such disputes, the facts are contradictory and disputed. But a series of lawsuits – the latest is a class action lawsuit under RICO, or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – ought to help us get at the truth and with such publicity that equally guilty government organizations around the country will pull up their socks. The suit like most of the others names Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and another dozen officials on behalf of hundreds of residents who were poisoned by the city’s 2014 switch to the toxic and corrosive Flint River as a source of its water. Mayor Karen Weaver says that she has no intention of suing at present but wants to keep the option available. The lawsuit names mostly state and city officials whom it charges played a role in charging citizens of Flint, Michigan, high rates for poisoned drinking water that they claimed was safe.
Of course, their innocence is to be assumed until they are proved guilty in a series of other trials. What is most interesting and curious to us, however, is that the accusations are that Snyder claimed he was complying with federal standards. “[t]hese acts were done in order to prevent the irate citizens of the City of Flint from knowing that the money cost-cutting plan to balance the budget and alleviate the City’s Financial Emergency was to give them toxic water for two years,” the suit charges.
Although the federal Environment: Protection Agency is barely mentioned in the indictment – it does include Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 Director Susan Hedman as a defendant – we are puzzled by the accusations against the federal government in the whole schmoozle. The air recently has been full of accusations, some of them seemingly authentic, that the EPA has been exceeding its authority. So where were they in what is said to be this obvious case of flouting of the most fundamental sanitary regulations? Even more exasperating is the charge that Andy Dillon, the Democratic State Treasurer, approved a yet-to-be-built pipeline even though a report he commissioned in early 2013 recommended against the switch from previous water sources to the river heavily loaded with lead. It gets worse. Flint, as Detroit, was in the hands of a state “receiver” trying to prop up their crippled finances. So the oversight ought to have been at the state as well as the federal as well as the local level. Dillon also was the architect of Flint’s emergency manager law. This law gave the state authority to impose emergency managers to dictate to both Flint [and Detroit].
Given all these complexities, it is clear that the trials which will presumably come out of the other suits that have been filed, will be long, tedious, and perhaps difficult for the media to follow. But we hope they will. The issue of proper drinking water is now beginning to pop up around the country . And, as we started off by saying, this is a fundamental obligation and responsibility of local, state and federal government that is universal, apolitical, and absolutely essential to our daily lives.
sws-04-11-16

A Plague on Both Your Houses


 

It is a sad fact that both sides bear responsibility for a dramatic violation of freedom of expression – perhaps the most important of our liberties – in Chicago this past week.

Despite his pretended role as martyr, played as skillfully as a concert violinist which has marked Donald Trump’s courtship of an all too cooperative media, the leading candidate for the Republic presidential nomination bears much of the responsibility. Repeatedly, in his stream of consciousness remarks — as often as not incessantly, uncritically reproduced by the media he has alluded to the possibility of violence. Indeed he has endorsed it as part of his exploitation of antagonism and anger at the current U.S. scene, his stock and trade. He has talked of punching opponents in the face, carrying them out on stretchers, paying their insurance costs for injuries, etc. That is hardly a contribution to a measured and intelligent debate on the current political issues.

That of course is not meant to condone in any way the determined effort of an organized opposition to silence Trump, Instead of answering his arguments, it was determined to halt his speech and attempt to disperse his political rally. The discussion on the moveon.org website — with its implied ownership of so-called “protestors” determined to shut down Trump — is about as onerous as any other undemocrastic movement in America today. If, as charged, it is true that so-called protestors were paid to attack Trump’s following, it as much a threat to U.S. democracy as exists. If, as seems likely, moveon-org did organize the attempt to shut down Trump, how about our intrepid jouirnalists giving us a few names and more information. And, of course, our lagging media still haven’t come up with who, if that is true, paid the bill. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera

It is hard to believe that in 2016 there is any confusion about the basic right of all sides in any political debate to have their say. Or the corollary, that there can be no tolerance of any effort to suppress that expression of opinion.

The biographer of the French writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire, the Englishwoman Evelyn Beatrice Hall said it best in her 1906 book [an aphorism so often falsely attributed to Voltaire himself]:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

It is astonishing that the old axioms always held in high esteem in our democracy, is no longer understood by some of our most politically active young people. But even more frightening, that some of their professors – refugees from th 1960s — are, indeed, advocates of just such views as contradict everything held sacred in this democracy.

All of this takes place, of course, in a media that is less than professional. Trump exaggerates the numbers at his rallies, even 10 times but the media doesn’t report that the police and fire departments have a more accurate [and much smaller] count. You wouldn’t know if you read most of the media that Trump long hankered after running for the presidency but backed over several times because he was not considered serious by his peers. Trump makes the outrageous statement that huge numbers of people have approached him revealing that they never ever voted until he came along to bestir them. Is that really a questionable suggestion, given the numbers he claims from whom he heard this claim? The Trumpeters hang out that old and so often misused cliché that there has never been anything like the current Trump entourage. But one has only to think back to 1968 and to George Wallace’s mob, not the most illustrious example but a recent one. It’s fascinating to see who jumps on the Trump bandwagon, if that is what it is, an old and important element in propaganda. That even includes interviewing his son at length which hardly confirms the hypothesis that it is Trump DNA which carries magic unto new generations.

Oh well! We guess what we are saying in a nutshell is that tired, worn old cliché, which nevertheless is as valid as it has always been: the devil is in the details!

Sws-02-13-16

 

 

 

 

Settlements, schmettlements and Israeli security


Pres. Barack Hussein Obama appears determined as part of his “legacy” to leave relations in ruins with the U.S.’ most important ally in the Mideast, Israel.

Last week U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro blew it. Shapiro is a liberal hack in the peculiar tradition of Washington – Pres. George Bush did it too – that seems to believe appointing leftist American Jews to represent it to an increasingly conservative Israel will solve problems. In the midst of the Knife Intifada, an explosion of largely young Moslem fanatical Palestinians attacking civilians and soldiers, Shapiro indicted the Israelis for a double standard in treating violence. He said the Israelis had failed to punish Jewish “vigilantist” attacks on Arabs. With a tortured Israeli judicial process, even more convoluted than the American one, this seems a false charge.

Shapiro’s speech came only hours after, a pregnant woman from Tekoa, a settlement in the Judean Hills, was stabbed and seriously injured by a Palestinian teenager in the local grocery. The evening before a Jewish mother of six, was stabbed to death in front of her 17-year-old daughter at their home in the settlement of Otniel.

Since September 2015, twenty-eight people have been killed in attacks including stabbings, car rammings and shootings — 25 Jewish Israelis, one Eritrean, one US citizen and one Palestinian. The Palestinian say 149 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces or civilians in that time, with over 15,000 injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers. European governments, some Israelis peace activists and some American observers have accused the Israelis of overreaction to the attacks. But it is hard to see how Israelis under such personal attack might be more judicious in resisting attempts at their murder.

The truth is that while there appears to be no central direction from Palestinian leadership for these attacks, they are the result of a vicious campaign of instilling hatred and calling for bloodshed among young Arabs. Among the most guilty is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East [UNWRA], the only UN refugee organization devoted to one group. UNWRA schools are notorious for their fanaticism for the Palestinian cause and during fighting in Gaza, they were used as fortresses by the Hamas terrorists. At this writing, the latest episode of a 16-year-old Arab boy attacking Israeli soldiers is all too typical.

Sec. of State John Kerry continues to talk about an Israeli-Palestinian peace process to create two independent states living in peace. The truth is that the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which is accused of incitement to violence in Arabic statements while professing peacemaking in English, has lost all credibility. Hundreds of millions of dollars of UN, European, and above all, American, aid has disappeared down the rat hole of corrupt leadership. If Abbas were to permit long postponed elections, it seems likely that Moslem terrorist representatives would win in the so-called West Bank as they did in Gaza.

The Obama Administration, in a typically schizophrenic strategy, while military collaboration – including exchange of important technology – has grown stronger between the Americans and the Israelis, has dynamited the political process. Despite repeated professions of allegiance to the alliance, top Obama officials are seen as inimitable to Israeli interests, including its growing security concerns with Iranian assisted armed forces on all Israel’s borders.

Obama’s flirtation with the Iranian mullahs – in an agreement for blocking its nuclear armaments which few Mideast observers believe is viable – has set up a tacit alliance between Jerusalem and Cairo. The perception of a common threat from Iran’s mullahs has even opened highly publicized conversations between the Israelis and their old bitter enemies, the Saudis, and the Gulf states. In effect, there is a new alliance excluding the Americans.

The Obama Administration has made Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank ancestral home of the Hebrew kingdoms of antiquity, its test for progress. The greatest part of this population of some 300,000 is in bedroom communities of Jerusalem. Obama appears to ignore the obvious analogy of how an Arab population of 1.5 million, about 20% of Israel’s population within the old pre-1967 borders, is to be accommodated as Israeli citizens but a growing number of Jews not permitted to live in the Occupied areas. Many of the settlements, too, represent security strongpoints in a geography much smaller than most foreigners realize.

Shapiro’s harangue suggests that Obama may try some new initiative, leaving one more enormous muddle for the next presidency.

sws-01-21-16

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The scandal of Christian persecution


The lack of public outcry over the continued persecution and murder of Christians in the Middle East is a scandal of enormous proportions. Only a few websites devoted to possible rescuing these victims dogs the internet. But pronouncements from public figures and even the leaders of Western Christendom are few and far between.

The fact is that Christians today face more persecution in more countries than any other religious group.

U.S. Christians sources estimate that 180 Christians are killed in 60 countries monthly for pursuit of their faith. Many of these are in notorious environments such as North Korea. But there are continuing incidents in nominally secular India, for example, where the current administration has its roots in Hindu chauvinism and in its twin, Moslem Pakistan.

But since 2011, of refugees official settlement in the U.S. just over 2,000 have been Muslim but only 53 Christians. It is true that particularly Syrian Christian refugees often more affluent, have made their way to the U.S. through ordinary visa channels and permanent residence. But the Obama Administration opposes legislation which would fast-track Christian refugees. That’s despite the fact that nearly a third of Syria’s Christians, about 600,000, have fled, harried by extremist groups like the Nusra Front [an Al Qaida affiliate] and now Daesh.

The Obama Administration downplaying of Christians in the refugee crisis is based on its fear such support would be viewed and used by Daesh [ISI or ISIL]. Or that it might be considered in the U.S. as part of the argument of “the clash of civilizations”. As in his earliest public Mideast pronouncements, Obama has argued inordinately supposed “Islamohobia” and antagonism toward American Moslems and the world Islamic community. But the reluctance to take on the issue goes back to the Bush Administration when Condoleezza Rice told a refugee aid official the White House did not intervene in ‘‘sectarian’’ issues.

 

It’s also true that Mideast Christians, generally, suffered less under the former autocratic regimes – including Sadam Hussein’s Iraq – than they have under their successors which often have a strong Muslim cast. Syrian Christians, for example, tended to stay loyal to Basher al-Assad rather than join the originally peaceful opponents of his bloody regime. The various Christian sects, some “in communion” with the Roman Catholic Chruch, others related to Eastern Orthodoxy, and others unique to the region and India, do not want to give up their ancient claims to their historic homes.

But having said all this, the toll of Christians in the region has been horrendous. In many instances Daesh has simply beheaded locals where it has taken over traditional Christian villages. These ethnicities date back thousands of years even preceding their conversion as the earliest followers of Christ. They have been given the choice of converting, death flight, or paying jizya, a special tax on “followers of the book”, that is, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.

Obama did get around to referring to Christian and other minorities last fall when he said ‘‘we cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.’’ And when Daesh threatened to eradicate the Yazidis, an ancient syncretic sect combining elements of the region’s major religions, the U.S. beat back the terrorists with intensive bombing and Special Forces intervention.

But proposals to permit a large entry of Mideast Christians has been denounced as a violation of the constitution prohibition against religious favoritism. But in fact admission of refugees has often been based on a particular ethnic group targeted by oppressors abroad. And in this instance Christians constitute such a group.

The argument that more forceful rhetoric and more specific Christians worldwide, but particularly in the Mideast, must be made. The charge of “crusaders” – distorted as it is in all aspects – by Daesh and other Islamic terrorists should not be an excuse for not taking up the cudgels for an important and generally neglected human rights cause.

sws-12-15-15

 

The Growing China enigma


American policymakers are having to deal with an increasingly mystifying China.

The giant culture that is less than a nation-state but far more than an amorphous one and half billion people is, perhaps inevitably, moving rapidly in different and conflicting directions. As always is the case in a world of jungled conflicts, the U.S. must hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And that worst could be an inevitable conflict over basic American international policy, not least, freedom of the seas.

The Chinese are continuing to build what can only be called military bases in a barrier across one of the most strategic commercial route in the world through the South China Sea. It may take years before the Chinese can project sufficient power from those reconstructed coral shoals to challenge the U.S. Navy. But the world moves faster and faster, and assurances that we are technologically meeting the threat of asymmetrical warfare in which the Chinese traditionally have excelled has to be periodically reexamined

China continues spending in her own terms vast resources on these bases and on the expansion of her military, particularly her seapower. That’s despite the fact that her economy has drifted – one could say inevitably – into slower rates of growth than the double-digit increases of the past three decades. The actual drop, always subject to speculation because of Beijing’s “create accounting”, is perhaps less important than the speed at which she is slacking off.

This has already impacted world commodity markets where China custom had caused high growth, and those countries – including Russia — which had been sucked into single product export patterns. Beijing’s galloping economic invasion of raw material producers, particularly in Africa, where infrastructure projects were sold  as a “swap” for raw materials, are in trouble. That’s telling in such countries, such as Angola, with the energy price halving in no small measure because of the Shale Revolution in the U.S. American lower prices and a gas surplus has sent the oldtime oil price guardians such as Saudi Arabia, and now Iran, pumping as fast possible to maintain market share. But in Southeast Asia Beijing continues to push subsidized giant railroad and highway construction and damn the home finances.

These gambles have been matched by an unprecedented campaign against corruption by Pres. Xi Jinping in his effort to create a new personality political culture matching that of the fabled Mao Tse-tung. These campaigns in the past, while based on evidence in a totally corrupt society, actually are intended to eliminate opposition within the ruling one-party Communist state. More recently, Xi has gone further afield than just high Party officials, and named  multi-billionaire Party-favored oligarchs. That seems inevitably another economic gamble given the slowing economy.

In fact, Xi – despite criticism within and without the Party that they were the greatest obstacle to economic progress – has enhanced the power of the government-owned huge behemoths with near monopolies. Whittling them down and their political hold on credit for a move toward the tiny private sector and most of all, increased consumption, was supposed to be the order of the day. But it is not happening.

The Obama Administration, for the most part, is tip-toeing around all these issues and the puzzles they present for American policy in Asia, and, indeed, in the world. Cutting back on the U.S. military at a time of aggressive Chinese rhetoric and movement is not exactly apt. Minor tinkering with currency manipulation and export subsidies, which will probably expand given the Chinese slowdown, is not an answer to the loss of American manufacturing, now interestingly enough also moving away from China toward more low-wage countries.

China policy has, of course, been a major battleground for American strategists for the past half century or more. But it is looming still larger and the next administration, whatever and whoever it is, had better come with some preparation.

sws-12-14-15

 

 

Resovietizing Russia


 

While Vladimir Putin is busy challenging America’s role as leader of the free peoples, the Russian dictator is also refiguring his domestic scene in the Soviet image. In fact, one could make the argument that in many ways he has already accomplished that and to a degree even the old Soviets hands would have been envious. What Putin and his small band of supporters have done at home may in the long run be more important than his aggression against Ukraine, his support f the crumbling the al Bashar regime in Syria, and his feints at the Baltic states.

There are, of course, important historical differences to Soviet times. There is no Communist Party with its monopoly of power and its tentacles throughout the world. But Putin has eliminated, in all but name, any organized political opposition to his one-man coterie of hangers-on, some his old colleagues in the secret police and others profiteers from Russia’s new state capitalism. That too, is a difference: Russia no longer pretends to an oligarchic Soviet economy.

In fact, with 40% of its economy now dependent on oil and gas exports to Europe, Putin’s No. 1 problem is Western sanctions and the dynamite that American shale gas and oil technology has thrown under world energy prices. Supplying one third of the European Union’s energy imports, Putin despite the fall in world energy prices and the sanctions slapped on some of his buddies as a riposte to his efforts to take over Ukraine and Byelorussia, is desperatelyl trying to hang on to those ties.Gasprom, the world’s largest gas distribution network, is trying to expand its Nordstrom line down through the Baltic Sea. A state-controlled company, having squeezed out competitors and grabbed stakes of foreign oil companies in new fields in Sakhalin in the Far East, it is trying to dominate European distribution networks as well..

But Putin’s reversion to and dependence on a government elite which leeches off the economy as did the so-called nomenclatura, the Soviet leadership and bureaucracy, is all too familiar. In fact, Gennady Gudkov claims “there are now five to six times more bureaucrats in a Russia with 140 million population than there were in the entire USSR with its 286 million residents.” Gudkov, himself, one of the vanishing band of Putin’s critics. is a businessman and former member of the Duma [parliament] who has seen his business wither as he has become a victim of Putin’s persecution

Furthermore, the bureaucracy led by the chief bureaucrat, Putin himself, is acquiring more and more power. Even claptrap trimmings of the Soviet system have been abandoned – such as the largely fraudulent elections for regional governors. Even the billionaires who profit from their relationship within this highly personalized rule are vulnerable and can be – as several have in the recent past – fallen into disfavor and purgatory if not exile or jail.

Putin’s rule resembles, more than anything else, the style of a banana republic, with little or no hint of ideology. He does try – and gets cooperation – from the Russian Orthodox Church just as the tsarist regime did for centuries. But he continues to cultivate old Communist talisman, including the reenshrinement of Feliz Dzerzhinsky, the archleader of Soviet internal repression. It was Putin, after all, who said that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.

What characterizes Putin’s strategy, however, is the old role of a bully on the international stage. It was inevitable that U.S. policy, which under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, tried to find a “reset” button for American-Russian relations would fail. Reinstituting Moscow’s former glory is Putin’s only strategy to retain what is, alas!, his vast popularity at home and that requires an American enemy. Washington has no options in this situation: it must maintain a quiet, non-bellicose opposition to the Russian leader. Just as with the Soviet Union, the economic soft underbelly of the Putin regime is extremely vulnerable. Nothing would make more sense now than to reverse the Obama Administration’s policy and permit market forces to export American gas, and perhaps even oil, now in overabundance, to continue the disintegration of Russian markets and Europe’s dependence on that supply.

sws-11-14-15.

 

 

 

Water, water anywhere?


There’s an old sarcastic line that whatever starts in California – whether eating salad at the beginning of a meal or the limited access motorways – spreads eventually to what Angelenos consider the rest of the benighted U.S.

Let’s pray that will not be the case with the current California drought and the way it is being handled by the politicians in Sacramento and their right-thinking savants in the media and academia.

Although you might never know it from some of the headlines and debate, California has sporadically suffered relatively frequent periods of water shortage. In 1841 the Sacramento Valley was written off as “a barren wasteland.” The Dust Bowl droughts throughout the West of 1928-1935 created a whole literature of economic depression coupled with migration brought the federal government into a Central Valley Project system of canals, pumps and aqueducts. In 1976-1977 drought marked one of the driest years on record with the mountain icepacks then, as now, melted away.

This time after four years Californians have cut water use by a third —well above the 25-percent reduction targeted by Gov,. Jerry Brown but there’s still not enough water. As Steven Greenhut has proved in a series of articles for Heritage Foundation, the drought effects are as much man-made as by a cruel Mother Nature.

Virtually everywhere you look around the state, the enviromentalistas are running rampant. In the Sierra foothills, state officials have been emptying reservoirs to protect “unimpeded” river flows to benefit small numbers of non-endangered hatchery fish. The California Coastal Commission, the powerful agency with control of development has blocked a privately planned desalination plant over concerns about its impact on plankton. The commission mesmerized by the sirene song of environmental freaks wants a pumping system that destroys its economics.

The Obama Administration has joined in the death dance of the local ideologues. Near the Oregon on the Klamath River, federal t officials want to remove four dams that provide water storage. Their excuse is the preservation of non-native salmon. But even the trendy San Franciscans vetoed a 2012 referendum proposed by the Destroy the Dams movement which would have eliminated the main reservoirs for the state’s third largest city.

The argument centers on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, an area of about a thousand square miles of rivers, swamps, islands, orchards, and towns and marinas which is the West Coast’s largest estuary. Stored up by old dirt dams, a pumping station sends fresh water to farmers in the San Joaquin valley and the cities in the south. But during droughts, the water backs up to the pumping station and turns salty. And when a baitfish, the tiny Delta Smelt turns up dead on the local screens, the authorities cut the pumping off.

Since 1982, Gov., Jerry Brown has proposed a $25-billion twin tunnels project which would carry fresh water around the Delta to the irrigated farmlands and the cities of the south. The twin tunnels would protect the Delta Smelts and assure a more secure water supply. But Northern Californians oppose it on the basis that it is a water grab by the southern end of the state.

Jerry Brown’s father, Gov. Pat Brown presided over a huge New Deal statewide water project. It included 34 storage facilities, reservoirs, 20 pumping plants, four pumping-generating plants, five hydroelectric power plants, and about 701 miles of open canals and pipelines. The project provides supplemental water to approximately 25 million Californians and about 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland. The very thought of anything like that today sends the enviromentalistas into a frenzy of self-destruction.

It may be, as Greenhut says, that rain is the least of California’s drought problems.

Xi’s bluffing hand


Next week’s state visit of China’s No. 1 Xi Jinping looks to be all pomp and circumstance. There is little expectation that the long list of critical issues between Washington and Beijing will be addressed in any substantive way. And, in fact, the international Greek chorus which sings a baleful song of American decline will have a new chorus.
That’s despite, ironically, Xi’s own vulnerability. He desperately needs the increased prestige and illusion of gateopening in the face of his ambitious grab for Mao-like power in a domestic Chinese scene filled with growing problems. That Chinese economic miracle of the last two decades that brought a backward Soviet-style economy into worldwide prominence and leadership is sputtering. The overall growth has fallen rapidly and may well be at something like 5% or 6% annual instead of the double digits of the recent past, or the usually fictional statistics of the present claim of 7+%. That means China is longer producing the jobs necessary for satisfying a still growing but rapidly eroding cheap labor pool as a result of the now abandoned bitter one-child restrictions..
Rapid economic growth had become the only prop for the one Party regime. Xi now is in reality replacing it with a grab for the kind of personal power not seen in recent collegiate rule among the Party elders, reinstituting old measures of repression against any hint of feeble dissent. The continuing roller-coaster of the Shanghai stockmarket, while less a part of the economy than its models in Japan and the West with China’s top-down allocation of credit and capital, is a propaganda disaster. Xi and his team have thrown everything including kitchen sink promises of a move toward a consumer economy at the issue with no success. It suggests that, in a sense, the Party has created a Frankenstein, an enormous economy that it fears to turn over to market forces but one it can no longer plan for or control.
The traditional if more spectacle anti-corruption campaign, while revealing new and incredible corruption and malfeasance among the highest echelons of the Party and the start-owned behemoth monopolies, is actually aimed to squelch opposition within the Party. But a struggle continues, critical since it includes a former member of the ruling politburo and his following who ran the so-called security apparatus. [The Soviets learned long ago when you eliminate a secret police chief, the only way to eliminate the snake is to kill it, literally, at the head, and so far Xi has not done that.] Xi, even more than his immediate predecessors who like he did not have a military background such as early Chinese Communists, is stoking the upper military echelons with appointments. But in any internal crisis, he again like his predecessors, if worse comes to worse would be more than ever dependent on the People’s Liberation Army to save the regime from disintegration– and this time the military might not hand it back to Party apparatchiks.
China’s new role as a world power is also facing increasing challenges, many of its of their own making. Claims of a new alliance with Vladimir Putin’s Russia ballyhooed in Western mainstream media does not exist. For example, a decade-old attempt to tie Russian gas and oil to the Chinese economy, despite repeated announcements of its completion, still has not solved the pricing and pipeline funding. Contradictorily, on the eve of Xi’s arrival in the U.S., Putin has laid out a honey trap for the U.S. [speaking from Central Asia where the Russians and the Chinese engage in a contest for influence and raw materials], He suggests an American-Russian condominium – a return to its world superpower, on Moscow’s terms status of course. But it does expose the real relationship between Moscow and Beijing, that is, featuring the historical struggle for the depopulated several times zones of the old Russian empire in Siberia and the Far East.
China’s overseas showpiece deals, particularly in Africa but also in Asia, which were to demonstrate China’s new economic prowess, are under stress. Again ironically, China’s slower economic growth and thirst for raw material imports – along with dramatic explosion of raw material hoarding – is poisoning the swap deals of construction projects for oil and gas and other raw materials. China is still No. 1 trading partner for most of Southeast Asia, of course – and even seducing India into a raw materials for manufactured goods exchange with a huge Chinese balance of payments surplus. But there is growing concern throughout the region, including a tightening of Japanese, Australian and Indian and U.S. military cooperation, in the face of China’s claims and continued building of military bases on coral strips in the South China Sea.
The Obama Administration’s reaction to Xi’s vulnerability has been to offer negotiations on all issues with only rhetorical responses to Beijing’s increasingly aggressive posture. Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” has stalled midway as the Mideast cesspool deepens. There was apparently the usual bureaucratic dance within the Administration over Obama’s loud leaks of a threat of sanctions against the most grievous recent Chinese violations of cyrberwarfare and intellectual property theft. [Another Obama red line crossed?] But the most blatant recent currency manipulation in which Xi hoped to halt falling exports with even more monetary subsidy has not been challenged by imposing countermeasures. At a time when the whole of the international community sees Obama’s deal with Iran on the Tehran mullahs’ pursuit of atomic weapons as a retreat full of U.S. concessions, Xi is in effect being offered an opportunity to make a deal.
But whether he can and would do that with his own domestic constraints in his grab for absolute domestic control remains a big question with a likely bad answer from Washington’s point of view.
Sws-09-18-15

China crisis


China is hurtling toward a crisis of the regime. It is too early to know whether the Communist leadership, so astute in the past, will be able to untangle a cats cradle of issues.
The worldwide headlines, and nervous reaction of other markets, to the Shanghai stock markets rollercoaster is the least of Beijing’s worries. But it is, of course, symptomatic of deeper concerns.
With all the appearances of western exchanges the Shanghai market is profoundly different. It is not a primary collector of capital for investment. Capital and savings distribution in the Chinese system is largely through three government banks funded by the government – a top-down process Beijing’s wants to move toward market-oriented distribution. For while a private sector exists and disproportionately accounts for Chinese success, it is pitted against huge inefficient but politically connected government monopolies.
Communist leadership recently encouraged investors to get into the stock market, a part of trying to move toward more consumption and away from central planning which committed 50% of government funds to investment, with the inevitable waste. It had so taken after its Soviet model that whole ghost cities have been built without residents. But with the Chinese’ notorious gambling streak, stockmarket speculation skyrocketed until more adroit larger speculators pulled the rug.
Stuck with a propaganda disaster, Communist leadership – beginning in June – threw everything they had at the Shanghai market, including the central bank buying up equities. But the market kept collapsing and in the latest round, the powers that be apparently have given up, letting the investors, big and small, take their hit. With less than 20-20 insight, that is what they should have done in the first place instead of demonstrating increasing inability to direct a planned economy without a plan. [Shades of Mao Tse-tung’s Great Leap Forward which cost at least 30 million lives in famine!]
Even more important to the Communist Party’s power monopoly is the growing decline in overall growth. Having given up Marxist-Leninism-Maoism in all but name, rapid economic growth has become the regime’s raison d’etre. While the government claims 7.6%, well behind the remarkable claim of an average annual 10% growth over two decades, the always suspicious official figures look even more suspect. Many students of the numbers say it is closer to 5%. Again, although conventional wisdom held that 8% annual growth of the gross national product – all economic activity – was needed to preserve stability, what has been more worrying for Beijing is the speed of the decline.
Numbers are not the Communists’ only problem. Unlike his immediate two predecessors, Xi Jinping, China’s hefty holding all three slots – secretary of the Party, head of government, and chief of state – has abandoned any pretense of collegiality.. His grab for power has included a massive anti-corruption campaign, reaching into the highest echelons of the Party. With almost everyone with his fingers in the pot, frequent anti-corruption drives are a disguise for eliminating Party rivals.
Xi has gone after several politburo members at the top of the Communist heap, including head of the secret police and intelligence, Zhou Yongkang. Zhou was accused of everything from womanizing [including Jia Xiaoye, 43, niece of former president Jiang Zemin, who became Zhou’s second wife after his first wife died in a somewhat mysterious car accident] to his family hoarding $14.5 billion from bribery and embezzlement.
Zhou’s sentencing to life imprisonment in a secret trial is not likely to end the affair with so many Party officials his protégés. Xi, like his predecessor, has appointed large number of senior generals, most with no military experience, but it remains to be seen whether a rapidly expanding force with new technocratic elements, can be neutralized if Party divisions grow. There are, for example, unconfirmed reports Xi has put his immediate predecessor, Jiang Xemin, with a still strong following in the Party and among his military appointees, under house arrest.
sws-08-26-15

Lessons to be learned


When the highly deserved praise for our three American heroes the French fast train attack dies down – and we hope it won’t for a while, given all the bad press U.S. uniformed figures have been getting lately – there are some obvious lessons to be learned.
What’s worrisome, again, is that these deductions from what we already know about a complicated situation are not new. As we move toward commemoration of the 14th anniversary of the initial attacks from [the unnameable to the White House] Islamic terrorism, we are beginning to see self-evident measures that need to be greatly reinforced.
They are:
• We are going to need more help from the great majority of the 1.3 million Moslems around the world – and especially in the U.S. where we know there is more integration and identification of immigrants and native born with our own cultural norms. To make this suggestion is not Islamophobia. After all, the terrorists are not coming from Southern Baptists or little old ladies who are stopped and made to take off their shoes in the airport security gates.
• This standard cliché of the quiet boy whom nobody suspected is beginning to wear thin. Either parents are looking the other way, rationalizing aberrant behavior, or there is an epidemic of acting and pretense among young Muslim radicals which would tax the best of Broadway and Hollywood. And we don’t accept the latter. It is incumbent on Muslim parents and relatives to be alert to the seduction of their young by the radicals, whether here or abroad. And when there is any hint of association with the wrong internet sites, wrong companions and too much attendance to the wrong imans in some mosques, it ought to be brought to the police’s attention.
• But perhaps even more important and more obvious that these complicated personal relationships, it is that the Moslem devout must do something about imans, religious leaders, who are spouting hatred and even jihad in some mosques. Among those who follow terrorism – and we suspect among the Muslim faithful – those mosques and those imans are readily identified. Again, religious bigotry which is constantly being purveyed on a scale in some mosques is not occurring in our churches and even in our synagogues where the Israel-Arab solution is a delicate one..
• Something has to be done about not only about better intelligence pursuit of evidence about better exchange and cooperation. Apparently the Spanish, French and Belgian police were all aware of the inclinations of the young Moroccan terrorist on the train and had even had him on various watch lists. Granted that with the vast numbers of young Muslims in Western Europe, the problem of identifying terrorist suspects or candidates for such radicalism is not an easy one. That, of course, has been intensified by large numbers of these young going off to fight one side or the other in Syria. But again, returning to our earlier points, we think there can be a vast improvement in our intelligence and our ability to deal with such loan wolf attacks.
Perhaps Pres. Barack Obama was right to identify Daesh – ISIL, ISI, Islamic State – as a longterm problem for American diplomacy and for the military operations which will be needed to bring it down. But to anticipate a long war is not to prepare to fight one. We think these episodes – apparently this young terrorist had been in Syria and had some relationship with Daesh, emotionally if not through digital communication – prove that the Administration must speed up its mobilization to take on Daesh and destroy it. Their continued success, and their very existence with calls for a new caliphate, only breeds a bandwagon effect among young Muslims who may have other emotional problems but who latch on to jihad as way of expressing them.
Nor can we Americans sit back and assume that the smaller numbers of American citizens and residents of Muslim heritage are going to lessen our own immediate threat. Copycat imitations are bound to come. And it is important that we integrate more thoroughly our own intelligence operations with those of our European allies at the same time we button down local intelligence with the methods apparently used so effectively by the New York Police Department before Mayor Bill de Blasio’s shut them down. There is circumstantial evidence that they had been so important in intercepting numerous plots, although intelligence prohibits listing or numbering them.
For all these reasons, time is of the essence in mobilization against future lone wolf jihadists as the French train incident has once again proved.
sws-08-22-15

Anchor Babies


Anchor Babies
It may be a new nomenclature – odious to some — but it is not a new phenomenon, far from it.
In Sol Sanders’ Mexico: Chaos on our doorstep, 1989, he records how Los Angeles medical services senior officials reported their budgets for prenatal extension clinics was being impacted by growing numbers of Mexican illegal women birthing their children from free. They came then temporarily, they reported, to take advantage of free and better services not available in Mexico, and then returned home, waiting for the time, then, when at 17 under U.S. law their offsprings could choose his or her citizenship. In fact, the practice was even older than that: Sanders’ researcher and translator for the book had a teenage son, whom she had given birth to in California even though she was a Mexican citizen and resident at the time.
Like all the other “undocumented immigrants”, the statistics on how many children are born of illegal migrant mothers – either those in permanent residence or hospital-temporaries – are going to be vague. They will be exaggerated in some quarters and diminished in others for obvious reasons. They media is throwing around 300,000 annually. But since we are even skeptical of the current 11-million figure being tossed about by the media as the number of undocumented here, we wonder.
There, again, there are vast complications: what part of the mothers are have overstayed legitimate visas. [You get a stamp at the immigration cubicle, told to report – if when and and how your presence becomes a real question. But many, probably most, do not report.] And in the past, many of not most of them ha not been Mexican or Central American citizens, but Europeans, Middle Easterners and Asians. That would seem to be all the more so these days with many more migrants coming from those parts of the world – excluding Europe – than in the past.
It is here, of course, that Obamacare, and the growing difficulties of Medicaid and Mtdicare. collide with the problems of the undocumented, perhaps even more than the accusation that the illegals are using other parts of the social welfare system. Hospitals, some supposedly nonprofit but gobbling up private practices at high prices in order to fund their own probably extravagant officials’ salaries and rising medical costs, are carrying a heavy load through the Emergency Room open-doors.
We note a small hospital, probably overexpanded in the past, in a small Virginia village we know, keeps a doctor and nurse on 24-hour standby although rarely used except for the occasional traffic accident or heart attack, together with standby ambulance and first providers.
All this only begins to suggest the real “transformation” which is going to be needed come a new presidency in 2016. The Obama Administration has talked grandiloquently of curing the nation’s long term problems, but there is no reason to believe that Obamacare – whatever its qualities – has done much to attack such basic issues in the medical system. And the growing insurance premiums and increasingly whopping deduction provisos certainly add weight to our argument.
Mr. President 2017, we are waiting with baited breath!
sws-08-28-15

Close the damned border!


Just when we thought the so-called debate about immigration couldn’t get more screwed up, we get another round.
Donald Trump provided the gotcha media with a confused statement on illegals, and then trying to take it back in the fashion of Jeb Bush with his Iraq War fandango.
Then a prince of the Church wades in accusing Trump of being a neo-Klu Klux Klaner. [Would it be uncharitable of us to suspect this, too, has something to do with the growing competition in Latin America between their traditional Church and the evangelicals?] In any case, the good father has overshot his critique since we don’t have any evidence that Trump, whatever else his sins, is a racist.
Then we get the more disheartening news involving the death of innocents at the hands of illegal Mexican immigrants with criminal records. Nothing could be more heart-rending than the most recent story of a couple and their daughter who stopped to help a roadside motorist only to be murdered. But then he was an illegal who had been here so long, ICE officials had given him a green card!
And so it goes …
It is unlikely that debate among the Republican aspirants coming up shortly will do much to clarify issues.
So may we add our few cents, restating the more than obvious basis on which any sensible eventual solution of the knotty immigration conundrum is to be found?
We don’t know how many illegal aliens are in the U.S. And we suspect that ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] doesn’t either. Have you noticed that suddenly the mainstream media has abandoned the 12 million figure for an 11 million estimate – a million here, and a million there, as someone has said, and you have a lot of illegals. Has anyone among our learned professional colleagues asked ICE where they get that figure?
More than a few years ago when the predecessor to ICE estimated the illegals at 5 million, we asked for an accounting procedure. We were told that it was based on examining the number of applications for visas from a particular country and then on-the-spot census takers. Our response was that we doubted if one of their young ladies with her clipboard wading into what was then called Spanish Harlem would know the difference between Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean Hispanics masquerading as Puerto Ricans who, of course, had U.S. citizenship
The reason we ask where the estimate comes from is that somewhere, again, pulled out of an old Christmas Eve sock, someone has said that 40% of the illegals are actually legal immigrants who have simply overstayed their visas. Were that the case, then we are probably talking about a much larger portion of illegals being non-Latino– with their economy in collapse again, for example, we suspect there may be more Irish overstaying as was the case in the past.
Enough said.
The beginning and end of this whole discussion has to be the simple proposition of closing the southern border and tightening up at immigration airports.
We don’t underestimate that problem. And that is why we say it is principle concern and should take all the energies of all those – calling all Congressmen – who sincerely want to deal with the problem. As Gov. Rick Perry has shown with the Texas National Guard, we know what is required to seal the border..
Once the borders are sealed against additional immigration – a big if for we know there are special interests, not the least the agro-industrial lobby, that wants a unskilled, cheap and dependent labor – we can proceed. Contrary to the fiction perpetrated on both sides of the aisle, our own Latino populations – who are the first victims of the illegal presence here – are not wedded to continued wideopen borders and their Texas votes have proved they are not for sale only on that issue.
But the beginning of any solution of the presence of whatever number of illegals is in the country, and other issues connected with it, lies first in closing the border.
Can we stick to that one goal for the moment please, and end this circus?
sws-08-0115

Immigration? Canada points the way


Immigration? Canada points the way
Psst! All that gaggle of Republican presidential aspirants looking for “solutions” to the thorny immigration issues:
Not for the first time, why not look to Canada? Our northern neighbor has had an immigration procedure as fouled up as ours, even if it does have more recent immigrants than any other country except Australia. But as of January, it turned to the practical task of sorting out that vast world out there that wants to come to North America. It is using a sieve for the qualified, rather than those standing longest in line. It has already brought in or tapped temporary residents who though unemployed were facing the end of their working visas. It will still use family reunification but it is setting out more detailed criteria.
But the new “Express Entry “takes a passive, paper-driven first-in-line system,: Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, told the Financial Times, “and replaces it with a proactive, recruitment-driven pool of talented people…”
It has also switched away from China, the Philippines and India and back to giving Ireland, Britain and Germany more preference, profiting, Ottawa hopes on a period when the U.S. seems less welcoming. [The Canadians rubbed salt in the wound in 2013 when they set up a billboard in Sillicon Valley “H-1B problems? Pivot to Canada”, anticipating their new program.] It’s true the U.S. already authorizes 85,000 high-skilled workers entry annually. But American industry sources say that is far short of demand and some high-skilled multinational companies are already speculating Canada’s new green card may attract industry as well as skilled workers..
The new Canadian system dumps first-come, first-served and substitutes a rolling criteria based on demands for skilled workers. It will match perspective immigrants much faster with labor demand using a digital data bank. The data will include complete personal and work records and score applicants. If all goes well, Ottawa expects to bring in 280,000 permanent residents this year with two-thirds of them “economic immigrants”.
Critics claim the proposed system isn’t all that transparent, at least as to how the final decision-making is going to be done. There are complaints, too, that it discriminates against low-skill immigrants and will abandon some of the much touted effort to achieve diversity. But even Premier Philippe Couillard, in always argumentative Quebec, which strives for francophone migrants as its own native population dwindles at a rapid rate, has announced that his province plans to welcome more immigrants through ”the economic classes”.
sws-06-20-15

Are Dying Dictatorships “in”?


News that the Obama Administration has been holding high-level talks with the Venezuelan dictatorship, this time in Haiti of all places, makes us nervous. Washington’s moral compass – or for that matter even the one they use in the Vatican – has been swirling around and pointing in odd directions lately.
We haven’t been polishing our Italian with The Prince, but we would be the first to recognize that in a wobbly world, the Obama Administration, like any other in Washington, is going to have to make compromises with regimes we don’t like or even understand too well. The archetypical case these days is China. We have just come through the seventh of our annual attempts to find some sort of working relationship so there is no collision with “a rising China”. It again produced nothing in the way of coming to grips with any of the increasingly dangerous areas of conflict. But we would be the first to argue that we have to keep trying, while at the same time looking to our defenses against what is an obvious Beijing strategy to force us off our East Asian freedom of the seas strategy.
Then there’s Egypt. We’re glad the U.S. has been forced back into an intimate relationship with Cairo. We never shared the Obama Administration’s [continuing] enthusiasm for the Muslim Brotherhood the current al Sisi regime overthrew. Yes, that was an elected government. But it was tightening the screws for a longtime one-man, one-vote, one-election. And it was building a monumental Brotherhood base for Islamic radicalism from which most of the current terrorist organizations have sprung. Al Sisi, at least, is fighting Islamic terrorism at home and maintaining peace [if, indeed, not cooperation] with our ally, Israel. A little more courtship of Cairo might help smooth out some of its wrinkles.
But reaching out to the bloody hand of the Castros as the Havana regime begins its death rattle never made much sense. When Raul threw more political prisoners into jail as the new “opening” was announced, it confirmed our worst fears. Quite rightly hope never dies with our American exporters, especially when they get taxpayers’ subsidies to dump their product, but there is no hope we can rescue an economy destroyed by half a century of Soviet controls. And freedom and prosperity will come to Cuban only when the Castros are gone.
It’s not just that birds of a feather etc. It’s that even the oil virtually donated by Caracas to the Castro regime [and now curtailed for obvious reasons] is all that keeps the Castros from total bankruptcy. But it is precisely part of the pattern in Caracas which is bringing on bankruptcy there. We agree with Pope Francis that the souls of the Cuban people [as well as those in Venezuela] are in the balance. But saving the tattered and dying dictatorships of Havana and Caracas reminds us too much of the Vatican’s long and troubled flirtation with Spain’s Francisco Franco.
American aid and comfort to both the Castro regime and the even more feckless Maduro Chavistas in Caracas would prolong the agony of two collapsing regimes. It’s part of a legacy the lameduck Obama Administration ought really to eschew.
sws-06-22-15