Category Archives: Hillary Clinton

24Snobbery and Vox Populi



There is no end to the admiration for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Not only did they conceive and implement the most representative government the world had known, drawing on their knowledge of The Greek and Roman Classics. But when they anticipated a particularly galling problem – or, as in the case of the competition of the larger and smaller of the original 13 British colonies which were to form the new Republic.

 

They also understood that the U.S. Constitution which established America’s fundamental law, and guaranteed certain basic rights to its citizens, would in the end be at the mercy of impulse and fads. When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed it on September 17, 1787, presided over by George Washington, they faced an issue in the fear of smaller members they would be dominated by the numbers and wealth of the larger states such as Virginia. In 1790, Vermont, for example, had only 85,539 free whites and slaves compared to its neighbor, Massachusetts with its 378,787. [Yes, violations of Vermont’s anti-slavery law, a part of its 1777 constitution when it broke away from New York, were not unusual].

In the Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued against “an interested and overbearing majority” and the “mischiefs of faction” in an electoral system. Madison defined a faction as “a number of citizens whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

Madison and others hope and planned what was then called republican government [i.e., federalism, as opposed to direct democracy], with a distribution of voter rights and powers, would countervail against factions. Although the United States Constitution refers to “Electors” and “electors”, neither the phrase “Electoral College, or as until the early 19th century when the name “Electoral College” came into general usage for the electors selected to cast votes for president and vice president. The phrase was first written into federal law in 1845 and appears in the Constitution as “college of electors.

In a sense, what the Founders feared has come to pass in the creation by the system itself of a privileged c political lass, the so-called Establishments of both parties. They have come to dominate the federal government through their expertise in its intricate operations and skill in maneuvering in its constantly growing bureaucracy,. But in a largely unanticipated reaction, a general popular reaction took place in 2016 with the election of Donald K. Trump. Trump’s election, was unforeseen by even the most astute political observers – particularly those in the mainstream media who still are smarting from their failure.

Trump’s decisions since his election have further confounded these media observers along with the leaders of both the major parties. His unpredictability – from their standpoint – has led not only to inability to anticipate them but to a originality to the Trump Administration that has not been equaled for decades.

In that sense, even though he received a smaller popular vote than the Establishment’s candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, he has very much become the successful candidate of the vox populi, the voice of the people, or indeed, from the original Latin phrase, vox populi, vox dei – the voice of the people as the voice of God..Trump may indeed be the voice of “the forgotten man” in the American society to which he so often refers. One thing is clear: the continued struggle between Trump and his base against the Inside the Beltway Establishment aided and abetted by its Hollywood apparatus will continue to dominate the American political scene for some time. The ultimate victor is not now predictable but there is little doubt which side the Founders would have chosen.

sws-09-29-17

 

 

 

 

 

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The Obama Legacy


Historians will debate the importance of the Obama Administration and its role in American history for decades to come, of course. The legacy which presidents leave behind them is always a concern of our chief executives, and it has been of even more importance to Barack Obama. As he marked a milestone in his tour of duty. leaving on a foreign tour, with a successor he opposed now chosen, he publicly drew his own optimistic record. He carefully picked, of course, in a press conference, what he considered the best interpretation of events over the last eight years. But at least for the time being, when his policies and their repercussions are still relatively fresh, it is hard to draw a balance sheet which is less than disastrous.
Obama, of course, perhaps more than any other recent president, is an ideologue – and he insisted in his political campaigns that he aimed at a “transformation” of American society. His framework for events is a combination of his studies of history but overlaid by the socialist and pro-Communist views of the little social-political group around the University of Chicago who launched his career.
There is no doubt that he has effected changes, whether they are indeed transformations, and whether any have been beneficiary, only time will tell.
But any honest examination of the effects of his strategies is a record of miscalculation and failures. Perhaps the most dramatic ones have been in foreign policy. His campaign to withdraw American power and decision-making from the international scene has demonstrated what had always been apparent to serious students of foreign affairs: the enormous power of the U.S., economic, political and military, has a role in any international confrontation even when Washington chooses to remain neutral or withdraw its influence. A world order without U.S. participation is not only unimaginable to our allies but something our adversaries always question as a possibility.
The Middle East is the most dramatic example of the failure of Obama’s effort to remove American leadership and power in the interelated conflicts there. First, his effort to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance encouraged the Moslem terrorists in the area. Then, Sec. Hillary Clinton’s courted the brief Moslem Brotherhood regime in Egypt – overthrown by the military through popular demand. Obama and Hillary attempted to boycott the new military rulers thus providing an opportunity for Russian arms sales and influence where it had been expelled a half century ago by pro-Western Egtptians. In Syria, Obama’s initial declaration of opposition to the Basher al Assad regime was followed by withdrawal. Washington’s retreat assured the descent into a bloody, irresolute civil war sending a flood of millions of refugees into neighboring countries and Europe. The threat of force followed by its withdrawal has returned Moscow to a base in the eastern Mediterranean and helped extend Tehran mullahs’ state terrorisn excesses across the Fertile Crescent, even into Latin America. A treaty to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons, never submitted to the Senate as the Constitution fdemands, is rapidly disintegrating
In East and South Asia, Obama’s ambivalent policies toward Chinese aggression have encouraged Beijing to aggressive territorial claims against its neighbors, discouraged unity among the Southeast Asians against Chinese Communist threats. Again Hillary’s much publicized pivot to the Western Pacific has failed to materialize. Slowly, the rape of the American economy by the Chinese through export subsides and currency manipulation – begun in the Bush Administrations — has become so clear that the Trump Administration qill have no option but a dangerous crackdown.
Obama’s role as the first American Afro-American president was, whether admitted in public discussion, seen as an important opportunity to continue to heal the historic American race problem. But whether in part because his own exotic background linked him neither to the rising black middle class nor the poor of the ghetto, he either took nondefensible positions on individual race incidents or neglected completely the mayhem of his own Chicago hometown. One has to assume that the American black leadership can only see these past eight years as a failure by a president, whatever his color, to contribute to solution of the race problem which appears to most observers to be in an even worse condition than at his entry into office.
Obama’s claim for his Affordable Care solution to long-term U.S. medical care is nearing collapse with skyrocketing costs and failure of the insurance framework which was to support it. His steady stream of executive directives for additional regulation and environmental restraints has contributed toward the slowest and most erratic economic recovery since World War II.
Despite his rhetorical skills and personal popularity as the first black president, Obama’s legacy will be a negative one. As the anti-Obama vote for Donald Trump has demonstrated, it will also cast a shadow on many of the techniques and political forms his very talented political team gave the nation.
sws-11-14-16

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Mexico plays US politics


Pres. Enrique Peña Nieto’s invitation to the two U.S. candidates for president is one more instance of the growing role of Mexico in domestic American politics.
There was a time, now long ago politically, when Mexican politicians preferred to ignore what they considered an embarrassment of the Mexican American population in the U.S. and the massive flow of migrants from Below the Border. In more recent times, Mexican politicians have seen the growing size and activism in the Mxican American population as one of their negotiating weapons in the increasingly complex relationship with the U.S.
That relationship is one of the most intense of any neighbors in the world with U.S. goods and services trade with Mexico totaling an estimated $583.6 billion in 2015. Exports were $267.2 billion; imports $316.4 billion, with a goods and services trade deficit with Mexico almost $50 billion in 2015.
To some extent this business – the third largest foreign destination and source of American trade – is underpinned by the huge American Mexican American population. It is now estimated at 33 million or a tenth of the U. S. population, a third of whom were born in Mexico.
With its own population tripling in a half century to some 135 million by 2012, Mexico’s long-time monopoly ruling party, the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution [PRI], always had seen immigration to the U.S. as its steam escape valve. Still a largely subsistence agriculture economy with crippling leftwing ideological modifications introduced in the 1930s, Mexico could not provide jobs and livelihood for its population. The PRI did everything it could to push migrants over the border, all the while ignoring their existence in the U.S., but welcoming their remittances to relatives who hadn’t made the journey. [Trump has said he would block the largest remittance channel in the world, more than $23 billion annually. But like so many of Trumps’ proposals, it’s not clear how he could do that and if he could, how to avoid serious consequences to both economies.].
In more recent decades, Mexico has not only begun to try to acknowledger the large Mexican presence in the U.S. but its government – including a short ill-fated opposition interregnum by the Catholic-oriented and northern states based National Action Paty [PAN] has tried to exploit it. Mexican politicians have seen the possibility of its using the growing Mexican American political influence as a weapon in bilateral national negotiations.
Peña Nieto’s invitation to the two candidates to come to Mexico to discuss bilateral issues was a daring maneuver in this new game of growing interrelations. The invitation came despite what some would interpret as Trump’s hostile attitude toward Mexican emigration, including the illegals crossing a very leaky U.S. southern border.
Mexico’s population control policies, and the inevitable fall in birthrate with rising living standards, has somewhat reduced the pressure to push more Mexicans across the border. But even though the birthrate has been cut by two thirds in recent decades, at 1% in a population half of whom was under 25 in 2010, there are surplus workers even which a growing industrialization and modernized corporate agricultural sector [with exports to the U.S.] cannot absorb.
Donald Trump’s immediate acceptance of Peña Nieto’s invitation, despite what some in Mexico and the U.S. might have characterized as his antagonistic statements, was characteristic. He obviously saw it as another opportunity, whatever the outcome of his disussions with the Mexican president, as another of his successful media exploitations. And Hillary Clinton’s delayed response was equally characteristic of her inability to meet Trump’ unpredictable hursts – perhaps an omen for the what most observers believe will be the crucial candidate debates.
Trump has promised to slap restrictions on multinational companies’ exports from migrating U.S. manufacturing which moves south of the border to exploit lower wage and other operating costs. That would call for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA], and perhaps negotiation of a new “Bracero” treaty – contract imported agricultural workers – to satisfy the agroindustrial lobby for unrestricted immigration.
Whatever the outcome of Trump;s talks in Mexico City – and they are likely to lead only to publicly announced generalities – he has scored points against Clinton. And at the same time, Peña Nieto will have made his point that Mexican policies [and [politics] can no longer be ignored by American politicians.
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Add to GoodReads
Mexico
Chaos on our Doorstep
Sol Sanders
Paperback
Sol Sanders presents a panorama of Mexico’s problems, gives reasons for the current situation, and explores the possible impact on the United States.
Madison Books
Pages: 232 • Size: 6 x 9
978-0-8191-7296-9 • Paperback • July 1989 • $14.95 • (£9.95)

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sws-08-31-16

Media disaster


Perhaps not since 1936 has there been such a failing through prejudicial media reporting of a presidential election. Then, of course, the enormously popular weekly, The Literary Digest, predicted a strong victory for the Republican conservative candidate Kansas Governor Alf Landon against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR bidding for a second term was pushing a radical program against traditional opposition in his own Party, the Congress and the courts. The landslide victory for Roosevelt that followed – every state but Maine and Vermont that became something of a joke – so invalidated the magazine’s reputation that it collapsed and disappeared.
One has to wonder if such a fate would befall one of the many media sources today or whether it would just continue to blather on.
For what we see in a media today is so slanted that it has further alienated an already antagonistic general public which long since lost all respect and faith in it. CNN and NPR’s support of Hillary Clinton – but much more their tortured attempts to avoid any negative reporting about her many recent pratfalls – is outrageous. And they are followed by the rest of the mainstream media with the exception of Fox News whose effort to maintain some semblance of balance makes them appear pro-Trump.
It is hard to know what has given us this kept press. Is it that the members of the media – with their [often literally] incestuous relationships with the Democratic Party, the Obama Administration and the “Inside-the-Beltway” elite — simply is reflecting their own prejudices? Certainly were that the case they would be overwhelmingly antagonistic to Donald Trump’s politics as a matter of custom rather than reflective partisanship; his perceived gaucherie and outside the Beltway language would be enough to condemn him.
Or is it that the media, as part of a self-appointed elite, is ideologically disposed toward an anti-Trump position, even into support for Hillary Clinton if for no other reason than she seems to reflect the same attitudes? Trump, right or wrong, has ferociously attacked some of the shibboleths of the ruling national political machine for the last half century. He has fed everything from “free trade” to “international cooperation” into the maw and put them up for grabs, revision or disabuse. The outcome of any debate he has touched off is much less important than the dust he has kicked up by even bringing the issue to a question and deliberation.
There is genuine concern in some quarters, not those who accuse him of being another Hitler, that he is removing the foundations of the long period of relative peace which has endured since August 1945. The Korean War and the Vietnam War were bloody interjections in this era, of course, but however bitter was their warfare and the political conflicts around them, they did not represent the horrors of World Warr I and II with its virtually destruction of whole generations of young European men. And the prospect of an even more destructive World War III was held at bay.
The way the anti-Trump media have seized on what are obviously elliptical or misspoken bits and pieces of Trump’ endless stream of consciousness chatter is not only unprofessional but criminal. It was obvious, for example, that when he mentioned the complicated idea [in a phrase], he meant that the enormously powerful following for the Second Amendment possibly could neutralize a roster of liberal judges Clinton as president would put on the Supreme Court. Yet almost the entire media were determined to make the phrase an indication that he was calling for assassination using the constitutional right for individuals to bear arms. A sarcastic reference to the possibility that Vladimir Putin might release e-mails Clinton had destroyed since the Russians were presumably hacking her non-official server and her various devices was turned into an appeal on Trump’s part for Moscow’s intervention in a purely American political fracas.
These are petty offenses. But multiplied as they are almost daily by other inferences and innuendos they add up to a prejudicial presentation of the presidential debate.
It remains to be seen whether, given the low rating all polls attribute to the public’s respect and credence for the media, it will be more than a minor part of the growing circus that is our presidential election.
sws-08-12-16

The Iran mystery


In all the torturous puzzles of the current Mideast chaos, perhaps the greatest unknown is what the Obama Administration thinks it is accomplishing with its Iran policy.

Again, in the past few days, we have had evidence that Pres. Barack Obama is moving – this time secretly – to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. The explanation for the payment of an old debt to the Shah’s regime is worse than ludicrous. Even more evident is the extreme secrecy with which the $400 million was paid, indicating that the Obama Administration was perfectly aware that it was conducting a dubious deal at best.

The latest revelation builds on a series of negotiations and concessions Washington has made to Iran. The assumption has to be made that Obama believes that some sort of overall settlement can be made between the U.S. and the Tehran regime as part of an effort to stabilize the Mideast.

However, any objective review of the current situation – excluding of course the secrets passing back and forth between Obama and the mullahs – indicates there is no such possibility of an accomodation with the religious fanatics who direct the regime and its worldwide terrorist campaign. So, the mystery is what does Obama knows or thinks he knows that is not generally acknowledged by others viewing the relationship.

In fact Obama is dealing with a regime of religious fanatics who have chosen the most egregious tenets of traditional Islam to wage war against “infidels”. Their stock and trade has from the beginning of the regime been anti-Americanism. They are based on accusations of U.S. intervention in Persia’s affairs which ignore the pro-Nazi regime on the outbreak of World War II and the post-war effort of the Soviet Union to take over the country with satellite regimes among its several minorities.

Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the regime no longer commands the majority of Iranian public support and rules only with the use of vicious internal repression. That revulsion against the regime – which in the end makes it fragile and any “deal” with it equally precarious – came with the carefully controlled elections of 2013 when the regime was threatened by a general rejection. At that time, despite calls from the dissidents who had been cheated of their victory, for American support, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored them

As the Obama Administration constantly acknowledges, Tehran’s mullahs are supporting anti-U.S. movements in the Mideast and terrorist activities in Latin America. It was, in fact, suicide bombers belonging to Hizb’allah’s earlier organization that killed 241 U.S. marines and 58 French servicemen, six civilians in Beirut in 1983. Today not only Hizb’allah but the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are projections of the mullahs’ power in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that Hamas is Sunni and originally a creature of the ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, suggests Tehran’s growing international clout.

Obama’s extended negotiations – and concessions to the Tehran mullahs – has alarmed the U.S. traditional Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Gulf oil states. Israel, a target the mullahs have announced they want to wipe out, is having to adjust its relationship with other players in the region – including recently returned Moscow to Syria — in an effort to meet a Tehran regime strengthened through Obama’s efforts.

The Obama Administration’s rationalization that its courtship of the mullahs and the recent payment is part of settling long-standing accounts is even more ridiculous. Administration spokesmen have been forced to acknowledge that its payments are not only fungible – that is substituting for other expenditures of the mullahs – but probably actually going to support its terrorist activities.

There continue to be 4,700 private US claims against Tehran for seizure of prosperities after the fall of the Shah.. An international special tribunal has ordered payments by Iran to US nationals totaling over $2.5 billion. By 2014, almost all private claims had been resolved, but several intergovernmental claims were still to be negotiated – hardly a record on which to base a new and accommodating relationship.

It is time that the President tells the rest of us on what basis his Iran policy is formulated, the secret behind his negotiations with one of the most hideous and destructive regimes in the world?

sws-08-04-16

Plugging, common sense and precision


It was inevitable, of course, that when The Digital Revolution spawned The Information Revolution, it would simultaneously open up The Misinformation Revolution.
If anyone, anywhere, anytime – except perhaps in China – can gap on the internet and pontificate, a great deal of what is there is bound to be even worse than nonsense, but poisonous. The only defense is a resort to history, which seems to have gone out of style as an academic discipline, and common sense.
Here are cases in point:
The CN-NPR war against the candidacy of Donald Trump, whatever your own views about The Donald, constantly harps on the theme of the minority vote which they conclude he will not receive. Mebbe. But it is well to remember that in the past – with the enormous exception, granted, of 2008 and 2012, and for obvious reasons — was never a major factor in elections. Even registered black voters notoriously did not vote, and the Mexican-Americans in the southwest, less half as much as they. It remains to be seen if Pres. Barack Obama’s face, and the incredibly honed digital machine his supporters built, has reversed these historic trends.
Speaking of Hispanics. There are none. There are Americans who language in their household – or perhaps their only language in parts of the Southwest – is Spanish, properly Castellano. But, for example, antagonism between Mexico and Cuba in the Spanish Empire was the feud to end all feuds. That carried on among their progeny in the U.S. The Florida and New Jersey Cuban minorities, because of the flight of many of them and their antagonism to the Castro regime, have in the past been Republican with notable exceptions, e.g. Bob Menendez, Democrat, New Jersey (2006–Present), Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 13th district [993-2006]. The flirtation with Raúl Castro of the Obama Administration is likely to end the erosion which was taking place among younger Cuban Americans in recent years. Puerto Ricans is the largest Spanish-speaking minority in Florida; they cannot vote in federal elections in Puerto Rico. They tend to be Democrats because of the long affiliation the first popularly elected governor of the Rican Commonwealth Luis Muñoz Marín local social democratic party was tied to the Democrats’ New Deal on the Mainland. California Mexican-Americans, when they vote tend, to be indeed solidly Democratic, but the Bushes and the current governor, Greg Abbott, has cut heavily into their formerly Democrat base. By the way, all speak Spanish but most Mexicans will admit – unless they come from their own Caribbean coast, e.g. Tampico – that they have great difficulty understanding Cubans and Puerto Ricans’ Spanish.
The Trump campaign keeps trumpeting a “fact”; the candidate earned more votes than any GOP primary candidate in history , they argue, in his primary race with 17 opponents whom he liquidated [or did more or less so until Ted Cruz’ ghost showed up at the third day of the Republican convention]. The “fact” is indisputable, but in no small part explained by another fact: the current estimate of the U.S. population is 322.48 [not counting an unknown number of illegals], more than double the 163.03 million estimated in 1954. Obviously, what is considered the minority political party – kept under an Electoral College handicap by the huge and continuing Democratic majorities in New York and California – has gained spectacularly? With an unprecedented number of candidates all salivating at the possibility of running against a “third Obama administration masquerading as Hillary Clinton, that impetus would have been even stronger. There was large numbers of Democrats and independents, in the states where registration can be changed easily, switching their party affiliation to Republican to take part in the free-for-all.
The CNNers and NPRers are trumpeting the divisions of the just ended Republican Convention, again, as the first time ever, etc. In fact, in the modern era both political parties have been coalitions of regional forces – often at ideological loggerheads with one another but both more interested in power than more egests. The Talking Heads ignore, for example, the fact that the Democratic Party which ruled [under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman] for two decades was a coalition of segregationists [“The Solid South, Dixiecrats, etc], highly personal urban political “machines [Tammany in NYC, Hague in Jersey City, Daley in Chicago and Pendergrass in Kansas City – from which Truman, himself emerged], the AFL-CIO unions, socialists and Communists, and FDR’s “kitchen cabinet” of academic advisers. Furthermore, vice presidents – to “balance” ticket geographically – virtually disappeared with FDR’s firing of Henry Wallace, an Iowa and agricultural society icon, in 1936. [I know; I was writing editorials in my hometown weekly supporting Wallace and the AFL-CIO Political Action Committee!] So-called platform committees in both parties have been irrelevant in terms of influencing the candidates’ policy but simply a combat ring for battling. Party apparatchiks.
So what’s the lesson here? Obviously, don’t believe everything The Talking Heads say with great authority. [It’s something of a delight to listen to one noted female star that has suddenly blossomed into an expert on the Mideast!] Remember, — at least for the time being –Google, and there are dictionaries, the Britannica, to check them out. But most of all maintain your own skepticisms – everything on the Internet is not The Word!
sws-07-21-16

Common sense and Hillary Clinton


Hillary Clinton is the stormy petrel of American political life. Arguments about her and her ideas and position in the current scene are virtually endless. They also are argued generally at a high intensity in the greatest heat of conflict. But in the breach, a relatively common sense approach to her and her reputation has been lost.
The question of Hillary Clinton’s role in American society even exceeds her attempt as the presumptive Democratic Party candidate for America’s highest elected office in November. As the first female with the possibility of reaching the highest office in the land is a landmark in the long fight for equal rights for women in the U.S. and throughout the world. That attention will be again enhanced by a newly announced investigation of her use of e-mail correspondence by the Department of State, and the threat of Congressional Republicans to continue similar hearings.
Many, perhaps most, Americans might well be tired and bored with the discussion of how Clinton used her e-mail service during her years as secretary of state, and ready “to move on” as her supporters have asked. But, in fact, the tedious arguments over the e-mails are at the heart of the examination of Clinton’s personality and her role in American life.
The technicalities of the discussion, however, sometimes ignore common sense considerations of the whole environment in which it is held. For example, the importance of an e-mail addressed to the secretary or one emanating from her office or her assistants to others, may well exceed their nominal importance. In the complicated world of international relations and America’s relationship to its allies and its adversaries, it can well be argued that any subject is important which reaches the eyes of the fourth in line for succession to the U.S. presidency in time of emergency. Whether, for example, the secretary is aware of an incident or a subject in a foreign country could be of utmost importance to that or another country.
Whether Clinton’s disregard for the sanctity of secrets in classified documents was studied or “reckless neglect” is in the legal context irrelevant. The law which attempts to protect state secrets or portions of them warns that penalties for violation of it are similar, whether executed consciously by the violator, or whether something done without specific regard. That argument is an important part of the reasoning by FBI Director John Comey in closing the agency’s investigation of Clinton’s e-mail issue. He emphasized that there would be no call on the Justice Department prosecutors to initiate an indictment or a to presen it to a grand jury whether to return an indictment.
One of the most controversial issues in any official investigation – such as that conducted by Comey and the FBI – of Clinton is to what extend her public statements are to be included in any final analysis. Comey was adamant that Clinton had not lied in her testimony to the FBI contradicted earlier statements, although it is something of a puzzle why the Director himself was not involved in the several hours of questioning. But he was equally clear that the FBI had not considered the hours of testimony and reams of printed coverage of her statements.
Politicians, in the American political arena, are given a certain amount of leeway in defining what is truth and exaggeration. This is less than a formal cynicism as a part of what most Americans have always regarded as the “show business” aspects ot their political process. It is perhaps what has helped Americans – with the notable exception of the Civil War and with its huge loss of life — avoid the bitter extended political conflicts which have characterized European politics and brought on centuries of continual warfare.
Ultimately, if as now seems probable, Clinton is her party’s candidate for president in November, it will be the voters who will decide on her character not excluding the many contradictions in her statements which Comey and others have laid out in detail.
sws-07-08-16

Newspeak II


George Orwell, the brilliant political writer and philosopher of the 1950s, saw the possibility we might drift into a seductive totalitarian society. Orwell wrote that it would be with the help of a new language; “Newspeak” he called it.. That development, he prophesied, would require a new tongue disguising truth with subtle elisions from word to word, concept to concept, in a simplistic fashion that would be easily propagated. The new language was to become the common speech by 1950 preparing the way for the new homogenized tyranny that would descend by 1984.
Orwell’s timetable, mercifully, has turned out to be very wrong. We may still float into that gruesome emasculating society – decades later than his fiction predicted. Many pessimistic observers see many signs of the drift he outlined. But if the timetable is off, have we not begun to develop that remarkable language he hypothesized for the new authoritarianism? It turns out our public figures are so taken by their own egos that they can spin monstrous lies into accepted truth before our very eyes using much of the same old tired phraseology..
John Comey’s almost five-hour testimony to a Congressional committee on his investigation of Hillary Clinton’s alleged violation of the laws protecting national secrets is a dramatic illustration of the trend. The accusation that Comey, with his highly publicized reputation for probity and integrity, cannot easily be set aside. He may, indeed, have simply succumbed to Washington’s intricate political intrigues and is, so to speak, letting Hillary off the hook
But in his almost five hours of testimony before a Congressional committee, Comey mercilessly parsed every word. In the process, he was able to determine that Clinton – a woman who has already occupied highly and significant roles in U.S. political life — was nevertheless wanting in “technical sophistication” about guarding government classified material. He was able to draw a distinction between “reckless disregard” for the literature of American security and “extremely careless” handling of such material which is prohibited in the language of the law. Even a dictionary isn’t much help in making these not very perceptive distinctions between the words and their meanings.
Comey used this language as an escape from what many saw as the logical progression which had followed his revelations of the FBI investigation into whether Clinton had indeed violated the law protecting national security. After citing all the reasons why Clinton had violated the restrictions on access to these classified documents – including the possibility that by destroying some of the thousands of e-mails on her non-government servers she had committed an obstruction of justice – Comey made a convoluted argument for why he would not proceed with any action against her,. That included the argument that there was no “intent” to violate the law, always an extremely booby trapped discussion involving what is usually an even more ambiguous question of “motive”. He even more cleverly argued that although the law involved had existed for decades, the number of people successfully prosecuted under it was minimal. [But, Mama, Joe is doing it!]
At the same time, Comey has chosen to completely disregard the text of the law that specifically does not rule out inadvertence or lack of knowledge of it to free the violator of incrimination. That, of course, brings the whole logical argument back to the level of the language that is being manipulated.
This growing elitist language is being created at the time that the common speech of most Americans, and the rest of the English-speaking world, is becoming less and less specific and more given to trendy pieces of slang, quickly discarded for the next ones. These are often a popluar advertisement for a consumer product.
It also suggests why the growing separation of a self-appointed elite in Washington, New York and Los Angeles and much of the rest of the population is growing. That, in turn, had produced the somewhat amorphous but highly energized political revolt represented by Donald Trump and his “movement”. The Trumpets are reacting to what they perceive, somewhat incoherently, as oppression by a favored elite with their hands on the levers of power.
That division of opinion it is to a considerable extent inchoate, a reflection of the growing language differences between the two poles in the body politic. Furthermore, the polarization is increasingly self evident in all aspects of American life – once despite the earlier lower level of communication and transportation and equally massive numbers of immigrants – a much more homogenous society.
As the Trump phenomenon has indicated, however vague this new cultural divide is – or is recognized – it will have an enormous influence on future events in the fast moving world of the U.S. in the rest of the 21st century. It acts as a spur and indeed a complement of the enormous digital revolution affecting all aspects of American life through the increasing use of technology at every level of modern life.
sws-07-7-16

Comey, the FBI – and America – take a hit


For the first century of its history, the United States avoided having a national police force. The Founders, for the most, had eschewed the whole issue when under pressure from Thomas Jefferson [and nevertheless his slave-holding Virginia constitutions] adopted that colony’s Bill of Rights as the first amendments to the federal constitution. The Virginia code’s tenth measure was to reserve all other rights and prerogatives not specifically named as federal functions to the individual states and their electorates. That was intended to head off the tyranny of a federal police power which like the British parliament had oppressed the American colonists.
Finally toward the end of the 19th century, a number of scandals – one involving the state government of Oregon – forced Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, acting on the 1887 statutes regulating interstate commerce, to set up an investigative service. In theory, it reported to the attorney-general – who contrary to current misinterpretations of constitutional law is a political office, a member of the president’s executive council [cabinet], and not an independent, judicial organization. Gen. Charles Joseph Bonapart, a collateral Baltimore descendant of the Little Corporal – created it on Roosevelt’s orders after Congress had denied him the authiority to incorporate other federal policing activities — for fear of creating a secret police.
The FBI’s first serious activity was pursuit of the 1910 Mann act against involuntary prostitution. It took on new life with enforcement from 1932 of the ill-starred alsohol prohibition act, when its name was officially changed to the Bureau of Federal Investigation. It was under J. Edgar Hoover, a uniquely endowed and politically astute veteran of the earlier agencies, who directed the FBI through an incredible career from 1924 to 1972. Hoover, for the most part avoiding party politics, gave the FBI its legendary reputation in oursuit of the big city criminal syndicates of the 1930s. And with the advent of World War II, the Agency took on a new role investigating terrorism after 9/11 and the Patriot Act.
Today the FBI’s mandate derives from Title 28 of the United States Code, Section 533, which authorizes the Attorney General to “appoint officials to detect and prosecute crimes against the United States.” But it is other federal statutes which give the FBI responsibility to investigate specific types of criminal activity. By giving the director a ten-year sinecure, unlike any other federal appointee, an effort has continued to make it an independent agency, even if quartered in the executive under an elected president and his appointive attorney-general.
James Brien Comey, Jr. was sworn in as FBI director on September 4, 2013 for a full ten-year term.on the basis of a distinguished career as a prosecuting attorney. In several instances, he had distinguished himself by prosecuting former political colleagues. And many long-term observers of the Agency hoped for another extended tenure by a politically astute professional director.
Comey’s test has come with the politically explosive issue of the transgressions of Hillary Clinton, firstly through her use of personal e-mails for whatever proprietary reasons. The even larger issue of the Clintons’ use – probably with the complicity of her husband, former Pres. Bill Clinton — of a multi-billion foundation awaits in the wings.
Dozens of public officials – one of the latest and most well known, of course, Gen. David Howell Petraeus – have been convicted, ushered out of office and served prison sentences for just such violations of security. Mrs. Clinton is revealed in the e-mails, reluctantly turned over to investigators by her office and the State Dept, that she purposely chose to remove this traffic from its security restrictions. Whether, indeed, foreign intelligence agencies hacked into them remains obscure, but common sense tells us that any subject matter reaching the eyes of a secretary of state, makes them of high security value. Whether or not they were formally labeled as “classified” is largely irrelevant.
Comey has acknowledged all this in his statement announcing there will be no prosecution of Hillary Clinton. Furtheremore, to our consternation, he has acknowledged that another person in a similar situation might well be prosecuted for the same infringement of security.
“To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences, Comey announced’ “To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”
Yet, Comey offers no explanation for his decision. It is not untoward, then, that the general public must now conclude that it is Hillary Clinton’s prominence, her candidacy for the presidency and her denials of earlier admissions of malfeasance, which have led to this “decision”
This is a very sad day for Comey’s reputation, for the FBI and for the attempts to uphold the morality of American politics.

sws-07-05-16

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

Special Relationship II


Back in 1887 the famous poet and storyteller Oscar Wilde quipped: ‘We [English] have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language’. We got another example of this malediction in the blah-blah-blah which has attended Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. What is most apparent to all but the Talking Heads is that London’s negotiating a two-year exit from the EU will result in a revival not only of the vestiges of empire – as much legend as reality – but a renewed emphasis on the Anglo-American alliance, “the Special Relationship”
Like so much of traditional diplomacy, Pres. Barrack Obama and his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, gave that relationship short shrift. Obama, imbued with the Left’s religion of anti-colonialism – a view of the world which is not only unrealistic but ignores the actual relationship of the Metropoles of Britain, France, Italy, and once Germany, to their 19th centuries acquisitions. True, they were exploitive relation ships but they also accelerated the arrival of at least portions of modernism to pre-industrial societies.
As Obama’s attempts to “transform” American foreign policy have either miscued or collapsed over the last seven-plus years, his attempt to derail the historic relationship between the U.S. and Britain has also gone astray. Common language, shared democratic values and concepts, special interests throughout the work, have made a working relationship between Washington and London an irreplaceable part and parcel of U.S. internationalism.
The combination of Obama’s war on this tradition, his buffoonish attempt to influence British voters on withdrawal from the EU which boomeranged, and the U.S.’ expanding interests in the post-World War II world have tended to eclipse that relationship. That illusion was enhanced when London seemed to be throwing in its lot with the movement for a united Europe, one which had been a special project of American strategy for a half century, but not always with its final destination in view.
Now, the latter project is in deep trouble. Few Europeans want to face the reality of German domination as by far the largest and economically the most powerful of the EU states. That will halt the perfectly “logical” calls by Berlin that the EU must go forward to further political integration or collapse. But the French, once Germany’s twin partner in European unity, in a miraculous and real transformation, are for the first time abandoning dirigisme, French promotion of economic planning and control by the state, under the pressure of the competitive drive of “globalization” is being abandoned – and that under a socialist government! The concept had defined the distinctive character of French politics, inherited in part from its royal and multi-republican past, and which it had passed on to the Brussels Eurocrats it had largely supplied and still dominated.
London ‘s withdrawal — although it will continue to bargain for special trading and other economic rights inside the EU, whatever it means in the short-term — means a return to Britain’s diminished but continuing role as a world economic power. The good sense and good luck that kept Britain out of the EU’s now faltering monetary union means that once again, in parallel with the dollar, sterling will resume an stronger international character.
London’s City, which was ceding its role to Frankfurt and Zurich, will be reinvigorated in the longer term by the British withdrawal. That role of London as the world’s second financial center after New York will be felt all the way through the Middle East oil countries [with their traditional ties to the Colonial Office] to Hong Kong and beyond. [What the Japanese will do with their heavy investments in British manufacturing as a base for the EU remains to be seen. But it would not be the first time that Japanese business has had to make major adjustments to its successful formula for being the only non-European power to have made it to First World status].
The revival of the Special Relationship will have new and totally different aspects – again, despite Obama’s original high-priced energy policies, the U.S. and its Shale Revolution has put a new floor under world energy prices. It is one the Mideast producers can meet, of course, but not without cutting back on their enormously spendthrift policies of the past. It could well be that Special Relations II will see the U.S. as Britain’s major supplier of energy and energy technology for development of its own shale resources, environmental freaks notwithstanding.
Prime Minister David Cameron may have to go as a sacrifice on the altar of City business interests and the universal “internationalization” panacea which has dominated both U.K. and U.S. politics under his Conservatives – as well as the Democrats in Washington. And that may introduce new uncertainties along with some disturbing personalities.
But the dye is cast: Special Relationship II has begun with the British voters’ decision that they wanted autonomy and not collaboration at too high a price in cultural values with a Continental bureaucracy and its economy That bureaucracy, too, is now fatally wounded and events will lead to new and likely unpredictable changes in Paris, Berlin,.Brussels and the other EU capitals.
sws-06-24-16

The only strategy


While the authorities continue to sort out the career of Omar Mateen, the killer who perpetrated the greatest mass killing in American history, U.S. strategy remains confused.
There never has been a question of the enormous potential for Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] to inflict suffering on Americans and other Westerners. The world has rarely seen such naked brutality. But alas! it is that dramatic aspect of the Daesh cult which attracts psychopaths, particularly from the Moslem world, to its colors, even attracting other terrorists. Its weapons in the fight with U.S. authorities are formidable. As its followers sometimes boast, it believes in death not in life as do its victims. Suicide bombers are an almost invincible enemy. Relying on old Moslem concepts, it justifies any deceit of non-believers if it can be rationalized as promoting Islam, something no other religion condones.
The infinitely complicated arguments over how to go after suspicious individuals who may be hidden terrorists has dominated the headlines and the conversations about a breakdown in American security. But in the end, proposed reforms are insufficient to prevent other attacks such as these
That is because the U.S. could not be a more attractive target for the Islamic terrorists. An open society, the first thing to acknowledge is that there are tens of thousands of potential American targets like the gay nightclub in Orlando. It is true, of course, that there were ”mistakes” in handling Mateen when he came under official U.S. scrutiny. But as FBI spokesmen have admitted, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential Mateens in this country, and thousands more who could be infiltrated with relative ease given our immigration problems and the opportunities afforded through worldwide commerce and tourism.
There is, of course, a strong argument for tightening up our security procedures. But the reality is that were we to move beyond a certain line in addressing the issue of suppressing terrorists among us, we would emasculate our hard fought civil liberties, the essence of the American political system. That, of course, is precisely what the Moslem terrorists intend: to create an atmosphere of such suspicion and repression that the whole concept of American liberty which they detest would be lost.
Pres. Barack Obama and Democratic Party presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoid the use of the words Islamic terrorists and any other attributes that associate these acts with the religion of Islam. They may have a very pragmatic argument for doing so; that is, official association of terrorism with the religion of Islam may encourage new anti-Western sentiments among its 1.2 billion adherents around the world.
But if so, their logic is at fault. We opposed Nazism despite the assumption that there were millions of “good Germans” who opposed it. We went through the long Cold War opposing Soviet Communism even though we hoped that true Russian autocracy and its European culture were being suppressed. After those battles were won, internal opponents of the dictatorships more often than not, were quick to concede that their position was strengthened by Western resolve. Today we face a similar totalitarian opponent; Islam is not only a religious belief but it has always been indivisible from an attempt to create an authoritarian political regime. Even Mohammed, its founder, was a chief of government.
Pres. Obama has said U.S. strategy would “contain and dismantle” Daesh. In fact, ISIS has continued to grow, spreading its influence to other regions, and enlisting the support of radical Moslems everywhere.
The only strategy that the U.S. can successfully pursue is to go after ISIS in the same way the U.S. and its allies destroyed the Nazis and then Communism. It calls not only for an effective repression of Daesh but in a dramatic fashion that matches its own challenge, a strategy that calls on all our resources to destroy Islamic terrorism at its roots and quickly. That may not destroy the Islamicists’ concept. But anything less will lead to a long and debilitating struggle in which the priceless freedom of American life will be eroded and eventually destroyed.
sws-06-20-16

Mr. Obama’s conscience


The schizophrenic nature of the Obama Administration continues to run amok.
Polls, for what they are worth with liberal media sponsors, say the President’s approval rating is high; over 50% of the population admires him. But the Administration’s failures are becoming more apparent with each day.
It’s early but there are strong indications that the horrendous Orland mass shooting attack was a product of Mideast terrorism. And while the Administration claims gains in its declared war against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL], the organization continues to expand its influence throughout the Moslem world. Inevitably, that means recruits will emerge among American Moslems for such attacks.
The Administration has failed to root out terrorist sympathizers among our native Moslem population, abandoning methods used so successfully by the New York Police department after the 9/11 attacks. Politically correct nostrums in and out of the Administration defy the logic that hidden terrorists exist in the community. Those who would reveal suspects are intimidated by some muddled-headed Moslem imams and pure and simple threats to their own lives. Nor has the Administration tackled the problem that our ostensible ally, Saudi Arabia, permits its closely aligned Wahabi Moslem fundamentalists to finance mosques and Moslem centers in the U.S. and around the world. Their doctrines reinforce traditional Islamic beliefs in forced conversion, the exclusion of other religious practices, and even political jihad and death to nonbelievers.
To examine and to argue against these beliefs among American Moslems and even foreign Moslem communities is not Islamophobia, a prejudiced and irrational attitude toward that religion and its followers. The truth is that Islam has never had its Reformation and Counterreformation and many of its adherents today nominally at least believe in concepts incompatible with American democratic values.
Any campaign to destroy Daesh and other manifestations of internationally organized Islamic terrorism has no alternative but to examine and openly discuss this problem. An ancillary is, of course, to provide security and protection to those American Moslems willing to speak out against misbegotten interpretations of their religion, or those which glorify instances of Moslem Jihad in its long struggle with the West. [The Crusaders, incidentally, were not a prejudiced aberration of the West as so often presented in arguments today, but an effort to defend native Christians and their sacred places in the Middle East.]
But living up to the requirements of its own declared war on Daesh is not the only problem of conscience for those in the Administration and its supporters.
Pres. Obama has now endorsed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the next presidency. He does so with a host of contradictions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, with its highly respected chief, James Comey, confirms that it is directing a criminal investigation of Ms. Clinton. Comey is somewhat protected from the narrower politics of Mr. Obama’s Democrats with his nine-year tenure. There is already enough evidence in the public record to charge Ms. Clinton with irresponsibly in using her private e-mail account. Such a charge has cost other public officials their careers. Much worse apparently is to come when more is known of why Ms. Clinton went to such effort to use nonofficial communications for official documents
It will be Attorney-General Loretta Lynch who must decide whether a prosecution goes forward. Ms. Lynch received the approval of Republicans as well as Democrats when Mr. Obama nominated her for the post because of her considerable record as prosecutor. But she is a member of the President’s cabinet and subject to his oversight and decisions. A decision not to prosecute Ms. Clinton, whether now, after her nomination, or after the election, would be a violation of the trust and duty demanded by her office.
These are issues which should be if they are not on Mr. Obama’s conscience. And they, more than his minimal legislative and administrative accomplishments, will be the historic legacy he seems so eager to advance in his last months in office.
sws-06-19-16

Coddling the US-Japan alliance


More than ever before – the history stretches back to the 1950 Korean War outbreak and recognition that the Cold War had come to Asia – U.S.-Japan relations are the keystone of American strategy for peace and stability in Asia. .
But tending a vast network of bilateral and multilateral connections in which Japan plays a role is as important as cultivating all the bits and pieces of the bilateral alliance. That’s true even with the alliance’s permanent sore spots such as Okinawa with its local radicals and blackmailers. The recent slightly deemphasis of Okinawa with U.S. troops transfers and power projection to Guam are only a slight modifications of a larger strategic concept.That American Okinawa base along with other Japanese Main Island air and navy installations – particularly the naval base at Yokosuka so close to Tokyo — remain central to the U.S. East Asian strategic interests.
Coaxing Japan — with a significant and potent resistance from those clinging to the old illusion of the radical pacifist constitution written by the American Occupation — is among the most important U.S.’ diplomatic Asian projects. It includes trying to integrate Japan’s potential military power as well as its great economic clout into a multinational alliance.
Unfortunately, perhaps the most crucial link between two American bilateral Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, is constantly butting up against the history of Tokyo’s often embittered occupation of the peninsular. North Korea’s sympathizers and as well as genuine Korean nationalists have a hard time forgetting this past. Beijing, increasingly more pragmatic, has exploited this gaping hole in the U.S. strategy with a campaign of seduction of Seoul. It has done so even at the expense of its relationship with its satellite in Pyongyang but who is increasingly dependent on Beijing for its economic survival. So far Beijing’s ability to balance these two relationships has exceeded expectations in Washington and Tokyo and suggests the enormity of the growing problem of how to deal with China,
However strong the aversion to “creating an enemy” in some American academic and political circles, “the problem of a rising China” is growing. China’s aggressive military expansion into the East China Sea where it challenges traditional Japanese claims and its creation of new bases athwart one of the world’s most important naval highways in the South China Sea have to be a cause of concern. Hopefully, China’s still “developing” economy dependent on its successful trade with the U.S., Japan and other Western industrial states, is a counter to its more chauvinist forces. But the increasing reliance of Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping on the military as he has tried to build a highly personalized regime is a source of concern.
All this, of course, led then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 to announce “a pivot to Asia” for U.S. foreign policy. While the Pentagon dutifully announced readjustment of forces, in fact the Mideast crises have continued to ensnarl the Obama Administration. That’s despite its overall goals of reducing regional military commitments as part of the Obama general retreat by the U.S. from world leadership. The “pivot’ has been furthered encumbered by China’s growing regional economic influence, even among the Southeast Asian states who feel threatened.
The latest example of these complications is the decision by Australia to go to the French – for an advanced design – with a $50-billion submarine program over the next decade. The Australian buildup is an important part of what Washington would like to see as a grand alliance among Japan, the Southeast Asians, India and Australia to curb Chinese military expansion. The Japanese had been favored by the Americans for the contract but lost out, at least in part, because of Tokyo’s amateurism in military equipment export diplomacy – only recently begun by Prime Minister Shinto Abe as the latest in the stretching of Japan’s “no war” constitution. Tokyo is convinced that Australia’s dependence on China for massive raw materials purchases, and Beijing’s opposition to the Japan bid was the main obstacle.
The complexity of the Asian scene will continue to dog the last months of the Obama Administration and leave a legacy of demands for diplomatic expertise of the highest caliber for the next administration.
sws-04-26-16

What is Obama up to?


At 54, Barack Obama may well believe – and with more than a little justification – that the political world still has something in store for him.
But with the search for the new secretary-general of the United Nations now well under way with the usual East 42nd Street suspects, that doesn’t seem a job some of us thought for which he might be angling. Why else would be entrust so much of his “transformation” foreign policy to hapless international organizations?
Just because we are suspicious doesn’t mean we are paranoid. But one note has struck us in his many recent interviews. The rather badly handled one with Fox News’ Chris Wallace comes to mind. Wallace couldn’t figure out how to frame his questions to keep control of the narrative, and so when Obama began his superficial philosophizing, Wallace had to jump in ineffectively to give us mostly jabberwocky.
Still Obama did make a point worth noting. It was interpreted by the Talking Heads, quite rightly as a nasty crack at the Brits, so often a target of his derision and disrespect. When asked for the worst mistake of his administration, he said it was the failure to anticipate what would happen after the Qadaffi regime in Libya was brought down. Of course, his critics might find another half dozen or more egregious examples. He said he had not anticipated what would come with regime change and that he had left it to Cameron who had dropped the ball.
But we found it interesting that he did not kiss this question off as he did so many other direct interrogations from Wallace. He might very well have said that history would be the judge of his mistakes, a not uncommon answer other presidents have given the not terribly original question. Much was made his blaming the Libyan disaster on his not unknown object of antagonism, London..
But bringing up Libya at this particular time was not very helpful to Hillary Clinton, running more scared than had been anticipated for the Democratic nomination. Bringing up Libya at a time when Republican Congressional investigators are still going after her role as Secretary of State in the death of an American ambassador and three other U.S. officials at Benghazi wasn’t very helpful to the Hillary campaign. And the whole “leading from behind” strategy which has been such a target for his critics, was hardly a subject he would have wanted to get into, one would have assumed.
Just a coincidence? We wonder for we find the President’s public positions in the present campaign for the Democratic nomination a rather strange one. Yes, he has said, it would be a good thing to have a woman president. And he has endorsed Hillary’s credentials for the post. But he has not endorsed her, nor has his vice president.
Given what is likely to be a highly contested general election tussle between Hillary and whoever comes out of the Republican scrounge, the Obama endorsement as soon as possible would seem to be the order of the day. After all, it is pretty clear that as Hillary – if and when she gets the nomination – comes closer to the general election, she is going for crass political reasons to have to put distance between herself and an Obama Administration which is more and more criticized and a president who appears to have, at least for the moment, lost his mojo.
Obama’s legacy, as we are constantly told is a high priority concern of his, is increasingly up for grabs. Obamacare, his only major domestic accomplishment, almost daily turns into a bigger disaster. His strategy of an orderly retreat from what he regards as American overcommitment overseas, is bleeding at every regional conflict where U.S. intervention and leadership had been the order of the day for a half century.
So the relationship between Obama and the nominee for president may well decide whether he has any future political role. And that may be why he is playing a cat-an-mouse game with the Hillary campaign and her supposed nomination.
sws-04-15-16

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

Obamacare Catastrophe


As it enters its seventh year the enormity of the disaster of the Obama Administration’s effort to solve American health care problems continues to grow.
Nor will it be that easy to untangle its effects on the whole medical industry as statements from some of the presidential candidates indicate.
First of course are the astronomical costs which Obamacare has incurred.
The latest Congressional Budget Office report, released last week, estimates that over the next ten years Obamacare will add $1.4 trillion to the nation’s debt — were it to continue to exist.
Much of the discussion about the cost of the whole medical scene is totally unrealistic. Candidate Hillary Clinton, for example, after proposing new and expensive additions to Obamacare – while criticizing her opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders for suggesting expansion of Medicare to all as unrealistic – proposes a completely nonsensical solution. She would put a 4% tax on millionaires to pay for the increased costs she acknowledges would occur. Unfortunately that would yield only about $150 billion over ten years, a tiny fraction of what her proposed additional new tax credits under the plan would require.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said last May that the ill-fated Obamacare website, the heart of the new regime, cost $834 million to build. But Bloomberg Government, put the total cost at $2.1 billion. It continues to be a hazard for any medical progress, or even to fathom what is happening.
Obamacare’s central skeleton, the coops of insured which were intended to inject competition and therefore lower prices into medical services, have been another disaster. All but 12 of the original 23 have failed and Congressional critics doubt that the $1.2 billion loaned them will be repaid.
Obamacare’s principal intent, to bring into the insurance fold the vast numbers of Americans who had no health insurance, is also dubious. Of the more than 11 million who signed up by the end of enrollment in 2015, three million had dropped out by the end of the year and all told 25% either didn’t buy into the plan or dropped out according to the Heritage Foundation. Although Obamacare spokesmen claimed they had been successful in enlisting non-insured persons in the program, only 10 states have more insured on the Obamacare rolls.
One of the most quoted of the promises by the President for the program has evaporated. Insurers are drastically reducing your choice of doctors and hospitals to cut costs. Among the industry stalwarts it is called “narrowing networks”. The average insured person can expect even fewer choices in the future, according to the Heritage Foundation..
Politically, perhaps the worst aspect of Obamacare is the constant call by its opponents – and the taunts of its few remaining supporters, even in the Administration – for the critics to come up with an alternative plan. But to do so would without doubt create another and equally crippling disaster.
The fact is that resolving the complexities of the American medical scene in one “comprehensive” program has always been an invitation to debacle. The medical complex accounts for one-sixth of the American economy. And, of course, an even more perplexing problem is that it is constantly changing, in no small part because of the progress of American medicine in many fields which however requires new and expensive technology. The often quoted comparisons with medical programs in other countries – especially by those advocates of government “single payer” systems – often ignore the statistics on health problems in the U.S. A good example is the survival rates for breast cancer which are so much better here than the most advanced European health systems.
That does not mean that strenuous effort should not be made, first to repeal most of Obamacare, and secondly to proceed with some individual relatively simple common sense solutions. Obamacare ignored the cabals that exist in most states between legislatures and favored insurers which prohibit buying insurance across statelines. Simply removing that barricade would go a long way toward beginning the kind of competition that could reduce health costs. Let’s take it one step at a time.
sws-03-30-16

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!

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The media and the election


 We are a bit puzzled – and annoyed if truth to tell – with our colleagues in the media and their reporting and analysis of the election procedures.

They seem to have been dazzled by the emergence of the charismatic figure of Donald Trump. He not only gets maximum coverage, but much of it when it is on a one for one basis, is obsequious. At times he is permitted to rattle on, often without substance, for long periods without interruption. Granted that he is a popular figure, an an unusual one, and an important one, the disproportionate coverage appears to cover a lack of knowledge of the history of our electrion process – and the profitability of ratings and advertising revenue.

The analysts – many of whom obviously do not know the specifics of elections at their crucial ward level – keep talking about the resentment and hostility of a large number of voters expressed in the Trump candidacy. But we rarely get a look at any of these people or hear their complaints in person. Nor is there any technical examination of an obvious element in the Trump success, the movement of traditional nonvoters, Democrats and independents, into the Trump campaign what have until now been largely open primaries” in which one could cross over with minimum difficulty. That takes the kind of depth of understanding of the local scene, again, which many of our freewheeling analysts do not have.

There has been a tendency, too, of the mainstream media to call for a winnowing out of candidates among the Republicans to give us a more pointed contest between one or two candidates. That is not, to say the least, the role of the media. It may well be that that winnowing out won’t come until the convention. And that would neither be a disaster nor a malfunctioning of the system. The “concern” expressed over the possibility of a decision of the Republican candidate in a convention is misplaced.. Muddleheads talk without distinction of “a brokered convention:” and “a contested convention” They are not the same.

Leaving the choice of a candidate to a convention is, after all, the way we chose candidates for some 150 years until the last few decades.

If the candidates approach the convention without the necessary number of votes for a plurality, it is not stealing it from the highest bidder if delegates are then asked to vote. GOP convention rules have been changed somewhat, as they have been in the past. But the old rule of committing delegates to their promised candidate in the first round of voting, but then turning them loose to vote for whomever they want if that first round does not produce a candidate with the majority, is an old and honored procedure.

The talk of a “brokered convention” is totally bogus. The old days when there were political machines in cities and states, in which large blocks of votes were held by individual political leaders is long since gone. There is no possibility of a small group of politicians retiring to smoke-filled backrooms to choose the nominee. The new digital world of internet with its easy and cheap access to promotion has changed the whole dynamic. Then there is the Supreme Court’s decision that constitutional requirements for freedom of speech permit anonymous contributions to campaigns has changed the role of money. Nor is it likely that a well-oiled PR camp[aign which saw the balconies organized to overwhelm the floor and nominate a utilities executive, Wendell Wilkie, until then a Democrat, as in the 1940 GOP convention could take place.

There can be a contested convention for the Republicans in which no one comes forward initially with the required votes. And that, as we say, is in an old and honored tradition. In fact, we think it would not only be a useful and deliberate way of choosing the candidate, but it would be an exciting one. It would restore some of the old enthusiasm for politics that has gone astray in recent times. It might well become the kind of spectator sport that would draw young voters into the arena, in recent times so reluctant or simply bored with participation.

So back off, colleagues!

It’s a free for all in an old style, And as far as we are concerned, it is a welcomed one. Americans have every right to choose their rulers in combat. That’s what we seem to be getting. Let’s get on with it on those terms.

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Vulgarization of American life


Something very ugly is happening in the public arena.

The level of vulgarity has fallen so low that we have candidates for the presidency of the United States, our highest ikon demanding knowledge and shrewdness, sparing in schoolyard expletives. The media no longer flinch at using curse words which once were forbidden to any kind of polite conversation. Displays of sexual promiscuity are badges of honor for our celebrities.

Vulgar taunts and attempts at personal humiliation are replacing any discussion of issues and problems of government. It isn’t necessary to name those most guilty of such vulgarity. The use of it by any one individual, as we have seen, almost inevitably attracts others to the same low level of communication.

Those of us – granted, sometimes hypocritically – who protest this dissent into the depths of the worst of styles are called prudish, outdated or simply not a part of the current scene – “not with it!”. But it is time to blow a whistle and call a halt to what is demeaning not only to public discussion but which too often substitutes for real logical discussion and a measured discussion of the conflict of ideas.

It is hard to now how to call a halt to this trend.

The old guardians of propriety – pastors, priests and rabbis – seem to have lost their once vast influence on public life. That perhaps comes with a growing secularization of American life in which religion and those who practice it appear to be a smaller and smaller part of the population. But it also comes from a misconstrued understanding of what liberty and freedom, the hallmarks of American life and our democracy, mean.

The one place left for setting an example and calling a halt to the debasement of the public discourse is, of course, through our elected leaders. The president of the United States has always had at least three different roles – that of chief executor who administers and polices the law, that of politician who heads — at least temporarily –the majority opinion as expressed by voters, and another, hard to define, role as the symbol of the nation and its aspirations.

We are now deep in the process of selecting the next person who will hold that high office and try to meet all its heavy requirements. The contest this year is unusually complex since on the one side we have a veteran of many political wars with all the baggage that necessarily entails and on the other a bitter rivalry among a number of contestants fighting for their party’s nomination The sheer volume of discourse provides, alas!, an opportunity for infringement of the standards which we would uphold for an educated discourse.

But it might be important if, at this very moment, we turn out attention to the style and courtesy of the debate. We would not eschew, of course, a discussion of the major issues. Indeed, that is most necessary.

But we would also like to see one or more of the candidates turn his back on the vulgarity which has recently characterized this discourse. Prim and proper as it might seem, how about a candidate who makes it clear that he will rise about the kind of exchanges we have recently had, and return to more formal and discreet discussion for the highest office in the land. Let’s make it known that that too, proper behavior, is going to be rewarded in this political contest.

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