Category Archives: media

All the rich are screaming


Normally we would be coming down hard on the side of newspaper owners in any argument; they are after all running the business where we make our living.

But we are finding it a little hard to choose sides in a struggle between three of the wealthiest men in the world and a news service organization – no pikers themselves for rolling in the dough. The problem seems to be that Google, the preeminent internet news service, has handed the three newspaper owners a bill they think unreasonable. Given their own great resources, it seems to be less a matter of their money than their power and influence.

The three newspaper owners who claim Google is driving them toward “serfdom” [their word no less!] are The Washington Post’s Jeff Bezos [worth $83.9 billion], perhaps the richest man in the world, the Mexican Carlos Slim who is also The New York Times’ largest stockholder, The Buffalo News’ Warren Buffett [the original megabillionaire publisher said to be worth a paltry $76.9 billion].

The three have asked Congress to intervene in support of an anti-trust action to back them against another duo of media moghuls, the billionaires Sergey Brin [$45.6 billion] and Larry Page [46.8 billion], the owners of Google.

The whole idea of a Congressional intervention is not only ridiculous but obviously unconstitutional: setting terms of any relationship between government and the media is a violation of the first amendment to the Constitution which says explicitly: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That has to include subsidies although perhaps at least temporarily beneficial to the media.[We’re not sure the U.S. Post Office subsidies for second and third class mail, although hoary parts of the current journalistic scene, don’t come under that purview.]

Google, of course, is a runner-up in a struggle with its old soulmate Amazon, both going after the broadest markets possible in their drive to eliminate the traditional retail outlet. The internet has allowed traditional retailers to connect with potential customers and express their brand in entirely new ways, and physical stores have become a part of their communication and sales strategy instead of being their only or primary way to reach consumers. Whether that isn’t a rocky relationship doomed to be eventually shaken loose remains to be seen with the retailer disappearing under the weight of his greater overhead.

The question is, of course, what is going to happen to the old newspaper establishments, so long a part of the financial as well as the cultural world. Many, if not most of that will continue to have a high value. But the days when a newspaper — even the voice of official Washington, The New York Times — set the contours of the public debate are rapidly disappearing. That isn’t helped, of course, by the current war of MainStreamMedia and their very personal antagonism toward Donald Trump. Having failed to recognize that Trump was a serious candidate, they have not accommodated themselves to the fact he is after all not only the President but one who is given to unpredictable and crucial decision-making. [He says not tipping your hand on upcoming decisions is an important part of any successful strategy.]

Trump has used the viciousness of the MSM attitude toward him and played it like a violin. If you give him the benefit of the doubt, you can say he has used this contretemps as a way of drawing attention away from his own more difficult agenda in solving the more important issues of government, although how far this strategy has worked if debatable and will be until we are further along in a very rough and tumble presidency.

Sws-07-18-17

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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

What to do about Turkey?


Vice President Joe Biden’s highly publicized visit to Turkey next week is likely to prove critical, if inconclusive. Whether he is able to establish a new relationship with a North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], the one with by far the largest military forces after the U.S., is crucial to the whole Middle East as well as the U.S. bilateral alliance and with its European NATO allies.
Biden is seen as trying to make a new bargain with Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the past few months, Erdogan has accelerated his accumulation of power through the usual machinations of a popular leader but with authoritarian tendencies, shucking elements of Turkey’s secular constitution. The recent failed military coup – apparently by the last remnants of the secularists who through military dominance have been the guardians of an effort to maintain the non-Islamic state – has been an excuse for increased repression and rampant anti-American propaganda.
The fear is that Erdogan is now turning his back on almost a hundred years when the country tried to move to a modern state with top-down Westernization. The abandonment of the state capitalist role for liberalization of the economy over the last decade had delivered unprecedented growth and prosperity. But that boom has ended, in part another victim of the worldwide economic slowdown.
Turkey had always been a model for other Moslem governments trying fitfully to break away from traditional Islam which combines government with religion. That struggle goes on among the 1.3 billion people in the Arab-Moslem world – from Morocco to Indonesia. And while no adequate response has yet surfaced, Turkey had been perceived to have made the transition. That now appears dubious at best.
But once again, the world is in one of those periods when 1500-year-old concepts of Arab-Moslem conquest and forced conversion has been part of the religion’s creed. That many, perhaps most, Moslems would ignore this concept is not enough to block a determined, fanatical minority from jihad – propounding the duty of a Muslim to maintain and spread his religion by whatever means.
Erdogan has played a clever game. He has managed, despite the bitter rejection by many outspoken European Union officials, to continue the hope of Turkish adherence to the Bloc. His flirtation with the Islamists — with such moves as reestablishing the death penalty — has now, however, vitiated that prospect.
He blackmailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for free movement of Turkish nationals within the EU, swapped for Ankara stemming the flow of Syrian and other Middle East refugees into Western Europe. But Merkel’s original welcome resulting in more than a million migrants entering her country last year is increasingly producing a backlash. Integrating newcomers with completely different cultural values has failed spectacularly, demonstrated in highly publicized crimes including rape.
Unlike the Europeans, Biden has the luxury of negotiating from a stronger hand, unlike the Europeans’ proximity and increasing problem of their growing largely unassimilated Moslem minorities. He can exploit Erdogan’s wildly fluctuating foreign policy which has failed in establishing a neo-Ottoman regime building on its once imperial presence in the region. A flirtation with Moscow – which supplies half its energy thereby running a huge trade deficit — is a feint aimed at Washington and its European allies. But just as they find themselves on different sides in the Syrian civil war, Erdogan cannot ignore Moscow’s threatening attempt to reinstall the Soviet role in the Black Sea and the Balkans.
Biden has to come home with something. One trophy would be at least promises for Turkey to tighten its borders, stop permitting aid to flow to the Muslim terrorists, and promising a more active Turkish collaboration in fighting Daesh [ISIS and ISIL], hoping that Erdogan recognizes that his Islamicism will not protect him from rising Moslem terrorism. But getting Turkey firmly back into the Western alliance would require stronger leadership of those partners than the Obama Administration can muster.
sws-08-16-16

Bratton goes, crime goes on


The departure of William Bratton as New York City police commissioner comes at a moment when police establishments all over the country are under extreme pressure.
Bratton, a veteran of not just New York City but Boston and Los Angeles police departments, represents the best of what being a policeman in American has meant. He is the refutation of the current campaign of calumny and destruction led by those who use the relatively rare incidents of police brutality and discrimination against minorities to condemn all law enforcers.
It was under Bratton’s leadership that New York City’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani dramatized the obvious but often forgotten necessity not to tolerate violations of the law, however minor. Any excuse of crime, no major how small [breaking windows for sport], was the beginning of the breakdown in civil order, they argued. And Giuliani’s campaign to eliminate minor infractions of the law as well as the more egregious crime was eminently successful.
Some of the methodology – the ability to stop and search suspects on the street without a warrant, for example – has been under fire from sincere guardians of our human rights. Yet it is clear that these methods, kept in their proper place and perspective by commanding officers such as Bratton, have been remarkably successful in eliminating what had become an environment of criminality of the 60s and 70s in the New York City.
Any fair minded observer recognizes that there have been police abuses in the past. Like any organization, the police have their “bad apples”. But the current campaign to use such instances, publicized by a sensationalist and often twisted media, is an effort to undermine all that Bratton has stood for in the crusade to maintain order and civility in our busy and complex urban culture.
Unfortunately, some of our public figures have lost their balance in confronting the issue. Courting such radical and pernicious groups as “Black Lives Matter!” is the most outrageous example. Its origins in Ferguson. Missouri in a supposed violation of a black man’s rights and death by a police officer is bogus. Witnesses, local authorities and the Department of Justice after extensive investigations have all confirmed that what happened was, instead, an attack on a policeman by a veteran criminal offender.
Even more destructive, marching through the streets by Black Lives Matter supporters calling for the death of policemen was rewarded by the Obama Administration with invitations to the White House. Responses from others who have fought for law and justice in policing that “all lives matter” were answered with insults and accusations that past racial discrimination was at the root of their argument for elimination of prejudice.
The continuing campaign against the police carried on by Back Lives Matter and its affiliated organizations threatens to contribute to the demoralization of our guardians of peace and security. The decline in major crime in the last several decades has already taken an upturn, presumably as police are prevented from exercising discretion in pursuing possible criminal activity. Blaming crime on poverty and inadequate public facilities is a [to coin a phrase] cop-out. The world and American life is full of instances of the majority of individuals strong enough to overcome the worst of these deprivations to live good and successful lives.
Baltimore has seen outrageous exploitation advantage by elected politicians and public prosecutors of the old wounds of racial discrimination for purely narrow political gain. Such outrageous behavior by public officials is erodes the whole concept of police responsibility and the fair application of law and order for all citizens, whatever their racial and ethnic background.
We can only hope that Bratton’s departure – and we are reminded he has taken his leave before and returned – is not now a signal of the a new era of policing in which attacks on police and their diminished activity is to be the order of the day.
sws-0806-16

Faked Obituary


Reports of the demise of the Republican Party are premature.
It makes good copy for Fox News and the few other slightly serious current spectacle reports. But the Talking Heads who spout this prediction have forgotten if they ever knew much about the history of American political parties.
They argue capture of the leadership of the Party by a billionaire populist TV star whose own past political inclinations were not those of the Grand Old Party candidate for president has led to its bifurcation. On the one side are the Trumpeters and those who have joined his bandwagon and on the other are the rock-ribbed conservative ideologues. The later dominated the Party’s serious discussions even if over more than a half century – except for the Goldwater anachronistic nomination of 1964 – their presidential candidates have been much further to the left. Even the vaunted Ronald Reagan, despite his iconic reincarnation, more often than now is admitted, turned his back on conservative decisions as he compromised for an intensely popular presidency.
The Trump takeover of the Party’s steering wheel, as a matter fact, looks very much like the seizure of the GOP from the conservatives then led by Cincinnati’s Taft family by Wendell Wilkie in 1940. Then a former Democrat, a Wall Street businessman, — and one from the utilities sector which had been the target of much of Franklin Delano Rosevelt’s own populist rhetoric — stampeded the nominating convention. He loaded the galleries and perhaps was the antecedent of the Kennedy brothers a couple of generations later and their manipulation of the media and public opinion.
Aa it turned out, of course, Wilkie didn’t have a chance against FDR despite Roosevelt’s violation of the old axiom – reputedly laid down by George Washington –against third terms. But he did develop into a statesman and it was his role as much as that of Michigan’s Republican Sen. Arthur Vandeberg to fight the old-line isolationism of the GOP in a new world dominated by American economic power.
But the conservative core, licking its wounds, remained an important part of the Republican Party. Today’s argument that the GOP is facing death through internecine warfare between its two radically contradictory wings doesn’t hold up.
First off, American political parties – for the overwhelming majority of their histories – have been amalgamations of often diametrically conflicted forces. That arises, as much as anything from the fact that any national party is a continental organization, a vast collection of local political forces in the many different locales and conditions of American life from ocean to ocean and now beyond.
The current crepe hangers ignore the history of these kinds of parties, even in recent history. It was after all a collection of the most disparate groups with whom FDR came to power in 1932. The Democrats, who held power, and dominated American political life for the next half century were a very, very strange combination. They consisted of a segregationist, ultra-conservative Southern Democrat contingent, setting the pace particularly in the Congress. There were the Big City Machines, largely built on immigrant Irish political wit and the new urbanites who could be corralled and shepherded to the voting booths. There were the Socialists and Communists activists, few but disproportionately responsible for the hard slugging of policy formulation and implementation. And all this was capped – during FDR’s lifetime – by a Hudson River bsquire pretending to be aristocracy. It could not have been more disparate. But it held together then, as the Republicans will now, by the search for power.
It remains to be seen whether this division within the Party will keep it from power. While their divisions restrained the Democrats through the 30s and 40s, it did not keep them out of the White House and in control of the House of Representatives for almost half a century. It begs belief that even the most die-hard conservative ideologue will not come over to Trump leadership if it continues to bring “moderates”, independents, and even a new crop of “Reagan Democrats” into a strengthened party. That, after all, is the road to power and that it is what it is all about. Conservatives will persuade themselves with some justification, that even in a Trump pragmatic administration they could burrow from within to achieve some limited conservative goals. And besides, the alternative is the Hillary Clinton ogre!
sws-05-06-16

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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.

sws-023-04-16

 

The Shale Revolution [Cont.]


The  Shale Revolution continues to wreak havoc as revolutions are wont to do.

The abundance of U.S. natural gas, in many ways a more satisfactory fossil fuel than either coal or oil because of its lesser emissions, has dynamited the whole worldwide energy market. Whether or not the Obama Administration wants it, the export of oil and gas is going to be a function of the new energy picture with the growing economic pressure to sell off our low priced gas to a world market which hasn’t yet taken advantage of the new mining technologies.

Along with the flagging economies of Europe, and now China, and subsequent lower demand, energy prices are under attack everywhere. The stock markets, long dependent on high energy costs and their very profitable producers, are lurching under the torpedoing of the old price structures. Fuel economies, sometimes at the insistence of government fiat as in the American automobile industry, are also finally having their effect and slowing growing energy demand.

In the long run, there is every reason to hope and believe that lower energy prices will be an enormous fillip for the U.S. and the world economies. But, as Maynard Milord Keyes once quipped, in the long run, we will all be dead. Projections of energy demand and supply have in the past been notoriously wrong. And they may be again. But for the moment, what looks likely for several years if a continuing low price for energy. The U.S. which has always prospered on low energy costs, as compared with Europe, is likely to benefit from this new situation.

Geopolitical developments overseas, for the moment at least, seem to be bolstering this new abundance of energy. Iraq’s fabulous oil and gas reserves are coming back onstream after so many years of war and destruction. Pres. Obama’s “deal” with Iran is likely to see sanctions against its sales of oil lifted with new entries to the market.

Most important has been the effort of our friends the Saudis to regain their role as the marginal producer and dictator of the international market pricing. They have opened all the valves and are producing and marketing at record levels. The intent, without doubt, was to hammer the American shale gas and oil producers with their higher costs than those on the Persian Gulf. But while there have been some difficulties and cutbacks for the U.S. producers, the shale oil entrepreneurs have been adept at coming up with new technological fixes which have in the main maintained their role in this new struggle for prices and markets.

Meanwhile, much propaganda and pure and simple idiocy dominates much of the talk about energy and its application. Electric cars, for example, may eventually become a reality because of new battery developments. But recharging the electric car off their baseboard plug – if that becomes the reality – is going to demand that more electricity be produced somewhere and by someone with some fuel. Coal which has until recently dominated the electrical generating plants, about 60% of the total energy consumption, is fading as more and more quick fix gas generators go into service and environmental constraints demand cutbacks in coal emissions. The pain in the old and often poverty-stricken coal mining areas is something the rest of the country is going to have to be attended [and be paid for].

But, returning to our original point, progress is rarely achieved without considerable pain – for some part or other of our society. And it is clear that is going to be case as the Shale Revolution with almost daily announcements of increased reserves is no exception. Government subsidies for wind and solar will continue to feed the trendy enviromentalists’ pressure on more innocent lawmakers. That, too, is a burden which the taxpayer appears inevitably going to bear.

sws-01-26-26

 

 

Benghazi: The smoking gun


Perhaps the most honored dictum in the code of the American warrior is that no fellow fighter is left behind in a struggle, no matter the price to be paid in any attempt to rescue him.

Ironically, that is the rationale given by the Obama Administration for its disastrous swap of five Guantanamo prisoners of war for Bowe Bergdahl, an American captive of the terrorists. Several of these high-ranking terrorists. are now reported again in combat and Bergdahl’s comrades in arms, despite his denials, have not only charged he deserted his post but that several of his buddies were killed in unsuccessful attempts to rescue him.

“No man left behind” as part of our military code of honor dates back, in fact, before the U.S. was founded according to Prof. Paul Stringer of the Air Command and Staff College. During the French and Indian War, 20 years before Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Rogers’ Rangers, a guerrilla militia fighting with the British, established the precedent. Through America’s wars, the effort – often against unfavorable odds – has been a guiding principle of the conduct of our armed forces if at other odd times abandoned.

It is in that context that the failure of U.S. military forces to go to the aid of the trapped diplomats and at soldiers in Benghazi, Libya, for six hours on the evening of September 11, 2012 has been argued. Obama Administration officials have testified before Congressional hearings that no military rescue force was available, and that, in fact, no order was given to send them or no order for them to stand down. [In fact, of course, a Special Forces unit stationed in Tripoli did move to their aid without higher up permission which resulted in the rescue of some of the survivors.]

Central to why no rescue effort was made at Benghazi is the question of the origin of the attack on the American diplomatic mission, whether as the Administration insisted at the time despite all the evidence to the contrary, that it was because of an anti-Islamicist video produced and shown in the U.S. which had excited demonstrations in neighboring Cairo. Or whether, as the Administration’s critics insist, it had its origins in a long-planned attack by terrorists against the Americans.

In her famous soliloquy Oct 22, 2015, then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton made her famous remark “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”

That argument has somewhat obscured the more important issue of why no military assistance was ordered. The Obama Administration has contended that none was available within a capable geographic distance and therefore was not considered.

But now, overshadowed by such “events” as Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to ban Moslem immigrants, a Judicial Watch lawsuit has produced an e-mail indicating that such military rescue efforts were under consideration. Despite the “redaction” [censorship] an e-mail message Tuesday, September 11, 2012 7:19 PM from Jeremy Bash, then-Department of Defense Chief of Staff, to Hillary Clinton’s office and other high State Department officials, reveals that such mobilization was underway:

“xxx After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff, we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak. They include a [REDACTED].

“ Assuming Principals agree to deploy these elements, we will ask State to procure the approval from host nation. Please advise how you wish to convey that approval to us [REDACTED].”

The mystery of why the Congressional Select Committee investigating the death of four Americans at Benghazi – including an U.S. ambassador – remains unsolved. Could it have something to do with an internal squabble in The Pentagon itself over whose was the responsibility the lack of resolve in this case of “no man left behind”?

sws-12-13-15

The importance of labels


The refusal of Pres. Barack Obama to explicitly name terrorist acts goes far beyond style; it increases the danger to American security.

Calling the massacres of innocent Americans by deranged followers of the Mideast fanatical regimes by any other name than Islamic terrorism not only confuses the issue of who and what they are but also inhibits efforts to prevent their attacks.

The spectacle during the last 48 hours of obvious pressure from the White House on the FBI and local police to avoid naming the violence as terrorism was outrageous. But more important it could make it less likely that these officials would pursue and expose all possible links as quickly as possible to the international terrorist networks. In the last few hours, it has, indeed, become clear that such links do exist – if, perhaps for good and adequate security reasons, officials do not want to reveal their details.

Obama’s obfuscation becomes increasingly difficult to explain, and certainly to rationalize. One can only speculate on its origins.

By not labeling these outbreaks against law and order, perhaps he thinks he reduces their importance. But calling attacks based on twisted religious prejudice workplace violence does not change their character.

Perhaps even a greater purpose behind Obama’s strategy is an attempt to deflate any characterization by the terrorists and others that there is a conflict between the West and Islam itself. After all, whatever the character of its multitudinous sects, the “umma”, the body of Moslem believers, constitutes a huge segment of the world’s population, perhaps now more than 1.3 billion. Unfortunately it also parallels our effort to help raise a large part of the world still mired down in ignorance and poverty.

A third and exceedingly important aspect of Obama’s tactics could well be his fear that by naming the terrorists for who they are would increase the possibility of a backlash against those Moslems living in the West who do not identify with the terrorists, and, indeed, their fellow Moslems throughout the world who are striving for a peaceful existence. Yet, as the latest horrendous episode in San Bernardino so dramatically demonstrates, it is important to name these events for just that reason. If they are to be prevented, it is important that their origins in Islam are examined with intense scrutiny, and despite the general consensus that the radicalization of the individuals involved are often inexplicable, it is important to try to deduce their origins in order to prevent further occurrences.

In fact, however twisted from the thinking of the mainstream of Islamic philosophy and practice, these individual lunatics derive their inspiration from their adherence to what they consider religious principles. That makes it exceedingly important that other members of the Moslem community be mobilized to the fullest extent in combating these outbreaks. For it is they, if not alone certainly because they are more knowledgeable about their coreligionists than others, who could be the most effective in exposing them before their attacks.

By attempting to break the link between Islam and the terrorists, Obama is contributing to a not surprising reluctance of the greater Moslem community to take up the fight – for their own safety, and alas! often for rationalizations which deny the roots of the whole aberration. It is disheartening, for example, to hear one California Moslem leader publicly accuse the U.S. government of being in part responsible for creating these terrorists. True enough, past American support for reactionary governments in the Middle East has contributed to the lack of their modernization and the welfare of their people. But there is no justification much less explanation in this line of reasoning. That is true even though, the fact that the terrorists’ trail so often leads back to the theology of the supporters of the Saudi Arabian regime and often to financing from those quarters must be taken into account in any effort to stamp out this scourge.

The silence which has fallen on the White House in the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino event is, hopefully, a sign that Obama is about to make an about face in his and our fight against the terrorists. Only an all-out campaign to destroy Daesh and other centers of terrorism in the Middle East, with their inevitable psychological, propaganda, and perhaps direct links, to their collaborators in the West, is a defense against this major assault on American stability. But the phenomenon here must first be identified.

sws-12-05-15

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Mainline Media in the bullseye!


 

It will come as no surprise, we hope, for our loyal readers that we, like they, are often critical of our colleagues in the media.

But it was with a chuckle this morning that we received a campaign funds solicitation from Ted Criz, running of course for the Republican nomination for president. Cruz, like most of the dozen contestants scampering to keep up with the mob chasing the Grand Old Party’s goldring, is searching for new and different approaches to win money — and votes. And lo and behold! he is now running against “the Mainline Media” as much as against his Republican competitors and, eventually it seems, Hillary Clinton..

We are not sure any more just what that phrase :”mainline media” connotes. But it certainly includes some of our big city slicker publications here in the East and especially one holding up their end in the West.

There was a time in American journalism when we all made the attempt, at least in our news columns, to maintain a certain objectivity. We were supposed to be presenting “both sides of the story”. Of course, it has always been much more difficult than appeared on the surface to our readers, for there are often many more than two sides to an issue. Space and out talent prevented both we and our colleagues performing this miracle.

But the time did come, as the barristers say, when we pretty much abandoned that role.

The late senator and seer Daniel Patrick Moynihan got badly scarred by what he called “the capital press corps” [in those days] when he tried in the Nixon Administration to dissect the problem of poverty in the then Negro, now Afro-American, community. In defending what has come to be generally considered a masterpiece of American sociological writing and the debate over the race issue, Pat also had some things to say about the media.

He had a theory. We are not sure we buy it completely. But it is interesting as a hypothesis to describe the current situation of the mass media – and Cruz’s launch into a battle with it. Moinyhan said, in essence, that what had once been a working class occupation for [then largely] newspapermen had with the growing prosperity of the post-World War II years and the movement to the suburbs, moved to another kind of environment altogether. Now, with their rising living standards, the children of a new elite moved into the old journalists’ shoes – made fashionable and attractive by the increasingly abundant fiction and nonfiction written about it. [Much of it, by the way, far less realistic than Chicago reporter Ben Hecht’s “The Front Page”.]

That meant, in essence, Pat said, that increasingly members of the media                 mp longer saw themselves as sweaty purveyors of as much of the truth as they could present about the embattled social scene around them. Rather, as members of the new elite to which their income if nothing else entitled them, they saw their role less as “telling it as it is” so much as telling their audiences what they should and should not believe and instructing them how to proceed.

That’s at least one pretty good explanation for why we see some of our colleagues tweaking the facts of their coverage to support a more potent effort to persuade their readers. Perhaps you could charge we are not above that either. True, but we do not make the claim to objectivity and omniscience that some of our older, and should we say, more prestigious media voices do.

If Cruz hangs in, and undoubtedly if he does he will continue his thrashing of that “mainstream media”, we are going to enjoy the ride It’s probably a welcomed addition to the barnyard noises that are bound to increase in the long months before November 2016. And we hope our readers will enjoy the noisy concert as well!

sws-11-14-15

 

 

 

 

 

Netanyahu –again!


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done it again: he has repeated what any historian of the Middle East knows, that the so-called Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, was a buddy of Adolph Hitler’s. Netanyahu has a terrible way of reminding the world of awful truths at a time – has it ever been otherwise? – when most people including major politicians would like to look away.
One is reminded of an old very Jewish joke: Britain’s then general, Harold Alexander [the hero of the ordinary Tommy, not “the movie star” Gen.Bernard Montgomery] was making a protocol visit to a synagogue in Jerusalem. He was back in British Mandated Palestine to check out logistics for Britain’s see-sawing grim war in the Western Desert against legendary Nazi Gen. Erwin Rommel. The president of the Congregation made a little speech: “General, I want to you to know that everyday we pray 24 hours a day for an Allied victory in The Desert”. One of the little old congregants, in tallis and phylacteries, totters up, tugs the president’s sleeve, and whispers in Yiddish, “Don’t say that! If they lose, they will take it out on us”.
There was never any question of what would happen to the Mandate’s then small Jewish community if the Germans did break through. It was well known at the time that Hussein, the leader of the Arabs’ war against the Jews, had escaped British capture and was in Germany. [“Palestinian” did not designate the Arabs of the Mandate until the 1960s but contradictorily did the two Jewish brigades recruited in Tel Aviv fighting with the British in Italy].
Netanyahu, not for the first time of course, has been misinterepted, in that he did not suggest Hussein gave Hitler the idea of wiping out the Jews but simply that they had mutual ideas on the subject. [The Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, which gathered high Nazi officials to lay out the techniques of the Holocaust would only take place a year after the publication of the official photograph of Hitler with Hussein.] It’s likely Hitler had already considered the ways in which he would try to extinguish the Jews long before Husseini recommended burning them, if he indeed he did.
Does any of this have relevance today?
Does the fact that the Palestinians only became Palestinians recently mean that their cause is any less just?
One is reminded that Ferhat Abbas, the leading Algerian intellectual, only a few years before the beginning of the bitter war by Algerian Muslims for independence from France, had questioned whether there was such a thing as an Algerian identity. He, like so many other Algerians, unlike Arab Muslims as well as those to be called Pieds Noir [Black Feet], European refugees, who later flooded into metropolitan France, came to believe in their “nationhood” as he came to be its first president on independence.
But whatever the present day claims of “The Palestinians” to “an independent state, living side-by-side in peace” with a Jewish Israel, the long history of Arab aggression and institutionalized hatred of and warfare against the Jews in that tiny piece of land must be taken into account. At a time when the Mainstream Media, again, distorts the fundamental aggression of Arab terrorists, in personal attacks, often on civilian targets, it is well to be reminded of the long history of violence and who perpetrated it.
Yes, it will be argued that the Jewish state is a colonial manifestation, the imposition of a Western culture in an aggression on a “native people”. That appeals as such leftwing rhetoric has so often to some American “political pilgrims” [see Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims: Western intellectuals in search of the good society]. They have in the last half century jumped from one miserable cause to another in search of perfection – Communist China, Castro Cuba, Sandinista Nicaragua, and now, “Palestine”, only to be disillusioned by oppression and corruption. Fulsome examination of a blind loyalty to “the Palestinian cause” will eventually return the same results.
Netanyahu, as brutally frank as he sometimes is, was right to remind us of this little tidbit of history.
sws-11-25-15

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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

Britain points the way with the BBC


Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown down the gauntlet to what is bound to be fulminations from the left: he has moved to take the oversight of his country’s prestigious government broadcasting out of its hands and put it in the care of a neutral moderator.
Cameron has the wind behind his sails, however. Not only has there been increasing criticism from its usual critics and internal inquiries which reported specific prejudice on certain issues [Israel and the Mideast are notorious], but the network has suffered even more tabloid-type scandals. Not the least was a prominent child program star being accused of active pedophilia.
But the substantial criticisms of the BBC are not that different than those some of us believe afflict our own National Public Radio. You only have to listen to the relatively new mid-afternoon “Here and Now”, a review of public events apparently copied out of the universally popular late afternoon commuter “All things considered” [again with perhaps some debt to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]. It not only is dripping with bias but is a crude imitation of its forebear.
Down Under, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has just been handed a weapon by the Australian Broadcasting Company, which suffers from the same malaise as its Anglo-Saxon government sponsored sisters. The ABC went on the air with a program moderated by a notorious pro-jihadist activist to the dismay of even its loyal following.
The truth is that in radio and TV as in other aspects of life, “who pays the piper calls the tune.” Governnent subsidies for radio and broadcasting are bound to bring with them interference from the current administration, even in the Anglo-American democracies. And subsisdies to the media are as much interference with the press as any other violations of freedom of the press prohibited by the first amendment of The Constitution.
NPR and the Public Broadcasting System’s TV are, like the mainstream media quintessentially liberal, of course. In the past five years, its line has also become synonymous with such constant defensive reporting of the Obama Administration that amounts to pure and simple slanting of the news
The American government-supported networks claim their government subsidy is minimal; but why then the howl from it and its supporters when any attempt to defund if takes life? The truth is that with all the contributions of tax-free foundations, etc., “public” radio and TV receive as much as 40% of their revenue from government, national, regional and local, as well as “non-governmental organizations” That later, my dear, is taxpayer money! NPR, particularly, is a spendidly professional news product and ought to stand on its own, with its adoring public’s contributions.
Give the relatively fat salaries paid their executives, [“double dipping” in some cases when they appear on commercial radio and TV], their huge administrative costs, and their earnings from toys and other associated sales, the government-supported radio and TV have gotten fat and even more editorially warped.
It’s time to get them off the taxpayers’ back. Or at least take the first step by neutering them with an independent and effective monitoring board as Cameron is about to do in England.
sws-06-26-15

The Radio Habit


I listen to National Public Radio.
I listen because, as a journalist, I admire its highly skilled professional techniques.
I listen because as a dyed in the wool traditionalist/conservative, I want to know the “right-thinking” line of the liberal elite and its kept media [easier than reading the increasingly unprofessional New York Times].
I listen because, on longer car trips, I get so angry with its leftwing agenda, it keeps me awake at the wheel.
But I do think that as a taxpayer I should not be forced to pay for it. [Furthermore, with its increasing use of New York Times overseas correspondents and the BBC, I am indirectly funding two other media outlets I do not want to subsidize.] That’s why I am on a tear to defund National People’s Radio.
In the longstanding dispute over government subsidies to NPR [and more vast sums to the Public Broadcasting Service TV], the management at NPR has argued it doesn’t get very much money from the government [and me]. Okay! Then why, pray tell, not give it up!
[The new Cameron government in Britain is going after the BBC, a model for NPR, charging it with bias in the recent election where it tried to force a debate between the two principal parties’ leaders, and warning of possible bias in the critical upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union. Tarnished with several recent scandals – including one involving a leading BBC star for child abuse — the Tories want to end the compulsory £145.50 {$228.764} fee for every British household.]
Like most things, the NPR subsidies are a little complicated. First, of course, is the national network itself, and then there are the almost onethousand individual stations which carry its programs, many of which get local government subsidies. NPR says that about onethird of the cost of your local station [including its fees to NPR] are met through individual listeners’ contributions. There are business contributors [who, incidentally, are getting longer and longer “announcements” looking more and more like commercials]. There is support from universities [and how much is that indirectly taxpayers’ funds?] And there are the foundations [who being tax-free are also out of my pocket]. Another smaller amount is direct state or federal funds. And then there “other” funds, not identified by NPR – hmmmm.
Then, of course, there is the question of how much even individual contributors’ “gifts” to NPR and the stations is written off income tax, and, again, out of the taxpayers’ pocket.
Altogether, it is not an exaggeration to guess that a least 40% of “public radio’s” support comes out of the taxpayer’s – and my — pocket.
Now, if I listen – and perhaps you listen – are we faced with the dilemma that if the taxpayers’ funds were cut off, “public radio” would NPR be condemned to a throttled death?
Not at all.
Let’s start with the way it is run; for example, those salaries for an overloaded administrative staff that are often more than in commercial radio. Then there are the editorial contributors who are double-dipping – being aid by commercial radio for their appearances there, even as they hold plushy NPR and local government-supported local radio outlets staff rungs. And there are the big earnings from the children’s programs’ sales of dolls and toys.
In 2014, the direct grants from the federal government to the various “public” radios operations was $69,308,750 – a nice piece of change. [Don’t even look at the much larger dollops for TV; they will choke you!] I am sure economies could be made if and when National People’s Radio were put on the market.
Government intervention – on either side — in the media is a direct violation of the first amendment. Its growing role in NPR and the so-called public TV is a dangerous threat to the basic democratic concept of a free press. Enough already!
sws-5-17-15

The War on the Cops


The War on the Cops

In all the “wars” that have recently been declared or undeclared, the real ones and the fake ones [on women, for example], it’s the war on police that is the most worrying.
Again, a New York City policeman was fired on at point blank range by an assailant intent on killing cops. Twenty-five year old Brian Moore is the fifth such attack since Dec.1st on what Mayor Fiorello Henry La Guardia first labeled “New York finest” when he cleaned up the organization in the 1930s. Since then, by and large, the New York City police force has managed to avoid the scandals that from time to time have rocked other urban forces.
These outright attacks to kill officers are only part of what is turning into a war on cops. A propaganda campaign in the media has exaggerated every encounter of the police with violent offenders. [Moore’s killer bragged that “{T}hey also call me ‘Hell-Raiser’ on the street.”],. Slogans from the left and mangled statistics are being used to indict the whole of our law and order keeping institutions. And apologists in and out of the black community are ready to offer rationalizations for arson and looting by young offenders.
No one, of course, would maintain that there are no mistakes, even deliberate prejudicial actions on occasion, by the more than 12,500 local police departments in the country with 600,000 uniformed and civilian members.
But the many factors that go into apprehension and arrest of suspects is remarkably absent from much that is written and spoken in this growing criticism of the police. A basic truth that neither the black leadership nor many of the police’s critics want to pass on is the disproportionate level of crime in the African-American population, more often the victims being black themselves. To acknowledge that is neither racist nor illogical. But avoiding a discussion of the continuing deterioration of life in the ghetto is the real subject that should be out in the open and discussed with new proposals for solution.
That is going to take at least three things:
One is not blaming all the recent lamentable killings of young blacks by policemen on the law officers without real and sufficient evidence, arrived at through impartial study. [Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement of an indictment of the Baltimore policemen was an outrageous political statement; in the past, prosecuting attorneys have sought public office on their record, not their rhetoric.]
A second is that we give up the liberal mantra that the problem is inadequate government funding to the blighted areas of the large urban centers. [President Barack Obama’s stimulus law assigned over $1.8 billion to the City of Baltimore with its 622,000 people, and including $26.5 million for crime prevention.]
A third is to assume that staffing local police forces is an automatic solution to problems. [Minorities already account for one in four policemen, far larger than their percentages in the total population.]
One of the solutions being proposed for current problems if the federalization of police activities. No proposal is more bereft common sense. It is the relationship of the police to their local environment which is the most important part of their efficient functioning – and the key to their avoiding an alienation from the public which could produce misunderstanding and police transgressions.
If this war on cops is not met head-on by the forces of reason and authority, an erosion of the whole peacekeeping apparatus and the justice system will spell disaster for this society.
sws-05-04-15

Why a possible demise of Pax Americana?


It was a cold, rainy and miserable day– either late 1951 or early 52. I was unemployed but had taken part-time work to help do a piece of market research for a friend’s firm. With my little clipboard, I was importuning what we thought would be an upper-class, sophisticated sample in rush hour in front of New York City’s Grand Central Station. Most of the passersby annoyingly brushed aside my attempt to talk to them, assuming I was just one more panhandler.
But when I did manage to collar someone, it was to ask them if they knew what SAS meant. No reason that they would unless they were veteran Atlantic airline commuters, not a large commodity in those days. But my friend’s client was spending a great deal of money trying to establish Scandinavian Airlines System’s name and its acronym, SAS, in the public mind. And they wanted some proof that it was happening.
Bored after a while, instead of the normal: way of asking my question, “Do you know what SAS means?” I began to play with it: That would become, Do YOU know what SAS means?” Or maybe I would ask, “Do you what SAS means?” Or I would put it into, “D’ya know what SAS MEANS?” with a rising intonation which always produced an affirmative response, although a follow-up question would prove they didn’t. Our second question, “Do you know where Scandinavian Airlines flies?” produced equally negotiable results. “Do YOU know where Scandinavian Airlines flies?” produced a different answer from “Do you know where SCANDINAVIAN Airlines flies?” and still another if it were “Do you KNOW where Scandinavian Airlines flies?”
Polls have come a long way in the decades since, I know– we have all those computer calculations and algorithms to strengthen the results. But I can’t help believing that that afternoon’s conviction of the limitless possibilities of tweaking the results isn’t still the case. And while we haven’t had a catastrophe like The Literary Digest [the U.S.’ leading magazine that collapsed in 1936 when it predicted a huge Republican victory against FDR], we have had enough glossed over failures to suggest that polling is still an art form rather than a science.
Yet polling and polls have become a major concomitant of our lives today. No public– nor often very private– issue in our lives is discussed by our talking heads without recourse to what the polls have to say about it. Increasingly, polls have taken on a life of their own, as when our most gifted commentators say something to the effect that Pres. Barak Hussein Obama can’t do such-and-such because of what the polls indicate. In an Administration less transparent than any so far, we still have every reason to believe that nothing is discussed in the inner sanctums without a recourse to where it is in the polls. Nor dies it take much to put us over the edge. I hear the Great O’Reilly babbling on about how Obama isn’t able to do such-and-such because the polls don’t permit him. There is a growing lack of recognition that not only may be the polls be just wrong, but that public opinion reacts to leadership as well as the requirement that in a democracy leadership must bow to public opinion on a controversial issue.
If that were not enough to undermine even a more cogent and well informed leadership than the U.S. now has in its chief executive and his advisers, there is an equally formidable and debilitating aspect of contemporary decision-making. With instantaneous communication [aided and abetted by more and more rapid transportation] the ability of the highest echelons of decision-making reaching into local scene to micromanage is almost unavoidable.
It was no accident that The Founders in their genius of devising a new system of government sought to stack the deck of popular government to some extent with indirect representation. Their foundation, however much it was dictated to them, was the federal system which required most of the power to govern be kept with the states, and there, in turn, more often than not left it to local institutions.
One look at the increasing difficulties of a highly centralized system like that of the French, enhanced from its traditions by Napoleon’s effective reforms, to see the basic differences the new government here envisaged.
But an erosion has been coming on for years, of course, reinforced by the Progressive movement with its basic theory that time and technology has dynamited the basic assumptions of the Constitution and have to be amended. The 1913 17th Amendment requiring direct voting for members of the senate substituting for the various ways the states had chosen their representative as states to the federal government was a major step away from this concept. It remains only for a new generation of reformers to point out the dichotomy that direct election does not, in fact, assure equality among the voters between larger and smaller states. They will argue, therefore, a “reform” requires an amendment to the basic assumption that each state having the same representation was meant to assure a continued a balance of the power of the smaller and larger states at the federal level.
In the early Republic but decreasingly as technology has galloped into the political picture, distance and time meant that the voice of the people would be heard through filters of representation. Now, on every hand, you see the ability of the federal government at the highest levels to have an immediate detailed description of a problem or an incident at the lowest level of government. It is then construed as an invitation to intervene with direct action and decision-making. Whether this was an attempted military rescue of hostages in Iran run rather than local command from the Executive Office in the White House or recent attempts at adjudicating local criminal cases with possible racial overtones, the long arm of the federal government’s highest office is apparent.
A millennium from now, if and when, the sway of the U.S. as the world’s hegemonic power is viewed in retrospect and the mystery of its relatively short history is reviewed, historians may well look for reasons. No doubt as in the past, it will be ascribed to a growing inability of leadership. But then, that is tautological, bad leadership is based leadership, but why?
There are too many unknowns, of course, at this moment. But it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibilities that their answer then will be that polling of public opinion [as a substitute for decision-making by the leaders] and instantaneous communications permitting local intervention [instead of indirect representative government] were what did in the most powerful governmental structure the world has ever seen.
sws-02-14-15

Reality vs. Virtual Reality


In the mid-1960s, I quit taking photographs for publication for my employer, US News & World Report, in addition to my writing. With my trusty little 35mm Leica body and Nikor lenses, I had blossomed from a rank amateur to become quite proficient. There were even battlefield pictures although I was not, as we said then, a “bang-bang reporter”. I was doing more overall reporting and analysis of a complicated political as well as military war in Vietnam and still nominally “covering” the rest of South and Southeast Asia.

I quit for several reasons. I found that I was beginning to look at everything around me through an imaginary camera rangefinder, even before I put it to my eye. Just as I early in my reporting career had decided that voluminous notes were an impediment to writing a good story – important elements of “the story” would go in one ear and into my writing fingers and forgotten not to be adequately reconstructed from what was supposed to be a record. But if I listened carefully [and took down figures], I was more apt to get the essential significance and even the most important of the details of the story I was trying to follow and to write. That now seemed to be what was happening with my camera: I was losing the overall perspective on the scene I was observing with my attention drawn to how to record it with the camera..

There was another reason, as well. I found that nothing lied as much as a photograph, even perhaps more than words. Photographs are, after all, a minisecond of history of the scene presented. [It’s why I have always wondered if photography really is an art form; isn’t most of the best of photography accidental? When the new machine driven lenses with rapid shutter speeds came into mode, we joked that now Margaret Bourke White would bankrupt Time, Inc., with her film costs. She had already been noted as pointing her camera in a direction and taking photographs as fast as possible, eventually selecting one she thought better represented the scene.]

An iconic Madonna-like photo I took of a tribal mother in Laos with her child and the mist floating in behind her head was magnificent. [It was later included in a photographic insert in my book, A Sense of Asia, Chas. Scribner & Sons, 1969]. In fact, what the photograph camouflaged was the deplorable situation in that village including my Madonna figure’s surroundings – its lack of sanitation and food, the high prevalence of tuberculosis and other diseases, and frequent murderous attacks by the Vietnamese Communists.

The digital revolution has magnified all these contradictions, of course.

The recently widely broadcast video of a man being taken down by police looks incredibly brutal. But when even conservative commentators such as Bill O’Reilly and Charles Krauthammer jump on the leftwing bandwagon to condemn the police, they are reacting to only a visual account of a portion of the whole episode. [It seems to have been ignored by most, for example, that a choke hold contracts the larynx and the victim is not able to talk, not even to say he is choking.] Instinctively, most people respond to a man, however strong, being subdued by several other men [in this case policemen] as a bullying episode.

A judge has so far refused to permit the publication of the proceedings of the grand jury which failed to return an indictment on a policeman or policemen in the affair. Quite rightly. Secrecy of grand jury testimony is absolutely essential in our justice system precisely to protect those who would not otherwise testify to the possibility of a crime being committed and therefore to go forward to a jury trial were they not given anonymity.

But we already know that the victim in this scene was an offender with more than 30 arrests, some for serious crime, and, in fact, he was out of prison on bail when this footage was taken. We also know from other sources that the police acted on complaints of nearby storekeepers of the competition of illegal tax-free cigarettes he was peddling and his obstruction of access to their entryways. None of that wider “picture”, of course, comes through in the video. [It’s not even apparent in the film that the sergeant in charge of the police detachment is a female African-American.] Nor is there any indication from the photograph that the victim here suffered from several significant health issues [with perhaps the exception of obesity] which brought on – as well as this encounter with police – his fatal heart attack after he was taken into custody. It’s encouraging although generally ignored by the media and the demonstrators that the view of the victim’s daughter expressed publicly was that she did not believe the episode was a racial issue.

The digital revolution is adding to this kind of conundrum. The growing prevalence of hidden or obviously displayed cameras in virtually all public areas is going to add to the controversial nature of photographs. A camera which records the license plate and the timing of a car violating a red light is going to be incontrovertible proof of lawbreaking. But I suspect that the increasing installation of cameras in police cars and on the bodies of policemen as often as not is going to only add to the controversies surrounding arrests and physical altercations.

Even with technology advancing by the day, the camera will only display and record a portion of the police encounter with the object of surveillance. At some future stage, perhaps, encryption and instantaneous data checking and transmission will reach such a stage that facial recognition will immediately search and deliver police records on any individual under scrutiny. But even then the capacity of the policeman, even in a situation requiring less immediate action, to absorb all this information would be doubtful.

Technology notwithstanding, the moral of my story – if there is one – is that we inevitably fall back on common sense, training and a sense of duty which inspires someone to become a policeman in the first place. Protecting citizens in increasingly hostile environments – not only with criminals also better equipped but increasingly concentrated in crime-ridden ghettos is going to become even more difficult, I fear, especially when those who should know better are joining the anti-police Greek chorus.
sws-12-07-14

Transformation of U.S. foreign policy


Barack Hussein Obama, with a group of largely ideologically primitive amateur policymakers but skillful media manipulators, set out in 2008 with the stated purpose to “transform” the American Republic. Although their emphasis was more related to domestic issues, their goals also required a linked fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy.

With the prospect that in a few days, another defeat in Congressional midterm elections will severely limit his further initiatives in the remaining two years of the Obama Administration, it must be acknowledged that at least temporarily Obama & Co. have succeeded in their overall aims in the international arena.

That is a stark contrast to the domestic scene where most Obama policies have either failed spectacularly or are in a state of continued dispute in the face of, however eroded, traditional values, the weight of inertia, and that incredible American entrepreneurial utilization of technology. In energy, for example, perhaps the most important ingredient of economic policy, the technological breakthroughs in the exploitation of gas and oil – the shale gas revolution – have completely upended Obama’s energy strategy. Not only is the outlook for fossil fuel reserves, worldwide as well as domestically, been completely changed, but the always volatile energy costs now appear headed for a long period of falling real prices. Obama’s attempt to stampede the U.S. economy into highly government subsidized so-called alternative sources of energy are in shambles – at an untold cost to the taxpayer, or course.

The Obamaites have been far more successful in their pursuit of a dramatic reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. It remains to be seen, of course, whether those initiatives are a permanent feature of the international scene. But, for the moment at least, Obama has accomplished his goals: Gone largely is continuing recognition of Washington’s post-World War II leadership of the coalition of allies which not only won the greatest war in history against the Nazis and Japanese militarists but also outran the threat of another totalitarian enemy, Soviet Communism.

The Obama view was that in the half-century-plus of Washington world leadership, if not in its longer history including slavery, America had made too many mistakes, that its worldwide dominance was on balance deleterious, that a better role would be one of, at most, primus inter pare. Furthermore, reaching out rhetorically to former perceived victims of American actions would be a pathway toward peace and stability. In short, what he and his colleagues saw as a more compassionate and understanding American executive could go far in curing the world’s problems rather than using its power to help stabilize the world scene. [Never mind their dismissal if remarked at all of the enormous extension of aid to the world over previous decades.]

To a considerable extent, Obama – with the aid, however reluctant she now says, of his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton – has been able to achieve these policies.
But the daily headlines also tell us that the goals of this strategy has not been achieved in any quarter of the globe. But to the contrary, the world has hardly ever been in such disarray with or without an activist U.S. leadership.

Two points need to be made quickly:

The Obama Administration and its policies are not responsible for most of the world’s political problems, misgovernment and violence. It did inherit what despite one of the longest periods of peace in Europe’s history with its overwhelming influence on world affairs, was a volatile world scene. In short, the world is the jungle it always was. And recent events have shown us political movements demonstrating the ugliest aspects of human nature, too, are still with us. In short, it is clear that no farseeing American strategy could have done more than ameliorate the world scene, as some of us would argue it did for some six decades.

Secondly, the history of ideas suggests that Obama’s international perspective did not spring like Athena fully formed and armed from Zeus’ forehead. Obama’s theories of international relations rely heavily on that strong undercurrent of American thinking which always sought to minimize our exposure to the rest of the world’s problems.

That was the case, rather successfully throughout most of the 19th century with the help of His Majesty’s British Navy, and the God-given geographic isolation that two oceans afforded the U.S. [One has to recall, for example, that only a little over a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, legislation for extension of universal military service passed the House of Representatives by only one vote] Not only was that complicated concept, generally dubbed “isolationism”, part and parcel of American political thinking from the beginning of the Republic, but its supporters in more recent past have included a wide swath of supporters across the political spectrum from “Prairie radicals” to the complex sympathies of the warring parties in the U.S. electorate. [Pacifist and Socialist Norman Thomas sat on the same “America First” – the most active of prewar isolationist organizaions — platform with members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund in Yorkville in 1940.]

Still, the list of successful “accomplishments” of the Obama strategy to diminish America’s role in international affairs is long.

• By abandoning the deployment of anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, arduously negotiated, Washington not only dealt American missile defense a body blow but awakened the old threat of decoupling European security from America’s worldwide strategies.

• The refusal to lead the alliance which overthrew Qadaffi in Libya resulted not only in the tragic and ignominious death of an American ambassador and three other Americans but is leading to an anarchic situation there – with its threat to Egypt and the rest of North Africa and oil markets – with possible jihadist ascendancy.

• An amorphous position toward the U.S.-Israeli alliance, despite pro forma statements to the contrary, emboldened jihadist Hamas and further diminished the possibility of a Palestinian negotiating partner for an accommodation between the Jewish state and the Arabs.

• The refusal to lead a Western alliance in support of Ukraine against the Hitler-tactics of infiltration and puppetry of Russia’s Vladimir Putin has not only diminished the fragile Kyiv government but put into question the guarantees of the NATO alliance to its Central and Eastern European members.

• Neither Obama’s ostensibly seminal addresses in Cairo and Istanbul with apologies for pretended insults to Islam by the U.S. and a more than sympathetic reading of the history of Islam have improved relationships with the Muslim world nor diminished the growing Islam;s traditional jihadist elements.

• Courtship of the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, apparently a critical part of Mr. Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan’s nonconventional view of Islam, has widened the gap with the Egyptian military now ruling what has been the most important Arab country and a leader of the Muslim world and other Arab allies in the Gulf.

• A studied neutral position toward Chinese claims on Japanese occupied territory returned under bilateral postwar agreements to Tokyo and no immediate followup to Clinton’s statement of reorientation of U.S. strategy toward Asia has unnerved traditional Asian allies.

• Continued flirtation with the tottering Communist regime in Havana has encouraged Moscow to try to resurrect its alliance with Castro Cuba, encouraged elaborate Cuban espionage in the U.S., and undermined the continuing dissident democratic movement in Cuba supported by Cuban Americans in the U.S.

It is far from clear that in the kind of volatile world in which we live, the “success” of Obama’s transformation of American policy would not be the object of a concerted reversal by a new administration in 2016. Or, indeed, as despite cryptic language and new names for old crimes [workplace violence for jihadist terrorism], the Obama Administration is now by force majeure is being made to reverse course. The great danger is, of course, as in the present attempt to cope with the ISIL phenomenon in Iraq and Syria, Obama’s half-measures will lead to further disaster.

sws-10-05-14

The “New” Middle East


As usual, there are more questions than answers about the current Middle East situation. And, for that matter, there is difficulty following the gyrations of Obama Administration policy.

But there is growing evidence a defiant Israel, stoic in the face of Hamas’ ability to exploit the misery of its own making for Gaza’s 1.8 million and growing pressure from the Obama Administration for an indecisive ceasefire. Jerusalem appears dedicated to the destruction of the most dynamic terrorist organization in the Mideast. Successful demilitarization of Gaza would not only remake the Israel-Palestine relationship but could be the world’s first conclusive victory in the war on Islamic terrorism. In a rapidly evolving situation, not only changing conditions but loyalties and alliances is breathtaking.

Here are some basic considerations:

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beset with the typical domestic Israeli ideological in-fighting, from peace advocates on the left to proponents of reoccupation of Gaza on the right. But he rides a wellspring of domestic support, despite heavy casualties, for refusing a temporary compromise with Hamas such as those in 2008, 2009 and 20012 . Furthermore, what is seen now as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2004-5 unilateral Gaza withdrawal and destruction of its four Israeli Settlements has further discredited “land for peace” – that is abandoning 1967 conquests of the locales of the historic Hebrew kingdoms for a “two state solution”. But the Israeli public is still absorbing the evidence of a major intelligence failure in underestimating Hamas’ capacities with its sophisticated tunneling operations. That surge of suicide bombing, mayhem and kidnapping was planned for September 2014 Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year]—to take advantage of a Jewish holiday, an echo of the Arab surprise of the 1973 Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] War. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Jerusalem with the tacit concurrence of Cairo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Mohammed Abbas’ Fatah movement, will have the stomach for completing of Hamas decimation.

Iran

Destruction of Hamas would be a severe blow to Tehran’s mullahs, who have used it as a further diversion from demands by the U.S., Israel and other American allies to halt the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. It was not only that Hamas represents part of the strategic pincers in the south with Iranian supported Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the north against any Israeli attempt to take out Iranian nuclear weapon potential. But the ability of Shia Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to jump the deadly 1600-year-old sectarian divide to support Hamas as a product of the ultra-anti-Shia Sunni Moslem Brotherhood. The Tehran-Gaza alliance unites Islamic terror in a way not seen before. Even Iran’s traditional enemy, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, now reaching for ultimate power in the Turkish presidential elections this fall as he moves closer to the Brotherhood, had also become one of Hamas’ patrons. Will the Tehran mullahs watch this asset fall apart, or would they, for example, finally unleash Hezbollah and its missiles on Israel’s north in order to try to rescue the Hamas remnant?

Egypt

Contrary to the 2012 Gaza ‘truce” when Mohammed Morsi rode the wave of a Moslem Brotherhood electoral victory, Pres. Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sees Hamas as an enemy. The ruling Egyptian military is in a brutal campaign to wipe out the Brotherhood’s domestic political and paramilitary following. Furthermore, Hamas’ Iranian connection on Egypt’s doorstep imperils Cairo’s traditional political and cultural leadership of the Arab and Muslim world. Tacit military cooperation with the Israelis is restoring Egypt’s control over Sinai and presumably would close the smuggling routes for longer-range Iranian missiles and other weaponry reaching Hamas through the Red Sea and Sudan. It remains to be seen if al Sisi can maneuver a ceasefire/truce in tacit cooperation with the Israelis which will dismantle Hamas’ military as a minimum while all the while paying enough homage to Gazan victims to quiet the Arab Street’s overall sympathies for the Palestinian cause.

Qatar

This tiny little Gulf sheikhdom with only 2 million people – if the highest per capita income in the world from its enormous gas reserves – has taken a hit. That’s because Qatar’s al Thani family’s high stakes game of playing all sides included being the principal backer of Hamas. It was not only Qatar’s financing but IT controls which permitted Hamas to launch thousands of missiles at Israel from its sophisticated tunnels, protecting them from air power and preparing a growing terrorist plot against Israel. While Qatar played a principal role in the Obama Administration’s “lead from behind” in toppling Muamar Qadaffi in Libya, it is the principal funder for the jihadists against Washington-backed moderates seeking overturn of the al Basher regime in Damascus. Qatar also was middleman in swapping of five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held for five years by the Taliban/ Although it has the smallest military force in the region – 11,800 conscripts – Washington sold it $11 billion in weapons earlier this year including anti-aircraft missiles and looking forward to a major fighter purchase later. This was the price for use of a major air base where Washington strategists attempt to coordinate defense for all the Gulf states against an increasingly menacing Iran. Washington reached agreement to continue to operate and maintain troops at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base at least through 2024, having moved there when Saudi Arabia reversed course after originally hosting U.S. forces during the Gulf Wars. Qatar’s bitter feud with Saudi Arabia, restrictions on the use of the base and meddling in its Gulf neighbor’s domestic politics limit that cooperation. A collapse of Hamas could prejudice the whole shaky network of Qatar’s activities, perhaps demanding a new American strategy to oppose Tehran in the Gulf rather the dawdling talks extended for four months which are neither inhibiting Tehran’s weapons progress, and now lightened sanctions, are restoring its economy.

UN

Admission that three UN Gaza schools stored Hamas armaments [then returned to Hamas] is finally giving currency to the region’s greatest “secret”, the 70-year-old effort of the UNRWA, a highly paid international secretariat [including Hamas members], with the collaboration of neighboring Arab states, to cultivate a “refugee” status for Palestinians. UN operated schools have preached anti-Semitic hatred and jihad against the Israeli state. Simultaneously while Israel absorbed 800,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, shorn of all their possessions, the oil-rich Gulf states imported millions of labor from South and Southeast Asia, largely refusing Palestinian Arabs emigration or naturalization. Recent events have forced UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon into condemnation of Hamas violation of repeated attempts at cease fire in contradiction to the UNWRA. Slowly the barbarity of Hamas’ strategy of deliberately exposing Gazans to additional jeopardy from Israeli aerial and ground bombardment in order to exploit world sympathy is seeping through a media unable to report actual conditions in Gaza for fear of their reporters’ lives. For example, CNN interviews with spokesmen for Hamas have without identification taken place in one of the area’s largest hospitals. Some UN officials – for example, from the head of the UN Human Rights organization condemning the U.S. for its participation in developing Israel’s Iron Dome defense and suggesting Washington should aid Hamas in a parallel effort – may finally be bringing some semblance of balance into mass media reporting in the area. It remains to be seen whether Washington, as the disproportionate bankroller of UN activities and massive direct payments to the Palestinians, will use its leverage to reform the aid-giving process. U.S. .Sec. of State John Kerry’s proposal – apparently “demanded” in a bitter conversation by Obama with Netanyahu – to use Qatar and Turkey as mediators in a Gaza ceasefire outraged the Israelis and their American supporters. The effort to cut out Egypt, the traditional mentor for the Gazan Arabs, appeared to be a continuation of the Obama Administration’s flirtation with the Moslem Brotherhood and its cool relations with the Egyptian military. But, almost immediately, including public statements, Washington flipped back to endorsing Cairo as the mediator, including a role for Mohammed Abbas and his West Bank Palestinians. Cairo’s backing by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Arab League has not only strengthened what had been seen as Abbas’ fading role but that of the Palestinian “moderates” despite their public caterwauling in defense of Hamas.

Washington, momentarily, has few options but to wring its hands over the civilian carnage in Gaza and to hope that others will find the basis for ending the crisis successfully, that is, with the demilitarization of Gaza.

Sws-08-02-14

A euro for your thoughts


by Sol Sanders

The European Union has entered a multifaceted and what promises to be an extended crisis.

It will reshape European politics and its outcome will have far-reaching effects on the world economy and international politics. Resolution of the crisis will come with even more difficulty since the Europeans for the first time since the end of World War II cannot count on a strong role of Washington as mediator and mentor.

First off, it is important to remember that despite all the propaganda to the contrary about newly arriving power centers – and the weaknesses exposed by its current troubles – Europe remains the force in world affairs unmatched except by the U.S. Its more than half a billion population with almost a quarter of the world’s total economic activity, enormous cultural diversity and heritage, with infinitely fecund research and technological innovation, and with a diminished but technologically powerful military, still dominates the world scene.

When we speak of “Europe”, of course, we are lumping in a set of complicated relationships as well as groupings. The geographic Europe is everything west of the Urals in mid-Russia, but for the moment Russia has excluded itself from the European family. That’s in part because the European Union now includes all the countries of Western Europe except Norway and Switzerland, and more recently central, northern and parts of eastern Europe for a total of 28 countries [with four more former Yugoslav states soon to join].

The EU institutions include the European Commission, the Brussels-based appointed executive, the Council of the European Union, its upper house of parliament composed of executives of member states, the directly elected European Parliament, the lower legislative house, the Court of Justice, the European Central Bank and the Court of Auditors. At least theoretically, these countries now have a common market and are moving toward a standardized legal system. A separate treaty removes passport controls among all the countries [including Norway] with the exception of the U.K.

Eighteen of these countries – with the exclusion of the U.K., Denmark, Sweden and Poland – are part of the Erozone, using the Euro as their currency. [Seven additional states are obliged under their treaty obligations to join the common currency at a later date.] Since the international crisis of 2007-08, the European Central Bank has become a mini-International Monetary Fund. It has taken on a role of handing out emergency Euro loans to some of its members in deep trouble and is helping to work out individual national economic reform agendas. Through it purchase of national government bonds – Germany has blocked Eurobonds – it also indirectly helps direct the finances of the individual members.

Rather suddenly, a series of problems have grown acute, testing to their limits these and older European institutions in a way not seen since the onset of The Great Depression and the resultant collapse of much of Europe into authoritarianism. These developments put into question whether national interests can be subsumed in a superstate which has become the aim of many of the proponents of further European economic and political integration. Or whether, as an alternative, national and regional sentiments within some older nation-states will scotch this movement, or, indeed, reverse the whole effort.

The problems are, of course, interrelated and will require new efforts at international collaboration as well as mobilization of resources to move on to another stage whatever that may be. It’s no wonder then that any attempt to describe the ideological and more practical conflicts of the various constituents looks like a cat’s cradle of connections which alas! are not likely to fall apart as quickly as success at that old string game.

Putin’s challenge After more than a half century with sometimes bitter but relatively minor wars, Europe is faced with the continuing threat of naked aggression by a major power, Russia. An unstable Moscow regime glories in its inability to assimilate politically to the European consensus. But unlike its autarchic Soviet predecessor for which many of its leaders [and unhappily its citizens] have deep nostalgia, Putin’s Russia is not only directly intertwined with the world economy but virtually totally dependent on its sale of fossil fuels to the rest of Europe. [Recent feints to the East to China are just that with so-called trumpeted agreements falling far short of their ballyhoo.]

Using methods that could have been copied from the aggressive pre-World War II Fascist and Communist dictatorships, Moscow bluffs at least temporarily have overwhelmed European [and American] leadership. Neither Brussels, the national capitals, nor Washington have found an adequate response thereby inviting further aggression from Putin’s ad hoc agenda to restore what he claims is Moscow’s hegemony in Eastern and Central Europe if not a superpower. The fact that Ukraine has become the focal point for the conflict is symptomatic, for it is the irresistible attraction of participation in the European movement toward integration which draws Kviv away from its traditional domination by Moscow.

Democracy quotient The EU’s original deadly fault – top-down imposition of a new regulatory regime on self-governing societies – has finally climaxed in the candidacy of a new president of the Brussels bureaucracy. Tiny Luxembourg’s former prime minister, the lackluster politician Jean-Claude Juncker, has by happenstance become the nominee of the European parliament for the presidency of the EU on the claim that his party now has a majority in that assembly. That claim, reinforced by the lack of other major alternate contenders, in effect would establish parliamentary supremacy against what has been a tradition of hand-picked appointed Brussels bureaucracts..

But Juncker’s advocacy of more “federalism” – further political as well as economic integration – challenges London’s opposition to a stronger federal union at the same time its most ardent advocate is Germany. Furthermore, a clutch of anti-EU parties – some of them proto-fascist – now hold a fourth of the seats in the European parliament.

Britexit The sweep of anti-EU skeptics of the British delegation in a just completed Europe-wide election for the European parliament threatens to increase the growing minority in the U.K. who want to leave the EU. Conservative Prime Minister James Cameron, increasingly threatened by an anti-EU, anti-immigration, nationalist swell on the right, has promised a 2017 referendum on leaving EU membership. At the moment, British public opinion remains divided with apparently a small majority for remaining in the EU, but continuing as a limited partner. However beleaguered is its sterling currenmcy, most Brits count themselves lucky they stayed out of the Euro and thereby reinforcing the role of The City as perhaps the foremost international financial center.

Germany, a proponent of further integration, nevertheless makes preventing the departure of the British, its main ally in opposition to French and other EU partners’ statism, its highest if contradictory priority. Britain’s exit would, of course, have enormous repercussions inside the EU beyond its role as the main opponent of further bureaucratization, feeding skepticism which exists in Scandinavia, for example, and may even be growing in Germany where it has been a dogma of the post-World War II regime.

Economic malaise The European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi’s imposition of a negative interest rate – that is, the national central banks’ deposits into the Euro would be charged interest – is a groundbreaking effort to stimulate growth Theoretically, it would force the central banks to loose their lending policies. It is an attempt to counter the austerity policies throughout most of bankrupt southern Europe’s economies and the resultant high unemployment of low growth rates and increasing political instability.

Draghi’s policies are bitterly opposed by Germany with its paranoia about inflation from the deadly post-World War I expeience. Meanwhile, as by far the largest EU economy it continues to maintain a budget surplus through its “beggar your neighbor” trade policies. [Germany rolled up the highest trade surplus in the world at $270 billion in 2013 despite the fact that 60% of its exports went to other EU partners. [If Germans sanctimoniously blame their souther partners’ priofligacy for their situation, it was German-financed exports that in large part brought on the disaster.]

Germany’ situation is almost unique in the region. Its per capita income is 23% above the EU average with more than a fifth of the federation’s gross development product. That it is inimitable to Draghi’s grand strategy sets up an enormous conflict inside the EU at a moment of economic crisis.

Nor is it at all clear that Draghi’s effort will help given that the bulk of the Euro’s transactions still remain in national budgets, most of them already in deficit. That, of course, is the long term argument for further integration, welding differing financial strategies into a whole behind the Euro. But Berlin’s notorious historical incapacity to lead a democratic alliance contradicts Germany’s hegemonic economic role inside the EU, another reason why its effort to keep Britain inside the union is consered by many,m even in Germany, so critical.

This welter of crosscurrents takes place at a time of a growing perception – probably realistic — among European leaders that the U.S. is retreating from world politics and when the world engine of growth, the American economy, is sputtering.

Any of these various issues and contradictions could at any moment flare up into the kind of crisis that would feed popular sentiment and the 24-hour media, overshadowing the general confusion of these more complex economic and political issues. That question of unexpected events now dominates the European and ultimately, the world scene.

Sws-09-06-14