Category Archives: Ye Olde Crabb sez

36 Sex, the marketplace and common sense


The effort to reform one of the great blots on American society, using authority in relationships with subordinates to intimidate them for sexual favors, has reached a crescendo.

And like such reform movements before – one recalls the The Methodist Episcopal Church Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals attempt to curb alcoholism which ended in the disaster of creating organized crime – it now runs the risk of getting out of hand. The chief reason, of course, is that we are dealing with one of the most powerful forces in human nature – the attraction of one human being for another which can result in sensory satisfaction for its culmination.

We are of course, dealing with that most complicated of issues, human emotion. And it is also one of the most difficult to analyze because of its attachment to each of us as individuals to the issue or its potential.

In fact, we are talking about at least four different human activities. In a time of less forthrightness in the 19th and 20th centuries, these manipulations were casually and euphemistically known as “the casting couch” and “womanly wiles”. In fact, the very fact that commonplace titles were given them was virtual acceptance that they were part of “business as usual” in complex human and specially gender relationships.

The first of these activities is, of course, the use of human sensory resolution which is simply the commonest attraction of one individual for another. When women began entering the workforce a hundred years ago – in the West – it was inevitable that this relationship would not only be involved but would become central to it. Men and women working together can be only attracted toward one another in the physical pursuit by their nature.

The second, and the chief object of our search for perfidious activity, is when that attraction is knowingly used by the male party to advance his or another’s career or for an accumulation of wealth or both.

The third is a combination of the two and the great difficulty of untangling them in any attempt at analyses.

The fourth and most obscure is when on that rarer occasion, the female arts of seduction are used for similar purposes.

The crux of the growing problem is that the combination of a woman’s reluctance to expose such activities to public scrutiny and therefore the ability if such accusations to be made without substation is leading to indiscriminate charges without validation. Innocent names and reputations can therefore be besmirched since there is no final court of verification of the charges or absolution in the case of such unjust slanders.

It may therefore be a time for all but the most serious of these charges make public their sponsors. One way, of course, is simply to demand that any of those – usually women – making such charges are willing to come forward publicly with their accusations. In that way, those who are among the accused have an opportunity to confront their accusers for evidence and truthfulness of the actuation.

That is a painful process for many women who point out that their violation has often been at a legitimate but secret relationship for what there is no guilt associated.

As onerous as this process nay be, it is our belief that by going public with the accuser’s identity is the only way to establish its validity. If the process is too painful for the aggrieved woman [or in that rare case, man], it may well be that it is better to ignore it, or treat it as one of the many individual ills in our society for which there is no immediate solution.

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35 Saudi revolution


The reformation of Islam stalled in Andalusia [Spain] since the 16th century — may finally be underway in Saudi Arabia and for all the wrong reasons.

Unlike Judaism and Christianity from which it has borrowed so heavily, Islam has remained a combination of religious belief and totalitarian politics. That dichotomy often confuses Western observers, ever vigilant in the modern world to maintain at least a modicum of tolerance.

Now a coup by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s in early November has led to the arrest of more than 200 princes and government ministers, ostensibly in a corruption probe. They are members of the far-flung royal family which until now with its enormous oil wealth set world energy prices. But with the recent advent of U.S. technological advances in shale oil and gas exploration, price dips have ended the structure of the Persian Gulf exporters, and the debt-ridden princes are having to reorganize Salman’s accession to the throne is being modeled on the role of the Queen of England. But it is significant that Salman has already clipped the wings of the dreaded Saudi religious police who brutally enforced the Saudis’ hold on power. Its pogroms have been used in the past against rebellion among the Saudis’ 35 million Moslems and its satellite states on the Gulf — including a constant underground rebellion of Shia in its Eastern oilfields.

Western “right thinkers” have called any attempts to get at the heart of these political and ideological aspects of Islam as Islamphobia. The current wave of terrorism with its insistence on using the phrase “Radical Islamic Terrorism” are after all based on aspects of Islam itself – they are not drawn from Christian Science or Methodism.

Salman plans, we are told, to adopt the moniker “protector of the holy shrines” to cover Saudi Arab’s hosting Mohammed’s birthplace at the center of the Arab and Moslem world.where hundreds of thousands of the faithful make the onerous required pilgrimage in every Moslem’s lifetime. It was her that Islam broke out of this heart of the desert to conquer older and wealthier Middle East empires and twice threaten to overwhelm Western European culture itself

Now with an unprecedented wave of Moslem refugees from Syria and Africa descending on a Europe with its rapidly declining native birthrate, the threat of Islam is as an ideology again faces Western Europe and Judeo-Christianity.

Perhaps luckily for the West, a competing threat of Islamic terrorism has arisen among Iranian fanatics in the bitter rivalry between the majority Sunni and minority worldwide community of over two million.

Recent resignation of and flight of Saad Harir, prime minister of Lebanon to Saudi Arabia and then to France, is a manifestation of this contest within Islam. Hariri was Beirut’s Sunni Moslem prime minister. [The president has according to the formula been a Christians, usually a Maronite Catholic, and the speaker of the parliament a Shia]. The Middle East has now fallen victim to the growing power of the Hezbollah Party in Lebanon given full backing by Tehran,

As Salman has moved to clean up corruption – and gather power – he has formed a tacit alliance with Israel, also threatened by events in Lebanon. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. General Gadi Eisenkot in an unprecedented article in a Saudi newspaper has just written: “Iran seeks to take control of the Middle East, creating a Shi’ite crescent from Lebanon to Iran, and then from the Gulf to the Red Sea. We must prevent this from happening.” The Israeli official continued: “With President Donald Trump, there is an opportunity for a new international alliance in the region and a major strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat…. We are ready to share intelligence, [with Saudi Arabia], if necessary.”

Only a few months ago, a Saudi-Israeli alliance would have been unthinkable. But as Salmon assumes dictatorial powers in what has been a freewheeling family business, Mideast politics – and Islam – are undergoing earthshaking changes.

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34 Turkish threat


Turkey is rapidly developing into a threat to peace and stability in the Middle East.

The regime of President [formerly Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP Justice and Development Party are increasingly authoritarian. Their effort to obtain nuclear power with its military offshoots would make it an imposing and new threat to the whole region.

Behind Erdogan’s efforts, of course, is nostalgia for Turkey’s once dominant role in that part of the world. The Turkish Empire at its zenith in the early 19th century stretched from the gates of Vienna to Aden to Gibraltar, incorporating most of the eastern Mediterranean. Its collapse in World War I left behind a truncated nationalist state dedicated to linguistic Turks although with considerable racial and ethnic minorities.

Today the Republic of Turkey stretches from the peninsular of Anatolia in Western Asia across the Dardanelles Straits separating the two continents with a smaller portion on the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by eight countries. Some 80% of the country’s 80 millions identify themselves as ethnic Turks, with Kurds, altogether a 45-million ethnic minority spread throughout the region. making up another 20% of its population. Kurdish nationalists recently have agitated for autonomy against resistance in Ankara,, especially in southeastern Syrian border areas where they are dominant.

Meanwhile, Erdogan announced over the summer that he had signed a deal with Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation [ROSATOM] to begin building three nuclear power plants. Since 2001 Ankara has refused investment in its dilapidated conventional power structures largely dependent on imported natural gas. for the country’s inadequate electricity supply..

The $20 billion deal with Moscow, in the works since 2010, involves the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant — Turkey’s first-ever – theoretically to be operational in 2023. Turkey is only the latest to benefit from Russia’s ROSATOM, with Moscow’s earlier nuclear cooperation deals signed with Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This growing civilian nuclear sales program is generally seen not only as a Moscow play for power in the Middle East but also providing desperately-needed revenue for Russia, hurt by sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.

With the highest rate of growing energy demand among OECD countries over the last 15 years, Turkey has long been looking to the possibility of nuclear power. Prior to the 2015 Tehran and Moscow were Turkey’s main suppliers of fossil fuels for its conventional plants. Pressure to abide by the U.S.’s sanctions against Iran has been one of the factors which has pushed Turkey to consider nuclear energy a viable option to supplement or replace its conventional fossil-fueled industry. Ankara is looking at China as well as Russia with Beijing having ratified a nuclear agreement it reached with Turkey in 2012, a $20 billion deal for the construction of four nuclear power plants. Although there have been no sales, in 2008 Turkey also reached an”Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation” with the United States.

Turkey claims its budding nuclear power program is for civilian purposes only. And while it is true that Ankara’s interest in nuclear energy dates back to the 1960s, when it studied the feasibility of building a 300-400 megawatt nuclear power plant, three decades before the rise of Erdogan and his AKP party, it is clear the program has taken on new significance.

A nuclear power base could easily move on to weapons production and given Erdogan’s pretensions for return to imperial Turkish ambitious, that could be the ultimate outcome of the power program.

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27The Meaning of Words


 

 

One if the effects of the many invasions and conquests of Britain has been the enrichment of its language by the conquerors until today that universality is recognized throughout the world. It is helped – along with the power of the British Empire and then its successor, the U.S., in international affairs – make it the world’s common language.

From the earliest British Beaker folk [named after their vessels buried with them], one new linguistic tide after another swept over the British Islands bringing with it first the Celtic language, then the Germanic Saxon, the Danish, and the French Norman. It is perhaps this heritage that gives English we speak today such a wide range of possibilities of expression, and, sometimes, to confusion because of it.

In this context what is to be made of the current commotion over President Donald K. Trump’s attempt at consolation for a grieving widow of Green Beret Sgt. La David Johnson? Johnson’s body was recovered in a remote area of the northwestern African country by Nigerian troops nearly 48 hours after he was discovered missing in the wake of an attackearlier this month against his Green Beret training and assistance unit. The U.S. has maintained about 800 US troops in Niger among its other posting in Africa. The US military has been in the northwest African country for five years, with small groups, US Special Operations Forces advising local troops. Their targets have been jihadists, including “ISIS in the Greater Sahara” and the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram operating in Niger and neighboring Mali..

Lara Trump, the President’s daughter has confirmed, referring to a transcript of the call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David, her father’s thought. She paraphrases hin as having told Johnson’s widow “your husband went into battle, you know, knowing that he could be injured, knowing that he could be killed.”  Although the words might sound stark out of context, it is clear that the President was trying to help console the grieving survivor by reminding her of her husband’s dedication and devotion to military service and his undoubted recognition of its risks including his death.

Rep. Frederica Wilson [D., FL], has decided to twist these remarks and their meaning into an attack on the President as unfeeling and inadmissible. Wilson’s campaign has blossomed as Trump has responded to her accusation and further carried the argument to earlier Wilson claims as an effective Congresswoman in representing the financial concerns of her district.

White House chief of staff John Kelly criticized Wilson for allegedly taking credit for securing funding for an FBI field office two years ago. Kelly had denounced Wilson after the Democratic congresswoman publicly criticized President Donald Trump’s comments during a phone call with the widow of a fallen soldier.

“I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured,” the Florida Democrat responded.”So that’s a lie. How dare he! However, I named the building at the behest of [then-FBI Director James Comey] with the help of [then-House Speaker John Boehner], working across party lines. So he didn’t tell the truth.”

Kelly was referring to an FBI field office in Miramar, Florida, that was dedicated in 2015 to two FBI agents who were killed during a gunfight with drug traffickers. The chief of staff said he had been “stunned” by Wilson’s public comments at the ceremony dedicating the building.

The whole bickering exchange is demeaning to both parties. Wilson’s language leaves much to be desired from a pubic figure. But we think that the President’s chief of staff, a four-star retired U. S Marine general himself, ought to have better sense than to get down into the mud and roll around with Wilson

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23Sliding into U.S.-China crisis


 

 

Despite Pres. Trump’s repeated claims of friendship with China’s Boss Xi Jinping, Washington-Peking relations have been slid by slow motion into crisis. [Trump might be reminded of British 19th century Prime Minister Lord Palmerton’s quip: “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”.]

 

The depth of the crisis has been obscured by dramatic domestic news and the war of words between Trump and most of the national media.

 

The issues exist at every level – political, economic and military

 

The crisis entered a critical stage when Pyongyang flew a missile over Japan into the Pacific [Sept. 15] with the strongest possibility of North Korea’s an accidenta; strioke given North Korea’s poor navigational history

 

The United States is committed to automatically respond to any such attack on Japan’s defense by treaty as the keystone of its East Asian security system.

 

Washington now looks to Beijing to force Pyongyang to discontinue its weapons of mass destruction and threats to attack America territory. China could do that with its control of the North Korean tiny economy. Last year China bought two-thirds of North Korea’s exports, worth $2.6 and provided almost imports $3.9 billion in imports..

 

Although China voted September 3 with all the other members of the UN Security Council to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, it remains to be seen if Beijing will enforce the UN restrictions. Beijing did follow the UN vote with an announcement it was cutting petroleum shipments immediately.

 

 

But there is little doubt that Chinese leadership – perhaps Xi himself – remain conflicted over the North Korean issue. However much Xi’s increasing control in China, the Chinese Establishment – particularly the military with its bloody intervention in the Korean War [1950-53] – maintain the closest ties although Beijing dropped direct financial support in 2014.

 

Communist China fears pressure on Pyongyang and its collapse could bring reunification of the Peninsular and a reunited Korea, either neutralized or more likely with a tacit alliance with Washington.

 

In the crunch, the U.S. probably would have to take severe measures against U.S. China trade if it wants to force Beijing to curb Pyongyang. Even with a total world trade of more than $3.6 trillion, the 2016 estimate of almost $500 billion in American trade accounts for almost half the U.S.’ worldwide $737 trade deficit. That obviously would pose severe disruptions on the American economy.

 

Beijing has refused Washington’s offer to take  a more conciliatory view of other trade issues– the imbalance, intellectual property rights, processed food imports, etc. – if they were linked to sanction North Korea sanctions.

 

Meanwhile, Chinese planners are trying to move away from the heavy dependence on exports by continued forced urbanization of, some 1.4 billion. half its population, still living in rural areas. They hardly benefited from recent rapid growthbut worsening the situation of several hundred thousand “temporary” residents floating in its largest cities without official benefits.

 

China has, in fact, been exporting capital to the U.S. with below cost prices for thousands of household and capital products that have wiped out 5 million American manufacturing jobs since 2000, sme including imoported foreign exchange elements. And under attack from some Chinese economists, as an export of capital for a still underdeveloped economy.

 

Some American observers have wrung their hands over Beijing’s role as the chief government purchaser of U.S. Treasuries. Beijing this spring raised ownership of U.S. government bonds to $1.09 trillion   But China’s American debt do not provide China with undue economic influence over the United States. As the British economist John Maynard Keynes put it, “If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has.”

 

While Trump’s $700-billion program to renovate the U.S. military begins, Beijing continues to move aggressively on its perimeters — in the Japan Sea where it has taken over islands returned to Japan at the end of American Occupation, building naval and air bases  military bass on coral strands a thousand miles from Continental China athwart  one of the main commercial naval arteries of the world, and most recently, opening up old sores on the eastern Himalayan border with India, in support of its growing program of base-building in Pakistan at the entrance to the Persian Gulf from which it proposes a pipeline to carry across the country to western China.

 

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22A political threat


Developments within the Democratic Party are threatening the traditional American political system,

 

Unlike Western Europe, the U.S. system has differed from the older parliaments, when democracy has been in the ascendancy, as in Great Britain. The Europeans have always been governed by a balance among sectarian parties. Those relatively well organized political clubs have been defined relatively ideologically, whether by the moderate socialism of the British Labor Party with its strong dependence on the more conservative trade union movement, or its conservatives bound to English traditions of church and monarchy, often united with the representatives of the proprietors of landed estates.

 

In the United States, although the founders had not anticipated it, a new political class formed early in the Republic, only nominally affiliated with the merchants and small landowners [in New England] and larger slave-holdings states [of the Deep South] who had wrought the rebellion for Englishman’s rights.

 

But given the relatively vast numbers and geographic dispersion of the new 13 colonies and their successors, these parties were less than homogenous. When the old division between those who favored a  new federal government and those – like Thomas Jefferson – who opposed the new strong federation metamorphosed into the two current national parties in the late 1820s, they attained something like their current form.

 

In the modern era, both have been loosely organized – despite their often stronger constituent “machines” such as existed in New York City. In fact, they have often been composed a entirely contradictory ideologies.

 

The most dramatic example was, of course, the Democratic Party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the 1930s. Headed by a charismatic figure with pretentions as a country squire on the Hudson River plantations, FDR’s coalition could hardly have been more disparate. It counted for its majority in Congress on the so-called “Solid South” – representatives of a largely rural strongly bound to the segregation of the large Negro population. But its northern representatives, and a large part of FDR’s executive, counted the trade union movement as well as growing industrial owners with a small sprinkling of European-style Social Democrats and Communists trailing.

 

Those coalitions have formed and reformed in the post-World War II years. But the two parties ultimately represented within their respective borders differences greater than the differences between them. The main political battles have largely been fought within the parties, rather than between them, at the local and regional levels. That has led to the successful candidates for president which they have sponsored often differing as much within the same party as between the two parties’ candidates. Thus a relative conservative like Harry S. Truman could assume the FDR presidency [because FDR no longer wanted or needed for his electoral success a vice president on the left like Henry Wallace, a product of a family of Midwest agrarian radicals.] Had Wallace succeeded in his third party ticket in 1948, he would have tried to initiate policies as different as those of Truman as his Republican opponent.

 

What is happening today is the growing domination within the minority Democratic Party of its leftwing. No more evidence is necessary than the near riot set off when Democratic House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a scion of a Baltimore, Md., political family but a product of San Francisco, CA, leftwing politics, was attacked on camera by Democratic activitists. Their growing influence in what has been a dwindling party, apparently determined not to incorporate the broad spectrum that insures the life of the two-party system, is now a danger for a system that with all its faults has worked relatively well. One could, indeed, make the case it has worked better than the more fractured and ideological European configuration.

 

If the trend continues, the U.S. will be facing and new, unknown, and very different political equation.

 

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16China’s strategy clear


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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15The road to Pyongyang through Bejing


 

 

North Korea’s second intercontinental ballistics missile launch July 29 is a challenge to the five countries trying to keep the Peninsular stable. Neither China, Japan, South Korea, the U.S. nor Russia would welcome a reunited,strong and independent Korea. South Korea’s growth as the world’s eleventh largest economy, fourth in Asia, achieved in a generation, suggests what might happen with the addition of the North’s extensive minerals.

 

The U.S. stood by and watched for more than a hour before the earlier launching of an ICBM July 4th with Pyongyang’s 33-year-old dictator, Kim Young-un conspicuously present. Both offered easy targets but Washington policymakers apparently feared destroying the missile and killing Kim would set off uncontrollable chaos. That could include a resumption of the Korean War which cost more than U.S 60,000 dead and missing before a truce in 1953.

 

Pres. Donald Trump, after his earlier praise following the visit of Chinese Dictator Xi Ping-ping, has now turned bitterly critical of China. Trump has a point in that Pyongyang relies on China for 90 percent of its external trade including food. Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear technology originated with Chinese loans.

 

China did announce a clampdown on coal imports, the largest item in their trade. Given his own earlier optimism, Trump’s comments were a sharp change. “Our foolish past leaders have allowed them][the Chinese] to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet … they do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

 

Trump is simplifying the China-North Korean relationship, however. Beijing has more than 2.6 million ethnic Korean citizens, plus a quarter of a million recent refugees, a large part concentrated along their 800-mile border. Their other connections include: a close military alliance formed in the Korean War when Chinese intervention halted Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s advance toward the Yalu River border and what appeared a de facto reunification of the Peninsular divided by the post-World War II settlement.

 

Nor would Beijing like to risk a collapse of the North Korean regime [such as in 1990 overtook East Germany, considered the strongest satellite in the Soviet Bloc.]. It anticipates handling a flood of refugees no matter how Communist China is noted for its excesses against its own population. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is already increasing his own internal crackdown with growing comparisons to the Mao Tse-tung Era with its personality cult.

 

Despite its limited measures to squeeze Pyongyang economically in response to UN and US sanctions against the missile and nuclear developments, China–North Korea trade has steadily increased — up 37.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from 2016.

 

Yet Beijing has announced measures against Pyongyang. In February 2017, China temporarily suspended coal imports and China may be supportive of measures banning oil exports to North Korea should Pyongyang conduct further nuclear tests, echoing calls from some Chinese experts. Regional experts say such actions may suggest that the Chinese regime is “losing patience” with Pyongyang, while others say that these shifts are merely tactical.

 

Pyongyang’s diversion of resources to the world’s largest military establishment – with 5,889,000 paramilitary personnel, 25 percent of the North Korean population. – has produced famine which in the 1990s killed between eight hundred thousand and 2.4 million people. In June 2015 Pyongyang reported its worst drought in decades and flooding in September 2016.

 

Washington may now have to move in on Chinese firms pushing North Korean exports. much in the way they successfully undertook currency counterfeit operations in the early 2000s. With the Chinese economy now experiencing new lower growth and attempting to move to domestic consumption, Beijing is vulnerable to such a campaign although it is likely to produce addition friction in U.S.-China relations.

 

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11A war against Christians


A pervasive persecution of Christians goes on throughout the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia with relatively small organized efforts to oppose it, even among Western churchmen.

True, both the Pope Francis has spoken out against discrimination, and in many instances, imprisonment and worse. In April the Roman Catholic Pope made a ceremonial visit to meet the leader of Egypt’s indigenous Christian Coptic leader who may head as many as 20 million Egyptian Christians. But the Mainline Western Protestant churches with their preoccupation with social issues, often to the neglect of articles of faith, have largely left opposition to such oppression to the Western democratic governments led by the U.S.

 

The statistics are horrendous:

It is estimated that more than 300 people are murdered monthly throughout the world because of their Christian faith.

More than 200 places of worship are attacked and destroyed monthly.

Altogether, almost 800 incidents of violence are committed monthly because of religious prejudice against Christians.

The Pew Center, an American secular research organization, estimates more than 75% of the world’s population lives in areas of religious persecution, many of them anti- Christian.

The U.S. State Department compiles a list of more than 60 countries which practice religious discrimination against their own population.

In some areas, where Islam is the dominant religion, there are affiliated Moslem organizations which persecute religious minorities, particularly Christians.

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Ironically it is the Middle East where Christianity was founded which has the highest toll of martyrs. This past Palm Sunday preceding Easter, two suicide bombings by Moslem fananatics killed 45 persons and injured far more in two Egyptian Coptic churches. It is also paradoxical that Egypt with by far the largest Christian minority in the region has by far the largest number of victims.

 

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, an academic research center that monitors worldwide demographic trends, estimates that in the period 2005-16 — an average of 900,000 Christians were killed.annually. From Nov. 1, 2015, to Oct. 31, 2016, Open Doors tabulated as many as 1,207 Christians were killed around the globe for faith-related reasons. This is a conservative estimate since it does not include statistics from North Korea and large areas of Iraq and Syria.

 

Persecution of Christians is part of a general pattern of repression in many of these areas, of course. But it takes on a peculiar character because the effort to oppose repression is inhibited by a lack of understanding and forthrightness about the nature of Islam. Islam is, of course, supposedly one of the Abrahamic religions. It has borrowed heavily not only in mythology but in its moral code, rituals and performance from Judaism and Christianity. But unlike Christianity and Judaism, it has not broken its ties to secular power and, indeed, has endowed them with authoritarianism. That is why, for example, Indonesia with a brief tradition of freedom since independence in 1945, is now beset with radical Islamic groups attempting to establish Islam as a state-imposed belief.

This conflict exists, to a greater or lesser extent, in all those majority Moslem societies however much they have also borrowed Western European legal codes from their colonial domination which guarantee secular societies. This conflict will intensify if economic progress does not solve some of the other growing problems of these societies.

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10To the Finland Station


While the U.S. debates whether it has “a Russian problem”, little Finland [6 million] is again fearful of wrestling with its old neighbor.

There is a new wrinkle in the Russia-Finland encounter, however. The Finns are always feeling threatened by their giant neighbor now planning one of its largest military exercises in years. In riposte, the Finns are going underground. A subterranean city beneath Helsinki forms its critical line of defense. Finnish soldiers routinely train there with the aim of keeping Finland’s government running and city residents safe in any attack. A network of more than 124 miles of tunnels, passageways and shelters supplies utility and subway tunnels, communications, water supply and Wi-Fi. There is shelter space for al the city’s more than 600,000 residents.

The Russian war games will take place on Finland’s northern border as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] simultaneously boosts its own presence in the three Baltic states just across the Gulf of Finland. Finland maintains the fiction of its neutrality between Moscow and the West by remaining outside NATO even though it is increasingly dependent on Western – and especially U.S. – arms with an equally officially neutral Sweden.

Much of the relationship is based on the history of The Winter War when Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union tried to subdue what was then a small largely agricultural society gangling off neutral Sweden to the West. [Finland has a substantial Swedish minority and considers itself bilingual.] But with the Western democracies, and much of the rest of the world, cheering, the little Finnish army with its ski troops and other knowledge of winter warfare, held off the Soviet giant for nine months. In the end, it lost 10% of its territory – including its Arctic port was ceded to Russia and it had to absorb a half million Finnish ethnics [12% of its population] as refugees from the Karelian peninsular reaching toward Leningrad that had been Moscow’s target.

One of the great ironies of modern history is that the threat of aggression and reincorporation into a Russian empire has raised Finland to one of the most prosperous and technically advanced societies. [The per capita income is 222% of the world’s average.] That’s despite its isolation at a frigid corner of the world.

The original $300 billion [1939 prices] of reparations which Helsinki agreed to pay the Soviets built a new manufacturing and economic complex that ultimately delivered by 1952, 340,000 railroad carloads of goods and services to Moscow. The economic effect was to turn Finland increasingly into a high tech industrial economy culminating in its leadership of the new wireless telephone industry in the late 1900s.

More than ever, more alarmed than Western observer, Helsinki has seen the Russian seizure of Crimea ahead of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula as a model for a new threat to its own independence. Its military have carried out an exercise based on a recent, real-world scenario including takeover of government buildings by foreign special forces, like those of the Russians on their southern flank. Some of those wargames were held in Helsinki’s underground labyrinth.

Finland also says it has faced Moscow’s use of pro-Russian activists, propaganda and political pressure on Finnish politicians since the Cold War And although maintaining its strict formal neutrality, Finnish authorities say they have seen concerted efforts by pro-Russian nongovernmental groups, social media accounts and cyberattacks attempting to influence domestic politics..This year 10 NATO countries and the EU committed to establishing a research center focused on hybrid warfare, to open in Helsinki in September.

Sws-07-16-17

8Going to the doctor


We have never been supporters of an all-inclusive law governing the healthcare industry.

 

It is, after all, huge — the economic system that provides goods and services to treat patients with curative, preventive,

rehabilitative, and palliative care. Total health care spending in the U.S. was 18% of GDP in 2011, the highest in the world at $2.3 trillion. The very size of the whole enterprise – from individual medicine practiced by doctors to hospitalization and public health programs – perhaps a sixth of the American economy — suggests how difficult it is to get a perspective on its problems much less possible solutions.

 

That’s why we saw Obamacare as not only not a solution to the problem, but because it attempted to solve all the medical health problems in one piece of legislation, a menace and not just a legislative mistake. All that was compounded by the secrecy, the speed, and the one-party authorship – there was not a single Republican vote for the legislation – doomed it.

 

As Obamacare continues to implode under its own deficiencies, the search for a soluition to the America’s health problems continues. But, again, one would be more sanguine were that a search for solutions to individual problems than one overall panacea which is now the case.

 

The search, of course, is for a system that delivers more access to its potential clients at lower prices.

 

It is with this point of view that we approach the current debate over health care legislation now in the excruciatingly complex process of legislative production, with a House of Representatives version now in the hands of the more arcane rules of the U.S. Senate. That would, in a first stage, presumably, present a different version which would have to be compromised between the two pieces of proposed legislation for final legislation t be voted into law by both houses..

 

It is tragic, we believe, that because of the generation of Obamacare, it is now considered a given that it must be replaced by an equally all-reaching one piece of law. For some of the same reasons as with Obamacare, we fear that it will inevitably produce some of the same results.

 

Given what are generally regarded as better solutions in some other countries’ developed economies achieving more economic returns from the vast expenditures on healthcare in the U.S., introducing cost-saving and more access measures does not seem to be an unobtainable goal.

 

Also in much of the discussion it ignores the growing role of technology which while supplying new and often unanticipated solutions to individual health concerns, often incurs new costs in equipment and its application, only a small part of which we suspect is reducing existing costs. The ordinary individual with the ordinary afflictions has little difficulty in seeing this kind of solution all around him as the progress in medical practice improves extremely rapidly.

 

As we write, the Senate is in the process of originating its own particular approach to the healthcare industry. As we have noted, unfortunately, it is already assumed that the Senate’s product will be a substitute for the proposed legislation already enacted in the House but, indeed, both a replacement of Obamacare. It may have been critical that the question of linking the withdrawal of Obamacare and presenting “a replacement” have been linked for many legislators. Unfortunately, it also guarantees that some of the problems of Obamacare will inevitably reassert themselves in any new legislation.

 

It is early, of course, to take a pessimistic view of this whole complicated process. We can only hope that as it progresses, both the Senators and the Representatives will not have their hands tied to what has gone before.

 

Sws-07-13-17.

Living with Putin


July 5, 2017

Marcus Wolf, “the man without a face”, infamous East German intelligence operative who once put a Communist spy into West German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s bed, has commented pithily on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Wolf doubts Putin lived in Dresden for 15 years as liaison between the Soviet KGB and the Communist East German spies. He said that Putin couldn’t have been important if he, Wolf, as the East Berlin regime’s external security apparatus boss, had not known him. On the other hand, Wolf admitted an accomplishment of a good spy is to make those around him think he is a mediocrity – and Putin certainly accomplished that. That’s been the assumption for why the former Moscow leader and strongman Boris Yeltsin chose him as a successor.

Those observations help explain the difficulty American leadership has dealing with Putin as head of the Russian state. His ambitions are clear: Putin wants to restore Russia to its former Soviet glory. No Communist, he has nevertheless said that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century. Whatever odds, Putin dreams of rebuilding a Russia that can compete with the U.S. as a world superpower. That means incorporating eastern and central Europe, even when he risks retribution from the West.

On the other hand, in an increasingly complex world of alliances, Washington looks to Putin to help fight Islamic terrorism, an equally great threat to American security. He has lent his air force to Syria’s Basher al Assad to defend that tyrant against a rebellion led by Washington’s chief terrorist enemy, ISIS. But Washington and its allies are dedicated to ousting al Assad as a menace to Mideast stability. Furthermore, Putin’s war on Islamic extremists is compromised by European Russia’s collapsing birthrate making Moscow increasing dependent on Moslem military recruits from the Russian Federation’s Central Asian republics.

Putin’s survives near bankruptcy with oil and gas exports mostly to Western Europe and Japan. But the high energy prices of yesteryear are only a memory. U.S. technology has found unanticipated huge new reserves in shale deposits at home and around the world. [When Saudi Arabia tried to undercut American pricing with its own vast oil reserves, U.S. oilmen upped their productivity with a technological ante.] There’s a pretty good chance that the U.S. will again take up its prewar and early post-WWII role as a net energy exporter.

Putin’s pretensions to superpower status, however, do have a basis. Although its conventional military badly eroded when the Communists imploded in 1990, Moscow has an arsenal of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Putin rattles these from time to time. He reminds Washington that while it can generally round up an anti-Putin Western coalition – at least when it is not trying “to lead from behind” as in the Obama years – he still can harness and lead anti-Americanism.

Furthermore, Putin’s Russia is not the old Communists’ continuing failure to create an autarchical economy – independent of the rest of the world. The dollars that roll in for energy and cannot be absorbed because of Russia’s primitive investment climate almost as quickly roll out to Western Europe and the U.S. It‘s this access to Moscow energy profits that tempts Westerners to play games with individual Russians – often closely associated with Putin’s coterie.

Reports of clumsy Russian efforts to hack and otherwise influence American elections are as much as anything else part of this international chase for profits from its energy exports. It’s this Putin and his clique that challenges American policymakers trying to maintain world peace and stability. It also explains the contradictory reporting and welter of often unsubstantiated gossip that surrounds the contacts between Russian and Washington players.

Untangling U.S. foreign policy


American geopoliticians in the 100 years the U.S. was coming of age as the superpower had the “luxury” of facing a relatively monolithic enemy. From the early 30s, it was fascism dominated by Mussolini and then Hitler until his downfall at the conclusion of World War II. Stalin and his worldwide Communist apparatus moved into that role in the immediate postwar period.

It was only with the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1990 that Washington planners faced what had been the more normal historical array of a number of powerful national and imperial entities vying for power. Turning their hand to this complex has confronted American policymakers – however the disproportionate size and power of their country – with new and perplexing conflicting interests.

Nowhere is that problem more apparent than with Washington’s relations with the Russians. The muddled argument now taking place in the public arena is only the most obvious expression of this.

Vladimir Putin’s success at accumulating near-dictatorial powers, his potential to employ the former Soviet Union’s reservoir of weapons of mass destruction including hydrogen bombs, give him heft that has to be considered beyond the crippled power and condition of his country.

Especially is that true because he has sought to wield it against his neighbors and former Soviet appendages Georgia and Ukraine, threatening Poland and the Baltic states.The U.S. and its European allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization could not ignore what was again a threat to peace by an aggressive neighbor, seeking as Putin has, the reconstruction of the foreign Russian Empire/Soviet Union.

If Putin does not aim at the superpower status of the former Soviet Union – although not nominally a Communist, he said “the breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century” – he had the power to disrupt the peace and stability of the post-Soviet world.

Washington does not find it easy to deal with Putin’s Russia which in some parts of the world over which the U.S. still has the obligations of the principal, and at times, only, peacekeeper. It must oppose and lead an alliance against Moscow in Putin’s efforts to move back to the Communist/Imperial western borders. But in the critical Syrian civil war – with its growing foreign participation – Washington seeks to oust the Basher Al Assad government which Moscow supports although both find a common enemy in the ISIS Moslem terrorists who are the chief opponent of the Basher regime.

This leads to tactical contradictions such as U.S. bombing of Russian forces supporting the Damascus government, Washington’s chief enemy in the region and perhaps now the world.

In Western Europe, Washington’s half-century of backing the economic and political integration of the continent as a solution to its centuries of internecine warfare – which twice within the century have drawn in the U.S. – is collapsing. The withdrawal of Britain and its attempt now to boost its commercial and political relations with the U.S. and the English-speaking former Dominions, resurrects the old dilemma – what to do about a Germany that overwhelms its traditional enemy France, flirts with the Russians, and is dismayed by its own power.

In Asia, the U.S. has the prospect of an increasingly powerful and aggressive China which threatens to dominate both Japan and manipulates the two Koreans, menacing the most important sea lane in the world through Southeast Asia. A short-term U.S.commercial policy toward China that has been a net transfer of resources through below-cost pricing is now reaching its climax, but having destroyed much of the American manufacturing base on which the new digital revolution must build a completely new concept of production.

Washington is faced with the prospect of increasing its expensive buildup in East Asia or encouraging Japan and South Korea to adopt nuclear weapons in their defense.

The Trump Administration – a rogue if powerful political force built on the resentment of a large part of the population outside the three elitist urban centers – may be blessed with a certain naïve vitality. But it has only a short time for it and its successors to create a new U.S. approach to world diplomacy.

sws-04-04-17

 

 

 

 

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

The Turkish model is dead


The effects of Turkey’s secularist hiccup last week when for the most part junior military tried to overthrow the regime will be long-term, inimitable, and disastrous for the U.S. and Afro-Asia.
For almost a hundred years, Turkey’s effort to modernize from the top down has been a possible model for much of the non-industrialized world. Mustafa Kemal, the country’s victor in the civil war which destroyed the old Ottoman multicultural empire, set out to “Europeanize” the country, shearing off its former leadership as the clerical as well as political Islamic world.
For Washington, Ataturk’s successor regime has been a bulwark, with its second largest North Atlantic Treaty Organization. army [more than half a million] holding up the eastern wing of the alliance. During The Cold War it was Ankara’s forces backed by U.S. land, sea, and air bases that prevented further Soviet expansion into the Mediterranean. This has come at an enormous price [$4 billion by 1997 in direct aid] in American aid; as late as July this year an argument was continuing over a $26-billion package including grants and loan guarantees.
The selection of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party [AKP] in 2003 opened the floodgates to a new competitive economy replacing at least in part Ataturk’s state capitalism. Remittances from Turks overseas [three million in Germany alone], foreign investment and an ambitious overseas tied-aid program of its own, seemed to be fulfilling Kemal Pasha’s aspirations, making it the fastest growing economy in Europe at more than 10% annually.
Despite Erdogan and the AKP’s ambiguity on permitting Washington to move forces through Turkey during George W. Bush’s 2002 Iraq War – or perhaps precisely because of it – soon after his election Pres. Barack Hussein Obama began to court Erdogan. Obama apparently saw Erdogan as a moderate Muslim democrat who could help him stabilize the Middle East. In a 2011 interview Obama named Erdogan, along with Germany Chancellor Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, as one of the five world leaders with whom he had the strongest bonds. They exchanged frequent calls and the U.S. president commiserated for 45 minutes on the death of Erdogan’s mother.
But a flagging economy and Erdogan’s growing grasp for power as he moved into the presidency in 2012 has clouded the picture. A well-known quotation – whether true or apocryphal – describes Erdogan’s politics: “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.” Long before the attempted coup, he had unmercifully purged the senior military – the guardians of Ataturk’s secularist state — installing his own men. He also packed the judiciary and has more journalists in jail than any other regime. His threats since the failed coup to go even further with repressive measures and his own new constitution look like an old Mideastern pattern.
But worse still has been his pandering to Islamic elements, especially rural Anatolia where his conservative views are most popular. How far toward an Islamic state will Erdogan go is now an open question? Earlier critics who pointed out Turkey did little to curb the flow of Syrian and other refugees to Western Europe – a million last year alone to Germany. In fact, he used the refugee flow to blackmail Merkel into a huge new aid program and a laissez-passer for Turkish citizens in the European Union. Other EU members may demur, particularly France, with its opposition coming to a head in October is stronger after the massacre last week on the Riviera. .Erdogan already has used any criticism of his regime in Western Europe and the U.S. as evidence for his frequent charges of foreign intervention.
Talk among Erdogan supporters of establishing Sunni Islam as the state religions have been knocked down by Erdogan himself. But he always has flirted with radical Islamic terrorists. Gaza’s Hamas [the cause of his break with Israel] has openly operated as has Erdogan’s sympathy for Hizbollah [even it is Shia] in its fight against Basher al-Assad in Syria. That makes him less than a reliable ally in Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s effort to “degrade and [eventually[destroy” Daesh [ISIS or ISIL]..
Not only is the Turkish model gone, but there is every reason to question its future role as a NATO member..[Erdogan temporarilly closed the joint U.S.-Turkish NATO Incirlik air base, only 80 miles from the Syrian border, which Obama has been using in his low level war against Daesh.] Such moves could cripple an already limping alliance, successful as NATO.was for half century in the defeat of Communism.
sws-07-18-16

The only strategy


Originally posted on June 13, 2016 |

While the authorities continue to sort out the career of Omar Mateen, the killer who perpetrated the greatest mass killing in American history, U.S. strategy remains confused.

There never has been a question of the enormous potential for Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] to inflict suffering on Americans and other Westerners. The world has rarely seen such naked brutality. But alas! it is that dramatic aspect of the Daesh cult which attracts psychopaths, particularly from the Moslem world, to its colors, even attracting other terrorists. Its weapons in the fight with U.S. authorities are formidable. As its followers sometimes boast, it believes in death not in life as do its victims. Suicide bombers are an almost invincible enemy. Relying on old Moslem concepts, it justifies any deceit of non-believers if it can be rationalized as promoting Islam, something no other religion condones.

The infinitely complicated arguments over how to go after suspicious individuals who may be hidden terrorists has dominated the headlines and the conversations about a breakdown in American security. But in the end, proposed reforms are insufficient to prevent other attacks such as these
That is because the U.S. could not be a more attractive target for the Islamic terrorists. An open society, the first thing to acknowledge is that there are tens of thousands of potential American targets like the gay nightclub in Orlando.

It is true, of course, that there were ”mistakes” in handling Mateen when he came under official U.S. scrutiny. But as FBI spokesmen have admitted, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential Mateens in this country, and thousands more who could be infiltrated with relative ease given our immigration problems and the opportunities afforded through worldwide commerce and tourism.
There is, of course, a strong argument for tightening up our security procedures.

But the reality is that were we to move beyond a certain line in addressing the issue of suppressing terrorists among us, we would emasculate our hard fought civil liberties, the essence of the American political system. That, of course, is precisely what the Moslem terrorists intend: to create an atmosphere of such suspicion and repression that the whole concept of American liberty which they detest would be lost.

Pres. Barack Obama and Democratic Party presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoid the use of the words Islamic terrorists and any other attributes that associate these acts with the religion of Islam. They may have a very pragmatic argument for doing so; that is, official association of terrorism with the religion of Islam may encourage new anti-Western sentiments among its 1.2 billion adherents around the world.

But if so, their logic is at fault. We opposed Nazism despite the assumption that there were millions of “good Germans” who opposed it. We went through the long Cold War opposing Soviet Communism even though we hoped that true Russian autocracy and its European culture were being suppressed. After those battles were won, internal opponents of the dictatorships more often than not, were quick to concede that their position was strengthened by Western resolve.

Today we face a similar totalitarian opponent; Islam is not only a religious belief but it has always been indivisible from an attempt to create an authoritarian political regime. Even Mohammed, its founder, was a chief of government.

Pres. Obama has said U.S. strategy would “contain and dismantle” Daesh. In fact, ISIS has continued to grow, spreading its influence to other regions, and enlisting the support of radical Moslems everywhere.

The only strategy that the U.S. can successfully pursue is to go after ISIS in the same way the U.S. and its allies destroyed the Nazis and then Communism. It calls not only for an effective repression of Daesh but in a dramatic fashion that matches its own challenge, a strategy that calls on all our resources to destroy Islamic terrorism at its roots and quickly. That may not destroy the Islamicists’ concept. But anything less will lead to a long and debilitating struggle in which the priceless freedom of American life will be eroded and eventually destroyed.

sws-06-20-16

The pathology of American socialism


If you are not a socialist at 20, you have no heart, but if you are a socialist at 40 you have no brain. That old French aphorism describes better than more learned tomes the appeal and the reality of more than a hundred years of seeking to find the ideal society through either Christian socialism based on appeal to the Scriptures or “scientific” socialism based on Karl Marx’s writings.
It’s not clear when Sen. Bernie Sanders espouses “democratic socialism” he knows this long tortured history or is ignoring the fulminations of European socialism including its American versions. Most Americans are unaware that socialism had a thrust toward power in the early part of the 20th century when Eugene V. Debs, a trade union radical and his colleagues traded on social problems of the rapid U.S. industrialization. Even though Pres. Woodrow Wilson, “a progressive”, sent Debs to prison for his ironclad pacifism and opposition to American entry into World War I, he garnered more than a million votes in the 1920 presidential election.
But the socialists faded, shorn of their Communist radicals who bolted the party, in the enormous prosperity of the 1920s. They left one important addition to the national scene, the income tax, which could only be implemented with the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution which was deemed to have excluded all such direct taxes. When the Great Depression struck in 1929, much of the socialist rhetoric [along with proto-fascist ideas as well] were adopted in the wildly heterogenic New Deal of Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Norman Thomas, a former pastor from the Christian socialist tradition — a tall, handsome man, a splendid orator with a booming voice — took over the rump of the movement. Thomas, although a respected figure to whom thousands of European and Asian refugees came with notes of introduction during the turbulent 30s, was a failure as a politician. The Party dwindled under a series of crises; the first in 1936 when most oldtime socialists supported FDR against Thomas for the presidency. Thomas also followed the Europeans in their Popular Front, a partnership with the Communists aimed at halting the rise of Adolph Hitler’s Nazis and Benito Mussolini Italian Fascists. The anti-Communist socialist splinter, mostly New York Jews, broke away taking the famous old Rand School which had educated immigrants and a Borsch Belt resort. But here and here old memories remained: a Young People’s Socialist League on the University of Missouri campus in 1946 formed to end racial segregation on their campus.
Although the Party continued in name, maintaining a New York headquarters and continuing to publish a weekly version of its once powerful The Call, it played no role in U.S. politics. It was not until post-World War II when some old stragglers from the movement successfully persuaded Washington to wean the West European parties away from neutralism against the high tide of Communism in France, Italy and West Germany. On the Continent as in the British Labor Party, the European socialists came to brook no rival in their opposition to Moscow where the Communists had developed a totalitarian state, ready in the postwar period as one of the victors to absorb most of Central Europe.
Although the socialists blossomed in power in Scandinavia – in Sweden building a highly sophisticated industrial base, not least by collaborating with Hitler in WWII as an ostensible neutral – increasing social and political problems of their own making have undermined their hold on power. Mistaken references in the American debate to Denmark ignore its steady move away from socialism today.
Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist”, presumably in the Thomas and European anti-Communist traditions. But in Israel he chose to live for two years among kibutzim [members of communal settlements] with ties to Moscow. His flirtation with the Castros’ Cuba and their allegiance to the Soviet Union until its demise as well as the pro-Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua puts the question what he really believes. Like so many other self-proclaimed socialists before him – currently it is the case in Venezuela –in power they have had to choose backtracking toward more conventional positions or trying to institute “socialism” with dictatorial regimes.
Just where is Sen. Sanders?
sws-05-31-16

Repairing the Special Relationship


 

There are important lessons for the U.S. in the apprehension in Belgium, after four months, of one of the chief perpetrators of the November 13, 2015 Paris massacre which took the lives if 130 innocents.

This security lapse has its parallel in the current relations between the U.S. and Britain.

It’s hardly worth arguing how much in common British and American societies and polities hold, a commonality developed over more than two centuries and based on everything from history through language to religious and political institutions. Unfortunately, Pres. Barack Obama came to office antagonistic to that relationship. Whether as part of his general strategy of worldwide withdrawal or a personal anti-colonial ideological bias [as Dinesh D’Souza with his own personal knowledge has argued] is to some extent irrelevant. What common sense tells us is that with our shared values and our mutually extensive formal and informal intelligence networks around the world, cooperation and interchange of information is not only necessary but indispensable.

Obama’s pinprick statements against London and the British continue unabated. In his recent remarks to Jeffrey Goldberg in an essay attempting to set out the President’s philosophy and strategy of government, Obama snidely remarked that David Cameron had created the current chaotic and dangerous Libyan situation because the U.K. Prime Minister was “distracted by a range of other things.” It is breathtaking that this comes on the heels of Obama’s notorious “leading from behind” strategy which failed so miserably in the overthrow of Mohammed Qadhafi, and with the almost daily revelation of details of policy misjudgments by the White House and the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The failures, or indeed absence altogether of policy, which Congressional investigators are daily revealing led to the death of four U.S. officials including the ambassador in the Benghazi affair. In what are less than discreet leaks, even now in the last months of his presidency, Obama has made jarring evaluations of Winston Churchill, with their implications for a view of U.S.-U.K. history which few, if any, American political leaders or academics would accept.

Given the bedrock on which U.S. and British relations are built, in the long run Obama’s malicious pecking may be insignificant. But his sabotage of Washington-London relations comes at a time of crisis in Britain which is trying to sort out its difficult relationship with the European Union, whether to continue to remain a member on negotiated terms, or suffer its loss of sovereignty in issues as critical as immigration. Britain and Cameron deserve better from their trusted ally. And it will be one of primary tasks of the new president in 2017 to repair the damage to the U.S.-UK “Special Relationship”, strengthening it for the many crises which face both countries in an increasingly interconnected but unstable world.

There are important lessons for the U.S. in the apprehension in Belgium, after four months, of one of the chief perpetrators of the November 13, 2015 Paris massacre which took the lives if 130 innocents.

This security lapse has its parallel in the current relations between the U.S. and Britain.

It’s hardly worth arguing how much in common British and American societies and polities hold, a commonality developed over more than two centuries and based on everything from history through language to religious and political institutions. Unfortunately, Pres. Barack Obama came to office antagonistic to that relationship. Whether Obama acts as part of his general strategy of worldwide withdrawal or a personal anti-colonial ideological bias [as Dinesh D’Souza with his own personal knowledge has argued] is to some extent irrelevant. What common sense tells us is that with our shared values and our mutually extensive formal and informal intelligence networks around the world, cooperation and interchange of information is not only necessary but indispensable.

Obama’s pinprick statements against London and the British continue unabated. In his recent remarks to Jeffrey Goldberg in an essay attempting to set out the President’s philosophy and strategy of government, Obama snidely remarked that David Cameron had created the current chaotic and dangerous Libyan situation because the U.K. Prime Minister was “distracted by a range of other things.” It is breathtaking that this comes on the heels of Obama’s notorious “leading from behind” strategy which failed so miserably in the overthrow of Mohammed Qadhafi, and with the almost daily revelation of details of policy misjudgments by the White House and the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The failures, or indeed absence altogether of policy, which Congressional investigators are daily revealing led to the death of four U.S. officials including the ambassador in the Benghazi affair. In what are less than discreet leaks, even now in the last months of his presidency, Obama has made jarring evaluations of Winston Churchill, with their implications for a view of U.S.-U.K. history which few, if any, American political leaders or academics would accept.

Given the bedrock on which U.S. and British relations are built, in the long run Obama’s malicious pecking may be insignificant. But his sabotage of Washington-London relations comes at a time of crisis in Britain which is trying to sort out its difficult relationship with the European Union, whether to continue to remain a member on negotiated terms, or suffer its loss of sovereignty in issues as critical as immigration. Britain and Cameron deserve better from their trusted ally. And it will be one of primary tasks of the new president in 2017 to repair the damage to the U.S.-UK “Special Relationship”, strengthening it for the many crises which face both countries in an increasingly interconnected but unstable world.

 

 

sws-03-16-16

 

 

 

 

 

Vulgarization of American life


Something very ugly is happening in the public arena.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Energy Quotient


The old saw has it that “money makes the world go ‘round”. But in the post- industrial world it must be said to be energy. It could be argued that the two are synonymous. But that, too, isn’t true.

Take the recent arrival in Israel of a Dutch-Swiss trading company’s sweet oil cargo from the U.S. The shipment not only marked the first overseas shipment since the U.S. lifted its embargo on oil exports, but had enormous geopolitical implications. With the U.S. Shale Revolution smashing gas and petroleum prices generally around the world, the fallout has been vast and much of it still unpredictable.

There is, of course, the possibility that the U.S. will again resume its position as one of the world market’s major source of oil exports after a half century dominated by the Persian Gulf producers and their incredibly low crude costs. That would satisfy that old political battle cry for U.S. energy “independence”. The boom in the Mideast has led to the pile-up of petrodollars in the region beyond its technical and intellectual capacity to invest wisely, not the tax on world economies which former Secretary of Treasury William Simon once rationalized and dismissed as Persian Gulf producers came to dominate the market.

At the moment, the Saudis – despite an attempt to get major producers to limit production – is pumping madly in an attempt to cripple the higher cost American shale producers and to retain market share. So far that’s been met largely by additional technological innovation by the shale producers. More and more oil is coming on market, even some of it from noncompetitive smaller producers induced by political considerations. And with the lifting of sanctions, the mullahs in Tehran are hoping to get back into the fray as a once major exporter.

The arrival of American oil gives the Israelis one more element in what was once considered their most dangerous vulnerability, the lack of energy. It also adds one more link to the U.S.-Israeli alliance. It will enhance Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s battle against the state capitalists on both the Israeli left and right who want to forbid exports of their newfound huge gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean. Netanyahu needs those exports for political reasons, not the least to bolster the wavering relationship with Turkey. The Turks, once Israel’s only economic and military ally in the region, have drifted off under Pres. Recep Tayipp Erdogan flirtation with the Islamicists. But Israeli gas shipments through energy-deficit Turkey, along with transshipment of Central Asian oil and gas, to Europe is one of Ankara’s principal and critical politico-economic goals.

The American tie-up will also strengthen Israel’s hand in its efforts to coordinate recent massive discoveries of gas off Egypt by the Italian government company and Cyprus offshore gas. Even before these latest finds, a 2010 US Geological Survey report estimated that there were 122 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.7bn barrels of oil off the coasts of Israel and the Gaza Strip, Cyprus, Syria and Lebanon. [The U.S. consumes about 25 million cubic feet of gas annually.] The most recent additions to these massive reserves offer the Europeans an alternative to the high-cost Russian gas imports which have been the heart Moscow’s economy, now jeopardized sanctions imposed as a result of Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and Syria and threats to the Baltic states.

With domestic gas, access to neighbor’s reserves, and now the new American tie, Israel’s economy and its worldwide stature is rising rapidly despite the insoluble Palestinian problem and the current wave of individual knifing violence. The Israeli arms industry and its exports, for example, are taking on great significance. [Israel and India have just initialed a new $2 billion New Delhi purchase.]

The irony, of course, in this is taking place despite the Obama Administration, for the most part covertly, to loosen Washington ties to the Israelis, America’s most dependable ally in the Middle East. That, too, may change in January 2017.

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