Category Archives: Ye Olde Crabb sez

Mission to Moscow


There are haunting echoes in the meeting Presidential National Security Advisor John Bolton has just completed in Moscow.

In another era, now just a hundred years ago, the U.S. and its Western allies made a deal with Moscow to oppose an even more threatening enemy, Nazi Germany and its growing rabble of fascist allies including Italy. That gave the Europeans and the Americans a short period of a phony war. But it was not to last.

Just as then, setting up a meeting between the leaders, this time President Donald Trump and Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin, it was a bitter compromise, swallowed with difficulty. Putin is no Josef Stalin, then Soviet absolute ruler the like of which the world had not seen. But Putin’s combination of political thuggery, he is after all is a graduate of the KGB, the Soviet/Russian secret police — including murder of political opponents — is not the only reminder.

Bolton said in the meeting he discussed “strategic stability in the world, control over nuclear weapons and, in general, a disarmament dossier.” A Russian spokesman said they also discussed the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, North Korea, and the Iran nuclear deal. Neither Bolton nor the Kremlin said whether he and Putin discussed Russia’s fumbling in American elections. Nor did either spokesman broach the subject of sanctions or the diplomatic spat between the U.S. and Russia which brought them to any negotiation at all.

Washington swallowed hard, and despite mumbled protests from its European allies, made a deal to ignore for the moment Russian Putin’s grab of Crimea, his support of armed pro-Moscow dissidents in Eastern Ukraine, and growing threats to its former captured nations in the Baltic.

Nor did anyone point to the leading figure offstage where so much of this was aimed: the Chinese Communists whose growing ambitions in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, pose a threat to both powers. But Beijing was very much a part of the international balance of power that was implied in any deal which may be coming out of a Putin-Trump Summit.

Dealing with Moscow meant Washington had to face the reality of an aggressor regime with an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And, until recently, Russia held a whip hand over the U.S. NATO allies in Europe by being a monopoly supplier of natural gas.

It’s a change here that may, if anything, offer hope of the U.S. coming to terms with Putin through bis eroding economic weapon.

Its new shale technology has made the U.S. again, for the first time since before World War II, a net exporter of energy. That plus access to Central Asia reserves — no longer the property of a Soviet Union — through new pipelines being built through Turkey and the Balkans – begin to erode the elements of Putin’s domestic claptrap regime.

Unlike his legendary forbear Stalin, he does not rule by terror alone, but through a combination of his own clever manipulation of an imitation of the Soviet bureaucracy and his alliance with oligarchic billionaires who have built their empires on the energy exports. It remains to be seen if the steadily enlarging European markets can accommodate all these providers. If they cannot, Trump’s temporary accommodation against China with Putin could usher in a period of unshaken international stability. But that would require, too, American pressure to reduce its own growing dependence on Chinese imports and markets.

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Foolish optimism


There is a good deal of dangerously false thinking about results to be expected from the summit meeting between President Donald K. Trump and North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un.

Kim presides over one of the world’s most cruel and inefficient regimes.

North Korea now lives off the bounty of its mineral resources swapped to China for food and other support. With the American and UN sanctions squeezing Pyongyang toward negotiations with Washington and its allies, 90 percent of its international trade is with China; the rest black market activities with such other fellow pariah states such as Iran.

The oft repeated formula that Kim would be ready to open his regime to economic development funded by the U.S., Japan and South Korea is much too glib. Kim’s North Korea is a police state with tens of thousands of political prisoners and the little freedom even known in its Chinese neighbor.

Political modification of the regime would have to come with a revolution, if a managed one. Managed revolutions are rare.

It is true, of course, that South Korea’s economy, now the fourth largest in Asia and the 11th largest in the world, might offer a model for Pyongyang’s moderation. The South, after all, began its journey toward industrialization and modernization with only a surplus population as its only natural resource.

The North’s trove of mineral resources theoretically offers more opportunities as both the Japanese Occupation [1910-1945] development, and the current trade with China indicate. It is also true that South Korea began South Korea’s modernization under Park Chung-Hee, now seen as a dictator [from 1963 until his assassination in 1979].

But with hindsight we now see Park as a remarkable leader with his apprenticeship as an officer in Japanese Imperial military schools and his close relationship with the Japanese leader and longtime civilian manager, Nobusuke Kishi. Kishi was first the economic tsar for the Japanese military including during its occupation of Korea and then prime minister twice in U.S.-sponsored postwar Tokyo governments.

If there is a historical parallel we can look to — and all historical parallels are innately faulty — it is East Germany. By far the most efficient state in the former Communist bloc [not excluding the Soviet Union itself], it was nevertheless where the Soviet Empire began to unravel. Only with the total collapse of the East German state and the Soviet Bloc’s dependence on it that the end of the Communist Bloc came and the fall of the Soviet regime in Russia itself.

Kim will not be able to have it both ways. Either his personal dictatorship with all its repression inherited from his father and grandfather will have to go, or any attempt to build a modern economy — and not one drained of resources dedicated producing weapons of mass destruction — will fail.

Can that take place without a political explosion and the ouster of Kim himself? It seems unlikely that American, Japanese and South Korean generosity would be enough to absorb such revolutionary developments.

And what will be Beijing’s attitude toward such developments if they should occur, with the overall threat of Korean reunification hanging over the whole project? It is no secret that not only Beijing but Tokyo as well are dubious about a uniting of two powerful Koreas which would introduce a new if traditional player in East Asia. That is an outcome that even the Japanese fear and Seoul sees only as a possibility under its tutelage, now a likely route of when events begin to move.

Therefore all the glib talk about the peaceful emergence of a cooperative — much less democratic — regime in the North are, for the present, so much wishful thinking.

Golden California goes Brown


There always seemed to be the possibility that there could be a really big rumble along the San Andreas Fault and Hollywood, San Francisco’s hills and the wild northern California coast would slide into the Pacific.

The state has had its Brown-outs with two governors, father and son, and their spendthrift administrations, with other similar governments spread along the way of Junior’s present tenure.

Still, with its almost forty million people, the crumbling welfare state carries on with a quarter of the country’s illegal aliens, half of whom are 6% of its total population. They don’t speak English at home nor do these “undocumented” seem to be bothered with U.S. citizenship much less legal residence: two-thirds have lived in the state for at least a decade.

But California’s increasingly shaky finances [a current $190 billion state budget has an estimated $1.6 billion deficit] and what appears to be a switch to a net outflow of population may be redrawing the picture of what has been. Most of the population growth this past year came from local births, which outpaced deaths by 220,000. Although total net migration added 80,000 people, more moved out of California than in from other U.S. states.

In fact this out-migration has increasingly been the state’s middle class, taking with them the longtime admired entrepreneurial history of the state, to the benefit of welcoming Texas among California’s other Western neighbors.

Foreign immigration made up the difference between the outflow and the relatively stable total, bringing it nearer the 40 million mark, larrger by far than Canada or Australia.

That these in-migrants are “illegals”— or “undocumenteds”— may explain more than anything else why California’s Democratic politicians are all for allowing even illegal felons to get a pass not only escape deportation but criminal prosecution as well. The state has enacted a sanctuary law which supposed to protect otherwise illegal aliens in the U.S.

This has led to a free-for-all between federal officials [particularly ICE, Immigration and Custom Enforcement] and some local state and municipal authorities. This, in turn, is leading to a civil war among local and state government jurisdictions who oppose the protection of felons.

The current free for all between the federal authorities of the Trump Administration with Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland [its long term unemployed average of 8.52 percent] went so far as for her to warn local illegals with criminal records — some of them convicted felons —– that the Feds were coming to get them.

California city and state officials as a result of all this are using California’s size —its population bigger by a third than Texas, its nearest rival — to defy federal law. Nothing quite like it judicially has been seen since the 1850s — an argument then which had to be decided in a fearfully bloody struggle, still more casualties than all our other conflicts.

The policy and legal confusion being created is hard to exaggerate. And the Trump Administration is going to be forced to take up the cudgels for federal jurisdiction. The longer the wait, the more likely the confusion will grow.

There was a time, when California was supposed to set the patterns for progressive [the old use, not the new use of the word] development in the rest of the country. [e.g., remember when no one ate their salad first] Let’s hope that is now a bygone American custom.

The Russians are not coming! But . . .


Much too much is being made of the naming of Russian agents operating in the U.S. and their ostensible efforts to thwart our electoral process.

There is a suspicion that part of the hullabaloo is an attempt to draw attention away from more important scandalous matters, including the lagging effort of the U.S. to rearm as the overwhelming force dedicated to peace and stability in the world.

Looking at Washington’s description of these Russian operatives indicates we are a long way from the expertise of the Soviet KGB and its predecessors tracing back to Vladimir Lenin and his theories of dictatorship of the proletariat. It was in effect an increasingly bureaucratic Russian regime that reached its apotheosis with Josef Stalin’s totalitarian dictatorship. For one thing, and the most obvious, Moscow no longer commands the loyalty and services of either ideological cynics or well meaning idealists abroad in national Communist parties forming a vast espionage network run out of the Comintern.

The Russians have a structural problem in any effort to affect American elections: one of the many blessings of our Founding Fathers in their creation of their new federal republic was leaving the concept of suffrage to be an issue decided locally by the states. There has never been nor should there be a serious attempt to have a federal voters’ law, although requirements and restrictions, i.e., to protect the rights of minorities, can and have been written into overriding federal legislation.

Of course, the attempt to avoid a continental criterion for the vote has caused problems. For most of the history of the Republic, race was used to ban a large portion of our fellow citizens from the franchise, a remedy for which has only finally been effected in our lifetime.

But the very variety of electoral laws – whether for local, state or national elections has assured the inability to create a centrally dictated electoral law and thereby the threat of all-yes-or-no plebiscites.

That network of different laws and customs, of course, was what the Russians were facing when they decided to try to affect the American elections.

The realists in Moscow must have understood that all they could accomplish was to cast doubt on the process wherever and however it was conducted. And that perhaps explains why they supposedly both supported and opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy.

They have nevertheless achieved widespread publicity and some success in creating confusion. But it has been done with the help of the U,S. authorities in their highly publicized indictment of the Russian agents describing their activities in detail that the public really didn’t have to know.

But bottom line is that the Russian intelligence organization, again a shadow of its former Soviet ancestor, has spent resources and used personnel it could not afford. Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine must have already taxed those resources along with his attempt to further threaten the U.S. and the West with subversion in the Baltic States which the Russian Empire and the Soviets [both at their zeniths] occupied.

The Russian Federation, with the world’s second largest nuclear inventory of 4,500 strategically operational warheads, remains along with China and Iran — one of the three current principal American concerns for world peace and stability.

Putin’s Russia reversed Moscow’s emergence from communism as an unstable but democratic state with his aggression in southeastern Europe. That has called for deployment since 2017 of four multinational battle groups totaling approximately 4,500 troops to the Baltic nations and Poland as a manifestation of the U.S.-led North American Treaty Alliance [NATO]continuing shield for the Western democracies.

Although President Trump has indicated he is willing to negotiate the West’s differences with Putin, the threat to peace and stability from Moscow has to remain one of the U.S. principal foreign policy concerns and threats.

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Straight talk


Diplomats like to believe they speak a special language because of their knowledge of other cultures that logic which may apply elsewhere is not always applicable to their transactions. That explains, as much as anything, the present undercurrent of animosity between the State Department’s Foreign Service establishment and the Trump White House.

The Trump Administration’s initiative to officially move the US. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is now a case in point.

No issue is as political sensitive and emotive in Israeli politics. Psalm 137 of the Jewish and Christian Bibles sings: If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem. may my right hand forget its skill, May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

But the New Year’s statement of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, a politician appointed to that office by President Donald K. Trump, has aroused an international fracas. Perhaps the explanation lies partly in the fact that Halley hails from her previous office as governor of South Carolina, a state throughout its history noted for its drama.

Haley laid out the Trump foreign policy and the international scene in stark terms. She made no secret of the basic turnabout Trump has provided to the Obama Administrations famous leading from behind.

Haley signaled:

The U.S. will no longer lean on international organizations , as its principle tool in internatiuonal policy as the world’s largest economy and overwhelmingly largest military force.

Trump will end more than six decades and a total of $18 billion in military and economic aid from the United States, a net transfer of $8.647 billion to Pakistan.

Trump will move to end the Iranian missile program negotiated by the Obama Administration in an effort to postpone a nuclear-class Tehran regime.

Trump threatens to end Palestinian funding [more than $5 billion in since the mid-1990s] if the PLA continues to violate UN decisions to recognize Israel and proceed with serious negotiations for two states.

Trump will support Iranian dissidents in dramatic contradiction to Obama’s ignoring the previous Green Revolution in 2009 after elections almost overthrew the dictatorship. Trump reiterated his threat to destroy North Korea if that rogue regime persists in developing nuclear weapons.

Trump is pressuring Burma in regard to its expulsion of Muslim from its southeastern provinces.

Trump is concerned about Venezuela where the president has become a dictator, ally of Communist Cuba and an enemy of the U.S….

All in all, what was a enunciated was a new American foreign policy which will be activist and aggressive rather than responsive the Obama Administration attempts to lead from behind.

Haley has also reminded other members of the United Nations that the U.S. sees their votes an indicator of their support of the American effort. Haley’s announcement moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem follows decades in which both the Congress and presidents have announced that American policy. No issue is so emotionally charged in Israel politics nor with its Arab neighbors despite the fact no Arab or Muslim regime had ever claimed Jerusalem or the Holy Land as its capital.

We will remember it when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, she said of the UN vote. Washington supplies roughly 22 percent of the U.N. budget. And we will remember when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

Haley, called the UN vote condemning the American action null and void, declaring that no vote in the United Nations will make any difference on the United States plans to move its embassy which she called the right thing to do.

With only Guatemala so far following the American initiative of recognizing Jerusalem as the site of the Israel capital and locating its embassy there, Haley threatened that the 22 UN nations which had vote a resolution condemning the American action who now receive U.S. aid might pay a price. Major allies like Britain, France, Germany and Japan voted for the resolution, though some allies, like Australia and Canada, abstained. with 33 other abstentions and 21 delegations that were absent, representing a significant chunk of the total membership of 193.

The vote against the U.S. was more than anything else an expression of the atmosphere of hostility in the organization toward Washington. That was manifest although hardly noticed in the U.S. this year when the U.N. dispatched a special rapporteur to investigate poverty in the U.S. American taxpayers effectively paid a progressive professor to lecture them about how evil their country is.

38 Ukraine’s Future


The Trump Administration’s decision to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons is an historic decision with implications far beyond the two countries themselves. It is, in fact, a belated decision since the future of the former Soviet state has hung in the balance after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s naked aggression against Ukraine in 2014.

Moscow’s aggression, first the seizure of Crimea by the Russian Federation in early 2014 and the peninsula, Ukrainian territory since 1954, is too much like the old story of a rapacious European power’s aggression that has set off two world wars. The continued sponsorship by Moscow of anti-Kiev rebels in eastern Ukraine has confirmed the worst suspicions about Russia’s eventual intentions. Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator, has made no secret of his belief that restoration of the Russian Empire/Soviet Union’s most expansive former territorial borders is his aim. He has said,”the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

Meeting the Russian onslaught on Ukraine requires such weapons as the U.S. has now promised, i.e., American Javelin antitank artillery capable of destroying the Russian tanks leading the insurgents. The State Department official announcement said Washington was going to provide Ukraine with “enhanced defensive capabilities as part of our effort to help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity, to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression.” The State Department spokesman said, “U.S. assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself.”

Outspoken members of Congress have long called for meeting the U.S.-backed Ukrainian government’s request for assistance. Following that announcement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Republican nominee for President of the United States in the 2008 election which he lost to Barack Obama., issued a statement calling on Trump “to authorize additional sales of defensive lethal weapons, including anti-tank munitions,” to Ukraine. “Vladimir Putin has chosen war instead of peace in Ukraine. So long as he makes this choice, the United States and the Free World should give Ukraine what it needs to fight back,” McCain added.

Moscow countered the American decision to supply Ukraine with weapons meant the United States “is clearly pushing [Ukraine] to new bloodshed.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Washington and Ottawa of making false claims about the conflict in Ukraine as a “pretext to begin large-scale lethal weapons deliveries to Ukraine.” The Russian response continued, “American weapons can lead to new victims in our neighboring country, to which we cannot remain indifferent,” adding, “the United States in a certain sense had crossed the line” and accused it of “fuelling the war” rather than acting as an intermediary.

Observers expected Russia would use the American moves as a pretext to take further action in Ukraine. The action comes amid a recent spurt in clashes between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists, and the same week the Trump administration announced it would permit sales of some smaller arms to Ukraine from U.S. manufacturers.

Outspoken members of Congress have long called for meeting the U.S.-backed Ukrainian government’s request for assistance.

Perhaps as important as the direct assistance to Kiev, the assistance to Kiev is seen as support to the whole network of the North Atlantic Alliance [NATO] which is increasingly being invoked to meet Putin’s to reinforce its eastern defenses. Perhaps as important as the direct assistance to Kiev, the assistance to Kiev is seen as support to this whole network of the North Atlantic Alliance [NATO] which is increasingly being deployed to meet Putin’s aggressive actions on Russia’s western borders.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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