Monday, August 31, 2015

Casey Pops Is Back -- EU Migration Crisis and the Breakdown of Civilization

"When Civilization Ends, It Ends Fast" -- those are the final words in the new trailer for the comibg season of the TV series The Walking Dead. But the evaluation doesn't just apply to zombies. ~~~~~ On Monday, four trains with hundreds of migrants began to arrive in Vienna after Austrian authorities appeared to give up trying to apply European Union rules that would have filtered out refugees who had already claimed asylum in Hungary. It was the latest twist in a humanitarian and political crisis that is "now testing the survival of both Europe's open-border regime and its asylum rules," according to Reuters. Hungary allowed the migrants, many of them escaping from Syria's civil war, to cram into at least four trains that left Budapest for Austria or Germany. The hundreds arriving at the Vienna railway station on Monday evening immediately raced to board onward trains heading to Germany, as policemen looked on passively, preferring not to intervene, witnesses said. A train also arrived in Munich from Budapest on Monday evening. German police said there were about 200 migrants on board. An Austrian police spokesman said that they had tried to follow EU rules -- so that only those who had not already requested asylum in Hungary would be allowed through -- but the sheer pressure of numbers finally prevailed and, with few police officers or border officials reported in the vicinity, the train moved on, apparently with all passengers still on board. ~~~~~ Austria did, however, arrest five "people traffickers" as part of a new operation along its borders aimed at preventing more migrant deaths by suffocation in criminal trafficker trucks, according to Konrad Kogler, director general for public security at the interior ministry : "In the hours since we started implementing these measures that we agreed with Germany, Hungary and Slovakia, we have been able to get more than 200 refugees out of such vehicles and we have been able to detain five smugglers." Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, speaking at the same news conference, said checks being undertaken along the Austrian border were not classic border controls and so do not violate the Schengen accord. But Hungary wants uniformity within the European Union, a Hungarian government spokesman told national news agency MTI on Monday. He said under the EU's Schengen rules, migrants can only leave Hungary if they have valid travel documents and a visa from their destination country. This has resulted in masses of migrants waiting in Budapest railway stations. The Hungarian spokesman said Germany has shown a more permissive stance towards illegal immigrants arriving from Syria and news of this has "boosted hopes" among migrants. "In order to end the untransparent and adverse conditions, we ask Germany to clarify the legal position" concerning the movement of illegal migrants in the Schengen zone. However, the German government denied on Monday that there were "special trains" carrying migrants to Germany from Hungary and said that under European law asylum seekers arriving in Hungary must be registered there first. "No, there are no special trains," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a post on Twitter. "People who come to Hungary must register and seek asylum there." Earlier, a Reuters reporter in Budapest witnessed migrants there who have gathered by the thousands in railway stations, being allowed onto trains bound for Austria and Germany. ~~~~~ What had happened? Earlier on Monday, Austrian border authorities had halted a train before it entered Austria from Hungary to determine whether hundreds of refugees who had boarded it in Budapest bound for the West had applied for asylum in Hungary, hoping not to let them continue their travels if they had, a Vienna police spokesman said. Migrants on the train who had not applied for asylum in Hungary would have been able to stay in Austria for two weeks while they decide whether to seek asylum there, the police spokesman said. Those who do not will be returned to their last transit country - Hungary. That is the EU migrant/refugee/illegal immigrant procedure -- the arrivals must apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach and that country will either issue them papers authorizing them to remain in the EU or send them back to the last non-EU country they were in. The system works well when there is the normal flow of migrants. It cannot work when thousands arrive every day in Italy, Greece and Hungary. The migrants literally pile up and choke the immigration system into collapse. That is what happened on the Austria border with Hungary on Monday. Finally, the EU abandoned its rules and the migrants streamed in. ~~~~~ In mid-August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised eyebrows by describing Europe's refugee problem as a bigger challenge than the Greece crisis, which had overshadowed all else in the first half of 2015. No one in Germany is questioning her assessment any longer. In the past two weeks, the refugee issue, long seen in Germany as primarily a southern European problem, has risen to the very top of the public and political agenda. "A lot will be asked of the politicians," Die Zeit said. "They must recognize that we are in a new world and find the appropriate words for it." In Germany, the problems start with towns and cities that have found themselves overwhelmed by a flood of asylum seekers who need to be housed fed and treated for health problems. Last week, Merkel's cabinet agreed to raise the level of federal support for local communities to €1 billion. And there is talk that this sum could be tripled at a "refugee summit" that the government will hold on September 24. But experts say this would still fall far short of what is required. Merkel has several clamoring sets of constituents to satisfy. She must contend with the unease of ordinary Germans who struggle with their own family needs while they see migrants being cared for with their tax money. She must deal with the fear that doing too much for the migrants will only encourage more to follow. She must find the right words to make clear that Germany does not agree with the angry hostility of neo-Nazi and right wing protesters representing the new German political scene who burn buildings and hurl rocks at police. And she must answer the concerns of her governing coalition about how treatment of the migrant crisis could impact their 2017 election chances. But, if the migrant crisis has revealed anything beyond the chaotic EU response, it is that Angela Merkel is the de facto president of the EU. And so, in addition to managing Germany, Merkel must also find a way to forge a common EU asylum policy. German politicians express exasperation at the refusal of some EU partners to accept their "fair share" of refugees. Unless this is resolved soon, they fear, then the openness of ordinary Germans could vanish quickly. The optimists in Berlin point to the Eurozone and Ukraine crises as examples of Europe defying the odds and remaining united. It will be Merkel, if anyone can, who delivers the same consensus on refugees. "The asylum issue could be the next big project where we show whether we're capable of working together," Merkel says. ~~~~~ Dear readers, in the book "1177 B.C.," Eric Cline tells the story of how marauding groups known only as the “Sea Peoples” invaded Egypt. The pharaoh’s army defeated them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt, cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell over the course of just a few decades. Gone were Minoans, Mycenaeans, Trojans, Hittites, and Babylonians. The prosperous economies and cultures of the late second millennium BC, stretching from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist, along with writing systems, technology, and monumental architecture. But, Cline says the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. He asks, "How did it happen?" In his book about the causes of thz “First Dark Ages,” Eric Cline tells the story of how the end came through multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. He shows that it was the very interdependence of the cultures that led to their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries. Eric Cline is not a doomsday eccentric. He is professor of classics and anthropology and director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at George Washington University. An active archaeologist, he has excavated and surveyed in Greece, Crete, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and Jordan. And if you are not chastened by the stark comparisons between 1177 BC and 2015 AD, you really should pay more attention to what is going on in today's interdependent world.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Casey Pops Is Taking a Few Days Off to Get a New System

Dear readers, my system is going down on Wednesday to be replaced. So, I won't be posting a blog for a couple of days. But below you'll find a blog on the EU refugee situation to keep you company. And since Labor Day weekend is coming, I think I'll give myself a short holiday. Read some of your favorite "Blogs from the Past" and we'll be blogging together again on Tuesday, September 8. To my American readers...have a Happy Labor Day. To everyone, thank you for your support and for caring about the world and its people. See you Tuesday, Casey Pops.

Refugees Are Everyone's Problem

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday that 3,000 refugees are expected to cross into Macedonia every day in the coming months -- until winter weather slows the wave of migrants -- most of them fleeing war, particularly the Syrian war. Member states of the European Union must share the burden by establishing "equitable re-distribution" of desperate families seeking asylum in the EU, the UN refugee agency said. Nearly 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year, including 181,500 arriving in Greece and 108,500 in Italy, according to the UNHCR. ~~~~~ About 10,000 refugees entered Macedonia from Greece last weekend, in chaotic border scenes that included the Macedonian army using razor wire and lobbing tear gas canisters and stun grenades to try to hold the migrants at bay on the Greek side of the border. The refugees came from Syria and Iraq to cross Turkey and take rubber rafts across a 2-mile channel that separates Turkey from the Greek island of Kos. Because Greece is in the midst of a debilitating economic crisis, the best it can do is to ferry the refugees to the Greek mainland, where they walk or take buses and trains north to Macedonia. From there, they head north to Hungary in the Schengen area of the EU - where internal border controls don't exist - and then farther north to Germany and Sweden. Also last weekend, the Italian navy rescued 1,700 migrants from five boats in the Mediterranean after receiving requests for help from nearly two dozen vessels, a spokesman for the coast guard said. Rescue efforts saved an additional 2,000 migrants on the other 17 boats. ~~~~~ The first European arrival points for these refugees are in the Balkans, poor countries that are receiving an unprecedented influx of migrants. So far this year, more than 100,000 migrants have entered Hungary. While still small in comparison with the record numbers of refugees on the move in the Middle East, the flow is increasing. The influx into Hungary on Monday increased to 2,093, its highest daily number this year. More are on their way, with an estimated 8,000 making their way through Serbia and 3,000 crossing from Greece into Macedonia every day. The Middle East migrants take Mediterranean sea routes and more than 2,300 people have died this year in attempts to reach Europe by boat, according to the International Organisation for Migration. ~~~~~ The relentless influx of refugees is testing the EU's resources, and more importantly, its ability to function cohesively. Hungary, for instance, says it has reached the limit and that the EU has failed. But, the EU is actually the latest Middle East refugee target. During the Syrian civil war now in its fifth year, Syria's neighbors have taken in 4 million refugees and cannot handle any more. Conditions are worsening in the tent-city refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon because of the UNHCR's lack of adequate funding to improve conditions in those countries, according to UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming. "People are leaving Turkey, they are leaving Jordan, they are leaving Lebanon, and Syrians are fleeing directly out of Syria as the situation continues to be very dire." Germany and Sweden have been taking 43% of the asylum seekers in the EU, Fleming said. "If you look proportionately to population, smaller countries such as Austria are taking huge number of asylum seekers where other countries are taking very few," she said. Hungary demanded more money from the EU to alleviate the burden, saying the distribution of funds was “humiliating.” A spokeswoman for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said Hungary's share of a 7-year EU budget to 2020 for asylum, migration and policing was more than 85 million Euros and Budapest's request for 8 million Euros more this year was being fast-tracked. The spokeswoman also said Hungary's concerns about immigration via the Balkans would be addressed during a summit of regional leaders with senior Commission officials in Vienna on Thursday. ~~~~~ While the migrants are crossing into Hungary, the Hungarian army is building a border fence to keep them out, using bulldozers and heavy machinery to move earth and erect walls. The fence is finished in parts, while in others there are coils of barbed wire easily negotiated by migrants who faced down stun grenades and tear gas in Macedonia last week. The Commission has made clear its disapproval of the Hungarian fence, with its Cold War echoes in ex-Communist eastern Europe, but Hungary faces no sanction for building it. “Europe has failed. Europe has to get moving,” the deputy president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday. “So far, many member states have thought they can go it alone. That doesn’t work. We have to do it together." ~~~~~ Germany says it expects a record 800,000 asylum-seekers to arrive in the EU this year and Germany is taking the overwhelming lead in finding shelter and care for them. But not all Germans are happy with this. Protests in the eastern town of Heidenau, near Dresden, over the arrival of 250 asylum seekers turned violent over the weekend. Police said they are investigating a suspected arson attack on a sports hall in the eastern state of Brandenburg where some 130 refugees were due to be housed. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the influx would affect the country’s budget plans but that Europe’s biggest economy could cope. ~~~~~ Nevertheless, the Social Democrat Party - the SPD - had to evacuate their Berlin headquarters on Tuesday after receiving a bomb threat and a flood of racist emails and phone calls that the party said were linked to leader Sigmar Gabriel's visit to the eastern town of Heidenau. The town near Dresden was the scene of violent clashes over the weekend as about 600 extremist militants, protesting against the arrival of around 250 refugees at a local shelter, pelted police with bottles and rocks, some shouting "Heil Hitler." The police used pepper spray on the demonstrators who were trying to keep busloads of asylum seekers from reaching their accommodation. The outbreak of violence followed a peaceful demonstration of 1,000 people against the 250 refugees. Gabriel, who is also vice chancellor and economy minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, traveled to the town on Monday and denounced the "mob" behind the violence, calling them the "most un-German" people he could think of. Merkel was criticized by the SPD and opposition parties for waiting three days to condemn the violence in Heidenau. She is due to travel to the town on Wednesday to meet asylum seekers, volunteers and security forces. On Monday evening, Merkel described the climate of racism as "disgraceful." ~~~~~ Dear readers, America should be paying close attention to the refugee situation in Europe. We are our brothers' keepers. But Europe cannot take in the whole Middle East any more than the United States can take in all of Mexico and Central America. If at some point refugees flood across the US southern border in the way they are now flooding into Europe, America had better have a plan. And part of that plan should be strong border control and an effective barrier. Otherwise, just as President Obama's failure to act in Syria is in large part responsible for the Syrian refugee exodus to Europe, his non-enforcement and non-strengthening of US borders will be responsible for a collapse of America's southern border.

The Founders' Political Vision Lives Today

Yesterday's blog may have put the cart of my thoughts before the horse of their political history. American politics has always been driven by the Founders' political philosophy. For 250 years, there have been two competing themes -- the universal truth of the equality and liberty of all people, and the desire to create a government that regulates equality and liberty and leads to federal government oppression. Actually, these themes have existed since Plato wrote the Republic around 380 BC. ~~~~~ According to Plato, a state is made up of different kinds of "souls" that tend, over time, to decline from an aristocracy (rule by the best) to a timocracy (rule by the honorable), to an oligarchy (rule by the few), to a democracy (rule by the people), and finally to tyranny (rule by one person, a tyrant). Aristocracy is the form of government advocated in Plato's Republic because the state is ruled by a philosopher-king, and thus is grounded on wisdom and reason. The aristocracy, and the person whose nature makes him or her its philosopher-king, are the subjects of Plato's Republic. In a timocracy, the ruling class is made up primarily of those with a warrior-like character -- Plato had the honor-based Spartan military state in mind. Oligarchy is a society in which wealth is the criterion of merit and the wealthy are in control. In a democracy, the state resembles ancient Athens, with traits such as equality of political opportunity and freedom for the individual to do as he likes. But for Plato, democracy can degenerate into tyranny, caused by the conflict of rich and poor. Tyranny is an undisciplined society existing in chaos, where the tyrant rises as a popular champion while amassing his own private army leading to increasing oppression. One of Plato's comments is frighteningly appropriate to today's America : "Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings, and leaders genuinely and adequately philosophise, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities [states] will have no rest from evils,...nor, I think, will the human race." ( Republic 473c-d.). ~~~~~ Plato's political philosophy was, in turn, accepted or rejected for 2,000 years until Locke, Rousseau and Burke linked it to the 18th century scientific, anti-monarchy social and political Enlightenment. It was the driving force for the leaders of the American Revolution, who read and debated political philosophy as their source of action. There have been only two political philosophers in American history who have not only done the fundamental thinking but also served in government -- Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. ~~~~~ Jefferson's philosophical construct was based on the belief that people have "certain inalienable rights" and that "rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others..." A proper government, serves by preventing individuals in society from infringing on the liberty of other individuals, but a proper government also restrains its own instinct to diminish individual liberty as a way to protect against tyranny of the majority. The Preamble of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson's pinnacle of political philosophy put into practice, would eventually be considered an enduring statement of human rights. "All men are created equal" has been called "one of the best-known sentences in the English language," containing "the most potent and consequential words in American history." The passage evolved into a moral standard to which the United States should strive. This view was notably promoted by Abraham Lincoln, who argued for the Declaration as a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted. Thomas Jefferson is the towering figure in American democracy. He envisioned democracy as an expression of society as a whole, and called for national self- determination, cultural uniformity, and education. Jefferson believed that public education and a free press were essential to a democratic nation : "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be....The people cannot be safe without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe." Jefferson turned his philosophical conviction of the equality and liberty of all people and his fear of any government's motives into the guiding light for modern democracy and the Declaration that is the cornerstone of America's political system. ~~~~~ James Madison, unlike Jefferson, believed in a strong federal government, and tried to convince the Constitutional Convention -- that he called and led through his outline of what the Constitution should contain -- to give the federal government final power over the states. The delegates refused, fearing that Madison"s extreme position would bring down the United States. But, Madison, the Federalist, was also the Founder who defended the proposed Constitution with its limited, delegated federal powers in the Federalist Papers. And Madison wrote the Bill of Rights in order to convince those who favored a very weak federal government, the anti-Federalists or Republicans, that their rights would be protected. Between them, these two great philosopher-politicians established the two political groups that continue to today -- Jefferson, the Republican, and Madison, the Democrat. Their different approaches to the federal-state balance have continued, and today they are being espoused by the Right Pole (Jefferson) and the Left Pole (Madison). ~~~~~ As with all great political phosophers, someone must make their precepts more easily understood. For Jefferson and Madison, it was Thomas Paine who galvanized the colonists throughout the Revolution with his pamphlets. The most popular was Common Sense, which was bought by 500,000 of the two million revolutionary Americans, a 25% proportional selling feat never since equaled. John Adams said : "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain." Paine began Common Sense with words immortal in American political history : "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered, yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly : it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated." The title Common Sense was actually suggested by Benjamin Franklin, Paine's patron. In the late 18th century, "common sense" was the belief that ordinary people can make sound judgments on major political issues, and that there exists a body of popular wisdom that is readily apparent to anyone. Paine also used a notion of "common sense" favored by philosophers in the Enlightenment. They held that common sense could refute the claims of traditional institutions. Thus, Paine used "common sense" as a weapon to de-legitimize the monarchy and overturn prevailing conventional wisdom. The phenomenal appeal of his pamphlet came from his synthesis of the popular and elite elements in the American revolution. ~~~~~ Today, while there are no American philosopher-politicians, there is the enduring heritage of the Founders, in Jefferson's Declaration and Madison's Constitutuon. And there are presidential candidates to explain their version of that heritage to voters. Americans either rally behind the belief that small government best serves liberty and equality, or they rally behind the belief that the majority must be restrained to prevent the denial of minority rights and that big government understands best how to do this equitably. All other American political disagreements derive from these two positions. ~~~~~ Today's Republican turmoil in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election is most clearly embodied in Donald Trump. As political analyst Alex Castellanos wrote recently for CNN : "Trump is more than a legacy of Republican inaction. He is the inevitable result of decades of progressive failure. He is where frustrated nations turn when top-down, industrial age government fails to deliver what it promised and presents chaos instead. When a government that has pledged to do everything can’t do anything, otherwise sensible people turn to the strongman. This is how the autocrat, the popular dictator, gains power. We are seduced by his success and strength." ~~~~~ And that, dear readers, is pure Plato, explained to 2016 American voters.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The 2016 Battle Is Being Fought on the Left and Right Poles of American Politics

I'm beginning to believe that American political pundits, pollsters and politicians, and even presidential candidates themselves, have got it wrong. We are being told that the 2016 race is showing that Americans favor "outsiders" because the "insiders" have failed to arouse interest but that it will all change as the primary elections begin. Nobody is talking about the other key component - the polarization of American politics. But consider the political issues that the two poles of America support. ~~~~~ For the conservative right of the Republican Party - let's call it the Right Pole - the issues are smaller government, a balanced budget, peo-business regulations, a strong military, closed and enforced borders with deportation of illegal immigrants, the full right to life of the unborn, a Christian view of marriage as between a man and a woman, emphasis on religious freedoms, an end to Common Core, and the repeal of Obamacare. ~~~~~ For the progressive socialist-leaning left of the Democratic Party - let's call it the Left Pole - the issues are more social spending, especially for higher Social Security benefits, amnesty for illegal immigrants and open borders, higher taxes to create income equality, tighter banking regulations, less engagement internationally with reduced military spending, single payer government-furnished healthcare, and bigger federal government in all areas including Common Core education. ~~~~~ Now, consider the Right Pole's preferred 2016 candidates -- Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and the leader, Donald Trump. And consider the Left Core's preferred candidates -- Bernie Sanders, and the undeclared Elizabeth Warren. These politicians are not "outsiders," they represent the politically active cores of each party clustered at the poles of American political thought. They are, in effect, the real insiders of American politics. The real outsiders occupy the middle space that is rapidly being emptied. They are Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden if he jumps into the race. ~~~~~ I read a Guardian essay this weekend - a British take on the American presidential race and why Donald Trump can't win. The writer tried to make the case that Trump will fail for the same reasons that Giuliani failed in 2008. He cited analysts who called Giuliani’s lead a phantom lead. He was ahead in the polls in a race that most people were mostly ignoring. David Karol, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and co-author of the book The Party Decides, told the Guardian : “Giuliani was better known than the others, except for McCain. The other candidates [Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul] were not that well known. Over the course of the campaign, voters got to know the others.” And when voters started to pay attention, as Iowa neared, they discovered that Giuliani was a thrice-married, formerly pro-choice, kind of rude person from New York. “Rudy didn’t even care enough about conservatives to lie to us,” said an Iowa leader. Giuliani, despite claiming the mantle of America’s Mayor, never had Trump’s star power. Giuliani, however, had strengths that Trump does not. He had an admired record as a public servant. He also boasted at least some party support, winning the endorsements of Pat Robertson and Rick Perry. For the Guardian writer, the Giuliani case is one of many in which a frontrunner in national polls in a presidential race has spectacularly imploded. Both Perry and Newt Gingrich opened up early, double-digit leads on the field in 2011, and Herman Cain enjoyed a brief, smaller lead over eventual nominee Mitt Romney. It’s not just a Republican phenomenon, according to the Guardian essay. The 2004 Democratic race saw two substantial - but ultimately failed - frontrunners in Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean, who held a double-digit lead in Iowa as late as December, only to come in third in the caucuses a month later. ~~~~~ That's one way to explain why Giuliani and the others lost in the race to a nomination -- they just ran our of supporters as they became better known. But the truth is that undisclosed negative facts about some of them unfolded publicly and torpedoed their campaigns. That makes them a lot more like Hillary "private email server" Clinton than like Donald Trump. And it's what made me reconsider just what is going on in 2016 presidential politics. ~~~~~ Trump leads the 17-candidate GOP field with moderates (29%), 'somewhat conservative' voters (25%), 'very conservative' voters (21%), men (26%), women (22%), middle aged voters (26%), younger voters (25%), and seniors (20%) alike. If voters had to choose just between Right Pole candidates -- Trump and Ben Carson (59/35), Marco Rubio (51/43), or Scott Walker (50/43) -- Trump would win. And he would lead Bush 50/42 in a head to head. In addition, Bush has a negative 10 favorability rating (37/47) with 'very conservative' voters and that skepticism among conservatives could sink his chances of winning the GOP nomination unless he can do something to change it. In the latest Gallup survey, 55% of all Republicans said they had a favorable view of Trump while 38% said they had an unfavorable opinion -- a net 17% favorability rating. ~~~~~ On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads with 55% to 19% for Bernie Sanders. But consider this. A higher than usual 20% of Democratic primary voters in North Carolina identify themselves as conservatives and in a recent Gallup poll with that group, Clinton only gets 26%. The only other group Clinton is under 50% with is white voters, among whom she leads Sanders 47/25. Clinton trails 8 of the 11 Republican hopefuls in hypothetical North Carolina match ups, although most of the margins are close. The strongest performers against her are Ben Carson who leads 47/40 and Marco Rubio who has a 45/41 advantage. Carson and Rubio have been the strongest performing Republicans in the general election in all three of the Gallup polls taken in July but after the debate. ~~~~~ So, dear readers, when we are regaled with the prospects for Hillary Clinton against Jeb Bush in the general election -- because, the analysts will tell us, the "outsiders" will all fade away -- we ought to remember that these two are fighting it out in the center of US politics, searching for votes among moderate Republicans, Democrats and Independents who don't control either party's primary election process -- the Left and Right Poles control it. The center represents a shrinking piece of the American political pie. The Right Pole candidates are going after the votes of Americans for whom small government and the Constitution - especially the First and Second Amendment rights to freedom of religion and the right to bear arms - are monumentally important. The Left Pole is courting the votes of free-spending progressives and the Hispanic, African American and LGBT special interest groups who think the Right Pole is antipathetic to their causes - certainly true for some issues. I believe the Republican and Democratic candidates nominated to run in the 2016 general election will come from the Left and Right Poles. The strength of their personal position with the political center will determine whom they choose as their Vice President running mate and whether their VP comes from the center. Every American believes the center will always be there. The critical 2016 battle for the heart and soul of America will be waged between the Left Pole and the Right Pole.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Politics : Greece and America in the Spotlight

It's Saturday so it must be Politics. And this week has been lively, not just in America but in Europe, too. ~~~~~ Thursday in Greece, Prime Minister and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras resigned, paving the way for new elections, probably in September. The move came after he lost the support of many of his own MPs in a vote on the country's new bailout with European creditors earlier this month. Greek media reports that 25 far left-wing rebel Syriza MPs are forming a new party, called Laiki Enotita (Popular Unity). The party will be led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who was strongly opposed to the bailout deal. At a press conference in Athens, Mr Lafazanis said he was ready to respect the result of a referendum held in July, in which 61% of Greeks said they would not support the terms of the bailout. "If it is necessary for us to cancel the memorandum, we will follow the course of exiting the Euro," he is quoted by Kathimerini newspaper as saying. Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, won 149 seats in Greece's 300-seat parliament in the last election in January. The conservative New Democracy party came second, with 76 seats. The new Popular Unity party will become the third largest in parliament. Tsipras had to rely on conservative MP votes to get parliamentary approval for the latest EU bailout. In exchange for a new $95 billion loan from European partners, Tsipras had to agree to painful state sector cuts, including far-reaching pension reforms - and agreed to keep Greece in the Eurozone. Close to a third of Syriza's MPs abstained or voted against the terms of the new deal last week. At the time, Lafazanis said he was determined to "smash the Eurozone dictatorship." Lafazanis, argues that Greece would be better off leaving the Euro and going back to the Drachma. The question now is whether the 60% to 70% support for Tsipras in polls will overcome the 60% who oppose his acquiescence in EU bailout demands. That will determine whether he is returned to power. ~~~~~ In the US, Vice President Joe Biden has emerged from the shadows and is closeted with his family and advisors, deciding whether to take on a fading Hillary Clinton. Biden is running slightly stronger than Clinton in general election match-ups against Republicans Donald Trump and Jeb Bush in three big swing states -- Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- according to a new survey that may influence Biden as he considers making a run. The Quinnipiac University swing-state poll shows that Clinton is still a formidable candidate for the Democratic nomination : she is still the top choice by a wide margin of Democratic voters when asked about their primary choices. But, the poll marked the first time this year that Quinnipiac has shown Clinton’s share of the primary vote below 50% in the three swing states. Clinton was the top primary choice for Democrats, at 48% in Florida, 47% in Ohio and 45% in Pennsylvania, ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders with 15%, 17% and 19%, respectively. Biden, who isn't even a candidate yet, was third, at 11%, 14% and 17%. ~~~~~ But, given the fact that the Vice President hasn't decided to run yet, the Quinnipiac results for hypothetical general-election match-ups were very favorable for Biden. Against Republican front-runner Trump, Clinton narrowly won two out of the three states, winning in both Ohio and Pennsylvania by 5% and losing by 2% in Florida. Biden, however, beat Trump by 3% in Florida, 10% in Ohio and 8% in Pennsylvania. Against Bush, Clinton lost by 11% in Florida and 3% in Pennsylvania; she beat Trump by 2% in Ohio. Biden didn't do as well as Clinton against Bush, losing by 13% in Florida and 1§ in Pennsylvania, while beating Bush by 3§ in Ohio. Most surprising, the survey also found that Senator Marco Rubio did better than Bush and Trump against Clinton in general election match-ups in the three states. Rubio beat Clinton in Florida, 51% to 39%; in Ohio, 47% to 40%; and in Pennsylvania 42% to 40%. ~~~~~ The trustworthiness factor is driving down Hillary Clinton's poll results. More than half of voters in all three states said Biden and Bush are trustworthy, while 40% or fewer said the same about Trump. Clinton fared even worse, with 60% of voters or more in each of the three states saying she is not honest or trustworthy. Biden’s popularity now may be high because he is not yet a candidate, not yet in the race and being scrutinized, not yet making errors on the stump. In the next mobth or so, Joe Biden will have to declare his intention to run, or step aside definitively. In the next month, we will also have a better idea of the permanent damage done to Clinton by her foolish decision to use a private email server and her subsequent cover-up, refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation, erasing potentially classifird govrerment documents from the server, and refusing to turn over the server until forced to do do by the FBI. ~~~~~ Dear readers, while other contenders are jostling for position in the polls, on Friday evening, Donald Trump spoke to more than 20,000 in Mobile, Alabama -- the largest crowd yet for anyone of either party in the 2016 race.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The IAEA Secret Side Deal Favors Iran

Even as GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was telling an audience that it would be very difficult to stop President Obama's Iran nuclear deal, saying, "We'll see," Republicans expressed outrage at the report of a bargain between the UN atomic watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran that lets Teheran use its own inspectors to investigate a site suspected of developing nuclear arms. IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said he is disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran : "Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work." Amano's statement was unusually strong. Under a secret roadmap accord Iran reached with the IAEA alongside the July 14 P5+1 agreement, Iran is required to give the IAEA enough information about its past nuclear program to allow the watchdog to write a report on the issue by year-end. The secret agreement that the Associated Press says it saw and verified (see below), concerns the Parchin facility and is regarded by critics of the P5+1 nuclear deal as another proof of their argument that the deal doesn’t do enough to curb Teheran’s nuclear ambitions. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said in a statement : "Trusting Iran to inspect its own nuclear site and report to the UN in an open and transparent way is remarkably naive and incredibly reckless. This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement." House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce said : “International inspections should be done by international inspectors. Period. The standard of 'anywhere, anytime' inspections -- so critical to a viable agreement -- has dropped to ‘when Iran wants, where Iran wants, on Iran’s terms." Republican presidential candidates also hammered the revelation. Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subpanel that funds US international efforts, repeated his previous vow to block funding for the IAEA until Congress gets access to the agency’s so-called “side deals” with Iran. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tweeted : “Iran deal is a farce. Nuclear inspections of state sponsors of terrorism can’t work on the honor system.” ~~~~~ The existence of “side deals” between the IAEA and Iran, not revealed by Obama until their existence had been publicly exposed, has become a major rallying point for Iran deal opponents, mainly congressional Republicans, who are encouraging Democrats to join them in overriding an expected Obama veto. The Parchin side deal was negotiated exclusively between the IAEA and Iran. The US and the five other Western powers that negotiated the broader nuclear accord were only briefed on it by the IAEA and Amano, who visited Capitol Hill early in August, told lawmakers he could not share with them the confidential bargain, reportedly labeled “secret arrangement II,” The Parchin installation is believed to have been used by Iran’s military as a site to develop nuclear weapons and associated technology before 2005. But, Teheran has stonewalled any IAEA examination of the facility and now has apparently convinced the IAEA to let it self-inspect the site and collect samples without IAEA supervision or presence. Critics of the P5+1 nuclear deal argue that the side bargain relieves Iran of any pressure or mechanism to force it to give details of its past work at Parchin, allowing Iran to conceal just how far along its weapons effort truly is. ~~~~~ On Wednesday, the Obama administration, which hasn't seen the IAEA-Iran agreement, rejected concerns that the IAEA wouldn’t be able to investigate Iran’s alleged attempts to build a nuclear weapon. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement : "We are confident in the agency's technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran's former program. Just as importantly, the IAEA is comfortable with arrangements, which are unique to the agency's investigation of Iran's historical activities.” But, the disclosure comes as a setback for the White House as it tries to gain support for the Iran deal. On Tuesday, Senator Robert Menendez became the second senior Senate Democrat to announce that he will vote against the agreement, joining Senator Charles Schumer and the entire Republican caucus, in opposition. But, following Menendez’s announcement, Rhode Island Democrat Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said they would support the deal. On Wednesday, Senator Joe Donnelly, another Armed Services Committee member, and Senator Ed Markey, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took Obama's number of supporters to 25. Donnelly said : “While I share the concerns expressed by the agreement’s critics about what may happen 10, 15, or 20 years from now, I cannot in good conscience take action that would shift the potential risks of 2026 and 2031 to 2016. With or without this deal, the day may come when we are left with no alternative but to take military action to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold...I owe it to the men and women of our Armed Forces and to the people of Indiana to have exhausted every other option to stop Iran before we would consider putting any of our service members in harm’s way." ~~~~~ With Senator Menendez opposing the deal, Republicans only need four more Democrats to reach a filibuster-proof majority of 60 and deliver a bipartisan rebuke to the President. In the House, the 246 Republicans have more than the needed simple majority of 218, including the support of 12 Democrats. But even if Congress votes to reject the deal, President Obama could veto it and force Congress to find a two-thirds majority to override his veto. That would require 7 more Senate Democrats and 32 House Democrats. Even critics of the deal believe it will be tough to reach the two-thirds needed. Nevertheless, GOP congressional opponents of the deal see the initial rejection as a chance to build momentum against it, and raise public support for a renegotiation. Emily Landau, head of the arms control program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, who opposes the deal and is in Washington this week to brief staffers of those still undecided, says : "I think it could spark a renegotiation....that's the reason to go for it, to say to the administration, 'We're not satisfied with this, go back to the negotiating table and bring us a better deal.’" A rejection would also make it easier for the next President to discard the deal, she said. ~~~~~ But for now, the goal is to find four more Senate Democrats to vote against the deal. They would be defying the President and facing backlash from progressive groups and Democratic voters who support the deal -- who are betting that Iran will cooperate with the deal, at least until their next election. The decision could be “possibly career-ending,” American Enterprise Institute defense and security policy analyst Thomas Donnelly says. There are 19 Senate Democrats still undecided, according to The Hill's whip list. Senate Democrats who are facing reelection in 2016 and are still undecided on the deal include Senators Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Patty Murray (Wash.), and Ron Wyden (Ore). Anti-deal groups are targeting those they see as most undecided, including Senators Blumenthal, Cory Booker (N.J.), and Bennet, who is the most vulnerable of the Democrats facing reelection next year. Anti-deal groups are also targeting Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). When members return to Washington in September, the Jewish-American AIPAC is planning a lobbying blitz, bringing as many as 800 members to Washington to lobby against the deal. Landau says she believes the administration is not acting entirely confident : "When I see how the administration is reacting to the criticism, I get the sense that the administration feels pressured...maybe because they assess that the issue is not clear cut and they [don't] have the support." ~~~~~ Dear readers, the AP was allowed to transcribe the IAEA-Iran Parchin side agreement. Officials verified that the AP transcription is the same as the final agreement. You may read it by clicking on the URL below. It is clear that Iran will collect Parchin samples, take photos and videos and then invite the IAEA Director for a guided visit. Again, Obama has failed, and Iran has won another major concession. It is time to stop this farce. Instead of worrying about their own reelection, Democrats should be worrying about being responsible for exposing American soldiers to a nuclear war when Iran decides to use its nuclear bomb provided by Kerry and Obama. ~~~

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's Hillary vs the FBI...and Democrats Are Worried

The CNN/ORC poll released yesterday shows Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by just 6 points, a dramatic change since July. Trump is one of three Republican candidates routinely matched against Clinton in CNN/ORC polls -- all three Republicans have significantly narrowed the gap with Clinton. Trump does best at 51% for Clinton to 45% for Trump. He trailed Clinton by 16 points in a July poll and narrowed that gap by his gains among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents - from 67% support in July to 79% now. Support for Trump among men moved from 47% to 53%, and among white voters from 50% to 55%. But Clinton still leads overall in the race for the White House, ahead of the top four Republican contenders : she leads both Trump and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by 6% among registered voters, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by 9%, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina by 10%. Among Democratic-leaning voters, 44% say they support Clinton for the party's nomination. That's down 9% since July, and is the first time her support has fallen below 50% in national CNN/ORC polls on the race. Meanwhile, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has climbed 10 points since July and is now at 29%. Biden follows at 14%. But, 53% of Democrats want Biden to enter the race, and even among Clinton supporters, 50% want Biden to be in the race. ~~~~~ Clinton maintains this edge in the general election race despite a growing perception that in using a personal email account and server while Secretary of State she did something wrong -- 56% say this in the new poll, up from 51% in March, while 39% now say she did not do anything wrong by using personal email. Among Democrats, those saying she did not do anything wrong has dropped from 71% in March to 63% now, and just 37% of independents say she did not do anything wrong by using the personal email system. The new poll finds that 44% hold a favorable view of her, with 53% having an unfavorable view, her most negative favorability rating since March 2001. A majority of women voters still have a positive view of Clinton -- 52% view her favorably, and her support among women is the foundation for her general election advantage. ~~~~~ One unnamed Democratic strategist told the media : "I’m not sure they completely understand the credibility they are losing, by the second....At some point this goes from being something you can rationalize away to something that becomes political cancer. And we are getting pretty close to the cancer stage, because this is starting to get ridiculous." Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who has worked with Clinton in the past, says that the general suspicion that the she is concealing something is much more damaging than the specifics of the email matter. “It’s hard to imagine Americans in the heartland wondering about whether Hillary Clinton gave up an email server or not,” he said. “But [it adds to] this constant battering she's taking, which is that people don’t trust her. It increases the feeling that something is not being told to them.” Joe Trippi, manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, serms to agree. “The thing that’s hurt has been losing the ground she’s lost on trustworthiness and honesty. It’s on trust, not on the specifics of emails or anything like that,” he said. ~~~~~ But Democrats keep coming back to the same unanswerable question : Why did the Clinton campaign not simply hand over the private server when the controversy first erupted in March? “It’s bizarre,” said the unnamed Democratic strategist. “Let me give you some simple strategic communications advice: Put everything out first, on your terms. If you wait, or you are forced to do it, you always lose and look bad....That is exactly what is happening here, and I find it inexplicable." ~~~~~ Clinton’s problems are feeding speculation that another candidate could enter the Democratic race. The two potential contenders usually mentioned are Vice President Biden and progressive icon Senator Elizabeth Warren. Others suggest that Sanders could expand his support. Robert Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign For America's Future, told the media that although Clinton remains “very popular amongst Democrats,...If Hillary continues to sink in the polls and is beleaguered by all of this stuff, there will be more and more interest in other candidates -- including but not limited to Sanders,” It is true that Sanders appears to be exciting the Democratic base more than Clinton -- with events that attract big crowds and include two-way conversations with voters. Clinton doesn't do this. Her large crowds come at conferences and meetings where she is an invited speaker, and she's awkward when she tries to work crowds and talk to people. But, if Clinton is vulnerable, beating her is another matter. Many Democrats must feel they are in a very difficult place. They believe that, in the end, Clinton will be the nominee but they worry that her vulnerabilities could negate the many advantages a Democratic candidate enjoys - from demographics to the electoral college map. So, at some point before the primaries are over, and if the FBI probe continues, Democrats will conclude that Clinton's perceived untrustworthiness outweighs her positive characteristics and they'll decide that she is unelectable. Sheinkopf insists that, at a minimum, the Clinton campaign needs to set aside any sense of complacency. “There are no guarantees. The ship has to get righted. You need to deal with the email issue very differently, by tackling it head-on.” How confident is he that such a direct approach will be adopted? “Fifty-fifty, at best,” he says. ~~~~~ The Guardian is the gold standard of British leftist-socialist newspapers. One of its columnists, Mary Dejevsky, wrote this weekend that Clinton, as she showed during Monicagate, is not one to walk away. But Dejevsky wrote that she hopes there are those, somewhere in Hillary's entourage, who are "even now begging her not to do it, and to bow out while there is still time to do so with grace." Dejevsky says : "Reality must be looked in the eye Clinton is a hugely divisive figure including within her own party - and not primarily because she is a woman. There is the clan question. What does it say about the meritocratic credentials of the United States that two of the most favoured candidates for 2016 are closely related to recent presidents? Neither is to blame but in my book, this alone would be a reason for both Clinton and Bush to be unelectable." Dejevsky continues : "Then there is the Bill question....This should not affect Hillary Clinton’s support – but it will limit her ability to appeal across parties. Nor do US voters need to be dragged all over again through the intricacies of the (loss-making) Whitewater land deal, the involvement of the Rose Law firm, or the suicide of a close aide, but they probably will. And if these Bill questions are not enough, there is another where she really does have some explaining to do : it concerns her involvement with his post-presidential charitable fundraising at a time when she held public office." The left-leaning journalist then takes direct aim at Hillary : "Clinton’s chief liability, though, is the baggage she carries of her own....that private email account...and her handling of the murder of the US ambassador in Libya. The latter suggests a reluctance to accept ultimate responsibility, which is not a good recommendation for a president. The former suggests confusion about where to draw the line between the personal and the professional..." Dejevsky's conclusion? : " is now time to call it quits, while the decision is still hers to make. She can cite personal reasons (concerns about her husband’s health, for instance), or the hope that she has left time for another woman – the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren – to run." ~~~~~ Dear readers, the Dejevsky analysis is pure and goes straight to the point. Perhaps a sociaiist journalist who is a woman is best positioned to give Hillary Clinton advice that she might eventually listen to and follow. Hillary's high-handed non-answer this weekend to a reporter asking if she had erased her private server was to joke about using a dustcloth. But she then added the words that reveal her contempt for the law and her sense that she is above it : “We have turned over the server. They can do whatever they want with the server to figure out what’s there and what’s not there. That’s for the people investigating it to try to figure out." Hillary Clinton is playing a high stakes game with the FBI -- and the FBI seldom loses.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hillary's Email Problems Won't Go Away Soon

The State Department reported to a federal judge Monday that at least 305 of Hillary Clinton’s emails have been flagged as containing potentially classified information. These emails, 5% of the total examined so far, will be sent back to various intelligence agencies to confirm their classified level and determine if any information needs to be redacted before public release. It will take months to screen the 30,000 printed emails Clinton dumped on the State Department for review last December when questions were first raised over her handling of official email communications. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters that of the emails released by the agency since early 2015, 63 of them have been "upgraded in some form" since they were turned over by Clinton. Most of these are at a very low level, what we call confidential," he added. The Intelligence Community Inspector General is among those overseeing the reclassification effort, according to Kirby, who said this reflects "the proper care and scrutiny being applied to this." Kirby also acknowledged that the number of emails relabeled as classified will continue to grow as Clinton's work-related mails are carefully scrutinized by officials : "I have no doubt that as we continue to release these emails over time, you'll see additional upgraded correspondence." Initially, the State Department claimed to be overwhelmed by the number of emails -- until a federal judge told State to speed up its review and roll out the Clinton emails in batches. ~~~~~ The FBI’s recent seizure of Clinton’s private server, and the growing demand for answers from the government, media, courts, and the public, now seems to have encouraged examiners to expedite the screening of the 30,000 emails, 20% of which have now been released. As recently as late July, Clinton said she was "confident" that she "never sent or received any information that was classified at the time." ~~~~~ The scope of the inquiry into who had access to the emails has grown to include top Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, as well as Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, who recently revealed that he kept the emails on a flash drive in his office. Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday he wants answers from Kendall about what security protocols, if any, he followed to keep the information safe and which, if any, security clearances he has that would permit him to handle classified material. In legal terms, there has been no decision about whether Hillary Clinton's email arrangement and handling was a matter of incompetence or a willful effort to break the law -- and under the relevant federal statutes, it may not make much difference. Further, it may be possible to retrieve the 32,000 emails that Clinton erased because she decided they were personal. We now know that Platte River Services, the Denver company entrusted with Clinton’s server after she left the State Department, says it’s “highly likely” that a backup server exists, so all the erased emails would available if the backup server can be found. ~~~~~ It is significant that Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward noted that if you really want to find the emails, you just have to follow the trail. “There are all these emails. Well, they were sent to someone or someone sent them to her,” Woodward said. “So, if things have been erased here, there’s a way to go back to these emails or who received them from Hillary Clinton.” He added that the furor over the Clinton emails “reminds me of the Nixon tapes -- thousands of hours of secretly recorded conversations that Nixon thought were exclusively his.” The comparison to Watergate is appropriate, and that it was Woodward himself who first pointed it out is massively important. ~~~~~ We still don't know what impact this scandal will have on Clinton’s presidential aspirations. The big question is whether Obama's Justice Department would pursue criminal charges against Clinton since it would be an admission that Obama's own administration is at fault. Afterall, Hillary was his Secretary of State for four years. And, Obama was seen with Bill and Hillary at Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend and played golf with Bill -- hardly the actions of a President about to give the green light for a criminal case against Hillary. She has been confident enough to joke about the matter. She told an audience over the weekend, “You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account. I love it. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves." Is she so sure of her position that she can mock the whole affair? Even CNN thought her "joke" was misplaced. This scandal is serious, not just a political inconvenience. It could lead to a criminal indictment, as similar actions did for General David Petraeus -- and we can be sure that Petraeus supporters and Obama critics will be watching for evidence of yet another Obama double standard that gives Hillary Clinton favorable treatment that could lead her to the White House, while General Petraeus was driven out of public service, with his presidential ambitions quashed. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Hillary Clinton is already suffering from the never-ending email revelations. The Denver IT firm that managed her retired server before it was seized by the FBI has never had security clearances. That in itself could be a separate offense. I have the impression that what we now have is a situation in which Clinton and/or her staff have violated criminal statutes. It is now a question of who and how, and whether the FBI can reconstruct sufficient proof for a criminal case - without having the Obama White House interfere on her behalf. The thumb drive her attorney had has not been discussed very much. It will be interesting to learn just what is stored there, or was stored and later erased. Also, there is the fundamental matter of how much responsibility Hillary can fob off on staff -- something she did while First Lady -- since she was Secretary of State and bore ultimate responsibility for document security policy and implementation in her department. There is also the matter of whether her private server was initially configured to US government standards for handling confidential documents and information, including labeling, encryption, review, destruction and archiving. To follow Bob Woodward's comparison, it seems to me that Democrats are now sounding a lot like the GOP in early Watergate days -- strong support through rather illogical analysis and a slight "so what" attitude. With the FBI now in charge of the inquiry, even if Clinton pulls out of the 2016 race, it would not save her from the possibility of being indicted or entering into a plea bargain. Bernie Sanders knows that Hillary is looking over the edge of the precipice and he is taking for himself the mantle of legitimacy. But, if Hillary withdraws, even the Democrats would not go into the 2016 general election with a socialist at the head of their ticket. The candidate would likely be Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren.

Trump's "Connect" with Americans

Donald Trump, leading the GOP field with 25% to the 12% of his nearest rival in the latest Fox News poll, has now released the details of his immigration plan. It gives answers to voter frustration about immigration. He begins with three rock-solid principles, the first of which is a direct quote from Ronald Reagan : (1) A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border. (2) A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced. (3) A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans. Trump's plan is proof of the anger Americans feel about the present "governed vs government" crisis that is so deep that these self-evident principles need to be spelled out and are seen as controversial among Democrat leaders and analysts, and the mainstream media, and even some Republicans. ~~~~~ Trump was interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, covering key 2016 campaign issues. Critics say that while Trump has been good with snappy one-liners that attack both Republicans and Democrats, he has yet to speak with any depth. His immigration plan was step 1 in answering that criticism. His Meet the Press interview was step 2. On the topic of Iran, Trump told Meet the Press that President Obama did "a lousy job" of negotiating the agreement to control Teheran’s nuclear program, including agreeing to a lifting of sanctions. But unlike other GOP presidential candidates, Trump said he isn't sure he would rescind the agreement as one of his first acts as President. Instead, he said, “I’m good at looking at contracts” and might aggressively “police” the agreement to close the loopholes and assure Iran keeps its end of the bargain in scaling back its nuclear capabilities. On ISIS, Trump said he would "pound" the jihadist terrorist group in Syria and Iraq and strip them of their financial resources by taking back control of Iraq oil fields captured by ISIS. He said he would then use some of the new oil money to assist the “Wounded Warriors” and the families of US veterans of the Iraq War. “ISIS is taking over a lot of the oil and certain areas of Iraq....And I said you take away their wealth, that you go and knock the hell out of the oil, take back the oil...which we should have done in the first place.” On Social Security, Trump said he would favor reform of Social Security to assure its long-term financial footing, but “without the cuts.” Concerning Planned Parenthood, Trump said he is disgusted by the highly controversial videos showing Planned Parenthood officials blithely discussing the sale of fetal tissue and body parts. He said he would cut off funding for PP if it continues to perform abortions. But he said he would “have to think about” whether the issue should precipitate another partial government shutdown, as Senator Ted Cruz and other Republican lawmakers are demanding. He described himself as “pro-life” although he said abortions are justified in cases of rape, incest and threats to the life of the mother. Trump also said he would consider the abortion positions of possible Supreme Court nominees. For his foreign policy analysis and insights, Trump said he watches experts on television - like most other Americans. “I watch the shows,” he said. When asked to name some of the experts he actually talks to, Trump mentioned two : John Bolton, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush and retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs. He said Bolton is a “tough cookie and knows what he’s talking about,” while Jacobs “is a good guy.” Then came immigration, the issue that started the Trump charge and continues to support it. Trump reiterated his hard line in dealing with the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, saying that he is prepared to support deporting entire families back to their countries of origin, where they can apply for re-entry. He also promised again to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out of America. He said he would immediately rescind President Obama’s controversial executive orders allowing five million young immigrants and their families to remain in the US without fear of deportation. ~~~~~ Trump came down on the side of Americans on the issues that President Obama has supported in defiance of Americans. For six years, Obama has forced unpopular policies on Americans. He has used lies and misdeeds by unaccountable bureaucrats whom his Attorney General sheltered from the law. His policies have produced six years of zero and weak growth with no real wage improvement, while higher taxes and the cost of Obamacare have increased middle class America's unavoidable expenses. Beginning in Cairo in 2009, Obama has favored America's enemies while abandoning her allies and friends. ~~~~~ The result? The years of the Obama presidency have divided America. Middle class Americans feel marginalized, while Obama champions the problems of gays and transgenders in the military, the marriage of same-gender couples, his perceptions about the shortcomings of US community police forces, and his attention to imprisoned African-Americans. And, while focusing on these unpopular issues, Obama has treated the American majority as if they were his students -- lecturing them and telling them they are accountable for the country’s problems. Obama has suggested that white Christian Americans are racist -- indifferent to the problems of African-Americans and Hispanics. He has told Americans they are unreasonably hostile to Moslems. He has blamed 21st century Americans for the excesses of the Crusades. He has told them that “racism is in our DNA.” ~~~~~ A recent poll shows that 63% of Americans think race relations are worse than a year ago, while 34% think they're better. When Obama took office in 2009, 53% thought race relations were better and 37% thought they were worse. That's a huge change brought about by Obama policies and remarks. America's attitudes about immigration have moved to the right in step with Obama’s insistence that his movement to the left is correct. Last fall, after Obama announced his executive orders granting protection against deportation, a CNN/ORC poll showed 43% of the country “angry” or “displeased” with his proposal, and only 31% “pleased” or “enthusiastic,” while 56% disagreed with Obama using an executive action to change US immigration policy and only 41% favored such a use of executive orders. ~~~~~ Is it any wonder that a new Rasmussen poll shows that 61% of likely voters think the government is not moving in the right direction, while only 29% think it is. At the beginning of Obama’s presidency, the poll was nearly 50-50. The dissatisfaction is about immigration and foreign policy, but also about Common Core, America's infrastructure, the weakened military, unsustainable entitlements programs, a 76,000-page tax code, regulations that halt business growth and jobs, massive cybersecurity breaches and many other issues, including Obama's perceived trashing of the Constitution. ~~~~~ Voters are fed up with their elected leaders, and Donald Trump has responded to that. Republican voters are especially disappointed because in response to Obama’s despised agenda, they elected a GOP Congress, only to see the despised policies continue. Republicans have attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner for not standing up to Obama. But the GOP does not have a veto proof majority that would stop Obama's legislation such as Obamacare in its tracks. And, so many of Obama’s policies are implemented by executive action that Congress can only attack through withholding budgets. For these reasons, Trump's plainspeak and non-politician approach to America's problems resonate deeply. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is far too early to know if Donald Trump's charismatic hold on American voters will last until November 2016. His use of Ronald Reagan's slogan -- “Make America Great Again” -- reminds America that its last great leader was also a Washington outsider who turned America around. Trump makes his points in sweeping patriotic soundbites. He has not yet asked "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" but like Reagan, Trump already knows the answer. America is so much worse off after eight years of Obama that it may take the cold shower wake-up that only Donald Trump can deliver. And, Americans' instincts tell them that the brilliant business mogul has plans ready to kick-start America. That is their great hope and it is Donald Trump's great advantage.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Obama's Indifference to Christian Persecution

Christianity may have become the world’s religion with the greatest number of adherents, but there are still many places where Christians are persecuted, dispossessed, tortured and killed for their faith. Often this is the result of governmental or religious policy. Western media under-report these incidents, fearing to offend cultural sensibilities. As a result, much of the news of Christian persecution must be sought in secular human rights publications and from religious watchdog groups. The Open Doors World Watch in 2011 posted a list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries for Christians : North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Laos. ~~~~~ A lot has changed since then, with the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The future for Christians in Iraq, especially, is not good, according to Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. She says that the actions of ISIS in Iraq and Syria amount to ethnic cleansing as it takes control of towns and cities in Iraq and enforces a militant version of Sharia law. ~~~~~ And Turkey today would be a candidate for the danger list for Christians. Although Turkey is getting a lot of media attention lately, very little attention was given to the 2010 stabbing and decapitation of a Roman Catholic bishop serving as apostolic vicar of Anatolia by an assailant shouting “Allahu Akbar! I have killed the great Satan!” There were fewer than 60 Catholic priests in all of Turkey, yet Bishop Luigi Padovese was the fifth of them to be shot or stabbed in the four years starting with the 2006 murder of Father Andrea Santoro, also by an assailant shouting “Allahu Akbar!” An Armenian journalist and three Protestants working at a Christian publishing house -- one of them German, the other two Turkish converts -- were also killed during the same period. Why does traditionally secular Turkey, with its minuscule Christian community that represents just 0.2% of its population, persecute Christians? These violent acts reflect a popular culture increasingly shaped by Turkish media deliberately promoting hatred of Christians and Jews since the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) under Tayip Erdogan took power in 2002. According to a 2014 survey, 89 % of the Turkish population said that what defines a nation is belonging to a certain religion. Among the 38 countries that participated in the question -- Who believes in the importance of belonging to a specific religion [Islam] in defining the concept of a nation -- Turkey with 89% of its population agreeing, ranked number one in the world. "In some ways, Ankara's policies against Turkey's Christian citizens have added a modern veneer and sophisticated brutality to Ottoman norms and practices," wrote political scientist Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou and historian Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou. In the words of an anonymous Church leader in Turkey fearful for the life of his flock, "Christians in Turkey are an endangered species." ~~~~~ From Egypt, to Syria and Iraq, ancient Christian communities -- among the world's oldest -- are under threat of extinction. "Christians and other minorities are in deep danger and we dare not be silent. The time to speak is now," said Katrina Lantos Swett, chairman of the US Commission on International Freedom. Swett delivered that message in late July at the 6th Annual Coptic Solidarity Conference on persecution in the Middle East, held in Washington, DC. Swett said religious extremism crosses oceans and continents."When Coptic Christians in Egypt are jailed for blasphemy or attacked by extremists for supposedly violating such laws and we are silent, we should not be surprised when attacks commence in the streets of Paris or elsewhere," she said. Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, said," America is in a place to stop the persecution of Christians in numbers never before seen in the world. God has allowed us to be at that place." Middle East analyst and author Raymond Ibrahim blames the media for the lack of response : "We know about this ISIS thing because ISIS wants you to know. And the media, if anything, has responded by giving us a plethora of editorials trying to convince us that what ISIS is doing is not Islamic." Ibrahim said American leaders must speak the truth about the atrocities -- like the beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya. "According to the White House, it was just 21 Egyptians who were randomly killed, not because they're Christians, not because of their faith and so forth," Ibrahim said. US Religious Freedom Ambassador at Large Rabbi David Saperstein is urgently concerned about Iraqi and Syrian Christians. Their numbers have dwindled to a fraction of what they were just 20 years ago. Representative Diane Black, a Republican of Tennessee, agrees with Rabbi Saperstein. Black said people of the United States need to act : "We cannot stand by and watch this. We have a  moral obligation to act in defense of our brothers and sisters abroad." ~~~~~ So, Christian activists in Washington are once again speaking loudly reminding President Barack Obama and the US Congress that something needs to be done quickly to protect these ancient Christian communities from annihilation. ~~~~~ And well they might speak up in America. Fox News reports that near the Mexican border, for several months, 28 Chaldean Christians have had to pray behind the barbed wire fences of San Diego’s Otay Detention Facility. They are captives of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and are facing deportation. A federal judge has already ordered deportation for 12, one a woman who had allegedly been granted asylum in Germany. The Aramaic-speaking descendants of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world came from Iraq and say they only want to practice their faith, free from the threat of ISIS. In Iraq, they only had three choices: convert to Islam, death by the sword or leave the country,” said Mark Arabo, head of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation : “They’ve refused to convert, escaped slavery and death - only to be imprisoned by our broken immigration system. These aren’t people who woke up one day and said, ‘Let me walk to America. They were forced out of their homes because of our inaction in the region. Because of our troop withdrawal. These are people who were sentenced to death because of our lack of involvement. They escaped near-certain death, but not the US court system. The disheartening thing is it seems that our border is open to anyone unless you’re a Christian fleeing genocide." Former Virginia congressman Frank Wolf, who is a a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative that works to protect religious freedom, says : “This administration is fundamentally anti-Christian." While illegal immigrants with criminal records run free on American streets committing crimes that the administration and the mainstream media try to ignore, Christians who want nothing more than the freedom to practice their faith are being detained. Since Obama abandoned Iraq in 2011, leaving it to its jihadist enemies, more than a million Iraqi Christians have been exiled. Only 300,000 remain, and they live in constant fear of displacement, rape, murder and other brutalities at the hands of ISIS. ~~~~~ Dear readers, President Obama is not just indifferent to the plight of the Iraqi and Syrian and Chaldean Christians. His continuing inaction and refusal to recognize the massacres of Christians reveal his anti-Christian position. Instead of helping Christians around the world, he lectures us about the Crusades. That was a thousand years ago and the errors have been corrected. The ISIS massacres are today. It is past time for President to do his duty by letting America save its Christian brothers and sisters from annihilation.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

While the Democrats Falter with Hillary, the GOP Looks to the Future

The key news in Saturday Politics this week is that Hillary Clinton has turned over to the FBI her private email server. Mrs. Clinton's sidden announcement has sown near panic in Democratic leader circles. She gave up not only the server but also a thumb drive containing backup copies of emails that was being held by her lawyer. The question most Democrats are asking is why the former Secretary of State had resisted for months turning over the server only to give it up now. The answer in all probability is that the decision was made very quickly after intelligence community inspectors general revealed that two of a randomly selected group of her emails contained Top Secret material. The mainstream media and Democrat consultants are now arguing for Mrs. Clinton in several directions : **the material was labeled Top Secret after her emails - not clear; **the material was sent to her - irrelevant; **she didn't know the material she emailed was Top Secret - ignorance of the law is no defense but in any case, Clinton was head of the State Departmrnt and was ultimately responsible for control of documents and should have sought expert departmental advice; **the State Department's unclassified email system has been penetrated by Russian hackers, so her use of her home server made no difference - a completely false argument akin to saying that because prisoners occasionally escape, we may as well leave prison doors unlocked; and, **the government marks too many items as Top Secret - if so, change the regulations, but no one can ignore binding regulations they don't like. ~~~~~ And, even if the emails called out by the intelligence community prove innocuous, Clinton will still face questions about whether she set up the private server with the aim of avoiding scrutiny, whether emails she deleted because she said they were personal were actually work-related, and whether she appropriately shielded such emails from possible foreign spies and hackers. Former intelligence officials say it's a certainty that her server was compromised by foreign intelligence services. Former CIA case officer Jason Matthews, an expert in Russian intelligence, has said that unless they were encrypted to US government standards, "...there s a 100% chance that all emails sent and received by her, including all the electronic correspondence stored on her server in her Chappaqua residence, were targeted and collected by the Russian equivalent of NSA." ~~~~~ The email scandal and Hillary Clinton's serious mishandling of damage control, coupled with new polls that suggest Clinton is vulnerable. Already, 57% of voters say Mrs. Clinton is “not honest and trustworthy,” according to the July 28 Quinnipiac poll. Her email disaster will continue to weaken her and give Republicans reasons to attack Clinton's competence and fitness for office. ~~~~~ Iowa poll results reflect Hillary Clinton's problems. First, Donald Trump is solidifying his position as GOP frontrunner.He tops the GOP field in Iowa with 22% and is the candidate seen as best able to handle top issues -- including the economy, illegal immigration and terrorism. He is the candidate most often cited as having the best chance of winning the general election, and, by a wide margin, as the candidate most likely to change the way things work in Washington -- 44% say Trump can do that, and no other candidate hits double-digits. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson follows Trump in overall preference at 14%, bumping Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker down to 9%. Walker is nearly even with several other candidates -- Senator Ted Cruz at 8%, and Carly Fiorina and Governor Huckabee at 7%. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tied at 5% with Senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. The rest of the field stands at 3% or less. ~~~~~ While Republicans are strengthening their position with Iowans, the first CNN/ ORC poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa shows Hillary Clinton firmly in the leadibg, with a 50% to 31% lead over Vermont socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. Vice President Joe Biden, who is now seriously evaluating a run for the presidency but who is not yet a candidate, is in third place with 12%. But, while Mrs. Clinton can beat Bernie Sanders, who nevertheless is drawing much larger crowds than Clinton in Iowa, she cannot beat four Republicans in a general election poll. Ben Carson performs best against Hillary, beating her by four percentage points, 44–40, The other three GOPers who came out ahead of Clinton are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, leading her 44–43, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who leads her 43–42. But, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush trails her by four points, 44–40. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Donald Trump both trail Clinton by three points, 43–40. Since the poll’s margin of error is four points, all these GOP candidates may be beating or close to equaling Hillary Clinton. ~~~~~ Outsider candidates dominate the Republican presidential race -- Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and their leader Donald Trump. It shows just how angry the GOP base is with its elected political leaders. Conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace told The Hill : "This is a paradigm shift, The base of the party is in open revolt. We’re watching a political party dissolve. It’s a civil war and the GOP as it’s constructed may not survive.” But, others think Republican voters will eventually come together around a traditional GOP candidate like Jeb Bush. These analysts believe Trump’s rise is a product of his celebrity and media focus that will finally end. They think that neither Carson nor Fiorina will be able to compete in the fundraising fight, or pull together the political operation to make a serious run. But right now, the anti-establishment wing of the GOP is leading. Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are rising in polls, moving into the top tier of candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire. A Suffolk University poll released this week shows voters in Iowa believe Carson matched Rubio as one of the winners in the first prime-time debate. Fiorina told Breitbart News after the debate : “Change was promised, but people don’t see that change...if congressional leaders can’t produce results, they need to step aside.” These comments put Fiorina with grassroots critics of Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The political class has weaved an imaginary tale that they’re the only ones who can solve our problems,” Ben Carson told CBS this week. “But the fact of the matter is if you take the collective political experience of everyone in Congress, which is just under 9,000 years, you’ll see that it really has not solved our problems.” ~~~~~ Many conservatives believe GOP leaders made too many promises in the 2014 election campaign, when Republicans won an historically large majority in the House and took control of the Senate from the Democrats. Nothing special has happened -- no tax reform or Obamacare repeal or illegal immigrant initiative -- although these are in the pipeline. Even Trump's critics say his popularity is linked not just to his celebrity status, but to the fact that he doesn’t sound like a politician. Texas-based Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak estimates that those in open revolt with the party constitute about a quarter of Republican primary voters. He says the outsiders will have an impact on the race by forcing candidates with establishment appeal to find new ways of addressing the frustration in the base. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the Republican Party represents the aspirations of the majority of today's Americans. Lincoln and Reagan would be the first to agree that we must live in our time and look forward, not backward. The GOP message -- opportunity, personal effort that's not stymied by big government, and love of country and Constitution that reaches out to include everyone -- resonates with today's Americans. The Democrats can only field candidates -- Clinton and Sanders and perhaps Biden -- who look back to FDR's 1930s and LBJ's 1960s, who offer ideas rooted in an American century that no longer exists. The GOP is looking forward with Trump and Fiorina and Carson and Rubio and Cruz and Walker to answer the 21st century's challenges by living in the present and preparing for the future.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kerry, Zarif, the White House and the Iran Deal

Allen B. West is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel who was elected to Congress from the Florida 22nd District in 2010. His district was redrawn before the 2012 election, and he ran in the new 18th District. He was defeated by 2,000 votes, in a vote recount tainted by rampant rumors of fraud, along with fraud allegations in Miami, in the state that clinched Obama's second term as President. But for us today, that is not the topic. ~~~~~ Allen West now has a website -- -- whose editor-in-chief is Michele Hickford. On July 28, 2015, she wrote an article about a longstanding relationship between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Secretary Mohammad Javad Zarif. The article has been rerun many times over the Web and discussed in social media. The article is highly controversial, with conservatives and leftists in clear opposition. In it, she revealed several disturbing details about their relationship. Here they are. ~~~~~ In 2009, the daughter of Secretary Kerry, Dr. Vanessa Bradford Kerry, his younger daughter by his first wife, married an Iranian-American physician named Dr. Brian (Behrooz) Vala Nahed. Brian Nahed is the son of Nooshin and Reza Vala Nahid of Los Angeles. Nahid reportedly has close ties to the Iranian government, but there is almost no information available about him on the Web. Brian’s Persian birth name is “Behrooz Vala Nahid” but it has been shortened and americanized in the media to “Brian Nahed.” At the time of his engagement to Vanessa Kerry, there was rarely any mention of Nahed’s Persian/Iranian ancestry, and even the official wedding announcement in the October 2009 issue of New York Times avoided any reference to Dr. Nahed's birthplace -- although we should note that his professional CV for Massachusetts General Hospital mentions somewhat ambiguously that he was born in New York. This was never mentioned publicly during his Senate confirmation hearings, according to Hickford, "either because Kerry never disclosed it, or because his former colleagues were 'too polite' to bring it up." ~~~~~ This in itself is nothing to lose sleep over. But, Kerry's long-standing relationship with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is another matter. Zarif is the current minister of foreign affairs in the Rouhani administration and he has held various significant diplomatic and cabinet posts since the 1990s. Zarif, from a prominent Iranian family, attended universiry and graduate school in the US and served in the Iranian delegation to the UN. He married an Iranian woman in Iran but they immediately moved to New York where their two chikdren were born. Most importantly, Zarif was Kerry’s chief counterpart in the Iran - P5+1 nuclear deal negotiations. According to the Hickford article, "Secretary Kerry and Zarif first met over a decade ago at a dinner party hosted by George Soros at his Manhattan penthouse." ~~~~~ And if that triangle -- Kerry-Soros-Zarif -- were not enough to make everyone skeptical that Kerry was completely objective in the Iran negotiations, consider this. Hickford reports that the best man at the 2009 wedding of Kerry’s daughter Vanessa and Brian Vala Nahed was Zarif's son, Mehdi. This is a hotly contested matter. The Iranian Foreign Ministry denied last week that Foreign Minister Zarif's son, Mehdi Zarif, attended the Kerry-Nahed wedding, a claim it said is circulating "among right-wing American blogs. Some of the claims suggested the younger Zarif served as best man to Kerry’s bridegroom, Iranian-American physician Brian Vala Nahed." The Foreign Ministry insisted that Mehdi Zarif’s presence was a “sheer lie and ‘news fabrication,' adding that “some media outlets that lack credit [sic] fabricate such news in pursuit of special objectives, including finding more viewer [sic],” the Fars state media outlet said. The Iranian report traced the best-man story back to "one Michele Hickford, a communications strategist and award-winning advertising copywriter. She has held senior marketing positions at Turner Broadcasting and USA Networks and served in Congressman West’s congressional office and as Press Secretary for his 2012 campaign.” Fars reported that former Congressman Allen West cited the report on his website on July 28. Fars explained to its readers that the report was an attempt to tarnish Secretary of State John Kerry’s reputation “as the Republicans and the Israeli lobbies have started massive propaganda to torpedo a recent nuclear deal struck between the six world powers and Iran.” The US State Department labeled the Hickford revelation "false." Vanessa Kerry Nahed tweeted that the couple had "no wedding party," which beggars the question since they must have had witnesses. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the controversy goes on. Most conservative social media comments suggest that Kerry should have recused himself from the negotiations with Iran at the very outset because of his relationship with Zarif, his Iranian counterpart in the P5+1 negotiations. Many serious analysts have called the deal with Iran a dangerous outcome in which Obama and Kerry were badly out-maneuvered and bested by Zarif and Iran. And unfortunately, unless Congress stands firmly on the side of America and its Middle East allies, the world will have to live with the consequences of the Obama-Kerry incompetence and caputulation - or duplicity. But, while there may be questions that remain unanswered about John Kerry's competence and allegiances, there are no unanswered questions as to President Obama's leanings. We need only to keep in mind that Obama’s closest advisor -- called by some the ‘real’ president -- Valerie Jarrett, was born in Shiraz, Iran. We may wonder about John Kerry. But, we can be sure that Iran is getting very good treatment in the Obama White House.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kerry Tries to Tie the Future of the Dollar to the Iran Deal

US Secretary of State John Kerry was on a negative roll yesterday. Not only did he thoroughly exaggerate the power of UN resolutions to keep Iran out of the Middle East terrorism business, Kerry also exaggerated the power of a US rejection of the Iran nuclear deal to torpedo the US dollar as the world's reserve currency. Kerry was speaking at a Reuters Newsmaker event when he warned that if the United States walks away from the nuclear deal with Iran and demands that its allies continue to comply with US sanctions, a loss of confidence in US leadership could threaten the dollar's position as the world's reserve currency. Kerry said : "If we turn around and nix the deal and then tell them, 'You're going to have to obey our rules and sanctions anyway,' that is a recipe, very quickly...for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world." ~~~~~ Kerry is engaged in a no-holds-barred battle to keep Congress from rejecting the deal. Yesterday's vastly overstated assurances by Kerry of the UN's and the P5+1's ability to contain Iran's dissemination of weapons to Middle East terrorist groups was part of his battle to save the Iran deal from congressional rejection. Congress has until September 17 to act. ~~~~~ The Kerry rhetoric around the ability of the US to lead its allies in difficult decision-making and position-holding is troubling. His response to whether a better deal with the Ayatollah’s murderous regime could be possible is a good example of this. Kerry said, “Are you kidding me? The United States is going to start sanctioning our allies and their banks and their businesses because we walked away from a deal? And we’re going to force them to do what we want them to do, even though they agreed to the deal we came to?” ~~~~~ But, even Kerry realized that his warning of a potential loss of US financial and political clout in the aftermath of a rejection of the Iran deal was over the top. He later said this was not something that would happen overnight but that many countries are "chafing" under the present international financial arrangements. He said that US Treasury experts are : "doing a full dive on how this works and what the implications are. But the notion that we can just sort of diss the deal and unilaterally walk away as Congress wants to do will have a profound negative impact on people's sense of American leadership and reliability." He said killing the deal may strengthen efforts over time by Russia, China and other nations to undermine US economic power : “There will be an increase in this notion that there ought to be a different reserve currency because the United States is misbehaving and not in fact, you know, living by the agreements that it negotiates itself,” he said. “So it has broad implications." ~~~~~ The financial community was not impressed with Kerry's reserrve currency warnings. New York-based Boris Schlossberg, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, challenged Kerry's reasoning. He said the dollar’s status could be compromised only if the United States were unable to compete economically on a global scale : “The reality of the situation is that the US dollar hasn’t been this strong in decades. The thought that it could be replaced as a reserve currency is laughable at this point on a geopolitical basis and nothing in the Iran deal even remotely touches upon that issue,” he added. Economists and financial analysts have often conjectured that a competing currency like the Euro or the Chinese yuan will eventually replace the dollar as global trade and financial patterns shift. But the US currency’s position has been largely immune - mostly for lack of any good alternative. ~~~~~ In an hour-long moderated discussion at the Reuters Newsmakers session, Kerry also : (1) said the tone of the Iran debate had taken on a political edge. President Barack Obama last week accused critics of the deal of making common cause with Iranian hardliners who chant “Death to America" and said some had beaten the drum for the Iraq war. "You can squabble maybe with the choice of words," Kerry replied when asked about Obama's comments. He stressed his view that the Iran deal should be argued on its merits. "I think the merits are very, very strong and I think the President does too," he said. (2) said it would be impossible for Iran to create a secret program for developing atomic fuel without the United States being able to detect it under the deal. (3) said the Iranians were open to discussing disputes in the Middle East, where Washington and its allies accuse Teheran of backing proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. "They said to me, 'If we can get this deal done then we're ready to sit down and talk about the regional issues and we may be able to work things in different places,'" Kerry said. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is currently in Lebanon and had already visited Kuwait and Qatar in a bid to reach out, Kerry said. (4) said violations by Iran of an arms embargo or restrictions on its missile program would not force an automatic return or "snapback" of United Nations sanctions under the nuclear deal, although other options would be available. The agreement gives Iran relief from economic sanctions in return for strict limits on a nuclear program that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb. Teheran has long denied seeking a nuclear weapon and has insisted on the right to nuclear technology for peaceful means. Obama has never ruled out military force if negotiations fail, and has said that he and future Presidents would still have that option if Iran quit the agreement. (5) warned about a rejection of the deal leading to the dollar being replaced as the world's reserve currency. ~~~~~ Dear readers, as one Wall Street financial trader put it : Replace the dollar with what!!??" That seems to be a particularly pertinent question since China has devalued its yuan by 3.5% in the last two days -- in an effort to improve its exports that are the backbone of its economy, while at rhe same time strengthening the dollar. Meanwhile, Russia's talk about a market basket reserve currency composed of the ruble and yuan has stopped now that falling worldwide petroleim prices and sanctions levied because of its Ukraine aggression have driven the Russian economy down by as much as 8%. Secretary Kerry really ought to fact check and then stick to his script when he speaks publicly. Right now, Kerry is his own worst enemy when the topic is the Iran deal.