Archive | January, 2020

201. Current Issues, Briefly #7

20 Jan

This is the 7th of a series of blogs with brief discussions of current issues. The material is based on my Tweets (@RichardLeeWB), unpublished thoughts, and descriptions of various publications that I feel are valuable and worth emphasizing.

I just listened to Alan Dershowitz, stating that “abuse of power” is not a high crime. His extensive research trying to understand the thoughts of early leaders is really pointless, and not a justification for this confusion of issues. His problem is that he does not recognize different levels of abuse. Trump’s abuse was very serious, involving elections, delayed military support, and making Ukraine more vulnerable to Russia. Ukraine is like a buffer zone for us, limiting Russian expansion. It is frightening to think that Trump aids in Russian efforts to dominate.

.   Dershowitz Fails to Recognize Different Levels of Abuse-of-power

Famous attorney Alan Dershowitz says that Trump is King, in fact, even more powerful. Well, if Trump is King, then Dershowitz is the court jester. Trumpism is like a disease that infects everyone near him. Star Ken Starr is also participating.

The NY Times just endorsed Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. For many years I favored Warren, but recently her arguments with Bernie were a little discouraging. For the last year or so, I have been impressed by Klobuchar, who has high intelligence and good judgement.  I also think that Tom Steyer could make a good candidate and president, if elected. Note, any of the Democratic candidates would be a great improvement.  In the end, whoever gets the most public support is probably going to be our best choice for beating Trump. Another four years of him would be a catastrophe for all Americans.

Rachel Kleinfeld in a 2019 TED talk looks at the relation between politicians, gangs, and police; in an effort to understand high murder rates in certain surprising locals. She writes that several major US cities have very high murder rates. For example, in “New Orleans, more people per capita are dying than in war-torn Somalia.” Throughout the world, there are many small areas that have very high murder rates, surpassing those in wars. The ultimate cause for this, is various patterns of corruption. This TED talk is well constructed and fascinating, and the analysis is impressive.

It seems that every human system in existence for some years becomes corrupted. I just read that drug companies are manipulating patents to limit competition and raise prices.  See this December 2019 TED talk by Priti Krishtel.

Don’t be fooled by the RISING stock market. The market rises when investors believe that major corporations will be profitable. Increased corporate profits generally have little or no effect on middle-class wages. Most important: does a full-time salary cover reasonable expenses?  Also, under President Obama, the market was rising at a steady rate and when Trump took office the market simply continued this rise. Obama had major financial problems when he took office, while Trump had the benefit of Obama’s policies.

Imagine a president that encourages and supports scientific methods for improving our lives; rather than growing military, insulting our allies, withdrawing from worthy treaties, and using government for private enrichment. We need a President that works well with scientists and innovators.

Trump is desperate to win in 2020 because when he leaves office, he is very vulnerable. Briefly, the problem is that investigations of criminality will be easier and likely, tax returns will be revealed. Desperation led to the Ukraine extortion, aberrant  military actions, and other mistakes.

A sure sign of a dictator is that he uses government systems to attack his political opponents. Trump and Republicans have had numerous investigations of Hillary Clinton. The latest three-year investigation found nothing. Six Republican Benghazi investigations found nothing. These unethical investigations are not consistent with our traditional American values.

Major World problems are: climate-change and food-supply. Both can be solved with improved laws and methods for ocean fishing and policies. See TED Talks by Johnson & Davis: “Underwater farms vs climate change“.  And, see Savitz: “Save the oceans, feed the world.” National leaders must understand and use science to solve many of our problems, like depletion of fish and acidification of oceans. The same methods for increasing ocean food-supply, also help with global warming.

To Adam Schiff: Dedicated people like you should be proud to receive Trump insults. I would like to see a website that provides a medal for the most vicious Trump abuse. Adam, you are so effective and patriotic that he must attack. Keep up the great work.

Candidate Tom Steyer is becoming a top contender for US President. It is true that he has 1.6 billion and is spending much on his campaign. But that isn’t a negative because he has spent the last 9yrs on worthy causes, like climate-change and health care. Tom Steyer is a good choice.

How many Republican voting citizens have essentially said that domestic factors are great under Trump and the international policies don’t matter much. Well, Trumps disastrous dealing with Iran, which started with withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, brings us close to a major war.

If you like people that really tell it like it is, then Steve Schmidt is your man. Earlier, he was a major Republican strategist. Starting June 2018, he has forcefully denounced the Republican party and Trump, in graphic terms. I also like the honesty in Morning Joe, and others.

Considering all aspects of the Iranian military leader assassination, it seems the dangers somewhat exceed the benefits. First, killing one official does not change government goals or policies. Second, Trump acted alone, ignoring Congress and allies. Third, major retaliation is likely. 
The Iran Nuclear Deal according to those involved, was working properly. But Trump, who is obsessed with winning and proving his superiority, decided to abandon it and impose more powerful sanctions. As a result, military actions are increasing and we are closer to war. Trump should have worked with allies on improving the treaty, rather than abandoning it. One reason for this serious mistake is that Trump’s unethical history requires him to find loyalists rather than competence.  Note that money given to Iran was mostly frozen assets that belonged to them. Some money was interest on a debt.

 

 

 

200. Iran and Trump: Explained

9 Jan

00TrumpTweet-on-Iran5

There are many interpretations regarding our crisis with Iran. This essay outlines the facts and my interpretations.

The original “Iran Nuclear Deal” of 2015 involved the US, UK, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the E. Union. Its only purpose was to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal, a very important goal. Neutral observers all agreed that it was effective. Money given to Iran was simply the release of their frozen funds.

Trump withdrew the US from this deal, alleging that it was very defective. He complained that the deal was generally bad, and did not cover many non-nuclear factors. My view is that Trumps main goal was to negate an Obama accomplishment. Clearly, if Trump wanted to cover other areas, he could have tried to add something to this effective deal. Sad to say, but Trump mostly relies on dramatic threats and sanctions, while reasonable negotiations are rare.

.    .       Trump Rivalry with Obama Makes for Bad Policies.

Trumps plan was to develop a whole new deal that included everything negative that Iran was involved in, and to increase sanctions. The effect of his withdrawal and increased sanctions was to insult the other members of the deal and to cause distrust by Iran and many other nations. This withdrawal and his withdrawal from climate-change agreements has caused general distrust in the US. I want to add that “sanctions” most often are not effective with leaders, but do cause serious harm to the people. Trumps withdrawal and plans have actually caused Iran to break the original deal in several ways and to be more dangerous.

The Trump impeachment and his concern over the 2020 election caused him to do something radical and possibly illegal. He needed a distraction, and a boost from his base, so he decided to assassinate a number-two official of Iran, Major General Soleimani. He probably was advised not to do this, but he wanted something dramatic. Also consider that removing one official will immediately result in a replacement, who will usually do whatever was planned. Killing an official of a nation is much different from killing a leader of a terrorist group, and may violate international law.

Perhaps the effect was more dramatic than he expected. He did what many consider to be an act of war, without any Congressional (for example: gang of 8) discussion or approval. This act of Trump was considered by most to be extreme and ill-advised. Trump and his staff were evasive when asked for details of this decision. They also lied when describing its effects on various populations. Iraqis were also angry, perhaps because some of their people were killed in the raid.

Iran promised serious consequences for this killing of its top general, and Trump promised 52 ways Iran would regret its aggression. So far, both sides have limited their military actions.

Iran attacked two US military units, but cleverly in a safe way, causing no casualties and little damage. This was to satisfy his people and to cool down the conflict. All parties described what happened in a self-serving way.

My conclusion is that Trump decisions have caused considerable distrust in him and in the USA. Internationally, he has failed in his dealing with Iran, climate change, N. Korea, and his relationships with our traditional allies; while aiding Russia. His plans to withdraw troops and promote peace have not worked.

 

 

199. Trumps international Assassination Policy

4 Jan

00Soleimani-General-Iran

Major General Q. Soleimani of Iran was assassinated by order of our President Trump on January 3, 2020. This General was commander of the Quds Force, a division responsible for various operations include clandestine. Our Secretary of State claimed that the General  was plotting  actions “that would have put dozens, if not hundreds of American lives at risk.” Critics state that the consequences, retaliations, of this assassination will be more harmful than the benefits.

The benefits of this action are claimed to be American lives that will be saved. Trump pointed out that General Soleimani “has killed or wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more.” He ordered the death “to stop a war and not to start one.” Our military blamed Soleimani for recent attacks on our bases in Iraq, which resulted in the death of a US contractor and some Iraqi personnel. Also, he was blamed for the attacks by protestors on the US Embassy in Baghdad. The Trump administration provided no details on potential attacks by Iran on our people.

The most important criticism for this assassination is that killing this popular General will elevate the US – Iran conflict, moving us closer to war. Severe retaliations have been threatened. Here are other considerations.

Killing one official does not change a governments goals or policies. There always are others that can take over. An “imminent” Iranian attack would already be planned and could be executed by other military officers.

Trump acted alone, ignoring Congressional leaders, which would usually participate in major decisions. Also, as a general rule, any serious attack would be more acceptable if our allies were consulted in advance. Our role in international conflicts, is always more justified if we work with other nations. Our previous Presidents always worked with others.

The assassination of a government official in a major nation is a serious and unusual act. History tells us that this is only done when an actual established “war” is in effect, or the terrorist is not in government. It is a real break of international tradition, to assassinate foreign leaders; and it makes no sense if you want to do valid negotiations.

I suspect that Trump ordered this radical action, more for his personal benefit than for our country.  So far, the effect is more troops in foreign countries and the disruption of many lives, mostly due to evacuations. More of our soldiers will be exposed to dangers.

 

 

 

 

 

198. The Democratic Presidential Candidates

1 Jan

CandidatesDebatePic3Here are my thoughts about the Democrat candidates for President. I have included all those doing well in the polls and a few others that I think are notable.   The ages shown are as of Election day 2020.  Source for the ages and titles is: Jim Geraghty, National Rev, Feb 1, 2019.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 79, I have always liked Bernie, he is a proven patriot and established progressive. Would make a good president, but is really too old for the stresses. For most of his first term, he would be in his 80′s.  After 80 there can be serious losses of memory and other mental capacity.

Former NY Mayor Mike Bloomberg, 78, a decent and experienced man, but not likely to get enough votes.

Former Vice Pres. Joe Biden, 77. I have always respected Biden, but never thought he had the speaking ability to be a great president. He would not be my first choice, for one thing, he is too old to be optimal. However, if nominated or the best choice for beating Trump, I would certainly support him. He could gather a set of top experts that would help him to do well in office.

Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren, 71. I have followed her career for a long time and know her to be patriotic and a supporter of the people. She really could drain the swamp, which is much worse than most know. I like “Medicare for all,” but she may have pushed this too hard. If elected, she might be able to do more for the middle class, and for our country, than any of the others.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, 69 I was disappointed when he dropped out early. He pushed climate-change programs long before it was so popular. He appears to be a very competent governor and so far, has no negatives. My studies of his record as governor would suggest a good choice.

Democrat Activist Tom Steyer, 63, has $1.6 billion. Around 2011 he started an interest in politics and liberal causes. He launched a group “NextGen America.”  He is a Democrat, and supports progressive positions: climate, immigration, healthcare, and education. Mostly, he was an investor, but for the last eight years, has worked hard for the people. I know of no negatives and he could be a good choice.

Minn. Senator Amy Klobuchar, 60. This lady has a great record of winning elections and speaks exceptionally well. I am impressed by her intelligence and ability to answer difficult questions.  She could be the best President if elected, but may not be the best candidate. I think that some people would say that she does not have a presidential charisma, on-the-other-hand, she wins elections. I would be happy with her election.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, 59, is not likely to be nominated, as of today.

California Senator Kamala Harris, 56, is younger and strong. I think she lost some support because sometimes she did not express herself well. Could be very good in 2024.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, 55. Not well known, but could emerge.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 51. He is strong and has good ideas, but does not seem likely to get enough votes.

Entrepreneur   Andrew Yang, 45has proposed a number of unusual far left plans, such as a “Universal Basic Income” of $1000 per month. He is intelligent and answers questions well, but probably too radical for many voters.

Cal. Congressman Eric Swalwell, 40, dropped out early. He is comparatively young, but has considerable strength, speaking ability and charisma. Could be a choice for Veep, or may be great for the 2024 election. He could develop into a top leader.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 38, makes a great impression because of his high intelligence and great speaking ability. He seems to have a good understanding of the main governmental issues. Could be a great president if elected. For some, however, may not have enough presidential charisma. An asset is his good record in the military. If nominated, I suspect he could do well in debating Trump.

So, who do I think is the best candidate? For a while, it was Eliz Warren. Now what I see is that each of the top contenders has certain compelling elements, and for me it is hard to pick out one. I think I will have to go with whoever gets the most votes in the primaries. Most important, as many others think, is beating Trump.