Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Drones: Cowboy Behavior

Iran’s defense minister confirmed that Iran fired on a US drone unmanned aircraft that had entered Iranian airspace. US says it was a routine surveillance mission using international airspace over the Persian Gulf. It was the first time Iranian aircraft fired at an American drone that the US says was protecting American interests. US warned that drone flights will continue. Understanding American drone strikes is difficult, because they are based on uncertain information from dubious sources. How many people have been killed by these unmanned aircraft by the CIA strikes in Yemen and Pakistan? How many are really civilians? How many are children? The Obama administration and the CIA have been secretive about the fast-growing drone program. There are few challenges to the US administration’s description of those killed as “militants”. Are they really terrorist sympathizers? How can they tell from unmanned or even manned planes? Are they victims of American militarism, using weapons indiscriminately without fear of retaliation? There has never been a serious public debate in Congress on the program. Carrying out strikes in secrecy without accountability is dangerous. About once a month, the CIA sends a fax to a general in Pakistan and Afghanistan intelligence, indicating where the US intends to conduct drone strikes. The Pakistanis, who in public oppose the program, don’t respond. The US concludes it has tacit consent to strike with drones. Obama administration officials believe they are on firm legal ground in their drone program, that Pakistan failure to object amounts to a “YES”. Others call the drone program “cowboy behavior”, and unease is widespread except in the US. What if all countries did what the US is doing?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The US and Israel get closer on Iran Policy

Ever since Barack Obama became President of the United States, American relations with Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu have deteriorated over relations with Iran. Netanyahu insists on harsh threatening measures capped by a “red line that must be drawn limiting Iran's ability to enrich uranium thereby limiting Iran from further development of a nuclear weapon.” Pres. Obama and his administration accept the objective of denying Iran a nuclear weapon. They have led the international movement to install economic and diplomatic sanctions to pressure Iran to end its nuclear program. These sanctions have been effective in harming the Iran economy but have not yet persuaded the government in Tehran to suspend its nuclear program. Israel's policy appears to threaten Iran with preemptive military attack. To the contrary, Obama’s policy relies on diplomacy and commercial pressures while maintaining that “all weapons are on the table.” Relevant talks between Obama and Netanyahu have not gone well. Although US policy is strongly supportive of Israel militarily, financially, diplomatically, and commercially, Netanyahu has attempted to change US policy by his lobbying of the US Congress, the Jewish community in the US, and this close relationship with Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president. These tensions are about to change. Obama's diplomatic approach to the Iran crisis is working. The sanctions and policies Obama promotes have devastated the Iranian economy. The value of Iranian currency has plunged, economic woes have led to public anger, street clashes, black-market money changers, marching citizens demanding relief as well as many arrests of demonstrators. The turmoil in Iran has affected Israel’s positions. Netanyahu appears to be shifting hisIran policy toward more sanctions and fewer demands for the threatening “red line.” Most importantly, Obama's emphasis on diplomacy as the best way to modify Iran’s policy appears to be correct. Moreover, Netanyahu now faces political and electoral competition in Israeli’s next election. Obama’s successful policy will discourage Netanyahu from helping directly and indirectly the presidential campaign of his longtime friend, Mitt Romney. In recent speeches, the Israeli leader suggests that any military strike on Iran has been deferred indefinitely and that relations between Obama and Netanyahu are likely to improve.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Obama Will Win in a Landslide

President Barack Obama leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney by significant margins in virtually every political category. Worse for Romney, his campaign lacks the plan and focus to reverse his difficulties. In contrast, Obama’s campaign has made few mistakes while riding the benefits of incumbency. In a lead editorial, the New York Times, September 25, “Why Romney is slipping: By refusing to supply voters with intelligent answers, his campaign is driving them away. “ The prestigious London Economist, reports On September 22, that Romney told a group of rich donors that if his father had really been born Mexican rather than born in Mexico to Mormon exiles in Mexico, he would've had the election sewn up. Romney was quite wrong when he claimed that those not paying US income taxes are receiving “entitlements”, writing off half the electorate as parasitic loaders. Romney joined the radical Muslims in criticizing Obama for the controversial video that sparked riots, death, casualties against US personnel throughout the Middle East, failing to support the US against false accusations. Obama's poll numbers are leading Romney by significant margins nationally as well as in the key big states that elect the most delegates. Only North Carolina keeps Romney competitive. Although the Supreme Court approved legislation allowing virtually unlimited political donations, most of which went to Republicans, this advantage is not helping them as expected. Word-of-mouth and the media and political organization remain decisive factors. His cash is low, Romney is striving to find new large donors. In the New York Times, September 23, 2012, Maureen Dowd: “As a candidate, Mitt Romney is awkward, off- putting and hollow, so bad that if he were at Bain and Company, he would shut himself down.” Among the many fallacies in Mitt Romney's now infamous “47%” speech is that people who pay no income tax will vote for the president no matter what. More than 1/5 of non-filers are elderly, a constituency likely to favor Romney. Most importantly, the housing market continues to gather strength and the stock market is going up as the Federal Reserve pumps $50 billion a month into the economy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Real Reagan Lesson for Romney/Ryan

President Ronald Reagan has become the patron saint of political Republicans, an inspiration and a model for their few glory days since Abraham Lincoln. He has a lesson for the Romney/ Ryan ticket, a lesson that contradicts the low budget and reduced public services advocated by the Republicans. Facing a severe decline in business activity and employment, Reagan horrified his advisors by raising government spending massively, more than his Democratic predecessor did. He stimulated the US economy and led the West in the Cold War. George Gilder, a key Reagan advisor and a Founding Fellow of the Discovery Institute, reminds us that the Reagan tax rate cuts and other pro- enterprise policies added some $17 trillion(yes, trillions) to America's private sector assets, dwarfing all prior deficits in creating 45 million net new jobs at rising wages and salaries. Ultimately the Reagan boom would raise private sector assets by another $60 trillion over 20 years. The Romney/ Ryan ticket is missing a rare opportunity to follow the Reagan spending initiatives to reverse the current crippling trends. Saving Social Security and Medicare is an opportunity for keeping seniors and workers healthy and happy, and in the work force rather than driving them out. However, Romney and Ryan are going in the opposite direction, cutting the federal budget in order to cut taxes and government expenditures. If Romney and Ryan win election and choose to pursue this path in response to pressures from crony capitalists and ideological conservatives, they will not galvanize another Reagan American Century and industrial boom. Strange as it may seem, the real Reagan lesson will be implemented by the Liberal Democratic Obama regime. They know how to implement the Reagan spending policies that followed the Franklin Roosevelt policies to spend large public money to create jobs for most Americans, improving the American infrastructure, often by increasing taxes paid by the wealth of savers, favored governments and crony capitalists. Departing from the Reagan policy is likely to extend the bad times costing Romney/ Ryan the election. The Democrats have a rare opportunity to spend and spend, elect and elect, in the spirit of Ronald Reagan.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Our wars are not a factor at the political conventions

Some voters and foreign-policy experts tried to make the 2012 presidential campaign a referendum on foreign policy. They are failing: they can't get the candidates to focus on Afghanistan, Iran, or the Pentagon budget despite the enormous cost in lives, money and resources. We have accepted a national amnesia about these very controversial wars. The focus on domestic issues has diverted the country and silenced most national security discussions. At the campaign conventions wars are not even worth a mention, especially from the Republicans who ought to critique the Democrats in charge. Both parties seem to suggest that the troops should have been withdrawn years ago but that position seems inconsistent with Obama and Romney strategies. Why not pull out these veterans or justify their presence and danger in these long and inconclusive struggles? Is it worth noting that none of the men on the two tickets has served in this military, breaking an eighty (80) year precedent. And we don't have a military draft that would strentghen the political power of the average soldier. Our willingness to fight wars on many continents carries with it the responsibility to fight only when absolutely necessary and to end the hostilities with the fewest casualties at the earliest time. Four years ago, the Republicans had an almost exclusive hold on the wars and veterans issues. Now, the continuing wars are not even worth a mention or serious discussion as fighting continues. Don’t we care anymore?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why Romney - Ryan Will Fail

In picking Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential nominee, Romney has surrendered the possibilities of expansion of his party into new areas that might deepen its appeal to the non-conservative voters of America. They have their own special interests that must be addressed to expand the Republican vote. However, Ryan does not have a national constituency. To help the Republican ticket, Ryan must develop additional contacts and loyalties but he is limited by his inexperience as a political figure in a small state, without a national reputation, lacking business and financial experience in a time of crisis. Ryan is also without foreign-policy experience, a necessity for the world's prime superpower. Ryan's political biography is also limited. He is never been elected to any office larger than a seat in Congress and even then with less than 70,000 votes. It is noteworthy that it has been difficult to make the jump from Congress to Vice President. The last such winner was John Nance Garner in 1932 and it wasn't because politicians did not try for the office. Selecting a relatively unknown from a minor state must be regarded as an enormous gamble by Romney. There were other candidates available with a longer list of accomplishments, with specific skills and deeper contacts, who would have had more impact on the electoral process than the selection from Wisconsin. While other conservative candidates could have brought more serious credentials, and perhaps a lot more votes, the conservative movement was able to nominate their most conservative candidate hoping for a national conservative sweep to change the fundamental direction of our political system. Ryan is a hardliner whose brand is associated first and foremost with his conservatism. This is a dubious choice for Mr. Romney since Ryan's views, especially on Medicare are not likely to the poll well with the average voter. It is too early to say how the pick of Ryan will play out, but the early reviews on Ryan are only lukewarm. Mr. Ryan is underperforming after the initial surge of enthusiasm for the new candidate. The Obama campaign is not frightened by Ryan or his political skills. To them-the opposition looks weak regardless of how much money they raise. Get ready of the next presidential election. This one is over. The Republicans talk about problems not about serious solutions.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Romney Election Strategy

Presidential possibility Mitt Romney has a 59 point economic plan to implement his vow to crackdown on China's trade policy. What is unusual is that Romney’s business experience has identified him with the Republicans’ free-trade, pro-business wing, yet he has promised to go farther than President Obama in confronting China. Other business leaders warn that his approach could set off a trade war that would damage the United States economy. The political question is whether Romney’s stance can attract enough votes to make him President. Confronting China can play an effective role in winning votes but launching a trade war would hurt the US economy as much as it would hurt China, and the number of American votes changed may not be worth the risk. However, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are preparing to demonstrate to the American people that they know how to exercise the enormous power of United States, unprecedented in human history, with overwhelming components in the military, finance, trade, technology and supported by a stable social and political support system. Americans like to think that they are exceptional among nations, set apart by origin and experience and ideology as the ideal. Are we the “shining city upon a hill” that Ronald Reagan, Mitt Romney and so many other politicians and public leaders have described? Are we “chosen by God to be a model to the world?” This year, for the first time, most Americans did not say yes. Some surveys tell us that most Americans are not that positive, believing that our position in the world has been declining in the past few years, no longer the leading country in the world. We may have overpraised ourselves to assume the right to run the world by the systematic accumulation of exceptional power. Ronald Reagan was the prototype of the presidential cold warrior. In a world terrified of the potential use of nuclear weapons, he challenged the Soviet Union for world hegemony when the USSR was considered to have a decisive military, geographical, technological and political advantage. And he ran his 1980 campaign and direct challenge of the only competing superpower - and changed the balance of power without war, a grand demonstration of his political aptitude and exploitation of rival weakness. Mitt Romney searches for a winning strategy over Barack Obama, a strategy that will rebuild American popular belief in the unique character of its government while proving to the world the right of the US to run the world over all rivals. The US and China have many sources of conflict, some potentially dangerous. If Romney’s campaign is based on reducing China's power, it will gratify America's exceptionalist need to dominate and minimize the possibility of a rival superpower, marginalizing China the way Reagan marginalized the Soviet Union. And he might even win the election affecting world history like Reagan. Points of conflict already exist. The Chinese have warned the US to stay out of their disputes with the independent islands over waterway controls in the South China Sea. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is hanging tough insisting that the US has a basic interest in supporting the claims of various tiny nations in the area. China insists that it has a core interest in the islands similar to its interest in Tibet and Taiwan. The majority of US naval power regularly prowls the area. China's economic might has rolled up to America's doorstep in the Caribbean backed by a flurry of loans, gifts and investments by Chinese banks and companies in a region long dominated by the US. We have 28,500 troops in South Korea. Will Romney keep them there? Romney has accused Obama of being a near supplicant to Beijing, promising to apply sanctions on China for its currency policies on his first day in office. China's Ministry of National Defense criticized US plans to establish a military presence in Australia. China complains that US alliances with China's neighbors is military encirclement. Still, China is not expansionist: it already has its empire. Its policy of non-interference in the affairs of other states constrains what it can do itself. And the Chinese brag that all their troops are on Chinese soil in contrast to the US which has thousands of troops on hundreds of military bases scattered around the world. America's best response should mix military strength with diplomatic subtlety to counter China’s paranoia about being marginalized as was Russia. There must be adequate room and respect for all three powerhouses.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Killing Our Citizens without a Trial

Earlier this year, the Attorney General of the United States delivered an extraordinary public address with the following message: if you are a US citizen, the President of the United States can issue an order to have you killed without review or approval from any other branch of government.

No other president has ever asserted such authority. The Obama administration has already used this authority. On September 30, Anwar Al-Awlaki, a member of Al Qaeda, born in America, was targeted and killed by American drone airplane strike in Yemen.

Neither holder nor the White House justified the killing as ending an “imminent threat” to the United States “where capture is not feasible”. The killing did not follow “the law of war principles” and no evidence was submitted to a judge for judicial review or congressional approval under “due process” as required under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

Despite the gravity of the issue and departure from the Constitution and past precedents - the nation has been virtually silent on the issues involved - except for John E Sununu, a retired US Republican senator from New Hampshire and that faithful defender of the Constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union.

Both are performing heroic acts by alerting the nation to the increasing erosion of constitutional values and ideals that have systematically chiseled away at basic American freedoms for the last ten years.

Where are the political leaders, Democratic or Republican, fighting to protect the fabled American Constitution with the intensity and commitment expended on military adventure in distant corners of the globe? Thank you Senator Sununu for your non-partisan defense of a basic American value.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Somewhere in the catacombs of the Pentagon, a staff of military planners is working on a scheme to perpetuate the military primacy of the United States. The richest country on earth, the leader in military technology, with 900 military bases in 140 countries, has no military rival. The competition has faded, or been defeated in battle, or lacks the resources to compete.

The military supremacy of United States is unprecedented. The unexpended energy encompasses the entire globe seeking more worlds to conquer and militarize. Popular support is overwhelming and the money is available for virtually any weapon or adventure. American Exceptionalism, once based on the religion of the Pilgrim Fathers, is now assigned to American military forces.

We do not always win our small wars against “the barbarians” but we crush the serious competititors for world-wide hegemony making them allies or vassals. Our force of nuclear weapons is the largest (with Russia), certainly the most accurate and reliable. While nine nations have nukes, we are the only nation that has used them in battle and on human beings. All nations factor Hiroshima and Nagasaki in their attitudes about us.

For more than a decade, the United States has been negotiating with North Korea and Iran to persuade or bribe them to eliminate their programs to make nuclear weapons. With all our military power, with all of our financial assets, with all of our allies, we have not been able to persuade by blandishment or threat. Are we trying hard enough? Do their nukes somehow fit into our strategy to minimize potential competition from the only nations capable of challenging the United States?

The US is building an advanced system of missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter Iran’s possible nuclear weapons. The Russians say that the system is operative against their missiles and would give the US an important advantage in a crisis or a war. Basing them so close to the Russian border, would save flight time and perhaps furnish the capacity to strike first.

The US has positioned nukes in South Korea close to the Chinese border and always has nuclear-armed ships in the South China Sea. That deployment gives the US an advantage in a nuclear war where a first strike is an overwhelming advantage.

US policy in North Korea and Iran have failed in their stated objectives to prevent nuclear deployment. But these failures leave American bases on the actual borders of China and Russia that could threaten their security. Does this situation remind the world community of the 1963 Cuban missile crisis when Soviet missiles were placed 20 miles from the US but were forced out under threat of nuclear war ?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pay Your Fair Share of Taxes

by Jerome Grossman & Daniel J Grossman

Fair Share Taxation means that those who benefit the most from the generation of wealth at home and abroad should pay their fair share of the costs and sharing the benefits accruing from the profits of the unparalleled American Empire

The vast gap in income and taxes between the haves and have-nots is no longer a rallying cry to incite anti-capitalist advocates. It has become a mainstream issue debated openly, often with both sides calling for equality.

Absolute inequality or the elimination of inequality will never be a feature of our economy as long as rewards are based on the undoubted significant differences in skills and attitudes that justify differences in rewards. Our capitalist economy assigns special benefits to entrepreneurs and aggressive business behavior often without adequate regulation by the government.

The practical way of balancing the different rewards is to make sure that the basic principle ensures that everyone gets a fair share of our national production, sufficient to cover the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, education and health. This fair share principle should be considered a national right of citizenship apart from inequality or aggressive behavior. It would foster better citizenship and a more placid society. The wealthier would pay higher taxes, not for biblical morality or the search for equality but because they use national and local facilities much more than the average citizen. A significant portion of the cost of our government results from the maintenance of the tools of the wealthy, as well as protection of their assets and opportunities: highways to ship their goods, airports for executive travel, ocean shipping routes, ports for unloading the goods, and protection for their facilities, communications systems, contracts, home and real estate.

Furthermore, our government and our entrepreneurs are entangled in the affairs of virtually every oil-producing country. We have committed our military to assure an even flow of commodities for business and trading. We maintain 900 military bases in 140 countries and enhancing the clout of the thousands of US corporations doing business in those nations

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The GOP Gets a Jump Start

The Republican presidential candidate debates were combative and entertaining, attracting large crowds on site and millions of viewers on television. This was hardly due to the brilliance and ideas of the candidates who were unimpressive in word and deed.

Is this crop of candidates the best that the Republican Party can present to the nation to lead the world's prime superpower? Should we entrust our country to a retired pizza maker, or a barely literate governor of Texas, or a defeated senator from Pennsylvania. Those aspirants do not remind us of historic GOP leaders, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, as well as the other capable candidates nominated but defeated. Has George W. Bush set a new trend of mediocrity?

There is an alternative pool of very capable Republican leaders now running the nation's biggest institutions; Wall Street managers, business executives, university presidents, bankers, Senators, the 1% who actually run the nation. One would hope that the talented leaders of the US capitalist system would be asked or drafted to rescue the US capitalist government with whom they deal daily.

The debates gave the Republicans a temporary monopoly on communication with the electorate. It was their opportunity to present their agendas to the nation without contradiction – and they went first, opening the competition. Of course, no liberal values were offered by the GOP candidates. They had the opportunity to advocate their basic programs without fear of contradiction: smaller government, drastic debt reduction, cuts in governmental social services, large military budgets, worldwide military bases, lower taxes, less regulation of business, etc.

As the first to present programs, to set the tone and agenda of the conflict, the challenger has large advantages in the national debate. The defender must make special efforts at their own expense, just to get their arguments before the public without dramatic and entertaining debates. The Presidents Bully Pulpit is not likely to be as effective in the battle for public attention.

Going first does not always win arguments. But Obama and the Democrats will need to find a way to entertain, to amuse the electorate just to get them to pay attention. It is hard enough to get them to vote, harder to get their attention and response to the big issues. The Republicans have captured public attention at least temporarily. Now the Democrats need to play catch up to reorganize, reactivate and inspire the coalition that gave them the White House.


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