America’s government manages a budget equal to the world’s third largest GDP—a sustained annual outlay of $4 trillion. In charge of this incredible wealth are lying thieves without moral compassion. The . . . → Read More: Jobs, Immigration And The Law
In the fight against terror, applause is now won by solutions that appear drastic and easy–but in the fight against terror this is no time for applause. Trump . . . → Read More: Doesn’t Trump Know He’s An Ally Of Global Terrorists?
I believe jihadists must be forcefully countered. Forcefully does not always mean “with force,” but sometimes it does mean that, and I believe the use of force is an important aspect of countering jihadists now. I have always resisted the use of force, essentially by anyone anywhere. But there are always exceptions to that for me, though rarely, if ever, at the full scale of war.
Not all jihadists are the same, obviously, but a virulent strain has been growing at the fringes of Islam. Even Al Qaeda as we knew it was not as extreme as ISIS or Boko Haram have become. Bin Laden initially fought against the Russians for invading Afghanistan, and he first turned his sights on America because we established military bases in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s most sacred sites. Al Qaeda justified terrorism using convoluted religious arguments, but it did not call for the death of “non-believers” precisely because they were “non-believers.” That is the trajectory the most extreme jihadists are on now. They are seeking a holy war because they see holy war as intrinsically desirable in order to spread their own version of their faith.
It is an ideology/theology that sanctions genocide as a morally justifiable, virtually required, means towards their end. It is an ideology/theology that embraces literal slavery as an institution to practice and spread in the name of God. And they are gaining momentum, territory and adherents. They represent a brutal expansionist force more akin to naked colonialism as it was practiced from the 16th into the early 20th centuries than to more traditional organized Islamist movements such as Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. It is more like an early stage of Germany’s Third Reich, with a potent, virulent belief system that openly justifies the most barbaric acts against those to whom it does not assign basic human rights or dignity on a mass level. Like with hardcore Stalinism, the end will justify any means, and those beliefs are enshrined at the highest level of the movement, openly and proudly. In their version of reality, it is immoral not to act in that way.
That level of moral sanction given to inhuman behavior, that extreme a black-and-white worldview, without inconvenient moral ambiguities clouding the certainty of judgement, can be deceptively potent if not forcefully challenged head on. Continue reading Jihadists Must Be Forcefully Countered
The story of the Jericho Road is well-known to many; a man traveling down the dangerous 17-mile old world passage that climbs between Jericho and Jerusalem; it is winding, steep, remote. Historically known as the Bloody Pass; in the one biblical story from the Gospels, a man is jumped by a gang of marauders and falls injured, unable to help himself. Several men of supposed good will—including a priest—pass him without offering aid. They see him and ignore him. Who knows why? One thing is clear: the victim is not their neighbor.
Not only in the sense of a person who is not of their community or one whose identity is unknown, but also in the sense of ethical action—a willingness to offer a hand to someone in need in times when danger threatens even good intent.
The ethical will which fails or is abandoned has a political and social side. Ethical choices have powerful consequences that quickly grow complicated and cover a broad range of actions. Immediate reflection shows the idea of the neighbor is at the center of our domestic politics. And the idea of the neighbor and ethical action is a paired “who and what” that underscores the immigration crisis that carried tens of thousands of children to our borders, our school lunch programs and the fight against obesity, the school-prison pipeline (middle school children in handcuffs taken out of school), our support for affordable healthcare (ethical actions of costs, coverage and value) and violence against women (perpetrator and societal victim blaming). The answer to “who” identifies the persons and communities, the victims we are ethically tasked to love and help, to take risks ourselves in order to render aid, to challenge the inherent dangers by our actions. As our national resolve weakens or gives in to hate and fear, the list of “who” grows short.
The Jericho Road
Who we see as our neighbor positions us on the political spectrum. It often determines the laws we support and social action we engage in (California communities illegally stopping government buses of immigrants from entering government facilities weren’t met with militarized policing as has been seen in protests elsewhere). Who we see as our neighbor often shapes the attitudes that are the milieu of society and define the bottom line of survival. It determines who we look up to and down on, the level of anger and respect we have for individuals and institutions. It separates us into friends and enemies.
So on the verge of US military engagement, as the world is rife with hot spots, as US domestic officials’ and pundits’ sound bites call, without clear specifics, for Presidential impeachment for high crimes (an echo that also engulfs Hillary Clinton’s unannounced run for President!), who is our neighbor? Is the President right to patiently, stubbornly push Iraq to create an inclusive government (making neighbors of distrustful clans) before increasing military aid to resist ISIL? ISIL, the well armed and financed jihadist extremists who control oil production facilities, and at one point held Iraq’s major dam, and whose fighters are only a short drive from Baghdad? Do the beheadings of two Americans change the equation? What should the good neighbor do?
Surprisingly, President Obama foresaw these choices. He wrote about them in the The Audacity of Hope, pointing out the many advantages of coalition building as a pillar of foreign policy and as an answer to global threats (among the advantages: improved skill sets in intelligence gathering, analysis, tactics, strategy, execution, weaponry, sanctions, coordinated isolation, diplomatic dialogue).
President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office after returning to the White House following a trip to Nashua, NH, Feb. 2, 2010
His Nobel Prize acceptance speech later identified the looming threat of intra-national violence (violence within states by non-state insurgencies and movements operating across borders) and the heightened risks to civilians. He foresaw the dramatically increased demand for refugee services. He is well acquainted with how the mass movement of people escaping violence places destabilizing pressure on regional governments and local communities not engaged in conflict.
Right now, more than 50 million people are displaced and living in refugee camps, according to the UNHCR (the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; created in December 1950, the worldwide agency coordinating refugee assistance; it won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1954). President Obama knew the effect disruptions have on generations of children who would be denied education and families denied income. He understood how violence set back peace and prosperity by indirect means felt and experienced by refugees and by their host countries,who are often ill-equipped and under-resourced to receive those fleeing violence. In the President’s world view, our neighbors were any global citizens of good will who sought a concord with the American Promise—prosperity and peace in mutual association.
In all of his writings and speeches about how we help our neighbors, the President has argued for minimum military force over maximum force. He was aware of the paradox of maximum force: in the long run, it often expands the threat it is intended to crush. Continue reading Who Is Our Neighbor?
I usually write analysis. I identify important points left out of the conversation (Ukrainian gas pipelines; the Koch brothers’ shadow governments in the states, race in the halls of power). I explain how these ideas and forces play out and their potential for unexpected turns. I keep open a global eye, especially in finance (recently, Argentina) and military force multipliers (the Navy’s AEGIS destroyer fleet). My slant is more German, the idea that the world has organic, multi-leveled interconnections, rather than English with its view of the sanctity of contracts or the French faith in rationalism.
I think the South wrote the book on how to leverage denial. And that Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has turned denial and fear into a major capital industry to direct politics without creating jobs. AFP just defeated a zoo levy in Columbus, Ohio by calling a slight increase in the zoo levy a “105 percent property tax hike,” calling their effort “education.”
By no means am I an Austrian, the counter flag for conservative ideology about government and markets whose views Paul Krugman describes as cockroach ideas—no matter how many times the ideas are defeated, proven wrong by experience, meticulously deconstructed by theory, they keep crawling back.
I admit I use the I Ching and find dialectical materialism, properly used, produces powerful insights. My thinking revisits the delta—not in Mississippi—but the eight grade algebraic function that calculates and expresses the rate of change, how fast and in what direction change is accelerating or slowing. My 10-year record of writings shows I’m usually a little ahead of the curve.
But today, I am writing head on. As an African-American, I understood the power of emotion and its power to color perspectives—I have witnessed six years of reactions to Barack (and Michele and the children). Frederick Douglass spoke of this emotional power to color and shape discussions in which race was a factor in his time. So did Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, who warned of those who “stand in the most sacred places on earth, and beneath the gaze of the piercing eye of God, the universal Father of all men, and declare that ‘the best possible condition of the Negro is slavery.’”
The emotional distortion at the heart of race and power in a different form is at the unspoken center of the nation’s latest firestorm and to understand it, we must return to Aristotle, to his ideas of equality. Aristotle identified two main forms of equality; the relevant one is based on proportion, which for Aristotle meant looking at distribution. How will the effects of an action be distributed? To whom? When? Why; for what end?
So, can a political party who shut down the entire US government and all of its functions—the certifications that maintain the smooth flow of commerce, its payments to small businesses, its legal protections and inspections, its funds to education, hindering the operation of the national defense—who tried to kill health care and leave the poor and elderly to die in states claiming the sanctity of balance sheets–can this party and a rabid Congress convince a nation the Republic is at Defcon One because of the release of five “high ranking” Taliban from Guantanamo in Cuba, to a year’s vacation in Qatar?
I get the anger. I don’t get the threat. Continue reading The Five
This week, the Congressional testimony of National Security Agency (NSA) General Keith Alexander was brutish and boring. He is wrong in his view of spycraft, its role and service in the cause of national security. He lives and thinks in a world that has disappeared. His voice is an echo from a past season. He is obsessed, which is obvious from first glimpse—no need to tap his phone. Mainly, he is dangerous.
Here’s why. The outlines of Gen. Alexander’s world describe a dark, clandestine place full of murky potential threats. It is marked by passages between shadowy cell leaders who channel money, plan bad acts, and train committed followers with the intent of terrorist actions that will disrupt society, kill civilians, embarrass governments, and emblazon others to take up the cause—a glorified short-sighted excuse that over-amplifies the despicable act of deliberately killing human beings who have brought no harm to those who bring them under attack.
Terrorism has widened the battlefield to every civilian door; it rules nothing out, and the technology of arms enables even small attacks to do great damage and kill innocents. Terrorism crosses national borders. It has no battle plan. Each act is an end in itself. Within the crazy quilt of random forces that constitutes terrorism, the NSA has gone into a frenzy of tapping phone calls, building high-tech platforms that are listening posts for personal e-mails to the personal smartphones of the heads of state. No wonder there was insistence that President Obama surrender his Blackberry in 2009. (Dear NSA: Can we get some intra-governmental cooperation to fix the healthcare.gov website?)
General Alexander’s view is that of the Cold War warrior. Serpentine, byzantine subroutines fill his thinking. He who was programmed to take every inch of territory, believes he can cover every global binary byte.
Please, pull the plug. His own actions are taking the nation down. He is playing the terrorist game, and losing badly, ugly; without knowing he is an enemy of what he seeks to defend.
True, terrorism changed the threat vectors and was a new development in the agenda of national security, but it demands a different response.
Terrorism is not only a different style of attack, it also takes place in a very different global environment than the one described when the superpowers dominated the Cold War. Successful espionage doesn’t just foil the threat. It has to work the environment in which the threat is conceived. In the Cold War, that was an environment made of satellite regions. Western and Eastern Europe divided neatly into military clusters dominated by twin superpowers with traditional arms of security: tanks, troops, planes, missiles, superior numbers, going toe to toe.
What changed was the rapid and unexpected economic growth of regions in Asia outside of Europe, regions that exploited the differences of the superpowers, who played an important game of small ball, acting as proxies, but loyal only to their own interests—which were being stifled even as they were being recruited and supplied with arms as paramilitary proxies. Without a growing society or economic development, a warped sense of religion provided the substitute purpose for power to be channeled into killing.
It was an easy model and attractive financially: the superpowers funded and enabled conflicts in the Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe; other insurgencies broke out throughout Asia and in Latin America, each developing public and, more importantly, private sources of funding and arms that soon became a regular bazaar. In Afghanistan, the US has delivered millions in suitcases. In Iran, it was on shrink-wrapped pallets.
Even before the increase in funding, this shadow world crossed national borders and began to attack targets in Europe, in single actions lead by European radicals. The attack on the 1972 Munich Olympics became a terrorist signature. (A smaller bombing attack occurred at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, carried out by American white supremacist Eric Robert Randolph.)
Protest had shifted to terrorism, through the use of weapons of destruction—and through silent, secret financial support that was faceless, nearly invisible, and massive. The terrorist strike on 9/11 against major US targets facilitated a high-tech US response, along with US boots stomping around the globe.
But while the threat level had advanced, and the technology had advanced (on both sides), the thinking of US officials had not advanced. The profiles and strategy were not keeping up with a changed world. The main change was economic; security no longer faced national threats. Invasion, with some exceptions, was out. Occupation was out. Bank transfers, airline tickets, apartment rentals, key personnel, from couriers to drivers, were in.
As the NSA was listening to the heads of state in Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, consider the track record of British bank HSBC, fined $1.2 billion late last year. According to the New York Times:
The global bank HSBC has been used by Mexican drug cartels looking to get cash back into the United States, by Saudi Arabian banks that needed access to dollars despite their terrorist ties and by Iranians who wanted to circumvent United States sanctions, a Senate report says. The 335-page report released Monday also says that executives at HSBC and regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ignored warning signs and failed to stop the illegal behavior at many points between 2001 and 2010. In one case, an HSBC executive successfully argued that the bank should resume business with a Saudi Arabian bank, Al Rajhi Bank, despite the fact that Al Rajhi’s founder had been an early benefactor of Al Qaeda. HSBC’s American branch ended up supplying a billion dollars to the bank.
And the Times went on:
An independent audit, paid for by HSBC, found that the bank facilitated 25,000 questionable payments involving Iran between 2001 and 2007. In some cases, HSBC executives counseled Iranian financial institutions on how to evade the filters of American regulators, the report says. The bank is accused of shipping $7 billion in cash from Mexico to the United States in 2007 and 2008 despite several warnings that the money was coming from cartels that needed a way to return their profits to the United States.
HSBC’s global money laundering was estimated to exceed $60 trillion! That’s four times the current American GDP!
Think for a minute: if you wanted to know about the hidden agendas and dangerous intentions of American powers, would you tap the phones at the White House or the Koch private suite? Speaker Boehner’s office—or Jim DeMint’s Heritage office? Maybe Asian casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s cell phone, to see what China might be up to?
If you want to know the hidden agendas and dangerous intentions of global terrorists, would you tap the private cell phones of the German head of state (and 34 others!) or tap into global bank records?
Bank records give you the whole basket all at once—drug cartels, insurgents, terrorists, even politicians taking payoffs. Isn’t that more valuable than knowing what the cook plans for dinner? Continue reading Gen. Alexander’s Failed Cold War Spy Tactics
With the House and Senate now shuttered until September, anyone seeking a quick fix of foolishness this week will have to look beyond the Beltway. Ames, Iowa would be an ideal place to start.
On Saturday, Ames hosts the second annual “FAMiLY LEADERSHIP SUMMIT,” where you’ll be able to hear a variety of speakers each “address a ‘singular’ and ‘major’ threat to America and to America’s families, along with the opportunity for leadership solutions to these threats,” and maybe even find out why “The FAMilY LEADER” organization exempted the “i” from their all-caps name. For a mere $49, you can savor speakers such as washed-up actor Stephen Baldwin, washed-up politican Rick Santorum, and tufted pink windbag Donald J. Trump, and your boxed lunch is included. I have no inside info, but I’m guessing that the “singular” and “major” threats to America will include minorities, gay people, SNAP recipients, Girl Scouts and Democrats.
If that shindig seems insufficiently compelling, you might consider Tuesday’s fundraiser for New Hampshire Republicans in Wolfeboro, headlined by someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently has a summer home there. It seems not all fools and their money are soon parted; as of this writing, there are still $1,500 VIP tix available.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns has just wrapped up another Cairo trip after discussions with various Egyptian politicians and interest groups, and conjoined twits Lindsey Graham and John McCain are likely to head there this week at the behest of the Obama Administration. If their efforts falter, I hope the President sees fit to send reinforcements, like maybe the other 44 members of the Senate Republican Conference. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 8/5/13
Increasingly pitiful Republican efforts to make a scandal – some scandal, any scandal – stick to the Obama Administration continue this week. Last Thursday, the chairs of the five House committees wasting time and public money on the Benghazi witch hunt got together to compare notes, pat each other on the back, and sing “We Shall Overcome.”
Thomas Pickering, who co-chaired the independent review of the Benghazi consulate attack, has already indicated willingness to testify publicly before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, but committee chair Darrell Issa went ahead and subpoenaed Pickering last Friday to compel a closed-door deposition this week. Transparency truly has no greater friend than Congressman Issa.
It’s not as if Congressional Republicans would otherwise be, you know, governing or anything, but when even Newt Gingrich is counseling them not to jump sharks, you know that a whole lot of sharks have been jumped.
Speaking of futility, this week the House may consider HR 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, intended to expedite construction of the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline by declaring Executive Branch approval unnecessary.
Thursday, the President will give a speech on security and terrorism at Washington’s National Defense University – school motto: “Did you hear that?” – and will touch on two subjects, Guantanamo and drones, on which he has drawn at least as much flak from liberals as from conservatives. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 5/20/13
ONE: Scumhog Millionaire et al.
Donald Trump wrapped up his latest and most Rococo exercise in crass, self-aggrandizing buffoonery on Monday with the altogether unsurprising announcement that he has decided not to vie for the GOP Presidential nomination after all.
Trump used the opportunity both to pat himself vigorously on the back and to indulge in some rank untruths, all of which was also altogether unsurprising:
“This decision does not come easily or without regret, especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country.”
What Trump should have said is “ranking down there with ditch water,” since his Icarus-like fall from political favor has been swift, despite most Republican voters being unable to distinguish Shineola from, let’s say, um, Santorum:
Trump’s support for the Republican nomination fell from 26 percent in April to just eight percent in early May in surveys done by Public Policy Polling.
The announcement came hot on the heels of Mike Huckabee’s admission a couple of days earlier that he doesn’t particularly feel like getting his ass kicked by Barack Obama next year either:
“All the factors say go, but my heart says no.”
Trump was quick to offer up this ludicrous tidbit of congratulation and commentary on the Huckabee announcement:
“Mike Huckabee is not going to be running for president. This might be considered by some people, not necessarily me, bad news because he is a terrific guy — and frankly I think he would be a terrific president. But a lot of people are very happy that he will not be running, especially other candidates. So, Mike, enjoy the show. Your ratings are terrific. You’re making a lot of money. You’re building a beautiful house in Florida. Good luck.”
Now, you might be thinking at this point that the race for the Republican nomination just got a little more rational. And you would be dead wrong:
Rep. Michele Bachmann said Tuesday she’s close to deciding whether to jump into the 2012 presidential race, and she suggested that Mike Huckabee’s and Donald Trump’s exits from the field make it more likely she’ll get in.
Huckabee’s and Trump’s decisions have “changed the grass roots and what they’re looking for,” the Minnesota congresswoman said on Fox News Channel on Tuesday. “Our phones have been ringing off the hook, our Facebook has been lit up, our donations are pouring in. People are saying ‘Michele jump in, we want you to run.’’
Bachmann has decided to utilize a two-tier approach to campaign fundraising:
… asking supporters to choose to donate small amounts if they want her to stay in the House, or larger amounts if they want her to pursue the presidency.
No word yet on how big a donation is required if one simply wants her to shut up and disappear, but I have my checkbook handy. Continue reading Take Five (Who’da Thunk It edition)
” … you know, there’s kind of this self-appointed appointment to keep — Gitmo open all these years, the three years that President Obama has been trying to close it.
Well, I think it is — . . . → Read More: TSW #9