Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Moderate Allies In The Middle East? An Oxymoron.

First published in DelawareLiberal on 8/26/2014 by ProgressivePopulist

The fruitless search for moderate allies in the middle east is absurd.  I'm an optimist, but this idea is ridiculous.  Moderate nations to create both a political and military front to stop and roll back the ISIL Caliphate?  Syria?  Iran?  They were "enemies" before being considered as future allies.

But there are other potential allies to lead the effort to roll back ISIL because they are terrified of these whacked out warriors; the recent attack by Egypt and the UAE on the Libyan militants gives some hope for some form of coalition that could take on this task.  Diplomacy with ISIL seems a total fantasy.

Add to the 500,000 or so Egyptian and UAE boots on the ground,  if not committed elsewhere, the Saudi's 250,000, Jordan's 100,000 and maybe 20,000 from Kuwait and Qatar and you're talking close to a 100  to 1 advantage over ISIL on the ground.  A number of these countries have both heavy firepower and some air power.  Then you've got a serious advantage if they have the will to win. Iran with their 500,000 active military could seriously sweeten the pot, especially in Iraq and slam dunk at least ISIL containment.   Contained where I don't know for this stateless bunch.

And we're going to have to ask ourselves quite seriously who is  the worst threat to our security; Assad or ISIL ?  The answer is pretty obvious to me.
And, how about Israel?  They've got much more to worry about with ISIL than even currently on their plate with Hamas.  They can add another 175,000 active military plus lots of experience with the IDF.  Maybe it is time to refocus their security priorities and payback for all the military toys we've funded over the years.

But make no mistake here, these are no "moderates" let alone budding democracies.  This includes Israel.  Democracy, sort of, moderate no.  Jordan is creeping toward democracy.   Funding for ISIL is coming from within most of those "allies". Just as it is for Al Qa'ida.  Hell, we trained ISIl in the form of the Yarmouk Brigade in Jordan and armed them.  Some of those arms are now showing up in Iraq !  So are our strategies taught by us to the Iraq Sunni opposition.   Sound familiar?  Afghanistan-Al Qa'ida and the Taliban aided by the U.S. to oppose the Russian occupation?

To have fantasized that we might have sided with Syrian rebels to oppose Assad while siding with Maliki was ridiculous.  That would have generated the ISIL caliphate and headquartered it in Damascus.  To have fantasized that with the obliteration of Bin Laden and the Al Qa'ida central command we were on our way to victory is somewhat dampened by the metastasising of the organization throughout middle east and africa.   At least one survey of opinions of non-Al Qa'ida affiliated jihadist rebels in Syria revealed approval of the 9-11 attacks and the hope for more to come.

The truth seems to be that the goals of both ISIL and Al Qa'ida seem quite similar.   For that matter, the religious goals of the Saudi power structure and the Pakistan military intelligence  network (ISI), though the Saudi's are more geographically ambitious than the ISI who seem focused on the Af/Pak region.   This was revealed in the Wikileaks document dump which included statements to that effect from the U.S. State Department.

Yet, the War on Terror seems focused on Al Qa'ida, not the totality of the Jihadist movement, all focused on the same creed and goals.  In spite of huge increases in the homeland security budget, not to mention NSA and the CIA's  budgets, we seem utterly shocked, just shocked at the emergence of ISIS.

Isn't it time to refocus?   The hanging of an ISIL flag on the fence at the White House, as reported by ABC news should be a bit of a jolt.  I don't think the homeland is facing an invasion by these crazies any time soon but terror strikes are well within the realm of possibility.

Looks like its time to abandon all old assumptions and rethink alliances with new creativity and realism.  No. Not take on this challenge alone or with U.S. military boots on the ground.  There's close to a million active military boots of those already in the region from among the middle east nations with close borders and very much to lose to the Caliphate. Brilliant diplomacy with those most threatened by the Caliphate can provide ample military response to their immediate threat and containment.  Obama is both a very cool head in this terrifying drama and a brilliant thinker, in and out of the box.  He can do this if the war drum bangers don't overwhelm us with fear and disinformation.

If we haven't already, I'm hopeful  Sec. Kerry can pull those most threatened together in some kind of summit.  And perhaps hammer out a deal where, if invited, we provide hardware and strategic advice, providing we can cut deals with each to cut funding for Jihad from within their own ranks.  The Saudi comes to mind especially here. And  in return for funding/military hardware, we negotiate with each for abundant intelligence on ISIL and all Jihadist groups and very strong screening on their end of travelers heading west to help us identify the crazies heading our way.

A cold, steely recognition is needed that we're not dealing with moderates by any stretch.  And recognizing that the military hardware involved may well be used against us by some elements in their midst down the road. And a clear understanding that we're not dealing with totally reliable partners here given the mercurial environment they've had to operate in to survive.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Countless Enemies At Home And Abroad: Democrats Awaken !

First Published in DelawareLiberal on August 20, 2014 by ProgressivePopulist

Do you dread opening your daily newspaper and internet news source each morning like I do?  Ferguson, Wilmington, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and countless other hotbeds of conflict, hate and destruction.  And America is at the center of it all.

We've managed to build a society that is earning us both disappointment and hostility across the continent and the globe.  About the only undisappointed and non-hostile are the very few reaping the very rare but enormous economic benefits from the version of capitalism we are practicing as a nation.  And protecting as a government.

The research I read tells me mainstream people,  foreign and domestic,  look upon America with skepticism and distrust and certainly do not buy the myth of American exceptionalism with the possible exception of those exploited people in this hemisphere whose  local economies pay them  so little they view our minimum wage jobs as a way out of their dire poverty.

The foreign hostility we're experiencing was not created by President Obama.  It is a function of post WWII foreign and economic policies built by multiple generations and bi-partisan consensus.  Decades of economic exploitation and corporate plundering, with military interventions to protect those interests and the repressive foreign regimes we've bought off to support our endeavors are the causes of the ravaging fires in the middle east and immigration crises from the south of our borders.

Our domestic focus on protecting our corporate interests at the expense of addressing the interests of  our mainstream population and resulted in a massive increase in domestic poverty, joblessness and racial conflict.  Where there is no current conflict, there is endemic hopelessness.

But here's where the Democratic Party can make a huge difference.  The Party can be a key vehicle for solutions by departing  from the incrementalism  it has been timidly offering as solutions to problems  requiring much bigger thinking.  Many of the big ideas are marinating in the policy prescriptions of the progressive movement within the Party.

Now is the time for the Party and its candidates to offer reforms on both our domestic and international fronts and start the national discussion.  Virtually no national discussion is currently underway in spite of the very obvious state of crisis our nation is in.   The DNC, our State Party organizations, President Obama and the Congressional Democrats can and should be facilitators of this discussion through neighborhood, internet and national leadership forums and meetings.  It can start with this mid-term election and continue through the 2016 Presidential election.

Here's an outline of some of the agenda as I see it:

Domestic:  Climate policy, racial conflict and reparations, a redefined immigration policy, increasing electoral participation and trust, corporate regulation and discipline, restricting corporate domination of public policy and legislation, consumer rights,  workers rights, full employment, fair wages, rebuilding the commons, fair share taxation, priority economic growth sectors, modernizing  the Constitution, criminal justice.

Foreign: Climate collaboration,  no war policy, re-thinking military facilities,  restraining corporate interference with foreign societies, relationships with oppressive regimes, fair trade, international corporate reform, reforming a dysfunctional U.N., prosecuting state crime and world criminal justice.

I'm hopeful our Delaware DNC delegates and Congressional delegation might agree that patch work solutions are not getting us where we need to be and get on board with ambitious initiatives to reform and revolutionize our declining society.

If the task is perceived as too challenging, then help us retool to retire the myth of American exceptionalism and work to build a smaller, more modest and humble empire.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

People Assaulted By Cops: Thats A Police State

Published in DelawareLiberal on 8/14/2014 By ProgressivePopulist


So, cops with full blown military gear, weapons and vehicles?  Yea,  I know, bought on fire sales by locals from feds surplus.  But really?  Is this what our social order has come to?   Press arrested, peaceful protesters arrested and battered with rubber bullets?  Really ?

Long ago my firm was commissioned to do advertising to recruit minority and women cops for the city of Houston.  I learned a lot from that, including reading about the psychology of those attracted to that field, regardless of race or gender.  Our campaign was almost too successful as we produced "too many" applicants.  Psych. profile....authoritarian, superiority, got off to power over others.  Bullies empowered by a uniform.  Our message was different, more idealistic community builders, but the others came anyway.

I am watching Ferguson, MO with horror.  Yet another black kid gunned down.  The sketchy research says a couple of hundred a year, unarmed.  Even the Cato Institute research says that in 2010 there were 1,575 cases of police brutality, 1/4 of which involved police guns and stun guns, with 247 civilian fatalities.  Mint Press data says such brutality reports account for nearly 24 % of all misconduct reports made public.  The vast majority of these are involving black male citizens.

So what we have there in Ferguson is a full blown war against the people.  Not just the few who looted and damaged property, deserving to be taken off the streets to keep others safe.  But, massive cadres of militarized riot cops against demonstrators and those trying to cover and get the story out.

If you've been in peaceful protests of some scale, you know what I'm talking about.  Cops on very nervous, scared horses trampling protesters; holding onto a tree, I saw a young woman's ankle broken by a charging horse cop.  Cops in riot gear when there was no riot. And a mayor proclaiming "Haliburton's board has a right to meet here", without regard to the people's peaceful speech on the streets below.  Or, protesters with signs  relegated to "protest zones" which were cages, blocks from the political convention center?  Rational?  The "safety" of the convention attendees, of which I was also one as well as a protester.

So, here you have it now in full view, in all its ugliness.  And you may be wondering why Anonymous, the radical hacker group has injected themselves into this Ferguson story with a pledge to help mobilize and empower the people to advocate their right to now have to cower to the "peace officers" in their midst and to impede the communications of the Ferguson police department.

Why these outsiders?  Because the insiders, the local elected officials,  have been proven impotent to stand with the people, demand a full accounting of the events leading up to this latest killing of a kid and administer peaceful resolution to the people's grievances.
Instead, militarized cops are unleashed on the citizens of Ferguson to administer authoritarian brutality.  If this isn't a police state, what then would you call it?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Nukes & Missiles A Defense System? You're Kidding

First Published in DelawareLiberal on August 8, 2014 by ProgressivePopulist


With the middle east aflame, isn't it time to rethink what we in the U.S. have misled ourselves  into believing,  that we've got a Nuclear and Missile defense system?  No, what we have is an aging, rusting Nuclear and Missile offense system.  Specifically, a retaliatory offense system.

We're kidding ourselves to still believe that amateurish government propaganda that somehow these systems are protecting anybody.  They are decrepit killing systems designed to respond to an attack by trying to take out those who took out a bunch of our people.

John Oliver has thoroughly debunked the mythology that we're in good hands with the Defense Department.  The recent revelations about the cheating scandals with the Navy and Air Force officer Missile Corps have done a pretty good job of diminishing any remaining confidence we might have.  And Eric Schlosser's book published in 2011, Command and Control,  should have gotten our attention on the scores of near misses on Nuclear Weapon "accidents".

But frankly, none of this has gotten hardly anyone's attention, most particularly the media.  So, we soldier on with the fantasy that we're protected.  Yea.  Remember diving under your wooden desk in drills in school.  Felt safe, didn't you?  I wasn't all that sharp but I didn't.
You budget hawks ought to be in uprising over the $8 billion or so we spend on the Nuke stockpile maintenance and infrastructure budget annually; 25% for warhead parts replacement and 75% for facilities and staff.  One billion of that is to maintain the production complex.  And we stopped producing in 1989.   But all of this is chump change compared to the $50 billion total U.S. Nuke appropriations budget.

All this for the 7,700  active and inactive warheads we maintain, 1,950 of which are deployed; happily this latter nuke deployment is set to reduce to 1,550 in our agreement with Russia by 2018.  This data is provided by Ploughshares, a peace group.   Speaking of peace groups, remember the huge worldwide anti-nuke demonstrations in the 80's?   I didn't either until reminded.

But all the inventory is not only rusting, is is degrading in potency with major questions about whether there'd still be a big bang should, heaven forbid, they ever be used.  Intentionally.  In the unintentional category, Schlosser's 6 years of research on his book reveals they didn't work either in "mistakes" by the Nuke Corp in documented incidents of  nuke bombs that fell out of the U.S. skies onto U.S. soil in New Mexico, South Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and Georgia, landing happily with just a dull thud.

As for the so called missile defense system, no wonder there are reports of very low morale in the Missile Corp, given that our most likely responses would be to such nuclear armed states as N. Korea, Pakistan or maybe in a long shot, China.  Why?  Because military experts say ICBM's with those destinations would have to survive overflight over Russia.   Some might want to add Russia back on the target list, given their 8,500 nuke arsenal, about half of the nuke armed world inventory of 17,300 warheads.

Apparently the morale problems are reflected in the cheating on officer readiness testing, as this bunch is feeling very insecure about the necessity of their jobs and appreciation for what they do down in those silos.   Questions too are being asked about their command leaders, training and discipline.

Maybe, Delaware congressional delegation, it is time to rethink this stuff after 50 years of pretty much status quo and take a hard look at scaling up Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system for the U.S.  After all, we did fund its development and very successful deployment in the current Gaza conflict.  And while we're at it, maybe give the Palestinians a protective Iron Dome if there's a spare lying around.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Is This What Jesus Would Do?

This blog first appeared in DelawareLiberal on August 4, 2014 by ProgressivePopulist

The CNN Belief Blog ran an article over the weekend about U.S. Archbishops living lives of grandeur in huge, million $ plus estates whilst their flocks struggle to put food on the family table.

It is found here:http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/08/us/american-archbishops-lavish-homes/?sr=fb080214lavishhomes2pInteractiveLink.  This photo, published in the DallasMorningNews blog is one of  a variety of less than modest domiciles lived in by ten Archbishops who apparently did not get the memo on lavish lifestyles from the Pope.

This house is the residence of Archbishop Joseph Myers, Newark, N.J.  According to the report, the original $500,000 house is putting on an $800,000 addition of his weekend/retirement retreat.  The new wing includes an exercise pool, hot tub, 3 fire places and a library.  Yes, that's the Newark, N.J. you're familiar with.

Full disclosure:  I'm either an atheist or agnostic and  a"fallen away" Catholic, depending on mood.  And, I spent a couple of years in the 70's as member of the board of a group called the National Association of Laity attempting, with great futility, to assist in reform of the Catholic Church.  One of our projects was to fly around the country meeting with Bishops, often in some of these residences, persuading them to open up their books to disclose the assets of their diocese to their flocks; we used various techniques devised by allied c.p.a.s and attorney's to motivate those resisting our demands.  It worked because for a brief period, all of the diocesan books were opened and reports published.  Sadly, the local flocks, whom we thought would be really interested in the holdings of the Church, allowed those same books to close after a couple of years.  We were wrong. No one gave a damn.

So, this article intrigued me.  Once again, I don't think anyone gives a damn.