Wednesday, April 29, 2015


I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man's problem just to avoid violence. — Malcolm X
One hot day back in 1963, I was cooling off in the reflecting pool while MLK delivered his "I have a dream" speech.  Even then, though, I doubted that non-violent protest would accomplish much.  I still suspect that the urban riots of the later sixties accomplished more for black civil rights than the interminable choruses of "We Shall Overcome."  Riots draw more attention than parades.

It seems that the Baltimore rioters are mostly high school boys, and high school boys are temperamentally inclined to be assholes.  Nevertheless, nobody should doubt that some real, well-justified rage is at the root of the disturbances.  The likelihood that a black, Baltimore high school boy has been harassed by cops has to be close to 100%.  Yes, some of those high school boys probably joined in "just for fun," but "just for fun" just might be why the Baltimore cops did whatever they did to kill  Freddie Gray.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Drone Strikes

Americans approve of drone warfare by about three to one, for obvious reasons.  Drones let us kill the "bad guys" without risking any "good guys" — except when we don't.  Killing a couple of hostages turned out to be a bit embarrassing for the Obama administration.  Suddenly, people are paying attention again.

Apparently some "faulty intelligence" was to blame.  Whoops.  Mind you, the CIA is loathe to admit fault.  According to the CIA, "collateral damage" occurs less than one per cent of the time.  NGOs with personnel in places like Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan beg to differ, as do most governments of targeted areas.  (Granted, the Pakistanis have been quietly cooperating while noisily complaining, and one of things the CIA really liked about former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi of Yemen was that he could be counted on to keep his mouth shut.)

The recent "whoops" is unlikely to change any attitudes among the American people, so the politics of drone warfare remains positive for Obama.  It also won't make any difference to the prospective civilian casualties living under the drone flights.  They'll go right on hating our guts.

Anyway, there may me some rethinking of "signature strikes," where the CIA looks for "patterns" that "indicate" bad guy activity, and wipe out the bad guys without actually knowing who they are.  Maybe the Obamites will decide that warfare by assassination works better when you know who you're killing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Black unlike me

I'm not black.  I don't have a clue how it feels to be a black person in this world, but I know enough to say that not being black is a distinct advantage.

I'm a lot less likely to be stopped, harassed, arrested, or killed by cops than I would be if I were a black man.  I'm a lot less likely to go to jail, but if I do, it will be after copping a much better plea than I could get if I were black.  From what I've read, heard, and seen, black cops and judges discriminate against blacks pretty much as egregiously as white cops and judges do, so just bringing more blacks into the legal apparatus won't do the trick.

What will do the trick?  Beats me.

In case you hadn't noticed, hardly anybody in the USofA gives much thought to anything that happens in Africa.  Most of the people drowning in the Mediterranean lately have been black, and the vast numbers of fatalities, while noted in the media, are not attracting a hell of a lot of hand wringing in the United States.  Most white Europeans support letting them die, to discourage more from making the attempt.  (Yes, there are plenty of Syrians and other non-blacks going down as well, but those people are, well, rather dusky, you know, and frequently Muslim.)

I try to put myself in the place of a Somali, a Nigerian, a Malian, or whatnot, but I'm afraid imagining their lives doesn't come easily.  It's a little easier imagining being a black man in the United States, but I still don't think I've "got" it.  If you're white too, you probably have the same difficulty.

I don't know what might be done, and I don't know what I, personally, can do beyond sending letters to politicians and money to relevant charities.  It's not much, but it seems to be the best I can manage, given my circumstances.  Still, there ought to be more.


Thursday, April 16, 2015


Is Hillary a real person?  Sure.  Everybody's a real person.  Is she the kind of person I'd want to support for President of the USofA?  Not really, but if she ever comes out with some concrete policy positions, I just might feel better or worse about her.  Right now, I'm with Bill DeBlasio, waiting to see if she might (ahem) "clarify" what she's thinking.  Her history would have me believe she's more hawkish than I can accept, and a bit more in the pocket of Wall Street than I'd like.  Needless to say, whatever positions she takes for the campaign will not bind her to any particular positions she takes as president, but that's true of anybody in politics.

While it would be nice if Ted Cruz managed to win the Republican nomination since that would more or less guarantee a Democratic victory next year, I'd much prefer somebody who might push Hillary further left.  Given the yahoos who form the Republican base, Rand Paul doesn't seem to have much of a chance, but given his foreign policy positions, I might even consider voting for him over Hillary (or the third-party candidate I usually wind up supporting here in dependably Democratic New York.)  Tell me though: what is libertarian about opposing abortion and same-sex marriage?  And if, by some miracle, he ended up our next president, would he follow through?  Politics as usual.

If the Republican base had any brains, it would nominate Marco Rubio.  He's good looking, articulate, and smart.  Granted, I don't much care for his positions on, well, anything, but if the GOP is looking for a winner, I think he'd be a better bet than Jeb Bush.

Friday, April 10, 2015

How to Sabotage a Nuclear Agreement

An unsubstantiated rumor believed to have started on this blog, today, would have it that Paul Wolfowitz, neoliberal co-architect of the US invasion of Iraq, is currently on loan from the Jeb Bush presidential campaign to Mohammed bin Salman, de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia (see post of April 4, below.)  If true, a Wolfowitz influence would go a long way towards explaining why Saudi Arabia has invaded Yemen to restore the "democratically elected" Hadi administration to power.

First, a word on that "democratic" election.  Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi ran unopposed, in an election boycotted both by the Houthis and Yemen's southern secessionists.  His previous experience was as vice-president to the "democratically elected" Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced to resign by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which consists of Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf.  Saleh and his loyalists now are allied with the Houthis.

In what looks most like a barefaced attempt to sabotage the agreement between Iran and its six negotiating partners announced last week, the USofA announced it would be supporting the Saudi invasion of Yemen.  (Note: Saudi Arabia is the number one armaments importer in the world, buys most of its weapons from the United States, certainly would not need any extra help if bin Salman were competent, and is unlikely to profit from whatever help is forthcoming.)

Why did Obama take exactly the wrong step at exactly the wrong time?  Did he intend to sabotage the proposed agreement by backing the Saudis and letting Kerry strongly suggest that the Houthis are Iranian puppets?  Was the intent to back out of the nuclear arms agreement while forcing Iran to take the blame?  Did he go out of his way to provoke the Grand Ayatollah?

That's how it looks to me — and I have no difficulty imagining Bibi Netanyahu, John Boehner, and all Congressional sucklers at the AIPAC teat (of both parties) sitting back with smug smiles on their faces.  Maybe there's something more subtle going on, but if so, it's too subtle for me.  What next?

Saturday, April 4, 2015


If the agreement with Iran is a genuine step towards normalization of relations, all of us should hope the process proceeds apace.  Iran is not the bogey-man, it is a modern state no more in the thrall of religious power bases than Saudi Arabia, and not all that much worse than the USofA.  The more diplomacy becomes possible in this screwed-up world, the less likely ordinary human beings trapped in conflict areas are to suffer.

In my last post, I proclaimed that it was "all about oil."  Maybe I'll walk that back a little, and leave a little space for testosterone.  It looks like King Salman might not be ruling Saudi Arabia*, given that he's vested most of his power in his son, Mohammed bin Salman — a thirty-year-old spared the "softening" influences of any European education.  He's the one who sent the warplanes off to Yemen, and has been saber-rattling about ground forces.  Yes, he wants us to know he's tough.

Another possible victim of testosterone is Bibi Netanyahu, albeit the testosterone may be more that of young settlers and Hasidim than his own.  As evidenced in the run-op to the recent election, Likud stays in power by tapping into fear.  Is Israel justified in fearing the Islamic world, especially Iran?  Maybe, but the fear is overblown.  As I've mentioned in the past, I'm certain that it would make no difference if Iran had a nuke, because it wouldn't be used.  The last estimate I read gives Israel over two-hundred nuclear warheads, mostly based on submarines.  Nobody is going to nuke Israel.

Frankly, it wouldn't hurt to "normalize" our relationship with Israel.  For many years, Israel has been America's spoiled child, accustomed to getting its way no matter what the consequences for we doting parents.  It's time for a little tough love.

*Right after he ascended to the throne, there was talk about Salman being in the early stages of dementia, but the talkers got their mouths zipped with all due dispatch.