Monday, June 29, 2015


Hey!  What's happening in Ukraine, which has been out of the news for a week or so?  Answer: nothing good.  The alleged "cease-fire," you may recall, never even started, and the people of eastern Ukraine still are suffering.

The root of the Ukraine problem was the needless and provocative expansion of NATO into the former Soviet sphere of influence.  What was the point?  Well, it seems likely that western capital, seeking new markets, was hesitant to move into eastern Europe without its private army coming along.  A NATO commitment to the former Soviet republics, no doubt, improved the "business climate."  Ukraine under Yanukovych was looking eastward, and it's hard to believe that the Maidan "revolution" (coup) arose spontaneously.

Granted, the Yanukovych government in Ukraine was thoroughly corrupt — but there's not much evidence that the Poroschenko government is noticeably better.  In the meanwhile, the Ukrainian conflict has provided NATO (read USofA) with ample justification for locating tanks, aircraft, and other weapons in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.  It is understandable that the Baltic states feel threatened by Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, but it also is understandable that the Russians feel threatened by the plan to locate NATO missile batteries in Poland.  Are the missiles "purely defensive" (and aimed at Iran), as advertised?  (Can you kill a man with a deer rifle, even though he's not a deer?)

Why would anybody want to be president of the USofA these days?  Socrates probably was right when he posited that anybody who actually wants power shouldn't have it.  Whoever we wind up with, though, will be faced with a world of trouble, in large part created by his or her predecessors.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Catching up

Stuff has been happening, and I've been either too busy or too lazy to blog: hence, some quickies.

Domestic Terrorism
Speaking of catch-up, yesterday the New York Times caught up with my previous post about the greater terrorist threat in the USofA, albeit citing a new source.  Check it out.

Greece's creditors continue to demand more austerity in exchange for keeping Greece out of default.  Accepting such demands will exacerbate Greece's already drastic economic problems.  Do the creditors really continue to believe in austerity, or are they trying to monkey-wrench the Syriza government?  The latter seems increasingly likely.

Racist Symbology
Symbols are important in the context of human psychology, so it is not surprising that racist Southerners cling to their Confederate banners, statues of John C. Calhoun, and similar bric-a-brac.  Also, it is not surprising that most black Americans want to see the last of such gewgaws.  Still, the First Amendment protects even the most hateful expression, so cowardly Republicans saying "the states should work it out on their own" unwittingly have a point.  (On the other hand, Confederate symbols represent not only racism, but treason against the government of the USofA.  Are the "Sons of the Confederacy" really endorsing treason?)
(Tweet: - Replace with WHITE flag! They DID surrender! Hooray for and !)

Well, the Supremes said we still can have it, and it's better than nothing — but we still must do better.  I don't see any opportunity for a real national health insurance system at any time in the near future, but then I would have said the same, not that many years ago, about...

Same Sex Marriage
Congratulations to the LGBT community!  Granted, the "T"s still need a lot more public acceptance, but the right to marry won't be one of their problems now.

Legal Insanity
Let's face it — none of us can claim to be a paragon of "mental health."  James Holmes is nuts, and so is Dylann Roof, and the same is or was true of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, Nidal Malik Hasan, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Adam Lanza, Josef Stalin, Idi Amin, and a bunch of other mass murderers.  Just the same, you can't convince me that any of them were unaware that what they were doing was wrong.  I don't approve of the death penalty, but just the same, a person has to be totally delusional before he meets the criteria for legal insanity, and that's as it should be.  Behavior must have consequences.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Terrorism in the USofA

What constitutes a "terrorist" attack?  Does it have to be specifically planned by a particular ideological group or a "state sponsor of terrorism?"  Apparently not.  Nidal Malik Hasan's rampage at Ft. Hood is generally thought of as "lone wolf" terrorism; and even though IS took responsibility for those two inept jerks who tried to attack the Texas cartoon contest, it seems a lot more likely they acted on their own.

To just about everybody but Fox News, it is clear that Dylann Roof's attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was an act of terrorism, inspired, at least in part, by things he found on the internet.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, most of the terror attacks in the USofA are inspired by far-right militias, neo-nazis, and the "sovereign citizen" movement.  Islamists have some catching up to do.

If you can find another 21-year-old who even can find Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) on a map, much less identify with an apartheid government which was overthrown well before he was born, you've found a very unusual 21-year-old.  Yes, Dylann Roof was inspired by good old, down home South Carolin racism, but it seems indisputable that his ideology was shaped by the internet, which is overflowing with racist militia, neo-nazi, and sovereign citizen crap.  The kid is a terrorist — and he's not alone out there.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


I was pleasantly surprised when Democrats in the House blocked Obama's route to fast-track trade negotiation authority for the TPP.  Maybe I needn't have been quite so surprised.  After all, what had he ever done for them?

I've already explained my own reservations with the TPP here, so I won't go into them again.  All I can add at this time is that the more that's emerged from the shroud of secrecy, the less I like it — and I was especially pissed off by Obama's overtly personal attacks on Elizabeth Warren.

Now, we have to wait for Hillary, whose "people" must be desperately measuring and weighing public opinion and the views of her corporate backers, since she rarely seems to have opinions or principles of her own.  If Hillary backs Obama, I expect enough votes will swing to saddle us with all the unpleasant surprises certain to be contained within the terms of the TPP.  After all, many current members of Congress won't want to get on the "wrong side" of the "next president."

Sadly, I suspect she'll back the president, taking union support for granted.  The unions won't have much of a choice if she's running against, say, Scott Walker.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Turkish Elections

Turks will be going to the polls this weekend, in an election that is likely to determine the future of their country, and have major consequences for US foreign relations.  Recip Tayip Erdogan, who has become increasingly Putinesque over the past decade, is hoping to win a 60% majority in Parliament, enabling him to change the Turkish constitution and solidify his power.

As a NATO member, Turkey is a vital participant in US Middle East operations.  The US looks to Turkey as a partner in its struggle against ISIS (aka etc. etc.), but that partnership has not been what the US might have expected before Ergogan's Islamist party came to power.  It well may be that Erdogan feels more comfortable with ISIS across the border than the Kurds, and his participation in the war against ISIS has been sorely lacking.

As Iraq fragments into Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurdish sectors, and the likelihood that the Kurds finally will achieve the Kurdish homeland they have aspired to for at least the past century, Erdogan feels increasingly threatened by the PKK and other Kurdish nationalists in Turkey.  Personally, I believe that the Kurds deserve a homeland, including Kurdish Iraq, Kurdish Syria and, ideally, Kurdish Turkey as well.  It is understandable that the Turks are unwilling to see a significant chunk of their country pulled away to become part of greater Kurdistan, but tacit support for ISIS by the Erdogan government can only help to further exacerbate conflict in the Middle East.

It also is in the best interest of the US for the secularists who led Turkey since the days of Ataturk maintain essential political influence.  If the current election gives Erdogan the ability to aggrandize his increasingly autocratic power, we all are losers.

Great news!  Not only did Erdogan not make his 60%, he lost his parliamentary majority!  Better yet, the biggest gains were by the pro-Kurdish HDP (People's Democratic Party), which made significant outreach to secularists, gays, women, and others not comfortable with Islamism.  Hooray!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Patriot Act

So, the Patriot Act is lapsed.  Sort of.  Minimally.  "Grandfather" clauses permit investigations begun prior to June 1 to continue, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if just a little pre-dating went on while Congress is getting its act together.

It looks like the House's USAFreedom Act (I have no idea what strained title the acronym stands for) is likely to become the new law, and it is an improvement over the old law, albeit imperfect.  There will be some attempts at amendment in the Senate, but since any changes would send the bill back to the House, thereby delaying passage and "threatening our national security" for a while longer, the odds are that no amendments will be approved.  One proposed amendment I rather like would prevent the government from using evidence of crimes unrelated to terrorism from being used in criminal prosecutions.  If a non-terrorist were found, for example, to be engaged in insider trading or selling counterfeit Viagra, that evidence could be suppressed in the defendant's criminal trial.  (Even if the bill is amended, though, that particular amendment is dead in the water.)

Personally, I don't see any problem with "roving" wiretaps, with subpeonas targeting specific human beings rather than specific telephone numbers.  I also see no problem with gathering data on "lone wolves," not that any "lone wolves" (Tamerlan Tsarnaev, for example) have been tracked to date.  As far as I can tell, those so-called "lone wolves" are the only real danger at the moment, and more of them arise from the homegrown "Patriot" and "Christian Identity" movements than from Islamists.