What’s the UN Doing?

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I just learned there’s a “UN mission in Iraq.” Really? What do they do? Why haven’t they stopped ISIS in its tracks, protected the Kurds and rescued the Yazidis? It seems the UN is a shadow of what it could be. And that’s a great pity.

The UN performs an admirable humanitarian service throughout the world. And the organization has an impressive – if overlooked – peacekeeping record. But it is underfunded, under-equipped and under-authorized. Imagine how much safer the world would be if the UN were adequately funded and equipped and given the go-ahead to keep the peace globally.

The US would be relieved of its perceived obligation to intervene in various trouble spots for one thing.

But to many Americans the UN is a threat, not a promise. They fear American sovereignty is in danger. They fear “a one-world government.” They fear “socialism.” FDR must be turning over in his grave.

In the current global environment, America cannot in good conscience avoid becoming entangled in Iraq once again. The horrible situation there is a consequence of reckless American intervention back in the Bush era. Obama is morally obligated to finish what Bush started.

Of course, a far saner solution would be UN police action.

But that option doesn’t seem available. Getting peacekeeping action authorized can be a bureaucratic tangle, and sometimes the missions themselves are sabotaged by misinformed or corrupt diplomats. Because of this, UN failures in places like Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia and Darfur have severely damaged the organization’s credibility.

Obviously, the UN has huge problems. But – like democracy itself – it’s the least fallible option available to the world.

Until a better idea comes along, world leaders would be well advised to set aside their rivalries and ambitions and work together to make the UN all it could be.

Admirably, most Americans feel obligated to do what they can to fill the vacuum created by the UN’s weakness.

I don’t like it, of course. Nobody elected the US to the global peacekeeping role. And shouldn’t the world’s leading democracy want such decisions mae in a democratic manner?

But, on the other hand,  can good people stand idly by and allow evil to prevail when they have the power to prevent it?

You tell me.

Click for more on the UN in Iraq.

Click for more on UN.

 

A Time to Act

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If you’ve been reading these blogs, you know how much I abhor war. I especially loathe war in the Mideast. And war in iraq is about as loathsome as it gets.

But sometimes you don’t really have a choice. America has to jump back into that pit of Hell.

President Obama cannot abandon the Kurds after all they’ve done for America. And after all America has done to Iraq.

He cannot in conscience abandon the  thousands of Yazidis, including women and children, trapped on a barren mountain where temperatures rise to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

ISIS must be stopped. The maniacal militants cannot be allowed to to take Iraq. That would just be the first step in an area-wide conquest.  The United States would sooner or later be in grave danger – this time for real.

Pray that troops on the ground will not be necessary. Pray that the Kurds, a formidable warrior race, and the discredited Iraqi army will get the job done with US air cover and US arms.

But if they don’t, US troops will have to go back – horrible though that might be.

If only America had not meddled in Iraq in the first place….

But regrets are futile.

As the Persian poet Omar Khayyam expressed it many, many years ago:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

It is what it is. And it is heartbreaking.

Click for the story.

 

 

It Makes No Sense

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I’ve been watching the PGA tournament online this morning,  when I should have been reading about world events and writing a blog. But what can I say about the world? What can I say about America? Nothing fresh and original, I’m sure.

I cannot offer any new insights into current events. All that comes to mind are familiar refrains, tired old sayings like: Things are not what they seem… You never know how things will turn out… Never give up … The darkest day is before dawn … Time heals all wounds … This, too, shall pass …

And so on.

I listened to America’s president conduct his press conference yesterday, and I could feel his frustration. Here’s a man who is obviously trying to do his best and getting no respect. The Russians mocked him on his birthday, splashing racist images on the US embassy in Moscow. The Israelis are heaping invective on his graying head as he tries to help them solve their deadly impasse with the Palestinians.

The ebola virus is wreaking havoc in Africa and threatening America, and his best efforts to help the people of Africa cope with that and so many other challenges are all but ignored by the media.

Meanwhile, he is wrestling with a heart-rending immigration crisis and facing the choice (as an ABC reporter put it) between being called an “imperial”  dictator or an ineffectual layabout. He is damned if he acts, damned if he doesn’t.

The House of Representatives, controlled by a bunch of raving maniacs, is suing him for delaying a law they voted 50 times to repeal. And that’s not extreme enough for the Republican base. They want him impeached. For what? Who knows?

His ratings are at an all-time low. Better than the approval level of Congress, but even head lice have a better approval rating than Congress.

The latest polls show Americans hate their government, hate the Democrats, and hate the Republicans even more,

And yet I keep reading that the Republicans could win the Senate and keep the House in November.

Does that make sense?

Nothing makes sense. Not even the PGA tournament.

Who is that guy that looks like Tiger Woods? Why can’t he hit the ball like Tiger Woods? Why can’t he putt like Tiger Woods?

Why am I watching him?

Click to read about Russian insults.

Click for the press conference.

 

Bring Them Home!

The death of Major General Harold J. Greene, who was training America’s Afghan “allies,” vividly illustrates the price of prolonging the occupation of that wretched country.

General Greene (AP photo above) was killed Tuesday by a gunman believed to be an Afghan soldier. More than a dozen other coalition soldiers were wounded, including about eight Americans, in the treacherous attack at a military academy near Kabul.

This is one more example of the pointless danger American troops face because of outdated military strategy.

American troops should have abandoned Afghanistan long ago. I can’t imagine why their departure has been dragged out for so long.

Occupying foreign countries has never been a good idea.  And occupying Afghanistan is one of the worst ideas ever.  (Of course, occupying Iraq was even more misguided.)

Today, the US is fighting terrorism far more effectively by deploying Special Forces wherever and whenever danger is detected. When drones cannot get the job done, small, highly trained groups move in, strike and get out of there.

You can argue about the morality of these strikes, but you cannot deny their efficiency.

Occupying foreign countries is the most unwieldy and expensive way of protecting America from attack. And it has proven to be a vast waste of resources. It requires huge investments that yield no return and exposes American troops to deadly sneak attacks over an extended period.

America does not win friends by occupying their countries. The opposite is true. Occupation  breeds resentment and everlasting hostility.

You might argue that America must have strategically located bases to respond to outbreaks in the world’s hot spots. But in this age of long-range missiles, supersonic aircraft and agile military forces, the value of this strategy is highly questionable.

Furthermore, the world’s hot spots have proliferated to the point where America would need  so many bases that this strategy becomes unfeasible.

Smarter, less cumbersome means of responding to threats have been developed. And America’s military and political leaders would be wise to rely on these new strategies instead of the cumbersome territorial occupation that has caused so much bloodshed and is costing so many billions of dollars.

Click for news story,

Click for more on US strategy.

Click for one account of the new warfare.

 

War on Whites?

When an American congressman asserts that the Democratic Party is waging “a war on whites,” my first impulse is to laugh. Surely, he is kidding?

But no, Alabama representative Mo Brooks is not smiling. And he is not alone. The notion that white Americans are being discriminated against has been around since Reconstruction.

More recently, Civil Rights legislation and Affirmative Action have helped spawn the theory that “Anglo Saxons” are an endangered species in America.

The election of the country’s first black president added fuel to the flames of racial resentment. Pictures of the Obamas on vacation at luxury resorts make some white Americans foam at the mouth.

And some – mostly unskilled – white Americans seethe at the influx of brown Hispanics competing for society’s poorest-paying jobs.

So is the deck stacked against white men? Are minorities and women getting all the breaks? And is the Democratic Party to blame?

Of course not. Indeed, the facts tell a totally different story.

Unemployment among black Americans is still twice as high as among white Americans.  And the situation is almost as bad among Hispanics – despite the fact that Hispanics will often take jobs that other ethnic groups won’t.

And when it comes to household income, Hispanics do even worse than blacks. White Americans have by far the highest household income. And it’s the white male who earns the most.

Women get paid about 70 cents for every dollar men take home from the same job.  Black workers earn about 65 percent and Hispanic workers get 61 percent.

And, no, white males are not necessarily smarter or more skilled. Employers are simply prepared to pay them more.

That’s the way it has always been. It’s a tradition shaped by bygone social conditions.

In past generations, white women stayed home, and employers understood the men were the family’s breadwinners. When war and other societal changes pushed wives into the workplace, they were paid less.

It was much the same in Jamaica. And Canada. When I first went to work, women were mainly secretaries and clerks – unless they were nurses and teachers.

When I went to the Timmins Press in Northern Ontario, back in 1957, there were only two females in the newsroom – the Women’s Editor and the Assistant Women’s Editor. By the time I ended my career in Tampa, Florida, a few years ago, female reporters far outnumbered the men  – and often outperformed us.

Meanwhile, black Americans – black Jamaicans, black workers everywhere – struggled to overcome the legacy of slavery, which had left them far behind the mainstream workforce. Some black individuals rose through the ranks despite this drastic handicap. But too many were unfairly held back.

Hispanics, the latest wave of immigrants to arrive in America, also have to face special – and often unjust - challenges.

Yes, the Democratic Party has tried to level the playing field in America. And there’s still a long way to go.

But white males do not have to accept less so that minorities and women can be treated more fairly.

If the Republican politicians would stop blocking the path to prosperity in their kamikaze assault on the economy, there would be more for all Americans to share. As an Irish politician observed a long time ago, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Click for Mo Brooks’ interview.

Click for more on income inequality.

Click for unemployment rates.

 

You, Too, Canada?

When I was a child, America was a world leader in humanitarian projects. Although the government under both Republicans and Democrats sometimes engaged in questionable escapades, Americans were still perceived as the most generous and well intentioned people in the world.

Today’s America seems to be abandoning this benign posture.

For example, both houses of Congress have overwhelmingly adopted resolutions defending the Israeli onslaught in Gaza, even parroting the Israeli defense that Hamas is using civilians as human shields.

But the refugees blown up in UN shelters could not conceivably be considered human shields. The families blasted into eternity while sleeping in their beds were shielding no one.

As Israel pursues its reign of terror, using American weapons and American financial support, most of the world is recoiling in horror. Several Latin American nations, for example, have called their Israeli ambassadors home in protest.

But, shockingly, Canada has joined America in defending the Israeli massacre. Denouncing the UN for criticizing Israel, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Hamas is entirely to blame for the bloodshed. And neither of Canada’s opposition parties has challenged his position.

I know that pro-Israeli groups exert enormous influence in US politics, and American politicians live in fear of losing their campaign contributions. But Canada has campaign finance limits to prevent elections from being bought and sold.

So what on earth is going on?

I lived in Canada for 20 years and watched that country evolve into one of the world’s most enlightened and progressive societies. But I understand from my Canadian relatives that there has been a recent drift to the right.

The mystery is why.

I know as a fact that powerful “conservatives” organized a massive propaganda crusade in the United States in response to the “liberalism” of the Sixties. And I can see the crusade bearing poisonous fruit after four decades and billions of right-wing dollars.

Is a similar crusade under way in Canada?

Click for the Canadian position.

Click for Britain’s response.

Click for more on the conflict.

Click for more on the Gaza situation.

 

He’s in. Bar the Door!

I once knew a lawyer who – when he was really, really drunk – bragged that he represented the Mafia. He said he helped get hundreds of millions of Mob dollars out of Cuba when Castro took over that country. He might have been just another imaginative blowhard. Or he could have been telling the truth.

The Mob had a lot of money invested in Cuba – nightclubs, casinos and so on – when Batista was in power. The degradation their activities spawned helped trigger the Castro revolution. But I believe the main cause of the upheaval was a class structure in which the elite lived high on the hog and the peasants struggled to survive.

When Castro took over, he wrought bloody revenge on the upper class, not only seizing their property and their bank accounts but also slaughtering perceived “Oppressors.”

My son-in-law Frank was among thousands of little children airlifted to safety in America during that terrible time. He was part of an operation called “Pedro Pan.”

Frank’s parents and siblings also fled Castro’s purge and settled in America.

One of the many thousands of Cubans who found refuge from Castro’s tyranny was Rafael Cruz, the Texas senator’s father. He fled to America as a teenager.

So when I read that the Canadian-born, Cuban-American senator personally intervened to block government aid to the refugee children flooding across the border from Mexico, I am shocked and disgusted.

What kind of man is this Ted Cruz?

He of all people should identify with the children’s plight. But it seems he feels entitled to special status which the children of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador do not deserve.  Yes, I know Cubans enjoy special exemption under American immigration law. It has something to do with fighting Communist expansion in our hemisphere. But is it fair?

Shouldn’t the children endangered by drug gangs and fascist oppression have the same rights as those fleeing Communist terror?

If not, why not?

Click for more on Ted Cruz and the House bill.

Click for more on Operation Pedro Pan.

Click for more on Castro’s firing squads.

 

If He Were a White Man…

I can’t help wondering how President Obama would be treated if he were white. I know being a Democrat in the White House - regardless of color – is no picnic. Republicans do everything they can to make your life miserable. But being a black President is something else.

I doubt the House of Representatives would vote to sue the President if he were white. Not even Nixon faced that kind of insult.

And the lawsuit is so absurd! The Republicans are suing President Obama for delaying a provision of the Affordable Care Act, which they voted to repeal about 50 times.

I doubt the case will get anywhere in the judicial system. It’s just another empty gesture meant to belittle President Obama.

But I am sure Republicans won’t let that deter them. If they win control of Congress in November, they are going to impeach the President.

How unfair is that? He has committed no crime. Indeed, he has done an amazing job, considering.

True, he hasn’t delivered everything he promised. But consider the Congress he has had to work with.  This Congress is the least productive in history – by far. Republicans in the House and Senate have done nothing but attack the President’s agenda, blocking every useful piece of legislation he has proposed and sabotaging his appointments.

Yet President Obama has managed to do a lot despite the toxic environment in which he has had to operate.

He has revived an economy scuttled by Bush and his pals, created millions of jobs, introduced a program to provide affordable health care for all Americans, sought - often successfully –  justice for minorities of all kinds, provided protection for undocumented immigrants brought to America as children, and kept America out of war in a world gone mad.

Think of what he could have achieved if he had a reasonable Congress to work with!

I know there are myriad reasons for the hatred and ridicule he and his family have had to face. (And you have to admire the grace and dignity with which they have endured their ordeal.) But come on, surely there’s a racial element involved?

I wonder how it would have been if Barack Obama were a white man. Don’t you?

Click for more on the lawsuit.

Click for President Obama’s accomplishments.

 

With Friends Like These…

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I keep hearing that Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East, but if the Israelis are among the best friends Uncle Sam has, he is in deep trouble. The Israelis are currently heaping derision on the heads of US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama for one thing.

Criticizing Kerry’s efforts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the neighboring Palestinians, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (above) declared:

American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.

And former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon went on CNN to call Kerry’s peace proposal “an insult.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli media are stoking the fire. Articles in Haaretz and Yediot Ahronot described Kerry as either a fool or “an ally of Hamas and other radical forces in the Middle East.”

And several publications recently ran a fictional transcript of a confrontational phone call that supposedly took place between the President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I wonder if it’s time to review America’s “close alliance” with Israel.

It’s obviously a one-way relationship. America sends money and provides military support; Israel responds with scorn and derision, while wreaking havoc on its neighbors.

Yes, I know, America is home to many Israeli supporters who wield enormous political power. But is it right for any one group to exert so much influence on a country that it becomes a liability to the country as a whole?

For supporting Israel’s ongoing rampage in Gaza would irreparably damage America’s international standing.

The world is aghast at the savagery in Gaza. Israel is beginning to look like a rogue nation.

Hamas may be terrorists but it is the Israeli army that is committing terrorism today. America cannot condone the wholesale massacre of innocent women and children, whatever the provocation might be.

But Israel is obviously not going to be deterred. It is ratcheting up its military offensive in Gaza, intent on wiping out Hamas even if it means decimating the civilian population.

Israel has been provoked. No question. Hamas is a blight. Again no question.

But it is not acceptable to butcher untold numbers of innocent civilians in response to the Palestinian provocation.

The butchery must stop. Or America must openly disavow the policies of Israel’s current leadership.

 

The Bug Man’s Story

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Joe the Bug Man comes once a month to poison the myriad pests that bug us here in Central Florida. He’s a stocky, opinionated fellow, who has worked hard all his life and doesn’t see why his taxes should pay for other people to lay about and do nothing except have more and more kids, etc., etc.

Joe’s brother Rick used to be our bug man, but Rick, who is diabetic, had surgery to remove a part of one foot so he gets disability now and Joe got his customer list (with us on it).

One of Joe’s pet peeves is the fact that Rick collects disability when he could do any number of jobs  with less than a full complement of feet, toes and so on. Never mind that Joe has profited from Rick’s decision to quit working. Joe has his portable toilet business and any number of other things to keep him busy. He really didn’t need Rick’s customer list.

Joe just doesn’t think it’s fair for people to take handouts if they are able to work. He thinks that kind of thing ruins a country. Of course, he doesn’t mind signing up for health insurance under Obamacare. He couldn’t get insurance before because he’s overweight – a pre-existing condition according to the insurance companies.

But that’s different.  What makes Joe mad is the way some people game the system, driving from food bank to food bank, for example, to stock up on free stuff. The way he sees it, they shouldn’t be getting free food if they can afford a car.

Joe is the type of guy who would make any Republican pundit proud. His dad taught him that he had to work for anything he wanted, and he is passing that philosophy on to his kids.

“My kids don’t come to me to ask for money,” Joe brags. “They ask what they can do to earn it.”

On his most recent visit, Joe told us a tragic story about his dad. Apparently, Joe said, his dad had lost interest in life. He’d done everything he wanted to do, seen everything he wanted to see, been everywhere he wanted to go… Life just had nothing more to offer.

So he stopped eating and lost a hundred pounds in just a few weeks. His kidneys failed and he died.

As you might imagine, Joe was really broken up about it. After all, his dad was only 70 years old.

Joe’s sad story made me think about Luther and Esther, our friends who spent their lives in the Salvation Army, serving all over America and in many parts of the world.  Luther and his first wife, Jewel, had 63 years together and when she died, he married their long-time friend, Esther. Luther was 89, Esther was in her early 80s.

They had seven great years together, traveling all over and continuing to do God’s work as they saw it. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the pictures they brought back, including one of them standing on the Great Wall of China.

Luther’s gone now. But Esther is carrying on. She helped organize a sale to raise money for the poor just the other day.

I don’t know what the moral of these two stories is, but I suspect it has something to do with the way our philosophies shape our lives.

Click for more on Luther.