April 21, 2018

The good news was that thanks to the skillful and calm behavior of a female pilot A Southwest passenger jet made a safe landing with a disabled engine, although one passenger died after being injured from flying metal — but that bad news is that videos of the passengers during the incident show many of then did not have their oxygen masks on correctly. The cabin had suffered depressurization when a piece of flying debris from the engine pierced the cabin of the airliner.

I’m not a frequent flyer but I have flown many times, beginning in 1967. Back then, although the preflight demonstration was not lengthy, the stewardesses at least did give a brief, maybe ever so brief, demonstration of how to place the masks on. My flying was interrupted by decades, but the past four years I have taken a transatlantic flight, round trip of course, for times. From my observation that little pre-flight safety demonstration they go through now is all but useless. I don’t think that they even pull out an oxygen mask they just make a quick and I mean quick gesture with the arms and hands. If you had never

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War without clear purpose or end is pointless…

April 17, 2018

Once more, we are in Syria, because?

Are we there to fight ISIS (a catchall name I’m using for Islamic terrorists), to eliminate chemical weapons, or to project our power in the Middle East? Does anyone care?

We don’t have the military draft so that helps avoid a lot of public protest.

You are paying your taxes, though, and it costs plenty. Trillions of dollars that could go to things like health care, finding a cure for cancer, fighting the opioid epidemic, housing the homeless (including needy children you should feel sorry for) or just reducing your taxes so you can keep more of your hard-earned money.

Or if you are of a mind we have to fight them (terrorists) over there before they come over here, then why are we not doing that full bore? Wasn’t President Trump going to do that (even though he goes back and forth on instituting a new pre-world War II style isolationism)?

War in general seems to accomplish very little. World War I was billed as the “war to end all wars” and you see where that got everyone. Two decades or so later there was World War II.

Of course if you are attacked, you have to defend yourself if you are to survive and retain your own style of government and culture. The United States was attacked directly at Pearl Harbor in 1941 by the Japanese and at the same time fascism in Europe, most notably Hitler’s Germany, was overrunning other sovereign nations.

At a heavy cost the western allies were successful in their defense.

That was back in the day when war was war and you fought to win. The goal was rather clear, although the allies could have stopped short to cut their losses and make a deal with Hitler and Japan. But the wise decision was to go for total surrender of the enemy.

Since then our wars are not fought like that. The goals are not clear to begin with, they tend to be nebulous or confused or just plain vague, i.e. George W. Bush’s “War on Terror”. A war against evil. But who is this “evil”? We cannot identify it as a single entity or nation. That makes it handy for those who choose to use war as a tool for geopolitical gamesmanship.

Maybe you think that is good or practical in this day and age, especially since the United States is the world’s superpower (for now). From what I have read our founding fathers did not intend this but of course they could not have possibly envisioned the world in which we live now.

But again, war seems to accomplish very little or only forestalls problems for a time. And wars with less than specific goals really are problematic. Take Korea. It began as a “police action” to prevent North Korea from taking over South Korea. But name it something else, it was still a war and was eventually recorded in history as such. But instead of total victory over the enemy we chose a truce. Today North Korea not only threatens South Korea but the whole world.

Then Vietnam had nothing to do with defending America, it was a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union (North Vietnam’s major backer), in a battle over world hegemony.

We still had a military draft and we killed off part of a generation of mostly young men in a losing geopolitical game in which we lost by default — when you quit you lose.

My question was always, why get into a war you do not have the will to win?

And I’ll skip over other skirmishes to Iraq — the war against evil under the pretext of going after those who attacked us on 911, except we went into the wrong nation.

And now Syria.

Actually president Donald Trump I think might have inadvertently come up with a more sensible approach in his presidential campaign, that is go after the actual terrorists, destroying their assets, no holes barred. But that fell by the wayside. He does not seem to know what he is doing.

I think that there is some suspicion though out there that he has some secret deal with the Russians who only pretended to be unhappy with the missile strike on the chemical weapons assets of their ally Syria. Some think he might have tipped them off to avoid hitting Russians or their own equipment. That is just a theory.

But whatever the case, the first attack last year did not stop the chemical weapons use and it seems this latest one will not likely either, but if there is a resolve to keep up the pressure it might, I would think, but then we are committing ourselves to the possibility of ground attack — and then all that is not fighting ISIS, the official reason we have for being in Syria.

I think we need to take a sober look at the best way to fight terrorism, which could be a combination of military operations and economic measures, and other methods. But we have to admit to ourselves what we are trying to do and then do it.

Actually we probably can work with the Russians (we already are to a limited extent). They have a stake in fighting terrorism themselves. They have had such threats within their own borders.

You know, things were a lot safer for us all when the United States and the Soviet Union shared equally world dominance and kept each other at bay, and the whole world in the process, with mutually assured destruction. But there are more players in the game today, what with nuclear proliferation and technology that allows terrorists to infiltrate our physical territory and the ether of the internet.

And back to war. Even though the nature of war has changed, it still consists of using weapons that kill or maim people and costs a lot in blood and treasure and is too often futile over the long run.

The United States needs to get back to its constitution and reserve the power for making war for the congress — allowing the president to only order military action in bona fide emergencies for the immediate defense of our nation. Otherwise we will be committed to endless and pointless war with no end, as each president tries his (or her) hand at the geopolitical contest.

p.s.

And I will contradict myself slightly because I see nothing wrong with projecting power. We have to keep those who would threaten us off balance. I mean sometimes it is a bluff, and sometimes we will be called on that bluff, but we have to be wise enough to know when to respond.


CLARIFICATION: in the original draft of my previous post by way of a typo I wrote that chemical weapons were outlawed after World War II and I meant WWI. I changed it later. I make typos and blunders and it haunts me, especially when I catch them months later. At least on the internet one can correct them — I used to write for newspapers. I have blunders that will last forever in print. And I may have them in this post — I try to be careful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Are investigations faced by Trump smoke or fire? Congress needs to take back control of war power

April 15, 2018

Note: Monday morning (4-16-18), and I still have not seen the whole ABC News Comey interview, just snippets, and have not read the total transcript, but from what new I have seen and read, no news, just depressing facts. And I think I already conveyed as much myself but a New York Times columnist said he did not care for either Comey or Trump. Personally I think the American people are being ill-served by Trump, who is the wrong person to be sitting in the White House, and the Republican Party, which still does not quite see that the emperor has no clothes, although they are getting closer to that realization possibly. Or maybe it is just too shameful for most of the GOP to own up to. Comey is a little too self-absorbed and is now doing what has become fashion, profiting by public service via a book (speaking engagements too perhaps?). I’ll read on to see what I missed, but my heart is not in it — it’s all so depressing and tragic. Oh, and no smoking gun — I mean if there were it would have been in the headlines. But we really don’t need a smoking gun — just public outrage and scared politicians running for political cover. And then no more Trump.


 

In reference to the question in my last post it does not look like Trump is moving up in favorability after the Syria strike.

Meantime, I don’t know what effect fired FBI director James Comey’s soon-to-be-released book is having yet (with its excerpts and hype), and I understand he is to be interviewed on an ABC news program late this evening (Sunday night as I write this), but for all the hype I have not heard much of  substance yet. It seems more like Comey has sunk to the level of Trump, but, again I have of course not read the book yet.

What bothers me about Comey is that he acted as if someone anointed him as special advisor to the American people deciding on whom to vote for president. First he comments on an ongoing investigation into Clinton emails in July of 2016 and then former Attorney General Loretta Lynch says there is no case against Clinton and then Comey drops an October surprise something like a week before the election that a closed investigation of Clinton has been re-opened and then a day before the election says nothing new has been found. His rationale for releasing the fact of the investigation just before the election was that (just like everyone else) he thought she was going to win, but thought if she did and then news came out about the email investigation her presidency would be “illegitimate”. Seems to me he was assuming a little too much responsibility. I think all these FBI investigators should work out of public view and earshot within the law, then turn over their material to prosecutors, who should stay mum while deciding if there is enough to call for an indictment, and then make a public announcement.

Comey’s TV appearance, tonight as I write this, is on too late for me to watch. I’ll have to catch it all later Monday if at all.


 

On Syria. What a mess. It is a civil war, an insurgency, and a Russia and Iran against the West proxy war, with the addition of the Syrian government (and who knows? maybe others) using chemical weapons outlawed internationally since after WWI.

I’m not sure air strikes alone are going to stop the use of these chemical weapons. Does not seem likely.

It is significant that the United States had the backing of the United Kingdom and France in the strikes on the targets of suspected chemical weapons facilities at the end of the past week. And it might be a righteous cause, but is it a practical one?

The United States has no clear goals in our involvement in Syria, in which we do have thousands of troops on the ground, supposedly with the mission of fighting against Islamic terrorism — not directly against the Assad regime or Iran, but truthfully they are our enemies.

And it seems to me that there is a clear case here that further involvement and even this past week’s strike should or should have had congressional authorization. But congress does not want to take responsibility for anything, even if it is its job according to our constitution.

Congress needs to take back its power to declare war. I mean in instances of an immediate threat certainly the president can order action for our defense. This was not the case here. But congress needs to decide on long-term engagements, and open-ended, non specific resolutions do not suffice.

Trump may or may not have taken the correct action in the strike (and despite the involvement of the UK and France, it was Trump’s call). But there is little doubt that it came at a little too convenient time to allow him to try to deflect attention from his legal woes. And they seem to be bearing down on him.

Is it all smoke and no fire? I think we are going to find out fairly soon. If it is all smoke, there goes the credibility and trust in our institutions, what is left of it, and if there is fire, Trump will go down in flames. Ding Dong the witch is dead.

 

 

 

 

 


Will Trump go from zero to hero in the strike on Syria?

April 13, 2018

UPDATE (Saturday, 4-14-18):

In what to me is a kind of unbelievable irony, even for President Trump, in a tweet this morning after the Syria strike, he actually used that infamous line from George W. Bush at the beginning of the long drawn out Iraq war: “mission accomplished”. Let’s hope there is no more resemblance to that fiasco. The investigations, which include searches of his personal lawyer’s files, are nipping at Trump’s heels and some, even some previous supporters, are claiming the Syria attack was to deflect attention. No matter the real motive it probably will deflect attention at least a tad. But if it is shown to be successful and if Russia’s threat of retaliation on their part is shown to be no more than bluster, credit goes to Trump (and that has nothing to do with my personal opinion of him, which is not good).


 

Well he did it. Ordered new missile strikes against Syria in response and punishment for continuing to use Geneva-Convention outlawed chemical weapons. President Trump made good (or bad) on his promise this evening West Coast time as I write this, drawing a counter threat from Russia of retaliation for hitting its ally.


The attack was reported to be a combined effort between the U.S. and Britain and France.


Don’t know the details and if there will be follow-up strikes, but if the operation is judged as a success possibly Trump will have managed to go from zero to hero and to have fended off ever stronger criticism of his actions and his demeanor in office that at least to me have seemed like a drum beat getting ever louder with his own party threatening to join in themselves.

Tell-all books and even ongoing justice department investigations might fall by the wayside if the operation is seen as having success or promise thereof or if we become involved in a full-fledged war with Syria and its protector Russia — except if Russia were to resort to a nuclear retaliation then, well who knows? calamity all the way around.

I just got the news this Friday evening (4-13-18) like most anyone reading this. I’ll have to read more.


As I understand it now, unlike last year’s strike, this time some of the missiles at least were launched from manned aircraft.


One thing that bothers me is whether we know for sure that Syria was really the culprit in the chemical attacks. I like you only know what our side tells us. I have no reason to disbelieve and of course there are videos (but who knows their authenticity?) and other reports. We are asked to put a lot of trust in government, which as an institution has a spotty record.

But still, I feel relatively sure it is the Assad regime that pulled off the dastardly gas attack on its own people just last weekend and so many times previous.

Are the missiles and risking World War III, which might be totally devastating and short in nature, worth it?

We’ll find out soon enough I suppose.


The drum beat for the end of the Trump presidency gets louder…

April 12, 2018

Note: I began writing this post early this morning but was interrupted by important personal business, so I did not post it but thought I might as well post it now this afternoon before it is completely out of date — things move so fast nowadays. Do I think President Trump will be removed from office or be forced out anytime or anytime soon? I have no idea really. Should he be? well, he should not have been elected, but according to our rules he was without the majority vote. And if he is to be forced out it has to be over super serious, verifiable evidence for all to see (not rumor or tabloid-style accounts, or even campaign violations the likes of which other politicians have slid by on with no more than a fine). And we don’t want to become like some of those South American countries who regularly throw past presidents into jail. Trump has brought us down enough already.


 

Even though the demise of the Donald Trump presidency has been predicted to be soon for just about each week of his presidency, now a little more than a year old, the drum beat seems to be getting a little louder.

The Republican Speaker of the House is resigning, ostensibly to have “more time with his family” (so all working people should quit their jobs to have more time with their families?), and more GOP senators are talking about what would cause Trump to be forced out, namely firing the special counsel on the Russia probe (which by the way seems to be way more than Russia) or other such moves — replacing officials in the Justice Department or within the FBI itself.

Famous Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein insists that Trump must be covering up something powerful no one, except possibly investigators, know about (but I’m always a little suspicious of that line because I recall that W. Bush supporters believed him on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because they thought the “president must know things we don’t”).

A New York Times columnist writes today that it is a dangerous time for the nation because if Trump goes down he is prepared to take the country down with him. Trump has no regard for the rule of law.

I sense that many in the GOP who have reluctantly or with mixed emotions supported him are finding ways to ever so gently back away if not completely fly the coop.

And remember if you can, it took some two years into Nixon’s second term of his presidency for the drum beats of the Watergate scandal to get loud enough to force him to resign (the Watergate scandal of course only began during the campaign for his second term).

Amid all of this, there is a strong ongoing effort by the administration to discredit the investigators. If proof can made public that they are acting in a partisan or biased manner against Trump that might engender sympathy for Trump beyond his loyal following or at least a feeling that the rule of law, an impartial rule of law, cannot be suspended for undesirable or unlikable people.

Events we don’t yet know about yet (because they have not happened) of course will decide how all this plays out, one of them being what is done if anything about the Syria situation. When will the missiles fly, if at all? and how would Russia respond?

(I just went back in time last night and re-watched a BBC documentary on the Suez Crisis of 1956. Nikita Khrushchev, the communist leader of the Soviet Union, which has now reverted back to Russia, threatened to strike at the West with nuclear missiles over Britain’s intervention, along with that of France and Israel, into fighting against Egyptian forces that had taken over the Suez Canal  — The U.S. stayed out of it. Almost like history ready to repeat itself. I’m relatively sure that Trump and a lot of others who should do not read history — not even history that is relatively recent.)

Ironically it is almost better for the Democrats that Trump remains, especially leading up to the mid-term elections for congress, but even beyond. It gives them something solid to run against.

(But if he plunges us into a nuclear confrontation with Russia then it would not be good for anyone.)

If it is true that Trump really has something so gawd-awful to hide and that his frame of mind is to take the country down with him, well that is a scary thought indeed.

I lived through Watergate and I recall that there were fears among sober-minded, level-headed people that Nixon might use the excuse that we were still at war in Vietnam to fend off his political enemies by declaring martial law and/or essentially ordering up a police state.

That seems way beyond comprehension here and I’m thinking even Trump’s die-hard supporters would reject that. I mean that would be the ultimate in that big government they hate so much.

But Trump if anything is capable of doing the outrageous, but then again I think he has a sense of self-preservation and if things got too hot might just walk away.

To which some might say: please do.

Should Mike Pence or Mrs. Pence be shopping for new White House furniture?

 


To Trump: don’t start something you can’t finish…

April 11, 2018

Seems to me that when it comes to war or military action the United States should not start something it cannot or will not finish.

We have wasted a lot of blood and treasure doing that already.

And as some observers are pointing out President Trump is violating his own rule that we should not telegraph our intentions to the enemy with his warning by tweet to Russia and Syria that missiles are coming in retaliation for Syria yet again using poison gas against its own citizens.

Fighting the Syrian government is one thing but taking on Russia, which so far is standing behind Syria, is another. Already the Syrian government is said to be moving equipment that is a suspected target to Russian bases. Like hiding behind the Russians.

Instead of making threats by tweet, why isn’t Trump having talks with Vladimir Putin of Russia who he admires so much (despite his criticism of the past days)? If there was ever a time for high-level talks between two major world powers this would seem it.

On the other hand if this is the time and place to take a stand we need a steady hand at the top — hard to see Trump as a steady hand.

Right now the plan seems to be to launch missiles but not manned air strikes. But air power always has its limits. You have to have ground forces at some point.

The U.S., with the help of allies, was able to accomplish something in the Kosovo campaign years ago with just air power, but others were supplying the boots on the ground. And this is not Kosovo. And the U.S. already has ground forces committed in some capacity in Syria and a lot of ground forces in the region. Will they be drawn into a new and larger phase of the ongoing conflict in Syria?

I saw a headline on an opinion piece that used Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry Language — asking Bashar al-Assad of Syria “does he feel lucky?”

Well, I would ask, do we feel lucky?

Perhaps the United States and the Western allies do have a moral responsibility to step in over the use of chemical weapons.

But atrocities are committed all the time in other parts of the world, such as in Africa and Southeast Asia. Do we step in there?

We have to be honest here. This is not just a moral issue. This is taking place in the Middle East where East meets West, where there is oil, where there are major land and water routes for world trade, and where there are multitudes of people — masses of people who threaten the west with instability that could spread to other nations, such as the  mass migration that even now threatens the continent or Europe. I’m just saying it’s a geopolitical issue.

Trump had just got through saying that he wanted to leave Syria and let others do the fighting in a kind of isolationist vein that he projected in his presidential campaign. But now he feels compelled to stand up to the enemy. He would not be the first president to face such a dilemma. Lyndon Johnson did not want to be remembered as the president who lost Vietnam and fought on although he knew early on that it was hopeless, as he revealed in a taped telephone conversation with a friend in the senate.

And I guess it all comes down to the dilemma or predicament we find ourselves in, that is we are still the world’s superpower and as such we face tremendous responsibilities around the globe. If we abrogate those responsibilities we will eventually, and perhaps rather quickly, lose our super power status. Do we want to become weak in a dangerous world?

Being president is not such a lark after all, and if Mr. Trump realized that solving the health care issue is harder than he thought (and he has not solved the issue at all), leading the global superpower is a lot tougher. And he cannot just bluff his way through it.


Reaping the whirlwind over Trump Syria crisis…

April 10, 2018

The talk among some political and foreign policy observers now is whether the current Syria crisis could result in a wag-the-dog move by President Trump — that is with the looming decision on what to do enforce an edict against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime (they keep using them, and apparently with the acquiescence of their Russian ally) and at the same time his own personal legal troubles bubbling up he might just put us into a war crisis or all-out war so he can say, see I have a war to conduct; we can’t worry about these pesky personal legal issues.

And he might use the war distraction as an opportunity to fire the special counsel on the Russia probe (that seems to threaten him) and/or the attorney general, both of which he has all but threatened directly to can.

Bill Clinton was accused of doing that when he ordered a missile strike in an African nation while being confronted over his shenanigans with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Trump’s main legal troubles in part seem to stem from a one-night stand with a porn actress years ago. She claims that they had an affair but they only had sex once (some affair). And to make things more curious, although Trump claims he never “had sex with ‘that woman”’ (as Clinton claimed in his case, literally), his lawyer would have us all believe that he himself paid off the woman to tune of $130,000 to keep her mouth shut. She has not. Seems like an expensive sexual encounter. I don’t recall reading that JFK or Clinton, both infamous for their womanizing, paid dollars for their pleasure.

But folks, despite my tone here, this is serious. Clinton’s lobbing missiles at — what an aspirin factory was it? something to do with terrorists supposedly) is nothing compared to what could happen here.

An important decision has to be made. There seems to be some bi-partisan support for possibly military action against the Assad regime and it would almost certainly have to be more than one missile strike — Trump already did that during his first year in office — no effect whatsoever.

Congress needs to be involved here, but the legislative branch of our federal government has all but abrogated its constitutional war-making authority since it gave President Johnson and open-ended resolution that was disguised as something short of a war declaration for Vietnam and since it gave George W. Bush carte blanche to simply fight evil in his war on terror. Actually I am a little conflicted over what I just wrote because those resolutions are actually war declarations, albeit vague or too all-encompassing, but that is a subject that needs separate analyses, maybe. But whatever, congress is supposed to be the final authority on war, in place of the president just willy-nilly deciding to play geopolitical games or to distract the electorate.

To put it mildly, I am a little confused on all the investigation involving the president and how it connects together and whether in some cases it is even ethical in the way it is being handled. While I don’t believe in the “deep state” theory per se, sometimes it seems the establishment is going after Trump (and that is not to say that they should not) with mysterious investigations that create wild rumors about what he might be guilty of or what he is hiding, but with no formal charges yet. These things take time it is said. So will it last his whole presidency, hampering its ability to function in important matters domestic and foreign? We did not all get the president we wanted but we need a president.

But Trump with his rude behavior and his refusal to follow the norms, such as disclosing his business dealings and assets and putting them in a blind trust, and in fact his continuing to profit from them while being able to manipulate public and financial policy as president, and by failing to act presidential, has brought all of this upon himself.

And the political establishment, Republican and Democratic, contributed to this crisis by their own inaction and self-interest over public interest.

And too, a democracy cannot function properly amid voter apathy.