Maybe we should try respect with Iran, nothing to lose…

May 26, 2019

After president Trump lobbed insults at Iran, I think it was their foreign minister who suggested that Trump should try respect, it’s better for diplomacy.

The Iran hostage crisis was decades ago and the U.S.’s installing of the Shah of Iran to be the dictator of that country and the subsequent takeover by Islamic fundamentalists was a long time ago too.

And there is no more Soviet Union, so Iran can’t be a vassal state of the old Soviet empire we faced off with in the Cold War. It is apparently a sponsor of world terrorism — that’s a problem. But mean words will not stop that. It seems doubtful an invasion would be practical — we’d get bogged down in a monumental conflict no doubt, which we might not be able to end, except possibly by the doomsday weapon, a terrible weapon that has such limited use. The United States is the only one to have ever used it  (that of course was the two A bombs we dropped over Japan to end World War II). Today’s nuclear weapons are far stronger and more lethal. We might well end the world to save it, which of course makes no sense.

I have written in the past more than once that we should never let Iran get the bomb. My idea was not to be so outward about it, but to let that nation’s leaders know through indirect channels that we would take the necessary steps to prevent it. That would give them an out to halt their progress towards nuclear weapons and save face — they just decided to save the time and effort and money and work on their economy. We could offer the olive branch and an openness to trade.

But of course small nations want the bomb because it commands respect. Look how Kin Jong-un of North Korea has used it. He made the leader of the world’s most powerful country deal with him.

The United States must do what it must do for its own defense. But overdoing it by going to war unnecessarily with no end game gets us nowhere, only deeper in the mire.

Perhaps a little respect for Iran is in order. What have we to lose? If all else fails we still have our military might. But diplomacy never offered can’t be said to have failed (and I am referring to between the current U.S. administration and Iran).

Even so, once committed to battle, there really is likely no overdoing it. As in sports, winning is everything. No more Korea stalemates, Vietnam capitulations, Iraqi half way measures, or impotence against Iran (where the holding of hostages resulted in an American president sequestering himself in the White House rose garden).

If we can have friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, where 9/11 really stemmed from —  most or all of the perpetrators were from there — why can’t we deal with Iran?

p.s.

And please no George W. Bush-style nation-building (something he vowed never to do but did so anyway, or tried to).

The Saudi link to 9/11 has never been officially recognized but evidence suggests either the government of that nation or officials of the government helped sponsor the attack.

 

 

 


History shows impeachment of a president is not successful without public support…

May 23, 2019

It seems impeachment does not work in the effort to take down a president unless the American people are behind it.

The only president to face impeachment and lose his office was Richard Nixon, and of course he was neither impeached nor convicted, although the impeachment process was initiated against him. After being informed by leading members of his own party, The Republicans, that they would vote for impeachment, he decided to resign (and save his pension — good decision).

The key in the Nixon case was a so-called “smoking gun”. After being forced to hand over secret tapes he made of White House meetings, it was clear he was in on the Watergate break-in and various dirty tricks and that he directed a coverup of illegal activity that included payoffs.

But two other presidents, Andrew Johnson who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after he was assassinated, and Bill Clinton, were impeached, that is the impeachment articles against them were drawn up by the congress, but both escaped conviction in the senate.

In both cases there was not solid public support for removal from office. In Johnson’s case, as I understand it, one of the main contentions was his refusal to follow a law congress passed to prevent him from firing a cabinet officer — that law was later found to be unconstitutional anyway.

And in Clinton’s case, he was accused if sexual harassment by one woman and in the course of the investigation and litigation on that it came out that he had been sexually cavorting with a young lady not his wife in the oval office. Clinton denied it but later admitted it.

It was clear the Republicans were having a field day releasing all kinds of salacious information but the public did not see how it all rose to the level of removing the president from office. The actual sexual harassment case was thrown out of court. Clinton’s public support actually rose. The impeachment backfired against the Republicans.

With all that has come out about Trump, or simply all he displays each day, there is but little doubt in my mind that a good solid case for impeachment could be brought. But with the solid Republican control of the senate, unless a real smoking gun comes out, and unless public opinion, now predominantly (2/3) against impeachment, it seems highly unlikely Trump will lose his office through that course of action.

I have not read the full Mueller report, still, but if there was a smoking gun there surly we would know it by now.

Perhaps some witness will come forward with it, like Alexander Butterfield and the Nixon tapes.

Again, that is not to say that there are not solid grounds for impeachment. And impeachment is a political process that does not require all the restraints as the normal judicial process. But the public has to be for it as far as I can see. It is not. That could change.

So the Democrats can and probably should keep probing. But at the same time they have to put most of their effort into convincing voters that they should be returned to power in the senate and ultimately the White House in 2020.

Who knows? Trump just might do something yet to turn the Republicans against him. I think he’s capable.

p.s.

And let’s don’t forget what the real potential crime of Trump is: there seems to be strong circumstantial evidence that he had commercial dealings with the Russians as a candidate and before and maybe as president and offered them things, such as a reduction in trade sanctions and turning a blind eye to some of their aggression on the world stage and praising their leader. In exchange the Russians supported his candidacy and conducted cyber dirty tricks aimed against his opponent in the presidential election. There is still a question on whether Trump is compromised by the Russian secret police by way of, possibly, sexual escapades, and thus vulnerable to blackmail. And besides the Russian issue, it seems that Trump and family are shamelessly using the office of the presidency for commercial gain. But again, no smoking gun, unless possibly the available evidence could be presented in a way as to be a smoking gun (sometimes presentation is everything).


Talk of war with Iran: we should be mostly quiet but vigilant and ready…

May 17, 2019

Why is the Trump administration talking war? To change the subject? Nothing like military action as leverage to shut down the opposition. You can’t bad mouth the Commander in Chief when he’s conducting a war they say.

Certainly if there is an increased threat to our military and our interests in the Persian Gulf region from the forces of Iran and their terrorist buddies then we have to increase our readiness (we’re sending and aircraft carrier and possibly other forces). But why so much talk about it? Is the administration trying to impress Iran or trying to impress its own domestic opposition?

Any potential adversary must know that the United States will not back down if attacked (of course we have to know who attacked). But we don’t need to stoke the fire with so much belligerent talk out of the administration.

We the public are getting still fuzzy information about indications that Iranian forces or Iranian-backed forces are or were planning to attack our assets in the region.

I hope it’s not the yellow cake, weapons of mass destruction canard that got us into the Iraq War. Is the secretary of state Mike Pompeo the new Dick Cheney? Pompeo claimed that intelligence indicated Iran was preparing to attack American targets. But at least one story in the Wall Street Journal indicated that Iran thought the U.S. was about to attack (probably from statements from the likes of Pompeo).

The Gulf of Tonkin incidents in 1964 got us into a decade-long costly and futile war in Vietnam — which I always say we lost by default, since we finally gave up and left (the only thing left to do at the time). The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which backed the war, was based on sketchy and possibly erroneous reports. We don’t want to go through that again.

Now it is reported that the president says he does not want war with Iran. That’s a relief.

A statement by the president to the effect that we will defend our interests in the region should suffice.

And should we suffer some kind of attack, let’s hope we go full out after the perpetrators and not invade the wrong country (9/11, going to full-out war in Iraq instead of going after the culprits, whose leader was eventually found hiding in plain sight in Pakistan, after apparently instigating the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan).

There is something about a war that excites the would-be macho men, most of whom have never served and never will and causes so much grief for everyone else.

My quick (and I cannot be sure accurate) research indicates that Pompeo was in the army but did not see combat and that another war hawk, national security advisor John Bolton, avoided combat in Vietnam by joining the national guard (in that time guard troops were not used as much in foreign operations, although a few units saw action in Vietnam). Bolton reportedly admitted that although being a hawk on Vietnam he felt the war already lost by the time he would have had to serve and did not want to die in Southeast Asia. Well, I could at least sympathize with that (except those kind seem to think it might be okay for others to).

Congress must demand that no war be instigated without its constitutionally-mandated approval.

But the problem has been these past many decades that the presidents get us into war before going to congress and then demand that congress and everyone else back the policy or be accused to “not supporting the troops”. That “supporting the troops” phrase is a false and misleading trick of a concept. Except for perhaps an all-out pacifist (and maybe not even one of those), virtually everyone supports the troops. But we might not support the policy that puts them in harm’s way.

We don’t live in the same world as our founding fathers of course. They could have had no idea that their upstart of a country would one day be the world’s super power. But I think their writings indicate that they were not for foreign entanglements. However our early history shows we would not put up with foreign threats, such as the Barbary pirates who menaced our shipping off the North African coast  (our economy depended upon international trade from the beginning).

In addition, President Monroe issued his famous doctrine (eventually called the Monroe Doctrine) against the meddling of foreign powers in our hemisphere.

The president of course must have the power to act in our defense in the event of attack and cannot necessarily await the chance to go before congress. However, he can notify the congress and immediately thereafter go before it.

And the congress has to have the fortitude to do its own thinking and decide whether there is call to go to actual war.

Sometimes there is an argument over what constitutes war. But I think we all know it when we see it.

One more thing. I am not a war hawk. But if we are to fight a war, we must fight for all-out victory. Anything less to me is futile and unconscionable to those who we send to fight it.

p.s.

What did the Japanese admiral supposedly say after the Pearl Harbor attack by his forces? “I’m afraid we have awoken a sleeping giant”.

Of course that was back in the day when we fought to win, rather than to just make a statement in geopolitics. In more modern times, smaller forces seem to bedevil us.

War is fought differently today. We have to be flexible and more efficient.

But one thing has not changed: we must win. Anything but victory is futile.

How do we know victory? people always ask.

You know it when you see or experience it.

 

 

 


What a twist: Trump’s lawyer goes to jail while his client skates free (so far); Media credibility low…

May 7, 2019

A couple of things: why does the big cheese go free and the underlings go to jail?

Why does the public not trust the press, which is under constant attack and threat by the president?

I don’t see the logic nor justice in the fact that President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is beginning a three-year prison term today (5-6-19), in part for a crime that he committed with Trump, and yet Trump remains free — not even charged.

I refer to what was called a campaign finance violation, the paying of hush money to women Trump, a married man, cavorted with. Trump wanted to hide the fact from the public while running for president. Trump initially claimed he knew nothing about the payments but later admitted it. Now Trump questions whether it was even a crime. Well for that matter so do I. Unethical and immoral perhaps, but crime? And a campaign finance violation? But I don’t decide those things. The court convicted Cohen. But since they were both in it together it would seem to me that Trump is as guilty if not more so.

But that is the way of things. Richard Nixon’s henchmen went to prison, and of course found Jesus along the way — those kind of people always do — while Tricky Dick never served a day in jail.

While the Supreme Court held back during Watergate (in the early ’70s) that the president of the United States is not above the law, I wonder.

The U.S. Justice Department has some kind of working policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. It is not a law, just a policy. Of course once he is not president that should be a different story.

But again, Nixon, who directed and approved the breaking into of the Democratic National headquarters and who did the same to Danielle Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and who had the IRS audit the tax records of political enemies never went to jail even afer he resigned the presidency. Oh, I recall now. President Ford, who had become Nixon’s vice president after his first one was convicted of taking bribes (Spiro Agnew) had to resign, pardoned Nixon.

Maybe Trump will have to hope someone pardons him.

And back to Cohen for second. He is also going to prison for tax evasion and other charges that are all on him, about his own behavior. But none of that would likely have come to light had he not been caught up in the FBI and Justice Department investigation of the connection of Russia and the Trump campaign and the election itself.

And now the distrust of the press or the “media” (the more modern term, especially now that there are far fewer printing presses in action).

Surveys invariably show that a large number, almost half or even over half, of the public does not respect or trust the media. I have to wonder then who they do trust or believe. I also wonder who the media (as if it was one entity) is. I shake my head when right-wing reactionary bloviators, most notably on AM radio, blast the “media”. They are part of the “media” themselves. Of course I guess they feel they are separate from the crowd or pack of journalists who they would have you believe all run together and think alike and compare notes before writing or presenting their stories.

There may be a bit of truth to that, but just a bit — I mean the logistics to such a conspiracy would be incredible. And the irony here is that even if the larger pack seems to ape each other, well so do the reactionary right-wingers (for the most part).

The main problem here as I see it (and I have mentioned this many times) is that you almost cannot sort fact from opinion in modern news stories and newscasts. The journalistic rules seemed to have changed. Yes, once American journalism was just opinion essays. I’m not a journalism historian but I think modern news reporting began in the American Civil War. The news was what was going on at the battlefield, not whether slavery was right or wrong. The recent invention of the telegraph made it possible to send dispatches to far away places right from the battlefront. But those dispatches had to be short and to the point, lest the lines be cut or some other circumstance of battle got in the way. Thus a new style or method of news writing emerged, the inverted pyramid. Like just the facts mam. You placed the most important facts right up front in as few words as possible and the rest followed in descending order. If part of the dispatch did not make it, then at least something, the most important news, would, hopefully. And of course all of this was transmitted via the dot dash of Morse Code and then had to be translated back into written form at the other end.

And while we went through a period of what was called “yellow journalism”, basically propaganda designed to sway public opinion via slanted news — It was said William Randolph Hearst got us into the Spanish American War through slanted reporting of his newspapers — over the years a more factual-based, balanced form of journalism was developed. It was taught at colleges. Both my father, who was a journalist, and I, who worked in journalism for many years, used the same journalism text book, “Interpretive Reporting”. He went through school in the 1930s. I took journalism classes in the 1970s. Don’t let the name fool you like it did some of my classmates and me as well. Interpretive sounds like one putting a spin on something. But actually, except for first-person accounts, such as in natural disasters, news stories are usually an interpretation of what took place, such as at a public meeting (which I covered far too many of; enjoyed it at first). How else would you do it? You could simply present a transcript or you could show a video of the meeting but what good would that do? It would still require the reader or viewer or listener to makes sense of it all and he or she would have to sit through the whole thing (and I almost guarantee you would get lost; they often speak in shorthand). The job of a reporter is to develop an understanding of the issues involved and the participants and to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, but just as important, to present a balanced and fair report. The reporter’s job is not to inject opinion or unfairly just report one side or write quotes out of context.

But of course reporters have opinions and even if they try to be fair, those opinions, which often seem like no more than common sense, can find their way into a story.

Be that as it may, for decades the rule was — and now I am talking about the old relic called the newspaper — to separate the straight news columns from the Opinion Page or from clearly designated opinion columns. And I know here I am repeating myself from other blog posts, but there was that hybrid of straight news and opinion called “news analysis”. To me that is often closer to an opinion piece than not. But I think most news stories, whether they are in newspapers, on the air, or on the web, fit into analysis nowadays.

People don’t have time to sort through things. They just want the headlines. And you know important people are always depicted as not poring through detail but depending upon their minions to present them summaries. I often wonder why the minions are not in charge. Like you know presidents who have to be coached. Why not put the coach in charge?

(There are exceptions. Some public figures were supposedly known for deep reading, such as Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, Bill Clinton? He was a policy wonk.)

Newspapers lost their circulation when people decided it was easier to catch up on the news from talking heads on TV and radio and they lost their supporting advertising revenue to the broadcast, the internet, and Craig’s List.

My hometown newspaper gave up on lengthy stories and wide coverage. I quit subscribing. They wanted me to pay more for less.

But for a long time now, the style of reporting has become more aggressive, with writers rightly or wrongly zeroing in on what seems to be the inner truth and running with it, often leaving little semblance of objectivity.

But a CNN truth can often differ from a Fox truth. Presidential spokesperson Kellyanne Conway famously suggested that there are “alternative facts”.

No, the facts are the facts but are often or usually difficult to discern. It takes objective reporting and open-minded and objective readers to get to the truth or at least the truth as far as it can be discerned.

So now I have just discovered by writing this that the problem lies with both the authors of news reports and the readers or viewers and listeners.

But I would like to see a return to a more balanced approach to the news.

But there can be no control of news in a free and democratic society.

It is chilling when the president of the United States lambastes all news and calls it fake if he does not like how it portrays him or his policies and when he singles out individuals and calls them by derogatory names and when he threatens to change libel laws to make it possible for public figures like himself to sue journalists for stories he does not like. A famous case called New York Times versus Sullivan made it more difficult for public figures to sue for libel — they can but they have to show malice and intent.

We are in the midst of a great constitutional crisis right now with the president defying the lawful powers of the congress and disregarding the constitution.

A free and responsible press (or media) can keep our democracy on track. But the public must play its part as well by paying attention and being more particular about its news consumption. Just reading what appeals to your belief system is a little pointless to say the least.