Thursday, August 13, 2015


Ever wonder why the approval rating of Congress has been at an all-time low in recent years. Ranging in the high teens to low twenties, it has been consistently less than half the approval rating of the President.  No knowledgeable person has any doubt that the nation has serious problems, and that they are not being dealt with by our elected leadership with the effectiveness and urgency that they require.  It is clear the public holds Congress much more responsible for this than the President, if their approval ratings are any measure of this.  In looking at the actions of Congress since Obama's election, and in listening to the constant statements of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, a pattern emerges, in clear focus, that sheds light on Congress's historic low ratings. McConnell and Boehner may not agree with the following depiction of their To Do List, but with a nod to David Letterman's genius, this is one only partially tongue in cheek rendition of their Top Ten List during the Obama presidency so far.

1.  Block everything Obama proposes, the good things included.
2.  Raise Defense Department and NSA spending, cut everything else, especially for human and
     social services.
3.  Invite Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, without consulting the President and as an
     indication of disrespect.
4.  Beat the drums to start another foreign war, with boots on the ground from more American
5.  Role back hard won civil rights, in the name of national security.
6.  Curtail privacy rights, except of course for corporations.
7.  Ban environmental, climate change concerns and legislation, as an infringement on economic
     liberty and corporate profit-making potential.
8.  Vote Congress a raise.
9.  Declare Congress on a well-deserved vacation.
10. Blame the Democrats for the collapsing and dire State of the Nation.

Any wonder why Congress is as unpopular as it now is? Or why Obama has gotten so much gray hair during the past seven years?  The list may be a slight exaggeration, but only slight. To many Americans, it does reflect the essence of what they see as having taken place, to the detriment of all of us.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


-For the past 12 years our policies in the Middle East have brought us nothing but failure, frustration, loss of life, treasure, and international status. The Bush-Cheney administration promoted the neoconservative concepts advanced by the right-wing think tanks that our initial successes in fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan could serve as a springboard into invading and overthrowing the Saddam Hussein government in Iraq, establish a government there more favorable to our interests and those of Israel, and from there go on to "democratize" other Middle Eastern governments. We were, after all, beginning the century as the world's sole superpower, with absolutely unmatched military strength, and we had mobilized much of the world's support following al Qaeda's attacks on our homeland on 9/11.  The voices raised at home and abroad that this undertaking would be a calamitous overreach and unleash endless Islamic sectarian rivalry as well as further hatred of Western influences were totally ignored and ridiculed. The past 12 years have proven the fallacy of the war-initiators expectations, and the proof of the concerns of those cautioning restraint. Disaffected Sunnis have formed ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and their strength is spreading, Iraq is torn between Kurds, Shia's, and Sunnis, Syria is torn with civil war, Afghanistan is searching for a resolution, needing our continued support but also needing to make accommodations with the Taliban which continues to control many regions.  Pakistan is torn between supporting Western influences but also placating the elements of its population which lend support to extremist Muslim factions. Turkey is becoming allied with us in fighting ISIS, but also is engaged against the Kurds, which are our allies in the fighting in Syria and Iraq. And Iran, while vowing enmity to our ally Israel, is aiding Iraq and Syria in its fight against ISIS, and is also willing to assist in our efforts against ISIS, al Qaeda, and other terrorist elements.  In this highly complex, conflicted region with so many cross-currents of rivalry and hatred, there are certainly no easy solutions, but one thing should be clear from the history of the past 12 years, any resolution will not be imposed primarily by western powers and through the mere application of their military might. This is where the Iran Nuclear Treaty negotiated between Iran and the five major western powers imposing sanctions on Iran's nuclear development provides a valuable opening-- to not only ensure that Iran's nuclear development is clearly limited to peaceful, energy-providing applications, which should be the right of any advanced nation, but also to begin to create some bridges allowing Iran to become more engaged with the West in finding other ways to reduce the myriad areas of conflict and tension that are racking the region. 

Iran's population is one of the best educated, young, fastest-growing in the region. While its clerical leadership is old and still imbued with considerable hatred over the past history of western involvement and interference in their nation, the younger elected leaders have shown more desire for reasonable negotiations with the west.  The nuclear treaty provides a valuable opportunity to test this out, it is a potential win-win situation for both sides. Yet, in the United States and in Israel, the same forces that brought us the failure of the Iraqi War are campaigning with all their vigor, money, and might to defeat it. Blind to the fact that most of the rest of the world will be eliminating the sanctions even if we don't, further isolating us and demonstrating our reduced world influence, these same voices present the same tired but loud fear-mongering arguments. A "mushroom cloud" lies ahead, anything but more sanctions and military threats indicates "weakness", real leaders don't negotiate, they draw the line and impose their will. John Bolton would be ready to launch a surgical strike now, to knock out Iran's nuclear capability, regardless of the regional and worldwide consequences.  Dick Cheney would still argue for the same type of policies that have failed in the Iraq War he encouraged us into, with virtual guarantees of success. Most Republican senators are falling in line opposing the treaty, being ready to defeat anything the Obama administration attempts to accomplish. AIPAC and other conservative Jewish lobbying groups are campaigning against it, and may influence some Democratic senators. A number of more liberal Jewish organizations in the US are vigorously lobbying for the treaty's approval, but they lack the political influence and donor money of AIPAC. It will be a tough battle, our Congress may vote it down, but, regardless of the outcome, the Obama administration, other western powers, and Iran all deserve credit for putting it forward. It would be a continuation of the US's 12 years of tragic involvement in the Middle East, if the same old trigger-happy, violence-prone, war hawk voices of the past are again listened to and lead to our turning our backs on a valuable step towards a more enlightened Middle Eastern policy.