Archive for November, 2011

11/30/2011

Iran: History Behind Embassy Seizures

While the British Embassy in Tehran was attacked yesterday by an angry mob, this was not the first time this kind of thing has happened. We all remember the takeover of the U.S. Embassy by armed Iranian students in 1979. To understand why Iranians distrust the U.S., Britain, and the West, a review of history is needed.

Iran (historically Persia) is a relatively large country of 66 million. It is in the Persian Gulf, and borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the east. The people are predominately Shiite Muslim. Ethnically, they are Persian, but some are Kurd. Their economy is fueled by the Khuzestan oil fields, in the northwest.

After colonial Britain severed Afghanistan from Iran in the Anglo-Persian War (1856-57), a British Protectorate was attempted, but the Persians resisted. England did however create an Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. (1909), and started taking the resource. The English Army subsequently occupied the Iranian oil fields at Khuzistan in WWI, and again in WWII (1941). This is also when Muhammad Reza Pahlavi became Shah of Iran (1941).

Upon the election of Mohammad Mossadeq as Prime Minister (1950), Iran nationalized their oil, and gave British and U.S. firms one month to get out of the country (1951). The UK sued on behalf of Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., but the case was dismissed, on a jurisdictional issue. UK v Iran (1951).

When the Shah of Iran subsequently lost a fight against Mossadeq, he fled, but soon returned, when CIA and British intelligence executed the Prime Minister (1953). The Shah allowed Anglo and American oil companies to resume their businesses (1954). These events were never lost on the collective memory of the Iranian people.

Under the Shah’s brutal dictatorship, the country joined the Central Treaty Organization, and helped to encircle the Soviet Union (1954). To Shiite Muslims, the Shah added insult to injury, as he launched a White Revolution to westernize Iran, by allowing women to vote (1963). Islamic resistance to the Shah’s puppet regime grew, as hundreds were executed, and political opposition was banned. Following riots against the Shah, religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and other important Shiites, were exiled (1963).

The Iranian dictator became a U.S. ally. During the Arab-Israeli War (1967), Iran thwarted a brief Arab oil boycott by increasing oil production by 20%. President Nixon supported the Shah during a visit, as Iran purchased U.S. Phantom jets and SAM missiles (1972).

Opposition to the Shah grew, as protests swept through the country (1978). Iran fell under military rule, when Shiites threatened civil war. Fundamentalist uprisings finally forced the Shah to flee, allowing the Ayatollah Khomeini to return from exile (1979). Scores who had backed the Shah were lined up and shot. The Ayatollah said: “Our final victory will come when all foreigners are out of the country.” He ordered women, who ventured in public, to wear veils and robes, and if they refused, they were to be called whores, and stoned. Alcohol was removed from the hotels.

A major international incident occurred when armed students took 62 American hostages at the U.S. Embassy (1979). They demanded a return the Shah, so he could be put on trial. Although four women and six blacks were freed promptly, the other 52 were held for 444 days. The UN reminded Iran of their treaty obligations to diplomatic and consular staff, and warned that international law made the taking of hostages illegal.

After a failed rescue attempt by U.S. forces, the Shah died in exile (1980), and the Iranians finally freed the hostages, one day after President Carter left office, in consideration for a release of frozen assets (1981). The International Court of Justice ruled Iran had an obligation to protect the U.S. Embassy, and they violated that duty by failing to stop the students. U.S. v Iran (1980). An Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal was convened at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Holland, where financial claims for the hostages, as well as 683 others adversely affected, were settled (1981).

The U.S. then enlisted Saddam Hussein to invade Iran on the pretext the oil-rich Iranian Khuzestan Province was actually in Iraqi territory. Even though Hussein started the Iraq-Iran War (1980-88), the U.S. supported Iraq, and opposed fundamentalist Iran. Meanwhile, President Reagan simultaneously sold more than one billion in military equipment to Iran, during the so-called Iran-Contra Scandal. He did this even though Persia was labeled a terrorist state, and the sales were illegal under U.S. law.

In the war, the U.S. helped Iraq by attacking three Iranian Persian Gulf offshore oil production complexes, acts the International Court of Justice found were not justified by self-defense. Iran v U.S. (1987). The U.S. also shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, while in flight over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 defenseless passengers, including 65 infants and children. President Reagan apologized for the conduct of the USS Vincennes, and agreed to pay wrongful death damages. Iran v U.S. (1988).

The U.S. subsequently accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism, and imposed trade sanctions (1995). The Congress passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (1996). President George W. Bush named Iran a part of an axis of evil (2002). The International Atomic Energy Agency found Iran violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, triggering UN sanctions (2006). Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad defended Iran’s right to make nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes (2007).

Over the years, the Iranians have not forgotten Britain was a 19th Century colonial power that severed Afghanistan from them, and tried to conquer them. They know Britain took their oil from 1909 onward, and occupied their lands in WWI and WWII to guard it. When Iran seized their own natural resources in 1950, to keep the profits for themselves, they have not forgotten the 1953 CIA intervention that took out their elected leader, and made them give their oil to Western corporations, while they were forced to live under a brutal dictatorship for the next 26 years. The Iranians have not forgotten the U.S. prompted Saddam Hussein to invade their country in 1980, in an 8-year war that caused many thousands to die. They remember the attacks by the U.S. military against their facilities in the Persian Gulf, and particularly the killing of 290 defenseless civilians, when the U.S. shot down one of their passenger airliners. They are aware of Israel’s paranoia regarding nuclear weapons, and they know the U.S. will foolishly and blindly follow.

One could ask: Why would any Iranian like the U.S. or Britain? Iranians lash out against U.S. and British embassies, because they are not a superpower, and that is all they can do to vent their anger. We should all pause, and think about why the Iranians get angry at us, before we do something really foolish, like bomb or invade Iran.

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11/29/2011

EU: Not Ready For U.S. of Europe

The origin of the European Union dates back to 1952, when six nations formed the European Coal and Steel Community. The Treaty of Rome (1957) broadened the relationship into a Common Market, known as the European Economic Community (EEC). A European Court of Justice (ECJ) followed to monitor compliance. A Customs Union (1968) was added to abolish duties between members, and to set a common tariff as to foreign goods.

The EEC grew to 12, as the UK, Ireland, and Denmark enlisted in 1973, Greece was added in 1981, and Spain and Portugal joined in 1986. The Schengen Agreement (1985) gave EEC citizens the right of free movement in and out of the other member states.

The EEC became the European Union (EU) in 1992, under the European Union Treaty. The EU soon grew to 15, as Sweden, Finland, and Austria signed up (1995). Questions arose as to how much power the EU should have, and what authority should be retained by the states. While customs and commercial policy were yielded to the EU, many other law-making areas remained national. Although the EU had a Parliament, questions arose as to the number of votes each state would have in the EU. To correct some of these issues, the Treaty of Nice (2000) was ratified.

At the same time, the EU created an Economic and Monetary Union (1999). A European Central Bank opened in Frankfurt, which issued the Euro (2002), and abolished national currencies. Britain, Denmark, and Sweden opted out of the Euro, as criteria were set for new EU states, before they could adopt the Euro. The states no longer governed monetary policy, as the Central Bank set interest rates. Although the Bank opposed deficits by national governments, members retained control over fiscal policy. Critics of this said the EU could not maintain tight monetary policies, while states were allowed to have expansive fiscal policies.

The EU states made an attempt to be guided by one written Constitution, in lieu of a series of treaties, but the effort failed when France and the Netherlands rejected it (2005). Nevertheless, 10 additional countries became members of the EU in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania brought the number to 27 in 2007.

The states of the EU are currently administered by a 27-member Commission, which is their primary source of legislation. The Commission has the power to issue regulations and directives to states. The EU also has a 27-member Council of Ministers, which has the final say on most legislation. Since each state has one vote in the Council, smaller countries have disproportionate influence. The European Parliament is a 732-member elected body, but it has no general law-making power. It must base what it does on existing treaties. It may challenge the acts of other institutions and reject budget proposals, but the Council remains more powerful. Since the Parliament is relatively weak, issues of representative democracy have been raised. The EU also has a 27-member European Court of Justice which has the authority to review: EU treaties, the conduct EU institutions, and enforcement actions brought against the states.

While the EU currently has law-making functions, they are largely limited by treaty to common market issues. They have no authority to legislate regarding national pensions, or health care, for example. The EU has no general power to tax and spend. Under the current arrangement, it would be difficult for a majority of states to change the behavior of another country.

To complicate matters, it will be a real challenge in Europe to take benefits away, because people have rights to them under various Human Rights Treaties. Europeans enjoy the right to collective bargaining, and protection in the event of an unfair dismissal at work. They have a right to fair and just working conditions. They have a right to social security and health care.

The immediate problem in the EU is national governments control their own fiscal policies, and the crisis of the Euro is without a mechanism to save it. The difficulty in creating a fiscal union, or a political union which would entail a loss of state sovereignty, is the strong sense of nationalism that exists in most European countries. A radical change in thinking will definitely be needed before the peoples of the EU could ever become a United States of Europe.

11/28/2011

WTO: Should U.S. Sue China Over Trade?

In international trade, Gov. Romney argued in the Republican debates that we have been run over by China. Although he does not want a trade war, he believes we are being used. He said he would issue an Executive Order identifying China as a currency manipulator, because they artificially set the prices of their goods below market levels. He would sue China in the World Trade Organization (WTO), because the Chinese do not play by the rules. He wants to win the right to impose tariffs against them.

Former Gov. Huntsman worried if we won the right to impose tariffs, we would get the same in return, because we manipulate our currency, and a trade war would only hurt our exports. He questioned whether the WTO even allows currency issue disputes.

What would a U.S. complaint in the WTO against China involve?

The WTO, the world’s primary trade organization, with 153 member nations, came into being in 1994. China joined in 2001. Each WTO country has an obligation to conform their laws to the basic agreements that make up the organization. Rules, such as those forbidding unfair trade, are enforced against member states.

Dumping and the providing of subsidies are considered unfair trade practices. Dumping involves bringing goods into a country at less than their normal value. Governmental subsidies that distort product prices are also forbidden. Where there is a violation, states cannot take unilateral action, but must sue.

The WTO, based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) which presides over the resolution of trade disputes between member states. WTO nations agree in advance to submit to the compulsory jurisdiction of the DSB. When one nation files a complaint against another, alleging a violation of WTO rules, they must first try negotiation.

If negotiations fail, the DSB sets up a 3-member ad hoc Dispute Settlement Panel. Each party submits written arguments, known as submissions. Experts are consulted. The Panel considers the facts and then issues a Panel Report in English, French and Spanish, which may include an order to remove inconsistent measures, give the injured country the authority to retaliate with tariffs against certain products, or they may grant restitution.

After the Panel Report is approved of by the DSB, the losing party may file an appeal. The WTO has a standing 7-member Appellate Body drawn from different geographic areas. New facts are not heard on appeal, as reviews are limited to alleged errors of law.

The U.S. would have the burden of proving China engaged in unfair trade practices, such dumping or illegal subsidies. Even if a violation by China was shown, Huntsman is correct, because the Chinese would certainly file a countersuit against the U.S., claiming we provide subsidies and also violate the WTO rules. If China won their case, we would have to prepare for losses in our export businesses, as a result of tariffs imposed against our goods.

11/25/2011

Republican Debate Defense (11-22-11)

The Republicans debated National Security issues on Nov. 22, 2011.

PATRIOT ACT: The Patriot Act undermines liberties, said Ron Paul. We can have security without sacrificing rights. He would protect the rule of law. Our Founders warned not to sacrifice liberty for security, something our government is now too willing to do. If we give up freedom and become a police state, the government will commit the crime. We would throw out much of what our revolution stood for. Huntsman said we need to balance individual liberties and security. We have to share intelligence, and work with governors. Romney said there is criminal law with constitutional rights, and a different body of law applicable to war. Perry said we must collect intelligence to keep the next attack from happening. Santorum said the last time we had a threat like this was in the Civil War when Abe Lincoln ran all over civil rights. Gingrich said there is a distinction between National Security and Criminal Law. We need to preserve criminal law rights, but strengthen the Patriot Act, so we can gather intelligence. He does not want to find terrorists after we lose a major American city. He wants to stop them from trying. Bachmann said technology changed and we must change the way we investigate. She said the attempted Detroit bomber was given Miranda warnings, even though he was not a citizen.

PROFILING: Paul asked what if a person looked like Timothy McVeigh? Romney said people, who are a lower risk, should be allowed to go through TSA screening more quickly. Perry proposed a law to criminalize TSA pat-downs, privatize the agency, and get rid of their union. Santorum would profile those most likely to commit crime, such as Muslims and younger males. We should look for the bomber, not the bomb. He favors privatizing the TSA. Cain called profiling targeted identification. Since terrorists want to kill us, we should kill them first said Cain.

INTERROGATION: Bachmann made the ridiculous statement Obama turned over the interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. She also believes the CIA can no longer interrogate terrorists.

FOREIGN AID: Ron Paul said all foreign aid is worthless. We take money from poor people in the U.S. and give it to rich people in poor countries. We have endless war and foreign aid, but nobody cares about the budget. The biggest threat to our national security is our financial condition.  Santorum incorrectly said “Africa” was a “country” on the brink. The work we are doing, such as the Millennium Challenge, is essential for national security. It would be absolutely wrong to zero out foreign aid. We are the shining city on the hill that comes to the aid of those in trouble. We have saved military deployments by wisely spending not on our enemies, but on our friends in Africa. Cain said foreign aid should depend on results. Perry said if you are not going to be an ally of the U.S., do not expect a dime of our money.

WAR: Ron Paul said our needless and unnecessary wars have undermined our prosperity and liberties, and added to our deficits. We are too careless in the use of the word war. We did not declare war. We are against terrorism, which is only a tactic. Santorum agreed we are not fighting a war on terrorism, since it is only a tactic. We are at war against radical Islam, he said.

AFGHANISTAN: Huntsman said we need an honest conversation about our sacrifices over the past 10 years in Afghanistan. We ran the Taliban out of Kabul, upended al-Qaeda, held elections in 2004, and killed Osama bin Laden. We still need intelligence gathering, Special Forces, drones, and ongoing Afghan National Army training, but we don’t need 100,000 troops doing nation-building. 10,000 to 15,000 troops would due. The American people are very tired of where we find ourselves. He said we listened to generals in 1967, and that did not serve our interests very well. At the end of the day, the President must act as Commander-in-Chief. Romney said we cannot write off a major part of the world. We don’t want to literally pull up stakes and run out of town. We need a gradual transition responsibility over to the Afghan Security Forces. He thinks a withdrawal before 2014 would put at risk the sacrifices we made. We have been there for 10 years, and we are winding down, but it is not time for America to “cut and run,” a phrase borrowed from Nixon.  Of course the Commander-in-Chief makes the final decision. Romney actually thinks there is a very good prospect the Afghans are securing their sovereignty from the Taliban. If we pull out precipitously, as Gov. Huntsman suggests, we could see Afghanistan and Pakistan pulled into terror, and become another launching pad for going after America. Cain thinks if we pull out of Afghanistan “too soon,” there will be a power vacuum that Iran will fill.

PAKISTAN: Huntsman said Pakistan is a concern, because they have 100 nuclear weapons, and 160 million people. They have a Midrasha Movement, troubles along their border, and are at risk of becoming a failed state. He said an expanded drone program would serve our interests. Romney said only 12% of Pakistanis approve of us, we are not doing a good job. We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st Century. Perry said since Pakistan cannot be trusted, he would not send them one penny, or give them a blank check, until they showed they had our best interests in mind. Gingrich thinks we should be able to change the rules of engagement so we have a right of hot pursuit to enter sanctuaries in Pakistan from Afghanistan. Pakistan should not complain, if we kill people who are being protected on their land, and they are not willing to go after them. Bachmann said Pakistan is the epicenter of terrorism, where al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network train. We have to take seriously their 15 nuclear sites. She would continue aiding Pakistan, because they are too nuclear to fail, but she would demand more from them. She called Perry naïve for not being willing to maintain an American presence in Pakistan.

IRAN: Ron Paul wisely said he would not support an unprovoked unilateral attack by Israel upon Iran. When Israel bombed the Iraqi missile site in 1981, he was one of the few Congressmen to say it was none of our business. Israel has 200 to 300 nuclear missiles, and they can take care of themselves. If they want to bomb something, it is their business, and they can suffer the consequences. We don’t even have a treaty with them. Why should we commit to send our kids and money endlessly to Israel? Why would they need American help? Huntsman said Iran is certainly going to make a nuclear weapon, but sanctions are not going to work, because Russia and China are not going to play ball. Romney said Ahmadinejad should be indicted for violating the Genocide Convention. Perry said we should sanction the Iranian National Bank. We need to use every sanction before a military strike. Gingrich would not want to see Israel use multiple nuclear weapons in Iran, because that would bring a future none of us would want to live through. He said we need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with a minimal use of force. We need to defeat radical Islam wherever it may exist. We need to sabotage the only refinery they have. Putting sanctions on them is better than a war. He said a bombing campaign that left the regime in power would accomplish very little. We have to replace the regime, not just attack them. Bachmann said Iran is a real threat, because they would use nuclear weapons to wipe out Israel and the U.S. She thinks Obama appeased Iran. We are talking about Israel making a strike against Iran, she said, because Iran announced a plan to strike Israel. Ahmadinejad wants to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth. Can was asked: If Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel? Cain said Iran may have 40 different weapon sites, and if Israel had a credible plan for success, he would support their attack, and would in some instances join Israel in violating international law.

ISRAEL: Romney said his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel to show the world we care about them. Huntsman said our foreign policy interests in the Middle East are Israel, and to insure Iran does not go nuclear.

PERSIAN GULF: Huntsman (apparently referring to Bahrain) said Obama missed the Persian Spring, and failed on that front.

LIBYA: Huntsman: We had no definable U.S. interest in Libya.

SYRIA: Huntsman said we have an American interest in Syria called Israel. We need to remind the world what it means to be a U.S. friend and ally. Romney would not impose a no-fly zone over Syria. He would instead use sanctions and covert actions. We should support the rebels. Perry supports a no-fly zone over Syria, because it would help dissidents. Cain opposes a no-fly zone and would instead pressure allies to stop buying their oil.

IMMIGRATION: Paul said if we give an easy road to citizenship, we will get more illegals. We should not require border states to provide free education and medical care. Romney said amnesty is a magnet as it only encourages more people to come illegally. He would allow those with degrees in math or science. He would cancel in-state tuition for illegal aliens, because people respond to incentives. Perry said we have to secure the border first. Gingrich, who voted for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act in the 1980s, created a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, which some called amnesty. He though 300,000 would get amnesty, but it was granted to 3 million. This time we have to control the border. Those who just got here should go home. Those here 25 years who have families, paid taxes, and obeyed the law, should not be kicked out. He said we need visas for people with advanced degrees in science and engineering. He likes the part of the Dream Act that allows aliens to serve in the military to acquire citizenship. He would not separate families that have been together for 25 years. We are the party of the family, and we cannot destroy them. Bachmann opposed making 11 million workers legal. Steve Jobs moved operations to China, because he could not find 30,000 engineers. We need highly-skilled people.

MEXICO: Paul said the war on drugs is a total failure. We should handle drugs like we handle alcohol. Perry said we need border security with Mexico, because he thinks Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are at work there with plans to come to the U.S. He promised that within 12 months of taking office, the border would be shut down. Cain thinks terrorists have entered the U.S. via Mexico. He would secure the border, enforce the laws, and promote a path to citizenship. Let people through the front door, not the side door.

LATIN AMERICA: Romney said Hezbollah is working in Latin America. Perry said Iran has one of the largest embassies in the world in Venezuela. Santorum also worries about Latin America.

CHINA: Perry said again Communist China is destined to the ash heap of history.

BUDGET: Paul said they are not cutting anything out of anything. It’s all just talk. They are nibbling away at baseline budgeting. There is nothing cut in the military. On the Hill, they are hysterical, because the budget is not going up as rapidly as they want. It’s a road to disaster, and we better wake up. Huntsman said a 70% debt-to-GDP ratio in the U.S. is a national security problem, because when it gets too high, we will stop growing. Japan is in their third decade of no-growth. We have to have an honest conversation about debt and sacred cows. Everything has to be on the table, including the 650 billion dollar Defense budget. Romney said they cut 350 million for the F-22. They delayed aircraft carriers. They stopped the Navy cruiser system. They are not going to build Air Force bombers. They are trying to cut troops by 50,000. Perry said Obama has been a failure in terms of budget leadership. He would impose a flat tax of 20% on corporations, and would cut spending. Santorum said he would compromise and give on some things. Gingrich would reform Social Security by using the Chilean model, which he believes would not hurt anyone. He said there is something wrong with a system where it takes 15 to 20 years to build weapons, but Apple can change technology in just nine months. Bachmann said four years ago we were 8 trillion in debt, now we are 15 trillion in debt. We are sending interest money and our power over to China.

11/23/2011

Republican Debate Foreign Policy (11-12)

The Republican Presidential candidates debated again on Nov. 12, 2011.

CHINA: Romney said we have something China needs, which is a global market, but they must play by the rules and cannot manipulate currency to cause prices to fall below market levels. He would sue China in the WTO to win the right to selectively impose tariffs. Huntsman said the WTO does not allow us to sue over currency issues, and trade war would only hurt U.S. exports. Perry believes China will end up on the ash heap of history.

EURO: Huntsman warned Europe is second only to Canada as a U.S. export market, and if they go down, it will spread back to us.

RUSSIA: While discussing Iran, Romney sounded like he considered Russia an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. It was not clear if he knew what he was saying.

ISRAEL: Paranoid Bachmann thinks “the table is being set for a worldwide nuclear war against Israel,” as she baselessly accused Obama of not being willing to stand with them.

FOREIGN POLICY: Ron Paul noted our foreign policy is bad, because we pretend we are at war. We are only at war against a tactic, he said. There is in fact no declared war. Gingrich said our foreign aid should start at zero for each country every year. Egypt should explain why they should receive a penny. He would adopt a strong policy against what he called UN “absurdities.” Perry thinks we are in a real war, and would deal with every country, including Israel, by denying foreign aid if they do not support us.

AFGHANISTAN: Huntsman said there is a lack of security in Afghanistan, but it is time to come home. We achieved our objectives by uprooting the Taliban, dismantling al-Qaeda, and killing Osama bin Laden. Elections were held. The U.S. should not use 100,000 troops to do nation-building there. Romney would not negotiate with the Taliban, because he said we don’t negotiate with terrorists. He claims our commanders in the field do not want our troops withdrawn, but Obama is taking them out early. His timetable is to stay until 2014. Perry said he would complete the mission (whatever that means). He thinks we are making progress, and a timetable to pull out is irresponsible. He said our military is doing the best they can, considering the lack of support from the administration, and the telegraphing to the enemy that we are leaving. Santorum said victory over the Taliban does not mean wiping them out, because we can’t do that. It means neutering them, so they are no longer a security threat. Bachmann said Obama sent a surge of only 30,000, instead of the 40,000 requested, and made a fatal decision to withdraw by Sept. 2012. Gingrich said the Taliban survive, because they have sanctuary in Pakistan. Cain was asked what it is about the situation in Afghanistan that has been going on for 10 years that is so unclear that he cannot answer questions about it. He said victory is not clearly defined. He would define the mission.

PAKISTAN: Romney said Pakistan is a fragile nation which is close to a failed state. He wants to make sure they allow us to go after Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Santorum said we cannot be indecisive about whether Pakistan is a friend, because they have nuclear weapons. He would continue aid for Pakistan, and would work through our difficulties. He would work with the Pakistani military and their intelligence network, because they do not back the Haqqani Network. Gingrich said we do not getting reliable intelligence from Pakistan, and we have to rely on friends. Bachmann said Pakistan is a place where terrorists receive training, but she would not deny aid, because they have nuclear weapons. Cain said he didn’t know if Pakistan was a friend or foe.

IRAN: Ron Paul said it is not worth going to war against Iran to prevent them from gaining nuclear weapons. Intervention would have to go through Congress, because the Commander-in-Chief cannot make that decision. What is going on right now is the same war propaganda used against Iraq. If a Declaration of War is made, you fight to win, and get it over with. Romney would support the Iranian dissidents who took to the streets and would impose sanctions. He said Obama should have made it clear we will take military action to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. If Obama is re-elected, he predicted Iran will gain nuclear weapon, but if Romney is chosen, they will not. In addition to crippling sanctions, he would encourage regime change, and if that fails, he would use military force. Perry would sanction the Iranian Central Bank and shut down their economy. Santorum said Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. He hopes we have been acting covertly to make sure it does not happen. He wants to work with Israel and let them take out Iran’s nuclear capabilities, like they did in Iraq and Syria. Gingrich would maximize covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian program. He would take out their scientists. He would coordinate his efforts with Israel. Cain would assist the Iranian opposition who are trying to overthrow the regime. Because Iran uses oil as a weapon, he wants U.S. energy independence. He would put economic pressure on Iran through sanctions. He would deploy ballistic missile defense Aegis warships in the Persian Gulf.

ARAB SPRING: Cain thinks Obama was on the wrong side in nearly every Arab Spring situation. He thinks Obama mishandled the revolutions. Our relationship with Egypt may not survive, because the Muslim Brotherhood may gain control. Obama said the President of Yemen must go, even though he is our friend.

SYRIA: Ron Paul said the Syrians need to deal with Syria. It is a tragedy many died, but we would only get in trouble if we got into it. We should support self-determination. Romney said it is time for the Assad dictatorship to end. We should help with covert activities. He said Syria is an ally of Iran, and we should aid Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Gingrich said it was good the Arab League suspended Syria. The administration dumped Egypt’s Mubarek in a heartbeat, but did not go after Assad. He would take covert action against Assad.

GUANTANAMO AND TORTURE: Ron Paul correctly pointed out torture is illegal under our laws, and international law. He added water-boarding is torture. He said there is no evidence reliable information is gained. It’s uncivilized and immoral, he said.  Huntsman, who lived overseas four times, said we diminish our standing in the world as to liberty, democracy, and human rights, when we torture. Water-boarding is torture, and we should not use it. Perry is for enhanced interrogation techniques, because he thinks we are involved in a war. Santorum would allow enhanced interrogation techniques, because he thinks they are successful in obtaining information. He would keep Guantanamo open. Bachmann would use water-boarding, because she thinks it is useful for gaining information. She made the ridiculous statement Obama is letting the ACLU run the CIA. She claims Obama wants to lose the war on terror, because we now have no place for terrorists. Cain does not agree with torture, but trusts the military leaders to determine what is, and what is not, torture. He called water-boarding an enhanced interrogation technique, but not torture. He would allow the military to use enhanced interrogation techniques, because he thinks anyone picked up must necessarily be a terrorist.

CIVILIAN COURTS: Paul said over 300 individuals charged with terrorism were convicted in civilian courts and most are in prison. We should not give up so easily on the rule of law, he said. Santorum thinks civilian courts are one of the worst ideas he ever heard of, because people there have constitutional rights. People who attacked our country should not enjoy rights, he said. He also said he believes in the Geneva Conventions, but when they don’t play by the rules, they don’t enjoy rights under Geneva.

ASSASSINATION: Romney said it was correct for the President alone to order the death of American citizens suspected of terrorism. He claimed one individual allied himself with a group that declared war on the U.S. and if they bear arms against us, they are fair game. Gingrich said they were more than suspects. They were found guilty of trying to kill Americans, not by a court, but by a panel. He said enemy combatants have no right to go to court. Waging war on the U.S. is outside criminal law. It is correct to kill people who are trying to kill you.

BUDGET: Huntsman said our debt is a national security risk. Greece has a 170% debt to GDP. Italian debt is 120% to GDP. Japan is 100% debt to GDP. Our debt is 70% to GDP and moving up. We need to send Medicaid and Education back to the states. The Ryan plan puts everything on the table, he said. Romney would eliminate programs we cannot afford, such as Obamacare. That would save 95 billion per year. He would eliminate Public Broadcasting, and the Endowment for the Arts. He would re-direct Medicaid to the states. Gingrich wants the unemployed to receive training, so they do not get something for doing nothing.  Bachmann said the debt is out of control since LBJ created the welfare state. She said military expenditures should also be reduced. Instead of a cost plus billing, we need a fixed cost system. We have to modernize military medical costs. Gingrich thinks the Navy is shrinking and would invest in it and rebuild it.

11/22/2011

1st Amendment Right: Peaceful Assembly

Students at the U of California-Davis, who peaceably assembled and were seated on the ground on public property during a protest against galloping inflation as to college tuition, were needlessly pepper-sprayed in the face at point blank range by thugs wearing law enforcement uniforms, despite any resistance by the victims.

While most of us learned in grade school the First Amendment guarantees: “the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” Linda Katehi, the Greek Chancellor at UC-Davis, ordered her campus police to remove the students, while failing to remind them to respect the constitutional rights of the demonstrators. Apparently, she was never taught the values we hold dear under our Constitution, as she grew up under an authoritarian regime in Greece.

Conservatives who consider inflation one of the worst economic evils should applaud the students for complaining about the outrageous increases in student tuition in recent years. Instead, the Tea Party types, who pretend to know the U.S. Constitution, fail to understand that the Framers would clearly be on the side of the demonstrators. Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and the others, despised the British police state imposed upon them, and they guaranteed in our Constitution the right to assemble for the purpose of demanding change. Obviously, when police pepper spray protesters, the ability to redress grievances is violated.

It is time for institutions like UC-Davis to hire Chancellors who understand the Bill of Rights. We need to stop placing foreigners in such valued and important American jobs, when they apparently have little or no knowledge of how our system is supposed to operate. Our police need training to understand that protest is as American as the Declaration of Independence.

We are a nation born on the principle that individual rights are weighed more heavily than the powers of the state. Where people gather to make government aware of their grievances, those in authority must put the tools of repression aside, and should instead listen to the protesters, and then respond to their concerns in an equally non-violent manner. To use force like pepper spray against non-violent demonstrators is nothing more than a violation of the First Amendment Right to Assembly

11/18/2011

Republican Debate: Michigan (11-9-11)

The Republicans debated in Michigan on Nov. 9, 2011:

CHINA TRADE: Romney would sue China in the WTO, because he said they are unfairly cheating, and not playing by the rules, as they engage in predatory manipulations of their currency, and make Chinese goods artificially low-priced. Huntsman warned randomly slapping tariffs on Chinese goods would trigger a trade war, which is not a good idea, since China would do the same to our exports. Santorum called tariffs a tax on “you.”

EURO CRISIS: As to Europe, Romney said they should take care of their own problems. What is happening in Italy and Greece, he said, is where we are headed if we don’t change. When asked about U.S. contributions to the IMF used to help the Euro Zone, he said the U.S. must focus of our own deficits. Huntsman warned if we do not get on top of our debt, we will soon look like Europe. Cain said there was not a lot we could do about Italy, because they were already beyond the point of return.

OCCUPY WALL STREET: Huntsman wants to be the President of the 99% as well as the 1%. He agreed we should not bail out corporations, because we spent trillions with nothing to show for it. He disagreed with the anti-capitalism message some made.

BANKS: Huntsman is concerned about “too big to fail” and wants a proper size for banks. We must address the problem of banks too big to fail, because they are setting us up long-term disaster. He said six institutions have 9.4 trillion or 60 to 65% of our GDP with implied taxpayer guarantees of protection, which is unfair to taxpayers. They need to be “right-sized.” The banks need to pay to take the risk away from taxpayers. Cain wants to get regulators off the backs of the banks.

FEDERAL RESERVE: Gingrich would fire the Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, and would audit the Fed with a complete disclosure so we know who was bailed out and why. Paul said the Fed is engaged in price-fixing by setting interest rates well below market levels. We are cheating the elderly of interest income they could earn on their CDs, as banks get loans at zero percent.

HOUSING: What about the 25% who owe more to the bank than their house is worth? Gingrich said “short sales” need to be easier. He thinks the banks profit more from foreclosing than by doing “short sales.” He thinks unemployment is keeping housing from coming back. Romney said holding off the foreclosure process, like the president has done, won’t work. The government cannot buy up all the homes in America. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gave loans to people who could not afford to pay them back. We won’t see home prices return, unless we let the market work. Bachmann said at the time of the meltdown, 50% of homes were financed by Freddie and Fannie, and now its 90%, and yet they want another 7 billion. Cain would make Freddie and Fannie private entities. Paul said the housing debt has to be liquidated, as we are just prolonging the housing bubble agony. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac just keep demanding more money, Paul said.

CORPORATIONS: Romney said it is not a choice between job creation and maximizing profits. Profits help expand businesses and cause them to hire people, he said. Profitable enterprises hire people. He accused the Democrats of not liking business. Perry wants the market and private sector to make decisions. He would let consumers choose winners and losers. He said if a company is too big to fail, it is too big.

LABOR: Cain said the NLRB should not be telling Boeing what to do in South Carolina.

REGULATIONS: Perry said regulations are killing America, and we need to pull back on them. If it kills jobs, do away with it, he said. He would eliminate three agencies, Commerce, Education, but he could not remember the third, until someone prompted him to say EPA. But then he recanted, and said not the EPA. He later said he was trying to remember the Energy Dept.

AUTO BAILOUT: Romney said the auto bailout was wrong, adding they should have gone through a managed bankruptcy. He opposed giving GM to the UAW, and Chrysler to Fiat. Huntsman did not think the 68 billion dollar auto bailout was a good use of taxpayer money. He said Americans are sick and tired of bailouts.

ENERGY: Huntsman wants energy independence. Bachmann said we need to legalize American energy. Santorum wants to produce energy in this country. He wants to cut all the subsidies, and let the market work. He does not favor incentives to get energy businesses going.

HEALTH: Huntsman said we need to address health care cost containment with the 50 governors. He would not have a costly mandate. Half of health care spending is nonsense, he said. We have to get cost out of the system. Patients need to be empowered. We need truly affordable insurance. Paul supports medical savings accounts and would allow opt-outs from Obamacare. We need market forces in medicine, he said. Perry said if Medicare were run by the states, it would save a ton of money. Romney would let the states do their own programs, but thinks individuals must have insurance. Health care has to work more like a market, where people have a stake cost. The malpractice system is nuts, he said, and should be taken over by the federal government. He said government is playing too heavy a role, and patients need to have a stake in cost. He was asked about providing subsidies for those who cannot afford health insurance. Gingrich would turn health care over to the states for experimentation. Bachmann said health care is too expensive. She said Obama promised we would save $2,500 per year in premiums. We need to end the insurance monopoly in every state and allow a free market. Santorum wants the government out of the health care business, and replace it with a consumer driven market.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Gingrich said President Johnson put Social Security into the general budget, and politicians now hide behind it. The money is there and available and the country ought to pay the debt it owes to those who put it there. Bachmann opposes an extension of the payroll tax cut, because it is blowing a hole in the Trust Fund. Perry talked about going to some kind of vague blended price and wage program.

EDUCATION: Paul said there is no authority in the Constitution for the federal government to be involved in education. He would get rid of student loans. Gingrich was asked about student loans and the fact they cannot be wiped out in bankruptcy. Perry said we have to control college Boards of Regents.

SPENDING AND DEBT: Romney said we cannot continue to pass massive debts to the next generation. Romney wants to cut spending. Paul said spending is taxing. He would cut 1 trillion from five departments in his first year. Bachmann said Washington receives 2.2 trillion but spends 3.7 trillion.

TAXES: Bachmann believes taxes cause jobs to leave the U.S. We have the 2nd highest corporate tax rate in the world, she said. If state and federal rates are combined, she claimed we have a 40% corporate rate. Capital went to places where rates were falling. We have to lower our rates. Santorum was asked if his proposed zero tax on manufacturing would be flatter, simpler, or fairer. He said he was not picking winners and losers. He said the government made us uncompetitive, and we need to compete on taxes. Perry proposed a 20% flat tax on personal and corporate incomes. Cain would throw out the current tax code. We need something simple, since complexity is costing 430 billion a year. He wants all treated the same, without winners or losers. Romney was asked why he was holding on to the progressive income tax. He said he wanted flatter rates.  He wants special breaks removed. He would reduce the corporate rate from 35% to 25%. Bachman said there is something wrong with the income tax when only 53% pay it, and 47% do not. She wants everyone to pay something. Huntsman wants to phase out loopholes, deductions, corporate welfare, and subsidies. He would lower rates.

HARASSMENT: Cain said he was being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded sexual harassment accusations. Voters don’t care about the character assassination, he said. Romney would not say if a CEO like Cain could be kept.

11/17/2011

Cape Verde: A Good African Destination

During my recent visit to Cape Verde, an Atlantic Island-Nation, 400 miles off the cost of West Africa, things were looking up, as the people appeared fed and healthy. If hunger exists, it was not visible. Fresh fish was abundant in the market. Despite a lack of rain most months, many fruits, such as bananas, and vegetables, were on display. There was an ample supply of bread. The local grocery carried all the basic staples. Getting a cup of coffee in the morning was no problem. Meals included rice and tomatoes.

Education is on the rise, as hundreds of children wearing uniforms walked to and from school each day. While they could benefit from learning English, (the global language of business), Portuguese and the local Creole tongue are preparing them for life.

There was a courthouse in the municipality where I stayed, but no obvious need for it, since everyone appeared to be law-abiding and respectful of the rights of others. As a white visitor, I was never once harassed, while out on the streets.

Four modern international airports connect the nine inhabited islands. On Santiago, the largest, transportation between the cities was by mini-bus, a relatively inexpensive and efficient method. Windy but paved roads connect the principal communities.

There was a good amount of new building construction, but some projects appeared stalled. Refrigerators, stoves, and microwaves were available, along with furniture and beds. Since washing machines are not used, cloths were cleaned the old-fashioned way.

Some public utilities need improvement. While communities have water and sewer systems, water pressure is low, and water often arrives in dribbles. Some waste water systems are so overloaded, flushing is limited. Electrical blackouts are common.

Communications were good, as cell phone and Internet use was available. I however saw no newspapers for sale on the streets.

Three islands, Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio have flat sandy beaches, where hotels and resorts have been erected, mainly for German, Italian, and British visitors. Great potential exists to develop Cape Verde further as a first port of call for those wishing to see Africa.

11/15/2011

Peace Corps: Real Home of the Brave

We often see government TV ads promoting the Marines, as the place for strong men and women, but not often enough do we hear about the Peace Corps, that overlooked army of mentally tough young Americans, who physically survive each and every day in cultural settings totally foreign to the comforts of American life.

While the military is sometimes sent abroad to engage in armed combat, the Peace Corps is always overseas on the front lines in challenging foreign environments that present risks of the sort most Americans would not endure for very long, if at all.

Unlike the Armed Services, where individuals serve with Bands of Brothers, who vigilantly guard their backsides, Peace Corps volunteers go it alone, (think about that for a moment), and they go unarmed, in a world where they win over hearts and minds with nothing more than words and deeds.

The 8,655 volunteers of the Peace Corps, now living in 76 countries throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere, are brave people, often assigned to villages where no one looks like them, or where no one speaks their language. Their single greatest hardship is the disconnection from the people back home.

But every day they also go without many conveniences we in the U.S. take for granted. A simple drink from the kitchen sink in the U.S. can for a volunteer require a trip to buy bottled water. A warm shower for most volunteers is a dream of something they once experienced back in the states, as water heaters are a luxury. If running water exists, poor pressure often reduces it to nothing more than a cold dribble. While they may have a toilet, toilet paper cannot be used as it only plugs up their outdated systems. The volunteers deal with these hardships, and a multitude of others. They adjust to conditions on the ground, and they survive.

If you ever thought service in the Peace Corps was a piece of cake, try it for a two-year hitch, or at least visit a volunteer, as I did these past 10 days in West Africa, where my son is serving. You will quickly realize how tough these young people are. All Americans should tip their hats to the Peace Corps volunteers, the finest group of unpaid Ambassadors the U.S. has ever had.

11/14/2011

Sexual Harassment: The Cained Women

Since Sexual Harassment has once again returned to American Politics, thanks to four different women who claimed to be the victims of it at the hands of Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain, it is a good time to review the law on the subject.

The legal basis for a Sexual Harassment claim is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer…to discriminate against any individual with respect to (her) compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of… race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Sexual Harassment was further defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature…when: 1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; 2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or 3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual Harassment manifests itself in one of two ways: 1) the exchange of concrete employment benefits for sexual favors; or 2) harassment that creates an offensive or hostile work environment. A successful case requires proof the harassment was: 1) based on sex; 2) unwelcome; and 3) sufficiently severe and pervasive.

When a supervisor sexually harasses a subordinate, because of the subordinate’s sex, the supervisor discriminates on the basis of sex. Meritor Savings Bank (1986). A woman must show she would not have been the subject of harassment, but for her sex.

The law allows work-place criticism and sexual flirtation. Mere criticism in the work-place, not based on sex, does not violate the law. A boss can be unpleasant, critical, or even mean, and yet not be guilty of sexual harassment, as the Civil Rights Act did not create a general civility code. The Supreme Court has never held workplace harassment…is automatically discrimination because of sex, merely because the words used have sexual content or connotations. The law does “not mistake ordinary socializing in the workplace, such as…flirtation, for discrimination.”

A second issue is whether sexual advances were unwelcome. Ongoing voluntary romantic engagements do not constitute sexual harassment. Co-workers can engage in sexual relations, as long as they are consensual. A claimant’s dress and conversation are relevant in determining unwelcome conduct. The Court in Meritor said it does not follow that a woman’s sexually provocative speech or dress is irrelevant, as a matter of law, in determining whether particular sexual advances were unwelcome. In other words, a man can introduce evidence of what was said and what she was or was not wearing. If a man made sexual advances, after a woman walked into his office and took off all her cloths, subsequent harassment charges could be defended against with evidence of her naked appearance.

The Supreme Court in Meritor further said sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment. A single sexually explicit remark is not sufficient to prove a wrong. See Clark County School Dist. (2000). Simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) do not constitute discrimination. Sexually hostile or intimidating environments are characterized by multiple and varied combinations and frequencies of offensive exposures, which would dictate an order of proof demonstrating the injury resulted not from a single or isolated offensive incident, comment, or conduct, but from incidents, comments, or conduct that occurred with some frequency. Courts will look to the frequency, severity, verbal or physical nature of offenses, and whether they interfered with work performance. Harris v Forklift (1993).

Since Herman Cain did not fight and win his cases, but instead made payments, it is fair to assume all of the required evidence was available against him, before cash settlements were made.

Perhaps Cain may now sympathize with President Clinton, who was innocent of sexual harassment as to his purely consensual affair with Monica Lewinsky. She never once said his advances were unwelcome. Clinton was properly acquitted in the Senate of trumped-up impeachment charges brought by House Republicans.

Clinton was also not guilty of charges brought by Paula Jones. In Jones v Clinton (W.D. Ark. 1998) Judge Susan Wright rejected Jones’ claim that a single incident of allegedly requesting oral sex was enough, in and of itself, to create a hostile work environment. Jones, who worked for Arkansas, was not even directly under the supervision of then Gov. Clinton. Courts have ruled where a supervisor has no authority over an employee, because they work in different departments, it may be improper to find liability.

Whether or not Herman Cain could have prevailed in his sexual harassment cases, if they had gone to trial, it is useful to know the law of sexual harassment.