Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Turkey Downs Russian Fighter. No, Lafayette, the Yanks Aren't Coming

No, Lafayette. And sorry, Charlie Hebdo. The Yanks aren't coming to rescue the world everywhere from the so-called "Muslim menace".  We are not even going to get heavily into Syria.
And here is just one reason why, as reported today in the New York Times:
            In a clash with Cold War overtones, Turkey shot down a 
            Russian warplane that it said had strayed into its            
            territory. Russia called the incident a “stab in the back,” 
            and NATO called for calm.

Now what? Will ISIS have succeeded inadvertently in getting the two countries to fight each other, a sort of side-pocket bonus of its terrorism?

Isn't this shoot-down by Turkey exactly the kind of thing that could happen between the USA and Russia if we try to enforce the no-fly zone in Syria that Hillary Clinton wants? Unless we establish such a no-fly zone in cooperation with Russia, we are setting ourselves up for a possible real war, i.e. one with nuclear weapons, conducted by two actual super-powers.  I don't know any sane person who would want US and Russian fighter planes circling each other over Syria, each committed to an opposing side in the Syrian war. The Russians want Assad to continue as ruler of Syria. And we don't. And how is the "safety zone" Hillary wants in Syria to be enforced so that US and Russian troops aren't shooting each other?

Risk a full-scale round-the-globe major war because Paris took a really nasty hit a couple of weeks ago? Other places have been hit hard too. The roster is indeed grim:  Madrid, London, Mumbia, Bali, a Russian school full of children and a Russian theater full of patrons, and in the last few weeks a planeload of Russian citizens over the Sinai, plus the recent attack in Beirut and many more in recent years in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan even though we supposedly had stabilized the last two. The USA has taken a hit too. It was called 9-1l, and it had a total of more dead than all of the foregoing put together.

Actually we vowed right after 9-11 to make "global war" on the violence-embracing fundamentalist Muslims. We then spent a trilllion dollars, lost about 5000 dead American military personnel, now have maybe 100,000 wounded and maimed vets, killed an estimated  200,000  Iraquis and wounded a huge number. But the other side is still up and running and killing and maiming.

The hard truth is that a determined guerilla enemy can make trouble indefinitely and you can't stomp them out quickly without being so vicious that you create more of them. We often used our own forested land as cover in the Revolution, shot from behind trees  -  not considered proper warfare anywhere else in "civilized" places  -   and thereby we beat the Brits, the most powerful military force in the world. But a century later when we beat the Spanish in the Spanish American War in conventional fighting, we still couldn't eliminate the Phillipine guerrillas who continued to oppose us from the hills and thickets of the jungles. Then, fifty years later, came Vietnam. A comparatively tiny country beat the hell out of the mightiest power in history by being determined guerillas, shooting at us from behind trees. And the more we bombed them, the more determined they became.

Up against today's guerillas, President Obama has the right basic strategy:  quietly and steadily pick them off, denying them the glamorizing of being "a major enemy". The more "major" we make them, the more impressive they are to the young men they seek to recruit. We mustn't be the recruitment tool of ISIS propaganda.

By the way, the Irish beat the Brits in the 20th century by blowing up buildings and shooting people in a guerilla war. After 400 years of conventional battles for Irish freedom, they had no choice but to do the sneaky thing. And it worked. The Brits stupidly opted to run their own version of Guantanomo, used mass arrest, hauled the Irish "rebels" before firing squads, etc. Until the IRA made life in London very dangerous with bombs. Then the British sat down with the Irish and gave them what they wanted.

We can't sit down with ISIS because it wants what we can't give, a caliphate, a huge state run by them under grim and barbaric rules.

And we cannot, must not give them the other thing they want: status as terrifying boogeymen. Let us not ennoble them nor tremble in fear. Let's go about eliminating them deftly and quietly.

And let us remember the mistakes the Brits made in fighting against our Revolution and against the Irish rebellion. Let us also be aware that the Brits' mistakes with the Irish actually created ISIS and its guerilla predecessors. Because of the Brits, the Irish were so desperate for arms for their guerilla warfare that they taught tactics to the Islamic extremists in exchange for weapons for their fight against England. Because of England, the Irish created the Muslim terrorists.

England's imperialism yet casts a long shadow.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ben Carson So Dumb He Makes a Weak Field Look Good

I can't believe the GOP is stuck with its current field of potential nominees. Are there no basic qualifications for running for president in a major party?

Ben Carson especially takes my breath away. Most people think all doctors are smart. Not true. I taught pre-med students for ten years. Some pre-meds were smart; others weren't. The latter were, however, good at memorizing, which is extremely helpful in learning body parts and prescription names but isn't worth much in terms of thinking. So I wasn't as surprised as many were that Ben Carson is an unthinking person who accepts and regurgitates really nutsy ideas about history and other things.

Such things as the income tax.

In the Republican debate this week he proposed eliminating the tax deduction for home mortgage expense. May his immortally stupid words be chiseled on his tombstone:  “But the fact of the matter is, people had homes before 1913, when we introduced the federal income tax, and later after that started deductions.”

Gosh. That is such a stupid statement it almost defies explication. For starters, it's a huge example of mixing apples and oranges. Or is it a non sequitur? Or maybe there's no label for such nonsense.  First he actually says that people had homes before there was an income tax, thus idiotically indicating people don't need an income tax in order to own homes. Why say such a thing? No one has ever made the preposterous claim that we need an income tax in order to encourage home ownership. So why does he attack that premise? Yikes! 

Then it gets worse: "...and later after that started deductions."  Well, yeah. Deductions do in fact get established after a tax is established. So what? What's the point? 

God help us that this man should ever be trying to enunciate orders from the Oval Office about whether or not we're going to start World War III.  Or do anything of any consequence whatsoever. No matter his intent, he would end up either inadvertently surrendering to Iceland or ordering an anchovy pizza.

All that Carson has to offer is that he speaks more softly than Donald Trump.  Other than that he's the worst one on the stage. I have to believe that the Republican voters will tire of him. I just have to believe that.

I said in the title of this piece that Carson makes the rest of the weak GOP field look good. Well, almost but not quite. Jeb Bush is still wallpaper. Rubio is offensive to many of the GOP base because he is Cuban. Plus he is not going to appeal to Latinos in the general election, and for the same reason — being Cuban.  I notice these phenomena, but I don't create or approve them. To Latinos, being Cuban is not being Latino, a distinction in American politics that the GOP doesn't understand. (I've explained this distinction before and will again if Rubio stays around.) Donald Trump? He is a horn blower who currently is running out of sour notes to trumpet. Fiorina? The GOP will never nominate a woman.  

Is there anybody else in the  "top tier" of GOP wannabes? If there is and I can't remember who that is, that says a lot about him, doesn't it? Oh yeah, Kasich. He's okay, not a wild man.
But he doesn't gain traction. 

Cruz? Yeah, I forgot Cruz. Forgetfulness is contagious. There he was in the debate, gallantly upholding a Texas tradition: he forgot one of the five departments he will eliminate from the federal government. In 2012 Rick Perry forgot one of the three departments he would have eliminated from the federal government. Therefore you can forgive me for forgetting Cruz. But observe:  Texas and the GOP nominating process are improving. We now have a Texan who can remember two more things than did a prior Texan.

Real progress, folks! ........Now watch this!..... Remember the Alamo! Remember Pearl Harbor!.... and what was that third one? ..... Got it!....Remember the Maine!...... 

Do I get to be president? Or do I have to move to Texas?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Really? Sanders Can Beat Any GOP Candidate? Really?

How about a dollar for every time someone has said to you: "Bernie Sanders is a great guy, but he can't win the general election"?

Ha! Not true according to the newest poll from McClatchy/Marist. With one slight exception — and it's one that doesn't count — Sanders does just as well as Hillary Clinton in beating the Republican field.

And how about this? They each beat the whole GOP field! Quite startlingly, each does it by almost the same amount. The one exception is a match-up against Ben Carson. Hillary beats him by 2 points; Sanders loses to him by 2 points, both numbers well within the margin of error. But this is the exception I mentioned as being irrelevant, i.e. Carson is not going to be the GOP nominee.

You're wondering how good this poll is. Looking at its approach and its "frame", as its called, it doesn't look too bad at all. Unlike the many polls that are still behind the times, this one included a sizable number of cell phone calls.  Cell phones are in use as the sole household phone in about half of households, so cell calls being used for one-third the sample was pretty good. This alone may account for this poll differing from two Iowa polls recently that were badly constructed to virtually exclude the two groups most likely to be Sanders supporters.

Admittedly, there are more Democrats in this McClatchy/Maris poll than Republicans.  In 2012 there were polls with similarly more Democrats than Republican, and these showed Obama winning. Predictably the GOP screamed about the edge in Democratic numbers among those polled, but the pollsters shrugged it off, insisting their polls were sound. They were right. Obama did indeed win.

We have to keep in mind that more Democrats may show up in polling than Republicans simply because there are more Democrats in the population.  It's this fact that gives Democrats the edge in the presidential election voting. And it's an increasing edge. The Republicans just continue dropping in numbers as a percentage of the population.

A radical thought I keep having:  Has the GOP already shrunk so much in numbers it just can't win the presidency at all?  And/or is the GOP field just so weak that — dare I say it? — maybe any Democrat can win the presidency next year?  And is the field so weak because somewhere some potentially strong GOP candidates looked at the declining number of Republicans and the growing number of crazies on the GOP right and said, "Hell no! I won't go!" (Honestly, however, I can't think of who such Republicans might be. Any ideas?)

I pose three possibilities now, maybe pretty wild ones: To wit, Bernie Sanders does as well as Hillary in beating the GOP because (a) the GOP ain't got nobody, (b) people don't like Hillary all that much so Bernie is about as strong as she is even though less known, or (c) nobody knows nothing no more no how about politics because it's a weird year.

It may be more than a weird year. I think we are living in one of the strangest political times ever. Not for 130 years has America witnessed the death of a major political party, but I think that's what we are seeing now. It's been going on for about a decade, and it's painful to watch. I think it has in fact actually killed people.

But more about that another time. Meantime try googling "Whigs".