What do we do with the electoral process

Four years ago, November 8th,2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States by a majority of the citizens in a majority of the states. On November 9th,2016 The mainstream media and the Democratic National Committee began a full court press to reverse the results in some form or another. Most of the attacks on the legitimacy of the election centered around the belief that the Russian government had some how manipulated the American electorate to get Trump elected. We now know this to be a complete fabrication on the part of the DNC and the media and a less then unbiased FBI. Recent reporting shows that most of those agents who were in fact doing the investigation indicated early on that there was nothing to the allegations. Regardless, a well intrenched bureaucracy continued to push forward knowing the only outcome would be to weaken the administration.

Today we are faced with another disputed election. Unlike 2016 however, the fight is over election irregularities in several key states. To be honest there are likely irregularities in every election, so the question is do the irregularities we see on this election cycle substantially exceed the norm. In order to answer the question, we must first except the premise that there are in fact problems with every election. What is the history of miscounts and potential fraud? There are several times in recent history that fraud has been alleged in the US. This is not a Trump invention. Going back to the 2000 elections we can quote a research paper from Johns Hopkins: “The 2000 Presidential election, and the bitter, 36-day fight that followed over the pivotal state of Florida, opened the eyes of many Americans to a reality they had, up that point, largely chosen to ignore: that their electoral system was-in at least some parts of the country-decrepit, poorly managed, lacking transparency, or clear procedural rules, and prone to corruption, political manipulation, and outright fraud.” [i]

We have heard several times from those whose responsibility it is to make sure the elections are fair that this past election was the most secure in the nation’s history. We have learned much in the ensuing 20 years but that does not mean that the corrections made ensure a fair election. After 2016 following allegations of Russian interference many states changed from straight forward computer voting machines to paper ballots which were then scanned into a machine for counting. These scanners by the way are computers in their own right. But have we made the system any more secure?

To ignore all the allegations of fraud and manipulation will lead the not administration into the same worm hole as the unfounded allegations from 2016. It is highly unlikely that there will be enough fraud found to offset the projected result that Joe Biden won, but the possibility exists. We owe it to the nation and ourselves to do a through and compete investigation and not just dismiss the numerous claims and allegations, some of which are likely true.

This will not stop many of disagreeing, as many still believe the Russian conspiracy story, but it will help reduce the political machinations that will follow. It will not be good for the country to go through what it has for the last four years. Regardless of who is ultimately declared the winner they must be allowed to govern.


[i] Gumbel, A. (2008). Election Fraud and the Myths of American Democracy. Social Research, 75(4), 1109-1134. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40972109

The US Presidential Election and its Impact On the US And the Middle East

By Chiman Zebari and Paul Davis

Currently the outcome of the upcoming Presidential election in the United States is far from clear.  Polling for this election has shown no consistency and seems to depend more on political bias of the pollsters then on an honest attempt to discern the true feelings and atmosphere of the electorate. The polls are mixed, so it is difficult to say for sure. Looking at the overall national trends it would appear that Trump is going to be reelected, but trends could change overnight. There are many reasons to anticipate a Trump reelection, the greatest reason looks to come from private polls in battleground states that show the top concerns are economic and law and order. The Biden campaign continues to lean toward health issues and a perceived incompetence of Trump which is being rejected by the undecided voters. He also leans heavily on the assumption that the nation is consumed by the problems of racial injustice. There has also been a recent study that indicated that many of the undecided voters are caught between a dislike for Trump and a distrust of Biden and his policies. The economic issue resonates as the number one issue that people state will drive their vote. The impact on the economy, as the results of Covid-19 shutdowns, have affected many of the traditional Democrat base as well as, in many “Blue States,” attempts at draconian rules and regulations are anathema to many Americans. The left has attempted to blame Trump for all problems based on his perceived lack of leadership in fighting Covid-19. Many Americans accept the fact that this is a pandemic that hit the world with speed and lethality. On the other hand they also know that prior to the pandemic Trump had advanced the economy and working conditions across the board, White, Black and Hispanics were shown to have the lowest unemployment in history as well as growth in Black and Hispanic business.  America watched as violence has erupted across the country in cities that then took little to no action to restore order. Law and order are a main concern to most and Trump has established a strong position on this issue.

As we said above Biden has locked himself into the position that health care is a major concern for most American. A recent Pew Research poll showed that while 68% of the respondents showed health care to be a major factor in their voting decision 79% indicated the economy.  Another indicator of Democrat party candidate missing the tempo of the country is that in the same report, which came out in August, Racial issues and immigration came at the lower end.

In regard to foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular the question comes to how the two candidates will impact policy. With a Trump victory there will likely be little change. Trump has made no secret of the fact that US domestic policy is his number one issue. He feels that regional issues are best left to regional players. While he has recently made headlines by brokering historic treaties between Israel and Arab nations UAE and Bahrain were the first two Arab nations to recognize Israel in over 25 years and it was recently announced that Sudan will join this group. Peace in the Middle East is good for America. Biden on the other hand has talked a great deal about wanting peace yet is heavily tied to Iran and under the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) where Iran sanctions were lifted, and Billions of dollars released to Iran. This money has been used not to benefit Iranian people but to increase Iranian hegemony. Biden is invested in reestablishing the Iran deal and lifting sanctions that have been in place since Trump pulled out. Recently the UN, over the objections of the US, lifted the restraint on selling Iran military hardware.  A rearmed and strengthened Iran is a danger to Kurds in the entire region. The Obama administration was no friend of an independent Kurdistan and those people that were in the Obama administration will likely return in a Biden administration

As we have said we do not see a major change in administration policy for the region, there are however things that can force a change. One of the biggest problems the next administration will face is the increased belligerency of Turkey, not only in Syria and the Iraqi Kurdish region but also in the Mediterranean and with Greece. Should Turkey keep this up, actions which have drawn the attention of US allies Brittan and France, the US will be forced to engage. Additionally, should Iran increase its activities a Trump administration will need to show the flag. This again is only a Trump administration; Biden will likely do nothing to halt Iranian aggression.

American policy will continue to support Baghdad. American policy remains locked in the belief of “One Iraq.” This has been true since the Bush administration and will continue through any American administration. While many in the congress give lip service to the concept of an independent Kurdistan it is unlikely that support will rise to the point that policy will change.  Trumps support to Turkey’s President Erdogan is well established, however many in congress and in both the State and Defense departments are counselling a different approach including Sec. State Pompeo.    

The biggest impact this election will have will be in the United States. While it is true that all elections impact the country in which they are held, the difference in the two candidates and their respective parties as well as the increasing division within the US will likely cause a seismic tremor regardless of outcome.  The American media has made much about their claim that Trump will not accept the outcome if he loses, something that has never come from Trump, but considering the way the election is being conducted it is doubtful that Biden and his team will readily concede.

From an international perspective should the election not be decided at the ballot box it will have a severe impact on the world economy. Wall Street and other major markets abhor uncertainty, and this will reflect in any problem with the election.   This will not be the same as the 2000 Bush-Gore election toss up since at this time both sides have staked a claim of voter fraud against the other. There is also a very good possibility that there will be a repeat of 2016 where Trump will win the electoral collage but lose the popular vote. Should this happen there is a great likelihood of violence in the streets of America by extreme left-wing radicals. At this point Turkey, Iran and Russia could take advantage of a perceived power vacuum and move to consolidate power in what they consider their rightful territories.

In conclusion we must anticipate a longer then usual period before results are released. Trump is trended toward re-election, but the race is in fact at this point tied. A Trump victory will result in a status quo while a Biden victory will result in a return to a weakened US position in the world.               

Chiman Zebari is a Kurdish-American author, and human rights activist. She was an analyst for the US Intelligence Community. She has also worked for the US government in other capacities and was a broadcaster for Voice of America.


Paul Davis is a retired Military-Political analyst for the US Army and was a civilian analyst in the US Intelligence Community with a concentration on the middle east with an emphasis on the Kurds. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC.

My Political Philosophy and why I will Vote for Trump

To begin I do not agree with everything President Trump says or does, but that is OK. In my opinion, it is not necessary to walk in lock step with another person or party. In general terms I am conservative, which to me means a belief in limited government, but can turn liberal in given cases, meaning the government must step in when needed to protect the individual.

To my mind Trump has maintained the basic tenets of conservativism. Book publisher Henry Regnery once said, “Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma, and conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the times.” Trump has moved to reduce the size and power of the federal government while using the power of the presidency to help the powerless and increase the standard of living for ALL.

The Democrats in general have proven to be the opposite, by demanding the world have only one set of rules and beliefs. Not all democrats hold to this but those in charge of the party and the leadership in government do. Liberals in power do consider liberalism to be a fixed and immutable body of dogma and currently reject any move to re-express their convictions to fit a changing time.

In order to provide a better life to all Trump has reduce the number of regulations on business that have allowed them to grow and along with tax changes, has both increased the number of those gainfully employed, and has allowed them to keep more of the money they earn. He has worked to help reduce the price of drugs as well as forcing hospitals to reveal their deals with drug companies. He has worked to reduce the impact of the 1994 Clinton/Biden violent crime bill whose results were mass incarceration of African Americans. Contrary to the oft stated claim he is in Putin’s pocket he gave lethal add to Ukraine to stop the Russian incursion as well as allowed attacks on Russian mercenaries in Syria and has increased the sanctions on Russia and worked to stop Russian oil and natural gas flowing to Europe. He has worked to bring back jobs that have been lost to offshoring by US companies and he has faced down foreign powers to increase US interests. His major problem is that he is a political novice and does not fully understand how government works, and this can be seen as a plus. He is forcing a major paradigm shift in how the government should see itself. He in fact would, in another time, be seen as a reformer. Unfortunately, as in the past, reformers are disliked by the establishment and will either be destroyed by it or forced to join. Since Trump is not a career politician, he will avoid both scenarios, but the question will remain will his impact on change continue past his presidency.  

Joe Biden on the other hand is a career politician who has done little to affect the quality of life for the common American in almost 50 years in government. He has shown himself to be a person that goes with party ideology while ignoring current facts in evidence. He panders to the loudest voice and gives very little in the way of solutions other than restating what was already done in the past or proposing actions that the current administration is already doing. Most of what his campaign is based on is that he is not Trump, however much of his criticism of Trump is more high lighting his own faults then any actual facts of Trumps presidency. The beliefs, and attitude of Biden is like that of many politicians of both parties, long out of date. While I do not believe that Joe Biden is a socialist he unfortunately panders to the extreme left of the democrat party and is influenced more by them then understanding the true values that most Americans.

As it was four years ago, we are left with actually only one choice. Those who say this is the fault of the system, so be it, but it is a choice we must make.

Learn from history.

History

When I was in 7th grade, I had a great history teacher, Mr. Koch. He had the ability to make history come alive and to understand its relevance to today’s world. One thing he did push hard was that you cannot study or understand history if you judge it by current culture/mores. We see this today as we are asked to confront the issues of race in our country and in the discussion on slavery and the Confederacy. Slavery is a blight on America and was the main reason for the Civil War. Regardless of many of the other reasons given for the Civil War, state rights, the lost cause etc. I go with the statement of Barbara J. Fields in Ken Burns Documentary “The Civil War,” “Without slavery there would not have been a Civil War.” Today 155 years after the end of the Civil war and slavery we continue to believe that the culture and mores of the United States have not changed if anything we have become more racist.
The problem with the discussion today is that we judge slavery by modern standards. Yes, slavery is cruel and inhuman. Subjecting humans to slavery, however, is a system that has existed for as long as history has been written and unfortunately still exists today in parts of the world. Removing slavery in the US did not eliminate racism or cure all the ills of its existence. Jim Crow laws, lynching, segregation, and all that followed is the aftershock of slavery. So how does Mr. Koch’s teaching play into this.
Since the “official” end of slavery the plight of black Americans has marched, however slowly, forward toward what is hoped to be a colorblind society. We are not there yet but it is getting better. The other thing history teaches, is that much social unrest. Up to and including revolutions, are driven by increasing yet unmet expectations. The civil rights movement was driven by the slow pace of social reform but was done in such a way that society continued to grow and function. Back at the beginning of the civil rights movement there was not a large black middle class and many blacks lived in poverty. Today the black middle class is the norm with a small portion of African Americans living in poverty.
Today we are subjected to the amorphous term systemic racism. This term is applied to describe any action between black and white America. This along with the terms white privilege and white supremacy are used with total disregard to facts as they exist today. We are shown videos designed to explain systemic racism that include such things as redlining, which has been illegal since the 1960s, unequal education and income tied to racism. The lack of black home ownership is also given as a sign. The facts do not support this in total. Yes, schools in the inner city and poor neighborhoods are not the equal of suburban schools or those in more affluent communities. Yet most blacks do not live in these areas. Yes, most of these areas are black but most blacks today are living in middle class neighborhoods. As to income let us look at a Brookings Institute study.
“Last week’s headlines around the release of new Census Bureau data spotlighted a continued rise in income inequality. The Gini index—a statistical measure of income inequality—rose to its highest recorded level in 50 years, signaling that the distribution of income in the United States is the most uneven it’s been since the Bureau began tracking it in 1967.
That disturbing trend, however, masks the economic progress Black households have made in recent years. In 2018, their median household income (the level at which half of households have higher incomes, and half lower) reached $41,511. While that level only slightly exceeded that (and was statistically unchanged) from 2017, it continued to top 2007’s pre-recession peak for Black median household income of $41,134”

On the other side we see black and minority homeownership has dropped. Homeownership is considered an indicator of wealth and wealth distribution. This drop however followed periods of higher black homeownership.

In another Brookings report on Black Progress we read:
Let’s start with a few contrasting numbers.
“In 1940, 60 percent of employed black women worked as domestic servants; today the number is down to 2.2 percent, while 60 percent hold white- collar jobs.
44 and 1. In 1958, 44 percent of whites said they would move if a black family became their next door neighbor; today the figure is 1 percent.
In 1964, the year the great Civil Rights Act was passed, only 18 percent of whites claimed to have a friend who was black; today 86 percent say they do, while 87 percent of blacks assert they have white friends.
Progress is the largely suppressed story of race and race relations over the past half-century. And thus it’s news that more than 40 percent of African Americans now consider themselves members of the middle class. Forty-two percent own their own homes, a figure that rises to 75 percent if we look just at black married couples. Black two-parent families earn only 13 percent less than those who are white. Almost a third of the black population lives in suburbia.
Because these are facts the media seldom report, the black underclass continues to define black America in the view of much of the public. Many assume blacks live in ghettos, often in high-rise public housing projects. Crime and the welfare checks are seen as their main source of income. The stereotype crosses racial lines. Blacks are even more prone than whites to exaggerate the extent to which African Americans are trapped in inner-city poverty. In a 1991 Gallup poll, about one-fifth of all whites, but almost half of black respondents, said that at least three out of four African Americans were impoverished urban residents. And yet, in reality, blacks who consider themselves to be middle class outnumber those with incomes below the poverty line by a wide margin.”

How does this all relate to race, slavery and the civil war. We can see that, while not perfect, the difference in black status of living has improved and continues to move forward. If, however we continue to look back at the past and continue to treat the problem as if it had never improved, we would fail. Most blacks in America are descendants of slaves, we cannot change that. Slavery is a stain on the soul of America and will not be erased. But understand that the practice of slavery was not considered wrong by the practitioners, so stop judging them by todays standards. Much of the country considered it a moral evil. None of the whites at the time considered the black race equal. There were “scientific” studies at the time to prove the point. This was a starting point. We fought a war, went through reconstruction and the Jim Crow era. It was not until a century after the civil war was there any serious consideration to equal rights. Back in the day systemic racism was the norm, considered a given. Today most whites do not concern themselves with the race of a friend or neighbor. A small minority do, a very small minority.
Another small minority of activists is also working to promote an agenda based on continuing to portray historical facts as current. Racist police exist and minorities have been killed because of them. But a review of the facts indicate that this is not the norm. Today we see lists of blacks who have been subjected to police brutality or assumed to be. Taking all at face value let us consider the number of interactions that the police have with the public daily. What percentage results in an incident that can be ruled racist? In a report in USA Today:
“Self defense may be understandable if the police were engaging in an epidemic of shooting unarmed Black men and women, as we now hear daily — but there is no such epidemic. For the last five years, the police have fatally shot about 1,000 civilians annually, the vast majority of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. Black people account for about 23% of those shot and killed by police; they are about 13% of the U.S. population.
As of the June 22 update, the Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings showed 14 unarmed Black victims and 25 unarmed white victims in 2019. The database does not include those killed by other means, like George Floyd.
The number of unarmed Black shooting victims is down 63% from 2015, when the database began. There are about 7,300 Black homicide victims a year. The 14 unarmed victims in fatal police shootings would comprise only 0.2% of that total.”
We need to stop breaking down the population by race. We need to move forward from our past but remember the past and understand it existed. Slavery was evil but those that practice it were not necessary so. It was a part of the norm and ended. Leave the past in the past and move forward to correcting the effects of it. If we continue to live in the past, we will never move forward.
While there is still a difference between Black and White regarding wealth, the gap is closing. We are facing a larger social problem with the second wave of what has been called postmodernism. As one academic put it:
“Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself. That may sound like a bold or even hyperbolic claim, but the reality is that the cluster of ideas and values at the root of postmodernism have broken the bounds of academia and gained great cultural power in western society. The irrational and identitarian “symptoms” of postmodernism are easily recognizable and much criticized, but the ethos underlying them is not well understood. This is partly because postmodernists rarely explain themselves clearly and partly because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of a way of thought which denies a stable reality or reliable knowledge to exist. However, there are consistent ideas at the root of postmodernism and understanding them is essential if we intend to counter them. They underlie the problems we see today in Social Justice Activism, undermine the credibility of the Left and threaten to return us to an irrational and tribal “pre-modern” culture.”
What has generated from this postmodern thinking is the concept of group think, there is only one way of looking at any problem and that it must fit into the current narrative. It can be argued that group think is not new, we have always strived for “the American Way of Life.” The truth is that for 200+ years the American culture has grown and evolved toward one of individual equality. In other words, it was the individual who should be at the center of all discussions. It is the individual who is responsible for their actions. In order to eliminate racism you eliminate race from the interactions of individuals. As Dr. King said we should judge a person by the content of their heart and not the color of his skin.
Today there are many African-Americans who have benefited by this belief. But some have not and the illiberal left has mounted an attack on the country by ignoring history and the advances we have made as a society to engage in the tearing down of the very structure that has made the advancement possible. What needs to be done to help the rest to follow and prosper is to continue to move society forward not stop and try to move backward. The government must learn that it is not necessary to pass laws making lynching illegal, it already is. It must move forward with the traditional liberal beliefs in individualism and equality.
Today we are being inundated with the concepts of the Social Justice movement and Critical Race Theory which proposes that race is not biological but a social construct devised by white supremacist to maintain power and control. To prove this point, we are reminded about past abuses such as slavery and Jim Crow and other past sins, without regard to changes in society. If you are a white person in todays society it is a given you are a racist, either consciously or subconsciously. To make matters worse there is no defense, if you agree, you are a racist, if you disagree you are a racist but do not know it.
The good news is, I believe, that most do not buy into this philosophy, yet. The bad news is that the few who do have hijacked the narrative and that many in political and business leadership roles are willing to make a Faustian bargain with those that are pressing for the most radical/dangerous demands.
History is a guide that is seldom followed. It is more often used as a mallet to ensure reality is deflected. It is twisted and turned and beaten out of shape to ensure people that do not know history are set on the path toward their own destruction. There can be arguments made on both side on the current desire to remove statues of Confederate leaders, I for one have always considered them traitors. But a considered action by a governing body is one thing, the actions of a mob are another. When mob mentality takes hold reason and logic are lost. Take for example the attack on the statue of an abolitionist in Philadelphia or the defacement of the monument to the 56th Massachusetts.
It is time that history be returned to its rightful place, a window to the past and a roadmap to the future. The roadmap will likely look like a set of concentric circles while lopping back on themselves they do manage to move forward. The point is to learn from the past to create a better future. To continually live in the past with a hatred of the present is a weight too heavy to bear on any society. We have taken a giant U-turn in our study and understanding of history and somewhere decided this is where we want to be. I am not sure we have just stopped or taken a turn that is not going forward or back.

How We Access and Answer the Race Question today

Recently there have been several articles accusing Black Lives Matter of being a Marxist Organization, as well as a number totally rejecting the assumption. Much of this comes in the wake of a re-surfaced video of co-founder Patrisse Cullors declaring that she and fellow organizers are “trained Marxist.” Black Lives Matter is an organized movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality against African American people. An organization known simply as Black Lives Matter exists as a decentralized network with over 30 chapters in the United States and sister organizations worldwide while a larger Black Lives Matter movement exists consisting of various separate like-minded organizations such as Dream Defenders and Assata’s Daughters. The broader movement and its related organizations typically advocate against police violence towards black people, as well as for various other policy changes considered to be related to black liberation. Patrisse Cullors is one of the three co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the summer of 2013 fueled by the acquittal granted to George Zimmerman after his murder of Trayvon Martin, Alicia Garza posted on Facebook, Patrisse added a hashtag, and Opal Tometi had the vision of a platform for Black liberation. 

Is calling yourself a Marxist and declaring the organization to be Marxist in outlook a bad thing? For those who reject it out of hand, in an article for My Christian Daily, Buckingham writes. 

 As one writer said “BLM is not a Marxist movement. It is a movement that encompasses many people, no doubt some of them Marxist. A few years ago, my eldest daughter and I attended the March for Refugees in the city (Melbourne). At the March there were all sorts of people handing out leaflets/papers including Marxist propaganda. People’s opportunism doesn’t mean the March was Marxist. No doubt there will be all sorts of people hitching their wagons to BLM at this time, but that shouldn’t blind us to the facts.”

In his book ‘Disinformation’ a former Romanian Intelligence officer, LTG Ion Minai Pacepa, spoke of how the former Soviet Union established so called liberation movements to undermine western governments. Infiltrating and eventually controlling church organizations the Soviets begain the process in South America.  Elevating Cuban terrorist Che Guevara to icon status they begain to subvert the poor of the catholic countries to a view of liberation. Subverting the World Council of Churches the Soviets begain to plant false stories and incite racial hatred in the US as well. 

“A few years ago, a black version of liberation theology began growing in a few radical-leftist black churches in the United States. Black liberation theologians James Cone, Cornel West and Dwight Hopkins have explicitly state their preference for Marxism because Marxist thought is predicated on a system of oppressor class (white) versus victim class (black), and it sees just one solution; the destruction of the enemy.”

“Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love. “

The hand of the Kremlin reached the shores of the United States as well. In March 1996, a sensational story jolted the American conscience. The National Council of Churches and the Center for Democratic Renewal, which according to Pacepa are secretly Marxist organizations, held joint press conferences to announce a huge increase in  the burning of Black churches in the US. This was followed by a swift condemnation by President Clinton and the enactment of laws and setting up a federal task force. Clinton spoke passionately about his memories of black churches being burnt in Arkansas in his youth.  

According to Pacepa “Then the bubble burst. It was eventually established by a private group, the National Fire Protection Association, that in recent years there had been far fewer church fires than usual, and law enforcement officials in the South could not confirm any as having been racially motivated. No church burning had occurred in Arkansas during Clinton childhood.” 

All of this points to the ongoing interference the Russian government has had on the institutions of government in the US. This began under Soviet leadership, but reports continue to indicate the GRU, Russia’s intelligence service, continue to spread discord around the world. Does any of this indicate that BLM is a Marxist organization? No it does not. I would venture to say that most rank and file members are not in fact consciously Marxist, but in fact passionate people being led by people that do subscribe to the Marxist ideology.  

One problem with this is  that the main tenant of Marxism is class struggle, the oppressed rising up to overthrow the oppressor. Once the oppressor is vanquished all become equal and paradise reigns supreme. While this incites passions the second problem is not addressed, it does not work that way in reality. Watching the protest on both sides it is evident that passion has overtaken reason, and this is dangerous.  

B.H. Liddell Hart, a 20th century military historian and theorist wrote in “Why Don’t We Learn from History.”  

“The history of ancient Greece showed that, in democracy, emotion dominates reason to a greater extent than in any other political system… No political system more easily becomes out of control when passions are aroused. These defects have been multiplied in modern democracies, since their great extension of size and their vast electorate produces a much larger volume of emotional pressure.” 

We see both sides using terms such as Marxist and White Supremist to raise passions. What needs to be done is to try and raise the conversation to reason and facts. If we are to discuss race relations it is best to define terms that are reasonable. BLM is not an overt Marxist organization but follows many of the teachings of Marx. Defining systemic racism also requires an understanding of a point of view. Does racism exist in the United States, of course it does as it exists in every country in the world. Did systemic racism exist in the United States, it is hard to ignore our slavery past or the imposition of Jim Crow laws, so the answer is yes. The problem today is defining and deciding if it is still in existence.  

Looking up definitions of systemic racism I became very confused. If there is government mandated actions or corporate activity that is driven primarily by race, then that is systemic racism. If on the other hand, if in day to day actions, certain activities are perceived as racist by one side but not the other, then how do we agree. One example given of systemic racism was if a white person buys a house in a predominantly white neighborhood then that can be perceived as systemic racism. The position of the writer was that even unconscious actions are driven by systemic racism. On the other hand, if the decision were driven by the fact the house was the best one you could find in your price range then what is that.  

To conclude we must as a people search out the answers in a reasonable and logical manner. This will not lead to the end state that will satisfy everyone but so be it. I look forward to the day that all Americans and America in general can live long and prosper.  

It’s bad, but breath

I suppose one of the disadvantages with technology today is the vast amount of information and BS that can be put out. The world is facing a life altering crisis and needs to come together and work to be ready when its time to reemerge and resume life. Instead we are being deluged with unending conspiracies, political ideological attacks, and the usual scams.

Is COVID-19 man made or naturally occurring. We are hearing more and more that it was made in a lab in Wuhan and either accidentally released or released for testing that got out of hand. The problem is that, to my knowledge, all bioweapons, either organisms of pathogens, began as naturally occurring and then weaponized. Once released it is difficult to determine which is which. There are of course indicators such as the amount of time it can exist outside of a host, which is usually not long. The problem then is how long is usual in nature for this virus to live? If longer than expected is it weaponized or mutated for survival. In either case what is the world supposed to do? I assume we will not go to war with China if this turns out to be experiment that got out. The only thing that will happen in the future is that China will pay a diplomatic and economic price regardless.

As to the pols and pundits I ask politely to please STFU. This goes to both sides. There is no cure or vaccine currently and labs are working on it. To continually state that we have no national direction in research is of no consequence to the development of a vaccine or cure. Information is shared and different drugs are developed and tested. To try and politically control scientific research will not help and may hinder.

The latest information is the virus is less deadly then first thought. A just released study by USC and the LA County Department of Public Health showed that there are more infections and therefore the fatality rate has fallen. Across the board in the US it looks like a fatality rate of between 0.1% and 0.2%. So, it’s not as bad as we thought, but its still bad and now is not the time to test whether its time to open up the country, lets wait for more information.

All I am saying is lets just all sit back, take a breath, and wait it out a little longer. The economy will come back, and society will recover. Yes, the government needs to step in and keep businesses and people whole but not try to impose ideological changes, just work for the people

Corona Virus and Monday morning quarterback

How do we figure out the best way to handle the current crisis of the Corona virus? Let’s look at two extreme options. The first is to close everything except critical business until we are 100% sure the virus has exhausted itself. The second is to reopen everything and let nature take its course. Neither is an acceptable answer. In the first case, while sounding plausible, does not consider 2d,3d or .4th order effects of an economic and social downturn. These range from an increase in spousal abuse, increased alcoholism or just a large segment of the population dropping into poverty which increase the problem of malnutrition and other problems too numerous to mention. In the second case we are condemning a portion of the population to sickness and in some cases death. For transparencies sake I will let you know I am in at least three of the high-risk categories.

Admittedly there are several other choices, but the question is how you arrive at the correct answer if you are in charge, and keep in mind we are speaking of the person who must make the decision. We must separate the emotional charges that are being made that it is strictly economics over elderly. We must also understand that we are nowhere close to having to make this decision.

While over the years several books and publications have come out on how decisions are or should be made, there does not seem to be one single answer. One commonality is that for every action or decision there will be some form of consequence. To begin I will look at the classic thought experiment in ethics known as the Trolley problem. To save you from looking it up the Google version is:

The trolley problem: should you pull the lever to divert the runaway trolley onto the sidetrack?

The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. It is generally considered to represent a classic clash between two schools of moral thought, utilitarianism and deontological ethics. The general form of the problem is this:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the sidetrack. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the sidetrack where it will kill one person.

Which is the more ethical option? Or, more simply: What is the right thing to do?

To make this more complicated there is a version were the lone person is your son (daughter, parent or spouse).

If the question was simply between economics and life it would be an easier answer. As we have said above there are other consequences in an economic downturn that weigh in.

A more real-life consideration is to look at the concept of triage, we’re in  a crisis and with limited resources decisions must be made based on:

  • Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive.
  • Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive.
  • Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome.

We can always look to history to see what other have done. It is being said that we have never faced a crisis of this magnitude in recent history. This is only true if you confine recent history to the last 3½ years. Getting past the hyperbole we can come up with several examples, none exactly match today but since we are looking to make a decision they act as a guide.

The US has seen a number of epidemics and pandemics is recent years and has reacted to each with degrees of difference and similarity. One thing that appears to be consistent in our reaction is isolation. The next was rushed vaccine development and of course constant updates to the public. In the days of widespread smallpox, we also saw quarantines of houses and families. Today we are self quarantining. In other words what is happening today is what has been done in the past.

Increased requirements for protective gear such as masks and gloves have caused a strain on the system as has the need for ventilators. What sort of decisions should have been made for these. In the 2009 H1N1 pandemic 100,000,000 N95 masks were used but never replaced. Had they been we may or may not have solved the current crisis since there is an expiration date on them. Ventilators are needed. The government did indeed see a need and had over the years placed orders for up to 40000 units. While the contracts were canceled by the manufactures for different reasons the numbers, had they been delivered, would have been insufficient. New Your alone has called for 30000 units, leaving 10000 for the rest of the country had the government stockpiled them.

How then should the decision-making process work? We can look to history and try to decide based on what was done in the past, which was done today but based on the differences and extent of this pandemic from those in the immediate past actions were missed. We could have insured resources were available, but we see that there is a shelf-life on items so how many to buy and when to replace becomes problematic. Without a crystal ball the number of items to purchase and store becomes an imposable task. Based than on limited resources who gets what and when comes down to what? Is it a medical decision of who is most likely to survive and just make the rest comfortable? This last brings us to the ethics of decision, how do you decide where the trolley goes.

In the end someone must decide and it is not always easy or straight forward. It is easy to criticize the person who must make it and to say they are wrong, if you are not the person making the decision. Monday morning quarterbacking is a time-honored tradition in America, but for now let’s stop and hope/pray that we get through this soon.    

How We Need to Think about Coronavirus

COVID-19

It is time to end the politicization of the coronavirus. When the president moved to appropriate 2 billion dollars to combat the virus the Democrats and some Republicans yelled it was not enough. OK if that is the case the release the 2 billion and move to appropriate more. We are told the president did not move fast enough yet it was only about a month after the world learned of the outbreak in China that Trump declared a health emergency and at that time there were no cases in the US. Compare this to the six-month delay by the Obama administration that the swine flu H1N1 was declared a health emergency and that was after millions of Americans had been infected and more than 1000 had died. A New York Times editorial comes out and state “We should start calling it the Trump virus.” When the president goes on the air to reassure the public that the US is doing what it must to mitigate the impact and that most Americans are safe, he then appoints the Vice President to lead a committee on government actions, the Democrats decry this as wrong and that a doctor should lead the effort.
To put this in perspective the outbreak of the swine flu in 1976 led to a mass immunization program that begun months after the first patient was diagnosed following recommendations by the CDC and a blue-ribbon panel that included Jonas Salk Albert Sabin. The Swine flu was at that time being compared to Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which is now happening again. Four months after the first indications of Swine flu the president and his panel move to produce a vaccine appropriating 135 million dollars for the immunization program. Drug manufactures were recruited to begin producing the vaccine and were informed by their insurance companies that they will not be protected. Congress passes legislation to protect the manufactures, the vaccine is produced and then, associated with an increase in Guillain-Barre syndrome. In the end the program is stopped after 25% of the nation receives the shot. In the end an estimated 35 people died of the swine flu and approximately 500 contracted Guillen-Barre, through there is still a question on the connection between the vaccine and Guillen-Barre. In 2009 over 12,000 people died in the US from swine flu and between 26 and 52 thousand deaths are attributed to the flu in 2019.
The point of all this is that over the years we have seen a too fact reaction little study then too slow a reaction resulting in many deaths. Wee need to add to this that death from the normal influenza infection is in the tens of thousands. Today we are facing a deadly strain of corona virus that will spread across the country. The administration is moving to mitigate the impact. We have seen death from this in the country and will likely see more. When the president says there is a low probability of individuals getting the virus, he is correct. Looking at the normal deaths from the flu we see about .0002 percent of the population effected. This does not mean we can ignore it and do nothing, but it does not mean we need to live in fear.
The government must act as a single entity in this and stop fear mongering and politicizing the problem. It does no good to exaggerate the problem any more then to dismiss it. Its time for all to Pleasethink about how they must act.

 

 

We Need to Stop the Petty BS

This will not go over well with some of my friends or those who have called me a Trump apologist but here goes. Enough is enough its time for everyone to grow the F… up. When I was a young man and running as a democrat for town council someone asked me what the difference between Dems and Republicans was. My answer then is the same as it is now, both see the same problems but have different solutions.
Generally, the Democrats have looked to government solutions and the Republicans have look at more, for lack of a better term, capitalist solutions. A case in point is health care and pre-existing conditions. Under the current Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) you cannot be turned down for any pre-existing condition. This sounds great but based on the increases over the years in premiums it is making the care less affordable. Under the proposed American Health Care Act (Trumpcare) the definition and allowed premiums would be set by the insurance companies in compliance with state mandates and regulations. What this last means is if you have a condition that will require long term care your insurance company will be allowed to charge a higher premium. In 2017 this passed the House but not the Senate. Instead of trying to compromise both sides yelled and screamed and declared the sky was falling. This can be worked out but not under the current state of congress.
A similar program in healthcare is how to reduce drug costs. There is in congress currently a bill, HR3, which is designed to lower costs by applying foreign drug cost guidelines to Medicare part D purchases. The effect of this is to decrease revenue to drug companies that would be used for R&D to bring newer innovative drugs to market. Trumps plan is to force drug companies to reveal prices they give to hospitals and the discounts so that patients will see what they are paying for. This would force insurance companies to reevaluate what they charge us for these services. This plan would likely just cost the hospitals their discounts and provide little long-term relief. In all likely hood both would increase the cost of drugs to the public.
I could go on, but the point is that the main difference in how the two parties view different solutions is in the level of government involvement. Not that very long ago this was fully understood, and the result was a fight to see how much could be compromised before a middle ground solution is found. Today we see a dysfunctional government on both sides of the aisle refusing to talk compromise. Further they refuse to listen to each other.
The result was the debacle that was the State of the Union address. The truncated introduction, the refusal to shake hands, failure to applaud success or acknowledge a 100-year-old Tuskegee airman, and so on. The final was the tearing up of the speech calling it a manifesto on misinformation, and here we have it. The number one problem that polls tell us the people are interested in is healthcare. There are several good healthcare proposals out there. Obamacare has good points but needs to be modified and more control returned to the insured. This will not happen until we turn from ideology to pragmatism. Gun violence is another area of concern, truthfully violence should be the concern. While minimum federal laws may be good, minimum age, hours of training etc, States need to step up and work on local requirements, a 14 year old in NYC likely does not need to walk around with a rifle but a 14 year old in Wyoming on a cattle ranch might need it.
We must also get away from the feel good laws/regulations. Red flag laws sound good, being able to disarm the mentally ill, however they go against the 2d, 4th,5th and 14th Amendments may be used against it. This would hold true, different amendments, on any religious ban on immigration or entry. Open discussions between the branches of government or more importantly the government listening to the people would go a ling way to return integrity to the government.
What all this means is the children must leave the room and let the adults be adults. PLEASEThink before you vote next time. Take the time to understand the candidate and their positions and who they are. Do not rely on social media or news outlets to make up your mind for you. It does not take that long to check out a Representatives voting record to see if it truly aligns with your beliefs.

Trump and Iran

 

US_Steps_up_Pressure_on_Iran

 

By Paul Davis and Chiman Zebari

Today the world is holding its breath to see the response of the United State to an anemic attack by Iran on Iraqi bases housing Americans. The Islamic Republic launched around 15 missiles at targets in Iraq, some of which were shot down most of which missed the target. The attack was in response to the killing by the US of an Iranian terrorist and commander of an Iranian terrorist group.
Some say the Iranians missed their targets on purpose in order to avoid a major retaliation by the US. The Iranian FARS news network at one point said up to 80 Americans had been killed. The US is saying no casualties. While there may have been no US casualties there were Iraqis injured. So, what is next.
This is also being called a face-saving device so that the Iranian leadership, playing to a domestic audience, can show that they took decisive action to retaliate for the US actions. The operation was called the “Martyr Soleimani.”
The fact is that the death of Soleimani was a major blow to the Iranian ability to continue to export the Islamic revolution. The technical capabilities of Iran have increased in the last few years but the war fighting capabilities are far short of what they need to engage in any protracted war. This however will not fully deter the actions of Iran since there war model has been to use proxy forces to carry out limited attacks on selected targets.
The belief that this is a one-off operation does not track. The anger in the Islamic Republics leadership is very strong and revenge in their history. The President in his statement announced additional sanctions on Iran and justified the strike that took out Soleimani. The foreign minister of Iran told the world that this missile strike was proportional and served it purpose. This is difficult to believe since Iran has been attacking anyone or any country it sees as an enemy for 40 years. What may be considered is that Iran may not launch attacks by its forces from Iranian soil again. The standard Iranian tactic is to use proxy forces which gives them deniability.
The President also said that it appears that Iran is standing down, not sure what that means, in fact the next day there was an attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad. I expect to see a lull, which means back to normal, and then a spike in attacks in Syria and Lebanon as well as a potential Hamas or Hizballah attack on Israel. The Iranian dominated Iraqi militias will continue to act independently of the Iraqi government and under the control of Iran.
It should also be pointed out that the missile attacks were aimed at bases in Sunni and Kurdish areas. This tracks from past IRGC controlled attacks by the PMF militias. Soleimani’s main objective has been to spread the Islamic revolution, increase Iranian hegemony and remove the US (west) from the region. This last is important to understand, Iran sees little to no difference between the US and other western nations yet will continue to manipulate those western nations for trade.
Short of all out war with Iran the US needs to adjust it position in the region in order to continue a US presence as well as be prepared to defend US interests and allies. Based on the resolution of the Iraqi Parliament to seek to have all US forces leave one solution would be to move the US embassy from Baghdad to Erbil and ask the Kurds to hold another referendum on independence, and this time back them up fully. Kurds as we have mentioned previously are the only true allies the Americans have in the region. A truly free and independent Kurdistan would be a game changer. Removing US forces from Iraq would be a financial blow to Iraq and a political blow to Iran and Turkey.
With Soleimani out of the way Iran does not have a replacement of his caliper. Much of the control and personal contacts may begin to weaken and allow for the different actors to operate on their own. Beside the Kurds, the Sunni in Iraq have been victims of the Iranian control of Iraq. It is within their power to vote for autonomy and break away from Baghdad. What has stopped this in the past was not Iran but the US which maintains a one Iraq doctrine.
While so many are saying this is going to lead to World War III I would reiterate that the Iranian are in no condition to wage an actual war. As for terrorist attacks Iran and the IRGC are the leading exporter and planners of terrorism already. The Iranian government is facing a dilemma with a shift in the way the American government is reacting, holding Tehran accountable for the actions of its proxies, and the widespread protest in Iran and Iraq. This is in fact the perfect time to apply maximum pressure. The only thing that is working in Iran’s favor is the US House pushing a new War Powers Act exclusively to stop any action by the US in the event it is needed.
We need to build a strong coalition that will truly isolate Iran and end the regimes reign of terror. It is time for the majority of the government to understand that to do nothing now will result in a greater loss of national security then what they can understand in their current state.