Tag Archives: News

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

 

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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.

The House Investigation

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So now we have an open and pubic vote on beginning an official impeachment investigation. All republicans voted against, no surprise, but two democrats also voted against, a little surprise. It will be interesting to see how the various committees handle themselves when the hearings are open. Will they call back witnesses who had testified behind closed doors or not? Will they truly allow the republicans to call witnesses or will they throw up roadblocks? How will they handle cross examinations? It is interesting to also note that unlike the Nixon and Clinton impeachment investigations different committees will hold hearings instead of just the judiciary committee.
There is no doubt the house will impeach since all the democratic members of the committees as well as most of the house have already declared Trump guilty. I am sorry, regardless of guilt or innocence of the president there is no way to take these investigations seriously. This has devolved into what the president has called a witch hunt. The hope here is that open and fair hearings can right this ship and show the president broke the law beyond a shadow of a doubt or that there is not enough actual evidence to move forward giving the dems plausible reason to end this.
We can only wait and see.

Who are the Kurds Without Googling? By Chiman Zebari and Paul Davis

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The current crises in Washington is the decision by the president to pull US forces out of Syria and thereby ending the protection we have afforded to our Kurdish allies. In the middle of the arguments the president daughter in law, Lara Trump, made a statement in support of the president that said the average American had to Google the Kurds to find out who they were. This set off a firestorm of criticism justified or not. The main problem with the statement for many is that it is basically true. Even those who know the Kurds do not fully understand who or what they are. In order to educate we think it time to produce a Kurdish primer, or at least one about the current Kurds.
To begin the Kurds are an ethnic group not a race and have occupied the area commonly referred to as Kurdistan for over a millennium. They share no common history or culture with those surrounding them other than through interactions with their neighbors. As the region was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, they became subjects of the Caliph but, like most throughout the empire, maintained their identity. Like many groups there were fissures and differences which can be seen today most glaringly in the different dialects of spoken Kurdish, some argue different languages. Throughout this time Kurdish culture remained intact. Following the end of the First World War the Kurds were divided up amongst three separate countries, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, while a portion remained in Persia or todays Iran. The Kurds have fought for a separate country ever since. As the Kurds became more independent, they began to develop separate political philosophies and parties.
To put into context the Kurds are not a monolithic group but like all other people in the world hold different political views and opinions. They have shown however they are different then their neighbors by allowing for different philosophies and different ethnicities to coexist in the Kurdish region.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is the oldest of the modern Kurdish political movements. Founded in 1946 as a Pan-Kurdish party in Iran it was instrumental in the creation of an independent but short-lived Kurdistan known as the Mahabad Republic. When the Soviet Union removed its backing the tow leaders Qazi Muhammad and Mustafa Barzani had a final falling out and Barzani established the Iraqi brand of the KDP.
The KDP was mostly operated as a tribal entity and existed by the strong will and stronger hand of Barzani. The back and forth relationship between the KDP and the various governments in Baghdad led to a revolt in 1974 in which the Kurds did not fare well. Results of the revolt on the Kurds led to the establishment of a second party in 1975, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Despite personal difference between Barzani and the leader of the PUK, Jalal Talabani, another difference was philosophical. The KDP was more tribal and center right while the PUK held a more socialist left drift. This split was so severe that it led to a brief but violent civil war between the two parties with the KDP looking to Baghdad for help and the PUK turning to Iran.
While the KDP and PUK never fully reconciled the actions of Saddam Hussain in his attacks of the Kurds killing hundreds of thousands did push the two sides together in the face of a common enemy. The Persian Gulf war allowed for a greater sense of autonomy until once again Saddam launched attacks on the Kurds as well as Sunni Arabs. After the US led invasion in which the Kurds play an important role an autonomous Kurdish region was set up and then enshrined into the Iraqi constitution.
The newly established Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) now sits in its capitol Erbil and is the acknowledge government for the Kurdish Region of Iraq. There are a dozen different political parties represented in the Kurdish parliament for the KDP and PUK to Gorran (Change), New Generation, as well as the Communist party and the Kurdistan Islamic Group as well as others.
We have spent some time on the Iraqi Kurds since they are the best known to the American audience. We now turn to the Turkish Kurds who as a population represent the largest group of Kurds in the Region.
While Iraq treated its Kurdish population as second class citizens the Turks refused to even admit that the Kurds were a separate ethnic group. Denying the use of the Kurdish language or celebration of Kurdish culture the Turk went so far as to rename them Mountain Turks. While the Iraqi Kurds evolved the Turkish Kurds responded to their oppression by the formation of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. The PKK grow from the revolutionary youth movement begun in the 1960 and was organized in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist student movement. Moving through clashes with both police and right-wing organization it became a full-blown armed insurrection based on Kurdish nationalism and desiring a Pan-Kurdish nation. The PKK has gone through some evolutionary changes but remains basically an armed revolutionary group based in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq moving between attacking Turkish outpost and working for a peace agreement. This has been on going for 30 years. On the political side there have been a number of parties that have been associated with the PKK. The current party is the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). HDP has had success in elections even winning a large number of seats in the Parliament in the 2015 general election. The ruling party under the current President Erdogan canceled the results and held new elections which reduced the win. Following which leaders of HDP in parliament were striped of their seats and some imprisoned under the claim of being or supporting terrorist. Most recently several mayors of towns in the Kurdish region were removed and replaced with Turks.
The PKK was chased around the region and at one time were in Syria until Turkey forced the Syrian government to get them to leave. Before leaving they establish a Syrian branch of the PKK which became the Democratic Union Party or PYD. This has allowed Turkey to claim the PYD as a terrorist organization and part of the PKK. While calling for autonomy of the Kurdish regions in Syria the PYD has learned the Lesions of the PKK and have mostly cooperated with the Syrian government until the time of the Syrian civil war. The PYD used the disarray in Syria to establish an autonomous government but did not engage in the war against the Assad regime itself. It has rejected Kurdish nationalism and maintains a Kurdish-Syrian identity. Like many parties in the region it maintains an armed force called the Peoples Protection Unit of YPG and an affiliated Women’s Protection Unit or YPJ. Today the Turkish government is unable to separate the PYD from the PKK in its operations which has led to the current violence. It is difficult also for some in the west to make the distinction because of a similar socialist ideology.
Another which Turkey claim’s is affiliated with PKK, is the Iranian Kurdish group the Kurdistan Free Life Party or PJAK. PJAK started out as a civil rights movement in the Kurdish region of Iran and moved to a violence when attacked by Iranian forces. Pushed out of Iran they set up in the Qandil mountains in Iraq and came under the influence there of the PKK. While adopting socialist ideology it is not known has much the PKK can influence PJAK away from its desire to maintain Persian roots.
Most Kurdish parties in Iran are outright communist or very left. Also, most are breakaways form other parties with the oldest being the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran.
Not all parties are mentioned is this article and much of the history has been severely modified, but as Lara Trump said it can be Googled. This brought us to a conclusion that the average is not up to date on geography, or the Middle East. We can point out so many television shows interviews where the average American on the street when asked about the past and present US presidents are clueless so we are not shocked about Lara’s statement as so many Kurds are. Education plays a big part in this case. The only thing that unites most Kurds is a call for a homeland. We are speaking of upwards of 40 million people without a nation. To dismiss any attempt to achieve autonomy is to ignore history. Regardless of what happens the Kurds, will continue to fight for independence within their respective regions. While it is unlikely that a united Kurdistan can be achieved it is possible to create separate Kurdish states that can work in confederation with each other. Giving in to Turkey will not stop the desire of the Kurds to be free. It is time that the United State, Unite Kingdom and other countries stand up for Kurds, those who claimed Kurds are their allies, those who used Kurds to push the Islamic State (ISIS) out of Iraq, and defeated them in Syria. Kurds shed blood for the world, it is time for everyone to step in and support the establishment of an Independent Kurdistan. President Trump made many harsh statements in the past a few days about the Kurds, first he mentioned that they are no angels, and then he said they got paid a lot of money. This angered Kurds tremendously. As president Masud Barzani replied to his statment, “Kurdish Blood is more valuable than money and weapons.

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 as well as 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.

Needed, Real Solutions for Real Problems

President Donald Trump is not a great communicator, nor is he a racist, Nazi or wannabe dictator. The tragedies of the last week call on us all to come together as a country and face up to the problems that have led us to the point we find ourselves. When the president of the United States calls for unity and a rejection of hate and bigotry the opposition, regardless of politics, should get behind him. The incessant chatter from the news media and Trump opposition, calling him a racist repeatedly for anything he says or does, does not make it true. When used for political gain I understand, to a point, but when a national tragedy strikes it is time, even for a moment to come together as one people.
Something has happened and continues to happen to our country and society that goes beyond the normal. Is the prevalence of guns to blame on mass shootings or is it mental illness, video games or whatever? The answer is a little bit of all. But a broad look at the country and its past must show that we have had guns and mental illness and racism etc. since the beginning. What has changed? Is the prevalence of violent video games making our youth insensitive to mass killing?
It has been 20 years since Columbine, what have we learned? Apparently, nothing, as we have a hard time learning. Violence against immigrants is also nothing new. In Louisville Kentucky 22 people were killed in religious and race induced rioting, 164 years ago. On Bloody Monday Protestant mobs rioted and attacked German and Irish Catholic neighborhoods causing a migration of citizens out of the city. The Protestant Democrats were bitter rivals of the Know-Nothing Party with a large German and Irish support base.
Did Trumps tweets in the last two and a half years suddenly increase race hatred in the country, of course not. The constant misquotes and opinions passing as news stories have not help but are also not totally to blame for the increase in violence and mass shootings.
We have a societal problem that returns every now and again, but this time we have social media platforms and mass media bias fanning the flames. Increased gun control laws are not the answer since a very tiny fraction of legally owned guns are used in the reported gun violence in the country. Will increased background checks or “red-flag” laws help, maybe. But until we look to the underlying cause we will continue to suffer the consequences. Pointing fingers and backing feel-good laws that will accomplish nothing will not replace taking a long hard HONEST look at the problem.

The Reason Politicians are Confused by Trump

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Time for the politicians to once again learn the difference between what they perceive as reality and how the rest of us see it. Two examples are the hearings before the House Oversight Committee with Michael Cohen and the end of the Trump-Kim summit.
I will not waste a lot of time on the Cohen hearings since it was just a political circus not meant to archive anything other then to push forward an agenda. Nothing new was learned from a full day of statements and political attacks from both side. What we were told is what we knew: Donald Trump spent his life as a real estate developer and had for years attempted to build a hotel in Moscow. It never happened and other then Trump associates saying they tried to get it done is a nothing. Donald Trumps attorney facilitated payments to two blackmailers in order for their stories, true or false, not to tarnish the image of Trump. Since according to Cohen, Trumps personnel money was used this is again a nothing. The rest of the time was spent on rumors and innuendo as well as personnel attacks by the members on Cohen and each other. Paying hush money is not a crime and if it was to enhance the election possibility then it might be a crime except for the fact that it was Trumps personnel money of which there is no limit on use in his own campaign. The only facts that are evident in the hearing are that Cohen is going to jail for perjury and tax evasion. What was gained by this stunt is negligible, those that like Trump, still like him. Those that hate Trump, still hate him, and most everyone else was not tuned in and was not fooled by this Congressional circus.
The other story, one that was buried by the news and through manipulating the timing of the Cohen hearing, was the Trump-Kim summit. It is only front page today because of its perceived failure. This is the story that points out the greater difference and lack of understanding between politicians and the real world. While hoping to achieve the next stage of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula the negotiations ended early because the North Korean leader wanted more then the US was willing to give. The fact that the US then ended the negotiations and left must have come as a shock for Kim who, like the rest of the world, was trained to understand that the West would give into anything just to get a deal. Welcome to true negotiations Mr. Kim. I could make that welcome to most of the politicians and diplomats who have lived in a bubble for years.
Negotiations between people, companies or nations required certain elements. Among these are a give and take with known parameters, a set understanding of the end state and realistic expectations. In this case the North Koreans came with unrealistic expectations of complete sanctions relief while giving only limited movement toward the goal of denuclearization.
The world however has seen in recent years that the US, when negotiating, will accept almost any end state just to have an agreement. The most notable of these is the Joint Comprehensive Plain Of Action, or the Iran Deal. The Iran Deal saw the west give Iran everything it wanted and receiving nothing but empty promises in return. This was apparently the Norths expectation, leaving when it became obvious that there would be no true negotiated end, the US left.
The main stream media immediately called this a diplomatic failure showing Trumps lack of negotiating skill or knowledge of international relationships. Those of us who have been in business, or just life, understand this as reality. When you realize that the negotiation is going no where or that the demands of the person on the other side of the table are more then you are willing to give, you end the negotiation. This is standard when any two people or companies sit down to talk, this is however a sea change in government and diplomatic circles.
This is all part of what Donald Trump has brought to Washington, part of the drain the swamp movement. I fear however, like so many other reform movements, this will run into the wall that is Washington. Conservatives and progressives alike are very resistant to true change. If this change is going to be effective almost all who are a part must be removed, which is highly unlikely.