Filed under: Afghanistan, Africa, China, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Latin America, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Russia, The United States | Tags: A World in Turmoil, An Arc Of Instability, The Obama Foreign Policy
A Wall Street Journal’s front page article on Monday said politely “Obama Contends With Arc of Instability Unseen Since 70s.” “A convergence of security crises is playing out around the globe from the Palestinian territories and Iraq to Ukraine and the South Chin Sea, posing a serious challenge to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and reflecting a world in which U .S. global power seems increasingly tenuous.”
The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn’t been seen since the late 1970s, U.S. security strategists say, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, revolutionary Islamists took power in Iran, and Southeast Asia was reeling in the wake of the U.S. exit from Vietnam.
In the past month alone, the U.S. has faced twin civil wars in Iraq and Syria, renewed fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, an electoral crisis in Afghanistan and ethnic strife on the edge of Russia, in Ukraine.
Bewildered leftists say that he promised to end the War in Iraq, and wind down the war in Afghanistan and he did. He fulfilled his campaign promises. But there is ending and ending. I don’t know if anyone voted for Obama because he said he would end the War in Iraq. They voted for Hope and Change, and fancy theatrics and a litany of carefully crafted meaningless phrases.
Foreign policy is hard, and the big things may be controlled by the little things like personalities, and ego as well as deep knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of a country. Obama wasn’t much interested in foreign policy. He seems to have had in mind simply being the anti-Bush. Bush made wars, he would make peace. Bush had a muscular presence in the world and emphasized American strength. Obama wanted us to be just a nation among other nations, and let other nations deal with stuff. Obama found his national security briefings boring and quit going.
He yanked our people out of Iraq too abruptly and failed to establish a status of forces agreement to help prepare the Iraqi army for just what is happening now. The countries in Eastern Europe didn’t get their missile defense. Obama said in a May speech at West Point that the Obama foreign policy doctrine, would rely on U.S. leadership, but not troop deployments. Well, we’re not any good at the U.S. leadership business either, it seems.
A few meetings with Obama and Hillary’s “reset button” convinced Putin that nobody was likely to do anything, so he went right ahead to annex Crimea. The allies who had relied on America to prevent Russia’s ambitions lost confidence in American action as well. The Taliban got their leaders back. Obama drew a Red Line in Syria, and then erased it. The Arab Spring was misunderstood from the beginning, and the administration fell for the Muslim Brotherhood’s claim to Egypt. The feckless John Kerry has been trying to solve the problems of the Middle East by forcing Israel to give more land to the Palestinian terrorists. The Chinese, watching our military downsize, have decided to upsize theirs and are vigorously growing their navy and submarine fleet and flexing their muscles in the South China Sea.
And there is the self-declared new Caliphate, now encircling Baghdad, another surprise to the administration, and our negotiations with Iran go on. We want assurances, they are happy to give assurances. We seem unable to learn that deception is a way of life in the Middle East, and expect an agreement to be worked out that will enable them to have all the sanctions lifted.To call it all an “Arc of Instability” is perhaps the understatement of the year. But the stakes have never been higher.
Jonathan Karl lists some of the “instabilities.” Obama, we are told, no longer talks to anyone but Valerie Jarrett and Michelle. We are in the best of hands.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Africa, Europe, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, National Security, The United States | Tags: Disengaging From The World, Iraq in Chaos, The Advance of ISIS
No president in my memory has so often referred to himself as “the President of the United States of America”or as “the Commander in Chief,” as if he needs to keep reminding everyone of his importance. Perhaps I’m being unfair. George W. Bush often said of himself “I’m the decider.” That seemed to me to be a humble statement that the troubles of the world landed on his desk and he had to make a difficult decision—whether it turned out well or ill. As I said, perhaps I’m being unfair.
But Bush was right. Decisions have to be made. We may make a decision about Iraq, but as in all conflicts, the other side gets a vote. The Obama administration has admitted that they were blindsided by the ISIS invasion of Iraq and their rapid progress. Obama is accustomed to, well, dithering. He doesn’t like foreign affairs. He likes traveling with an enormous entourage to other countries and making a speech or two, but he came to office convinced that America was a world bully, interfering in other countries, and was no more exceptional than any other country. He has followed a deliberate policy of disengaging from the world and its quarrels.
We called it “the Apology Tour” when Obama made his way around the world bowing to foreign rulers and apologizing for our influence in world affairs. Democrats were offended at the name, but is that really what Democrats believe, that we should fail to assert a positive influence over world events? Or have they remained too enamored with Obama himself to have given it much thought? The world clearly expects more American leadership. Many countries have not done much about raising a military or acquiring major weapons because we were there.
Obama drew a red line that did not faze Assad, turned the Syrian bloodbath over to Vladimir Putin, which undoubtedly led the Russian president to launch his claim on the Crimea and his aggression against Ukraine. Obama frequently cites polls showing American “war weariness,” but just what is meant by that is not clear. America had won the War in Iraq, and Obama just wanted out. As Elliott Abrams said:
So we got out, fully, completely, cleanly—unless you ask about the real world of Iraq instead of the imaginary world of campaign speeches. We could no longer play the role we had played in greasing relations between Kurds, Shia and Sunnis, and in constraining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian excesses. The result was an Iraq spinning downward into the kind of Sunni-Shia confrontation we had paid so dearly to stop in 2007 and 2008, and ISIS—the newest moniker for al Qaeda in Iraq—saw its chance, and took it.
So we’re back in Iraq—Obama has sent 300 military advisers. That’s a very small number.
I’m inclined to believe that just as members of a family have trouble getting along, so the natural state of world affairs is not peace and harmony. That doesn’t mean that we must be eternally engaged in war. Weakness invites ambitious nations to act on their ambitions.
Putin has long regarded the collapse of the Soviet Union as a disaster and wants to restore its position as a world power. The Mullahs in Iran are quite clear about their ambitions regarding the Great Satan and the Little Satan. The newly enriched and increasingly dangerous fanatics of ISIS have already warned that they will see us in New York. Germany has said the United States must consider a renewed military intervention. “It’s the Americans’ task to deal with security in Iraq.” The French place the direct cause of the Iraqi implosion on Obama’s decision to back off from air strikes against the Assad regime last August as the fatal step.
Here are some excellent pieces on our current dilemma:
- “The West at its Worst: America is weak, Europe is afraid, and the brutal men in Iraq and Iran all know it.” by John Vinocur, The Wall Street Journal
- “Obama’s World Disorder:” by Victor Davis Hanson, Defining Ideas, The Hoover Institution
- “Revisionist history prevails on Iraq Invasion:” by Victor Davis Hanson, Tribune Content Agency
- “The Man Who Broke the Middle East:” by Elliott Abrams, Politico Magazine
- “Obama’s Foreign-Policy Failures Go Far Beyond Iraq: Retreat abroad and bigger government at home has made the U.S. weaker.” by George Melloan, The Wall Street Journal
Filed under: Africa, Art, Capitalism, Liberalism, News of the Weird, Progressivism | Tags: If It's Ivory It's Worthless, Regulations Are Everything, US Fish and Wildlife Service
How about this one? On June 26, innumerable antiques, musical instruments and Mah Jong and chess sets have been effectively banned by your federal government from sale or trade within the U.S. The idea is to protect elephants in Africa from poaching for their ivory.
Combined with tough new international import-export restrictions, the value of these objects, once in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will evaporate.
Well, so much for my little ivory Buddha, though I doubt he was worth much in the first place, but what about my walrus ivory necklace from Alaska?
There are fantastically beautiful and expensive pieces carved of ivory. Too bad. Now worthless. Your federal government decided. This one is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.To sell or trade your object, you have to prove that it at least 100 years old and possess official paperwork proving that it was imported to America before 1990, or legally thereafter, and provide evidence that the object has been neither repaired nor modified since December 1973. The IRS is unlikely to let you write it off as an investment loss, whether you paid a few hundred or $20,000 at Christie’s.
What Fish and Wildlife will do is step in to prosecute the owners and confiscate the ivory goods.
ADDENDUM: The bureaucrats at Fish and Wildlife may mean well, but their efforts to ban the sale and trade of ivory will not save one elephant. It will only raise the price of ivory on the world market and encourage poaching. One third of African elephants live in Botswana. 150,000 of them live in an area about the size of the New York metropolitan area. Too many for a comparatively small area. Botswana President Ian Kharma has banned wildlife hunting as of January and has received awards for his conservation efforts, but the overpopulation of elephants is controlled only by disease, hunting or starvation due to the destruction of the environment. That jacks up the price even more. Elephants have no natural predator.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Africa, Developing Nations, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism | Tags: Most Refugees Since WWII, The Jihadi Spring, UN Refugee Agency
At the end of 2013, The United Nations Refugee Agency’s report released last Friday says, 51.2 million people were refugees. For the first time since World War II we have more than 50 million people driven from their homes, all too often in fear for their lives. And the numbers can only be increasing exponentially as Iraqis and Syrians flee to neighboring countries.
Of the 51.2 refugees— 12 million are being cared for by the United Nations aid agencies. 6.3 million of those have been displaced for more than five years. The largest numbers of refugees come from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. The exodus from Iraq has just started. The countries harboring the most refugees are Iran, Lebanon and Pakistan. At the time the report was released the greatest numbers came from the Syrian civil war, with more than 2.5 million Syrians fleeing to neighboring countries. Lebanon is only a small country of 4.5 million people— one fourth of those are refugees. They are quickly running out of basic necessities. And the chaos in Iraq only erupted this month. It takes a lot of fear to make you grab a little of your stuff and run.
Filed under: Africa, Cool Site of the Day, Heartwarming, Science/Technology | Tags: A Black Rhinocerous Calf, Saving Endangered Species, World Zoos Breeding Efforts
On Sunday, May 25th, a Black Rhinoceros was born at Zoo Miami. This little girl weighed 122 pounds. Black Rhinos are highly endangered as they continue to be poached at alarming rates in Eastern and Southern Africa.There were once over 100,000 running wild in Africa— within the past century, those numbers are down to an estimated 5,000. They are killed for their horns which are prized in some eastern cultures for medicinal purposes and as status symbols. Sad.
Here she is with mom. Check out all the babies at zooborns.
Filed under: Africa, Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Humor, Liberalism, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: Abusing the Perks of Office, Enormous Entourages, Traveling in Style
From June 27 to July 3, 2013, the Obama family enjoyed a week-long family vacation to sub-Saharan Africa on the taxpayer’s dime. Dime? Not exactly. The bill for lodging, entertainment and security expenses came to $2,189,727.60, The records came from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed with the U.S. Secret Service on July 3, 2013.
According to the Department of Homeland Security documents:
—Secret Service hotel accommodations for the seven-day trip cost $953,788.18
—Although the Obama family’s safari in Tanzania was canceled shortly before the Obama’s departure for Africa, the Secret Service preparations for the canceled safari still cost $11,525.75. The Obamas were persuaded that the safari would really look bad.
During their week in Africa, the Obamas visited three countries: Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. According to reports in the Washington Post, in the days before the trip, “One hundred [Secret Service] agents are needed as ‘post-standers’ —to man security checkpoints and borders around the president—in each of the fist thee cities he visits. Sixty-five are needed to meet up with Obama in Dar es Salaam…In addition 80 to 100 additional agents will be flown in to work rotating shifts, with round-the-clock coverage, for Obama and his family’s security details…”
In March 2014, Judicial Watch released flight expense records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force, revealing that the Obama family also incurred flight expenses of $8,104,224. for flights to, from, and around Africa during the week-long June-July 2013 trip. The trip totaled 35.5 hours at $228,288 an hour. The records came from a FOIA request. According to numerous press accounts the total cost of the Obama family week-long trip was estimated to have cost between $60 million and $100 million, for one week!
Oddly enough this was just at the time when the president was shutting down White House tours and blaming it on the sequester.
As of March 7, 1014, President Obama had played 163 founds of golf. He is aware of the optics in an election year, and although he had averaged 30 rounds a year, in 2012 he cut back to 19.
However, the February 2014 golf trip to Palm Springs and March 2014 golf trip to Key Largo, Florida cost the taxpayers $2,952,278. for flight expenses alone.
The Africa tri was the most expensive, but the Honolulu vacation cost the taxpayers $15,885,585.30 in flight expenses alone. Michelle Obama’s side trip to Dublin, Ireland during the 2013 G-8 conference in Belfast, where she and her entourage booked 30 rooms at the five-star Shelbourne Hotel, with the first lady staying in the 1500-square-foot Princess Grace suite at a cost of $3,500 a night. The Obamas trip to Ireland cost a total of $7,921,638.66.
Clearly, the Obamas abuse the perks of the Office of the Presidency. Obama himself seems tone-deaf to the crassness of railing about income inequality and bellyaching about the sequester as he is leaving for another vacation. The idea that we are borrowing money from China for this excess is deeply offensive. In the style of the best executive expense-accounts the administration is apt to claim attendance at an important meeting about, say California’s water crisis, to cover for several rounds of golf at the most exclusive courses.
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Economy, Media Bias, National Security, Politics, The United States | Tags: A Few Questions About Benghazi, The Profession of Journalism, Trey Gowdy Silences the Press
Apparently American Journalism schools allow their students to graduate without ever learning the true function of the American journalism establishment in a free society.
They think they are there —not to inform the American people and to be vigilant watchdogs of the government— but they blithely have wispy ideas about making this a better world. Not their job. A statement long overdue.
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Islam, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: Boko Haram, Islamic Jihad, Terrorism in Africa
Can we please quit with the celebrities holding up little signs, and the hashtag signs in particular. It is clearly well-meant, but it trivializes serious things.
Tweets can seem memorable if just the right words are chosen, but brevity is not explanatory. It is bumper-sticker sloganeering — mindless and ephemeral.
Boko Haram means literally “books bad,” or “Western education is a sin.” Any education not based and centered upon the Qur’ran and Islam is sinful.
In the first three months of the year, Islamic jihadists in Nigeria have murdered at least 2,596 people. The onslaught by Boko Haram began sometime in 2009. It has come to the attention of the West only in recent savage attacks on schools, with children slaughtered, burned to death, or gathered up to be sold as sex slaves, which is perfectly legal and proper in Islam to prevent men from committing adultery.
Secretary of State John Kerry says it’s because of poverty. You can skirt around the problem of terrorism, refusing to call it by name, but improper designation simply makes the problem worse. The government of Nigeria seems unable to cope, but holding up little signs accomplishes nothing —nothing at all.
Filed under: Africa, Capitalism, Developing Nations, Domestic Policy, Economy, Energy, Environment, Junk Science, National Security | Tags: Anti-Chemical Activists, Genetically Modified Food, Organic Food Fables
Food prices are up, and manufacturers are trying hard to keep you from noticing. Cereal boxes remain the same height, but they are thinner. Baker’s chocolate, formerly in 8 oz. boxes, now comes in boxes that are about ¼” smaller in every direction, contains half as much chocolate “NEW! 4 oz. Easy Break Bar, Same great chocolate. ” Still the same great price, for half as much. Sugar packages have lost a pound of content. I don’t like seeing food prices climb, but I object even more to manufacturers’ attempts to fool me.
If we insist, as a nation, on putting most of our corn crop into our gas tanks — the result is food price inflation. Food prices are rising faster than overall inflation. Core inflation is running around 2%, but the USDA said food prices would be up 3% to 4% last year. Corn ethanol does nothing for the climate, and it contains less energy than gasoline. You’re just paying farmers to grow fuel instead of food. A rise in the price of corn affects the price of other farm commodities such as meat, poultry, dairy and soy products. Congress ended the direct ethanol subsidies in 2011, but the renewables standard remains, and it is the biggest factor. Food prices hit the poor the hardest, and the ethanol mandate is essentially a tax on the poor.
“Organic” foods have been heavily promoted. They cost about 30% more than non-organic foods, but the label “organic” means only that growers used “natural” fertilizers and “natural” pesticides, but pesticide residue does not cross the conservative safety thresholds set by regulators. Natural fertilizer refers to animal manure —pathogen-laden animal excreta. “Organic” is supposed to be better for the natural environment, but it isn’t so, it just uses more land. The term “organic” refers to the practices and procedures a farmer intends to use. It does not indicate superior nutrition, flavor, or healthful qualities. It’s not better for you, just more expensive.
And for sheer silliness, consider the locavores. Now that with modern transportation we can have summer foods in the winter, plentiful vegetables when it’s snowing out, and strawberries all year around, the purists insist on locally grown food, with the suggestion that it is much fresher. But there’s not much local in the winter, and it may be flown in faster anyway.
Environmentalists are the loons who care more about the environment than about people. Fringe anti-biotechnology activists are hell-bent on banning anything containing a chemical. Chemicals are bad. A current interest is genetically modified food. Modify people’s genes as much as you want, select the desired sex and attributes of your potential baby, but don’t modify plants to be more resistant to disease, or insert a gene for Vitamin A to prevent blindness, as in “golden rice,”— an incalculable benefit to parts of the world dependent on rice, yet lacking the essential vitamin in their food supply. Better to have blind kids than mess with their food. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) are not GMO skeptics, as they like to portray themselves, but fringe anti-chemical activists operating on the “precautionary principle” or the theory that if something is ‘suspected’ of potentially causing harm, you have to prove that it will not.
We are growing more food on less land, the green revolution, that will help to feed a hungry world. Food for the Poor is asking for help to feed starving Guatemalan children. Egypt is having trouble feeding their own people. We have over 17 years of successful GMO cultivation, millions of acres, hundreds of millions of servings and not one instance of adverse health or environmental effects. It is a remarkable achievement, and there are far more achievements in the pipeline.
Biotechnology offers an unparalleled safety record and demonstrated commercial success. Remarkably, however, biotechnology might not reach its full potential. In part, that’s because outspoken opponents of GM crops in the U.S. have spearheaded a “labeling” movement that would distinguish modified food from other food on grocery store shelves. Never mind that 60%-70% of processed food on the market contains genetically modified ingredients. In much of Europe, farmers are barred from growing genetically modified crops. Even in Africa, anti-biotechnology sentiment has blocked its application. In Zambia, for example, the government refused donations of GM corn in 2002, even as its people starved.
Opponents of GM crops have been extremely effective at spreading misinformation. GM crops don’t, as one discredited study claimed recently, cause cancer or other diseases. GM cotton isn’t responsible for suicides among Indian farmers—a 2008 study by an alliance of 64 governments and nongovernmental organizations debunked that myth completely. And GM crops don’t harm bees or monarch butterflies.
Anyone who cares about alleviating hunger and protecting the environment should work quickly to remove the bias against GM crops. A good first step is for educated, scientifically literate people to avoid being taken in by the myths about genetically modified food. These innovations have too much potential to empower individuals and feed the world to be thwarted by falsehoods and fear-mongering.
Filed under: Africa, Australia, Canada, Politics | Tags: Middle Class Jobs, Obama's Economic Record, Spending and Taxing
President Obama went to Chattanooga, Tennessee last Wednesday for a big speech on jobs at the Amazon fulfillment center. Let’s just say it was not one of Mr. Obama’s better efforts. He wants a “better bargain” for the middle class. He has this weird idea that the economy grows “from the middle out,” which nobody understands, but he’s trying to make the middle class feel important.
He said that “over the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from the worst recession since the Great Depression.” He’s used this line over and over, but that does not make it true. It was a sharp recession, others have been worse, but we usually recover more quickly from a sharp recession. The recession ended in June 2009. It is the recovery that has been the problem.
From Zero Hedge: “Of 953,000 jobs created in 2013, 77 percent or 731,000 are part time. The U.S. is slowly being converted to a part-time economy.” According to Obama, it is because of the “long-term erosion” that it’s so hard to get the economy growing again. (Not His fault). “Together we’ve righted the ship. We took on a broken health care system.” The health care system was not broken, but the best in the world. There were something like 35 percent who had no health insurance. And we have learned that when Obama Care fully takes effect, there will still be about the same number who have no health insurance.
As Thomas Sowell said “It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.”That’s what they did not understand. And what has happened is that businesses who have large numbers of low wage people cannot afford what ObamaCare demands that they pay, so they are switching to part time employees, and they will have to hire twice as many part-time workers. There are always consequences.
Obama is going to fix the middle class with lots of construction jobs. You probably remember that he said that “those shovel-ready jobs really weren’t shovel-ready.” Construction jobs are complicated. First you have to get the agreement of the concerned governmental unit. Plans must be drawn up. Long approval process. Environmental impact statement. Long approval process. Legal battles with those who don’t like the project, and there are always those who don’t like the project. Repeat approval process. Construction jobs are not permanent jobs. They attach to a project.
The president added that “we invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil.”Sigh. We were never “addicted” to foreign oil. We had a government that wanted to buy foreign oil instead of allowing drilling for our own resources, and a government that extended the ban on offshore drilling in the case of Deepwater-Horizon to an absurd extent that sent ten big rigs off to other countries that were more cooperative, with their crews, and shut down the economy in the Gulf for months for no particular reason except that the President was ideologically opposed to fossil fuels, and subsequently forbade any drilling anywhere else, like offshore Alaska, onshore Alaska, West Coast, East Coast, Florida coast.
You don’t make the economy grow from the middle class out. A reviving economy will provide opportunity for all. ObamaCare is the biggest drag on the economy, but the”green jobs” in new 21st Century technology are nonsense. Spain and Portugal are dying from excessive investment in green technology. In Germany, Siemens burned through 21 Billion Euros and is out of the solar business. Wind and Solar are old, old technologies, and sexy new turbines or solar shingles seem like wonderful new technology, but the inherent problems of wind and solar remain the same. Wind is too intermittent, Solar is too diffuse.
How about doing some of the things that actually help businesses to create jobs? Obama has in mind a new “Grand Bargain.” He will reform the corporate tax code. His willingness to cut back the U.S. corporate tax, which is the highest in the developed world which taxes businesses on the income they earn in other countries. It destroys jobs and lowers wages for American workers and is way overdue for reform.
The central purpose of tax reform is to invigorate economic growth. Broadening the tax base (closing loopholes) and subsequently lowering tax rates is a good thing. But Mr. Obama wants to use some of that revenue to increase spending, which turns the whole thing into just another tax hike. He can’t give up the spending, and he needs more revenue to do it.
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Junk Science, Politics | Tags: American Foreign Policy, Misguided Climate Ideas, Speaking to Young Africans
President Obama speaking to young Africans, on his vacation trip to Africa.