Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Boycotting America

Will You Ever Visit Us Again?

I wonder when visitors from afar will begin to understand the country we have become, and then decide perhaps they don’t need to visit us anymore. Why? Well, we have turned ourselves into the most violent people on earth. The chances of a foreign visitor dying here by accident seem high, too high to risk. And “by accident”, I do not mean that they might be struck by lightning, or be crushed in an automobile accident.  No, I mean that they might be shot and killed just because they were standing in the wrong place, when one of our many domestic terrorists decided to shoot up some place in which they happened to be standing.  I have begun to wonder about the relative chances of being killed as a visitor in say, Afghanistan, or Iraq, as compared to the United States.  Granted our country is physically larger, so it might seem safer. But is it? Remember Florida, that place of sun and surf? Remember that “Stand your ground” law they passed? It appears to say that, if you feel threatened by someone, it is ok to shoot them. Remember Trayvon Martin?  That’s why he died.  Because an idiot, armed with a pistol, claims he felt threatened and so he shot and killed Martin, after a scuffle between the two.  It actually doesn’t matter to me that the idiot who killed him got off. It matters that Martin died as a result.

And now, we seem to have kids being shot in their schools, by some heavily armed idiot who believes he has a grievance with the school, or with one or more of the kids. And because that idiot is armed, many kids die.  Or people die because they happen to be sitting in a gay bar when one of the idiot domestic terrorists decides to shoot up the place.  

The statistics are by now, well known and alarming. Everytown USA ( now maintains data on firearm related death and injuries.  On average, 13,000 people are killed each year by firearms in domestic homicides, 96 people die by gunfire every day in the US of A. For every person killed by firearms, two more are injured. Seven children and teens (age 19 or under) are killed with guns in the U.S. on an average day. America’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other high-income countries. Oh, and should you happen to be a person of African American origin, you are 13 times as likely to be killed by firearms as white, Non-Hispanic persons.

And what actions have we taken as a result of all this carnage? Well, nothing.  We can’t even move our Congress to enhance background checks. And any time someone considers something like banning automatic weapons, the chief domestic terrorism agency in the country, The NRA, becomes hysterical and yells that we are violating the Second Amendment.

And what is that precious Second Amendment again? Well, here is what our Constitution actually says:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

It has been argued to death what the real intent of this Amendment was, and what the Framers meant by a “well-regulated militia”. They certainly could not have meant that collection of heavily armed, drooling NRA Trump supporters.  I assume instead they were thinking about, say, the National Guard.

But whatever they meant, their intent has been so distorted by the NRA domestic terrorists that their intent no longer matters. Now, it is up to our Congress, and maybe even state legislatures (yeah, right) to declare what kind of gun policies this nation shall endure.

Right now, with 300 million guns floating around the country, it seems increasingly clear that no one is actually safe. Idiots abound in the land (see election of Trump) and they all seem to be heavily armed. And that “good guy with a gun” thing? Yeah, right. When has that ever happened (ever!)?
And now, the NRA terrorists wish to arm our schools. Yeah, more guns . . . that’ll really cut down on the violence.  I suppose if everyone in school, including all those pre-schoolers, is armed, nobody is likely to enter the school. Right??? Right??? But then, what happens when some pissed off 13-year old doesn’t like it when his rival in school insults him. It’s guns drawn at full noon . . . in the courtyard everyone. And don't forget your smartie-phone-camera.

So, at any rate, suppose I’m a Canadian, thinking of driving down into the Netherworld of America. Shouldn’t they also come in armed to the teeth?  Or maybe, just maybe, Canadians might consider erecting a big wall instead. Want to go touring? Visit Afghanistan. Lovely in the spring time, I hear.
And you Brits?? Forget about New York, or Boston. And do not even think about Florida. Try the Caribbean instead.

Yeah, maybe a global boycott of America would be good, until we enact some sensible gun control legislation. Maybe get the number of guns down to, oh I don’t know, perhaps 50 million instead of 300 million.  Yeah, sell the other 250 million guns to the Russians, or the Chinese to improve our trade balance picture.  So, if our old friends should decide to boycott America until we begin acting like intelligent adults, instead of whiny idiots, we could blame the resulting revenue losses on the NRA, making them and their supporters anathema to American business interests. Maybe then . . .

We can hope can’t we?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Iran Accord & Trump

So, he’s done it. He has broken the contract that required us to abide by the same terms as Iran and all of our European allies.  So, now we are alone in abrogating the contract.  And now the folks who don’t know anything will begin to weigh in on Facebook and other social media forums. That includes me of course, because most of us have little access to high quality information about Iran’s behavior relative to the agreement. On one side, Benjamin Netanyahu claims that Iran has been systematically cheating and that they are moving closer to having a full nuclear capability, including a bomb and a means of delivery. On the other side, most of our allies, including the UN inspection brigade that has been overseeing the deal, claims that Iran has largely operated within the constraints of the agreement and has not cheated. Who to believe?

From my perspective, Netanyahu has moved closer and closer to a fascist mentality, emulating the very people that created our Second World War. I believe firmly, that Netanyahu is not a credible source of information within the Middle East.   I am certain that Trump’s advisers, Bolton and Pompeio, have argued to strike the accord. And now, he has sided with them and with the Israeli’s.
From an American public perspective, we must simply choose sides depending on whom we choose to believe.  And I have grave difficulty believing our President, mainly because he is a congenital liar. He lies, we know, whenever it is convenient to him, or whenever a lie will benefit him. In this case, a lie (that Iran routinely cheats on the accord) benefits him by drawing attention away from his myriad personal difficulties and from his potential legal difficulties with the Special Counsel, and places the Nation on a possible war footing. He has not yet declared war on Iran, but he is only a minor step away from such a declaration.  Under such a scenario, fewer people than normal may be drawn to continuing the critical commentary, although we will simply have to sit back and wait, watch and observe the ebb and flow of arguments that are sure to follow his lead here.

His timing is interesting here, since he is also moving towards North Korea on essentially the identical topic—how to prevent an authoritarian regime from possessing nuclear weapons capability.  He can and will surely deflect attention from the Iran mess, by arguing that he is entering a new era with a dangerous regime, one that has remained troublesome to the world for the past 65 years.  If indeed he and Kim succeed in reaching a successful accord, it would be a very large milestone towards peace in Asia, one that would certainly take away from the criticism of the Middle East mess he seems to have created.

Plus, he always gets to blame Obama for whatever mess results from his decision today.
It is all too early to say anything with certainty. Now, most of the next steps are within the decision halls of our allies, and within the Iranian regime itself.  One question is whether this will push the Iranians closer to Europe, Russia, and China, and therefore away from the USA. What the USA will do should that occur (impose sanctions on our European allies?) remains to be seen.  It seems clear that Trump’s decision will create a whole new game, with uncertain rules and highly uncertain outcomes for us and for our allies. Whether we still have allies after the dust settles is another of those, “remains to be seen” things.  It all gives me goosebumps thinking about a USA operating on the world stage without any serious allies.  But, as Trump keeps saying, “we will have to wait and see what happens”. 

 Because, given his inability to think beyond the next five minutes, he surely has no clue what will happen.