Muslim Congresswoman

Why is everyone so surprised that Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (Minn) has immediately expressed anti-Semitic views upon taking office?  It is well-known that most Muslims have such views and since she is their representative you would expect her to express them.  For example, most Muslims in polls agree that Jews are trying to take over the world, and also that Jews have undue influence due to their control of money.  These are classic anti-Semitic views, and Omar is merely reflecting this when she tweets that many US Congressmen support Israel because they are paid by AIPAC.  Add to this the fact that in any poll taken a majority of Palestinians support the use of terrorism against Israeli civilians.

There are two origins for these views, first, Islam, the fact that in the Koran Mohammed was rebuffed by the Jewish leaders of the city of Medina (which means “State” in Hebrew), whereupon he made a pact with them that he later broke and massacred them. There are clear anti-Jewish/anti-Semitic statements in the Koran.  Second, European Nazi ideology.  Many people forget that the vast majority of the Arab world sided with Germany during WWII.  Iraq had a pro-Nazi government that carried out an anti-Jewish pogrom in Baghdad in 1941 (known in Arabic as the Farhud).  Egyptian anti-British nationalists (such as Nasser) sided with the Nazis, and the Ba’ath Party that had its origin in Christian French-oriented Lebanon, was a pro-fascist (national socialist) party that subsequently ruled Syria (Assad) and Iraq (Saddam Hussein).

The other recent Muslim electee, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) has not so far issued as many controversial statements, but if you ask her she will certainly agree with her colleague Omar.  Also, in Congress is the Black American Muslim Keith Ellison (D-Minn), who generally takes a pro-third world view, in which America is the imperialist bad guy exploiting the poor colonized third world.  However, there is a stark contrast between the views of the leftist liberal electorate of Minnesota that elected both Ellison and Omar, and those of the Arab/Muslim parties they support, who are basically third world fascist thugs and terrorists (like Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas).  I predict even worse days to come for the Democratic Party that has segued further and further to the left and is now in the process of trying to separate itself from the crude anti-Semitism of Omar, that she cannot disavow.

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Brexit or the Wall

I do not know what is a worse mess, the UK’s future tied up in Brexit, or the US Govt. brought to a stand-still by the budget dispute over The Wall!  I have a modest proposal. To let cool heads prevail in both cases, let the Governments switch, just for the solution to these two seemingly insoluble problems.  Let Pres. Trump and the US Govt. take over the Brexit negotiations, and let PM May and her Govt. take over the negotiations for the Wall.

While the Brexit negotiations primarily concern the UK Govt. and the EU, this is far from being the main problem.  The main problem is convincing the House of Commons (HC) to accept May’s Plan to resolve the problem and to satisfy the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that their border will be a “soft” border, according to the so-called “back-stop” agreement.

With the US border with Mexico, the problem is not Mexico, the problem is getting the Democrats to agree to compromise with Trump and pay towards the Wall (or fence) in order to allow the US Govt. to avoid another shut-down.  Maybe with fresh eyes, people on both sides could see a better way ahead.  Perhaps the Democrats would find it easier to compromise with May than with Trump, and perhaps the MP’s would find it easier to compromise with Trump rather than with May.

What would happen if this idea was instituted, it could be a model for future intractable problems, let another Government and system come in and resolve the problem their way.  But, actually I don’t see it happening, it’s like when couples throw their keys into a bowl, but they always take out their own keys.  The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.  So let Trump not worry about taking a hammering in the Commons, and let May not worry about begging Pelosi to give her a few dollars.  They have big enough problems of their own. Still it would be a nice experiment.

Impeachment?

There are many Democrats and others who are baying for Pres. Trump to be impeached.  Should he be impeached?  Based on the opinions of several legal experts interviewed by  Fareed Zakaria for a special on impeachment on CNN, the answer is definitely “no”.

This in no way means an endorsement of Trump’s policies or of his agenda, but it does have to do with what the founding fathers meant when they added impeachment to the Constitution.  Therein it states that a President can only be  impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  Over the years this has been interpreted to mean significant crimes when the President is in office, that could endanger the security of the United States.  Note the fact that it has to be when the President is actually serving in that office, nothing that was done before he or she was inaugurated can be considered as a sufficient article of impeachment.

It may be that members of Trump’s election committee committed terrible crimes, but that does not justify impeachment, it may even be that Trump himself engaged in nefarious conduct, but that does not justify impeachment.  For example, it is well-known that Barack Obama was in contact with Russian President Putin before his inauguration, but that does not constitute reason for impeachment, neither does it for Pres. Trump.

Only two US Presidents have actually been impeached.   The first was Andrew Johnson, in 1868, for dismissing Edwin M. Stanton as secretary of war and the second was Bill Clinton, in 1998 for charges of lying under oath in regards to sexual relations with a White House intern. Both presidents were acquitted in trials that were held by the Senate because the two-thirds majority votes needed to convict them, were not reached. This meant both presidents remained in office and served the remainder of their terms. President Richard M. Nixon also faced impeachment after the Watergate scandal in 1974 but, as it was near-certain that he would be removed from office, Nixon decided to resign before the impeachment process could be completed.  All three were being impeached for serious acts they committed while in office.

It will be a sad and dangerous precedent if left-wing Democrats get their way and have the Senate vote articles of impeachment against Pres. Trump for what amount to political differences and unpopular policies.  For example, colluding with Russia prior to being inaugurated as President does not constitute reasons for impeachment; building a wall on the southern US border may seem to many a totally wrong policy, but it certainly does not amount to reasons for impeachment; refusing to re-start funding for the Government unless he gets a program funded, may seem very bad policy to many, but it does not constitute reasons for impeachment.  And then again, the Senate must vote on impeachment, and since the Senate is controlled by the Republicans, there is no way that two-thirds of the Senate is going to vote for impeachment.  So the new, young, left-wing Congressmen and women should stop this nonsense about impeaching Pres. Trump,  unless they know about something terrible he has actually done while already President.

Parallel Crises in the US and UK

It is strange that both the US and UK are entangled in serious crises relating to their relationship to their neighboring countries.  In the case of the USA it is in relation Mexico and the many thousands of illegal immigrants continually streaming over the southern border, in other words “the Wall.”  In the case of the UK it is the relationship to the European countries that make up the EU, in other words Brexit.

In the US, the failure of the Democrats to support the strengthening of the southern US border with a “wall” or fence has led to a crisis in which the US Govt. is shut down.  Even though opinion in the US is mixed, and even though many have ridiculed Trump’s statements, nevertheless there is a real case to be made for the need for such a “hard” border.  Of course, the leading Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, blame Trump for the Govt. shut-down and the failure of the Govt. to pay some 800,000 workers.

In the UK, Theresa May’s Govt. has been defeated in Parliament over her policy of negotiating a deal with the EU and presenting it as a fait accompli.  As she states, “it’s either my deal or no deal.”  Many of her own Conservative Party have shown their opposition to this approach by voting against her and in the latest fracas, a majority of 11 voted for an amendment to her Plan, that if it is voted down next Tues in Parliament, she will have to come up with a Plan B in 3 days!  This is really an embarrassment and a defeat for May, and puts her in a very difficult position.  This all started with the need for a “soft” border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) which voted to stay in the  EU and the Republic of Ireland (Eire) which is in the EU.  This resulted in the the Ulster Democratic Party  (UDP), withdrawing their support for May’s coalition Government and her “backstop” border solution.

So you could say that in both cases the crises are over a choice between a hard or a soft border.  In both cases, May and Trump have basically put their political lives on the line in a take it or leave it stand, either for a hard border with Mexico, or my Brexit or none.  It will be very significant to see how they each fare in the two showdowns.  Afterwards they should meet for a drink to compare notes.

Gen. Mattis Resigns

The resignation of Gen. James Mattis as Secty. of Defense one day after Pres. Trump announced his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria represents a turning point in the foreign policy of the USA.  Up to this point critics of Trump had felt relieved that Mattis was there to advise and hopefully guide him.  But, this decision represents a turn back to the policies of ex-Pres Obama, who also withdrew forces for short-term domestic political reasons, rather than a longer strategic perspective. For some time there have been reports of bad feeling between Trump and Mattis, and this was the final straw.

One way of looking at this decision is that it represents a turn back to a form of isolationism.  In other words, the US takes care of its own business and leaves the complex, dangerous and messy game of international conflicts to the locals to sort it out by themselves.  The trouble with this scenario is that the locals may have very bad intentions and may in fact do things that severely impact the interests of the US.  Thus, when the US withdrew from the Middle East under Obama, it gave the Russians the pretext of moving into Syria and gaining a warm water port on the Mediterranean, and allowed Iran to infiltrate Syria and support the Assad regime, which until then was being defeated by the insurgency. One cannot be certain that the outcome of this would have been better, if for example the Islamic State had defeated both Assad and the democratic opposition, but nevertheless it was a policy of “fight it out among yourselves,”  with no US entanglement.  Trump has returned to this policy, against the advice of all his advisers.  In fact two days after Mattis resigned, Trump’s special envoy for Syria, Brett McGurk, also resigned in protest, because in effect he no longer has a job.

For Israel the retraction of the US from the Middle east is a potentially severe problem, because it empowers the bad actors, Iran, Turkey and Russia, to seek to fill the vacuum created.  But, on the other hand, it proves once again to the Sunni States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States (Kuwait, the UAE and Oman) that the US is an unreliable ally, and in fact makes them more worried about Iranian encroachment and therefore more likely to want to make an alliance, even if informal, with Israel.

One of my friends argues that you cannot trust these Arab countries in any case, but the current talk of improved relations between Israel and the Sunni States is a definite development. It could be that by throwing these unlikely allies further together in face of the external threats (particularly of Iran), that this will hasten a mutual recognition of Israel and these Sunni States, and could lead eventually to a peace treaty with Israel.

One other possibility is that Trump may have done a deal with Erdogan, because he spoke to Erodogan just before he announced this pullout.  Erdogan probably told him that he intends to attack and defeat the Kurds in northeast Syria, and the US better get out-of-the-way.  Trump admires fellow strong men and is prone to take impulsive decisions.  International relations makes strange bedfellows and most countries will do what is in their best interests.  The outcome of such a step as the withdrawal from Syria can have unforeseen consequences.

Leaders in Trouble?

In a stunning development, the police in Israel have proposed indicting PM Netanyahu on charges of bribery and fraud.  Just as with Pres. Trump in the US, the opponents of Netanyahu have for long been trying to bring him down on charges of minor infractions. The police claim to be neutral and unbiased, but there is always a strong tendency for ambitious police or legal officers to try to bring down the incumbent leader. Similarly with the Mueller Probe in the US against Pres. Trump, using supposed “collusion” between the Trump election campaign and Russia. This is not to say that these politicians are lily-white pure.  But, these continuous and ongoing investigations are definitely a drawback to democracy and the efficient functioning of the governments.

In the case of Netanyahu there have been three ongoing investigations, cases 1000, 2000 and 4000, and several against his wife Sara. It is the Case 4000 that is now being brought to a proposed indictment.  This contends that Netanyahu appointed his campaign manager Shlomo Filber as Communications Director in order to ensure favored treatment for the owner of the Bezeq communications company, owned by Shaul Elovitch. Elovitch was then supposed to ensure positive treatment of Netanyahu in the news program he controls.  Now that the evidence has been forwarded to the Attorney General  Avichai Mandelblit, he has to decide whether the evidence is sufficient to actually indict Netanyahu.  If he does it will cause a major political crisis, because then Netanyahu might be forced to resign and there would be competition to replace him in Likud and then the need for a general election.

Similarly, in the US the Mueller probe into so-called Russian collusion has resulted in the indictment of several of Trump’s former aides, including his former lawyer Michael Cohen (no relative).  These may be dubbed fishing expeditions in order to get any of them to dish the dirt on Trump himself and embroil him in their own unrelated (to the Russia probe) wrong-doings, such as lying to Congress and stealing.  After nearly two years the Mueller probe should come to some kind of conclusion or be shut down.  Meanwhile Trump and Netanyahu have done great things for their respective countries.

The US-China Trade Deal

Perhaps the most important outcome of the recent Buenos Aires G20 Summit was the hour-long meeting between US Pres. Trump and Chinese Premier Xi Jingping that came to a compromise conclusion.  Those who feared an all-out trade war will be disappointed.  The two trade giants agreed on a temporary truce in which Trump agreed not to boost tariffs on bn$200  of Chinese goods from 10% to 25% on January 1 for 90 days and China will buy a “very substantial” amount of US agricultural, industrial and energy products. Meanwhile, Beijing says the two sides agreed to open up their markets and to engage in further negotiations.  

Many had blamed Trump for starting a trade war that could be ruinous for the US and the world.  But, in effect China blinked first.  As Trump pointed out, not only was China cheating on its trade agreements, but they need the US trade more than the US needs theirs, and so in order to save their economy they had to come to terms.  This is precisely what is happening.  China could ill-afford to have these b$200 tariffs slapped on to their goods exported to the US, so they agreed to change their trade practices, that gave them a very unfair advantage contrary to the regulations of the World Trade Organization.  In future China will buy US goods to even the trade balance between the two countries.  This will be a great boost for the US economy and is in fact a great victory for Trump in re-negotiating trade agreements between the US and other countries.  

Over time, previous Presidents have ignored these unfair bilateral trade practices of other countries, either out of fear of causing a trade war or because they genuinely believed that the US should allow its industry and trade to suffer in order to help these less fortunate countries.  As an example of this Trump signed the tripartite US-Canada-Mexico trade deal at the Summit to replace the previous NAFTA, that Trump deemed unfair to the US.  It must have been acceptable to the leaders of Mexico and Canada because they very quickly agreed to the revised deal and signed the agreement at the Summit. 

Another trade partner of the US that has been using unfair one-sided practices is the EU, principally Germany, that for example expected no US tariffs on its cars exported to the US, but retained tariffs on its imports of US cars.  Trump is also pushing for a level playing field here too.  With his initial victory against China, the fear of an international trade war will be greatly reduced and we can expect positive outcomes for world trade.