To stand or kneel?

Pres. Trump disturbed a hornet’s nest when he criticized NFL football players for failing to stand during the playing of the national anthem, but instead kneeling as a protest.  What are they protesting?  The shooting by white cops of black men and boys.  Certainly this is wrong, if the victim is innocent and it is purely a racial matter, as “The Black lives matter” organization claims.  But, is this the right way to protest?  Certainly not!  It brings into question the patriotism of the black players and is a snub to the flag and the anthem of the USA.  I and many others agree with Pres. Trump on this, there is a time and place to protest and this is not it.

It reminds me of the time that Black athletes gave a fist salute on winning medals in the Olympic Games.  If they didn’t like the USA then they should not have signed on and participated as a representative of the USA.  To do so and then protest was hypocritical.  The same applies to these athletes, let them use the normal procedures to demonstrate their concerns, not on the playing field.  I agree with Pres. Trump, they should apologize and promise not to do it again or be fired.  If there is not an actual clause in their contract then it should be written in that protesting during the playing of the national anthem is not allowed, period.

This whole issue comes to the core of what it means to be black in America.  Certainly there is racism, certainly there is institutional racism in some police forces, but the only country in the world that has changed so much to give all races in principle equal opportunity is the USA.  Black athletes, who themselves greatly benefit not only from the opportunities given them, but who also are a class apart in their financial remuneration cannot themselves complain of their treatment in the American system.  They must stand for their national anthem.


The Iran Nuclear Agreement

Pres. Trump announced on Saturday that he will not certify that Iran has complied with the nuclear agreement that the US signed with other western countries and Iran.  Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it was a center piece of Pres. Obama’s policy of trying to engage Iran.  By de-certifying it, Trump passes the buck back to Congress to consider and decide whether or not to cancel the deal.

Of course, there are other powers that are involved who don’t want to see the deal cancelled, including the UK, France, Germany. Russia and China.  Since the deal was originally signed the situation has changed, not only in the Middle East in general with Russia ensconced in Syria and fighting on the same side as Iran, but several states now have significant financial agreements with Iran allowed under the terms of the agreement.  They won’t be in a hurry to cancel them.

The main problem with the deal as far as Trump and Israel is concerned is that it allows Iran after 10 years to legally develop nuclear weapons, as well as putting no limits on their missile and conventional weapons development.   In addition there is no limit on their support for terrorism around the world.  Trump also has said he intends to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, which it truly is.

This reversal of US policy towards Iran is precisely what Netanyahu has been working for, and what he stated when he addressed Congress two years ago.  it is partially a credit to him that Trump has acted on this.  But, this is only the first step in the process and we will have to see how Congress reacts before we can say that Iran has been dealt a severe blow.

Gun Reform

Does anyone in their right mind doubt that there is a need for gun reform in the USA? The latest mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and wounded over 200, the worst in US history, is only the most recent of nearly one mass shooting a day throughout the US.  There is no need to restrict the right of citizens to bear arms in order to enact legislation that would also restrict potential killers from acquiring the automatic weapons that are only used to kill people.

Why did this individual have over 50 guns and several automatic weapons included.?  It is completely unnecessary and could only be for killing people.  It should not be allowed.  No-one needs more that two weapons to defend themselves.  This should be the limit, and there should be no sale of automatic weapons anywhere within the USA, including weapons that can easily be transformed into automatic ones.    It’s true that even two guns could be used to kill people, but not on such a mass scale.

Although the ability to defend oneself is a cherished right in the USA, where so many people do carry guns, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to be able to expect your children to come home safely from school or a concert, are also cherished rights.  At present the balance of these rights seems skewed towards the former rather than the latter.  Doing nothing is unacceptable, gun reform is urgent, before another crazy person decides that he wants to kill more people than the previous mass murderers.  Times have changed, the US is not a frontier society anymore, where the reach of the law is limited.  Maybe Pres. Trump will have the backbone to finally do something about this travesty.

War with North Korea?

In my opinion there is a very high likelihood of a war with North Korea.  So far the war of words has been heating up and has come very close to a breakdown.  But, although the North Koreans have officially stated that Pres. Trump’s comments amount to a declaration of war, the US has certainly not taken such a step.  If there were to be an actual war there is no doubt that the US could destroy North Korea, but the damage inflicted on South Korea particularly would be great with possible high loss of life.

The key issue is that the US has control of the air, and can therefore attack North Korean missile sites and heavy artillery near the border with S. Korea almost with impunity.  It seems in character for Pres. Trump not to take these overt threats by Kim Jung Un to attack Guam and the US mainland and to attack US planes flying outside Korean air space without some visceral response.  It is clear that China and Russia are very concerned about the US posture and the UN Secty. General has openly declared that N. Korea has acted contrary to the regulations of the UN that forbids one member country threatening another member country.

However, when Iran has threatened to destroy Israel many times and has even specifically described how they will use nuclear tipped warheads to do so, the UN has essentially ignored this blatant and continuous threat by one member country against another.  This is another example of the UN double standard applied to Israel.

To come back to the US and N. Korea, it will only take one deliberate mistake by either side to initiate hostilities, such as the Tonkin Gulf incident that was used by Pres. Lyndon Johnson as an excuse to start armed hostilities with N. Vietnam, and we all know how that turned out.  Nevertheless, the Vietnam syndrome has largely been overcome in the US Defense Department since the positive outcomes in Iraq and Libya.  The belief is high that whatever happens, the US would clearly win any conflict with N. Korea and destroy that disgusting regime, that puts the development of ICBMs and nuclear warheads before the welfare of its own people.  However, how China would react to any US move to reunite the Korean peninsula remains to be seen.

Freedom of Assembly

Remember that neo-Nazis too are guaranteed freedom of speech and assembly in a liberal democracy.   It only breaks down when they are responsible for hate speech against any other group (Blacks or Jews) and/or inciting violence.   Remember that they marched in Skokie, Ill, and the official Jewish Community recognized their right to march.  I well remember in the 1970’s when the neo-Nazis came from their HQ in Virginia to march in Washington DC.  As long as they had a permit they were protected (ironically) by the predominately Black police force.  But, if they infringed the regulations, they were quickly shut down and dispersed.

Once they planned to disrupt a Jewish Community Council march in support of Israel (how did we find out, that’s a secret) of which I was the organizer.  I arranged for a group of activist Jewish students from the local campuses to be present to provide protection. But, these were not just passive guards, they were trained, some of them had black belts and one was an expert with a nun-chuk (a fiendish weapon).  When the neo-Nazis showed up our guards attacked them and forced them to withdraw, meanwhile others had been assigned to slash their tires.  When they raced back to their cars they could not escape, they were beaten soundly and never came back.  You might ask where were the police during this ruckus, they just stood back and watched.

While I admit there is a fine line between a defensive reaction and an offensive attack, there is a difference.  The removal of the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee was initiated by the left and the Blacks. When the KKK, neo-Nazis and White Supremacists marched in Charlottesville against that removal of the Lee statue they were attacked by the organized hard-left antifa trained cadres.  The liberal-left biased media tend to ignore this fact, but I agree with Pres. Trump, both extremes deserve censure.

Note that the antifa, the hard-left vigilantes, do not simply fight the fascists, their aim is to take over the government, destroy capitalism and democracy and bring in a socialist regime that resembles the former Soviet Union (an abject failure) and Venezuela (that has just become a dictatorship of the Party and its Secty. Gen.)  To ignore the role of these leftist thugs in the current situation and to romanticize it is a failure of realism that could have significant consequences.  There are many good people in Virginia who are not extremists, who are not racists, who would like to see the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee left alone and who demonstrated peacefully.  These people will continue to support Pres. Trump.

Tearing down statues

After the defeat of Communism in the Soviet Union almost all statues of Lenin, Stalin and similar pro-communist monuments were torn down.  I well remember arguing with our guide (no doubt a KGB agent) when we were being shown around Novosibirsk in 1989, just after perestroika was introduced by Gorbachev.  She proudly showed us the huge monumental statues of workers and peasants standing outside the train station in the center of the city.  Everyone admired them, but I said they were ugly manifestations of communist realism and they would be torn down one day.   She was shocked, but I was right.  In Moscow and other cities in Eastern Europe some of the statues were relocated to a park outside the city where they can still be viewed if someone wants to see them.

We shouldn’t forget the tearing down of the statues of Saddam Hussein when the US defeated his army in Iraq, and those of countless other dictators (Mussolini, Ceacescu, Idi Amin, and so on).  But the situation in the US is different.  The civil war between North and South is still a wound in the body politic of the USA.  I was surprised to find that many of the statues of Southern leaders were erected comparatively recently, mainly as a reaction against the civil rights movement.  But, statues are convenient symbols and I totally oppose groups of vigilantes pulling down statues by their own decisions.

It may be that statues of Confederate soldiers are inappropriate, for example in Baltimore.  But, I lived in Maryland, and Maryland was a divided border state during the Civil War.  Baltimore was pro-Northern and the hinterland was pro-Southern.  Rockville, Maryland, which was a small town during the civil war, was the closest that Confederate forces came to the capital, Washington DC.  They occupied Rockville in 1863 and were then driven out by Union forces.  There is a statue of a Confederate soldier standing near the court-house in Rockville to commemorate this event.  It would be unfortunate if a crowd gathered and tore down this statue.  Be careful when you start taking the law into your own hands and tearing down symbols that you don’t like.  Others too can play that game, and then where are you?

We don’t want to see statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, not to mention other historical figures, pulled down unilaterally because they were slave-owners, capitalists, or merely objectionable.



A Pox on Both Their Houses

I am, of course, against the KKK, the white supremacists, and especially the neo-Nazis. But, I am not bothered by the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee remaining in the square in Charlottesville, Va.  He was an excellent general, an important historical figure in the history of the United States, and he came from Virginia.  He was offered to be the Commander-in-Chief of the US Federal army (yes, of the North), but he turned it down to become the C-in-C of the Confederate Army of Virginia.  Like all Southerners of his time he supported slavery.  But, as Pres. Trump noted in his press conference today, so did George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  They were both slave owners.  As he asked “where will it stop, if we take down the statues of all Confederate generals, shall we also take down the statues of all slave owners, including Washington and Jefferson?”  I think not!

I am also, of course, against the organized militant hard left activists, known as the “antifa” who dressed in combat gear (black body protectors and helmets) came to the rally in Charlottesville looking for trouble.  But, the biased liberal-left media failed to report their activities.  Here again I agree with Pres. Trump, extremists on both sides who came to foment violence and destruction must both be condemned.  It is ridiculous for any reporter to take the high moral ground and disparage Pres. Trump for criticizing both sides, it does not mean that he “equates” them.  They both deserve to be condemned. And Pres. Trump is right again when he says that there were many protesters who came to demonstrate peacefully against the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

The US will be the poorer if the statues of all early historical figures whose politics and views are not consistent with those of the left and the Black population today are unilaterally removed.  This is politically correct racial politics at its worst.  I protest this trend, to quote William Shakespeare in “Romeo and Juliet” I say “a pox on both their houses.”