Americans Should be Envious: “Why Infants May Be More Likely to Die in America Than Cuba”

nyti.ms/2HieZUR

A great op-Ed by Nick Kristoff at the NYT explaining how, though lacking in first rate medical technology, the infant mortality rates are actually lower in Cuba. We could take away many good practices from the Socialist, island nation so close to our shores.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Said ‘Death to America’. So, What?

As the peaceful negotiations over a nuclear deal with Iran happily make their way to a resolution, many opponents of the current deal (or any deal with Iran) raise irrelevant alarm bells over some of the rhetoric that emanates from the Iranian leadership.  A recent example was Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s agreement with a crowd chanting “Death to America” during one of his public appearances and the ensuing backlash from Western opponents over the situation.  While it may not be the most pleasing thing to hear, it should be taken for what it is in the grand scheme of things: empty rhetoric to please his people and nothing more.

“Ali Khamenei” by User:Seyedkhan. Wikimedia Commons

In fact, if we were to step back from the situation and look at it objectively, it’s a perfectly rational thing for him to say.  It’s what leaders and politicians do.  They talk tough and make promises they have no intention or capability of keeping in order to keep their people behind them.  What would it look like if he did anything else?  What would he be saying?  I’m guessing it would go something like:

“People of Iran.  This is your Supreme Leader announcing to you that we will be letting the U.S. and Israel run our country however they please.  I know.  I know.  They were directly involved in the military overthrow of our democratically elected leader in 1953 and installed a ruthless dictatorship that we had to overthrow.  They were also responsible for the Stuxnet cyber attack, an action one of these countries has officially and hypocritically declared is an act of war.  But we can totally trust them now and I’m sure we will be the best run Western colony in the history of the world!”

Yeah, it would be completely ridiculous.

But hey, let’s remember that all spoken rhetoric eventually comes true.  Just look at all the things Iranian leaders have said in the past and then carried out that have been 100% prophetic, such as “Death to Russia”, “Death to England”, “Death to France”, “Death to Israel”, and “Death to Saddam” (not Iraq).   Oh, the overwhelming nostalgia!  Remember France before Iran destroyed it?  So much culture and fancy paintings.  It was almost like being in modern day Paris!

The point is, rhetoric is just talk and it should be expected to be tough and reflect a self-interest for whoever is speaking.  The actions Iran is taking by negotiating with the P5+1 and seeking a peaceful resolution is what truly matters.  And just to drive the point home that Khamenei’s rhetoric should not be taken too literally, here are some more examples from history of rhetoric that either never came true or did not match the actions taken by the speaker.


 

“Fidel Castro8” by Antônio Milena/ABr – Agência Brasil [1]. Wikimedia
Fidel Castro, former Cuban President

I propose the immediate launching of a nuclear strike on the United States. (1992)

Yes, remember the Cuban nuclear missile strike on Florida in the ’90s?  The radiation hit some counties so hard they lost the ability to properly count votes in presidential elections.

Nikita Khrushchev, former Soviet Premier

Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in. (We will bury you.) (Remark to Western ambassadors, 1956)

It’s really unfortunate Western society was buried by Communist Russia in the 1950s.  But look at the bright side, comrades.  At least we all got really cool furry hats!

John McCain, former Maverick and current regretter of vice-presidential choices

That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran’.  Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah… (2007)

Really a missed opportunity here, folks.  Think of all the money the military industrial complex has missed out on with him losing in ’08.  There’s always 2016!

Hugo Chavez, former president of Venezuela

Let’s save the human race, let’s finish off the U.S. empire. (2006)

Coincidentally, he said this while in Iran.  Now we know where they got it from.  Peer pressure!

Ronald Reagan, former U.S. president

Wikimedia

President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment…I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. (1982)

Uncle Ronny was clearly a great judge of character.  Montt was, at the time, in the process of committing genocide in his own country, a crime he would eventually be found guilty for conducting (he is currently awaiting a new trial after the conviction was overturned in what appears to be a scheme to keep him out of prison until he dies).  Nicely done, Mr. Reagan!

Kim Jong-Il, former Supreme Leader of North Korea

I’m an Internet expert too. (2007)

No…just, no.  Kim was a bit of a recluse, as most know, but the state-run news agency did release direct statements that threatened to “wipe out” the United States while he was in charge.  Just another successfully unsuccessful bit of rhetoric.

Mother Nature, current ruler of Pangea

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men… (continues)

The quote is kind of long and is still being spoken.  But she’s getting pretty close to the end and I’m assuming what happens when she is done speaking is going to be pretty ugly for her constituents…

Richard Nixon, former U.S. president

“Nixon 30-0316a” by Hartmann. Wikimedia

I did not wait for my inauguration to begin my quest for peace (in Vietnam). (1969)

An absolute lie.  We now know that Nixon actually sabotaged peace talks with Vietnam in 1968 while still a candidate for the presidency and did so to help his own political campaign at home.  Just a disgusting moment in history.


The point of all this is to simply note that rhetoric can frequently mean little while the actions of the speaker can be something very different.  This reality should be particularly considered in the case of Iran as they have been logically talking tough against the West at times but, according to  U.S. and Israeli intelligence, shut down their nuclear weapons program years ago.   We should always remember that the phrase “all politics is local” doesn’t just apply to the United States and it should be no surprise when we hear some foreign leaders score points with their people by taking shots at us.  In fact, if you don’t expect that to happen, you should really tone down the hubris a bit.

Bottom line, Iran has come to the negotiating table and is making a deal.  If the GOP warfare queens in Congress decide to kill the deal and the situation eventually disintegrates into military actions, the blood of every American and Iranian that dies will be on their hands and history should properly place the blame squarely on each and every politician that turned away from peace.

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (3/2/15)

Can’t avoid the impending Iran deal and the circus now around it but more good news on gay marriage.

  • Climate change was a contributing factor to the war inside SyriaThis has been suggested before but now a team of scientists put together a report explaining this fact for the world to understand.  They also mention refugees arriving from Iraq as a contributing factor (who caused that again?).  But it’s cool everybody because all we have to do is send senile Senator Inhofe over to Syria with a few snowballs and this whole mess will be cleared up quickly.  Peace is on the way!
  • Netanyahu’s lies are starting to sink him.  A great video on AJA appeared today giving you 5 things he will refuse to admit when he testifies to Congress and is worth watching to give you a quick version of why we should barely pay attention to him.  The Intercept also put together a good piece pointing out the many times he has “cried wolf” over the years.  Both pieces mention his testimony to Congress about Iraq’s advanced nuclear technology in 2002.  Listening to Netanyahu about other country’s nuclear ambitions is like listening to idiot preachers continually predicting the end of the world.  No matter how many times these tools are wrong, the foolish still think they speak the truth.

    See this 90%? That’s the percentage of things I say about Iran that are utter lies. The 10% that is truthful is when I say the name of the country correctly.
  • John Boehner is one of the foolish and can’t hide it.  Boehner defended his invite to Netanyahu by stating “Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say”.   Yes, because Bibi has no way of transmitting his message to Congress in any other way than to give a speech there during an Israeli election year.  No one will put a camera on him or a microphone in front of his mouth.  Poor fella.  It was like he was a ghost prior to giving his speech.  By the way, Mr. Speaker.  What is the cost of this versus, say, a conference call with Bibi?  I mean, you guys are fiscal conservatives so this is the cheaper route, correct?
  • Iran is and has been a rational actor throughout all of this and there is no evidence they are pursuing a nuclear weapon.  An excellent read from The Atlantic focusing on this reality but one section is worth quoting here and should be constantly noted about the situation:

That’s why the Bush administration’s 2007 National Intelligence Estimate said Iran is “guided by a cost-benefit approach.” It’s why Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in 2012 that “we are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor.” It’s why Benny Gantz, then head of the Israel Defense Forces, declared the same year that “the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.” It’s why Meir Dagan, the longtime head of Israel’s intelligence agency, called the Iranian regime “rational” in an interview with 60 Minutes. And it’s why Ron Burgess, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.” Could all these men, who analyze intelligence about Iran for a living, be wrong?

  • Nebraska’s ban on gay marriage has been struck down by the courts.  Another state is added to the ranks of those on the right side of history.  I guess they wanted to be able to say they legalized gay marriage prior to the Supreme Court legalizing it across the nation this coming June.  No reason, at this point, to be a state that has to be drug kicking and screaming across the finish line by the federal government.

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/19/15)

Lies and income inequality, oh my!

  • Israel is lying about the West’s negotiations with Iran.  Not exactly shocking but this sums it up nicely:

(U.S.) State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that there was a “selective sharing” of information.

“I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” she said.

But, hey.  It’s Israel.  I’m sure they’ve never lied about anything in the past, particularly when they’ve claimed they needed to “mow the lawn” in Gaza.  And, honestly, does anyone think they care if they get caught in a lie?  It’s not like they’ve had to pay for any of the more vicious acts, like the despicable war crimes they’ve committed against the Palestinians.

  • Speaking of lying, a new report by the U.S. Army War College finds “‘dishonesty and deception’ among Army personnel is common, often encouraged to maintain a false sense of integrity.”  This isn’t overly shocking in terms of the psychological aspect but the word “encouraged” should be a little disheartening in the sense that this suggests it’s a top-down action.  The integrity part begins at the top and, if it isn’t being displayed by the highest ranks, it’s not surprising when those in the lower ranks take things like torture even farther than the rules state.  This is the reason why holding those at the top accountable for their despicable orders is so important.
  • Middle-class wages dipped again last year, but the story isn’t all bad.  If we push our elected officials to intervene with the right legislative actions, things can get better:

Still, wage trends last year underscore that policy makers can do a lot to boost workers’ pay. Take the rise in wages for the country’s lowest-paid workers, which the EPI says is proof that policy changes are positively impacting American families. Those states that raised their minimum wages last year — including New York, Florida and California — witnessed a pay gain of 1.6 percent for the lowest-paid workers, compared with a 0.3 percent increase for those without a rise in a state’s baseline pay.

Just another example of how the government can do things to reduce the dangerous levels of economic inequality in the U.S., something the voters want as pointed out next.

  • 60% or more Americans want higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, and requirements for time off after the birth of a child.  As inequality continues to get worse, these numbers will just continue to grow over time.  The question now becomes, how high will they have to get before change will come?  I’m sure Congress will consider all of these quickly since it’s filled with so many middle-class workers that have no sick time and will soon be having children…
  • Walmart will be hiking wages to $10 per hour a year from now.  Yes, you read that right.  Income inequality has gotten so out of control that one of its biggest villains is giving in to the pressure.  Soon, Walmart employees will be able to climb the economic ladder from desperate poverty to just regular poverty.  Walmart’s stock price took a hit today because of the announcement since doing even the slightest thing to help the 99% really angers the 1%.  Remember folks, capitalism is not about the wealthy exploiting the poor!*

*Statement approved and paid for by Exploiters of the 99% of America.

Iran Ready for Halting Nuclear Advances

Iran nuclear dealIn 11 days on Jan. 20th, The Guardian reports, that according to agreements with the U.S. and the other 5 members of the UN Security Council, Iran will halt developing weapons grade uranium in return for the lifting of  economic sanctions which aim to halt Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Read Here.

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Did Sanctions Work in Iran?

1127-IRAN-BREAKTHROUGH_full_380A good piece in the CSM on how sociological conditions and a new leader in Iran led to Western sanctions being more affective in bringing them to the bargaining table regarding their nuclear ambitions.

Also in the article, it is explained why the sanctions are working, for now, in Iran but did not in North Korea. Very interesting.

Read Here

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U.S./Iran Nuclear Deal

w-Iran1125_promoThe Iranians and the Obama administration have reached a historic deal that allows the lifting of sanctions against the Persian nation ($7-$8 billion dollars worth) in return for a nuclear freeze. But U.S. critics are already tearing down this promising diplomatic achievement because it doesn’t require any dismantling of Iranian nuclear reactors or other research facilities. So here’s my problem with these arguments against these agreements detractors.

First, we should all be pleased with the fact that the U.S. and the Iranians have diplomatically spoken to one another for the first time in 34 years. This is a nearly unbelievable development that should be heralded in and of itself disregarding what type of agreement is reached.

Secondly, the agreement requires the Iranians to conduct a nuclear freeze and not a complete dismantling of all their nuclear-research facilities. But what we have to remember is that this current agreement is just a test of good faith and not a final deal. We still have the bulk of sanctions on Iran’s economy and they still have their reactors. This freeze is just a preliminary deal that sets the table for more significant future talks.

The Soviets and U.S. use to work out deals to freeze nuclear weapon development on occasion and that was seen as a diplomatic achievement. Why not this?

Thirdly, if not diplomatic talks, what is the other option for stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon? It is clear by the recent comments by Israeli PM Netanyahu, who has openly condemned the agreement, that they want violence to be used against Iran for that is the only other option. The sanctions are not enough to stop Iran from enriching nuclear components for a nuclear bomb. War is the only other option to stopping Iran’s development of a bomb, and I feel that diplomacy is a much better choice.

And lastly, as I’ve stated before a million times, the most promising tactic that we could use with Iran is making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. Israel has 250 nuclear bombs and this is a major reason why Iran is trying to maintain some sort of military pariy with the Jewish state. We should make the most volatile region of the world (well, the only one with mass oil reserves) free of all nuclear weapons.

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Patience Key to Iranian Talks

09nuclear_span-thumbWide-v3A new report came out of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) yesterday showing a slowdown in nuclear enrichment in Iran which may be due to recent talks regarding the lifting of economic sanctions there in return for the slowdown and future halting of bomb-making materials.

All a part of a larger plan to stop Iran’s nuclear capability, this program being ran by the Obama White House has been criticized by Israel, Republicans, and even some Democrats due to the addition of lifting some sanctions. But read below:

“Mr. Obama said an interim deal would halt Iran’s program; dilute its stockpile of highly enriched uranium, which can be quickly converted to weapons-grade fuel; and subject Iran’s facilities to more vigorous inspections. That would give both sides the breathing space to conduct talks on a comprehensive deal.

And if those talks fail, the president said, Congress can easily ramp up the sanctions again.”

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Latest ON Iran-Nukes Talks

11nuclear_cnd-articleInlineJust a report in the NYT on the progress, and lack there of, regarding talks in Geneva between the U.S. and Iran on stopping Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for removing heavy sanctions.

It covers not only the exchanges between America and Iran but also those other countries who want to be fully informed about the talks, such as Israel, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

I know I’ve said this over and over again, but the solution to these problems would be for Israel to give up it’s 250 nuclear weapons and make the Middle East a nuke-free region.

Read Here.

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Israel, Of Course, Against Lifting Iranian Sanctions

03941176As an article in The Post reports, Sec. of State John Kerry meets in Geneva to possibly freeze some of the most severe economic sanctions against Iran in an effort to stop uranium enrichment by the Middle Eastern state.

As the report says, and as usual, Netanyahu of Israel wants nothing to do with talks but rather wants what seems as  military action against Iran despite not coming out at saying it directly.

But listen to what Kerry says:

“Let me just ask you simply: Are we better off not talking to them, and they continue to build the capacity, and then we have an automatic military confrontation?” Kerry said. “Or are we better off having a freeze where they are today and take the program backward so that you expand the amount of time before they could break out? Which way is safer? It’s very clear to me how you’re safer.”

 

 

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