Obama Admin Failing to Follow ‘Don’t Do Stupid S***’ Policy in Egypt

One of the promises the Obama administration made when it came to foreign policy was simple and straightforward: Don’t do stupid s*** (stuff).  While they’ve been successful in living up to that mantra by doing things like making the nuclear deal with Iran, they’ve failed miserably and disgracefully in Egypt.

A recent piece from the AP not only illustrates this fact but should be very disturbing from a national security perspective.  The article points out how the young in Egypt, who supported the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood, are now disillusioned with the idea of democracy and are turning to jihad.  A startling tidbit from the story says it all:

Once sympathetic to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, some of them resent it as weak and ineffectual.

“Now we know there is only one right way: jihad,” said the law student, Abdelrahman, showing off scars from pellets fired at him by police shotguns during protests…He spoke bitterly about the series of ballot box victories in 2011 and 2012 that gave the Muslim Brotherhood political dominance and made Morsi the country’s first freely elected president.

Democracy doesn’t work. If we win, the powers that be, whoever they are, just flip things over,” he said. “The Brotherhood thought they could play the democratic game, but in the end, they were beaten.” (Emphasis added)

The article goes on to describe some of the brutal tactics the state has employed against protesters and notes the young man quoted above is on his way to supporting and joining ISIS.

And what has the Obama administration done about this abuse of human rights that is driving more people toward extremism?  Supported and armed the abusers even further and has now boasted about those arms in a YouTube video, which was recently pointed out by Glen Greenwald.

Greenwald also adds a quote from a recent piece in the NYT (mostly fluff) about Secretary of State John Kerry supposedly taking a stand (but not really) against Egypt’s human rights abuses.  The quote should not just be noted.  It should be burned into the brain of everyone that thinks the U.S. is always on the right side of things when it comes to who we support around the world.  It just speaks volumes and no democracy with any morals should allow this type of thinking from their elected government:

“American officials . . . signaled that they would not let their concerns with human rights stand in the way of increased security cooperation with Egypt.”

That quote should turn everyone’s stomach.

And this isn’t to say the Muslim Brotherhood would have been a perfect friend to the U.S. or that they didn’t do  things that were seen as utterly awful in the eyes of many.  It was a fledgling democracy and things got very ugly and even fatal at times.  But it was the choice of the people of Egypt at the time and, most importantly, the alternative appears to be incredibly worse with the disaffected now looking toward joining ISIS.

The cycle of violence here is as black and white as it gets.  The Muslim Brotherhood is overthrown and an authoritarian regime takes power and abuses human rights.  The United States then backs that regime by arming them and allowing them to abuse their power even more.  The angry youth who lose faith in democracy take up arms and choose a path of violence.  The U.S. sells more arms to a brutal regime to crackdown further.

This is the equivalent of handing Jack the Ripper a set of knives, knowing he’s already killed people, but politely asking him to just use these on food.  There’s no mystery as to how this will work out.

Egypt looks like a bad situation getting worse at the moment and the United States is exacerbating the problem by knowingly arming an abusive government.  We’ve done it many times before and many innocent people have been slaughtered by U.S.-backed regimes around the world.  It’s yet another example of how not to do foreign policy yet the Obama administration is doing the same old stupid s*** we’ve seen too many times before.

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/21/15)

  • Prominent climate change-denying scientist has been outed as a fossil fuel-funded hackWei-Hock Soon, who has testified to Congress and state governments and been a guest on conservative news programs, has been destroyed in an article today that contains the following tidbits:

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work…

Dr. Soon also received at least $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation…

Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard.

But hey, he has a fancy title and says things certain rich people want to hear so he is believed by those that don’t realize what he says amounts to a steaming pile of horse manure.  Sorta like the vast majority of conservative politicians.

  • War on Terror is killing more innocents in Somalia, but with economics instead of military weapons.  In an effort to make sure no money makes its way to terrorist groups, banks have closed off any way for immigrants to send money back to their families in Somalia.  “Over 40 percent of Somalis rely on money sent from family living abroad to cover needs like food, housing and education, according to a report released Thursday”.  This comes after the ugly reality that 260,000 Somalis died during the famine that lasted from October 2010 to April 2012, half of which were children under the age of 5.  A surefire way to make even more people hate the West enough to join a terrorist group will be to cut off their lifelines and push them to the brink of starvation in the name of fighting extremists.
  • More children in South Sudan have been abducted from school to be soldiers89 boys (possibly more) have been added to the 12,000 other children that have been used as soldiers in the country.  It’s a sad irony they are taken so young from school when expanded education would likely lead to a quicker and lasting peace.  It’s an awful cycle of violence that actions like this will likely help continue for a long time to come.

    I see London, I see France, I see Satan in that Yoga stance!
  • According to a Catholic priest, Yoga will lead you to having good posture and a healthy and loving relationship…with SATAN!!!  No, that was not a line from an SNL “Church Lady” skit (although it kind of sounds like it).  This was actually stated and is apparently believed by the church at the highest levels.  Just when you think the church is starting to evolve a little…
  • Giuliani now implying President Obama is a Communist.  And he is totally correct.  I mean, after six years of his heavy-handed rule, the United States is a Communist country in every way imaginable.  Just look at how afraid people are to speak out against him and his policies and denounce him with outright lies in the media.  He is such a vicious dictator!

Stopping Terror At The Source

terrorism12115On this past Tuesday the Los Angeles Times published a letter by Pres. Obama on countering terror recruitment here in the U. S. and around the world. He stated we cannot defeat terrorists with military actions alone, but we have to go after their cadre of recruiters who draw them in so effectively and other measures. The President also stated that,

More broadly, groups like al Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today’s youth something better.

Governments that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change. Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies. Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development so people have hope for a life of dignity.

The following day Pres. Obama held a press conference on the same subject I read about in the NYT also. The article stated that,

Mr. Obama said undercutting the Sunni militant group’s message and blunting its dark appeal was a “generational challenge” that would require cooperation from mainstream Muslims as well as governments, communities, religious leaders and educators.

So here we finally have a leader who understands that it is impossible to kill-off every terrorist and terrorist-sympathizer around the globe. And what you have to do is to take the wind out of their sails, if I can put it so lightly. We have to affect the reasons why people become terrorists.

With that stated I can already hear grumbling from those in the back thinking, “He’s gonna blame America, isn’t he?” No, I’m not going to blame the U.S. on the West at all. How can anyone be to “blame” for such brutality? These are atavistic medieval fighters awaiting the apocalypse who do the most heinous things to try and recruit more zealots to join a malformed ideology I can hardly even believe exists. And no one is to blame other than the terrorists themselves.

But we can take some of the wind out of their sails with a few things we should do,

1) Reduce our political/military footprint in Palestine. Nothing does more to recruit terrorists than America’s perceived indifference to what Israel does to the Palestinians. We support them both politically and materially with great amounts of military aid and do nothing about how it is used. The “50-day” war over the summer has to be one of the biggest recruiting tools in Mid-East terror history for ISIS.

2) We must all work together to affect real social change in the region. I was watching “The Five” on FOX News yesterday and they were arguing that poverty and oppression had nothing to do with terrorist recruitment. They stated that bin-Laden came from a royal family and that Zawahiri was an eye-doctor. But they are not the rank and file! The rank and file live in poor social conditions with oppressive governments and no jobs to keep them economically stable and occupied. They even run to terror for a good salary. We all know how ISIS is building an economy within itself by illegally exporting oil to Turkey. This is an essential point.

3) Disavowal the recruiters. At the Pres. Obama’s press conference he stated that, “We need to find new ways to amplify the voices of peace and tolerance and inclusion, and we especially need to do it online.” And White House official Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, stated to the NYT correspondent, “You could hypothetically eliminate the entire ISIL safe haven, but still face a threat from the kind of propaganda they disseminate over social media….It’s an undervalued part of how you prevent terror attacks in the United States.”

This phenomenon is a serious, serious concern for anyone who desires both freedom and safety alike. I do not support in any form or fashion censorship or online monitoring, but we need to get more active as a people to counter these recruiters.

4) Stop thinking they hate us for our freedom. I used to read Osama bin-Laden’s statements before he was killed and he refuted this misnomer directly in one of them. He stated that al-Qaeda disagrees with us but does not care about our society as long as sharia law is followed in the Arab world. He even went as far as stating that if he hated our freedom, why not attack some nation such as Sweden? If politicians and laymen keep espousing this fallacy it keeps our eyes blinded from the real reasons they hate us.

5) Read this cover article in The Atalantic entitled “What ISIS Really Wants.” It is the first truly analytical report on the nature of ISIS. Essential read.

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/17/15)

  • The American public clearly has no idea what it wants from Obama on the issue of ISIS.  A new poll showed a majority of the public disapproves of the president’s handling of ISIS but a majority also do not want boots on the ground to fight them.  Considering the U.S. has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS for a while (a fact I assume is probably lost on a portion of the respondents of this poll), one has to wonder what the public even wants?  What should he be doing?  The question is not asked in the poll and, since it isn’t asked, it should be noted that some of the disapproval might be coming from people who think the airstrikes themselves are too much and those resources shouldn’t be used by the U.S. government.  We can’t know from this poll.
  • Welfare reform is now causing people to die earlier.  A new study has found the welfare reforms of the 1990s are shaving time off of the lives of the poor.  In a better world, politicians would recognize their duty to protect the citizens they represent and take things like these effects into account.  In reality, it’s just another situation of the elected government not caring about those that do not vote in high numbers or contribute to their campaigns.  I wonder how much longer the wealthy that are running government-subsidized corporations get to live because of their welfare?
  • Attorney General Eric Holder calls for a national moratorium on capital punishmentNot really a strong endorsement of ending the ridiculously expensive practice but at least a step in the right direction from a high-ranking official.  Unfortunately, the U.S. will continue to stay behind most of the rest of the modernized world on this issue for the foreseeable future.
  • Get ready for the GOP swing to the left on gay marriage“Half of Republican primary and caucus voters in the key early states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina said that opposition to same-sex marriage is unacceptable” (Emphasis added).  I believe gay marriage will not be much of an issue by the time the primaries roll around since the SCOTUS will likely legalize it nationwide this summer.  This will be a secretly welcomed change by the GOP candidates since they will then be able to dodge the question on the campaign trail next year.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders continues to be awesome.  In a great op-ed on the new regime in Greece, Sanders tells it like it is again with this great line:

The real concern, apparently, is that democracy may go too far for austerity advocates to continue imposing their economic ideology from a distance: in Spain, Portugal, Finland and elsewhere, the patience of citizens is wearing thin as a growing number of them awaken to the stark reality that, while the very rich get much richer, the austerity programs their governments dutifully implemented are the cause rather than the cure for what ails their economies. (Emphasis added)

Sanders also took the time today to call for the first two years of all college to be free for Americans.  This would be a further expansion on the Obama plan of two years of community college being free.  It’s nice to see that some elected officials in government actually want to see the United States be taken into the 21st Century and not taken back to the 19th.  If only we could elect a guy like that to be president…

The Need for Better Childcare

23OBAMA-1421950110100-master675I know the childcare issue is not sexy. And I know that this post will not get a million views this week. But childcare is an essential issue for those of the lower socioeconomic status (SES) trying to claw their way towards a better life.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) melded with West Germany and it’s capitalist ways. But the East Germans had some problems with the West’s free-market policies. The absence of a State-ran economy left many soured and one of the many reasons were the West’s views of the family, and childcare more specifically. The GDR policy was that after childbirth a mother would have a full-year of paid-leave from their job followed by free childcare that was provided by the state. This led to a social movement comprising of the mother’s of the GDR who ran a successful campaign to meet the West German authorities halfway.

Now the reason I tell this story is twofold. First, I love to pick apart capitalist policies by comparing them to what were successful Communist programs. But the substantive reason is that Pres. Obama has finally taken up the cause for affordable childcare this week revealing it in his SOTU speech.

At the University of Kansas Jan. 22nd, Pres. Obama proposed his new revamping of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 along with the Child Care and Development Fund. Here are some of the details from the New York Times article covering the event:

– Obama called for an $80 billion expansion of a federal program that provides child care subsidies to low- and middle-income families with children ages 3 and under, nearly doubling the aid and offering it to more than one million additional children over the next decade.

He promoted his plan to nearly triple, to $3,000 per child, the maximum child care tax credit. And the president said he would push to put more federal money into early childhood programs, expanding the availability of free preschool and extending Head Start — focused on low-income families — to last an entire day, and for the full school year.

White House officials said while the average subsidy for low- and moderate-income families under the federal Child Care and Development Fund was $5,500 in 2013, Mr. Obama’s expansion of the program would aim to cover the entire cost of high-quality care, an average of $10,000. And the number of children covered would nearly double, to 2.6 million in 2025.

-The increased subsidies and tax credits would be financed by Mr. Obama’s plan to increase taxes on investments and inherited wealth, as well as a fee on large financial institutions. The preschool initiative would be paid for by increasing tobacco taxes.

As essential as this legislation is for low-income families, it will more than likely be watered-down by the GOP lawmakers who refuse to fund anything, ever, coming out of the federal budget. And this is assuming it will ever reach the Capitol floor with both the House and Senate being ran by Republicans for at least the next two years.

But if Obama’s proposals do find some tread, maybe we can find our way a little closer to the GDR.

Here is a great clip of Pres. Obama at the University of Kansas on Wednesday speaking about the childcare issue. These speeches always get me fired up.

Obama On Childcare in Kansas

 

 

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Conservatives Criticizing Obama for Paris Photo-op Forget World Hates Their Foreign Policy

It’s not surprising that conservatives have jumped on the Obama administration for sending ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, to the photo-op of free-press-hating world leaders (an issue that, in all fairness, the Obama administration has its own black eyes).  It’s not even surprising that a conservative has stooped to the point of making a ridiculous, childish, and brainless Hitler comparison.  It’s just politics and one side will criticize the other for…anything.

What is surprising is that conservatives think the Obama administration would even want their opinion when it comes to foreign policy, particularly when it deals with Europe.

A conveniently forgotten fact for conservatives is they pretty much got their way on foreign policy with the previous administration…and it was a complete disaster that the world mostly came to hate them for for implementing, especially Europe.  Let take a quick look at some numbers from the chart linked and displayed to back up that fact.

European opinion of the U.S. was riding rather high toward the end of the Clinton administration in ’99 and ’00 with most of the countries listed well over 70% favorable.  By 2002, the drop under the Bush administration had already begun despite this being prior to the Iraq debacle and coming off the sympathy the world showed after the 9/11 attacks.  By 2007, four of the seven countries of which there is data had dropped below 50% with Germany coming in at a whopping 48% drop to 30%.

Enter the Obama administration.  By 2012, all seven countries had returned to more than 50% favorable opinions with four countries at 60% or more.  And this occurred despite widespread disapproval of U.S. drone strikes.

On top of all that is the other conveniently forgotten fact conservatives are ignoring: Bush administration torture policies helped radicalize the attackers.

Conservatives can choose to ignore these realities all they want but facts are facts no matter how inconvenient.

Obama and Community College Proposal

09UP-College-superJumboOn Jan. 9th at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, TN, Pres. Obama issued a landmark proposal for the government to pay the tuition for two-year community college programs nationwide, making them free. It is a stunning step that could raise the quality of life for millions of Americans.

The obtainment of a secondary-education is the path to the middle class for both newly graduated high school students and older adults looking to advance themselves who could not otherwise afford it.

According to a piece in the NYT by Justin Wolfers, in “The Upshot”, the macro economic benefits would also be great for it would increase both output and raise living standards across the middle and lower classes. He continues that:

Mr. Obama’s proposal is an effort to revive education as one of the drivers of economic growth. If he succeeds in persuading more of the next generation to continue beyond high school, and to invest in community college and possibly beyond, there’s a strong chance the rate of economic growth will be bolstered for decades to come. And relative to other ways of strengthening growth, investment in community college is most likely to ensure that the middle class shares in the benefits of it.

Now students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program to be eligible. So there are strings attached that I am sure the critics will love to claim are not there.

And for those fiscal hawks out there, the government would pay for 75% of the costs (by investing $60 billion over the next 10 years) while the participating state would cover the remaining 25%. But keep in mind that the annual Federal budget is $3.5 trillion , making $60 million a drop in the bucket.

And one other thing. Make sure that we keep in mind that furthering one’s education does not solely benefit us economically. It also makes us more informed, better suited citizens ready to lead our nation through voting choices or even by holding higher-office.

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“Outrage” On Gaza Crisis and Other Issues by Chomsky

noam_chomsky2-620x412Here at STL we have tried to get away from just posting links to and summaries of interesting articles in favor of insight discussions and leave the link sharing to Twitter. But this new discussion piece by “The most important intellectual of our time,” Noam Chomsky , according to the NYT, over at ZNet is just too important for you to miss. Follow the link below:

Outrage

 

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GOP Refuses Funding for Border Children Projects

JPBORDER-master675A humanitarian crisis unseen before at our borders is becoming more and more urgent everyday at Rio Grande Valley, TX, and other Southwest locations. And yet the GOP is arguing over numbers.

Yesterday President Obama requested an amount of $3.7 billion from Congress to help aid the 57,000 unaccompanied minors who illegally crossed the border from the Mexico side since October. They are mostly from violence-ridden Central American countries, like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate, according to the CIA World Factbook) and were mostly transported here by human traffickers.

The problem here is that our usual laws and resources cannot handle this number of illegal immigrants as current immigration law stands. It’s just like what Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said in front of Congress yesterday, “Although we have made progress, that progress is oftentimes disrupted when we see sudden influxes of kids coming in faster than we can discharge them, and we back up.”

Now the President has asked for funds to add more judges and Border Patrol Agents, increase detention facilities, conduct more aerial surveillance, help care for the kids, and pay for programs in Central America to try to keep them from coming. This would be a good initial, and multi-pronged attempt to help these children who have suffered extreme trials and often unnameable abuses to reach here. They should not have to suffer any longer in the world’s wealthiest nation mythologized as “The Land of Immigrants.”

But the GOP is fighting against these humanitarian efforts with claims that it is too much money and would not solve the problem. I just keep hearing the phrase from the Republicans that we need to “secure the border” first, like House Majority Leader Rep. John Boenher said to reporters yesterday,

“If we don’t secure the border, nothing’s going to change. And if you look at the president’s request, it’s all more about continuing to deal with the problem”

I simply do not know what all “securing the borders” entails for the Right-wing. Should our Mexican border look like the coast of Normandy in June, 1943, before the D-Day invasion? Should we shoot at the small boats, rafts, inner tubers, and single children floating across the Rio Grande who get too close to the American shore? What does it mean?

We need to provide the aid Pres. Obama needs and cut it away from the real wasteful programs that Washington spends on, say, on a few more drones in Afghanistan.

 

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