Posts Tagged ‘politics’

The Kurds and the Israelis are our only allies in the middle east.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

The growth of terrorist state ISIS has taken all the attention lately. This is just a resurgence of al Qeada in the vacuum left by Obama’s withdrawal of all US troops. Maybe, if we had kept a significant force in Iraq, something could be saved of all we bought at such terrible cost. Now, it is too late.

We do have allies worth helping but they are not in the Iraqi government. It is Shia dominated and dependent on Iran for support. They have alienated the Sunnis and the growth of ISIS is the result. We still have the Kurds as allies and they know we were their only hope in 1993. Jay Garner did a great job working with them once we decided to protect them after the First Gulf War. I have never understood why he was dismissed by George W Bush.

The Kurds have been an embarrassment for us for decades in the middle east because they occupy parts of three nations two of which were at one time our allies.

contemporarykurdistanmap2005

Kurdistan includes parts of Iraq, Turkey and Iran. They have never had a modern nation and the neighbors are enemies. Only the mountains have protected them. Now, it is time we did something. Iran is certainly no friend. Iraq has dissolved and it is time to allow it to be broken up into the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish provinces it should be. Turkey is increasingly Islamist and has not been an ally at least since 2003 when they blocked our 4th Infantry Division from invading Iraq from the north.

The 4th was initially ordered to deploy in January 2003 before the war began, but did not arrive in Kuwait until late March. The delay was caused by the inability of the United States and Turkey to reach an agreement over using Turkish military bases to gain access to northern Iraq, where the division was originally planned to be located. Units from the division began crossing into Iraq on April 12, 2003.

The Kurds know this is their opportunity and Dexter Filkins piece in the New Yorker makes this clear.

The incursion of ISIS presents the Kurds with both opportunity and risk. In June, the ISIS army swept out of the Syrian desert and into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As the Islamist forces took control, Iraqi Army soldiers fled, setting off a military collapse through the region. The Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, seized huge tracts of territory that had been claimed by both Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad. With the newly acquired land, the political climate for independence seemed promising. The region was also finding new economic strength; vast reserves of oil have been discovered there in the past decade. In July, President Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to begin preparations for a vote on self-rule. “The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us,” Barzani said.

The Kurds were surprised and routed by ISIS mostly due to limited weapons and ammunition. We could supply the deficit but Obama seems to be oblivious to the true situation. The Iraqi Army will not fight, a characteristic of all Arab armies. To the degree that the Iraqi army is Shia led, the Sunni Arabs will not cooperate or will join the enemy.

The present situation in Kurdistan is desperate.

Erbil has changed a lot since I was there last. In early 2013, on my way into Syrian Kurdistan, I had stopped off in the city for a few days to make preparations. Then, the city had the feel of a boom town – shopping malls springing up across the skyline, brand new SUVs on the road, Exxon Mobil and Total were coming to town. It was the safest part of Iraq, an official of the Kurdish Regional Government had told me proudly over dinner in a garden restaurant.

A new kind of Middle East city.

What a difference a year makes. Now, Erbil is a city under siege. The closest lines of the Islamic State (IS) forces are 45 kilometers away. At the distant frontlines, IS (formerly ISIS) is dug in, its vehicles visible, waiting and glowering in the desert heat. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are a few hundred meters away in positions hastily cut out of the sand to face the advancing jihadi fighters.

The problem and a solution are both clear. Obama is not serious about doing anything in Iraq or Syria and the Kurds may have to fend for themselves. Interesting enough, there are Jewish Kurds. Israel may have more at stake here than we do. We are an unreliable ally with an anti-Israel president and party in contra, right now.

The phrase “Kurds have no friends but the mountains” was coined by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the great and undisputed leader of the Kurdish people who fought all his life for Kurdish independence, and who was the first leader of the Kurdish autonomous region. His son, Massoud Barzani, is the current president of Iraqi Kurdistan. Other family members hold key positions in the government.

Barzani1Barzani

Perhaps the Israelis and Kurds can work out an alliance. The US, under Obama, is untrustworthy. We will see what happens.

The Yazidi minority we hear about in the news is not the only Kurdish minority. The Jews of Kurdistan, for example, maintained the traditions of ancient Judaism from the days of the Babylonian exile and the First Temple: they carried on the tradition of teaching the Oral Torah, and Aramaic remained the principal tongue of some in the Jewish Kurdish community since the Talmudic period. They preserved the legacy of the last prophets — whose grave markers constituted a significant part of community life — including the tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, the prophet Nahum in Elkosh and the prophet Daniel in Kirkuk. When the vast majority of Kurdish Jews immigrated to Israel and adopted Hebrew as their first language, Aramaic ceased to exist as a living, spoken language. Although our grandparents’ generation still speaks it, along with a few Christian communities in Kurdistan, Aramaic has been declared a dead language by the academic world.

Israel might be an answer to the Kurds’ dilemma.

Is Ebola airborne ?

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Ebola has become an uncontrolled epidemic in Africa. I have previously posted on Ebola elsewhere.

UPDATE: There is now a conclusion that Liberia and Sierra Leone are lost.

But Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg told DW that he is losing hope, that Sierra Leone and Liberia will receive the neccessary aid in time. Those are two of the countries worst hit by the recent Ebola epidemic.
“The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed,” he said. That time was May and June. “Now it will be much more difficult.”
Schmidt-Chanasit expects the virus will “become endemic” in this part of the world, if no massive assistence arrives.

This is from a German source. Our own CDC will not yet say this.

In the balance therefore, the probability is that the virus is not airborne — yet — but it is more dangerous than its predecessors. This would account for its ability to slip through the protocols designed for less deadly strains of the disease. It’s not World War E time, but it’s time to worry.

And: This may be a new strain with more virulence.

The results of full genetic sequencing suggest that the outbreak in Guinea isn’t related to others that have occurred elsewhere in Africa, according to an international team that published its findings online in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). That report was from April 2014.

Now, we have more news. From 2012, we know transmission in animals may be airborne.

While primates develop systemic infection associated with immune dysregulation resulting in severe hemorrhagic fever, the EBOV infection in swine affects mainly respiratory tract, implicating a potential for airborne transmission of ZEBOV2, 6. Contact exposure is considered to be the most important route of infection with EBOV in primates7, although there are reports suggesting or suspecting aerosol transmission of EBOV from NHP to NHP8, 9, 10, or in humans based on epidemiological observations11. The present study was design to evaluate EBOV transmission from experimentally infected piglets to NHPs without direct contact.

The study of this potential explosive development showed:

The present study provides evidence that infected pigs can efficiently transmit ZEBOV to NHPs in conditions resembling farm setting. Our findings support the hypothesis that airborne transmission may contribute to ZEBOV spread, specifically from pigs to primates, and may need to be considered in assessing transmission from animals to humans in general.

Now we have more articles appearing about this.

The second possibility is one that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air. You can now get Ebola only through direct contact with bodily fluids. But viruses like Ebola are notoriously sloppy in replicating, meaning the virus entering one person may be genetically different from the virus entering the next. The current Ebola virus’s hyper-evolution is unprecedented; there has been more human-to-human transmission in the past four months than most likely occurred in the last 500 to 1,000 years. Each new infection represents trillions of throws of the genetic dice.

If the New York Times is publishing this, somebody is worried.

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The future of the middle east

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

The rise of ISIS seems to have caught the attention of hitherto oblivious segments of the US public. Cutting off the heads of western journalists seems to do that. What we are seeing is the total collapse of civilization in that part of the world.

That is what civilizational decline looks like in real time. The roots of the crisis were visible four years ago before the so-called Arab Spring beguiled the foreign policy wonks. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian farmers already were living in tent camps around Syrian cities before the Syrian civil war began in April 2011. Israeli analysts knew this. In March 2011 Paul Rivlin of Tel Aviv University released a study of the collapse of Syrian agriculture, widely cited in Arab media but unmentioned in the English language press (except my essay on the topic).

The Syrian food crisis had a lot to do with the collapse of Syria.

In response to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, President Assad reduced taxes on oil and sugar, and cut import tariffs on basic foodstuffs. This action had unintended consequences. A blogger on the Syrian website sy-weather.com reports, “I spent fifteen days on formalities to reduce customs duties on some basic food items, but I have not seen a glimmer of hope on the horizon. This was supposed to reduce the prices of the targeted goods. On the contrary, a liter of oil that sold for 65 Syrian pounds [US$1.38] now sells for 85 pounds.” That’s an increase of 30% over the month. Other bloggers report that the prices of basic foodstuffs have risen by 25% to 30%.

This has resulted in the presence of 14 million refugees with no hope of relief.

When I wrote in 2011 that Islam was dying, this was precisely what I forecast. You can’t unscramble this egg. The international organizations, Bill Clinton, George Soros and other people of that ilk will draw up plans, propose funding, hold conferences and publish studies, to no avail. The raw despair of millions of people ripped out of the cocoon of traditional society, bereft of ties of kinship and custom, will feed the meatgrinder. Terrorist organizations that were hitherto less flamboyant (“moderate” is a misdesignation), e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood (and its Palestine branch Hamas), will compete with the caliphate for the loyalties of enraged young people. The delusion about Muslim democracy that afflicted utopians of both parties is now inoperative. War will end when the pool of prospective fighters has been exhausted.

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Is Britain beginning the revolution we need ?

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

A “Seismic Shock is coming to the British political system.

Douglas Carswell, a prominent Conservative MP has announced he is switching to UKIP. a new political party that has been attacked as “racist” and has been attracting a larger constituency from the British traditional voters.

A new political party has appeared in Britain called UK Independent Party. It has been called racist and a number of other things that might sound familiar to Tea Party members here.

For example:

News reports about the rising primary school population in England fail to mention the ‘elephant in the room’, said MEP Paul Nuttall.

“It is accepted that primary schools have increasing numbers of pupils, which causes all manner of problems, but what is frequently not referred to is why we have such a boom in numbers.

“And the answer is unlimited immigration into this country. It hits some areas harder than others but there cannot be many primary schools in the country which have not been affected at all,” said Mr Nuttall, UKIP Education spokesman.

Why is this controversial ? In the 1990s, the Labour Party opened the floodgates of immigration from Pakistan. The Conservatives have mentioned reducing this but have done little about it.

Steven Woolfe, UKIP Migration spokesman, attacks Conservatives for ‘lying to electorate’ on promises to cut migration, adding that ‘it is no wonder their own MPs are losing faith in them and they are haemorrhaging support to UKIP.’

“These shocking figures today show that the Government does not have a handle on immigration. The Conservative Party promised to cut net migration to tens of thousands and yet it has shot up by a staggering 68,000 in just one year. It is quite simple. They lie to the electorate. They lie to try to keep votes. Well they are being found out.

This is one reason why UKIP is hated. For example, of the 1400 young girls made sex slaves by “Asian” men, several were taken from foster parents because they had voted for UKIP.

A couple had their three foster children taken away by a council on the grounds that their membership of the UK Independence Party meant that they supported “racist” policies. The husband and wife, who have been fostering for nearly seven years, said they were made to feel like criminals when a social worker told them that their views on immigration made them unsuitable carers.

Sounds like the Tea Party to me.

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Now we know why Foley wasn’t rescued.

Monday, August 25th, 2014

The Delta Force raid on the Syrian ISIS camp failed to rescue any hostages. They had been moved. Now we know why.

Anthony Shaffer, a former lieutenant-colonel in US military intelligence who worked on covert operations, said: “I’m told it was almost a 30-day delay from when they said they wanted to go to when he finally gave the green light. They were ready to go in June to grab the guy [Foley] and they weren’t permitted.”

This is a reflex reaction of Obama to any call for action. He delays and thinks and worries about the politics. It has been reported that Obama delayed the bin Laden raid three times.

President Barack Obama — at the urging of senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden three times before finally approving the May 2, 2011, Navy SEAL mission, according to a book scheduled to be released next month.

In “Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors who Decide for Him,” Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March, The Daily Caller reports

It isn’t just the conservative press but Hillary Clinton even says so.

Through weeks of sometimes heated White House debate in 2011, Clinton was alone among the president’s topmost cabinet officers to back it. Vice President Biden, a potential political rival for Clinton in 2016, opposed it. So did then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The optics and the political fallout were most of his concerns. In the case of Captain Phillips of the ship hijacked by Somali pirates, reports have circulated that Obama delayed the SEALS raid several times as he agonized over the decision.

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Medicine is coming to be a government benefit.

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Obamacare is having serious trouble as I have discussed. The success stories, like California, are an example of what I have called Medicaid for All.

“It’s a total contradiction in terms to spend your public time castigating Medicaid as something that never should have been expanded for poor people and as a broken, problem-riddled system, and then turn around and complain about the length of time to enroll people,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a member of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, which advises Congress.

Most of the new enrollees are Medicaid members and those enrolled in “private insurance” learn that they have severely restricted choice of doctor or hospital.

Now we have a new development.

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What next for health reform?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

It looks to me that the Supreme Court will have little justification for continuing the Obamacare program as it exists. The Halbig decision should kill it off. It is clear that the IRS subsidies to federal exchange subscribers are illegal.

The only statement anyone has found in the legislative history that addresses this point comes from the Act’s lead author, who affirmed that Congress did intend to withhold tax credits in federal Exchanges. During a September 23, 2009, mark-up of his bill, which ultimately became the PPACA, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) refused to consider a Republican amendment regarding medical malpractice on the grounds it fell outside the Committee’s jurisdiction. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) protested, asking how Baucus’ bill could do other things that lie outside the Committee’s jurisdiction, like direct states to create Exchanges. Baucus responded the bill creates tax credits, which are within its jurisdiction, and makes eligibility for those tax credits conditional on states creating Exchanges. Conditional necessarily means that Baucus intended to withhold tax credits in states that did not create their own Exchanges.

I just don’t see how the Court can ignore that history. The political left has been on a rant about Congressional intent since the decision was announced.

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Iraq Collapses

Friday, June 13th, 2014

The Iraqi collapse we are seeing on TV has been predictable and is related to the Obama decision to leave with no residual US presence. The reasons why the Iraqi army is dissolving are well known.

iraq humvee

An Iraqi Hummvee.

A retired US general tells the story.

The day the U.S. forces left – because of the desire of our people and our politicians, but also because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to sign a required and critically protective Status of Forces Agreement – the Iraqi Army began to deteriorate.

There were myriad reasons for this, besides our departure. Even before the U.S. forces left, American-trained leaders were being replaced with more and more “favored” officers from sects, tribes or families linked to the government. They weren’t chosen for their competency, a big mistake.

This is the history of Arab armies.

In my final tour, between 2007 and 2008, our soldiers did a great job reducing attacks in the north. I was able to observe and compare the capabilities of the four divisions of the Iraqi Army with the many units of the Kurdish pesh merga.

While both groups were becoming increasingly professional and capable, the connection between the pesh merga and the Kurdish government officials and Kurdish population was positive and vibrant. The same cannot be said of the Iraqi triad.

Beyond that, I also had the chance to engage with government officials, police, academics and doctors, lawyers, and women’s groups. The people we met were unfailingly professional and kind. And, almost universally, the Arab Iraqis and the Kurdish Iraqis were vocal in their frustration with the lack of action by “those in Baghdad” to attend to the matters of government: security, economic growth, services.

The attempt to “build a nation” in Iraq was possibly a worthwhile effort but it was abandoned too soon and cannot be revived.

Afghanistan will be even worse as it is far from the sea and evacuation will be much harder for the last US forces to leave.

Lord Elphinstone learned just how difficult it could be.

The Afghans launched numerous attacks against the column as it made slow progress through the winter snows of the Hindu Kush. In total the British army lost 4,500 troops, along with 12,000 mainly Indian camp-followers. The final stand was made just outside a village called Gandamak on 13 January.[3]

Out of more than 16,000 people from the column commanded by Elphinstone, only one European (Assistant Surgeon William Brydon) and a few Indian sepoys reached Jalalabad.

We have airplanes now but the distance to the sea is still intimidating Pakistan is no friend and Russia has no incentive to help. They lost nearly a thousand soldiers retreating to their border.

Medicaid for all.

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Obamacare has had its problems in implementation but the real problem is the fact that it has severely distorted the health care market by forcing people into narrow high cost markets that do not reflect the real situation in American health care. I have previously expressed my opinion on how to do health reform.

American health care has been distorted by the type of “insurance” that was brought into effect by employer-based insurance. That is prepaid care, not insurance as we know it in every other market.

The history of American health insurance is greatly distorted.

Now we have this latest iteration of the failure of the Obamacare method and the alternatives.

I have believed for some time that what we see is a system of Medicaid for all. The benefits are skewed by politics and the market mechanisms are crippled. Now we see the situation is even worse.

At least 2.9 million Americans who signed up for Medicaid coverage as part of the health care overhaul have not had their applications processed, with some paperwork sitting in queues since last fall, according to a 50-state survey by CQ Roll Call.

Those delays — due to technological snags with enrollment websites, bureaucratic tangles at state Medicaid programs and a surge of applicants — betray Barack Obama’s promise to expand access to health care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

As a result, some low-income people are being prevented from accessing benefits they are legally entitled to receive. Those who face delays may instead put off doctors appointments and lose access to their medicines, complicating their medical conditions and increasing the eventual cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Democratic lawmakers who have promoted the law’s historic coverage expansion are wary of acknowledging problems that hand opponents of the Affordable Care Act another rhetorical weapon, said Robert Blendon, a professor at Harvard University School of Public Health and Kennedy School of Government.

What is going on ?

Meanwhile, Republicans usually eager to criticize the Obama administration or states for implementation problems risk looking hypocritical by showcasing the Medicaid waits. Many oppose expanding the program to people with incomes as high as 138 percent of the federal poverty line, as the law allows states to do, and are loath to demand more efficient enrollment to achieve that goal.

“It’s a total contradiction in terms to spend your public time castigating Medicaid as something that never should have been expanded for poor people and as a broken, problem-riddled system, and then turn around and complain about the length of time to enroll people,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a member of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, which advises Congress.

Oh OK.

Updated numbers provided by Bataille indicate that the total number of people affected remains about the same as reflected in the document. About 1.2 million have discrepancies related to income; 505,000 have issues with immigration data and 461,000 have conflicts related to citizenship information.

Many years ago, I was still interested in health policy research. I had an office at UC, Irvine and Orange County, where I live, was undergoing a transition from fee-for-service Medicaid (MediCal in California) to a new HMO-based program called Cal OPTIMA. This seemed a good opportunity to study the outcomes in two contrasting systems for the same population. No studies had been done to see how the MediCal Population would repond to the different incentives of fee-for-service and HMO. I developed a proposal to study this transition at a time when databases for both systems were available. The data from the fee-for-service program was still current and the new HMO program would provide the opportunity to see how the MediCal patients fared under the new program. I had obtained the cooperation of the UCI statistics department and had had some experience with this sort of study at Dartmouth where I had recently compacted a Masters Degree program in health policy research.

The Orange County Health Department had hired the recent director of HCFA, the Medicare intermediary. Funding was available from a large endowment fund devoted to the study of low income California residents’ health care. The organization was called “The California Endowment” and was funded when Blue Cross became a for-profit entity and was obliged by the state to donate a large sum to charitable causes.

The proposal is here.

All that was needed was the approval of the Cal OPTIMA program to use their data. All the funding was assured.

They refused. I wonder why ?

Bergdahl, Father and Son.

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

bergdahl

The world got a little more bizarre this week. President Obama worked a trade that involved releasing five serious Taliban leaders in return for the freeing of an army deserter from Afghanistan. Bowe Bergdahl was a private who seems to have walked away from an outpost in Afghanistan and ended up with the Taliban. There are a number of stories surfacing from other members of his unit about his departure.

The handling of the announcement has drawn considerable criticism from conservatives.

The story of how the Bergdahls ended up at the White House is pure turnip-truck territory. According to Time:

Their presence at the White House on Saturday was the apparent product of coincidence: the couple had visited the capitol for a Memorial Day event and then stayed in town for meetings in Congress. Had they been at home in Idaho when the deal was announced, they likely would not have flown to Washington to appear with Obama—and a key visual element of the drama, replayed endlessly on television, might not have occurred.

Does anyone believe that ?

Where did the Bergdahls stay during their D.C. visit, and who paid? How were they vetted before their appearance with the president — both for security and for political sensitivities — and how long did the process take? Did anybody at the White House know Robert Bergdahl was going to say “bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim,” along with the “Pashto phrase” that has been getting so much attention?

If anyone is interested, that story should melt quickly like ice cream on a hot day.

The actual story of the Bergdahl adventure has been around for years.

His attitude ?

“The future is too good to waste on lies,” Bowe wrote. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”

Bitching by soldiers goes back to Alexander the Great. Not all act on their impulse.

Bowe Bergdahl had a different response. He decided to walk away.

In the early-morning hours of June 30th, according to soldiers in the unit, Bowe approached his team leader not long after he got off guard duty and asked his superior a simple question: If I were to leave the base, would it cause problems if I took my sensitive equipment?

Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.

Bowe returned to his barracks, a roughly built bunker of plywood and sandbags. He gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary. Then he slipped off the outpost.

Where was he going ? There are stories that he was not a prisoner but a collaborator.

the Defense Department source confirmed to Fox News that many within the intelligence community harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy…

That is explosive stuff and, so far, is all coming from the right. If these stories are out there why would the White House get anywhere near this thing until it is fully vetted ?

The backlash seems to have taken them by surprise. Now they are even attacking the other members of the platoon. Here’s the thing about Bergdahl and the Jump-to-Conclusions mats: What if his platoon was long on psychopaths and short on leadership?

This is from a minor official in HUD who is an anti-war vet with seeming ambitions to be the next John Kerry.

kerry

Kerry

Friedman

Friedman

Do they look alike ?

Friedman has a point. The final verdict on Bergdahl should come from a court martial. Will he ever face one ?