Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

News Roundup – London Fire, Bill Cosby, US Open

I’m still having some trouble understanding how a relatively modern apartment tower goes up in flames. Today, apartment complexes are supposed to be built so that the fire is contained. In the United States, modern buildings are supposed to have multiple fire suppression systems including sprinklers. It does not appear that this was the case in this building built in 1979. Initial estimates of five or 10 people who died appear to be completely wrong. Latest estimates put over 58 people dead. Now, it appears that the finger-pointing has started. The relief effort has been described as “absolute chaos”. This is bad.

A mistrial has been declared in the Bill Cosby assault case. I am sorry but I find this whole thing extremely sad. Bill Cosby was one of my heroes. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was rare to see a Black face on TV. The constant was Bill Cosby. He was playing an international spy or he was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was funny, thoughtful and always portrayed a black man who was positive. He developed a Saturday morning cartoon based on some of the characters in his stand up. Again, it was funny and positive. I think is pretty clear that Bill Cosby has done something wrong. When over 60 women over a 40 to 50 year period stand up and say similar stories, something is going on. In my opinion, my hero, Bill Cosby, is a serial rapist. It breaks my heart to say that.

Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for telling her boyfriend who was trying to kill himself to get in the truck which was filled with lethal carbon monoxide gas via cellphone.

On the other hand, Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found NOT guilty of second degree manslaughter after shooting an unarmed Black man, Philando Castile. His girlfriend streamed the aftermath on Facebook. I would just like to know when it is NOT okay to shoot a black man.

The final round of the U.S. Open begins in a couple of hours. As with any major sporting event, there is lots of discussion. Most of it is nonsense. Most the experts thought that Jason Day, Rory McIlroy or even Dustin Johnson would be contending for this US Open. They are all at home. Now, Brian Harman, who won earlier this year, Tommy Fleetwood, a European player who has never won in the US, Brooks Koepka, is one on those extremely long hitters who the pundits thought should win and win often and Justin Thomas, who shot a 63 yesterday, are all in contention. This should make for an interesting final round.

Obama’s failure? Syria

In 2013, Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people. President Obama had to figure out what to do with Syria. He could have bombed Syria. He could have tried to do some sort of joint military action with our western allies. There was a lot of hand wringing, as there should have been. We are talking about life and death. Instead of making the decision to bomb Syria, Obama threw the decision to Congress, which did not give him authorization to strike Syria. I’m not sure that he was truly all that whipped up to strike Syria. He turned to Russia; who helped (Russian help is kind of an oxymoron) broker a deal for Syria to destroy all of their chemical weapons. Well, we know that this “deal” wasn’t what anyone would have hoped, since al-Assad just gassed his own people again. It is completely unclear whether al-Assad has more chemical weapons or not. We have to assume that he has.

Many Americans have applauded Donald Trump’s bombing of Syria. I’m not so sure. I think that Donald Trump took the only option that was open to him. He couldn’t make another deal. That was out. There is no coalition of “the willing.” No one wants to invade Syria. With that option off the table, what was left? Bomb them. That was the only other option.

I just don’t know how bombing Syria will help the problem. As far as we know, there were no significant military leaders killed. I think that we know we did not kill -nor even injure- al-Assad. So I’m not sure that we have changed any behavior.

Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban – Update

In my opinion, the best lie is the one that is just a little bit tainted with truth. Those lies are the best lies. About two weeks ago, President Donald Trump (yeah, it still does not sound right) signed an executive order which asked for increased scrutiny of persons wanting to immigrate to this country from several lands. I say “several lands,” because if you actually read his executive order; first of all, it is kind of a headache, as it is long and nonspecific. The order does not actually specify Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. So, let us actually read what the order says I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

Now, this whole thing quickly gets complicated. It appears that President Trump’s executive order refers to the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.” This bill was tacked onto the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. So, it is kinda hard to say that this was an Obama administration initiative. The bill was actually written by former Congresswoman Candice Miller, a Republican. To make matters even more confusing, this bill, HR 158, simply canceled the Visa Waiver Program. So, essentially, what this did was force travelers from Syria and Iraq to get visas the old-fashioned way, through interviews at the American consulate. So, President Obama had the choice of signing this huge, omnibus spending bill into law, allowing our government to continue to operate (or to veto it), because of this bill’s being tacked on by Congresswoman Miller. You tell me, does this sound like an Obama program?

So, because this is not confusing enough, Donald Trump said, “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.” Um, this is not exactly true either. So, in response to the May 2011 arrest of two Iraqi refugees on terrorism charges in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Obama Administration decided that immigrants from Iraq warranted increased scrutiny. This was not a ban. It was increased scrutiny. So, on one hand, Donald Trump was right. President Obama did do something in 2011, and his policy was relatively similar… kind of, but not really.

This is not the kind of thing you should NOT be arguing over at the water cooler. It is simply not worth it. There are tons of details. For the most part, when you are arguing over at the office water cooler, nobody knows the details. The reason I bring this up is that I heard the argument in the emergency room. Two doctors were going at it. One was accusing the other of hypocrisy because “Obama did the same thing.” No, Obama did not. Go back and read. While it is important to engage our fellow Americans, it is not important to discuss the details of a ban that is an actual ban; verses Obama’s ban, which was not, in reality, a ban. Got it.

Finally, I think that the President has the power to control who is coming into this country. I think that’s in the Constitution. I don’t think we can argue that. Instead, the argument is what kind of convoluted nonsense Trump put in his executive order.  Oops. I just got an email from my (our) constitutional scholar Linda Monk. I was wrong!!! Article I gives the power of immigration to Congress and NOT the president.  Article I, Section 8 – The Congress shall have Power to establish as uniform Rule of Naturalization. There it is in black and white.  Article II deals with the President. It says in Section 2 – The President shall be Commander in Chief of the  Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. The president’s powers, with regard to immigration, are implied. So, Congress needs to pass a law restricting immigration from those 7 countries. That would be lawful!