Rejection of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Makes War Likely

By stancutler,

      Should Congress reject the agreement that imposes outside inspections on Iranian nuclear weapons development, the prospect of war with Iran in the near future becomes almost a certainty. Those who are against the agreement (Republicans, Arab principalities, the American Jewish Committee, the Israeli Likud Party) do not believe that the treaty has real value because, in their minds, given the fundamental and outspoken aims of the Ayatollahs, war with Iran is inevitable. With rejection of the treaty, that war is much more likely to come sooner rather than later – before the Persians have an atom bomb that they can drop on their Jewish and Arab neighbors.
 
     The objective of the agreement negotiated by the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the USA, plus Germany) with Iran was to forestall the development of Iranian nuclear weapons and delivery systems, to turn back the nuclear clock, to reduce the military threat of a nuclear Iran. Their position is that simmering clandestine actions and undeclared battlefield skirmishes sponsored by Iran are preferable to a declared war for total surrender that would dramatically destabilize an unstable region with unknowable, unintended consequences. Opponents of the agreement believe that the status quo is intolerable and that there is no permanent advantage in delaying Iranian nuclear progress so long as the theocratic regime in Tehran continues to sponsor terrorist forces and insurgent armies as a means of furthering its overall policy objective of replacing pro-Western governments with Islamic regimes.
      There is every likelihood that many of the countries now involved with sanctions will lift them, thus enriching the Iranian economy. The prospect of more money flowing into Iranian coffers will provide Iran’s neighbors with another reason to strike sooner rather than later.
     War will not be the only result if the agreement is rejected by Congress. American domestic politics, the contests of the 2016 general election, will be dominated by foreign policy questions. Americans will be asked to decide whether they favor belligerence over diplomacy, whether Obama’s way is the American way or not. It is doubtful that the majority would oppose the use of the American military to defeat a perceived enemy. Even Democrats would feel compelled to support a war with Iran.
     Rejection would have a powerful impact on our allies in Europe, especially in the cosignatory countries of France, the UK, and Germany. Because of their large Arab populations and anti-Israeli left wing parties, European politicians would immediately become embroiled in questions of their allegiance to NATO and support for Israel.
     If Congress succeeds in overriding Obama’s veto of their NO vote on the agreement, our diplomatic standing in the world will be seriously diminished. By rejecting the treaty, America decisively loses the diplomatic high ground and suffers the consequences of  diminished esteem on many diplomatic fronts. In effect, If Congress vetoes the agreement, America suffers a major diplomatic defeat and leaves our government with few options other than war against a major power in a volatile region. The State Department would be diminished and the Defense Department’s dominant role in foreign affairs will, once again, be affirmed.
     Belligerent American policies regarding independent Iran are longstanding, beginning with the CIA coup that deposed Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and continuing with the 1980-1988 Iran Iraq War in which we armed Saddam Hussein as our anti-Iranian proxy. Rejection of the agreement is virtually the same as announcing that we intend round three.

The Least Tern

By stancutler,

Least Tern (Sternula antillarum)

Least Tern (Sternula antillarum)

____________________________________________________

I dangle a shiny fish in my dagger beak,
so that the seashore sunshine
flashes on its mirror scales.

The lady least tern sits belly feathers in the sand
facing the sea,
ignoring me.

I clamp the tail,
waggle my fish in the sunshiney ocean breeze

2 terns w fish

I caught this fish
o yes i did
little me, the greatest of least terns
o yes that’s me

I take a step toward
my lady love
o so fine
who stares away
ignoring me

I flick my head,
fast as wing beats,
flashing my trophy
for her to see.

Flicker look at me and my fine fish

How to Undo The Citizens United Decision

By stancutler,

When you turn the telescope around, if you view the problem as one of cost control rather than financing, two approaches seem feasible: limiting the election cycle and empowering the FCC. Presidential hopefuls, particularly Bernie Sanders, should be making these proposals. A Constitutional amendment, a fix that will be extremely difficult to accomplish, the now accepted approach, likely to become an important campaign issue, is flawed.
For the cable news networks, revenues rely critically on the the election cycles. Just as retailers need Christmas, cable news needs election days. The bigger the audience watching the election news – and interviews, and “in-depth” analyses, and pundits, and popularity graphs, and election maps – the more money the media charge for airtime. The cost rises continually until the November elections. The icing on the cake is the money spent by the Presidential Campaigns themselves to advertise the candidates in both the Primaries and the General Elections. Airtime is auctioned off to the highest bidder. A similar process takes place in every TV newsroom in every local outlet from coast to coast. And the rates go up every cycle. In other words, as bad as it is now, it can only get worse.
Regulating the money spent has proven impossible, it’s even more difficult since the Citizens United decision legalized unlimited financing.
Campaign finance reform doesn’t work. It is a failed approach. I think a better solution is to reduce the cost, not to regulate financing. If you owned a widget factory, you would do everything you could to reduce the cost of production. You’d install faster, cheaper machines. We own a democracy, a factory, if you will, that produces Presidents and Legislators. But it is our democracy, not the financiers’. We need to reduce the costs of production.
I suggest that Congress enact legislation to limit the duration of the election cycles.
Article 1, Section 4 of the US Constitution, states “The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations.” It is within Congress’s power to require that all primary elections occur either simultaneously or during a very limited span of time, perhaps a single week during a quadrennial election year.
This not the same as regulating free speech. The First Amendment rights of candidates and the Parties would not be in any way regulated. They’d be free to buy as much advertising as they choose. But it’s unlikely that they would spend nearly as much as they do under the current system, as voters tend to forget campaign messages fairly quickly. Campaigns would be wasting their money investing in advertising too soon before the actual voting.
Under a simultaneous primary system, it is far more likely that the final selection of Presidential Nominees would take place at the quadrennial conventions. But the conventions would be more democratic than they used to be, so long as each State’s and Party’s rules pledge delegate votes to the winners of the State Primaries, thus ensuring that the popular choices would significantly affect the convention outcomes. Yes, there would likely be a considerable amount of deal-making and trading at the conventions. Yes, there would be debates, compromises, and pragmatic decisions. That’s called democracy.
By abbreviating the primary cycle, there would be other significant benefits. The “early” primaries would have diminished influence on the other states, and the later primaries would be far more consequential. As it now stands, after a month or two of the first several primary elections, there are only a few front runners left in the race.
We need to reform the system that has changed our politics from a democracy into a form of oligarchy. But there are a host of reasons to think that a Constitutional amendment is a dubious prospect, fraught with political and legal obstacles that are likely to be insurmountable. And exactly what this amendment would say is problematic. But a law enacted under the powers vested in Congress by Article 1 Section 4 of the Constitution makes an Amendment unnecessary.
Campaign finance reform efforts have foundered on the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has ruled that Congress does not have the power to limit campaign funding on the grounds that contributors are exercising their rights to free political speech, manifested as money spent on advertising.
Senators McCain and Feingold, a Republican and a Democrat, in 2002, managed to pass a bipartisan bill that closely regulated campaign financing. Since 2002, repeated efforts to tweak the regulations with legislation have been rejected by a Supreme Court majority who have ruled that money spent on election campaigns is a form of political expression protected by the 1st Amendment, that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Time and money – the longer something takes, the more it costs. Under a simultaneous primary system, the influence of rich donors would be minimized as a result of the lower cost, not as a result of efforts to limit their contributions. There would be no First Amendment grounds for a challenge.
Another approach to campaign cost reform is to consider the media companies as public utilities like electricity or water companies. Indeed, they are. Back in the 1920s, when the Federal Communications Commission was established, that was the perspective. The reasoning at the time, which I believe is valid, is that our society absolutely depends upon the companies that profit from providing news services. Water companies make money, as do power companies and transportation companies. Government is obligated to regulate businesses that benefit us, the people.
Giving the FCC real regulatory teeth is a legitimate approach. I think Congress ought to pass legislation that redefines the Federal Communications Commission. In its current form, the FCC arbitrates merger and acquisition disputes. If they are given cost control authority, as a true regulatory agency, then a government agency could serve as a brake on runaway campaign costs. I say go for it.

Pollard is a litmus test

By stancutler,

The reaction to Jonathon Pollard’s name is a litmus test of Jewish American loyalties: Pollard is a villain or a hero, a good Jew or a good American.

As far as I’m concerned, he should die in an American Federal prison. His release is a sop to Netanyahu and his fellow Republicans. The announcement of his release is blatantly political, and, in my opinion, misguided.

EROTICA, ROMANCE, PORNOGRAPHY

By stancutler,

Why is explicit sex rarely described in fiction? If everyone is interested in the subject (a safe assumption) why is such writing uncommon? I am truly baffled by the differences between pornographic writing, romance writing, and erotica.

The literary world is increasingly female – agents, writers, and readers are far more likely to be female than male these days. Is raw sex objectionable to women on moral grounds? Does it make them uncomfortable? Repel them? Do women fundamentally respond differently to sexually explicit material than men? As a man, I am not aroused by romance and erotica. Yet I can easily be stimulated by detailed descriptions of heterosexual intimacy.

Is that a genetic difference or a cultural one? Is there a market for male-oriented, sexually explicit writing? Or has the availability of video porn supplanted the literary version?

I am interested in your take on these questions.

Why The Republican Field is Crowded

By stancutler,

The Clintons have earned over $125 million dollars in speaker fees and book royalties since 2001. The role mode on the Republican side, Newt Gingrich, estimates his average net worth at $18,129,534. That kind of earning power is what most of these fake Presidential wannabes are about. The amount of lucre flowing through American politics is obscene. Yes, there are issues aplenty, but the biggest issue is money itself.

The candidates for the Republican Party nomination are professional speakers on the tour. Few of them have any expectation of obtaining more than a few primary election votes. Once you’re mentioned at the Presidential level, you get to fly around in jet planes, get driven in limousines, and get paid in name-recognition points which you hope to leverage into paid book deals and speaking fees after the campaign – but the campaign itself is a marketing tool. The products being marketed are the candidates.

Sure, the ‘candidates’ are sincere – they speak the truth as they understand it. But they know that they have scant hope of winning the nomination. People like Santorum, Trump, Graham and Huckabee are on the tour because there are big payoffs for those named as a contenders for the Republican Party nomination. Don’t take them seriously, because they are in it for themselves.

Me, Steph Curry and Lebron James

By stancutler,

Awesome performance by these two supermen during the NBA championship finals has me thinking about ordinary people. What if there was a basketball league with nine foot baskets and a six foot height limit on players. Surely, there are many athletes as gifted as NBA players but disqualified because of something completely beyond their control – height. Why not?

ISIS, the USSR, and a Policy of Containment

By stancutler,

There are parallels between international Jihadism based in ISIS and international Communism based in the USSR. Like Communism, Jihadism appeals the young, to the idealistic, to men and women all over the planet who believe that Western Capitalism is evil. There was once a romance associated with Communism, as there is now with the notion of a fundamentalist Muslim caliphate. In some ways, the current out-migration of young idealists to Syria is similar to the movement of young idealists to Spain in 1937.

International Communism supported by the USSR was the foreign policy challenge we faced at the end of the Second World War. Our approach was first suggested by George F. Kennan in 1946 – “containment”. Kennan counseled that the best way to deal with a belligerent Soviet Union and international Communism was to arm allies on the periphery of the USSR’s empire, to operate through clandestine means in countries that were likely to ally with the USSR, to oppose the USSR on every diplomatic front, to invest in propaganda. But, direct military engagement by the American military – war – was to be avoided as counter-productive.

The question is whether containment would work against ISIS. I think it would. In fact, I’m guessing that the State Department has already sold the policy to the Obama Administration. I am convinced that wiser heads have already understood the perils of a direct American invasion. Any talk of such is mere sabre rattling. It would be incredibly stupid, as was G.W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

There is nothing to be gained by “eliminating” the country calling itself ISIS. As opposed to an amorphous international entity like Al Qaeda, ISIS wants to be considered a country with a geographic identity and the rights of sovereignty – a much easier foe to confront than a shadowy, underground movement. Nor do they pose anything like a real threat to the USA, certainly far less than the awesome Red Army, the KGB, the GRU, and Soviet ICBMs.

Our Middle East  policy has already changed from a singular focus on the defense of Israel, a stance that has been troublesome since 1948, to supporting the countries surrounding ISIS in their need to contain the threat. I have little doubt that there are some in the State Department who see strategic advantages to ISIS’s cancerous presence.The longer ISIS exists to threaten its neighbors, they less their neighbors will be concerned about Israel, the USA, and the influence of Western capital. ISIS’s belligerence will preoccupy the Turks and Saudis and Gulf Arabs and Iranians and Jordanians and Kurds and Israelis and Lebanese and  “Syraqis” and Egyptians for at least a generation.

I am prepared for another version of the Cold War, perhaps spanning generations, between the USA and ISIS.

 

Wackos

By stancutler,

I belong to the World Affairs Council, a small group of alte cockers who enjoy discussing issues of the day. We call ourselves “The Wackos.” Typically, we don’t agree on the spelling – some of us think we’re the “Wacos,” as if we’re a Texas biker gang. We could spell it “Whackos,” as if we’re compulsive mental masturbators.

As I was designing this website, I established three categories of blog: Politics, The Arts, and Peculiar Notions. I have no clue what Peculiar Notions will contain. It’s just a place for strange ideas of the sort that educated people tend to dismiss as insane, sophomoric, addled, absurd, immoral, disgusting, unrealistic, and so on.

This will be an adjective-free zone, a judgment-free place. If you post a comment under someone’s idea, make it substantive. Embellish the idea. Add to it. Twist it. But please don’t judge it.

Valerie’s Garden

By stancutler,

A child understands beauty. Isn’t that amazing?! How does it happen that people everywhere have an aesthetic sense? What is this universal, human need to make the world “beautiful”?  If it’s “instinct,” what evolutionary purpose does it serve?  If it’s not, then perhaps it is evidence of The Divine.

A family of five, the Bakers, moved in next door a few weeks ago. Yesterday,  four-year old Anne Marie  sat next to me on the deck overlooking our backyard. As usual, Valerie was under the maple trees, working at her potting bench, ministering to the plants – cleaning them up, finding the best place for each of them. Anne Marie asked why Valerie spends so much time in the garden, and I said it was because she likes to make things beautiful. The child nodded her understanding.

Awhile later, she asked to see the inside of our house, so I followed her around as she walked into a space that is dimensionally identical to the house next door, but decorated differently. “Your house is so beautiful,” she said.Try to imagine humans who have no esthetic sensibility. Impossible. Aren’t we  fortunate that life can be made satisfying by rearranging three dimensional objects, making sounds, writing words that resonate as beautiful.

Here’s the final stanza of Yeats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn,

When old age shall this generation waste,
    Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
  Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’