Is Trump Scheming to Kill the Iran Deal? – The New York Times

As if the steeply rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula weren’t enough, President Trump seems determined to kill the Iran nuclear deal, against the near unanimous opinion of his closest foreign policy advisers.

According to a recent article in Foreign Policy, after he grudgingly agreed to recertify the deal a few weeks ago, Mr. Trump assigned a team of White House staff members to develop a case within the next three months for declaring that Iran had violated the agreement.

With this new initiative on Iran, Mr. Trump puts the world, and his presidency, at great risk.

For one thing, it brings to a boil the simmering conflict between the president’s official foreign policy advisers on the National Security Council staff and in the State and Defense Departments, and a circle of advisers led by the radical unilateralist Stephen Bannon. The latter group will handle the president’s Iran assignment, and while anything could happen, it’s a good bet that they will cherry-pick facts to give the president what he wants: an excuse to scuttle the Iran deal.

Will Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, or Gen. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, let this happen? Some might resign; these are not men known for their willingness to tolerate such shenanigans. But whether they resign or try to stick it out, a political decision to decertify Iran would signal a clear defeat for the administration’s foreign policy professionals, and a victory for the ideologues.

via Is Trump Scheming to Kill the Iran Deal? – The New York Times

Here is a comment I endorse:


Bainbridge Island 6 hours ago

How doth Donald Trump scheme to subvert the truth? Let us count the ways.

He concocts a tale of millions of fraudulent votes for his opponent, and appoints a Commission to ‘look into’ voter fraud, headed by a noted advocate of voter suppression.

He declares climate change a ‘hoax,’ and purges scientists and scientific research and data from governmental agencies like the EPA and the Department of the Interior.

He declares that ‘job killing environmental regulations’ are responsible for the steady decline in coal mining employment, and are preventing the U.S. from producing oil, when in truth market forces are rendering coal obsolete, automation is eliminating mining employment required to produce coal, and there is a glut of oil that has reduced the price of a barrel of oil by over 50% from recent highs.

He claims that ‘Radical Islamic terrorism’ is an existential threat to Americans in their own cities and towns, while more Americans are killed each and every week with their own guns than have been victims of foreign terrorists since 9/11/2001.

We could keep this up all night, but for the 1500 word limit. Suffice it to say that a fundamental tenet of the Trump administration is that facts cannot be allowed to determine policy. Instead, ‘alternative facts’ can and should be manufactured and utilized as the pretext for policy.

Prejudices and pre-conceived notions ‘Trump’ reality and empirical data whenever the reality and data do not serve Trump’s purposes.


Posted in Foreign Affairs and U.S.ForeignPolicy, Iran | Tagged | Leave a comment

Dunkirk- the War and the Amnesia of the Empire – by Yasmin Khan – NYT

OXFORD, England — Two and a half million soldiers drawn from Britain’s empire in South Asia fought in World War II. But they are missing from many British commemorations and accounts of the war — an absence reinforced by Christopher Nolan’s new film “Dunkirk,” which does not feature any of the Indian soldiers who were present at the battle.The Indian soldiers at Dunkirk were mainly Muslims from areas of British India that later became Pakistan. They were part of the Royal India Army Service Corps — transport companies that sailed from Bombay to Marseille. The men brought with them hundreds of mules, requested by the Allies in France because of the shortage of other means of transport. They played a significant role, ferrying equipment and supplies.The Germans captured one Indian company and held the men as prisoners of war. Others were evacuated and made it to Britain. Paddy Ashdown, a British politician, has spoken of his father’s being court-martialed for refusing orders to abandon the Indian troops under his command.

Posted in Afganistan and Pakistan, Great Britain | Tagged | Leave a comment

Climate Shifts Aren’t Limited to the Weather – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“I have a simple view of governing today: We are in the middle of not one but three climate changes at once to which government must help citizens respond — and Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue and China does.Here is what I mean: We are in the middle of a change in the climate of the climate. We are going from “later” to “now.” In the past you could fix any climate/environmental problem later or now. But today later is officially over. Later will be too late. At some point, the deforestation of the Amazon is not reversible.

We are the middle of a change in the “climate” of globalization. We are going from an interconnected world to an interdependent one, and in such a world your friends can hurt you faster than your enemies: Think what happens if Mexico’s economy fails. And your rivals’ falling becomes more dangerous than your rivals’ rising: We will be hurt a lot more by China’s economy tanking than its putting tanks on islands in the South China Sea.

And lastly we’re in the middle of a change in the “climate” of technology. We’re moving into a world where machines and software can analyze (see patterns that were always hidden before); optimize (tell a plane which altitude to fly each mile to get the best fuel efficiency); prophesize (tell you when your elevator will break and fix it before it does); customize (tailor any product or service for you alone) and digitize and automate just about any job. This is transforming every industry.”

Thank you Thomas Friedman.

Here is a comment I heartily endorse.


NYC 3 hours ago

To a very good summary I would add a fourth: population growth. In past centuries poor and uneducated immigrants could use their physical labor then build an existence. The world still had uninhabited places – several billion less of us. All those parameters have changed:
• while industrial countries stabilized their population, the destitute and uneducated have multiplied. But with automation doing much of our physical labor, even most factory jobs require language and computer skills. The number of physical jobs is shrinking.
But industrialized countries have their own growth problem: Not as in population but as in ‘Capitalism ‘ . We need an economic philosophy of sustainability and scaling back wasteful overconsumption. The measure of growth of production, of stock prices, of profit needs to be redefined. We are eating the tree we are sitting on while those sitting on the branches are getting more.
We can choose China’s way of a world-wide 1-2 child policy – and abandon outdated religious procreation doctrines (and reinstate US Family planning services here and abroad) or let nature and war do their ugly adjustment.


Posted in Sustainability, Thomas Friedman | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Vatican’s America Problem – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“In 1892, Pope Leo XIII addressed a letter to the Catholics of France. For a century French politics had been divided between mostly Catholic monarchists and mostly anticlericalist republicans, and the church had championed royalists against the secular republic. But now the pope urged French Catholics to take a different approach — to rally to the republic, a strategy called “ralliement,” and work through republican institutions to protect the church’s liberties and promote the common good.

In European politics this was a novel gambit, but for American Catholics at the time it amounted to a tacit endorsement of what they were already doing. In the United States there was no ancien regime to imagine restoring, no plausible scenario in which the integration of church and state might be achieved — and Catholics had been trying to prove their patriotism in a largely Protestant country by rallying to the republic since the founding era.

So Leo’s letter began a long (and complicated) process of harmonization between America and Rome, sealed in the 1960s at the Second Vatican Council, in which the church’s political thought was tacitly Americanized. No more would the Vatican emphasize the necessity, for Catholics, of supporting an “integralist” relationship between their government and church. Instead the American way of doing religious politics — in which a secular political framework allowed a great deal of room for religiously inspired activism — was blessed and accepted as the Catholic way as well.”

Ouch. Ross, none of this makes any sense to me. I’m a simple environmentalist, and find this discussion untethered from the reality of the threat of the 6th extinction. Humans have grown from 2 billion to 7.5 billion in just about 100 years. According to EO Wilson of Harvard, scientists are predicting that in the next 100 years, we will see 80% of the species in the world diminish or disappear. These facts and forecasts make discussions like this one seem like pathetic nonsense. If there are important ideas here in this column beyond my comprehension, please link them to the real world today, or at least, important moments in history. Respectfully, DL

Posted in David Lindsay, Religions of the World, Ross Douthat | Tagged | Leave a comment

Drop the Bluster on North Korea – The New York Times

As President Trump has implicitly conceded, his approach to the North Korean nuclear threat is failing. It was all about putting the responsibility on China to force the North to abandon its program, which has grown increasingly and alarmingly formidable and now includes as many as 21 nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. “I am very disappointed in China,” he tweeted over the weekend.

Mr. Trump was driven to play the blame game after North Korea on Friday tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that, for the first time, appeared capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States. It marked the second ICBM launch in 24 days and the kind of technical achievement that American presidents said the United States could not tolerate. Mr. Trump, in fact, had insisted in early January that such a missile “won’t happen.”

Well, it did happen — twice. And while experts question how soon a reliable nuclear weapon can be fired on a missile, it is wise to assume that North Korea’s program will continue to advance, putting the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan at greater risk, unless a way is found to break the present cycle of threats and testing.

via Drop the Bluster on North Korea – The New York Times

Here is a comment I think makes sense. Especially since North Korea is not in our back yard, and its basically not our business. I would like to know what South Korea and Japan think about the idea below.


The Hague 9 hours ago

The North Korean regime is interested in survival. China is interested in having a buffer state on its Northern border. Both fear the American military presence. A deal can be struck here.

The time has come to discuss a North Korean nuclear disarmament in exchange for a complete withdrawal of all American forces from the Korean peninsula.

North Korea could be offered an additional security guarantee by China: it can reside under the Chinese nuclear umbrella in the same way other nations sit comfortably under America’s.

If only the US had a president who was any good at striking deals…


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The Russians Were Involved. But It Wasn’t About Collusion. – by Daniel Hoffman – NYT

“I know all this from having spent much of my 30-year government career, including with the C.I.A., observing Soviet, and then Russian, intelligence operations. I came to realize that President Vladimir Putin, who spent his formative years in the K.G.B., the Soviet Union’s main intelligence agency, and served as director of its successor agency, the F.S.B., wants, as much as anything, to destabilize the American political process. For all his talk of desiring friendly relations, Mr. Putin favors a state of animosity between our two nations. By characterizing the United States and NATO as Russia’s enemies, he can attack within his own borders what threatens him the most — the ideals of liberty, freedom and democracy, of which the United States has been a defender.

This background is necessary for understanding the real meaning of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Kremlin-connected Russians and three representatives of Donald Trump’s campaign: his son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, then the campaign manager. The evidence that has emerged from this meeting strongly suggests that this was not an effort to establish a secure back channel for collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign but an influence operation with one simple objective: to undermine the presidential election.”


Here is a comment I support.


Eugene, Oregon 23 hours ago

The Russian government may not have intended to collude, but the Trump campaign obviously did. They attended a meeting to receive information from the Russian government. They must have anticipated that more information could be forthcoming. That’s collusion. Impeachment of Trump is the only way to keep Putin from winning.


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Liu Xiaobo and the Decline of China – by Brett Stephens – NYT

“The core mistake is to assume that values aren’t inputs. “The process of abandoning the ‘philosophy of struggle’ was also a process of gradual weakening of the enemy mentality and elimination of the psychology of hatred,” Liu wrote in a courtroom statement that would become his Nobel lecture (delivered in absentia).

“It was this process,” he added, “that provided a relaxed climate, at home and abroad, for Reform and Opening Up, gentle and humane grounds for restoring mutual affection among people and peaceful coexistence among those with different interests and values, thereby providing encouragement in keeping with humanity for the bursting forth of creativity.”

Creativity requires freedom. Ideas need room to compete and collide, free of social and legal penalties. As economies approach the creative frontier, the need for freedom expands commensurately. The gap between available information and necessary information needs to be as narrow as possible. Much of what is economically necessary information is also political information, making censorship and repression incompatible with the requirements of a dynamic economy.

Liu understood that the Chinese model of economic modernization without political reform was destined to fail: The insight is at the heart of the Charter 08 manifesto that landed him in prison. “The decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional,” it warned.As if to prove it really didn’t get the point of Liu’s teachings, Beijing moved quickly to censor stories about him and expressions of sympathy on the internet. But at least one pointed anonymous message got out to the Wall Street Journal reporter Nicole Hong. China boosters, take note:

You want to bury him

bury into the dirt

but you forget

he is a seed.”

Posted in Brett Stephens, China | Tagged | Leave a comment

Self-Driving People- Enabled by Airbnb – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“Roughly a decade ago two new “platform” companies burst out of California. The one that dominated the headlines was called Uber, which created a platform where with one touch of your phone you could summon a cab, direct the driver, pay the driver and rate the driver. It grew like a weed — as all kinds of people became taxi drivers in their spare time. But Uber made clear that its ultimate goal was self-driving cars.

The other was called Airbnb. It created a trust platform so efficient that people all over the world were ready to use it to rent out their spare bedrooms to total strangers. Airbnb is growing so fast that it’s now adding the equivalent of one entire Hilton hotel chain’s worth of rooms for rent each year.

But while Uber aspires to self-driving cars, Airbnb has a different goal: enabling what I call self-driving people.”

Posted in Business and Finance, Thomas Friedman | Tagged | Leave a comment

‘Make It So’: ‘Star Trek’ and Its Debt to Revolutionary Socialism – The New York Times

“H. G. Wells’s foundational work of political science fiction, “The Time Machine,” predicted a future in which a small utopia of sprightly elites is kept running by a subclass that lives below the ground and is reduced to bestial violence. This prediction, carried to a horrifically logical extent, represented the intense wealth disparity of the Victorian England in which Wells wrote the novel. Judging from the major political narratives of the fictions of our era, films like “The Hunger Games,” “Elysium” and “Snowpiercer,” the certainty of a future rendered increasingly barbarous by class division remains essentially the same.

But this was not always the case. In 1920, Wells met Vladimir Lenin, a fellow world-building visionary who planned “the inauguration of an age of limitless experiment” to rebuild and industrialize his country from ruination by years of war, abolishing class society in the process. Wells was impressed by the pragmatic revolutionary and his planned “utopia of electricians.” “

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Macron’s Shaky Embrace of de Gaulle – by Robert Zaretski – NYT

“General de Villiers told the French media that Mr. Macron had promised he would fulfill his campaign pledge to increase military spending to 2 percent of G.D.P. from around 1.78 percent. And Mr. Macron has seemed sympathetic, making several visits with military personnel during his first days in office.”

This is strange, since France has agreed to pay 3% of its gdp for military as part of NATO.  This is one of Trump’s major complaints about the Europeans.

Posted in David Lindsay, France | Tagged | Leave a comment