Thursday, September 12, 2013


Some Personal History

A week ago today I was taken to Burbank (Bob Hope) Airport, where I boarded Alaska Airlines Flight 525 to Seattle.  In Seattle my daughter Barbara met me at the airport and drove me to the Bainbridge Ferry.  We just missed one ferry and had to wait about 20 minutes or so for the next one.  The weather was cool and pleasant.  It was a big change from Woodland Hills, which had experienced a week of 100-degree weather.  A few days earlier the air conditioner for my house finally bit the dust, went belly-up, croaked, and quit.  Actually the freon compressor seized and wouldn't turn.  And the unit was only 52 years old, the same age as the house.  I suffered for a few days before I was able to leave for cooler weather.

I didn't follow the news much on Bainbridge Island.  I knew that there was a national debate of sorts going on as to whether we, the United States, should shoot missiles at or drop bombs on Syria to punish the head man there for using poison gas on other Syrians.  Bad man, if so, and deserving of severe punishment.  President Obama spoke of some kind of air attack against Syria, then, realizing that he was not George Bush the Younger decided to ask Congress for permission.  The Senate gave him grudging permission.  The House did nothing but scheme about how to derail the new Affordable Care Act.  Meanwhile I feasted on ripe fresh sweet plums.  You can't get sweet ripe plums at supermarkets in Woodland Hills.  What you can get are plums that have been picked green (so they won't spoil on the way to the market) and allowed to age for a few days.  They get somewhat sweet, but the taste can't compare with a plum that's so ripe it falls off the tree when you shake the tree.  Besides eating plums, I attended a concert given by a singing group in a church (my daughter sings in the group), saw a movie "The Butler" with my daughter, and with my daughter, her husband, and his parents went to a high place (Hurricane Ridge) in the Olympic Mountains for a picnic and a view of Victoria, BC, in the distance.

I came back to more heat on Tuesday.  Wednesday two men came to replace my heating and cooling system.  They were finished by 11 AM today.  Since then I've been enjoying the coolness (should I say "coolth?") provided by the new system.  Of course it's not as hot outdoors as it was last week.

I also voted today.  I'll mail my ballot tomorrow.  I won't say whom I voted for.  There were eleven candidates on the ballot.  It's a heavily Democratic district and only two of the candidates are Republicans.  The Democratic candidates are supported by various Democratic office holders.  Representatives Sherman and Waxman each have a favored candidate.  So does our present city councilman (the former Assembly member who is being replace).  Another city councilman has another candidate.  There are several candidates without any elected official supporting them.  In addition to the nine (count-em, 9) Democratic candidates, there are two Republicans.  The quaint thought has come to me:  Suppose the district is 67 percent Democratic and each Democratic candidate gets an equal share of Democratic votes, less than seven percent of the total.  Suppose also that each Republican gets an equal share of the Republican vote, or about sixteen percent.  The run-off election will be held with the two biggest vote-getters, namely the two Republicans.  Then the heavily Democratic 45th Assembly District will be represented by a Republican, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger's goofy primary law.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


More about Syria

It finally dawned on me that the question of whether the Assad Regime in Syria has actually used chemical weapons on its own people is irrelevant.  It doesn't matter that the intelligence may have been tweaked to provide a desired result.  The United States doesn't care two cents about Syria.  The point of attacking and punishing Syria is to convince two difficult men that the United States is a real threat and not just a paper tiger.  These men are the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the head man in Iran, and Benyamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel.  We must convince those two men that our President Barack Obama will order a suitable military strike against a country that Mr. Obama believes has one something expressly forbidden by the American Government.  Syria must be attacked to convince Khamenei and Netanyahu that the United States does not make idle threats.  From that viewpoint it doesn't matter what the truth is.  What matters is what Mr. Obama believes and what he is willing to do about it.

I think this is a neocon or neoliberal argument.  It's an extension of what President Kennedy used to say: we have to show vigor.

I have no use for the argument.  I believe we must manage somehow to negotiate an agreement with the leaders of Iran.  We should discard our concern about Iran possessing a nuclear weapon.  Nuclear weapons in Pakistan are real and they are a bigger threat to us that real nuclear weapons in Iran.  If Iran produces a nuclear weapon, we will adapt to it.  It is not likely that Iran will start a nuclear war with us.  I think it's unlikely that Iran would start a nuclear war with Israel.  Rather, it would use the fact of such a weapon as a lever to force Israel to agree to the existence of a Palestinian State with agreed international borders.  Such a lever would decrease the influence of the United States as Israel's Defender and might actually cause the Likud government to stop the growth of "illegal" settlements.

I have little use for this argument, either.  I present it only as a possible alternative to our present policy of playing "chicken."

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


Whither Syria?

Syria is a puzzlement.  Was there actually a military use of chemical weapons, specifically sarin gas, and was it the Syria government or one of the rebel groups that carried out the attack?  I've just read an article about the intelligence reports.  The article suggests that the unedited reports available to the writer do not definitely state that (1) sarin gas was used and (2) the Syrian government used it.  The writer states that a UN team has been given unlimited access to the area of the attack by the Syrian government and suggests that we should wait for the UN team to make its report before going ahead with any retaliatory military action.

The article is persuasive to me.  On the other hand, the writer may be a skillful advocate for the Assad Regime in Syria.  At one point in the article, the writer states that the Obama administration is relying on an Israeli intelligence report for its assertion that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.  If that is so, we are again being misled into a civil war by a group that has a vested interest in getting us to intervene. The leaders of Israel are nervous.  They aren't sure that the United States will use strong military force to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon.  It is with difficulty that Obama persuades Netanyahu to trust us instead of staging his own air strike on Iran.  The Assad Regime in Syria is an ally of Iran.  Israel has more to fear from actual chemical weapons in Syria than from a presumed bomb in Iran.  If Israel decides to attack the Assad Regime in Syria, the attack would likely start another general war in the region between Israel and its Arab neighbors.  The United States would be drawn into that war.  It is in our national interest to prevent Israel from starting a war, either with Syria or with Iran.  That is the justification for slanting the intelligence reports to justify a punishing attack on the government of Syria.

In the case of Iraq in 2002, the justification for slanting an intelligence report to indicate that Saddam Hussein had a whole bunch of chemical weapons hidden at various places in his country was the desire to control the petroleum and put that control in the hands of American Oil firms.  Oil was important.  Is Israel equally important, or even more so than oil?

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