Sunday, February 26, 2017

Brooks on Immigration

In his Friday NYT column, David Brooks opines that although automation can replace white people, it cannot replace Hispanics.  The establishment says whites being displaced by automation, not immigration,but we need more hispanic immigrants because they are irreplaceable by machines.  Brooks highlights housing as an area where we need more immigrant laborers.  One possibility he ignores is using more modular housing construction in assembly line factories lending themselves to automation.  NYT columnist David Leonhardt, like Brooks, also believes Hispanic jobs are not responsible for middle class decline.  People think manual labor jobs cannot be automated.  Because immigrants often work illegally, they frequently work for very low, slave wages that eliminate any incentive to automate their jobs.   Therefore, the high tech community has not worked on automating them, with some exceptions, such as driving a car or truck.  Truck drivers may be a threatened species in a few years.  If farm hands become much more expensive, we may see automated fruit and vegetable crop picking begin to be replaced like corn and wheat harvesting.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Elliott Abrams and the Jewish Lobby

The media claimed that Elliott Abrams was the leading candidate for Deputy Secretary of State, that Tillerson wanted him badly, but then it reported that Trump vetoed Abrams for the job.  I think this whole Elliott Abrams episode was made up by a bunch of Jews who are desperate to get more Jews into the Trump administration.  Abrams was a good candidate because he is a Jewish Republican with foreign policy experience at high levels.  Tillerson may have said he wanted Abrams, but if so, he hardly knew him.  There is no reporting on their having a long relationship.  Influential Jews in State, and in Washington more generally, worked the levers of power to pressure Tillerson to ask for Abrams.

The Jewish-owned New York Times was pressed into this political service and complied with articles about Abrams’ great qualifications and his imminent appointment to the job.  On February 6, the Times ran an article by Gardiner Harris and David Sanger (probably Jewish), “Elliott Abrams, Neoconservative Who Rejected Trump May Serve Him.”   

Then, when Abrams did not get the job, the NYT still praised him, but said in the article, “Trump Overrules Tillerson, Rejecting Elliott Abrams for Deputy Secretary of State,” that the main objection to Abrams was that he had written a highly critical article about Trump in the Weekly Standard, run by the Jewish William Kristol, “When You Can't Stand Your Candidate.”  Interestingly this article deals at length with Abrams’ time working as a staffer for Senator Scoop Jackson, along with another Jackson staffer, Jewish Republican wildman Richard Perle.  Jackson is most famous for the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, responsible for getting thousands of Jews out of the old Soviet Union.  According to Wikipedia, it was responsible for allowing about 500,000 Jews to emigrate from the old Soviet bloc to the United States and about one million to Israel.

On February 19, the NYT ran a follow-up article, “Trump, an Outsider Demanding Loyalty, Struggles to Fill Top Posts,” that still praised Abrams and still advocated for more Jews in the Trump administration.  The article quotes Richard Haass, a Jewish Republican who is the head of the Council on Foreign Relations, on how hard it will be for Trump to get people to work in his administration.  He said Trump had “ruled out much of an entire generation of Republican public policy types,” but the article added that Haass’ name had been floated for a position.  The article ends with a plea from Abrams encouraging “everybody to go into the government if offered an appropriate position.”  I take this to be a plea mainly to Jews who might not approve of Trump to join his administration if possible.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Russians Did Not Nominate Trump

The American establishment, particularly the media, has pushed the idea that Russia was responsible for the election of Donald Trump.  Clearly the Russians hacked the DNC, but whether this had any effect on the election is unclear.  Interestingly, no one has claimed that the hackers falsified any of the emails. They published what they found; they did not make up derogatory emails.  It is les clear whether the Russians were involved in fake news.  The fake news seems to have come from all over, from all types of people all over the world.  

It looks like Trump won the Republican nomination on his own without help from the Russians or any other outside influence.  The Russians did not defeat Jeb Bush or John Kasich, darlings of the establishment.  It’s hard for the Democrats and the establishment to prove that he did not win the general election because of the same things that won him the primary.  

The Russian connection to the hacking has made the Democrats and the establishment hate the Russians.  This is a relatively new animosity, since Obama spent much of his administration trying to make nice with the Russians.  Because of the election, Democrats now think Russia is the world’s boogeyman, and are trying to foment conflict with Russia.  Democrats have become the new warmongers.  

Because the Trump administration has not gone along with the Democrats’ warmongering, the Democrats, the establishment, and the media have tried to portray Trump’s openness to Russia as treasonous.  The intelligence community has supported the establishment by leaking anything connecting Trump to Russia, regardless of classification or Fourth Amendment privacy concerns about wiretapping Americans.  The intelligence community has always had strong links to the establishment, and at the moment it looks like the intelligence types are more loyal to the establishment than to the President.  

When I was in the Foreign Service I wanted to be part of the establishment.  I probably did not make it in part because of my Southern roots.  (And maybe I wasn’t smart and smooth enough.)  At one time Southerners like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Woodrow Wilson were the core of the establishment.  But the establishment has moved north to New York and west to San Francisco.  Hillary, the former first lady of Arkansas, expressed the establishment view when she spoke of the “basket of deplorables,” which probably includes me.     

The establishment wants to blame the Russians for Hillary’s defeat, when in fact it was their contempt for at least half of America that was the real cause.  The Democrats have become a party that hates the great men who created it, that has turned its back on American history in order to appeal to new generations of descendants of slaves and immigrants who have no attachment to the history that made America the leader of the free world for a few decades.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Flynn Leaks

I find 2 things strange about the Flynn leaks:
1) The intel guys always worry about “sources and methods.”  The Flynn leaks remind the Russians that we are listening to every one of their calls. They expect it, but Americans were shocked that we listened to all of Angela Merkel’s calls, too.  Is Russia the enemy, or do we just listen to everybody everywhere?
2) Before 9/11 and the Patriot Act there were very tight restrictions on listening to American citizens.  NSA was forbidden, and if they got an American by accident they had to protect it from distribution.  The FBI could tap Americans, but had to get a court order.  The Patriot Act and the FISA court apparently made it easier for both agencies to listen in on Americans.  .  
But any tapping of Flynn as an American should have been subject to high level review and protection.  The leaking exposes intelligence info to the Russians (presumably aiding the enemy) and probably violates Flynn’s 4th Amendment protection from searches and seizures.  If they prosecute Flynn, this evidence may not be admissible in court, like the confessions obtained by torture at Guantanamo.  Spying is a dirty business.  It’s interesting that the media loves the 1st Amendment, but not the 4th.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North Korean Missile Test

The main US news shows - CBS, NBC, ABC, etc. - have been going nuts saying the North Korean missile test was timed to take place during Trump’s dinner with Abe.  Fortunately, I have seen former Ambassador Christopher Hill correctly say on BBC and one other show that the main concern for North Korea was testing the missile and that it was unlikely to have been specifically timed to challenge Trump.  

It sounds like this was a new type missile, probably one using solid fuel rather than liquid, and therefore it was not just a rocket North Korea had lying around to launch whenever it wanted to.  The media has played it up to make Trump look like a stupid wimp who doesn’t know how to respond to North Korea.  They made a big deal about the fact that he discussed the launch during dinner and was reading papers by flashlight.  The other interpretation of this incident is that Trump wasn’t panicked by the launch and didn’t let it interrupt his dinner.  Furthermore he was able to consult with Japanese Prime Minister Aba in real time about it.  Abe was much more affected by the launch than Trump, since Japan is much closer to North Korea.  Trump was able to reassure Abe immediately that the US stood firmly with him.  

The incident could well be interpreted as a show of strength rather than weakness, if the media had been so inclined.  Jonathan Karl was almost livid as he falsely described the huge threat represented by the launch and Trump’s amateurish response.  Karl struck me as a coward who was actually afraid.  He should not be allowed to cover military news.   

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump Immigration Order and Indonesia

It is odd that Democrats and the media have interpreted Trump’s order restricting entry from seven counties as being a ban on all Muslims.  The most populous Muslim nation is Indonesia.  In all the press coverage, I haven’t heard anybody mention Indonesia.  Apparently the Democrats and the media are not interested in moderate, peaceful Muslims.  They are only interested in militant Muslims in countries where the women wear burkas or other extreme head covering.  

How can Trump be accused of imposing a Muslim ban, if his visa order does not affect the nation with the most Muslims, most of which are relatively moderate.  

Monday, February 06, 2017

Trump and Australia

From what I have read about Australian immigration policy, Trump’s telephone tantrum with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull makes no sense.  Trump should be mad with Obama, not Turnbull.  This USA Today article gives some background.  

Australia has been refusing to accept refugees in a way Trump should like.  Australian was being inundated with refugees arriving by boat, many of them from the Middle East.  Australia refused to accept the boats and sent the boat people to islands belonging to Papua New Guinea, where living conditions were poor.  Refugee activists criticized Australia harshly for this policy.  

The details are not clear to me, but it appears that Obama agreed to take some of the refugees that Australia refused to take.  Trump presumably thinks some of the refugees that the US agreed to take are bad people from the Middle East who were trying to escape to Australia.  

Another article that shed some light on the deal was an op-ed by Roger Cohen in the New York Times.  As a Jew writing for the Trump-hating New York Times, Cohen has to make fun of Trump for putting Rex Tillerson at State in such a bad position, but he at least describes it better than most reports about it.  Cohen says the deal was signed in September, but kept secret until after the election, because refugees were such a sensitive issue in the campaign.  He says the Australians told the American negotiators, “We really want to mothball these places,” the island camps, because they had become an acute embarrassment to Australia.  Cohen says he has visited one of the camps to see how bad they were.  

It looks as if Obama was just trying to do Australia a favor, to help Australia close the camps and get rid of some of the bad publicity that they created for Canberra.  Ironically, Australia had refused to take the same refugees that Trump was refusing to take.  The two men agreed on refugee policy, but Trump apparently thought he was getting stuck with the worst of the deal.  Presumably, Australia is still refusing to accept the refugees and is trying to get the US to carry out Obama’s promise to take some of them.  But now Trump doesn’t want them either.  

Sides in Syrian War

Obama has gotten a lot of criticism for failing to support the rebels against Assad, while Putin supported Assad, who had the Syrian military at his disposal.  Many of the rebels opposing Assad were affiliated with al-Qaeda or ISIS.  The few rebels not affiliated with them were very weak.  John McCain’s idea to support the more trustworthy rebels would clearly have benefited Al-Qaeda and ISIS to some extent.  Obama pretty much avoided doing that, to his credit.  But Obama’s potential allies were weak, while Putin’s allies in the Syrian government were stronger.  

People criticize Obama for failing to kill Assad after he crossed Obama’s red line on chemical weapons.  I think Obama did the right thing.  If Obama had killed Assad, or undertaken a massive invasion of Syria to unseat thim, it’s likely that the war would have become even more violent and even more chemical weapons would have been used.  By getting Assad to renounce chemical weapons, Obama significantly reduced their use in the civil war.  

In terms of who will win the civil war, Assad’s opponents have never been close to winning, even with foreign support.  Assad was not strong enough to win quickly, but he was the only participant who had a chance of winning with only a little outside support.  When Russia provided this support, the iide began to turn in Assad’s favor.  

It’s not clear whether the end of the war is near, and if so, what it means.  Hopefully it will mean less violence and death.  It’s possible that Assad will seek revenge against the rebels, continuing the violence and the refugee deluge, but ideally things will be better than they are currently.  

Obama could have lessened the destruction in Syria, by supporting Assad despite his unsavory human rights record.  Obama could not have led the rebels to victory unless he had sent in US troops for a full scale war.  Thus, the easy course of supporting Assad was open to Putin and he took it.  He did not expend much in terms of men and equipment, but it appears to have been enough to turn the tide.  He comes out looking like a strong man by supporting a human rights pariah.  

Fareed Zakaria and Bernard-Henri Levy

Fareed Zakaria has French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy on his Sunday morning program often, but he fails to point out that Levy fomented the European and American invasion of Libya that destroyed the country and left it in a state of chaos.  Gaddafi was a bad man, but the situation Levy created is even worse.  He is a philosopher with a lot of blood on his hands.  Fareed should mention this when he introduces Levy.  

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Trump’s Foreign Policy and My Career

When Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took over the House, they made many changes in US foreign policy that affected me personally in an adverse way.  Of course, Clinton and his Democratic administration had to accept these changes, but the main responsibility lay with the Republican Congress.  First, the Republicans refused to continue to fund the joint science cooperation program that I oversaw as Science Counselor at Embassy Warsaw, the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Fund II.  The US signed a five year agreement to fund the program jointly with the Poles, but refused to pay after three years.  Second, on the day that I was scheduled to leave Warsaw for a new position at the American Embassy in Rome, the Republicans shut the government down in 1995.  While I was saying good-byes around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon with the car packed with all of our belongings, including two dogs. Embassy Rome called and said not to travel because of the government shutdown.  Third, after I got to Rome, the US Congress refused to appropriate money to fund the US share of the US- North Korean agreement that limited North Korea’s nuclear program, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO).  Fourth, a US law barred issuing visas to children of employees of the Italian phone company.  When a phone company executive complained to me about it, I couldn’t believe it, but I confirmed with the head of the consular section that it was true.  

I probably would not have quit in protest, but I was old enough and had enough years of service to retire.  So, I did.  

I sympathize with the Foreign Service officers who are unhappy with the new Trump policies, but I think that you can disagree with policies and yet carry them out.  So far, Trump’s edicts mainly affect consular officers who issue visas.  Other edicts on trade and national security will affect economic and political officers.  I don’t believe that any of Trump’s orders so far are so out of the mainstream that they risk asking diplomats to do anything unlawful.  No one who is not a citizen or permanent resident has any “right” to enter the US, constitutional or otherwise.  US immigration policy over the years has incorporated all kinds of discrimination.  It may be questionable on human rights grounds, but it is not illegal.  In fact, the US has probably engaged in more illegal conduct by not enforcing immigration laws on the books over the years, resulting in millions of “illegal” residents of the US.  Illegality has been the US policy towards immigration for decades.  

While I retired rather than enforce policies that I did not agree with, I don’t blame officers for whatever decision they make: to enforce policy they do not agree with, as long as they are not illegal, or to resign or retire rather than enforce them.  If they don’t leave the service, I don’t think they would criticize the policies publicly, although internal criticism is acceptable.  It is really a part of the normal policy-making process.  Almost every policy is the result of discussion among people who did not completely agree.  In my experience more decisions than most people would expect go to the President for decision, because the various agencies under him cannot agree on a course of action.