Saturday, October 31, 2015

Israel 10-31-2015

31, October 2015                              Israel

The inclusion of Iran in talks with the US and Russia at peace negotiations on Syria is welcome and overdue. Many older Iranians still remember the overthrow of their democratic government by the CIA and Britain in 1953 with understandable anger. We have never apologized and offered reparations.

Every effort should now be made to end the conflict in Syria – without any preconditions. A peace agreement would save lives and discourage innocent civilians from seeking save havens in Europe.

We should lean on Israel to dial back the harsh anti-Iran rhetoric to allow reformists led by President Hassan Rouhani to increase their sphere of influence. Israel has used its opposition to Iran as a smokescreen to deflect mounting criticism of his oppressive occupation and margination of Palestinian aspirations. Recent attacks by Palestinians on Israeli citizens can never be justified but the mounting anger is certainly understandable. Prime Minister, Netanyahu is completely at odds with the US stated goals, saying “we will forever live by the sword and we need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future.” This makes a complete mockery of Israel’s assertion that it is a functioning – one man – one vote democracy . To add insult to injury, Netanyahu made the outrageous suggestion that the grand mufti of Jerusalem gave Hitler the idea of annihilating European Jewry (when about a million European Jews were already dead in the Baltic states and elsewhere). 

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Benghazi Hearings 10-26-2015

26, October 2015                    The Benghazi Hearings

So fixated were the GOP Republications on inflicting damage on front-runner Hillary Clinton, they completely missed an important opportunity to uncover the real reasons behind the US bombing raids on Libya. Melvin Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst, reflected wryly "What was learned was irrelevant, and what was relevant wasn’t discussed."

For example, why was Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi? Why were CIA officials trying to buy-back weapons that we had previously given to Gaddafi? Why were we trying to bring about yet another regime change after our abject failure in Iraq? Why was Clinton not challenged when she boasted “We came, we saw, he died" – a hasty decision which plunged the country into utter chaos. Why did we deliberately mislead the Russians claiming that our mission was limited? Was it to discourage Russia from using its veto power to block the invasion of Libya? Why was the State Department operating a transitional mission facility, in Benghazi when all other embassies and NGO’s had withdrawn their staff?

It seems we have learned little from past foreign policy blunders? A cardinal rule - NEVER launch military power on unstable regimes; pouring gasoline onto a raging conflagration is certain to make matters worse. Examples, Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, gave rise to Hezbollah. Arming the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, gave rise to the Haqqani faction, the Hekmatyar group, and al-Qaeda. Our invasion of Iraq precipitated the Sunni Awakening and the Islamic State.

In 2012, using Bush’s Iraq invasion playbook, ignoring constitutional authority, we bombed Libya and destroyed their army and obliterated their police stations. Devoid of any civil authority, armed brigades launched a reign of terror on the defenseless population; Al-Qaeda soon expanded its presence giving rise to even greater chaos.

Yes, Gaddafi was a brutal thug, but it often takes a thuggish leader to hold the nation together. Hillary Clinton and her boss President Barrack Obama must accept responsibly for the chaos in the wake of Gaddafi’s death. This is sure to be an indelible stain on Obama’s legacy.

Hillary Clinton has two strikes against her – support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Gaddafi. This should be enough to disqualify her for seeking the presidency.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Invisible Man – A CIA Vendetta 10-20-2015

20, October 2015      The Invisible Man – A CIA Vendetta

Jeffrey Sterling is the first African-American case officer to file a suit against the CIA for racial discrimination. The CIA countered with its own suit charging Sterling with nine felony counts including espionage. They accused Sterling of passing on details of a botched up CIA effort to derail the Iran nuclear program to James Risen of the New York Times. Risen reported that the CIA details may have actually aided the Iranian government nuclear program and stubbornly refused to reveal his source. The CIA counter-suit appears to have little to do with protecting national security but more to do with punishing Sterling for filing his discrimination suit. Sterling’s case is the subject of the documentary short, ‘The Invisible Man’.

The case is extremely important for preserving civil liberties and freedom of the press and the public’s right to know, with informed consent, in what’s supposed to be a democracy.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Drone attacks – death by Metadata 10-19-2015

19, October 2015           Drone attacks – death by Metadata

One of the most secretive military campaigns in U.S. history has come under intense scrutiny by investigative reporters of the Intercept who recently published its report, “The Drone Papers”

The White House assassination program commenced in 2002 with the drone strike that killed six  civilians in Yemen including one US citizen. Condoleezza Rice, a senior advisor to President George Bush alleged that the White House reserved the right to assassinate anyone in the world based on actionable intelligence “that the president could never reveal in public”. Thus, nobody could ever be held accountable - how convenient! Under the Obama administration, drone attacks in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan have intensified with hundreds of civilians, including many children, being blown apart – using highly faulty intelligence as the Intercept report revealed. The bureaucratic kill chain consisted of senior White House and Pentagon officials who would decide who would live and who would die without any judicial review starkly reminiscent of old style emperors. The target would be designated as an “imminent threat” to the U.S. giving the military 60 days to hunt down and kill the target.  Reporters at  the Intercept interviewed Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a former head of the Defense  Intelligence Agency, who confirmed that “signal intelligence” is an extremely unreliable method of identifying a target and without doubt resulted in a significant number of innocent victims being assassinated. This was further confirmed by Ryan Devereaux’s report on "Manhunting in the Hindu Kush" which examined a JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) campaign called “Operation Haymaker” which initially claimed a high degree of success   hunting down leaders of  al-Qaeda – but later admitted that 88 percent of those killed were innocent civilians. Killing innocent victims of war no doubt emboldens the enemy and makes a complete mockery of our much touted “core values”.
A Congressional hearing should be convened calling for an immediate halt to drone attacks and demands that all those found responsible for these hideous mass killings of innocent victims be held fully accountable.

Israel 10-19-2015


Predictably, the pressure cooker situation in Israel has finally exploded with spasms of violence by Palestinians and Israelis. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his rightwing government have incited much of the violence by expanding Jewish settlements and ignoring settler terrorist attacks. About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Settler terrorism has been ongoing for decades with impunity. The cycle of violence will continue as long as the US government continues to show its blatant partiality by sending huge shipments of weapons to Israel and deflecting censure and criticism by using its veto power at the UN.
Israel has reached a South Africa moment, when more and more European countries and American Jews are voicing frustration and anger at the deteriorating situation, and lending support to the growing BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. By assuring Israel of its unshakeable support and alliance, regardless of its appalling history of human rights violations and suffocating occupation, the US is complicit in the ongoing mayhem. 

Drone attacks – death by Metadata 10-19-2015

19, October 2015        Drone attacks – death by Metadata

One of the most secretive military campaigns in U.S. history has come under intense scrutiny by investigative reporters of the Intercept. “The Drone Papers” has documented the highly flawed U.S. military assassination program in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The intended targets are based on unreliable “signals intelligence” – signals from cell phones. The Taliban are well aware of this flawed strategy and often plant cell phones on their enemies with predictable results. A staggering 90% of these drone assassination miss their intended targets and kill innocent civilians. The rage of the victims’ families have served to be excellent recruitment for the Taliban. Another broad brush approach is being used to increase the kill count. For example, all foreign males in a target zone are regarded as militants and blown apart by stealth drones contrary to official accounts of “surgical strikes”. This should be a final wakeup calls for all Americans to demand an immediate halt to this madness. Amnesty International is calling for an independent Congressional inquiry to determine “whether the USA has systematically violated international law by classifying unidentified people as 'combatants' to justify their killings.”

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Is India abandoning its Secular Roots? 10-15-2015

15, October 2015                  Is India abandoning its Secular Roots?

There is an extremely disturbing crusade being launched by the ruling B.J.P. to stifle free speech in a country that used to pride itself on free speech. Secular liberals are facing major challenges – how to voice their contrarian opinions without invoking the wrath of extremist Hindu groups and exposing themselves to mortal danger. Renowned scholar, M.M. Kalburgi, an outspoken critic of Hindu idol worship, paid the ultimate price when he was gunned by fanatics. Crores (10 million) of rupees are spent on religious rituals at the behest of religious magicians who misguide worshippers in believing that God can only be realized through physical objects or idols. The great sage, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, vehemently denounced the prevailing caste system and all idolatry as impediments to God-realization. Kalburgi was right to challenge the validity of idol worship.  All religious customs must be challenged for their relevance and outdated and irrelevant rituals discarded.

Contrarians continue to suffer from the rising tide of Hindu extremists. Earlier in February, the communist leader, Govind Pansare was killed. In 2013 Narendra Dabholkar was murdered for campaigning against religious superstitions. Narendra Modi deafening silence is being interpreted as quiet acquiescence in concert with his shared ideology with the far-right Hindutva groups.

The notorious leader of another, Hindu extremist group, Sri Ram Sene, and his thugs raided pubs and assaulted women found drinking and issued an ominous warning to writers who criticized Hindu Gods would have their ‘tongues sliced off’. He stated that the ultimate goal was to create a Hindu nation. This comes as a direct threat to Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Sikhs and the preservation of a secular democracy. Again, Narendra Modi failed to condemn these criminal acts.

The B.J.P. has adopted an unhealthy arrogance of India’s secular democracy. Following the assassination of Pakistani politician Salman Taseer, the Indian journalist, M.J. Akbar, the official spokesman of the B.J.P, boasted that “If Salman Taseer had been an Indian Muslim, he would still have been alive.” In 2014 India expressed concern over Bangladesh’s efforts to maintain a functioning democracy. As Nikhil Wagle, a prominent liberal journalist so aptly observed, “Without secularism, India is a “Hindu Pakistan.”

It is time India stop shielding itself from its own patina of legitimacy as being the gold standard of the world’s largest democracy  by criticizing its neighbor’s shortcomings.
The Indian media has become so fearful of the heavy-hand of the BJP ruling party that it has adopted a culture of self-censorship, loath to challenge those in political power. A number of journalists such as Mr. Wagle have complained of receiving threatening calls from another right-wing Hindu group, Sanatan Sanstha. K. S. Bhagwan, a retired university professor who is highly critical of the Hindu caste system received a tweet threatening his life
The goal of transforming India from a secular state to a Hindu nation, which seems to be behind the murders, is abetted not just by the silence of politicians, but also by the Hindu nationalist policies of the ruling B.J.P.

What is even more troubling is the government’s efforts to purge moderate secular voices from major institutions such as the National Book Trust and Nalanda University and replace them with Hindutv ideologues. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of India’s secular state legacy, is being threatened by Modi’s aficionados. The director of the Nehru Museum and Library was removed and replaced by another religious ideologue who plans to change the name to glorify “dear leader’ Modi. This is absurd as changing the name of the Washington Monument to Obama museum.  A prominent B.J.P. member of parliament recently glorified the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse, as a “great patriot”.  His extremist views are shared by many of his colleagues.  Godse was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an armed Hindu group, which has been instrumental in Modi’s rise to power. The culture and tourism minister, Mahesh Sharma, has promised to purge all western influence that promote secular values.

Emboldened by their election successes, Hindu fundamentalists feel empowered to purge all vestiges of western, secular values in the shadow of a Hindu nationalist government. Last December, the acclaimed Tamil author, Perumal Murugan, received death threats from local caste based groups, who demanded he  burn his novel, Madhorubhagan, a gripping fictional tale of a childless couple beset by the tyranny of caste.

Unable to offer him protection, the police suggested he go into exile. Fearing for his family’s life, he destroyed his whole library of books and took a vow to give up writing.
The country is taking a dangerous plunge to tyrannical rule and intolerance that will have profound repercussions if the current trends are not reversed. Modi has silenced many who accused him of presiding over the communal mayhem in Gujarat in 2002. He harassed dancer Sarabhai who spoke out against the communal attacks on the Muslim minority and is now waging a campaign against activist Teesta Setalvad and NGOs who are campaigning for justice. A senior police officer who served in Gujarat at the time of riots and accused Modi of ordering the police not to stop the riots for three days to allow the slaughter to continue, has been fired. Modi’s hatchet man, Amit Shah, is busy setting up groups in various places in U.P. to spread the virus of communalism and foment riots to fortify B.J.P.’s power. If these trends are not halted, India will sink rapidly into becoming a fascist state.

All these disturbing trends have been sanctified by a hideous caste apartheid system whose inequities must be challenged. Hindu extremists are even dictating our cuisine. Cow slaughter and the consumption of beef is banned in many states. Why is the ‘holy cow’ singled out for special protection and reverence? Emaciated cows can be seen wondering the streets of every town and village. I have yet to witness anyone feeding these pitiful animals.  The B.J.P. and its erstwhile leader, Modi, is sowing the seeds of intolerance and violence. Indians should be worried, very worried.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Domestic Violence 10-13-2015

13, October 2015                 Domestic Violence  
Root causes
Domestic violence (DV) takes many forms. It crosses different Indian ethnic groups, regional and religious groups and socio-economic classes.  What is common among the abusers is a strong, albeit obsessive desire to impose power and control over an intimate partner. It often takes the form of verbal abuse, intimidation, coercion, isolation of the victim from friends and family, threats, sexual and other forms of physical violence. For poor and uneducated women with children, DV can be especially traumatizing because many feel trapped lacking English skills to seek help and escape their tormentors. This also poses a linguistic challenge for the care-givers who must provide a safe support system in a regional language familiar to the callers.

Lack of safe houses and shelters often poses a huge challenge to DV support services and victims alike.
The current patriarchal system in India plays a major in the devaluation and subjugation of women and much needs to be done to promote complete gender equality. Financial disagreements, in-law visits often drive a wedge between partners; sometimes husbands are conflicted with misguided loyalties between their mothers and spouses. Wives are often relegated to a subordinate role to please their visiting in-laws.  
Sometimes husbands withhold important documents, such as Naturalization papers to inject fear of deportation as a means of control. 

When I became involved

For many years my wife (Tej, a Maitri volunteer) and I (Jagjit Singh) have been very active supporters of women experiencing domestic violence. Our involvement with various support groups predates the formation of Maitri.

Beginning in the early 70’s my wife underwent training with the mid-Peninsula Support Network for Battered Woman and soon thereafter our home was designated a safe home for women wishing to receive temporary respite from their abusive spouses. The women that we sheltered were mostly Caucasians. In the early 80’s, I signed up for extensive training with the Palo Alto based Parental Stress and Teen hotline (PSTH) which offered a variety of phone support services to callers experiencing family issues. I continued to work with PSTH for about 9 years. In 1991 shortly after the founding of Maitri, Tej underwent an extensive training program and became actively involved utilizing her language skills to reach out to victims of domestic violence. 

Lacking the necessary linguistic skills (Hindi, Punjabi) I could only serve in a peripheral support role to Tej who did all ‘the heavy lifting’.  Before Maitri obtained the necessary funding for the shelters, we offered our home to many of the abused women and I experienced firsthand the cruel and degrading treatment that many were forced to endure. I am truly in awe of the work being done by this courageous group of volunteers some of whom received verbal and physical threats in spite of maintaining extreme caution of hiding their vital contact information.

In 2001 Tej and I were approached by Father Hester who was seeking volunteers to offer spiritual care for Indian patients at Stanford Hospital. After undergoing extensive training we began weekly visits to offer moral support to these patients.
How Can the Community Support Maitri?

What is sorely needed is the injection of more funds to an over-burdened system which would allow more shelters to be built and an outreach program which would serve as continuous education forums to better educate the Indian diaspora. Religious intuitions could play a much larger role in promoting domestic harmony and gender equality. Religious beliefs that reinforces the victim’s subordinate role and thus legitimizes the abuser’s behavior needs be rejected and replaced with more positive messages. Funding for documentaries and films would help educate the public on the importance of demolishing current unhealthy stereotypes of women.
Much more can be done using social media to increase public awareness on how pervasive DV has become.

Israel 10-13-2015

13, October 2015                              Israel

Predictably, the pressure cooker situation in Israel has finally exploded with spasms of violence by Palestinians and Israelis. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right wing government have incited much of the violence by expanding Jewish settlements and ignoring settler terrorist attacks. About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Settler terrorism has been ongoing for decades with complete impunity. No settler has ever been charged with vandalism or other acts of violence.

The cycle of violence will continue as long as the US government continues to show its blatant partiality by sending huge shipments of weapons and deflecting censure and criticism of Israel by using its veto power at the UN.

The situation in Israel has reached a ‘South Africa’ moment when more and more European countries and American Jews are voicing frustration and anger at the deteriorating situation and lending support to the growing BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. By assuring Israel of our unshakable support and alliance, regardless of its appalling history of human rights violations and suffocating occupation, we are complicit in the ongoing mayhem. This is not a gesture of support for Israel but a monumental betrayal.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Caste Apartheid 10-11-2015

11, October 2015                        Caste Apartheid
A group of high energy Dalit activists from India and their US supporters organized a special meeting at Stanford University last Thursday to direct attention on caste apartheid that still exists throughout India.
Who are the Dalits? The Varna and caste system has been in existence in Indian society for thousands of years. India is the only country in the world where such a system still exists. The Varna and caste system was sanctified by the Hindu religion and by Vedic scriptures. Because it has been blessed and condoned by generations of high caste Brahmins, its validity has rarely been challenged except by the founder of the Sikh Faith, Guru Nanak, who fiercely condemned the caste system for its inequities and social injustices. During this period, many low caste Hindus converted to Sikhism, Buddhism or Christianity to escape the tyranny of caste.
Unfortunately, Hinduism has successfully deflected these external influences and cast discrimination has survived and continues to flourish to the present day.
The Manusmriti text codified the then prevailing social norms and consigned the shudras, atishudras and women to an unequal and sub-human existence. The distinctiveness of the caste system is its hereditary, compulsory and endogamous nature. Once born in a caste straight jacket, there is no escape and for the vast majority of Dalits this stigma is like a passport to hell. The worst affected by the caste system and its social oppression have been the Dalits, or atishudras, or scheduled castes. Albeit in a different way, the Adivasi’s or scheduled tribes in India have also faced social oppression over the ages. The stories of Shambuka in the Ramayana and of Ekalavya in the Mahabharata are classic testimonies of the non-egalitarian nature of Hindu society in ancient and indeed modern India.
Along with the curse of untouchability, the Dalits, with few exceptions, are denied property rights. Most have to survive on extremely low wages and the ‘lucky ones’ eat the leftovers thrown away by the higher Varna; they are not allowed to draw water from the common well reserved for their higher caste bretheren; they enter and exit homes by a back door and rarely ever have physical contact even with their most enlightened benefactors.  
A staggering 200 million Dalits are forced to endure appalling oppression, repression, physical and sexual violence and murder. Their oppressors are rarely held accountable in a culture that affords them complete impunity. They are denied entry to temples, given restricted access to water and forced to work for higher caste employers. A number of the delegates who came from different Indian states spoke of encountering arrogance, disdain and outright hostility from police and other officials. A FIR (First Information Report) documenting complaints are rarely filed to ensure no one will ever be held accountable. Previously called Untouchables, the Dalits are forbidden to make physical contact with a member of a higher caste. If this occurs, the unfortunate Dalit receives a torrent of abuse for “desecrating” the ‘low life’ recipient who subsequently undergoes multiple cleansing to wash off the encounter. This is often followed by firebombing Dalit homes, and attacks on Dalit men and molestation and sexual violence on Dalit women.
The Dalits are now mounting a nationwide effort to force officials to address their grievances and protection from high caste oppression.
They have modeled their strategy on the Gulabi Gang that has been operating a highly successful campaign in Uttar Pradesh since 2006. They adopt a ‘no nonsense - in your face’ approach to shame officials and family members guilty of abusing women.    
Using social media. Modern day Dalits are coalescing into a strong vibrant movement and are reaching out to NGO’s like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Commission for support. A country should be judged, not only on its GDP and its economic growth but how well its serves the poorest of the poor. Using the latter as a matrix, India gets a failing grade.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Free Speech & Academic Freedom 10-9-2015

9, October 2015                    Free Speech & Academic Freedom

There has been mounting efforts to stifle free speech of Palestinian activists on college campuses claiming that criticism of Israeli policies constitutes anti-Semitism. A new report by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal has documented hundreds of cases of Palestinian activists being harassed and threatened for their support of Palestinian rights. For example, Steven Salaita’s tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was withdrawn after he posted tweets harshly critical of the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza.

His ouster caused a firestorm with thousands of academics demanding Salaita’s reinstatement. University Chancellor Phyllis Wise, and her second-in-command, the provost, resigned in the ensuing scandal. Private emails accounts were surreptitiously used to bypass freedom of information requests. This is an extremely disturbing example of blind ideological commitments to Israel triumphing academic freedom. The board was fully complicit in Wise’s duplicity, including the chairman Christopher Kennedy, Robert Kennedy son. Even more egregious is the discovery of a letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center congratulating the board on firing Salaita. 

Following their removal, a federal judge allowed a lawsuit filed by Professor Salaita to proceed. The university would be wise to issue an apology to Salaita, reinstate and reimburse him for lost earnings. Failure to do might trigger large punitive damages. This should serve as a wake-up call to other US colleges to stop harassing students and faculty who voice criticism of Israel’s actions and policies.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

TPP (the Anti-Christ bill) 10-7-2015

7, October 2015                    TPP (the Anti-Christ bill)

Last Monday, the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations reached an agreement on the largest trade accord in history, - the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Negotiations have been conducted in almost total secrecy, bar a few details released from WikiLeaks. It will encompass a staggering 40 percent of the global economy and is generally regarded, if enacted, to be a huge victory for US corporations, especially pharmaceutical companies who will enjoy extended monopolies on their life saving drugs and an early death for those who can only afford the generic versions. In short, TPP will be price gouging at the cost of lives for companies who already enjoy obscene profits. It may very well be described as a reverse Robin Hood or the anti-Christ bill. Predictably, it was couched in the usual spin narrative, promising to “promote economic growth; support higher-paying jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty; and to promote transparency, good governance and strong labor and environmental protections”. TPP is a wish list for large corporations fixated on padding their already obscene profits. If the deal is finalized and enacted and implemented, we’re going to see an expansion of the disastrous NAFTA model - gutting environmental laws and workers’ rights and exporting US jobs overseas to workers willing or coerced to working for slave wages.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

US Airstrike – a War Crime? 10-6-2015

6, October 2015        US Airstrike – a War Crime?

The deadly American airstrike on the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, run by Doctors Without Borders (DWB), is an absolute travesty. The initial Pentagon statement - that the airstrike may have caused  “collateral damage” was grossly insensitive and dehumanizing. The US military has a long history of obfuscation and damage control to deflect accountability. Truth is usually the first casualty following such incidents. General Campbell tripped over his initial story justifying the bombing  as a necessary response to protect American lives. He later tried to pin the blame on Afghan forces claiming that they had come under fire from Taliban forces near the hospital. This claim was hotly disputed by Arjan Hehenkamp, director of DWB, who stated there were no fighters near the hospital. DWB is one of the most respected NGO’s in the world and in a war of words their account of what happened will surely prevail. DWB provided the exact GPS coordinates of the hospital to the US military to prevent such mishaps. It is a war crime to target a hospital and this appalling incident screams for an independent enquiry and accountability. President Obama also needs to address the larger question of our continuing mission in the mother of all quagmires. What have the American people gained by donating 53% of all their taxes to a perpetual war machine? 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Gun Violence 10-5-2015

5, October 2015             Gun Violence

All efforts to stop gun violence has failed. 
The Gun Lobby profits from such killings, especially mass shootings. Contrary to their claims, more guns make us less safe; the chance of accidental death increases dramatically by possessing such weapons. The Gun Lobby has largely blocked research on making guns safer. Between 1973 and 2012, the National Institutes of Health awarded 89 grants for the study of rabies, 212 for cholera — and none for firearm safety.

Auto fatalities have been reduced dramatically after introducing car safety features.

Must profits triumph the sanctity of life? America has the highest gun homicide rate, the highest number of guns per capita and the highest rate of deaths due to assault weapons. Almost 300 Americans are shot every day. Is it not time we confronted the second amendment clause of our Constitution granting the right of every citizens to bear arms and form militias to counterbalance the possible tyrannical rule of our government? This may have made perfect sense at the founding of our nation but it seems to be an anachronistic burden to carry forward and should be challenged for its relevance in today’s society. It is unlikely that a moribund Congress will act to reduce gun violence. Only a concerted effort on the part of the citizenry calling for immediate legislative action may motivate members of Congress to free themselves from the clutches of the NRA. 

Gun Control 10-5-2015

5, October 2015                    Gun Control

Three years ago, after the massacre of 20 children at a school in Newtown, Conn.,
we mistakenly believed that our love for children’s safety would blunt the power of the N.R.A and motivate us to action. We were wrong. With the slaughter of nine people at an Oregon College perhaps we should open our windows and yell “we are not going to take it anymore and we demand change”.

Do we really love our guns more than we love our children? Thus far, our kids seem to be losing the battle to win hearts and minds.

In 2013, efforts by gun-control supporters, narrowly failed a sensible bill calling for  universal background checks for gun purchases – so perhaps the invincibility of the N.R.A. is gradually eroding. Sadly, Bernie Sanders has been ambivalent on the issue mindful that he received money from the N.R.A. He needs to reverse course and join the ‘pro-lifers’. Elizabeth Warren and other high profile politicians need to make their  views known. They should take comfort in Terry  McAuliffe’s strong stand against the N.R.A. which did not prevent him from being elected governor of Virginia, the N.R.A.’s home state. Michael Bloomberg has pledged $50-million to support gun control. It is now up to the general public to break its long silence and demand gun control legislation. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Syria & ISIS 10-2-2015

2, October 2015                                Syria & ISIS

In another odd twist to the Syrian war, Vladimir Putin has decided to lend his support to a much weaker Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It is a pity the United States, Britain and France misjudged the Syrian dictator’s staying power and failed to support a Russian proposal to end the fighting in 2012 after peace talks started between the regime and opposition.

Since then, tens of thousands more have been killed, and ISIL militants have seized huge swaths of Syria. President Obama reluctantly admitted that only Syria and the Kurds were committed to fighting ISIS. Thus far, US efforts in Iraq have netted 5 Iraqi trained fighters at a cost of many millions of dollars and scores of US trainers.  

Recent events have demonstrated that western interventions for regime changes in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, .  . , have been unmitigated disasters creating failed states and a dramatic rise in terrorism. Better to have a thuggish ruler over a stable state than try to remove a brutal ruler and create a dangerous vacuum (examples, Iraq, Libya). Foreign interventions have invariably united foes against the invader (examples, Iraq and Afghanistan). Putin seems to have forgotten the Soviet’s misadventure in Afghanistan. He might well be on the slippery slope of another quagmire in Syria.

Obama would be wise to seize Putin’s initiative and not lay down any preconditions, resisting the slogan, ‘Assad has to go’. The focus should be to bring an end to the fighting and neutralize the demonic ISIS.