The USA’s baggywrinkle cockaballo tyrant

“Part of the bigger problem with Donald Trump is, when you sit and talk to him one-on-one, he’s reasonable, he comes across as caring, he’s open-minded, but then, all of that just is thrown out the window when he tweets and when he communicates with the media – and when he communicates at all.”

– Mark Cuban, American businessman and investor

 

    by Alan Simons

When the head of state and head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces becomes a baggywrinkle cockaballo tyrant, living outside of the U.S. one could easily justify one’s response by saying that this is an American issue and they should be able to handle it themselves. But it isn’t as simple as that! His blatant and contemptuous comments, coupled with his actions in degrading and humiliating people have implications for all of us, irrespective of where we live, our religion or nationality.

This week so far, two obnoxious statements came forth from this individual’s mouth.

One, concerning the mocking of Christine Blasey Ford’s alleged sexual assault testimony.  And the other relating to the verbal insult directed at female journalist Cecilia Vega, a White House reporter for ABC News.

In the case of this individual’s never-ending abusive and cruel comments, my first reaction was, “I wondered why the citizens of that great country aren’t up in arms- oops, I didn’t mean it in the American way- but protesting vigorously against his vulgarity?”

Someone once said, “It’s easy to say we would be willing to risk everything to do what is right.” Yet, when push comes to shove, are the American people actually morally brave? Is all their proud self-aggrandizement, only goes as far as singing the words to Katherine Lee Bates’ lyrics in America the Beautiful?

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea.”

Brotherhood? What brotherhood?  And who are all those “white” people standing behind this individual, many cheering him on, while others look extremely stressed when he makes his obnoxious comments about folks who are not present to defend themselves? Does the desire to be accepted socially in a group surpass the desire as a decent human being to stand up to this abusive individual?

As Paul Bloom, a psychology professor at Yale explains: “The desire to be accepted by others socially can have an ugly side. If you can earn respect by helping people, that’s great. If you can earn respect by physically dominating people with aggression and violence, that’s destructive.”

Yet, why should all of this be of our concern? To get to the crux of this matter, I came across an article published last June by VOX Media titled “Why humans are cruel.” In it, Paul Bloom explains why humans are so terrible to each other. It’s certainly worth reading. In essence, he says in part, “The point is that we don’t behave in stressful situations the way we think we would or the way we would like to…”

Bloom remarked: “We have this horrible tendency to overestimate the extent to which we’re the moral standouts, we’re the brave ones. This has some nasty social consequences. There was a great article that came out in the Washington Post last week about people who say, ‘I’m confused about the people who have been sexually assaulted, because if it happened to me, I would say no way, and I would put the person in their place, and I would speak out.’ This attitude is oftentimes scorn towards people who get harassed. They’re somehow morally weak, or maybe they’re just not telling the truth.”

Bloom refers to one of his colleagues, Marianne LaFrance, who “did a study a while ago in which they asked a group of people, how would you feel if you had a job interview and someone asked you these really sexist, ugly questions?”

He added: “Just about everybody says, ‘I would walk out. I would give the person hell,’ and so on. Then they did it. They did fake interviews where people thought they were being interviewed, and people asked the sexist, ugly questions, and all of the women were just silent.”

Many bullies feast on people’s silence. The American people have much to be proud of. Their achievements in all sectors of society are something to be bragged about. Yet, their overwhelming silence to act as one primary group against one individual remains inconceivably irrational to us outsiders.

As Elie Wiesel said: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

What say thee America?

 

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Labeling journalists “the enemy of the people.” Oh, America! Where are you heading?

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!   1:48 PM – 17 Feb 2017”

-President Trump

 “When American leaders stand up for a free press, they embolden courageous journalists who put their lives and liberty on the line to report the news. And when American leaders fall short, they embolden the autocrats who seek to repress those journalists.”

– The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

     by Alan Simons

Last month, A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of The New York Times, received a request from the White House to meet with President Trump. According to the Publisher “This was not unusual; there has been a long tradition of New York Times publishers holding such meetings with presidents and other public figures who have concerns about coverage.”

Not long after his meeting with the president, A.G. Sulzberger felt obliged to issue a statement. He said:

“My main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.

I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.

I told him that although the phrase “fake news” is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists “the enemy of the people.” I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.

I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.

Throughout the conversation I emphasized that if President Trump, like previous presidents, was upset with coverage of his administration he was of course free to tell the world. I made clear repeatedly that I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair. Instead, I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. On August 15, 2018, CPJ issued the following statement on US press freedom:

In recent weeks CPJ has noticed an uptick in interest from editorial boards of U.S. publications on issues related to press freedom in the United States. In light of this, the following data and reporting may be helpful.

CPJ systematically tracks the killing and imprisonment of journalists around the world, and reports on threats and attacks against them. We are also one of the managing partners of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a joint initiative of 30 organizations dedicated to defending press freedom.

According to CPJ research, in 2018:

Four journalists and one media worker have been murdered (at the Capital Gazette)

Another journalist, Zack Stoner, was killed in Chicago, but CPJ is still investigating whether the motive is related to his journalism.

This is the deadliest year for journalists in the United States since CPJ began keeping records in 1992. At this point in 2018, the United States is the third deadliest country globally after Afghanistan and Syria.

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker:

In 2018, at least 24 journalists were physically attacked (ranging from being shoved or having equipment damaged, to more serious physical assaults). In 2017, at least 45 journalists were physically attacked.

In 2018, at least three journalists have been arrested in the U.S. in the course of their work. In 2017, at least 34 journalists were arrested.

Since the beginning of 2017, the Department of Justice has issued indictments in at least four leak prosecutions. In at least one case, a journalist’s records were subpoenaed.

An international delegation of global press freedom groups led by CPJ in January found that journalists face a range of threats including physical and verbal harassment, and that press freedom in Missouri and surrounding states has worsened in recent years.

Covering white nationalism and the far right is a dangerous beat in the United States. CPJ has documented threats, both online and off, to reporters who cover these movements.

Protests are among the most dangerous assignments for journalists:

CPJ research shows that journalists of colour face a unique set of threats when covering protests.

Since the beginning of 2017, the S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented at least 31 journalists arrested at protests, while 36 have faced some form of physical attack or interference at protests.

CPJ has also documented how the police crowd-control tactic known askettlingcan sweep up journalists and result in their arrest.

The White House’s charged rhetoric on “fake news” not only undermines the work of the media in the U.S., it emboldens autocratic leaders around the world. Authorities in countries including China, Cambodia, Egypt, Philippines, Syria, and Poland have adopted President Trump’sfake news” epithet to justify censorship.

In the past year, Canada has also seen an increase of attacks against its journalists. On August 24, 2017, Global News reported,Black Bloc warning urges more violence against Canadian journalists. An anti-fascist group whose members assaulted two Global News journalists at a demonstration in Quebec last weekend defended their actions Thursday and threatened more violence against journalists covering future protests in order to, according to the post, “make demonstrations safer” for the group. In an anonymous statement posted online titled “No face, no case: in defence of smashing corporate media cameras” the group said it wanted to “offer an explanation” for why a Global News camera was smashed and reporter Mike Armstrong was assaulted and pushed down a staircase.” And this past week, A Canadian journalist was physically attacked at an anti-hate rally in Toronto.

To quote the American author, Naomi Wolf: “Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the ’30s, East Germany in the ’50s, Czechoslovakia in the ’60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the ’70s, China in the ’80s and ’90s – all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists.” 

Today, the Editorial Board of The Boston Globe said this about Trump: “A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press. Journalists are not classified as fellow Americans, but rather “The enemy of the people.” This relentless assault on the free press has dangerous consequences.

They added:

“Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country. Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current U.S. administration are the “enemy of the people.” This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president much like an old-time charlatan threw out “magic” dust or water on a hopeful crowd.

“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom,” wrote John Adams.

For more than two centuries, this foundational American principle has protected journalists at home and served as a model for free nations abroad. Today it is under serious threat. And it sends an alarming signal to despots, from Ankara to Moscow, Beijing to Baghdad, that journalists can be treated as a domestic enemy.”

Which brings me to President Trump, with his pernicious thirst for personally mocking journalists and the media they work for. How much have his hate-mongering words been instrumental in giving the public approval to abuse journalists?

Oh, America! Where are you heading?

Iran’s military and political leaders: How high will they jump?

Iranian’s head honchos should remember Shakespeare’s words: “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” What are you?

 by Alan Simons

If there’s been one American individual over the years that has clearly taken to task the United States’ foreign policy, credit must be given to Richard Nathan Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, prior to which he was Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State and a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Haas most clearly outlined his foreign policy views in his book The Reluctant Sheriff (1997), in which he argued that the United States should play the role of international sheriff.  He said, “maintaining international order often means ‘assuming the role of international sheriff, one who forges coalitions or posses of states and others for specific tasks,’ Haas writes (Haas 1997). While Haas argued that the approach would largely benefit the international system, he also made it clear that he intended for the United States to play the role of international sheriff to pursue its own preferences for the world. In the years ahead, “what will prove crucial is the ability of the United States to persuade others to adopt and abide by its preferences – and the will and the ability of the United States to act as a sheriff, to mobilize itself and others to insist on them when resistance emerges,” Haas notes (Haas 1997). ‘”

Iran, the real choices. Losing face is not particularly one of Iran’s more favourable characteristics.

Eight years ago, on April 19, 2010, Haas, in a statement as the President, Council on Foreign Relations, made it adamantly clear to the Obama administration their initial approach toward Iran was wrong. This is what he had to say on the matter:

Gates’s Welcome Take on Iran Realities

      Richard N. Haas

The “Gates memo”–a classified memorandum written by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in January [2010], arguing to his senior colleagues that the administration needs to develop a more effective  policy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear progress–marks a significant signpost in the evolution of President Barack Obama’s national security policy and presidency.

The Obama administration’s initial approach toward Iran emphasized negotiations, but there is no evidence Iran is prepared to accept meaningful limits on its nuclear activities. The United States is working to gain UN Security Council approval of new sanctions, but while the symbolism of a common international front is welcome, the substance will not have much effect. The price of gaining Chinese and Russian support is delay and dilution. A second set of sanctions, more biting and more focused on the Revolutionary Guard, should be cobbled together quickly by those countries willing to sign on. And the United States should keep exploring what can be done to bolster Iran’s internal opposition.

But the reality is that these measures are unlikely to accomplish the goal of halting (much less reversing) Iran’s nuclear program. Three sets of actions are needed. First, the United States should take the steps that would allow it to enforce tough sanctions, such as a ban on Iranian oil exports and refined oil imports. Second, the United States should develop plans for the use of military force in an effort to set back Iran’s nuclear program and weaken the government. Third, the United States should assess the pros and cons of an alternative or a fallback: a “North Korean” strategy, in which there would be an implicit acceptance of an Iranian nuclear weapon (or something close to it) that would involve deterrence of Iran and defence for its neighbours. All planning should anticipate Iranian retaliation and what would be needed from Saudis and others to stabilize energy markets.

The Gates memo is right to focus attention on the real choices. In the end, it is Iran, far more than Afghanistan or Iraq or even Pakistan, that is likely to prove the most significant strategic decision and challenge for the forty-fourth president.

“Iran is able to build a plant for every field of nuclear program . . . this issue is not reversible.”

                Heshmatollah Falahatpishe

In September 2009, Heshmatollah Falahatpishe, (seen here on the right) member of Majlis the national security and foreign policy commission, said that construction of a new uranium enrichment plant indicated that Iran’s nuclear program is in progress on schedule,  in spite of political pressures.  He added, Iran is able to build a plant for every field of nuclear program, because, “we have gained access to the nuclear technology and this issue is not reversible, a fact that has already been acknowledged by IAEA analysts.” The MP added unlike Libya and Iraq, who bought nuclear technology in the markets, Iran, upon its own ability, has turned threats to an opportunity. (IRNA).

How much of what Falahatpishe had to say at the time would have been poo-pooed by the Obama administration as pure grandstanding is open to further debate. But, it is interesting to note that in 2016 Falahatpishe survived an assassination attempt in Kermanshah Province in the west of the country, Iranian news agencies reported. Falahatpishe sustained minor injuries but a local official and their driver were killed when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle, the reports said. Falahatpishe survived and today he is the Head of Iran’s all-powerful Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.

Which brings me to Iran in 2018. Today, it’s military and senior political head honchos continue to put on a brave appearance to outsiders. After all, losing face is not particularly one of Iran’s more favourable characteristics.

First, let’s look at their military.

As I reported in jewishinfoNews in May 2018, “Iran’s military has major problems. The Iranian regime revealed last month that 2,100 Iranians have been killed fighting in Syria the past few years, more than double the previous death toll announced 16 months ago… “As a proportion of the population, that is a greater loss than the United States has suffered in all its wars in the Middle East since the start of the century… “Iran has said it does not send combat troops to Syria, only military advisers, most of whom are Pasdar officers… “Given that the United States has four times the population of Iran, the Iranian losses in Syria are proportionately about a quarter greater than the US losses throughout the region this century.”

Secondly, the economic turmoil and protests taking place throughout all sectors of society in Iran are now increasing on a day-to-day basis. This week alone, reports include the following:

Labor Minister impeached

The Iranian parliament has given a no-confidence vote to Labor Minister Ali Rabeei on Tuesday. Rabeei was impeached by 129 to 111 votes. This gives Rouhani three months to find a replacement. As Iran’s economy has worsened in recent months, the Iranian regime and particularly hardliners have tried to portray Hassan Rouhani’s economic team as being mainly responsible for the increasing hardships that Iranians face. In an interview before his impeachment, Rabeei had said the U.S. sanctions would increase economic pressures and until March 2019 one million jobs would be lost. (International Institute for Iranian Studies).

People’s rage building up

This editorial deals with Iran’s dire economy and people’s rage against reformists in this regard. The editorialist begins by saying that Iranian people have had it up to here with skyrocketing prices, corruption, and the government’s inefficiencies. People have repeatedly voiced their hope in reformists, voting for them in elections. However, reformists have not been able to find a solution to their problems, and people can no longer wait for a change in relation to this particular point. The editorial then zeroes in on President Hassan Rouhani and the role he and his administration play in creating unrest in society. Rouhani has become involved with those in his milieu who have no reasonable, organized relations with society and their political base. Neither can they pave the way for Rouhani to get connected with people. All things considered, people expect reformists to speak their mind candidly and with clarity under current conditions. In the end, the editorialist claims that the only way out is reform, but it is really getting late. An editorial in Mostaghal on August 7, 2018

Protests continue

Popular protests hit several cities in Iran on Saturday night. [August 4, 2018]. Along with confirming the death of a protestor in the city of Karaj, the city’s officials declared the implicit martial law in the city. Film footages sent to VOA show that at least in the cities of Tehran, Karaj, Shiraz, Qom, and Eshtehard, people held demonstrations on Saturday night. Fars news agency, affiliated with IRGC, announced that an individual was shot dead in Friday night protests in Karaj. This is the first death in the new round of demonstrations in cities of Iran. In December protests, at least 23 people were killed in more than 80 cities of Iran. In Tehran, protesters chanted: “Iranians will die, but will not accept humiliation” and “Death to Dictator!” VOA

Released footages in social networks indicate that gatherings and protests have continued in Tehran, Karaj, Shiraz, Qom, and Eshtehard. In footages related to demonstrations in Tehran, the protesters chanted: “Iranians will die, but will not accept humiliation,” “Iranians must show their courage,” “Death to Dictator,” and “Courageous Iranians, Support us.” In another footage, the narrator says: “Here everybody is exhausted. They all have wives and children and are under injustice. Here everybody has a lot of debts. Look, we are all together. We are exhausted. We all want freedom.” In Karaj, the protesters chanted: “Shame on you, Khamenei; let go of the country” and “Law enforcement, support us!” The new round of street protests in Iran started following the plunge in the value of the national currency, critical economic conditions, high prices, and daily increase in the price of foreign currency and gold coin. But in recent days, the protesters’ main slogans have been against the supreme leader, the regime, and the clerics. Radio Farda

Currency deputy of Central Bank arrested

Judiciary system spokesperson Gholamhossein Ejei said the currency deputy of the Central Bank, who was recently removed from his position, was arrested. He added that in dealing with cases of disruptors in the country’s financial system and currency, three individuals would be soon going to courts after issuing their indictments. Meanwhile, 20 lawmakers wrote a letter to the head of the judiciary, asking him to ban former governor of the Central Bank, Valiollah Seif, from leaving the country. Fars news agency

How much of what Richard Haas had to say in 2010 reflects on the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to pulverize Iran by means of military pressure and especially by economic sanctions, is admittedly, on the onset, having a dent in Iran.

However, Holly Dagres, an Iran analyst and curator of The Iranist newsletter in a recent interview with Deutsche Welle said she, “believes that the Iranians will continue to pursue their political agenda in the region, in spite of renewed American pressure. After decades of international isolation, Iran has managed to circumvent sanctions in numerous ways, whether by working the middleman, the black market, or trading with countries that the American sanctions enforcement agency OFAC cannot reach. If Iran wants something to be done, it will find a way, Dagres concluded.”

Which in conclusion brings me to a quote I’ve used previously. There’s a well-known wise Persian proverb: “Risk – If one has to jump a stream and knows how wide it is, he will not jump. If he doesn’t know how wide it is, he’ll jump and six times out of ten he’ll make it.”

Iranians are an educated and proud people and in that, I would ask their leaders to remember Shakespeare’s words: “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” What are you?

Alan Simons is the publisher and editor of jewishinfoNews. Comments to this article are accepted.

Partial content in this article is credited to Wikipedia. Photo credit: Flickr.