Monthly Archives: July 2017

NYT on Iran, Russia, and Myanmar

Today’s NYT has a huge editorial calling on Trump not to go to war with Iran.  I agree with the editorial, and I think it is a good sign that Trump so far seems to be more interested in criticizing Iran than in taking concrete actions against it.  I am less sanguine about the Republicans in Congress, who will pressure Trump to take stronger actions against Iran.  Trump seems inclined to do the right thing, but he might bow to GOP pressure, especially if it is linked to healthcare or tax legislation.  

On the other hand, I find it disturbing that the NYT is so jingoistic about fomenting war with Russia.  It has not called for war with Russia, but its harsh criticism of Putin seems to characterize him as a latter-day Hitler, who needs to be stopped.  Putin is not a saint, but I don’t see him as evil as the NYT does, or ther other Democratic media outlets like CNN or MSNBC.  Putin has many nuclear weapons.  War with him would be a disaster for the whole world.  A little moderation in our dealings with Russia, as well as with Iran, is called for.  The NYT needs to tone down it hate-Russia rhetoric.  

Finally there is an article in the NYT about growing Chinese influence in Myanmar (nee Burma), by Jane Perlez, who interviewed me in Poland about 20 years ago.  She blames Trump for the coolness in relations between the US and Myanmar, yielding the Chinese a leading role in Myanmar’s development.  However, she barely touches on the fact the the main foreign policy issue with Myanmar during the Obama administration was the Rohingya Muslim minority.  As a champion of Muslim rights, the US loudly criticized the government of Myanmar for its treatment of the Rohingya.  Making criticism of human rights the central point of our policy was not likely to build better relations between the two countries.  The Chinese are much less squeamish about human rights abuses, and thus are a much preferred interlocutor than the US.  Perles ignores this irritant in US-Myanmar relations in her analysis.  

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Echoes of Old Anti-Communists Days

The current hearings of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence look ominously like the 1950s  hearings of the House Unamerican Activities Committee and the hearings led by Senator Joe McCarthy in the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations.  Ironically, McCarthy’s chief lawyer, Roy Cohn, was a mentor to President Donald Trump early in his business career.

The current committees are seeking connections to Russian spies, while their predecessors in the 1940s and 1950s were seeking connections to Communist spies.  In the Senate today Senator Mark Warner is playing the role of Joe McCarthy, screaming treason and treachery at the top of his voice.  Today Congressman Adam Schiff is playing the role of Congressman Richard Nixon in pursuit of Alger Hiss for spying, as reported by the Washington Post.

Roles are reversed.  Now it’s Democrats who see Russian spies under every rock, spies so powerful they can turn an ordinary American like Donald Trump, Jr., into a traitor, simply by being the the same room with him for a meeting. The Democrats portray Rinat Akhmetshin as just such a man.  Strangely for such a powerful spy, Akhmetshin is a US citizen and lobbyist, who meets regularly with American politicians without turning them into traitors.

I think the hearings are ridiculous, just like the old 1040s and 1950s anti-Communist hearings.  Their pursuit of Russian spies is a kangaroo court or a “witch hunt” as President Trump has said.  The Democrats are profoundly embarrassed by having lost an election that should have been an easy victory because of their gross incompetence and contempt for the electorate.  Now the Democrats are trying to blame the Russians for the failures of the Democratic Party.  They are so obsessed that slander and persecution are acceptable tools to an end.  They are disgracing themselves a second time and befouling the halls of Congress in the process.

Hillary’s and Donald’s Emails

The media are going mad about a handful of emails from and to Donald Trump Junior.  It’s not clear that the emails are incriminating, although the Democrats and the media are doing everything than can to make them sound incriminating.  When the New York Times printed the emails in question, it printed seventeen.  On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s staff destroyed 33,000 emails after they had been subpoenaed by Congress.  Hillary’s staff actually ordered that they emails be destroyed before they were subpoenaed, but they were not physically destroyed until after the subpoena had been issued.  Hillary claimed the emails were personal, but we will never know because no one who was not working for or with Hillary ever saw them.  This is the time line by Politifact:  

At the second debate between the two presidential nominees, Trump criticized Clinton for turning over half her emails held on her server to the State Department and deleting the rest. He said Clinton should be “ashamed” of herself for deleting 33,000 emails.

Clinton and her campaign don’t dispute that she deleted these 33,000 emails. They argue that these were personal in nature, rather than work-related, and therefore were not necessary to turn over.

Politifact’s ruling was:

Trump said, “You (Hillary Clinton) get a subpoena, and after getting the subpoena you delete 33,000 emails.”

Clinton’s staff received a subpoena for Benghazi-related emails March 4. An employee managing her server deleted 33,000 of Clinton’s emails three weeks later.

The FBI found no evidence that the emails were deleted deliberately to avoid the subpoena or other requests. Clinton’s team requested for the emails to be deleted months before the subpoena came. They also argued that all the emails that would be relevant to the subpoena had already been turned over to the State Department.

We rate Trump’s claim Half True.

While Trump Junior is being pilloried in the press for seventeen emails, it is useful to remember that Hillary deleted 33,000, and we will never know what they said.  Since Hillary was Secretary of State, some of them may have involved conversations with Russians.  Sen. Tim Kaine has said that Trump Junior may have committed treason by talking to Russians for a few minutes.  Is it not likely that Hillary talked to Russians much more than Trump did, and that she talked about more important subjects, making it more likely that she would have committed treason by Kaine’s standard (not by any real definition of treason).  .  .