Closing Thought–09Aug17

Another Soul Finds Its Way Home!

We will soon find ourselves on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in NYC and the Pentagon.

Many Americans were killed on the fateful day….some still have not been identified….but there is some good news to report (if anything can be said to be good after that attack)……

Almost 16 years after the 9/11 attacks, another family has been given the news that the remains of their loved one have been identified. New York City’s medical examiner said Monday that the man has been identified as the 1,641st person killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, PIX11 reports. The medical examiner’s office says the man’s name is being withheld by request of his family. This is the first time another victim has been identified since March 2015, when Matthew David Yarnell, a 26-year-old who worked on the 97th floor of the South Tower, was identified with the help of DNA, the New York Daily News reports.

The 1,641th victim was identified through DNA retesting of remains recovered from the site, reports NBC News. Out of the 2,753 people killed in the New York attacks, 1,112, or around 40%, are still unidentified, but the medical examiner’s office says it plans to keep using the most modern methods to identify as many as possible. The medical examiner’s office says it has been retesting remains found during the original recovery operation at Ground Zero.

May the spirit now rest in peace and the family can have the closure that they have needed for these long years.

Time for me to call it a day……I have a couple of buffalo steaks for the grill and a bottle of good Spanish red wine…..now that is how you end the day….with a perfect meal.

Tomorrow my friends……chuq

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RAISE Act

Well we all know of the DC two step that is going on these days and the Congress has dumped and left town for the month of August.

The GOP has made good on their threat to do something about immigration…..and Trump was the perfect vehicle for them…..

The Congress has given the country the RAISE Act or shall we call it the Reforming American Immigration for Stronger Employment Act.  How is that for a title?

Lots of chatter about the bill/act……more opposition than defense…..

Anyway how many of us mere mortals know what is in this “Act”?

You could dash for the Google button or just read on……

The Republican-backed proposal, which would significantly reduce the number of people allowed to legally immigrate to America, would weigh each person’s age, education, English ability, job offer salary, investments and even whether the person has an Olympic medal. The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE Act, favors people between the ages of 26 and 30 with a doctorate, high English proficiency and a job offer with a high salary. Applicants would need at least 30 points to be eligible to apply for a visa under the proposal, and the fastest way to get there is to have received a Nobel Prize or comparable international award, which gives applicants a head start of 25 points. Applicants with the highest number of points would go to the front of the line to receive visas.

The bill, introduced by Republican Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton, has failed to gain traction beyond the President’s endorsement and is unlikely to pass Congress. But if Trump had his way and it became law, here’s how you would fare if you were trying to immigrate to the U.S. under the restrictions.

For greater clarity, some answers are simplified from what appears in the bill. For example, the legislation proposes an English test, with points allotted based on the applicant’s performance. We instead created categories ranking English ability. The question about job salaries took the bill’s original language regarding “150% of median income” and calculated actual salaries based on the U.S. median household income of $51,939 in 2014.

If you are truly interested in this bill…… The full text of the bill can be found here.

I got to thinking about my great-grandfather when he came to this country in 1898.  He was 50 years old, poor, badly educated and spoke little English and had enough money to get him through maybe a year…..with those credentials he would NOT be eligible to immigrate to the US.

I will agree that there needs to be some sort of immigration policy but is this the best we could do?

The Whiskey Rebellion

A little history to brighten your day.

I have always been fascinated by the early American history, the years between 1770-1814…..there was so much history happening that the era was interesting to the point that I studied Political History in college….

Awhile back I wrote a post on the 2nd amendment and cited a couple of incidents in our history that prompted the inclusion of the amendment into the Bill of Rights……one of the situations that I cited was the Whiskey Rebellion and what the ten president George Washington handled the mash-up…..

In case you would like to read what I wrote….it was about 4 years ago that it was posted…..

Source: Why The 2nd? – In Saner Thought

Now let us take a look at this mini rebellion that we hear so little about…..

The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 is regarded as one of the first tests of federal authority in United States history and of the young nation’s commitment to the constitutional rule of law.

In 1790, the new national government of the United States was attempting to establish itself. Because the government had assumed the debts incurred by the colonies during the Revolution the government was deep in debt. During the 1791 winter session of Congress both houses approved a bill that put an excise tax on all distilled spirits. United States Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, proposed the bill to help prevent the national debt from growing. Loud protests from all districts of the new nation soon followed. These protests were loudest in the western counties of Pennsylvania.

Source: Whiskey Rebellion

There you have some early American history you can dazzle your peeps with in the future….keep in mind that the reason most whiskey distilleries are in the South is because of the issues around the Whiskey Rebellion.

Will There Be A Foreign Policy Crisis?

Since I am a foreign policy wonk I spend a lot of time reading reports and analyses about world affairs and what I have found is there is many “hot spots” in this world that could spill over into a major confrontation.

North Korea is on a slow boil……China in the South China Sea is sizzling….troop movements in around the Baltic states, both US and Russian….terrorist cells plotting…..Iran will soon be back in the headlines….and of course all the different armed conflicts that spread like a fungus…..so many opportunities for something to go horribly wrong.

I am concerned on the future because our president does not seem to care about all the situations as they build.  His State Department is woefully understaffed….the military is expanding faster than a irritating rash and the White House is full of factions fighting for dominance……and foreign policy is a couple of words that few know how to use.

It is only a matter of time before something breaks on the foreign policy front……

It is now six months into the Trump administration and, thankfully, the United States has not yet faced a foreign-policy crisis. In no other area does a president have more responsibility and power than in such a crisis. Any president, but particularly this one, must welcome and respect expert advice, choose quickly and wisely from a difficult set of options, consult with Congress and involve U.S. allies in the common cause. The United States must deal from a position of strength but be open to negotiations.

Unfortunately, we have seen much in Trump’s conduct as president that raises serious questions as to how he will respond when that inevitable crisis comes. Perhaps none more puzzling or concerning is his attitude toward Russia. Rebuilding cooperation with Russia where possible in areas such as antiterrorism and arms control is in the U.S. interest, but not at the expense of indifference to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria or dismissing the investigations of Russian interference in recent U.S. elections.

Source: Trump and the Impending Foreign-Policy Crisis | The National Interest

It is time for this administration to settle down and get to work on the foreign policy….our State Department should be the spear point of our foreign policy and right now it is little more than a discussion group with NO direction.

Once we are confronted with a international crisis it will be too late to try and return the State Department to the forefront….basically as it is now our foreign policy is little more than a crap shoot.

Can you say….North Korea!

Oh Yeah–Afghanistan!

Then there is America’s longest running war…..Afghanistan.

These days we do not hear much about this conflict…..most Americans take it for granted and move on to whatever shiny bobble the media dangles out there for them to chase.

But there are people like me that will not turn away from this war and persist in reporting the news as it comes available……

Most people know next to nothing about the country other than bang bang shoot’em up!

Many foreigners and even Afghans are now convinced that the “true” Afghanistan is only what is being shown on the television screens, depicted in magazines, or what is buried deep in the archives and libraries somewhere in London, New York or Paris.

It is tempting to think that the country could be only understood from a comfortable distance, from the safety of one’s living room or from those books and publications decorating dusty bookshelves and coffee tables all over the world.

“Afghanistan is dangerous,” they say. “It is too risky to travel there. One needs to be protected, escorted, equipped and insured in order to function in that wild and lawless country even for one single day, or just a few hours.”

Source: AFGHANISTAN: Examining the Myths, the Lies and the Legends ~ Andre Vltchek

I have often bitched about our strategy in Afghanistan….basically the lack of a strategy….there are many armchair generals out there that give advice…..

Pakistan’s sponsorship of the Taliban is the main reason for the continued stalemate in Afghanistan after almost 16 years. To be sure, there are other ancillary factors that help explain the instability, but Pakistan is the key reason.

The war in Afghanistan will not end, or it will end badly unless the U.S.-led Coalition and its Afghan partners compel Pakistan to cease its malign conduct.

What a win looks like.

A ‘win’ in Afghanistan would not resemble the win in World War II where the Allies thoroughly defeated and then received the unconditional surrenders of Germany and Japan.  The end will be negotiated and conditional.

Source: To ‘Win’ in Afghanistan, Devise a Strategy and Do Not Quit | RealClearDefense

Rah Rah!

Then some see this conflict as a loss and no matter the plan will remain so……

There is a case for a deliberate U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Afghan government remains divided and weak, its security forces will take years of expensive U.S. and allied support to become fully effective, and they may still lose even with such support. Afghanistan is no more likely to become a future center of terrorist attacks outside its borders than many other weak and unstable countries.

Both Afghanistan and a troublesome Pakistan have only marginal strategic interest to the U.S. relative to many other areas where the U.S. can use its resources. Moreover, leaving the region places the security and aid burden on Russia, China, and local states—forcing the countries that do have major strategic interests in the region to take on the burden or live with the consequences.

Source: How the Trump Administration Is Losing Afghanistan | RealClearWorld

And then there is those that feel a new way forward would be a better strategy…..what that is is anybody’s guess.

Even the president is extremely unhappy with the situation ion Afghanistan…..to the point of shouting…..

President Trump isn’t happy about the situation in Afghanistan and his proposed solution is one that will be familiar to Celebrity Apprentice viewers, insiders say. Sources tell Reuters that during a July 19 meeting in the White House Situation Room, an angry Trump said military leaders should consider firing Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, over his performance. “We aren’t winning,” Trump said, per the sources, described as senior administration officials. “We are losing.” Trump also complained about NATO allies and said the US should demand some of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion mineral wealth, the officials say.

Trump complained that China was profiting from Afghanistan’s mineral wealth under a deal set up a decade ago. According to NBC‘s sources, Trump “startled” military advisers including Defense Secretary James Mattis with an anecdote comparing their advice to that of a New York restaurant consultant who cost a business profits with lousy advice about renovating a kitchen. He suggested the owner should have talked to the waiters instead. Trump ended the two-hour meeting without a decision on a new US strategy for South Asia. Pentagon sources say Mattis returned from the meeting “visibly upset” and went for a long walk to clear his head.

As my reader can see….Afghanistan is a real mess and NO one seems to have the answer to the situation.

But yet there is a proposal headed to the Pentagon…..a private army to Afghanistan to takeover the fight….for profit…..

President Trump is said to be frustrated with progress in the 16-year-old Afghanistan war, and a familiar name in US military circles is offering an unprecedented solution. Blackwater founder Erik Prince has floated a plan to the White House that it turn over most of its military duties in the country to private contractors, reports USA Today. The US currently has 8,400 troops there, though their mission is to train and advise, not engage in combat. Prince would replace them with 5,500 contractors, most of them former Special Ops troops. They would be supported by a private air force of about 90 planes. One key point: They would wear Afghan uniforms and operate under Afghan command.

“At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working,” says Prince. “Maybe we say that at 16 years.” The newspaper says defense chief Jim Mattis and national security adviser HR McMaster are leery, while adviser Steve Bannon is more open to the idea. The Navy Times notes that the proposal would likely run into legal trouble. Current defense law stipulates that “the use of combat power against enemy forces or hostile actors is inherently in the purview of the U.S. government.” Contractors can provide assistance, but Prince’s plan goes way beyond that. The former Navy SEAL says it would cost about $10 billion year, far less than the Pentagon’s current annual outlay of $40 billion.

An army of mercenaries to do the fighting….sounds a lot like Italy in the 15th century.

I will continue to keep my readers up on the developments in Afghanistan as confusing as they are….maybe my attempt will help those readers understand just how hopeless Afghanistan can be.