Vladimir Putin: Leadership Redefined

Posted December 26, 2014 on 11:34 pm | In the category Obama, Politics, Press, Russia, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

“We don’t need tough guys. We need wise guys. We’ve tried tough guys, and it always ends in tears. Tough guys you know right away because they’re never scared of a fight. Wise guys you only know in retrospect, when you remember that they quietly walked away from the fight that now has the tough guy in a hospital.” Adam Gopnik, The NewYorker Magazine

As 2014 winds down we find the two Putins – the Russian Vladimir and Turkish President -Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – struggling to maintain their images of power, strength and competence. I’ll save Erdogan for a later posting, but for the Russian Putin the struggle has become increasingly difficult. This is in spite of the admiration expressed by the likes of America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, former Chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers and Fox News TV evangelist, Mike Huckabee. In fact,reviewing the past year or two, commentators from both respected and semi-respected media outlets have nourished the fantasies of the right wing by questioning Obama’s manhood while praising Putin’s bare chested virility. This has included analysts from beltway think tanks, the editorial board of the once great Washington Post and, of some note, the NYTimes’ columnist Maureen Dowd, who has consistently whined that Obama is not an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie character. Honoring Putin’s heroic posturing following his takeover of the Crimea, Rogers said that “Putin played chess” while Obama played marbles; Giuliani commented that Putin defined “leadership” while poor Obama spent too much time “thinking”. As for erstwhile presidential candidate and Fox News analyst, Mike Huckabee, he said “I know the only time that Vladimir Putin shivers is when he takes his shirt off in a cold Russian winter”, as opposed to poor old thoughtful Obama. Other notable comments on Putin’s manly leadership included these from some of America’s finest blowhards:

  1. “Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everyone’s eyes roll, including mine,” noted war lover Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
  2. “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil,” Former Alaska Gov. and heartbeat away from the presidency VP candidate, Sarah Palin said. “They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”
  3. “This is Putin running rings about us. There’s no question what’s going on here, is Vladimir Putin is reassembling the Soviet Union,” said conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
  4. “The Ukrainians, and I think everybody, is shocked by the weakness of Obama’s statement,” Fox’s (noted psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer said. “What he’s saying is, we’re not really going to do anything.”
  5. “For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality,” wrote the once great Washington Post’s editorial board.
  6. “President Obama’s attempt to seek peace through apologetic diplomacy while defunding and dismantling our military has failed. Today, our enemies don’t fear us and our allies no longer respect us,” Senator and noted climate change denier Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.
  7. “The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) “If Putin’s illegal actions are allowed to stand unpunished, it will usher in a dark and dangerous era in world affairs.”

So here we are some months after Obama did not get involved in a war in Ukraine and Putin is watching helplessly as the Russian economy goes in the toilet, and realizes belatedly that Obama’s sanctions combined with the drop in oil prices has pushed Russia into a catastrophic recession. He is forcing Russian companies to sell dollars in a hopeless attempt to strengthen the Russian ruble and the Central bank has increased its interest rate to 16% ensuring a disastrous 2015 for Russia’s economy. Perhaps Putin is now asking himself how he will pay the high costs of maintaining the Crimea as a vital part of his new Russian empire. American commentators seem puzzled by the success of Obama’s foreign policy moves that have placed a premium on avoiding direct American military involvement, invoking diplomacy over confrontation and waging economic war via sanctions over sending Americans to defend other countries’ interests. While many in American politics and the press have conveniently forgotten the lessons of America’s disastrous 2003 Iraq invasion, almost automatically seeking ways for American military might to be utilized, Obama has continued to resist the temptation to send American troops into foreign battles that do not threaten our vital national interests.

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Keeping the home fires burning

Posted December 5, 2014 on 12:11 am | In the category Canada | by Mackenzie Brothers

In a seemingly desperate attempt to dispel the conventional image of Canada as a splendid place to live, but unfortunately a really boring place unless you are being attacked by a herd of grizzlys or a lone wolf. its self-apponted national newspaper, The Toronto Globe and Mail, affectionally known as the Maple Leaf Rag, brought excitement to its front page on Wednesday, Dec 3 by boldly confronting proposed changes in the national film industry.
Now in film history Canada may be best known for allowing its cities to be dandied up to pose as US cities in schlock films and tv series, or for developing a series of brilliant directors almost all of whom are French-speaking Quebeckers. But during the Christmas holidays its signature brand is such a minimalist idea that much of the world now is threatening to copy it as it reflects a more simple way of life.  In Sweden they spend the holidays looking at Donald Duck films, in Norway at lampposts, in Germany grotesque quizzes, but in Canada they look at logs burning cheerily in a fireplace and have done so for a long time. There they are – a bunch of logs peacefully burning away in a pleasant log cabin room where all the grizzlys are outside longingly staring in through the becurtained windows.

But all things, even the most successful and exciting ones, must come to an end and the producers of this classic show have announced that the fire itself will be updated by being filmed anew in high definition. No major changes in the plot will take place, but the hand that occasionally comes in and pokes at the logs will have to be refilmed  and strife has broken out between the chap who originally provided the hand 20 years ago and  young whippersnappers who feel they should now be given the chance to poke away. And the flannel shirt itself that is visible above the hand will have to be replaced by a new flannel shirt  that  reflects more modern tastes in flannel shirt colours.  It remains to be seen whether these deeply disturbing problems can be resolved peacefully, but there is no doubt that The Toronto Globe and Mail has done the print media a real service by drawing this to the readers’ attention on its front page, thus ensuring an even larger audience in front of the tv fireplace this holiday season.

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POLICE: FRIEND OR FOE?

Posted December 3, 2014 on 10:49 pm | In the category Police, Police brutality, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“Always Remember… Once You Give Up Your Rights, You Can Never Get Them Back. Once You Turn On That Police State, You Can Never Turn It Off.”
― Ziad K. Abdelnour

America is caught up in an all too familiar argument about the relationships among young black males, mostly white police departments, the press, politicians and the general public. And it would be a real dandy if it addressed the reality of what has happened in America in recent years. This is the case especially since the 9/11 attacks that have contributed to a level of free floating existential fear, furthered by a host of American politicians, aided and abetted by a mediocre – or worse – media..

The Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri subverted the discussion by directing it to the narrow and away from the broad. The narrow allowed people to argue that Mr. Brown was a “thug” because he pushed a convenience store employee and stole some cigarillos. It allowed people to argue that he was a very big and very black and ergo a very scary guy. Therefore for some, he deserved to die. The narrow also allowed the discussion to accept as truth the carefully scripted grand jury testimony of the policeman without any questioning by – for instance – the prosecutor – at the grand jury proceedings. So be it. The dice were loaded, the game was fixed. Few of us were surprised.

The police in America have way more power than they should or that they deserve, given past behavior. They work for us and we do not expect them to play dress up in Camo duds to come out and scare us. We expect them to be on our side and that does not include killing people because the are big and black. But the problem – while largely one suffered by young black males – is not and will not be restricted to them. We are giving the police in America powers they do not need, do not deserve, and that in the end will haunt us all.

Michael Brown was one in a long line of victims of criminal police action. Tonight a grand jury refused to indict a NY policeman who choked an unarmed black man to death with the help of three or four additional cops – on video. No indictment from that grand jury. Last week a 12 year old black child in Cleveland was shot for holding a toy gun. The excuse? The yellow tag that identified it as a toy had been removed. The reality? The cops arrived, waited less than 2 seconds and blasted him into the history books. But these well-reported cases are the tip of the iceberg. From May 2013 to today over 1450 people have been killed by American police. Some were no doubt bad people – perhaps deserving to die – but there is simply too much evidence in the public domain to ignore the fact that the people we hired to protect us have become one of our major threats. In 2013, 111 police were reported to have died in duty 46 died in traffic accidents; 33 by gunfire and 14 by heart attack, the rest by various means. So a total of 33 by gunfire (although the report does not indicate whether it was friendly fire or suicide – neither uncommon).

The basic issue sits out there. How afraid are we? 9/11 happened 13 years ago; can we please get over it? Apparently not. But why would we foster the development of a police state that infringes on all of our freedoms and that becomes more dangerous than the so-called enemy and provides no real increased protection? The police work for us. We pay them more than we pay our teachers while requiring less training and background. Then we give them guns and a badge and they become a national nightmare. And then we give them tanks and assault weapons and camouflage uniforms. And then they begin to believe that they are all powerful and can get away with murder. And guess what? They can and they do.

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