End of April Political Potpourri

The spring semester has ended and it's time to air some ideas that have been rattling in my brain for a while.

Those who read these pages know I've found Barack Obama to be a maddeningly uneven and indecisive leader. Sometimes I wonder if he has the makeup to take on Republicans. I will say, however, that Jeffrey Goldberg's piece in the April edition of The Atlantic induced newfound respect for the president's foreign policy. The president at the very least has the cojones to take on fellow Democrats. Goldberg details Obama's grand plan, one summed up by the phrase: "Don't do stupid shit." The phrase is trite, but the president's rationale for what he has chosen to do and not do is among the more reasoned articulations of foreign policy I've heard in quite a while. It will also give pause to those who trumpet Hillary Clinton's foreign policy expertise. You should read this piece, but among the highlights are:

·      Obama recognizes that Saudi Arabia is a problematic ally and has taken steps to break the cozy relations it has had with previous administrations.
·      Obama has, on several occasions, shut down warhawks in his administration, chief among them Susan Rice, Leon Panneta, and Hillary Clinton. This applies also to a lesser degree to John Kerry as well, whom he took to the woodshed for forgetting the lesson he learned in Vietnam.
·      Obama has told all who encourage him to launch new ventures that it would be a good idea to end the foolish wars Bush undertook before starting new ones!
·       Obama considers Pakistan a failed state. (And who can debate that?)
·      A big revelation: Obama thinks that we are on the cusp of a post-oil world, that the Middle East of diminishing importance to America, and that we ought to be shifting American priorities toward Asia.
·      That Syria is of little significance to America, ISIS poses no direct threat to us, and there is little about Syria that would justify US intervention.
·      That he wants the United States to stop fighting proxy wars for Europe and Japan.

There is much more. Read this piece.

My students some times ask me if George W. Bush was the "worst' president in American history. I used to say "no" and cite a few I thought were much worse: James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding, maybe Nixon…. After reading Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush By Robert, Sam, and Nat Perry, I need to reevaluate. I'll stick with Buchanan as worst, but I'm ready to move Dubya into the 2 or 3 slot. The Parrys offer compelling evidence that the Bush family has systematically sold America down a Saudi river, that they kowtowed at every step to oil companies, that the 2000 election was blatantly stolen, that the Iraq war was a fraud, that Bush and his team rewrote evidence to suit their needs, that they slandered John Kerry in 2004, and that they were driven by an evangelical apocalyptic agenda that placed the United States in grave danger. Other revelations:

·      Colin Powell was no hero, rather an ambitious flunky willing to spout lines he knew to be false for the sake of personal promotion.
·      That the media cravenly favored Bush over Gore and Kerry and traded objectivity for "access" to the White House.
·      That there was systematic program to isolate and marginalize any voice that dared disagreed with predetermined security conclusions.
·      That Bush was willing to put Valerie Plame in physical danger to punish her husband, whose investigation into an alleged Saddam Hussein dirty weapon scheme determined it wasn't true.
·      That Bush was a climate change denier.
·      That Bush had plenty of advance warning about 9/11 but he and  his team lacked the skill to interpret the data.
·      That ideology, not fact, drove most White House decisions.
·      That the U.S. Constitution was little more than a minor inconvenience in the ruthless pursuit of a national security state.

If Sweet Tree prevails, this will...
There's a brouhaha boiling in the maple syrup vats of Vermont. A conglomerate, Sweet Tree Holdings, has jumped into syrup production and moving it toward a mass-production business model. It assures small producers that it will be good for all producers and is no threat—soon we'll have new products (like maple-flavored water), hybrid syrups, and new overseas markets. This comes from a firm that's a holding company spin-off of an insurance firm. Sure—pull the other one; it's got bells on it. If there is a bigger fraud ever perpetuated on American workers than free trade, I wouldn't know what it would be. I heard the same BS when I was a kid and saw Hershey buy or impose its corporate discipline on virtually every dairy in south-central PA. Now a family dairy farm is as rare as US steel mill. Governor Shumlin and Vermont state regulators need to put the kibosh to this disaster-in-making for Vermont's iconic product. Don't bet on it. He's a Democrat, after all–the world's first spineless mammal.  

...give way to this.

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