Showing posts with label World Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World Politics. Show all posts

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Iraq and Ukraine: A Contrast in Superpowers

The news has been good locally with COVID case numbers coming down.  Unfortunately, the news overseas has has dampened these good feelings.  Watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfold I cannot help but think of parallels and differences between what is happening now and what was happening 19 years ago when the U.S. invaded Iraq.  

There were protests in the streets all over the world as well as the U.S. (pictured at the above right) just as there are now all over the world and in Russia itself (pictured at the right).  The protesters in Russia place themselves at greater risk for being arrested than the U.S. antiwar protesters did.  Russian state media is heavily censored with outlets banned from them calling it a war.  In the U.S., there was more self censorship in the corporate controlled media. For example, Phil Donahue's show on MSNBC being canceled in favor of right wing shock jock Michael Savage.

The right here used the excuse of fighting Islamo-fascism for continuing the war even though there was no evidence of a connection between .  In fact, it only lead to the creation of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and it further destabilized the region.  Putin has said that he is fighting neo-Nazis in Ukraine.  It remains to be seen what impact his invasion will have on neo Nazi movements in Europe and throughout the world.

Internationally, neither the U.S. nor Russia had a U.N. security council resolution condemning their actions because both countries, as permanent members of the council, have veto power over any council resolutions.  The U.N General assembly have an emergency session to condemn Russia's actions. 

One hundred and forty one of the 193 member states voted in favor of a resolution to condemn Russia's actions. Russia, Eritrea, Belarus, Syria, and North Korea voted against the it while 35 nations including China abstained. There was no emergency General Assembly meeting to discuss US actions in Iraq.  This is indicative of Russia's lack of core status.


Democracy Now! has a good discussion of Iraq and Ukraine histories.

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Russia and Dependency Theory

Friday, February 25, 2022

Russia and Dependency Theory

The unthinkable has happened.  Russia has invaded Ukraine.  I was clinging to the hope that their actions would not go beyond saber rattling.  Unlike they were in Iraq, U.S. leaders were right in warning about the threat posed by an outsider nation this time.

Dependency theory (DT) is a sociological theory that was formulated in response to modernization theory for how to advance the poorer countries inn the world.  Modernization theory states that countries need to be modernized in order to enable them to feed their populations.  Dependency theory states that poorer nations need to be self sufficient and not dependent on organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Dependecy theory classifies nations as undeveloped, underdeveloped, and developed.  Undeveloped refers to areas with primitive tribal economies that are self sufficient.  These nations are views as being on the periphery.  Underdeveloped refers toto countries indebted to organizations like the World Bank and the IMF in an effort to modernize.  These nations are categorized as being on the semi-periphery.  Fully developed countries are in the core and exploit the periphery and semi periphery for resources.

Wars can be explained by dependency theory.  Germany fought World Wars I and II because, in spite of their achievements in art and science, they were not given core status.  They were punished severely after WWI which created resentment that Hitler could exploit.  

After their defeat Germany was finally given core status by the U.S. in the west and the Soviets in the east.  In return for allowing Germany to reunify in 1990, Gorbachev was promised by George H.W. Bush that NATO would not expand eastward.  This promise was broken by later Presidents.  NATO expanded into the former Soviet bloc states like Poland and Slovakia and their former republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Russia was sanctioned by the west and excluded from the G-8 summit after they annexed the Crimean peninsula.  They commenced the invasion after western countries refused to promise that Ukraine would not be added to NATO.  Further sanctions are unlikely to stop the current Russian aggression.  Further expansion of NATO is totally unacceptable for them.

Of course none of this justifies Russian aggression just as it did not justify German aggression in the last century.  Dependency theory does help explain their actions.  Russia's status is semi-periphery.  There is still time to avert a third world war.  It was averted in the Cuban Missile Crisis when the U.S. agreed to withdraw nuclear missiles from Turkey in return for the U.S.S.R.s withdrawal from Cuba.  

We've already used the stick with Russia, it's now time to try the carrot.  I did suggest in previous posts that inclusion of Russia into NATO might give them the status that they seek.  I know such an action is unlikely.  Inclusion might corral them.  Greece and Turkey almost went to war over Cyprus in 1974 and were prevented from doing so as they were both members of NATO.

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Russian Saber Rattling over NATO?

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Monday, January 24, 2022

Russian Saber Rattling over NATO?

All this talk of war with Russia and Ukraine is the last thing we need.  With climate change and coronavirus we need more cooperation not more death and destruction.  Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Nation magazine gives a good review of the history behind this standoff. 


It started at the end of the cold war in 1990.  In return for dissolving the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc in Eastern Europe and allowing Germany to reunify, Gorbachev was promised by George HW Bush that NATO (the western military alliance formed after WWII) would not be expanded eastward toward Russia's border.

This promise was broken when Clinton took office as can be seen in the above map.  Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary were admitted to NATO in 1999.  This continued under Bush, Obama, and Trump right up to Russia's borders with the admission of Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) and other former Iron Curtain state.  Any possible addition of Ukraine into NATO is totally unacceptable for Russia.

With Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, they were excluded from G8 summit of economic powers.  They also received many other economic sanctions including their athletes not being allowed to compete in the Olympics under their flag.  With Russia's history of paranoia of foreign invaders from the Mongols to Hitler, it should be easy to understand their obstinance over NATO expansion.

We have already tried the stick in dealing with Russia with little success.  Maybe it's time for a carrot to improve relations.  Let's come back from the brink.

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Protests and Pandemics: Lessons from History

Watching the developments of the past week were surprising even to me. Were the up swelling of protests over the death of George Floyd and the corona virus pandemic totally unrelated?  Is Trump's generally incompetent leadership a factor?  The mostly peaceful demonstrations have been occurring just as the turbulent restriction from the pandemic are being lifted.  Do people just have more time now to pay attention to the news surrounding Floyd's death?  History may provide some clues.

The late 1910s were a largely forgotten turbulent time in our nation's history.  We had just entered World War I, the battle over women's right to vote was reaching a critical stage, the brutal race riots in Tulsa, OK were happening just as the Ku Klux Klan was becoming a national force, and of course the Spanish Flu epidemic was rampaging globally,  None of these things occurred in a vacuum.  

The Spanish Flu may not have originated in Spain but it was the first country to report on it as the news was censored in the neighboring countries fighting in World War I.  It unknown where the pandemic started but it was first observed in Europe just as U.S. soldiers arrived there in 1918.  Returning soldiers brought it back home with them and it spread quickly.  Worldwide it killed approximately 50 million and in the U.S. the death toll was around 675,000.

While this was going on the suffragettes led by Alice Paul were getting close to the Seneca Falls convention of 1848's goal of achieving votes for women.  Woodrow Wilson eventually was convinced to support the amendment along with the proposed 18th amendment to usher in prohibition.  The suffragettes hoped that prohibiting drinking would curb domestic violence against women. 

Maurice Decaul: Commentary on "Close Ranks" and "Returning Soldiers" by W.E.B. Du Bois from The Gilder Lehrman Institute on Vimeo.

African American's fought in World War I hoping that it would improve their standing in society, it did not.  They came home to the same racism that they had experiences before.  W.E.B. DuBois had supported Wilson but was disappointed when they returned home.  Two years later things exploded when lynchings occurred and the KKK began a resurgence.  Things came to a boiling point when a race riot occurred in 1919 in Chicago and the  deadliest race massacre in U.S. history in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921.  In Johnstown, PA, another racial incident occurred in the Rosedale section when African American and Mexicans were driven out of the city in response to the shooting of police officers.

In addition to these other issues the government was involved in the Palmer raids which were conducted against suspected communists who had just come to power in Russia.  This was a precursor to the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's.  The socialist Presidential candidate Eugene Debs and Alice Paul were briefly imprisoned as a result.

These problems were exacerbated by small economic depression which followed the war.  In response to all of this, Warren G. Harding ran for president where he promised a "return to normalcy" from the turbulence of the last years of Wilson's Presidency.  He won in a landslide with the votes of women who could vote for the first time.  The roaring 20's and the corruption and hypocrisy of prohibition followed.

History does not repeat itself but it does rhyme sometimes.  Many of the same forces at work then are at work now.  Mostly peaceful protests occurred in response to the death of George Floyd as in the video above.  Joe Biden may be successful running as a normalcy president but will he be able to address all of these forces in a way that Trump is unwilling to?

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Trump's GOP Opposition in Utah Gave Romney Some Backbone

Mitt Romney becoming the first Senator in the President's party to vote to convict on one of the charges in Trump's impeachment trial did raise some eyebrows.  It may not be as surprising given that he and Trump have butted heads.  However other Republicans who have butted heads, with Trump in the past, such as Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz, were fine with giving him a blank check for future abuses of power.  Could there be another explanation for Romney's not towing the line?

Utah has been one of the reddest states in the union for decades having not voted for a Democrat since 1964.  In 2012 Romney received 72% of the vote there over Barack Obama for President.  That was the highest percentage of the vote he received that year. He received 63% of the vote when he ran for the Senate there in 2018.  

The election numbers for the state look different in 2016 for Utah.  Ted Cruz won the GOP caucus there with 69% of the vote.  In the general election, Trump won the state with only 45% of the vote.  Independent candidate Evan McMullin received 21% of the vote in the state while Hillary Clinton received 27.8% that year.  

This year, the support for Donald Trump in Utah is at 52% as of December 2019 while his disapproval is at 44%.  This gives him a +8% net approval rating.  At the same time, neighboring Wyoming is the state with the strongest net approval rating with +27% (62% approve and 35% disapprove).  

These numbers were not enough to persuade Utah's other Senator, Mike Lee, to vote to convict, but clearly they did not dissuade Romney from doing so.  It may still be a tall order to get the state to go blue this fall but it clearly has an independent streak with lukewarm support for Trump.  William Weld should spend a lot of time campaigning there.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Assange, Manning, and Snowden Thoughts

I am forced to post once a week on my blog as I am working on my book.  I feel that I have to comment on the arrests of Julian Assange and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden's continued exile in Russia.  Some like Noam Chomsky below see it as a blatant violation of freedom of the press.  Others see it as necessary to protect counter terrorism operations.

There is a sexual assault allegation against Assange in Sweden which may or may not be true and which was the original reason for him to be ensconced at the Ecuadorian embassy.  He is also charged in the US with working with Manning to hack into a defense department account for classified info that he (he was a he then) did not have access to.  It is so far unclear if Assange will be extradited to the US or Sweden.

Snowden remains in Russia with asylum from the government.  Russia hasn't always been a paragon of virtue on civil liberties and the freedom of the press.  His asylum could be revoked at any time and he would have to face the music in the US.  

It is always dangerous to be a whistle blower at the highest level of the US power structure. It takes a lot of bravery to challenge the powers that be.  For me it is possible to learn a lot by investigating publicly available data.  I have no desire to have access to national security data as it is increasingly dangerous to work with.  Having access to a small piece of data can be easily misinterpreted when the proper context is not understood.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

George HW Bush a Paragon of Virtue?

1988 was the first year I voted.  The candidates the major parties for President that year were George HW Bush and Michael Dukakis.  I was a freshman at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania).  It was my first lesson in how ugly politics can be. 

Bush won that year by falsely claiming that Dukakis was against reciting the pledge of allegiance in schools, by insinuating that African-American criminals would attack you with the Willie Horton ads, and by falsely claiming that he would not raise taxes.  As President he launched military excursions in three out of the four of the years that he was President in Panama, Iraq, and Somalia.  Bush may have been a nice man if you meet him in person but his bite was far worse than his bark.

People now blame Trump and Palin for promoting stupidity in politics but it began long before anyone took them seriously.  Bush appointed Dan Quayle as his Vice President who made gaffes that would foreshadow Trump and Palin.  He blamed the riots that happened in Los Angeles after the policeman who beat Rodney King were acquitted on the TV show Murphy Brown.  Qualye was picked to placate the Christian right who had doubts on Bush's past support for abortion rights.

Bush's military attacks in Iraq and Panama killed hundreds of thousands of people and sowed the seeds of resentment against the US in Central America and the Muslim world.  Some may have thought his attack on Iraq was justified because of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait but he had no interested in diplomacy working.  Osama bin Laden, who first cut his teeth as a fighter against the Soviets in the 1980's with US funding, turned on the US when US troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia.  Another future terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, fought in the Gulf War where he learned his munition skills and later bombed the Federal building in Oklahoma City five years later in response to the botched Federal assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco.  

Bush lost his bid for reelection in 1992 with 38% of the vote as the economy soured.  He made one last military excursion into Somalia which led to the deaths of 18 US soldiers and the growth of an al Qaida affiliate there.  Clinton later became chummy with Bush and mostly continued his policies.

In 2001 his son George W Bush became President in a disputed election and soon faced the 9/11 attacks and sent troops into Iraq and Afghanistan.  His son blamed his father's loss on breaking his no new taxes pledge and not finishing off Saddam Hussein and took an even more aggressive stance on those issues.  He won reelection by using the Swift Boat Veterans to sow doubt about his opponent and had blanket positive coverage from Fox News. This lead to the growth of ISIS and the Great Recession.  

Trump dropped all pretenses of niceties and the Republican base loved it.  He trounced son Jeb Bush in the primaries but now must play nice with the Bushes on the senior Bush's funeral after losing the House in the midterms.  Bush was cloak and dagger.  Trump is all dagger.  It's a sad commentary of how far our politics have sunken that Bush is now a paragon of political virtue.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Trump is Popular on the Economy but not Foreign Policy

Much has been written about how Trump's popularity inched up from a low of 37% (according to the Real Clear Politics (RCP) poll average) in December 2017 to 43% in June of 2018.  It has stubbornly remained around 43% ever since as can be seen in the graph above.  His disapproval ratings have fluctuated between 52% and 54% over the same period.

Much less reported is Trump's approval ratings on the economy.  The RCP average of polls on this question is 50.8%, a slight majority.  The polls used to create this average over the last two months can be seen in the image above.  The approval ratings of these polls range from 49% to 55%.  The letter RV next to the sample size for the poll means that they limited their sample to registered voters.  The A next to the sample size means that all Americans were included in the sample.  There is no graph showing how this rating has changed over time but the few times I have looked at this average has been consistent.  His disapproval ratings on the economy average to 42% and range from 36% to 47%.  There aren't as many polls on this question as there are on his overall popularity.  

One poll that is absent from the above table in Rasmussen Reports.  They come out almost daily with overall approval ratings for Trump ranging from 46% to 50%.  They restrict their sample to likely voters (the only ones in the RCP average to do so) and their estimates are consistently the most generous to Trump.

There are even fewer polls asking about Trump's approval on Foreign Policy.  Not surprisingly the RCP average on this is lower than his overall approval rating and his approval rating on the economy at 40.7%.  Rasmussen's polls are not on this question either.  

For the generic congressional race polls the Democrats have a 6.8% lead in the RCP average.  Only Rasmussen limits their sample to likely voters the rest use registered voters on this question.  These numbers have been more volatile than the approval ratings for Trump.  Gerrymandering in many states gives the GOP an advantage in states where the two parties have an equal number of voters.  Pennsylvania just had it's congressional districts redrawn and it remains to be seen what impact it will have.

The Republicans running this year probably will stress the economy while Democrats should be stressing Trump's foreign policy as his approval ratings are weaker there. This doesn't mean that Democrats should ignore domestic/economic issues such as health care, immigration, climate change, and income inequality.  Foreign policy provides a fuller picture.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

A Proposal to Fix Relations with Russia: Russia in NATO

Much has been made of Trump and Russia.  Did the Russians sabotage the 2016 elections?  Do they have a disgusting tape of Trump with Russian women?  Did Trump commit an impeachable offense in firing FBI director James Comey?  Are Trump's Tweets an asinine Tweets merely a distraction from the real issues we face.  I don't know the answers to these questions (except possibly the last one) but this is clear: NATO expansion right up to Russia's borders in unacceptable for them.

Right at the end of the Soviet Union, George H.W Bush made a promise to Mikhail Gorbachev that in return for allowing Germany to reunite and the USSR to break up, NATO would not expand eastward towards Russia's borders.  This promise, which was never made in writing, was later broken by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama by including Poland and 13 other former subservient Soviet States.  

Russia, with it's long history of invasions (from the Mongols to Hitler), and suspicions of foreign intervention is now taking steps to reassert it's position in the region.  This is done through it's annexing of the Crimean Peninsula from the Ukraine, it's intervention in the war in Syria on the side of longtime ally Bashar Assad, granting Edward Snowden asylum, and possibly it's collusion with Donald Trump.  

My take on this is, why take on a new cold war with Russia with so many other problems in the world, namely climate change, terrorism, human trafficking, and others.  Is there a way to have a new detente` (the deescalation of the cold war in the 1970s) with Russia?  One proposal I and others have would be to allow Russia to join NATO for global security.  The west would not like it because it would give them a veto over NATO actions.

Allowing Russia to join NATO would give them a say in how NATO works.  This would allay their fears of western intentions.  Most conflicts arise when nations feel that their status in the world is threatened.  Germany, Japan, and Italy pursued WWII because they felt that they were shunned after WWI.  We worked with the Russians to defeat the Germans and their allies in WWII, we need to work with them to solve the world's problems now.

I don't know how the Russians would respond to an offer of NATO membership.  This Idea is not originally mine.  Putin jokes about it in the clip above but doesn't believe it would ever happen.  The nature of the discussions in the western media have been one sided and I haven't seen Oliver Stone's interviews with Putin.  I believe it is a proposal worth exploring in the west.  This site does get traffic from Russia.  Will this post bring in more traffic from here or the west?

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Comparing the 6th Year of CSI wo Dead Bodies to the 5th: More Engagement from Russia

For my 6th anniversary post, instead of just listing my most popular posts, I thought I would take a look at how traffic to the site has changed over the past year (9/29/2015 to 9/28/2016) compared to the previous year (9/29/2014 to 9/28/2015).  The measures I chose are listed in the Google Analytics output below in the Times-Roman font.  The graph at the top shows the total sessions for each month with increased sessions for every month of the last year compared to the previous year except for the months of May and August.

The total sessions (when someone visits the blog), total pageviews (the total posts visited on the blog), and number of users (unique individuals who visit the blog) for the period increased by 34.04%, 22.09%, and 36.96% respectively.  The number of pages per session and the average pages per session decreased in the last year by 8.91% and 13.21% respectively.  This suggests that while the number of visits to the page have increased in the past year, the level of engagement has declined slightly which is to be expected as a wider audience is reached.  

Beneath these statistics are the charts for the % of new visitors to the site for both years.  This % increased by 2.07% which shows that hew users are coming to the site more often.  The bounce rate (the% of single page visits) increased by 26% which corresponds to the decreased engagement.   

At the bottom of the output, the top countries from where the number of sessions come are listed with the United States of course coming out on top.  The total number of sessions from the US increased by 32.1% while the its share of the total number of sessions decreased slightly by 1.4%.  This indicates a greater share of foreign traffic to the site.  The countries with larger % increases in sessions are Iraq (2100%), India (196.15%), Russia (191.67%), Canada (80.65%), and ones where the country is not set (69.86%).  

The increased foreign traffic raises thoughts of hackers or surveillance as the Russians have been accused of hacking into various election servers.  I have no data that I haven't publicized on the election.  As programmers would say the information on this site is open source available to all.  Looking at the level of engagement from Russia the bounce rate increased by 44% while the average time on the page increased by 1382.79%.  In India it decreased by 75.39%, in Canada it increased by 37.06%, in Iraq it decreased by 100%, and in areas where the country was not set it decreased by 93.71%.  This suggests greater engagement from Russia.  Looking at the cities that the traffic is coming from are Moscow, Sverdlovsk Oblast, St. Petersburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, and Novosibirsk Oblast.  An oblast is a state in RussiaThese are remote states in Russia where the time on the page was the highest.  I don't know if these are intelligence gatherers or just curious Russians.

Select a metric
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016: Blue Line
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015: Orange Line
Oc…January 2016April 2016July 2016250250500500
3,989 vs 2,976
3,346 vs 2,443
11,671 vs 9,559
Pages / Session
2.93 vs 3.21
Avg. Session Duration
00:00:48 vs 00:00:56
Bounce Rate
47.93% vs 37.80%
% New Sessions
83.20% vs 81.52%
New Visitor
Returning Visitor
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016
16.8% 83.2%
New Visitor3,320 Sessions
Returning Visitor669 Sessions
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015
18.5%81.5%New Visitor2,426 Sessions (81.5%)
New Visitor2,426 Sessions
Returning Visitor550 Sessions

CountrySessions% Sessions
United States
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 20163,08277.26%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 20152,33378.39%
% Change32.10%-1.44%
United Kingdom
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 20162015.04%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 20151334.47%
% Change51.13%12.75%
(not set)
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 20161243.11%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015732.45%
% Change69.86%26.73%
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016771.93%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015260.87%
% Change196.15%120.95%
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016701.75%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015240.81%
% Change191.67%117.60%
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016561.40%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015311.04%
% Change80.65%34.77%
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016411.03%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015351.18%
% Change17.14%-12.61%
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016270.68%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015210.71%
% Change28.57%-4.08%
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016250.63%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 2015210.71%
% Change19.05%-11.18%
Sep 29, 2015 - Sep 28, 2016220.55%
Sep 28, 2014 - Sep 28, 201510.03%
% Change2,100.00%1,541.31%
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