Monday Reads: To War or Not to War, That is the Question

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Today is President’s Day which is basically the day we celebrate the myths of the men holding the position.  While I intend to focus on the Ukraine situation, I did trip across this article in Politico that made me wonder if we should just call the entire holiday off. It’s like Colombus day which basically celebrates the invasion of a mass murderer, enslaver, and rapist so evil that his royal funders refused to pay him on his return. I shudder at the thought of celebrating a holiday that includes that orange monster that we can’t seem to get rid of and then the other racists and mass murderers that need a good bit of daylight to show who they were and what they did.  Andrew Jackson–the mass murderer and originator of the Trail of Tears–comes to mind.  Then, there the huge number of slave owners we have white washed and basically say it was okay for them to own people including their own children.

“It’s Time To Cancel Presidents Day. By elevating myth over reality, the holiday does a disservice to history.” The article is printed in Politico and penned by John F Harris.

Long-forgotten lives, like the dozens of people killed in the Tulsa race massacre, are being vaulted into public consciousness. More controversially, people who long enjoyed revered status in the national story are being dethroned as national heroes.

Historical reappraisal has been especially vigorous in a particular arena: the U.S. presidency. Woodrow Wilson, a president whose reputation among many historians placed him in the ranks of “near-great” leaders, has in recent years become toxic because of new attention to his deeply prejudiced racial views.

On the other hand, it is still treacherous to take on presidents of Rushmore-sized stature. Liberal San Francisco voters recently evicted school board members whom they judged too preoccupied with left-wing advocacy, including efforts to rename public schools honoring George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

The presidency itself, like so many aspects of American culture, is now in the middle of ideological crossfire between left and right. Is there a way that the center can find its voice in arguments about the presidency?

Yes, there is. A good way to start would be to cancel the day we mark today: “Presidents Day.”

One hastens to add: The aim is not to “cancel,” in the contemporary sense of the word, any particular president. Lincoln and Washington — the two presidents most closely linked with Presidents Day — face stiff challenges when judged by contemporary standards, but they aren’t the targets here. Instead, it is the notion of Presidents Day — an inane name for a dubious concept that is less a show of genuine respect for American history than an insult to it.

The problems with Presidents Day are intertwined with a basic challenge of how Americans think about their history — or, really, how the people of any country think about their national story. There are two conceptions of what it means to learn history — always in tension with each other, and sometimes in flat contradiction.

The other conception of history is something quite different — a disciplined effort to reconstruct the past as it actually happened. This enterprise relies on evidence that is always fragmentary and on interpretive arguments that are never settled with finality. This brand of history aims to liberate its audience from national mythologies, and its characters are not marble heroes. They can suffer from bad tempers, diarrhea, self-doubt — the last entirely justified, given that, unlike people who will later study their histories, they have no idea what’s about to happen next, or how their decisions will look in hindsight.

So while one style of history studies the past in search of moral clarity, the other is attuned to moral ambiguity. One kind of history aims to create national heroes. The other kind — even when it is not expressly aimed at demolishing heroes — can’t help but dismantle the reputations of presidents and other outsize figures, revealing all manner of unheroic traits.

A brand of history that embraces reality over myth, and ambiguity over sharp moral judgments over heroes and villains, ultimately offers far more useful lessons for a democracy.

By Emma, Age 12, She choose to draw him because he was a president and helped abolish slavery.

The author goes on to deconstruct the relevancy of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches in the modern world. It seems that a large number of people prefer propaganda and myth to history. The current kerfuffle over Critical Race theory is just one of the attempts by people that lack critical thinking skills to cover up the sins of their fathers. Here’s a brief introduction to the topic from last May’s EducationWeek.  Laws banning this in Louisiana are currently being hyped in our Lege. 

Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

The basic tenets of critical race theory, or CRT, emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others.

A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.

I have no idea what’s threatening about this. I have said this many times, that I am really fortunate to have a mother who was a history buff and put us in the station wagon to discover the reality of American History. This included the Trail of Tears and where I was born in Oklahoma on the Cherokee strip and the mass murder and theft of Native lands that all ensued.  When she was doing our family genealogy in the 1970s she made it clear that there were slave owners in the family and would bring the copies of the original documents to show me.  She was always clear that our family’s Civil war Soldiers stood firmly with the Union but one after another shocking relative was not whitewashed including the one that signed the Constitution and wrote the Fugitive slave act. My Harvard-educated uncle helped write and defend the policy of Japanese-American internment and as a kid, I witnessed my Public school-educated father ask him how on earth he could do that. My dinner table and vacations were always deep dives into American history and I never suffered any complex at all from knowing the truths even at a very tender age.  It just made me aware of the reality to choose good actions over evil.  Then–if you can–work to unroot all the evil from the system.

I chose him because he was brave and didn’t care about what people said about him. I hope to be like him one day.” -Glory Gezaei, fifth grade, Blessed Sacrament School, Washington, D.C. 2022

So, now the choice is yet another war in Europe and the role NATO will play in restraining or punishing Putin of Russia.  BBC News newly reports that “Ukraine-Russia: Putin mulls recognising independence of breakaway regions.”

Russia will decide today whether to recognise the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has said.The Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been contested by Ukraine and Russia-backed rebels for years, with regular violence despite a ceasefire agreement.

Leaders of both regions asked Russia to recognise their independence on Monday.

But Western powers fear such a move could be used as a pretext for Russia to invade its neighbour

Since 2019, Russia has issued large numbers of passports to people living in the two regions.

Analysts say that if the two regions were recognised as independent, Russia might send troops into Ukraine’s east under the guise of protecting its citizens.

Russia has built up more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, a move which has widely been seen by Western nations as preparation for an imminent invasion. Russia denies any such plans.

“The objective of our meeting today is to listen to colleagues and decide on our next steps in this area,” Mr Putin said.
“I mean both the appeal to Russia made by the heads of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic for the recognition of their sovereignty,” he added.

Several officials at the council meeting spoke up in favour of the move, and the Russian parliament has already asked Mr Putin to recognise their independence.

But the Russian President did not indicate his final decision, saying it would be made later Monday.

This quote is from the Harwood tweet above from CNN.

“Ultimately Putin wants some kind of deal,” Hill said. “They think Biden is the kind of president who could actually make a deal. Trump never could.”

So far, Biden has held NATO allies together in rejecting Russia’s core demands, bolstering their forces in Europe and threatening punishing sanctions even though they guarantee domestic economic blowback. Steeped in decades of bipartisan foreign policy consensus, the Democratic President has also drawn support from top Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who have shunned Trump’s embrace of Putin.

That demonstration of resolve has at minimum made Putin stop and think. Biden has warned for weeks that Russia could launch a new invasion of Ukraine at any time. It hasn’t yet.

“They might have thought we were going to crumble, and we didn’t,” said Hill, who became an American citizen twenty years ago. “It might have deterred a full-scale invasion. Now (Putin) is basically recalibrating, recalculating.”

But durable success for Biden and European allies will depend on staying power. Even if Russian tanks don’t roll across the border, Hill envisions an extended “boa constrictor” siege in which Putin applies escalating pressure in hopes of bending Ukraine to Russia’s will.

“The real challenge is keeping everyone together for a considerable period,” Hill concluded. “It’s going to go on a long time.”

The Guardian reports a different view from the Defense Secretary of the UK.

The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has warned of continued provocation operations orchestrated by the Kremlin, describing them as a ‘strong cause for concern that President Putin is still committed to an invasion’. Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons, Wallace said Russia continues to be ready to attack Ukraine and has increased troop numbers in the region

The next few days of news on the subject should further clarify our risk for a ground war in Europe.

Hope your week goes well!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Monday Reads: Life in War Time

From the creative mind of my friend John Buss @repeat1968

Hello Dear Sky Dancers!

We couldn’t even have a peaceful thanksgiving holiday without the mayhem and mishap placeholder in the White House creating chaos through his policy weakness. Yes, he may have been off golfing and stealing money from the taxpayer to enrich his family crime syndicate, but some terrible things happened yesterday and I just can’t ignore them.

From WAPO: ‘These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas.’

A little girl from Honduras stares into the camera, her young features contorted in anguish. She’s barefoot, dusty, and clad only in a diaper and T-shirt. And she’s just had to run from clouds of choking tear gas fired across the border by U.S. agents.

A second photograph, which also circulated widely and rapidly on social media, shows an equally anguished woman frantically trying to drag the same child and a second toddler away from the gas as it spreads.

The three were part of a much larger group, perhaps 70 or 80 men, women and children, pictured in a wider-angle photo fleeing the tear gas. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon shot the images, which provoked outrage and seemed at odds with President Trump’s portrayal of the caravan migrants as “criminals” and “gang members.”

Trump officials said that authorities had to respond with force after hundreds of migrants rushed the border near Tijuana on Sunday, some of them throwing “projectiles” at Customs and Border Protection personnel.

A migrant girl from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America, cries after running away from tear gas thrown by U.S. border agents. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

I can hardly speak about how wrong this is on all levels. Seeking Asylum is a legal process outlined in treaties we’ve signed. I don’t even know if we’ve got an experience basically lobbing chemical weapons across the border into the country of an ally. I did read this at the same WAPO article:

Trump’s response in an early-morning tweet on Monday was to call for Mexico to return the migrants to their home countries, and to again threaten to “close the border permanently.”

That’s never been done, and experts interviewed by The Washington Post on Sunday night knew of no provision explicitly allowing Trump to permanently close the borders. Most of the border, with the exception of designated crossings, is already closed, which doesn’t stop migrants from entering.

So it probably would not solve Trump’s problems with asylum seekers, who, by law, must be allowed to present their claims if in fact they are able to cross the border anywhere.

“This is yet another of several Trump attempts to change what he disparagingly calls the policy of ‘catch and release’ without or against legal authority,” said Yale Law School’s Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the State Department during the Obama administration. “All have been blocked. What he does not understand,” Koh said in an email, “is that everyone crossing our Southern border is not illegally present. Those with valid asylum claims have a legal right to assert those claims and remain.”

Closing the border “permanently” or otherwise would conflict with the asylum laws, agreed Peter S. Margulies, an immigration law expert at Roger Williams University School of Law.

Had the migrants made it to the border and presented themselves as asylum seekers, U.S. officials would have been required by federal law to consider their claim before sending them back to Mexico. Indeed, they are required to do so whether the migrants cross at a designated point of entry or anywhere else.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar forcefully reminded Trump of that law last week when he issued a nationwide restraining order against the president’s plan to consider asylum requests only from migrants who cross at legal checkpoints. It was Tigar’s ruling that prompted Trump to lash out last week against the “Obama judge” and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which in turn brought a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Trump’s legal options appear limited. “The border is very long,” Margulies told The Post. But if the administration can “stop people just short of the border, there’s a better argument that those people are not entitled to asylum. I think it would be terrible policy and I think it would be morally repugnant,” he said, “but the administration would be on better legal footing.”

Attempting to stop them short of the border appears to be just what Trump may be planning.

I usually don’t copy and paste this much from one source, but the article by Tim Elfrink and Fred Barbash–accompanyied by heart-wrenching photos–was difficult to chop up into small excerpts.

These are really dark times. We now have more children in ICE custody than ever before. The attacks on families seeking aslyum overshadowed this report on jailing children on CBS and Sixty Mintues.

Lee Gelernt: It became such a horrific scene that they started telling the parents, “Oh, your child is just going to take a shower, or just going to get some medical treatment,” and then the parent would never see the child again.

Lee Gelernt is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. In July, he convinced a federal judge to order the reunification of the children. But when the government realized it lost track of many of the parents, the Trump administration told the court reuniting the families was the ACLU’s problem.

Lee Gelernt: The government took these children away from their parents, and then deported hundreds and hundreds of the parents without the children. The judge said, “These parents need to be with their children.” And the government said, “Well, if you wanna find the parents, we don’t know where they are. Let the ACLU look for them.”

This is the Homeland Security order to arrest and detain all adults who crossed illegally to seek asylum. The copy released to the public was censored by the administration. But we’ve obtained what the White House didn’t want the public to see. The document reveals that child separation began nine months earlier than the administration acknowledged. There was a pilot program in the busy “El Paso sector” from “July to November 2017”. We don’t know how many children were taken in those five months. The censored part of the memo explains a reason for the policy — deterrence — as it “will have the greatest impact on current flows” [of immigrants.]

But Cecilia Munoz says the Obama administration found that deterrent messages failed to turn back immigrants.

Cecilia Munoz: And the reason for that is, if your child was told today by the gangs, “Your life is at risk unless you start running drugs for us.” You’re thinking much more about their safety today and tomorrow than you’re thinking about, “What’s going to happen once we get to our destination?”

Jeff Sessions: We are not going to let the country be overwhelmed.

Security was the stated reason for the policy change. One top White House official called immigration an existential threat to America. But Homeland Security’s inspector general found the chaotic implementation of the policy undermined law enforcement. The report says, “instead of patrolling and securing the border, officers had to supervise and take care of children.” And those officers weren’t prepared for their new role, according to Scott Shuchart, who recently left Homeland Security.

We lurch from consitutional and humanitarian crises–of his creation–to the incredible audacity of authoritarian regimes who feel empowered by the lawlessness and transactional greed of what is supposedly the leader of the free world. Russian seized Ukrainian navl ships over the weekend.

Russia has fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Two gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian forces. A number of Ukrainian crew members were injured.

Each country blames the other for the incident. On Monday Ukrainian MPs are due to vote on declaring martial law.

The crisis began when Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters.

The Russians placed a tanker under a bridge in the Kerch Strait – the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.

During a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian actions as “unprovoked and crazy”.

Emboldened by the ineffective foreign policy of Trump and his penchant for adoring strongman, Putin continues to annex the Ukraine.

Tensions in the Sea of Azov have been simmering for months and this weekend its waters came to the boil.

Russian ships opened fire at three Ukrainian naval vessels Sundayafter they attempted to enter the sea.

Ukrainian media reported that 23 crew members were detained, including six who were injured, and the vessels seized.

Kiev’s navy is hugely outgunned and outnumbered by Moscow. Ukraine responded by putting its forces on high alert.

Some Western experts say the Kremlin’s tactics in the Sea of Azov are straight out of the Kremlin playbook.

Analysts have been warning for months that the Azov, which is just under half the size of Lake Superior, is the latest example of Russia carrying out “creeping annexation” — where borders are subtly shifted to take territory, or in this case waters, from former Soviet allies.

There is other quite serious news today.

From the AP: “GM to slash 14,700 jobs in North America”

General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won’t be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. They will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.

About 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck plants.

Another headline from WAPO: “In the United States, right-wing violence is on the rise”. In other words, something wicked this way comes. His reign is the Pandimonium Carnival.

Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.

This year has been especially deadly.Just last month, 13 people died in two incidents: AKentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.

This month brought two more bodies: A military veteran who had railed online against women and blacks opened fire in a Tallahassee yoga studio, killing two women and wounding five. All told, researchers say at least 20 people have died this year in suspected right-wing attacks.

From ABC News: Jared Kushner pushed to inflate Saudi arms deal to $110 billion: Sources: It’s obvious the Saudis have been bailing out his bad business deals. How many foreign interests own the Trump Family Crime Syndicate?

President Donald Trump‘s reluctance to hold Saudi leadership accountable for the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi stemmed from a partly aspirational $110 billion arms deal between the U.S. and Saudia Arabia that was inflated at the direction of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, according to two U.S. officials and three former White House officials.

Kushner, in a bid to symbolically solidify the new alliance between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia while claiming a victory on the president’s first foreign trip to Riyadh, pushed State and Defense officials to inflate the figure with arms exchanges that were aspirational at best, the officials said. Secretary of Defense James Mattis supported Kushner’s effort and ultimately endorsed the memorandum, according to a former NSC official familiar with the matter.

“We need to sell them as much as possible,” Kushner told colleagues at a national securitycouncil meeting weeks before the May 2017 summit in Saudi Arabia, according to an administration official familiar with the matter.

nother U.S. official said there was a back and forth between Kushner and Department of Defense and State officials on how to get to a larger number because the officials initially told Kushner that realistically they had about $15 billion worth of deals in works, based on the Saudi government’s interest in a THAAD system and maintenance of other systems.

But even that order has not been fulfilled.

The Saudis have bypassed the September deadline for one of the pricier items on the list – the THAAD or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system. A Defense Department spokesperson said the sale has not been finalized.

The question is what are the Trumps getting out of this deal?

From Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast: “Trump Ramped Up Drone Strikes in America’s Shadow Wars. In his first two years in office, Donald Trump launched 238 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia—way beyond what the ‘Drone President’ Barack Obama did.”

The U.S. president inherited a remotely piloted weapon of death from his predecessor. In his earliest period in office, he used this lethal robot force promiscuously, sharply escalating attacks on suspected terrorists away from his declared wars. As time went on, his use of drone strikes in those places diminished.

Barack Obama? Well, yes. But a look at available statistics for drone strikes on America’s undeclared battlefield shows that this description also applies to Donald Trump.

In 2009 and 2010, Obama launched 186 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and especially Pakistan. Donald Trump’s drone strikes during his own first two years on the three pivotal undeclared battlefields, however, eclipse Obama’s—but without a corresponding reputation for robot-delivered bloodshed, or even anyone taking much notice. In 2017 and 2018 to date, Trump has launched 238 drone strikes there, according to data provided to The Daily Beast by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the drone-watchers at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London.

Those numbers come with a slew of asterisks. The number of drone strikes on the full-fledged acknowledged battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have, ironically, proven far more difficult to track than those in shadow war zones—and knowledgeable observers like Chris Woods of the UK’s Airwars organization believe that the true center of the drone strikes is found there. Additionally, the death toll from those strikes in shadow war zones, especially of civilians, is at best a rough estimate.

This week probably has had some of the most devastingly awful news for world peace we’ve seen in ages. It’s really gotten to me today. What a wicked bunch of people put in a wicked man to turn the world more wicked. And it’s happening in our name with our tax dollars …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today