Tag Archives: obama

My writing for March 15, 2017 (Snakes! Taxes! Wiretapping!)

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Please stop blaming Obama for Ukraine

 

President George W. Bush and Russia's Presiden...

President George W. Bush and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin take a sunset walk on a pier along the Black Sea during a visit by President and Mrs. Bush Saturday, April 5, 2008, to President Putin’s summer retreat, Bocharov Ruchey, in Sochi, Russia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To many on the right, all bad things that happen are President Obama’s fault.  More than a few see what happened in Benghazi has the cause of anything that happens anywhere in the world. In that context, it is surprising the missing Malaysian plane hasn’t been blamed (yet) on Benghazi.   The theory is that Obama’s weak foreign policy has emboldened Vladimir Putin to the point where he thinks he can do whatever he wants, wherever he wants.  How do they know this?  Because when their guy was in office, they say Putin backed off.

The theory of this comes from the US response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008.  The theories I have heard are that after Russia sent troops to the area, George W. Bush sent war ships to the Black Sea, trained the Georgian military to fight Russia and airlifted troops from Afghanistan home to fend off the invaders.  What really happened? Georgia is part of the international coalition that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.  As such, the US did train their forces and agree to get them home in the case of an emergency.  The invasion was viewed as a qualifying emergency and the US transported Georgian troops from Iraq to Georgia but not to areas where the fighting was occurring and the administration made it very clear that was part of the agreement we had with all members of the coalition, not a response to the crisis.  As for the US ships in the Black Sea, they were full of humanitarian supplies and again, the White House went to great lengths to show they were not there to engage Russia in a fight that everyone thought could lead to a nasty conflict between the two nations.  US military action was never an option.

What did President Bush do?  Here is his official response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1Men9v2tNg

Oh, the (W) Bush administration also levied sanctions on Russia.  Sounds pretty similar to what Obama is doing now. Putin did not take over Crimea because of anything Obama has done.  This move is very popular inside of Russia and the leader clearly wants to re-litigate  the end of the Cold War.     The US needs to be a part of any action to end the takeover of Ukraine but to assume it caused the situation or that it alone can end it is naive and misguided.  This world we now inhabit is far more complex and integrated than the one we lived in during the Cold War.  We are all better served by not applying simplistic causality (Obama is weak therefore …) to complicated situations.

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Molehills out of mountains and vice versa

In the middle of a campaign for the most important position in the country, we should be talking about the global economy, tensions around the world such as problems in Iran, Syria and elsewhere.  We should be talking about how to best prepare ourselves for the new economic circumstances our world now inhabits or how to overhaul our tax and entitlements systems.

But we are not.

The GOP presidential nominees aren’t talking about these things.  They are focused on contraception and questions of “good and evil.”  The Republican Party, seems intent on not returning our country to a more prosperous state but to a different era.  It has become normal for politicians on both sides to wax nostalgic about “the good old days.”  Those days seems always have been in the 1950s, when — by the way, the tax rates for the highest earners was at its highest level ever.   But the current crop of candidates don’t think going back to even the 50s is enough.

I get why the Republicans feel the need to return to social and religious issues, their base loves it.  Think about what they want to talk about: contraception, religious wars, gay marriage.  Really?

Newsflash:  It’s 2012, Women can vote and most use contraception.  Gay marriage will be legal everywhere in the United States during my lifetime.  Nothing you do will change either of those facts.  Just to be as clear on this as possible — you are on the wrong side of history on these issues but that isn’t the real problem.  History doesn’t care.  The problem is by wasting everyone’s time on issues that won’t be changed at this level, we fail to talk about the policies that will.  You cheapen the process.

All of this is great for the Democrats.  And I want President Obama to win.  But as good as this is for his reelection prospects, it is bad for the country.  Presidential campaigns provide an opportunity to really examine and evaluate the state of the country and the best ways to deal with the challenges we face.  These should be lofty conversations and debates not petty bickering about social issues that were settled years ago (not to harp, but nothing Rick Santorum can do will turn that clock back).

When President Obama took office, I characterized the situation he faced as his “Himalayan problem.” All problems were so large individually but it was hard to gage their enormity when clumped together.  I misspoke, this was not his Himalayan problem, it was ours.  By choosing to focus on issues that excite  one base or another at the expense of those that impact all of us, the GOP is making molehills out of our Everest sized problems and that’s unfortunate.

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.  There is a big event in DC planned to pay lip service to ending this horrible disease.  Bono will be there.  President Obama will be there.  Former Presidents Clinton and Bush will be there.  It’s too bad that this comes on the heels of the announcement that for the first time since it was founded ten years ago, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has cut funding to poor countries.  This funding is essential for programs in these countries and its absence will have devastating consequences for millions of people.  This is literally a question of life or death for millions of people.

The Global Fund now directly keeps alive 3.2 million people on anti-retroviral treatment.  (Together with other funders that means that around 6.6 million people are now on these life-saving drugs.) It has financed 8.2 million courses of TB treatment and the distribution of 190 million insecticide-treated nets to fight malaria.  We are seeing a historic turn in the progression of these pandemics.  — Jeffrey Sachs, Politicians just don’t care enough to tackle this scourge.

Health care is a basic human right.  That’s just my opinion.  That’s part of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

This is not the time to withhold funding vital to programs that are working.  Malaria prevention efforts are starting to have a real impact in places like Africa.  We tend to think of certain infectious diseases as being other people’s problems.  They strike in poor countries, far away from us.  The problem with that thinking — other that the callous nature with which we view the world through the prism of how does this impact me personally? — is that is is just wrong and shortsighted.  Infectious diseases, for instance, that kill people over there, are just as deadly when they strike here.  These are often diseases of poverty, we have that here.

Over the past year, I have been working with a nonprofit health organization — they develop and deliver medicines for infectious diseases such as visceral leishmaniasis, which is nearly 100 percent fatal when left untreated.  Like AIDS, it destroys its victims immune system.  Our military personnel are being infected because they are fighting in areas where it is endemic.  New studies also show an increasing number of co-infections – -VL & AIDS.

TB is a scourge in the US, too.  Washington, DC has one of the highest rates of infection in the nation.  What’s worse is that many cases are of the drug resistant variety, a side effect of a treatment that can take up to two years is that people don’t follow through with the full treatment.  (Topic for another day is how our antibiotic abuse is making them less effective. short version, if your doctor doesn’t give you one for the sniffles, don’t demand one.)

Other, less famous diseases such as Dengue Fever are making a comeback in the US as well.  The mosquito that carries the potentially deadly illness has been found as far north as North Carolina.  Mosquitoes don’t care about borders.

The bottom line is that if a disease can strike anywhere, it can strike anywhere.  We risk losing important ground gained over the past decade because we lack the political will to do the right thing.