Category Archives: International news

Now it's an AirAsia plane that's disappeared

What in the name of “safe” air travel is happening in Southeast Asian air space?

An AirAsia Airbus 320 has disappeared. Remember the Malaysian Air 370 tragedy this past March? And the Malaysian Air 17 plane that was shot down over Ukraine?

Now another Malaysia-based airliner is having to console family members until they can account for the whereabouts of an AirAsia Flight 8512 carrying 162 passengers and crew.

It’s impossible to understand any of this.

The Airbus was flying through apparently some horrific weather conditions en route from Indonesia to Singapore. It had been in the air about 42 minutes when it vanished. Pfftt! Just like that. Gone.

There was no pre-disappearance communication from the flight deck. Nothing was said. Ground crews had the plane on their radar screens. Then it was gone. Off the grid.

My heart breaks for those awaiting word on the whereabouts of the plane. It’s impossible to believe anything good can come from this — other than some closure for those who need to know the fate of this airplane.


Clinton's foreign policy far from 'feckless'

Rick Perry calls Hillary Clinton’ foreign policy record “feckless,” does he.

He doesn’t know feckless from freckles.

I would argue that the outgoing Texas governor needs to clarify his entire meaning.

He’s sounding more like a probable Republican presidential candidate in 2016. For that matter, Clinton is sounding more like a probable Democratic candidate in two years.

My own hunch is that the governor should concentrate on his potential GOP primary competition than worry too much just yet about how to take on the Democratic frontrunner.

As for his “feckless” comment, he’s joined the GOP echo chamber in brining up “Benghazi” as a sign that then-Secretary of State Clinton somehow botched the response to that terrible tragedy. I’m waiting — still — to understand precisely what Hillary Clinton her own self could have done differently to prevent the Sept. 11, 2012 siege that killed four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Have there more attacks on U.S. soil by terrorists? No. Have we been killing the bad guys? Yes. Have we killed Osama bin Laden? Yes again. Did we rid Syria of chemical weapons? Yes. Have the economic sanctions leveled against Ukraine worked?

Yes. OK, so some of this occurred on John Kerry’s watch at State. The Texas governor, though, makes sure to equate our foreign policy with the president of the United States, who’s still on the job.

He compares her foreign policy record to California Gov. Jerry Brown’ record in handling the economy of his own state. Hmm. Actually, Gov. Perry, the California economy has rebounded right along with the rest of the country.

Well, the campaign is looking and sounding as if it’s beginning.

To think we’re still a whole year away from when it starts for real.

Hold torturers to account

The New York Times is no friend of political conservatives. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise the reading public that the newspaper editorial board would jump down the throats of those who were responsible for employing torture techniques on prisoners taken right after the 9/11 attacks.

The Times did so in an editorial published this past Sunday.

It wants the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for what it contends are illegal acts committed against suspected terrorists.

Of all the officials named, the one that stands out is former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, who’s been out front and vocal in his criticism of a Senate Intelligence Committee report contending that the Bush administration acted illegally when it subjected detainees to what’s euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” (Let’s call ’em EITs to save space, shall we?)

Here’s the key question: Suppose prosecutors are able to convict Dick Cheney of wrongdoing? What then? Throw him in federal prison?

I’m not opposed to clearing the air on what the vice president ordered, what he knew and when he knew it. Nor am I opposed to putting it all on the record, into the public domain to let the public hash out what’s legitimate and what’s not.

As the Times noted, Republicans — except for one high-profile official — have been quiet about all of this: “One would expect Republicans who have gone hoarse braying about Mr. Obama’s executive overreach to be the first to demand accountability, but with one notable exception, Senator John McCain, they have either fallen silent or actively defended the indefensible. They cannot even point to any results: Contrary to repeated claims by the C.I.A., the report concluded that “at no time” did any of these techniques yield intelligence that averted a terror attack. And at least 26 detainees were later determined to have been “wrongfully held.”

Here is where a presidential pardon could be used.

I don’t want to see Cheney locked up. He does, though, need to be taken down a peg or two by a tough-minded independent prosecutor who could convince a jury that what the Bush administration did to those detainees violated federal law. Cheney has said he’d use the EITs again “in a minute.” The Senate report, issued by Democrats, reflects a different view.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Let’s get to the bottom of it.

Is this our cyber response?

Gosh. Let me think about this.

Sony Pictures gets ready to debut a movie depicting the attempted assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un; the North Koreans reportedly hack into Sony’s computer system, causing it to crash; the United States blames the North Koreans for the cyber attack; President Obama then says there will be a “proportional” response to the North Korean effort to bully Sony.

Then, today, North Korea’s Internet system goes down virtually throughout the nation.

Coincidence? Or is this the retaliation that President Obama said would come?

Hmm. I’m guessing it’s more than mere coincidence.

These things just don’t happen with such amazing timing, do they?

Kim Jong-Un may have picked a fight with the wrong adversary.

Don’t expect the CIA, the Pentagon, the White House, the Homeland Security Department — anyone — to own up to it. As I’ve noted already, Americans do not need to know everything that happens behind closed doors.


Why oppose relationship with Cuba?

The continuing argument over whether the United States should normalize relations with a Third World communist country 90 miles off the Florida coast continues to baffle me.

The Cuban-American community is split on this issue. Republican politicians — and even a couple of Democrats — by and large oppose it; Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is a notable Republican exception to that opposition.

The opponents of President Obama’s decision to begin that process keep citing Cuban’s horrible human rights record. Yes, it’s horrible, but let’s compare it with another nation with which the United States does have diplomatic ties.

It’s Vietnam.

Consider a few facts about this country.

* We fought Vietnam in a bloody and brutal war for roughly a decade. The Vietnamese killed 58,000 Americans during that struggle. How many Americans have died fighting Cuban military personnel since Fidel Castro assumed power in 1959? Nineteen, while fighting Cuban troops during our 1983 invasion of the island nation of Grenada.

* How did the communists from the north respond when they took control of Vietnam? They imprisoned those who had worked with the South Vietnamese government, sending them to what they called “re-education camps,” which was a euphemism for concentration camps. I met a few of those “re-educated” Vietnamese when I returned to the country in 1989. Believe me when I say that they were treated as common criminals by the conquering communists.

* Have the Vietnamese enjoyed the same kind of human liberty and freedom that some in Congress are demanding of Cuba? Hardly. Vietnam remains a hardline communist autocracy. There’s been plenty of economic reform since Saigon fell in April 1975 and the country is enjoying some economic prosperity. Its people do not live totally free, however.

And yet we’ve been diplomatic partners with Vietnam since July 11, 1995, when President Clinton opened that door.

Why are some of us now so reluctant to follow the same course with Cuba?

Let’s get real. If we can bury the hatchet with a former battlefield enemy, then surely there lies opportunity to forge a relationship with a nation that poses zero military or economic threat.



North Korea to attack U.S.? With what?

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has issued a direct threat to President Barack Obama.

His country will attack the United States if the president retaliates with a cyber counterattack as payback for the hacking of Internet systems at Sony Pictures.

So he’s going to attack us, yes? With what, precisely?

Well, if there ever was an empty threat, I’m guessing this is one.

Kim isn’t going to see this bit of advice, but I’ll offer it anyway.

Do not talk like that, young man. You are playing a very dangerous game when you threaten the greatest military power in the history of Planet Earth. If by “attack” you mean another cyber raid on our computers, I shall remind you as well that our resources are far greater than yours and that you would rue the day you tried that tactic as well.

I don’t mean to dismiss Kim Jong-Un as a toothless tiger on the world stage. He does have nukes … allegedly. South Korea sits just on the other side of the 38th Parallel and that nation is a critical ally of this nation; indeed, we’ve got about 40,000 troops stationed there.

However, this tough-guy talk isn’t likely to stop President Obama from considering — and perhaps ordering — a “proportional” response to the havoc Kim reportedly brought to Sony computers over the company’s production of that movie depicting Kim’s attempted assassination.



Ebola fighters get too much credit

I’m not prone to critiquing Time magazine’s annual Person of the Year selection.

The choices don’t usually get me too worked up — either positively or negatively. This year’s choice is a bit different.

Time chose to honor the Ebola fighters, the medical professionals who went to West Africa to battle the killer disease.

Of all the choices Time could have made, the editors could have chosen someone with more, um, immediate and palpable impact.

As my pal Tom Taschinger wrote in the Beaumont Enterprise, “Granted, these men and women are doing noble deeds. But Ebola has faded from the epidemic that will end Life As We Know It to an overhyped cable-TV story.”

Indeed, this story was overplayed from the beginning, particularly the “outbreak” in the United States that never occurred.

Here’s one of the posts I published on my blog about the coverage:

One man flew to Dallas from Liberia; he was carrying the virus with him. He got sick, checked into a first-rate hospital in the Dallas area, but then died. Another man died in Nebraska. A nurse got infected in Dallas, went to Atlanta, and was declared Ebola free.

That’s it.

The disease has receded from the headlines and from CNN, MSNBC and Fox news coverage.

As Taschinger noted in his excellent column, occasionally Time picks a notorious figure as its Person of the Year — such as Ayatollah Khomeini or Timothy McVeigh. It has leaned more in recent years to feel-good selections. I agree that they’re important, too. But let’s get real here. Is Ebola really a worldwide threat?

The magazine can do better next year.


Lame-duck status has its advantages

Sometimes it can be good for politicians to use their lame-duck status to move important debates forward.

Take the lame-duck president of the United States, Barack Obama. All he has done in the past few days is call for a profound change in our nation’s relationship with Cuba, with which we’ve had zero relationship for, oh, the past 50 years.

With no more campaigns to run, or elections to win (or lose), the president has done what he could have done years ago. Indeed, earlier lame-duck presidents dating back to the Johnson administration could have done it.

They chose sit on their hands.

Contrast that context with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a possible — if not probable — candidate for president in 2016. He’s a TEA party Republican who’s backing the Democratic president on this deal.

Paul will have some answering to do if he faces the deeply split Cuban-American community in south Florida in a couple of years.

Obama has staked out an important change in U.S. foreign policy with this push for “normalization” of relations with Cuba, which came with the release of Alan Gross, an aid worker who’d been held prisoner for five years on a bogus spying charge by the Fidel/Raul Castro regime in Havana.

He had to have figured he could act now that he’s a lame duck. Of course, no politician ever admits to such a thing. They offer up high-minded rhetoric about “doing the right thing” or “acting in the best interests” of the city, state or nation.

That explains, perhaps, the president’s change of heart on Cuba. It doesn’t explain Sen. Paul’s courage on the issue, given that he’s bucking many fellow Republicans on this matter.

About the only thing that makes sense about Paul’s support of Obama on the Cuba policy issue is that he’s not going to run for president after all. I hope that’s not the case.

As for the president, well, lame duck status does have its advantage.


Study your history, Sen. Rubio

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio needs a refresher course on 20th-century American history.

The Florida Republican — quite naturally — was critical the other day of President Obama’s decision to begin normalization of relations with Cuba, a nation with which we’ve had zero diplomatic contact for the past five decades.

Rubio ventured into Fox News Channel’s right-wing echo chamber and declared that Obama is the “worst negotiator since Jimmy Carter.”

I heard that and thought, “What in the world is that young man saying?” Chris Matthews noted correctly that Rubio was 7 years of age when President Carter worked some diplomatic magic.

Worst negotiator, eh?

To the young senator, here’s a bit of history for you to ponder.

President Carter summoned two enemy heads of government to the White House in 1978. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to hammer out a historic peace treaty between the ancient enemies.

They went to Camp David, took off their jackets and ties and worked day and night to agree to a peace treaty. Carter reportedly got along much better with Sadat than he did with Begin. Sadat and Begin couldn’t find their way past their ancient differences, dealing mostly with how their people could live together in places like Gaza.

Finally, after several days in the Maryland mountains, Carter got the two men together and the three of them agreed on a peace treaty that holds up today, nearly four decades later. It’s now known as the Camp David Accords.

The deal ended up costing Sadat his life when Muslim extremists assassinated him during a parade. An Israeli extremist would kill Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for hammering out a peace deal with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

For the young Florida Republican senator to suggest Jimmy Carter is a terrible presidential “negotiator” is to ignore the historical record.

Hit the books, senator, before popping off.


Cuba policy change provokes GOP fight

President Obama is picking a fight — between two Republicans who might want to succeed him in the White House.

I love this infighting.

Obama has announced a dramatic change in our nation’s policy toward Cuba. We’re moving toward normalization of relations, you know, with embassies in both countries and ambassadors representing their nation’s interests.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky supports the change; GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida opposes it.

So, what does Paul do? He calls Rubio an “isolationist.” He mentions his colleague by name. He takes direct aim at the young Floridian’s opposition to what Paul thinks is a reasonable and long overdue change.

I happen to agree with Sen. Paul on this one.

He wrote an essay for Time magazine in which he lays out his argument. “The supporters of the embargo against Cuba speak with heated passion but fall strangely silent when asked how trade with Cuba is so different than trade with Russia or China or Vietnam,” Paul wrote. “It is an inconsistent and incoherent position to support trade with other communist countries, but not communist Cuba.”

Rubio is among those “strangely silent” lawmakers who cannot grasp the need for change in the U.S.-Cuba relationship.

Rubio actually baited Paul with a statement he made on Fox News: “Like many people who have been opining, [Paul] has no idea what he’s talking about,” Rubio said. Paul’s op-ed essay in Time was in response largely to what Rubio said.

So the intra-GOP fight has commenced.

Rubio’s own Cuban heritage gives him some credibility on this issue. However, like a lot of politicians who blind when the subject of Cuba comes up, Rubio needs to look at the big picture and understand what Barack Obama and Rand Paul both get: If a 50-year policy doesn’t produce any positive change, then it’s time to change the policy.