Archive for the ‘World Politics’ Category

1 December 2020   Leave a comment

I made the mistake of watching the evening news tonight. I heard two people in South Dakota, which has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the US, make the following comments: “I’m not sick. Why should I be forced to wear a mask?”; and “What gives the government the right to tell me what to wear?” (I noticed that the gentleman making the second comment was actually clothed to the dismay of many nudists in America). The comments reflect the all-out assault on logic and evidence that the current Administration has conducted for the last four years.

We now find ourselves in a situation where a large proportion of the American people believe that the national election was fraudulent even though no evidence has surfaced that could possibly call the election into question. Under such conditions, it is hard to imagine that President-elect Biden will be able to lead effectively even as the twin threats of COVID-19 and the economic pressures on the American middle and lower classes promise to become even more intolerable and intractable. The larger issue is the extent to which many American citizens no longer believe that the principles and values of the Enlightenment are viable. It is hard for me to imagine what a post-Enlightenment America would be, but I fear that it would be more feudal than fascist. And it certainly would not be an America governed by the Constitution.

I will confess that I cannot think about what has happened to the country over the last four years from a clinical or dispassionate perspective. I have not been able to follow the advice I have given to many students over my teaching career when they are confronted with intense disagreements: Do not take the disagreement personally. I can, however, give an idea of how strongly I feel about this in a Baccalaureate Speech I gave to the seniors of the class of 2014. It was a defense of the Liberal Arts which, in my mind, embody the highest aspirations of the Enlightenment. Most importantly, it is an expression of my views in the absence of the anger, disillusionment, and pathos I feel tonight.

Posted December 1, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

30 November 2020   Leave a comment

Farmers in India have been protesting for a number of weeks against new regulations proposed by the Indian central government. The Guardian reports:

“The farmers are protesting against a series of agricultural laws that see the deregulation of crop pricing, including the removal of guaranteed minimum crop price, which farmers say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations. The government has argued that the laws are necessary reforms that give farmers more autonomy over the selling of their crops and will break big unfair monopolies.

“Though farmers’ unions have been protesting in Punjab for the past two months, holding marches and blocking roads and train lines, they said they were organising the march to Delhi to force the government’s hand. Unions want to repeal the laws, which they say are anti-farmer and pro-corporate interests.

“Farming is one of the biggest employers in India, with more than 40% of the population working in agriculture.

The farmers have encircled the capital city of New Delhi and clogged highways and bridges with their tractors and trucks. The New York Times outlines the logic of this strategy:

“The Modi administration has indicated that it will not talk to the protesting farmers unless they move to a fairground on New Delhi’s outskirts and stop blocking the highways.

“But the farmers have said that they will not move their tractors or trailers until negotiations start. They are digging in, resupplying themselves with food, fuel, firewood and medical supplies to stay put for weeks.

“’Now we have leverage,’” said Ramandeep Singh Mann, a farmers’ rights activist, who gazed across the protest zone on Monday afternoon with a look of pride. ‘If we go to those fairgrounds, we will lose it.’”

Prathamesh Mulye, writing in Quartz, points out that the Indian economy is suffering greatly from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: “In the September quarter, India’s economy contracted by 7.5% year-on-year, pushing the country into a recession. Among the major economies of the world, only the UK and Spain shrunk sharper than India.” The recession makes it very difficult for the government to respond effectively and there is little likelihood that the welfare of farmers will improve any time soon. India is actually doing far better than the US in dealing with the pandemic, but it still has had a major effect on the Indian economy.

Posted November 30, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

27 November 2020   Leave a comment

In an earlier post, I expressed alarm over the growing indications that there were plans to attack Iranian nuclear facilities before US President Trump leaves office. Yesterday, a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated as he was driving near a suburb close to Tehran. It is not known who was responsible for the assassination, but it was the third killing of a prominent Iranian this year. But the use of assassination against Iranian nuclear scientists and efforts to derail the Iranian nuclear program are long-standing tactics by Israel and the US: “The killing comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, which Tehran also blamed on Israel. Those targeted killings came alongside the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, that destroyed Iranian centrifuges.” Further,

“In 2011, Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electrical engineer doctorate student whose work involved nuclear applications, was gunned down outside his Tehran apartment. In November 2010, a bombing in Tehran killed Majid Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran and a member of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Another blast that month injured a nuclear scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, who was later appointed head of Iran’s atomic agency.

“In 2012, motorcycle riders attached a magnetic bomb that tore apart a car carrying Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a nuclear scientist working at Iran’s main uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz. Roshan, 32, had planned to attend a memorial for another nuclear researcher, Tehran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, who was killed in a similar pinpoint blast in 2010.”

The Iranian foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, blamed Israel for the attack and it is well known that Israel had its eye on Fakhrizadeh for some time. The Times of Israel reports:

“Fakhrizadeh was named by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 as the director of Iran’s nuclear weapons project.

“When Netanyahu revealed then that Israel had removed from a warehouse in Tehran a vast archive of Iran’s own material detailing with its nuclear weapons program, he said: ‘Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.’

Barak Ravid, writing for Axios, noted last Wednesday that the Israeli military was preparing for a possible military strike against Iran.

“The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me….

“Israeli minister of defense Benny Gantz spoke twice in the last two weeks with Christopher Miller, Trump’s acting defense secretary. They discussed Iran as well as Syria and defense cooperation.

“Last Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. One of the main issues discussed was Iran, Israeli officials say.

“Pompeo visited Israel and several Gulf countries last week to discuss Iran. State Department officials traveling with Pompeo told reporters ‘all options are on the table.’

“While Pompeo was in the Gulf, U.S. Central Command announced that B-52 strategic bombers conducted a ‘short-notice, long-range mission into the Middle East to deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies.’ That was seen as another signal to Iran.

“Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s leader and a possible candidate in Iran’s upcoming presidential elections, told AP last week that a U.S. military strike against Iran could set off a ‘full-fledged war’ in the Middle East.”

It is not clear that the assassination will have much effect on Iranian nuclear activities. The Washington Post quotes a highly regarded analyst on Fakhrizadeh’s current role:

“While Fakhrizadeh had been a key figure in Iran’s bomb program, ‘that work is all in the past, and there is no reason to expect that if Fakhrizadeh is gone it would have any effect on Iran’s current nuclear program,’ said Paul Pillar, a 28-year veteran of the CIA and a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.”

The critical question is whether this act will provoke Iran into taking some act of retaliation which could then be used as a justification for launching an all-out attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The issue is a difficult one to resolve. If Iran does not respond to the attack, then some in Iran will take inaction as a capitulation. That image would undoubtedly play into the hands of hardliners in Iran who might demand a very forceful retaliation. But a harsh retaliation, such as an attack on Israel or actions against US vessels in the Persian Gulf, would then be used by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the US to justify a robust attack on Iran. Calibrating an effective response to the assassination is a very difficult act. The most likely beginning of a crisis would begin in Iraq where Iran has a number of militias active and where the US still has a number of troops stationed. The Washington Post assesses the sensitivities of both the US and Iran in Iraq:

“In calls to Kadhimi and Iraqi President Barham Salih in late September, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to shutter the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad unless militia rocket attacks were reined in. U.S. officials say that a plan for closing the embassy remains a live possibility, and administration officials have been instructed to prepare for various scenarios.

“While U.S. officials have advised Trump against a preemptive strike on Iran, according to a senior official, they say that Trump has described the killing of an American as a red line that would prompt immediate and ‘crushing’ retaliation.”

Conflict in Iraq would exempt the homeland of both the US and Iran and thus could be more easily controlled politically.

The other crucial question is how this might affect domestic politics in both Israel and the US. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has not been able to secure a strong position in the Israeli Knesset and is currently under investigation for corruption. He has long regarded the Iranian nuclear program as the single most dangerous threat to Israeli security and firm and effective action against Iran might bolster his domestic political position. But Netanyahu (as well as Saudi Crown Prince Salman in Saudi Arabia) know that there is no likelihood of American action against Iran by the Biden Administration, so he may be thinking that he only has a month left to take action and to count on American support.

US President Trump likely considers the disarming of Iran as a way to ensure his legacy as President who followed a strong “America First” policy. He also might think that a war against Iran would enhance his chances of securing the Republican Party nomination for President in 2024, reinforcing his status among Christian Zionists who are some of his strongest supporters. An attack would also ensure that Iran would never agree to the re-establishment of the nuclear agreement which President-elect Biden says he supports. Finally, but less predictably, Trump may regard the use of war against Iran as a way of muddling the process of the Presidential transition scheduled for 20 January.

If there is an attack against Iran, President-elect Biden would find deep opposition to the attack by loyal European allies who support a return to the Iran nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action–JCPOA). And both Russia and China have been forging closer ties with Iran and they would object strenuously, although not to the point of supporting Iran militarily.

Posted November 27, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

26 November 2020   2 comments

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. It has been a wretched year in many respects, but we still have much to be thankful for. And, if we think about it with an open and honest mind, we all have many things for which we should express thanks and gratitude.

Posted November 26, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

24 November 2020   1 comment

Paranoia Alert

Readers should take this post with a huge grain of salt. I will readily confess that my analysis is driven by my fear of an armed attack on Iranian nuclear facilities before President Trump leaves office. It is not a likely possibility but there are disturbing patterns in the conduct of American foreign policy right now.

First, there is considerable evidence that the Trump Administration has been focused on “unfinished business” as he prepares to leave office. Two elements of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy are crystal clear after his four years in office. First, he has been especially solicitous of Israeli interests: moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain; the decision to assert that Israeli settlements do not pose an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians; the decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights which were once part of Syria; cutting all funding to the Palestinians through the UN Relief and Works Agency, the Agency for International Development, and financial aid for Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem; the closing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization consulate in Washington, DC; the decision to label the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic; and switching the US terminology for the Occupied Territories to the Israeli-preferred terms of Judea and Samaria.

Second, the Trump Administration has also been solicitous of Saudi Arabian interests. Saudi Arabia was the first country Mr. Trump visited as a new President. The Trump Administration has also pushed for very large weapons sales to Saudi Arabia (and is pressing for similar aid to Kuwait and the UAE). And the Trump Administration did not impose any sanctions on Saudi Arabia for the murder of Jamal Kashogghi nor has it pushed hard to stop the Saudi slaughter of Yemeni citizens.

Third, both Israel and Saudi Arabia regard Iran as an existential threat. Israel fears an Iranian nuclear capability since it would cancel out the military superiority that Israel currently holds over every other state in the Middle East. Israel also fears Iranian proxies, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as Iranian influence in Iraq. Saudi Arabia fears Iranian subversion of the many Shia Muslims who live in Saudi Arabia and regards them as a highly destabilizing 5th column. The Washington Post explains:

“That has changed for the oldest of diplomatic reasons: self-interest. The Iranian regime views both Israel and the Sunni gulf kingdoms as illegitimate and has worked tirelessly to bring them down. Tehran also funds terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, and rebel groups such as those in Yemen, to put military pressure on Saudi Arabia and Israel. This alone brings these two together.

“Iran’s attempt to bring Iraq fully under its sway particularly presents threats to the Saudis and the gulf kingdoms. Iraq shares extensive borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. If Iranian-backed troops were ever stationed in the Shiite regions in southern Iraq, they could easily launch an invasion at a moment’s notice. Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which is directly south of Kuwait, holds much of the kingdom’s oil wealth and Shiite population, and the oil-rich gulf kingdoms also all border the Eastern Province. It is crucial to Saudi and the gulf kingdoms’ security that Iranian forces be kept as far away as possible.

“It is against this backdrop that Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon must be understood. Were Iran ever to obtain such a weapon, its ballistic missile technology would put Israel and the Arabs alike at risk of nuclear blackmail. That in turn amplifies the conventional military power of Iran and its proxies. The Islamic republic could launch invasions or incursions as it pleases, secure in the knowledge that its nuclear weapons would deter serious retaliation.”

Fourth, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently facilitated the first known official contact between Israel and Saudi Arabia. We have known for some time that Israel and Saudi Arabia have been consulting each other for some time, but the Saudis, led by King Salman, have always conditioned its contact with Israel with a firm link to the creation of a Palestinian homeland. But there is evidence that Crown Prince Salman does not hold the same view and is considered more amenable to normalized relations with Israel without attention to the Palestinian Issue.

Fifth, The New York Times recently reported that Mr. Trump has requested military options against Iranian nuclear facilities from his advisers. This personnel shuffle is decidedly curious. Why would such changes be implemented after the evidence suggested that President Trump would not be re-elected? Perhaps Mr. Trump simply had personnel axes to grind. But the changes were sweeping and quite dramatic. The report indicated that the advisers dissuaded Mr. Trump from taking any action, but we have plenty of examples where Mr. Trump has not followed the advice of his advisers. More importantly, Mr. Trump has conducted a purge of high-ranking officials at the Defense Department, and replaced them with people he deemed personally loyal. CNN reports:

“Among those who assumed new roles at the Department of Defense was controversial retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who moved into the Pentagon’s top policy role, taking over the duties of James Anderson, who resigned Tuesday, according to another US defense official.Tata had been nominated to be under secretary of defense for policy this summer but his nomination was withdrawn because of bipartisan opposition.

“CNN’s KFile reported that he has made numerous Islamophobic and offensive comments and promoted various conspiracy theories. In several 2018 tweets, he claimed Obama was a “terrorist leader” who did more to harm the US “and help Islamic countries than any president in history.”

“After the withdrawal of his nomination, Tata was designated ‘the official performing the duties of the deputy under secretary of defense for policy,’ reporting to Anderson.

“Tata is widely viewed as a Trump loyalist who maintained support from the White House even as Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee signaled they were unwilling to support his confirmation earlier this year.”

The changes assure that the new leadership of the Defense Department could be receptive to orders from Mr. Trump regarding Iran.

These points are merely pieces on a chessboard and it seems to me that they make the possibility that an attack on Iran is, at the very least, plausible. What is unclear is what the opening gambit might be. A “bolt out of blue” is probably not likely–I seriously doubt that the US would initiate an attack without significant cause. And I also suspect that Iran is well aware of this possibility and I believe that it will try hard to avoid any confrontation which might create a casus belli.

But there are myriad ways to create tension. Iran will continue to support its militias in Iraq, the most obvious place for a confrontation. The anniversary of the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani will heighten Iranian politics on 3 January and Iran will likely try to highlight that attack as a way of creating solidarity among the various factions in Iraq.

But the US could simply rely upon Israeli and Saudi capabilities to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities and could simply provide intelligence and logistical support in the initial phases of the conflict. The Iranians would probably not attack Israel, but the oil production and refining infrastructure of Saudi Arabia is within easy range of Iranian missile capabilities. Additionally, Iran would likely try to demonstrate some control over the Strait of Hormuz through which a large percentage of the world’s oil flows. If it were to take one or both of those options, then the US would likely join in an attack to assure the total destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Such an attack would only buy the world a little time before Iran could regain the ability to build a bomb which it would most certainly do if it were attacked. But the destruction of those facilities is probably not the prime motivation for Mr. Trump. I suspect that he simply wants to be able to say that he kept his promises to Israel perhaps to enhance his attractiveness as a presidential candidate in 2024. I do not have any doubts that Mike Pompeo wants to attack Iran and he certainly has his eye on the 2024 national election. More importantly, such an action would complicate President-elect Biden’s desire to rejoin the Iranian nuclear agreement (the JCPOA). An attack on Iran would guarantee that the agreement could never be revived.

I hope that these speculations are all off-base. But Mr. Trump’s scorched-earth tactics on both domestic and foreign policy give me serious pause. Lame duck Presidents do not usually want to leave office in a blaze of glory. Mr. Trump may be different.

Posted November 24, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

21 November 2020   2 comments

On Thursday the US State Department designated the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

SECRETARY POMPEO: Today I want to make one announcement with respect to a decision by the State Department that we will regard the global anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic.  I know this sounds simple to you, Mr. Prime Minister, it seems – it seems like a statement of fact, but I want you to know that we will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct, and withdraw US government support for such groups.  The time is right.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  It doesn’t sound simple – it sounds simply wonderful to me.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Look, we want to stand with all other nations that recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is, and we’re committed to combating it.  Our record speaks for itself.  During the Trump administration, America stands with Israel like never before. Indeed, the commitment we’ve made, the ironclad commitment we’ve made to the Jewish state, will continue.  It was – I’m confident that after our conversation this morning – we talked about how we can protect Americans and Israelis in the region from the regime in Tehran.  You talked about this.  They remain – we should not take for granted they remain the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in all the world.

The BDS movement was launched in 2005 in order to change Israeli policy toward Palestinians who lived in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. The effect of the US decision is to penalize individuals, organizations, and companies who support the BDS movement by denying government contracts to those entities. A number of states in the US have passed similar laws, although some of them have not passed a judicial test.

Boycotts have a long and distinguished record in protest movements. Perhaps the most successful boycott in the US was the one against a bus company which discriminated against African-Americans in Montgomery, Alabama. The boycott lasted from December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956 and ended when the US Supreme Court ruled that segregation on the buses was unconstitutional. Another example of a successful peaceful protest was the one led by Gandhi against the British salt tax in India in 1930. Finally, the divestment and boycott movement against the apartheid system in South Africa in the 1980s was instrumental in focusing the world’s attention on the injustices of racial segregation in South Africa.

Denying the right of people to protest against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians is an affront to the right of peaceful expression. But to go further and label that protest as anti-Semitic is outrageous. Asserting that Palestinians have a right to cultivate land that their families have cultivated for many years is not a measure of hatred toward Jews. Amnesty International issued the following statement after the US announcement was made:

“This is simply the latest attack from a US government determined to undermine the universality of human rights and the global fight against racism and discrimination, including antisemitism.

“Advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a form of non-violent advocacy and of free expression that must be protected.

“The Department of State’s targeting of groups advocating for using peaceful means – such as boycotts – to end human rights violations against Palestinians as antisemitic violates freedom of expression and is a gift to those who seek to silence, harass, intimidate and oppress those standing up for human rights around the world. 

“The US administration is following the Israeli government’s approach in using false and politically-motivated accusations of antisemitism to harm peaceful activists – including human rights defenders – and shield from accountability those responsible for illegal actions that harm people in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and here at home.”

The Trump Administration has been especially solicitous of Israeli policy. There is no reason in the world why US policy cannot simultaneously defend Israeli security issues while at the same time recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. It remains to be seen whether President-elect Biden can forge a more even-handed policy toward the two peoples.

Posted November 21, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

20 November 2020   Leave a comment

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Nuremberg Trials which prosecuted Nazi officials of crimes against humanity and other war crimes. It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the trials for world politics. They dismissed the pretense that the behavior of states in their internal affairs were not a concern for international politics, a pretense that was established at the end of the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia that ended the war. As with all wars, the causes were complex, but one of the main issues had to do with how Catholics and Protestants were treated in regions ruled by leaders with opposing faiths. The bloodshed of the war was extraordinary largely because there were no points of compromise. Protestants rulers wanted to protect Protestants who lived in Catholic-ruled regions and vice-versa. In order to end the war, the combatants decided to adopt a rule: “Cuius regio, eius religio” which roughly translates as “whose realm, his religion”. The formulation led to the creation of what we now call nation-states and the doctrine of sovereignty which holds that the internal affairs of a state are not subjects of international scrutiny. That position is still strongly held by many states in the world, most notably China which is concerned about international scrutiny of its conduct in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan.

That position, however, was not tenable in the aftermath of the conduct of states during World War II, especially in the wake of the Holocaust, the Holodomor in Ukraine, and Japanese atrocities in Nanjing, China. The Nuremberg Trials (and the Tokyo Trials) were the first attempts to alter the doctrine of sovereignty so that future atrocities could be potentially deterred. The effort has not been completely successful, as the atrocities in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, have shown. But the efforts to prevent such atrocities continues and those efforts have been bolstered by the emergence of a new doctrine in world politics: the responsibility to protect. The doctrine assets that sovereignty is not simply a right that shields states from criticism; it also implies a powerful obligation by states to protect the human rights of all who live within the territorial borders that define the parameters of sovereignty. The doctrine has yet to be proven effective, as witnessed by the current atrocities in Yemen and Myanmar. But it is an aspiration that deserves to be pursued by all who care about world peace and justice.

One of those individuals fighting to protect the lives of vulnerable people is a Mount Holyoke alumna, Marjory Wentworth. Marjory was a student in the very first class I taught at Mount Holyoke College in the fall of 1976. She went on to found a chapter of Amnesty International at the College and co-authored a book with Juan E. Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, entitled Taking A Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011). Her commitment to human rights is extraordinary and her words have given encouragement to countless numbers of peoples oppressed by states.

In 2016, Marjory wrote a beautiful poem celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials. She dedicated the poem to Henry Barbanel, a holocaust survivor: “Polish-born Barbanel was forced to go to a labor camp near Lublin and Wladowa to work for the Germans when he was 14, but quickly escaped and went on to help form a resistance movement based out of the woods of Marjanka, Poland, which was near the concentration camp in Sobibor”. Barbanel was interviewed for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Marjory deserves recognition as one of the most powerful voices in the United States for human rights.

In the Shadows of Nuremberg

Marjory Wentworth

For Henry Barbanel

Because we are forever weak
and wounded, looking for someone
to follow or blame, sometimes
we become savage and change
the rules to ease our minds.
Clouded by delusions
of power or fame, human
beings can justify anything.

Too often things can go wrong
in a hurry, and the masses
go along as if their hearts
were turned inside out, and hatred
was something long hidden
but there, like a riptide
pulling below the glittering
smooth surface of the sea.

Abandoning everything
we know is right, we become
tribal and primitive,
tearing the ties that bind us
one to another, as if
they were made of air. And love
dissolves into something
lost in the cruel cacophony.

And though it may be far,
there is always a storm
swirling somewhere. The sea
that connects and creates us,
holds the seeds of our destruction.
Still, God keeps nothing from us.
Each new wave is a renewal;
every day a gift of our own making.

As we stumble from the shadows
of the twentieth century,
covered in blood and ash,
cradling the bones of those who are lost,
we know there can be justice;
the pattern has been set.
No matter how long it takes,
there is no peace without redemption.
Without shadows, there is no light.

Posted November 20, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

18 November 2020   2 comments

A little change of pace tonight.

Posted November 18, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

16 November 2020   Leave a comment

There are some things that I simply cannot understand, no matter how I try. As a teacher, I have no idea how I would real with this reality in a classroom. That it is apparently the worldview of some people leaves me completely at sea.

Posted November 16, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

15 November 2020   Leave a comment

15 Asia-Pacific countries have signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a regional free trade bloc that China spearheaded after US President Trump pulled the US out of a similar deal (which excluded China) known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Most the states in the TPP remained in that agreement which provided a big boost to international trade. The Brookings Institute describes the significance of the deal:

“Once completed, RCEP will offer a powerful boost to the rules-based global trading system. It will be a free trade area for the record books—huge in population and output (covering 3.6 billion people and a GDP of $25 trillion, exceeding that of the United States) and the most ambitious ever negotiated by developing countries. It will encompass first-ever agreements among China, India, Japan and South Korea, building upon commitments in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and offer new evidence of Asian leadership in world trade….

“RCEP will increase global real incomes by an estimated $286 billion per year (about 0.2 percent of global GDP) once the agreement is fully in place in 2030. Absolute gains will be almost twice as large as those from the CPTPP due to RCEP’s greater scale. These gains represent a permanent upward shift in real income and make RCEP equivalent to a $7.2 trillion investment that returns 4 percent per annum.

“Global trade is expected to increase by 1.9 percent with RCEP. Trade diversion (in which trade shifts from more to less efficient exporters because of trade discrimination) is estimated to be small. Some non-members may in fact benefit due to the multilateral nature of the liberalization that RCEP requires and spillovers from members’ increased productivity.”

The deal will address one of the thorniest issues in international trade: creating rules of origin, which will smooth over many difficulties caused by extensive supply chains. The Center for Strategic and International Studies assesses the significance of the change:

“One of the most significant changes under RCEP is the creation of common rules of origin for the entire bloc. Once implemented, RCEP countries will only require a single certificate of origin. This will allow companies to easily ship products between RCEP countries without needing to worry about specific rule of origin criteria in each country or for each manufacturing step. A common rule of origin for the RCEP bloc will lower costs for companies with supply chains that stretch throughout Asia and may encourage multinationals that export to RCEP countries to establish supply chains across the bloc.”

The RCEP represents the first agreement including China, Japan, and South Korea, a significant achievement. India pulled out of the RCEP last November but held out the possibility of joining at a later date. But it is extraordinary that the US, a champion of free trade since 1945, is not a member of the two largest free trade agreements ever signed. “America First” is actually “America Alone”.

Posted November 15, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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