June 2011

Jun 1  In the US many believe, as Thomas Jefferson did, that if anyone takes away their existing political freedom they have the right to take up arms. Two days ago, Syrians picked up weapons in an attempt to repel advancing government troops on their towns.

Jun 1 Yesterday in Syria, Assad declared general amnesty a general pardon for "crimes" committed before 31 May.

Jun 1  Libya's Colonel Gaddafi says he wants a ceasefire that would stop all hostilities and that "all Libyans be given a chance to talk among themselves" to determine the country's future. Opposition leaders reject Gaddafi's offer.

Jun 2  Comedic relief from Stephen Colbert jokes about Harold Camping predicting the end of the world: "Camping used the most precise method available: taking numbers at random from a 400 year-old English translation from a group of tendentiously related ancient Middle Eastern texts transcribed from Greek, Aramaic oral histories." (Broadcast May 31.)

Jun 2  In Yemen yesterday dozens more were killed, and today the fighting intensifies. Behind this is President Saleh's refusal to sign an agreement to step down because he wants his departure accompanied by the departure of the three sons of a political opponent, Sheikh al-Ahmar. An analyst quoted by the BBC, claims: "It is offensive to President Saleh that his relatives will leave and the opponents will stay."

Jun 4  The BBC reports this morning that more than sixty people were killed yesterday, Friday, in the city of Hama – another day of protests across Syria. State television claimed that about eighty security personnel had been wounded. Yesterday there was no internet in Syria. And foreign journalists are still not allowed in the country.

Jun 4  Yesterday in the US, in response to news of a "sharp slowdown in hiring and a small increase in the unemployment rate," Speaker of the House John Boehner addressed the employment issue, saying: "We can't raise taxes on the very people who create jobs..." Some who dislike Boehner's economics complain that big corporations, rather than short of money to invest, are sitting on piles of cash and have been sending money abroad.

Jun 5   President Obama has called for a crackdown against people who hire illegals – to remove incentives for the illegals to come to the United States and to create more jobs for US citizens. Republicans in Congress speak of employment as the foremost issue but balk at joining Obama and Congressional Democrats in moving now on immigration reform.

Jun 6   Yesterday In the town of Jisr al-Shughour government troops and tanks were in action and there are reports of more than 35 deaths, including at least six policemen. According to the BBC, state TV "showed pictures of burned-out public buildings, police stations and vehicles in Jisr al-Shughour."

Jun 7 Japan's nuclear safety agency has announced that more than twice as much radiation leaked from its Fukushima nuclear plants than had been estimated during the crises of March, April and May. The agency added that meltdowns had taken place in three reactors more quickly than had been realized and that the plant is still leaking radiation. More evacuations are being considered from areas beyond the 12-mile radius that has been evacuated.

Jun 7  Nathan Myhrvold, one of the sharpest minds on technology, talked on the 5th with Fareed Zakaria about Japan's nuclear power plant crisis. Of the 1960s-built Fukushima plants he said that they "never should have had those generators as low as they did." (The generators were flooded by invading sea water.) He spoke of superior engineering today, including superior generators, and he mentioned an ability to use nuclear waste "to run the whole US economy for more than 100 years just on stuff we've already dug up." He doesn't like public panic or the US giving up on nuclear energy – the way that the Germans appear to be doing.

Jun 8  Syrian authorities describe "armed gangs" as responsible for killing more than 120 security personnel three days ago at Jisr al-Shughur. Syrian "activists" say that the security personnel were shot by government troops after they refused to open fire on civilians. Protest leaders in Jisr al-Shughur have denied that those opposed to the Assad regime there have committed any violence. No protest leaders in Syria are publicly suggesting that violence will have to be a part of ending the Assad regime – by freedom fighters rather than terrorists as described by the regime.

Jun 8  Armed men have cleared Gaddafi forces from the town of Yafran (population 67,000) 66 miles southwest of Tripoli. In May, Gaddafi forces shut off the water system there and were blocking food supplies.

Jun 9  Al Qaeda's number-two leader, Ayman Zawahiri, speaks fantasy about Osama bin Laden terrifying the US in death. Rather than being terrified, more people in the US are concluding that it is best to let people in North Africa and the Middle East deal with al-Qaeda as they please. Al-Qaeda types have been described recently as having a fading interest in winning politically by blowing up Westerners. This fade is expected to increase with the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan and Iraq this year. In the US more people look for defense against terrorism short of committing long-standing military units abroad.

Jun 10  US Democratic Senator Jim Webb complains that our strategy in Afghanistan of securing an area and moving on is not working because the areas do not stay secured. Republican Senator Richard Lugar says "Despite ten years of investment and attempts to better understand the culture and the region's actors, we remain in a cycle that produces relative progress, but fails to deliver a secure political or military resolution." President Obama's new ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, awaiting confirmation, has a different view. He is among those still terrified by bin Laden. He says that "much work remains to be done to ensure that al-Qaida can never again threaten us from Afghanistan, with the Taliban providing safe haven."

Jun 11  Turkey's prime minister condemns Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters as "inhumane'' and says Ankara could support a UN resolution against Syria. The foreign minister of Syria resorts to the Orwellian language, complaining that any action the UN Security Council takes against his country would embolden "extremists and terrorists" to continue their crimes. Yesterday (Friday), protests continued across Syria, and the Assad regime, using attack helicopters, killed 25 more people.

Jun 12  The FBI's most wanted al-Qaeda militant in Africa, Fazul Abdullah Mohammad, was been shot dead a few days ago at a government checkpoint in Somalia. He is believed to have played a key role in the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and in attacking Israeli targets in Kenya in 2002. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes his death as "a significant blow" to al-Qaeda.

Jun 13  Yesterday in Syria a most trusted force, the Fourth Brigade, with helicopter gunships and as many as 200 tanks took control of Jisr al-Shughour. The story of Jisr al-Shughour is still being described: On the 5th of this month an army of conscripts sent against the city had defections; some of the defectors were killed; others fled into the hills; and most town folk have fled the city. Yesterday, an anti-Assad force remained and confronted the overwhelmingly superior government force – a violation of the first rule in insurgent warfare. Apparently they were annihilated.

Jun 14  Among Republican presidential candidates in the US the talk continues about the need to create jobs and how Obama is ruining the economy. There has been some support among Republican legislators for a bill that would invest in infrastructure and job creation through an "infrastructure bank" that, in the words of columnist E.J. Dionne, "would bring private as well as government money to public works projects and make them less subject to political earmarking." Another columnist, Fareed Zakaria, says that it "would add very little to the deficit" and would put more people to work and paying taxes. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Chuck Hagel are two Republicans strongly in favor of the bill. But enough Republicans are against the bill to block its passage. They are sticking to their opposition against anything that can be called stimulus (nevermind investment) spending. Yesterday, in the Washington Post, Dionne suggests that they also don't want to help Obama look good. The title of Dionne's column is "Gridlocking the lives of the jobless."

Jun 14  Someone (aka Vmidurk) responds to Dionne's column by pointing out that under President Bush the average unemployment rate (for 8 years) was 5.3% and with Obama the average unemployment rate (in 2 years and 5 months) has been 9.4%. A little thing like the US having to dig out from the worst economic crisis in many decades was not mentioned – another complexity that challenges those opposed to Obama.

Jun 15  Speaking before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell speaks of fire seasons that have lengthened by more than 30 days and that "Our scientists believe this is due to a change in climate." Senator Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota, suggests to his fellow committee members that they consider climate change as a key issue. Senator James Risch, Republican from Idaho, complains that Franken lacks a degree in fire science or natural resources. Risch received a BS degree in forestry in 1965.

Jun 16  Today a suicide bomber belonging to a group that thinks like al-Qaeda set off a bomb in Abuja powerful enough to kill at least thirty people and destroy forty automobiles. According to the BBC, "The group accuses Nigeria's government of being corrupted by Western ideas and wants to overthrow the state and impose Islamic law on the country." It's a fight that the US can leave to Nigeria's government to wage, similar to Indonesia, which today jailed radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.

Jun 17  Non-stop media focus on US Congressman Anthony Weiner is ending after more than two weeks. Weiner reversed himself yesterday and announced his resignation. Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly gave us his perspective, saying that, "Once a country begins to accept corruption in government then it is just a matter of time before that country falls apart. Ancient Rome best example." Weiner sent some lewd photos on the internet to a few women. The damage he did was largely to himself and his wife. (The Roman Empire fell apart not because of such personal naivetes or individual moral failings but in part at least because of the political weaknesses inherent with big empires.)

Jun 17  Staying with Fox News, morality and the mangling of history, Glenn Beck a couple of weeks ago connected decadence associated with the movie about German decadence during the Weimar republic, Cabaret, and Hitler's mass murder of Jews that took place after the start of World War II. Hitler rose to power speaking against big city decadence and he won a following among rural voters also opposed to it. There was no connection between that "decadence" and the murder of millions of Jews.

Jun 17  Staying with morality, Russia's foreign minister reiterates that Russia will veto the UN resolution that condemns the Assad regime's brutalities, a resolution that also calls for UN human rights monitors to be allowed into Syria and for countries to stop supplying weapons to the Assad regime. Russia has been an ally and weapons supplier to the Assad regime.

Jun 18  In recent months Greece's government has not been collecting enough revenue to match its expenditures let alone the surplus needed to pay its debts. Government debt has worsened because, it is said, economic activity has declined with the government's austerity plan. So the government has been selling government owned enterprises, privatizing more of Greece's economy to raise money, and it has been cutting more spending. Unemployment has been rising – to 15.9 percent in the first three months of this year. People are complaining about hardship. Suicides are up. Soup kitchen lines are longer. There are strikes. Holders of Greece's debt, largely French bankers and other bankers across the globe, are worried about getting the money owed them.

Jun 19  Demonstrators in Athens wave Greek flags and shout, "Thieves! Traitors!" A businessman explains: "Most of the people here want all the measures to be rescinded and a part of the debt to be written off, or all of it, at least the part that comes from banks." (BBC News)

Jun 20  After wandering around Syria for a week incognito, Lebanese writer and scholar Fawaz Gerges reminds us that the world still has many people willing to support a murderous dictator. Gerges reports that the Assad regime has support of something like 40 percent of the people, that the protests are not as large as have occurred in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen and that the Assad regime may be able to hold on to power. (CNN)

Jun 21  In various cities in Syria, people attend rallies in support of President Assad. In Damascus, Rateb Shallah, head of the Syrian Chambers of Commerce Federation, expresses confidence in another speech by Assad that promises reforms. Says Shallah: "I hope it will be a turning point in solving the crisis and that it will meet the demands of the Syrian people." (BBC News)

Jun 22  In Kenya, the tax office accuses Members of Parliament of failing to pay taxes on their salaries and perks. Meanwhile the MPs have voted themselves annual salaries and perks for 2012 to as high as $126,000. Kenya ranks 199th in per capita GDP. Its division between rich and poor, its corruption rating and its revenue as a percentage of GDP are typical for poorer countries: well below average. And like most countries, Kenya in 2010 failed to balance its budget.

Jun 23  Pakistan's army is described by Fareed Zakaria as the big power in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region with the coming drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan – announced last night by President Obama. Zakaria writes that the evidence is now overwhelming that Pakistan's army, traditionally secular, is now "infiltrated at all levels by violent Islamists, including Taliban and al-Qaeda sympathizers."

Jun 23  An article by BBC News has described Indonesian moderates as becoming "more vocal" in their opposition to the militant Islamism represented by The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). According to the article, "A recent survey found that almost half of high school pupils around Jakarta approved of the use of violence in the name of religion and morality."

Jun 24  It's Friday – protest day in Syria. In Morocco, where King Mohammed VI has not been shooting or jailing democracy advocates, there may or may not be a small demonstration in an urban center, but it's peaceful – while the nation awaits a referendum on a new constitution to be held on July 1. In Syria, tens of thousands are again in the streets, hating President Bashar al-Assad, and government forces are again shooting people.

Jun 26  An expert on debt, Mohamed El-Erian, who oversees the assets of PIMCO, the world's largest bond fund manger, recognizes that Greece's budget cutting and austerity measures are depressing its economy. He repeats what others have said, that Greece's problem could "contaminate" Europe. The United States problem, he says, is "nothing like Greece." The US still "has time" to deal with its fiscal policy issues. The US can "solve it medium term," and the solution can be addressed through political compromise.

Jun 27  A headline in today's New York Times reads "Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives." One line in the lengthy article reads, "While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has generated controversy in New York by 'pedestrianizing' a few areas like Times Square, many European cities have already closed vast areas to car traffic." Meanwhile, according to Nationmaster.com, the US has been consuming almost twice as much oil per person as Denmark: 68.672 barrels per 1,000 persons per year in the US and 34.857 barrels in Denmark (2007 figures).

Jun 28  Much of Greece's debt is held by French banks. France's president announced yesterday that he and his country's banks plan to let Greece take 30 years to pay its debt. The US stock market rallied.

Jun 28  In Syria, the Assad regime has done something that appears clever. Yesterday it allowed and it apparently organized a group of dissidents to meet openly in a hotel in Damascus to discuss Syria's political crisis. The well publicized meeting fits with President Assad's call for a national dialogue. It also threatens to divide the protest movement and diminish those protesters who say that the only solution is for Assad to go.

Jun 29  Amid wild and futile protests in the streets that includes anarchists, and an on-going labor union strike with workers outraged by the idea of a 30 percent pay cut, Greece's parliament approves by a vote of 155 to 138 the government's austerity plan. The government plans aims at sacrifices by the whole of a unified nation. Demonstrators wanted only the rich to pay – not feasible according to the Socialist government's calculations.

to May | to July 2011

Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.