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September 2012

Sep 2  Syria enters another month of civil war, with President Assad and his Allawite supporters describing the uprising in Syria as an assault from outside the country. Assad still believes he can win the war by military action. Others see Assad and his supporters as living in a dream world. Some of us advocate a negotiated settlement as soon as possible to avoid years of horrendous violence, a settlement with a promise of democracy that would establish order and minimize the sectarian hatred that has been brewing. Anything closely resembling democracy would leave the Assad family without power, and little hope exists of such a settlement as long as Assad remains in power.

Sep 5  First Lady Michelle Obama, spoke to the Democratic National Convention yesterday – about issues for her husband not being political. "For Barack," she said, "they're personal, because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids... He wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love... He's the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work." Tweets during the speech were 28,000 per minute compared to 14,000 tweets per minute for Mitt Romney's acceptance speech last week. The columnist Charles Krauthammer, a Romney supporter, responded by describing Michelle's speech as "brilliant." "I thought it was a great speech," he said, "but I didn't buy a line of it." Krauthammer says he is tired of speeches about hardship, and he guesses that Barack Obama has motives not described by Michelle Obama.

Sep 6  In nominating President Obama for another four years, Bill Clinton reminded people that he has cooperated with Republicans, and he criticized congressional Republicans for their rigid failure to cooperate with Democrats. Cooperation is necessary, he said, in order to get things done. He praised Obama's "reasonable plan" for attacking the debt, and he praised the "balanced approach of the Simpson-Bowles commission." He accused the Republicans of not using the method he used for attacking the deficit: "arithmetic." He concluded: "We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double-down on trickle-down." In detail he described as wrong the accusations by Romney and Ryan that Obama had robbed medicare. He ridiculed the charge that "Democrats don't really believe in free enterprise and individual initiative, how we want everybody to be dependent on the government, how bad we are for the economy." He described the Republican approach as "you're on your own" and "winner take all." A better approach, he said, is "We're all in this together.'' He mentioned that in the 24 years since 1961 that the Democrates held the White House, forty-two million jobs were created, and 28 million jobs in the Republcan years. Charles Krauthammer for Fox News described Clinton's speech as sprawling, undisciplined, a wasted opportunity, self-indulgent and "a giant swing and a miss. Mighty Casey struck out." Clinton's speech provoked 22,000 tweets per minute.

Sep 7  Yesterday, the European Central Bank announced details of its bond buying plan. The plan is intended to ease the debt crisis by lowering government borrowing costs. Yields on Spanish and Italian ten-year bonds have fallen, the Euro has climbed to a two-month high against the dollar, and yesterday stock market prices in Europe and the US rallied.

Sep 8  Yesterday, Reuters reported that President Obama's speech "prompted 52,756 tweets per minute just after it ended, a new record according to Twitter." Some who watched complained that they didn't hear specific economical proposals from Obama. Obama spoke of "bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued." He spoke of rebuilding roads and bridges, schools and runways, the need to advance education, and he spoke of special tax cuts as incentives for businesses. He said he would "use the money we're no longer spending on war to pay down our debt." Obama is opposed to "trickle down" economics and he left that point to Bill Clinton's speech the day before – a point some people understand and others do not. Nevertheless, the overall reaction for Obama was positive. He has received a bounce from the convention. Gallop Poll has his approval rating at 52%, a fifteen-month high. Romney, on the other hand, is reported as having received no bump up from the Republican convention. The two other recent presidential candidates who also received no bump up are: George McGovern in 1972 and John Kerry in 2004.

Sep 9  A week of protests by thousands in Hong Kong force the island's locally elected head of government, Leung Chun-ying, to give up plans initiated by Beijing that would have required students to take patriotism classes. The protesters are opposed to government "brainwashing."

Sep 10  On Fox News, Republican candidate for US Vice President, Paul Ryan, has criticized Democrats for having "purged" the word "God" from their official platform. "It's not in keeping with our founding documents," he said (although "God" is not mentioned in the US Constitution and the Democrats left it in their platform). Some who detest Democrats have joined in. They have associated the Democrats with the godless Soviet Union (rather than with Australia, which has a Labour Party non-believer, Julia Gillard, as prime minister). Not yet heard is a Democrat comparing the Republican Party with the party that actually claims to be the "Party of God," in Arabic: Hezbollah. Meanwhile, some of us respect those many Democrats whose belief in God is personal, and we wonder about certainties as to God's interest in politics.

Sep 12  A film idenified as crude sensationalism rather than enlightening has been made by a self-described Israeli with perhaps a fictitious name: Sam Bacile. He is said to have been working in real estate development in California. Mr. Bacile tells the Wall Street Journal that he made the film to expose "Islam as a hateful religion." He also says, "Islam is a cancer, period." The film has enraged a segment of the Muslim population in Libya and Egypt, people who do not yet accept that there are a few people in the world who despise their religion and are crude and hateful about it. The film has had almost no showing or support, and the enraged are inaccurate in choosing their target.

Sep 13  Sam Bacile is being described in the press as a fictitious character, and Israeli officials tell the Associated Press that they have no record of anyone by that name. Steve Klein, on the other hand, had much to do with the creation of the anti-Muslim film and he has been talking to the press. He is an insurance agent from the sun-drenched town of Hemet in central-southern California. He's a member of Courageous Christians United, a group of happy-looking, smiling people devoted to opposition to Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims. They take a position common among Christians during many centuries past: that "Christianity is the only true religion." It's a position that puts them above today's concern about religious tolerance. According to a report carried by CBS News, an Egyptian talk-show host has also played a role in inspiring the riots by Muslims yesterday and today. Apparently, like some other talk-show hosts, he was interested in something sensational: the anti-Muslim film went no where – a complete failure – for two months until the talk show host played it for his audience on September 8.

Sep 14  impassioned demonstrators in Muslim countries, who don't understand US freedom of speech, riot against insults to the Prophet Muhammad, claiming that a movie made in the US is part of a US government conspiracy against Islam. On Fox News, Bill O'Rellly reacts with a wild idea of his own. He claims that the minority demonstrating against the US indicates that Muslims don't like us and that President Obama's "soft power" and "sensitive" approach to the Muslim world has failed. "A good try," he said, "but it has not worked." Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney continues to describe the president as not tough enough. But Robert Kagan, a foreign policy commentator commonly labelled as a neo-conservative, doesn't go along with the excitement. In the Washington Post he writes: "A handful of Republicans pushed Wednesday [the 12th] to cut off aid to Libya and Egypt. Fortunately, most Republicans and Democrats in Congress reject the idea."

Sep 16  Excited mobs in China rampage for the fifth and wildest day. They attack Japan's embassy, Japanese businesses including Panasonic factories. They attack people in Japanese cars and snatch Japanese cameras. There are chants "Declare war on Japan" and "Long Live China." Police are out in full force trying to contain them. The demonstrators are angry over Japan's government buying three small islands from Japanese citizens, putting the islands under Japanese state control. China claims that the group of islands of which the three are a part – the Diaoyu islands, between Okinawa and Taiwan – are historically Chinese. Japanese call them the Senkaku Islands. Japan annexed the islands in 1895. Premier Wen Jiabao plays to the get-tough spirit, saying his government will "absolutely make no concession" concerning the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Sep 17  The attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, on September 11, is being described as retaliation for a drone attack that killed Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi. Rioting because of the anti-Islam film made by persons in the US is in decline but continues. Yesterday, Tariq Ramadan, Oxford University professor of Islamic Studies, stated that quite clearly "the great majority of the Libyans and the Egyptians and the Tunisians and the Yemeni people are completely against what was done against the embassies, the killing of the ambassador." Today in Beirut, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah (a supporter of Assad in Syria) puts his face forward and calls for a week of protests against American embassies and also against Muslim governments. Meanwhile, the US has sent ships, more troops and special forces to various locations to help protect its embassies and citizens.

Sep 19  Russia's President Putin accuses the US of using its aid agency, USAid, to influence his country's politics and elections. The Russian government gives USAid until the first of October to cease all operations in the country. According to the newspaper The Guardian, the agency has helped to fund a number of pro-democracy and human rights groups. Al Jazeera writes of Moscow "tightening Internet controls" and having "raised fines for protesters." Also today, in the Washington Post, columnists Marc Thiessen and Richard Cohen accuse President Obama of having been too passive in foreign policy. Five days ago, Russia's parliament voted to expel Putin critic Gennady Gudkov who had participated in anti-Putin and anti-corruption demonstrations.

Sep 19  As sometimes happens, slowly, clarity moves against popular confusion. Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, describes to the US Congress the nature of the assault on the consulate in Benghazi on September 11 that killed Ambassador Stevens and four others. The attack has been confused with the public rioting that was also taking place.

Sep 20  Today in the Washington Post, the conservative columnist George Will writes that Mitt Romney is silly for describing the anti-US rioting as the fruit of the Obama administration's weakness. Meanwhile, the rioting has subsided except in Pakistan and maybe a couple of other places, and the governments of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, to name just three, are as friendly to the US as they were ten days ago before the rioting began. A French satirical magazine has gained publicity by publishing obscene photos of the Prophet Muhammad and is proclaiming its right to freedom of expression.

Sep 21  Interviewed by an Egyptian magazine and speaking of the rebellion against his dictatorship, President Assad of Syria says, "Both sides of the equation are equal and political dialogue is the only solution." He claims that "change cannot be achieved through foreign intervention." BBC News describes him as also saying that the Arab Spring uprisings only brought chaos.

Sep 22  Consumer Reports magazine this week released a warning about arsenic in rice, claiming that arsenic levels have increased by arsenic having been fed to chickens, turkeys and pigs and their manure used as fertilizer. Consumer Reports describes arsenic-containing drug formulations having been given to chickens to promote growth and prevent disease.

Sep 23  According to Reuters, President Obama thanks Egypt's President Morsi for securing the US Embassy during recent anti-US protests – in contrast to what Reuters describes as Mitt Romney's call "for a tougher line with Egypt."

Sep 23  Portugal's right-of-center government has been facing raucous street demonstrations against its plan to increase social security taxes. The government is backing down, and to stay on track in reducing its deficit it is reported as preparing a new cut in holiday subsidies for workers.

Sep 25  Reported in the Copenhagen Post, an analyst from the Fitch rating agency, Maria Malas-Mroueh, describes the Danish economy as having many structural strengths. "It's versatile," she says, "personal income is high and there are robust economic, political and social institutions." Ivan Morozov from Standard & Poor's adds that Denmark's prized triple-A rating is a result of the government's "continued commitment to fiscal discipline and growth orientated macro economic policy."

Sep 27   In New York, responding to a question from talk show host David Letterman, British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks of "...a big difference between us. We don't allow political parties to advertise on television." The audience applauds and shouts its approval.

Sep 27  In the United States the big election is about five weeks away. In public a newsperson asks Jason Klaus, 26, which presidential candidate he is supporting. Four years ago Mr Klaus voted for Obama. But he says now he's in the business world and favors Mitt Romney because of his plan to keep taxes low for those with higher incomes. Says Klaus: "They are the ones who own the businesses, and they are the ones who are putting the money back in the economy and providing the jobs. So I believe that would be a better plan for us." Jason Klaus appears to be a believer in what Obama and Bill Clinton call "trickle down" economics – the economics of President George W. Bush. At the Democratic National Convention a couple of weeks ago, former president Bill Clinton said, "We simply can't afford to hand the reins to somebody who will double down on trickle down." Obviously not everyone agrees with Bill Clinton or knows what he is talking about. Despite the arguments saturating television, a lot of reasoning as the US approaches election day appears to be based on hunches. This Includes Democrats who believe opposite Jason Klaus that the wealthy have more cash than ever to invest and that it will be consumer spending that drives businesses to hire more people and to advance the economy.

Sep 29  The blur that sometimes occurs in reporting events, and that has dragged on regarding the attack on the 11th of this month in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Stevens, is still a news item. On September 13, Rachel Maddow broadcast what appears to have been an accurate account. Finally, yesterday's news included a report that top US intelligence sources have issued a public statement with a clarification that agrees with Maddow's (and MSNBC's) account, described on the Sep 17 entry on this page.

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Copyright © 2012 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.