The People of Iran

Iran

Critics of the Iran nuclear deal may harbor some justification in their complaints, but no one criticizes the Iranian people. Despite years of denigration (rallies organized around the chant “Death to America” comes to mind) by their autocratic government, the Iranian public remains one of the most pro-American in the Middle East. Unlike fully Arab nations, Iran is known for its Persian influences as well as a liking for blue jeans and Big Macs.

… the religious and military leaders of Iran fear their own people.

That’s one reason why the religious and military leaders of Iran fear their own people. Their power does not reside in a groundswell of approval but rather brute force. Whether the current form of government remains exactly the same for 10-to-15 years is an open question.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are correct in describing the idea of waiting for a better “unicorn” deal as a fallacy. No nation would ever agree to open its military facilities for investigation in full instant access. We need to remember that all peoples possess a certain amount of inherent pride. In many ways, the success of the negotiations with Iran is a minor miracle. The Iranians went further than anyone anticipated at the onset, and President Obama should be praised for the way he leveraged increased sanctions to bring Iran to the table. That both governments crossed so many “red lines” is a tribute to the seriousness of Iran’s leaders to improve the lot of their people.

Poll Driven Coverage

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Americans like a good horse race, but when political coverage degenerates into an obsession with poll results, the body politic suffers. Donald Trump provides a prime example. His style and blunt statements have catapulted him into the lead position as a candidate for the Republican nomination for President. But that result, surprising as it may be, does not justify the volume of news coverage he is receiving. His antics, such as giving out Lindsey Graham’s personal phone number, do show a certain originality, but his serious policy statements are few and far between.

Americans like a good horse race, but when political coverage degenerates into an obsession with poll results, the body politic suffers.

The dynamics of this poll driven coverage will reach an apex with the upcoming Fox candidate debate next week. Rather than fight the superficial nature of the news coverage so far, Fox has added to it by requiring the participants to finish in the top 10 of the national polls.

This obsession with polls and relative rankings is bad for our democracy. It encourages people to think about candidates by their position in the polls rather than their policy statements. Moreover, it prevents candidates from leading, demonstrating why their position is the right one, and letting the polls catch up as people change their opinions.

One hopes the Fox debate will focus on substance rather than degenerating into a shouting match, but things don’t look promising.

The Role of the Establishment

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The so-called “establishment,” a favorite target of the right wing and a much maligned entity, does not operate as an overt collusion or a nefarious organization; in fact, one wonders if it is a strict alliance at all in any sense of the term. Rather, the establishment exerts its influence through experience and an inherited knowledge of the way things operate. The proverb, “you can’t fight City Hall,” can be interpreted in too strict a manner. But in terms of efficiency, proper governance and preventing any one individual or political party to operate untrammeled, the establishment ensures things get done in an effective way, achieving results widely accepted throughout society.

… we must beware of those who rail against the establishment or “mainstream media” for they are the ones with ulterior motives.

The establishment has come under sustained attack since the formation of the Tea Party and the rise of right-wing extremists who are unable to compromise and “play nice” with others. These “anti-establishment” politicians are willing to shut down the government and create as much ruckus as possible to get what they want done, despite the opposition of others. They have endangered the credit rating of the U.S. government and were even willing to shut down the Homeland Security department in an effort to oppose President Obama’s executive order on immigration, similar orders previously given by Republican Presidents as well.

The establishment plays many useful roles in United States government. It protects us from demagogues such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and, in a previous election, Newt Gingrich. It enables compromise and smooths out the process of governance. It provides for minimum standards for elected officials, and, in the media, it tells us what’s really going on in a neutral and effective way. So, we must beware of those who rail against the establishment or “mainstream media” for they are the ones with ulterior motives.

Saving the Planet

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It is disconcerting to think that if a Republican wins the Presidency in 2016, all executive action to fight climate change will be completely and utterly halted. Secretary Clinton gave an inspiring speech yesterday about meeting tough goals on generating energy from renewable sources, rising to 30 percent by 2027, a goal beyond even the Obama administration. All the Republican candidates currently deride the science of climate change using the same formulation, “I am not a scientist.”

You would think Republicans would take the position, “Hey, I’m not a scientist, but just in case they’re right about climate change, maybe we should do something.”

Well, neither am I. But I’m sufficiently impressed by the feats of science, thanks to which we are currently visiting Pluto, a place so far away it takes hours for light and radio signals to reach us. And the methods of science, based solely on the evidence, suggest our planet is consistently and undeniably warming. Those who believe man-made activities are the cause has risen to 99 percent of the scientists.

To ignore the issue of climate change is to play a game with the future of the planet at stake. You would think Republicans would take the position, “Hey, I’m not a scientist, but just in case they’re right about climate change, maybe we should do something.” The fact that they don’t tells you volumes about where this stance is really coming from: donations from the corporate giants of the gas and oil industry.

Hillary’s Email Conundrum

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Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a personal device for government emails seems like a time-saving measure, but she was faced with a conundrum in handling classified information. As Secretary of State, she was subject to a constant barrage of input for decision-making purposes. It was inevitable that classified data would be part of the mix she would need to handle.

The only solution I can fathom at this moment would be to turn the entire server over to a neutral party. Only that way will the incessant Republican propaganda machine be turned off from repeating server, server, server, in the same way they screamed Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.

One can understand why she used her own server. It gave her privacy and control, but those advantages came with a price. And that price may include an unwanted detour in her campaign for the presidency.

The Clinton campaign will need to find some way to get ahead of the story. The drip, drip, drip of exposures, and the timed release of more emails in the months ahead will give Republicans an easy way to define her as untrustworthy and secretive, and that plays into the existing narrative of her personality.

Just as Mitt Romney was sunk by the 47 percent remark as unfeeling towards the poor, Ms. Clinton will be sunk by the email controversy if she doesn’t take decisive action. And that action involves more than humoring her opponents, or referring to the matter in an offhand way during a fundraiser.

The only solution I can fathom at this moment would be to turn the entire server over to a neutral party. Only that way will the incessant Republican propaganda machine be turned off from repeating server, server, server, in the same way they screamed Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.

Will Trump Fade?

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Donald Trump is a smart guy. He knows how to read the polls, and he has an instinctual knack for self-promotion. I can’t think of two things more essential to getting ahead and staying ahead in national politics.

He knows how to read the polls, and he has an instinctual knack for self-promotion. I can’t think of two things more essential to getting ahead and staying ahead in national politics.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, Trump is not the type to surrender a lead, and he’s got plenty of money to make sure he stays there. The current analogy being passed around by the Republican establishment is that Trump’s a sideshow; he’s not a “serious candidate.” But the general method to fight these types of candidates, the one employed against Newt Gingrich, is to flood the airwaves with negative advertising, to show up all the star’s “baggage.”

Trump has plenty of baggage, but he’s not the type to sit around helpless because he’s got plenty of money to fight any assault, and doing so only makes him more popular.

So, Trump is in the mix, and he’s in there to stay. And he’s got a knack like James Carville for fighting back. His latest move, giving out Senator Lindsey Graham’s personal phone number on the air, was genius, a surefire way to change coverage of the story.

Donald Trump may make a terrible President, but he will never get THAT FAR. Hillary Clinton will win among the general electorate which is very different from the subset of Republican primary voters.

In Defense of Classic Politics

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The politics of running for President of the United States involves a bevy of handlers, advisers and top strategists; they can be thought of as a hidden iceberg with only the candidates sticking their heads above water. There is a reason for this. At a level where every utterance is scrutinized, no isolated human being can run for the highest office in the land without a lot of advice.

Running for President of the United States comes with a bevy of handlers, advisers and top political strategists; they can be thought of as a hidden iceberg with only the candidates sticking their heads above water.

Advisers such as pollsters and campaign consultants receive more than their fair share of criticism, but they endure it, secure in the knowledge of the vital role they play. No one may understand this better now than Donald Trump.

With his recent criticism of John McCain, a veteran and war hero whom even the Democrats respect, Mr. Trump has shot himself in the foot, and only time will tell whether the damage ruins the rest of his candidacy. But, more than anything, his error proves the inviolable need of a professional political staff when running for President of the United States. Even the most accomplished business executive wouldn’t dream of making decisions without appropriate input. Why should the President of the United States be any different?

Of all the candidates, Hillary Clinton is running the best campaign. Recognizing she is on a glide path to the nomination, Ms. Clinton has limited press appearances and interviews for one primary purpose: avoiding the kind of error Mr. Trump made over the weekend. And she is succeeding in this strategy despite the vocal protestations from Fox News and the Republicans. Hillary shows why listening to your advisers is a good idea just as Donald shows why failing to do so is a bad one.

Unconventional Trump

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Donald Trump has been analyzed and neatly put into a box by established media, politicians and analysts. The conventional wisdom goes something like this: Trump is a temporary aberration in polling data based primarily on name recognition and a fickle conservative electorate.

The conventional wisdom goes something like this: Trump is a temporary aberration in polling data based primarily on name recognition and a fickle conservative electorate.

I would argue instead for an unconventional profile of an unconventional candidate. Donald Trump is well aware of the history of candidates like Newt Gingrich, who saw themselves overwhelmed by a barrage of negative advertising, and enjoyed only a brief period ahead in the polls. Mr. Trump will be looking instead to leverage his current popularity by being the un-politician and, in the process, he will expand his following.

Donald Trump is nothing if not an opportunist, and he will not let this moment in the limelight slip away. He’s already burned a number of bridges to get where he is today, and his commitment to running for the Presidency has never been stronger. He knows how to use hyperbole, and he will be taking full advantage of his “brash and bold” style to maintain his current #1 position in the polls. The other Republican candidates will become increasingly alarmed by his success, and he will use their inevitable attacks to burnish his own reputation.

Mark my word, two months from today, he will still be leading the polls.

The Vast Expanse of Space

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Man should feel humbled by the vast expanse of space. We have just finished visiting our solar system with the recent flyby of Pluto, and that may well represent the outer limit of our capabilities for some time to come. Even the nearest star would require a multi-generational space flight, and that assumes we are traveling at the limit of the speed of light.

We have just finished visiting our solar system with the recent flyby of Pluto …

In addition to the almost incomprehensible size of space, we are also humbled by how little we know about our own planets. No one expected to see evidence of volcanic activity on Pluto, with smooth areas on the planet and amazingly high mountains and interpreting the results of our unmanned probes throughout the solar system will keep scientists busy for a long while.

Unfortunately for those Star Trek fans out there, the size of the universe almost certainly precludes visits by UFOs, unless they are hidden among us in this solar system. Einstein proved conclusively that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, which means, despite the inevitable number of planets like the Earth, alien civilizations are so far away, they could never reach us. That might be a good thing, however. Visits from other civilizations, with their own code of morals, could be deleterious to us as well as beneficial.

A Transformative Agreement

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Republicans are fond of arguing that cutting taxes does not decrease revenue because the increase in economic activity changes the dynamics and boosts the collection of taxes — I humbly submit they should look at the accord with Iran in the same way.

Republicans are fond of arguing that cutting taxes does not decrease revenue because the increase in economic activity changes the dynamics and boosts the collection of taxes — I humbly submit they should look at the accord with Iran in the same way.

Bringing Iran back into the fold of nations will change the internal dynamics of the country. The increase in international investments combined with other aspects of globalization will improve the lot of everyday Iranians and help to build a consensus against the pursuit of nuclear weapons when the accord expires 10-to-15 years from now. In addition to reversing and then freezing the breakout time for Iran to build a nuclear weapon, the agreement will also start to build a relationship between Iran and the West.

This relationship will not consist of a black-and-white allies or enemies dilemma but will fall somewhere in between. The very fact of removing the sanctions will make it very hard to reimpose them without just cause. And if Iran is scrupulous about complying with the various tenets of the agreement, it will build its reputation in other spheres as well.

Of course, these developments will not occur overnight. Iran will continue to engage in conflicts outside its borders and try to project its influence throughout the Middle East. But the power of economics has a way of breaking down walls, and relationship between Iran and the United States could potentially transform both countries in the future.