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April 2014

Note to Syria's Children V

Children, I am running out of excuses to give to you as to why the bloody war that has killed you, gassed you, maimed you, starved you and has also rendered many of you parentless and landless, is still ongoing. 

I cannot offer what I do not have - answers as to why our World  has allowed China and Russia to block crucial resolutions before the United Nations(UN) that were clearly aimed at ending your suffering. 

I do not have the answers as to why Bashar al-Assad, could seek re-election, especially against a background of strong UN evidence that his forces are responsible for gassing more than 400 of your child-friends and some 1,000 of your adult folks last year.

Racism is Out...Sterling Banned for Life By the NBA

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has stood tall for America and accordingly dealt a life-time banned from the NBA to Donald Sterling for his racist sentiments. Also the NBA Commission has fined Sterling the maximum of $2.5 million allowed by the league's constitution. Moreover, the NBA Commissioner has also strongly urged the other NBA owners to force Sterling to sell the LA Clippers. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, stood in unity with present and past players in acceptance and in support of the action by the NBA Commissioner. Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Steve Nash were among those meeting the Press in Los Angeles after the announcement. What the NBA has reaffirmed today, is that, racism is a bygone stigma that needs to be gutted from all sectors of American society and that it will not be tolerated in 2014, 2015, 2016, not anymore. 

The Ascension of a Bad Moon

I seek not to alarm, but to inform. Nevertheless, it is high time that the free World becomes aware of the fact that the deepening crisis in Ukraine and the heightening of tensions on the East and South China Seas, are two plausible events that could escalate into open warfare or into another global economic crisis.

No rational individual desires the mentioned scenarios, but reality, the character, possible triggering incidents,  the egos, the greed and the habits of humankind, could easily effect events that not are not desired or wished, thus thrusting the international community into open warfare or toward an economic crisis.

Racism: America's Final Turn on the Road

Players of the NBA, and especially the LA Clippers, went to the hard courts on Sunday night and competed in the 2014 basketball playoffs games, determined not to allow the comments of one man, to hinder years of racial progress and equality across America. Yesterday on this Blog I suggested that Donald Sterling's players should act accordingly with respect to racist comments attributed to him. Last night, his Clippers sent him a clear non-endorsement of his twisted sentiments  by appearing on court with their red shirts worn inside out to obscure the team's name and by all members wearing black socks and black wrist bands. But, maybe in some sinister way or another, Sterling has done America some good through his racist comments, for he has brought to light a topic, often a taboo, that needs addressing finally along America's path to full racial unity. Sterling reminds us that not all racists are dead. Like him, some cling to life with money, influence and power -  dangerous strengths for anyone possessing racist inklings. Yet, if there is a Donald Sterling of the NBA, then there must be others of the same dying breed across other sectors from sports to business to education to politics and beyond; most, obviously declining in influence, yet, their mere existence represents a blotched decal upon American society as the United States seeks to reaffirm its stewardship of equality, peace, democracy and protection of human rights and dignity in the World. So as we remember the Holocaust on this day, and as we celebrated Emancipation Day ten days ago, lets send one final message to racists that there is no place for them in this 2014, 2015, 2016 and beyond. May the NBA owners deal with their colleague accordingly. 

That Dying Blotch of Racists in America

In the 30 years that I have lived in the United States(US), I have observed remarkable improvements in race relations. Yet, ever so often, as President Obama has alluded in response to racist comments by the owner of the LA Clippers basketball team, I have heard and I have witnessed firsthand, ugly racist events that are perpetrated by a dying generation who muster a confused, alienated and lonely philosophy of race relations. From a phone call in the wee hours of the morning from a friend in Schuylerville, New York, begging that I hurry armed to his house because individuals were burning a cross at his front door and were attempting to enter his residence, to a potential landlord declaring that his unrented apartment had already "been rented to Mr. Smith" while the said premises remained unrented two days, three days, seven days later; I've seen the ugly faces of racism. But as President Obama has concluded: "When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk." So as a Black man with an Irish ex-mate and a present Chinese wife, I've basically followed the President's observation for years and allowed ignorance to talk, for I have also as a tenet that: "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words, they don't worry me." But enough is enough. The remaining pockets of racists need to be called out and exposed for whom they really are. Donald Sterling, the owner of the LA Clippers, who has many minority players playing for his team, should be brought to suffer the alienation of his beliefs. If he believes Black people should not come to his games, then his players, who are Black, should act accordingly. And as President Obama says, "We've made enormous strides...we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it (racism), teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this(Sterling's) stand out so much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves." In other words, such comments and prejudices have become uncommon so that when they are revealed today, they are shocking.

More Sanctions, Seriously! Putin's Not Budging

That Western nations have agreed to swiftly impose more sanctions on Russia in respect to Putin's continued menacing in Ukraine, is a welcomed peaceful diplomatic policy; but unless these sanctions are deep enough to really impact Putin and his clan, Russia will not budge and Putin's disturbance into Ukraine will continue. Moreover, it is likely that no economic, financial nor trade sanctions by the West upon Russia, would ever be sufficient to force Putin to abide by the Geneva accord of April 17. Putin has clearly sufficed that sanctions that would clearly hurt him are too draconian for Western nations to attempt, because they would amount to the West shooting themselves in the "foot" because he has that commodity Western nations need, and Western nations will not dare deprive themselves of Russian gas to effect stability in Ukraine. Furthermore, Putin believes that his partnership with Xi Jinping of China and their forthcoming energy pact, is more than sufficient economically to offset any Western sanctions. So on Monday when the EU meets in Brussels, Belgium, to determine the scope of new sanctions, Putin will not be worrying. And in Washington, when the US sanctions are identified, Putin will probably respond with more rhetoric suggesting the Internet as a CIA project along with other incoherent discourse to project to the West that he is not sweating. And perhaps he's not, for in Xi Jinping of China, Putin, believes he's found a friend. As Western nations sat to discuss Putin's interference in Ukraine, Putin's friend, Xi, has been scoping out new territory in South America for deals from Uranium to ethanol, to soy beans to meats,  of which Putin hopes Xi will eventually share the spoils. Putin will not step back from Ukraine as he attempts to effect the May 25 vote there. But, NATO has the capacity to force Putin's troops back to barracks, and I submit that despite the Putinian rhetoric that might come as a result of, the Ukraine Prime Minister needs to make one declaration: "Ukraine desires full membership in NATO." 

Gas! Russia's Carrot to Control Europe

It's all about the gas. Russian gas to Poland, Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and beyond has been Putin's carrot to control and to meddle at will and whim in Central and Eastern Europe. As Europe's "gas station" and because of Europe's large dependence on Russian gas, Putin has been able to menace in Ukraine as he deems fit. Gas! Germany, Putin believes, an anchor partner of the EU and NATO, will become skeptical to endorse deepening US proposed sanctions on Russia. Moreover, Putin is hoping that a rift emerges within the EU and NATO partners, upon which he would quickly stoke to his advantage to meddle more in Ukraine and beyond. But Putin could win the gas variable, for already Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier is making statements to the effect: "I sometimes wish that the same engagement being used for the debate about sanctions would also exist when it comes to avoiding a further escalation...We've already exhaustively discussed the sanctions issue," Reuters attributed to the German minister. But the German fails to take into account that de-escalation of the crisis in Ukraine could only come from Russian action, and Putin will not stand down until painful effects are incurred by his regime.  Germany, as a partner to stability, should be  following the lead of those former soviet-states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, who are most dependent on Russian gas, and act to reduce German dependence on Russian gas. These nations are moving quickly to reduce their reliance on Russia. The choice of a floating gas terminal for these Baltic states, re-emphasizes the urgency these states feel to liberate themselves from Russian gas. Poland is working on a new liquid gas terminal that would allow it to buy energy from  sources other than Russia. As reported by the AP, Estonia and Finland are talking about building two new gas terminals on the Baltic. Even though some of these alternatives are  expensive, these nations are pressing ahead to diversify from Russian gas reliance. So, soon, Putin might find fewer refuelers at his "gas station".

Ukraine's Security Blanket is within NATO

The crisis in Ukraine is far from over. Russian troops continue to sit and to carryout exercises along the Ukraine border. To safeguard Ukraine from further Russian incursions, Ukraine must seek immediate  NATO membership or at least, declare a desire for full membership within NATO. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk must reverse his declaration of March 18, this year, that NATO membership is not on Ukraine's agenda. Yatseniuk's March 18 statement, obviously meant to appease Russia, has not worked. Russia continues to menace Ukraine, and Putin's pro-Russian cronies in eastern Ukraine continue to create much instability. Putin fears NATO. Economic sanctions on Russia for actions within Ukraine are not draconian enough to return Putin's forces to barracks. Moscow has already claimed that it has enough staying power to ward off the effects of any western sanctions. In other words, with Russia about to enter a mega energy deal with China, Putin has sufficed that, with Xi Jinping of China in his camp, Russia could survive any economic sanctions imposed by the west. Both China and Russia have had similar voting patterns at the United Nations. If there isn't a marriage between the two, then pigs can fly. However, I again submit, that Putin fears NATO. And if the Ukraine Prime Minister could finally declare that his country seeks full NATO membership, it should be sufficient under international conventions, for NATO to come to Ukraine's  defense against Putin. Anything short of such a declaration by Ukraine would create a gray area for further confusion under which Russia could do as it pleases. No longer can Ukraine refrain from the inevitable in attempting to appease Putin. Prior attempts have not worked. Nothing short of a full declaration for NATO membership would work to bring stability to Ukraine, and to those western-freedom seekers who dwelt on the Maidan for weeks on end. 

Assurance to Asian Allies

United States President Barrack Obama arrived in Japan earlier this morning, and to a welcomed sigh from Japanese and other Asian allies, President Obama wasted no time in assuring America's commitment to friends in the region. With respect to territorial disputes between China and Japan that have raised tensions on the East China Sea, President Obama reaffirmed that the US security pact with Japan, also covers the  Senkaku islands, which China calls Diaoyu. As reported by CNN, the BBC and AP, President Obama made it known that: "The policy of the United States is clear...The Senkaku islands are administered by Japan...and we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands." He clearly defined that the islands "fall within the scope" of a US-Japan security treaty, thus the US could step in militarily in the event there is a fight over the islands. China unilaterally redrew air zones over the East China Sea last November. While Beijing is expected to growl, to threaten and to claim "cage" policies in respect to President Obama's reassurances to allies, it is crucial that President Obama focuses his attention on the security of US allies, and not on China's complaints. Moreover, China's emerging complaint of attempted US containment  is utter rubbish. US diplomats should not even respond to China's moans. If in protecting friends, an inevitable secondary effect is yielded that might be construed as containment, then it is what it is; but a country of democratic creeds must not allow a communist lament of possible containment to overshadow nor force it to under support the genuine security concerns of allies.                                                                                                                                                                 

US Reaffirmation to Asian Allies

Godspeed to President Barrack Obama on his week-long Asian trip - a trip that was postponed  last October because of the Republican shut down of the Federal Government here in Washington, DC. Ensuring stability in his house before venturing to another, President Obama's trip was put on ice until this week, when he will visit the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. While this trip is part of the Washington Administration's rebalance of the US relationship with East and Southeast Asia, my preference in describing this trip amounts to America's reaffirmation of its commitments to allies in that region. China has ruffled many feathers on the East and South China Seas with its unilateral demarcation of air and sea zones in the region. The Philippines and Japan have sought out from Washington a pledge that the US will indeed stand behind them in matters in respect to China. President Obama's trip should among other things, act as affirmation to jittery allies that Washington will squarely stand with them to honor their security and other agreements with the US. On trade, Asia is a yet developing and a large market, the US should continue to seek out mega deals in the region. And to those who doubted US interests in the region, and to those who believed that domestic matters would have prevented Washington from making this pivot to Asia, I say to you; you don't know America! So, sleep well allies; Washington has reaffirmed its support to you.