Tag Archives: united states

Observations of an Expat: Colonial Problem

A colonial era Latin American border dispute is threatening to blow up into a major conflict involving the United States, Brazil, Venezuela, the tiny country of Guyana and possibly Britain as the former colonial power.

The catalyst is the discovery of large oil and gas deposits off the coast of the Essequibo region which is claimed by both Venezuela and Guyana. It has been occupied by Guyana since 1840.

On December 3, President Nicolas Maduro held a referendum in Venezuela in which 95 percent of those balloted voted in favour of annexing the 100,000 square mile Essequibo region which is two-thirds of Guyanese territory. It should be noted that international observers labelled the referendum “grossly unfair” and with a “low turnout”. Furthermore, no one in the Essequibo region voted.

International criticism, however, has not stopped Maduro from ordering foreign companies out of the jungles of Essequibo and the exclusive economic zone off the coast.

Venezuela has also mobilised its army of 100,000 in preparation for a possible invasion. Guyana has put its 7,000 troops on alert. And Brazil has sent troops to its border with Venezuela because the Venezuelan army would have to pass through Brazil to attack Guyana.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said America will protect Guyana’s sovereignty and additional US warships have been dispatched to the Caribbean for manoeuvres with Guyana’s five-boat navy.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Ukraine

War Is Hell and as Zelensky’s troops enter the second week of their counter offensive it is clear that Ukraine is the seventh circle. The Ukrainians are taking heavy losses for so far minimal gains as they hurl themselves against an elaborate Russian “defense in depth.”

President Zelensky has said that the counter offensive is going according to plan. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, more phlegmatically reported: “It is a very difficult fight.”

The Ukrainians have had some success in the Donetsk region where they appear to have regained about 40 square miles of territory. They are also advancing on Bakhmut. But the Russians appear to have the edge in the vital Zaporizhia region where the Ukrainians have lost a number of tanks, including recently supplied German Leopards and American tanks. Having said that, Putin has admitted to losing 54 tanks in the past ten days.

To a large degree the counter-offensive appears to be a big step up from a probing exercise but not yet a full-scale frontal assault. The Ukrainians are still looking for weak points in the 600-mile long Russian defensive line and neither side has committed its reserves.

Among the major developments in Russia this week have been the Russia Day celebrations on Monday and a new enlistment law. The first marks the day that Russia seceded from the old Soviet Union and was used by Putin to deliver a rally around the flag speech while warning of tough times ahead. The second allowed the recruitment of convicts into the regular army. This will enable the government to reduce unpopular conscription levels but will also exacerbate the conflict between the Wagner Group and the army, as prisons are also the main recruiting ground for the mercenary group.

USA

Teflon Trump can’t win. His arraignment on federal charges this week may have failed to dent his popularity among hard-right Republican voters, but the wider voting public is thoroughly unimpressed. The numbers don’t stack up for a third Trump attempt at the White House.

Registered Republicans are 38.8 million of the voting population. At a guess I would say that roughly 3.8 million of them are either so sick of Trump that they will either abstain or vote against him.

Democrats are 49 million of the voting population. I reckon that they will all vote for the Democratic candidate – even if he is an octogenarian – to insure that Trump stays out of the White House.

That leaves the Independents who are 41 percent or 65.68 million of the registered voting population. The latest opinion polls show that they are split 40/60 with the 60 percent adamantly opposed to Trump returning to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

That means that if all the registered voters cast their ballots tomorrow for one of the two main candidates that Trump (assuming he is the Republican candidate) would receive about 44 million votes and the Democratic candidate (whomever that may be) would receive 78.8 million.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

While a Chinese balloon floated through American skies President Joe Biden stepped up to the podium to deliver his annual State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress.

The events were notable for two reasons: They exposed an irrational Yellow Peril fear that more than matches the Red Scare of Cold War years and pointed to a possible new era of American isolationism.

Conspicuous by its absence from Biden’s address to the Joint Session of Congress was any mention of foreign policy. With war raging in Ukraine, Turkey and Syria devastated by earthquakes, South America in political turmoil and China expanding, spying and rattling sabres over Taiwan. one would have thought Biden would have focused more on the world situation.

Instead he spoke about domestic concerns. Biden’s success in creating jobs; protecting American industry and controlling inflation. With at least one eye focused on next year’s elections, he is stealing Republican clothes by shifting to a more isolationist stand.

In this respect, the president appears to be following rather than leading US public opinion. The latest polls show a significant drop in American support for the war in Ukraine. China, however, is a different matter. The Chinese spy/weather balloon (probably a bit of both) did secure a passing reference in the president’s speech; probably because of the hysteria it generated among the American public. The fact is that countries spy on each other. The US spies on China. China spies on the US. Russia spies on….

Most of the spying is unseen. Intelligence operatives skulking in the corridors of power or satellites in space. The balloon, however, could be seen as it floated from Alaska, over missile silos in Montana and North Dakota and then finally to the Atlantic where it was shot down by US fighter planes.

The much discussed Asian Pivot was this week back in the news. For a start, American troops are returning in big numbers to the Philippines. The reason? The threat of China and the need to maintain international access to the South China Sea and protect Taiwan.

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Observations of an Expat: Crossing the Ukrainian Rubicon

America this week crossed its Ukrainian Rubicon.

It took a while. And with good reason. US foreign policy was badly burned by operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East. It could not afford another expensive failure.

That’s not to say that the Biden Administration failed to support Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion. It froze the oligarchs’ assets, imposed sanctions, dispatched 100,000 US troops to Europe and provided $14 billion in military and humanitarian aid.

But at the same time, President Biden, was ultra-careful not to prod the Russian bear into a World War Three. There were to be no NATO boots on Ukrainian soil and a close watch was kept on any weapons provided to the Ukrainian military.

NATO forces will still keep out of Ukraine, but the flow and type of weapons is being substantially upgraded. On Thursday the president announced that he wants Congressional approval for a further $33 billion for Ukraine. $20 billion in the form of military aid; $8.5 billion in economic aid and $3 billion in humanitarian aid. A pro-Ukraine Congress will almost certainly approve the package.

The president also wants to liquidate the $1 billion-plus in oligarchs’ frozen assets to help offset the cost of the Ukraine war. This may not be much in comparison to the global total, but if Europe follows suit they will add an estimated $30 billion to the pot.

Biden’s announcement followed a trip to Kyiv by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, which in turn was followed by a meeting at America’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany of more than 40 countries who pledged to support Ukraine. The usually soft-spoken low profile Lloyd Austin was loud in his condemnation of Vladimir Putin and his support for Volodomyr Zelensky.

“We will not allow Putin to win,” said Austin, and it was clear from his comments and those of Antony Blinken that in supporting Ukraine the US believed it was backing good against evil and was on the right side of history. “Russia,” said the American Defence Secretary, “is waging a war of choice to indulge the ambitions of one man. Ukraine is fighting a war of necessity to defend its democracy, its sovereignty and its citizens.”

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Liberalism in the United States

What is political liberalism in the United States? That’s the topic of the Liberal Democrat History Group’s next discussion meeting, at 6.30pm on Tuesday 6 July. All are welcome.

The original conception of liberalism in America was the protection of people from arbitrary power, support for the free market and advocacy of religious tolerance. Many of these concepts found their place in the American Declaration of Independence and in the constitution of the emerging United States. The Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton (who may have been surprised to find himself, 230 years later, starring in a rap musical), John Jay and James Madison are now regarded as classics of western constitutionalism, laying out the doctrine of limited government, representative democracy and federalism.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine – Biden has changed the narrative

Writing in the Scotsman as the G7 summit takes place in St Ives, Christine Jardine breathes a sigh of relief that we have a grown-up in the White House again and looks at how Joe Biden has been a good friend to the UK. Sometimes, she says, your best friends tell you the truth.

She compared this summit to the Atlantic Charter, Churchill and Roosevelt’s vision for the post war world:

Eighty years later, Biden referenced that moment as he cast the other leaders in his shadow to declare that the United States will donate half a billion dozes of Pfizer vaccines to 92 low and middle income countries.

“America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19, just as America was the arsenal of democracy during World War Two”, he promised.

This was the statement of intent that the world needed.

A commitment from a US President to those who had begun to doubt his country’s engagement with foreign affairs. Leadership.

The UK and others have made similar vaccine commitments but this was America’s moment to step forward and begin to lay the foundations of a post-Covid international order.

Christine also sees hope in the fact that we now have Joe Biden in power after four years of someone who inspired contempt, protests and blimps.

America got rid of Trump, and maybe we can get rid of our equivalent:

Three years ago, every utterance of the then President brought fresh waves of disillusionment bordering on despair.

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Daily View 2×2: 3 June 2020

2 big stories

The slide towards banana republic status for the United Kingdom continues. Yesterday, whipped by their leadership, Conservative MPs voted to return to the old ways of operating, causing a queue of MPs to form in order to vote that ran through Westminster Hall, the gardens of the Palace of Westminster and as far as Portcullis House. Frankly, if I were the Opposition, I’d be calling divisions on anything and everything, up to and including what day of the week it is.

Excluding MPs who are pregnant, shielding or in vulnerable groups is an attack on our democracy, and …

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15 July 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Law Centre closures show legal aid cuts have gone too far
  • Lib Dems: Honouring Turing ‘a painful reminder’
  • US trade deal delay more evidence of Brexit false promises
  • Home Office accused of deliberately lying to deport slavery victims

Law Centre closures show legal aid cuts have gone too far

Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks QC has called on the Conservative Government to reverse £500 million of legal aid cuts, as new figures showing that the number of legal advice centres has halved since 2014.

The figures, reported by the Guardian today, show that the number of Law Centres in England and Wales has fallen …

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Tom Brake: Trump “reckless and short-sighted” on Iran nuclear deal

Even Boris Johnson can see the sense in sticking with the Iran nuclear deal.

Unfortunately, his tv diplomacy over the weekend seems to have come to nought as Trump has decided to withdraw the US from it. This news is not going to come as the biggest surprise we’ve ever had but it still makes the world just a bit more unstable.

Tom Brake called the decision short-sighted and reckless, and looks to the EU for leadership, saying:

Trump’s decision to scrap US participation in the Iran nuclear deal is reckless and short-sighted. The deal is far from perfect, but

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Plymouth Rock

Take a moment to be thankful.

For your job, your friends, that you have food to eat and a place to sleep, for the air we breathe and the freedom we have. Be thankful.

The North American holiday of Thanksgiving was born of tragedy. The Mayflower, filled with settlers from England, docked in Plymouth, Massachusetts in December 1620. Of the 102 passengers and around 30 crew on board, only five women of eighteen survived the winter, and around half the men and crew.

The following spring, the Wampanoag, a …

Posted in LDVUSA and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Violet Temple Lewis – an educational trailblazer for African American women

The Lewis College of Business, Detroit, Michigan

This is the fourth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

As I was wondering through the streets near my hotel in Detroit, I came across one of the many historic plaques which one sees right across America. The plaque was next to this house (above) in John R Street, Detroit. It records that this building became, in 1941, the office of the Lewis College of Business. It said:

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