The Wall and its lessons

By Christopher Harper

From the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Cold War shaped most baby boomers.

Like me, almost every boomer spent some time under classroom desks in a rather idiotic drill during and after the Cuban missile crisis. Somehow being under a desk would save us!

The Vietnam War also was a reaction to the Cold War—an attempt to stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia. Obviously, it didn’t work.

I had the opportunity to spend time behind the Iron Curtain both before and after the fall of Communism.

What struck me most about Soviet domination before 1989 was how difficult the lives of people in Eastern Europe were under Communism.

It was difficult to find food, proper medicine, and hope.

I recall twisting my ankle in Poland. I struggled into the hospital and noticed how the shelves were empty, and the equipment was aging. The doctor told me the ankle wasn’t broken, and he didn’t have much to help me with the pain. Fortunately, a nurse found an elastic bandage to help me hobble around for the next few days.

In Bulgaria, the hotel offered lobster on the menu. One of my colleagues decided to order some. The waitress didn’t speak much English, so she came out with a shellfish that was encrusted in ice because it was caught years ago. The message, however, was clear. Perhaps my friend should order something else.

For years, my wife and I had wanted to visit what was then called Czechoslovakia. Because I was a journalist, I was unable to get a visa even though I only wanted to be a tourist. The government did not allow American journalists to visit for any reason. Fortunately, we were able to visit the Czech Republic after the end of the Soviet empire.

Although Eastern Europe has had its share of difficulties after the end of communism, the streets are brighter, the hopes are higher, and the freedoms are greater.

The lesson that every American should take away from the fall of the wall is how much better life is in Eastern Europe. All you have to do is look at the economies of Poland, Hungary, and other countries that lived behind the wall and under the boot of Soviet oppression.

Moreover, it’s critical to realize that socialist doctrines, such as government control of essential industries, never worked in the Soviet Union and its empire and won’t help the United States in the years ahead.

How’s that Africa plan working out for us?

Map of Nigeria, from Nigeria.ru

With the focus on the Middle East, its easy to forget there are other parts of the world. Africa in particular tends to not make our news feeds. It always makes mine though, and yesterday was more bad news:

Nigeria looks to sign military cooperation deal with Russia this month

with this gem:

““We’re sure that with Russian help we’ll manage to crush Boko Haram, given Russia’s experience combating Islamic State in Syria,” Nigerian envoy Steve Ugbah said in an interview with Russia’s RIA news agency.”

Steve Ugbah, Nigerian Envoy

Ugh.

As a nation we suck at African relationships. Nigeria in particular is a key nation, with not only a relatively functioning democracy, but also a large population and large economy. Nigeria will be a leading force in Africa over the next 20 years. And that is about where our relationship ends.

Our State Department is not pushing relationships forward enough, unlike China and Russia, who are more than happy to offer economic and military incentives to advance their influence in the region. On the military side, we should be pushing for a military collective with African Nations that would help build military standards (similar to NATO), allow collective exercises, provide personnel exchanges and open markets to military sales. On the economic side, Africa presents a unique opportunity break China’s grasp on low-cost manufature and invest in a region that is unlikely to build a military super-giant devoted to destroying the United States. While we’re at it, let’s reevaluate how we do sanctions, since we seem happy to put sanctions on African countries for human rights violations while willfully ignoring those of Arab countries.

Africa could be our answer to China if we let it be. Let’s make that choice vice letting China and Russia turn Africa into their next backyard.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Impeachment Strategy (UPDATE: Letter)

Image result for tug of war

by baldilocks

I heard that one of President Trump’s lawyers sent the House a letter which basically says “hell naw we ain’t playing your impeachment inquiry games.” I read only part of the letter, but it really must be spicy, because a lot of anti-Trump partisans are wailing about it.

When this whole thing started, someone on Twitter offered this as an exclusive photo of the anonymous “whistle-blower.”


I shared it and got a lot of laughs, but the thing is this: it is probable that Donald Trump set this soap opera into motion and did so on purpose. What follows is my theory on how it went down.

Last week, it was reported that Secretary of State Pompeo was sitting in on the call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky.

After the call – or maybe before – the president tells Pompeo to get one of the latter’s people to drop some bait about the call in the presence of the right person — someone who is likely to spill the beans to the Democratic Party honchos.

This gets done and thus is born the “whistle-blower,” who so is excited about it that she doesn’t bother with the whistle-blower procedure. Instead, she runs to Congress in order pass the bait along to the other fish — especially to Adam Schiff — and they, of course, swallow it. What about the change to the whistle-blower statute regarding first-hand information? Trump changed that.

Why would President Trump do this? Simple. He knows that the Democrats have been after him since he announced his candidacy; they pre-conjured a reason for his impeachment, for Heaven’s sake. Therefore, he is forcing an impeachment at the time of his choosing rather than theirs.

I don’t think the Democrats wanted to begin the procedure this long before the 2020 presidential election. Remember that Nancy Pelosi didn’t want this to happen right now; she comprehends strategy even if it’s a dim vestige of comprehension. But her caucus isn’t even that bright. They want Trump gone NOW and Pelosi had to do what they wanted.

And President Trump knew that this is how it would probably go.

So, voila! The impeachment inquiry was conjured, appeasing Pelosi’s idiot caucus, without messing up the intended timeline. She wants to file formal articles of impeachment months from now, hoping that the procedure will last until the time of the election, causing the president to lose. Therefore, it is in Donald Trump’s best interest to have them do it as soon as possible.

What the Democrats hope is this: that a goodly chunk of their supporters don’t know that an impeachment inquiry means jack squat and that the president is not required to participate in it.

It’s a good bet.

UPDATE: Here’s the full letter read aloud. It’s spicy alright. 

The wailers are wailing mostly about the language of the letter. It’s is in plan, blunt English rather than in lawyer-ese. Probably dictated by the non-lawyer who sits in the Oval Office. Good.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

Follow Juliette on FacebookTwitterMeWePatreon and Social Quodverum.

Hit Da Tech Guy Blog’s Tip Jar !

Or hit Juliette’s!

Update: the 1st Instalanche at the new host. Hi all, nice to see you here, hope you like the faster load speed and the similar design, we’re still moving posts over but we’re going full speed, take a peek around, learn about the new gender of “traitor”, notice the Pence pivot on impeachment, and if you have an extra buck or two consider kicking into my Great Niece’s gofundme campaign as she was made homeless and lost everything in an IDE fueled suicide that took our the condo building that she lived at (full details here)

On her majesty’s service

It’s been almost 40 years since I met British diplomat Gordon Pirie and his wife, Maria, at the coffee shop at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tehran.

Iranian militants had just taken American diplomats hostage in what would be become an ordeal of 444 days.

As a reporter for Newsweek, I was trying to figure out what was going on. Gordon provided me with important insights into what was happening.

Unbeknownst to me and the rest of the world until two decades later, Gordon played an important role in saving a number of American hostages who had managed to escape the takeover of the U.S. embassy.

The Times of London provided an account of his derring-do to correct the errors of Argo, a 2013 movie about the hostage crisis that gained critical acclaim but had little to do with the facts.

Gordon and a colleague, Martin Williams, learned that the diplomats had holed up in the southeast part of Tehran.

The two men drove around and made contact with five fugitive diplomats. A sixth found his way to the Swedish embassy and joined them in hiding 10 days later.

Gordon and Williams were meant to take the Americans back to the British embassy, but as it was occupied, that was out of the question. They decided to go instead to Williams’s home in the British compound in the northern suburbs.

The Americans’ relief was palpable when they made it to the relative safety of the compound, where Maria, who is Italian, cooked up pasta.

Eventually, the Americans went to the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and were spirited out of the country on January 28, 1980, bluffing their way through passport control at the airport in Tehran as Canadians from a film crew created by the CIA for their escape.

Just as the CIA’s role in springing the Americans was not declassified until 1997, so the British decided to keep quiet fear of further inflaming relations with the Iranian regime.

Over the years, my wife Elizabeth and I spent many hours with the Piries, who moved across the street from us in Beirut and down the street from us in Rome.

We often regaled one another with memories of how Gordon, who was fluent in Farsi and several other languages, helped us bargain with Persian carpet sellers to get the best price possible.

In Rome, our apartment looked into the love nest of the Italian finance minister, who brought numerous young ladies there for his extramarital affairs. We’d turned off the lights and peered from behind the curtains to see what new woman he’d decided to wine and dine. We justified our Peeping-Tom approach as research into Italian politics!

Last year, Gordon, who was in his 80s, ran into the inevitable problems of getting older. I was able to visit him, and it was as if we hadn’t spent a day apart from one another.

Sadly, Gordon died a few weeks ago. He was a tribute to his work as a diplomat throughout the world. More important for me, he was a dear friend who will sorely missed.

Battles Seen and Unseen

by baldilocks

As has become apparent, the Democratic Party will do anything to keep from losing even after they have already lost.

The latest preventative method: an impeachment probe.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, acquiescing to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election year clash between Congress and the commander in chief.

The probe centers on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government for his reelection. Pelosi said such actions would mark a “betrayal of his oath of office” and declared: “No one is above the law.”

At issue are Trump’s actions with Ukraine. In a summer phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, he is said to have asked for help investigating Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In the days before the call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400 million in military aid for Ukraine — prompting speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage for information on the Bidens. Trump has denied that charge, but acknowledged he blocked the funds. (…)

Trump advisers say they are confident that an impeachment process led by the opposition party will bolster his political support heading into his reelection campaign.

This morning, before the probe announcement, the president tweeted that he’ll release the transcript of the phone call.

I suspect that this will bite the Democrat Party on the backside. Or probe said backside. The president has a preternatural way of causing his enemies to fall into their own self-dug pits.

Meanwhile, if you want confirmation of the fact that other forces are at work, look no further than President Trump’s words at the UN summit days ago. Look to who he defends.

President Trump told all gathered at this year’s UN Summit:  “Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution.”  

“We’re standing up for almost 250 million Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith.  It is estimated that 11 Christians are killed every day for the following — I mean, just think of this: Eleven Christians a day, for following the teachings of Christ.  Who would even think that’s possible in this day and age?  Who would think it’s possible?”

“The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government; they come from God, Trump reminded the assembly.   “This immortal truth is proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.  Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions.

“Regrettably, the religious freedom enjoyed by American citizens is rare in the world.

“Approximately 80 percent of the world’s population live in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted, or even banned.  And when I heard that number, I said, ‘Please go back and check it because it can’t possibly be correct.’ And, sadly, it was.  Eighty percent.

“As we speak, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Yazidis, and many other people of faith are being jailed, sanctioned, tortured, and even murdered, often at the hands of their own government, simply for expressing their deeply held religious beliefs.  So hard to believe.”

And there was this on abortion.

The Trump administration Monday declared to U.N member nations that there is no “international right” to abortion, and called on other countries to fight efforts promoting abortions, drawing criticism from reproductive rights groups and other world nations.

President Trump has the unique distinction among pro-life presidents of actually doing something to keep the money of American citizens out of Planned Parenthood’s coffers. So this is more that mere words.

I don’t claim to know anything about the president’s relationship with God. I do know, however, that the president is standing up for most of the things that God cares about and that many of those who seek his removal from office also seek more death. And, just to top things off, they want us to fund the destruction.

So I think that the battle we cannot see is the one that fuels the one we can.

Remember, this isn’t about Donald Trump, it’s about us — the people of the United States.  It’s about what kind of country we want this nation to be.

Next year, we’ll see the results of these battles, both political and spiritual.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

Follow Juliette on FacebookTwitterMeWePatreon and Social Quodverum.

Hit Da Tech Guy Blog’s Tip Jar !

Or hit Juliette’s!

Norway: stuck in the middle

Norway is stuck in the middle. Russia has been pushing more aggressively past Norway. Recently Russia canceled a polar Norwegian Cruise Line entry into Russian waters, forcing the cruise company to reimburse passengers only two weeks before the cruise. Russia also surged naval forces off the Norwegian coast in its “Ocean Shield” exercise, causing a lot of consternation among the Norwegian populace.

But simply saddling up to the US isn’t in the cards, at least for some. Norwegian media is enthralled with President Trump, and not in a nice way. Norwegian media, namely Dagbladet and Klassekampen, regularly blast the US and President Trump in particular, and call for Norway to keep its distance from the US.

Norway is quickly entering into a forced choice. It’s military understands that NATO, and specifically the US, are critical to keeping it independent of Russia in any future conflict. The US is doubling down not just on NATO funding, but also on support for the Straits of Hormuz patrols. Iran’s foreign minister recently visited Norway, was met with significant protests, and told Norway to not support the patrols.

So now Norway, always content to play the middle, gets to choose between two forces. On one side, a resurging Russia and Iran, who are willing to use their muscle in critical maritime geography, and a US, which is using its forces to support the agreed-upon UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Choices have consequences, and the middle choice will likely become untenable before much longer.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.