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March 2019

Mar 2 ... In a speech to the annual gathering of conservatives (CPAC), President Trump promises to run against the Green New Deal, Socialism, baby killers, haters, and those spreading BS about him and his presidency. He assured the cheering audience that he will be president for six more years. The audience at CPAC was enthusiastically supportive and hostile to what they called the hatred against the president expressed by Michael Cohen, who lied for Trump, made a good living as Trump's attorney and "fixer," now on his way to prison, and calls Trump a "cheat," a con-man, and describes some of what should be Trump's embarrassing opinions on race.

Mar 3 ... On the sixteenth Saturday in France the "yellow vest" protests were diminished from the week before, down yesterday to what was counted as 39,300 nationwide. Last week a poll claimed that citizens holding Macron to be a good president had recovered to the 32 percent when the protests started. Rather than futile demonstrations and the instances of violence that it excites, Macron administration is telling the demonstrators that the place to express their view is in the government-organized nationwide debates.

Mar 4 ... Estonia's liberal Reform Party won yesterday's parliamentary elections with 29.4% of the vote. The party's leader, a 41-year-old woman, Kaja Kallas (image), is set to become prime minister. Her party has pursued a free market, pro-business economic agenda, and its sound fiscal policies have resulted in balanced budgets and the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the European Union (of which Estonia is a member). It has partnered in a coalition with Estonia's Social Democratic Party (a member of the "Party of European Socialists"), and it supports Estonia's membership in NATO. It is hostile toward the eurosceptic, populist and, some might say, ethnically chauvinistic Conservative People's Party of Estonia — which won 17.8% of yesterday's vote. About one-quarter of Estonia's population is Russian (Estonia was part of the Soviet Union), and the Russians have been attracted to Estonia's second largest party, The Center Party, which won 23.1% of yesterday's vote (a party that's pro-EU and speaks up for the middle class while maintaining a reputation for left-leaning policies). There is talk of Kaja Kallas' Reform Party forming a coalition with the Center Party.

Mar 5 ... Last Friday, thousands of Germany's high school students skipped school and marched with Sweden's environment activist Greta Thunberg (images) — a strike dubbed "Fridays for the Future." School administrators threatened disciplinary action. But Chancellor Angela Merkel, known for her brainy stability and calm, said: "I very much welcome that young people, school students, demonstrate and tell us to do something fast about climate change." Meanwhile, her ally, France's President Macron, wants to make Europe a leader in combating climate change and is proposing a European Climate Bank that would finance the EU's transition to his suggested environmental targets, "zero carbon by 2050 and pesticides halved by 2025".

Mar 6 ... Juan Guaidó has returned to Venezuela and is greeted by crowds. The Maduro regime has not arrested him. Guaidó is a member of the social-democratic (!!!) Popular Will party and is president of the National Assembly. President Trump recognizes him as Venezuela's president. Hope for army defections to Guaidó have been disappointing. New sanctions initiated by the Trump administration are not helping. Yesterday, Maduro spoke of "anti-imperialist marches" (by his supporters) coinciding this coming Saturday with anti-government protests and said: "While a crazed minority continues with their hatred, with their bitterness, it's their problem. We won't pay attention to them." Columbia's president recently described Maduro as in his “last days” of rule. Others don't think so.

Mar 7 ... More than a dozen House Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, are urging the Trump administration to “change course” regarding Venezuela. They describe Trump’s sanctions for “hurting ordinary people.” Rep Khanna (D-CA) complains that intervention and an attempt at regime change is a mistake. In the letter to the administration they describe the administration’s actions regarding Venezuela as playing “into the Venezuelan government’s narrative that the opposition is a proxy for the US.” Senator Elizabeth Warren is among the Democrats opposed to sanctions, and Senator Bernie Sanders has spoken against pushing for regime change. He favors the international community encouraging fair elections but he says the future of Venezuela "must be left to the Venezuelan people" — in other words change or a counter-revolution in Venezuela should be made from within Venezuela.

Mar 8 ... In the media are reminders that today, March 8, is International Women's Day. Fox News is critical of Rolling Stone magazine spotlighting on its cover four Democratic Party congresswomen "shaping the future." Instead, Fox touts the contributions Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Sanders, Ivanka Trump and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn). And Fox describes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whom it associates with socialism, as a "complete fool." Fox has been describing socialism as pure evil. Wikipedia tells us that the first Women's Day was organized by the Socialist Party of America in 1909, that the International Socialist Woman's Conference in 1910 made it annual, that it became a national holiday in Russia in 1917 and "was celebrated in communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations." Henry Makow, a PhD and anti-Semite, describes it as a communist plot. A more friendly description in the The Arab News, has a female fighter pilot from the United Arab Emirates saying that International Women’s Day should be a marker for young girls across the region of how far women in the Middle East have come. An article in today's NY Times claims that International Women's Day isn't going away and that "For all the progress women have made, they are still a long way from true equality." Some women from Saudi Arabia (which began celebrating Women's Day in 2017), agree.

Mar 9 ... The Brexit referendum in June 2016 was close: 51.89% for leaving the EU and 48.11% for staying. Today there are complaints that advertising campaigns and Russian money contributed to misinformation that influenced the vote. (Someone complains that Russia was creating the chaos it wants by playing "on the ignorance, misplaced pride, and xenophobia of the lower classes.") In her Washington Post article today, titled "The more we learn about Brexit, the more crooked it looks," Anne Applebaum writes of the big British funder of the pro-Brexit campaign, Arron Banks, having common interest with Russian money. She writes that "today, up to half of global offshore wealth is hidden in British jurisdictions," that British trade might suffer as a result of Brexit but that off-shore banking would survive, that the EU is probably the only power in Europe with the "regulatory strength to change the culture of tax avoidance" and that since 2016 "it has been slowly enacting rules designed to do exactly that" — more reason for their favoring Brexit.

Mar 10 ... Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) apologizes for suggesting that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) was buying influence for pro-Israel policies. Fox News joins those accusing the Muslim congresswoman of anti-Semitism. President Trump weighs in by calling the Democrats anti-Jewish. Someone describes it as "much ado about nothing" and complains that the Republicans believe they can never smear the Dems often enough.

Mar 11 ... The Central African Republic is a nation rich in natural resources and largely of subsistence farmers. No nation has a lower capita GDP ($700 per year in 2017). In 1992 a yearning for democracy had help from the UN. But it didn't work out. In 2013, an alliance of Muslims (Seleca) overthrew the allegedly corrupt government of François Bozizé. Chaotic aggressions followed, and Christians (83 percent of the population) began fighting back. Schools have closed, the health care system is barely functioning, and people have been forced to flee their homes. According to NBC News, Six years of fighting "has left the nation in ruins, with 1.5 million children at risk of starvation and thousands forced to become child soldiers."

Mar 13 ... Computer software has become part of the controls for the Boeing 737 MAX passenger aircraft. In October 2018 a Boeing 737 MAX-8 crashed killing all 189 aboard. Software engineers are not known for creating systems (thousands of lines of code) without error. And there has been pilot complaint that the aircraft's flight manual was "inadequate and almost criminally insufficient." (The art of making complexity simple and clear, as many manual readers know, is not a common skill). Then on March 10 a similar Boeing 737 crashed, again a few minutes after takeoff, killing all on board — Ethiopian Airline Flight 302, headed for Kenya. Numerous countries have banned operations of this model Boeing 737 aircraft. The Washington Post reports today that US aviation safety officials are not grounding the aircraft and that the Trump administration is resisting bipartisan calls to do so. The NY Times reports that Boeing’s CEO, Dennis A. Muilenburg, has expressed to President Trump his confidence in the aircraft's safety. Yesterday, Trump tweeted: "Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT... often old and simpler is far better."

Mar 14 ... After examining flight data, authorities in the US reverse their decision and join the rest of the world in grounding the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The NY Times writes of a complaint that pilots now rely on autopilot so often, “they may not exactly know or recognize quickly enough what is happening to the aircraft.' Automation has contributed to "the airline industry’s stellar safety record in recent years," but, in 2013, "investigators found that the pilots over-relied on automation in the 2013 crash of an Asiana Airlines jet in San Francisco that left three dead." Captain Sullenberger, who landed his plane in the Hudson River, is mentioned as an example of flying skills developed before commercial aircraft were largely controlled automatically. "Pilots today, as one former pilot puts it, are less stick-and-rudder movers than they are overseers of systems." The Washington Post describes pilot anger at being left uninformed by Boeing regarding computer controls.

Mar 15 ... Robert Kagan's defense of the Enlightenment and liberalism, titled "The Stongmen Strike Back," appears in the Washington Post. Also today: news of the authoritarian move by Brenton Tarrant, age 28, described as having been inspired by a far-right French intellectual (Renaud Camus) who feared replacement by ‘nonwhite’ immigrants. Tarrant has described himself as an "ordinary white man." And yesterday, in New Zealand, he shot up a mosque, killing 49. He appointed himself as executioner to avenge the death, he says, of an 11-year-old girl, Ebba Åkerlund, killed in a 2017 terror attack in Sweden. He had a camera on his helmet, hoping to publicize his act on social media.

Mar 17 ... Human migrations have inflamed the nationalism, racism and xenophobia behind numerous shooting incidents, including the killing of 49 in New Zealand this past week by Brenton Harrison Tarrant. This is fact, not an excuse for the killers. In the US, President Trump describes Tarrant's massacre as "horrible thing," and some want Trump (no big critic of white nationalism) to condemn the mentality behind the deed. Tarrant's mentality includes his statement that "diversity is not a strength" and "unity, trust, traditions, nationalism and racial nationalism" are. This is close to the occasional mention of Western Civilization, our culture and Judeo-Christian values being under threat. Some want to combat Tarrant's ethnocentricism by outlawing its expression on social media.

Mar 19 ... The President of oil-rich Kazakhstan since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Nursultan Nazarbayev (a former steelworker and in his late seventies like Biden and Sanders), steps down "to help a new generation of leaders". He will retain the title "Leader of the Nation" and will continue as leader of the overwhelmingly dominant Nur Otan political party. (It is winning around 90% of the vote.) While a part of the Soviet Union, Nazarbayev had been Kazakhstan Communist Party chairman (now a minor party with something like a 10% following). Nazarbayev (image) and his family have accumulated great wealth. (See the New Yorker). He highlights his Muslim heritage while supporting stringent controls on Muslim practices. Opposing the veil he has said, "We are Turks, not Arabs." He has been accused of widespread human rights abuses and fostering a personality cult. Kazakhstan has been ranked 161st among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.

Mar 20 ... More extreme weather! One of the worst tropical cyclones, Idai, causes widespread death and destruction in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. According to The Guardian, "experts" associate the cyclone with a "climate crisis that is driving sea level rises and more extreme rainfall" and making storms that hit southern Africa more severe.

Mar 23 ... It has been said that if the Brexit vote were taken again it would be defeated. Britain's Members of Parliament have been searching for a solution to the issue of leaving the European Union, and Prime Minister Theresa May, who supports Brexit is under pressure to quit. Today the BBC reports that "hundreds of thousands" marched and more than a million gathered in central London in support of having a second referendum. Their signs read "PUT IT TO THE PEOPLE," "TORIES OUT NOW," "WE DEMAND A PEOPLE'S VOTE." Among the marchers: Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who has talked about the possibility of Scotland's independence with Brexit. One of the demonstrators, a law grad student, Sophie Latham, 22, said she was "against xenophobic, racist and nationalistic rhetoric that is being spewed everywhere in the news to justify Brexit." Another carried a sign that read she couldn't afford avocados, a house, Brexit.


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Copyright © 2019 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.