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Not Going Back

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Blessings!In America and in so  many other nations in the world, we have come to the point of not knowing the difference between  truths and falsehoods. What is even more disturbing, too many don’t care about either truth or falsehood as long as my side wins,as long as I benefit,as long as my prejudices are justified. Thus not a few of us  believe and say falsehoods as if they are truths without caring how the lies are hurting others as long as I get what I want be it power, ego gratification,or confirmation of my point of view no matter how absurd or delusionary.

We Americans have been able to easily slip and slide into a society where we no longer care what is true or false as long as we have whatever it is our way sparked by partisan tyranny coming at us from so many sides since we have always been a society like this.From the colonial roots of America to these present times ,we have weaved and embraced myths and lies about who we are and who others are and have used such deceptions to justify notions and structures of domination  and subordination. We have hidden the greedy dirt of wealth and power and buried the human rights of the poor, of women, and of those of oppressed made races under piles of rubbish pseudosciences and everyday degrading stereotypes about those who are different from ourselves or even when  such dehumanizing stereotypes are about ourselves as a pathetic type of internalized self hatred.We have fought wars with the blood of the least among us and have built magnificent cathedrals, universities, skyscrapers, and transcontinental transportation lines through cheap if not enslaved labor and have not said more than a few mumblings about such  historical  grotesque exploitations.We have grown up assuming the theft of Native lands was manifest destiny and that the enslavement of Africans was not all that bad and in fact was a good thing saving those torn from their homelands which we were taught to assume were uncivilized jungles. 

Some of us feel it is still ok to think, if not say that women are just good for the kitchen and making babies and that differently able people have no human rights like job entry and promotion let alone decent education.

We forger or just don’t know  the Electoral College was created to keep  Presidential elections out of the hands of the people,that is, the popular vote thus under the thumb of elite power selection. And now we have seen what happens when that system of elite power of Presidential election can be circumvented by a calculating tyrant.

And then the media  of today helps us be amazed in our learned ignorance and taught illiteracy when the dirty laundry of this nation rises to the surface in the four year nightmare is coming to a messy transition end with lies and tales being told on the way out with enablers who used to be our gatekeepers and protectors along with gullible supporters about to be orphaned. 

Yes, we Americans are a great people but need to come clean about our societal sins.Yes ,we are known for our kindness towards other nations but need to be kind to each other at home we never talk to since we are taught they are above or beneath us. Why not have decent means of healthcare ,education, and economic well being distributed to everyone rather than such means given to the rich and otherwise privileged like Congress, Military, and Corporate America while not even peanuts to the middle class and especially the poor?  

We need a President in a White House who speaks to these truths and does so boldly since four years of nightmare has torn off the societal scab of festering wounds  in sore need of  authentic deep cleaning and healing rather than politically correct smiles and cosmetic gestures in the guise of feel good public policies which do nothing to get out the puss and really heal us from too long infections.

That is,rather than pretending what we have seen and experienced  in this four years nightmare which  has made a degrading circus out of  U.S.Presidential governance and its disgraceful ending as being   unprecedentedly un-American,let us for once go to the mirror and face and tell  the truth no matter how painful. What we have and are experiencing with all the lies and delusions from those in polarized partisan offices we used to trust, is just the blatant  public side of what this country has been always all about.It took an aging spoiled rude  child man  now pouting and kicking and screaming in the White House to teach us that about what America is really all about– maintaining White Supremacy no matter the cost ;the  waste of human talent through the dehumanization of nonwhite  human beings; and catering to the needs of the wealthy while ignoring or justifying the minimization of the quality of life of the under-priviledged.

The question is after the pouting  man with orange hair finally leaves the House either voluntarily or Secret Service eviction on January 20, what will we see by the next occupant of the White House? More of the same old America just of a different partisan ice cream flavour or the transparencies and truths we need to be as a democracy for real thus where decency and equality for all prevails rather than as a nation for a privileged few and a pack of delusionary falsehoods for the rest of us? 

The  festering wounds of America, from the weaknesses of our Presidential governance traditions and policies so easily manipulated by are tyrant to our archaic elections system to systemic racism to the disgraceful  resistance to universal healthcare  and income are now public news for the rest of the world not only we Americans to see. No going back to the good old days which were never good anyways if you were poor,a female, or had non-white skin or ancestry. There is no turning back or turning around, no more sitting on the fence and putting the wet finger to the wind to see which way it is blowing to decide on which direction to turn and go. No more relative morality,all inequalities are wrong and must be rooted out. This is the America the next President of the United States faces.Prime time is finally here.Playful cosmetic and evasive and denial time is finally over for America,for the world.  This is the reason for the historical voter turnout and why the opponent won and hopefully he understands that since we are not going back to sit and waddle in our wounds as a nation   always there now in the open air.

Director Institute for Advanced Study of African Renaissance Policies Ideas ( ASARPI) SSR Chair of African Studies University of Mauritius

Americas

Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics

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The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August.

Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties.

These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has been revived.

The differences in the negotiations between the United States and Iran are likely to be accentuated if and when the talks resume, particularly concerning the mechanics of lifting sanctions.

“The challenges facing the JCPOA negotiations are a really important example of how a failed experience of sanctions relief, as we had in Iran between the Obama and Trump admins, can cast a shadow over diplomacy for years to come, making it harder to secure US interests,” said Iran analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj referring to the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its initials.

The Biden administration may be heeding Mr. Batmangheldij’s notion that crafting sanctions needs to take into account the fact that lifting them can be as difficult as imposing them as it considers more targeted additional punitive measures against Iran. Those measures would aim to hamper Iran’s evolving capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles by focusing on the providers of parts for those weapon systems, particularly engines and microelectronics.

To be sure, there is no discernable appetite in either Washington or Tehran to adjust negotiation tactics and amend their underlying assumptions. It would constitute a gargantuan, if not impossible challenge given the political environment in both capitals. That was reflected in recent days in Iranian and US statements.

Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that agreement on the revival of the nuclear accord was stumbling over a US demand that it goes beyond the terms of the original accord by linking it to an Iranian willingness to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support for Arab proxies.

In a speech to the cabinet of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, he asserted that the West “will try to hit us everywhere they can and if they don’t hit us in some place, it’s because they can’t… On paper and in their promises, they say they’ll remove sanctions. But they haven’t lifted them and won’t lift them. They impose conditions…to say in future Iran violated the agreement and there is no agreement” if Iran refuses to discuss regional issues or ballistic missiles.

Iranian officials insist that nothing can be discussed at this stage but a return by both countries to the nuclear accord as is. Officials, distrustful of US intentions, have hinted that an unconditional and verified return to the status quo ante may help open the door to talks on missiles and proxies provided this would involve not only Iranian actions and programs but also those of America’s allies.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks seemed to bolster suggestions that once in office Mr. Raisi would seek to turn the table on the Biden administration by insisting on stricter verification and US implementation of its part of a revived agreement.

To achieve this, Iran is expected to demand the lifting of all rather than some sanctions imposed or extended by the Trump administration; verification of the lifting;  guarantees that the lifting of sanctions is irreversible, possibly by making any future American withdrawal from the deal contingent on approval by the United Nations Security Council; and iron-clad provisions to ensure that obstacles to Iranian trade are removed, including the country’s unfettered access to the international financial system and the country’s overseas accounts.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks and Mr. Raisi’s anticipated harder line was echoed in warnings by US officials that the ascendancy of the new president would not get Iran a better deal. The officials cautioned further that there could be a point soon at which it would no longer be worth returning to because Iran’s nuclear program would have advanced to the point where the limitations imposed by the agreement wouldn’t produce the intended minimum one year ‘breakout time’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point, the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program…The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance,” US Secretary Antony Blinken said this week on a visit to Kuwait.

Another US official suggested that the United States and Iran could descend into a tug-of-war on who has the longer breath and who blinks first. It’s a war that so far has not produced expected results for the United States and in which Iran has paid a heavy price for standing its ground.

The official said that a breakdown in talks could “look a lot like the dual-track strategy of the past—sanctions pressure, other forms of pressure, and a persistent offer of negotiations. It will be a question of how long it takes the Iranians to come to the idea they will not wait us out.”

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Americas

Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Americas

Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

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When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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