President Palin? God help us

Please note this is a repeat of an article first published in 2008


By Claude Salhani

November 3, 2008

The gossip around Washington these days compares Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to a ‘post turtle’. Not familiar with the term? Don’t worry, most urban folks aren’t.

Say you’re driving in the countryside and you see a turtle sitting on a post. First, you know it didn’t get there by itself. Second, you know it doesn’t belong up there. Third, it doesn’t know what to do while it’s up there. And fourth, you wonder what kind of dumb-ass put it up there to begin with.
The frightening reality is that this ‘post turtle’ could end up being the next vice president of the United States of America. Even more worrying is that she could also be president.

Republicans, or at least the ones who placed Palin on the post, believe she is highly qualified for the job. The reason is that she is so politically hollow inside that she can easily be molded by the neocons. Think Bush II, but far easier to influence and control. In defending Palin many Republicans have said she is qualified for the vice presidency (and therefore possibly the presidency, especially when the president is 72 years old and has a history of heart problems) because “she lives next door to Russia.”
Republican Party big shots and their supporters have gone on record with that statement, as unbelievable as it might sound; Fox News was the first to announce that Sarah Palin was knowledgeable in foreign affairs because “she is right up there in Alaska right next door to Russia.”
Frank Gaffney, a syndicated columnist, said that Palin has picked up foreign policy “by osmosis” as a result of Alaska’s geographic location.
The governor’s office in Alaska’s capital Juneau, where Palin works, is about 1,230 miles from the closest point in Russia. My office for the good part of the last 15 years was only 0.19 miles from the White House. Does that qualify me for the presidency? At least I could actually see the White House from my office.
Still, McCain’s wife, Cindy, told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that “Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia. It’s not as if she doesn’t understand what’s at stake here.” Appearing on ABC’s Charlie Gibson, being questioned about Palin’s lack of foreign policy experience, McCain was asked if in all honesty he could feel confident having on board someone who is as green in international affairs (about the only time anyone is likely to call Palin “green”) as his running mate. Until a year ago Palin had never applied for a passport or traveled outside the United States.
McCain replied that one of the key elements to America’s national security requirements are energy and that Palin “understands the energy issues better than anybody I know in Washington, D.C., and she understands Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that.”
Well, glad she got the geography part right, ‘cause she sure flunked in economics. When asked by CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric how the $700 billion economic bailout package the Bush administration and Congress negotiated would help taxpayers, this is how she replied: “What the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed, to help shore up our economy, helping… oh, it’s got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track, so health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reduction and tax relief for Americans and trade, we have to see trade as opportunity not as competitive, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity, all those things under the umbrella of job creation, this bail out is a part of that.”
Wow! Yes, she sure is ready.
Kathleen Parker, a well-respected conservative columnist had this to say in the National Review website after watching the interview: “A candidate who is clearly out of her league,” adding that “If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street by herself.”
Just how clueless Palin is and how controlled she is by her Republican minders was made all the more obvious in the vice presidential debate where it was more than obvious that the governor of Alaska was getting immediate feedback and directives on her portable telephone via text messaging.
I wonder if the fact that Governor Palin “lives next door to Russia” will facilitate any dealing she may have with the Machiavellis of foreign politics? How would she stand up to negotiators with such as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer?
The Palin saga has of course has provided late night talk shows with a gold mine of ammunition. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show cut to the chase, describing a Fox News commentator who supported the “living close to Russia” thesis as a “moron.”
Steve Benan, writing in the Washington Monthly described it as “the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard.”
“Palin and McCain are a good pair,” said the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno. “She’s pro-life and he’s clinging to life.”


The dark side of migration

by Claude Salhani

Despondency, despair and disillusion. Those feelings, combined with the absolute realisation that the future is not about to improve, regardless of which tyrant, despot or dictator is in power, is what drives tens of thousands of men, women and children into uncertain migration and into the belly of an ugly beast called human greed.

Running away from economic disasters or civil wars, searching for peaceful streets and a pay cheque at the end of the month, illegal migrants face Herculean challenges on the level of a Greek odyssey.

They set out facing some of na­ture’s harshest challenges, having to cross jungles or deserts, carrying all their worldly goods in a small suitcase. According to many who survived the trip, often what little they do have, they are obliged to abandon along the way. Often, if what they carry has any value, it may end up being stolen. There have been numerous reports of women being sexually abused.

And when they finally manage to slip past border guards and military patrols and make it to the coast of Libya – the current preferred desti­nation for embarkation to Europe — it’s often at this point in the journey that the real dangers begin. From discrete harbours in North Africa the next step requires the migrant to buy a seat on one of the many vessels used for that purpose.

The price they are charged to cross the Mediterranean represents, for many, their life savings and sometimes they borrow from fellow villagers back home.

It is at this point in the voyage that they face some of the most serious and danger­ous challenges: Dealing with modern-day pirates and human traffickers who have absolutely no scruples. The migrants are seen as merchandise to be trans­ported.

The cost per person is about $10,000- $15,000 for a place on an overcrowded and unseaworthy vessel to take them across the Mediterranean.

These greediest of hu­man traffickers have no qualms of dumping entire families into the sea. The nationality of the migrants of the day depends largely on which country is presently undergoing in­ternal strife, civil war or some other major catastrophe.

And still they come. Every week we hear of dozens, of hundreds, of illegal immigrants dying as they try to make their way to Europe and what they hope will be a better world. Many make it, many, how­ever, do not.

Recently up to 900 African mi­grants might have perished when their boat capsized off the Libyan coast. Yet for those, like many oth­ers before them and just like many others who will follow, the choice is to remain in their home country facing unemployment, uncertainty and possible death. Alternatively they can embark upon a dangerous voyage and the possible reward of a better life on the other end. It is a gamble many choose to make.

The horror stories of those dying along the way do not seem to deter or even slow the migration drive from Africa to Europe.

The trail of dead bodies, of shat­tered lives and stories of sorrow that stretch across the African con­tinent to the shores of Tripoli and the thousands of those who end up at the bottom of the Mediterranean does not seem to deter others from trying. Everybody believes their luck will fare better. Some do and some don’t.

The 900 souls who died in the Mediterranean in mid-April can be counted among the “lucky ones”. There were enough survivors to relate their tragedy. Think of the many who perished and who no­body knows about.

What is tragic about this is that it is no longer shocking. Nor is it frightening enough to deter oth­ers from following the trail of sorrow and death that treks across Africa to the coasts of Libya or Morocco.

Italian authorities said approximate­ly 8,500 migrants had been rescued at sea from April 10th and 12th. Italian authori­ties say more than 15,000 migrants have reached land so far in 2015. There were 15,000 in April alone last year and an average of 25,000 each month from June through September.

Regrettably, people smuggling remains a lucrative business.


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