A Ship With A Broken Compass

Posted September 18, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: adrian peterson, domestic violence, football, NFL, ray rice

The recent weeks beginning with the release of the second Ray Rice video has revealed a National Football League which is operating on the high seas of national sports with a broken compass.

The NFL ship at times seems rudderless, but in truth its rudder works fine, it is just that NFL bosses can’t set a sensible course. Hmmm.

Ray Rice (wife beating) and Adrian Peterson (child abuse) have been en ensnared in a conflicted NFL justice system. The league and the individual teams were surprised when the media reported the incidents initially. The league and the teams went into “damage control”. How could they minimize any public affairs damage (which might translate into economic damage)?

These incidents have been a boon to supporter dedicated to end domestic violence. With a national stage, these groups have damned Rice and Peterson without necessarily any knowledge of them or the entire situation surrounding each incident.

For example, Rice married the woman he had struck and together they have given money and time to charities in the Baltimore poorer areas. Peterson was being present with his son, and as such stands in sharp contrast to too many African American fathers who are absent in the lives of their children.

The US has laws and courts to assess whether specific charges are transgressions of the law, and to meter out appropriate punishment. It certainly could be that both Rice and Peterson violated laws which should carry with it jail time. That verdict belongs in the courts, not on the playing field.

The NFL never the less has found it necessary to run a parallel “court system”. Standing before cameras, the NFL professes its abhorrence of these acts and sanctimoniously says that behavior has no place in the NFL. These players cannot be part of the NFL until they have spent some time in the penalty box (suspension, behavior treatment). Hmmm.

I wonder why the NFL trains cameras on pass receivers and line men who are poised to sack the quarterback and then replays the biggest and harshest take downs until the next week’s killer plays are ready.

American law has long held that someone is innocent until proven guilty. The NFL apparently feels it can act when the tide of public opinion might reduce the barrels of money flowing in.  Proof: a comment from a advertiser. Hmmm.

Domestic violence, unfortunately, is just the tip of the ice berg. The NFL is populated with real people, many who find it difficult to leave violence to the playing field. There is also a long history of celebrity entrapment where someone seeking fame or money (or both) entraps a player in some compromising situation.

Sorting out “he said, she said” is simply not straight forward. Again, however, there are courts to settle these cases. The NFL is not needed.

At this point, it would appear

  • The NFL has no internal moral compass and its apparent loss of clear cut rules on socially unacceptable or criminal behavior is no accident.
  • Players are just tools of labor and expendable on a whim.
  • The NFL has a low opinion of the public and demonstrates this each time it reacts to some interest group or large sponsor.

The NFL will get through this controversy and adopt a set of conduct standards which will spell out acceptable behavior. If, however, the NFL continues to adjust its conduct standards given the next politically correct group’s preferences, the NFL will lose its way and decline from the number one entertainment spot.

Whether Roger Goodell will continue as the commissioner is irrelevant. The Owners, who are a big portion of the problem, will most likely fire Goodell if there team value decreases, and not whether Goodell leads them successfully through this transition phase.

Hmmm, not much of a compass.

Joy In Moscow and Beijing

Posted September 17, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: China, congress, foreign policy, isis, Middle East, Politics, Russia, Syria

All foreign and domestic policy rest upon an underlying “self interest” economic framework. The elite classes in most powerful countries support governments which follow policies which in turn steer more money towards these individuals. The quid pro quo is that in return for this economic favoritism, the elite class will employ the masses and will support the government. Hmmm.

From this perspective, one must attempt to view the global political world as a complex set of interactions driven by each nation’s economic self interests.

World leaders almost never, however, frame issues in these terms preferring instead to talk about growing their economy, developing other less well off countries, or bringing “freedom” to a repressed nation. When push comes to real fighting, many other causes are summoned, mostly around nationalistic values.

The world stands today at a dangerous fork in the road.  Neither path is glamorous but one of the paths is likely to be more dangerous.

Who would have thought a tired old marketing plan (from the middle ages), delivered by an insurgent Muslim absolutist group, could pose such a threat? ISIS represents the bogeyman and is portrayed as a world terrorist threat. So worrisome is this group, estimated as large ad 30,000 irregulars, that a coalition of Western and Middle East countries have pledged to “destroy” ISIS.

Oh, but there is a catch. None of these countries wants to commit ground forces. Hmmm.

Yesterday, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress that under certain circumstances, he would recommend to the President the use of US ground personnel. This has been widely interpreted as the precursor to a US military return to Iraq and probably an invasion of Syria. Hmmm.

His Congressional testimony has also provoke a range of reactions. Sensing the uncertainty of the American public (in an election year), Congress members are careful in their response. One sane position has been to call for a vote on authorizing military action while repealing the two previous authorizations (2002 and 2003) which provided authority for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The simplest reason for a new authorization is that sooner or later Americans will be killed in action and Congress needs to be held accountable.

Lost in this paranoia about ISIS is that the entire Middle East is economically insignificant and with its religious, educational, and gender handicaps, unlikely to become important for generations. Middle East problems need the help of Middle East countries to resolve.

More important for the US, is the need to be cooly watching and reacting to Moscow and Beijing’s global initiatives and their relationship to our national interests. The US perspective ought be wide enough to comprehend the well being of the Americas as well as for the US alone. Can you imagine the US reaction if one day we woke up to a Chinese military base being welcomed by the Honduran Government?

There is of course no prescription for how to make relations between the US, Russia, and China better. And using military force against these nations should be not even a consideration. This post’s point, rather, lies in the folly which results from over concern about the Middle East and taking ones eye off the real targets.

With the potential that Washington is gradually slipping back into a middle ages fight with inconsequential forces, there must be joy in Moscow and Beijing, at least in the Board rooms of their biggest companies.

Finding An Eye In The Needle?

Posted September 15, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Conservatives, Democratic Party, egypt, John McCain, lindsay graham, Middle East, Republican Party, Syria

ISIS has provoked a lot of talk but not a whole lot of action. NSA seems to be everywhere listening to the world’s communications, yet the where abouts of ISIS lot leaders seems a mystery. Political leaders, domestically as well as internationally, condemn this group and call for its elimination, yet no one seems to want to put “feet on the ground”. Hmmm.

Secretary of State, John Kerry, breaking all frequent flyer records, has signed up some 40 nations to fight against ISIS, but none seem anxious to commit ground troops. I wonder why? Even Humpty Dumpty, the rebuilt Iraq, seems luke warm to taking on ISIS even though almost half of Iraq is occupied by ISIS. Why this ambivalence?

Common sense tells us that it is always better to let the other guy do it, especially if it is a dirty job. Finding the “other guy” is the problem. And in the Middle East where absolute insanity reigns with the hatred between Sunnis and Shiites and the indifferent self interest of the oil rich countries leaders sets the table for non-cooperation.

President Obama appears to be on another planet if one listens to people like Lindsay Graham or John McCain. Both Senators, staples of the mindless Sunday morning talk shows, scoff at the idea of no US ground forces against ISIS. I guess a perpetual state of war with extremists is their view of the future.

The Middle East has long been characterized by ignorance, poverty, and enormous class differences. The public was been kept in line with State handouts and a boot on their necks. Nothing fancy, but when rigorously enforced, these policies have worked.

Removing Saddam Hussein, of course, took the stopper out of the bottle. And the entire region began to shift. With well intended but totally naive (or simply ignorant) responses by western powers has brought on significant disturbances in Libya, Egypt, and finally Syria. Rather than bringing democracy and freedom to these lands, just another set of despotic rulers have emerged.

The common person is no better off and arguably living in worse conditions.

One can justifiably criticize George W Bush, aka Dick Cheney, but in 2014, the damage is already done and revisiting egregious policies sheds little light upon what to do now. Considering the experiences which resulted from these policies, however, is very worthwhile.

As a consequence, one is lead to the conclusion that the authoritative Egyptian Government under President al-Sisi should be supported and not undermined. A similar conclusion might be reached with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a sick way, it is unfortunate that former Iraq President Saddam Hussein is not around to take back the reigns of government (he would put troops on the ground).

Instead, the West must work through Iran to guide the new Iraqi (Shiite) Prime Minister.

All these leaders already have troops on the ground and a vested interest in the outcome.

From a distance, it certain looks like President Obama is trying to find the eye of the needle with his response to ISIS.

End Game, What’s That?

Posted September 13, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Conservatives, Democratic Party, isis, Middle East, Republican Party

President Obama’s speech this week on the US intended actions towards ISIS received generally satisfactory reviews (meaning GOP leadership did not say “no way”). One criticism voiced by many pundits was “what’s the end game”? Hmmm.

When former President George W Bush went into Afghanistan in pursuit of al Qaeda, no one asked the question “what’s the end game”. When almost unbelievably, Bush then invaded Iraq without finishing up in Afghanistan, no one asked “what’s the end game”?

Brief history has now shown that that question was telling in both cases in which the US has wandered and come away with a dim view of our efforts.

Now it is more than fair to ask the same of President Obama, “what’s the end game”?

My guess is that President Obama cannot answer that question in 25 words or less. I am not sure the President see ISIS as part of the “same game” as his critics do.  The President best be careful because there are many in Washington who mistakenly think there is a peace keeper role, not to overlook nation building, for the US in the Middle East.

Post World War II when the world’s economic distribution was so much in the US’ favor, there were sometimes both a humanitarian and self interest reason to meddle in other countries’ affairs. Today the US remains the wealthiest country in the world but the advantages has dramatically narrowed.

The US must be clear when it sets expensive foreign policies in motion.

I have heard pundits say the President never wanted to make this speech in the first place. He made it, they say, due to political reasons… the mid term elections. If that is accurate, then most likely this “war” against ISIS will play itself out in 2015.  We can hope.

Americans should be alert, however. Events can change and before we know it, military actions aimed at ISIS could spread into “feet on the ground” and suddenly a focus on a new “enemy”. Murphy’s law – work expands to fit the resources available.

Americans should also be mindful that while President Obama seems averse to military engagements, he has not been as adamant about protecting individual privacy. There is nothing, through out history, any better a pretext for taking away individual liberties than a foreign threat, real or imagined.

Most of us assume ISIS is a relatively weak opponent, stronger than Grenada but weaker than Hussein’s Iraq. The US should “win” these military engagements with ease. So why should we care?  Hmmm.

What could be next? Would we invade Syria (to ensure we eliminate all other radicals)? Or would Israel convince a US President to use a base in Iraq to attack Iran’s nuclear capability (to rid the world of a menace)? Or, would the US be bound to the Middle East, what about Africa? There are plenty of radicals and outrightly nasty people there. And, and, and.

A simple answer to the question of what’s the end game might be, “Using air power (and other clandestine policies, like supporting Assad), eliminate the top lSIS leaders and render their insurgent forces incapable of occupying or controlling any geography inside or outside Syria… and then disengaging”.

If the US is not careful, it will find out that there are no end games in the Middle East.

Wheat From Chaff

Posted September 12, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Conservatives, Democratic Party, Dick Cheney, Iraq, Middle East, Politics, Republican Party, Syria

ISIS in almost toast. Well, that is what you would conclude listening to President Obama in his prime time speech on what the US plans to do about this radical group. Hmmm.

Managing public opinion is no doubt a difficult task. Events change like the wind and what is thought a huge problem today may pale in comparison tomorrow.

One could not help but wonder why the President made the ISIS speech in the first place. One wondered more about what he implied than what he said. At least he did not claim there were weapons of mass destruction.

The Middle East is not like Kansas. The divisions between the wealthy and the poor, the Shiites and Sunnis, and the seculars and sectarians could not be greater. To think that air power and some combination of on the ground fighters could rid the world of ISIS is naive.

Were even the top leaders of ISIS to enter paradise early through the good works of a targeted missile, other leaders or other like minded groups would spring up someplace and relatively quickly. What everyone should be sure is that no matter whether ISIS is rendered ineffective or not, the areas they currently control will not suddenly turn into green meadows of democracy.

The President, IMO, should not have spoken. Instead his speech has empowered the likes of John McCain and Lindsay Graham to pound their chests about the need to reintroduce American ground forces into Iraq, and if necessary, Syria. Oh, and while we are at it, how about marching into Libya, Somalian, or Yemen?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, with his new ticker, pounded the war drum just as loudly. Deja vu all over again.

If President Obama thought he could out position these hawks, he was badly advised. Politically there is no way to win an argument with these hawks.   Actions take so much time and events can change so quickly. Remember the glorious invasion of Iraq?  A hawk’s paradise until things went wrong.

So what should the President do?

  • Put ISIS in perspective. There are far bigger fish to fry. Russian and Chinese policies are far more important and much more complicated.
  • Be realistic about ISIS. Beheadings are a way of life in the Middle East. Religious extremism is the name of the game too. Even if the US could remove every ISIS member from the earth, the resulting vacuum would suck some new group back in.
  • Use surrogates instead of US resources. There might be no better a surrogate than Bashar al Assad although that option brings with it a de facto nod to Iran and a sub of Saudi Arabia.
  • Help Iraq only to the extent that Iraq helps itself. Iraq is a smaller test tube compared to the broader Middle East. If Iraq chooses to act in sectarian ways, then let them wallow in the chaos that results.  Military aid flows only when a functioning Iraqi government emerges.

President Obama, when one separates the wheat from the chaff in his speeches, I think these points emerge.  The President seems to be choosing what he thinks is the least worst of terrible options.

In this situation, he must forget his public approval ratings for a more positive future historical assessment.

It Is Tough Being President

Posted September 9, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Politics, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, democrats, republicans, GOP

Tags:

Bill Clinton and George Bush made it look easy. Easy, that is, of being the chief executive. Always glib, always with a smile, always looking like they knew what was going on. Hmmm.

Looks can be deceiving. “W” did not know much of what was going on and seemed to care less. Bill knew as much as his subordinates knew and still wanted to know more… as long as it did not interfere with his “intern time”.

Each of these former Presidents was very concerned with combining actual real world intelligence with a political calculus. What worldly action would be most beneficial to their party and what outcomes would not.  Both former President’s action were driven by polling results.

Along comes President Obama. He appears far more circumspect than his two predecessors. IMO, President Obama wants more than his predecessors to “do the right thing, long term”.  But it seems a President cannot escape political calculus.

So tonight President Obama will give a prime time speech on what to do about ISIS. Obama claims his speech will help Americans understand this extremist threat in the long term perspective. He may also be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

President Obama’s steady, but patient course lead to the finding of Osama ben Laden. Obama did not boast that he was hot on the trail of ben Laden, nor did he puff up his chest before the mission. But the death of ben Laden translated quickly into Democratic political hay. How could the GOP claim Dems were soft on defense when Obama had found the man?

On the contrary, there is virtually nothing to be gained from mounting any type of “feet on the ground” military campaign  to eliminate ISIS. ISIS is an organization more akin to weeds in a garden. After ISIS is pulled out, others will grow back.

Don’t tell that to politicians. One party will claim the other is soft on security regardless of whether that same party wants to cut government spending. The other party will say in so many words, “no I’m not”. So what then?

With “W”, we saw “being tough on extremists” expression through disproportionate spending of dollars and lives on misdiagnosed sets of problems. We heard politically tinged rhetoric telling Americans they were at risk and it would be patriotic to send their children into war where these young Americans ( always someone else’s children) could get maimed or killed.

President Obama has clearly seen that our fighting men and women come overwhelmingly from lower income segments of our population. The all volunteer military is not the face of all Americans. Obama has tried (with much success) to reduce the number and occasions where Americans could get injured. During the Arab Spring and its aftermath, Obama has kept American military out of harms way.

So fast forward to today. The President will give a speech where he wants to sound tough and confident. He wants, also to keep away from using American ground troops. So what can he say?

No matter what he says, the GOP can (and will) say Obama’s does not understand.  They will add that his proposals do not go far enough. Who can prove either side of this statement?

Consider: ISIS, like al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and boko Haram are political expressions of groups who are not comfortable with income distribution. Their marketing plan, like the Crusades, aims to tip the balance in their favor with the claim that “god (allah) is on my side (regardless of what I do)”.

If President Obama has a chance tonight of not making the current situation politically worse, he must remind Americans that

  • He will authorize full military force when ever there is a direct threat to America.
  • He will not risk the lives of young Americans when there are other means or when America is not directly threatened.

How we will deal with ISIS, like how we dealt with Osama ben Laden, should not be the subject matter of political campaign speeches. End of statement.

Should the President try to explain, as a good professor, “the ins and outs” of coalitions, strategic partners, and the desire for world peace, the political path necessary to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will be open.

Rice For Lunch

Posted September 9, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Yesterday, the Baltimore Ravens fired running back Ray Rice and the NFL piled on by banning Rice indefinitely. The reason: the embarrassing release of a video in which Rice is seen knocking his wife unconscious with a roundhouse punch to the head.

The video does not provide any information into why Rice was provoked to strike his wife (then his girl friend). It, of course, does not matter. Striking another person, especially when one person is bigger and stronger than the other, is cowardly and (in this case) unmanly.

Just as cowardly, was the reaction of both the Ravens and the NFL. Without further due process, both organizations “got out in front” of this story. Rice was gone before lunch.

There is no excuse for Rice’s violence and it is especially disgusting in view of the 2/1 size difference. With any reflection, Rice should have immediately asked for a leave of absence while he sought serious anger counseling. Instead, the hammer came down from his employers. Hmmm.

The media pundits are all puffed up today crying out about why it has taken so long for the NFL to act. (It is a good thing we do not have stoning as an acceptable punishment.) Hmmm.

A good rule of thumb, however, is beware of those who speak as “holier than thou”. Remember it is the multi-billion dollar NFL enterprise who feature bone chilling body collisions with multiple cameras sharing these scenes in millions of homes.

The nature of football is rough. The nature of business is rougher.

The NFL (like the NCAA) is about how to make more money from people running into each other. And the NFL does a great job of that. It encourages young healthy players to enter the NFL, preform until he can not keep up, and then shrink away into retirement.

The Ray Rice’s video is an awful example for anyone, but especially young football fans, to follow.

And for sure, we all should know that there are consequences for our actions.

What Rice will learn from this experience is hard to predict, maybe nothing. What the NFL will learn is, for sure, nothing.

The NFL is focused only on profits and Rice for lunch is just fine.


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