From Simply “No” To “What”?

Posted November 20, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Politics, Republican Party

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President Obama will spell out his intended “executive actions” today in a speech in Las Vegas. Many GOP members, especially those potential 2016 candidates, are frothing at the mouth with statements equating Presidential executive orders as “sticking a figure in Americans’ eyes”. Hmmm.

When many of these same GOP leaders are not redefining Constitutional powers, they are, in addition to immigration, critiquing the President’s Middle East policies. Have you heard? “The President did not act soon enough in Syria and now US options are limited.” Or, how about, “ISIS cannot be eliminated with airstrikes alone”.  Or, “the US should never have left Iraq”.

The GOP has other subject such as creating jobs and growing the economy.  How about, “approving the XL pipeline will create jobs”.  Hmmm.

Let’s think about these positions.

Clearly on any path to reforming the immigration mess will be documenting all those who are here now and ensuring they are paying their taxes.  (If we can’t secure the borders now, why does anyone think we could deport 11 million residents?

Suppose the President recommends tonight such an documentation approach by executive order, could not the GOP controlled Congress pass a more comprehensive bill defining by law which undocumented could be given papers? Could not the GOP controlled Congress pass legislations with appropriate funding (supported by new funding) which would “seal the borders”?

on other issues, could not GOP leaders spell out their recommendations for the Middle East? Could not these leaders defend any accusations that reentering the Gulf States was akin to Vietnam? Could not the GOP explain why America was better suited to solving a centuries old schism between Shiites and Sunnis?

Interestingly, the one issue where the decision is basically immaterial with respect to all the popular arguments, that is building the XL or not.  The XL will neither create new jobs nor will it destroy the environment.

The GOP has chosen a populous, short sighted reasoning to justify their XL position. The GOP’s emphasis upon creating new jobs overlooks what a glutted oil market will do to the booming new jobs in the Dakotas or in many of the other fracking States. A glut of oil has already lowered the price of oil/gasoline and at some point near $70 per barrel, many of the current US oil producers become unprofitable and certainly at that point no wise investor will risk spending more of his money.

The GOP is caught in the transition from the party out of power where just saying no is enough to the party in power where their actions will have consequences. Not much to cheer about yet.

Immigration Fight?

Posted November 18, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Politics, Republican Party

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President Obama appears to be preparing to face off with GOP congressional leaders over immigration reforms. We have an estimated 11 million undocumented residents and political leaders cannot seem to find common ground upon which to decide what to do with this number.

Some sources reduce this situation to simply denying Democrats new voters were these 11 million to be somehow naturalized. Others speak mightily about the rule of law and these 11 million have broken the law and should be deported. Hmmm.

There is no single story which describes how each of the 11 million got here. In general most came to the US for employment reasons (economic hardship at home). Often a family member was here first and helped the newcomer find employment and housing. Most of the 11 million are Mexican and almost all the 11 million are good workers who perform tasks that American citizens cannot do as well or will not do at the same wage levels as these undocumented will.

Logic does not seem to work in trying to discuss undocumented residents. Who can support free and unfettered entrance to the country including our social support systems? Similarly, who can deny that most of these undocumented perform valuable and necessary work? Who can say that language is an issue, especially for those who come when they are young or have children while here? And it could be  simply fear, Hispanics make up about 16% of America’s population now and there are plenty more of them still in Mexico and nearby Central American countries.

So why again does there need to be a political fight?

The GOP has interpreted the 2014 midterm election results as a clear mandate to govern from their perspective. That means no immigration reform. The fly in the ointment is that the GOP also wants to be seen as capable of governing. The more sensible GOP minds realize that shutting down the government or just grid lock does not inspire the public.

President Obama, however, has said he will use his executive powers to make some reform unless Congress acts. To that promise, GOP leaders have been breathing fire. Why?

Why did not Senate “soon to be leader” McConnell and House Speaker Boehner just said, “hmmm, we will have to see what the President does and then we will decide whether further action is needed?”

The President certainly cannot legislate law. In fact it is the duty of the President to execute laws passed by Congress. Eleven million residents, however, are far too many to find, apprehend, and deport. Hence the President could by order direct his resources to concentrate upon criminals and not divert time and attention towards seeking to find productive undocumented. From the President’s perspective, the GOP could take its time and later make up its mind about immigration reform when it got around to it.

There is, of course, another explanation for the President’s promised action and the GOP’s promised reaction. Each side has calculated that there is little they can agree upon because the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is too far away from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Whatever.

Immigration reform is an important issue. This 11 million undocumented issue needs to be resolved wisely.   What if the 11 million were mostly from Mali, Liberia, or Nigeria? Or what if these 11 million were mostly form North Africa or the Middle East? Mexicans are hard workers with religious and social values very similar to most Americans. If there was one group of immigrants besides Europeans the country should want, it ought to be Mexicans one would think.

I wonder how this “fight” will turn out?

Smooth Words, Not Necessarily Sincere Words

Posted November 17, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Iraq War, John McCain, Politics, Republican Party

Tags: ,

Former General Michael Hayden and former Director of the NSA is making the rounds of talk shows. He’s articulate and comes across as a considered voice in the midst of strong hawk and dove messages. It pays, however, to listen closely for he tends to slip in hawkish opinions like sliding a knife between another persons ribs. Hmmm.

General Hayden is now a favorite for talk shows featuring ISIS commentary.  He delighted in discussing the situation the US finds itself in Syria.   US perspective sees ISIS is the greatest enemy. Next would be the pursuit of forces loyal to Assad. The most preferred fight group is the Kurdish insurgents. Interestingly, General Hayden points out that Turkey sees this preference in the opposite order.
Hayden sighs and says if the US had acted sooner, it could have had more options. Hmmm. What does he mean?

Hayden has just taken a swipe at President Obama’s decision to not arm Syrian insurgents. The President maintained that the overall situation was so volatile it was difficult to separate insurgents who might be viewed reasonable from the likes of ISIS.

Hayden muttered the disclaimer “if there were any insurgents we could have worked with” after having boldly intimated the President should have acted sooner.

Life is full of those situations where if X had happened, our strategy Y would have been perfect. In reality, X could have happened but did not happen, and it turns out that in that case Y is a very poor option.

Consider the plan to train and equip the Iraqi military. After years of training and billions of dollars in equipment, when ISIS advanced on their Western positions, the otherwise disgruntle Army units deserted and fled… leaving the expensive US supplied equipment behind. ISIS, in their own way I’m sure is thanking the US for leaving them so much useful equipment. Hmmm.

Senator John McCain has also long been a proponent of picking the insurgent factions “we can work with”. McCain never loses an opportunity to criticize President Obama for not following McCain’s recommendations. How did McCain get so smart?

Hayden and McCain represent one approach to foreign policy. Punch the other guy in the nose first and teach him whose boss. President Obama favors a quite different approach which emphasizes the lack of clarity most foreign situations possess. As events develop, much more is learned. As learning increases, foreign policy tactics can be refined.

The Iraq invasion and occupation should be proof enough that act first, think later does not produce the best results.

Pass The Bullets

Posted November 16, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Politics, Barack Obama, Republican Party, Democratic Party

Tags: , , , , ,

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Martin Dempsey, candidly testified before Congress that he would look favorably upon a request to send ground (read combat) troops into Iraq. Their purpose, to take back ground already taken by ISIS. So is General Dempsey just being honest or is he trying to goad his superiors or subordinates to make the request?

It would appear that General Dempsey knows his role. The military is suppose to carry out civilian orders.  The military’s role includes recommending the most appropriate strategy and executing it to accomplish these civilian goals. Anyone who has been in the business as long as General Dempsey also knows that in a political world, he can influence sometimes both the goal and the strategy. Maybe that what’s behind the General’s comments.

Whether the US should pursue ISIS is not a trivial decision. Pursuit requires resources and attention that could have been placed elsewhere. Were there to be more important uses for the military, for example confronting other situations which actually represent threats to vital national interests, America’s response might not be as good as necessary.

The current “pro-fight ISIS” cohort sound similar to those who argued for invading Iraq or doubling down with the “surge”. Behind every tree could be a terrorist and if we want to prevent that, the US must take the fight to them. Hmmm.

This argument raises skepticism. There seems to be no end of these groups who hate the West (especially the US) and love Allah (their way). Today the concentration of these Muslim extremists lies from Afghanistan to Libya. Less publicized groups, however, lie scattered across Africa and South East Asia including the Philippines. Are we to look forward to decades of “crusades” to strike down each of these religious zealots once they figure out how to hold others hostage for ransom?

America has traditional been an isolationist country. WWI and WWII shook the nation out of this way and since then, America has accepted the role of world policeman.

The fundamental business model being used by the likes of ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Boko Harum do not need religion to thrive. In the past we have label similar groups as insurgents, pirates, or renegades. There seems to always be one of these groups active someplace in the world. Should the US prepare to fight them all?

With the inevitable rise of China and the apparent resurgence of Russia, America needs to lead with diplomacy rather than the military in order to secure its commercial ambitions. To that end, there is also no better time than now to focus on North America and South America to foster civil relationships. In this way, America can focus upon how to deal with opposing economic philosophies so that the American economy can continue to grow.

Recognition that dealing with the ISIS crowd is irrelevant in the pursuit of American economic growth might be a good place to start.

Ebola and A Missed Lesson on Disease Control

Posted November 13, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Politics, Republican Party, Democratic Party

Tags: , , ,

Quietly on Monday, the lives of two individuals went from outcasts to regular citizens without notice. Doctor Craig Spencer and nurse Kaci Hickox completed their 21 days and were declared Ebola free. With that, both were free to move around as any other normal citizen. So what is so unusual about that?

The answer is both “nothing” and “everything”. Both individuals had worked as healthcare workers in Ebola treatment centers in Africa. Both had been exposed to patients with Ebola. Both had returned to the US symptom free. Dr Spencer developed symptoms after a few days in the US and reported voluntarily for medical treatment in New York City. Kaci never developed symptoms but did check her medical condition daily.
Both were viewed with fear and unrest by the general public.   Many political figures labeled them as extreme risks to society and subject to complete isolation. Scant recognition or appreciation was accorded either for the personal risk and sacrifice they had made in treating Ebola at its roots.

Ironically, their efforts were the first line of defense for the US yet one would never know it from our politicians rhetoric.

Both Dr Spencer and Ms Hickox conducted themselves professionally during their “re-entry” periods. Both continually reminded anyone who would listen how Ebola was spread and how it was not. And alas, as of today, the sky has not fallen.

This incident is important in several ways. First, it has exposed the unpleasant reality that US medical facilities were not uniformly prepared to deal with an Ebola outbreak. Training and adequate equipment was inadequate in most hospitals.   Somewhat like open heart surgery, specialized hospitals are better bets than general facilities.

Second, the disgraceful display so many of our politicians put on as they catered to the least informed fears of the public does not portent well should there ever be a serious infectious disease outbreak.

Rejecting fact based recommendations in favor of crowd pleasing over control speaks poorly about these political leaders and puts everyone in potential jeopardy if a modern day SARS or Plague were to hit our shores in a big way.

The lack of appreciation for the sacrifices of both Craig Spencer and Kaci Hickox was disgraceful and speaks volumes about the narrow mindedness of these political leaders.   This suggests strongly that we ought to look for new fact based leaders for our own well being.

Bush, ISIS, Paranoia

Posted November 12, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, George Bush, Iraq War, John McCain, Politics, Republican Party

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Former President George W Bush has written a book about his father, former President George H W Bush. The elder Bush was a war hero, public servant in numbers capacities, and the 41st President with a term marked by bold, long sighted decisions. “W”, on the other hand, has been tarred by the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina response, and the near melt down of the world’s banking system with the near depression which followed. Hmmm, some comparison.

In an interview with NPR (as part of hawking his new book), “W” offered a series of explanations over decisions Bush 41 made intimating these were roughly the same decision “W” would have made. Who can prove that statement wrong?

When it came to explaining “W” decision to invade and occupy Iraq, “W” got out his stock speech which asserts that Hussein was a bad person, capable of doing the unspeakable, and the Iraqi people are better off with him gone. As these words came out of the radio, I was struck by what did he just say? Thinking more, I thought, why did he just say that?

Shortly after “W” defense of invading and occupying Iraq, he was asked about ISIS. “W” responded that nothing should stand in the US’ way of defeating ISIS. Hmmm. Did he mean another invasion? Then Bush said, “remember the Bush (meaning “W”) doctrine, if a country harbors terrorists, then the US will fight the host country to “preemptively” defeat terrorists before they can carry out their attacks on the US”. Hmmm.

So again, why is “W” saying these statements?

The surface reasons should be clear. “W” is attempting to rehabilitate his name and that of the brand “Bush”.

Rewriting history is not a new phenomena and “W’s” attempt won’t be the last. Sometimes, however, there is simply no way to change the outcomes and rewriting history becomes impossible. All that is left is to change people’s perception of why foolish or failed policies were undertaken. Hence, ISIS front and center.

“W’s” years were marked by the wholesale use of fear to justify all sorts of government and political aims. Al Qaeda was a gift despite the tragic World Trade Center loses. Al Qaeda spawned the “War on Terror” and let the NSA, Patriot Act, and Homeland Security genies out of the bottle. In a short period of time, 300+ million Americans were told to worry about terrorists who might be behind every tree.

ISIS is now conveniently a new paranoia that can be used to re-stoke the fear factor.

This paranoia accounts for why many members of Congress prefer President Obama to send American troops back into Iraq (and probably Syria) with the mission of destroying ISIS. Many of these members reason that this a conflict American military can win, and should there be another terrorist event on US soil, they would be politically safer having supported an attack on ISIS first.

While this reasoning is probably true, it begs the question of will any new group follow ISIS?

Our Country, IMO, is better off seeing the Iraq invasion and occupation for what it was, an error in foreign policy of the first magnitude. Remember at the time of the invasion there was no ISIS nor was there any al Qaeda in Iraq.

More importantly the US has much bigger fish to worry about. Strategic relations with Russia, Iran, China, and the fragile African continent present far more environmental, health, and military risks than radical Muslims like ISIS.

The recommendation is not to overlook ISIS (or whomever follows), but to put the response to ISIS in proportion to all the risks on the table.

Had “W” done that with Iraq, there would not have been an invasion and occupation.

11-11-11

Posted November 11, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Iraq War, Politics, Republican Party

Tags: ,

Today is a very important day in Europe. Today is the anniversary of the Armistice which ended World War I. The great war which enveloped Europe seems today a senseless slaughter of young men. For Europeans, 11 AM on November 11 marked the end of willingly making war. At that moment, Europeans had had their fill of war.

In Europe this day is called Armistice Day while in the US, it is called Veterans Day. In history, however, it is just another day which ended one conflict and sowed the roots for an even larger one.

My first memories of WWI were family stories about my Uncles who had fought with American units. I have no idea what impression the war made upon them, at least based upon family folklore. What I do remember, however, is seeing a man walking aimless the streets of my home town. This person, who today we would call a homeless, street person, would walk along the sidewalks until he came to a parking meter. He would stop, say something to the meter, and then salute.

I asked my parents about him. They said he had been in the great war and was suffering from “shell shock”. Hmmm.

My guess is today we would label this poor soul’s behavior as symptoms of PTSD. Over ninety years later and we can still see war’s impact upon veterans.

In England at the Tower of London, a sea of glass poppies, some 880,000+, have been planted in the moat surrounding the tower. This display has prompted a national outpouring of respect and gratitude to those who gave their lives in WWI.

In the US, the 7/24 talking heads cannot say “thanks for your service” enough. If they could, I think many of these personalities would thank parking meters if they thought their ratings would benefit. Sad.

Critics of these celebratory events recalling WWI point out that the reality of the war was quite different and must be recognized as well. Simply thanking members of the armed forces for their personal sacrifices misses the bigger point of why were they ever ask to take up arms in the first place?

Should we also be thanking government leaders who followed policies which invited a military response? Should we be thanking military commanders who lead their men into sure death by specific tactics they chose? Should we be thanking scientists and business leaders who developed and manufactured ever more lethal weapons and weapon systems?

If WWI seems to far in the past to be relevant today, think about the 12+ years following 9/11. Think about the slaughters in Afghanistan in pursuit of al Qaeda. Even more to the point, think about destruction of Iraq and wholesale killing of Iraqis and Americans in pursuit… of what?

I respect the service of the many Americans who were dispatched to Iraq (and Afghanistan) but I have trouble saying the words “thanks”.

Instead, I want to say “I’m sorry” that you were asked to perform a senseless mission. “I’m sorry” so many of you were asked to follow tactics which exposed you to horrible weapons of mass injury. “I’m sorry” so many of you have returned broken and missing limbs, and so many of you with post traumatic stress disorder who may not salute a parking meter but may needlessly hurt themselves or someone else.

Veterans Day should not be a day of celebration. Rather it should be a day when Americans are reminded of what can happen when leaders decide that wars can attain national goals.


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