Archive for August 2007

Will Fred Make a Difference?

August 31, 2007

With Fred Thompson’s announcement that he will officially announce his candidacy for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination, the public’s reaction silence was deafening.  So what, you might say.  Remeber, here is a guy that was gaming the system as an undeclared candidate and now wants us to accept him as a 100% real candidate.  There are some questions sitting right in front of us.

1. Where is Fred going to get his campaign money?  His exploratory committee has not been able to raise $ 5 million let alone the $15-20 million the other front runners have raised each quarter.  What will Fred need to promise in order to get the needed money?

2. What will John McWho do now that his buddy has entered the race.  Will John drop Fred as a buddy or will John drop out completely and support Fred? 

3. Which of the family values will Fred plaster on his sleeves to appeal to the conservative group of voters?  Will he take aim at Rudy?  What will he say about Mr Clean (the Mitt-ster)?

4. Another strategy might be to take aim at Democratic candidates and look tough.  Then when Mitt or Rudy are not looking, fire a shot at them.

5. The bigger questions of course at about real issues like what should our Iraq policy be and why, how does a country as wealthy as the US deal with health care for its citizens who can not afford it, and how do we reduce our foreign oil dependence while sharply reducing our green house gas emissions?  Do you think he will be silent on these?

Why Get Out?

August 30, 2007

As the gears of Government turn slowly towards the mid November check point on the Iraq “surge”, the position of the Bush Administration is already clear.  Forget the evidence (or accept it as we interpret it), it makes no difference, as long as I (George Bush) am President, we are staying.  As I think about Bush’s past actions, I conclude there will be no change in US policy until January 20th, 2009.

There are many reasons why Bush will not change but perhaps the more important question to the 2008 Presidential candidates is why should the policy be changed?

1. It is incorrect to say we should change policy because it is not working.  If the policy was ever correct, then we should be looking for ways to implement the policy more effectively.

2. It is equally incorrect to say “we are in Iraq and if we leave, all hell will break lose”.  This is very questionable and if we should not be there, the discussion should be about how to get out effectively, not stay the course.

3. It is not correct to connect staying with honoring the sacrifices of all the service men and women who have already served there.  The merits of having gone into Iraq stand on there own.  Even if we went for the wrong reasons, the duty and service of our military also speaks for itself.

4. It is correct to look retrospectively at the US policy in general against insurgents and non-traditional combatants such as al Qaeda.  We entered Afghanistan because the Afghan government openly supported al Qaeda and al Qaeda master minded the 9/11 tragedy.  We entered Iraq for reasons unknown (and certainly not the iminate threat that Bush used as an excuse).  Iraq defocused our Afghan effort and was a colossal failure on its own.  Afghanistan correct, Iraq incorrect.

5. It is correct to announce a change in policy that acknowledges the mistake of an Iraq invasion.  The mistake is not that we have not won, but it was straight up wrong to have done it in the first place. 

6. With the new policy, one is free to admit we are there and we must intelligently withdraw in order to minimize the damage.  One is also free to discuss presence of US support troops (not occupiers) for an extended period.

7. With a new policy, one is free to make it a bi-partisan policy and begin bringing the country back together again.

What do you say Presidential candidates?

No Surprise

August 29, 2007

President George W Bush in a speech to the American Veterans of Foreign Wars yesterday all but confirmed there is no Iraq pause or reduction in effort in his plans.  Sighting military progress as proof enough that his Iraq policies are working (not to mention that he thinks they are the best), President Bush played down the lack of progress on the political front.  In view of the deterioration of the Iraq political scene, George has earned a nomination for the “understatement of the year” contest.

Outside of Baghdad, where the surge is not taking place, it is “beat up time” for the American forces versus Sunni Insurgents and “beat the crap out of each other” time for the Shiites in the South.  Stuck with this civil war and no clue how to get control, the Bush Administration again lashed out at the Iranians.  Why can’t these Iraqi people get along?  Here’s my view:

1. There is simply to much oil at stake for anyone to give in yet.  At the end of the day after sweeping away all the crap about religion, the bottom line is oil and oil revenues.

2. The secular clerics find it impossible to resist the good life afforded them by control of oil and the associated businesses.  Forget Allah, but don’t forget the oil.

3. The Americans and the Iranians won’t withdraw and leave Iraq alone.  If they did, Iraq might see a messy struggle, but pretty soon the oil would be won by someone and then life could get back to normality (Iraq style, not American style).

President Bush is stuck in the rut of ignorance.  What he does not know won’t hurt him.  And there is some truth to that.  Ignoring the Iraq quagmire and stonewalling until January 2009 can not further damage his place in history.  He has “worst” locked up and except for another $200 billion and another 1000 unnecessary US soldier’s deaths, there is little more that History can record.

End of Era

August 28, 2007

“End of era of trying to extend executive power” cites the Wall Street Journal in today’s front page story on Attorney General Gonzales’ resignation.  This headline raises lots of questions like “why does the executive need more power” and “is this a good thing or not”.  It also makes me think how lucky most of us are that it was George W Bush who orchestrated the power grab (with no doubt critical help from Co-president Dick Cheney).

This Administration was elected with a lot of financial contributions.  In other words, George W Bush was the President of the very very rich.  To be sure he received the votes of a lot of ordinary people too with the largest block of the ordinary vote coming from evangelicals and fundamentalists who in turn were following the wishes of their power seeking leaders.  To be sure, Bush and Cheney are not the President of the Americans needing health care or better educational opportunities to work their way up the economic ladder.  Bush and Cheney do not care about the new comers to our Country nor to those who look to narrow the difference between the very rich and the very poor.

The cluster of voters who did elect George W Bush was an unstable combination and if Bush were to get reelected he would need to improve his chances during the first term.  And if he were not to be reelected, he would need to reward his main money backers handsomely in the first term.  From that motivation came the need to seize more power.  (Interestingly, the job of grabbing power was made easier by the Republican controlled Congress and the fact that most all Congressmen/women were hopelessly compromised with their own campaign contribution obligations and were themselves in desperate need to arrange repayment.)

When I say we are lucky I say it with respect to all those who have lost a loved one in the needless and foolish Iraq War.  We are lucky because we have not been tempted to follow a tyrant (in Greek sense), or as we might say today, a benevolent dictator.  The Bush/Cheney Administration has been so inept and clumsy that anyone with a pulse and/or a sense of history sees immediately the virtue of the balance of powers.

1. The Country is less safe today than in the 2000.

  • US Armed Forces are over extended.
  • Military equipment is worn out and needs significant replacement.
  • The world now knows we can bomb like hell but we can not occupy.
  • Al Qaeda has metastasized from a small area in Afghanistan to multiple countries in the Southeast Asia, Middle East and Africa.

2. The Country has wasted 5 years on Iraq.

  • The US has spent 3700 lives and $ 700 billion.
  • The Russians have been provoked into resuming their cold war posture
  • The Chinese threats of unconstrained manufactuing productivity and power over our national debt (the US Treasury fully participating) have gone unaddress and will need to be dealt with soon.
  • Global warming and our immoral role in it has been side lined.
  • Energy independence with a dramatic reduction in green house gases has been ignored and as a result delayed needlessly. 

3. The Country’s infrastructure (social and physical) are decaying.

  • Social security was declared soon to be dead and no fix has been implemented.
  • Health care was restricted to those who can afford it.
  • The fires of religious intolerance were fanned
  • The Nation’s bridges and highways desperately need repair.
  • The national air transportation system is in shambles with an incompetent and enormously inconvenient TSA,  over worked air traffic controllers, and questionable safe landing/take offs at major airports.

Just imagine if someone else had grab for power in 2000.  And imagine that that person was an effective exectutive and appointed skilled and qualified people to key government agencies.  Think about a President who drew together Americans and helped find compromises to the many difficult issues that divide the country.  Consider a President who ruled in foreign policy with diplomacy and clear consistent communications and did not resort to force.  If this type of person grabbed power, we probably would not care and it would not be till sometime in the future when another Bush/Cheney type emerged before we found out the weaknesses of too strong an executive.

So good bye Alberto and hurrah for the end (for now) to power grabbing.  Attention 2008 Presidential candidates – you need to reassure Americans that you will respect the traditional American values (privacy, due process, habaes corpus, and the Geneva Convention) and most importantly the independent roles of the three branches of Government. 

Post Alberto

August 27, 2007

With today’s announcement that Alberto Gonzales, US Attorney General, is resigning his post effective September 17, 2007, there is a sigh of relief but also a realization that Alberto was a character player and not the author of the play.

Without a doubt Gonzales is a walking endorsement for the American dream.  He is an example where hard work and focus can lead to a life transformation and career successes.  Alberto served George Bush faithfully and his hard work was ultimately rewarded with the Attorney General appointment.  This rags to riches story, however, is ending one step short of a Supreme Court appointment and we should all be thankful of that.

The Peter Principle says that everyone gets promoted until they reach their level of incompetence and suggests that most people’s last job is a job they can not do well.  With Gonzales, it is hard to say when his jobs got too big for him.  One might argue that as President Bush’s legal counsel, he should have advised against the Executive Branch seeking and assuming extrodinary powers.  He should have advised that rendition, extreme interrogation, spying on Americans, and denying both the protections of Habeas Corpus and the Geneva Convention were legally unjustified and as policy extremely unwise.  But he didn’t.

As Attorney General, Gonzales continued his practice of complete loyalty to Bush and allowed his Justice Department to become “politicized”.  No matter what he might say about the right or wrong of the political wishes, he missed entirely the need for the Department of Justice to be everyone’s Department (not just the President’s).  In essense Gonzales, despite his intelligence, hard work, and perseverence, was over his head when it came to seeing the larger picture of our key American institutions and values, and their role in our type of democracy. 

But it is plain wrong to blame Alberto for Guantanimo, rendition, Abu Ghraib, and NSA spying.  He was simply a tool in bringing these disgraces to life.  Bush, Cheney, and the neoconservative mind set built on an ideological set of beliefs (ends justify means) are the prime movers for the destructive path the US has pursued for 7 years. 

Today is was Gonzales, next maybe it should be Cheney. 

Three Strikes…

August 26, 2007

There’s hype, there’s spin, and there’s just plain baloney.  The Bush Administration is hard at work, not doing work that needs to be done, but doing work that makes the inept work they do “do” sound plausible.  Soon it will be mid September and General Patraeus will deliver his much heralded report on the Iraq surge.  What will he say and what will it mean?

Before we consider those questions we must recognize what the first two strikes were.

1. Strike one was the foolish decision to invade Iraq and especially so without UN authorization.  You might see Hussein as such a bad person that the US did not need UN authorization but I can not believe you can accept or support a President (really his Vice President) that lied to the American people about the reasons to go to war and then systematically sugar coated the War effort (tax reductions, no pictures of flag drapped coffins, no debate over war appropriations, no draft, no war taxes) so that the American people suffered no hardship.

2. Strike 2 results from the Administration totally mismanaging the post war effort to secure Iraq.  Sporting an “I don’t care about them” attitude, Iraqis were left to roast in Summer heat with no electricity, pay black market prices for gasoline, use run down hospitals stripped of most medical supplies, and submit to road side bombings and ethnic cleansing without hope of police protection.  The Bush team left huge ammunition dumps unguarded and to no surprise, the insurgents helped themselves.  The Bushies equipped the Iraqi police and today can not account for over half the weapons.  Under the Bush watch, Iraq which had no al Qaeda activity under Hussein, now sport a local home grown variety, a group that boasts of being the Iraq franchise of al Qaeda.  This performance is clearly Strike 2.

Now 5 years later the focus of discussion is how to bring order and security to Iraq.  The solution chosen is “anti-insurgency actions” (also called the surge).  Pour more troops on the fire and wait for results.

Unbelievably like Vietnam, the Bush Administration keeps digging the hole when it should know the first rule about getting out of a hole is to stop digging.  Quagmire ! The Bush/Cheney Administration has been amazingly consistent in its inability to coordinate and successfully execute two or more related strategies.  To Bush et al, it is either fight to win, or cut and run, or negotiate (with condidtions), or sit and wait.  They have flooded Iraq with dollars, they have bombed it liberally, they have patroled and field tested so many IED’s on American servicemen/women that they should be impeached for malfeasence in office. 

This brings us to Strike 3.  We are standing on the verge of it.  Will the Bush/Cheney team swing and miss as before or will they hesitate and get called out on strikes.  Remember:

1. US troop levels can not be sustained beyond early next year.  Without a full mobilization of the National Guard (and most likely re-establishment of the draft), there are simply not enough troops to go around.

2. The hapless functioning of the Iraqi government is proof positive that Iraq is not and was not ready for “democracy”.  They are generations away from that and maybe even longer.

3. A lawless Iraq serves no one any purpose especially Iraq’s neighbors.  Once the US leaves there will be a soft partitioning with Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran forming important alliances with Iraqi fractions.  Turkey and the kurds will reach some understanding either peacefully or otherwise.

4. The price and availability of oil will stabilize driven by the greed of those who produce.  It is not in anyone’s best interest to disrupt supply.

5. The “do or die”, “the terrorists are coming” message that Bush/Cheney are pushing must be heard in the context of points 1-4.  It is time for Congress to call their bluff.

We will hear all sorts of things between now and the end of September.  Listen to what the 2008 candidates say and remember:

  • The war was unnecessary
  • The President lied to us
  • The Commander-in-chief disgraced our country with Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
  • The war has cost almost $ 700 Billion, all of it on borrowed money our children and grandchildren must pay.
  • An end to the conflict will require the US to leave, and the Iraqis to make pragmatic, non-secular, non-ideological decisions.

Let’s do the part we can effect and withdraw.  Withdrawal will take 18-24 months and a new Administration with a fresh sheet of paper could facilitate the necessary concessions.  Failing to obtain these concessions, the last solder out should just turn the last light off as he goes out the door.

He’s Back !

August 23, 2007

President George W Bush, interupting his much needed vacation, spoke to a VFW convention yesterday and treated the assembled group to Walt Disney like tale.  Goerge, on someone’s advice likened a withdrawal from Iraq to the US withdrawal from Vietnam.  What is George thinking?

1. George and his side kick and the chief sponsor of the unnecessary and illegal invasion of Iraq, Dick (5 deferments) Cheney did all in their power to keep themselves from getting in harms way through service in the US military.  These two Chicken Hawks must have been drinking beer during the war since they apparently have no recollection of the quagmire the US got itself into there.  Two Democratic and one Republican administrations could not shake the tar paper war off their hands until finally the end was at hand.  Then, ignominiously, the US departed leaving behind the remaining supporters.

And what happened?  In global strategic terms, almost nothing.  The North Vietnamese took over and the world lived happily there after.   Although there were some casualties (retrodutions from the North to their opposition in the South, this unfortunate situation was far less than the collateral damage that was being inflicted on the citizens of the two Vietnamese states during the war.

2. The use of the Vietnam analogy seems almost a gift to the Iraq War critiques.  In both cases, the US position (why were we there) is/was unclear and is/was not supported by the majority of the citizens of both the US and Vietnam/Iraq.  In both cases, American Military felt it could gain militarily if it were given the chance and in both cases, after taking an objective and then retreating, the opposition simply slid back into place (like the tides washing away sand castles).  In both cases, cold hard logic did not rule the day but rather nasty partisan politics was in full bloom.

3.  In looking back, one can not find any worthwhile purpose for having fought the Vietnam War.  The same can be said for Iraq.

To the argument that Iraq is key to stable energy prices, I submit that energy conservation and a goal of energy independence will be far more effective.

To the argument that the terrorists will be sitting on our front lawns if we pull out before peace is acchieved, I submit that we have had 6  years of Homeland Security and hopelessly inconvenient TSA travel controls, so how could the terrorists get here?

A pull out from Iraq will expose two unpleasant facts:

1. It will shine a high powered spot light on the Bush Administration and ask the probing questions… why again did we invade on our initiative and was it worth $700 Billion, over 3500 US lives, and hundred of thousands of Iraqi lives?

2. Without the distraction of Iraq, the spot light will also illuminate the overall inept Middle East policy situation.  You name it, Palastine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are all broken in terms of area peace and US prestige and influence.  (Recognize that Israel may like our money but they certain do not respect us nor would they follow our recommendations).

It is sad but true that having George back from vacation is providing plenty to blog about.

Rate the Surge

August 22, 2007

We are hearing more and more from both Democrats and Republicans that there are signs that the surge is working.  I am anxious to hear General Patraeus’ report in September and learn more about what he is looking at when he says it is working.  Remember:

1. It has been known forever that if the US put enough troops into winning the peace it was possible to do.  For sure, there are some questions today since we allowed 5 years to pass before doing the right things.  Unfortunately, another reality today is that there are not enough troops available in the entire US military to bring about security.

2. There has been little or no change to the number of US casualties and deaths since the surge began.  I certainly hope Patraeus does not contend that for the surge to work we must lose 3-4 American lives each day.

3. There is no signs of any improved functioning of the Iraqi government and in truth, it looks less stable than before the surge.  There is no consensus, no signs of normal government functioning, and no indications of compromise or discussions that might lead to compromise.

4. There is no confidence that if American troops withdrew, that violence would not increase again.  And once more, do you think the surge is working?

There simply are no words that adequately describe how huge a blunder the invasion of Iraq was and has turned out to be.  No only is the tactical folly clear (ousting Hussein was a given, winning a peace was impossible), but the strategic focus on the Middle East was a mistake also.  What lies ahead of the US is China and Russia and a world of ever decreasing energy supplies.  The US needs to fix up its own house (healthcare, social security, narrow the rich/poor gap, reinvigorate a passion for math and science, rebuild the infrastructure, regain manufacturing competitiveness (and the jobs that go with it), and engender a national spirit of inclusion and not division.  Focusing on the Middle East is a dead end waste of time.  Instead we need long term economic competitiveness with China and Russia with an equally strong diplomatic skill base to avoid the need to use military force anyplace. 

Iraq and the rest of our failed Middle East policies are wasting time and our precious resources.  We need a new administration that can see beyond their shoe strings.

First In Line

August 21, 2007

Today in an interview on NPR, it was reported that when George H W Bush was vice President, George W Bush was speaking with his mother in the Vice President’s residence.  In this conversation “W” maintained that only born again Christians were assured of going to heaven.  You may ask how any one with half a brain could think that but the best part of the story is next.  Barbara held the position that that could not be true and to settle the disagreement quickly, she would get the Reverend Billy Graham on the phone.

The Reverend confirmed “W” position (so watch out you Catholics and Jews) but Graham cautioned that no one knew how God might view the other people so it would be wise no to brag to loudly.  This speaks volumes about why the George W Bush’s Presidency has been such an abject failure.

1. Why would a grown man ever swallow a line like only his kind were going to someplace called heaven?  What other fake stories might he believe?

2. Why would George not be wise enough to know that Christians are a relative minority when you look at world population, and “born again Christians” are an even smaller cut of that.  This all loving God George professes to believe in must not be so all loving if George’s interpretation was correct and everyone else on earth was in line for the furnace of hell.  Consistancy of thought and ability to reason seem to be lacking and would pop up again in his later life in public service.

3. So George had a clear view of the end game (he had a ticket for heaven) so he could devote himself to public service with the assurances that he was inspired by some greater authority.  Hence the ends could justify the means.

4. George has never needed any real information about what was really happening.  God would guide him and if things didn’t work out, well it was not his fault, he had tried and had wanted it to work out.  This is the route to honest incompetence and that’s the best you can say about him.

5. So it should be no surprise that the tremendous toll of death and destruction that has swept over Iraq is not George’s fault.  He had liberated Iraq (forget breaking international law) and the Iraqis would be better off with Democracy than living under Hussein.  What facts or historical hints would lead anyone to that conclusion?

6. George, the man of God, has encouraged the enhanced interogation methods (leading directly to Abu Ghraib), turned his back on the Geneva convention (opening all US service men and women to torture), and renounced habeas corpus (the prime principle upon which the US has been built.  Either George has not been listening well to his God, or he has picked a pretty bad one to follow.

7.  The saddest part of this story is that George is likely to never have to pay for his actions.  There is no hell for George to descend into (which at least would be poetically appropriate) and sorry George, there is no heaven either. 

Time for a Third Party?

August 20, 2007

As the 2008 Presidential candidates continue their pandering of the Iowa and New Hampshire voters, more and more the question “is there another choice” is being raised.  To be sure, many are already content with one of the Republican or one of the Democratic candidates.  The third party candidate option rises when someone wants a break with cliche and spin answers and is looking for a sense of what the future could be.  Let’s be clear, looking for terrorists behind each tree is a politics of bait and steal.  Please consider

1. We are a country of 300 million people.  Europe has another 300 million.  Russia, China, and Japan have an additional 2 billion.  The world’s supply of terrorists at any one time is less than 10,000.  This is a number that can be far more cost effectively contained than spending for an unending war in Iraq or the obscene travesty called the TSA and airport security.  As a country, how can we continue to be fooled by Government rhetoric?

2. Politics is the business of passing out favors while you skim a little off the top for your effort.  When done in moderation and with attendant effective functioning of public services, this is an understandable and acceptable situation.  Unfortunately, it is also like the lumber jack spinning on a log in the river.  As he spins trying to keep his balance, he is forced to spin even faster until he eventually falls off the log.  Politicians experience the same and end up skimming a little more until they take too much and get exposed.

We have seen what the Republicans have done with the spoils of war and the peppering of critical Administration posts with hacks and former lobbyists.  The government services have been substandard at best and criminal at the worst.  Why should we not expect the same from the next Republican or the Democrat Administration?

If your argument is that Guilliani or Thompson are different, or Hillary or Barack are even more different, I must say that with respect to their reliance on campaign financing makes any differences miniscule. 

3. Given only a choice between a Republican or a Democrat, the secondary tendencies of Democrats is needed at this point in time.  The country badly needs encouragement to reduce green house gases and total oil and coal consumption and we will never get this from Republicans.

4. Government competence and a much saner foreign policy (that recognizes the emergence of China and the resurgence of Russia) should be the primary goal of voters.  Forget about Roe v Wade, the next Supreme Court judge, and Prayers in Schools.  It is pass time to return to a well functioning government.

I worry that someone like Hillary who is probably the best of the litter, will still be too biased with an eye towards reelection in 2012.  The needs of the country demand much more attention.

That brings me to possibility of a third party candidate who is intelligent, center oriented and an excellent executive.  That suggest to me two names. 

  • From the right side of center , Robert Gates who is the current Secretary of Defense.  Gates is a man of character and principled decisions.
  • From the left side of center, Michael Blumberg who is currently the Mayor of New York City.  Blumberg is a wealthy, independant, and excellent executive who cares about what he does and what he does, he does well.

The chances of a third party is remote but the idea of why a third party is necessary should be of high value to the candidates of both the established parties.  Our country is rotting from the inside out, both ethically (in regards to the sick or poor) and physically (in the sense of bridges, roads, and air traffic).  Let’s hope there is an awakening.