Archive for October 2007

School Children

October 31, 2007

Last evening’s 2008 Democratic Presidential Debate was an exercise in childishness lead by a totally unhelpful duo of NBC television personalities.  Beginning with the clearly staged questions that asked “nothingness” to the uneven split of candidate air time, NBC did no one any favors, particularly the viewing public.  As bad as NBC was, the candidates found a way to come out worse.  School children best describes most of them.

Hillary – While clearly the most sophisticated and the most focused on the national election, Hillary still chose to respond to the whining of the other candidates.  For most of the responses she came out ok, but at best neutral.  For some of the responses she looked like someone caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  The questions were meaningless or involved the obvious, and many sounded like “did you stop beating your husband”.  Hillary missed too many opportunities to redirect the line of question to a comparison of her and George Bush and that all the Republicans were George Bush clones.

Barack – Probably the evening’s biggest disappointment was Barack.  He keeps beating the same dead horse that Hillary voted for the Iraq War and he was against it.  The problem is that a lot of other people voted for the War (and were wrong).  Barack acted like someone with the second best hand in a high stakes poker game.  His hand is good but is still a loser.

John – As an orator, he was quite impressive.  John has courted the Unions and Trial Lawyers and received a  lot of money from them.  That did not stop him from pointing the finger at Hillary and implying she would be influenced by all the contibutors she has rounded up.  John is another Jimmy Carter (outsider) and will make a poor President (although many times a better one than George Bush).

Chris – As Hollywood casting goes, Chris looks very presidential.  His oratory delivery sounds also very authoritative.  But it is a big reach to see him as the Standard Bearer.

Bill – Sad is the only words I can find to describe the Richardson candidacy at this point.  He hammered and hammered at the same point… “I am the only candidate who has negotiated face to face with foreign leaders…”   (Someone needs to tell him that Presidents do not negotiate, the State Department does.)  I believe Bill is a very good person but he would not motivate or energize anyone as President.

Joe – The one bright spot of the evening was Joe Biden.  He alone blew away the dumb questions being raised by the NBC moderators.  To the question about pledging to stop Iran’s nuclear program (which was a baited trap leading to supporting war), Joe pointed out that Iran was the tail and the dog was Pakistan.  Our preoccupation with Iran was completely overlooking the 1000 pound Gorilla (Pakistan) since Iran would have only a few grams of fissionable material while today Pakistan has 1000’s.  In a few words Joe pointed out the enormous blind spot in the Bush/Cheney thinking.

Dennis – Without a doubt the most interesting candidate is Kucinich.  He is clear and unequivocating.  Dennis is however an open socialist and would have no chance in the election process.  Should there be a religious right third party candidate, I would not be surprised to see Kucinich run as a social progressive candidate.

The sorry lesson of last night is

1. We can not count on the media to ask important and telling questions.

2. We can not count on the candidates to tell why they should be selected unless they do it by comparison to another.

3. The 2008 election is already over if the Democrats simply run on George Bush’s record and that they will be a saner, more compasionate, and competent party.  It is not clear from last night whether the Democratic candidates understand this.

The Unsung Hero

October 30, 2007

Today’s Wall Street Journal carried an editorial calling attention to an apparent split between Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense and George Bush (and his main handler, Dick Cheney).  The subject was the “missile defense” system that has been proposed for Poland and the Czech Republic.  “Missile defense” is in quotes for a reason.  It is totally unclear who it will defend, against whose attack it will defend, and most fundamentally, what proof is their that the defense system will work at all.

The President is quick to say that the Missile Defense system is not targeted at Russia.  He instead says it is aimed at Iran and other rogue states and is intended to protect Europe.  He neglects to say that there is no evidence that Iran has any such intercontinental missiles nor is there any reason why Iran would fire a missile at Europe when NATO could retaliate and completely destroy the Iranian military targets.

The WSJ fully supports the deployment (and the sooner the better).  WSJ claims that simply the presence of these missiles (whether they work or not) will deter the Iranians or any other rogue state.  I think the WSJ needs to wake up and smell the coffee.  The stated enemy are Islamic States and the last time I looked there was no shortage of suicide bombers.  Using cold war logic on a people who are constantly feed matyrdom as a desired state is an exercise in foolishness.  Robert Gates knows this.

1. Missiles in Czech Republic is like Putin putting missiles into Venezuela to protect Russia against the rebels in Columiba.

2. Putin is not Russia (although he clearly has a lot of influence).  Russia has as many right wingers as the US and the support of these people is important to Putin.  The US justification makes no sense to the Russians hardliners.    US troops that much closer to Russian soil does not impart a good feeling with them.

3. Resorting to missiles is akin to trying to kill a fly with a shot gun.  You might get it but you will probably be too slow and miss.

4. Robert Gates is the only sane member of the Bush Administration who thinks about the ramifications of US Policy.  Gates represents the moderate-conservative wing of the Republican Party.  This group most closely follows what you would think conservatives should be… conservative, thoughtful, careful, trustable, rational, reasonable, principled, and big enough to understand there are other views.

I hope I do not wake up one morning to hear he has resigned.

Policy Gone Wrong… Again

October 27, 2007

Following Government Policy and observing whether it achieves its intended purpose has never been easier than during the Bush/Cheney years.  In fact, it almost always does not require a review of the facts or insight into the hearts and minds of our leaders.  If Bush or Cheney propose something, you can go to the bank that the policy will not work for the benefit of the American public.

The most recent example is the foolish rhetoric towards Iran.  The blunt rhetoric from our Chicken Hawk leaders has had immediate repurcusions.  And all you have to do is look at the price of oil (which will be followed by sky high gasoline and heating fuel prices).  Oil prices are about 3 and 1/2 times what they were when Bush took office in 2000.  Most of this price increase, experts say, is attributed to a “risk factor”.  In simple terms, the experts foresee the disruption of oil supply if Iran were attacked and speculators recognize that something in short supply costs more.  (Of course the Bush/Cheney firey words have not changed Iran’s behavior) 

The wrong headedness of Bush/Cheney policy usually has nothing to do with whether the issue is important.  For sure Iran and nuclear weapons is a very serious issue and certainly should be of high interest to US policy makers.  The surprise each time has been that Bush and Cheney select a policy that (1) does not cure the illness and (2) leaves the American public worse off than if nothing had been done.

Other examples have been:

1. Renouncing the Kyoto Protocol.

2. Abrogating the ABM treaty

3. Invading Iraq on trumped up charges

4. Guantanamo as a prison

5. No to due process, habeas corpus, Geneva Convention

6. Yes to torture

7. Disregard for the value of Government by appointing unqualified political hacks (for example Katrina response or the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales)

8. Fighting AIDS with abstinence

9. Deploying missiles to Poland and radar to Czechia.

The most pressing question is “will January 20, 2009 come soon enough?”


October 25, 2007

The rhetoric continues to swirl around the need to teach Iran a lesson.  George and Dick weighed in over the weekend and now it is reported that Rudy’s “think (this may be a play on words) tank” is loaded with chicken hawks who can’t wait to attack Iran.  You are left with the scary conclusion that some pretty “intelligence challenge” people are advising the Republican Candidates.  Remember, Mitt wants a second Guantanamo, McWho will fight in Iraq until all the Muslims convert to John’s church, and Fred will do what the Generals tell him.

There is no question that the current Iranian regime is hard to understand.  Their government structure is not like any we have known.  Being a non-Christian theocracy makes their fundamental beliefs suspect and when they stone people, beat law breakers with canes, and cover their women with black, we question whether they are ready for McDonalds.  And most people agree that Iran should not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons for fear of what they will do with them.

But what good does bombing or invading do?

1. Unless there was a unanomous UN resolution and the world (including China, India, and Russia) pooled their soldiers, there is little chance the US could win a land war.  After bombing, it would be only a matter of time before Iran could reconstitute their nuclear program.

2. Bombing without strong UN support (read including Russia and China) will only hasten the next cold war where the US is isolated from most of the world.  Europe will take a neutral position.  (The reason for this outcome is that everyone knows the US is militarily second to none.  Never-the-less, there is strength in numbers and the current US type of unchecked military abuse will need to be countered with an alliance of the worried.)

3. Bombing will set us on a path without an end.  For sure the Iranian Government is a hindrance to progress but to think they are the only “bad guys” out there is naive.  We will look more and more like the Roman legions roaming the country side putting out uprisings.  We can not affort it and it is simply not necessary.

4. Bombing takes our eye off the need to develop a much wider and more sophisticated foreign policy and diplomats to manage it.  Our military strength should be an option of last resort and we should prefer to rely upon alliance building.  Unlike any time in history, the world is enjoying relatively prosperous times.  People are rational and do not want to give up the good life without sufficient cause.

5. Bombing shows how blind our foreign policy is to the real long term threats facing the US.  I believe there are two external and one internal.  They are:

  • The ultimate battle will be economic and China and India represent the great threats.  The form of the threat will be that their economies are self sufficient (read do not need investment or goods from the US) and highly productive (read can export at a profit goods and services to the US or any other country cheaper than the US can).
  • The second external threat will come from the widening gap between the have and have nots of the world.  The poorer nations will get poorer and will inevitably become dysfunctional (like what we call Islamic terrorists today).
  • The internal threat is the inability of our country to find “middle ground (the center)” and focus on rebuilding our global competitiveness, national social safety nets, and the richness of a diverse society.  The very rich may not get richer but they certainly won’t get poorer.  Today’s generation appears to assume that America’s current military supremacy and civilian good life is something they either are entitled to or results from simply their hard work.  Wake up and smell the coffee.  The current US world position results from events from the past and just like with stocks, “past performance in not a guarenty of future performance”.

2008 Presidential Candidates –  Get real about how things really are.  Make our foreign policy sensible while we still are strong and not after another disaster like Iraq.

The Chicken Hawks Ride Again

October 24, 2007

Little Georgie Bush and Big Bad Dick Cheney are on their “chicken hawk” high horse again and lashing out at Iran.  Some are saying that like Iraq, in the minds of these arm chair Generals, the decision to invade, bomb, or otherwise attack another sovereign country has been made.  What prompts this dysfunctional behavior from an Administration with a low 30’s approval rating?

1. These men are stupid.  They may be many things but stupid is not one.  George is inexperienced for sure and prone to making non-analytical decisions.  For all we know he may have consulted God again and gotten the green light.

2. These men do not learn from experience.  There is certainly ample evidence that this is true but that alone would not lead to a decision to invade Iran.

3. These men have been brain washed by Israel.  There is no doubt the Israeli Lobby and their wonderful contributions have been well appreciated by George and Dick.  Further, there is no doubt that Israel worries about Iran (and for very good reasons).  Israel would like nothing better than to drop a 1000 pounder down the chimney of the grand Ayatollah.  I don’t think our two fearless leaders were brain washed but they are comforted with the support of Israel.

4.  They want to keep attention away from Iraq and especially how we got into this mess.  I think we are getting very warm now.  Each time George and Dick can raise some other issue is another day closer to January 20, 2009 and then they are out of there.

5. They actually do want a military conflict with Iran.  I think this is the case.  For George and Dick it will be a self fulfilling prophacy.  George and Dick will claim, despite all the earlier lies, that the real reason they invade Iraq was all the bad guys (read radical Islamists) who were there.  Iran has got Iraq covered and then some.

6. Invading Iran is a left over Karl Rove strategy and probably the only way that Rudy, Mitt, or John can get elected.  To my regret this smells and sounds to close to the truth.  Bush and Cheney will stoop as low as it takes to keep people like them in power.

Our chief Chicken Hark (George) has also found time to speak out on two other issues needing no words from him.  Myanmar and Cuba have received threatening words from our peace President.  Clearly the man does not see he is wearing no clothes.

What’s Wrong With Healthcare?

October 23, 2007

Republicans and most conservatives will bend your ear (whenever they can) and relate all the woes of healthcare.  They will demonize it by calling it “Hillary-care”.  They will heap on the statistics of why the US will go broke under the current Medicare and Medicaid plans.  What could be so wrong with healthcare.

First we must listen to the conservatives and try to understand what they are saying.  Without any special order, they relate:

1. The cost of covering healthcare benefits as outline in law today are growing at astronomical rates and will bankrupt the plans in the future.

2. Some people claiming benefits should be paying their own way.

3. Single payer (government style) will lead to lower healthcare costs and lower service (read long lines and “do not care” medical providers.

4. American history has demonstrated that competition brings out the best in Americans and healthcare without private sector competition will lead to Canadian or English style medical care.

5. American companies need to be freed of the historic burden of providing healthcare (this responsibility was assumed during WWII in order to circumvent price and wage controls).  If our companies do not eliminate this liability, they will become uncompetitive on the global stage.

What are the conservatives not saying:

1. There are already today, too many people without healthcare coverage.  These people are costing us a lot of money already.

2. Although we have reasonably good healthcare, the costs keep rising.

3. If we drop the government as a provider of healthcare coverage, there is little chance that those currently uninsured will find coverage regardless of the cost or tax deduction/credit.  People will make other choices.  In this case we should expect to see a two tier system with wide differences in service and quality of care. 

4. At the end of the day, Americans will not watch their fellow citizens die on the streets.  Denying coverage for whatever the reason will lead to the most expensive solution to providing service.

5. Many people are making dreadful choices on life style.  Smoking, unhealthy eating, and risky life practices all lead to higher healthcare costs.  It is unfair to ask others to pay this bill. 

In short, healthcare costs are rising too fast.  We must pay more and we need to reduce our demand on healthcare services.  Saying that there is no role for a government single provider is a non-starter.  Saying there is a role for both government and private providers is necessary to encourage a dialogue.  But it is clear some things must change:

  • Coverage (at least the costs) must be tied to life style choices.
  • After some basic level, those who pay more should get more (faster or more services).
  • We should bench mark our healthcare service versus other leading countries.  We should expect to have service in the top quarter.
  • Preventive medicine along with healthy life styles should be recommended and expected.

The final bell will ring when we decide we must make choices.  Better schools, better neighborhoods, more entertainment and vacations, new and larger homes, fancy and hip clothes, new cars, and a more reasonable government spending of our tax dollars are all open for discussion.  They attack the same dollars.

The healthcare proposals voiced already by all the candidates fall short of either looking at the cause of healthcare increases, what happens if healthcare is not viewed as a right, and the choice and responsibility that each American carries in making life style choices.  Americans need to be told that unhealthy life styles are not good for you and further more will lead to your demotion to a lower level of healthcare.

What will the candidates say?  

Food Fight

October 22, 2007

Last night’s 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate debate was a class piece of oratory splendor.  Mitt, Rudy, Fred, and John displayed marvelous and irrelevant comparison of themselves, Hillary, and their fellow candidates.  Through the smoke you might be able to discern their strategies.

1. Mitt-ster – His direct target is Rudy and his indirect target is Fred.  Mitt wants the conservative/religious vote and will try and call attention to whatever Rudy represents that may alienate the religious conservative.  Mitt through the stength of his voice shows his heart is beating which is not clear with respect to Fred.

2. Fred-man – He also likes to shoot at Rudy.  Maybe he thinks that Rudy as the leader has the most to lose and will be the easiest target.  This would be consistent with Fred’s low level efforts to show any enthusiasm.

3. McWho – John spoke well and played his favorite tunes.  He could not help but liken Rudy to Hillary without reference Rudy’s propensity to cross dress.

4. Rudy showed that one must be careful if you throw crap at him.  He just smiles, shakes his head, and throws a bigger load back.

The strange part of these attacks on each other and on Hillary is that they avoid the only comparison that will count.  The comparison with how George Bush and Dick Cheney have governed.  In the actual Presidential campaign, whomever the Republican candidate is will have to defend their already announced support of the Iraq War and the needlessness of ever having invaded Iraq.  They will have to defend voting against S-CHIP and especially so with the defense that it is too much government spending at a time when the President has no problem spending a trillion dollars on Iraq.

These four candidates have given us a new and fresher understanding of pandering.

Still Relevant

October 18, 2007

I had a more restful sleep last night because I heard President George W Bush tell an audiance (and me) that he was still relevent and would be so until his term expires (mercifully) on January 20, 2009.  It is reassuring that the President still has Dick’s hand on the tiller and the ship of state is headed in a knowing direction.

I have also a mental picture of the great Oklahoma land rush of 1889 with all the covered wagons lined up and then charging across the open plains.  I imagine the same sort of scene for the historians and Presidential biographers who are just waiting for the door to close on the duopoly – George and Dick.  There may not be enough ink in the ink jet printers to capture all the thoughts and words that describe this failed presidency.  Oh, let me count the ways….

1. Divider not unite-er.  This could  have been the first clue that George could not tell the difference between truth and lies.

2. Love the rich, despise the poor.  Grant a huge tax reduction and tilt its benefits towards the rich.  Enact “No Child Left Behind” and refuse to fund it properly so that the poor still do not have the means to a good education. 

3. Reward friends, pick on the minorities.  Contributors to the Bush elections have reaped handsome rewards through directed government spending while imigrants and gays/lesbians have been singled out as examples of whats wrong in America.

4. Enforce “my way or the highway” globally.  Wrong headed unilateralism has resulted in the lowest world opinion of the US in 75 years.  We now can also see the fruits of misguided foreign policies with our Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and European relations.  We hold no chips calling for favors in time of need.

5. Love oil.  Forget, even repudiate the Kyoto Protocol, and keep any serious efforts to reduce our dependency on oil (especially foreign oil) stalled high lights this Administration.  And the best part is that we can now pay twice as much for oil as we did when Bush first took office.

6 Discredit science and the environment.  It is scandalous to think of a US President support the notion that science does not count (intelligent design is a real theory George says and abstinance is the best defense against AIDS and unwanted pregnacies), and the sky rocketing emissions of green house gases do not pose a man made threat to the environment.

7. And best for last.  Forget individual rights to end of life decisions and reproductive health and pour on the Sanctity of Life message.  We know where George stood with Terri Shaivo and “Rove v Wade” but offering a hand of help to anyone born into poverty or serious physical disability was out of the question.  We can fight for denying women the right to an abortion on the grounds of preserving life and then send our sons and daughters off to an illegal and unnecessary war.  What’s wrong with this picture?

The “Center” lies much to the left of George but certainly not all the way to the other extreme.   The world we live in is very complex and we can not solve energy dependence or the environment by ourselves.  But at least we can begin and do our part.  The rich will always be richer than the poor but the gap does not need to be so great.  Our country has been built on immigrants and sexual orientation is not a choice (it simply is).  If there are so many “illegal” immigrants wanting to work here, or gays/lesbians seeking marriage status, there must be a reason.  There must be a middle ground where the America I know can include all people and understand views that individually you may not accept yourself. 

Unless we can reverse course and unite our country around the “center”, we stand little chance of finding a sane foreign policy that can guide the current US Super Power safely.  The course we now are pursuing will ultimately create a coalition of opposing countries that in combination can thwart us militarily and economically.  World War III is likely to be fought in economic terms and not with bombs.  The Iraqis of the world are distractions and getting into a land war in Iraq was just plain stupid.  We need a much clearer view of just how strong internally the US is before we begin the inevitable confrontation of Russia and China.  Today we are rotting from the inside out and unless we reverse this trend, we will fall like the dollar before our global competitors.

2008 Presidential Candidates – Do you see this coming?   How will you address it? 

A Man With No Vision

October 17, 2007

Early in the Bush Administration’s first term, our macho man told the Russians that he was no longer going to be bound by the ABM treaty.  George and his pals wanted to begin deployment of a new missile system and the ABM treaty prevented the deployment.  But George assured the Russians that they had nothing to fear.  The Russians, however, did not buy that line and warned that they would have to reassess their other agreements too.

George (and the little man on his shoulder Dick (Dr Strangelove) Cheney) saw the Russians as weak and almost goaded them into resuming a arms war where the Russians could bankrupt themselves again.  George and Dick were so smart.  They held all the power and the Russians did not.  Times have changed.

Earlier this year the Bush brain trust proposed putting these new missiles into Poland and Checkia.  The Russians got really mad and threatened to realign their European military assets.  George told Putin that he should not be concerned because these missiles were not aimed against Russia.   So it was full steam ahead as far as George was concerned.

Unforeseen in the Chicken Hawks’ thinking was the consequences of invading Iraq.

1. Invading a former Russian ally was bad enough but doing it without the Russian’s non-objection was rubbing salt in the wound.

2. The ensuing turmoil resulting from the Iraq War has been a doubling of oil and gas prices, and suddenly the economically weak Russians were awash in money.  And money can buy weapons.

3. A second consequence of the Iraq War coupled with the Bush Administration’s fiscal malfeasance is the weakening dollar.  Now it costs the US much more to buy anything in the world.

4. The Iraq War has strategically stretched US military forces and rendered them useless if another justified police action arose.  The Russians know this.

 So now the shoe is on the other foot.  President Putin has just visited Iran and posed smiling with Iranian leaders.  Putin also made a speech in which he said that no one (naming no one but covering everyone) should even think of using force in the region (read against Iran).  This is a bold statement reminesent of the good old cold war days.

The amazing aspect of this is that this situation never had to occur.  Both the war and the star wars missile defense program represent huge mistakes and wastes of money.  Both have resulted in large messes and the route to get out of Iraq and to improve relations with the Russians is not clear.  Looking to the future where one can see only a larger presence for China and India, goading the Russians into an antagonistic posture simply makes no sense.  I wonder what the neoconservatives and the cowboy chicken hawks are saying now?

Is the Surge Working?

October 16, 2007
  • News reports issued this week indicate that killings and bombings have dropped considerably in the Baghdad area where we have placed the extra troops.  Is this a sign of victory and justification for our invasion?  If you think so then you must be on some strong medication.

Most military leaders who were not under the thumb of Donald Rumsfeld have said repetedly that more troops were needed to bring order to the chaos that meets most Iraqis everyday.  This is not brain surgery material.  Wars have been fought through out history and once the regular Army action is over, the occupation and efforts to produce post war peaceful condidtions just do not happen without adequate police action.  So it should be no surprise that the symptoms improved when the surge troops arrived.  But there was more.  Much of Baghdad has been essential ethnically cleansed leaving most neighborhoods as either Shiite or Sunni.  General Patraeas wisely has done nothing to try and re-integrate these neighborhoods and has continued policies of making agreements with both Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders.  In the process, Al Qaeda in Iraq has dwindled in strength and activity.  Doesn’t this sound like a victory of sorts?

There are several problems with this current position:

1. The Iraqis are no more united than ever and therefore are incapable of maintaining the reduced hostilities if left to themselves.

2. Without a large American presence, Iraq’a neighbors will be exerting greater cross boarder influence.  Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran all have strong interests in Iraq and little of their interests are common with each other. 

3. Oil is the goal of all the players.  Without a strong Iraqi Government, each of the neighbors will use their influence to arrange the best terms for oil.  There is no strong Iraqi Government and there is not likely to be one for 10 or more years.  The only stable form of Iraqi Government that Iraqis have known is a Sunni lead dictatorship.

4. Most military and civilian experts have insisted that a political settlement is the only possible path towards a stable Iraq and getting the US troops out.  The Bush Administration has had great difficulty with that concept since it seems devoid of understanding what negotiations mean.  In addition, without a reality based Iraq policy there can be no instruction to the US negotiators.

5.  There seems to be so many pieces to a puzzle sitting in front of us.  All of these pieces need to be addressed if we are to expect progress that will last.  They are:

  • Accords for a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace
  • A settlement of Lebanon’s problems
  • An end to the Iran nuclear weapons program and their reentry into the larger world community.
  • Accommodations for the greater Kurdish people without the need to seed land from Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
  • A Federal state approach to Iraq with the Federal Government ensuring that the oil revenues are dividing fairly along some compromise agreement.

 Stopping for a moment a taking a deap breath, do you still think that Bush and Cheney did any of us a favor by invading Iraq?