Archive for November 2007

The Case for Bloomberg and Gates

November 30, 2007

When you survey the current field of Republican and Democratic candidates for the 2008 Presidential nomination, you are hard pressed to see any who are sophisticated, experienced, and persuasive enough to make you sleep well at night knowing they have their hand on the trigger.  I would like to propose two addition candidates and suggest they step forward when after Super Tuesday in February, there will be no clearer picture of a satisfactory candidate.

I propose that Robert Gates, currently Secretary of Defense, seek the Republican nomination, and Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, seek the Democratic nomination.

We should judge their qualifications on four criteria

  • Balanced approach to Government, not too progressive, not to libertarian.
  • Cautiousness in committing the US in foreign policy.
  • The absence of pandering to any special interest or the public in general.
  • The strength to keep church and state totally separate.

Both men have proven themselves already.  Gates has a long record of service to his country and is viewed a cautious, careful, and yet decisive leader.  Bloomberg has an outstanding record in private life as a CEO and now as Mayor of New York City.  Both men should be able to draw excellent people to fill their Administration positions.  Both men should be sound executives at the top of the US Government.

Why not one of the current candidates?  Queen Hillary is certainly capable but what she will actually do is unclear and, most likely, what will get her a second term and fill the coffers of her retirement treasury.  Barack is simply untested in the world of no correct answer.  He seems honest and trust worthy but he will be even better in 4-8 years.  Edwards is a former trial lawyer and I need say no more.  

Rudy has more skeletons in the closet that Hilton has closets.  Mitt is not the peoples’ President, he will be Mitt’s President.  Fred will sleep through the primaries and might miss his own inaugeration if by chance he was elected.  McCain has made foolish decisions in the past to back President Bush, Jerry Fallwell, and Pat Roberson.  Need I say more.

I like the possibility of a Gates versus Bloomberg contest because all American people can vote as they wish and I will feel comfortable that neither candidate will bring us another Terri Schaivo, Abu Ghraib, Katrina, Iraq War, Abstinence against AIDS, or “tell me more about Intelligent Design”.  Both of these men represent the highest standards and would make a worthy President.

McCain Was Back Last Night

November 29, 2007

In the Republican 2008 Presidential campaign debate last evening, John McWho did not show up but fortunately John McCain did.  On the only question of any substance, John nailed the answer and then shoved it down Mitt Romney’s throat when the Mitt-ster tried to be Michael Mukasey.  Water boarding is torture and there should be no confusion.

The Mitt-ster was standing their like a proud peacock trading punches with whomever when Anderson Cooper asked McCain whether he would outlaw water boarding if he were president.  McCain quickly confirmed that he would not permit any type of torture including water boarding and would follow the Geneva Convention.  Anderson turned to Romney and asked the same question and the world stopped.  Romney began with an equivocation “torture is bad and we shouldn’t do it” and when asked again specifically about water boarding, he puffed up and said that during the campaign his policy was not to speak about what techniques may or may not be in use by the government so as to not give the terrorists any important information.  It was wrong for Mukasey to get away with this shadowy talk and it is ever more wrong for Romney to try and hide behind this rhetoric. 

This is a red, white, and blue issue and McCain got it right and Romney did not.  In soccer Mitt drew a red card last night.

The Big Five

November 28, 2007

The Big Five means various things.  In South Africa it represents 5 species of wild animals.  In Philadelphia it represents 5 local colleges that play basketball.  But there is another big five that each of the 2008 candidates needs to keep in mind and develop serious plans around.  These big five may determine our future as a nation.

1. Dependence on foreign fossil fuels.  Dependence on fossil fuels as our primary energy source is a serious matter but when the bulk of our fuels are coming from foreign sources, it exposes both our Government and our large energy companies to unwanted temptation.  The Iraq War is a current example and many argue that indirectly the Vietnam War was also based on unproven, but potentially large oil reserves.  We must rid ourselves of the need to import. 

  • Fund the development and use of renewable energy sources
  • Reduce current usage
  • Significantly increase the fleet average “mpg” for vehicles
  • Increase taxes (over 10 years) on gasoline to be equivilent to Europe and Japan
  • Provide consumer tax incentives in order to switch to renewable energy source

2. Green House Gases.  The Government must take seriously the generation of green house gases and regain the moral high ground.   By the US acting responsibly, the US can help the developing world to also play a constructive role.  This is a very tough problem in the face of increased energy usage.

  • We need a “man to the moon” type assault on solar, wind, and thermal energy capture and use.  Government funding and coordination are key.
  • Reduction in our use of fossil fuels is a step in the right direction.
  • We will need to share green house gas saving technologies with all others.

3. Return to traditional American values

  • Reaffirm a clear separation of church and state.  Schools are for science and education, churches are for worship.
  • Habeas corpus is a right of anyone under American authority
  • Due process and probable cause should be part of all American run court procedings.
  • Rendition and extreme interrogation have no place in America or any place where America operates around the world.

4. Healthcare and social security.  All Americans should be secure that their health and their old age will be protected and honored by the government.  This should be a two way partnership where all citizens who are able should contribute towards the cost with money and the avoidance of risky or unhealthy life styles.  

  • We need a national dialog on what should be the basic responsibilities of each person towards their own health. 
  • Government needs to ensure that an average level of care (such as in Europe) is available to each citizen.
  • Levels of healthcare above the average level should be available for those who wish to pay more
  • The social safety net provided by social security must be safe guarded.  Forced savings and segregation of the social security fund are key steps.
  • There needs to be also a national dialog on the subject of America’s responsibility to those who can work but do not, those who could be healthy by choose unhealthy life style habits, and those who are in the country without having contributed to the funding of healthcare or social security.  (I would assume Americans will look more kindly on those who are unable and less kindly on those who could but don’t).

5.  One America.  We need to open our minds to the “one America” concept.  This idea proposes a common union of Canada, Mexico, and the USA.  This need not be a single government (with Mexico and Canada being the 51st and 52nd states).  This more should recognize the commonality of our mutual interests such as:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Freedom of labor employment
  • Distribution of water
  • Common rules on commerce
  • Common efforts on energy and green house gas reduction
  • Appreciation and respect for each country’s diversity and culture.
  • Anticipation of future needs for independence from foreign sourced manufactured goods.

This list is not likely to make any candidates talking points.  We are much more likely to hear the panderers promise swift and punitive action against the good Mexican workers who are employed here but lact proper paperwork.  From some we are likely to here that little Mary or Johnny should be able to say a prayer in school but be sure that person does not mean the prayer that Moshe or Abdul would know.  With energy sources having finite life times we need to begin the process of both reducing our usage and switching the source to renewable fuels.  But most likely we will hear that Americans want inexpensive gasoline and do not want to be told about energy conservation.  We will hear that Americans should be able to drive SUV’s.  (I agree with this but would accept a corresponding higher gasoline bill, like Europe, to support my choice).

Each of these Big Five carry some very tough thinking and decisions.  We need the next President to at least be able to move this ball forward.   

John and Fred’s Dillema

November 27, 2007

As Wednesday’s Republican Presidential candidate debate approaches, the handlers for John McWho and Fred Thompson are worrying.  What will their man say?  Iraq is relatively quiet and is attracting less and less space in the news.  The religious vote is fractured and speaking of fiscal responsibility just shines a light on a failed Republican Administration.  Here’s some ideas.

1. McWho could start by recanting his “back side” kissing of all the evangelical and fundamentalist church/business leaders.  He could say that in addition to getting chapped lips, he can now see that these people are nothing more than special interest leaders who are in the game for their own net worth improvement.

2. Fred could say that he is tired of this day in and day out campaigning and he is going to enforce a campaign reform measure.  He will only campaign on Mondays, Wednesdays, and everyother Friday, unless a holiday falls on one of those days.

3. McWho could announce that he is also withdrawing from daily campaigning and will wait for the convention.  He could predict that Rudy and Mitt will come out of the primaries all bloody and not in shape for the real Presidential campaign and McWho is.

4. Fred could say that he would make Mike Huckabee his VP since few people believe Fred is all that religious.  (Fred might miss the point that most people don’t care).

5. McWho could suggest that his mother would be his choice for Home Land Security leader and would begin by rounding up all the Mormons and putting them on Government reservations.

6. Fred could affirm that as President he will only work from 9am-3pm on even number days, and would rest on the odd days.  He would support a foreign policy of isolation and stop meddling in other country’s affairs.

Only time will tell if these two see the wisdom of these unconventional campaign tactics.  They really should pay attention because it is very difficult to distinguish oneself in a race of “me toos” and with the record of Bush/Cheney hanging over their heads.

What is Mitt Saying?

November 26, 2007

Mitt Romney zeroed in his sights on Rudy Giuliani over the weekend as a tune up for the Republican debate this week.  But what is Mitt saying?  He is clearly drawing a contrast with Rudy but does it send the right message to everyone else?

Mitt said he was

1. Pro-life.  This means he is against women and their right to choose their own reproductive health decisions.  Does this put women in a second class position, clearly and properly subservient to the man?  Certainly there is nothing wrong with Mitt holding a pro-life position (even though he can not have a baby himself) but the concern is when he tries to impose this view on others and whether this signals his view that women are second class citizens.

2. Pro-family.  This is very confusing.  Is Mitt saying he “likes apple pie and mother”, in other words a throw away statement?  Or is this a statement about a large part of the black community where the man of the family is missing?  Again, there is nothing wrong with prefering the family unit but to suggest that blacks do not like families is more than naive.  Mitt should be espousing the helping hand to lift all poor people out of poverty so that they can build strong family units too.

3. Pro-traditional marriage.  Now here is a wonderful term.  What does Mitt mean?  Does he mean he is for marriages where one can expect a 50% chance to end in a bitter divorce?  Does he mean that God only intended tax breaks and benefits for man-woman relationships and not same sex couples in committed relationships?  So here is another huge group’s support that Mitt feels he doesn’t need. 

4. Favors legal immigration.  This is pandering I believe.  Everyone should favor legal immigration but the huge number of illegal immigrants from Mexico result from other conditions.  Is Mitt saying that he will work to correct the barriers for Mexicans to work in the US legally?  Or is Mitt saying that our boarders need to be closed and entry restricted?  Is Mitt saying that the large number of Mexican illegal immigrants indicate that Mexicans are generally prone to illegal behaviors?  Is Mitt thinking that trashing this groups will bring him more votes than otherwise?

In Mitt’s speech he clearly contrasts his views with Giuliani’s record.  There is no confusion on what Mitt is trying to accomplish.  He wants to paint Rudy as a liberal and not a dyed in the wool Republican.  It surely doesn’t look like Mitt is thinking about the broader implications of his statements.

The Dance of the Disingenuous

November 25, 2007

This week will begin the “Annapolis” talks.  At long last Secretary of State Condi Rice will host a summit of sorts where the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is to be discussed.  It has been 7 years already of the Bush/Cheney Administration and the Rosetta Stone of Middle East peace is just getting Presidential attention.  You talk of the horse before the cart, well the Bush/Cheney crowd wrote the book.

It should not take a genius to recognize that as long as the Israelis and the Palestinians are fighting, and the question of the future of the Palestinians was unsettled, there would be a source for unrest through out the entire Middle East.  Or saying it differently, unless the US worked diligently (with or without Israel’s cooperation) on Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, there could be no peace or civil order in the rest of the Middle East.  With Israel and the Palestinians living peacefully together, a Saddaam Hussein could have been isolated and removed without an invasion.  With the Palestinians secure and with hope for the future, Iran could be isolated and made to see their best interest would be served without nuclear weapons.  And of course, without Israeli invasions of Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and overflights into Syria, the Syrian foreign policies could have evolved in a much more cooperative way.

But that is all behind us.  Bush/Cheney have dug a large hole and do not recognize they must stop digging if they want to get out.  Condi is a very weak and ineffective Secretary of State.  She is an accademic who is living in the wrong generation since her expertise is from the cold war period.  Dick “I love oil” Cheney will be in the back ground throwing as much sand as possible into the diplomatic machinery.  George “I love to have my picture taken and to make speeches” Bush will headline the US delegation but do not expect much.  The Arabs may be dysfunctional and the source of at least half the Israel-Palestinian problem, but they are not stupid.  They can see Bush for what he is and will act very cautiously during these talks.

To the 2008 Presidential candidates…  here is another problem you will inherent from the Bush Administration.

The Elephant’s Memory

November 23, 2007

With the 2008 Presidential elections almost upon us, and the sun mercifully setting on the worst Administration in history, Republicans are thrashing about for a theme to unite their supports.  Here are some themes being kicked around

1. Return to the days of Regan.  If we overlooked the Iran-Contra affair and the pathetic “I can’t remember” defense, Ronald Regan has left a strong, positive chief executive image.  Nixon and George I do not make the cut even though they are both better appreciated than George II.

2. Terror, terror everywhere, nor any a moment to rest.  This is a two pronged attack.  First it evokes fear and the knee jerk reactions of hate, distrust, and blind allegance.  Second, it reminds voters that it is not wise to switch horse in the middle of a stream.

3. God likes us better.  This works well with evangelicals, fundamentalists, and any one who thinks they are destine for the “here after” simply because they belong to a certain religion.

4. We can’t trust Democrats, they might do almost anything and probably will.  This seems widely accepted by rank and file Republicans.  This is potentially the most effective stategy as long as the Democrats do not consistantly remind voters of the Bush/Cheney years of extravagances.  Despite the elephant’s large ears, I am not sure they will hear the Democratic message.

The Elephants might do well to remember

  • You can’t fool mother science.  Sooner or later fact and reality rule.
  • Bullies are seen for what they are.
  • Those you kick when they are down vote too.
  • Fiscal irresponsibility and conservatism do not mix well.
  • The largest block of voters is not red or blue but those that are center based.
  • Church and state do not go together.
  • For the long run a balance of power is the best path forward.

Do you think the Elephant will remember?  Do you think it can remember?

Pardon My Libby

November 21, 2007

Rumors are all around that instead of a Thanksgiving goose, our President will give Scooter Libby a “free and clear” pardon, ending the neoconservative melt down.  There is nothing clearer to show why this group’s thinking is dangerous.  The man was found guilty of perjury by a jury of peers and yet the right wingers say he was a patriot so he should be excused.  Does the ends justify the means sound familiar?

Libby’s conviction is not about an over worked public servent who inadvertantly forgot some key piece of information.  Scooter was a willing participant in a conspiracy to teach a whistle blower and all future whistle blowers who they were screwing around with.  Darth Vader Cheney is a mean hombre.

The right wing whiners cry that Libby’s conviction was not about a conspiracy but about perjury in an investigation of a non-crime.  In other words, the prosecutors did not charge Scooter with any conspiracy or actual violation of the law with regards to Valerie Plame.  This is true but as usual only a fraction of the truth.  Prior to that, Scooter’s boss, Dick Cheney, had declared all relevant information sought by the prosecutor as “classified” and therefore unavailable to the Justice Department.  Now who’s setting the rules?

There will be no surprise in the pardon of Scooter.  The only question is when.  There are many more dark, embarassing, and disgusting secrets about Cheney, Rove, and Bush’s  exploits that the inner circle is keeping quiet.  If it is seen that Scooter has gotten shafted, watch out, the flood gates will open.

Good News, Bad News

November 20, 2007

Let’s start with the good news.  More and more news reports are describing a large improvement in the general security situation in Iraq and particularly in Baghdad.  This is good news and has been accompanied with a drop in US casualties also.  Reducing the scope of our Iraq mission and bringing substantial numbers of troops home seems realistic now.  To be sure we are very unlikely to see it on the Bush watch but whoever the next President is, can look forward to favorable conditions.  OK, what’s the bad news?

In Sunday’s New York Times Opinion page, Frederick W. Kagan (you remember him, “Let’s Surge Again” fame) and Michael O’Hanlon (you remember him as the right wing of the Brookings Institute) co-authored a piece on Pakistan.  The short version goes like this. 

  • Pakistan’s Musharraf Government is about to fall.
  • Pakistan has nuclear weapons.
  • Pakistan has a lot of radical extremists.
  • Nuclear weapons and extremists don’t mix.
  • The US needs to move plenty of troops into Pakistan to protect the Government and the nuclear weapons.

Kagan and O’Hanlon dressed this opinion in the starkest of terms.  Unless the US steps in, terrible things are going to happen to the US.  So pick up our marbles in Iraq and move quickly to Pakistan.  The authors do not rule out a coalition but suggest that the speed that is needed will be too fast for the formation of a coalition.  I assume after writing this piece, Kagan and O’Hanlon went to bed with a glass of milk and some cookies.

This is a large warning about what the conservative right of our country is thinking.  Just as with Iraq, they have failed to consider collateral consequences and in particular whether there recommendations are in the best interest of the US.  Let me observe:

1. Pakistan lies in southern Asia and boarders India, China, Afghanistan, and Iran.  Both India and China have very real issues with a radical, nuclear armed Pakistan on their boarder.

2. Pakistan is a country of immense poverty and an economy that is not likely to improve it in anyone’s life time.  A US occupying force will be painted with a negative brush no matter what it does because it will not be able to cure the root problem.

3. Pakistan’s religious leaders will have a field day with infidel occupiers and will receive support from far and wide in the Islamic world.

4. The US can not afford to commit to another occupation and the spreading thin again of US strategic military resources.  We are rotting from within and we need to fix that first.

5. What would be next after Pakistan?  As the world’s policeman or the 21st century Rome, where would we stop.  Imperial countries all end up the same way, and that is not good.

6. But let’s ask the most basic and simplest question of all.   Under the worst conditions and a radical, Islamic extremist Government replaces Musharraf, WHY would the US be more probable a target of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons than India, China, Russia, or any other country? 

There is no natural reason.  Of course we do occupy Afghanistan and Iraq.  We do support Israel with uneven weight in their conflict with the Palestinians.  We do treat Iran and Syria as something worse than second class citizens.  We do support the Christian minority in Lebanon.  And we are a very rich country that does little to support real economic development in Pakistan.

We need to step back and tend to the messes we have already made before we foolishly walk into another.  Middle East peace would be a wonderful start.  True coalition building would be another.  Think about it, why would Russia, China, or India want Pakistan with radicals holding the triggers to nuclear weapons? 

Bush and Cheney have squandered the US reputation as an honest broker.  Before we can regain it, we must fix the messes we have made.

Romney’s Dilemma

November 19, 2007

It is amazing to watch the Republican fight for their 2008 Presidential nomination.  The stick figure of stick figures, Mitt Romney seems the most peculiar.  There is no doubt that in comparison to George W Bush and his other head, Dick Cheney, Romney would in fact be an effect chief executive.  But can Romney get the nomination, and if nominated, can he win?

Two important tests, the “Have a beer with Mitt” and “I like looking at him on TV”, are total failures for Romney.  He looks stiff, prepackaged, and predictable.  You simply expect platitudes and nothing more.  (I actually believe he is quite capable but we all get a lot of TV face time with whoever is President and if he is to be effective by influence, the voters must be comfortable with the image.)  Mitt just does not seem to be either a “Bud Lite” or a “Miller” friendly man.

If failing these two tests were not enough bad news, South Carolina Christians have rung in with “he’s a Mormon, you know”.  When asked what that means, they say “well, you know, he is not a Christian”.  (Too bad for Michael Bloomberg when it comes to South Carolina).

I guess it is ok if you are a Christian and run around with several women, cheat, steal, because since you are a “saved” person, God will give you a “get out of jail” card.  I agree that the “have a beer” test is not too scientific, but it has a lot more going for it than “he’s not a Christian”.