Archive for August 2008

For Better of Worse

August 24, 2008

Barack Obama has picked his Vice President running mate and with his selection of Senator Joe Biden the last of the mysteries has been revealed.  The pick may also say a lot about Obama.  He has picked an older and more experienced person and one who knows his way around the corridors of Congress as well as anyone.  It is not unfair to say that Biden could have headed the ticket and Obama could have been his VP.  Things simply did not work out that way.

Experience alone is not the only or even the most important criteria for being a successful President.  George W Bush was a former Governor and that was supposed to confer executive experience on him.  As we have seen none of it rubbed off on George.  The Obama Presidential “bet” we are being asked to make, is based upon leadership and personal values.  Supporters see a man who can motivate, inspire, and manage in a positive way, others.  Obama should be able to bring forward great thoughts from others and get still others to embrace these ideas and put them to work.  Biden has shown a level headedness and ability to see the really important things from the many that crowd our world.  During the Democratic debates, it was Biden who did not bite at the Iran bait and puff up his chest with a “I will crush them” statement.  Rather he said that while Iran was troublesome, the real place for our concerns was Pakistan who already had nuclear weapons, had already shared this know-how in the past, and was a troubled democracy with all sorts of radical groups ready to change the government.  This ability to see what is more important than something else is today a rare gift amongst our politicians and media pundits.

Joe Biden does not come 100% without some stains.  So far there have been no mention of financial irregularities and his excursion into some of the rhetoric of England’s Neil Kinnock is in the past.  Biden is not a “group think” person nor should we expect him to run a second White House like Dick Cheney.  All in all, if it could not be Hillary, Biden is a good choice.

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What’s After the Recession?

August 23, 2008

The question of the day has two parts.  First, when will this recession end, and second, what will follow.  If anyone is thinking that it will be solid growth with results that look like those we have seen in China during the Olympics, forget it.  But it is reasonable to ask why not.

The recession is here for a while and is unlikely to bottom out until there is reason for the country to have confidence again in their government.  That will not happen, at the earliest, until after the election and I would guess it will be a good six months after the bottom out before economists tell us the worst is behind.  Unfortunately after 8 years where the average wage earner’s income did not increase, the light bulb must be going on that something more will be needed to revisit the Clinton years where all boats rose.  Be sure of one thing, further tax cuts and a blind eye to building the “commonwealth” is not the path to a better future.

Following the election, we need a bipartisan review of the economy and what measures are needed short and long term.  Simply returning to more excessive profits and huge bonuses by Wall Street banks and investment houses is not in America’s best interest.  China has an export mentality with a highly developed infrastructure.  It has a business friendly climate and grants a wide path for innovation.  It honors education and science and looks for ways to put them to work. 

To be sure, America is a more mature country and has already done once many of the things that China is doing today.  But why not do it again?  With the right leadership and “tone at the top” from the next Administration, America can get back on the right path.  The path will not be a speedway given the current dismal monetary and fiscal mess that Bush/Cheney have produced.  The next Administrations needs to act sensibly and this will mean increasing taxes in order to develop more government revenue.  We need to spend much more wisely than Bush has.  We need another “peace dividend” where the current bloated defense budget is reduced by $100 billion off the top and the unbudgeted costs of Iraq and Afghanistan need to be reduced by another $75 billion.  With wise investments we can lay the foundation for a real growth based upon bricks and mortar and not CDOs

Good Government

August 22, 2008

Does the desire for “good government” sound like a lot to ask for?  Is that not the “American Way”?  Why then do I have this awful feeling about the upcoming Presidential election?  Could it be that we will be extremely lucky if the Administration that follows the most incompetent and mean spirited Bush/Cheney Administration will provide good government.   Why do I say that?

1. John McCain has campaigned on much of the Bush policies and promised to extend those policies for another 4 years.  To get good government one needs worthwhile policies and very good execution of them.  McCain is not a detail person, so why should I expect him to begin being an executive at age 72?

2. Barack Obama has campaigned on the theme of change and we all infer it means change from George W Bush’s policies.  While encouraging, we have little information on what the new policies will be and even more important, how we can afford them. 

3. Both Obama and McCain have received huge amounts of money from special interests and have surrounded themselves with Washington insiders, consultants, and lobbyists.  With Presidential campaigns costing (including primaries) over a half billion dollars, there seems to be no other way.  Unfortunately the “insiders, consultants, and lobbyists” have no particular interest in “good government”.  (Please note that I am not saying they prefer “bad government” but rather they are in business to make money for themselves either with Obama or McCain, or with whomever the next candidate might be.  How the government runs is not their problem, they think.)

If there ever was a need for a third party dedicated to the efficient and effective operation of government, it is now.  Our fiscal and monetary policies are non-existent.  Our controls over the banking, investment, and credit card industries are inadequate and have encouraged dangerous increases in debt related risk.  The general climate that stimulates and allows the American economy to grow so that all can share is absent.  And most of all there seems to be no notion that a good tide lifts all boats.

Alas there is no third party.  And the Republicans have, in my opinion, forfeited their right to a third Bush term and John McCain is hardly fit temperamentally to become commander in chief.  So we are left with Barack Obama and the “hope” he will rise to the responsibilities of the job. 

Do not mistake this as a choice.  John McCain and his Supreme Court choice preferences are non-starters.  His promises to lower taxes and reduce spending is like a family head taking a half time job so that he has more time to play golf.   To make up for the lost income, he cuts his food purchases thereby feeding his children less and takes that money so he can play more golf.  This is no choice.

Where is Mike Bloomberg when we needed him?

Stop, Hold Your Breath…

August 21, 2008

Some people never learn and others learn but just a little too late.  For the Bush Administration it is simply too late (not too mention that learning probably exceeds their capability).  For either the McCain or Obama Administation there is much to learn in the cock-up involving Russia and the Republic of Georgia.

1. The first lesson is that the world is complicated and interconnected.  What goes around, comes around.  If you systematically stick your finger in the other guys eye (read Russia), after a while they will get mad and they will get even.

2. When you invade and occupy a country (read Iraq) without a good reason and without global support (read UN), you should expect that mysteriously the insurgents will get support from supprising places.

3. In a complex world one must know who are important and/or critical players.  Treating these important or critical players as trash or inconsequential is asking for trouble.

Fast forward to the Republic of Georgia.  The Bush Administrations, after having pissed off the Russians (for no apparent good reason) jumps on the rhetoric stage and blasts the Russians for intervening in South Ossetia and Georgia.  Both President Dim Wit and Secratary of State Condi Rice lectured the Russia on what behavior is acceptable in the 21st century.  They somehow forgot their own 21st century behavior in invading and occupying Iraq.  But they were not content with that.

Bush and Rice announced that it could no longer be “business as usual” with the Russians.  They pushed the Europeans for action.  This was a bit amusing since the US was incapable of showing any force since its capability is totally consumed with Iraq.  The best the Europeans could muster was a halt in NATO relations with the Russians.  (At this point we are holding the gun and aiming it at our foot).

The Russians have taken delight in not withdrawing other than at their own pace.  Even better they have decided not to have any more negotiations with NATO too.  In addition, they may withdraw their land and air space we use in support of our Afghan operations.  Does not anyone look ahead at possible consequences to our actions?

So, before there are anymore “if you do that, I will do this”, cooler minds need to intervene.  The neoconservative, right wing, “American is the most powerful nation in the world” crew must get down off their horses and see the world as it is.  Stars wars and everything associated with it are high risk, and premature in timing.  It also defies common sense that radar and missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic would not scare the bejesus out of the Russians.  And it is criminally irresponsible to presume that the Russians would not get even if we persisted in the aggessive actions.

We need to

  • Stop any further antagonistic rhetoric.
  • Cease pushing the deployment of anti-missile missiles.
  • Look for points of common interest with the Russians and work to realize them.
  • Recognize that Russia has as many certified crazies as the US and many of them are in their CIA, military, and right wing think tanks (just like in the US).
  • Allow things to settle and cool down before doing anything else.

It is simply amazing how bad things multiple when you make a bone headed decision.  The next Adminstration will incounter very unproductive results if they elect former cold war rhetoric.  Russia has enough nuclear weapons and cyber technology to disrupt the world if we use brut force.  Further, Russia has plenty of energy generated money to fund and finance all sorts of anti-American action around the world.

Instead America needs to stop doing the ridiculous things we have been doing and engage in talks with the Russians over what common interests exist.  We need to keep in mind that China and India are far larger than Russia and it will do us no good to befriend Russia at the expense of China and India.  Does it sound like we need a first class brain surgeon in the State Department?

Which candidate will have the temperment and the knowledge to deal with this complexity?

No More Need for AIPAC

August 20, 2008

The hot rumor today is that John McCain will select his friend Joe Lieberman as his Vice President running mate.  If things worked out for the best, Lieberman could claim a spot in history as the only man to lose the Vice Presidency twice, once as a Democrat and once as a Republican.  But what if things do not work out that well?

Lieberman has been an unabashed supporter of the Iraq invasion and occupation.  Apparently Joe detected early a connection between Connecticut and Saddam Hussein and quickly concluded that 9/11 was Saddam’s handy work.  Joe often pointed out that Iraq possessed WMD and had an active nuclear program as if he had access to secret intelligence.  Even as the facts immerged that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 (and Hussein was totally against al Qaeda), that there were no WMDs, and that there were no nuclear weapons or active programs, Joe switched his pitch with ease.  “Sadaam was an evil person and the world is better off with out him”.   In case Joe missed that day in class, being an evil person gives no one the right to invade another country.

The worrisome aspect of a Lieberman candidacy is that McCain is slowly assembling a weird coalision of backers.  Lieberman will appeal to a more progressive, pro-Isreal group that could compliment McCain’s current base.  If McCain-Lieberman does win in November there will be another unexpected result.  AIPAC can reduce its budget and the size of its offices since they will have direct access to McCain through Lieberman.

Another rumor floating around today is that Obama will pick Tim Kaine.  While there is nothing wrong with this choice, it rules out Hillary.  Hillary may not be the best choice with the baggage of Bill to consider, but the real issue is getting elected.  Obama needs to be clear on which groups will vote for him and which ones will not.  If it is Lieberman with McCain, then I think it should be Clinton with Obama.  AIPAC will at least have someone they know in Hillary and the rest of us will have a much more balanced thinker one heart beat away.

It is Repetition Stupid

August 19, 2008

Barack Obama spoke to the VFW today and set the record straight.  He said clearly that two people can disagree but that in no way requires a connection that one’s character or patriotism is lacking.  Barack of course is spot-on correct.  He also pointed out that the invasion of Iraq and its occupation has benefited Iran and al Qaeda the most.  He also said that the surge is still not a success since the path out of Iraq is not set or even clear.  But is anyone listening?

John McCain tells us that decisiveness is important and with recent events like Russia’s reaction to the Republic of Georgia’s provocations makes it clear that he is the best choice (he says).  McCain points to his backing of the surge as proof of his courage.  The proper response that Obama should make and make and make, is:

  • the US invaded Iraq without world support (like the UN).
  • the US invaded Iraq against a lot of internal military concerns.
  • the US had no plan for occupation.
  • the US badly managed the occupation (and insurgency).
  • the US has spent over $600 billion.
  • the US is now spending about $ 10 billion per month.
  • there is no clear path to ending the US involvement after 6 years.

Now even more important, Obama needs to connect this to everyone

  • the US is no safer today than before the invasion.
  • Al Qaeda has not disappeared.
  • the US efforts in Afghanistan have been short changed.
  • the Taliban has been growing in strength since the invasion of Iraq.
  • Iran has become the clear winner in Iraq with Shiites now in control.
  • the US is no closer to having an effective plan to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.
  • the US has no ground military capacity to respond to Republic of Georgia events even if it wanted to.

And of course, the great supporter of this course has been John McCain.  It is now time for repetition, stupid.

The Free Lunch Man

August 18, 2008

John McCain spoke yesterday to the VFW convention and wore his best sword rattling outfit.  He spoke with vigor connecting the Russian action in Georgia with the quagmire we now know as Iraq.  John assured his audience and anyone else listening that he would never leave Iraq until the time was right.  He further pointed out that the next President will be tested (just look at Georgia) and being decisive was critical.  I am so happy to learn that there will be more free lunches in a McCain Administration.

Barack Obama pointed out subsequently that McCain’s “war” was costing $ 15 billion a month ($ 180 billion a year) and that was real money.  The $ 180 billion was sorely needed for so much else like stimulating the economy, rebuilding the infrastructure, fixing social security, patching healthcare, and balancing a budget that is bankrupting our country.  McCain seems to have also conveniently forgotten that military action is out of the question with Russia because (1) our troops are already over committed in Iraq, and (2) the Russians have a lot of nukes.  It would seem to me we need a President who sees the big picture and not the wrong end of the telescope.

I suspect John McCain saw an opportunity to highlight his presumed strengths and jumped on it.  As voters we must not forget that the President must say grace over much more.  The quality of life is vanishing for our children largely for reasons of malfeasance in office by the Bush Administration.  We have wasted 8 years and squandered a lot of resources for nothing.  McCain and others can talk all they want about a war on terror but at the end of the day, military action like invading a country and occupying it will not make anything better and will sow the seeds for bigger problems in the future.