Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The State Department is not pulling its weight in the Surge

The problem is institutional and not temporary.

Was the real reason Negroponte went to State to knock heads together?

Did State really ask Defense recently to fill 120 of its new 350 surge positions in Iraq?

Is the typical State tour in Iraq 6 months, mostly in the Green Zone, language limited (on a percentage basis), and very limited in the mid-level manning?

Does the State and FSO union interfere with our Executive’s decisions? Why can’t State fill its Iraq quotas?

Is State and the FSO institutionally unable to do “nation-building” type work? Is it their choice, or the government of the people’s choice?

Did State fight the D.C. bureaucratic battle to run “winning the peace in Iraq”, and not task organize to do so? Do the D.C. procurement rules and schedules also apply to Iraq?

Is State and the FSO firing those who won’t go? Many call it cleaning house.

Did State demand its traditional role in Iraq for institutional reasons (2003), and then fail to deliver on its part?

Why is there a paucity of information on this subject?

Are the State and FSO institutions unable to change? Is it time for another bureaucracy called “the Colonial Corps”, or perhaps a more PC name?

For those who wish to dig deeper, five links are provided.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The East-West Criminal Gap

Of all of the vast number of articles written about Islamofacism, the clash of civilizations, the clash between civilization and barbarism, and small wars in general, little is said about the roll criminals and crime plays in the social fabric of many third world societies and tribes. To borrow one often used line, one man’s crime is another man’s normal behavior. It is a difficult subject for many good reasons. Western thought processes and values too often differ from Eastern equivalents, and the two worlds don’t mesh together very well. One simple analogy of this idea is that of Byzantium outlasting Rome in its length of Empire time. The former was more Eastern, the latter more Western; yet many Westerners might think otherwise about which empire lasted longer (Byzantium did). Another typical reason for the gap is that Westerners tend to think more in terms of nation-states while Easterners experience more tribal, feudal, warlord, and mafia type experiences in local life and societies, and their histories. And Westerners tend to place a higher value on human life than do many members of Eastern tribes and such. The treatment of men and women, standards, and expectations also differ quite a bit between East and West. The parable about the five blind wise men trying to describe an elephant to a village of all blind people is appropriate to a discussion such as this. While each blind wise man was correct in his description of the elephant, none described the elephant as a whole. This parable is applicable to understanding the nature of the conflict today, in Western terms.

While the Middle East in general, and Iraq specifically, get most attention these days, there is a world wide war going on that rides on the title Global War on Terror. This article intends to focus on the world wide nature of this war, not the genesis for the war, although the two subjects do intertwine. Where they differ is in the nature of East vs. West and how the Islamic fascists exploit and spread their ideology. Quickly said, they use money to influence criminals in their local element. Let me expand.

The third world is full of small wars at all times. Today over 100 exist, though it is probably more like 130+. Without any action by the USA, these conflicts “just occur” for all the myriad of reasons: local power, resources, and criminal control of the same. History is replete with criminals wrapping themselves in the guise of political causes. After all, an element of truth is a very good argument to all cases. Today’s Islamic global war terrorists are using middle eastern monies to finance local criminals to try achieve their objectives. Just where this money comes from is a really good question, but just as important is how these middle eastern types interact with criminals from other cultures. From most points of view, it is not very well. Local criminals will rip off these middle eastern types just about the same as they will rip off us western types. This applies to missionaries as well. When missionaries return to their area of effort, it seems like their religion is often mixed with the local earlier religions, much to the chagrin of the well intended converters.

We in the USA have historical experience with this kind of behavior, that is mixing criminal behavior with the cloak of politics. The Civil War is a good example when one looks at the Missouri-Kansas border wars, or even Champ Ferguson on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee.

It is the nature of this Global War on Terror that seems so frustrating to many USA citizens. The Afghan-Pakistan border area (Warziristan) comes to mind, but how about the opium poppy trade in Afghanistan, also. Don’t forget Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, or the Philippines. Add in genocide in Africa between warring factions, Somalia again, the Transcaucus, and the South American drug trade, and one wonders if the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

The short answer is “no”. That those with money from the middle east are trying to exploit the local too often criminal frictions seems to be going on today. But these people are not ten feet tall, and are often taken advantage of just as much as we are. Actually many think we in the West are doing better because we tend to be “more understanding”. Often this means someone has used their judgment as to the “lesser of two evils”. It’s a tough world.

So what is this elephant like? I don’t want to know about the skinny tail, the big legs, the snake-like trunk, the floppy ears, or the big body. Just tell this member of the blind village what is the elephant. In this effort, I think most in the West have just not understood the criminal element of those we face. We just have not been exposed or otherwise brought up this way. I think Muqtada al-Sadr is mostly an ill-educated theorcratic thug of the Mafia style. I think most of the theocratic dictatorship of Iran today is similarly motivated. Their economic survival and egos are more important than the people they control. I think the thugs in southern Thailand, Sululand in the southern Philippines, and members of Farc in Columbia are just as bad.

For those readers who choose to marginalize this argument by pointing out that we in the USA are not perfect, well I agree. My first time in Subic Bay (Olongopo) Philippines made me bitter at how whole families had prostituted their children to generate income, although it had gone on before the USA, and I am confident still goes on today. Perhaps it was the amount of the degree that made me bitter.

We in the USA may be too naïve about the rest of the world. Much of the world is like that elephant that we do not know (yet), but are getting more exposed to. I suggest being aware, tolerant, and also ruthless in defending our way of life. Notice I am not suggesting expanding our way of life. I just want to defend the good deal we have as citizens of the USA.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The times they are a changin’

It’s hard to believe that over decades this protest song seems to apply best to the left wing orthodoxy today. Things have changed, and the reactionaries of today are the leftist types. To read the words of the song, here is a link:

Over the last half century the polarizing of our culture, and the professionalizing of our politics have changed how our Congress runs, how our media works, how we elect our politicians, and too often how we think. The apparent ability of money to influence politicians, and the schemed political campaigns run by professionals have become part of the status quo that Bob Dylan’s song rants against.

Some may get depressed over this reversal of just who are the reactionaries today. After all, reactionaries enjoy political power, and other powers. The suppression of free speech on many college campuses comes to mind.

But the thrust of liberal ideas, the almost tidal wave of initiatives and good intentions, has run its course. When we hear Presidential candidates promote (many would say recycle) failed ideas from 40 years ago we have a good hint that the there is nothing new being offered, except in the professional political presentation.

Of course, it most easy to complain and critique. Unless one offers alternatives to we the voters, one is inconsequential. In this there is hope for the alternatives to the present day liberal orthodoxy. My favorite one is a domestic issue. I think prisons are to protect we citizens from the criminals, not to be rehabilitation centers. And we need to put tax money towards making it happen. Add your own in as you please.

Why are the times changing? It is difficult to over-generalize because we are a big society. But I will dare to guess three big factors.
1. We expect results to all things we have done to eradicate poverty, protect ourselves, and in general promote our way of life. The idea of good intentions counting has already faded.
2. We seek leaders who have courage to say what they think. We don’t have to agree with them all the way, but just have to trust them in what they say. Professional politicians are on the way out. Even “professional political hit pieces” such as former Senator Bob Kerrey suffered will turn out the other way, in the end.
3. The body politic has changed. The baby boomer generation and the women’s vote has changed how America votes. The baby boomer generation will pass due to death. The women’s vote will not.

Other obvious changes are also going on. The mainstream media seems to be suffering in its income and distribution numbers as people abandon them for other alternatives. Hollywood seems to be suffering in income and distribution numbers, also. While I don’t know why, I do use my pocket book boycott to avoid movies and their DVD versions, mostly due to cultural reasons and not political reasons. This so obvious principle even applies to Robert Redford’s film festival where some “artists” have gone too far, and no one will buy the distribution of some of this years filth. Even if someone does, it will probably not make money. This is the idea of voting with one’s pocket book.

The times have and are still changing. The voters are more in charge than in a long time. The influence of money and professional media masters is waning. Voters are expecting results on things important to them. Let me start with Family Security, from both foreign and domestic threats.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Permanence as an idea

Much has been said and written about today’s world problems. Most are ignored until they affect us in the USA. Typical topics are nation-states, tribes, globalization, free trade, islamofacism, and global warming. It is when it starts getting down to jobs and Family security that the antennas go up. Even our “safety net” for income does not overcome resentment to being replaced by jobs going overseas. Most people want to go to work and do a good job. And this can apply to any country, not just the USA. Add in the human tendency to resist change, be it good or bad, and then the local politicians kick in. Often it is for good reason since not all change is good. Some change can be bad.

One bad effect for the long term is the idea of globalization, and its corollary, free trade. While the academic ivory tower ideas may be noble, the human practices of its implementation need much to be desired in too many places. Just ask those who wonder about their communities and Families, their workers, their faiths, their technology base (even cobblers, cabinet makers, and grocery workers have a technology base), and ultimately its economy. In simple words, it’s a local quality of life issue unfettered by drastic change. It is about the normal people that also vote that this is heard more and more.

This idea of resistance to change is as old as human history. Often there is wisdom in this resistance to change, since all changes are not necessarily for the better. In all cases, good change or bad change, the world does change as history shows. And it will probably continue to change in spite of all we people do to intervene for all the reasons we do so. Lest this get to be too pie-in-the-sky writing, let me return to earth. While change is constant, our world ability to intercommunicate, that is, talk to each other, is pretty good. Even stone age tribes in the Amazon rainforest have short wave radios, and often satellite TV. In this best ever ability to talk to each other, ideas (good and bad) can become global faster than ever before.

I think we are being driven towards permanence, more specifically economic permanence. Rather than flesh it out in this article, I freely admit I am borrowing an idea from Gandhi which he called “Swadesi”. To make a long story short, instead of the human implementation of globalization changing communities all over the world much too quickly for human taste, instead advance local permanence of economies and societies, and let communications take care of the change over a longer period of time than is happening today. And maybe change will not occur. Societies always tend to be smarter than the academic theories.

The practical application in the USA sounds simple. Slow down new free trade agreements and globalization policy implementations until the local communities, and their politicians, get more time to weigh in. This will send a message to those on the other side who exploit globalization and free trade agreements to gain business at the expense of our local communities. Yes, we all want good quality things at good prices which are brought to us these days. But on the other end, it works the same way. People want a local quality of life for their Families, also. Being rendered apart as a Family and community, induced to a new standard too quickly, and suffering environmental degradations such as birth defects will also cause maximum resistance (often called a revolt or revolution). There is a better way. I call it permanence. And there is a way to implement it. Slow down and see what happens.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The swirls of dissension

It is a confusing time, mainly because of Iraq. Politicians in Congress, apparently following polls, are doing unprecedented things in American history. Anti-war enthusiasts and anti-Bush enthusiasts are saying and doing about anything, and it seems like they are not being challenged very often. People are talking past each other about topics like Iraq, Bush, the war on terror, the national interest, and hindsight. And the reporting and opinion writing of all this only inflames many citizens. To borrow a proverbial line, it is almost like the inmates are in charge of the American political process. But we are not in jail, nor the inmates. In this there is hope and a National Vision.

There is nothing wrong in being an American Citizen. We are so fortunate because of our parents and our birth location to be Citizens. And we deserve to be Family Oriented! I would even say selfish about preserving our Family’s safety and way of life. The immigration rates agree with this premise. To carry it to a Common Sense point, we have something worth preserving, and even fighting for. This is in our National Interest. And in the National Interest, there is Vision in how to sort out all the confusion that seems to reign today.

Between politicians running for President, the newly voted Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress (albeit barely), and apparently influential subgroups of the Democratic Party, all kinds of things are being said. What is most confusing is what was said to get elected, and now what is said and being done after the 2006 election. Most want to give politicians the benefit of the doubt, but the in-your-face maneuvers make one wonder, one might even say confuse a voter. This is almost an emotional issue to many, hence the swirls of dissension. But keep in mind talk is cheap, and the actual ability to sway majority votes in both Houses on any issue, and then get a Presidential signature, is much more difficult.

Now is the time to address one other emotional issue. It is a combination of hindsight and the now obvious mistakes made by our President in trying to win the peace in Iraq. As a former Marine, I could jump in, but enough history books have been written and will be written to satisfy most who pursue the details, which are pretty embarrassing to many, in my humble opinion. Again, isn’t hindsight wonderful. What concerns many now is the confusion caused by the hindsight reviews and arm chair generals and secretaries of state about what might have been. My mother was better than this in sorting things out.

I gain some sanity, peace of mind, and correctness of Vision, when I think of the National Interest. If I use my own judgment about what is really important, then it is much easier to ignore all the confusion and swirls of thought going on these days. And it helps me to remember we have so many domestic problems to address that are also in our National Interest. Thank goodness we voters are in charge. And we are not the inmates.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Give peace a chance…in the USA

When one hears from a person that they know the “truth”, it is time to watch out for my wallet, or just write them off as hopelessly naïve, even if well intentioned. This idea comes to me as I listen to my political opponents here in the USA. Much as been said about the anti-war types, and many analogies have been made. Those that appeal to me most refer to a war of words fought by balding arm chair generals in their overstuffed chairs, soon to be a wheel chair for many. The thrust of these analyses is that this group of our fellow citizens are genuinely anti-war. They got us of out of Vietnam, they want us out of Iraq, and then they want to make this anti-war belief a permanent policy here in the USA. The normal way to try such a thing is to amend the Constitution, but that process is never brought up since it would never garner enough votes.

But change is constant, and this applies to all citizens of all persuasions. To paraphrase a great quote, “if you don’t like change, then you are really not going to like being inconsequential.” Here in the USA we use the vote to make changes (with a Civil War thrown in). Any other subtle or not so subtle means to get one’s way is shifty, spin-oriented, and just plain immoral to many of us. The body politic is not dumb. And to sway and maybe even get votes, one must enter the arena of ideas, and compete: win, lose, or draw. That’s it.

At times like this, it is so important to remain impassionate, be rational, and listen to other points of view, even if anti-war. This advice is easier to give than to follow. I for one will not read anything published by Newsweek, Time, or the New York Times since I am prejudiced against them, and only have so much time in the day to read and filter my news. It does give me some satisfaction to see them suffering in readership numbers and income since they ran me off years ago. It still seems haughty for them to think I should pay to read their clearly prejudiced opinions. And when Sulzberger of the New York Times is quoted as saying he expects me to pay for either the paper or online version of his news in the future, then another venerable American institution is going down the tubes. But one must know and respect one’s enemy (political adversaries in the USA) if one is to enter the arena of ideas. And there are plenty of ways to do this without the aforementioned, and those like them (the Washington Post and the LA Times, for example).

At times like this, it is so important to remain loyal to the process of engaging political opponents in the arena of ideas. This is not pie in the sky thought; it is as American as apple pie. And it is a two-way street. Of course one must believe in the American ideals of a Constitution and the rule of law to enter the debate. So what do we do with insipid ideas or even those hopeless idealists and even anarchists? Or even harder, and as many of our mothers said, what is popular is not necessarily right. Well, all we can do after reaching across the aisle is to vote. And during discussion and debate, it is imperative to offer solutions and alternatives. To not do so renders one inconsequential.

Hence ends the political lecture. Our Nation needs to come together as a people willing to talk to each other, and act honorably. Problem solving over polarization must be our theme. Act, do not react. It is a two way street. The politicians are not in charge, we voters are. We need to give peace a chance…in the USA. And along the way, a few politicians will need replacing.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Disparity in sex

There is no disparity.

Boys and girls want to get together. What is new? Nothing!

I almost feel sorry for the sad state my older relative (baby boomer generation) introduced in newer standards for sex out of wedlock. If it feels good, do it. The old Victorian ideas counted about a girl holding out have always been compromised by; girls being girls. What’s new? Given the WWII standards of make love today because today you may die, this makes sense. Through in the foreign occupied lands, the standards were different. Occupying studs by definition are, well locally dependent. Girls are not stupid and progeny came forward,

Along the way we people get married. Part of the vow is for better or worse. Some times we get to live the vow. This is honorable, and normal. Sometimes our spouse has something bad happen.

Most Americans love their spouse. This is normal.
Today’s politics and the Democratic Party

A big fear from the opponents of the Democratic Party is that their Democratic base is so stupid it will buy the rewrites of history and Congressional shenanigans. Given the mainstream media’s reverberations of all the pontifications from the Democrats in control of Congressional agendas, it is an alarming concern. But so what? And maybe the anti-war or other limited bases are controlling the Democratic Party? Is it ideas, or just money in control? And don’t discount the anti-Bush types. They are out there.

The actual capabilities of the House and Senate are limited to the purse. There are not 535 Commander’s in chief. Even Murtha’s slow bleed strategy (Mr. Pork Barrel himself) and self-inflated public statements that the President will not veto his work, are, well, just that. Let the dance begin, Mr. Murtha. Go ahead and try get your ideas to pass the House, the Senate, and have the President sign it in. This process ought to be a really good free play exercise, given your appalling lack of current events knowledge in Iraq in the last 12 months. Even puff up yourself in an interview by saying the President will not veto your ideas, assuming they pass both the House and the Senate, which of course they will not. Go to sleep at night knowing Pelosi from San Francisco supports you.

There are still many patriots in Congress who will vote our National Interest. That our President has done a crummy job so far in prosecuting the war is pretty well accepted, I think. That his National Interest objectives are on the mark, I think are also pretty well accepted. We have something worth fighting for, and are still willing to commit our husbands, children, and female spouses to fight for it; as long as he does take corrective action.

What seems to be coming out of the Democratic Party woodwork is alarming! In spite of the 2006 national protestations about Bush and Republicans in general, once in power it seems like the real Democratic objectives are coming out. Now it is time to be fair. The present elected (by Democrats) leadership types look like anti-war, liberal, left over 60’s types. I think they are has-beens who, allowed to continue in their foreign policy schemes, will lead their Party into a permanent minority. Maybe even another Party (pick a name) will come to replace it because we have so many other domestic concerns. And we citizens like competition in how we want to be governed.

Two things come to mind.

Are we stupid? Can media masters influence us, maybe even influence the vote in favor of who ever hired and paid them?

Are we smart and willing to do the work to vote? I hope so. On this our National Hope rests!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The baby with the bath water as a foreign policy

I know too many people who do not want their family member going back to Iraq to possibly get hurt or die for a mismanaged cause. Almost all believe in the cause (or foreign policy objective since it is about us). It’s the President’s mismanagement of the war to date that makes sacrifice seem like such a waste. Much of this thought is directed against our President. Yes, he has integrity, and a fair objective, but he has taken the micromanagement problem to the other extreme by delegating too much in face of the way the war has gone, and then waiting way too long to take corrective action. And even then many of his hired minions have tried D.C. micromanagement to a bad degree (mostly in the limited war strategy). And yes war is not predictable. The consequences are never really known, even in the American way of war.

At least our President has integrity, and an ability to admit mistakes on his end, and then take corrective action, even if it is politically unpopular. That it is unpopular to many citizens at home is the price he has earned and will have to pay. That it is the correct way to go forward is supported by many at home, those in the military and their families, and by moralists looking at the bigger world picture and ignoring politics and its American reporting by the mainstream media.

All this talk does not change one life if lost for a mismanaged cause. Corrective action needs to be taken, and it has been taken by our President. Only time will tell if it will work to our advantage.

The Democratic party’s recent behavior is one way to try correct the failed management of the Iraq war by the President and his hired minions up to the 2006 elections. Their party strategy of using the power of the purse to try assert themselves in 2007 is way off the mark constitutionally, morally, and politically. Throwing the baby out with the dirty bath water is not a foreign policy, and the body politic recognizes this. There are so many other ways to proceed if the Democratic party still believes in the national interest foreign policy objectives stated by our President.

If the Democrats have other foreign policy objectives that differ from those stated by the President, they should say so and then stand for election. Millions of foreign lives (and their families) hang in the balance. Let us decide, not Pelosi and Reid and how they use their powers to manipulate what is said and voted on in Congress. Most of us watched and voted in 2006 for many reasons, a lot for what was said and promised. Now we voters can see just what will really happen. And really, in the end, it is out of the politician’s hands and in the voter’s hands.

One wonders about the Democratic party these days? It sure looks like many politicians running for office in 2008 (all classes) must be using polling data, or focus groups, or connections to the mainstream media, or even bowing to their extreme left wing types, to influence their votes and pontifications. Very few come across as looking out for our national interest. The Governor of New Mexico is one exception. In all cases the strategy of tilting left to get the nomination (for whatever) before going centrist to win the election is disingenuous at worst, and au contraire to our national interest. This tried and true plan worked in the past. It probably will not in the future.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lobbyists and politicians in D.C.

While lobbying is a business for some, it is a rational issue for many voters, even bordering on being an emotional issue for many. The movie line about sticking our heads out the window and yelling “I’m not going to take it any more” comes to mind. Why, a calmer person might ask? After all, politicians and lobbyists buying influence with money in the Nation’s Capital city is as American as apple pie. Being upset at this is like trying to deny that boys and girls want to get together, or that water flows downhill.

But periodically things get out of hand. Politicians and their hired minions can “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”. When it crosses over to “in your face” hoodwinking of we voters that emotionalism can trump rationality. In times like this, it is for voters to jerk the processes back to serving them, as well as special interests who will survive as long as water flows downhill. Rationality says don’t get mad, get even. This will work as a strategy for voters.

What should we rail against. During the first six months of 2006, lobbyists spent $1.263 billion (as in dollars). That’s a lot and most would expect a return on their investment, especially given the vast public monies the politicians control. The budget proposal in 2006 was $2.6 trillion (as in dollars). When most do the math, that sounds like a rational investment plan, if money equals votes and contracts.

Most voters understand one of a Congressman’s jobs is constituent services. That is one reason our founding fathers created the Congress, and especially the House. We even expect our Congressman to make every effort to bring home his district’s share of the federal pie. Where things seem to get most abused is when a Congressman serves on a National committee or sub-committee. This is a bigger gateway to abuse due to the access to the public monies. Lobbying activities that include cash, checks, meals, limousine service, corporate jet travel, lodging, furnishing, boats and marine equipment, prostitution services, vacations, and entertainment start to pop up in indictments.

All of our elected representatives are not equal. Some are better than others. Some are even pretty good, as in relatively innocent of all this lobbying influence. I’ll bet even the best resent being included with the worst, or some even wonder how to get in on the loot since they are guilty by association anyway. This principle is as old as the hills. There was an LSU quarterback who read in Playboy (ages ago) that the average guy in college got laid twice a week. Well he wanted to meet the guy getting it four times a week because he, the LSU quarterback was not getting any. The same principle applies to today’s Congressmen.

And I have been unfair so far in focusing on Congressmen and their hired minions. Lobbyists also lobby the Executive branch, especially for contracts using the public monies.

Why get emotional on this issue. When we hear the Speaker designate Nancy Pelosi (before the 2006 election) talk about “draining the swamp” many had hope. Now I know that she just moved to a new swamp. How do I mean this? Even before the Democrats took control of the House in January and changed the lobbying rules, the “word” was out months before and things began changing. The workarounds began then in their very ingenious use of PACs to not only get around the new rules in the future, but they most likely would generate more privileges and money for the Congressmen. And how the Congress would handle the much-condemned earmarks (during the election) was just done a new way using the telephone (perfect for non-attribution). I would even have considered her as just overwhelmed with the system until Tunagate popped up, and then the light bulb went on…she is part of the problem. Nothing changed between the Republicans and now the Democrats in their abuse of their elected congressional positions. And their hired minions are as much of the problem as the Congressmen themselves. And they continue to police themselves through “ethics” committees. Talk about “the fox guarding the chicken coop”.

Most of us accept politicians working for contributions and taking money in the process if they are to run for office, or rerun for office. This is free speech at its best. The alternative of publicly funded elections is a failed idea, even though tried. Even John McCain appears to be abandoning his successful McCain-Feingold Law now that he is pursuing his own Presidential ambitions. So the world is not black and white, it is gray. So when we vote for a Congressman, we use our judgment to balance his representing our interests with those who gave him money. This is fair I think during the election and even reelection process.

The bottom line is what is in the National interest, an oft misused term by political types. In the end, if an elected representative in the House or Senate votes based on lobbyist contributions, and not we voter’s National interest, then it is time for we voters to “jerk him or her back” and find another who will do better for our interests. How about that for rationality meeting emotionalism.

Interpreting Federal Elections

Much continues to be said and written about what the Congressional elections of 2006 mean. That there is no consensus does not prevent people from saying what they think. Of course looking back to 2006 is less important than looking forward to 2008, when the next Federal election occurs. Just what are the interpretations and trends?

It seems as though the big three voting issues in 2006 revolved around Iraq, complacence in Congress, and populist economic issues. Lesser issues included energy independence, stem cells, education, health, social security, role of government, taxes, moral standards, global war on terror, immigration, and national parties vying for power and influence. Whew, that is a big list!

The trends for the future are more interesting to most.

What people think happened is as important as what actually happened.
The numbers in Congress are split almost evenly.
National politicians are the worst interpreters of the results and trends, though you would not know it by the speechifying. The mainstream media is the next worst.
Most people’s opinions about results and trends are heavily influenced by where they sit.
The mainstream media’s interpretations are on a declining trend in credibility.
Professional campaign planner’s abilities to influence the vote have peaked, and will decline along with the mainstream media’s decline as a front man. The rise of the blogosphere’s exposing of campaign manipulations will aid and abet this process.
Confusing voter education levels with intelligence will continue for the ill-informed campaigners.
The acceleration of the Presidential campaign process will peak with the 2008 election, and then revert under voter pressures.
The roll of money in campaigns and access to politicians will remain the same.
The global war on terror (and security at home) will dominate foreign policy voting issues. Iraq as a foreign policy issue will fade as we extricate ourselves and turn the Iraqi’s future over to themselves.
Populist economic issues and immigration will dominate domestic voting issues.
Which national party we trust to best protect us (foreign and domestic) will weigh heavily in voting.
Problem solving over polarization will continue to catch on.
Voters’ opinions about a candidate’s integrity will outweigh focus group reverberations from candidates. Just because it is popular does not make it right.
The baby boomers’ influence on society will continue until they start dying out.
Wildcards are always at play. A major terrorist attack or an epidemic are the obvious ones people think about today. Note that both have to do with family security at home.

The aforementioned is one list at best. But by all means, get out and vote locally, regionally, and nationally in order to make a real list. We voters are in charge.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Eastern and Western and Commonality

Most of us are born not knowing how to think. We learn how to think. Mostly we are taught how to think. Why else are most children of Christians Christians, children of Hindus Hindus, Muslims Muslims, and so on. Even sectarians have their influence on their kids. And there is no real truth when it comes to religion, otherwise I think most would naturally convert or teach their kids a better way if they truly believed it. As important to religion’s ideas are those of each societies' values which vary all over the place, depending where in the world one was born. As an example, the part crime plays in many societies is not well appreciated to those of us in the West.

Let me be more specific in two real world examples of the East.
A worker in China falls from a construction project and lives, although severely injured. An American jumps in and evacuates him to a hospital, only to be rejected over the patient. Unless the American would pay, this patient should not even be here.
A policeman/soldier is injured in fighting crime/combat in Moro land in the Philippines. A helicopter medevac might save him, but the helicopters are dedicated to transportation for VIP’s at a golf tournament further north. He waits for the ferry’s normal schedule to try survive. The ferry could speed up its departure schedule, but that takes buying all the tickets up front and quickly.

Let me be provide examples that Western influence has done in our world. We can point to any major modern achievement - be it in the field of science, government, human rights, medicine, economics, or technology. How about women’s suffrage, public utilities, good shoes, transportation for people, farming production, and public medicine.

To compare the two Eastern and Western ways to think, and their values, I would dare say most kids will honor their parents and societies, East or West.

All the media and blogosphere reports I read today are obviously from western people. I think most agree the western media is politically prejudiced, and I believe many in the blogosphere should be better informed about the Eastern way of thought. In no way should one think of this eastern style as morally equivalent. More is the old idea of knowing one's enemy.

To know one’s enemy is an advantage to exploit their weaknesses. Sound’s simple because it is. To know our weaknesses works the same way. This can be a win win.

Here’s the catch. How do we know and respect our enemy? If we are to exploit them, we must know them. This is difficult these days because the main stream media seems almost worthless in this endeavourer.

To exploit is to recognize our Commonality. While this idea is a little too touchy feely and even pacifist to many, it is the way to our future, and yes, exploit. And the strategic goal of exploiting is to promote commonality, and save our way of life.

I will denigrate the State Department conflicts between realists and idealists. The handwriting is on the wall. We have more in common than our differences in religion and societies between the East and the West. Those that suggest astute diplomats are in their prime these days (if up to the task of exploiting the friction between Sunni and Shia) have a losing point.

The commonality factor (between the East and the West) is very big. The common line is information, and humanity. Even Al Jazeera’s success in propaganda works against itself in the long run. The commonality is family, security for family, and a job to support the family. Will we be all singing kumbaya together? Probably never in the near future.

I suggest that we attack… Our commonality is our way to exploit our enemy. They are so weak militarily and economically and even religiously, that I think our smart people have already figured this out. Thank goodness, if I am correct.

The world is not so easy as the western press may present it. I cannot report about the eastern press. It is much more complicated by all standards.

I can report an opinion. Astute diplomacy with a threat of war seems to help diplomacy, East or West.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Paititi and the world of adventure

Thank goodness there are still Indiana Jone’s real adventures in the world. The world is still big enough to have some mysteries and unsolved legends that might be true. Paititi is one such mystery and legend. As the legend goes the Incas retreated into the Peruvian Amazon rainforest to evade the Spaniards and hide their wealth. And then the legend expands to ancient stories from accounts in Peru and even the Vatican.

To add to the mystery, explorers who search enter the most inhospitable terrain in the world today, and maybe in history. I should be careful here because there are other very harsh places in the world. All would make a Marine or Ranger proud if he could accomplish the mission given the inhospitable circumstances. And for the high tech guys, the overhead photos from Google and earlier going back to 1975 and even the 1985 infrared photos have only added to the mystery. Best of all, this is all done on a shoestring budget in the old fashioned way. Want a HIND helicopter, hire it and pay for it. And then the weather and misty clouds may not cooperate. And of course there is no place to land. Get sick or injured and need to get to a hospital; it is about a lone trip back out the way one came in and it will take days.

We are talking about real adventurers here. They still exist, thank goodness. How they survive financially, I do not know. Do they represent the best in humanity, yes.

Are they experts about the third world where they explore? Yes. Going local has advantages, and frustrations. What’s new?

Even back in the 60’s I could go to a lecture by them, with movies and slides, at Constitution Hall in D.C. and learn. Now that is gone, but the Internet replacement is not too shabby. What’s missing though is the excitement about attending the event, and being able to try ask questions, and really hear an answer.

So adventurers still follow their dream. Not all is known in the world. There may be surprises. And the physical requirements and dangers and just plain hard work is something we should honor and respect.

Most will only read about them if they succeed. Some will just enjoy reading about the journey.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A suggested Global Warming reading list,M1

Here’s a few comments on the suggested reading list.

The first link is to a wikipedia review of a fictional novel from 1999 called The Coming Global Superstorm. The movie The Day After is very loosely based on it. While the book is much better than the movie, it is a work of fiction. But in turn it is on this list because it is a good enjoyable read for layman who read the novel.

The next two links are written by an engineer who can speak in English to we laymen. But most will have to read and reread each article at least twice to get the gist. The last of the two is on the list for one more reason. The author offers a practical and economic solution to energy independence that is appealing.

Links four and five are speeches from the author Michael Crichton. Both speeches are non-fiction in nature, and intended for politicians and bureaucrats. Both are also in plain English, full of graphics, and like the links two and three, will probably have to be read at least two times by most.

The sixth and last link takes advantage of what Google is doing in scanning in books and putting them on-line, for free (at least to us right now). It is also non-fiction, incomplete in the total scanning online, but a good and fair history of global warming, albeit with a more U.N. bent. This link alone is a very long read, and most will probably read it selectively.

All the links recommended tend to ignore all the politico-media and pseudo-religious aspects of the brouhaha right now. And all collectively focus on the more practical things like engineering, applied science, the human aspect, economics, and even practical solutions.
Just who are these people who say they speak for us?

The nuclear U.N. guy tells us what he thinks. That’s fine until he crosses the line from administrator to political ambassador. Just who made him an ambassador. Best I can figure he did. But he tells us what he thinks about the situation. And the media covers it.

The former Secretary General of the U.N. Kofi Anan seems to have crossed the same barrier. I just thought his job was to be an administrator, but it looks like he decided to be the President of the world. Just where did I vote along the way?

While I am knocking the U.N., and add in California, we people should never put an insider bureaucrat (Anon, Davis) in charge of an executive position. They seem to have mixed priorities over their former life and our priorities.

Add in the media types who write and pontificate. Who, other than those that hired them, voted for what they say. The recent William Arkin debacle comes to mind. How did he become a military expert at NBC? The answer is embarrassing to NBC and the Washington Post.

We have not voted for Jimmy Carter since 1976. In fact we voted him out in 1980. But here it is 27 years later and he is still speaking for someone whom I wonder about? For sure nobody voted for his opinions and presence today. And the media still covers it.

The insults to common sense continue. Speaker Pelosi tells us she speaks for the nation. But if I have the facts correct, a district in San Francisco City reelected her, and the Democrats in the House elected her to the Speakership. This is not a national election to many of us.

Many of us don’t believe much of what we hear and read and see. Are the reasons obvious?

Friday, February 09, 2007

The case for real reform in our federal government

Is there enough concern about the future of our country to bring meaningful reform to our federal government? Can the present accepted practices in our federal system continue unabated? Will there be a “straw that breaks the camel's back”?

These questions have been posed before by our ancestors, if the number of third party efforts can be used as evidence. That all have had their day, and that they have come and gone says much. And after all, we are here today with the two party system we casually think of as an historical constant. And while most of think of ourselves as living in a democracy, our government system is actually republican in design and practice. And demographics count. While we can dictate and pass laws all we want, changing people patterns will dominate much of what we become. For sure, we as a people are constantly changing. No one can control that, though many try.

There are three main courses of action if real reform is ever to go on.

No real reform. We the people have voted, and pretty well support the domestic and foreign practices that go on today. The two party system is good enough, and spending practices that go on today are manageable. That present voting pattern of about 40% for each side, with 20% in the middle seems to keep things balanced and able to control any abuses.

Reform from the inside. Real reform must come from within each of the two competing political parties in order to provide real reform of federal practices. Today, both parties look like different flavors of vanilla. Mostly this is reflected in how they rule when in the majority in the legislative and executive branches. Right now it seems like both parties seek votes to get power to get access to the public’s monies. Reform from the inside will prompt the two parties to seek votes to get power to solve national problems, domestic and foreign. Two alternatives to solve national problems is good for the nation and the voters. This course of action is the most difficult, since it will take leadership and political courage within each political party, and nobody wants to be a casualty…even if they solve the national problems.

Reform from the outside. Use the third party alternative to change the voting patterns. Most earlier third party initiatives have drawn more from one party than the other. Sometimes it was a party, or personality, split. Reform from the outside using a third party alternative would try change the voting pattern to 25% on each side, with 50% in the middle. This alternative would zero in on this middle 50%. This alternative admits that reform from the inside simply will never happen. And if the national problems don’t get solved, then we may go under.

If we Americans are to exist as an United States of America for the foreseeable future then we will have to change, too. Nothing remains the same. We in this new world have a good thing going. It is worth fighting for, debating about, and even improving. We did not get where we are by accident. And we will get to our future by our choices, and votes. We have choices, and courses of action.

For those fortunate, or unfortunate enough, to having lived overseas, most know we have a good deal here in the USA. We all also know that living beyond one’s means catches up, eventually. We also look out for our families, and our future generations. And more and more, many of us have come to believe that voting in local, state, and federal elections is very important, even more than we thought in the past. And we have at least three courses of action.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Who are the tea leaf readers?

The former CIA chief tells the President that WMD’s in Iraq are a slam dunk.
Investigative reporters tell us to ignore the government and listen to them.
Pundits who write mostly to each other (and their bosses) pontificate and even predict.
Many in the media decide who should be the next President, and push their candidate. Often it means assassinating with words their candidate’s opponents.
Politicians too often use focus groups and polls to tell us how to be led, and how they will vote accordingly.
Professional spin masters don’t care. They just hire out their services.
The 24/7 news cycle has reduced the standards of reporting, and watching for those who use TV as a news source. As David Brinkley once said, “The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.”

Just how is a country to rule itself? To the cynical, it is a depressing picture.

To the average American, it is a little simpler. We don’t expect a perfect world. The world as it is will do. We will dance with who we came with.

Americans are practical. On matters on national security that affects our families, we tend to ignore the tea leaf readers and use our own common sense. On matters of domestic security, we are more aggressive in our opinions and voting. Immigration and populist issues float to the top these days.

So what are the qualities of the tea leaf readers these days? Are they knowledgeable, experienced, and full of common sense? Or are they just hired by some business boss for their writing skills and political opinion? In the latter case, is the profit line more important than our access to the news? In the case of TV, does being pretty trump all? In the case of the CIA and now the merged intelligence community, do political pressures influence the output?

Most people think this way. That is, being suspicious about what we read, listen to, and see on TV. But in all this suspicion there is one constant. It is our elected government. No one wakes up in the morning wanting to do a bad job. I suggest the best people trying to read the tea leaves are our fellow citizens serving in our government. And then we can vote on how they did. Some are better than others.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A hopeful review of the Iraq surge strategy

First I am sensitive to the complaints from arm chair generals and secretaries of state and even librarians of congress. And if having 535 other commanders in chief isn’t enough, remember the other line “if only they had listened to me”. And hindsight always helps. And of course the President and his hired minions have better information than I have.

And I intend to ignore all my ideas of mistakes made in the past. The President’s political objectives have always been do-able, but the method he chose got us where we are today. Let’s go forward. Let’s deal with today and the “new improved” strategy. I admire the President for his method of listening to ideas, courses of action, debates; and then making a decision. I just respectfully disagree. Maybe he has too many hired minions?

What prompts this is reading the White House news release about the new strategy. I will make a link to it at the end of this post. What I read was dismaying for three reasons.
There is no mention of one person in charge (uniting DOD and the SD)
There is no mention of making the (local) police more important than the military
There is mention we will treat the Iraqi’s as equals. They should be treated unequally as long as we are paying in money and blood.

All this new strategy sounds somewhat like the same failed strategies of the past. Of course, maybe we Americans just don’t have the fear and interest to address all this. Some think so. They may be right. After all what are we sacrificing on the home front? It also sounds like those educated from the past trying to lead us to the future, and they are losing. In this latter case, then the strategy seems like more of the same, albeit refined and tuned up some.

Assuming we have educated fools leading an old and failed strategy of limited war, then we have a depressing future. There is little worth fighting for.

Then American politics seem to kick in. What seems like a Democratic Party strategy (not a tactic) to complain leaves me bereft of an alternative. Hence this email and an alternative.

In a reverse sort of way, maybe we citizens can lead. We want security from terrorists, and success in Iraq as a way to try get there. We will support success, from our point of view, and be most harsh for failing ideas. We all know there is a war of civilizations, or maybe a war between civilization and barbarism. Bottom line, I demand safety for me and my family. It probably will just come down to voting to make sure.

I also think the new General we sent to Iraq to save the day, and the extra troops, must be given a chance to work. And I hope there are things going on we do not know that let him run the show, and do the other things I complained about. I think I am correct about this sharp American leader, so let the show go on.

You must know I was always encouraged by our President saying over and over again he would not micromanage a war from D.C. This is good, even if his hired minions may have tempered it by their values. But what he and his hired minions did to get us where we are today is failure, pure and simple. Most of us Americans can see this, and say do something else. This post is about the how to do something else.

If we expect any leadership from the Senate, forget it. The House, even worse. It is beginning to look, again, like we voters are in charge.

Here is the link mentioned earlier:
The Pelosi airplane travel request brings up a lot of questions

Until Pelosi’s Tunagate story, I did not feel the need to check congressional actions out more than superficially. Now I do. It is what is not said, or in the small print, that now has my increased attention.

Trying to find information on Congressional travel perks, and the whole government for that matter, is difficult. In this alone my antenna started going up. Let me stick with Congress for now. Between 1991 and 1999 Congress used the Air Force’s government travel service 426 times, or 9.3% of the total trips. Just who paid for this I am not sure, but it looks like the Air Force did. Later during the first 4 and ½ years of this century, Congress took 4,800 airplane trips funded by private groups without paying a penny, at least it looks that way. I am unable right now to compare data for similar time periods.

Right now each House member is allowed a minimum of $9,700 for domestic travel to and from their districts. There is no published cap, but it looks like the further away your district is from D.C., the more you get as travel expenses go up with distance. Foreign travel is funded separately, mostly through the Mutual Security Act.

So this is what I will watch like a hawk to see what happens in the future.
A. Will Pelosi reimburse the Air Force for whatever she ends up with for her and her entourage's domestic travel? The fleet is large and has many Gulfstreams that can make the trip non-stop, as well as the Boeing 757-200 she has asked for.
B. With an end to lobbyist funded trips to the tune of 1,000+ a year, will House members domestic travel budgets go up? If so, will it be quietly, or in public?
C. Will funds for foreign travel paid by the Mutual Security Act go up dramatically?
D. Will requests for Air Force government air go up dramatically? Is Pelosi’s request for government air a hint of her savvy at getting out of the gate first?
E. And then the Senate bears watching, also!
F. Will ethical violations be punished? Why do I ask? Here’s one story: Shortly before retiring from Congress, Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Va.) and his wife took a four-day trip to England for $31,000. They flew the Concorde to London, stayed in a $1,000-a-day suite at the Savoy Hotel, and watched the Wimbledon finals from nearly $3,000 seats. The cost to Bliley? Nothing. Brown and Williamson Tobacco footed the bill. Although Bliley disclosed the House rules-violating gift, he never heard a word of complaint from its ethics committee.

Here are the references I used for this post:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

  • Now I’m worried

    Strike three, you’re out.

    When Speaker Pelosi became the 60th Speaker of the House recently I took it like a loser. I voted for the other side. And the hyperbole and election promises were appealing to me, even then if I did not expect much. But I am patient, and 2008 doesn’t look that far away these days.

    But now I am nervous she is letting ego supercede our nation’s interests. The underlying questions are two. Did others in her party know about this? And why did they elect her, in this case?

    Strike one. Her election to the Speaker position was orchestrated like a coronation. Even George Washington counseled us about this possible abuse, more likely in his time than her time roughly 200 years later.

    Strike two. The election minimum wage promise for the nation was compromised by her exemption for one constituent. Boy, does that smell really bad. Promises to correct this “mistake” have apparently been superseded by time and obfuscation within the House.

    Strike three. The request for a government private plane has gone too far. A plane yes, but the requirements smell like ego:
    42 business class seats
    enclosed stateroom
    entertainment center
    private bed
    communications system
    16 person crew
    By contrast, her predecessor, Danny Hastert, used a smaller jet that seats 12, has 5 crew members and none of the amenities.
    He did not rate that after the fact, and in my humble opinion.

    You go figure. For different reasons than the Republicans, it looks like the Democrats have their own Pelosi version of Newt Gingrich. In comparison, she is starting to look really bad. In her case it is beginning to look like the Peter Principle; she has been elected one level higher than her skill level as a hard working organized vote getter. For me, all I care about is my nation. It should be interesting to see how it sorts out. Since I think she is from the old school, and many more people elected to the House are from the new school, her time is very limited in her position. How the Democrats sort it out is their problem if they want to do better in national elections. And all I seek is national vision to go forward.
Just whose national election is it?

Or I thought I used to know.

A kind but sarcastic comment on a news show got my attention the other day. It lamented what looked like probable Christmas presidential caucuses 22 months before a future election. The comment made my think. Just who is in charge of the presidential elections and all that precedes it. I used to think it was we voters; now I am not so sure. Sounds like time for a course change.

Maybe human nature is taking control, and there is little to worry about? Reports that today’s candidates may ignore the many many debates scheduled earlier and earlier give me hope. Maybe there is too much of a good thing, or a bad thing? Maybe the media-politico complex is waning?

Lurking in my mind is some historical idea that Labor Day was the beginning of candidates getting serious about declaring. This is Labor Day the year before, not the year of an election. The recent acceleration in all this is different, and not good for voters, I think. But then all this difference may just burn out, just like many civil wars. Exhaustion, money, and just being tired counts, too.

The candidates do not deserve all the blame. Those of all the other political persuasions who seek gain for their area have a part, too. Political power gain and area economic gain lead the list, but don’t forget political operatives for hire; and to move up the time table is the easy way for all to try do this. But at some point, the adage about the straw that broke the camels back will happen. It will look like the party that nobody came too. This idea will apply to debates first, then caucuses and primaries next. Before all this, or maybe after one election cycle, someone will step in and knock heads and bring order and time tables back to sanity.

Elections are important to all of us. And since we voters are in charge, if someone can’t bring some good order and discipline back to the presidential process, then I guess we’ll have to. I hope this threat of loss of control will prompt improvements, but if it doesn’t, then the nation will get what we voters come up with.

That should be interesting. Even quiet revolts often produce unexpected outcomes. If we voters get back more control of the whole process, even if it is only the time table, then this will be good. Then the candidates will probably say: about time and thank you.
The global part of global warming

All the recent media coverage of the global warming issue is mostly of academic interest to me, since I have already made up my mind. After 40 years of homework, in my case, I am comfortable with my decision. I have a small reading list for laymen I’ll add to the end of this post for those who have not made up their mind.

The media coverage of the politics of this issue is most interesting to me. Especially interesting is the Kyoto treaty. For a treaty that supposedly addresses the survival of humans, it is amazing it is not a “global” treaty. The exemption of China and India alone make it less than a global wide treaty. Who in their right mind would negotiate or implement such a flawed document? Of course we didn’t, and the Senate vote in 1997 (95-0 I believe) as well the Clinton and Bush administration positions all reflect this. That some such as Kerry railed against the U.S. position in Switzerland last week after he voted against it in 1997 is the height of hypocrisy. Even if he changed his opinion in the interim, a little modesty and balance might have been included in his words. All in all, any global treaty that is not global tells me there are other agendas at play since I don’t think people can be that stupid.

The other global part of global warming is mother nature. There is more at play than just one ingredient like CO2 (carbon dioxide), but thermodynamics at even its basic level comes into play, and this too is omitted. Again, either people are incredibly stupid, or there are other agendas at play.

Last, here is a small reading list for those who have not made up their mind.

Monday, February 05, 2007

We all care…some more than others

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We humans somehow can find a way to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Intrinsic instincts to seek balance and knowledgeable patience in solving the nation’s problems are too often overcome by egos and ill informed certainty. Because it is popular does not make it right is seldom used as a brake. Because we care seems to be an all-encompassing free pass to everything from public policies to just plain mistakes.

Because we care seems to be especially abused by politicians and by those espousing their narrow cause. The usual lines sound like it’s for the children, or it’s for the future. One narrow cause we hear from often is that of environmental lobbies. What was well intentioned and benign decades ago has often become taking over land without compensation up to taking over entire peoples ways of life. In all cases it is playing God in one routine or another. They always care, but that is too often the best of it. Then the law of unintended consequences asserts itself.

For the environmental people who care, Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Barry Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.” Said another way, we people simply don’t yet know how to play God with the world. This should be a brake to most, but seldom is, it seems.

For the politicians who care, or use caring for political purposes, results count more than good intentions. Results can be both in outcomes and elections. Be careful, sometimes you get what you ask for.

For national leaders and diplomats, well, we respect all of them, some more than others. No one wakes up in the morning saying they want to do a bad job that day, but good intentions and caring count less than what is good for the nation as a whole, and not any more narrow interests or popular opinions of the day. Again, results can be both in outcomes and elections.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In divorce one spouse’s throwaway often becomes some one else’s prize. Caring is less an issue in this more rough and tumble aspect of human life. And so it goes in public policy where there is never 100% consensus for policies and methods, but often majority consensus for action with measureable votable results.

Caring shows the best about the human soul and the golden rule. When it is abused, or misapplied, that’s when things go horribly wrong.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Be careful pontificators…we may not know it all

Reaction to the media tripe, academic articles that have elements of truth, pundits well written articles, and personal stories that make instant experts all drive us crazy. I suggest we calm down and use our brains, common sense, and fairness. I call it KISS, keep it simple stupid. To others it might be called the “smell test”. If something smells bad, it is probably because “it smells bad”. There are many other versions of this approach, we all know many, and I suggest we use them.

The main reason of alarm is that all we have is media reports, and they are the most notoriously prejudiced and inaccurate and agenda oriented. While most would like more boring government info and intel reports, they are not free. And many fear the influence of media’s influence on the voting public, a legitimate fear. Since I have more faith in the voting public than many, it is more like a case of giving the media and media masters enough rope to hang themselves. That is what I think is happening. Hence my opinion.

The idea of knowing our enemy, especially thinking like easterners, seems to have digressed to demeaning them since they often don’t think like us. This lack of respect is wrong if we are to fight by war and ideas. They are not ten feet tall, but they have values that work for their society that we must know if we are to wage the war of ideas often spoken of by we westerners.

Recently I read an article about the Taliban and homosexuality. It was a wonderful academic article.
But my time, mentored by an Afghani, and years later amplified by a Marine guard of Iraqi POWs, suggests many other cultural values are still alive and well. No where is there mention of: little girls can’t ride tricycles because it might break their hymen, having hymen’s restored in Syria, women on a pedestal (including cousin sex), the visit of friends is an all consuming custom, and men sex to save women is not homosexuality even brought up. My point is don’t act or even over react to the media or academic reports, there is more info that should be considered. There is more going on than we hear.

This idea works domestically as well.

And so what do we do? Certainly pontificate. Use what we know. Even communicate to our politicians? For sure, vote the next time around. And for sure: homework, homework, homework.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Boys and Girls are different

I leave the biology aside as I go to my impish British tongue in cheek mode. Oh I how love this style, this way of making a point. I hope it works, at least this time.

What prompted this article was an opinion piece in the Telegraph. I don’t know which I enjoyed more, the article or the many reader comments. To keep this article shorter, here is the link to both the opinion piece and comments. If you are in a mood to laugh, perhaps be the arbiter of all truth about men and women in the world, and have time, by all means read it. Here’s the link:

The article made me think about men and women, and happiness. Mostly I thought… has anything changed in the last 50 years?

The answer is yes. The pill. The power of chemical birth control changed many things. And since women run the world, albeit indirectly in many societies, everything changed.

Little things along the way like education only confuse the boy and girl thing. How it culturally sorts out in the West, or the world for that matter, should be interesting as the law of unintended consequences shows up.

All I know is boys and girls are different. And they want to get together. And they will. And they all seek happiness.
Populist hope for the National Future

At last one can sense a convergence of national thought about the nation’s interests coming first. Ideas of vital national interests superceding smaller groups interests have a larger plate at the table these days. Suddenly what is good for America -- its workers, communities, technology base, and ultimately its economy gets included in the decisions of our politicians. Our courses of actions in the cauldron of the Middle East are more and more guided by what is good for the USA in the long run. How refreshing.

Narrower issues like party power objectives, or even media hyped issues such as animal rights, capital punishment, celebrity gossip, and political correctness have smaller plates at the table. Even past decisions and past mistakes can be updated or corrected if need be. Problem solving over polarization is back in. Again, how refreshing.

Much of this breath of fresh air is from the many patriots we voters sent to Congress in the 2006 elections, to include the newest Democratic members. Even phrases like “a revival of populism” and “economic patriotism” are being said out loud and in writing. To balance things a little, populism can be many things to many people of all persuasions, but I associate it with the idea of nationalism and our shared values being political objectives. Populism certainly does not mean we will all be singing kumbaya together.

Changes as large as a revival of populism will not come easy. Politicians from older schools have vested interests in the status quo. Aggressive interest groups, especially those with money, will rail against national interests first. Observing all this until the 2008 elections should be interesting, humorous to some, and frustrating to others. And then we get to vote again in 2008 to help move things along to our satisfaction.

Friday, February 02, 2007

How did pundits get here?

Talk about a target rich environment. The question can apply to tv, radio, printed media, and even the blogosphere.

The purpose is good. Smart people who can write and research well tell us their political opinion of the news, as we all read and hear and see it. For many they are a shortcut to doing our homework about what is going on. Some do more research than others, and some even report their news. We citizens can pick and choose.

The business of media is what generated this newest group making a living. The many news businesses and their cycles have required filler time. Editorials and the onslaught of tv and the internet needing space to be filled seems to have had a big impact. Before tv and the internet, the pundit population was mostly limited to the printed press. They were often called op ed writers, or even editors of newspapers, often called editorial writers.

As Bob Dylan wrote and sang, the times they are a changing.

The present day market of paid pundits expanded to fill the requirement. Sounds too simple, and even crude, but that is a good explanation.

So what are their qualifications? Did we vote for them? Who pays for their work?

Their common trait is the ability to write. In the case of radio, speaking is a common bond. In the case of tv, being pretty is a preferred quality. In the case of the east coast media out of New York City or DC, congeniality with the politics of the business managers and hired editors and peers seems to be important. None are voted on, except (thank goodness) in the world of ratings. And ratings influence incomes, so we voters are indirectly involved.

The USA media world has changed so much since the days of printed media that pundits now do as much reporting of the “news” as the old time newspapers and magazines. This is bad for us citizens since many pundits seem to write to each other and compete for their egos (and sometimes jobs). Why this is bad for us citizens is that they often reverberate the same news around, often the news generated by a “real” reporter. While this is good for pundits, this is bad for those of us “just seeking the news”.

None of us expect the same information, or even intelligence, that our political leaders get. This would expose sources. And especially we citizens do not expect to know leaks, mostly since most leaks are anonymous and obviously from someone with an agenda.

Does having paid pundits make sense? Yes, since this is a business that pays. Does this pundit business benefit we citizens? I don’t know.
Modesty, Balance, and Integrity

This concept may sound old fashioned to many citizens in our country. But the ideas in this concept are the way forward for our country, and even the world. I will even call it as: problem solving is more important than polarization. What is polarization? I call it the certainty of ones cause do to the loss of ability to think about others’ courses of action. Those who do not think alike are either illegitimate or stupid, or maybe both. Sounds old. It is. We have not as a human western society changed much since Galileo…well at least we don’t draw and quarter or burn people now. We have our “modern” ways.

Modesty is a good word. It implies many things, but the two most important are part of going forward. Modesty implies restraint from anarchy. And modesty implies learned behavior where one side thinks the other side shares some common value, such as civil discussion.

Balance implies we cannot know all things, and human common sense suggests listening to all sides, and then making some decision to go forward. The almighty come across as knowing all, at least about their subject in its isolation. Often youth and inexperience show their worst aspects in this case. They simply don’t have the experience to restrain their competitive indignation, while older (voting) types wait in the wings.

Integrity is not a learned behavior. We either have it or we don’t. Mostly it comes from our parents, but the culture also plays a part. Integrity means calling a spade a spade. Integrity means saying what we know, and what we don’t know. Integrity means the golden rule.

I did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday. The world is not perfect. Hard work is valued. But so is cunning. Building security and money for one’s Family drives most of us. And change is constant, so the concept of modesty, balance, and integrity will always produce different results over time. This is good, and normal, and very healthy, especially compared to that which is occurring today.

We also share common values that benefit us as a nation and a world. This is why the old time concept of modesty, balance, and integrity is so important for us to go forward to ensuring our progeny have a favorable future.

Is all this practical. Yes. Apply it to President Bush’s strategy and tactics in Iraq, politics in America today, Islamo fascism, social security solvency, and global warming talk. Modesty, balance, and integrity will best guide us to a national consensus. This much we voters can demand, expect, and get. Then we vote.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Group rights

Being a child of the 60’s I never thought I could write an article like this. After all the USA and our cultural revolution was about individuals and being right. It was a well intentioned national policy in our acceptance. Along the way, some people abused their privilege. Sounds normal, now that I am older. But does anarchy work for us as a group? Of course the answer is no. But more to follow.

The recent media reports about the stupid and failed Turner media campaign in Boston is what prompts this article. What I find most appalling is one of the 20-something year old guys arrested who wanted to talk about his haircut (extra long dreadlocks). It was as if this whole thing was about his hair and not the threat to good order and discipline. Thank goodness he and his friend got arrested for violating our Group Rights, in Boston civil law talk. And just who hired him and his buddy?

For the last 40 or 50 years, we as a society seem to have been focused on individual rights. I think the intentions have been well intentioned. Our intents to make a more perfect society have been honorable. Along the way, we lost our path.

Group concepts such as security, economic opportunity, and equality for all cultures have faded, though founded in our Constitution and our cultural belief in the rule of law.

Let the Boston politicians be the catalyst for change in our societies treatment, and even balancing, of the public good vs. individual rights. Let the publicity roll. Let this be another revolt!

You decide. I have.
Media hype

Should I allow myself to become upset as much as I do over media hype?

After all, we know the media in much of the world is a business first. This means bad news leads and good news is seldom reported. And in most of the free world the media often exploits its potential for propaganda and swaying public opinion because politicians tend to equate media interest with public opinion - sometimes falsely.

And the bad and alarmist news topics are so many. Take health (obesity, trans fats, AIDS, SARS, bird flu, smoking, cell phones, health care costs, etc.), transportation (SUV’s, terrorism, bridge safety, etc.), environment (global warming, energy independence, nuclear power, endangered species, etc.), politics and elections (too many national and international topics to list, etc.), culture (racism, abortion, Christmas, class warfare, etc.), economics (state of the economy, housing starts, unemployment statistics, CEO salaries, etc.), education (teachers unions, vouchers, etc.), and well I think I can go on. The media hype target list is a big list that should generate a lot of business for words and radio and tv. There is an underlying assumption of the poor state of the masses ability and time in handling all this “news” as it is presented in all its forms. At least this is what many worry about…the ignorant masses using this hype and then voting.

The alternatives are less inviting to those of us from the Western mode of thought. A government controlled media is propaganda. The effect on the masses is worse than the western model to most of us. While propaganda news promotes one group or idea over others, similarly its restraint of competing ideas and suppression of bad news restrains the society surviving and even improving. This is one seed from which more benign revolutions come, as in the Enlightenment.

Media people are people, after all. They have egos, political opinions, career jobs that generate a paycheck, and successful business models to follow. Those media people in dictatorships and other restricted societies may add in just trying to survive, literally. In both cases, I borrow a Winston Churchill quote and modify it for my purposes: “Never have so many been influenced by so few”.

In this there is concern for us westerners. The potential for media to abuse words and radio and tv has been exploited by too many in media, often to the point called “journalistic malpractice”. This abuse seems especially amplified in media that has government funding in part; PBS in the USA and the BBC in Great Britain. While this practice is not new, the ever expanding means of communicating the “news” is newer, and in this there is focus on what is really happening.

The concern for whether the “ignorant masses” are consuming this media hype and then voting on it, is overblown, I believe. To many unsoiled media literates, I am probably part of the “unwashed” masses (having been in the Marines). I wish them luck, especially those that confuse education with intelligence.

Unfortunately, there is a problem in our present day national program of public and private education. And the problem is in how the “washed” are educated.

Or as Thomas Sowell wonders, is it somehow that many journalists, or those that they appeal to, believe that they are so iron-clad right that no one could even mistakenly disagree with them without being bought and paid for by their bad guys?

Is our whole educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities, increasingly turning out people who have never heard enough conflicting arguments to develop the skills and discipline required to produce a coherent analysis, based on logic and evidence. (Sowell mostly).

Do the implications of having so many people so incapable of confronting opposing arguments with anything besides ad hominem responses matter? Are these implications in fact the Achilles heel of this generation of our society and of Western civilization? (Sowell mostly).

While media hype is constant, I also believe in history that the pendulum does swing back and forth; and right now the pendulum is swinging away from those western media types who skew the “news” for business or political reasons. Only time will tell if I am correct, or even if the pendulum is swinging. I am hopeful for the future, and have decided to be less upset about media hype, or at least more neutral as I digest what we citizens are presented these days. And my “unwashed” news filters will remain ever vigilant.