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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Immigration … legislating behavior is possible … legislating what people think is impossible

The proposed bipartisan legislation on immigration has opened up a USA can of worms, albeit a healthy can of worms if you will buy this.

There are many good examples of this “immigration idea” just in the questions being asked and the discussions.
* Why not enforce the present laws before making new laws?
* The distrust of government to enforce both the old and proposed laws is alive and well! The idea that a President or Secretary of Homeland Defense can simply sign a certification of border security, that then trips more amnesty type things, makes many cynics very nervous.
* Values and rules of law count are part of the American personality. The idea of 12 million plus illegal immigrants getting different treatment from all the rest who have gone by the rules is more than most can accept, and vote for. It’s just wrong, as in immoral. And to heck with the consequences, whatever they may turn out to be. Values and rules of law are more important to our future than dealing with this fait accompli. Especially hard to accept is that the previous immigration legislations and federal management has brought us to this state.
* Political correctness can finally be broached as a subject. Just who is in charge of our Nation’s immigration policies and laws? Is it the present USA citizens, or is it the illegal immigrants and their do gooder sponsors? This is a very important question since our children’s future and our Nation’s future and culture are affected by the answer. As a retired Marine, I have third world experience, and respect for many of the third world cultures. But I also appreciate just what we have here in the USA, and am always glad to return to what we have thanks to our ancestors, and now the burden is on us. For example, I do not wish to import by immigration the gross corruptions of the constabularies where bribes count more than laws. Or if a gendarme is seriously injured fighting Moro rebels, I expect a helicopter be diverted from VIP golf support to trying to save this person’s life. I expect immigrants to assimilate in the melting pot fashion demonstrated by our immigrant forbearers. Those who do not want to assimilate can go home. I have children to protect first.

There are many practical problems to consider solving in the present proposed legislation. How does America round up all the illegal immigrants and deport them? How does America respect all the efforts to date of these same illegal immigrants? How does America preserve its immigrant history in solving this great National problem?

One obvious answer has to do with assumptions as to the questions and options for answers. For example, 90% of the illegal immigrants self deport themselves sometime just to go home to be with their families. If you buy this 90% number, then perhaps we don’t have to deport massive numbers. Perhaps we make the border porous going home and 90% tough coming back, and give it time. Another question is how we use immigration to shape our Nation. Again, is the USA in charge, or are the illegal immigrants and their do gooder sponsors in charge? The answer to that question is a voter answered question, not a politician answered question. I suspect we voters will be selfish in our answers and our votes that reflect concern for National Interests, not illegal immigrants’ interests. The politicians had better beware. Messing with voters is one thing, messing with our USA kids is another.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is it about marriage?

Heterosexual marriage is down in the west and even keel in the east.

Homosexual “marriage” is up in the west. Homosexuality is generally anti-social in the east, to include marriage.

Marriage is a human custom going back to prehistory, before “recorded history”.

It is the basis of society and families that reproduce the human race.

It has been a great equalizer for women and the family. This still applies in the east, and some in the west.

Marriage is still a way to “tame” the male, to many.

Marriage is a biological imperative for most human males and females. It’s “programmed in”.

All major religions promote marriage and marriage ceremonies between a man and a woman.

Marriage and large families are the traditional “social security”.

The world has many local variations. “Arranged marriages” and “it takes a village to raise a child” are two examples.

In the USA culture, we have our own customs.
Most are proud to say they are, genealogy wise, from a long line of “married folks”.
The cynical say women just want a sperm donor and a meal ticket.
The “trophy wife” idea is alive and well.
The value of fathers in raising children is still under assault in society.
Respect and valuing matriarchs is down, and in need of “restoring”.
The “pill” and women being in charge of conception has changed everything, and yet changed nothing.

No one knows the future of marriage, but most certainly think it is not an American cultural trend. The old stories of as California goes, America goes, probably does not apply. After all, California and the USA are still a small part of the world.

And it seems like the reasons marriage started in historical times will continue into the future. Being of the USA persuasion, I certainly hope the matriarchal influence on society reasserts itself. This will be healthy for our society.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Boys and girls are different

Given all the western scientific stuff and 60’s hoopla, fine, but boys and girls are different. One does not have to go to Sri Lanka to figure this out. Perhaps mother nature made us different. The political dimension about how to think is much more profound than east and west. Emancipation of women in the west means other profound values, as in, well, values. In today’s talk, females seem looser with older established western values than the males. Right or wrong, this is how it seems. And as much as I dislike it and even object to it, 50% of the population gets its say, at least in the west.

Recently this author could compare a son and a daughter in this vein. In the son’s case, he was on his way to JROTC Boot Camp, and his mother expected him to prepare, in his case to leave at 4 A.M to make it to “Boot Camp”. Given all flexibility, he punted and played video games, etc. He was at best worthless in this preparation. When his mother nailed him this early in the morning about the same, at least I had the good judgment to stay in another room and let him suffer what he deserved. It was an ugly picture.

And then there is the 3 years younger daughter getting ready for 4 weeks of girls camp. She has already set up checklists from the Camps’ checklist, plus packing lists, etc. Even the old time idea of “trunks” has come up. However it sorts out, she will probably be ready for girls camp. Forget all the internet shopping.

Boys and girls are different. The political expression of equality of opinion should be interesting. Many are not hopeful.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Does how immigrants get here affect the recent past’s immigration wave from south of the border?

How immigrants come to America are few. They can walk or ride across the borders legally and illegally, or take a plane ride or boat ride mostly to an immigration screening station. Plane or boat rides are generally across an ocean, and pretty much one way if accepted into America at the immigration screening station.

Swimming or walking home across an ocean is a non-starter. Those who follow this route to get here generally want to assimilate to aid and abet their efforts here in America. Assimilating usually means learning English, and giving children American first names, as in Charles Rodriquez, or Nancy Liu. And assimilating is a two way street in a melting pot such as America. America changes, too. Cultural changes are the obvious, as in the food we eat and the menus. Since almost all legal immigrants miss their homeland and relatives, the assimilating time is often most difficult if one is stranded in the new foreign land called America.

Walking or riding home across a southern border is a starter, for both legal and illegal immigrants. The best guess is that 90% of illegal immigrants from south of the border go home sometime to visit and be with their relatives. That is just life, and is normal. It is the mindset that is different because they can go home with much more ease than those that crossed oceans to get here. And the porosity of the border in the past has aided and abetted this practice. This porosity of the border is both in movement of people, and their monies.

The practical effects of the past immigration practices by America are simple. We have an illegal alien population of somewhere between 12 and 20 million, mostly from south of the border. And the ability to go home now and then, especially for illegal immigrants, has changed the assimilation pressures, at least that is the theory. Predicting group behavior is most difficult, but the common theme seems to be how illegal immigrants got here, and how they can go home to visit. Do gooders promoting illegal “rights” and giving back land to Mexico are distracters, and in the end do more harm than good.

We in America do have our own National Interests. Like an old Superman movie, it might be truth, justice, and the American way. Others may call it protecting our children’s opportunity for the future, and some may even add protecting our way of life and culture.

Whatever we think about it, illegal immigrants who work and go home now and then and do think assimilation is not important to them are not those we seek for our National future. We have better choices as a Nation, and deserve to be selfish about our choices. One discriminator in a legal screening process is “how did you get here?” One discriminator for illegal immigrants when caught or screened is the “how did you get here?” This discriminator is important as an indicator of the intent to assimilate. Those who do not want to “join” must go back home. Let the do gooders defend and promote them from afar, one hopes. There are plenty of “assimilating intended” immigrants to choose from as part of our National Interests.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Problems on the other side

Start with nepotism. This idea is almost on the same level as lepers. Yet it has been practiced in North Korea, Syria, and its seems being groomed for Egypt.

Most would rather be the old man, the dieing and outgoing dictator who has forged his relationships over time. Most would not want to be the son of the dictator appointed by the now deceased old man. Yet it happens, even in these days. And mostly to dictatorial governments ruling quasi nation-states. When a son assumes the mantle, automatic relationships from the father are not automatic. This is what local power and bureaucracy is about. The newly appointed son of the dictator is in a precarious position with little loyalty to him, personally. Hence one usually sees a period of time, called a hiatus in diplomatic terms, when nepotism sorts out locally.

The obvious example is in Syria. The eye doctor president who inherited his job when his father died, is almost pitiful in guiding his country. Note the word guiding as he is in no position to lead the country. The bureaucrats loyal to his father are still in charge. He is as much a figurehead as a hostage to those who choose to keep him in his position. Keep all in this mind when the present turmoil in Iraq and Lebanon keep popping up.

And the idiot leader in North Korea is just pitiful to all to include Korean fellow citizens and opponents who see his grasps to hang on based on his father’s dictator legacy. Hopefully the South Korean diplomacy today will deliver a thrifty outcome when the North collapses of its own weight, which will be soon.

And while we’re knocking the other side, consider this. The universal Al-Qaeda with all their Wahhabi Islam oil financed efforts are still foreigners to most of their intended third world peoples, say in Sri Lanka or Indonesia or the Moro land in the southern Philippines. The locals there rip them off as bad as they do we na├»ve Americans. While money talks, they are not ten feet tall. Perhaps we Americans are taller than many may think.
Term limits beat third party candidacies every time

How about citizen politicians in our countries future? Most have heard of citizen soldiers and are proud of those who serve this way. In the same vein, citizen politicians are those who take a leave from their jobs and lives, and ''lend'' their experience to the business of government and then return to private life.

Any pond will stagnate if fresh water doesn’t circulate through it.*

And there is something rotten in Denmark these days, except it is stagnating in D.C. in the Congress and the Executive. We citizen voters have allowed a culture of access, influence, and self-interest to grow up. The recent debate over immigration is a good example when too many citizen voters say the politicians are dictating the solutions vice listening to the voters demanded actions, with some good practical solutions added in.

Perhaps we voters get what we locally vote for. After all Teddy Kennedy has served since 1962, and Robert Byrd since 1959. Talk about career politicians.

And the problem is not new. And the usual solution has been third parties, to include presidential candidates. The usual results of third party presidential candidates has been two fold. The voter gets to express frustration by voting against someone or party and the “rotten in Denmark” stagnating effects in D.C., and they often skew the Presidential election. The latest example is Ross Perot’s whopping 19% of the presidential vote probably got Clinton elected president in 1992. And there are many other examples in American history. Wilson winning in 1912 is a controversial example thanks to Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose efforts.

One alternative to third party votes countering stagnation is term limits. There are other alternatives, to include revolution, and civil war. These days, term limits seem to be the best alternative in promoting our National Interests. It appears from the recent past efforts in this idea, that the voters will have to drive the train. It is not in the politician’s interests to do so. Given all the legalisms heard from the past, and the proper laments about all the money it takes to even run for a House seat (status quo), perhaps it will even take an Amendment to our Constitution to make term limits happen. But concerned citizens have to start sometime and somewhere to make term limits happen. Assuming it takes 20 years for an Amendment to be added to the Constitution on term limits for Congress, this is a short time in preserving our Country and way of life. And we have already passed an Amendment for term limits on Presidents. And perhaps other better solutions will be reached in the interim in “circulating the fresh water to ensure a healthy pond”. After all, it is our country.

* Karen Cole Huttlinger, Keene Valley, N.Y. May 30, 1989

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The independents are the unorganized rabble party, whoever they are

Just wondering about organized politics in the US these days…

Both major political parties are formally organized, with chains of command and money solicitation campaigns, and worthy of all the political blood sport reporting all around today. And all still seems to focus on party advantage and gaining power over the US political enemy, the other side. Seldom do we ever read of National Interests, or common interests, or any other such quaint ideas of times gone past. Right now the Democrats seem especially bad at all this. And the present scheme seems to become a party federal politician, then a lobbyist, and loot the public treasury until the cycle repeats itself with new such people. That may be fine if somewhere along the way the idea of National Interest could float to the top. But it does not often float to the top, and those who do practice the status quo may even be right about whom we elect and what they do for us. Their evidence is the past.

So just how does the status of “independent” voter hit such high percentages. Perhaps many voting citizens are not playing the status quo game. Perhaps many voting citizens are looking at National Interest, or common interest, concerns as most important. This is especially interesting compared to the present political blood sport going on between the Republicans and the Democrats.

So how does an unorganized group who call themselves independents arise in the body politic? And this group is quite large, percentage wise at least. Many think they reject the status quo and past, and simply act and vote in National Interests. This should be an attention gainer for those professional political advisors and media managers. Perhaps the American world is changing in front of them and around them, and they just don’t know it yet. The independents do know it, and are leading the concept of National Interests, or common interests. This idea does not need party type organization. Rabble type voting instincts are just fine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why fear the Iranian war in our future

Most of us don’t want war. Most of us don’t see any real national interest worth fighting for in the Persian Gulf region, other than oil and preservation of the status quo. And most of that oil is for our allies, to include France. We get more of our imported oil elsewhere.

The sad part that is so predictable is that wars usually start through misjudgments fed by egos. Assuming war is an extension of politics by other means, then the Iranian leadership, mostly the mullahs, have been getting away with murder for decades, are full of themselves and self confident they can do it again. All this presupposes their “other” side will continue to act as they always have. This other side includes the US and the many regional enemies, mostly Arab, and mostly Sunni. They have every reason to believe we will continue, as is. We always have, in their political experience. Now there are open source reports that the Iranians plan a military campaign to influence the US Congress this summer. So as always, sometimes the ego driven misjudgments end up in a real shooting war. Sometimes the “other” side says enough is enough.

What is particularly frightening is if the US does abandon Iraq, especially as a response to the coming Iranian military campaign. In American talk, Congress caves, the President goes along, and some of the citizens are relieved for the moment. This template will be followed for years by our enemies with big egos and less political savvy. The future is bleak in this case.

More importantly are the enemies of Iran in the region, mainly the Arabs and the Sunnis. If America caves, they have to live with it. But they don’t have to live with Persian hegemony in the region. They are players, too. The resulting war will be terrible in the humanitarian impacts, and vast migrations of refugees. It is all so predictable when egos and misjudgments meet people who are defending their way of life, in their judgments. That’s the root cause of the coming Iranian War in the Persian Gulf. It’s misjudgments based on past behavior.

Thank goodness, the US is doing its best to win on the battlefield today to deter the egomaniacs tomorrow. Right now it is a close call. That we are still doing it Vietnam style with one arm tied behind us is amazing. We are still allowing strategic sanctuaries in Syria and Iran for reasons most cannot fathom. Most also hope our leaders know more than we do, and have good reason to do so. Again, that is hope, and really it is all we have.

Last one wonders just how the Iranian mullahs, and the other egomaniacs in pursuit of their regional hegemony, think. One hopes it is just regional, which is bad enough in itself. If any American, especially a politician, has entered the fray in pursuit of policies that “play with fire”, they had better be very secretive, because the political dam is about to burst if a shooting war does erupt. Many still wonder about what the number two House Democrat was doing in Egypt meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood while Speaker Pelosi was in Damascus. While the answer is not known, the opportunity for egos and misjudgments that can lead to shooting wars is real. This is scary stuff. This is not 60’s idealism or playing anti-war. People’s lives are at stake.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Just who is in charge

A pivotal time is underway. Though it will be not often reported and divined, now is the time to be a revolutionary, in a benign sort of way, of course.

Politics is about us, the citizens. Politics is not about the hard working politicians who are themselves. Politics is about we hard working citizens who do not choose to be a politician, but are selfish enough to demand results. Most of what citizens want is security for their family. This is universal. And none expect guarantees for outcome for their children and grandchildren, they just want opportunity for these same kids. After that, they are on their own, like normal. Welcome to being a revolutionary, Western style.

No way is the world of humanity close to communicating the differences between the east and the west. But the trends today are forcing this idea of friction between the two eastern and western ideas. Figure it out to one’s satisfaction, if one can. Most can’t, these days.

The American way is that we can figure it out, just by being ourselves. Though time will help, a lot. It will be interesting to see how Hindu family plotting and interncine societal politics balances with our more naive cultural practices. Of course the combination will be part of the melting pot idea. Good on the melting pot idea. And forget us. How will our American kids sort it out? Most "seniors" won't like it, be they here in America or in the "old" country, India. And of course, some new ideas go to failure. This could be the case.
Can we talk about an immigration law?

Or will the politicians even take the time to talk about a new immigration law? Most citizens think immigration is one of the big national interest problems facing America today. National interests means common interests … this is not a republican or democratic issue though there are small elements of each party that will try exploit it as such.

Assuming the politicians do take the time to talk, and debate, and hopefully improve the bipartisan draft proposal, then in this there is hope for the future. Since it seems the proposed draft (most are still waiting to see it to begin the review and improvement process) focuses on the “amnesty” part of what to do with all the illegal aliens here, this post “talks” about the securing of the borders aspect of this national interest problem.

Having been trained in the Marines, one can have a different take on securing the southern border with Mexico. This “take” avoids all the “over-intellectualized” D.C. based assumptions and solutions. It also uses the “keep it simple stupid” (KISS) principles to lower expectations, and importantly, costs.

We do need to secure our border. This means securing it, not necessarily keeping out 100.00%, but as many as we can. The objective should be to make illegal border crossings as difficult as we can afford. For example, the old days of just walking across the border must be replaced by making crossing the border difficult, as in taking many days with elements of danger and being caught. This is already happening in many places, so hats off to all those Americans doing so well in enforcing the present law. This approach will of course include future illegal breech points since people are smart, but illegal breech points are easier to focus on for control, and to fix. And here is the most “radical” part of this idea. Has anyone asked the Mexicans (and others) who do the illegal crossings how they would secure the borders. Best I can read and research, the answer is no. All the border control ideas most read about are very expensive, high tech, and come out of D.C. This idea of including the Mexicans is part of the KISS idea. If America is stuck with Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex”, we should avoid at all costs a “border industrial complex” that becomes a D.C. based means to wastefully spend billions of dollars from the public treasury in pursuit of some D.C. based idea of border control and political income. We do not want to fall into the trap of doing a Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall, Maginot Line or even in Vietnam a McNamara “whiz kids” line. We’re smarter than that.

Most think Americans are not asking for southern border control, they are demanding southern border control. The record and situation to date is why. We did not get to the present point by accident. And the problem is solvable if one can “keep it simple stupid” (KISS). The Minutemen have one thrifty solution, but there are many solutions in regards securing the southern border. Bottom line is that the solution must be affordable, simple, area specific, and designed by those who know best … those who do the illegal crossings. There is a very appropriate hunting analogy. The best guides are former poachers.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The new bright light on the horizon

Can anyone see this new light. It is the light of bipartisanship. Today it is the issue of immigration, so important to most of us and our future.

Most cynics already know the devious machinations of their political opponents. Most enjoy the battle. But we voters should focus on the war. In this case, the war is immigration.

What is so astounding, and in much need of nurturing, is this case of political war in the USA. The American way is friction, but it is also political fighting and debate and a final vote to bring things to an end. The American way is also National Interest, often condensed after much debate and business advantage being intertwined.

If any of this idealistic diatribe can be achieved, then the pendulum is swinging back and towards the American way. Bipartisanship is the only way to go forward in our National Interest. The real thing includes debate, no shady deals, and a final vote. How more American can we get?

The recent decades of “the politics of personal destruction”, governing by parties and polling focused on reelection and money, and avoidance of the issues of our time as too controversial are on the wane. At least the alternatives are American.
Peace of mind over Iraq

Balancing the hindsight mismanagements of the war in Iraq with the National Interest objectives is easier than one might think. In fact, the balance is a guide to what must happen in the future, both near and far.

All arm-chair generals and statesmen to include the 535 Congressional public servants and their staffs have their own strong feelings about how the war has been managed. “If only they had listened to me” is a famous inside the beltway phrase. Now the many mismanagement arguments are being used as a reason to quit the National Interests reasons for being there. It sounds like because the whole campaign could have been better managed, and most think it could have been, then that is a good reason to quit and leave Iraq. Even domestic security practices are fair play. To many, this sounds like throwing out the baby with the dirty bath water.

Our National Interest reasons for conquering Iraq are all selfish. This in itself is nothing to apologize for. In fact, we would have bragged about it more in another time. Our National Interest reasons for trying to win the peace in Iraq is part of a greater scheme to change the Arab Middle East to our advantage and our security. This was a big chunk to chew on, too big it seems in hindsight. Along the way, even the Persians and their atomic schemes came in. And others will have their own versions of our National Security Interest, to include we don’t have any National Security Interest. Fortunately, they are a small minority of our population of mostly loyal people.

We as a Nation are at a friction point due to domestic politics. What trumps? Is it the mismanagement that led to weakened faith in the present leaders; or is it our National Interests, albeit selfish. The first leads to quitting the campaign of winning the peace in Iraq; the second says stay the course, knock heads, and fight the good fight in our selfish National Interests.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What a perfect opportunity for bipartisan debate … immigration

The theoretical debate, hopefully soon to be a real national debate focused through the Senate, has all the elements of a Hollywood mystery movie. This would be cute, except it is so serious to so many citizens. Hollywood could do no better with millions of illegal aliens being allegedly abused in their US jobs by unscrupulous employers, to the millions of US legal citizens being displaced from their jobs by these same illegal aliens. Add in the mysterious negotiations that prompt 1,000 pages of detailed legislation that may get an up or down vote due to Senate rules requiring quick action in days, and one has all the elements of a conspiracy since no one can read all this in the limited time. And the last part of the movie is the marketing. There is no amnesty in the initial promotion, and there is a strict adherence to qualifications with family connections not being qualifications. But then there are exceptions, to include those with spouses and children. Ha Ha, He He.

Of course when one goes from Hollywood to the real world, things like the House and the Senate agreeing in a joint conference, and the President signing, also come into play. So one should not react too much to what has been happening in the Senate.

Most voting citizens have really strong feelings on the subject of immigration, and the present day illegal immigration numbers and circumstances. Many of these feelings depend on where one sits. Yet, in spite of all this, there has been little debate at the National level, to include our Congress, our elected body of representatives. Out of all this is even more frustration and mistrust about our Congress and Executive. Do they even listen, or care, is the usual comment too often repeated, at least in the rural part of America I now live in. And these rural people are not stupid. Mostly the questions are pretty much common sense, and honest as to the local effects of illegal immigration which is pretty much most of the local effect. The other note is that this is not a cultural friction kind of thing or racial prejudice kind of thing. This is a jobs and respect for community kind of thing.

And there is the element of condescension. Locals assume the “elites in the academia and the mists” don’t expect much more than the locals dieing out as part of their objections and objectives in regards immigration. What is not talked about, but exists, is the knowledge that the “elites in the east” will also die out, and in this is the probability of debate about what is right or wrong.

This author, like all, has strong personal opinions about illegal immigration’s effects today, and the general results today and tomorrow. What I believe in more so is the idea of a national debate on this very serious subject. Our national choices will decide things for the next 50 years or more about our nation. Anything less is a Hollywood movie at best, and a typical ripoff at worse. Right now it seems our politicians are going with the second choice. Now is the time for voters to demand a public debate, and expect to get the same. If the Senate can’t take the lead, then we voters will do it.

And you know what. If we really have a bipartisan debate on the subject with a vote, all Americans will live with the result.
Getting America back

The oft-used term of bipartisanship is a fancy way of saying National Unity. Said another way, bipartisanship is just acting in our national interests vice lesser objectives such as party interests. And last in the most practical way, bipartisanship is just the process of allowing all major parties an opportunity to influence what will be, in the end, a final vote that does represent our national interest, or our common interest. In the most basic American terms, we should have a fair political fight, reach a decision, and go forward.

If the aforementioned sounds like it could be “Citizenship 101”, it may be. But the need for the class appears too obvious to many who perceive and even observe the lack of bipartisanship going on these days. In the natural rises and falls of society’s mannerisms, bipartisanship will ride the same kind of waves. But when the trend goes on for over a decade, then there is a systematic problem that is adverse to our National well-being and future. And we do have serious problems that demand solutions … social security and out of control government spending being two.

Most voting citizens have expected our elected public servants to get the message, and “do something about it”. Indeed, some think the 2006 congressional elections that replaced the House and Senate Republican majorities with the Democratic majorities sent that message. Either way, the message or the election results, things in fact seem worse now than before. So much for the public servants “doing something about it”. The problem is obviously bigger than they and their hired staffs. And whatever the reasons, lack of bipartisanship is adverse to our National interest, or our common interest.

And so now it is time for the voters to step in and take control of this issue. This will take work on the voter’s part. Voters must select those seeking public office who “walk the walk” on bipartisanship. “Talking the talk” is a too late political move. And if necessary, voters may have to even “find” such candidates who walk the walk. This is what is meant by work.

There are many suggested means to judge bipartisanship. One is to observe public servants who “cross the aisle” to work with and propose legislation that is inherently bipartisan in its conception. Another is to observe voting records comparing support for bipartisan bills as opposed to partisan bills. Another is to observe votes for rules that promote one or the other, bipartisanship or partisanship. And for the most cynical, using judgments as to “walking the walk” compared to “talking the talk” will always be useful. Notice nowhere is mentioned winning or losing. Just giving all sides a fair shake is all bipartisanship is about. Some might call it demonstrating an ability to govern.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cynics need not apply

Many feel like the Reagan joke about the room full of horse manure and the certain optimism there must be a pony in there somewhere. Yes, the state of the world, and maybe the USA, is like the room full of manure. But there is a pony in there somewhere, and it is going to take hard work to find it and then turn it loose. Some dread this constant need for work, and some consider it the salvation that must be both appreciated and pursued. And some think that the pursuit of their values along with doing the political basics is the way it always has been … just some times are better than others.

The world’s views seems to fall into two categories these days. One is the realist status quo view, mostly benign neglect, that sees the value of keeping the vast masses of the world’s population in perpetual poverties of food, health, education, and even servitude. After all, if the vast masses lived to the life style standards of the first world peoples, at a minimum environmental collapse would come to the world. And their long repressed political oppressions would probably assert themselves in some frenzy of retribution. The second world view sees the power of the people, if given a chance, to make things better for their progeny. In this view, better is in the eye of the very local beholder. And the beholder is more likely to think tribe, than nation state. This view is full of uncertainty and fraught with potentionally frightening unknowns to those in both the third world and the first world. The only saving grace in this view is the belief that humans want to make things better for their families, mostly their progeny. And this view acknowledges that democracy of a sorts exists in many warlord tribes; and it is the higher level basics like security that are the real values in this view.

There is another auto-pilot type of view about the world. This view suggests we today are more like the former benign neglect view, and irretrievably being drawn towards the second power of the people view. In this case, those in the first world can get in front of the cause and influence it, or just hang around on the fringes.

Do we in the USA have to be dragged along in all this world stuff? Probably. But here is the good news for which cynics need not apply. We can elect political leaders who have the savvy to guide us in our national interests during the next fifty years. Does anyone think all leaders are created equal? Does anyone think Bush or Clinton (either one) are the equals of a George Washington or an Abraham Lincoln? Does anyone have any faith in international bodies like the UN or the World Bank to help guide the world forward? And do many think there are still leaders like George Washington who will step up to the plate in this time of need, again? As always, the pony needs to be found and unleashed. And only we voters can find and elect that person to do so.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Reaching the point of too much national debt

Most understand that some national debt may be preferable. But as in most things in life, one can have too much of a good deal. One can “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”. Have we Americans reached that point, or even surpassed it? Are we voters just as guilty as our English ancestors when we accused them of taxation without representation? Is the analogy to our descendents getting the debt burden without being able to vote on it today appropriate?

One present day buzz word for too much national debt is “out of control federal spending”. This idea may not be too alarming, but the examples can be. One is the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska that spends about $250 million for a bridge that benefits less than 100 citizens, plus those that build the bridge. Another is a recent House bill to reimburse some Guam citizens for Japanese war crimes. On the face of it, this is absurd. In both cases, the federal government does not collect enough taxes to pay for all this, so more borrowing to pay the bills goes on. Like in a marriage, one can argue what part of the income does pay what bills, so some of it is covered while some of it is wasteful, or can be postponed. But in the aggregate, the federal government spends more than it collects, and it borrows to pay the total bills.

One idea that should be a cause for concern to all patriots is simple. When voters learn they can vote themselves benefits and monies from the public treasury without “apparent” consequences, and their elected public servants learn to feed this most despicable human tendency, then American society has entered a slippery slope from which recovery is difficult at best, and future ruin is more probable. This situation is analogous to “killing the goose that lays the golden egg”.

Most think voters and taxpayers of today and tomorrow will willingly go into debt as part of defending our country and way of life in a war. Now that is a national emergency. But when congressmen and congresswomen create new categories for emergencies that are less than that of war, and allow them to spend to where borrowing is required, then a “tipping point” has been passed.

Of course the usual arguments are that this spending is for things that voters want, and the spending benefits voters, and also the spending is a jobs program that benefits some citizens. And from the Congress’s point of view, if it keeps getting them elected, then that is good too … for Congress. The usual line follows something like “one man’s pork is another man’s good idea”. And as long as people keep lending money to finance all this excess spending, that is fine, especially if the debt is owned mostly by Americans who do receive the interest payments. A lesser line sometimes heard is that of a political strategy, often attributed to Reagan. If he gave the Congress enough rope to overspend, with him signing the spending legislation, then eventually it would catch up and prompt some spending restrictions and control in the future. There is some reason to think this theory may have some basis in history.

The most difficult thing for a citizen who votes and is trying to sort out this subject of “possible out of control spending” is, well, trying to figure it all out. The arguments and facts are all over the place, some academic, some just theoretical, and some more practical. Who knows just what to believe? Here is one chart about what to believe.




This chart, even if it is not completely accurate, points out the percentage of our American national debt that has been loaned as of 2005 by Social Security. Anyone can look at their pay stub and know how much of their income, and their company’s income, has been collected and sent to the treasury just during this pay period. It’s a big percentage, and a big number, and that is the point of this post. Have we as a Nation gone too far in borrowing from our social security future with all its promises. Have we “killed the goose that lays the golden egg”? Let’s take the theory out of this and just be practical. Social security is not a retirement plan, though some try use it that way. But the social security benefits (payments) are enormous now and will grow dramatically as the population bulge known as the baby boom generation steps up to the trough for their time of benefits. And there is not a penny in the bank to pay them, except promises to do so. Almost all know Social Security has always been a pay as you go system, so those getting benefits in the 1940’s for example got more from the system than they ever paid in. As long as America had over 30 workers supporting one beneficiary, this social compact worked, and it still works today. But the trend lines due to demographics and uncontrolled spending are reducing this ratio to much less than 5 to 1, that is 5 workers and their companies paying enough taxes to honor all the obligations promised earlier by our own elected representatives. Many married couples set enough money aside to tide themselves over. It appears our federal government has not been as smart.

The potential impacts are all very scary. Our descendents, all future taxpaying workers if healthy, may object to the taxes they have to pay just to meet the earlier promised social security obligations, and for which they could not vote at the time. Of such circumstances are born revolutions. And then perhaps we’ll revert to the older fashioned social security problem solution … birth rates and having more kids to take care of ancestors. The last possible impact is also scary … that of the lost faith in a system that collapses like a house of cards that even drags down those retirement plans and promises when they go broke or underfunded.

Fortunately, “chicken little” may not be alive and well. We citizens and voters can step in, if we choose to do so, and act in our own behalf. The politicians will have to follow if they want to stay in office. This is a National Security issue, a common issue, and is so important to our national future that one hopes we act. To not do so is to pass the decisions to our progeny, who like us, will act in their behalf. We may not like what they decide.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pretending chic and being chic

There have been too many times in America’s recent past where the self appointed and mutually anointed have mixed apples and oranges, much to their chagrin. When it seemed chic to invite Black Panthers to trendy cocktail parties, and advertise it socially and politically, they did so … for a short period of time. How much of this is going on today, decades later? Very little, most suspect. When the Palestinians became a group for the first time in history, many Arabs probably quietly laughed at the idiocy of Arafat, an Egyptian, accepting a Nobel Peace Prize as a Palestinian. Yet the chic crowd invited him into their culture, though I suspect most mothers knew to lock up their sons from this sexual predator. And what seems so astounding these days is this happened in the US and in particular the Boston to DC corridor, a bastion of true American patriotism (in spite of all the chic images otherwise).

The most disappointing trend along this line is the values of the young people involved in mass media. Mass media includes printed media, TV, radio, and even blogs. It appears to many that they have been screwed in the worst sort of way by their educational experience. This includes the most basic ideas about values, debates, investigative reporting, and the most basic skills to honor this and go about that. And their teachers are the ones that screwed them. What was chic to their teachers is not necessarily so these days. But don’t expect many young younger media types to even have a hint of the idea, and discussion.

Fortunately many older types were indoctrinated to the idea of equal opportunity. Nowhere was equal outcome mentioned for any reasons, to include good intentions, mommy tracks, and upbringing. In the end, common sense and numbers, and the vote have balanced those with societal agendas who have tried to change us all. Those who have tried to outwit and out maneuver the voters have been on a losing tide of history, now going on for decades.

How inviting Black Panthers to a cocktail party could be chic is a given having read history. How inviting equal opportunity patriots from throughout the world to today’s chic cocktail parties is up for grabs. To not do so suggests a more deep societal cancer that must be ruthlessly excised. Fortunately, the patient is healthy, and a little nurturing will help a lot.

How chic “equal opportunity” should be. It is because it is chic, and so unusual in the world today. Its home bastion is the US. Until chic about equal opportunity can become like the cocktail parties that brought in the Black Panthers in the past, one hopes chic is more limited to the entertainment and paparazzi crowd with all its light intellectual weight and political influence.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cherry picking history can be dangerous

History belongs to us all, not any one group or person.

Much as been written about the opportunities our political leaders had in the 1930’s to have nipped the coming world war in the bud. Comparisons to the Vietnam War come in as another war that could have been fought differently, in the conduct especially when applying principles. Now the analogies have been forwarded to include the rise of Islamic fascism and the attacks and recruiting throughout the world, with Iraq dragged in as part of Islamic fascism, and its own wars against its own humanity.

And all most of us want to do is wake up in the morning and do a good job, and trust our Family is safe in the most fundamental sort of way. This applied to our ancestors, also.

During the late 1930’s there were four Neutrality Acts passed by Congress and signed by the President that focused on our isolationism, that is to not let the US be entangled and dragged into another world war, especially on their terms. There were also lesser elements of pacifism, which in today’s terms might be called anti-war. That such laws were passed and signed by the President is little discussed today. And given that we did get involved in another world war, the attempts to legislate our way out failed. Sometimes it takes more than legislation in America to stop evil, or even nip it in the bud. In our case, it took a united nation, and sacrifice, to end it as quick as we could.

Vietnam can be construed to sound simpler. In the end, Vietnam was not worth dieing for in pursuit of our national interest. For history’s sake, it is worth noting that one of Nixon’s campaign planks was to get us out of Vietnam. And Congress did get involved in defunding Nixon’s method of getting out of the war, so one may argue Congress has been involved in the conduct of a war, during a war. Of course all this is muddled because it was never a declared war, an old fashioned historical principle, by the way.

Does any of this history help guide us today? The complicated answer is no. The simple answer is yes. But this is not a John Kerry answer, and it is not cherry picking history.

The American personality of being isolationist is still alive and well. But the idea is a two way street. We do not have to be tied down and dragged in by what others in the world think, and tell us what to do. We can be isolationist, and act in our own national interest, one and the same. So if we are attacked and recruited by some tribe and idea out of the 7th century, we can respond in our own isolationist way, the rest of the world be d**med.

We did such a thing in the late 1930’s with the Neutrality Acts. Unfortunately we could not legislate our way out of evil then. And efforts to legislate Nixon’s exit from Vietnam resulted in the decades of local misery and American unintended consequences. History suggests our prospects, if we do the same, are just as dismal today.

Fortunately, there is at least one alternative. It is called let the Executive run foreign policy, have the Congress fund it, and let the voters decide.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Welcome to the third world, in the USA

It is an advantage to be just old enough to have caught the end of one trend, lived through another trend, and now be at the beginning of a third trend. This is about health care and public policy. It is about the mosquito and all the bad diseases that come with mosquitoes. It has been a quiet issue in the USA thanks to our older ancestors. Now it is a noisier issue thanks to our more immediate ancestors. It is noisy because people are becoming sick, and dieing, because of their public policies, today. Until one gets sick from malaria, or west nile virus, it may seem like an academic issue. For thousands, soon to be millions, it is not.

For the uninitiated, mosquitoes breed in warm stagnant waters in the equatorial areas, and this includes the coastal plain of the USA. And they bring diseases like malaria, and west nile virus. In the USA, malaria was a terrible disease in the South until recently, like the 1930’s. Then our government had an aggressive campaign to drain the wetlands in order to stop mosquito breeding. In one local area in South Carolina, 17,000 acres of upland had 63 miles of ditches cut to drain the wetlands. Incredibly, our government is now paying money to landowners to restore these same wetlands. Enough deaths should bring this policy to an end.

A very big complicating factor was Rachel Carson’s 1960’s book “Silent Spring”. Well it turns out her science was poor, and it has been superceded by the advantages of time; and bottom line, DDT is back in. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) promotes DDT in Africa, and I hope soon, in the USA.

So where does this all lead. As long as environmentalists promote wetlands the future from a disease point of view is dim. Thousands in the USA, and maybe millions, will begin to suffer and die from malaria and even west nile virus. And the environmentalists still want to take away our DDT option already recommended by WHO. Are we stupid or something?
Dressing up a pig

We can put a pretty skirt and lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. The analogy to American culture and society and politics seems similar. And why are we focused on a pig when more noble creatures come to mind that we should be working on … say a Kentucky Derby horse.

Our fixation on the lightweights and lowlifes of Hollywood and same is astounding. When Anna Nicole Smith continued to get coverage long after her death, this was a case of dressing up a pig if I have ever seen one as her coverage beat out Iraq too often. Forget all the other foreign trouble spots that do affect our future.

When affirmative action became quotas here we went again. It was more important to provide an illusion of equal opportunity than the real thing, equal opportunity. And from the customer point of view, say a medical patient, all most wanted was professional care and advice. If ever there were a case for a Kentucky Derby horse objective, it is in the training of our medical doctors and nurses. Skirts on a pig just will not do when it comes to our health care.

Now it is reported that Toyota builds more cars and trucks than GM for the first time in history. But then Toyota is run by engineers while GM is run by marketers. Don’t blame the workers, blame the leadership over decades. One focused on building a superior pig or better, while one focused on dressing up the pig. Guess which one is which.

The American political world seems similar, and it is not party oriented, as in Republican or Democrat. One part of America wants to try build a more perfect union. Another part wants to provide the illusion of a more perfect union if the first is just too hard to achieve. This idea applies to most all of our National problems, domestic and foreign. The political equivalent to dressing up the pig is called band aids and incremental fixes or even another study. The more cynical call it putting heads in the sand, like an ostrich, until the house of cards finally collapses on our descendents. The political equivalent to trying to build a more perfect union is try legislate on social security, immigration, and national and homeland defense. And we know how politically risky it is for those who want to avoid political risk … at all costs, to include our descendents’ costs. For those who are business plan oriented, this is an opportunity just waiting to be exploited. For others, dressing up the pig still seems to be the national choice, so far.

Like the rest of governments and institutions, mass media has allowed itself to be caught up in the priority of dressing up the pig, as opposed to real change. That the thousands, maybe millions, of young people in this industry have been hoodwinked will only come out over time. What a shame, because by then they will be older and perhaps bitter by their experience when they had a chance, and they were led to dressing up their ancestors pig as their application of their energies.

Consumers and voters still do have choices on whether or not to dress up the pig. WalMart under Sam Walton always suggested by shopping with them and their policy of selling American goods if they could, and they did, we were helping fellow Americans. I bought this line, right or wrong. Now WalMart seems like a front store for Chinese manufactured goods at a reasonable quality and price, but it is not the same. And some of the consumer choices are more horizontal. For example most of the poor quality (lowlife) movies coming out of Hollywood will not get my money from any source. One can call it voting often with ones pocket book.

Some of us want the real thing. Where’s the beef? Here’s where the voters assert themselves.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The China factor

Let we Americans murder and maim and kill in cars 50,000 people a year and that is pretty bad. But let poor innocent pets suffer from human degradation, and that is intolerable. The introduction of poison into some of our pet food supply is just such an example. And it has all the elements of a Hollywood cover-up to include dead pets, Chinese delay in the visas for American inspectors to China, and the most lame excuses out of China. It makes the present process stink to high heaven, and exposes more embarrassing gaffs on our end of government certification, especially in organic food certification out of China. All this will prompt another cross-over point for we Americans in dealing across our borders.

Americans are among the tolerant groups of people in the world. This applies to the ideas of globalization and fair trade when it adversely affects the older parts of local communities. But the old American expression also comes to mind: “Don’t pee down my leg and tell me it’s raining”. When local people begin to believe that the elected politicians and hired bureaucrats in D.C. better represent the globalization crowd at the expense of small communities and their declining health, then change is on the way. Most remarkable is the association of the China factor with illegal immigration. The pet food tragedy (caused by man) and illegal immigration seem one and the same. Just when is government going to recognize the values of American communities, and promote them as public policy.

There are practical applications to this principle. The usual D.C. based political sales pitches talk about education and retraining. And that is a good factor for the younger types. But what is seldom mentioned are the older types, their value in communities, and helping them appropriately in the transitions. It is hard teaching old dogs new tricks. What is really happening is as bad as the pet food scandal. Older people are being forced onto welfare and public health care (such as it is) and social security. And in this process entire communities and ways of life are being accelerated towards an earlier end that might otherwise have happened. That might be fine but for two things, nobody remembers voting for all this, and illegal immigration has made all this worse in too many local communities. Just research the amount of public health care hospitals being forced out of business by having to treat illegal immigrants. No amount of government dictating of reimbursements can change the bottom line and the service to the community.

There is one small sub-element that also keeps coming up. Are our diplomats and negotiators savvy enough to do their job, and just whose side are they on anyway. Again, all these questions are from a very tolerant group of Americans.

The connection of the China factor and illegal immigration’s effects on many local communities is a rising factor in America. Many think the voters will have to replace about half of each National Party in D.C. to get relief, or at a bare minimum, representation.
Principles of an exit strategy

We all know we were never going to be in Iraq forever. Armchair experts know one exit strategy (rejected) had our military out in late 2003. And we do have histories of exiting small wars to include the Philippines, the Mexican border with Pancho Villa, the Banana Wars in the Caribbean and Central America, and recently even in Somalia after food relief operations in 1992-1993 and Operation Provide Comfort (1991-1996) in northern Iraq after the first Gulf War. We didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, though many of our present and recent decision makers in the Executive and the Congress may have.

The principles of an exit strategy are timeless, though every strategy has it own local variations. Thus one can understand these historical principles when asking modern day questions about the small war being exited, in this case Iraq and the immediate region. This post is presented to the reader as about how to think, and not what to think. It can be the basis of asking questions as our Nation considers exit strategies today.

There should be only one person in charge of the war in Iraq, and it should be a person on the ground in Iraq. Until a D.C. based strategic decision to exit Iraq is made, then we are still in a war over winning the peace in Iraq; and that person should be the senior military commander, General Petraeus. The Ambassador Ryan Crocker must report to him, as well as all the other inter-agency groups in Iraq. This includes budget authority.

The decision to implement an exit strategy is necessarily a D.C. based one. But once the decision is made, the execution must be by a person on the ground in Iraq, and that person is the Ambassador. Upon the decision to exit, all others to include General Petraeus report to the Ambassador. This is especially important because of the difficulty of coordinating an exit between the military, the politics, the financing and reconstruction efforts, and the security provided by the police, also called the constabulary, gendarmes, guardia, and para-military. Getting the Iraqi military out of the whole police business is part of this exit strategy. How many Americans want the U.S. Army or Marines providing police services in their hometown, or expect them to have much training in this area. The same principle applies in Iraq.

The development of an exit strategy must come out of Iraq, not D.C. Here the Secretaries of State and Defense, and the President, must be ruthless about running interference for those on the ground in Iraq. This is not a case for seeking the least common denominator to keep all sides happy. Those looking for happiness should seek employment elsewhere. Now D.C. does have a strategic interest in controlling the borders of Iraq during an exit. This applies primarily to the Syrian and Iranian border areas. This is a tough nut to crack given the long borders and thousands of years of smuggling that has gone on. But the plan for the securing of the borders must come out of Iraq, and any D.C. frictions must be between the appropriate Secretary and the ground commander, either before and after an exit strategy is the plan. The ground commander in Iraq (war or exit) does not answer to anyone below Secretary level, to include anyone working for the National Security Advisor. The era of too many D.C. and CentCom bosses will come to an end. Those who do a poor job or get in the way get relieved, or voted out as appropriate.

The difficulty of executing an exit strategy is too often one of confusion over timelines. One can imagine the military gunfighters getting out first, but how about the military infrastructure units, or the police trainers, or the reconstruction teams, and even the finance teams. Too often most think of an exit strategy of being one of the gunfighters only, but in reality there are many more players working on different timelines. Again, hence the reason for there being one person in charge of an exit strategy, and it is the Ambassador, with all players reporting to him. The Secretary of State must run interference in D.C. for this Ambassador.

Last, D.C. is part of this process. One good example is a strategic reserve of gunfighters and where to base them and for how long, and who pays. One 2003 exit strategy had such a reserve leaving the cities to go into the Iraq desert. Another Murtha strategy mentions Okinawa, over 10,000 miles away. In either example, funding such a strategy is a D.C. problem; and in the case of Okinawa also a diplomatic problem. The U.S. is presently relocating many ground units away from Okinawa, mostly at Japanese request.

And D.C. should be the main effort for the regional strategies of dealing with the present frictions between Sunnis and Shiites and Persians and Arabs at the regional level. It is here that the Central Command comes into the equation as to military options.* A good example is whether or not to attack Iran’s budding nuclear capability. Any such decision would be D.C. based, but the execution would be at the Central Command level. In this case, General Petraeus will have some of his forces stripped away by Admiral Fallon long enough for this operation. It is a tough business balancing all this, but thank goodness we have really good people that are up to all this. While this discussion has little to do with an exit strategy, it is worth noting as part of the overall discussion.

*Rumsfeld changed the title from Commander to Combatant Commander to emphasize the military aspect vice the proconsul aspect of the job.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Conventional wisdom gets behind the times

Those using conventional political wisdom and experience from the past are out of step. They just don’t know it yet.

Past conventional wisdoms included the politics of division, that is, dividing large portions of the body politic to gain block votes. This practice ended up with divisions like rural-urban, black-white, north-south, individual rights vs. group rights, realists vs. idealists, school choices, and abortion. In a large country such as ours, divisions are normal. It is the choice of using the politics of division that is so disturbing and adverse to our country as a whole. That this politics of division continues is mostly because professional political managers have seen it work in the past, and they recommend replicating success using conventional wisdom. And in their past the definition of success was based on Party interests vice National interests.

Many things have brought about this change in conventional wisdom. Most profound is the information available to the entire body politic. Between internet connectivity and satellite TV, more Americans than ever have more informed opinions. And all this has happened quickly, as in the last ten years or so. Some of this quick cultural change is not so good. The old days of reading or playing scrabble in the evening have become watching DVD movies or the Disney channels or MTV.

More informed and interconnected members of the body politic means voters will increasingly consider National interests that will affect their families to include security and education. More narrowly focused Party politics will fade in priority over time as being less advantageous. Politicians using focus groups and polling to lead and garner votes will fail if they continue on the Party themes of the past. Rather, whether a voter lives in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine or Portland, Texas will make less difference than the common bonds which unite us. No amount of the past politics of division will change this. And it is happening faster than many paid political managers may think.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The methods of exiting Iraq

All the hoopla and politicians talking past each other show an appalling ignorance on the part of many of our national leaders. It is as if things are all or nothing, zero or one-hundred, or even just invented today vs. on-auto-pilot anyway. Then there is another appalling ignorance about whether D.C. is the center of the universe or is it somewhere else away from D.C. And last the finger pointing about getting out of Iraq is somewhat akin to what many of us observed in our high school days. The lack of experience (in this case how to win the peace and leave) has become gamesmanship about keeping up appearances, feigning expertise, and hiding ignorance. Oh, and of course, and being popular.

No citizen of this country expects the U.S. to be in Iraq in 100 years. We expect to have exited somehow and someway. The process for doing so is called a strategy. While many preferred a strategy that would have already had us out of Iraq, the subject was debated, and decisions were made, and we have the present situation today. In other words, we have a strategy, just many people don’t like it or their perception of it. Many think it is a mess worthy of U.S. political debate and an opportunity for political advancement, too.

There is some ethereal principle of life that has not been defined, but suggests that many claim credit for actions that are on auto-pilot anyway. This sounds too much like politics for too many. While there is no known reversal of this principle, a well intentioned citizen can bore through this fog and see the U.S. and its allies exiting Iraq and leaving it to them to sort out winning the peace, their way. Other strategies and timings suggest having won the war, we impose the peace in our way. But that strategy was superceded by what we have today, and so be it. And do keep in mind, strategies are all encompassing … they have elements of the military, politics, finance, and public well being. Any exit means more or less of each, with time-phasing brought in. Time-phasing is a military expression that means we will probably be in Iraq a long time for part of the exit strategy.

The D.C. centric world is understandable with one main caveat. There is yet to be any explanation of the alternatives, or consequences, of just cutting the cord completely. Until this happens, critics are weak in their failure to offer alternatives. At least the pacifist and anti-war types are up front about being against all wars, to include Iraq. That our society can breed and support such idealistic types who still do not recognize 911 for what it was still astounds me. Thank goodness they are a small minority, like 17% of the population, I think.

So we are where the voters lead, not the politicians. We are National Interest driven, not poll and popularity driven. We have an executive with a strategy that will take some few months, not long in world history. The enemy is relatively paltry and pitiful, with one exception being the leaders ability to keep recruiting suicide bombers, and a second exception being the use of oil profits. That the leaders are not willing to die is a good hint that they are morally bankrupt, and on the wrong side of history. Combine all this and the auto-pilot idea, and perhaps politicians should tone down for a while. We Americans have our interests, too. They are National, and not Party.

Monday, May 07, 2007

There are better alternatives than unions

In the past unions did serve a useful purpose when they protected workers from unsafe working conditions, poor health and sanitation conditions, disproportionally low pay, and benefits like health care and retirement benefits. While such conditions may exist as exceptions in the US, generally most companies address these conditions out of public pride, and often to avoid a union coming in and doing the same.

The long term trend in the manufacturing sector is against unions. Unions represent something less than 15% of the manufacturing work force today. The greatest growth in unions is in the public service sector, or government unions. Teachers have unions, and even State Department Civil Service employees have their own union.

Several other trends are going on today. A small company can tell hourly employees to use Social Security for retirement, and let the government carry the load. In a similar way, hourly workers can be expected to use public health care with the government again carrying the load. In the latter case, worker’s compensation can smooth out the government’s burden. Unemployment is a government responsibility these days, but at least the burden is spread out over a bigger population than any small company might have to endure, and perhaps go bankrupt. And while this article speaks casually about the government picking up the various burdens, taxes usually follow the small company to help the government’s burden.

It is probably fair to say that the benefits provided by a union are better than the benefits provided by the government. But in both cases, there is no free lunch. Over time there have been detrimental effects from the unions. The health benefits are such that when we buy a GM vehicle, over $1,400 is just for health care of its employees and retirees. In comparison, a Toyota vehicle assembled in Japan has the health benefits costs absorbed by the government. That is quite a competitive advantage. No wonder Toyota just put a new assembly plant in Canada since Canada also absorbs the health care costs of its citizens. From the US point of view, we have lost thousands of jobs to Canada, and some think the unions had something to do with all this.

It appears the government employee unions are also going down this path of “killing the goose that lays the golden egg”. While the results may take decades to become apparent, outsourcing and privatizing of basic services like trash will predominate, in the end. The alternative is higher local taxes, and some communities may go this route. Others will go other routes. At the national level, as an example, when the State Department’s union won’t support the President’s surge in Iraq, and the Defense Department has to make up the difference, then the handwriting is on the wall. When union priorities trump National priorities, time is on the side of National priorities. The executive is still in charge … not the union leaders.

The alternatives to unions generally are to out-union the union. This requires astute leadership for the company. Procedures to ensure good communications vertically and horizontally, upward mobility for winners, good grievance procedures, and education for winners with a future are classic examples. And of course, the basics like unsafe working conditions and poor health and sanitation conditions must be ruthlessly attacked. And pay, and benefits like health care and retirement benefits, must be constantly explained. Given the alternative of no jobs, these most basic of human principles are just doing what should be done anyway. Amplify this with hands on management and leadership, and customer service, and we have a win-win.

Our future and our kids future are in our hands, today. Unions, and union techniques, have had value in our past. And there are probably still cases where unions make sense, today. But what we voters must watch out for in regards unions is when a national political party tilts towards unions just to gain block votes. In the case where block vote appeals and party power predominates over national interests, then it is time for the voters to step in and take charge. Polls and schemes are one thing, the vote is another.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ignore the Democrats, vote American

Much as the California gold rush wore out, so has the present Democratic Party. This is a shame because our Country benefits from two parties. And as Zell Miller of Georgia said, it is a national party no more. What a shame since they did it to themselves.

The elections of 2006 brought much hoopla and excitement to the national Democratic Party, even though the results were very close. Very close to most means control of the various Committees, but little there after. Very close to most also means doing something about the promises about corruption in Congress. Now that has faded, also. Many are so disappointed, and no amount of spin can change all this. The most aggressive Democratic operatives and optimists will say they can pull it out, and pull the wool over our eyes, and in the time up to the next election. Some of us say we don’t forget, and that National Interests will trump all. Only time will tell.

What is so frustrating is the love of our country by most voters as compared to the politics as usual by our politicians. Bottom line question: is our Country about the citizens or the politicians? Right now it looks like the latter. When candidate Clinton can get in a huff over whether she travels in a Gulfstream 2 of Gulfstream 3 then priorities have changed in ways that hurt our nation. And I wonder about all those paying the big hourly fees if that was what the donation was for?

We Americans do have three choices for change. We were born of a revolution, and changed by a civil war. Most of the time we have used the vote. We should stick to the vote because that is who we are these days.

The apparent divisions in our Country over Iraq seem like a vast replay of our past. Part of our Country’s personality is pacifisms, and isolationism. FDR had to deal with this, and so do we. In FDR’s case, no amount of discussion changed minds. In the end Pearl Harbor changed minds.

So as the various presidential campaigns go on, consider who is promoting America and who is promoting Party. On this hangs the National future.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

The usual way most see this statement is during scientific debates, where much is known about the pieces of a thing, as how a watch or a duck works. It’s when one adds the pieces up and combines them that the debate gets going. A good example is in medicine when the drugs one takes individually may have other unexpected effects when combined as a whole.

The emergence of chaos as a new field of complex systems is a modern resurrection of this science debate which goes back hundreds of years. The religious debate about this principle goes back thousands of years.

Seldom I have ever heard this debate applied to human politics. Certainly humans and human political systems are complex, and when science topics like global warming are dragged in, even the subject of religious overtones comes up. What one believes on this debate does affect our societies and nations.

Most laws at all levels tend to be enacted piecemeal. The federal income tax code is an example, where the size is something like 68,000 pages. Most individual tax laws may have some honorable intent, but when taken as a whole, one should worry if there is some adverse effect as in the medicine example earlier. The public policy of social security suffers this way, having been grown in “pieces” and benefits and funding, and now it appears the “whole” thing will collapse and die sometime in the near future. If one buys this line of reasoning, then one may use their imagination to apply it to ideas like globalization, global warming, mainstream religions, size of governments, and even the administration of Yellowstone Park over the last 100 years. Piecemeal application of good intentions without considering the whole can lead to bad results, it seems. And too often lack of information or poor information is not an impediment to those who make the laws and policies.

The alternative of thinking as a “whole” is fraught with political problems, also. Most know the expression “jack of all trades, master of none”. It can apply to presidential debaters, pundits, least common denominator study groups, and arm chair generals and secretaries of state. Any individual or group who proclaim they “know” the truth, if only all would listen to them, and obey their commands or edicts that address the “whole”, make many also ask: “just show me the votes”.

Fortunately, this dilemma has one solution. It is called the vote, and we voters should be influenced by those Americans running for public office who know the difference between the “whole” and the “pieces”; and the effect on human politics. For example, we should avoid voting for those who offer “piecemeal solutions only” to social security, health care, the war in Iraq, etc. We should consider those who display recognition that complicated problems have elements of the “whole” and the “pieces” that come into their thinking, and should come into our thinking. Hopefully, these types of political doctors won’t kill the patients in their prescriptions for the various political drugs we are going to have to take.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The western world gone wild

Or is it extortionists and anarchists gone wild?

Maybe the business world has met the political world? But it also looks more like bullies and anarchists have found a constituency in the Western leftist types … for the moment.

In either case, the last gasp of the Western baby boom generation, or as the French experienced , the time of summer 1968 is finally washing up and, fortunately, washing back. People have more important things to do like raise families and provide for their security and education. Both societies chose their courses of action that we arrive at today. That the immigration trend is from France to America says it all. If I were any young European I would immigrate away from Europe. Too many do just this. Fortunately, they seek change in their country of birth. We all love our country. I hope most move back.

I also hope most assert themselves in their country of birth. As big as the world is, they need to take care of things at home, first. In the case of the American do gooder types, any attempts to become global types are misplaced. Devote your efforts and support to the locals to take care of things, “at home first”. Any thing else, to this voter, appears to be extortion, anarchism, and uncontrolled egotism. Along the way these types spread themselves too thin in their attitude of arrogant self-importance. In practical terms, let them bleed out.

What are we to think about our fellow citizens of the world who think another way and have different standards and observe all this? This question is not a code world for Muslims, who slowly but surely are making themselves inconsequential, which of course they are doing. This is much more profound, the east and the west meet, and yet never the two meet. If one were eastern trained, then much of the western world gone wild is just: unfathomable. Where is the respect for conniving and the art of duplicity, or the roles of women in society, and last, respect for ancestors and the importance of face? There is much friction to come, but time is on the western side of things. There is no moral equivalence a’la multiculturalism. There is a clash going on, and western ideas will predominate after much friction.

The Eurabia idea is interesting when one gets down to the basics. One basic is that people are getting “away” from their country of birth, and going to a country of “opportunity”. I hope more of these types come to America. We’re better than Europe and the Old World. We are the New World. Families and family opportunity are part of our American personality. Having worked with so many Muslims in Atlanta, this family principle is alive and well there and probably throughout America. In poker terms, we Americans are dealing with a winning hand.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A pattern of behavior

Consider this. One of George Tenet’s qualifications to run the CIA was being a Democratic staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee. One of Madeline Albright’s qualifications to be Secretary of State was being too weak to challenge Al Gore as a presidential candidate. Colin Powell was considered too strong a potential challenger to Al Gore. Janet Reno had to be female to qualify as Attorney General. One of Ron Brown’s qualifications to be Secretary of Commerce was being a loyal fund raiser bag man.

Lest this look like a Clinton specific hit piece and a Democratic in general hit piece, the pattern continues.

"This is the most incompetent White House I've seen since I came to Washington," said one GOP senator. " The White House legislative liaison team is incompetent, pitiful, embarrassing. My colleagues can't even tell you who the White House Senate liaison is. There is rank incompetence throughout the government. It's the weakest Cabinet I've seen." And remember, this is a Republican talking.

One more historical note on the pattern theme. Finally one can find a so-called person in charge of the war in Iraq … a deputy director on the National Security Council. What is wrong with this pattern is the D.C. focus, not one person in Iraq, and the bad smell that comes out of the apparent incompetence of all this.

Most have read sometime or another the lament that the continued persecution (media, political, legal) of fellow Americans who come to D.C. to serve may reach a point where people won’t volunteer and take the pay cuts. The famous quote by former Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan is appropriate: "Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?"

America may have passed a tipping point of attracting the best and the brightest to take some time out of their life and career to come to D.C. to do their best in persuing the National Interests. This is not intended to denigrate those who do serve. But how many more are taking a pass and staying home?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Getting out of Iraq and winning in Iraq have too much in common

One has only to go back to reading the fine print in the President’s speech about this issue in January, and the two resolutions from both Houses of Congress. They, and the American people are closer on this issue than the main stream media have reported. That’s their unprofessionalism, not anyone else’s. I bet most did not read the fine print. Now we are at the veto point, with all that misinformation still being reported.

The strategy change has been profound, mostly in D.C. New hardball players are in place in the State Department (John Negroponte as #2 and Ryan Crocker as Ambassador), Gates at Defense, and new Generals (Petraeus) in Iraq and Admirals in CentCom (Fallon). Besides the strategy change to include the Iran factor, is the classical third world insurgency method of treating the local friendly despots as such.

The practical application is simple. No matter how much we dress up the pig, Prime Minister Maliki is still our pig, and he had better listen. Thank goodness we are not treating him as an equal these days. Our support and blood and money are not open ended. This debate went on in 2003, and unfortunately it is still going on. Either way, today, we decide, not Maliki, and just how things have sorted out. If Maliki is not the one, so be it. The key point is that he is not in charge of the Americans, we are.

What seems amazing from the DC point of view is the amount of people talking past each other, apparently pursuing the most base political party goals. How sad, assuming all are Americans at heart. In the same vein is the idea that all this is happening anyway, and for some group to jump in and claim credit debases what is happening anyway.

Back to the basics. Strategies can win and lose. And we Americans have a history of both, unfortunately. The most simple and classic strategy goes back to the Small Wars Manual of 1940. Little has changed since then, except the talk and academia. I am not sure many in the third world listened to all this.

Bottom line: Don’t treat Maliki like an equal. He is not. We Americans are in charge of our future.
A noble soldier

The dogs of war at many families doorsteps
The strains of seeming peace so near and so far
The laments of loved ones far far away,
The blood on the ground mixing together until it decays to some future

Why here and now
Why me and my comrades
Can I think about it?

I will always do my duty
But in a far far away land just what is that
They have fought each other for millennia, with or without me

My duty is in my mind
I connect it to my families at home because this is what I am taught
Maybe they’re right … I think so because I am dieing for this duty
And for my comrades
And I do love my family
Time marches on

How many think all the friction over Iraq today will be more than a squib in the history books in 50 years? How many think the world will be vastly different in 50 years? How many think the US will be here in 50 years?

On the first question, the answer is that Iraq will be an historical squib in 50 years.

On the second question, soothsaying is much more difficult as to details, but the principles are a little easier. The President’s strategy of “democracy” in the middle east, middle east style of course, is changing the whole balance of powers in much of the third world, not just the middle east. That he has unleashed the battle in the west and the east is good enough. Even the slightest shift in many peoples opinion about loyalty to something other than tribes is profound. In turn if nation-states in the third world even provide the most basic of human services like family security and the most minimal health care, that too is a profound change. If they don’t, then little will change. The normal wars and diplomacy over the status quo may look much the same as today.

On the third question, the US and New World is different from the Old World. While travel means and communication means have shrunk the world, the ideas are still profoundly different. When the baby boom generation effects die off over time, the American personality of hard work, entrepreneurship, the golden rule, don’t tread on me, and respect for ideas will trump all that has gone in the last 50 years. It won’t be nirvana … it will be just as ugly as today. And along the way the voters will decide how it all goes.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The chicken or the egg

The preverbal argument about the answer applies to many more things. One is nation-states. Which came first, the nation-state or the nation? Are nation-states some recognition that many peoples have enough in common to become nation-states, or are the present nations and boundaries and tribes some extension of the past? Did all the imperial and colonial diplomats 100 or so years ago draw up boundaries that were good for them then, and expect these boundaries to go on in perpetuity. Most of these paper boundaries have always been ignored by the people who live there. In the end, numbers and demographics and customs and tribes count.

A colonial sweep of the drawing pen, for example the British Durand Line in 1921 to divide the Pashtuns, doesn’t help much in hunting down Bin Laden in Warziristan, the exact same area by another name. Here in America British and French boundaries did not sort out, in the end. We Americans ignored them and drew our own lines.

This principle unfortunately is universal. People and demographics still count, too. The gross physical immigration on the Mexican border confirms we can legislate, but not necessarily control. An old novel from the 1980’s called this border area a new state with the name of Altzan. It was a little bit of both; Mexico and the US, with a decidedly US flavor.

Nation-states are a recent idea in human history. They are both not normal and a product of human social evolution. Rather the idea has many parents, all western, and they include the Council of Vienna, and the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Before nation-states were nations, and empires, tribes provided local democracy and family security, albeit at the local leaders judgment, usually secured by willingness to go along with success.

Our world future is decidedly better. Our western ideas which focus on infrastructure are powerful. Clean water and electricity come to mind.

Those who ignore, tolerate, or even promote dictators and other omnipresent leaders of what ever ilk, are on the wrong side of history.

The obvious future leaders of humanity are from the western mold, albeit with a lot of tampering down for human reasons. However they sort out the question about nation-states vs. nations, one old person hopes that these people recognize that the common people vote with their feet and pocket books, not some ethereal political cause.