Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Skullduggery is alive and well.

It’s fun to use an old time term that is so appropriate to today. Fun only means the principle is as old as history, but as short sighted as the latest neophytes with some education, questionable intelligence, and little experience. Some social classes think they have evolved, and they may have, at least in their mind. Some others still think there is a reason for police and fire protection. Even the French may be using their Navy to help fight off pirates in the Red Sea. And so many in the West use their movie experience about pirates as their standard. Hollywood screenwriters in the 1930’s writing about 200 years ago with Errol Flynn as the main actor is not history, thought it can be good movies.

The now classical debate evolves. Do we fight off the dregs of society, or address the issues that many think caused these dregs of society to try and often harm us. This question has been evolving for decades in the West, and is at a point where the proponents about addressing the issues have to defend themselves as they try to convince us their way is best for the world, forget cultures like the USA or Europe or South America. Some of us, many it is thought, prefer the fight the dregs approach. This latter group accepts, painfully, that a certain amount of humanity has criminal and egotistical values that will take down civilization, if allowed to proceed, as in be pirates, or shoot policemen in the performance of their duty. This criminal and thug group needs to be locked up to protect us from them. Along the way, all the do gooder social efforts to reform them to be like us can proceed. Just why this do gooder group can even exist appeals to our most American charitable instincts. Just how they expect to use our income, as in taxes, to do their goals is just amazingly amazing. The record of success is so poor. There are alternatives that work better for the common good.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The simple incompetence of our national leaders and their staffs

The good news is that they are learning by experience. The bad news is why?

A recent article by a Presidential speech writer suggested such thoughts. Going to war in Iraq was part of his thought process. Explaining it was not. If this is both the past and the future, as if political leaders get to learn on the go as we as a Nation commits our monies and young peoples blood, then it is time for change.

Unfortunately, the status quo appears live and well. The present executive and the present congress got us into Iraq, and now any amount of political dances don’t change the band. That’s fine, until I read, again, about learning curves. Just where is the savvy to implement our vital national interests?

As a citizen disappointed in the preoccupation with political advantage in D.C., which of course has nothing to do with our Country and our future benefits, it is time for a USA change.
Things were not always like this in American politics and culture

We had more citizen politicians and less career politicians than the present day.

The relative power shared between local and state and federal tended to be more local and state than today.

The two present national parties are new since the beginning of our federal republic.

People used to not loan our government money to pay our bills. We had to pay as we went, and fight about how to do that since the demands and expectations exceeded our ability to pay. Even wars had to be funded by loans from American citizens, and war bond drives were a necessary effort to buy guns and planes and pay conscripted soldiers.

Public policy used to focus on now boring ideas like roads, water, electricity, public health as in vaccinations, draining malarial wetlands, food safety, control of our borders, and any other such issues as considered increasing the general well-being of the public.

The “fourth branch of government” to include the news media, interest groups, and independent government agencies have more power to influence our lives than before.

We used to be more mixed and multicultural than we are today. The military draft was the reason. For example a person from North Dakota who spoke Norwegian until he was five met his first black person during military boot camp in the 1960’s.

The telephone and the internet have made us more interconnected than ever. Our cultural interconnectivity is far behind. This will take generations to occur, if it ever does. After all, we are a pretty big country.

The domination of the Country by those in the eastern USA is fading. The financial interests, the family connections towards education and jobs, and the domination of politics, is going national, vice east coast.

Boys and girls having sex before marriage is as old as humanity. Girls having babies out of wedlock is not. And bragging about it, or even just the absence of shame, is different from the old days. The powerful provocateurs of women’s liberation have given up the power of women’s control of reproduction, be it chemical or just saying no. Babies born without accountable fathers is not the way it has always been.

Some of us suggest taking back America, as in the vote, be it local, state, or federal. Some of us suggest it is more simple than that. Some of us suggest just being American. That is pretty good. And it is not the present national parties, be they republican or democrat, that offer hope and standards. Things were not always like this in the past. And last I heard, we are not constrained by the past. So just vote on who you thinks “out of the box” in today’s talk.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Having a problem is less important than how you handle the problem

Said another way, leadership counts a lot. And management skills help a lot, too. And they are not the same. Being mission oriented will do wonders moving people towards the leader’s objective.

Less this sounds too academic, let’s be practical. The subject is the education of our young people, a vital national interest I suggest as a given.

First the confusion and disorder. The arrows are flying everywhere. Locations and experiences vary all over the place. Some locations are doing better in educating young people than other locations. Some perceived groups are doing better than other perceived groups. Public schools are too often dismally compared to private schools. Too much of the curriculum of the 3R types of things has been supplanted with less important subjects. Now even federal government and dollars, and government unions, are entering the fray. The old joke about what to do when things look really dismal in a football game comes to mind, punt. Another old joke also comes to mind. Things always appear dimmest … just before it gets totally dark.

Now here’s the good news, and some ideas to boot. There are a lot of public schools (K-12), public universities (local community colleges and 4-year), and private colleges still focused on education as the primary mission. And the nation is benefiting in their graduates time out to do public service in all the myriad of ways and means. And the idea of plagiarism is the best form of flattery still applies. Local school leaders don’t need to invent new good ideas, there are already gazillions of them with track records of success, or at least progress in the right direction. So why not pick up the phone and talk, and share.

And the obvious point is the value of local political leadership. Most citizens do not wake up in the morning wanting to mess over their kid’s education. And local leaders running for local school offices can point this out, since so often the big budget school systems have to date too often become a jobs program for adults. And the solution is in who the voters choose. The solution is not through the teachers, nor the union leaders, nor the school administrators. These groups need local political leadership, and we voters can make it happen.

Too often many parents just trying to raise and educate their kids in urban metropolitan areas have been forced to go private (when they could afford it). Over decades I have heard the theme of resistance to forced bussing in the name of racial integration. The parents have been branded with racial prejudice caricatures, though the real problem is cultural. The parents are just looking out for their kids best education, and interests, as all parents do. I suggest that, rather than punt, this pool of concerned parent leaders enter the local political fray, and change things with the local tax dollars. If they have to hire more lawyers with public money to fight the other side’s lawyers, so be it. This technique is basic, if people will just get on the phone. And in the old days, loser kids just got evicted from school as disrupters. There were no special schools for losers. It was the parent’s problem. The key point is that the focus was on the benefit to the classroom of regular kids. Local political school leaders can change this focus, as an example for the future. For those that object, let them pay for their lawyers, or slink back into the woodwork. Or again, hire more lawyers with public money to fight their lawyers.

Three ideas come to remind in conclusion. Punting is one option, which I hope most local potential leaders do not take. Reinforce success, not failure. Plagiarize the heck out of the winning ideas. Get on the phone about winning methods, and if necessary hire more lawyers to represent local political school leaders work. And last, educating our young people is in our vital national interest, and public education is part of this vital national interest.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The degradation of the word

Up front I instinctively blamed the poor state of news media reporting on the feminization of the media. Then a light bulb went on! The poor state applies to the young women and men who are in the business today. For lack of knowing what to do, they do what they know. And it is not much. Out of respect I will even give this “generic” group respect for hard work and good intentions. I will also say they have been shafted so badly by their educators and hirers who have imparted their generation’s poor standards. By 2020 many will ask “do you want fries with your order?” What a shame.

Of course there are alternatives. The consolidation of news assemblage in the BBC is a good hint. Many hope there is a union revolt to the change, and the whole shebang goes under, with others to pick up the best parts. In the USA one obvious alternative is just to report the news, investigative invigorated. What a beautiful thought!

One future business model which will probably succeed is “just the news”. If the alternative is between repeating the news, and making up the news, most Americans will financially support the news, often boring, and repeated over and over. What is presently sad is the poor state of foreign knowledge and reporting, and in this we Americans are still on our own as to learning. Fortunately, we still have “posters” from foreign lands and conflicts, and can use our own judgment about their values and reports.

It’s a new world, but the value of believing or not what ever one reads or sees is still as old as time.
The coming revolution in home TV

Pick February 18, 2009 (a Wednesday) as the date tens of thousands of home TV’s will go dead. July 4th is a revolutionary day in USA history. And so will be the 2009 date. And we elected the federal politicians that are making this happen. Don’t blame it on the FCC.

The 1,600 TV stations licensed will still be transmitting on February 18th, 2009, but in the “new” mandated digital format. And to “get” the “new” signal, most Americans will have to buy a new TV with the new tuner, or get another set top box at about $80 a pop, plus hook it all up. This cost is another “hidden” tax to the estimated tune of $600 million to $900 million in today’s dollars. An early hint to the coming revolution about home TV is the nervousness of some politicians, and their more astute staffs. Already federal chits at $40 a pop (maxing out at $80) may be applied for shortly, albeit with all the paperwork and effort. And a fair situation report is that the coming revolution may prompt more postponements and other such political actions. It is still a free play exercise.

The impact is serious. Tens of millions of citizens who have finally made it through the use of VHS players and CD players will be put out again. And we Americans are fickle. We have a cultural history of tolerating auto accidents to the tune of 40,000 (+) deaths a year (to include high school auto deaths though we don’t tolerate child sexual abuse), but we won’t tolerate pet problems from China and Michael Vick. And many think we won’t tolerate losing our present TV as is, which is pretty good.

Call it what your whimsy is. Call it resistance to change. Call it a change for our future. Call it a revolution in our response.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The immoral factor idea in American foreign policy

Can we just talk? A small part of the population, and some of my relatives, are sure our foreign policy is driven by Bush and gaining his buddies economic income from our foreign intervention into the Middle East.

There is little discussion about this subject, you either believe it or you don’t. And I am old enough to not waste my time trying to convince my relative otherwise. And this relative I think of is not a moveon type wacko. He does believe in debate and discussion. And he is sincere, though his tendency has always been towards pacifism and anti-war things. But then maybe 16% of my fellow citizens think this way, so they should be listened to. Even a smidgen of evidence would send me and others down an investigative path. But the path has been zero.

I vehemently disagree with him. Just who is more moral? I’ve made my peace. It’s called voting.
The scientific industrial complex is as bad as the military industrial complex

Here are words from President Eisenhower written in 1961 that apply even today. These words are the other half of his famous military industrial complex warning, and seldom mentioned these days.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

With the federal funding of global warming research allegedly at around $7 billion dollars annually, and popular media and even legislators’ interest in the subject, the dog and tail who wags who subject is alive and well. The mission remains constant for most of us … the benefit of mankind. But after having been through the same drill, but just the opposite with the coming Ice Age and national magazine covers, etc. about 30 years ago, we older common citizens may look askance at all the hoopla. Again, the mission remains constant. And common sense still counts. Just read anything by Bjorn Lomborg, or Andrew Cockburn.

And so when voting citizens look at the cost and benefits of how today’s military defends our national interests (and tries to sell it to us), so must we question the costs and benefits of today’s research driven global warming possible threats to our national existence. Starting with credibility and facts explained in English would help. Politicians should explain in English why we are threatened, and should change our way of life (mostly quality of life). Gore’s Hollywood awards and five Norwegians award count for little in this effort. Even media might get involved in explaining why the global freeze 30 years ago is now the global warming today.

One appealing thought to this author is the idea of the FDA reviewing the drug companies work in promoting their products to the benefit of their company and we humans. Perhaps we citizens can have the same overview that looks out for our interests. In no way should this challenge peer review, which has always worked (so far) to weed out charlatans and other such poor people.

It is fair to say today that the whole scientific industrial process, and the political process about explaining it, are both presently unhealthy. What are we to do in another 30 years when another hoopla is promoted. Again, the mission remains constant … the benefit of mankind. A little smart thriftiness along the way will also help.

Friday, October 26, 2007

We all serve in our own way

“All men are created equal”. Baloney. Some are more equal than others. Some “more equals” assign themselves this title, some “more equals” are assigned this title. Most recruiters who live in a less idealistic world just want to make quota. Most western parents want to have kids that are above average or better, and can be forceful about it. Most eastern parents see the “social security” value of their children.

Recently Mr. Nobel DNA got into hot water over intelligence measures, saying Africans are not as smart as some of the rest of us (as a group of course). Of course the modern politician may think none of us are too smart, given the present state of the world. And of course most Asians look down on we less smart American mongrels, culturally speaking.

One friction point is the ability to tell the difference between experience, education, and intelligence. Most adults in America will tend towards experience, I think. Many in the military profession value the ability to be steadfast and aim-in, and pull the trigger. Now what quality does this describe?

So let us in the New World serve in our own way. The problems of the past are bad enough. Let us solve the problems of the present, and serve in our own way.

If this is not the genesis of a New World foreign policy, then nothing imagined near term can be. Are we dumb enough to be dragged down to the past, or smart enough to drag the past towards the future?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Suppose somebody gave a federal tax and nobody came

The status quo reigns supreme. If targeted taxes worked before, they will work now, and will work in the future. So fire away politicians, and we American lambs will line up to do your vision of the way our American culture should be. Politicians can even troll bait to be confusing to some of the unwashed.

Most won’t buy it … both the increased taxes and the vision of how to spend it.

Fortunately, we have alternatives. It’s called globalization. In a tax sense, and vision sense, we can have loyalties as to where we live, where we own, where we recreate, and who we socialize with. And the old days of stuck in the USA are now over. Some, probably many of the more well to do, will simply bail out and leave.

There is a principle in history, but more modernly expressed, as to one reason countries fail. It is when the voters figure out they can vote themselves benefits without cost to themselves that the country goes under. In modern talk, it is about the transfer of wealth for social reasons. In the USA talk, it has been taken to extreme where even the taxes are not enough, and we have to borrow $3 billion a day just to pay our bills. And people, domestic and foreign, keep loaning it to us for now. The old days of War Bond drives are passé. Academics explain what a good deal this is. Fine. But never is it mentioned how many months of every year our children and grandchildren will have to work each year just to pay off the principle and interest for our benefits today. We had one revolution over taxation without representation, and here we go again!

Fortunately, the present proposal by the Democratic congress members of the House of Representatives will never become law and taxes. But the handwriting is on the wall. The targeted tax payers will begin to bail out, as in forced out. Who or what is next? Will the taxes go down to the middle class, or will the social vision change? Do we have to get to that point of what this small minority of Americans want to do to the rest of us Americans? What happened to “pay as you go” (the real thing) or just live within your budget? How about some respect, as in words, for all the good things that are going on. These are the same things that attract so many aspiring immigrants to our USA. How about living within our means, and then see how the immigrant problem sorts out. Who knows? But a good guess is they will still keep coming as they can compare us to their home alternative.

In the end it is about us. Just who will show up for the new federal tax?
The dose makes the poison

This old saying usually applied to medicines. Most associate it with cancer tests as in if a rat gets 1,000 the normal daily intake of X, then he may get cancer, and it may apply to humans, too.

This old saying applies to societies, also. Too much of a good thing may do more harm than good, in spite of the original good intention. This old saying is a variation of the “law of unintended consequences” or the more colloquial “Murphy’s law”.

Bringing up this old saying is prompted by two things going on. The first thing is the seemingly wonderful and professional response of local and state government, and charities, to the recent spat of fires in Southern California. The other event is the lull in the run up to the 2008 elections, which allows time for contemplation and deciding what is important to individual families, the Country, and the American culture. For example, one is reminded we are not a democracy, but a federal republic. And one is reminded much of what government is supposed to do for us is at the local and state level, as in public schools, police, fire protection, and road maintenance.

This contemplation time can lead to strange free play results. In our American culture, will we always have an economic underclass, a so called poverty class. I say “so called” because poverty in America is different from poverty in much of the third world. Does the American culture expect to reach a “Lake Wobegon” cultural state where “all children are above average”? And much like the frustration so many Americans experience about ending the war in Iraq, will we also ever end the war on poverty?

American culture has a streak of honest to goodness charity built into to our psyche. That’s just the way we are. We are also born problem solvers, and again, that’s just the way we are. Our innate pursuit of a perfect commune is balanced by the realities of life, as in someone has to pay, and some work harder than others.

Is our American culture capable of tough love, often practiced by parents to their children? Is our charitable streak balanced by our practical streak? Most think governments helping charities helping fellow Americans recover from calamities of nature is a good thing. Most think helping fellow Americans who are poor, for whatever reason, get health care for their kids (and other such things), is part of our psyche. Most think not allowing free loaders who abuse the good intent is also part of our psyche. Most Americans do not want to create an underclass dependent on government and charities for generations to come. Most Americans certainly do not want to expand charity to the middle class. They are expected to pay. After all, somebody has to pay, and it is the middle and upper classes if we are to survive as an American culture, and Nation.

One local true story can express this cultural discussion. Here charity is 100% to the intended, in this case the local town homeless person and town drunk. Even the police allow him to serve his jail time in the winter months so he can be warm and fed. The 100% charitable people did all the paper work, etc, and got him into the local public housing, to the point of even getting him a used washer and dryer so he could be cleaner. Well he sold the washer and dryer for beer money, and the 100% charitable people were back to square one. The American culture point is that some things and people cannot be changed in spite of our best intentions.

And so back to the point of taking advantage of the time to contemplate. Has the rise of “American career politicians” led to this group of people exploiting our American culture’s fault lines? Has this group become a “class of people”, as in a ruling elite that panders to our worst cultural instincts? Is nepotism just around the corner?

Too much of a good thing, which American culture should be proud of, has gotten us to where we are today. Too much more of a good thing may bring great suffering and distress. Like in family tough love, or just old fashioned “divining” the best dose, it is best left to American families and voters if we are to avoid the poison and enhance our American cultural health.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A classic misinformation campaign … maybe

The recent updates of what may have been the Israeli target in its early September attack in Syria have popped up again in the news media. This time it is well intended US types using US commercial satellite photos that have better resolution than the French SPOT satellite photos from Google Earth. Their overhead and corollary evidence is superficially or better convincing that this target was a North Korean nuclear plant in the making, albeit probably years away from going online.

The day of the attack there were hints that actually two attacks and targets were involved. The Israeli’s may have gotten a two-for-one if they can keep their secrets “Secret”. Of course, the Syrians have to go along with all this, and the problems of nepotism by the present eye doctor president and his deceased father’s alawite cohorts appear to help all this along. More to follow, but first…

The principle of a misinformation campaign is as old as history. Spin a tale that might be true, and many people will act on it. Back in 1991 or so, there were many open source reports of the sale of nuclear weapons to Iran from former Soviet republics. The flavors varied some (to include the weapons (artillery, bombs, and missile) and the routes of the transfer) but the multiple sources made it look plausible. Here’s two links about this:
There are other open source links. I believe them all. We in the West even got a hint from Putin not too long ago when he made a point of saying he controlled his nukes, but could not vouch for them before his watch.

But there is another point of view. The collective opinion at the 1991 time was that this story was an Israeli plant as part of a misinformation campaign. Right or wrong, that is what we Americans decided then. And much the same may be going on now. And aggressive “insider” media types may be used. But that is too crude. The sources of these “insider” media types are also being used in the normal way.

Some combination may be going on. Just look at the Vela Event in 1979, and see how President Carter forced his own judgment on the conclusions.

Most interesting are the Brit comments about how close the world came to WW III on September 5/6. Perhaps there was to be a Syrian attack on the Golan, initiated by chemical topped missiles from Syria’s SCUD and CW site at Al-Safir, and launch site at Minakh. Perhaps that was the “real” target.

One little bit of military talk. GPS is pretty nifty, when it works. GPS guided bombs have an accuracy of 10 M, about 30 feet. When these GPS widgets go into canyons (arroyos in some talk, hollows in some other talk) these widgets lose accuracy. Add in the GPS spoofers, also. Of course we Americans are smart, so some of these bombs are a combination of GPS and laser guided, and the lasers give us an accuracy of 3 M, about 10 feet. Of course one must have commandos on the ground to designate.

As a child of the 60’s I have always assumed the start of WW I by the assassination of the some royal figure in Sarajevo, Serbia could never happen again as a reason for a world war. Now I am not so certain. People are funny, don't you know.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another Turkey background report

Between Ralph Peters, whose reports I think much of, and the more recent pundit and media reports which I am suspicious of, I offer another report. It is just another opinion based on some time on the ground in Incirlick, Balikesir, and Istanbul, albeit a long time ago.

The friction between the Turks and Kurds has been going on for generations. The friction is nothing new. Even the Turkish military draft of Kurds (as well as all citizens) always assigned the Kurds away from the common border area after training, a recognition of the historical friction, and good judgment many think. Even officers are pretty common sense about all this, and many would like to emigrate to the USA.

When the British and Russian diplomats divided up the Transcaucus and Mesopotamian world in their vision about 100 years ago, many wish they had created a Kurdistan and a Baluchistan. But they did not do so, and now the western diplomats in general support the status quo of the present nation-state boundaries, which are U.N. legal after all. Of course some of these major tribes and language groups still do not agree. Internationally, call it a realist versus idealist conflict in the west. Locally it is more like gaining an advantage, even if temporary on a path to some future. Just ask any western participant in Operation Provide Comfort who was on the ground in northern Iraq after the first Gulf War. The Kurds were just as disingenuous as the Iraqi Arabs. And I don’t mean politics, I mean shooting USA artillery.

To show my prejudice, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, would have been a perfect Secretary General of the U.N. and even world leader. But he died in 1938, and this idea is water over the dam.

As a last part of this Turkey background post for my fellow citizens, much is written about the dilemma we in the USA have about potential conflict between two allies, the Turks, and the Kurds. I’ve made my peace. It comes down to what is good for my family, and the USA. That’s what we have a State Department for. They are supposed to explain about us to them, not tell us how we are supposed to be, act, and vote.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ponzi schemes and communes always fail

And it is always for human reasons.

The present state of national affairs can be looked at alarmingly. Those running for the elections in 2008 seem to generally assume the status quo. Our national way to muscle our way out of things has been drawn down. Some candidates (mostly Democrats) seem to have a vision for our future that is different from ours. And some of us are getting upset at the amount of debt being thrown on our children, some young, some yet unborn.

Assuming the status quo is always a loser. Change is constant. Yet those social and political theorists (well intended in their minds they know) who think we in the West will go along with all their anti-carbon energy and anti-war efforts are really just taking a chance. Maybe we in the West won’t go along, and almost for certain, the arising societies in the East will not go along. Inadvertently, these social and political theorists are likely leading us to a war. Trying to get the Western world to live “third world” style will be superceded by “third world” tribes evolving into Western standards. Think of day-on and day-off water just for the toilets as an indicator.

The USA is no longer omnipotent. National power is a combination of political will, economic power, and even military power. It is not just that the USA may have “declined” recently, but that the rest of the world has “inclined” recently. We should thank our ancestors for the overall improvement in the world’s standards of living and expectations.

Who would want to live in a commune? Many of us may have thought about it, and most said no, they would rather live another way. Those that chose communes have all bailed out, for the normal human reasons. Now, incredibly, socialist commune like ideas are up again, as in the sponsor’s idealism, or even something more simple as their version to rob peter to pay paul. Where do such ego’s, “the times they are a changing”, and old time problem silliness come from?

It’s the financing of the various ideas that is always the Achilles heel. The politicians promoting their schemes and ideals expect us to pay, either now or dumped on our kids. I just try to imagine my kid or grandkid being presented with the idea of how many months they have to work just to pay their elder’s benefits. Today’s election sales pitch is what is in for “us” now which is a shameful selfish alternative. It is as though they suggest a race to the future when it all finally collapses, or more sadly, they assume the status quo and really don’t know or care to know about us today. Another sad “fact” is all the academic arguments about going into national debt pays its way. The point is well taken, but back to the amount of months some future generations have to work to actually pay in their efforts.

All this suggests we have a better way in the New World. For sure it is not European, or the Old World.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Being nuclear means ruthless is good

The recent publicity about the USAF’s screw up over nuclear weapons is a big deal.

Even the subject of the PRP has come up, called in English the “personal reliability program”. Bottom line it is a ruthless program to protect us from lazy people, wacko’s, and people in distress, like divorce or alcoholism. And it was a part of the old days when every service wanted a piece of the nuclear weapon action. The PRP worked, and it is a pain in the tail. That it is not fair, but failing an annual PRP inspection was a career ender. It was logical later to dump all the nuclear stuff on the Air Force and the Navy, and we as a Nation should be thankful for it. Good on them.

The USAF burp about nukes should ruin a lot of careers. That is a political subject which is another post

What is of interest is our USA energy interest in the future. Nuclear electrical generating plants make so much sense. All the tea leaves and flavors make political sense these days. This citizen would just like to hear about the training, and requirement to be competent, and the review if a nuclear employee goes “wacko”.

This PRP standard will go a long way. And the demand of the PRP is so basic. Just be safe run by safe trained people. And along the way, ruin some careers of those who do not get in step.
Welcome to the real world …

Which we helped grow and promoted … Good on us!

During this ever long run up to the 2008 elections, many things about our American values rise to the top of the “think about list”. Just what is important, and how much can we do about our future?

A first blush is depressing to too many.

Our incessant borrowing to finance our way of life and national policies will probably eventually collapse when the “loaners (domestic, foreign, and global)” find a better deal, which of course we helped to promote, for good or bad reason. The whole industry of international finance and borrowing is well established since WWII, and any advice is suspect as protecting the source and their way of life. Academics, exchange rates, debt as a percentage of GDP, and monetary exchange rates come to mind. So do the manipulators of same. How about our way of life? As one who has made money this way, and now come home, what happens when the lenders quit lending, not as a policy decision, but as a matter of global business. In a more local Tennessee term, why should taxpayers in Idaho help pay for the bicycle path between Monterey and Cookeville, and expect to finance it all with federal borrowing? And why should a very business like person with loyalties to a global company vice a nation even blink an eye if push comes to shove? Bottom line, in succeeding in enhancing the rest of the world, we have mortgaged our future, and nobody is going to say “thank you”, including future Americans.

The other depressing blush is how USA Americans can confuse rights with privileges. Those Americans who think flush toilets and forced air heat are a right are confused and spoiled by their upbringing. Those who confuse anarchist play games with trying to establish the American model in the New World (and hopefully later the whole world) are also similarly spoiled. The old line applies: if you think things are bad here, just move to XXXX, and then tell me what you think.

So on to the future: which blushes should be promoted, defended, and offered as one way to make humanity better? Given the “lag’ factor in human events, any pro USA, American, and New World policy is a winner if practiced by citizens, and global companies, both seeking the eternal success and survival for all time. In blue collar terms, we are still the light of the world! And our kids will still have to learn and train and fight like hell. And may others will influence us, maybe even dictate to us, what we are going to do. And like the blue collar Americans so many of us are, we can make things happen! Now that is a good blush, and the free play exercise it will be.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

So what is our American future to be?

We do have choices. Think a generation is 30 years, and so what do we want America to be in two generations, say 2067?

Are we to be some kind of China thought control dictatorship where even our internet searches are reviewed for relativism? Most doubt it given the normal human repulsion to environmental impacts like birth defects, or nepotism, or robbing peter to pay paul.

Maybe America in 2067 does want to rob peter to pay paul, here. Those playing today at anarchist games without fear of physical retribution can frolic away, and maybe even get paid. Tearing down a culture and society can be appealing to many egos. Building a new model and culture is tough work, and to be avoided by the aforementioned, most believe.

Most appalling is not the idealism and good intents (or even the paid propaganda intents), but the divide between the visionaries (as they call themselves) and the implementers. Three large normal factors loom: 1) these ideas have all been tried and failed before; and 2) whose going to pay for it all since most tax payers will bail out in the long run (60 years); and 3) we’ve already figured it out. Even China’s dictatorship cannot stop their own citizens bailing out. And the return of pay as you go will return to “like the old days”, when no one in their right mind would loan us money as a nation ($3 billion a day). This idea is not a wish, just a recognition that much change is in the air.

In the end, the world, and the USA, will be better off, we hope. What a shame so few people today will make so many of us today go through their failing painful interim process. It could have been evolutionary and better with leadership. It might have even been better as to the human outcome.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The value of a public education

Of course it depends on where you live. There are so many “bedroom communities” where families live in order to have their kids attend the local public schools. And the parents still care, vote, and participate in the control of the schools. It is so much more than a simple economic question about where to live. And many of the teachers and staff have their kids go to the same schools. There is a shared value of ownership and control and standards. This is so American.

In schools as aforementioned, another value is learned. We are truly all equal in opportunity, and hard work and discipline provides advantages in school, and later in life. This is not some quaint new idea to be patronized by politicians who think of their kids as superior by birth, or assumed having special advantages by going to private schools. Rather it can be more American brutal when a British trained student (my poo poo doesn’t stink) comes back to America in a public school environment, where his poo poo may stink. The normal American line applies: I wish I could buy him for what I think he is worth, and sell him for what he thinks he is worth, and I would be a rich man.

As a private citizen, it still hurts my feelings when I hear the derisive term “government schools”, though the point is well taken. I am a product of public education from the old days, and think well of it, hence my feelings are hurt. And I have experience with Catholic school education inside the Atlanta perimeter in the last two decades, and it is not what it used to be. The problems I perceive, and know about because I have kids, are more systemic and localized more to urban areas and some other areas; where the citizens have made the teaching of our kids an adult jobs program, with unions and restrictive laws that often protect the individual student over the group learning inherent in any classroom. The restrictions will go from benign good intents, as in including mentally retarded kids in a class, to more selfish ideas of including young thugs in the making, at the detriment to the class as a whole.

The “government school” term is also a code word for giving up on public education, and the power of all the unions and voters that have brought some of the USA public education down. I for one believe in vouchers to private schools, just because it seems to work better than what happens in too many school districts today. All citizens have to live in “today” with the kids they have today. Again, there are more succeeding districts than failing districts. But giving up is un-American, and all the advantages public education provides are worth fighting, and voting for.

So vote, mostly at the local and state level. Reverse the laws or rules that have taken away teacher and staff flexibility to use their American judgment, and enhance the laws that allow these same teachers and staff to be held American accountable, as in firing. If it takes more taxes and funding to hire more lawyers defending teachers and staffs doing our will, so be it. This is a tried and true method, it is not rocket science, and it works. Think of our lawyers against their lawyers. The idea of public education is worth fighting for, and in our National Interest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The proper place to debate our foreign policy is the Congress

And they are failing abysmally. Partisan politics and advantages and fear of losing a debate is trumping our National interests. This is a terrible state of affairs.

The last 50 years of the rise of the President in having to do what he thinks best (about wars and warfighting), or just wants to do, has been so appallingly gone along with by our Congress. One hopes and assumes some consultation went on with selected members of Congress. This is shameful. But that is also water over the dam. Now let us return to the basics today, like declare war, or not, and as a Congress and Nation. And then explain it to us.

Our last 50 years or so Congressional representatives are acquiescent in this shameful trend. The alternatives, like limited authorization, or senses of Congress, are pitiful abdications of Congressional responsibility. It’s not the finances, it is the political intent. All this has led to the mess in Iraq. Either we fight to win, or get out, seems to be the present situation. Either we sustain our faith by votes to do the executives and congressional wills in Iraq, or we quit. Unfortunately , this Iraq war has gone on long enough to where we can even vote on the competency of those waging this war. Also it has gone on long enough for disingenuous politicians to try trick we voters.

Let us return to the competency idea. Who in the executive or the congress has demonstrated competency?

Let us return to the policy idea. Are we realists, or idealists? Is Iraq, and the region often called Mesopotamia, in our vital National interest?

One more example. Can we have a real debate about the Turk genocide of Armenians, and the value of whether to have a resolution or not today. Again, water over the dam seems to apply.

The intent of this post is to say we voters are in charge. And being in charge means expecting debates of foreign policy in Congress, mostly the House of Representatives. Anything less subjects us to control freaks who act in their best interests, while citing they are doing it for us. Is it their D.C. judgment, or we the voters?
Vote out the politics of personal destruction and the criminalization of politics

While these negative political practices often work for the political sponsors, they don’t work for the Nation. Just look at the difficulty now in filling citizen politician positions in Washington, D.C. While the national population is up, the pool of desired volunteers is down. Many other less experienced volunteers do step up, but the Nation suffers from this lack of experience, often called the school of hard knocks. And this problem crosses the boundaries of the two national political parties, the executive and the congress, and the timing as to where the hiring person is in their elected period.

The problem is nationally recognized as “non-partisanship”, a nicer buzzword than something like the “criminalization of politics”. The cause can be debated, though the two main theories are: 1) the Clintons brought State politics to the Nation; and 2) the 1994 Republican take over of the House and the Congress ruined enough careers to prompt a payback, acerbated by Republican arrogance that rubbed salt into some wounds. And there are other theories, but the bottom line still is the National problem.

Most voters don’t give a rat’s patooey about the problem’s impacts on one or the other political parties. This applies as well to interrupted staff careers, and bruised egos. Most expect today's politicians to sort it out, make it happen, etc. After all, we have a Nation to live in for now and in the future, and common sense alone says we want the best citizen politicians and their hired staffs we can get to do all the domestic and foreign things that “promote our general well being”.

The evidence is compounding that the politicians inside of the D.C. beltway cannot do this, for good or bad reason. The evidence is compounding that the continued practices of the politics of personal destruction will continue well beyond 2008, and so our National descent into banana republic status and practices. The evidence is that most standing candidates get reelected.

Unless … we vote in new representatives who will break this trend of National destruction, and keep the citizen politicians coming to rule and manage us for our benefit.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The MV-22 Osprey deserves a chance for America

Ignore the main steam media and hype to date. The question and answer will be determined in combat in Iraq, and maybe later Afghanistan.

The attention gainer for this citizen was the hit piece in Time magazine about 3 weeks ago. My definition of an hit piece was any article that told you every thing about this machine that was bad, and left out all the good. Maybe that is the way things have always been, but I don’t think so. I suspect the many opponents of this terribly expensive machine had something to do with this seemingly unethical article. Then when I did my own homework, it turns out the author as done similar hit pieces on other rotary wing machines, so maybe this is how this person makes a living. And why is Time using him as an expert? No wonder Time Magazine left me and I left them decades ago.

Back to today. And it has nothing to do with the magazine.

Just in the Iraq war, what do regular Marines think about this machine, especially compared to the CH-46 (Vietnam era) used today? This is the best test, not the D.C test.

Is the Navy/Marine team idea of being a 911 force from the sea valid? Is this idea the wave of the future? Are the Marines launched by the Navy, raiders, or initial entry forces? Can we Navy and Marine types improve on our errors, well intentioned most think? After all, we are Americans in the end.

Bottom line. The time for hype and political battles and carrying the MV-22 into production has already happened. Now let’s see how it does in this small war in Iraq. In the end, what does the basic Marine say?
The attenuating effects of age, and the balance of experience that comes with it

The title makes me hopeful for the future. Here’s why.

Most young people are sincere, and dedicated, and willing to try change the world. Even my father, born in 1917 in Tennessee was such in his youth. While he shared little about his past (he was a Vanderbilt and Naval Academy grad and a 30 year Marine) he opened up once by sharing that he was a proponent for Negro rights in the 1930’s in Tennessee. Later in the 1980’s he shared that while he was against abortion, he could live with it if more dependents were aborted than tax payers were born. This was not a racial message. Rather, in my opinion, he had changed over time. The world and the school of hard knocks had changed his point of view.

Much the same, many of us have changed. My Bob Dylan days are over. And much the same I expect the many highly motivated young people to change to something else than they are today. Whatever they change to, is to be determined. What seems different is so many more care, men and women. Between going on in life as in jobs and marriage and kids, they will be worn down like most before. But also in shear numbers, they will guide our Country to some future I can only imagine. Lord, I only hope they don’t blow it.

PS In the same vein I have an older daughter ready earlier to run off with Jon Bon Jovi. Later, the youngest daughter asked me who was Jon Bon Jovi?
Vital national interests and other seldom discussed issues

One can often form an opinion as much by what is not said as by what is said. This idea applies to America in 2007. I wonder why certain political questions are just not on the table, questions about issues that are of vital national interest to us and our children. “Briefs or boxers” is not such an important question. And just who is deciding the questions that can be asked?

The run up to the 2008 federal elections seems like business as usual, i.e., the status quo reigns supreme. If the politicians and their hired campaign staffs do “a, b, and c”, then we voters will do “d, e, and f”.

And the questions not asked are not just in debates. The same principle applies to polls and polling questions. Yet debates and polls are used and citied as indicators about America today, how politicians are doing, and even as reliable predictors of what we voters will do. No wonder election results are so full of surprises. But as a voter I don’t want to be surprised!

Here’s a suggested top ten list of debate questions I would like answered.
1. What is a vital national interest?
2. What are our domestic vital national interests?
3. What are our foreign vital national interests?
4. How important is Congress in running our Country?
5. How would you build consensus between the Executive and the Congress?
6. How would you solve deficit federal spending?
7. How would you solve the Social Security and Medicare problems?
8. How would you enforce the labor and environmental portions of free trade treaties we enter into?
9. How would you lead us out of the politics of personal destruction problem?
10. How would you educate our children better than today?

All these questions demand more than a short sound bite answer. And prepared answers don’t count as answers. And of course politicians will obfuscate debate questions as best they can.

For a candidate for Congressional office, I would add three more questions.
11. Do vital national priorities trump local priorities?
12. Do you believe in term limits, and why?
13. Is it time for more amendments to our Constitution?

Poll questions, and the normal multiple choice answers, should follow this theme of debate questions to be a useful tool to all concerned, especially those concerned about surprises or embarrassment.

Last, there is a strong sense that both national political parties no longer represent we voters very well for a myriad of reasons. In raw numbers, Americans who think of themselves as independents outnumber republicans, or democrats, when taken on one at a time. In this sense is an air of great change in the making. After all, the present candidates for president are running for the two national party nominations, only. While it is simply too difficult and too late to have an independent third party effort in 2008, or a party takeover effort, it is not too late to ask those running for federal offices what they classify themselves to be to the voters. For example, instead of being “Name (D)”, why not ask them to be “Name (D.A)” or “Name (R.A)” to indicate their intention to follow some future American (A) or national interest party (N) in the future. The intent is to amplify the importance of “vital” national interests as compared to “other” national and local interests.

This voter would like to know what the candidates think about our vital national interests before casting a vote.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Recreating history vs. making history

This weekend Monterey, Tennessee celebrated an annual event called Standing Stone Day, locally called Indian Day for the local Cherokee heritage. It was an old fashioned celebration with a parade of local machines and animals, local princesses, and a small ceremony at the site of the Standing Stone, all volunteer, of course. The Standing Stone monument was installed in 1895, so the history is not too old. And the steam powered railroad, including the right-of-way, came up the mountain in 1893. When the railroad came up the mountain, it was all privately funded, as in the old time ways. And the investors and builders expected to get their money back by hauling the local timber and coal. While I do not know, I think they did get their money back.

Now the diesel powered railroad is coming back up the mountain on the same right-of-way. The spur to the now intended sand quarries was right by the ceremony site. It was like standing by history while making history. And we all celebrated.
Did we mean what we have been saying all these decades?

Many hope so. We got a good deal if we meant it. And adjusting to change is so difficult for so many humans!

The USA, its governments, its politicians, and its voters have long been associated with improving the quality of life world wide. This theme has crossed time, generations since World War Two, and governments occupied by republicans and democrats. The theme has transcended shorter term policies like the international Cold War with all its ramifications, the National War on Poverty and the Great Society, and now even Mexico is being treated more equally out of necessity, and still with a good dose of Compassionate Conservatism, it seems.

It is important to think about what might have happened. We have not been nuked, the ideal of communist and socialist ideas expanding has failed of its own weight, the Nation has not descended into some kind of environmental cesspool, and the Nation has not been dragged into regional wars that could have become world wars.

Along the way, the quality of life in many countries has improved. This is not by accident, nor incidental. It had to be promoted, and nurtured, and many in the USA should say good on us. Many of the beneficiaries will not say thank you, at least not right now. Many of the traditional nation-state and tribal frictions still abound, and will for a long time to come. And as many in the USA have a hard time accepting change, so this also applies to similar types in this new world.

It is hard to accept in the USA that we are no longer dominant, either as the counter to the Soviet Union, or as the present powerful country. Certainly we are not militarily dominant, our choice by the way. Our social power is certainly declining as the exported Hollywood culture of sex, violence, and bad language is being rejected and replaced by Bollywood of India, and other such national cultural industries, to include some in the USA. Our economic power vis-à-vis globalization is being superceded by people and companies whose loyalties and goals are not USA national goals. And most certainly our political power is diminished by those most locally interested in their lives, their families, their children, and their ability to even do this without being killed or murdered by their government.

Good or bad, all the aforementioned has been guided along by the USA, and has not been by accident, rather it was on purpose. So what are our benefits, after all, we are family people and nation-state, and tribal people, too. Well, we are at peace at home, secure enough to go to sleep at night without maintaining a guard or fire watch, and expecting some quality of life as electricity, running safe-to-drink water, local fire and police protection, and safety from traditional diseases like malaria, west-Nile virus, yellow fever, cholera, and the plague. (Whoa be to those fellow citizens who think this is naïve, silly, or superceded as our own federal government is now paying to restore wetlands (formerly called swamps or marshes). Let the mosquito borne diseases come back, and the attitudes will change with the sickness and death.)

And we in the USA are on the “right” side of humanity. Most dislike the discomfort of change and what the present state the world has come to, to include not being able to control it. But in the same vein, we have an illegal immigration problem, which suggests a good type of problem to have. This idea is deficient as it suggests others are in charge of our USA future.

We USA citizens are in charge of ourselves, and the theme that has been going on for decades makes we USA types look like the path to the future of humans on the earth. There have been serious costs at the local levels. Idealism and academic theories and political advertisements don’t change dignity and family support and perceptions of whether our federal government will enforce agreed upon trade treaties. Most local citizens in rural America just would like the competition to have to live by the same environmental rules and job rules as they have to live by. This is a not too shabby an idea.

In this is one must recognize friction, especially to change. So as we help change the world, hopefully for the better, has what has happened so far helped the USA, or not? And in the same vein, let us show the world we have been meaning what we are saying for a long time, and expect them to catch up these days, or lose business with we in the USA.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The four elements of political choice

First is the vision thing. What should America look like two or three generations out, a generation being 30 years. In 2050 are we to be some kind of super commune, a busy bee hive focused on ourselves, a new colonial power, about the same as today, some old world vision, some new world vision, or some other vision?

Second is the how to achieve the vision thing. The means and methods go from thought control and bullying, to taxing the rich to pay the poor (assuming the rich don’t cut and run), to subtle methods to generate the income to pay for the vision thing, to benign dictatorships, to whatever?

Third is defining our American values. Is the vision thing our political goal? How do we Americans say what is important to us? Do visionaries and idealists and sometimes anarchists express and define our values for our future generations? If they don’t, who does? Many think the voters do, and will. How compassionate is the public towards the entire society. How realistic are the expectations as to results. Is a permanent underclass part of mother nature’s way. Compared to the rest of the world, how do our poor compare? Is the public’s support of financing a Great Society inexhaustible? Does performance and results matter in future votes?

Fourth, and most practicable, is voting for people who share all the above goals and questions, those who can make things happen, and use their judgment to do so. One might call it implementing the vision, the how to achieve the vision, and the vision expressed as our American culture. One might say these leaders are practical. Even more importantly, these people who make things happen are at the local, state, and federal levels, are all important to our American future.

So is the future of America, the Country, or the culture, to be decided by visionaries, their implementers, the value masters, or the voters? Can Americans see through all those working on all four elements of political choice? On this rests the National Future.

Friday, October 12, 2007


What a privilege in life to see an idea rise and fall of its own weight. Former Vice President Gore getting a Nobel Peace Prize is the icing on the cake. Now maybe the idea can return to what is good for people.

When Barry Commoner back in the 1960’s made the cover of Time Magazine, many of us phoo phoo’d him as a noble idiot, well intentioned but lacking the money to do what he talked about. About two decades later when I was told I might be liable for the sins of my fathers, and my own Marines, who poured used engine oil down the drains into the local creek in NC, my antenna sprung up. While any normal citizen is for environmental type goals, having to live it and be liable is another dimension. As always, the Marines got in step, and made things happen. Whether our National Defense suffered, we can debate later. And even now, water quality from contamination from an off-base dry cleaner, and I was making babies then, and the babies drank the water, is a present day subject. Breast feeding or formula feeding in both cases uses local water.

Fast forward to the past, first. Even John Muir (Sierra Club) suggested eradicating the American Indians as messing up the pristine environment he sought.

Fast forward to today, second. Politicians have aligned with environmental visionaries to use citizen’s money to achieve their objectives, or try to do so. The practical effects are pitiful, reflecting naïve intentions and poor science by those who even think about science. Four examples are for today.

The obvious one is global warming, which finally can be discussed in scientific terms, not withstanding the environmentalists and their politicians trying to force their positions on the rest of us. The warming, its effects on the world, and the human part of it, are all worthy of public education and debate. There are pros and cons. The most cynical might remind citizens that at the end of the last ice age, New York city was ½ mile or more under the ice, and things might be better if it were still that way.

The second one is most appalling to this citizen, a land owner, and one subject to efforts of the NRDC to control my land, albeit without paying a penny. My bottom line is they want to be able to dictate my timber practices, as well as all the other practices to restore wildlife and the balance before the Europeans came. Their published objective is to keep things like they were in 1900, not 1400. Now if that is not a political objective, tell me what is. And whether one’s objectives are right or wrong, they don’t own a penny of land to achieve their objectives.

The third example is one of so many environmental do-gooder efforts being counter-productive. This idea is not just some debate about good intentions compared to results. Just look at the results in Africa with the practices in Kenya compare to, say Mozambique.

The fourth, and last example, is semi political and religious. Environmentalism has risen to an unobstructed cult or religion, without normal review and constructive criticism. Even the Catholic Church can take criticism. Good intentions, and hidden intents, go far in this newest cult, which is what it is. This cult is being made up as it goes. Thank goodness people all over the world can say what they think about all this. The aspects that are silly and daffy come to mind. Mr. Gore comes to mind.

So has environmentalism reached some kind of epoch. The obvious answer is yes. The five Norwegians voting to award Mr. Gore his Peace award are sending their message. Americans are receiving, and perhaps reacting, and will also send their message back. Our National Interest is not the same as theirs. Whether they receive or not is not even of interest to most Americans.
Stepping back and taking a deep breath

And just contemplate, listen, and think about what is really important. One might gain more insight and wisdom this way. And one might be a leader to the American future by reducing the level of rhetoric published and reverberated throughout our media and blogs. Some of this rhetoric comes across as vile (often with bad language and behavior), some as enlightened speaking to their choir, and most just emotional venting and embarrassing someone else who thinks differently. It is a target rich environment.

On a more practical level, getting riled up by all the noisy stories does little good for our Nation. And preaching to the choir does little good beyond venting about whatever story riles one up. And practically speaking, those who talk the talk about bi-partisanship as a code word for agreeing with their point of view are going to the dust bin of history. It will just take a little time.

Now don’t stop reading and listening. After all, that is the food for contemplation and thinking about things. And pundits (paid pundit is a redundant term) still have to write and publish to make a living, and the media still have their ever too busy schedules to meet in order to get paid. But the rest of us have the advantage of stepping back and contemplating and thinking, maybe even just resting.

This idea applies to a minority of voting citizens. Well above half, maybe as many as 4 out of 5, are just too busy working and running families to even have thought about the 2008 elections and all the issues about our culture that gets us going. They don’t spend as much time on getting riled up in the interim. They are just too busy right now. Good, bad, or indifferent, that is just way it seems things are.

For our Country to survive we have to work together, like it or not. While the present day buzz-word is “bi-partisanship”, there are other buzz-words that might be better like “busy as bees” or “gung ho” (working together), as in a gung ho Congress, or a State government busy as bees, or the old Atlanta being a city too busy to hate.

Now no one believes in some fairy tale Rodney King “can we all just get along” world. And there is much good work going on today that is worthy of respect and emulation.

It does seem like this working together will have to come from the voters and their votes. The politicians (with exceptions of course) have had their chance, and only made things worse for our Country. And in the end, organizing votes may count more than organizing ideas. So with the luxury of 12 months to go until the 2008 elections, now is a good time to step back and take a deep breath and think about what is vitally important to our Country.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Vital national interests as a debate discussion

The subject should be on the table as going to the core of what is important to America, or at least what the candidate says is important to him or her. The issue goes down to leadership. This even assumes they are “briefed up” on this subject which is seldom talked about by those running for office. What a sad state of affairs, especially if this is a result of media managers working in cahoots with debate sponsors. And the time leading up to the election is still over 12 months, so there is plenty of time. And the subject of vital national interests should extend to local and state elections, as well as federal elections. So many vital national interests are domestic is why.

Here’s two examples. Preserving “the rule of law” is a vital national interest. “Education of our kids” is a vital national interest.

There are many national interests. Just ask PETA or the ACLU or organized environmental groups like the NRDC. There are many international interests, too. Just ask the U.N. or the Swedish Nobel Committee. In practical terms as a straw man question, is it in our vital national interests as to whether former Vice President Gore gets a Nobel Peace prize or not?

So let us Americans have the debate about what is vital to our future. This is a most idealistic goal.

The practical suggests some form of coercion will be needed to hear what people think.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It’s our Army too

The mythical they and some son of a gun running the military has some truth. But in the end it is an American Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines, and we have much to say about it. Much of the say is dictated by our Congress, and the idea that the Defense budget is a jobs program, as in bring the taxpayer jobs home is based on reality, many believe.

The military is almost always blamed for planning to fight the last war. Point well taken, and a sensitive point it is. But the politicians and media and pundits still suffer from the same, and seem slower to respond, upgrade, be smart, or just read the tea leaves. Many think lack of experience in gun fighting has something to do with this. Here’s a trick question. If the USA has 1.5 million Americans in the military, how many are trigger pullers? The answer is a guess, since nobody knows for sure, but it is around 150,000, or about 10 to 1. Let we be generous, in Iraq we have somewhere between 13,000 and 20,000 trigger pullers. It is a shockingly small number to most of the American public. Yet that is the way it is, today.

When we Americans organize for war, we have smart choices. In a nutshell, we can do it in big or small chunks. How we organize depends on the situation, and the mission, which is a big deal term. Think of GM as an allegory. If the mission is cars, that is one thing. If the mission is jobs, that is another thing.

So this is what is happening today about our Army. Good news, and bad news. The Army is breaking down big chunks into smaller chunks, along with the support needed, as in the tooth to tail ratio. This gives future American military leaders more flexibility in small wars situations, like Iraq. And the Air Force is becoming more expeditionary in supporting foreign deployments. And the Navy and Marines are about normal, which has always been expeditionary.

Alarming to this citizen is the tea leaves I read. If the American Army organizes for future Iraq wars, fine. But if Americans get involved in a war overseas, or at home, they need bigger chunks as a way to fight war better, as in a way to win. Americans can be smart, as in selfish.

Americans have many smart military American people thinking about our future. At worse we can accuse them about fighting the last war, in this case Iraq. At best, we can think they are being listened too, and acted on. After all, it is our American Army.
Bragging about America is OK

Many in the New World would say it is just fine.

Right off, we have much to be proud of, but our style is never to force it down someone else’s throat. There are so many wonderful New World and USA cultural ideas we let go of in the Old World, like the treatment of women. Even in our own State Department, bragging rights vs. realistic rights goes on. After all the State Department is perceived to run its own Foreign Policy, well intended by fellow American bureaucrats, non-elected I may add. While some State Department bureaucrats today think they know best (and may), they are not elected, and should be subject to whoever runs the Executive and the Congress, including their staffs. Disgust or frustration with the pitiful performance of both the Executive and the Congress is for the voters to decide, not the State Department bureaucrats and well intentioned Americans as they are.

America is still the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

Now that is what the media should be for in helping out citizens figure things out.
The culture of distrust has reached a crescendo

Which is always followed by a period of calm and more soothing times. At least one hopes.

For the record, there has always been a culture of distrust in government and business and adults in general. As a father, I still don’t know why mothers are considered more trustworthy, but they are. This hurts. All this is as old as history. And when I get carded buying beer and produce an ID, I sometimes ask the cashier if they have a punch-in code for “older-than-dirt”? So that is my claim to be self-appointed to the cultural police, old time style.

What is of concern is the level of distrust that seems worse than the normal level of human friction. This especially applies to the USA. Now I am not talking about child like behavior such as “they did, so I can do it”. Nor am I thinking in terms of the most abysmal uses of the free speech idea to explain away simple mob like behavior and poor manners. Football cheers from the student section come to mind in this case. I am thinking about what appears to be a culture of distrust that is counter-productive to our Nation’s future.

Now I think my own political leaders have done some no-down no-good skullduggery for their egos, political power, and profit, usually in ripping off the treasury filled by we citizens. But in no way is it the level above anything in the far past, or recent past. So something else is going on, or I live on another planet. This idea got me thinking since I care about my Country, my kids, and the future of both.

One option is that the balance between idealists who expect, and leaders who make things happen, has shifted. Another option is information overload is both not recognized, nor appreciated. Since I am a three option kind of person, the last option is the most human, that we can be manipulated by those minorities with their own agendas who most slickly appeal to our best instincts. Again, my judgment, how else can such distrust beyond historical levels exist? The reader is presented with three choices.

Alas, all is not lost. Hope is not forlorn. Distrust has been amplified all out of proportion, historically speaking. That’s the good news. The bad news is parents still have to be parents, and voters still have to think and decide on leaders. And damn, it still hurts my feelings about mothers being more trustworthy.
Clearly we Americans are not stuck in the past

Vivid videos of public housing buildings being blown up provide an obvious example. Double standards in education called affirmative action have shown themselves to be generally counter-productive. Welfare initiatives in the 1960s have broken up families and shown themselves to have hurt too many people. In all three examples, time has shown there are better alternatives to getting the goal achieved.

The government creating dependencies that may extend benefits from the poverty class to the middle class is up for debate these days. While the trend is decades old, the recent raging debate over the use of a 12 year old to respond to the President about SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) sheds new light on the subject.

The idea of the government providing benefits to groups of people in need is not all that old an idea. There was great debate in the USA after the Great Mississippi River flood of 1927 when millions of poor southerners were placed in great distress. The gist of the debate was not the emotional issue of distress over the calamity’s effects, but the issue of short term costs versus long term costs. In a nutshell, was the government providing relief creating a long term dependency class that in the long term was against the Country’s best interests, and even counter-productive to the people in the long term?

For those using today’s standards and beliefs, be careful and considerate. The morality of the debate had strong opinions on both sides in 1927, and many of those people are ancestors, grandparents in my case, whose morals and hard-work standards were worthy of respect then and still worthy of respect now. Even the issue of civil rights and slavery goes back to the founding of our Country … it is not some 1960s issue that came up in that decade.

History shows the government did get involved in flood relief, and has been involved in relief in many other areas ever since and for many other groups since. Social security is one such example. The GI Bill is another such example. That voters have supported such government benefits says many over decades think this is good for the Country. Certainly those elected thought and think it is good for them. Just look at what seems like pandering from candidates promising even more benefits to ever expanding groups, in types and numbers, both. If you buy this premise of politicians pandering for votes by promising expanding benefits, then the question which follows is: is it good for America? After all, we voters are not stuck in the past.

Again, the recent use of a 12 year old in the SCHIP debate has provided new light on the benefits trend. It seems like a fair question to debate how much the government should be involved in providing benefits, who should get them, and what should they be. Even moral questions about short term and long term costs to the Country are fair game to this voter. Are we even helping or hurting people in the long term? And is continued borrowing to pay for all this in our Country’s interest? Will people, domestic and foreign, even keep loaning us the money?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Going backward in time or leading forward

When all seems lost and confused, idealism and good intentions count much less than old fashioned practical leadership skills to go forward with what the majority wants. If one wants evidence of this, there are many examples. With upcoming elections in 2008, local, state, and federal, it is a good time to cite some of these many examples.

Here’s a quote from the experienced Senator from Kansas about the way things are, from his point of view:

As a 13-year veteran of Washington, I understand first-hand the political bickering that constantly consumes any hope of productivity in Congress. Constantly, the fate of policy is dictated not by the best interests of our country but instead by whether the bill is being pushed by a Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. To find overwhelming bipartisan consensus on any issue, especially a hot-button issue, is truly a rarity. Yet, a divided Congress is simply a reflection of our divided country.

So in the end, Senator Brownback blames it on us, the voters. Fine. There is a leadership solution to his judgment. Let the voters of Kansas replace him with one who believes in leadership with an eye on the Nation’s future interests, and has displayed some skills in leadership.

The present Democratic front runner for the Democratic Party presidential nomination is Hillary Clinton. Here is a classic case of a person, sincere I am sure, and coldly self-controlled and disciplined (which is admirable), intending to use her 1960’s education and her mentor’s inspirations to invoke solutions to 1930’s problems and earlier. And she would try to impose them in the 21st century, if elected, and if the Congress were to go along, which is doubtful. It is notable that this looking back person will not run on her beliefs as they make her unelectable.

There are others who look backward in time as well. Barack Obama’s recent ideas of nuclear disarmament as a path to the future, is naïve and reminiscent of the ban the bomb types 50 years ago. Americans have discussed, debated, and voted on all this, and here it comes again from a person who looks backward, when we need a leader who will lead us forward. And lead means, lead, not guide, suggest, speechify, or have senses of Congress or other such squishy substitutes for leadership.

Leadership is no guarantee of future success. Noble leaders in such commune examples which failed, abound. Examples include Rugby, Tennessee (1880) and the hippy commune near Summertown, Tennessee (1971). That the USA will not be lead into becoming some kind of super commune is probably a given.

America has leaders now, and more bubbling up all the time. Leaders are made, few are born. Leaders have experience and been through the school of hard knocks balancing ideals and principles with getting things done. Leaders can be the calm in the storm. American names that pop up now include: Webb, McCain, Romney, and Giuliani, all in the national focus. But there are many, many other American leaders. Since I now live in Tennessee, Governor Bredesen comes to mind as a leader grown from a business background. He is running the State like a business … good on him.

Another very admirable quality of leaders is their ability to persevere through the politics of personal destruction and the criminalization of politics. Hats off to the leaders, their spouses, and their families for entering the arena of politics to lead us to our American future. I expect the "home" debate is as tough as the election may turn out to be.

Americans want to be led according to their goals. They are too busy to do it themselves. Americans reinforce success, not failure. Americans will vote for leaders who lead forward. Americans will not vote for those who look back in time and still try to solve these old time and long superceded problems. Americans will look askance at those who make future leaders go through the gauntlet of the politics of personal destruction. Mostly, and more simply, Americans recognize the difference between education, intelligence, and experience in voting for future leaders at all levels.

All is not lost and confused as long as we have leaders stepping up to the plate, and we vote them in.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Early in the queue as the New World is the path to human future

It is funny how one can be tripped off or tipping point offed in today’s terms. Most hot topics are doomsday, as the decline of western civilization, or if you live in the east, then it is the decline of eastern civilization. The communality is family and community respect. One can make a “subset” about values, and standards. And this is not some kind of multi-culturist diatribe.

The one thing lacking, at least in the USA, is leadership. Do we have anyone in the executive, the congress, or their hired staffs, who will step up for USA values which are mostly cultural values? No, but we do have pandering politicians appealing for our votes, 13 months out … poor devils! That it is pandering, and not real, is so sad. Most just have never been taught.

We send our children to schools, mostly public for K-12. Then some of us spend a lot of money (and a sacrifice at home) sending a kid to college to hopefully provide them an advantage in life, mostly in hiring. After that, they are on their own. Unfortunately, breeding provides little genetic advantage, even given hiring advantages provided by family connections. After all, the companies which hire and pay have to make a living, hopefully a profit. In America it is a cruel, and fair, world.

Is the New World the hope for the rest of the world? Most young people who think they have to assume the mantle, know this intuitively. Most do it by education, some do it by politics, and a few do it by ethnic appeals, to include terrorism. Many more leaders choose the non college path . The common bond seems to be the New World.

Most good leaders will compromise with raising a family, and good on him and her. And he will work like a dog as a good father should. Whether the choice is college or the alternatives, raising a family is a big deal, and good on them.

Running a country is tough work. Leading a nation is much harder.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The other side is smart, too!

They have the money and skills to practice propaganda for their cause. Many worry it is working, or may work. Some think it is a vulnerability to be exploited, either slow bleed or fast bleed depending on the strategy.

Of course, who is “they”, foreign or domestic? The answers and possibilities can be overwhelming, or depressing in numbers at least. The good news is that all show their intents eventually, and in card poker talk, both sides can play this game of life.

The money sources attract immediate attention. These days even too many USA domestic demonstrators are paid and/or coerced to show up for the media dog and pony show. The common rule seems to be: if the media video scene is focused up front then there are not many demonstrators; if the scene is focused from a high rise, then there are more people involved. The way to exploit all this is the light of day. Real demonstrators don’t need to paid or coerced to be a media puppet and a means to promote their masters ends.

The indirect money sources, often called power, also attract domestic attention. “Say anything” and “claim anything” and even “lie to gain attention, i.e. fake but true” have run their courses. Just because it is claimed, and reported, does not make it true. But the same claim, reported often enough, becomes accepted as true, is classic propaganda practice. The common fuel for this type of domestic engine is money. Somebody is funding this for their objectives, and many Americans are being puppets.

The good news is that the funding sources, domestically, are not inexhaustible. The sources can be bled dry on both the receiving end and the sending end. The rate on both ends depends on the amount of sunshine, which thank goodness is increasing. Perhaps there is a race between the perceived campaign’s effects and the running out of expendable funds. Perhaps the Americans are more savvy than many think about propaganda. It is a fair question, given the amount of normal mass media formula advertising bought and paid for today.

Let’s go foreign. Is there a clash of civilizations going on? Is there a cultural clash of values dragging in East and West? Is this another religious clash in human history? Is something monumental in human history going on?

No. This is a self appointed elitist group with really good funding. Classical small wars involve bandits and other sorts who wrap themselves in cloaks of politics and religion. This murky area is exploited by hard corps individuals who not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk. The 9/11 attacks, and the terrible impacts in the USA, only show this course of action works, and is worthy of follow up. But we in the USA can also follow up.

Somebody paid for all this foreign attack on the domestic USA. One such name is Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz. He is Saudi, and has been funding many things, to include the recruiting, training, and infrastructure to recruit and train and send young dedicated men to do us harm. His major effort in the last decades has been the expansion of Islam in Europe. Just where did his money come from, why is he spending his money, and can we bleed him dry, either slow or quick?

The answer begs the question. Is our government savvy enough to know this, and willing to do something about this? If the Saudi name is off the mark, fine. But somebody is financing those that fight for their foreign cause. They are smart, too. If we have American leaders at either the executive or congressional levels, or their hired staffs, who don’t know how to represent us, or even play some kind of foreign poker game, then the vote will replace them, thank goodness. Trading American blood for learning curves in D.C. is a loser. Time will tell.

Somebody is paying for the forecasted: the Taliban and their supporters now have the breathing space to replenish stocks and prepare for their new push into Afghanistan. It is envisaged that at least 20,000 fully trained fresh men from at least 16 entry points along the Durand Line that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan will be sent into Afghanistan.

On another front and idea:

Is this what we Americans want?
The USA is not a Western culture

America is a unique culture in its own right.

If anything in general, we are a New World culture, owing much of our culture today to Europe, Africa, and Asia. Like the rest of the New World, we have been emigrated to from the Old World, both East and West, in the last 500 years. But even in earlier historical times, it appears there was emigration to the New World from the then East and West.

It’s a heritage to recognize, and be pleased with. In theory and fact (most believe) we have taken the best of the Old World, sloughed off the worst of the Old World, and become us. Even our federal republic is different from most of the Old World governments, and we have avoided royalty and nepotism and dictatorship so far. And we are not perfect, nobody is, but compared to the rest of the World, our unique culture is worth tooting our horn about.

Will the status quo last forever. Probably until tomorrow, maybe. Our geographical isolation is shrinking by a global world expanding. Our incessant overspending and borrowing to pay for it will eventually collapse of its own weight, but what emerges will be uniquely American, and better than before (and after great hardship). Will we still get dragged down by Old World problems? Probably not, as we have already sloughed off Old World problems and failed ideas, and we do have our own unique National Interests. Will we sometimes have to be ruthless defending our culture? Yes (the best we can), after all we are an attractive melting pot for much of the World.

The converse may turn out to be the World’s future, as the New World drags the Old World along. If that is the case, American culture will probably play a large roll in this.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Another glimmer of change coming to American culture

More and more Americans are voting with their pocket books.

Call this a monetary version of “vote early and vote often”. In a recent published report, a citizen has given up his college football season tickets held for over 40 years just because the student section chants had become too profane for him. Given a 40 year period, this citizen has probably seen a minority display poor restraint and poor manners, but somehow what was suppressed poor minority behavior and language in the past has morphed into majority behavior today. Incredibly, even this behavior has wrapped itself into first amendment free speech rights. Fine. And this citizen still has the right to vote with his pocket book, and quit paying to be embarrassed in front of his family and friends. That’s fine, too. The hope is, and the expectation is there, that when students, parents, and alumni get to pay more for this rude mob behavior, then some civility in conduct will return. Maybe even faculty and staff will lose jobs due to budget cuts?

Similar glimmers of change are popping up in movie reviews, also. With more and more movies getting, or needing an NC-17 rating, even for supposed comedies, and more and more of these movies losing money in first runs or later DVD sales, citizens voting with their pocket books are showing themselves. Fortunately, there are lots more real G, PG, and even PG-13 alternatives than before.

The last glimmer of change is the demise of Antioch College in Ohio. Enough students, parents, and alumni voted with their pocket books to bring down this old institution. It took decades, and the glimmer is that similar institutions that practice, encourage, or tolerate indoctrination, vice the main mission of education, will be brought down by students, parents, and alumni, too. Certainly the college and university faculties and staffs that tolerate or reward such practices as thought control or just plain bad manners will fritter away what has been handed them on a platter. So be it if that is how things play out.

Not quite on the glimmer list but along the same theme as Antioch College is the decline in male enrollments in four year colleges. Sometimes downward trends send a good message. The trend is there, and nobody knows why. The trend does suggest that students and parents have figured it out, or think they have figured it out, enough to vote with their pocket books. The perceived value of a college education, hiring desirability, and path to the future is not what it used to be. Those with hard skills, like engineering or military education, have an advantage in hiring these days, and they are a minority. Now that is another trend. Young American males getting married and raising families have other honorable and lucrative alternatives to a four year college degree that will get them jobs, and support raising a family. If that is how “pocket book” history plays out in changing American culture, that’s fine, too.

A key point is that our pocket book votes count, and we have alternatives in how we vote. That is the glimmer of hope for change that is beginning to show itself.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Do we want revolutionaries running us?

After all:

One can lay around a lot.

Sex is pretty much free.

Someone else pays for food and drink.

One does not have to run for office.
Do not count your chickens just yet, Iraqi style

This is difficult to write for two reasons. One is that I am normally an optimist. Second is that I can differentiate short term gain from long term loss. All this from a retired Marine and supposedly died-in-the-wool Attila the Hun. And I also recognize the vulnerability of being an arm-chair general and Monday morning quarterback. As a counter, I have some education and opinion about conducting small wars such as in Iraq, and a little education about focusing on core values, often called centers of gravity. And of course I like to write about what I think, having been taught by so many others.

Before going forward, I would commend two references to read sometime. One is the 1940 “Small Wars Manual” put out by the Marines and Navy, and the other is the original H.G. Wells book “Outline of History” published in the late 1920’s. They are linked to today’s times by the common theme of humanity, unfortunately too often affected by the low life thugs and criminals who wrap themselves in the cloaks of politics and religion. There are many other good references for the western reader, also.

That we have a successful “surge” going on suggests many things, mostly short term. The President replaced his team with more experienced people who have the advantage of hindsight. They include the new General, the new Ambassador, and the new CENTCOM commander, now reinvigorated with pro-consul like authority and a proclivity for it. None of this cooperation was mandated from D.C.; America lucked out by these people working together at their regional level. And Americans should admire and thank the initiatives of their fellow citizens who are working together to overcome all the problems out of D.C. to get the mission done. That Defense activated over a 100 reservists to fill quotas State could not fill is a good example. The lack of interagency cooperation in accomplishing the mission will come out in the end, and when exposed to the sunlight, will change many things for the better in America’s future, to include who we vote for and who these elected people appoint and hire. But in the meantime, it is admirable about the initiatives being taken by our fellow Americans.

All efforts need leaders. In the case of American wars, it takes political leaders, both executive and congressional. Sometimes are better than others, and we seem to be in an “others” time. Shifting domestic and foreign frictions is what we have politicians for, as in serve us. This is why this voting citizen and retired Marine is “nervous”. We are not being well served, mostly out of ignorance and grasping at straws.

All the great reports about the success of the “surge” in Iraq are masking other things that we should be worried about. For example, and it is time to name names:
Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz has been financing various forms of terrorism against the rest of the world. One has to give it to him, he has put his money where his mouth is, and has funded a campaign of Mosque building and recruiting and teaching new attackers for over a decade.
Most of the AQI types in Iraq are recruited and funded through Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, and then funneled in through Syria.

The present “surge” strategy, as presented to the American public, suggests we will keep shooting these “ducks in a barrel” as quickly as they can be educated and funneled into Iraq. And we are doing very well. Thank goodness for a new leader and changes in the ROE’s. So this idea suggests a who will outlast who idea, the Skeikh’s oil based money against our American blood. If this idea is correct, then the Sheikh will probably win in the long term (using his money), while clearly losing in the short term. In the near term, we should kill him, and his family. Now that is a political decision. And make sure we decapitate his financial empire.

The present “surge” strategy also suggests we have done things smart in using proxies to do our work. The Sunni chiefs in Anbar taking care of AQI are the oft used example. And it is working, so good on us and good on them. In the same vein, are their more local and tribal objectives the same as ours in the long term?

The mainstream media suggests incompetence at the executive level over the four years, mostly in getting our government agencies to work together. What has been left out is the Congress’s responsibilities. Where are our leaders when we need them?

So back to counting our chickens, Iraqi style. Is the some total of what our executive and congress has done to date made us safer, or more worried about being able to wake up in the morning?