Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beckholes We Have Known

I keep wondering whether the American people will ever catch on that Beck and Palin are basically highly paid employees of Rupert Murdoch and that he is the guy behind the screen pulling the strings—ahh, where is the Great Wizard of Oz when w e need him? At least he showed some pizzazz. Beck is just the stuff of Nazi Germany in 1930, except here we have an Australian billionaire putting words in his mouth, instead of a megalomaniacal racist murderer—ahh, but there’s time yet, isn’t there Rupert?

Apparently, between Rupert and the Koch family, even greater billionaires than Rupert, we have quite a set of heavy hitters, attacking our democratic system of government. Clearly, they don’t like America as it has stood over the past couple of hundred years and they wish to change it. They align themselves with racists like James Hagee, and complain about terrorists right here in America, while simultaneously being partly owned by a Saudi oil billioinaire money who is tied to terrorists.

They are reliable, though. They adopt names for their fronts, like America First in the old days, so they will have a patina of pretend on their efforts. We long ago learned that the republican party learned the lessons of labeling—Clear Skies Act to cover a legislative bill aimed at reducing controls over industrial polluters.

They’re also reliably Christian, in the mold of the Christian Taliban, that is. Nothing remotely subtle about this crowd.

So the Beckhole had his rally to restore honor to America and Palin promises to “take back “ America, not that she’s being political or anything. Actually, the only thing Sarah is about is collecting as much as money as possible before her brass ring turns to crap.

And on “taking America back”, I think it is time to recycle. I wrote a while ago a small piece that I think needs retelling, and with it I will end this tiresome tirade.

Getting a Grip

I have begun thinking that Republicans have lost their grip on reality altogether. In watching an episode of the Jon Stewart show, he played a few bits from recent Fox “News” shows. Glenn Beck yells in rage that this is no longer “his country.” People attending the pseudo-town hall meetings are seen yelling about how they are scared of Obama, with one woman yelling that she “wants her country back.” Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a congressman who has been compared with Jesse Helms, informs his constituents that the United States is now like Germany under Adolph Hitler. They seem vaguely psychotic, or simply good actors feigning rage.

I started thinking that these crazed people need to get on the road and begin driving.

First, I thought, they need to drive all the way out to Arizona, to Canyon de Chelly, where the Navajos have a reservation, with a history dating back to 950 AD, when the Anasazi lived in the pueblos there. It would be useful for these people to ask permission to attend a Navajo council meeting, so they could address the assembled Navajo people on their fervent wish to “take back their country.” I am left wondering what the assembled Navajo people would say to them.

Then, after they leave the Navajo reservation, I would suggest that they drive East, maybe going first to Detroit . . . inner city Detroit. I would suggest that they attend a Sunday church service in a black church there, and that they address that assemblage on how scared they are of President Obama, and how they want their country back.

Then perhaps they might drive to another city, I’m thinking maybe Atlanta and the Ebenezer Baptist church, where they could inform the mostly black audience there about their great fears of this first Black President, and how he resembles Adolph Hitler, and how they feel like the residents of Jewish Ghettos, just before the Jewish residents were hauled off to concentration camps to be gassed.

After those experiences, perhaps these crazy people might begin to understand just how far out of touch with reality they have moved. They might then be able to consider driving to the nearest dump and offloading their mostly racist attitudes and detritus.

Then I would suggest they attend their neighborhood church and ask God for forgiveness.

Couldn’t hurt.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pakistan as a Medieval Problem

It is almost painful to listen to the news reports of thousands of Pakistanis killed, injured, or stranded and starving from the rising flood waters. The inattention of their government is almost palpable, if not exactly surprising. One Pakistani reporter, discussing the situation asserts that these villages are practically medieval, so little development has there been in that region.

For the past 63 years, the Pakistani government has remained fixated on the “Indian threat” (which does not exist). Alternatively, that government has focused on arming and instructing “militants”, code word for the Pakistani ISI civilian soldiers, to further the “take-back” of Kashmir, which they continue to believe is rightfully theirs. They continue to pursue military actions, including the periodic takeover of their “government”, despite the awful living conditions of the Pakistani people. The ISI, their version of the CIA here, continues, like our own CIA, to act independently and irresponsibly, creating continued furor and general mayhem with its Indian neighbors. Apparently there is something inherent in the function of intelligence agencies that causes them to act like incompetent idiots most of the time.

It would seem, after 63 years, that the Pakistanis themselves would have tired of their constant quarrels with India, and with their ISI constantly cozying up to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, and the Taliban, on their Afghan border. One might imagine that common sense would have begun to prevail, but apparently not. After all, common sense has yet to prevail in the Arab-Israeli dispute after really the same period of time. It makes one wonder what exists in the minds of Islamic governments, besides creating their version of Hell on earth for their own people. All these messes make for a powerful argument for secular governments everywhere. Maybe religions just don’t belong as governing agents. You think?
Kindly take notice Christian Taliban members.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Teabag Party

I find myself wondering about the inner workings of the Republican National Committee, and what they must talk about at their meetings, knowing that they have been taken over by an Australian, Rupert Murdoch by name. I wonder especially what Republicans like Bob Dole, or Barry Goldwater, or even St. Ronald would have thought about this turn of events.

Apparently, the eight years of Neo-Con misrule, which produced two desperately bad wars, the worst economic performance in the Nation’s history and, finally the loss of power in 2008 was too much for the party to bear. So, they went to sleep—it’s what deeply troubled, depressed people often do when they can no longer stand the shame of their lives.

And, while they were sleeping, Rupert and his merry band of actors at the Faux News Network, decided to take over the party. First Rupert formed The Tea Party, and then, with the help of his acting troupe, he went on the offensive against the somnolent leadership of the Republican Party. He demonstrated how a lot of money and no principles could be used to generate an astonishing amount of noise . . . noise that would energize people who otherwise had no political experience, and fewer scruples. And so the Republican Party became rebranded as The Tea Party. And Glenn Beck and his mama grizzly became its chief spokespersons.

And so it was . . .

And elsewhere, Newt Gingrich slipped farther away somewhere in outer space, while mumbling about Nazis in our midst.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Radical Right, aka republicans

Ever since the radical right subsumed the Republican Party, I have been watching and reading in sheer amazement. Frank Rich wrote an Op-Ed piece in Sunday’s newspaper, in which he warned Obama that action is necessary, and the sooner the better, to begin resolving the unemployment problem. He warned also that running against Shrub is no longer a viable option, due to the selective amnesia of the right wing and Americans generally.

He is right of course. It is no longer possible to paint Republicans with the brush of Bush failures, however monumental. Action is surely necessary since there is no available source of employment any longer, due to the sheer ineptitude of the free marketers. No, the only way to increase employment now is to literally create whole new industries, principally energy and infrastructure related. The private sector basically sucks at the game of infrastructure development. If you think about the telecom business and the incompetent infrastructure we now have, it becomes clear why the privates don’t do well in this area. I keep wondering what our interstate highway system would be like now had we relied on the big three automakers to build it—which is what we did with the cell phone infrastructure.

So, yes, we need to invest now and heavily, although exactly how we pay for such investments is unclear, given the mood of the nation and the right wing Congressmen. It is by no means clear to me that Obama will be able to do anything in the investment area, because of the blizzard of complaints he will receive from the anarchists who now make up the Republican Party.

Heaven help us all, cried Tiny Tim, should the republican anarchists actually take over the Congress. What do they want to do?

1. Repeal the Federal taxation system and abolish the Internal Revenue Service. Obviously, without any federal tax structure, there will be no money to pay for a federal government, so arguably, those anarchists now running against government will be willing to give up their positions after they succeed.

2. “Privatize” Medicare and Social Security, by which they mean eliminate both. But, since there would be no money to pay for anything anyway, that policy position would be subsumed by their basic policy—no federal government.

3. We assume that, with their policy of no federal government, we would have no military, so we would then be open to being run over by anyone with bigger guns.

4. Since several states wish to secede from the Union, we can assume that The United States itself will begin to break up into factions, with perhaps a half dozen entities emerging. Perhaps some of those entities would be less interested in the anarchy being proposed by the republican crazy party. So, we might eventually see a Northeast America emerging, with its own federal government. It seems likely that the Confederate States of America would also re-emerge, although whether it would have a government is unclear. Obviously the “Nativist American Region” (Far West) would become a region, although without a federal government, the residents might have to contend once again with the actual nativists in that region (aka Navajo, Hopi et al).

5. Without any funding base, one assumes that the entire American health care system will collapse, leaving all residents (there would be no longer any “citizens”) to cope on their own. And it seems likely that these proposals would also eliminate the problem of illegal immigration, since this country would become even more hopeless economically than Mexico and other central American countries. Nobody is likely to want entry into this region, legally or otherwise.

So, Mr. President, we need you to “get crack’n” on this employment thing. There’s more to this upcoming election than anyone seems to realize.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Failure of Free Market Economics

A recent article in the NY Times concerns the increasing concern about our current Great Depression II, brought about by free market conservative, Republican economic policies. In the best tradition of “free market” economic policies, governments basically keep their hands off global trade, allowing the traders and the producers to decide themselves how best to devise both the markets and the supply sectors to optimally meet the needs of private business. Governments, it is held, only get in the way to stifle free trade, and render markets “inefficient.”

So, for at least eight years, we saw the growth of free-marketeering, including especially two activities: 1) investment banking, and 2) global outsourcing.

The first activity produced the real estate “bubble”, which burst cataclysmically, bringing down much of the global banking systems to the point that massive government intervention was required to avoid the worst form of a meltdown of the world’s financial systems.

The second activity has been growing for a long time, even under prior Democratic administrations (see Clinton and NAFTA). The net result of this activity is the creation of an economic system in which global trade is dominated by a single criterion—low cost. That criterion has virtually eliminated all others, e.g. quality, reliability, energy efficiency. And from the perspective of the United States that single criterion produced a massive shift of production sources from the US to other lower cost countries.

Within the US, that shift was disguised for a time by the housing bubble in which, as manufacturing shifted outside the US, reducing manufacturing employment, the real estate industry sucked up the available workforce. When the housing bubble broke, bringing the entire real estate industry to its knees, the workforce shrank almost immediately, delivering to our Nation the worst unemployment picture since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The handwringing now going on keeps pointing to the static employment market, which is the worst we have seen literally since the 1930s.

And the prospects look grim for the foreseeable future, precisely because global outsourcing has virtually eliminated the manufacturing base in the country. When was the last time you bought anything made in the US?

So, now our free marketers are beginning to yell for government intervention—specifically massive government investment in new industries (not yet subject to global outsourcing) such as clean energy, and other high tech infrastructure. So, do these same experts now admit that free market approaches basically don’t work and some mixed public-private economic system is required to stabilize the world’s economic systems? Well, no, of course not. They admit nothing. They simply want to be bailed out again, as was the case with the banking sector.

And what would happen if the President complied and attempted to go even further into debt to get us out of this employment-less recovery cycle? Well, in the best tradition of “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”, the right wing extremists, currently in charge of the loyal opposition (aka Republican Party) would immediately trash him for fomenting a socialist takeover of the nation. So, go ahead and do the right thing Mr. President . . . if you dare.

And on another front, the Holy Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has weighed in on the immorality of the US, decrying the compassion shown by the Scottish government in releasing the Lockerbie Bomber, because he is dying (aren’t we all?). Really guys . . . the Catholic Church is lecturing us on morality and compassion?? Wow, that meets any definition of Chutzpah!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pentagon Papers Redux

WikiLeaks has achieved exactly what the Pentagon papers did during Vietnam.

Um, no, in Vietnam, we didn’t know that the government had been lying to us systematically, whereas now we have known for years about the lies. WikiLeaks 90,000 documents largely seems to have been a case of “suspicions confirmed.”

So, what about the case for shutting down WikiLeaks and maybe shutting down Mr. Assange personally?

Well, that case revolves around two issues: 1) people could get killed, especially the people in Afghanistan who have collaborated with us, and who are named in the documents.; and, 2) whether Mr. Assange actually is guilty of committing espionage.

U.S. law defines espionage as transmitting classified national security information "with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation." Apparently, whether Mr. Assange is guilty would depend on how he acquired the documents (did he participate in obtaining them?) and whether he believed he would be harming the nation by distributing them in the manner he did.. A jury would have to wrestle with that question.

That people almost surely will be killed based on his act seems certain. One assumes he would argue that innocent people are being killed daily, and his leakage of the documents was designed to achieve a reversal of US policy, i.e., to see us leave Afghanistan, and at least to stop the killing by Americans.

This business of transparency seems difficult to achieve during wartime. Our democracy requires a measure of secrecy if we are to be able to prosecute a war, yet democracy by its nature demands transparency. When I worked in the aerospace industry, the need to secure classified material was paramount, and we practiced a “clean-desk” policy at all times. Even though I rarely had access to top secret and never to “Q” material, I still felt constrained to not talk about what we were doing, and to never share documents outside the project. But that was when we were engaged in producing weapon systems to deter Soviet threats—the height of the Cold War.

Vietnam seemed to change everything. It is arguably true that our leaders, principally Roosevelt, lied to the people at the outset of the war (WW II) to allow us to become engaged, that war, “the Good War”, seemed worth such a challenge. Everything after that war became more doubtful, and in Vietnam Johnson and his advisers simply invented the pretext for the war, producing 50,000 American dead, and perhaps a million Vietnamese and Cambodian dead. They simply decided that, like in Korea, the North had to be contained, and “the end justified the means”.

In Iraq, George W. Bush took that approach one large step farther. He invented, out of whole cloth, a pretext for a war for purposes even now unclear. He and his advisers simply made it up, leading to more Iraqi deaths than anything contemplated or carried out by Sadaam Hussein.

But in Afghanistan, we seemingly had cause to attack. We were, after all, attacked by a group given safe haven by the Afghan government at the time. So, ridding the world of that government seemed a good and just cause. That, like everything Bush did, our government was inept in its prosecution of that war begins to make the case for transparency. Can we succeed in Afghanistan, now that we have bungled the job so badly—we after all make the Soviets look reasonable, and they eventually turned tail, giving the world an Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban.

The most hopeful outcome of the WikiLeaks saga is that we will have an honest debate about why we continue in Afghanistan, and how best to extricate ourselves. The answer is by no means clear. Leaving at all, is highly likely to result in the return of the Taliban, especially since we bungled the task of finding and killing the real leaders. But staying seems equally unlikely to result in any positive outcome. We are dealing with a 13th century people there, and conventional 21st century notions of democratic governments seem to have little meaning. Tribes, ethnic groupings, maybe villages, seem to matter more than notions of democracy. Corruption is a given, and leads one to consider bribery as an attractive exit strategy.  Even there, we have tried bribery with Pakistan for something over 50 years, and look what that produced.

But, like all else in America today, an honest debate on the merits of staying or leaving Afghanistan seems unlikely, since we have no responsible opposition party in this country. Republicans have driven themselves to the extreme edge of right wing thought and behavior to the point that they are now incapable of arguing coherently about almost any subject. Without a responsible opposition party, the democrats seem incapable of carrying out such a debate by themselves.

And in the meantime, we will continue to attempt to “shoot the messenger,” Mr. Assange and others of his ilk. But with or without Mr. Assange, the leaks will continue, because the policy seems corrupted, and people continue to die daily. Our troops deserve better.