Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekend Round Up of Thoughts and Opinions

1)      Public polling is a colossal waste of time, and any elected official who lets it determine policy is both a fool and dangerous.

2)      Is it possible for our government to govern without first considering the political consequences?

3)      “Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection." – Harry S. Truman

4)      President Obama reaching out to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, may lead nowhere in the short term.  But diplomacy is about engaging your adversaries to come to some common ground; it’s tedious and slow and is why neocons hate it.

5)      When the mall attack in the US happens, I bet it originates from a Cinnabon.

6)      Only in this dysfunctional country is a constitutionally upheld law and a proposed pipeline used as bargaining chips to keep the government from shutting down.

7)      We don’t have a healthcare crisis, we have a health insurance problem.

8)      Ever notice that both sides of the political aisle love to quote Thomas Jefferson?

9)      Why does every piece of legislation introduced by Congress include a tax clause or credit?  Isn’t the tax code complicated enough?

10)   Improved U.S.-Iranian relations will be perceived as bad news by the Saudi and Israeli governments.

11)   If Republicans were serious about a bipartisan healthcare bill, they would not have waited until AFTER the Affordable Care Act to be deemed constitutional before they acted. 

12)   Raising the cost of postage by $.03 will not save the United States Postal Service.  It needs a complete restructuring and overhaul of its systems, processes, leadership, and entitlement culture that is rampant in so many branches.

13)   If Rand Paul is such a civil libertarian shouldn’t be threatening to shut down the government unless the Patriot Act is repealed?

14)   Politicians: A majority of Americans agree that spending should be cut.  Truth: Americans don’t want the part of government spending that comes their way to be touched.

15)   Scary thought: A Romney administration with John Bolton and the neocon cabal dealing with Syria, Russia, and Iran.

16)   For those Reagan worshippers criticizing President Obama for reaching out to Rouhani, it’s not like he sold weapons to the archenemy in Tehran, right?

17)   My stress levels are so much lower since I stopped watching Sunday Talk Shows. 

18)   After watching the Ted Cruz show this week, it begs the question: Is being a self-promoting clown a pre-existing condition?

19)   We are nation with real problems: education, unemployment, infrastructure, deficits, etc. and yet the one body that is supposed to be part of the solution is actually part of the problem.  Psst that means you Congress.

20)   Enabling the uninsured to get health insurance is very important, but making sure everyone has access to effective and efficient health care is more important.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

We live in a world of imperfect choices

“We live in a world of imperfect choices.”

Those words were spoken today by President Obama during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.  Eight simple words that adeptly describe most geopolitical situations and the decisions world leaders face.  We live in an uncertain world were the only certainty is being second guessed.  Second guessed by political pundits and opposition mouth pieces whose only skill is Monday morning quarterbacking and backseat driving.

Imperfect choices indeed.

Syria: Get involved to stop the slaughter and risk getting bogged down in another Middle East Muslim nation.  Force regime change to get rid of a despotic butcher, only to risk replacing him with a failed state home to terrorists or a radical Sunni regime committed to attacking Israel.  Arm the rebels so they can defend themselves, and in the process increase the rate of killing and perhaps arming the same guys we way fight in the near future.

Egypt: Continue to prop up the repressive Mubarak regime and turn our back on the demographic principles we espouse.   Let the despotic Mubarak fall and risk the rise of an Islamist regime that could destabilize the region and threaten Israel, our closest regional ally in the region.  Stand by and let the Islamist government fall and hope it is replaced by a secular pro-western government or oppose the obvious coup. 

Be the world’s policeman and suffer the consequences of spilling U.S. blood and risk condemnation or stay out of the fray and risk condemnation and possibly an unsatisfactory outcome.

Stand for our principles or choose based on our interests. (Of course I can and will argue later in a future post that these are not mutually exclusive).

Risk long term troubles to secure short term stability and interests.

Fight evil with the gloves off or stand on principle.

Will the enemy of my enemy be my friend?  And if so, for how long?

If you give an inch can you claim a mile at the end of the day?

Imperfect choices indeed.

I do not envy the men and women who have to make these choices.  A baseball player who hits .300, is considered a great hitter and that’s only a success rate of 30%.  In the world of geopolitics, a much higher success ratio is necessary and it comes down to a lot more than swing or not swing.  Worse political pressure and expediency can influence decision makers, fallible men and women who can be swayed by poll numbers.  The short term decision that leads to future troubles.

Imperfect choices indeed.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

You may be a Politicrite if...

Politicrite (n): One who changes views soley based on political affiliation; one who agrees with something when his political party does it, but opposes it when the other side does it.


-          You rationalize it is OK for a president from your party to possess excessive executive power but you oppose it when the opposition sits in the White House.  You say it’s because you trust your guy, but do not trust the other guy.

-          You oppose torture, but are silent on drone strikes based on the guy occupying the White House.

-          You think Benghazi is a major scandal and cover-up, but think Oliver North is a hero because of Iran-Contra.

-          You claim Bill Clinton cut and run out of Somalia, and think Reagan was American tough even though he split from Lebanon and chose to invade the mighty Grenada.

-          You think the GOP are corporate shills while ignoring the money Wall Street pumps into Chuck Schumer’s and other Democrat’s campaign coffers.

-          You love Bob Woodward when he exposed Bush administration screw ups but hate him when criticizes the Obama administration

-          You support the Heritage Foundation’s idea for an individual healthcare mandate right up until the point President Obama runs with it as part of Obamacare

-          You oppose raising the debt ceiling under Obama, but had no problem with Reagan increasing it 18 times during his time in office.  Fact is, it’s as much about who controls Congress as it is who sits in the oval office.

-          If you cite PolitiFact to make a political point then slam it when it makes  a judgment you disagree with.

-          You vote against raising the debt ceiling as a senator but expect congress to approve it when you are president. 

-          You try to rationalize the item above.

-          You are suddenly for immigration reform when it becomes evident that your party is on the losing end of the demographic wars.

And finally….

-          You cheer for Robert Redford as Condor in Three Days of the Condor, but think Edward Snowden is the bad guy.  Condor is the little guy who takes down the big bad CIA after a rogue element within the Agency kills some of its own bookish analysts after they stumble on a dirty little secret.  Snowden brinks out the ambivalence in me and in the context of the Condor story, one could argue hypocrisy.  <SPOILER> On a side note, I bet if there was another act in Condor, we would see the government and its cronies wage a public relations war against Condor trying to discredit him.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Excuse me while I opine:

1)      While Syria boils, not a peep about Iran’s imminent nuclear capability.  Redlines shmedlines.

2)      What happened to the Somali Pirates?  Are they pissed that the Pittsburgh Pirates are getting all of the press?

3)      40% of Americans are opposed to raising the debt ceiling.  I bet 50% are receiving government assistance.

4)      The best TV Dramas feature morally conflicted protagonist: Sopranos, The Wire, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, The Shield, Rescue Me, Ray Donovan, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, and of course the great Breaking Bad.

5)      43 shootings in which more than four people were killed in the same incident in the past four years: American Exceptionalism

6)      The hypocrisy of American foreign policy where we promote democracy but arm the repressive regimes of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

7)      The volatility in the Arab world and the lack of unity amongst the Palestinians makes the two state solution less and less probable in the near future.

8)      The Red Sox won only 69 games last year and this year they have the best record in baseball.  John Farrell is an obvious choice of Manager of the year.

9)      The Republicans have essentially given up when their past rallying cry of repeal and replace Obamacare is now just a lame repeal vote in the House.

10)   Sundance has been running One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.  In related news GOP field for 2016 starting to firm up. 

11)   The media’s fixation in declaring political winners and losers during every debate and negotiation is neither responsible nor beneficial.

12)   Are you as shocked as I about all of the mass shootings in Japan because of violent video games?

13)   First the targeting of Arizona’s Men’s Basketball Coach Sean Miller and now the major screw up during last weekend’s ASU-Wisconsin football game is shining a not-so-flattering light on Pac-12 officiating.

14)   Edward Snowden was nominated by the European Parliament for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought along with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban to become a defiant voice in the struggle for education rights for women; Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic who is imprisoned in Russia; and Erdem Gunduz, who helped inspire the mass protests against the Turkish government.  Leftist and Green party members in Europe really hate the U.S Intelligence machine.

15)   It’s just a matter of time before we 3D printing human organs putting organ donors out of business.

16)   Happy Constitution Day.  You’d think it would be a real holiday.

17)   Here’s a novel idea: instead of mandating that all public school kids read the pledge of allegiance, why don’t we ask each and everyone one of them what the pledge means to them?

18)   So Morning Joe is no longer brewed by Starbucks.  I guess there’s always Chock Full o’Nuts.

19)   How screwed are the Celtics?  They are paying  a nine year veteran, about to play for his sixth team, with a career average of 6.6 points per game, $12,000,000. Kris Humphries welcome to Boston.

20)   The post-Assad transition will be messy, deadly, and bloody; will the international community, especially the Arab League, answer the call to stabilize the region?


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Middle East, Madmen, Missiles, and Missions

Syria…what to do about Syria.

As the debate rages, opinions, perspectives, ideas, and arguments are flying for and against action.  It comes down to quite a few talking points I have tried to summarize as best as possible:

1)      There is insufficient proof that Assad used chemical weapons.  After the Iraq ginned-up debacle, Americans are naturally more skeptical of their government and the world is a lot more untrusting of American claims.

2)      We haven’t exhausted all diplomatic solutions.  How do you know when more talking is frivolous?  If you believe President Obama is a ‘reluctant warrior’, has he not reached the point that further discussion is pointless? 

3)      We shouldn’t go it alone.  If neither NATO nor the UN have called for military action, then why should America be the military course of last resort?

4)      It’s a Muslim thing.  The Shia/Sunni divide goes back centuries and every time we insert ourselves into the mix we end up the bad guy.

5)      It’s the end of the post imperial era. First Lebanon, then Iraq, and now Syria are simply returning to their pre-colonial tribal states.  Like much of the Middle East and North Africa, we are seeing a reset based on ethnic and religious sects and it will be long and messy with or without or intervention.

6)      It’s about oil.  Well not really.  Syria is not a major oil player, but rest assured the consumers (us), the producers (OPEC), and the middle men (U.S. refiners) will be impacted by any action.

7)      The anti-FDR, fear of reprisals.  What if Syrian, Iranian or their proxies attack U.S. institutions in response. 

8)      What’s the mission?  Is it simply to bloody Assad’s nose or is it about regime change?

9)      And then what? Will 72 hours of bombing really matter?  Those against a ‘limited attack’ claim it is just a preamble to a wider scale invasion.

10)   The price of inaction. If we don’t act, we are sending a signal that dictators and despots are free to murder and oppress their people via the worse means without recrimination.

11)   False equivalencies.  This will end up just like Iraq or it is just like Kosovo.  Neither are applicable as comparing the Syrian situation to either of those interventions is simplistic.

12)   The devil you know.  The fact is, in the short term, as history point out, dictators maintain control at the expense of freedom or liberty.  Once they are toppled, chaos, civil war, sectarian violence, and anarchy ensue.

13)   American principles call for us to act.  Doesn’t America stand up for the little guy and defend liberty and freedom everywhere?  Are we not the shining light?

14)   Is it in our nation interests?  Are we safer, freer and more secure if we act?

15)   The American people oppose action.  The American people also oppose taxes and I bet 90% couldn’t find Syria on a map.  We are not a democracy, we are a republic and how people feel is between a Congressman and Senator and their constituents.

16)   How do we pay for this mission when we have such high debt and so many homeless, hungry, and unemployed here in America?

17)   We should just arm the rebels.  Which rebels?  The secular Christian rebels are the ‘bad rebels’ but we have the stronger Sunni Al-Qaeda ‘bad rebels’.  If Assad should go, the real battle will start and the weapons we supply today will be used against us tomorrow.

18)   We should focus on the humanitarian crisis, not military action.  There are millions of refugees in Jordan and Turkey in make shift camps, that’s where our aid needs to go.

19)   If we don’t act we look weak and our ‘friends’ and enemies won’t respect us.

20)   Assad used Sarin gas and that means he has indeed crossed an international and humanitarian redline, but is that really worse than the 100,000 killed conventionally?

21)   We need to save Israel versus why are we always fighting Israel’s war.  Fact is Israel has and will take care of itself.

The above list is a as shallow as it is wide, I simply wanted to list out the arguments I have heard over the last few months, and I have been swayed by a number of conflicting arguments.  Yes, like the situation on the ground in Syria, this is one big grey area.  And while Americans like black and white and me may live in a digital world, problems and decisions go beyond 1’s and 0’s.

The president will take to the airwaves on Tuesday, September 10th to argue his case for action to the American people.  September 10th, just 12 years after America got the wake-up call about jihadists and global terror.  I will listen to what he has to say, many will mock and ridicule him out of hand and others will eat up everything he says as gospel.  For one hour, let’s stop worrying about Miley, Dancing With The Stars, Johnny Manziel, the pennant race, and the cast of Fifty Shades of Grey, and listen to what President Obama has to say.  We all may just learn something.

For the record: I support a narrow mission that weakens Assad’s ability to murder innocent civilians that leads to a diplomatic solution where Assad is no longer in power.