Monday, October 27, 2008

Another GOP Traitor

This blog was started in frustration from watching the talking heads and politicians lie and misstate the facts for whatever advantage they seemed to crave at the time, no matter how counterproductive a stand might be for the country or even themselves.

As we wind down to Election Day, such backbending has come to a head - but also will hopefully soon subside, at least for a while.

In honor of the upcoming respite from 24/7 political bullshit flying in my face, I have decided to come out of the voting closet and declare my intentions to vote for ABM - Anybody But McCain.

While I do, with reservation, endorse Sen. Barack Obama - it is only because the alternatives (from any party) are completely unpalatable.

Sen. John McCain built his reputation as a war hero and political maverick. He braved imprisonment and torture in Viet Nam, and earned the well exercised right to refer to VC's as "gooks" up through 2004. He sided, rightly, against President Reagan when he deployed US Marines to Lebanon, and celebrated their return after their barracks were destroyed in Beirut. He crossed the Senate aisle time and time again for efforts he championed, including the infamous McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. And most recently, he supported President Bush and his horrible misadventure in Iraq when no one else would; notable especially given that antiwar sentiment made Rep. Ron Paul a serious GOP Primary rival and propelled Sen. Obama to his party's nomination.

However, the maverick has long since disappeared into the sunset. In his place is a man who fights for power and an ability to make war with anyone, anywhere. He supported the bailout when constituents across the country filled Congress' email boxes with opposition - even when he could have pointed to a record of supporting fiscal reform. He, along with much of the West, was on the wrong side of the short lived war in Georgia - waged by a man who dared to preemptively bomb his own citizens during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. And in a classic Faustian/Tolkienic exchange for power, with the GOP nomination he accepted all that was bad about the right wing of the Republicans (xenophobia, exceptionalism, stratospheric naivete, batshit craziness) and none of the good (humility, morals, frugality).

While McCain may be a great candidate for the US Senate - as someone with enough ego and enough political capital to stop too much insanity from becoming law - he is obviously not a strong enough personality to bring the maverick to the White House. And unlike President Clinton, he has no GOP version of a Democratic Leadership Council to back him up. A moderate politician without a moderate base of support is simply an extremist who won't get much sleep.

As for third parties - this cycle they are a joke. Rep. Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party has gone the way of Ambassador Alan Keyes - he likes "being" a Presidential candidate, he just doesn't seem to like the idea of trying to actually win. Ralph Nader has some interesting things to say, but one wonders if he simply squanders funds with his quadrennial run for the White House. Personally, I have always felt that third parties belong in the grassroots... it's much cheaper to run for small city councils and county commissions than for the top jobs - and such positions have a lot more day to day influence.

Which leaves us with Sen. Obama. Had he been up to it, Republican and former coach Mike Ditka could have stopped Obama's candidacy back in Illinois during his first (and only) US Senate race. Obama's political fortunes have seemed destined to be carried on the back of GOP disfunction. While Obama has a definite lack of experience and not much legislation to his name (not necessarily a bad thing), his sense of timing is impeccable. And as celebrities go (Obama was the basis for Blair Underwood's character on L.A. Law) America has been lucky so far. Sen. Fred Thompson, Pres. Reagan, Gov. Ventura, and Gov. Schwartzenegger are all passable politicians who were elected more for who or what they were than for completing an American cursus honorum.

Thankfully, Sen. Obama is more than an articulate black man in a "throw the bums out" suit. While his ideas on the economy and capitalism in general are suspect, his ability to think through ideas and develop policy are not. When the Democrats took back the US Senate, Sen. Hillary Clinton declared that her failed and ridiculed 1990s plan for Universal Healthcare was back as well. Thanks to his butchering of a classic Beach Boys song, in a McCain administration Tehran is doomed - and to hell with the consequences. Everything available from Obama's background (unfortunately that includes his law review days) seems to indicate that he would facilitate decent policy, and not dictate bad policy. And in this cycle that's the best we've got.

The best advice I have received concerning choosing a candidate or a party was from a good friend and colleague of mine. He once said that he couldn't see himself voting for someone if he couldn't see himself associating with his supporters. For me, I couldn't see myself hanging out with the zealous halfwits that supported Vice President Al Gore in 2000 or Kerry in 2004. Now, thanks to the xenophobic frenzy that the McCain-Palin campaign has stirred up - I wouldn't be caught dead in a GOP rally.

Nothing is certain in politics, and the best know how to campaign one way and govern another. It's my opinion that Sen. Obama hasn't yet mastered those tricks, and he would generally willing to look beyond his leftist leanings and at least make an effort to govern in a way that reflects the facts and is best for the country. If that isn't audacious hope, I don't know what is.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Russia Holds All The Cards...

Reading the bloviations from Secretary Rice and the White House concerning Iraq is physically painful. The utter shameless and hypocrisy crystallized into tangible form with UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's statement that the days of violence to settle political disputes are over... "in Europe." John McCain's unwavering support of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is baffling, until one learns of his campain manager's connections to the current Georgian regime, McCain's virulent Russophobia, and his megalomaniacal thirst for war.

The unfortunate truth now is that thanks to seven years of a schizophrenic and masochistic American foreign policy, John McCain and famed Gen. George S. Patton might agree on something - war might be the only thing the Russians will understand.

What other option does NATO have if it wishes to "punish" Russia, like an errant child? Russia is marginalized in G-8 talks discussing currency priorities. There is little hope for Russia to join the World Trade Organization as long as Ukraine and Georgia raise objections. The NATO-Russia council has failed answer key Russian policy objectives like averting the bombing of Russia's ally Serbia; the invasion of Iraq; European deployment of missile defense systems; or offers of NATO membership to the former Warsaw Pact nations of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. Trade embargos with Russia would be suicide given their major exports are oil, natural gas, and metals - all vital commodities keeping the European economic engine humming. If the three major tools of persuasion for countries are diplomacy, economics, and the military - well, only one is left, and no sane politician wants to go there. Georgia, for all of Saakashvili's charm and bravado, simply isn't worth it.

Frankly, the Bush Administration is handling this situation all wrong. As soon as Russia made it clear that she was serious about taking the Georgians to task - we should have cut bait and given Russia our support. Georgia didn't stand a chance against the battle hardened Russian army, and even if the US wanted to help Georgia militarily - there just wasn't enough time to make it happen. With the Black Sea too shallow to hold our aircraft carriers, not to mention having to get the Turks' permission to get access to those waters, and our military spread thin like butter in Iraq and Afghanistan we had no ready forces to make an immediate impact. The only thing that could have been salvaged was American soft power and the moral high road.

Rather than back Georgia unilaterally, Bush should have scolded Saakashvili for bombing his own people, praised Putin's heroism towards the Ossetians, and pushed for UN peacekeepers to be sent in on Friday afternoon before the Russians had a chance to overrun Georgia proper. This realpolitik response would have taken best advantage of the impossible situation on the ground. Right now Russia holds all the cards... Their experience with Chechnya proves they are willing to stick it out and fight if they need too, and NATO isn't in a position to stop them without going all out. The best thing is to side with the winner, and make Putin a part of the solution, instead of a part of the problem.

The best part about that strategy is that it is what he wanted all along.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iceland Might Be Upset with McCain Today

Matt Drudge reports that John McCain will make a speech discussing the "youth" of the United States. Here is his excerpt...

MCCAIN 'YOUTH' SPEECH PLANNED FOR TUESDAY: 'For much of our history, the world considered the United States a young country. Today, we are the world's oldest constitutional democracy, yet we remain a young nation. We still possess the attributes of youth -- spirit, energy, vitality, and creativity. America will always be young as long as we are looking forward, and leading, to a better world'...

There are a lot of things to be critical about in this statement, but lets start with the easy one. As far as I know, the Republic of Iceland is the oldest continuous constititutional democracy in the world, having formed a democratically elected legislature and judiciary back in 930. It was called the Althing, and has been in existence for most of the 1000+ years since its inception. In fact, the original meeting place, Thingvellir ("parliament fields") is now a national park. How do I know this? I've been there.

I take my world constitutional democractic history seriously.

So, there's that. Also, I don't even think the US is a close second. After all, our founders modeled the US Constitution on the one that governed the Swiss, the Bundesbrief (circa 1291).

While I am being nit-picky, the reality of the matter is that in the next presidential term less emphasis should be placed on world leadership and national greatness, and more should be focused on solving problems here at home. A falling dollar, rising commodity prices, crowded prisons, and a increasingly forboding surveillence regime are issues that need our attention right now. As of today, America is not in a position to lead - nor should it, until we can solve these very very pressing problems at home.

If America is still young, than we would be best be described as sophomores - also known as "wise fools."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Whites vs. The Wrights

Scott McConnell over at @TAC (The American Conservative Blog) commented today on Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments on race and its relevence in cultural discourse. McConnell makes the case that we, or at least white people anyway, have reached the post-racial reality that so many Obamaniacs have hoped he would bring. Citing the lack of riots since the 1990s, and the fact that immigration has made the racial issue much less bipolar in this country.

For white people, race may be a dead issue. Whites in general no longer disgrace themselves by tolerating such evilness as the Klan or violent white supremicism. In many American cities, interracial marriage is tolerated, if not accepted entirely. Affirmative action led to some egregious instances of "reverse discrimination;" but unlikely heros like Ward Connerly and the Federal courts have rolled back the worst of the excesses - leaving a feel good level playing field behind. And these days, the growth of the urban black middle class makes it easy to find at least one black friend in which a white person would share some common ground.

Add to that the reduction in crime in major cities like New York and Chicago, and New Urbanism developments in other cities like Atlanta and St. Louis, it is possible for whites to live in a cosmopolitan environment where racialism is a thing of the past.

What Scott McConnell fails, or does not care to realize is that race still matters to those who aren't urbanized whites. Blacks in particular are affected by the wealth gap rather than the income gap (which for many communities is largely closed), and being caught in a vicious tyranny of low expectations - both part of a legacy of race discrimination and lack of direction. The fact that a disproportionately high number of black men are in prison and/or poverty is a derivative problem from the ones mentioned above.

As an institution that predates McConnell's post-racial reality, the black church was one of the few institutions interested in solving those two major concerns. And given that we as a society are only two generations removed from widespread discrimination, it seems funny to expect leaders who remembered those days to assume all is well with the world.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Food Rationing In America

It's true. Right now its imported rice in California, and flour in New England. If we don't let the ethanol boondoggle go, wheat and bread will be next.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

British Ministry of Defense Feels A Draft

After being caught with their pants down. Hopefully you remember the incident in the Persian Gulf where 14 British sailors were arrested by the Iranians for violating their territorial waters. Publicly the British cried foul, but the heroic Times of London proved that the Brits knew they screwed up all along. Here is what really happened.

Newly released Ministry of Defence documents state that:

— The arrests took place in waters that are not internationally agreed as Iraqi;

— The coalition unilaterally designated a dividing line between Iraqi and Iranian waters in the Gulf without telling Iran where it was;

— The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ coastal protection vessels were crossing this invisible line at a rate of three times a week; It was the British who apparently raised their weapons first before the Iranian gunboats came alongside;

— The cornered British, surrounded by heavily armed Iranians, made a hopeless last-minute radio plea for a helicopter to come back and provide air cover.

Wow. I hope someone is fired over this. Ahmadinejad has his issues, but he was smart enough to treat the captured sailors well once he realized that he was going to be on the winning side of the dispute. I don't think Bush and his ilk are nearly that clever.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Iraq War Self Funded? Iraq Won't Even Put Something On It...

But Iraq has money, a nice oil surplus in spite of the fact that current oil exports haven't reached Saddam era levels. This is appalling.

Iraq is looking at a potential boon in oil revenue this year, possibly as much as $100 billion in 2007 and 2008. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is having to buy its fuel on the open market, paying on average $3.23 a gallon and spending some $153 million a month in Iraq on fuel alone.

A back of the napkin analysis shows a $9.1 billion fuel bill for the whole time we were over there. To add fuel to the fire, Robert Bryce at The American Conservative points out that the $3.23/gallon number doesn't even include logistics costs. Those costs send estimates through the stratosphere since all that fuel for the US Military isn't even coming from Iraq. Bryce estimates the total fuel cost to be nearly a billion a week! The back of the napkin tells us that is nearly $240 billion just to keep our vehicles on the move since 2003.

The reality is that when it comes to occupation policy, the Bush administration doesn't even know what it is doing. We compare ourselves to the Romans or the British, but at least they had the good sense to pillage an area they spend so much blood and treasure to conquer. Exporting democracy to the world sounds well and good to most (unread) people - but the neocons never said we would do it for free.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Irony Is Lost On This Guy

Check out this article from the Associated Press. Here are the key quotes from his trip to the UAE.

Dubai has a powerful Iranian business community, and the West, led by the United States, is cracking down on business in and out of Iran to protest against its nuclear ambitions. Dubai is caught in the middle — eager to maintain its lucrative business with Iran, but wary of angering the United States and the United Nations.

So Bush is putting pressure on Dubai to stop allowing Iranians to use the city-state to make an end run around sanctions effecting business. All because the Iranians want nuclear power - the US doesn't want Iran to have nuclear anything.

Later in the article comes this gem.

At an exhibit on energy economy in the Gulf, Bush praised the United Arab Emirates federation for examining how to move beyond a reliance on oil.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" Bush said. "This country has gotten its wealth from the ground and is now reinvesting in alternative forms of energy."

So Bush says Iran must run everything on oil, that all scientists admit won't last forever, while the UAE is praised for avoiding that fate?

If Bush could actually recognize irony - I honestly think foreign policy wouldn't be such a mess. I guess irony was only discussed in Honors English at Yale.