28 April 2006
Consumer confidence is up, as are fuel prices. Krauthammer has a wonderful article in plain English.
Also, Scoot has some interesting thoughts on the present unhappiness with the administration. I concur that a lot of the concern are well placed (immigration, etc.), but worst president ever?
Sorry. Carter still leads GWB.
27 April 2006
Check out the latest edition of Foreign Affairs for an interesting perspective on high oil prices. Of interest is also the lack of change in consumer confidence. Nothing underscores the need for a little education in economics like watching Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs spin up to their hurricane force frenzy over what is a result of a free market and growing global economy.
26 April 2006
The Weekly Standard has a great article on the final blowback from the cartoon controversy of 2005/2006. Most tellingly is the detail surrounding the South Park episode which was censored by Comedy Central.
Now I live in the hometown of Comdey Central. It is an irreverant, bold and daring network. Sometimes it is even funny. I have no doubt that the decision to censor the South Park episode was developed at the highest levels of CC's legal risk management structure.
The trend of late, the censoring of the Falun Gong protester on international television, the restrictions Google, Yahoo and Microsoft permit in China and the wildly selective journalism practiced by ALL side of the political spectrum mandate that an engaged citizen seek for themselves the truth among the deceptions.
It is no wonder the Internet is serving as the new conduit for information and discourse!
But in the end, who can carry the label of purity?
24 April 2006
So there I was, tired in the gate are of Houston Hobby International Airport. A long weekend of Navy hoop jumping and coordinating OPS planning for SOUTHCOM. I am ready to go home.
But what is this? Delta flight 475 from Houston to Atlanta is cancelled? The Delta agent, a guy who I have a passing acquaintance with, informs me that they are short pilots. Odd, the 737 is sitting at the gate and looks ready.
Then something happens, a gaggle of TSA folks arrive and set up a screening area near the gate. There is a lot of radio chatter between agents and flight coordinators.
Then I see what happened. A line of over-moussed, blazer wearing baseball players comes waltzing through the area. They are pirates. Pittsburgh Pirates to be exact. They have stolen our plane. The Pirates had been playing the Astros in Houston and were now stealing our plane!
They lined up at security, their Louis Vutton haversacks slung over their shoulders and their designer sunglasses perched precariously on their spiky haired heads. About fifty folks for a 146 person aircraft.
My senior chief was bumped from the flight and delayed in returning home by several hours. There were families and a basketball team from Smyrna who were forced onto smaller regional jets one to two hours later than planned.
Seems to me that the Pirates should have chartered a jet or made arrangements with Delta for proper booking.
A clear example of the cult of celebrity which permeates our culture.
20 April 2006
This was reported via Drudge today;
"On China TV: As Hu was speaking when yells of protesters became audible, the screen went black. When the feed came back the screen once again went black when woman was again heard. During CNN International's post-speech commentary, at mention of south lawn heckler, the screen also went black again. The CNN feed returned when the incident ended."
What is interesting is the selective censorship in favor of The Peoples Republic of China's government. Why should CNN International black out the feed from a relevant news story? I had the opporunity to visit the BODIES exhibition when it toured through Atlanta recently. The exhibit was stunning with a fantastic glimpse into the inner workings of our own bodies.
These bodies, I learned, came almost exclusively from China. The methods in which they were obtained was purportedly from John and Jane Does who died of natural causes and had no relatives. This seemed believable, and yet a small group of protesters stood outside the museum purporting that the origin of the bodies on display may have had a more sinister source.
I do not know the answer, but the doubt has haunted me ever since. The PRC is a nation which should be viewed with great caution. Its people, and I have met many, are kind, ingenious and affable. Their government, not so much. Hu Jintao's visit to the United States is relevant in many ways, I hope he views it as a trip to the future, a place where China can be given the right stewardship and proper freedoms.
16 April 2006
There are a lot of things folks think or imagine about the United States. One thing they should not doubt is our resolve. If what Mr. Taheri Mr. Taheri writes about is true, then Iran is playing a dangerous game which will only bring it and its people great sufering and sadness.
Zealots, dictators and tyrants who threaten our nation and its way of life will be met and defeated.
Let us hope the Iranian people retake the reins of their own government.
15 April 2006
Iran has begun making similar noises to those made by Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan about their ability to deter and defeat a US military strike. I am not sure how the opiates arrived in Tehran, but surely the ruling council of mullahs is partaking heavily. I am dismayed by the lack of resolve of China and Russia in this matter. But as we saw in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, they are simply moving to reinforce thier own position while attempting to sap our resolve.
There is a new force in the blogosphere. A power so lazy, that I suspect we will only see pictograms and simple monosyllabic postings. Unless there is a Snook involved, or possible single malt scotch, you may have to read between the lines for the deeper meaning. Or perhaps you'll have to make up your own darn meaning. Enter the realm of Unrelated Rejoinders
13 April 2006
This is not about Enron, but it could be. Enron is a member of a select club. As a VLC (very large corporation) it is a member of the guilty class.
Are you a member of a guilty class? You are if you are a white male in the United States. The recent events at Duke University revolving around their lacrosse team and allegations of rape underscore some of the perils of being a member of the guilty class. Members of the guilty class have earned their status by being part of a group who, typically in the past, represent normative behaviors which are now considered immoral, incorrect or inconvenient.
The law recognizes the guilty class and seeks to protect the innocent classes. Parents are a member of the guilty class when it comes to children in matters of abuse, neglect and other pertinent matters. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The law does itself no favors to ignore a group which may have no means to protect or represent itself.
In the case at Duke, young, white males (behaving questionably) have run afoul of a member of the innocent class. In this case, the member of the innocent class is a woman. And rightly so, women are predominantly the victims of sexual assault and have been ill served in the past by a previously lopsided legal system. Now, however, the system has been corrected to the point that the potential accused is forced to start from a position of guilt and move to either being “really” guilty or simply “not quite guilty, but forever marked”.
Sexual assault and predation is real. It is shameful and we men do bear a burden to ensure that it never occurs (no is the simplest and most common word in any language). However, we are perpetually at risk for accusations and unfair characterizations by a society which has become dominated by the innocent classes, it is the guilty (or mostly guilty) who must tread with care. These guilty classes fall amongst theology (Islam and Christianity both suspects), ideology (most of the media view of conservatives and most conservatives view of liberals), nationality (poor UAE…), gender (obviously) and the list goes on as infinitum.
What is tragic is that our view of each class so clouds almost any discussion that rarely are facts allowed to surface to refine our opinions. Those with a lower level of scruples exploit this to their own advantage and both sides detriment (think Jesse Jackson or Jerry Lewis of California – not the comedian, the congressman [but are they the same?]).
After all, we are all guilty, only some are more guilty than others.
11 April 2006
It's a hot topic. Thousands of people in the streets protesting pending legislation. It is democracy in its most visceral form. And yet it is also theater. Just what, exactly do the protesters want? On the surface they seek fair and equitable treatment for immigrants. Illegal immigrants.
Part of these protests make sense, the country does benefit from the work of illegal immigrants. They fill a niche of the labor market which is underserved by our own population. In a nation which is essentially at full employment, there are many jobs which are simply left undone. Some of these immigrants are economic pilgrims. They have travelled to the USA to "build a stake" after which time they will return to their home country. Some are seeking out a new life of opportunity form a place where there was none. We can not afford to ignore their concerns, nor can we afford to discount their status. These individuals came to the country voluntarily, at great risk, and in violation of the law.
I believe there are three major elements to the present fracas over immigration. One is our relationship with our southern neighbors. Nations, such as Mexico, which boast rich natural resources and stable neighbors, should not be wallowing in near poverty. Part of this problem is corruption and mismanagement by their own government. This must be addressed. Canadians do not flock to the US beacuse Canada is (relatively) well run, despite a lackluster economy.
Secondly, the risk to enter the US is too low. Individuals can essentially move through the border with impunity. They arrive on visas and overstay them, they cross rivers, ride in the backs of trucks or stow away in aircraft wheel wells. The penalty for attempting to cross is low and this must be changed. Good control of border crossings is essential to improving our overall immigration policy. I do not favor militarizing the border, however, a physical barrier reinforced with technology is not an unreasonable approach.
Finally, the individuals who are here now need to be dealt with. I am in favor of a two pronged approach. For economic pilgrims, develop a robust guest worker program which will afford transient workers with legal protection, tax liability and some measure of accoutnability. For folks who seek citizenship, set them on a path with specific milestones. Some prorated credit for time spent in the US could be developed substantiated by tax receipts and sponsoir affidavits. For example, an illegal residing here ten years with no criminal activity should get twenty-five percent credit towards citizenship. Those on a path to citizenship must demonstrate that they are fiscally responsible, law abiding and willing to assimiliate (learn English - it's not too much to ask).
Amnesty is ultimately what we are discussing. It has been done before in 1986 and the results were not favorable to the nation. Mainly, I think, because we failed to address the two other legs of the immigration stool. We can not afford to ignore these elements. Parts of my own family emigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Immigrants are vital to enriching the strength of our nation.
We owe our country, its present citizens and those who would be in the future a strong and flexible immigration policy which allows for growth and opportunity while eliminating abuse and opportunism.
05 April 2006
John Kerry has done many things in his life, some of them have even been productive. His most recent editorial piece in the New York Times is not one of those things. What the junior senator from Massachusetts fails to recognize, aside from the complete contradiction of his message, is that simply hoping democracy will take hold in Iraq is ridiculous.
We have an obligation to assist in the management of a smooth transition to complete Iraqi control of their nation. Mr. Kerry makes specious arguments comparing the Iraq conflict to Vietnam. At the outset of his diatribe he claims that half of the deaths in Vietnam occurred after the cause was viewed as “unwinnable” by the government of the United States. Leaving aside the dubious sourcing or accuracy of his statement, the analogy would be that he believes Iraq to be “unwinnable”. He further advocates withdrawal or garrisoning of troops in Iraq to force a faters conversion to an independent government. It’s the old sink or swim approach with a touch of Soviet era strategy from Afghanistan.
In my mind, departure from an unwinnable situation equates to surrender. In his writings he calls for a “tough love” departure date in the next six weeks. A May 15 deadline for withdrawal of troops is both insulting to the Iraqis and logistically impossible. Additionally, seeking to include the Iraqi factions in some “Dayton-like” accords (referencing the Clinton sponsored meetings over Bosnia – where we still have troops deployed, by the way) would only work if the parties engaged in hostilities had expressed some political desire.
There are two sets of forces arrayed against the Iraqi government and coalition. One are external Al-Queda fighters and the other are Baathist Sunnis seeking a return to their reign as it was under Saddam. Most, if not all, of this violence is confined to the Sunni triangle. Ironically, he echoes the words of NYT columnist Thomas Friedman when he asks for this undertaking, reinforcing my belief that he has not had an original idea in his career.
Kerry lost the 2004 election in large part because he was unconvincing. His Senate record continually arose to haunt him. The American public wants many things from a President, one of those things is a clear and committed vision. These have been exhibited by Reagan, Clinton and the present Bush. They were not exhibited by the likes of Ford, Carter or Bush Sr. In October of 2002 Senator Kerry made a speech on the Senate floor in which he said;
“I believe the record of Saddam Hussein's ruthless, reckless breach of international values and standards of behavior which is at the core of the cease-fire agreement, with no reach, no stretch, is cause enough for the world community to hold him accountable by use of force, if necessary. The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but as I said, it is not new. It has been with us since the end of that war, and particularly in the last 4 years we know after Operation Desert Fox failed to force him to reaccept them, that he has continued to build those weapons.”
A pretty ringing endorsement of the facts as we knew them. A set of facts which has been substantiated by commissions in the UK and the United States. In his litany of complaints, he proposes that the weapons or capabilities were “supposed”. The implication is clear, Bush lied. Horrors! The facts from the ground, however, do not support this treatise, no matter how much people would like to believe it to be true. Documents from Iraq continue to indicate a more complicated network of cooperation with terrorist organizations and activity to rebuild the weapons program which Iraq had previously used to further its ends.
During the 2004 election Kerry's war position laid out a four point plan for Iraq. In that plan he identified the following as critical to success;
1) “First, the president has to get the promised international support so our men and women in uniform don't have to go it alone.”
Done – multinational agencies, firms and governments all have a hand in the rebuilding of Iraq. Some to greater or lesser extents than the US. More than 20,000 troops from 26 nations are on the ground in Iraq. They range from UK and Italian forces to elements from Fiji in support of the UN Mission.
2) "Second, the president must get serious about training Iraqi security forces. The president should urgently expand the security forces training program inside and outside Iraq.”
Also Done – Iraqi forces now number more than 240,000 (including Army and Police).
3) "Third, the president must carry out a reconstruction plan that finally brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.”
Ditto – Iraqi reconstruction is now ahead of schedule. The GDP of Iraq has leapt from 18.9bn in 2002 (before the invasion) to 33.1bn in 2005.
4) "Fourth, the president must take immediate, urgent, essential steps to guarantee the promised elections can be held next year. If the president would move in this direction, if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and forces, train the Iraqis to provide their own security, develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people, and take the steps necessary to hold credible elections next year -- we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years."
Uh, likewise – I am beginning to wonder if Mr. Kerry or his staff even know how to conduct research.
So, Senator, you advocate troops returning by the Fall of 2008, from your own plan.
In the April piece, Mr. Kerry states that the deployments in Iraq have strained military readiness and weakened our position with Iran. I wrote about our possible approach (militarily) to Iran. Having almost ten divisions of troops across the border from Iran, hardly sounds like an unprepared position. There is no hard evidence of failing morale or unpreparedness among our military. Are we stretched? You bet! What can we do? We should have accelerated our departure from Europe long ago. Many of the radical changes underway in our force structure should have been implemented much sooner.
With a little effort, a determined individual can begin to understand the complexities of the situation in Iraq and its relationship to the broader world. Mr. Kerry is not one of these individuals. His comments do a disservice to the efforts of the people (from all nations) working in Iraq and provide short shrift to the notion of American commitment to providing a stable and sustainable nation in the form of a democratic Iraq.
In short, Mr. Kerry has no concept of what it will take to finish operations in Iraq. He quotes weary rhetoric and wishful thinking as supporting arguments for his weak proposition. His reference to “flag” officers further indicates his ignorance of the present military structure (non-Navy senior officers are usually referred to as General Officers). Although repeated deployments have taken a toll, we are in fact the military – it’s what we do. We execute the nation’s diplomacy, when words have failed and national interests are at stake.
There are a number of very good sources for discussion over the best approach to strategy in Iraq.
Mr. Kerry is not one of them.
04 April 2006
Let's be blunt, I hate daylight savings time. The archaic moving of the clocks forward only serves to mess with my circadian rhythm and allow me to stumble over things on the way to my car. It’s time to end this ridiculous process. I would be willing to wager that we have more lost productivity during these two periods of time change in the year than any possible benefit from moving our clocks.
There are several strong reasons to do away with daylight savings time. Not the least of which is that no one wants it . Actually, it really doesn’t matter whether we keep DST or ST, as long as we set one or the other!
Time zones throughout the world are divided roughly along lines of longitude. In the military we use alphanumeric suffixes to denote the local time zone, all based upon GMT / UTC or Zulu time. On a side note, I always liked the phrase “Zulu time”, it sounded like a shout just before some raucous, bacchanalian party.
Groggily chugging away here in Romeo time, or is it Quebec ?