Thursday, July 31, 2008

MTCR Still Alive and Well

The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which I helped create and to expand is still alive and well. This Commerce Department notice shows it's still in force and operating. The MTCR could have been a lot stronger if it had not been opposed so strongly by Richard Perle and his minions at the Pentagon. They wanted it to prevent developing countries from doing anything in the space launch field, and as usual, the best was the enemy of the good, and we got some least common denominator because other countries, mainly the Europeans and Japan were unwilling to agree to the draconian provisions forced as the US position by the Defense Department.

But, hey, at least we got something.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama Wins v. Bush

Obama's triumphal tour of the world shows that foreigners don't hate Americans; they hate George Bush and maybe most Republicans. Bush likes to stick his finger in other nations' eyes. Remember the invasion of Iraq? Remember ignoring the UN investigation of WMD in Iraq? Remember freedom fries? Remember old Europe? Remember Abu Ghraib? Bush, and maybe a lot of Americans who support him, hate foreigners.

Bush is low-class, trailer park trash, ill-bred, impolite, not a man you would like to associate with, unless you were going to grab somebody off the street and torture them. He's not stupid, but he's lazy, which is worse. You can't help being stupid; you can work hard.

McCain has accused Obama of being willing to lose a war in order to win an election. I don't think that's true about Obama, but I think Bush has already done that. I don't know whether the war will be Afghanistan or Iraq, but we are not doing very well in either. Things are going better militarily in Iraq, but Iraq just got kicked out of the Olympics because of its political system. That's not good. Our troops have fought bravely and well, but Bush doesn't care. If he did, he would do something to give them more time at home between tours overseas. He would take better care of the wounded.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Franklin Raines and Fannie Mae

With all the talk about the possible collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, there is little said about the departure under a cloud in 2004 of Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines. Raines was accused of cooking the books to hide losses so that his take-home pay would be higher by millions. In 2004 the real estate market was hot, maybe not as hot as it was a year or two later, but plenty hot enough for Fannie Mae to play fast and loose with the rules.

In 2004, USA Today reported: "In the financial arena, detractors say, Fannie Mae has grown out of control. It's the No. 2 debtor in the country, after the U.S. government, with $989 billion in debt. Some have even called Fannie Mae a giant hedge fund, since it uses derivatives and other potentially risky investment tools."

When Raines "resigned," USA Today reported: "Franklin Raines, the powerful and politically savvy CEO of Fannie Mae, was forced out Tuesday night by the mortgage finance company's board of directors, bringing an end to a contentious, three-month public brawl over the quality of Fannie's financial statements. That restatement of earnings is likely to wipe out $9 billion — or about one-third — of Fannie Mae's profits — since 2001. But analysts say that shouldn't have any effect on mortgage rates. To make up the anticipated $9 billion shortfall, Fannie Mae probably would have to sell part of its portfolio of mortgages, raise fresh capital by issuing stock or cut dividends — and its spectacular growth of recent years could be curtailed. The company was ordered by the regulators in September to boost its capital cushion against risk by some $5 billion by mid-2005."

So, Fannie Mae was already in trouble before the mortgage tsunami hit.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

US and Israeli Interests Not Identical

Col. Pat Lang's blog has an excellent posting on the fact that Israel's and America's interests are not identical. Unfortunately it's true that many Americans see Israel as a 51st state. This worries me, because people perceive politicians who are fervently pro-Israel, such as Joe Lieberman, as fervently pro-American, but those stands may not be reconcilable.

John McCain should be careful about embracing Lieberman too closely; he may be embracing anti-American interests. It would be ironic if McCain, who holds himself out as the ultimate American patriot, were actually subjugating America's best interests to those of another country -- Israel. This is not an academic exercise. We probably invaded Iraq at least in part because of Israeli/Jewish/AIPAC influence. George W. Bush's hatred of his father and desire to show up Bush I's failure to depose Saddam in the first Iraq War was certainly another important factor. Now will we invade Iran, or support an Israeli attack on Iran, because of the same Israeli pressures? McCain is a hawk on both Iraq and Iran. While these beliefs are certainly genuinely held by him as in America's best interest, is he being hoodwinked to believing that everything in Israel's best interest is also in America's? McCain may be too gullible; as Lang points out, Israel and America have different interests.

Wasted Lives in Vietnam

An op-ed in the WP by Harold Meyerson laments the embrace by American business of manufacturing in Vietnam because the quasi-Communist government there keeps wages low. What was the point of fighting for democracy there, if we prefer a non-democratic government? The Republicans talk a good game of loving democracy, but a dollar trumps politics for a Republican any day.

A lot of Vietnam veterans have embraced the new Vietnam, but there is a difference between loving your enemies and making a buck off of them because they are being kept in poverty by their government. On the other hand, the lives of many Vietnamese are clearly better today than they were years ago.

We've been through this before, when both Germany and Japan came back from defeat in WW II to challenge the US economically. But in that case we defeated the governments, and the challenge came from western style government that we liked. That's not the case in Vietnam.

For Vietnam veterans, an additional cut is that the people making money from Vietnam tend to be people or children of people who avoided service in Vietnam. I guess this proves to them that they were right -- that the war was evil and that Vietnam veterans were sadistic baby-killers. But as a Vietnam veteran, I don't think that was the case. In most cases those who went to Vietnam were just submitting to the rule of law by submitting to the draft. Others believed the idealistic vision of stopping Communism and creating a better world. Both are being stomped on by American businessmen today. They wear American flag lapel pins and profit from the hardships imposed by the government that defeated America because these money-grubbing businessmen opposed the war and would not serve. They and their children by and large do not serve in the military today in Afghanistan or Iraq.