Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Glenn Beck and Elites

Glenn Beck talks about Jimmy Stewart & Bedford Falls, and elites, saying that George Soros represents the elites.  But in fact Fox is the spokesman for the elites, which are big corporations and banks.  George Soros is part of it, but the rich Republican establishment, represented today particularly by the Chamber of Commerce, is an even larger part of it.  Beck doesn't mention them, the Koch brothers, for example.

His participation in the Fox News disinformation campaign to claim that Obama's Indiq trip will cost $200 million per day is also despicable. The claim is based on an incorrect statement by some low ranking Indian local official. It's just the Communist big lie.  

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Economist on the Elections

The Economist magazine has some good points about the Republican landslide, the best being:
Only four years after the voters sent them packing, handing both chambers of Congress to the Democrats at the 2006 mid-terms, the Republicans are back. Voters then (and again in 2008) decided that Republican policies had blown up the deficit with unaffordable tax cuts, let the banks run wild, dragged America into two costly wars and produced a wretched harvest of stagnant wages, rising job insecurity and soaring health-care costs. Now they seem to have decided that they like Barack Obama and the Democrats even less.
I don't get it. The Republicans created huge deficits, a financial crisis, two worthless but expensive wars, destroyed the middle class, and seriously damaged the our system of medical care by giving the health insurance companies huge profits and greater control over patients. Then, since Obama didn't solve all these problems in two years, America voted the Republicans back in.

Obama's image of the Republicans as the people who drove the car into the ditch, seems perfectly logical to me. Why would America ask them to drive again? But people laughed at that simple comparison.

The first test will probably be the vote to raise the debt ceiling. Will the Republicans shut down the government again as they did under Newt Gingrich? The next will probably be what to do about the Bush tax cuts. The safest thing is probably to extend all the cuts for a year or two, although that is a defeat for the Democrats. Unfortunately, the Republicans are like a crazy man with gun; you can't risk trying to reason with them. It doesn't bother them if thousands of people go hungry, are cold, get poor medical care, but it bothers Democrats.

Friday, November 05, 2010

US Stimulus Goes Overseas

The other morning, Erin Burnett of CNBC said on "Morning Joe" that Bernanke and the Fed had generated about 20% of additional cash, but the economy had grown only about 2%. The implication is that the quantitative easing is not working. So where did the money go?

Businessweek last week said:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has tried everything to feed the U.S. economy the liquidity it needs to revive. In the process, he has conjured up more than $1 trillion of fresh monetary stimulus out of thin air. Inevitably, much of it has ventured overseas in search of yield. The big beneficiaries have been the stock markets of the emerging-market economies.
So while Bernanke is pumping out cash, the main beneficiaries are sending that cash overseas to emerging markets. That is a problem with a concentration of wealth. The very rich, who are the main recipients of the cash, are not investing or spending in America. They are investing overseas. This tends to drive down the dollar, which offends the other countries, whose currencies are driven up, thus making their exports more expensive and harder to sell, etc. It will be an issue at the upcoming G-20 meeting.

If the rich were loyal Americans, like those running corporations for a generation after World War II, Bernanke's largess would stay in the US and benefit Americans, not Chinese, Indians and Brazilians.

Deja Vu

This 1994 Republican Congress redux is hard for me to take.

In 1994 or 1995 I was at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, supposedly running a science cooperation program between Polish and American scientists. The Republicans cut off the funding although the United States had signed an agreement promising to participate for two or three more years. I was accused of being dishonest by the Polish foreign ministry. Polish scientists who lost their government funding because of the overthrow of Communism got no help from the US. Poland is now doing well, but thanks to the EU, not the US. The people who took Reagan's advice to "tear down this wall" got punched in the nose by his hard-hearted, mean-spirited Republican successors.

Then the State Department asked me to go to the embassy in Rome. As my wife and I were about to leave Warsaw, with our car packed, including two dogs, the Republicans shut down the government. Rome called and said, "Don't come." But we had nowhere to live in Warsaw, and it was cold. Eventually got Rome to agree that I could come, but I will never forgive the United States for putting me and my wife out on the street in Warsaw when I was moving because the government had reassigned me. Clearly the Republicans have no idea of what it is like to run a business and meet a payroll.

Then, when I got t9 Rome, where I had been assigned because Italy had just assumed the presidency of the European Union, one of my main jobs was to beg the Europeans for more money to meet the terms of the nuclear agreement that we had signed with North Korea, because the Republican Congress would not appropriate the funds for the agreement. The Republicans apparently decided that the North Koreans were going to violate the terms of the agreement, so the Republicans wanted to violate it first.

Republicans have no honor. Their promise means nothing. To them the word of the United States is garbage. They will sell America's honor for filthy lucre.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Swift Boaters Still Around

As a Vietnam veteran, the most unpatriotic group I know of is the group that sponsored the Swift boat ads against John Kerry. Whether Kerry was a hero or not, he went to Vietnam, and he should not have been attacked for serving his country.

The people who funded the Swift boat ads are scurrilous cowards who represent the very worst of America. While they had front men who actually served in Vietnam, I think the front men were used by the cowardly millionaires. I doubt the people funding the ad actually served, or if they did, they served in some very safe capacity.

The idea that they are now behind the flood of attack ads for the 2010 election is almost more than I can stand. The worst is that it worked. Now we will have a bunch of mean-spirited morons trying to govern the country, while it is fighting two worthless wars that they started and dealing with an economic and financial crisis that they created through their greed and incompetence. This is clearly not the greatest generation; this is a generation of draft dodgers and people who have no conception of what it means to serve their country and their fellowman. Steven Pearlstein has an excellent article in the Washington Post about what it means to serve in Congress, but I don't think they will pay any attention to it. They are too stupid and selfish, but for sure Big Brother (Fox and American Crossroads) will make sure that their friends get rich at Ameica's expense.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jon Stewart vs. Obama

This column from the Washington Post pretty much sums up the commentary about Pres. Obama's appearance on the "Daily Show." It was Stewart versus Obama, and Stewart won. He made the President look like an ignorant fool, although the Republicans and unhappy Democrats will say that Obama made himself look like a fool.

But the problem is that Obama is not a fool. He is an intelligent guy trying to run an unruly country that is in trouble. Its business model for the last 50 years no longer works, and nobody is sure if there is a new model that can support the American lifestyle. The Republicans have a model: "Give us your money!" They want no taxes, no restraint on business. Unbridled greed is the Republican model. And for some reason many Americans like that.

Obama is trying to defend the middle and lower classes, but it appears to be a losing battle. By declaring war on Obama, Jon Stewart seems to have forgotten that Bill and Hillary failed to get any health care reform. The Republicans don't care about some compromise that might be good for America; they just want to win power. We don't have a pubic option in the health care bill because the Republicans kept it out, not because Obama didn't want it.

While Obama did not serve in the military, he did serve his community. The Republicans ridiculed his being a community organizer, but it meant that he cared about other people. When he graduated from the Ivy League, he could have gone the big money route, a Wall Street law firm, or corporate law, but he didn't. To some extent he remembered his roots. Republican roots are in the board room and the country club. The Republican establishment has no concept of serving the greater good, although many Republicans do, many of them moderates, or single issue voters on gay issues, or abortion or immigration, not focused on the overarching Republican agenda of making the rich richer. It's sad that Jon Stewart advanced this Republican agenda.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Juan Williams and NPR Fund Raising

NPR has no doubt gotten a deluge of negative comments about firing Juan Williams, but I'm guessing from the tone discussed in this Washington Post article that much of it was ginned up by Fox News and other conservative media outlets. Those outraged people were not likely to be donors to NPR in any case, and probably don't even listen to it. They get their marching orders from Fox, Rush and Sarah Palin.

The cutoff of Federal funding may be more problematic, but it was likely to come anyway if the Republicans win majorities in November. If they are willing to cut funding for Social Security, they are certainly willing to cut funding for NPR, Juan or no Juan.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Juan Williams Fired by NPR

As if to show that political correctness can be evenhanded, Juan Williams was fired by NPR for comments about Muslims after Rick Sanchez was fired by CNN for comments about Jews. To me, everybody is to blame. First there's too much "talk" on cable TV and talk radio. People say outrageous things to fill up time, or they say things that they haven't thought through because they have to keep talking off the top of their heads. On the other hand, people should be able to say things that are reasonable, whether or not they are absolutely true, like "Jews control the media," or "Muslims in full headgear on a plane make me nervous." On the other hand, these pundits get paid to talk on TV, and the good ones say interesting things without crossing some invisible political correctness border.

I happen to agree with both Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez; so, I'm sad to see them punished for speaking their minds. I'm sure that NPR has been looking for an excuse to fire Juan Williams for being a Fox News commentator, and I frankly think that is somewhat justified, because Fox has a definite political point of view that Juan Williams helps sell on the air, even if he sometimes differs with the more doctrinaire Fox commentators. He has been trading on his NPR affiliation to give credance to Fox's right wing commentary.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rick Sanchez and the Jewish Media

I’m unhappy about the flap over CNN anchor Rick Sanchez. In case you missed it, he was fired for saying during a radio interview that Jews control the media, or something like that. I was particularly upset with the hatred dumped on him by Howard Kurtz, who was the media critic for the Washington Post, and who has a show, "Reliable Sources," about the media on CNN. He is Jewish, and he had some other Jewish media types join him as commentators to dump on Sanchez. It’s ironic, because Sanchez is Cuban, and I’m not crazy about Cubans either. Sanchez basically said (not really quoting; here's the real transcript): "Jews are not an oppressed minority (look at how they control the media), but I’m Cuban; I’m an oppressed minority." I’d say Cubans are not an oppressed minority either if you look at how influential they are in Florida. Many years ago, there was an article in The Economist about how Jeb Bush got his start in Florida from some corrupt Cuban businessman, a big contractor, I think. He enabled Jeb to make his first million and go into politics.

The problem for me is that I think what Sanchez said is true, but it’s politically incorrect to say it. If it’s not true, they should refute it, not lambaste him for being anti-Semitic. It’s a difficult issue. The fact that Jews control the media (to a large extent) may not be bad. They are very smart. (Is that racist to say?) Jews own the New York Times, which I love, and the Washington Post. Some of my favorite columnists are Jews – David Brooks, Tom Friedman and Andrew Ross Sorkin, who write for the Times. My main complaint is that most Jews cannot be unbiased about Israel, although I think Friedman is as unbiased as anybody (Jew or gentile) can be. I think the 9/11 attacks were at least in part a response (by crazy fanatics) to US support for Israel. You can argue that the fanatical Muslim reaction should not stop us from supporting Israel, but that issue never gets discussed rationally, because it’s politically incorrect. If you bring it up, you’re anti-Semitic. Is the price of oil double what it would be if we didn’t treat Israel like a 51st state? We’ll never know.

Looking for info on the Sanchez saga, I found this NPR blog, which I think defends Sanchez and criticizes Stewart better than I can. Plus the writer says she is Jewish; so, I guess that's why she's smarter than I am. I really like Jon Stewart, and I'm saddened that his episode has taken some of the gloss off of my admiration for him.

I can't find the Economist article I remember about Jeb Bush; I don't think the on-line archives go back far enough. This article from the St. Petersburg Times, however, is right on point. There are allusions to some questionable business dealings with Cubans in Wikipedia. Here and here are copies of a 1992 article from Mother Jones about Jeb's questionable dealings with the Cuban community.

I guess the lesson of this is that every ethnic group builds shady, mafia-like networks -- WASPs (the Bush family), Jews (finance and the media), Cubans (Florida real estate and CIA shenanigans), and of course the original mafia, the Italians.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fox and Pravda

Fox News reminds me of the old Soviet Communist newspaper Pravda. Back in the bad, old Cold War days, people said the US would become more like the Soviet Union. Well, I think it has happened Like Pravda, Fox present the news as it would like it to be, not as it is, despite the "fair and balanced" claim.

As the names of the main Communist newspaper and the main Soviet newspaper, Pravda and Izvestia, meant "the truth" and "the news" respectively, a popular Russian saying was "v Pravde net izvestiy, v Izvestiyakh net pravdy" (In the Truth there is no news, and in the News there is no truth).

This development was predicted in George Orwell's book 1984, where, according to Wikipedia:
The Ministry of Truth controls information: news, entertainment, education, and the arts. Winston Smith works in the Minitrue RecDep (Records Department), "rectifying" historical records to concord with Big Brother's current pronouncements, thus everything the Party says is true.

Obama' Detroit Rescue Was Worth It

While the Republicans railed against it, the Obama bailout of GM and Chrysler has been worth it, and it may not end up costing as much as many people feared. Steve Rattner's book seems to support that thesis, in spite of its lukewarm review by the NYT.

American manufacturing is disappearing fast enough without have most of the automotive industry go down in one fell swoop. Unemployment would be much worse with the automotive companies gone. The two bailed out would probably have taken down most of their parts suppliers, and the loss of those suppliers might have taken down Ford, which was financially strong enough to forgo a bailout. You think unemployment is bad now? What would it have been if the big 3 and all their suppliers had disappeared? We were constantly reminded that we had Honda and Toyota plants scattered around Southern parts of the country that resisted unions, but we still would have had a lot of unemployed people in the Midwest. The Republicans say we should have bitten the bullet and taken the hit, but even now they complain loudly about high rate of unemployment. You can't have it both ways. Obama did the right thing. If you are going to let the car companies go down, do it when the economy is booming and there are new jobs available.

Benevolent CEOs

The fact that corporation today are flush with cash may illustrate my hypothesis that employers today do no care about their employees. This may not have been the case fifty years ago, although with important exceptions. I think that World War II service brought the employer and employee classes closer together. Of course there was a lot of pushing from unions and lawmakers to bring it about, but that also derived in part from WW II experience, when we were all in this together. Stephen Colbert had Yogi Berra on his show welcoming the troops home from Iraq. It turns out that Yogi participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He was a reminder that back then everybody served the country. Those that didn't were the exception. Women filled men's jobs while the men were overseas. Today, people don't even look at joining the military as service; it's just a job. As one wife said in an article in the American Legion magazine about military families, when the families face problems, people today don't see it as a sacrifice for the country, but as a poor career choice.

If corporations are flush with cash, it means that they could have kept more employees on board, but today the cash is more important that the welfare of the workers. While the Republicans complain about welfare, they are ready enough to fire their employees and throw them on the welfare pile for the government to take care of. This means bigger salaries and bonuses for the CEOs, so that they can have bigger houses, bigger yachts, etc. If they need more people they hire temps or they outsource to overseas workers, leaving Americans on the government dole. If corporations were going broke, such actions might be justifiable, but when they are flush with cash they are not. My grandfather may be an example, although his experience predates WW II. During the Depression, he and his employer agreed that he would not draw a salary, but he would take just enough to support his family. His employer kept him on, and obviously trusted him not to be extravagant.

I'm sure there are many small businesses where such camaraderie exists. It's one reason private equity firms have been so successful. People who start companies often tend to have a bond with their employees that prevents them from laying them off, sometimes pulling the company down toward bankruptcy. Private equity types step in, take them over, and institute mass firings. Then they sell off or leverage what they can, pay themselves handsomely, and turn the company back out to the public, often in such a weakened state that it is still questionable whether it can survive or not.

Israel Warns American Jews

This worries me. In "The Atlantic" Jeffrey Goldberg says:

There's been some controversy here in Washington about a short sermon Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, delivered at my synagogue, Adas Israel, and two other synagogues over the course of Yom Kippur. I took the sermon as a warning from the Netanyahu government: There may be tough times ahead, in the peace process, and with Iran, so it is time for American Jews to cowboy-up and deal with the difficulties our brethren in Israel are facing. Others in my congregation took the speech as a signal that Israel was prepping American Jewry for an inevitable attack on Iran, or, at the very least, for an Israeli unwillingness to freeze settlement growth, which could lead to the end of the current round of peace talks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Breyer v. Beck

I have been watching Charlie Rose interview Justice Stephen Breyer while Glenn Beck is recording on the DVR, after I watched Glenn for a while. Listening to Breyer talk about the United States, the Constitution, and how government works, there is no comparison. To me only Breyer is the real patriot. Beck is just ranting and calling people names. It's encouraging that our court still inspires confidence. I think the weakest Justice is Clarance Thomas. I would like to hear him talk to Charlie Rose.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Still Support Obama

There is so much negative commentary about President Obama these days, that I'm just saying that I still support him. I think that he, more than most in Congress, is doing what he thinks is best for America, rather than what is best for his party, for him personally, or for his fat cat donors. That's one reason the commentariat is so full of talk about Democratic candidates who are mad at him. They put there political careers above the nation's interests.

On the Daily Show, former President Clinton tried to defend the health care plan. But you can't defend it with people who don't love their neighbors. As I see the Tea Party people, they say, "I choose that my children die so that I can live six months or a year longer." Nobody faces up to the fact that much of Medicare expense is for the last six months of life. Tea Partyers won't give up anything so that more younger people can get health care.

The talking heads are also down on Obama for the war in Afghanistan. I'm not really in favor of the war, but I support him on what he is doing. My view is that he is giving the military some time to redeem itself. Under Bush, the military botched Afghanistan badly because Bush pulled all the troops out to go to Iraq. In addition, it sounds as if the military had Osama bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora in late 2001, but chickened out and failed to go after him with all of its resources. The whole purpose of the Afghan war was to get Osama bin Laden; the failure to get him was one of the most ignominious defeats in US military history, although not in terms of casualties, since the US didn't commit any troops. Osama bin Laden punched Bush in the nose on 9/11, and Bush ran home crying. Obama is trying to redeem America's honor. It seems to matter only to the soldiers who fought there and whose honor is at stake. The average American is totally disengaged from the war and doesn't care about America's honor.

Ironically, Glenn Beck's restoring honor mall fiasco totally missed the point. Glenn Beck is only interested in restoring honor to himself. The troops make a useful patriotic backdrop, as they did for Bush, nothing more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Emily Dickinson on Fame

Emily Dickinson had the right attitude toward the 15 minutes of fame problem we face daily thanks to the Internet and cable TV

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They'd banish us. you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Take that Paris Hilton, Madonna, Newt Gingrich, and all the rest of you, croaking in your bog.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Big Shots Don't Serve

As the Iraq war ends, I'm still bitter about my cohorts who should have served in Vietnam, but didn't, many of them prominent Republicans. At the top of the list are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as well as Bill Clinton. Al Gore is the only one to have served in the military in Vietnam. But also Mitch McConnell and John Boehner both avoided service, although Boehner may be young enough that we was not under the draft. He still could have served if he had wanted to.

I'm not sure where this web page showing who served came from, but it seems pretty accurate, although it is now somewhat dated.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

America's Disappearing Middle Class

Three articles in Saturday's papers highlight the decline of the middle class in America. The largest and most pertinent one is in the Financial Times where Edward Luce writes about "The Crisis of Middle Class America." He says:
The annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the multiple is above 300.
In today’s America if you are born in rags, you are likelier to stay in rags than in almost any corner of old Europe.
“I have this gnawing feeling about the future of America,” says [economist Michael] Spence. “When people lose the sense of optimism, things tend to get more volatile. The future I most fear for America is Latin American: a grossly unequal society that is prone to wild swings from populism to orthodoxy, which makes sensible government increasingly hard to imagine."

The New York Times has a front page article on the how the slowing recovery is dimming the outlook for jobs. It says that businesses are doing well and are investing in capital, but are not hiring.
The crucial driver of growth in the second quarter was business investment in such things as office buildings and equipment and software. Such activity rocketed up at an annual rate of 17 percent in the second quarter, compared with a 7.8 percent increase in the first. The equipment and software category alone grew at an annual rate of 21.9 percent, the fastest pace in 12 years.
The fact that businesses seem to be investing more in equipment than in hiring may be a reason consumers have been reluctant, or perhaps unable, to pick up the pace of their spending.
“There are limits on the degree to which you can substitute capital for labor,” Mr. Ryding said. “But you can understand that businesses don’t have to pay health care on equipment and software, and these get better tax treatment than you get for hiring people. If you can get away with upgrading capital spending and deferring hiring for a while, that makes economic sense, especially in this uncertain policy environment.”
Finally, in a NYT op-ed, Bob Herbert wrote about what corporate American has done to workers. He said:
Many ... workers were cashiered for no reason other than outright greed by corporate managers.
From the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009, real aggregate output in the U.S., as measured by the gross domestic product, fell by about 2.5 percent. But employers cut their payrolls by 6 percent.
Worker productivity has increased dramatically, but the workers themselves have seen no gains from their increased production. It has all gone to corporate profits. This is unprecedented in the postwar years, and it is wrong.
Germany and Japan, because of a combination of government and corporate policies, suffered far less worker dislocation in the recession than the U.S. Until we begin to value our workers, and understand the critical importance of employment to a thriving economy, we will continue to see our standards of living decline.
It is sad that US tax policy favors capital so much over labor that it discourages businesses from hiring. I am beginning to think that the destruction of the middle class started with the Reagan tax cuts. It has taken more than a generation for that effect to become apparent, but nevertheless, there it is. One reason it didn't show up earlier was that Reagan was such a nice guy, he couldn't bring himself to hurt people. When it became obvious that the huge cuts in government services that his advisers wanted to go with the tax cuts would badly hurt ordinary Americans, Reagan balked, and as a result we got the beginning of the huge budget deficits that we are wrestling with today. But the Republicans have never given up on their "starve the beast" policy of cutting government services by cutting tax revenues. So, the Republicans under Bush II and Reagan have been responsible for some of the largest deficits. They have also been responsible for a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the upper class. In particular by eliminating the estate or "death" tax, they have created a hereditary aristocracy in America, something that we thought we had left behind when we rebelled against Great Britain. There are no titles, yet, but there are all the other trappings of an aristocracy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Brazil Resumes Rocket Launches

Brazil has resumed test launching relatively small rockets at its Alcantara launch site, preparing for the launch of larger rockets later. Eventually it will resume testing of large rockets that could launch a satellite into orbit (an SLV in English, a VLS in Portuguese).

Brazil suffered a serious setback about a year ago when a large rocket for the SLV program exploded on the launch pad causing widespread damage.

When I was the science officer at the American Embassy in Brazil back in the 1980s, the US was adamantly opposed to its space launch program, under policies that emanated from Richard Perle at the Pentagon. The Brazilians wanted to buy ground stations to monitor telemetry from satellites passing over the Amazon, in part to track deforestation. The American company, Scientific Atlanta, somehow messed up their bid, and the Brazilians selected the Japanese to build the ground stations. At the Department of Commerce's request, I asked my contacts at INPE, the space agency, if there was any chance to reopen the bidding. They agreed to do so, and the second time around, the American company won. However, the Pentagon then denied the export license for the stations, because it said they could be used for developing missiles. The Brazilians were furious, and that pretty much ended my good relationship with INPE. The stations were not at all suited to do missile tracking, and eventually the DOD decision was reversed, but not until the everybody, especially the Brazil, was unhappy. The ironic thing was that they were intended for an environmental mission, rather than a military one.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Letter to Congress

-- We should let the Bush tax cuts expire,
-- In the short term, stimulus spending is more important than cutting the debt,
-- The intelligence community needs to be downsized, as revealed by the recent "Washington Post" series,
-- Obama should appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer protection agency,
-- We should continue to fund the Afghan war.

At least two billionaires have died in 2010 while estate or "death" taxes are zero: George Steinbrenner, worth about $1.3 billion, and Dan Duncan, worth about $9 billion. If their estates had been taxed at the old rate, before the Bush tax cuts, of about 55%, this would have increased the government's receipts by about $5 billion, or about one-sixth of the $30 billion cost of the recent extension of unemployment benefits that the Republicans opposed because they were not offset by other revenues or spending cuts. Two rich people could have paid for one-sixth of the cost of keeping food on the tables of over two million unemployed people! Instead, their billions will go to buy private jets, yachts, huge houses, A-Rod, and other extravagances.

The US economy is not yet out of the woods. It is important to continue to try to create jobs and provide a safety net (unemployment compensation, food stamps, etc.) for those suffering the most. It's sad that the fat cats on Wall Street created this financial crisis, but they have come out with bigger paychecks, while workers in America's heartland are paying the price for the fat cats' driving the economy off a cliff. However, we can't run deficits forever. Within a year or two, depending on how things go, we have got to start paying off the debt. We should start by letting the Bush tax cuts expire, then look into cutting some programs -- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan look like good places to start -- and then start looking at new taxes and cuts.

As an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a retired Foreign Service officer I am particularly unhappy with the increasing use of contractors to provide government services. It's more expensive than using government employees, and I suspect that they are less loyal. I did not approve of officers and political appointees leaving the Foreign Service to lobby for foreign governments of countries where they had served. I think your first loyalty should be the United States. I worry that many who go to the private sector believe their first loyalty is to the bottom line of the company they work for. This was most recently illustrated in the series of articles by the "Washington Post" about the US intelligence community. I had two assignments in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research during my career, and I think its outstanding expertise despite its small size shows that quality is more important than quantity. At State, I was usually closer to the CIA than other intelligence agencies. The CIA's collection and analysis was better than the other agencies'. I think part of the current problem is that the CIA was too independent for the Bush White House and therefore Bush and Cheney created the new position of Director of National Intelligence to bring the CIA to heel and to promote the more jingoist military intelligence agencies, like NSA and DIA. NSA's electronic intelligence is important, but CIA's human intelligence is even more important.

I believe that Elizabeth Warren would fight for average people, like me. To some extent the consumer protection agency was her idea. I think she would be a good person to lead it.

The Afghan war is a mess, but we have American troops fighting there. We must stand behind them and not expose them to additional danger by capriciously reducing funding for the war. If we are going to change our position on the war, make the policy decisions first, and then withdraw the troops in an orderly manner, rather than suddenly cutting off funding and placing them in a precarious situation.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Israeli Arrow Missile

When I was working on missile proliferation at State under the George H. W. Bush administration, around 1990 the US began cooperating with Israel on the Arrow anti-missile missile. At that time the US was still a party to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which prevented the US from working on strategic ABMs. In theory the Arrow was exempted because it was intended for defense against smaller, shorter-range missiles. However, there was concern that the US was using the Israelis to do research on ABMs that would have been prohibited for the US to do under the ABM treaty. Now that George W. Bush has abrogated US adherence to the ABM treaty in 2001, the ABM treaty is no longer an issue. Hopefully the US gets something out of this cooperation with Israel and it is not just a one way street with all the technology flowing from the US to Israel. Israel is so advanced technologically they definitely could contribute, if they are willing to.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Financial Times Austerity Debate

The Financial Times is publishing an important series on the austerity debate: Do we currently need more stimulus, or do we need to start paying off national debts?

I believe we need more stimulus for the moment. The debt is bad, but we need to get out of the hole before we start filling it in. Somebody had an interesting point this morning: Europe doesn't need to provide stimulus, because it can count on the US and China to do so, and their imports will increase exports by Europe and thus provide the stimulus that Europe would have to provide itself. I'm not sure that's correct, but it sounds reasonable. I could be one reason why Europe is much less interested in stimulus than the US.

At some point we do need to start paying down the debt, and it will be painful. But the rich bankers in New York ran the world economy off the cliff, and they have benefited more than anybody from the bailout. The government needs to help the little guys who got clobbered by the bankers, meanwhile trying to keep the bankers under control. Once the middle and lower classes begin to share some of the government largess that has been bestowed on the New York bankers, then we can begin to start paying down the debt.

Somebody had the interesting idea of encouraging Americans to buy US government debt, rather than depending on the Chinese to do it. Americans did this during World War II, and the current debacle is not unlike the stresses we when through then, although it was created by Americans who were willing to destroy America to enrich themselves. This crisis stands on its head the old idea that business is what makes America strong. Business, in particular the banking business almost destroyed America; it certainly made it much weaker. But a handful of people became obscenely rich in the process.

The fact that labor is taxed so much more heavily than capital is a huge problem. The Republicans complain about the high taxes on the rich, but by historical measures they are low, unless you go back to the days before income tax. The rich may pay the lion's share of taxes, but they earn an even larger lion's share of income. In addition, they don't pay the tax rate they should on much of their income. For workers, gross income is usually pretty close to net income on which they pay taxes. The rich hide their gross income and then have huge reductions on the gross income that they grudgingly report. They hide their wealth in corporations, in off-shore accounts, with various tax loopholes, etc. They pay lawyers and accountants millions of dollars to reduce the taxes they pay by many more millions. One of the most egregious examples was the recent death of billionaire George Steinbrenner, whose estate paid no estate ("death') taxes. This is taking food out of the mouths of the unemployed and giving it to the filthy rich.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Republicans Made a Mess

The Washington Post story on the intelligence community shows that the community is a mess. But this is what the Republicans wanted. After 9/11, Bush and Cheney wanted somebody to blame, and they wanted intelligence to support their desire to go to war with Iraq, although Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The CIA, which was the leading intelligence agency, with good reason, was vulnerable on both counts. It did not predict 9/11, although it did produce the famous President's Daily Brief article warning of a similar attack, and it warned of the danger from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, which Richard Clark said were ignored. In addition, it did not have intel supporting going to war with Iraq, although when Colin Powell made his infamous speech to the UN, it scraped the bottom of the barrel and found intel to support him, although most of it turned out to be wrong. So Bush and Cheney set out to destroy the CIA, on the one hand by replacing the professional leadership with political hacks, and on the other by taking away CIA's leadership role and giving it to someone isolated from intelligence collection and, except for Negroponte, someone who tended to support the military over civilian intelligence.

So now we have this huge intelligence apparatus that no doubt pays a fortune to political hacks of all persuasions, but mainly Republicans, because Bush and Cheney had more time to get their guys in. No doubt there are still some well educated, skilled intelligence professionals in the ranks, but they are lost among the mediocre. I would guess that particularly the private companies, the loves of Republicans, are more willing to say whatever the bosses want them to say than career professionals, , who have some cover except in extreme cases, for example when Bush and Cheney ran a vendetta against them.

The good news is that the terrorist threat is not great, nothing like a more historical threat by another nation against the US. By and large these terrorists are poorly funded, not well trained, and poorly led. They may have access to hundreds of millions of dollars, but what is the US defense budget, something like a trillion dollars. It's non-conventional warfare, and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Indians inflicted some serious defeats on the white soldiers, but in the end the whites won easily.

Currently, the economic threat from China is much more serious. And if China ever decides to pose a military threat to the US, it will dwarf the terrorist threat from Muslims.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Monday, July 05, 2010

Lula, Celso Amorim and Me

Actually there's nothing about Lula and me, but I did have a run-in with his Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim. While I was the science officer at the US embassy in Brasilia, the US proposed a high level science exchange. At that time, Celso Amorim was the foreign policy advisor assigned to the Science Ministry. The Science Minister and I actually had a good working relationship. Things were going along relatively smoothly until Celso Amorim got involved. He was a real Brazilian nationalist, and was very suspicious that the US had some nefarious intention for promoting the cooperation. Brazil has been suspicious of US scientific cooperation for many years, since an American discovered the huge mountain of iron ore in Brazil that became Vale do Rio Doce, now one of the world's biggest iron producers.

When Celso Amorim became involved, the negotiations for the joint scientific meeting went from being cordial to adversarial. I finally felt that I had hit a dead end and asked the ambassador's office for some help. Presumably somebody from high up in Itamaraty, the Foreign Ministry, told Celso to be more cooperative, and we eventually reached agreement on the meeting. Celso and Lula probably share a Brazilian nationalism which was probably a factor in Brazil's recent involvement in Iran's offer to ship some enriched uranium to Turkey in return for more highly enriched uranium for its research reactor.

Brazil no doubt sympathizes with Iran because it faced a similar problem created by the United States. Back in the 1970s, Brazil bought a nuclear reactor from Westinghouse in the US. Just before the reactor was finished, then Senator John Glenn passed a law that prevented the US from supplying fuel for the reactor unless Brazil agreed to "full scope safeguards" under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which had not been part of the original agreement. Brazil was then a party to the Tlatelolco Treaty on peaceful uses of nuclear energy in Latin America, but not the NPT, which it considered discriminatory because of the different ways it treated nuclear and non-nuclear countries. When the US changed the terms of the sale, Brazil balked. It then had a billion dollar reactor, and no fuel for it. It embarked on a program to develop a fuel cycle to produce its own reactor fuel, which could have enabled it to produce weapons grade uranium, placing it in much the same situation Iran is today. The Brazilian situation was defused (I would like to think) partly due to my efforts while science officer there. But no doubt the Brazilians, including Celso Amorim who was in Itamarty at the time, have a keen appreciation for Iran's situation.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Draft Coming Back?

Today on "Morning Joe" both Joe Scarborough and John Meacham said they thought it might be worthwhile bringing back the draft because the people in power have no concern about sending people about whom they know nothing to Afghanistan. Hooray! The other side of it is that the military needs some people who would not otherwise serve in it. The military likes the current volunteer military, because by and large they are all "lifers," and thus tend to think alike. We need some people in the military who don't think like soldiers.

Elena Kagan is getting critized for keeping military recruiters out of Harvard Law School, but nobody at Harvard, much less Harvard Law School, is really interested in serving in the military. Probably nobody from a family with an income of more that $100,000 or maybe $200,000 is interested, except for a few individuals who will always want some excitement, and a very few who will feel some call of patriotism. It's not Kagan, it's America. How many of Sen. Sessions' affluent constituents have served in battle zones in the last ten years? Probably a lot of Alabamians, but probably not very many middle class and up Alabamians.

Supreme Court Doesn't Believe in Rule of Law

The Supreme Court decision striking down Chicago's restrictions on handguns shows that it lacks confidence in the rule of law. It believes that the legal system of police and courts cannot protect citizens from bodily harm. Thus, each person needs to have a gun. It's sad when a court doesn't believe that the law functions.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

McChrystal's Firing Not Black or White

As usual, a Financial Times columnist has one of the best insights into the news. Christopher Caldwell correctly says that the McChrystal episode is more like Gen. Patton's press problems than McArthur's. McChrystal was not insubordinate or disloyal. He was too much soldier and not enough politician.

I'm unhappy with McChrystal for his role in the Pat Tillman friendly fire cover-up. But I suspect that his special forces were largely responsible for eliminating much of al-Qaeda in Iraq and producing whatever "victory" we had there. He was just a good man doing his job. Perhaps given his "black" background, he got promoted beyond his competency level. Maybe he should never have been more than a colonel or brigadier general running relatively small teams of exceptionally brave men. And it's not clear that his "black" tactics would have worked as a strategy in Afghanistan. But he was loyal to his country and his superiors. His staff may have spoken improperly, but he was not insubordinate. He did not refuse to carry out any order that I'm aware of. As a veteran, not a particularly brave one but one nevertheless, I am worried that a lot of cowardly wusses in the press screamed for his head, and they got it. They, like most Americans today, have little idea what it means to serve this country. We should restore the draft.

Jews Against Zionism

I am encouraged by this NYT story on American Jews who reject Zionism. They see themselves as Americans first, and don't support all the horrible things that Israel is doing.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Richard Cohen Lies about Israel

Richard Cohen's op-ed criticism of Helen Thomas is incorrect about the creation of Israel. I presume that he, as a Jew, knows better and has lied about its creation to attack Thomas. He says,
It was the plight of Jews consigned to Displaced Persons camps in Europe that both moved and outraged President Harry Truman, who supported Jewish immigration to Palestine and, when the time came, the new state itself. Something had to be done for the Jews of Europe. They were still being murdered.
In fact, Truman supported the creation of Israel for domestic political reasons. He needed the Jewish vote to get re-elected, and traded recognition of Israel for Jewish votes. His Secretary of State, George Marshall, opposed recognition of Israel as a state because of the problems that he correctly foresaw it would create for the US. Opposing Marshall was Truman's domestic political adviser, Clark Clifford, who favored recognizing Israel.

Richard Cohen only needed to read his own newspaper, the Washington Post. A 2008 op-ed by Richard Holbrooke explained the machinations behind the American recognition of Israel much more accurately than Cohen did, although I don't think Holbrooke is totally unbiased about it. I, of course, agree with George Marshall, and every other important person at the State Department, according to Holbrooke's account. About the recognition of Israel, Holbrooke writes:

On May 12, [1948,] Truman held a meeting in the Oval Office to decide the issue. Marshall and his universally respected deputy, Robert Lovett, made the case for delaying recognition -- and "delay" really meant "deny." Truman asked his young aide, Clark Clifford, to present the case for immediate recognition. When Clifford finished, Marshall, uncharacteristically, exploded. "I don't even know why Clifford is here. He is a domestic adviser, and this is a foreign policy matter. The only reason Clifford is here is that he is pressing a political consideration."

Marshall then uttered what Clifford would later call "the most remarkable threat I ever heard anyone make directly to a President." In an unusual top-secret memorandum Marshall wrote for the historical files after the meeting, the great general recorded his own words: "I said bluntly that if the President were to follow Mr. Clifford's advice and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President."

Monday, June 07, 2010

Jew Hatred Got Helen Thomas

Jews demonstrated the depth of their hatred and their power by forcing Helen Thomas to retire as a White House correspondent for her remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. I don't mind Jews talking about and responding to her comments, but their successful effort to destroy her career was evil. Jews think they are God's chosen people, but they have turned their back on God and cursed him. The state of Israel is an abomination to God. Jesus was sent by God to the Jews to show them the error of their ways 2,000 years ago, but they killed him rather than reform. They have chosen the same course today. They have rejected their heritage as the descendants of David.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Recognition

With all the talk about Memorial Day, I just thought I would remember the two members of my unit, the 2/94th Artillery, who were killed during my tour in Vietnam:

* Paul Jon Kosanke from Iowa, and

* Willie Austin, Jr., from Alabama.

They were killed at Firebase Barbara in I Corps, west of Quang Tri on April 29, 1970. You can find their names on the Vietnam Memorial by searching

Friday, May 28, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Worked

I wrote the following to my Congressman and Senators:

"As a Vietnam veteran, I oppose ending 'Don't ask, don't tell.' I am sorry that Congress is celebrating Memorial Day by imposing a new hardship on our military.

"I realize that the military pioneered racial integration by allowing blacks to serve. But gays are allowed to serve; they just aren't allowed to talk about their sex lives while serving.

"I think the policy change could have an impact on our war-fighting ability while we are fighting two wars -- Afghanistan and Iraq. I'd say we're ready for a new policy when homosexual sex becomes as common in the Denver Broncos locker room as it is in the US Congress or most prisons."

Memorial Day - Who Cares?

There's all this furor over Richard Blumenthal's claims about Vietnam service. As I said, I don't really care. Blumenthal supports veterans and looks favorably on Vietnam service. In that respect he is a welcome change from the majority of Americans who still despise Vietnam service. The thing that gets me is the Swift boat movement that attacked John Kerry for his service on Swift boats in Vietnam. The Swift boaters are the people who really hate America. They attack someone for serving his country and make it a bad thing.

I was not even a Kerry supporter. I was for Howard Dean, and when the Democrats dropped him, I voted for Ralph Nader. But the Swift boat movement made me realize that being a Vietnam veteran is a lost cause. Kerry did all right because he had some money and connections and then married more money and connections twice. But the average veteran ended up disadvantaged vis-a-vis his cohorts who did not serve. The Swift boaters made that clear. I thought that was one of the lowest, most unpatriotic attacks ever.

I heard some pundit say that a lot of the Tea Party impetus comes from the old Swift boat attack groups. If that's so, I can't see ever having anything to do with them. I already have this picture of many of them as retirees on Medicare and Social Security saying, "The government better keep its hands off of my Medicare and Social Security." Where do they think their Medicare and Social Security come from?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vietnam War, What Is It Good For?

As a Vietnam veteran, I'm not too upset by Richard Blumenthal's statements about being one, too. First, I'm more upset that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney were draft dodgers, just like Blumemthal was. Blumenthal's and Bush's career were similar, except that Bush apparently did almost nothing for the Air Force reserve or National Guard unit that he was in, while Blumenthall at least helped with Toys for Tots.

But it does bring back some unpleasant memories. My mother was a Sunday School teacher. As I was preparing to go into the Army and later off to Vietnam, one of my fellow Sunday School classmates asked her to help his application for conscientious objector status. I'm reminded of this by another article in the New York Times quoting former Congressman Chris Shays, with whom I went to college. Shays says that he avoided Vietnam service as a conscientious objector. Also, I remember flying home to Alabama from Ft. Leonard Wood with Charlie Graddick, a former high school classmate who later became Attorney General of Alabama, as Blumenthal did in Connecticut. Graddick was our high school quarterback and played in a local band. He was a much more logical candidate to fight in Vietnam than I, a skinny bookworm, was. On that plane, we had both finished one year of law school, as Blumenthal had, when the draft deferment for grad school got much tougher. So, we all got called up, but of the three I was the only one who actually went. Like Blumenthal, Graddick got into some reserve or National Guard unit. We were both returning after basic training, but his active duty service was over, while mine was just starting.

It's not all bad. I had basically run out of money to stay in law school. After Vietnam, I had enough saved, together with the little I got from the VA and odd jobs, to finish the last two years and get my law degree.

To me the real problem is that most of the elites in the Vietnam generation avoided service, and now many of them, like Blumenthal, have mixed feelings about it. It's certainly arguable that the Vietnam war was immoral and that they were right to avoid fighting it. But it's not clear that it was any more immoral than the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, which today receive a lot of lip-service praise from people who never served. You can argue that there are just wars, like World War II, but even there, what about the firebombing of Dresden or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? War is hell; it's also the ultimate sport that makes cage fighting look like dodge ball, or the ultimate mental challenge -- chess with living pieces that don't always do what the rules say they should do. Because of that, some veterans come back stronger than before, others come back broken for the rest of their lives, and others don't come back at all.

Because American elites refused to fight in Vietnam, a disproportionate amount of the fighting was borne by poor, black soldiers, who didn't have the benefit of educational deferments and political connections to get into reserve units. Today, because American elites still won't fight, and the US has declared war on Muslims, the bulk of the fighting is borne by poor, white rednecks. There is no draft and many blacks have too much sympathy for Muslims to wage some holy war against them for George Bush and the Republican Party, now carried on by Obama and the Democrats. I think Obama is doing the right thing not to cut and run in Afghanistan, although he's a black man whose father was a Muslim. We may not be able to win in Afghanistan, but we can certainly lose, and Obama is trying not to lose.

Unfortunately, the Blumenthal saga illustrates another possible divide in the war fighting people of the US. In general, Jews don't fight for America, although they will fight for Israel. Blumenthal is Jewish. You would think that the US offering homes to so many Holocaust victims would make Jews want to fight for the US, but they don't seem to. I don't remember meeting one Jew in my two years in the Army. I don't see very many stars of David in among the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. My poster boy is Rahm Emanuel, who served in the Israeli army (although not in uniform), rather than in the American army. I've tried off and on to find statistical data on this, but it's hard to find because of privacy protections. I think there were a relatively high percentage of Jews who fought in World War II, because the draft was so pervasive. But I'm guessing you wouldn't find nearly as high a percentage in Korea, just a few years later.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

English Anti-Semitism

This book review equates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, which has the effect of making Israel above reproach. In the process, the book he reviews reviles some of the greatest writers in English -- Shakespeare, Dickens, and T.S. Eliot. If you are not Jewish, it's a stretch. What Jews need to do is clean up their act -- quit persecuting Palestinians, deal honestly in commercial matters, etc. It doesn't help that so many of the people involved in the latest financial meltdown were Jews. By no means all of them were. In Europe there was criticism of the Anglo-Saxon way of doing business, but in America there were a disproportionate percentage of prominent Jews, from Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke to Lloyd Blankfein and John Paulson, among many others.

So the idea is that Jews can do anything, and if you criticize them, you are anti-Semitic. And if things get testy, there's always the cry of "Holocaust!" I don't buy it. Israel and the Jews need to get their house in order.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Israel and Non-Proliferation

I am worried that the Western world, including the US in particular, is too unconcerned about Israel's nuclear status. The Arabs and Muslims, particularly Egypt and Iran, will make a run at Israel during the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN, but are unlikely to achieve much. The US will be instrumental in running interference for Israel, which will not be there because it is not a member of the NPT. There is a lot of racial, religious and national acrimony between the Muslims and the Jews, but there are some genuine issues that get overlooked because people concentrate so much on the religious aspect.

Israel is the panic room for Jews all over the world. It is the place where they can go if they are threatened again by something like the Holocaust. Thus, Israel's bomb is really a Jew bomb that could be used in defense of Jews anywhere. An unusual question is under what conditions Israel would use it's nuclear weapons in defense of Jews in another country, as well as the more typical question of when it would use nuclear weapons in defense of Israel itself. If someone were to start another Holocaust, would Israel nuke them? What if there were a purge of both Jews and gentiles, like Stalin carried out in the gulags? Would Israel use nukes?

It's not a current question in the US, but what if in the future a state passed a law that discriminated against Jews as much as the Arizona immigration law discriminates against Hispanics? That certainly doesn't merit a nuclear holocaust, but it's moving that direction. Are there circumstances in which Israel would use its nukes against the US?

Thus it is reasonable for the world to ask what nuclear weapons Israel has, what delivery systems it has, and what its nuclear policies are. Currently this dialogue stops before it begins, because Israel won't admit that it has nuclear weapons, and it won't renounce them and join the NPT.

Monday, May 03, 2010

NPT RevCon Starts

The Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference started without me. About 15 years ago, while I was in Poland, Amb. Strulak was lobbying me to get US support for him to serve as Rapporteur. It's hard to believe it was that long ago.

This year, Obama has laid a much stronger position for the US at the RevCon. The NPT calls on nuclear powers like the US and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Usually the US has done nothing and is the object of criticism from the smaller countries who say that the NPT is a one-sided deal, because they promise to give up their nuclear ambitions, while the US does nothing. This year we have done something by signing the Start successor agreement with Russia. In addition Obama had his huge summit conference on controlling nuclear materials. We are trying to balance the scales a little bit.

Clearly Iran will be a target of this meeting. But the US and its allies must be careful not to alienate signatory countries by appearing to apply the NPT in a discriminatory manner. We need to prove that Iran is in non-compliance. The rest of the world will probably not accept a claim that we have to sanction Iran because we don't like them.

Other countries will also perceive that we are Israel's proxy in this dispute, because Iran potentially constitutes a much greater threat to Israel than the US. Meanwhile, Israel is not an NPT signatory, while everybody believes that it has nuclear weapons, and thus is technically more of a pariah state than Iran, which is an NPT signatory and which no one believes has nuclear weapons yet.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oklahoma City Bombing Victims Worth Less than New Yorkers

With all the news talk about the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, I have wondered how the compensation for Oklahoma victims compared to the New York victims of 9/11. This article in the Chicago Tribune makes it pretty clear. The Oklahoma City victims got virtually nothing compared to the New York City victims. The Oklahomans got about $10,000 each, while the New Yorkers got about $2 million each. There were several million dollars in charitable gifts to the Oklahoma victims, some of which is still being used to put the children of victims through college, but it's not from the government, and it's still paltry compared to what the New Yorkers got.

One reason the New Yorkers got so much was that the Democratic leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle, was married to a lobbyist for American Airlines. This article in the Washington Monthly details her long lobbying history, although it doesn't deal in detail with 9/11. Arianna Huffington also weighed in in 2003. The connection is important for 9/11 because the potential liability of American Airlines, Linda Daschle's client, was huge. So, the government gave huge amounts to the 9/11 victims to discourage them from suing the airlines. Sure, there was some public interest in preventing the airlines from being bankrupted by the liability, but did it really get debated with the Daschles on the case? It didn't hurt either that the 9/11 victims were a lot of loud, greedy New Yorkers, contrasted with the Oklahomans who were willing to die for their country. So, the government made the New Yorkers millionaires while it did almost nothing for the Oklahomans.

I suppose that if you pressed Congress, they would argue that the New Yorkers were killed by foreign terrorists, while the Oklahomans were killed by an American. They are all equally dead. So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that loud, greedy New York bankers got their own bailout after they themselves almost bankrupted the US. New York is definitely the welfare capital of America, with Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Schumer as the beggars-in-chief for a bunch of con men. No wonder no one suspected Bernie Madoff; he was just another con man in the New York crowd.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

US Skating around MTCR

As one of the creators of the MTCR (the Missile Technology Control Regime), I am a little disappointed to see the US try to skate around it by supplying unmanned drones to Pakistan, as this Reuters article reports. Of course, when we created the MTCR, it did not cover aircraft, only ballistic missiles. It was the rabid arms controllers who wanted to cover cruise missiles, too, but as cruise missiles have become more capable, there is more justification for doing so, although skating around the cruise missile coverage is not as bad as skating around the ballistic missile coverage. Nevertheless,I believe the US weakened the nuclear non-proliferation regime by making an exception for India under the Bush administration. Now it will weaken the missile non-proliferation regime by making an exception for Pakistan. Maybe we are trying to be evenhanded in the India-Pakistan dispute.

Health Care Not for Everybody

The pundits spend a lot of time talking about the low percentage of Americans who view the new health care legislation favorably. That is probably because the main beneficiaries are only about 10% of the population. Apparently of the approximately 300 million Americans, about 45 million have no health care insurance, or about 15% of the population. The new bill will cover about 30 million of them, or about 10% of the population. I suspect that they are very happy with the new legislation, but the 85% of Americans who have health care insurance may not be pleased with having this 10% added on, who will probably not carry their weight in terms of paying for their benefits. So, it's really only some altruistic motive that would make the 85% with insurance support the new bill. The 85% do get some things, like coverage of pre-existing conditions, perhaps access to more insurers, etc., but these advantages are small compared to what the uninsured get. Even some of the uninsured may be unhappy. Some of them will be healthy young people who have chosen not to buy health insurance because they don't want it. They will actually be a welcome addition to the insurance base, and will pay their own way. The unwelcome additions will be older people, not yet eligible for Medicare, who have serious health problems. To take care of them, there will be costs that must be covered somehow, currently by anticipated taxes on higher, investor incomes, on "Cadillac" health plans and by cuts to Medicare payments, among some other things.

The Tea Party demonstrators object to most of these taxes, which is understandable, but looked at another way, they are saying, "I am willing for my neighbor to die, so that I can have my current level of health care." In addition, most of the Tea Party types are white middle class, while the "neighbor" is likely to be black or Hispanic. But if they were as Christian as they claim to be, they should be willing to help their neighbors, especially since the costs are relatively low.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Financial Times Has It Right on Israel

A March 27 opinion piece by Max Hastings in the Financial Times has an excellent analysis of Israel's situation, entitled "A Deaf and Defiant Israel Is Gambling with Its Future." The picked out blurb says, "The claim upon East Jerusalem is rooted in a sense of moral entitlement, which the world increasingly rejects." He cites a book by Esther Barbarossa called "Suffering as Identity" that says Jews must cease to define their world view in terms of the Holocaust, ruthlessly politicised since the 1950s. Hastings says, "Some day Americans will awaken to the heavy strategic price their own nation pays for indulging Israeli excesses."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More on the Death of Foreign Reporting

The Washington Post has a story on the decline of foreign correspondents and the rise of Global Post to fill in the gap. The story shows how CBS got caught short when the Chilean earthquake hit, how Global Post filled in, but also some of the shortcomings. It's ironic that the Internet is decreasing the quality of foreign reporting. But by killing off traditional newspapers, it's decreasing the quality of news in general. TV news is increasingly becoming celebrity and salacious, sensational news, the same junk that tabloids have long reported.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Get Israel to Apologize

Israel should apologize for insulting Vice President Biden by announcing new Israeli settlements in the Arab part of Jerusalem during his visit. As Tom Friedman said, friends should not let friends do this. Hillary Clinton's speech to AIPAC today basically surrendered to Bibi Netanyahu, although she tried to include a few face-saving complaints. It is Israel who should be saving face for insulting Biden, not the US that is trying to save face for pandering to Israel after being insulted by Israel. The US should cut off all assistance, including military assistance, until Israel does something to apologize for insulting Biden. Obama won a round at home by passing health care, but Israel made him look like a weak fool before the rest of the world. The Iranians must be laughing that Israel has such a weak, powerless ally, who gets spat upon and is too cowardly to do anything about it. At least Congressman Emanuel Cleaver reacted when got spit on by the Tea Party protesters outside Congress yesterday, even if he didn't bring criminal charges. Obama and Clinton should do at least as much in reaction to Israel figuratively spitting on Biden.

Hooray for Health Care

I am pleased that the Democrats passed health care, although I wish it could have been a better bill. The problem was the Republicans, who were completely uncooperative and blocked every effort at bipartisanship. As a result, the bill expands coverage to many more Americans, but the funding and organization is shaky. The main goal of the Democrats was to expand coverage, and it took so much effort to do that over the opposition of the Republicans that there was nothing left for other issues, like funding.

The Republicans like this result, perhaps the silver lining of their black cloud, because it will give them something to campaign on this fall. While messing up the funding for health care is good for Republicans for campaign purposes, it's bad for the United States. The Republicans put their partisan interests ahead of the best interests of the country. Whether this tactic will work remains to be seen. There may be a revulsion against the Republicans as simply the party of "No," which stands for nothing. They claim to stand for responsible finance, but they are responsible for at least part of the irresponsible finance built into health care.

How can they claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility. Their Medicare Part D legislation was not paid for; it was just a gift of federal taxpayer money to the pharmaceutical companies. And the Republican Bush administration never put the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars in the budget; they were always separate, supplemental appropriations.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

News Reporting Going Down Hill

I have been increasingly unhappy with television new reporting. To me it was highlighted by the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes. All the networks just put their anchors or assistant anchors on planes and flew them to the trouble spots. They apparently didn't have any correspondents on the same continent who could speak intelligently about the countries. In general, CNN has fallen spectacularly. Ted Turner must be ashamed of what his network has become. I recently ran across this report of CNN dumping its science expertise, although it happened about a year ago.

Today's news now largely consists of warmed over summaries of New York Times or Washington Post stories, and commentators arguing with each other about them, Crossfire style. The BBC still does some real reporting, and PBS often uses some real reporting from British news agencies. Reuters also still does some real reporting, as do the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, at least on financial topics. But not-PBS news is practically worthless, except as a summary of what the few remaining new organizations have already said.

Fox Says Dont' Worry about Sick Ohio Woman

Fox News says not to worry about the sick Ohio woman whom Obama has used as an example of what's wrong with our health care system. Fox says she'll be taken care of by charity. Since she must depend on charity, I'd like to know how much Fox News is contributing to her care. Their position is that we don't need government help because private charity will take care of all sick people. So, Fox, the ball is in your court. If you have the courage of your convictions, you should give her at least $100,000 for her treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. Have you done it?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Israel's Insult

I just want to note that last week Israel spit in America's face when it announced new Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem during Vice President Biden's visit. I am inclined to take it as contempt that all Jews (represented by their country, Israel) have for gentiles. But, it's not all Jews, witness the op-ed by Tom Friedman, and his comments to Tom Brokaw on "Meet the Press" yesterday. It probably does represent the view of Likud and Zionists, represented in the US by AIPAC and other big Jewish political organizations. But even if it's not a sign that all Jews hate America, it's not good for race relations. America should certainly suspend all cooperation with, and foreign assistance to, Israel.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Still Support Obama

In the WSJ, Peggy Noonan says Democratic congress-persons should abandon Obama because he is serious about being a one term President. I think that Obama is putting the United States ahead of his political ambitions, which is very rare in Washington. Peggy Noonan does not understand that, nor do the Republicans in Congress, who see "success" as totally blocking the legislative process.

I should like Peggy Noonan. She seems like a very nice lady. She may be a polite WASP, a rarity in the political world today. But I don't agree with her.

On health care, I think the situation is like the following: Problems with private health care, Medicare, and Social Security are like long-term, chronic diseases. They are not going to kill you now, but they might in a few years. So, the Republicans during the Bush Administration took the United States and ran it into a wall, like a catastrophic auto accident. With two wars and tax cuts bleeding the national treasury, the Republicans now cry, "You can't do anything about those chronic diseases, we have people lying the street bleeding to death." The Republicans did wreck the US economy by tax cuts and failed regulation of Wall Street. But the question is: Can we continue to ignore the long term problems. To do so would be irresponsible. Obama knows this and says so. The Republicans would destroy the United States in a few years in order to win an election next year. They scream that Obama is breaking the budget, but that's because they cut taxes during prosperous times under Bush, and then created a financial disaster requiring deficit spending to survive.

One of the most hypocritical Republicans is John McCain, who used to be a responsible maverick, but is now a right-wing hack. He has become a bitter old man. Unfortunately, he showed he does not intellectually understand economics, when during the campaign he cancelled the Letterman show to focus on the economy and then had no clue when he went to the White House meeting on the economy. Does he get a pass for being stupid? No, the situation is too perilous to allow him to muck it up just because we feel sorry for him.

Unlike McCain, Obama has America's best interests at heart, whether he gets a second term or not. He may not be doing everything right, but he's trying, and he's not getting much help. I can't help him, but I can support him for having his heart in the right place, which is unusual in Washington these days.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Republican Cowards

Newt Gingrich's recent appearance on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" illustrated the cowardice of Republicans in dealing with national security issues. The Republicans are afraid to grant civil trials and constitutional protections to anyone they suspect of having terrorist leanings, most recently demonstrated by their fear of having terrorist trials in New York. Jon's reply to Gingrich that he was not afraid to hold such trials was a lone voice in the media, but one that reverberated with me. How can we trust cowards like Gingrich, or George W. Bush and Cheney (who dodged the Vietnam draft), to defend the US? Somehow Republicans have the reputation of being strong on defense, which maybe they are, because they are so scared. They fear everybody, strange lights, noises in the dark, anything that might potentially threaten their ill-gotten wealth. These are the people who defend their "private property" by shooting trespassers on sight, even children, and asking questions later. I am ashamed for America. But the good news is that they don't represent all of America. Even if they make big gains in the next election, there are a lot of people who won't vote for them.

I suspect that a lot of the military is Republican, but I don't know for sure. It makes some sense, because Republicans support the troops in general, because they are so fearful that they want somebody to go out and fight for them. But Republicans are also in favor of low taxes that may leave the troops without the support they need. Bush and Rumsfeld sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq without the best body armor or Humvees, the army you have, not the army you would like to have. Then rather than raising taxes to support the wars, they said just to go out and shop. They certainly made no effort to increase the size of the military to fight two wars; that might inconvenience some of their wealthy friends, whose children might have had to go.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Iran's Nuclear Program Continued

Iran threatens to expand its nuclear program, with yet another reasonable justification, if we could believe them. We've found some significant discrepancies, but we haven't really found a smoking gun that would warrant military action. Economic sanctions are pretty ineffectual; so, it doesn't really matter whether we get some imposed despite China's resistance, or not.

Nobody is talking about the real problem, which is that Israel has many atomic bombs, and we have basically turned a blind eye to bombs developed by India and Pakistan. Arguably, the Pakistani bomb offsets the Israeli bomb, but Pakistan is fast becoming a failed state; so who know what will happen to the Pakistani bombs. They could fall to al-Qaeda, or the US military could take them over to prevent al-Qaeda from getting them. So, Iran is working working on a Muslim bomb that it can count on to counter to the Jewish bombs.

Unless the US does something about Israel, it's unlikely that it can do anything about the Iranian bomb. It's not clear that the Iranians really want to build a bomb; they may just want to be able to build a bomb if they feel the need for one. But they are a lot more likely to feel the need for one as long as Israel has many.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Great Article on Holocaust Remembrance

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has a great article on Holocaust remembrance day. It says that all the talk Israelis do about the Holocaust will not help Israel, unless it conducts itself in a more moral manner. It says the big Holocaust publicity push is to offset the UN Goldstone report condemning Israel for its conduct of the last war. It says that Netanyahu and his "racist" interior minister ranted against "migrants" in Israel. The article says:

No remembrance speech will obliterate the xenophobia that has reared its head in Israel, not only on the extreme right, as in Europe, but throughout government.
It concludes:
A thousand speeches against anti-Semitism will not extinguish the flames ignited by Operation Cast Lead, flames that threaten not only Israel but the entire Jewish world. As long as Gaza is under blockade and Israel sinks into its institutionalized xenophobia, Holocaust speeches will remain hollow. As long as evil is rampant here at home, neither the world nor we will be able to accept our preaching to others, even if they deserve it.
If only more American Jews were as perceptive as some Jews in Israel are.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bernanke's Problems Due to Bankers

The main people responsible for Bernanke's problems with approval for another term at the Fed are the Wall Street bankers. They were so arrogant and disdainful of the the US Government, the Congress, President Obama, and the American people that there is a strong reaction against Bernanke's decision to bail them out. People ask, why should be have bailed out such ungrateful people, who brought themselves to the brink of disaster, and who probably did as much economic damage to the US as Osama bin Laden did when he destroyed the twin towers?

Bernanke deserves some credit for saving us from another depression, but he's sullied by the company he keeps. Wall Street bankers come across as some of the most morally despicable people in the US or even the world.

On Bernanke's behalf, he could go to work for these sleazeballs in New York and probably increase his income by 10 to 100 times. He could easily be making over $10 million on Wall Street. We should be grateful that he's willing to stay on as Fed Chairman.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

We Need Some Financial Pain

This op-ed in the Financial Times by the Polish finance minister, "Intolerance of small crises led to this big one," makes a point that I have been thinking about and strongly agree with. We need some pain to shake out the aftereffects of the financial crises that we have been through. Fed chairmen, particularly Greenspan and Bernanke, have tried to keep their political masters happy by avoiding any economic pain, except that which blindsided them, like that accompanying the popping of the tech bubble and the housing bubble. This op-ed makes the correct point that they were blindsided by these crises precisely because they trying so hard to smooth out the smaller bubbles preceding them. There is no free lunch. If you pummel the economy, as the bankers did in the housing crisis, you hurt it, and it can't pop back up like nothing happened. If it appears to (as it has recently), it probably means that you've done something bad to it that will come back to haunt you sometime, in a few months or maybe if you're lucky, in a few years. The obvious possibility is that you will sow the seeds of inflation, and that when those seeds sprout, you're going to have a big mess on your hands, made worse by postponing it for years. On the other hand, you might get deflation, like that which produced the "lost decade" in Japan, about to become two lost decades.

What we need is an economy on a sound footing, which means among other things that there is moral hazard for messing up your business. Momma (the Fed and Congress) shouldn't always bail you out. So, should we have let a few more banks follow Lehman down the drain. I don't know, but I don't think so. I think it was probably right to save the banks, but we should have made them pay a higher price for being saved. And we should impose significantly stronger regulations, in particular limiting both their business size (Glass-Steagel) and geographic size.

Brits & US Share Problem

This op-ed in the Financial Times on how to reform the British Foreign Office could have been written about the US State Department. The US Foreign Service almost always suffers from budgetary problems, like their British colleagues. There are exceptions. Colin Powell was personally concerned about the Foreign Service, and Hillary Clinton may try to demonstration her political clout by helping increase State's budget, but most Secretaries of State are more interested in policy issues than personnel issues.

One big problem of both organizations is that they have no domestic constituency. Citizens often see the job of diplomats as representing the foreign countries they work with, rather than pushing the agenda of their home country. Yet, that is seldom the case. They may often argue for going slow in going to war on slapping on sanctions in trade disputes, but that is because they understand that such actions are likely to be futile or counterproductive, although they may make Americans (or Brits) feel better for a while, until the chickens come home to roost.

In any case, those unfortunate perceptions often mean that budgets for diplomacy are among the first to get cut in bad times and among the last to be increased in good times. American lawmakers should take these British arguments to heart in considering their appropriations for the State Department.