Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NSA Incompetence

Everyone is "shocked, shocked" that the US is spying on its allies.  Of course almost everyone does it, but almost everyone who does it keeps it a secret.  NSA's failure was not so much spying on Angela Merkel as it was not keeping the spying secret.  The failure is due to the same thing as the Benghazi debacle, contracting out everything, because the Republicans hate the American government.  It was outside-contractor Snowden who disclosed the spying, not a government employee, just as it was not American military who were disgraced in Benghazi.

NSA chief Gen. Alexander should be fired immediately, not for spying on Merkel, but for allowed the spying to be made public.  His security arrangements for protecting American intelligence were obviously too weak.  He never should have agreed to all of the outsourcing that is taking place.  NSA is a spy agency that can't keep a secret, which makes it worthless.

Fire Alexander now and take away one of his stars.  He is a failure.  He has let down his country.  He has been defeated in the battle for international leadership, a battle that should be led by intelligence, not hindered by it.

Republicans Don't Love America

The last 60 Minutes show on Benghazi reawakened my concern that Republicans are more concerned about shovelling money to their contractor friends than they are about protecting the United States.  According to 60 Minutes, the man responsible for protecting the Ambassador was not an American, but a retired British military man.  During the Iraq war, the Republicans did not trust American Marines to protect the the Embassy, but hired their buddies who ran Blackwater.  Blackwater turned out to be so corrupt and inept that its headquarters had to leave the United States.

Further muddying the waters in Benghazi was the fact that the post there was not a normal Foreign Service post.  It was not an embassy nor a consulate, but some kind of special mission, the main purpose of which was to provide cover for clandestine CIA activity which was being carried out in a much more secure "safe house" distant from the mission building.  Apparently the CIA was more concerned about itself than about the Ambassador at the mission.  The CIA officers apparently let Ambassador Stevens die in the mission building while they hunkered down in their safe house.  I think it is despicable that Congressman Issa has been attacking the State Department for what was the cowardice of CIA officers and outside-hire mercenaries.  Basically Amb. Stevens' security team locked him in a jail cell in a burning building and left him there while they took refuge in the CIA safe house.

The other thing that never gets discussed is why Libya was so unsafe.  Libya was supposed to be a victory for the new American approach to regime change in the Middle East, but instead it has turned into a quagmire where the American Ambassador is killed and al-Qaeda is strengthened by acquiring new recruits and a new base of operations.  What about all of Qaddafi's weapons that have gone missing, probably now in the hands of terrorists across Africa?  American interests were better served by Qaddafi, than by the new terrorist-linked government that the US installed.  Sen. John McCain and his fellow Republican hawks are as responsible for Amb. Stevens' death as anybody not directly involved in the fighting at the Benghazi mission.

This is a black page in the history of American diplomacy.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Fight Against ObamaCare

This NYT article about the money funding the fight against ObamaCare indicates to me that the fight is more than just against ObamaCare.  I think it is a coalition of white conservative groups who oppose Obama and the America he represents.  Part of it is whites against blacks.  Fox rounds up some black Tea Party hacks, but there are not many of them.  But the rebellion is not just whites against blacks, it is conservative, southern, rural men whose families have lived in America for many generations, and who used to lead America or have a large voice in running America, against the new darker hued, liberal, more recent immigrants to America who have become increasingly powerful, especially in the highly urbanized states on both coasts.  The less urbanized South, non-coastal West and Midwest are losing out.

It's ironic that the group representing the smaller population is making its stand in the House of Representatives, in which is representation is based on population.  It looks like they have just enough safe seats to be able to block legislation they oppose, although they don't have enough seats to pass legislation, which has brought the Congress to a deadlock. Part of the problem is gerrymandering, which has created too many safe seats, making Republican party primaries more important than the actual election.  However, many of these Congressmen and women come from states that are so Republican that redistricting would not make much difference, although more equitable redistricting would remove some of the obstreperous Republicans.

These are my guys.  I grew up in the South.  The first politician I ever supported enthusiastically was Barry Goldwater.  But the other side of the issue is, "What about the country."  These guys seem willing to destroy the country if they don't get their way.  I suppose Ted Cruz can go home to Canada or Cuba if he doesn't get his way, but a lot of the other leaders of the rebellion come from families who have lived in America for generations.  Do they think America is finished?  Are these the same guys who decided in Vietnam that they had to destroy the village to save it?  It didn't work in Vietnam, and I don't think it will work in America.

I think something needs to be done about government spending, and about ObamaCare.  The Republicans insisted on making ObamaCare into something like the plan proposed by the Heritage Foundation and enacted by Romney in Massachusetts.  It uses the existing insurance framework to expand the percentage of the population covered by healthcare.  By using that insurance framework, however, it gave up many opportunities to save money.  One of the main problems with American healthcare now is that it is not a marketplace.  The insurance industry massively overpays the medical industry because the insurance companies rake their profits off the top, and the bigger the pot is, the bigger their share is.  They have little incentive to hold down costs, and both the insurance executives and the medical executives paid Congress well to maintain the existing structure while expanding it to more people.  Most Democrats wanted a single payer system (the government) that would be something like Medicare for all.  In that case, the government could in theory reign in medical costs, and the HHS bureaucracy is probably more honest that either Congress or the health insurance industry.