Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Think They Learned ....

It would appear DHS did learn from Katrina. At least, the Administration discovered the political risk of failing during a natural disaster.

DHS and its compatriots, the cities and states, were more proactive as Gustav and Ike approached.

Have they learned the short term lessons? Will the President and the candidates stay away from the disaster areas or will they interrupt the recovery process for political theatre?

Have they learned the long term lessons? Will they actually rebuild the wetlands? Will they build structures to work with the floods instead of just pushing the water off to the next parish?

I guess the long term issues are for the next administration to deal with.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Katrina Review

With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on New Orleans, it's time to review the the government's preparation for Hurricane Katrina

Katrina Debacle Entirely Homeland Security’s Fault

The debacle of the Hurricane Katrina was entirely the fault of the Department of Homeland Security. I’m not referring to the flooding of New Orleans, but to the lack of coordination and planning prior to, during, and following the disaster.

DHS was charged with helping states and cities plan for disasters and developing coordination between federal, state, and local agencies. It failed. No coordination existed in 2005 and no coordination is in place now.

Although the State and the City failed in their own planning, it was still DHS’ responsibility to make sure that the State and City had a plan. Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff did nothing to assure the states and cities of the gulf coast had planned for such disasters.

The true Rovian purpose to creating the behemoth that is DHS, after the President had originally rejected it, was to deprive almost 90,000 federal employees of their right to organize. Only a small oversight body was required to coordinate all of the departments that DHS absorbed, but instead, a monster agency was created where employees have no worker’s protections.

Due to the White House’s misplaced priorities, DHS is a failure. DHS should be turned into an oversight agency and power should be returned to the diverse agencies from which it was taken.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just Like a Bully --- Tough Talk Without a Fight

George Bush and John McCain have both wallowed in the time honoured tradition of talking tough when there’s no chance for a fight.

At least McCain spoke following the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia, accusing Russia of imperialism and demanding it withdraw from Georgian territory. McCain is not President, however, and cannot effect the war. So, McCain talks tough and balls up his fists knowing his buddies will pretend to hold him back.

Bush actually waited until the war was over. He didn’t speak until significant military operations were already completed. Then, he demanded Russian get out of Georgia, or else. Thanks, in part, to Bush’s foray into Iraq, he has no credibility and cannot make Russian retreat. Tough talk as the fighting parties are being dragged down to the principal’s office.

The Bush Administration has egging Georgia into picking a fight with Russia for years, telling President Saakashvili he can join our gang if he stands up to Russia. Now that Saakashvili has picked his fight, Bush abandons him, just like a bully.

Barrack Obama, on the other hand, spoke with reason and foresight. Following the beginning of the war, he called on both parties to stop fighting and have an independent party get in the middle. The only middleman available in this fight is the European Union.

Now, a cease fire has been negotiated, by Nicholas Sarkozy, representing the EU. Bush and McCain knew from the start (hopefully), that only the EU could broker a cease fire here, so they took the opportunity to look tough to the American voter.

Instead of calling on the EU to step up, Bush and McCain played the bully card. McCain even refused to pronounce President Mededev’s name correctly, a standard and bizarre tactic for the Republican party.

Bush and McCain’s tough talk on the Russian/Georgian war has only one target, the American voter. Yet again, they’re trying to paint the Democrats as weak on defense. It won’t work anymore. We don’t need another bully in the White House.

(Yes, this is an opinion piece)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

It’s NOT the surge

Just about everyone claiming "the surge" worked, crediting the surge for the reduced violence in Iraq. However, the surge has been only a minor factor in the calming of Iraq.

Violence in Iraq has lessened primarily due to the number of mercenaries being paid by the US Government, the implementation of Carter policy of paying combatants not to fight, and the near completion of ethnic cleansing in Baghdad.

The surge is an increase of 30,000 American troops, bringing the total to 160,000 troops in Iraq. The surge troops are only twenty percent of the American force in the country. Such a small increase couldn’t possibly have had the effect some claim.

Meanwhile there are 180,000 contractors, many of them mercenaries, like Blackwater. Non-mercenaries contractors, work for the military, doing jobs soldiers would have performed in past wars.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, General Erik Shinseki said we would need over 300,000 troops to stabilize the country. His military career was ended when the White House decided to do the job on the cheap. Now the troops are there, even if over half are simply on the payroll. Apparently Shinseki was right.

More important to the decrease in violence is the Awakening movement. The Sunni Awakening movement started several months before the surge. Peace was already breaking out before the surge began.

The Awakening is an implementation of the Carter policy, developed for the Camp David Peace Accord in 1979. The US Government has poured foreign aid into Egypt since 1979, in exchange for peace between Egypt and Israel.

Now, the United States has implemented a policy of paying Sunni leaders to not fight, at a cost of $500,000 per day. The Sunni leaders tired of fighting and foreign insurgents; they eagerly took the payments in exchange for peace.

In Baghdad, the neighborhoods have been largely cleansed. Sunnis have been removed from Shia neighborhoods and Shia have been cleansed from Sunni neighborhoods. Mixed neighborhoods are now fairly abandoned or undesirable. Shia and Sunni have calmed down in Baghdad mainly because there’s nothing left to fight over.

Yes, the American military is doing everything it can, but it is disingenuous or ignorant to assert that the surge “has worked.”

Calling the surge a success is like giving Barry Bonds credit for winning lopsided baseball game by hitting a home run in the ninth inning.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

American Oil Won’t Lower Prices

Some count on the ignorance of the average person, but when the average American’s brain is turned on, he tends to show intelligence and even wisdom. We've been listening to a ridiculous argument for the past several weeks. It's time to clear this up and turn on our brains. So here goes . . .

Drilling for oil in ANWAR and offshore will not lower energy prices

Providing new oil drilling leases in the Alaska wildlife refuge (ANWAR) and offshore will lower oil prices in America . . . or will it?

Let’s do the math. Supply and demand tells us that prices will fall due to significant change in demand or supply. To keep the math simple and conservative, we’ll assume no more increase in demand (not likely) and no problems developing oil fields, like hurricanes and wars (not likely).

Oil is a worldwide commodity market. Commodity prices are based on world markets, not national markets. Oil produced in America does not go just into the American market, but into the worldwide market. Although some want us to believe oil produced in America can be separated from the rest of the world, it can’t.

So, we need to deal with oil prices on a worldwide basis. Experts predict ANWAR holds about 10 billion barrels of oil and offshore there is about 18 billion barrels. World oil reverses top 1,300 billion barrels.

If America taps ANWAR and the entire American offshore, that would amount to just over two percent of the world oil reserves. Oil prices should go down less than three percent. If the price for oil is $120 per barrel, the price of a barrel would lessen by $2.58 per barrel. The price for Petrol, if going for $4.00 per gallon would go down by only nine cents.

Lowering petrol prices by nine cents certainly will not solve our energy problems.

It’s really a world energy market

Speaking of energy, American oil production is not just part of the world oil market, it’s part of the world energy market. The world energy market consists of oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, hydro, etc.

Oil makes up about 35 percent of the energy market. The entire world energy market equates to 3,700 billion barrels of oil. Our 28 billion barrels of oil would be less than one percent of the world energy market.

The oil in ANWAR and offshore would have no real effect on the world energy market.

So, why do the oil companies want these leases?

Producing oil does not increase an oil company’s value; assets do. Ownership of these very valuable leases increases an oil company’s bottom line much more than production does. And, remember, the goal of any company is not producing product, but profits. Offshore oil drilling is a sham. It’s really about ownership of assets, not production.

How do we use supply and demand to actually reduce our energy costs?

The United States uses about 25 percent of the world’s energy. If we lower our use by fifty percent (We can do this. We’re Americans, damn it. (See note 1, below.)) we would reduce the world energy demand by over twelve percent.

If the United States were to get twenty percent of our energy demand from renewable sources we would increase the world’s supply of energy by five percent.

A decrease in demand of twelve percent and an increase in supply of five percent would lower energy prices by 17 percent: a good start.

How we use energy is also critical

T. Bone Pickens is right. Please see

Note 1: The highest demand for energy in the United States is from buildings; in particular, air conditioning; not automobiles.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

John McCain Controls the Airwaves

The McCain campaign has complained for months that Barack Obama is gets too much coverage on major media outlets. John McCain gets the majority of coverage and its mostly glowingly positive. Meanwhile, coverage of Barack Obama is generally negative.

McCain shows, over and over, that he doesn’t understand what’s going on. He says the ‘surge’ in Iraq caused the ‘awakening’, but the awakening started long before the surge. Was McCain questioned about this? Hardly.

McCain shows he doesn’t know how social security works. He calls the idea that money workers pay into the system goes directly to retirees a “disgrace.” Well, Mr. McCain, social security was designed as a pay-as-you-go system. Does the media question McCain’s misunderstanding of social security? No. Instead, they spent a week talking about how a comment by Jesse Jackson could hurt Obama’s campaign.

Obama meets with Hamad Karzai; rather than covering the substance of the meeting, the media questions Obama’s purpose. Coverage of Obama’s overseas trip started, on, with a article on how an Obama presidency could hurt black America.

This morning, Daniel Shore, a long time commentator on NPR, talked about Obama’s trip. Weekend Edition’s host pushed him, repeatedly, to condemn Obama purpose and finds mistakes in Obama’s performance.

John McCain’s complaints regarding media bias are just a show designed to create even greater bias.

This is, after all, a politician who has referred to the press as his "base," and a politician about whom MSNBC's Joe Scarborough has said "every last one of them [reporters] would move to Massachusetts and marry John McCain if they could." As Eric Alterman and George Zornick recently explained in The Nation, "no candidate since John F. Kennedy, and perhaps none since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, has enjoyed such cozy relations with the press." Jamison Foser, Media Matters for America.

If the media reported on John McCain’s slips, mistakes, and senior moments the way they attack Obama’s bowling, this election would already be Bob Dole all over again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Karadzic's Destruction of Bosnia Lasts Long After War

Imagine this is your church.

The Ferhadija Mosque, in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Hercegovina (BiH) was built in the 16th century. Until May 7, 1993, the mosque served as a center of faith and community for hundreds of Bosnian Muslims in Banja Luka, the second largest city in BiH.

This is your church now.
This is a photograph of the Ferhadija Mosque I took during the summer of 2001. On May 7, 1993, the mosque was destroyed by Bosnian Serbs who'd been whipped into a frenzy by war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Between April and September of 1993, in an effort to rid their city of Muslims, Bosnian Serbs destroyed every mosque in Banja Luka (16 mosques dating back to medieval Europe). In 1991, there were over 82,000 non-Serbs in Banja Luka. Only 15,000 non-Serbs live there now. During the war, Serbs destroyed numerous mosques and Catholic churches across Bosnia.

Even in June, 2001, 400 hundred policemen were needed, as security, at the corner stone laying ceremony to begin rebuilding the Ferhadija Mosque. The corner stone was immediately taken away and stored. Only in 2007 did the actual reconstruction begin.
Six years after the war ended with the Dayton Peace Accords, Sarajevo still smelled of smoke and the Parliament Building still looked like it was about to fall down.

Muslims, I talked to Banja Luka were sick of the war and the Serbs were tired of being the bad guys.

I worked with Terra, a legal-aid firm helping with property returns thru the Office of the High Representative and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the staff were Bosnian Serbs. I got the sense that many were embarrassed by the actions of their countrymen; that they could be conned into trying to cleanse parts of Bosnia of their Muslim and Croat minorities.

This was the war that coined the term "ethnic cleansing." And, it wasn't just Bosnian Serbs. President Franjo Tuđman tried to eliminate Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia. He died before he could be indicted.

Radovan Karadzic, along with General Ratko Mladic, have been hidden from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for the past 13 years. In order to 'cleanse' the country, these guys, with their goons, convinced Bosnian Serbs that their Muslim or Croat neighbours had already committed atrocities and were about to attack them. Serbs would then 'defend' themselves by attacking their neighbors, starting a village war, and justifying ethnic cleansing.

Karadzic and Mladic opened concentration and rape camps and wiped out entire villages. Just before the end of the war, they executed over 8,000 men and boys in Srebinica, nearly wiping the village off the map.

Bosnia is a beautiful country, filled with religious tolerance; one of the few countries where most villages have Catholic and Orthodox spires and Islamic minarets. Sarajevo is an eclectic mix of religious temples:

The arrest of the architect of the of Bosnian war, Radovan Karadzic, is promising signal for the future of this country and its Balkan sisters, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Kosovo.

Serbianna News Post reports that Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb autonomous region) Prime Minister Milorad Dodik recently said “Radovan Karadzic is not Republika Srpska. It is not his creation but the creation of its people.”

I'm sure the Bosnian Serbs I met are eager to separate themselves from the days of Radovan Karadzic. Hopefully, all of Bosnia is ready to retake its mantel as a home for Muslims, Serbs, and Croats.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why are conservatives so pessimistic about America?

Yesterday, Al Gore called on America to create 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources within ten years. This would take all of our prodigious intellect and ingenuity. But, aren’t we Americans?

So, why did conservatives and republicans respond with their customary pessimism? Yet again, they said we can’t do it, we’re not smart enough. Why can’t we raise the café standards to 50 miles per gallon? We’re not smart enough. Why can’t we get off fossil fuels? We not smart enough. Why can’t we provide health care and pensions for all? We’re simply not smart enough.

When are we going to return to the days of optimism? When the congress would pass “technology forcing legislation” believing we’ll figure it out? In the 1930s and 40s, we helped end a worldwide depression and defeat Hitler’s Nazi armies. We created social security, rebuilt Europe. In the 1960s we overturned a century of American apartheid. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon signed the clean air and clean water acts. Why can’t we get off oil?

If we don’t use our incredible ability to figure things out and get things done, Germany, France, Japan, and even China will do it, reaping all the benefits stemming from such advances

It’s time to call on the republican party to stop whining and help bring American back to its position as undisputed leader of the world.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why Investment Bubbles? Reagan’s Tax Slaughter.

Occam’s Razor tells us to look simply for answers. So, what basic principal applies to our current economic crisis? Supply and Demand. More than anything else, the basic laws of supply and demand have caused the investment bubbles of the past twenty years.

During the Reagan Administration, aided by a republican congress, Ronald Reagan slashed taxes on the rich. In 1980, the income tax rate on the highest bracket was 70 percent (Married, filing jointly - Income over $215,400). By the time Reagan left office, the rate on the same income was only 28 percent ((Married, filing jointly - Income over $155,320). With after-tax incomes soaring, the investment class invested irrationally, causing bubble after bubble. The economic downturn we’re experiencing, now, is the inevitable consequence of Reagan’s policies.

Let’s take the bubble for instance. The dot.coms started growing in the early 1990s. At that time Reagan’s tax cuts had fully taken hold, giving the investment class much more money to invest than there was equity in which they could invest. The basic laws of supply and demand tell us that when there is excessive demand for something and insufficient supply, prices will soar. Investors had too much money to invest and equity could only be created so fast. So, the demand for equity was extremely high and the supply was limited. Investors bid up the price of stock in dot.coms to levels many times higher than its actual value. In fact, no made a profit until the late 1990s. Because such prices were unsupportable, eventually the industry collapsed.

We’ve seen the bubble and the housing bubble. Now we’re entering into the age of the oil bubble. The collapse of the oil bubble could have catastrophic effects around the world. We need to re-graduate the tax system before the investment class causes the next disaster.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Why Won’t John McCain Support Democracy?

John McCain has said he will not talk to Iran or Hamas until they’ve already complied with the demands of the United States. Why is he refusing to support democracy?

If McCain truly believed in promoting democracy, he would be willing to reward people who go to the polls to elect their leaders. Instead, he has said he will punish the people of Gaza and Iran for electing leaders we don’t like.

Regardless of how offensive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can be, he is the President of Iran, elected in a poll declared to be free and fair. Hamas is the government of Gaza, put in place through a free and fair election; an election demanded by the United States. Even if Hamas threatens Israel, it is the democratically elected leadership. The voters deserve to have their wishes honoured. Speaking with these governments rewards the voters, not the leaders.

John McCain should be calling for the United States to close its embassy in Zimbabwe. It is already apparent the Mugabe government cheated in counting the votes from the general election. Now, in order to steal the runoff, Mugabe’s thugs are withholding food aid from people who may vote for Morgan Tsvangirai, stopping rallies, and even arresting and holding Tsvangirai for hours on end.

Instead, McCain condemns Barack Obama’s willingness to promote democracy, calling it reckless. What’s more reckless? . . . Talking to hostile governments or giving them orders?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Petty Leaders

When national leaders act like petulant children, American political institutions are in deep trouble.

In recent years, one of our political parties, all the way up to our current president, has devolved into childish name calling. Right wing pundits and politicians refuse to call the opposing party by its official and popular name: the Democratic Party.

From Rush Limbaugh to Dick Cheney and George Bush, Republicans and right wing pundits are consistently referring to the opposition as the “Democrat” party. Apparently, calling it the Democratic party makes to close a connection to democracy. Several pundits have even spent the past few years trying to tie Democrats and Progressives to Hitler and Mussolini.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, documents have turned up showing it to be official Republican policy to never refer to Governor Bill Ritter as “Governor.” They are to call him Bill, Mr. Ritter, etc., anything but Governor. To call him Governor would legitimize his victory in the 2006 election, something the Colorado Republican party is apparently not mature enough to handle.

Finally, for the moment, there is the constant use of Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein. Although meaningless to anyone over twelve years of age, these supposedly mature adults continue to act like small mean children … and unfortunately, “lead” our Nation.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Here Comes the Mindless Tax Cut v. Spending Debate

It has become clear to Congress and the Whitehouse that an economic stimulus package is needed. Now, the ridiculous debate over tax cuts v. spending has begun.

Republicans say that spending will break the budget. Democrats say tax cuts will break the budget. Guys … Get over it. The math is simple. Whether you increase spending by $150 billion or decrease taxes by $150 billion is irrelevant. In one case outlays go up and in the other revenues go down. The National Debt will be increased by $150 billion either way. The economy will see an influx of $150 billion either way.

The real issue is where to put the money. Do we give it to the investment class? Do we spend it on infrastructure projects?

The bubble showed what happens when the demand for equity exceeds the supply. The bridge collapse in Minneapolis showed what happens when we ignore our infrastructure for decades at a time.

The Dow Jones is fluctuating on investment strategies, rather than the value of equity. So, giving money to the investment class will only lead to more overpriced stock, causing another bubble. Any tax cut should be targeted to the middle and lower classes, not the investment class. Spending by families will increase the value of equity, not just the price.

Spending on infrastructure will largely go to the labor class. These people will spend and the value of equity will grow without bubbling. And … when we’re done … we’ve got repaired bridges and roads, an electrical grid that works, and so on. Spending on infrastructure is a must. It either happens when it will help the economy or when it will be a drag. Let’s be smart this time and invest in our future.