Friday, November 28, 2008

This is why I always did my X-Mas shopping Dec. 24:

I know they call it "Black Friday", but this is outrageous. There's a deep sickness in America that it won't be easy to address, but it's going to be up to our new President to at least try to put down this out-of-control culture of greed in our country. It goes from the top to the bottom, whether it's a shopper stepping on a worker to save a few bucks on a TV or a President sending a nation to war over billions of dollars in oil. Republicans talk a good game about establishing a "culture of life", but this culture of greed we've established stems from the same principles that drove the Reagan revolution: greed is good. I don't know if our new President can do anything about this, but I'm hopeful that his call to service may stem the tide. We can hope.

A Wal-Mart worker died early Friday after an "out-of-control" mob of frenzied shoppers smashed through the Long Island store's front doors and trampled him, police said.

The Black Friday stampede plunged the Valley Stream outlet into chaos, knocking several employees to the ground and sending others scurrying atop vending machines to avoid the horde.

When the madness ended, 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour was dead and four shoppers, including a woman eight months pregnant, were injured.


Even officers who arrived to perform CPR on the trampled worker were stepped on by wild-eyed shoppers streaming inside, a cop at the scene said.

"They pushed him down and walked all over him," Damour's sobbing sister, Danielle, 41, said. "How could these people do that?

"He was such a young man with a good heart, full of life. He didn't deserve that."


"I look at these people's faces and I keep thinking one of them could have stepped on him," said one employee. "How could you take a man's life to save $20 on a TV?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Future of the Republican party

I want the Republican party to get back on its feet, for the same reasons I was so distressed with the idea of them running everything: echo chambers are not conducive to good governance, and a variety of ideas and points of view are necessary in order to pluck the best ones from the crop.


For the future of the Republican party, I like what I see from Gov. Pawlenty of Minnesota:


Not because of his specific policy proposals, which are rather vague in this article, but because he gets it: he understands that if a hammer is only making things worse, the answer isn’t a sledgehammer.  Just because the hammer got the job done when the job was to nail some plywood to a 2 x 4 doesn’t mean that the hammer is the right tool for setting glass plating.


Basically what I’d like is to have two political parties who both have a number of good ideas hashing them out together and coming to a consensus on which ones are best.  Seemingly what we have now are the Republicans, who believe that every problem can be solved by cutting taxes or blowing up another country, and the Democrats, who believe that every problem can be solved by some new government program.  Neither view is correct.


A couple of places where I think the Republicans can start:


1.        Universal health care is something that Americans want, whether Republicans do, or not.  However, I don’t necessarily think that a big new government bureaucracy is the way to go, especially with our massive existing federal deficit.  The Republicans could fashion something workable that would be free market-based and managed at the state level.  The problem with many of the Republicans’ health care proposals to date have been that they’re either designed to fail or don’t address the actual problems.  If the Republicans could come up with something like that, they’d be competitive again by 2012.

2.       The inequitable nature of public education is a long-standing problem in this country, dating back to segregation.  The Democrats have largely tried to bail out the Titanic with a Dixie cup on this issue, and Republicans’ sole policy proposal has been to man the lifeboats by giving out vouchers.  However, once again, manning the lifeboats doesn’t address the actual issue: there is no reason that public education cannot be as high quality as private education.  I’ve seen that in Green Bay: we had high quality public schools in that city, mainly because the people and the government made it a point to deliver high quality education in their schools.  The Republicans can take the lead on this issue by discontinuing their efforts to simply abandon the public school system and begin to work at the local level to fix the system.  Once again, I don’t think a massive federal program can fix this: it has to be the people on site doing the job, but the Department of Education can coordinate by studying school districts like Green Bay to figure out what they’re doing right and then studying school districts like Milwaukee to figure out what they’re doing wrong and then providing actual guidance (not just testing) to those failing school districts to get them back on track.

3.       The programs of the Great Society failed to fix the problem of poverty and have instead institutionalized it.  Kudos to LBJ for trying, but it didn’t work.  Unfortunately, the Republicans have offered little more than “let the churches handle it” as an alternative solution to the problem.  This is a messy issue, and no one big sweeping program will fix it.  It’s going to take a number of approaches, and I really do think the Republicans do have some potential to offer some constructive input on this front.  The Republicans are terribly fond of telling people to pull themselves up by their boot straps.  They should take it a step further and show people how.  Work with the business and religious communities to change people’s mindsets from one of dependency to one of empowerment.  Take the “homeless shelter” model and take it a step further: help those who want it, even those who are not homeless, to overcome drug and alcohol addictions.  Offer work to those want it in exchange for a minimum wage, shelter, food, and job training.  Don’t just hand it out to them: make them earn it.  There is always litter to pick up and graffiti that needs to be painted over.  If they do good work, provide letters of recommendation for prospective employers.  Don’t just feed them hand to mouth: make them productive citizens.  I think everybody wins in that arena.  And give the churches and private charities the freedom to operate as they see best, with some bare minimum standards in place to prevent unlawful discrimination.  Each community’s needs are going to be different, so too stringent of standards will only ensure failure.

4.       The Republicans need to address the perception that they are a “whites only” and “Christians only” party.  The percentage of people in this country who are other than white or other than Christian is growing, and if the Republicans don’t get on board with that reality, they’re going to be left in the cold.  The first step in addressing that perception would be to shun the racist and Christianist elements of their party.  In the short term, that will  cost them some votes in the south, but one thing I’ve learned is that one need not be white or Christian in order to be socially conservative.  I’ve met atheist Republicans and black Republicans.  It’s the people who are saying, “you’re not like us, you’re not welcome here” who are creating this problem in the Republican party.  Following the nomination of Barack Obama, we had a number of closet racists in the Democratic party (“PUMAs”) bolt for McCain.  Good riddance, I say.  Let the Republicans and Democrats once and for all say to these people, “You have no place in our party.  Make your own party.”  And here’s the thing: the Republicans don’t have the monopoly on racists.  There were plenty of racists in the Democratic party, but the Democrats didn’t try to pander to them the way the Republicans have with their “southern strategy”.  Well, the southern strategy has come full circle: the Republicans are now officially the Party of Dixie, since they weren’t able to consistently win outside of the old CSA and flyover country in the Midwest.  New England, the Great Lakes states, and the west coast are all lost to them.  The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you have one.  If the Republicans keep trying to act as though this is a simple question of marketing or that “those darkies are too stupid to know what’s good for ‘em”, then they’re going to continue losing ground with minorities, and thus with the country as a whole.

5.       Finally, having a firm hand on the world stage doesn’t mean slapping everyone who looks are you cross-eyed.  Not everybody who says mean things about us is automatically our enemy (France and Venezuela come to mind) and we should be receptive to at least saying, “Okay, I’m not saying you’re right, but let’s talk about this.”  If Nixon could go to China… if Reagan could talk to the Soviet Union… then there’s no reason Obama shouldn’t be able to meet with the Iranian president, is there?  Finally, if the Republicans can finally make a distinction between world leadership and world domination, then I think that would go a long way in making them credible on the world stage again.


Republicans are going to have a choice in 2012, and I think it’s going to boil down to Pawlenty vs. Palin.  Will they be a party of substance or will they become, as it was put in The Economist recently, the “stupid party”?


I’ll be frank: Pawlenty in 2012 doesn’t guarantee a win for the Republicans unless Obama’s first four years are marked by a Katrina-like disaster for which Obama takes the blame.  Barring that, if Obama’s first term is even marginally successful, I think he has a good shot at getting re-elected in 2012.  However, it would be an important first step in the right direction for the Republicans and set the stage for a Jindall candidacy in 2016 (I regard him as too young to be a credible candidate in 2012).  I believe that a Palin candidacy would solidify the Republicans’ “stupid party” label and set the stage for a generation of Democratic presidents and Congresses.  I don’t think Palin has the good sense to lay low and brush up on her understanding of world and national issues to be a credible threat to Barack Obama in 2012, even with a Katrina-like disaster.  She’s going to keep running her mouth in the press to try to get face time with the American public, and the press will continue handing her the rope with which to hang herself.


As to the question of whether the Republicans have been “too conservative” or “not conservative enough”,  I think the real answer is that they need to dispose of the “left vs. right” paradigm and start thinking in terms of pragmatism and good government.  The modern Republican party is simply too caught up with labels and dogma to govern effectively, which is why they haven’t and why it was best that they lost this election resoundingly.  However, if the Republicans are left to lie in the gutter for too long, then the Democrats will simply become what the Republicans have been.  We need a viable opposition party in this country to keeping the majority party in check, and the Republicans right now are a complete mess.  Their ideology is morally, intellectually, and (of late) financially bankrupt.  They need to go into the back room and do some serious re-thinking of their platform.  Hopefully the ideas I’ve presented above can help.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What if history isn't repeating itself?

Yesterday I went home after a very frustrating day at work of inventories and a futile search for a computer which nobody has used for over a year. It's been sitting in a corner gathering dust in somebody else's work center and somebody finally moved it somewhere where I cannot find it. Such is life for an equipment custodian. I went down for an hour nap around 6:30 last night and just woke up twenty minutes ago, at 5:30 this morning. I did some rather intense dreaming, but for all its vividness, it was remarkable mostly for its absurdity. It featured Homer Simpson using a magic beard to propel himself over a wall. Finally after things went badly, we all started running, but I found myself trapped in a cage with a large guard dog with security guards bearing down on me with rifles. I realized there was only one way out: I woke up.

After eleven hours of sleep, I got some water and went outside. The sun is just now rising and I can see the full moon to the west from my balcony. Sitting out here on my twelfth story balcony, seeing the full moon and two planes passing in the night over my tropical island paradise, I decided it was time for blogging.

I've given a lot of thought to this past Presidential election, and sentiment aside, I always try to place these things in some sort of historical context. You can usually look back at history and see when something similar has happened in the past, no matter how new and unique a particular event may seem at the time. I've been trying to contextualize the 2008 Presidential election, and while a number of past elections seem to fit on the surface, the comparisons fall apart upon further analysis.

Is it like 2000? In all senses, no. Then Governor Bush and Vice President Gore were running during a time of economic prosperity. Bush ran against Clinton's character and Gore ran on his and Clinton's record. Gore's margin of victory was so narrow that he actually lost. What followed was eight years of mismanagement and strife that set the stage for 2008.

Is it like 1992? Again, no. We were in a recession, but Americans didn't want to fundamentally change the way we did business; they just wanted someone they thought could do it more competently than President Bush did, so they elected then Governor Clinton.

Is it like 1980? In some ways, yes. Reagan represented a fundamental shift in how the government did business. He wasn't simply running to the right of President Carter, but also to the right of President Nixon, and that's how he governed. Reagan set the stage for the next twenty-eight years. Even President Clinton was forced to govern to the right of himself as a consequence of the political climate of the time.

But upon further analysis, 2008 is actually the antithesis of 1980. What Reagan represented was a turn away from responsibility and service. You shouldn't have to pay high taxes, he said. You shouldn't have to worry yourselves about what's going on overseas, he said. Those Soviets are the Evil Empire, and you shouldn't have to think about it any further than that. We're Number One. Reagan simply asked Americans to trust him to do the right thing, whatever that may be. The Reagan presidency marked the beginning of America's great apathy toward its government. After Watergate, Americans simply concluded that “they're all a bunch of crooks” and voted for the guy they found personally likable – the guy who wouldn't ask anything of them, but who would take care of things himself while they turned on the TV and tuned out of their government: seemingly forever.

2008 can be likened to a great awakening of the body politic. Suddenly, everybody's paying attention. Suddenly, everybody is greatly concerned about the future of their country – even those who don't support Obama. I'm not just talking about the millions of people who either donated to or volunteered for Obama's campaign, although that's significant enough in of itself. I'm also talking about the disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters who for a time refused to vote for Obama because they believed so strongly in her candidacy. I'm also talking about the disaffected Republicans who, although they may not have liked the performance of their current standard-bearer, believed enough in Republican ideals that they still supported McCain. I'm talking about disaffected Republicans who were so fed up with the direction their party has taken that they chose, for the first time ever, to vote for a Democrat for President of the United States. And, of course, I'm talking about evangelical Republicans who'd almost given up on being relevant in politics, only to find their new standard-bearer in Sarah Palin.

America isn't tuning out like they did in 1980. They're finally tuning in. And while I have no idea what kind of changes this sort of resurgent democracy will bring, I do think that I can safely say that the days of the next American Idol commanding more attention than the next President of the United States are drawing to a close. People are really paying attention, and what that means for our next President is that he's going to have to govern accordingly. Gone are the days when a President can pull a fast one on the American public and simply ask them to trust him. Bush saw to that when there were no WMD in Iraq.

There were other historical comparisons made. There was fear of a repeat of 1968. That hasn't happened. There were no riots in the streets, there were no assassinations of major public figures. 1968 was the year America lost the last vestiges of its innocence and gave up on hope. 2008 is the year that, just based on the mere fact of an African American being elected President, America has begun to realize that hope never actually died and that fundamental change really is possible. It's like America blacked out for forty years and is suddenly asking itself, “wait, how did I get here?”

It's not 1960. 2000 was really a lot closer to 1960. Kennedy ran to the right of Nixon on foreign policy in order to appease the Cold War fears of the day. Obama actively ran against an on-going war (note of caution: Nixon also ran on a promise to end the war in Vietnam in 1968, so Obama supporters hoping to see an end to the war in Iraq will need to remain vigilant, even during an Obama presidency. Now, Nixon ran on a “secret plan”, while Obama made his plan public. But the point remains: stay on top of this. We haven't won this fight until the last man is out.)

You could make a case for 1952. General Eisenhower ran against Governor Stevenson, who was burdened by being from the same party as the very unpopular President Truman. There was an unpopular war in Korea from which the public was largely disengaged. Neither candidate was a sitting President or Vice President, and that's actually the last time that has happened. Mostly, however, Stevenson was burdened by the simple fact of not being Eisenhower, much the way McCain was burdened by the simple fact of not being Obama. But ultimately, Eisenhower's election was an affirmation of people's approval of his performance in World War II and an easing of their concerns of having a dovish Adlai Stevenson as President in the midst of the Cold War. In 2008, the American people have simply said, as the Wisconsin state flag does, “FORWARD”. Obama's election is not about what he has done, but about what people hope he will do. Indeed, that has largely been the greatest criticism of his campaign. What's he done? What's he accomplished? The answer really is, “not much... yet.”
I'll end with another year people have compared it to: 1932. In that year, people voted Herbert Hoover out of office in favor Franklin Roosevelt. This has mostly been based on the economic issues of the day, which even a superficial analysis will show are not as dire today as they were then, mostly thanks to the safeguards which were put into place by Roosevelt in the years following. People have raised the possibility of a generation of Democratic Presidents similar to the generation of Roosevelt and Truman. But again, this is faulty. What we're seeing is not a rejection of Republicans per se, but a rejection of politics as usual, which is to say a rejection of, once again, “trust me” politics. If Democrats expect the American people to simply go back to sleep after this election and simply go along with everything they do, they're in for a big surprise. The Republican party will return as a legitimate force in national politics within the next eight years. I'll caveat that by saying that it will be longer if the evangelicals manage to make Sarah Palin the standard-bearer of the party. The Republicans can no longer cheaply win elections by appealing to the worst in people. The gratuitous use of Obama's middle name to score cheap political points didn't work this time around. That in of itself should send them a signal: they can't use those types of dog whistles anymore. They're going to have to stop being lazy and win on the merits of their ideas, and that means they're going to have to actually come up with some new ideas. Supply side economics isn't a winning policy position anymore. They're going to have to retool and come up with something new. If they don't, then yes: we'll see a generation of Democratic Presidents. If they do, then I think we'll see a purge of the business-as-usual Democrats who've only managed to stay in power because they're not Republicans. That means you, Harry and Nancy. You're on notice: if you don't recognize the winds of change all around you and adapt to them, you'll be swept away by them eventually, too.

And let that serve notice to our President-elect, as well. We're not looking for another Clinton administration of small, incremental change. We're looking for fundamental change: a new New Deal. Think big. Act bigger. And most importantly, listen to the people. I'll give you a name of someone who's been really good about that: Russ Feingold. Bring him into your administration. He's been in the Senate for sixteen years and hasn't lost touch with the reasons he came to Washington in 1992. You can learn a thing or two from him if you're really interested in changing Washington instead of being changed by it.

But what of the historical context? How do we place this election in the larger scheme of things? Has a man who belongs to a race of people who were once enslaved by his nation ever been elected its leader? When viewed in that context, this election is almost Arthurian. But we can't afford those types of mythical comparisons. This isn't a story book we're reading: it's real life. That means that we simply have to admit that we have no idea where this is going, and if for no other reason than that, we all must stay engaged in the navigation of our ship of state for the next four years.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tears of joy.

I didn't expect it to come on so quickly. I was sitting in my hotel room here at Keesler AFB in Mississippi, in the heart of the old Confederacy, on the base where I watched the nation begin its long downward spiral, watching Obama's 30 minute video on my laptop and then turned my eyes up at the TV, which had the volume down, and saw a name and a number:


I stared in disbelief. Was I really reading it? Had it really happened? Am I really here, on this night, watching the end of this long national nightmare? Good god in heaven, have I really come full circle to the place where I watched the sun begin to set on my country only to watch day begin to break? Then it came on. Waterworks. I'm not ashamed to admit it; it was such a relief. More than one person in my life was talking about leaving the country if McCain won, and I was one of them. Looks like I'll be sticking around after all.

Goodbye to all of that.

Goodbye to Vietnam. Goodbye to our nation's original sin, to the permanent sense of fear which has gripped our nation since the planes struck the Twin Towers. Goodbye to the war on the middle class, to the excuses for not doing better for our citizens, to the notion of patriotism being a Republican value. Goodbye to the notion that a young man with the wrong colored skin being raised by a single mother doesn't have a chance in this country. Goodbye to the Confederate States of America, to Jefferson Davis and to George Wallace.

Goodbye to our past. Hello to our future.

But what does that future hold? We don't know, and that's the beautiful thing about it. Our future is wide open. We're no longer bound by the limitations of the past. What's past is prologue, but it's been gone over so many times. Tonight we've gained back something that we seemingly lost forever when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy died 40 years ago:


Down to the wire.

Today is Election Day, but I'll not share my thoughts on this day until the final results are in. It's bittersweet for me; I'm back here at Keesler AFB, MS: the same place I was eight years ago when everything went terribly awry. Today presents an opportunity for America to show how far they've come and how much farther we are capable of going, to show that our best days have yet to come and that while we may stumble on occasion, we will always get back up stronger than before. Or else we can accept the status quo and push out an entire new generation because of our inability to let go of our petty fears and hatreds. That's the choice we face today: the future or the past. For the first time in a while, I have faith in my countrymen to make the right decision.

We'll see if that faith is reinforced.

What I want to share with you right now is my experience in the city of New Orleans over the weekend. Those of you who know me know that I am very fond of that city, and those who know me well know that I play hard when I'm there. On Halloween, I played very hard and blacked out for four hours. I discovered myself wandering around in a strange part of town (Gentilly) which I didn't recognize, thinking I was somewhere else. The reorientation process was disconcerting to say the least, and I wasn't exactly in the best neighborhood.

To the extent which anybody had any reaction to me, it was fear. I was obviously out of my mind, and they felt threatened by me. Some people were hesitant to help me because I was so obviously out of place, but one finally called me a cab so I could get back to the Garden District where my dear friend and fellow contributor Queen Elizabeth lives. The only thing I was missing was her spare key, and I initially believed that someone had slipped me something in my drink and had stolen her key because they knew who I was and where I was staying. Hey, if you find yourself wandering around in a strange neighborhood with no idea where you are or how you got there, you'll get paranoid too, believe me.

What struck me is that for all that people make of the high crime rate in New Orleans, nothing happened to me. I was essentially helpless as a babe in a situation of my own making, and yet nobody saw fit to take advantage. In fact, I get a feeling that some bartender along the way told me that I'd had enough to drink and told me to go home. Now, maybe (s)he could have called me a cab? But really, I was left alone as I wandered for miles after dark. What does that tell me?

Not so much that people are fundamentally this or that, but that they're never as bad or good as you might assume they are. They didn't exactly jump out of their seats to help me after I started regaining my senses, but they didn't lift my wallet or steal my clothes, which they easily could have in my state. They mostly just let me alone, from beginning to end. It also tells me that true friends are invaluable, because aside from them, you're on your own, and that having a friend around not only helps you stay out of trouble, but helps you get through it when it finds you. Simple stuff, but I'd become overly self-reliant over the years, and it's nice to find friends who are willing to let you rely on them.

I'll have comments about the implications of tonight's election results after they come out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm back.

I've decided to make this my primary personal blog and post here what I'd been posting on MySpace. It's not going to be strictly a military blog or a political blog or a travel blog; it's going to be sort of "all of the above".

In the past, I tried promoting this blog, and while I am proud of some of the writings on this blog, I think I can still deliver the same stuff I delivered before, but without the self-promotion or self-restriction. In short, you'll be getting me, no more, no less. I have some online readers whom I've never met and some close personal friends and family who've perhaps never seen me really get into the political stuff.

Keeping the different sides of myself segregated into different websites hasn't worked so well for me. Darrell, CarbonDate, and SSgt K (sorry, no last names here) aren't different people, no matter how much I tried to keep the three separate. Instead, I'll just let my writing speak for itself, and if people don't always like what they see, then that's life.

But yes, I'm back, and I'll be seeing about getting other contributors to come on board and actually contribute ;).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nothing from me for weeks.

It's going to be slow going for a while, just as it has been for the past few months. Despite my best intentions, my personal life keeps getting in the way. That's a good thing, overall. Last week I was in Japan and Diego Garcia, the week prior I was prepping for that trip, and this week I've been prepping for my trip to Australia tomorrow. So as you can see, I've been kind of busy, but in a good way.

Those of you who may be worried about me need not worry. If I get deployed again I'll be blogging about that. I've made arrangements which will allow me to blog from Iraq more regularly even without commercial internet access. It's just that, right now, my life has been interesting enough to keep me from engaging in any deep analysis of current affairs. It's not that I don't care; I just don't have anything interesting to say about them (as evidenced by my poor effort to talk about a congressional race in Wisconsin from Guam).

When I have something worth saying, I'll say it. In the mean time, it'll be slow going here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gard to challenge Kagen for WI-8

John Gard (R-unemployed) will be challenging Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) for the 8th Congressional district seat. Gard unsuccessfully ran against Kagen for the same seat two years ago when now-Ambassador Mark Green (R-Tanzania) unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Governor Jim Doyle.

From the Press-Gazette:

Former speaker of the state Assembly John Gard officially announced his plan to challenge Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, for the seat this fall, saying he offers a "clear contrast" with the freshman congressman.

Loser, winner. Unemployed, congressman. Yup, clear contrast.

Gard, now a resident of Suamico, officially announced his intention in Green Bay and Appleton on Sunday, although he has been raising money for a possible run for several months.

Promising fiscal order, Gard drew a distinction between the two by saying he would have "voted differently than Steven Kagen did" on a number of issues including immigration, tax relief and abortion.

If I woulda won, I'da voted like a Republican! See, you voted for a librul!!!11!

Actually, I regard Kagen as a rather nondescript, run-of-the-mill Democrat. Being the successful allergist (Dr. Millionaire, they called him) he is, I imagine his views are a bit more nuanced than he lets on, but then again, maybe not. It really could be that he holds the simplistic party-line views he espouses. It's clear to me that he's in a holding pattern right now for Sen. Herb Kohl to retire so he can run for the seat Kohl will be vacating, but then, I imagine that's Gard's ambition, as well. Could we see a Kagen/Gard match-up at the state level? If Gard can remain unemployed for two years and still have the resources to stage another congressional bid, then he apparently has no other ambitions than politics.

Still, at least Gard and Kagen are both better options than the insipid Chad Fradette, currently angling for a state senate seat (not that you could tell from his website; he hadn't updated it for two years, and now it appears that he only decided to update it well after he announced his state senate bid. Tip for Chad: have your shit together before you make the big announcement; that way you can roll it out all at once in a big show. You just look disorganized this way.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Guam: An object lesson on the U.S.'s designs on Iraq

Rolling blackouts. Serious environmental issues. Resentment of an obtrusive U.S. military presence. An impotent "elected" government consisting of local oligarchs with no legal standing against the U.S. government. An infrastructure facing buy-out by outside investors. Am I describing Iraq? No, I'm describing the island territory of Guam.

The parallels between Iraq and Guam have recently become apparent to me. The glaring difference is the lack of organized resistance against the U.S. military's presence on Guam. The people here largely welcome us here, if begrudgingly at times, whereas in Iraq they were more inclined to shoot rockets at us on their way home from work.

(An aside: even the protesters here are friendly; the first time I saw a group of protesters outside the main gate on my way home from work, I waved at them, and they waved back. It's all good; we know that we're both pawns in this big game, so a healthy perspective on the big picture tends to diffuse any hard feelings which might exist. It's the people with delusions of self-determination who generally get all worked up about these things. Frankly, if anybody should understand the frustration of having their lives dictated to them by an over-reaching, seemingly omnipotent and impersonal bureaucracy, it's a member of the United States military. But I guess some people like being serfs; it's certainly easier than thinking.)

Here's an article from the Pacific Daily News:

The Defense Department has been considering a $1 billion road that would link Andersen and the Navy base on the other side of the island.

But the U.S. military buildup's draft master plan does not include the billion-dollar road.

Bordallo said military planners still are considering whether to build the Andersen-Navy roadway.

Retired Maj. Gen. David Bice, executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, which oversees the buildup efforts on Guam for the Defense Department, said yesterday the proposed Defense Access Road is not off the radar screen, Bordallo said.

But the road, Bordallo said, "will be considered in the context of decisions yet to be made on housing, training, storage and maintenance areas."

The proposed Defense Access Road could be a helpful way to mitigate traffic with a new, north-south corridor, but the road will have a major environmental impact, too," she added.

You think? As of right now, the drive from Andersen to Big Navy takes nearly an hour during peak traffic times, and significantly less when the roads are clear. It's not abundantly clear whether this "Defense Access Road" would be open to the public or not; I'm betting not. If you look at the history of these major build-up plans, you'll see that GovGuam's role in this has not been "advise and consent", but rather, "Would you like fries with that?"

Shift to Iraq. Anybody who's been there and been briefed at all on the long-term plans for Iraq knows that the U.S. government has no aims on leaving. I think it would be unrealistic to expect any of our Presidential candidates to completely withdraw our troops out of Iraq (including my candidate of choice), mainly because the plans for Iraq are much like our plans for Guam: it is to become the central hub of all U.S. military activity in its part of the world.

When I was at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), there was a big push to build up the base as a long-term presence. Sather AB was transitioning from tents to trailers. While I can't go into too much more detail than that, the larger push was to build up, not draw down. Let me be clear: from my observations on the ground, any talk about troop draw-downs are political theater. There was no talk of turning the bases over to the Iraqis at any point. Period. Those bases are for us.

Let's look at some of the other similarities. The government of Iraq is incapable of keeping the peace on its own. Indeed, that very inability is pointed to as the main reason we have to stay. Similarly, the incompetence of GovGuam is pointed to as a big reason why Guam needs to remain a U.S. territory, since clearly they'd be lost without us. I've gotten the impression that many of the locals believe it, too. That, in addition to the horrible treatment they received at the hands of the Japanese during WWII, is a big reason why so many are happy to have us here. But who taught GovGuam how to manage itself? The U.S. Similarly, the U.S. went into Iraq and disbanded all of its existing government infrastructure, even scattering its army to the winds to join on with various militias. Mistake? I don't think so. I think it had its desired intent: justifying our presence in the country by pointing both to its lack of an organized army and to the threat posed by the roving militias. And, of course, neither Iraq nor Guam have a reliable power grid.

Part of self-government depends not only on having people with the management skills necessary to run the government, but also the technical skills to maintain infrastructure. Indeed, it's a truism of any institution that the wrench-turners are and always will be more important than the bean-counters. While Guam does have a number of good technicians (the military bases couldn't run without them), there aren't nearly enough for the island to effectively run as a sovereign nation, or even as a state. Most of the employment opportunity on the island is either on the military bases or in various shops and bars around the island (such as the one I'm typing this blog from now). Just from looking around, there's a lot of wasted potential here, and it's clear to me that the U.S. has intentionally created a cycle of dependency here by never fully enabling the people to take care of themselves.

You want to put Guam on the path to self-government (we know the U.S. government doesn't, but let's just say for the sake of argument)? The first step is a major push to provide children with quality schools. The schools I've seen on island are a disgrace, and that's largely because they're managed by the money pit known as GovGuam. The Department of Education needs to step in and say, "Okay, this is how you run a school district. This is how you maintain a school." Build schools which are conducive to a quality education. Southern High School has been without full air conditioning for 480 days (yes, you read that correctly; nearly a year and four months). Can you imagine trying to pay attention in class in a tropical environment without A/C? It would be unthinkable back home, but it's come to be accepted as the status quo for GovGuam. But this is how the U.S. government wants it. They've even come to building schools on the bases rather than sending the children of military personnel to the local schools.

The next step is a major push for technical education not only in high school, but at the post-secondary level. Two years vocational programs should be offered free of charge to all high school graduates, and they should offer the type of training that would be offered at a technical college in the mainland U.S. I can't speak to the quality of the vocational training at Guam Community College, but based on the major infrastructure problems I see on the island, it's clear to me that GCC isn't adequate to the island's needs.

Meanwhile, individuals looking for a quality liberal arts education should not have to leave the island to find it. The University of Guam nearly lost its accreditation in 2002, and while it's made strides since then, more work will continue to be needed.

Of course, this is all common sense, and nobody needs me to point all of this out. I'm certainly no expert on Guam, having lived here less than two years. But my point is that these problems, and their solutions, are apparent even to somebody like me, who's been here all of 22 months (minus four spent in Iraq). There can only be one conclusion: the powers that be don't want Guam to stand on its own two feet -- neither the federal government, nor the local power brokers who have a vested interest in facing no meaningful challenge.

Far from being a well cared-for territory, what I see around me is poverty reminiscent of East St. Louis with all of the prime real estate being gobbled up either by the military or outside investors. Tumon Bay is hardly visible for all of the hotels which have lined up along side it. Simply put, the island does not belong to the islanders in any meaningful sense, and the only reason I can think of that there isn't more organized resistance to this state of affairs is the amount of crystal meth floating around. (I'm amazed there hasn't been more of a push to drug the population of Iraq; this would be the quickest way to shut down the insurgency. Or are they? See, and I thought it was just the troops we were drugging.)

Of course, the U.S. is a much-more entrenched power on Guam than it is in Iraq. The island is much more accustomed to colonial rule than Iraq, having been a Spanish colony for hundreds of years before the U.S. took over, whereas Iraq had been a sovereign (if emasculated following the Gulf War) nation for a while after shaking off British colonial rule. And, of course, Guam does not possess the means to stage a military resistance against the U.S., but they some are attempting to stage a civil resistance to their subordinate role through the United Nations, although it is doubtful that anything meaningful will come of that.

Rather, I would implore local activists to take advantage of the upcoming Guam caucuses to highlight their dubious political status to the rest of the nation, and to the two Democratic candidates vying for Guam's four pledged delegates. With the amount of press attention on every contest, Guam has a unique opportunity to grab some national press attention. Most Americans do not even know that Guam is part of the country, and I think a lot of people would be stricken by the inherent lack of fairness in this group of U.S. citizens not even having a vote in Congress or a say in selecting our President, despite the fact that many have fought in this President's war in Iraq.

I'll close by apologizing for the many digressions in this particular blog, but there were a number of issues I wished to highlight beyond similarities between Guam and Iraq. That particular topic is fairly self-explanatory, and I think it's clear that if you examine those similarities, you'll also start to see them popping up in other U.S. foreign endeavors: create a facade of democracy without helping the local government become self-sufficient and use that lack of self-sufficiency as an excuse to remain in place. In truth, the governments of Guam and Iraq will never become truly self-sufficient until Uncle Sam either helps toward that end or at least gets out of the way.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Change of direction on The Command Post.

Rather than focusing on national issues, the emphasis will be on local issues. Now for me, "local" is relative. For me, "local" could be any number of places I've spent a significant amount of time. Green Bay, where I grew up, or Guam, where I now live, but also St. Louis and South Dakota, where I've spent two and three years respectively, and also, on occasion, Iraq, since my life is now inescapably intertwined with that country.

Here's a taste of something Michael Lujan Bevacqua posted; much more at the link:

In 2005 and 2006, we appeared before the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee, alerting the UN organ of these two frightening facts: 1) it was recently discovered that the U.S. Department of Interior purposefully killed a presidential directive handed down in 1975, which ordered that Guam be given a commonwealth status no less favorable than the one the U.S. was negotiating with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands at that time; and 2) a campaign of the Guam Chamber of Commerce (primarily consisting of U.S. Statesiders) to privatize every one of Guam's public resources (the island's only water provider, only power provider, only local telephone provider, public schools, and its only port, on an island that imports 85-90% of its food and where private monopolies of public goods would truly make us captive to the forces of the market) is undermining our ancient indigenous civilization with violent speed. Eating us whole.

Not much has changed since we last were here in New York. Our power provider has been privatized, our telecommunications sold. Our only water provider and one port are under relentless attack. The meager, questionable victories we have had to stay this mass privatization are only the result of indigenous Chamoru grassroots activists who, on their own—with no financial, institutional, or strategic support—holding both their hands up, holding the line as best they can. At great personal cost.

Your Excellencies: Know this—the indigenous Chamoru people of Guam are neither informed nor unified around this military buildup despite dominant media representations. For all intents and purposes, there is no free press in Guam. Local media only makes noise of the re-occupation, not sense of it. The Pacific Daily News—the American subsidiary newspaper that dominates the discourse—has cut off the oxygen supply to indigenous resistance movement. Rather than debating this buildup's enormous sociopolitical, environmental and cultural consequences, it has framed the conversation around how best to ask the U.S. (politely) for de facto consideration of our concerns. Without appearing un-American.

We are not Americans. We are Chamorus. We are heirs to a matrilineal, indigenous civilization born two thousand years before Jesus. And we are being disappeared. Off your radar.

For the last three years, we have appeared before the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee, alerting the UN organ of a campaign of the Guam Chamber of Commerce (primarily consisting of U.S. Statesiders) to privatize every one of Guam's public resources (our island's only water provider, only power provider, only local telephone provider, public schools, and its only port, on an island that imports 85-90% of its food and where private monopolies of public goods would truly make us captive to the forces of the market). This is undermining our ancient indigenous civilization with violent speed. Eating us whole.

Not much has changed since we last were here in New York. Our power provider has been privatized, our telecommunications sold. Our only water provider and one port are under relentless attack. The very small victories we have had to stop this mass privatization are only the result of indigenous Chamoru grassroots activists, fighting at great personal cost.

All this, and only two years until the end of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. And no midterm review by the Special Committee on Decolonization. No designation of any expert to track Guam’s progress, or lack thereof, toward progressing off the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Not one UN visiting mission to Guam.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Going on vacation....

I won't be posting for a while. Life's going on the front burner. That is all.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Primary battle wearing on you? It's wearing on me. A solution, if I may.

Senator Clinton, Senator Obama:

Stop it. Just... stop it. Right now. This is getting you no where.

Senator Clinton, your kitchen sink strategy has your approval rating at Bush-like numbers.

Senator Obama, attacking Senator Clinton betrays your earlier words about a different kind of politics.

Enough already. Distinctions have been drawn. There's nothing left to talk about, except...

Oh yeah. Senator McCain. Remember him? The presumptive Republican nominee? The one who's going to be the next President of the United States if you keep it up?

Senator Clinton, you said you're going to take your campaign all the way to the convention. Well, that's fine. Really.

Senator Obama, you have the lead in pledged delegates, popular vote, and number of states won. Well, goody on you. That does you absolutely nothing if you lose in November.

Let's talk about a radical concept which would benefit both candidates in the long term: stop campaigning against each other. To the extent which you even mention each other at all on the campaign trail, make it positive. Focus your attention on Senator McCain. Let the primaries play out as they will. Introduce yourselves to constituents in the remaining primary states and talk about what you'll do as President and how you're a better choice than Senator McCain.

Super delegates? Jockey for them all you wish. Just keep it on the down low. Don't attack super delegates who endorse your primary opponent. Congratulate your opponent and move on. There are more important things to talk about.

Keep your surrogates on a leash. No talk of Rev. Wright or Ms. Ferraro. Keep it classy. Pledge to support your opponent no matter who ends up with the nomination. Encourage your supporters to do the same. We should be together, not fighting.

What does this benefit you? Well, Senator McCain will have to fight a two-front war until the Democratic National Convention while you two will be campaigning both for yourselves and for each other. Let's even agree in advance that one of you will be the nominee and the other will return to the Senate. No joint ticket; leave that final element of surprise -- the running mate -- until the convention. Honestly, do either of you want to be reduced to that status? You have more power in the Senate -- period.

How about it? Can I get a witness?

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Great McCain vs McCain Debates

The DNC has come up with a great idea!
DNC Announces New Round of Debates as Senator McCain Squares Off Against Senator McCain

WASHINGTON, March 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --
The Democratic National Committee announced today that Senator John McCain will appear in a series of debates to be broadcast on The one candidate in this debate who could beat John McCain, is John McCain himself. As the two McCains square off, the American people will have the opportunity to hear the old McCain and the new McCain for themselves. McCain the Maverick, the come-from-behind phenom whose Straight Talk Express sped into New Hampshire eight years ago and knocked Establishment Candidate George W. Bush off his feet, has agreed to debate 2008 Republican Nominee McCain, the third Bush termer and pandering politician who will say or do anything to win and has no qualms selling out his principles to score some votes.

The McCain vs. McCain debates will be held over the coming weeks, with the first debate to be held today on Iraq. Fresh from a trip to Iraq and the Middle East in which McCain sought to burnish his foreign policy
credentials, the first spirited exchange is not to be missed as questions about the threat of Saddam Hussein, the ease of success in Iraq, true feelings about Don Rumsfeld and the strategy on the ground are posed. The additional debates will focus on other issues in this campaign. Additional details regarding specifics for the coming debates will be announced at a later time.
Check it out....

Friday, March 21, 2008

Update: ALL THREE Presidential candidates' passport files were breached.

This is bigger than I thought: Now, McCain's and Clinton's files were breached, as well:

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Confidential passport files of all three presidential candidates were improperly breached by State Department employees, a department spokesman said.

The private data of Democratic Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Republican Senator John McCain were accessed in separate incidents, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said today.

``We're going to do a full investigation,'' McCormack said. ``We take very seriously the trust that is put in us'' to safeguard personal data, he said.

State Department officials are visiting the Capitol Hill offices of all three senators today in Washington to explain the incidents. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke by phone with Obama and Clinton to apologize and she plans to call McCain today, McCormack said.

As I said in my last post, this story is still developing. We'll see how it plays out.

McCormack cited an incident last summer when a trainee had unauthorized access to Hillary Clinton's passport file. It was part of a training seminar in which people usually ``are encouraged to enter a family member's name,'' McCormack said today in Washington. The individual was ``immediately admonished,'' he said.

The State Department also detected earlier this year that one of the people who accessed Obama's file also accessed McCain's, McCormack said. That individual was disciplined.

The State Department's inquiry began yesterday after a reporter inquired about the breach of Obama's records. After senior management researched the incidents surrounding Obama, they decided to check whether Clinton's and McCain's records also were breached. This morning, it became clear that they had, McCormack said.

They explain the circumstances behind Clinton's breach, but not behind any of the others.

On edit: I've decided it's too early to point fingers just yet. There are a few coincidences which seem to point to Clinton, but nothing anywhere near definitive, or even circumstantial. Sometimes I have to check myself to make sure I don't let my biases distort my view. This story is still developing, so I'll stick to the facts from here on out. My apologies for jumping the gun.

Obama's passport file breached

The US Department of State has fired two contractors and disciplined a third for accessing the passport file of presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

A spokesman for the department, Sean McCormack, said the cases were probably the result of "imprudent curiosity".

But he said it was not clear what the employees may have seen or what they were looking for.

A spokesman for Mr Obama suggested that the government could be using private information for "political purposes".

The BBC's North America editor, Justin Webb, says it is an extraordinary lapse in security which allowed temporary state department employees access to personal information on a man who is guarded by the secret service day and night .

Extraordinary indeed. Consider the timeline of the breaches:

8 January: New Hampshire primaries
9 January: First breach of Obama's records

19 February: Wisconsin primary and Hawai'i caucus (last day of Obama's February streak)
21 February: Second breach of Obama's records

12 March: Clinton campaign sends attack memo with the following text to reporters: "As voters evaluate you as a potential Commander-in-Chief, do you think it's legitimate for people to be concerned that you have traveled to only one NATO country, on a brief stopover trip in 2005, and have never traveled to Latin America?"
14 March: Jeremiah Wright's sermons capture nation's attention... and third breach of Obama's records.

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

Consider further:

After the news broke Thursday that two employees of the State Department had been fired and a third disciplined for accessing passport records of Sen. Barack Obama, MSNBC noted a Clinton connection to the story. The network reported that Maura Harty, the State Department official in charge of the Bureau Of Consular Affairs during the first two breaches of Obama's passport, had served as an ambassador under Bill Clinton.

And further....

"That is one of the things we are obviously investigating," said Patrick F. Kennedy, head of bureau of consular affairs. "I have no reason to believe they did, but I am certainly not going to be dismissive of what is a serious and valid question. On the basis of fast work this afternoon [I don't believe they did]."

Patrick F. Kennedy? That's Patrick F. Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State for the Clinton administration from 1993 to 2001. Also Chief of Staff for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

This story is still developing. There might yet be a revelation that doesn't point right at the Clinton campaign. Watergate, anybody?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just listen.

If you have any questions on why I support Obama, this speech should answer them. Right here he says the things that people have been saying for a long time, but never to each other.

This man will be our next President.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Solution to Florida and Michigan

Barack Obama can bring an end to the impasse with Florida and Michigan with a simple compromise measure: seat Florida and Michigan's delegates as is under one condition: all of Michigan's "Uncommitted" delegates become pledged to him.  Given that Sen. Clinton was the only major candidate on the ballot, it only strikes me as fair that the people who showed up to vote against her have their votes count, as well.  Seems simple and fair enough, except for one problem for Sen. Clinton: seating Michigan and Florida "as is" only nets her a 44 delegate gain, which chops Obama's pledged delegate lead from 169 to 125.  She would need to carry Pennsylvania with 95% of the vote to overcome that lead (there aren't enough delegates in Pennsylvania for her to overcome his present pledged delegate lead), or else carry every remaining state (including Pennsylvania and all the way up to Puerto Rico) with an at least 64% of the vote.  That's with Florida and Michigan added to the tally.  Without them?  She has to win every remaining state with at least 69%.  In other words, Florida and Michigan don't aid her cause as much as she'd like us to believe, unless she insists on some "winner take all" standard for those states which hasn't been applied to any other state and she's not in a position to demand.  Absent that, adding Florida and Michigan moves her chances from just this side of impossible to... just this side of impossible.
Obama should agree to seat Michigan and Florida (with the one caveat I specified above regarding uncommitted delegates), then he should show this math to the press and call on Sen. Clinton to bow out gracefully.  If she won't, then the remaining superdelegates need to put this one to rest.  It's all over but the crying, but if I know Sen. Clinton, there's still a lot of that to be had.

Music break

My friend Katie Scovell has some new music up on her page. Click on the link and choose "Ode a Mon Frere". It's MySpace music, so I can't post it directly, sorry:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palast: Eliot's Mess and the $200 Million Bailout

The $200 billion bail-out for predator banks and Spitzer charges are intimately linked

By Greg Palast
Reporting for Air America Radio’s Clout

Listen to Palast on Clout at

While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an ‘escort’ $4,300 in a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush’s new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.

Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there’s a BIG difference. The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush’s man Bernanke was using ours.

This week, Bernanke’s Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.

Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers’ bordello: Eliot Spitzer.

Who are they kidding? Spitzer’s lynching and the bankers’ enriching are intimately tied.


Here’s what happened. Since the Bush regime came to power, a new species of loan became the norm, the ‘sub-prime’ mortgage and it’s variants including loans with teeny “introductory” interest rates. From out of nowhere, a company called ‘Countrywide’ became America’s top mortgage lender, accounting for one in five home loans, a large chuck of these ‘sub-prime.’

Here’s how it worked: The Grinning Family, with US average household income, gets a $200,000 mortgage at 4% for two years. Their $955 a month payment is 25% of their income. No problem. Their banker promises them a new mortgage, again at the cheap rate, in two years. But in two years, the promise ain’t worth a can of spam and the Grinnings are told to scram - because their house is now worth less than the mortgage. Now, the mortgage hits 9% or $1,609 plus fees to recover the “discount” they had for two years. Suddenly, payments equal 42% to 50% of pre-tax income. Grinnings move into their Toyota.


But there were rumblings that the party would soon be over. Angry regulators, burned investors and the weight of millions of homes about to be boarded up were causing the sharks to sink. Countrywide’s stock was down 50%, and Citigroup was off 38%, not pleasing to the Gulf sheiks who now control its biggest share blocks.

Then, on Wednesday of this week, the unthinkable happened. Carlyle Capital went bankrupt. Who? That’s Carlyle as in Carlyle Group. James Baker, Senior Counsel. Notable partners, former and past: George Bush, the Bin Laden family and more dictators, potentates, pirates and presidents than you can count.

The Fed had to act. Bernanke opened the vault and dumped $200 billion on the poor little suffering bankers. They got the public treasure – and got to keep the Grinning’s house. There was no ‘quid’ of a foreclosure moratorium for the ‘pro quo’ of public bail-out. Not one family was saved – but not one banker was left behind.


More at the link:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Keith Olbermann Special Comment. Target: Hillary Clinton.

In truth, people have been noticing for some time, including this author, a racist overtone of the Clinton campaign, and it has come to a head with Geraldine Ferraro's remarks dismissing Barack Obama's success as some sort of affirmative action quota. Finally, we see the awful truth: the Democratic party, for whom black Americans have been the most loyal and consistent voting block, views that block with something between condescension and contempt.

Or perhaps not the Democratic party as a whole, but certainly the Democratic Leadership Council. The message from the DLC has been clear in this primary election: you may take a place at the table, but never at the head. I think, in their heart of hearts, black Americans have known this for some time, but it was always preferable to being relegated to the children's table by the Republicans.

This status quo is not, and should not be, acceptable any longer. Every opportunity which is open to white Americans should be open to black Americans, just as every opportunity which is open to men should be open to women.

Barack Obama got where he is not because he is black, but despite it. That Geraldine Ferraro cannot see that belies her latent racism (which she also cannot apparently see), and that Hillary Clinton tolerates it belies that while she may not approve of racism, it doesn't get her hackles up. It doesn't create the visceral reaction in her that it does in many others. A strong condemnation of Ms. Ferraro could have been her moment where she wins back the black community and re-establishes herself as a champion for all people, not just herself. Alas, she couldn't bring herself to even pretend to do that, placing herself below John McCain in terms of moral authority on racism. Think she can count on the black vote in the general election? Are you kidding me? After all this? John McCain will be able to speak to the black community and say, "This is what the Democrats really think of you; vote for the party of Lincoln." While he may not win all or even a majority of the black community, the Democrats will forever lose them as their most loyal and reliable voting base -- and they'll deserve to.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Admiral Fallon, CENTCOM/CC, resigns

(CBS/AP) The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East resigned Tuesday amid speculation about a rift over U.S. policy in Iran.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Adm. William J. Fallon had asked for permission to retire and that Gates agreed. Gates said the decision, effective March 31, was entirely Fallon's and that Gates believed it was "the right thing to do."
Fallon was the subject of an article published last week in Esquire magazine that portrayed him as opposed to President Bush's Iran policy. It described Fallon as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
Separately, the New York Times reported that there was "no question" that Fallon's departure was prompted by policy differences with the White House, and with Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq.
The newspaper said senior officials in the Bush administration were unhappy with remarks Fallon has made about Iran and the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq.
Fallon was out of step with the White House almost from the day he took over the U.S. Central Command, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. On his first trip to Iraq, he allowed a reporter for the New York Times to accompany him to a meeting at which he lectured Prime Ministrer Maliki on the need for political reform. A source close to Fallon says that earned him phone calls from Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice and National Security Adviser Hadley. Afterwards, Fallon said he had "two strikes against me" and lamented ever taking the job.
Martin reports there will be a lot of speculation that Fallon's departure clears the decks for war with Iran before the Bush leaves office, despite the fact that Secretary Gates twice called the notion "ridiculous."

The implications of Admiral Fallon's resignation are significant.  I've blogged before about the "500 year war" lunacy his chief enlisted advisor was spouting back when he was in charge of PACOM, but that impression of Fallon has always gone against conventional wisdom which said he was some sort of "lone voice in the woods" trying to hold war in Iran back.  If that's the case, then why was CSM Kinney off his leash spouting this nonsense to junior NCOs?
In any case, ADM Fallon's resignation means there are some tectonic plates shifting, and we should be on the look out for who his eventual replacement will be.

Hillary Clinton: Monster

Can you say, "riots in the streets"?

Somebody in the party please stop her. Please. Even in failing, she will irreparable damage to both the party and the nation.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hillary Clinton, Not So Good on Genocide

Marc Cooper talks about the Clinton record on genocide, and how 38 year-old Samantha Power has more foreign policy cred in her left pinky then 60 year-old Hillary Clinton has in her whole body.


Power was rightfully awarded the Pulitzer for her finely written and downright horrifying book A Problem From Hell which, in macabre detail, describes the calculated indifference of the Clinton administration when 800,000 Rwandans were being systematically butchered. The red phone rang and rang and rang again. I don't know where Hillary was then. But her husband and his entire experienced foreign policy team -- from the brass in the Pentagon to the congenitally feckless Secretary of State Warren Christopher -- just let it ring.

And as more than one researcher has amply documented the case, the bloody paralysis of the Clinton administration in the face of the Rwandan genocide owed not at all to a lack of information, but rather to a lack of will. A reviewer of Power's book for The New York Times, perhaps summed it up best, saying that the picture of Clinton that emerges from this reading is that of an "amoral narcissist."

Former Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, who commanded the UN forces in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, tells us a similar story in his own memoir. General Dallaire recounts how, at the height of the Rwandan holocaust, he got a phone call from a Clinton administration staffer who wanted to know how many Rwandans had already died, how many were refugees and how many were internally displaced. Writes Dallaire: "He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify the risking of the life of one American soldier." Eventually, ten times that many would die. And our response? A handful of years later, at a photo-op stopover in Kigali airport, Bill Clinton bit his lip and said he was sorry.

Therein resides the richest and saddest irony of all. Samantha Power has actually lived the sort of life that Hillary Clinton's campaign staff has, for public consumption, invented for its candidate. Though not quite 40 years old, Power has spent no time on any Wal-Mart boards but has rather dedicated her entire adult life rather tirelessly to championing humanitarian causes. She has spoken up when others were silent. She took great personal risks during the Balkan wars to witness and record and denounce the carnage (She reported that Bill Clinton intervened against the Serbs only when he felt he was losing personal credibility as a result of his inaction. "I'm getting creamed," Power quoted the then-President saying as he fretted over global consternation over his own hesitation to act).


Friday, March 07, 2008

Samantha Power for National Security Advisor

What, she should be precluded from government service because she was mean to Sen. Clinton? She has one of the best foreign policy minds I've ever seen. Watching the linked BBC clip on YouTube, I have to say that while political gamesmanship is to be expected from the candidates, I would hope that the rest of us, who have a greater stake in the correct policy being implemented than we do in our preferred candidate being elected, could have an honest discussion on these matters rather than trying to simply "one up" our competition. But perhaps that's impossible in the middle of a campaign season? I should hope not; this campaign has been going on for over a year, and it will continue through the rest of this year. Are we to forestall honest discussion for two years out of every four year Presidential term simply because the politicians don't feel like being honest with us about their intentions?

Of course Sen. Obama is presenting best case scenarios in his campaign. It's a political campaign. It's certainly no different from what Sen. Clinton is doing with regards to health care. Does anybody actually think that the plan she's crafted for the purpose of her campaign will be the one she presents to Congress? Don't be naive. It'll be a starting point, just like Sen. Obama's Iraq plan. It'll get chopped up by experts until a plan which bears very little resemblance to the original plan is scrapped.

To my original point: if we're going to kick every talented advisor to the curb because he or she says something politically inconvenient or impolite is the height of absurdity. Advisors should, by their nature, be plain-spoken and occasionally impolite. An advisor who never says anything which offends anybody is a cipher and should have no place in the White House.

I'm upset about Power's resignation from Obama's campaign, because what she has to offer is too important for petty politics to take precedence.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why a U.S. - Russia alliance makes sense for America

Impressed with all the gee-whiz gadgets the American military has come up with over the years? Check out this Russian fighter, the Su-30MK:

I'm sure even the hawkish sorts in America can see the value behind being on the same side as the people who built this airplane. I imagine the time, resources, and ingenuity used to build it being put toward peaceful purposes, and I feel like there is nothing our two great nations couldn't accomplish together.

Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island: "No You Can't"

Hillary Clinton won the primaries in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island. Obama won Vermont. Texas caucus results are still pending, so we'll see how that pans out.

McCain secured the nomination on the Republican side.

Apparently Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island Democrats decided they liked what they heard from Sen. Clinton and wanted to see four years of this:

And this:

Or maybe they'd rather see four years of this:

Bottom line, though? I've done the math, and Obama had something like a 150 pledged delegate lead coming into tonight's contests. After winning three of the four states, Clinton has now sliced Obama's lead to... 130. Yes, she's cut Obama's delegate lead by 20 delegates (still pending results from the Texas caucuses). Tonight was an opportunity for Obama to finish Clinton off. He didn't, but she hasn't overtaken him, either.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

We need to rethink our place in the world.

Something has to give with regards to our military presence overseas. We continue taking on new obligations and we never release ourselves from the old ones. This is largely because we don't stay in a particular place simply because we like the view or because we're trying to protect an ally, but because we're looking to be strategically located so as to strike at an enemy at a moment's notice, or else to protect a precious resource.

Simply put, we spend over $400 billion a year on the current arrangement, and the bank's going to break before too long. At the same time, our economy rests on the positioning of our military might around the world to protect our dominance of world markets. In short, if we stay we risk economic collapse. If we go, we risk economic collapse.

Here's how we can protect our interests while scaling back our imperial policies. I'll throw some ideas out there, undoubtedly of varying quality or feasibility:

  1. Revise our status of forces agreements with friendly nations hosting our forces. It will require compromise on our part (namely giving more favorable economic positions to these friendly nations), but it will ultimately be the least costly. I propose giving full control, responsibility, and ownership of the military infrastructure we presently have in these countries to the host nations. In short, don't close down the bases: give them to the host nation. Develop trade and military treaties which give oversight of the region to these nations. If we empower them as partners and not client states, the imperial stench of our current policies will eventually begin to fade.
  2. Before turning our bases over to Korea, develop a four-way agreement with the United States, China, and North and South Korea to reunite Korea, guaranteeing economic and military autonomy and a "hands-off" promise from both China and the U.S. with regards to their internal affairs, but allowing agreements to be developed between the newly united Korea and any nation they choose. A united Korea will be a military and economic powerhouse in the region, and an alliance between Korea and the U.S. would be useful.
  3. Take the leash off of Japan and let them develop a viable military force. Not an imperial force, but allow them to take responsibility for their own defense. A combined alliance between Japan and Korea would potentially be enough to balance Chinese dominance of the region, especially if backed by an alliance with the U.S. -- as opposed to these nations functioning as neutered client states for the U.S. Balancing China is crucial, because they are showing signs of making the same mistakes we made in the past century.
  4. Develop a formal economic and military alliance with Russia. Turn the old Cold War paradigm on its head: instead of these two great powers competing and fighting proxy wars on foreign soil, have them work together in their respective halves of the world toward common interests, and ultimately peace in the world. Don't scrap NATO; redevelop it to meet post-Cold War needs. With the end of the Cold War, it makes the most sense for the U.S. and Russia to be partners, not two titans struggling for dominance.
  5. Ultimately, it should not simply be protection of U.S. economic interests we should seek. Rather, it should be a goal of world peace. There will always be nations who act out in aggression, but if the world's major powers begin working toward common cause and stop acts of aggression before they get out of hand, we can finally put an end to this process of perpetual war through all time.
What is perpetual war but the slow necrosis of our species? These proxy wars we fight with other world powers over depleting resources only consume ever more of those resources, driving up demand for those resources, and thus increasing the wars we fight. Lather, rinse, repeat. Our innovation goes not into developing alternative means to meeting our needs and wants, but into bigger and better ways to fight the wars over the resources upon which we have become dependent. We have to be better than this.

But peace can only be assured when all parties have a common stake in it. If we continue to build our illusion of "peace and prosperity" on the backs of the poor, then it will never be sustainable. If we continue to deny one another that which we desire for ourselves, then none shall have it at all. There is a better way, but we can only find it by working together rather than at odds with one another. We cannot find it by withdrawing behind our fences and into our communities, by shutting out our neighbors or denying their existence and inherent self worth, regardless of their particular race, religion, lifestyle choices, or political persuasions. In short, we cannot find it simply within ourselves; we have to find it within each other.

And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal. -- President John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963

Friday, February 29, 2008

Clinton on hope.

Oh... how awkward for you.

Obama leads in Texas, close in Ohio

Reuters has it.

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Barack Obama holds a slight lead on Hillary Clinton in Texas and has almost pulled even in Ohio before contests that could decide their Democratic presidential battle, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle poll released on Friday.

The contests on Tuesday are crucial for Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady fighting to halt Obama's streak of 11 consecutive victories in their battle for the Democratic nomination for the November 4 presidential election.

Obama, an Illinois senator, has a 6-point edge on Clinton in Texas, 48 percent to 42 percent. He trails Clinton 44 percent to 42 percent in Ohio -- well within the poll's margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

I predict a close race in Ohio (with Wisconsin being a possible harbinger of things to come) with Texas a surprise win for Obama.
Just sayin'....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rolling Stone: The Myth of the Surge

Great article from Rolling Stone.  No comment, just snippage and linkage.

It's a cold, gray day in December, and I'm walking down Sixtieth Street in the Dora district of Baghdad, one of the most violent and fearsome of the city's no-go zones. Devastated by five years of clashes between American forces, Shiite militias, Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda, much of Dora is now a ghost town. This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.

My guide, a thirty-one-year-old named Osama who grew up in Dora, points to shops he used to go to, now abandoned or destroyed: a barbershop, a hardware store. Since the U.S. occupation began, Osama has watched civil war turn the streets where he grew up into an ethnic killing field. After the fall of Saddam, the Americans allowed looters and gangs to take over the streets, and Iraqi security forces were stripped of their jobs. The Mahdi Army, the powerful Shiite paramilitary force led by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, took advantage of the power shift to retaliate in areas such as Dora, where Shiites had been driven from their homes. Shiite forces tried to cleanse the district of Sunni families like Osama's, burning or confiscating their homes and torturing or killing those who refused to leave.

"The Mahdi Army was killing people here," Osama says, pointing to a now-destroyed Shiite mosque that in earlier times had been a cafe and before that an office for Saddam's Baath Party. Later, driving in the nearby district of Baya, Osama shows me a gas station. "They killed my uncle here. He didn't accept to leave. Twenty guys came to his house, the women were screaming. He ran to the back, but they caught him, tortured him and killed him." Under siege by Shiite militias and the U.S. military, who viewed Sunnis as Saddam supporters, and largely cut out of the Shiite-dominated government, many Sunnis joined the resistance. Others turned to Al Qaeda and other jihadists for protection.

Monday, February 25, 2008

McCain on Iraq

Sen. McCain talked about Iraq and how his campaign is tied down by it:

"We can fail in Iraq," McCain said Monday in an Associated Press interview. But, he added: "I see a clear path to success in Iraq." He defined that as fewer casualties and Iraqi troops taking over security to allow U.S. forces to return home. "All of us want out of Iraq, the question is how do we want out of Iraq," he added.

See, but that's inaccurate. Not everybody wants out of Iraq. Everybody does want the fighting to stop, but U.S. strategy largely revolves around our long-standing policy of setting up U.S. bases in strategically useful locations so we can exert control over regional politics by flexing our military muscle. "Global attack", as it's referred to in Air Force doctrine. McCain has said as much, citing our bases in Korea, Germany, and Japan as examples. So to say that he wants "out of Iraq" is misleading, at best.

The point he made which I agree with pertains to how we will be able to get out: Iraqi troops taking responsibility for Iraqi security. The problem we've run into in that regard is that militia members have often infiltrated the Iraqi military. But then, we have our own American gangs infiltrating our military; it hasn't stopped us from doing what we do. So while the issue of militia moles in the Iraqi military is a problem, it needn't be a show-stopper.

If I may be so bold, I'd like to posit a few ideas on how to accelerate this process.

Train the Iraqi military out of country. While training in the area they'll be fighting has obvious advantages, it can create distractions. One of the most effective things about U.S. basic military training is that they isolate us from our friends, family, and the rest of society. They create an environment in which we are completely dependent on each other for support and our military training instructor for survival. He or she controls our meals, when we can go to the bathroom, when we can shower, when we brush our teeth, and when we can speak, sit, stand -- everything. That allows Stockholm Syndrome to set in, and before long, we are intensely loyal not only to one another, but to our erstwhile abusive instructor. If these militia members are in any way able to maintain contact with their militia, that can erode the Stockholm effect. Even with the non-militia members, extended contact with family and friends can erode it. And while, once outside of that training environment, that "loyalty" to their instructor will fade, their loyalty to each other does not fade so easily. Train them in Kuwait or Qatar, which are both similar enough to Iraq, isolate them from their friends and family, and then, after how ever many months it takes them to get them sufficiently trained, rotate them in to replace an American unit. Keep this process rolling and soon the future of Iraq will be in the Iraqis' hands. Mission Accomplished! We won't even have to stage a massive withdrawal, because most of our troops will already be out. In fact, don't tell anyone, but that's exactly what a "phased withdrawal" would be.

Many people have unrealistic expectations on how this would go down. On the right, some expect that we should stay until everything is sunshine and rainbows. I never saw any rainbows over in Iraq, but I did see some large plumes of smoke. The violence will not abate while we are still over there because, in large part, we're the reason for it. It will continue as long as we stay; that's just a fact.

On the left, there are calls to simply cut off funding, as though this is a video game where if just unplug the console, all the problems over there will disappear. Again, that's unrealistic at best, and a callous disregard for the people we'll leave behind at worst. Yes, the violence will continue as long as we stay, but we've torn things up so badly and created such a dependency on our presence in that country that we need to at least try to set the Iraqis up for success. Allowing the Iraqis to steadily take increased control of their own fate will mean the difference between giving them a fish and teaching them to fish. The "cut off the funds" approach amounts to kicking them out of the boat and telling them they'd best learn to swim.

Naturally, there's still a chance that Iraq will devolve into a failed state, even after we've done everything we can to set them up for success. But in the end, we cannot stay forever. At some point, we will need to leave, and the longer we stay, the less likely it will be that they will be able or willing to take ownership of their own nation. As it stands, the U.S. has indicated every intention of maintaining a permanent presence in the country, and the Iraqis have noticed. A sharp shift in that regard will likely do a lot to accelerate the end of the violence. When the signal we send is, "the quicker this goes, the sooner we'll leave", that will provide a huge incentive to cooperate with us.

It's not hopeless; we can still succeed, as Sen. McCain points out, but if we are still in Iraq four years from now, that, in of itself, will represent a collossal failure on our part, just as the current situation does now. Success must be defined by allowing the Iraqis to take ownership of their own country. It's the only real measure we have left.