Setting the Record Straight

September 6, 2008

Blowin’ In The Wind

Letting Our Guard Down

         In the hurricane season, more threatening it seems than in recent years, we are alerted to the deep and dismal shortage of National Guard for domestic emergencies. Guardspeople are sent in too many numbers over to the futile war in Iraq. One Guardswoman was quoted as saying, “When I was in Iraq, the hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.” We all know the result of that.
        The witless, ineffective, anti-federalism Bush administration fiddled while New Orleans drowned. And since, repeated domestic emergencies have put many Americans in peril and poverty, without the extent of help the National Guard would normally give. And with it all, National Guard people’s families are driven to food banks and welfare by a government that has sold them short.
        Many, many Guardsmen come back from Iraq with mental and emotional problems. We have heard the scandals about care for returning service people. This, too, is a result of the shortsighted, narrow-minded policies of the worst president in history.
        In this election season, we are struck with the reality that whoever succeeds the worst president in history has to set about repairing his damage for many years. We should make our choice for president based on the candidate who has the policies that best promise the right course.




September 5, 2008

Vet, CEO Or U.S. President

President Judgment, Judgment, Judgment

     Much is being made during this presidential campaign about military experience and executive experience as important criteria for serving as president. It is all a bunch of bunk.
     Those who make those claims are either unknowledgeable about the job or trying to fool you. Neither service has anything to do with being an effective president.
     A chart of the military and gubernatorial experience of our presidents of the past 70 years is revealing. Between Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, neither of which served in the military, all of our presidents did. So what?
     Only Dwight Eisenhower ever made any military decisions during his service. Only John Kennedy, George H.W. Bush and the would-be John McCain saw any significant action, and none of them actually made significant military decisions. Among all of the presidents we have had the past 70 years, which have served us best during times of military strife?
     Scratch military experience.
     Claiming executive experience in almost all cases means the candidate has been a governor of a state. So what? Maybe the odd one or two of them led a company, but who cares.
     Over that same 70-year period, we have had five former governors as president. FDR was one, but not until 1977 and Jimmy Carter did we elect another. Then followed Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. How did they serve us any better than the elder Bush, Gerald Ford, Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower and Harry Truman, who did not?
     Check the scenario to the right as one example of what a president faces and a governor does not. And neither does a company executive, who in that phone call would be told what is being done or has been done about the crisis at the plant because he or she relies on the expertise of those below him for snap decisions.
     Supporters of Sarah Palin struggle to tout her “executive experience” as qualifying her to be a heartbeat away from being president in a setting she has never seen and which she has acknowledged she does not understand. To support that idea, the analogy is drawn between a president of a country and the president of a company, a CEO if you prefer.
     The CEO can hire cronies, maneuver to get friends on the board of directors that would uphold his or her decisions, bribe people with lunches, plane trips and other favors, all of them legal in the private world, but illegal or impossible in government. The CEO’s aim is not to make money—he or she already has oodles—it is to try to accumulate more money than anyone else. The thrill for CEOs is in the making of money, not the having of it.
     Neither a CEO nor a governor has to elicit the help of peers to carry out a policy associated with his or her job. Each is on his own. A president, on the other hand, must conduct foreign policy by convincing his peers, heads of other nations, that his policy is the correct one. We all know what happened when former Gov. and CEO Bush tried to go it alone and how his peers view him today.
     A governor makes provincial decisions. Palin governs a state far more provincial than most; it has fewer than a million people even though it has the largest land mass. The object of the contrast she is intended to make—with Barack Obama, who has a similar number of years in elected office—represents a state of 13 million, but is one of only 535 contributing to decisions that affect more than 300 million people, and on international issues, possibly the entire world population and its future.
     Obama and other senators do not gain experience in making “executive decisions” by virtue of serving in Congress. The experience they do gain is immersion in national and international affairs, the very knowledge they need if they go on to serve in the White House.
     But most importantly, if one reviews the U.S. presidents of the past 60 years, one realizes there are no specific criteria to serving as president. It is a job that requires the ability to inspire people to follow, to develop policies that serve the national constituency and above all, backed by a lot of knowledge and at least a little experience, but most of all, judgment, judgment, judgment, but most of all, judgment based on knowledge.


July 26, 2008

Outside the Box: Afghanistan

 Make Bribery, Not War

     Instead of spending a trillion dollars in Iraq/Afghanistan in a fruitless attempt for a conventional military victory, what if we spent a fraction of that bribing our way to victory?
     Let’s start with bribing Afghanistan, i.e., afghanis for Afghanis.
     We cannot defeat the Taliban, Al-Queda or any other guerrilla force with U.S. boots on the ground. The problems in Afghanistan are easily identifiable. So why don’t we take what we know about them and bribe our way to victory.

     Afghanis depend for a lot of their gross domestic product on the poppy plant. The Afghan guerrillas , as well as the various warlords depend on the poppy for their financial strength. The welfare of the Afghanis logically lies with the guerrillas and not with the United States.
     What if we offered each of the 7.5 million households in Afghanistan the equivalent of $250, or one year’s average income. That would amount to less than the $2.3 billion we spend in one month now in Afghanistan short 10,000 troops on a fruitless venture.
     Naturally, we would attach strings. To receive the money, Afghan farmers would have to quit growing poppies and grow crops for human or livestock consumption, alternative energy, anything but addictive purposes. Their earnings would be on top of the year’s worth of income we already gave them. Additional support in subsequent years would be provided as needed.
     Non-farming Afghans would have other requirements, but coupled with incentives to earn additional income beyond the year’s stipend we gave them.
     We would still need a military presence to maintain order and try to fend off the cheaters. But our military presence could include a new type of warrior, one who is more sociologist than fighter and could include warriors trained at least in a semblance of other professions.
     With a new-found wealth, the populace would have a new-found strength to make new-found demands on its government. Eventually, having tasted capitalism, it is likely to embrace that system of government. It may not choose to be democratic, but as with other countries embracing capitalism, democracy likely will come with time. Until then, we would at least have a new trading partner.
     We could use the same bribery to get our way in much of the rest of the undeveloped world, if that is what we are going to continue insisting on, with less loss of life and less outlay of dollars.
     The evils of the world thrive on poverty. They are hard put to exist where there is little of it. 


     Sure. We could list hundreds; others would list 10 times more, from those fearing copiers of “The Mouse That Roared” to people citing real problems. That’s the way it is with thinking outside the box.
     For example, in Afghanistan, actually administering that bribery system (first, we would have to use a better-sounding euphe- mism) would cost far more than the $2 billion initial bribe. But we are now spending $2.3 billion a month there before we even begin to build up our troop strength.
     For example, can we guarantee making bribery, not war would work? Of course not. But we can guarantee that waging war against a guerrilla force the same old way will not work and will be far more costly in both the short and long runs.

     But first, we think.



June 9, 2008

Random Musings

Some Random Musings from Veritas
        Some news report mentioned recently that we have 150,000 troops in Iraq. Think of that for a moment. The only things we see on television are small patrols kicking down doors and such. What are 150,000 troops doing? Think of the cities in your state of that size, just to get an idea of the immensity of our military presence in devastated Iraq.
        Every drummer in America seems to have a job. I am talking about the fact nearly every television advertisement, and some of the shows, feature insistent drumming. Consider the “theme” music for CNN’s newscasts: a rhytmic drumbeat with orchestral background in an increasingly frantic theme. Some rock bands may be missing their drummers.
        The Democratic Party is sure to have a debate over its proportional granting of delegates from primaries. Hillary Clinton said that if there were not the proportion system, she would have won the nomination long ago. Winner-takes-all seems a good idea for some things, like tennis matches, but across the nation for choosing pledged delegates to a convention, the proportional system seems fair. Or does it?
        Speaking of tennis, what about the shriek? Some of the best players in modern tennis–Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters come immediately to mind–have adopted a shriek. For a while, opponents objected, but to no avail. The shrieks are of a wondrous variety: Sharapova’s a high-pitched scream of seeming agony; the Williamses’ full-throated roars punctuating every shot; the yell of Dementieva coming close to “Yuh-HOO.” This all started, I theorize, with the little squeak of Chrissie Evert. It grew from there. But Bill Tilden did not need to shriek; Althea Gibson never roared; Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver played without yelling. What changed?
        Some cliches we can do without: Somebody said that at one point in the campaign, Clinton led “in all the important metrics.” “Metrics”? My dictionary does not list “metric” as a noun. But it is a usage popular on Capitol Hill with speakers who forget there is “measure” or “measurement” or “criterion” or “element” or any number of correct words in place of “metric.”
        And while we are being once again a schoolmarm, why does everything have to be “great”? A restaurant tells us on television that it has “great food at great prices.” That may mean just affordable hamburgers. The amusement park promises “a great time with great bargains,” which may mean just affordable fun. By me, “great” should be reserved for really historic items or events. Otherwise we have to look for the next superlative.



Blog at