Sunday, October 25, 2009

Death Spiral or Circular Logic?

In todays IHT, there was this article about dramatically rising health insurance premiums.

Insurance companies are under pressure from investors to maintain healthy profits, while claiming they are fighting to contain costs. Yet premiums rise faster and faster, so one might very well surmise that they are ineffective at containing costs, even though they are demanding that they be the only provider of insurance, not the government.

Now, one reason offered for rapidly rising costs is the number of uninsured receiving hospital care, shifting that cost burden to hospital fees for the insured, and raising insurance rates. What is not addressed by the insurance industry is why people are uninsured, and I would offer that a major reason is that they cannot afford it. If the current approach to health care continues, is it not reasonable to conclude that rising insurance costs will result in more people being priced out of the market, further increasing hospital fees as the cost of the uninsureds' urgent/emergency care is shifted to the insured, who will suffer higher premiums, etc, etc, etc?

The industry also says that the low payment schedules of government health plans also results in costs being shifted to private insurers, again raising their premiums.

Throughout all this, the insurers are turning profits, and the article would lead one to believe that investor pressure has more of their attention that Congress and the general well being of the populace.

So, if one were to believe the insurance industry, any approach other than theirs contributes to the problem. But their approach, IHMO, is at the heart of the problem, as it has resulted in 20% of the under age 65 population having no health insurance, and that number is growing daily. The unemployed and under-employed cannot afford health insurance, and what has the industry proposed for these people, other than a sort of variation on "Trickle Down Economics"?

Death Spiral or Circular Logic? Methinks both.


PS, and since I don't feel like starting another thread for this one tidbit, here's a side comment in a post about the ability of the Government to provide more bail out capital by Blogging Stocks writer Michael Schulman:

However, Uncle Sam is now in so much debt that this is no longer a serious option. And it looks like we are going to spend another $900 billion-plus on health care reform over 10 years (a lot of money, sure, but about a third less than what Wall Street will spend on bonuses).

Gotta love our priorities.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The State of US Intelligence?

A book review and a report have appeared recently in the US which reflect much on the current state of US Intelligence after eights years of George W. Bush/Dick Cheney's handwork. The trends that have led us to this point of course predate both, or rather date back to the years when Bush was attempting to crawl back up on his barstool. Cheney's influence of course goes back to the end of the Cold War and the restructuring of US intelligence which started in the early 1990s.

William Pfaff's recent article pointed me to Dr. Marc Segeman's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of this month. The last four pages of the document constitute his conclusions and pretty much lay out the rational limits of what our policy concerning Afghanistan "should" be. "Should" defined in terms of national interest supported by rational policy which is connected to available means. There are no "private" or hidden interests involved here, simply the interests of the United States as a state protecting the welfare/interests of the political community it supposedly represents - the American people.

The other document is a book review on a new book about the NSA. The book's strongest part is WWII and the early Cold War period, as in the version as to what really did MacArthur in, but James Bamford's article brings us much more up to date. The NSA, Bamford tells us, has been the key winner in the intelligence shake up that happened after the various intelligence "failures" which followed Bush's moving into the White House. There are obvious reasons for this, one of which I will come to shortly.

But first I think it necessary to point out something that may not be so obvious about these two seemingly very different texts. They both indicate the status of US Intelligence after eight years of Bush and now one of Obama. Dr. Segeman's testimony before the Senate Committee is going to have little influence on what US policy in Afghanistan is, or am I wrong? This is because the Senate some time ago abandoned their constitutional function in regards to foreign policy, and will follow and sign off on what ever the president decides. I also suspect that decision will be based on domestic political considerations (as in various powerful political/economic interests that see war as profitable, or necessary to send "the right message"): or as we say in strategic theory "objective politics" will trump "subjective policy". The American people don't really enter into the calculation.

So how does this link with the seemingly unlimited expansion of the NSA?

In one word: POWER. That is what intelligence is post-George W. Bush. The NeoCons see the US as the lone SuperPower, able to wage war relentlessly since our power is infinite. We simply act out our phantasies in the real world and let "the wogs" sort out the mess, which is what being an American President is all about in a NeoCon world. "Intelligence" is meant to allow the NeoCon leader the "freedom" to do what he has already decided upon. Intelligence based on real world threat assessments is the last thing these "leaders" wish to hear . . . So the good Dr's careful analysis is for naught. At the same time, for a political elite which has given up on democracy, the ability to turn this massive Cold War relic on the very same people it was originally meant to protect must seem a no brainer.

How Obama decides on the Afghan question will take care of any doubts as to where he stands in relation to Bush's policies, but the continued expansion of the NSA is already the handwriting on the wall.

Sadly, the republic canary in the mine died some time ago.

Update 1: War on Terror II

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

America and the Middle East: Part 1 Bunker Hill to Pearl Harbor

Pluto commented a little while ago about how quiet it's been around here.

Pluto: It's quiet. It's...TOO quiet.

Y'all've seen the movie enough to know what happens then - all hell breaks loose.

So here's my installment of hell.

I wrote these way back in August of 2006 over at Graphic Firing Table. If you overlook the breezy style (and I LIKE the breezy style - if you want solemn history, there's tons of textbooks you can read) the crux of the biscuit is that three years ago I wrote what I still believe: that all the thrashing about in the Middle East and southwest Asia isn't going to get us out of the fundamental trap we've put ourselves in with the act of recognition in 1948. It just ain't gonna happen. And why I feel all "talked out" about a lot of the Middle East politics and strategy and tactics we've been talking about since the old Intel Dump days.

Plus I just liked these and felt they deserved another airing other than burial in the deep recesses of the old GFT.

So - without further ado, here's "America and the Middle East", a four-part series.

(from Graphic Firing Table, August 16, 2006)

Since this is such a huge subject, I’ve broken it into installments. This one, the first, is my rumination on U.S.-Middle East policy from 1776 to 1940. The second will cover the history of Americans in the Middle East from 1941 to 2006. I’ve already discussed the difficult propinquity of Israel and the Arab M.E., but I wanted to dissect U.S./Israeli/Arab policies in a single posting. And, finally, I wanted to take a look at what I feel are rational goals for the U.S. to seek in the Middle East, where we stand towards attaining them, what the likelihood of their attainment might be given our present policies, and what alternatives might be there for consideration.


So from 1776 - Bunker Hill - to 1941 - Pearl Harbor - was the pure-D, stomp-down riding-the-short-bus-simplest part of the whole nut roll to write.

Word up: our country just didn’t HAVE a Middle East policy until the beginning of the Second World War. None. Squat. Nada. As far as the sandy Arab parts of the world, we knew like a Dominican nun knows about Wesson Oil parties. Didn’t know, didn’t care to know. Besides, we had other stuff to worry about for about eighty years. Revolution, angry Canadians, hostile former owners, floods, famine, free silver, angry Mexicans, Fifty-four-Fourty or Fight, freesoilers, slavestaters, the Missouri Compromise, John C. Fremont and then, by God, the Civil War broke out.

Well, okay then.

So we DID have a teeny little run in with some Arabs during Jefferson’s administration:

President Jefferson: “Well, Robert, what have we here?”

Secretary of the Navy Smith: “Dispatches, Mister President. Our expeditionary force to the Dey of Tripoli. General Eaton and Captain Hull appear to have fought a smart action at Derna, you see, sir.

Pres. Jefferson: “I see. Hmm. Very good. Your Marine fellow O’Bannon writes well, there, regarding his actions in raising our flag over the harbor.”

Sect’y. Smith: “Ahem. The Marines appear to think highly of him, yes.”

Pres. Jefferson: “Indeed. One question, Robert.”

Sect’y. Smith: “Sir?”

Pres. Jefferson: “What the deuce is a “haji”?

Sect’y. Smith: “That would be a “dune coon”, sir."

Pres. Jefferson: “A what?”

Sect’y. Smith: “How our troops refer to the natives, sir. Oh, or a “sand nigger”.

Pres. Jefferson: “Oh. Quite.”

Obviously, a young nation with an enormous frontier, a tiny military force and a relatively miniscule overseas trade had no real need to pay attention to the peregrinations of whatever tribe or tribes wandered the then-worthless wastes of the Arabian Peninsula. Any American attention on the Middle East in the period between the Revolution and the First World War would have been on the “Holy Land”, then a wholly-owned subsidiary of the creaky Ottoman Empire and of no real significance other than a romantic tourist destination.

The other consideration was the European colonial powers. Mostly the British, whose control of much of North Africa and India made American interest in anything remotely Arabian, well…problematic.

Lord Palmerston: “Just not yours to play with, Yank. Good luck with those redskins, though…”
That was that. The crux of the biscuit. The heart of the matter. America did nothing in the Middle East because we neither wanted to nor could. And that was the whole story, too, through the 19th and right through the first four decades of the 20th Century.

Until, as it changed so much else, the Second World War came along and nothing would ever be the same again.

America and the Middle East: Part 2 - 50 First Dates

Three things happened in the 1940's to change our country's Middle East attitude from "Medina? Dude! Like, where's that at!?" to "Mine! Mine! It's mine. All mine! Putitdowndon'tplaywithitgetcherfuckinghandsoffitit'sMINE!":

1. The intense industrialization (read: automobilization) that had been underway since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution went into hyperdrive during our Arsenal of Democracy thing, and multiplied our need for all petroleum products, especially gasoline.

2. The European colonial powers took such a pounding that they emerged from WW2 either unable or unwilling to maintain their former colonies (or both). The United States stepped into this "power vacuum", because...

3. The Soviet Union emerged from WW2 a "great power" - the other nuclear superpower - and provided America with an intellectual coffee table on which to set our Middle East philosophy: the Cold War...

Which was, pretty much fully and completely stated, "stability".

Billmon over at Whiskey Bar is a much better writer than I am, so I'll let him explain this whole stability thing:

"The United States has tried to enforce stability in the Middle East because until Commander Codpiece came along foreign policy elites and American presidents alike viewed it as inherently in our interests to do so -- to protect the flow of oil, keep the Soviets out of the region, open markets to Western capital, and keep the Arab-Israeli conflict from getting out of hand.

However, this most emphatically was not done for the benefit of the people of the Middle East. It was for our benefit, and, secondarily, for the benefit of the colonized elites who transferred their loyalties -- or at least their services -- to America after the old colonial powers exited the region.

You can argue (imperialists almost always do) that the masses benefited from this stability because it created security, promoted economic growth and improved living standards. The British crown tried that same argument on the American colonists in the 1770s with a notable lack of success -- and they were all Englishmen. But there is some validity to it.

However, our stability fetish (and our commercial interests) also required us to do business with brutal dictators and/or prop up corrupt feudal elites -- many of them little more than rent-seeking parasites perched on oil fields disguised as countries. Where authentic or semi-authentic nationalist movements appeared -- in Egypt, for example -- we either tried to crush them or buy them off, and usually managed to do one or the other.

We also encouraged our "friends" in the region to Westernize themselves, to abandon or at least dilute their Islamic identities and become part of the globalized culture of capitalism (not that they needed much encouraging). As the energy importance of the region increased and the penetration of Western capital and culture deepened, so did the level of U.S. intervention -- always in the interests of that precious stability.

It may sound like I'm just reciting the plot from Syriana. But these were real policies, deliberately pursued over many years. And they were, by and large, extremely successful -- both for us and for our clients in the region. They were, however, abhorrent to the fundamentalist, anti-colonial Islamic movements (like the Muslim Brotherhood) that had existed in the region since the days of the British and the French."

This whole stability-and-anticommunism thing started even before WW2 ended. Nazi Germany had won a lot of Arab sympathy with their fight against the colonial powers, and both Iraq and Iran were pro-Axis. The Brits reoccupied Iraq in 1941 and both Britain and the U.S. occupied southern Iran between 1941 and 1946.

In the postwar period, our quest for "stability" brought us back to the Middle East again and again. For the Arab residents of the joint we must have seemed insufferable, the strongarm suitor who never gets the hint:

Fairuza: Allah wept! I thought he would never leave! Did he try to put his hand up your dress again?

Maryam: AAAAgh!! Was that only his hand? I felt like he was trying to put me on like a fucking muppet. Wait...what was that?!

Sam: Hellooo? Girls? It's ME again! Let's PAR-TAY!!

The Girls: SHIT!!

For most of the 40's and 50's we treated the Middle East like a pimp treats his best girl. As long as momma keeps doing what daddy tells her, she gets her lovin' man's best attention. Get out of line, though, - and occasionally the Arab countries did - and there was some pimpslappin' goin' down in the 40's and 50's:

As mentioned, we occupied Iran in the 40's. This was actually a good thing for the Iranians, because when Stalin refused to get out of northern Iran we were able (with the help of the U.N.) kick him out - remember, the Soviets didn't have a working Bomb until the late 40s - and roll the Iron Curtain back to the Iranian border.

BUT - when Iranian PM Mossadegh tried to move Iran out of the shah's U.S. alliance, we sent in the CIA and kicked him over. The Pahlevi shah then went on to cut sweetheart deals with our oil majors, setting in train the events that would culminate in the 1979 revolution.

Other than that, there was the usual involvement in coups and such: Iraq in 1958 and 1963, Egypt in the 50's, where we were widely suspected of working against Nasser and the "United Arab Republic", Pakistan (where we tried to use the Pakis to counterweight Indian infatution with Soviet Russia)...

Oh, yeah. We also invaded Lebanon in '58 to knock down a Muslim Revolution...

(we do this every so often, kind of like we did in Mexico during the 19th Century)...

But probably the single biggest change we helped bring about in the Middle East happened in 1948.

But more about that tomorrow...

America and the Middle East: Part 3 - Birth of a Nation

So here were were in 1948.

Locked in one of those wrestling matches with the Soviets where you can't let go because you're afraid the other guy is gonna pound your head into Wheatina as you break.

Needing ever more petroleum, which we're finding is gushing like a TV tabloid/Jessica Simpson nonsense riff from the Arab countries of the Middle East.

And rushing into former European (read: British and French) colonies in order to keep those damn Commies out, trying to scrounge up locals and form "organizations" to help us like NATO and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).

At this point we need the support (or at least the complacence) of the new post-colonial Arab countries as much as we ever have. So what do we do?

We help plunk down nearly a million European Jews on the coast of the Levant in the middle of an Arab land (part of the former Ottoman Empire).

In the exact location of the former crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

What the hell would make us do something like that..?

One huge reason was Harry Truman. I'm not sure if Truman felt exceptionally guilty about his former boss FDR's unwillingness to do anything to save Europe's Jews during WW2, whether he just thought that Jewish Israelis would be better allies than Muslim Arabs, or he just thought that Omar Sharif was a smarmy little schwarma-licker and had it in for camel-beaters. In the words of the Truman Library:

"When President Harry S. Truman took office, he made clear that his sympathies were with the Jews and accepted the Balfour Declaration, explaining that it was in keeping with former President Woodrow Wilson's principle of "self determination." Truman initiated several studies of the Palestine situation that supported his belief that, as a result of the Holocaust, Jews were oppressed and also in need of a homeland."

Why Truman felt that this homeland needed to be on the east side of the Mediterranean as opposed to, say, Bayonne, New Jersey is not recorded. Maybe he thought that he might lose Raritan County to the Republicans or something.

It's worth noting that both the U.S. War Department and State Department were somewhere between violently opposed and "Have you been smoking CRACK!??" about this. They felt - who'da thunk! - that backing a Jewish state in the Middle East would set this country against the Arab states until further notice. The U.S. Middle East "hands" also worried that our backing of Israel would drive the Arab states to look to our enemies - the Soviets - as their friends. They worried about the strategic and economic consequences of reestablishing a Western-supported European ministate in the Levant. They worried that they might not be able to get invitations to Damascus and score those cool Lawrence-of-Arabia headscarf things anymore.

May 14, 1948, the new state of Israel was founded. Truman issued an immediate statement recognizing the new government. The Arab states mobilized, and the First Arab-Israeli War was on...

It's interesting to note that not everything was sweetness and light between the U.S. and Israel early on. Eisenhower kicked the Israelis out of Egypt in 1956 for their part in "Operation Musketeer", the Anglo-French attempt to undo Nasser's takeover of the Suez Canal. But then the Arabs attacked in '67, and since then we've been pals forever...

Now I'll be the first to admit that the Israelis seem to be good people and that Israel, as a functioning democracy is a pleasant anomaly in the Middle East. But our position as Israel's Pimp Daddy has put us a difficult position in the Middle East.

In fact, I'm going to claim that it has put s in a paradox we cannot solve.

But that's for tomorrow.

America and the Middle East: Part 4 - What Can Be Done?

What do we need from the Middle East?

Well, when you get right down to the nitty, it’s pretty simple:

1. We need oil
2. We need passage through the Suez/Red Sea and Strait of Hormuz chokepoints
3. We need political stability and a degree of U.S.-tolerance to get #1 and #2.

Let’s take ‘em in order:

#1: Oil is fungible. Middle Eastern countries need to sell oil as much as we need to buy it. If we pay them what they ask – or bargain them to get what we want to pay – we’ll get oil.

Mind you – this item reminds us that it is never in a nation’s best interest to be held economic hostage for a resource. Japan’s immolation in 1945 should remind us of that:

Emperor Hirohito: Take Indonesian oil, you said! Sleeping giant, you said! It’ll be like taking pocky sticks from a baby, you said!

Prime Minister Tojo: So sorry! Please excuse! Regrettable incident! Ow! Ouch!

Hirohito: Stupid fuckwit! The Yankees should have put those bombs up your ASS!

Tojo: Owww! Yes, so sorry! Aieeee! Excuse, please! Owowowow!!

So, instead of sending gas-guzzling Hummers and Abrams to drive around Ramadi, it seems to me that we’d be better served figuring out how to build a 65-mpg Hummer. Or, better still, a Hummer that runs on something else we have a lot of. Chipmunk droppings? Hydrogen fuel cells? This is still a work in progress. But anyone with a functioning brain has figured this out already. That leaves out the Republican and 89% of the Democratic political leadership of this country. So whether we’ll get there is a true tossup.

#2: A little trickier. We basically need political stability and some neutrality from 13 nations to do this: seven for the Suez/Red Sea (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritria, Somalia and Yemen…

Ismail Omar GUELLEH: Don’t forget ME! I got 100% of the vote last time I got reelected! The freedom-loving people of Djibouti love me! That’s why they vote for me! Twice! Even the dead vote for Guelleh, here in freedom-loving Djibouti!

…oh, yeah, and Djibouti. Sigh)

and six for Hormuz (Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi, the UAE and Oman). This isn’t really a separate issue because it leads directly to point 3:

#3: Political stability. Back in the good old days we just bought the sons-of-bitches and they either stayed bought or they got what was coming to them.

PM Mossadegh: I’ll say!

Nowadays, though, the old colonial tradition of a paid-for-puppet-and-compliant-masses is wearing thin. The Arab “street” is being increasingly radicalized by groups demanding political power. Because of the forced marginalization of political Islam, these groups are often – mainly – radical and Islamic.

Sheik Nasrallah: My ears are burning. Hey – you talkin’ about ME? Hee hee, you silly American dogs, you…

For the radical Muslims, America has a whole bunch of strikes against it. They can be cooked down to two main categories: cultural and political. Let’s start with the easy one: our “way of life” versus theirs.

Our way of life, both social and political, demands that people with other points of view get a say. Demands that people whose ideas and behaviors you ma not like get ot do them so long as they don’t physically interfere with your life. Demands, basically, they you get on with doin’ your thang and let me get on doin’ mine.

Theocracy (the government-of-choice of Islamic and Christian fundamentalists everywhere) says that there’s only one point of view, and you know what that is:

Reverend Dobson: God says that Hillary Clinton is the Whore of Babylon. And progressive income taxes are Satan’s tool. Oh, yeah, and Playboy magazine is the instrument of your damnation. Praise the Lord!

Mullah Khameni: Yeah, what he said!

Our way of life allows a massive outpouring of all sorts of stuff, particularly stuff that offends the sort of people who feel that every time homos have sex Baby Jesus cries (or Muhammad weeps or something…) and that women’s bodies should be covered up, like, with massive walls, and kept locked away for Daddy to play with. This is an anathema to the fundies of all stripes and will keep us at odds with the Islamic conservatives for decades to come.

We’re not going to win that argument by out-shouting the mullahs, Sistani or Dobson or Khameni, whatever... Just remember that the Soviets officially banned Playboy and monster trucks and blue jeans, and look what happened to them. I’m pretty upbeat on this one. We’ll probably win the “culture war” with Islam because nobody wants to listen to Pakistani rap, see Saudi action movies, read Yemeni romance novels or wear Sudanese sneakers…

The political problem is something else. Right now we’ve got a lot of people in a lot of nations in the Middle East that have a pretty large lump stuck in their craw. And that’s our friend Israel. They see Israel – and with some justification – as an utterly non-Arab, non-Islamic invader forced into “their” part of the world by European colonial promises like the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Agreement and now maintained by raw American military muscle. An eternal poke in the eye from the same people who are pissing them off by exporting that bimbo Brittany Spears and her talentless jerk of a husband to the oppressed masses of Islam;

KFed: Word! Mess with my Family (and you’re Through)! Yo!

Allah wept.

The thing is, I personally don’t see a way to finesse this one. Diplomacy is the art of giving a little here and taking a little there until both sides think they’re putting one over on the other. Deal is – both sides here want exactly the same thing. They both want a country, each in their own image, in exactly the same place. And, just as importantly, the Arab countries realize that they can keep trying until they win. And they only have to win one. Israel has to win every single fucking time.

So the U.S. doesn’t really have any good options: stand behind Israel and you will be at odds with the Muslim nations until…until…I don’t know until when. But a long, long time. Distance ourselves from Israel and anticipate the horrific spectacle of an Islamic ethnic cleansing if the IDF ever fails to hold against an Arab attack.

We’re screwed, in other words. And I haven’t the faintest idea how to un-screw ourselves. Go back in time and unsay the Balfour Declaration. Un-do Truman’s recognition. Make the whole problem go away before it began. Other than that, we’re stuck on the same old treadmill, grinding away endlessly, making more Islamic enemies every time we box up an F-18 or a cluster bomb or an artillery round to ship to Israel...

There’s an old joke that has Gorbachev, Reagan and Menachem Begin suddenly called before the Lord, who announces that He will tell them any one thing about their nations.

Gorbachev asks “When will the final triumph of the Communist Party bring peace and prosperity to the Soviet Union?” God whispers the answer and Gorbachev begins to weep.

Reagan asks: “When will Big Government and the Welfare State wither away in America?” God whispers the answer and Reagan begins to weep.

Begin asks: “When will your nation Israel enjoy final peace within its borders.

God begins to weep.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can I have a Nobel Peace Prize?

Seriously, can I?

Look at me...I'm smart, witty, and most of all so NOT George W. Bush!
So...whaddya say?!?

Well, Obama got one, and I think for the most part the Norwegians really stepped into it this time. When my co-worker informed me that Obama had just recieved the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize the first thing out of my mouth was, "for what?"
My co-workers response, "pfft, you got me...not being Bush?"
He was tongue in cheek of course, but as the day wore on, and the week as well, it became the theme of the MSM..."Win the Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush!"

I'm wondering if they're getting applications for the 2010 awards for the Peace Prize by the other 6.3 billion people on this planet, minus the one of course, for not being George W. Bush?

The thing is that when prestigious ceremonial awards with a rich history of rewarding people for recognizable achievements in the fields of science, medicine, or deeds being used for politicals purposes it cheapens everyone elses awards who won them through sacrifice.

I think that Obama has handled it well, but I also think that the higher road of integrity would have been achieved through handing back the award.
So, if I were the one being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush, this is what I would say.

"Americans, and to our nation's neighbors, ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, allies and enemies I have been awarded a prestigious award from a body who has great expectations of me based on my candidacy speech for the office of President.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you in America for the faith you have placed in me for this awesome responsibility, and have joined me in this endeavor of bring America back to it's moral foundation...a foundation set by our nations founding fathers...that all men are created equal and deserve the respect due them by law and by our mutual agreement.
That being said I must return this award for I have yet to accomplish any of my goals I have set myself for my brief, yet hopefully, eight years of service as President of these United States.
My returning this award is not an act of contempt rather I am fully aware of the honor this award comes with.
No, I do this out of embarrassment in that I personally feel that I cannot accept any honor of such magnitude when I have done nothing to earn it when compared to past recipients who were so honored.
So with humility, and with deep respect to the body of the Nobel Prize commitee, I humbly rescind this award, and ask that you recognize a far more deserving individual than myself.
Thank you, and G-d bless you all.
Good night."

The unfortunate fall out from this accepting of the award for Mr. Obama is that he will now be saddled with expectations that he may never be able to meet.

Not that he doesn't want to meet them, but the reality of politics is the same as the reality of herding a thousand meth hyped kittens through a six inch chute on a thousand acres of carpeted play-land loaded with balls of yarn.
Oh, it can be done, but not in eight years.

Give it back, Mr. Obama, trust me, you'll sleep better.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Kuomintang!

Now we know why the PRC hasn't just invaded:The Taiwanese defense establishment has mastered Decepticon technology...!

(h/t to Lawyers, Guns & Money...)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day of German Unity

I was there. 3 October 1990. It was a great experience. But what experience?

First we did have the end of the Cold War (1947(?) - 1990), and what some of us called the Humint "Gold Rush" which followed, which is kinda best described as finding a Soviet Field Marshall dead in a open field with all his kit . . . documents, papers, fancy lazer range finder, new-fangled artillery sound ranging gear, high-tech binos, all sorts of plans for various odd Sov technologies which have yet to hit open air . . . but I digress.

The Reunification of Germany was an event. And yes, the view was at the time that it had happened perhaps a bit too fast. Now we know of course that both Britain and France were not too keen on the idea of German Unification and worried about a redrawing of Germany's eastern borders. Like the French and Brits saw the German Army as going to march into Breslau and reclaim it as "German" . . . at the expense of Poland.

The reality of course was far from that, the peoples of Eastern Europe were simply happy to be free: to be able to travel and move about as they pleased. It was the greatest triumph of positive human will ever, at least in the West, imo, which of course is why various powers were/are so interested in distorting it . . . The guys (and Mrs Thatcher) at the top didn't have a clue, whereas the those in the "trenches" had a much better view, which is a lesson in itself . . .

Military power had very little to do with what happend in 1989-90. It was about people going out in the streets (as in the regular Monday demonstrations in Leipzig) and taking the power of the state in their own hands. I have a fancy East German Communist Party flag which I found "lying in the street" hanging on my office wall . . . an example of a transfer of power.

While we may argue with how the Reunification was carried out, we should be able to agree that the event itself was a triumph not only for Germany but for Europe and the world.

So, why the sad faces Germany?!

Rather celebrate what was a great victory of the human spirit and something that has left a lasting impression on not only this American . . . This is YOUR DAY, remember it!