Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's Civil War!!!

Yesterday the NBC television conglomerate declared that the Iraq War is now a civil war. What's odd about this is that it takes a media outlet to make this declaration and not our government and that it is somehow news just because they were the first of the media corporations to do this. This "epic" decision was initially broadcast on the Today Show by host Matt Lauer in the morning and then discussed throughout the day on sister station MSNBC and the other cable news channels.

George Bush and the White House of course highly disagree with the Iraq War being characterized as a civil war and sent out their minions to the cable news channels to argue their case which was essentially, "it's not a civil war." At least that's all that I could discern. In a sense it was a bit humorous as everyone was scrambling for their dictionaries to look up the phase 'civil war' to try and determine if the Iraq War meets the definition.

The problem is that civil wars like any other wars are never the same. Trying to compare a current war to wars of the past is nothing but an academic exercise that doesn't really address the current war. As time progresses and history continues to roll on, a war in our years is different in so many ways from a war of previous time. Just the type of weapons used advances over time, the type of people involved are different, their politics and ideology is different, the land the war is fought on is not the same. I think it's easier to find differences between wars rather than similarities.

So is the Iraq War a civil war? Sure, why not? It's quite obvious that factions in Iraq are warring against each other, just because we have troops over there fighting to try to keep these factions from killing each other doesn't change that fact.

The White House has given up trying to promote democracy in Iraq (when was the last time you heard that line lately?) and at this point would be happy if Iraq simply had a government that could control their own people. The real problem of the repeated mantra of "we will stand down as the Iraqi's stand up" is that no matter how much we train the Iraqi military to defend their country is that we can't force the members of that military to believe in their government. To get people in the Iraq military to hunt down and kill their fellow citizens for a government they don't understand or believe is going to be valid seems like insanity. In other words, the military must have faith in the future of their country as being united in the face of the fact that Iraq isn't united due to various reasons such as sectarian differences, tribal differences, and the desire for power when the power vacuum opens up.

As anyone that knows me understands, I was against this war before it began, expected this war wouldn't evolve as the "experts" in the White House predicted and have believed that a withdrawal has been the only answer all along. Yes a withdrawal would probably cause Iraqis to kill each other, but since not long after the war began Iraqis have been killing each other. Withdrawal would change little in Iraq except to get our troops out of the way.

Some sort of government will eventually emerge whether it's a central government or broken up into regional nations (such as what happened in Yugoslavia) once we leave. It may take years, it may happen in a relatively short time, but we won't have much effect whether we stay or leave. By leaving, Iraq will probably resolve itself faster than if we stay. We are only delaying the inevitable and always have been. By removing Saddam Hussein who maintained that cruel balance that enabled the country to function as a nation we set in motion these divisions driving the violence.

When the pundits and study groups are advocating bringing in Syria and Iran to discuss Iraq then Bush and company failed in Iraq. By doing that, we would enable Iran and Syria to become power players in the region and I can bet plenty of money that Bush never wanted that. Whether Bush agrees to this scenario and sends out Condoleeza Rice to meet with those countries has yet to be determined, we shall see. The chances that those meetings would turn out to be the answer seem low.

It took about three years or so before general consensus began to agree with me that the Iraq War was a mistake. Now I wonder if I'm on the wrong side (as I always wonder when general consensus agrees with me) and try as I might I can't find another idea besides withdrawal. We were the impetus to the Iraq civil war, I guess we just have to let them have it. We gave it to them, it's unfortunate it was a bad gift.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rumsfeld Tribute

I'm not going into an analysis of Donald Rumsfeld's mistakes as Defense Secretary, but I will bring up his penchant for strange jargon and odd sayings. For me, he will always be remembered for the weird words coming from him rather than being a good leader (which he wasn't). My all-time favorite was an enigmatic jet-lagged(?) piece of philosophy.

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

And here are a few more that will be more memorizable than the above quote.

"I believe what I said yesterday. I don't know what I said, but I know what I think, and, well, I assume it's what I said."

"I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."

There are many websites that have Rumsfeld quotes,
here's one but Google for more.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

armchair politics

Since the election I have viewed plenty of airtime from C-Span as they broadcast various analysis from experts, not the talking heads of other cable news channels. If you want to understand American elections watch C-Span in the days after an election, particularily the panel shows.

I've seen the various campaign managers, winners and losers discuss the strategy used during the election. There is much armchairing going on about individual races as well as the reasoning of why the Democrats swept up the Congress.

I had to laugh at one campaign organizer, Tom Reynolds, the congressman coordinating the other Republican congress members. He at one point went on a tirade against the "liberal" media. He was nearly drooling with rage. It's funny, when the media played cheerleader for the Republicans in the build-up for the Iraq War I didn't hear Reynolds complain about the media. By the way Tom, have you seen Bush's ratings for the last year? If 2/3rds of the country is against Bush AND the Iraq War, well wouldn't 2/3rds of the media feel similar? Of course the media was biased, they were part of that countrywide emotion of anti-Republican, anti-Bush, anti-Congress, anti-war that has built up ever since Hurricane Katrina really.

People across the country are hoping the Democrats do some good in Congress, there is hope. The Dems have mometum after winning as the underdog. Everybody likes the underdog. Sure there are staunch Republicans that will never accept this change of power, but I think America is ready to give the Dems a chance and now are going to sit back and watch. The party is in a difficult spot. They don't have veto beating power, but they do have subpoena power. Does the country want the wrongs of the last six years repaired or does the country want the Dems to forget that past and move on to the future and deal with problem number one, Iraq?

Certainly ethics must be dealt with, the ethics committee is currently virtually nonexistence. Lobbying rules with teeth, elimination of those add-ons to bills where the pork shows up in the middle of the night, get rid of attack television ads would be a special treat for me personally, and many other ethical issues available for fixing.

Investigations must be done on some sort of noticable scale. Start with the Iraq War contracting and put some people in jail because everyone knows there has been massive war-profiteering. Essentially that's what former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's crime was, war-profiteering. It might be too much to expect, but wouldn't it be great if the military-industrial complex was exposed for what it is, the danger to our country that President Eisenhower warned in his farewell address (interestingly Eisenhower originally was going to call it military-legislative-industrial complex, thereby including Congress in the link of the Department of Defense and private contractors, but that hit too close to the center target). Anyway, I digress.

Impeach the president? The Republicans are both scared and hope for it. Scared because it could get a groundswell of popular support or if the Democrats do the impeachment the public might think "oh, no, not again!"

Finally, what is Bush going to do now that the scene has shifted? I'm curious whether he will dump his inside group (as he just did with Rumsfeld) and actually honestly work with the Dems and pass plenty of decent legislation. Would that be too unbelievable to accept, that Bush becomes a Democratic willing puppet? He might realize that his legacy will depend on solving Iraq for history's sake with the Democrats explaining to him what to do the whole time. On the other hand, Bush might just be the divider and decider he has been for six years.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

election day after

No doubt, a Democrat sweep. At this point the 'crats have a 40 seat lead in the House and the Senate is tied 49-49 awaiting results of Montana and Virginia. The 'crats added 6 Governorships as well as winning many state governments.

Here in Michigan, D-Gov. Granholm retained and so did D-Senator Stabenow. Granholm's opponent Dick DeVos spent $35 million of his own money and lost fairly big. I was happy, she was the best of the candidates including the Green candidate, sorry. DeVos was a stealth religious right millionaire, born with a spoon in his mouth as the son of Amway mogul. He accidently tipped voters when he mentioned that he believed intelligent design should be taught in schools. Behind the scences Dick funds a number of religious right causes and group with his millions.

As far as proposals on the ballot here in Michigan, the dove hunting was resounding defeated, this was to allow mourning dove hunting after a 99 year ban, so it will be banned for many more years. We had proposal 2, which was to end affirmative action at the state colleges and it passed which meant that affirmative action was to be abolished. This was a difficult worded proposal where if you were FOR affirmative action you voted NO, if you're ANTI affirmative action then vote YES. I suspect this wording may have actually meant that too many mistaken voters voted the wrong way and it should have rightly failed. The vote yes side received money in the last weeks from Nazi sources, which both scares me if true and makes me angry for a late contribution that won't get released to the public until after election day. So, we shall see where the money came from for that proposal supporters of yes.

Across the nation, I was glad for Sherrod Brown-D, Ohio Senator knocking out =====. who was a Bush clone on every issue, Brown is a progressive. I was somewhat dsappointed about Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee for Senate who got hit with a nearly libelous attack add that made Ford seem a womanizer of whites, Ford should have won just because of that dirty attack. Bernie Sanders won Senate in Vermont, he's an independent who's a self proclaimed socialist. He was one of my favorites in the House, now moving to the Senate. So, that's two independents in the Senate including Connecticut's Joe Leiberman, who had to give up being a Democrat after losing the primary to Ned Lamont who then lost to Leiberman last night. I was pulling for Iraq War vet D-Tammy Duckworth, but she lost a close one.

The Dems swept up New Hampshire, and smoked Ohio. They even had successes in the Red West. Nearly every moderate Republican was voted out, leaving mostly hard core Republicans. Many of the Democratic winners were moderate or even conservative-Democrat, which may give power to those type of Dems, a caucus known as the Blue Dogs. And now of course what is Bush to do.

I'm generally happy, I wish more progressives won seats. On the other hand, the Dems have all sorts of problems to deal with. Ethics, the Iraq War, the Afghan War (which was barely discussed during campaign season), and investigations of the Bush wars and administration. The investigations will probably be slow in order not to be anxious, or maybe the investigations won't even be real in order to plan for 2008 elections. The Iraq War needs to be addressed, we need to begin withdrawal plans in some sort of way, "slow at first" is at least a step in the right direction.

Anyway, I have many other thoughts but with no more time to write them.

Monday, November 06, 2006

election eve

Twas the night before election and all through the house
not a soul was awake, not even a mouse.
That's because it's a worknight, need that sleep,
And sometime tomorrow we'll vote for the creeps.

Or something like that.
So the TV pundits tonight (election eve) are basically in agreement. Predictions are for mid-20s pick-up for Dems to take the House and in the Senate it is going to be close, either barely Dem, barely Rep, or maybe dead heat 50-50. It's coming down to three or four races, Missouri, Montana, Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, oops, that's five, anyway, the Senate may not be resolved before election night bedtime.

I'v got my picks written down on a voting booth cheatsheet. It would be far easier if I could just stay home and vote on-line. But we hardly trust the new voting machines as it is, who would trust Internet voting.

I hope the Democrats take the House, we need some divided government to slow down the radical Bush agenda. But, hey, I'm a radical in some ways myself.

For instance, I think our whole election process is tainted with money, wracked with partisanship, and rife with questionable results. And that's my nice version of how I think. In some way I feel the whole election process is nothing but a sham, a set-up to favor the political class, that's the class that runs our country as a group, politicians.

Perhaps the most redeeming value of the American election system is that it is good for the economy. Political spending for this election cycle will top $2 billion. That beats most nations total GDP, and we spend that mainly on stupid political commercials. Elections create the need for banners, lawn signs, telephone use, TV, radio, print advertisements, voting machines, poll workers, campaign workers, it goes on and on, from the need for food and decorations for a candidates money raising dinner to the type of refreshments on the campaign bus. A ton of money passes around the economy because of our elections. The question might be, is this a good use for spending two billion dollars?

It might be a good use of that money if our election system was the best in the world, but it's not. Far too many Americans believe that the counting of votes isn't being done accurately and there is enough evidence that Americans are correct in their belief. That is a problem of trust and democracy needs trust to survive. But more than that it needs honesty to garner that trust. By now most Americans have heard about various voting irregularities and suspect that their own vote won't get counted. One must wonder whether the irregularities are mistakes or purposeful acts.

Are our elections honest? It's hard to believe when you have that much money floating around that elections are honest. Just watching many of these late campaign TV commercials I see plenty of dishonesty in the ads, particularily the attack ads. The manner of money raising has plenty of stink to it. Politicians run around to parties to raise money and then when they win the election it would be difficult not to believe that the politician won't remember who threw the money parties and who made up the guest list when making decisions in Washington.

Then there is the structure of a backward two-party system. Most democracies in the world use coalition forming with multiple political parties. The two parties in America have worked in a collusion over the years to create mostly safe districts by way of gerrymandering. The redrawing of district lines to favor one party or the other causes most House seats to be entirely uncompetitive, it is only a handful of districts now that are in play. Third party and independent candidates are forced to jump through legal hoops to gain ballot access in many states, purposely shut out of the game by the two parties working in concert creating those hoops.

If I was the election God, I'd change things. First, I would remove political TV and radio commercials from our airwaves. In exchange, politicians would be given free air time, perhaps a 1/2 hour several times throughout the month. Candidates would be given free time to respond to charges and accusations coming from the opposition and third party and independent candidates would be under the same rules as the Democrats and Republicans. A limit, say about seven candidates would be eligible based on pre-polling of public whether a party gets access to free airtime and an average of five debates would be conducted in five different forms and forums.

Second, even though I mention political parties in the first change, I would eventually like to remove political parties as an institution. Not like communism, one party rule, but no party rule. I don't see why we don't elect candidates that aren't supported by a political party machine. Candidates in their free air time make their case as to being able for the job, they just need to put forth their beliefs without a party ideology. After the election, the candidate will need to caucus with like-minded winners sans a political party. Without parties very few elected officials will vote lockstep with other politicians. Officials will vote more honestly on each of the mass of issues.

Third, the ballot casting of the future is the home computer. In this form, voting can be able to take the pulse of the people on a regular basis and do it cheap. Once voting on the home computer becomes commonplace, our country can transpose into a direct democracy. People will be able to vote more often and less on who their representatives are and more directly voting on issues. Elections could be held more like two or three times a year at home on the computer. Everyone should be given the minimum voting computer and given any type of special needs in order to use the computer. A completely secured code must be used and also an additional secured code be available for exchange if the first code is tampered with and abused. Violations of code tampering would be harh, 40 years jail, something like that in order to discourage anyone tampering with our democracy. Computer home voting would eliminate some of todays problems such as voter intimidation, but will need to monitored to make sure new problems open up from a different system and work quickly to respond to new problems.

Fourth, the quality of candidates needs to be examined. Opening up the election process to third parties or even eliminating political parties and having all independents would improve candidate choices. Remember these people are applying to American citizens for a job, so they should do what most of us do when applying for a job, submit a resume and application, piss into a cup (drug test) and go through a series of interviews (free airtime, see change #1 above). We need to have testing of candidates knowledge (call it the politicians SAT) and the answers released to the public.

Fifth, along with changes that open up the process to more candidates we need to vote with IRV, instant run-off voting. This involves ranking the candidates. A voter would rank their choices, from 2004, a voter might choose Ralph Nader as number one, George Bush as number two, John Kerry number three and the other candidates Libertarian 4th, Green 5th, and etc. When votes are tallied if the candidate with the most first ranked choices doesn't have a plurality (at least 50.1% of the vote) then an instant run-off occurs and the last place candidate is dropped and second ranked votes are added in, then third ranked, until one candidate has the plurality. This way a winner has the most votes and voters get to have a say in all the candidates. In addition as an instant run-off, there is no need to redo the vote if there is no clear winner. If you see a proposal to adopt IRV, please vote yes.

But I'm not the election God, oh well, maybe Americans will make the changes I'd like to see.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Old Stomping Grounds

Instead of taking the freeway home as I always do, I drove the sort of long way and traveled through Berkley and then around my home town, Birmingham. Downtown Berkley had scarecrows or dummies tied to street signs and parking meters. I was nicely surprised.

Into Birmingham I traveled from Woodward on Lincoln toward my old high school, Seaholm. Lincoln has some classic old homes and the changes have been happening since I last drove thorugh. Now interspered in the neighborhoods are teardown/rebuilds newer large homes. The high school looks much the same. I turned right at Seaholm and then right at 15 mile to travel over to the downtown district. I turned left at Bates then left past my old church onto a deep decline/incline road that passes over Quarton River and then into a beautiful subdivision with mixed housing. I ended up on old Woodward and turned right back to 15 mile, a left there took me toward my old homes. About two miles east on 15 Mile before you get to Coolidge on the left is the sub I grew up in. This is an odd corner of the boundary of Birmingham.

My first house I grew up in until 12 years old was on the first street into the sub, Yorkshire. Our home was in the "Old Euro style" (there was a home designer of some fame that did many in B'ham) sprinkled throughout the sub as the first built homes in the area. Other homes were introduced throughout the 1950s and on. For instance our house was on a double lot and was eventually split to fit in a new home. The sub had character. About 6 or 7 houses down from our place was an orchard that took up about three house lots. We had cherry, apple, and pear trees in our yard. My old house (see above) is now on the market for about a few bucks less than 1/2 million. I was shocked! I believe my parents bought the house for maybe $20,000 just after WWII. It still looks very similar, and I wish I had $500,000 mixed in the lint of my pockets.

I then drove up the neighborhood to my other street I lived, Pembroke. This house was a ranch oddly mixed into a street with mostly two-story homes. The house is still there and looking much better than when we had it. The only other ranch in the 'hood was torn down and a behemoth planted in its spot, I'm wondering when the little old ranch on Pembroke will suffer the same fate.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I'm of the firm belief that there is a chance that the United States is facing disaster sometime in the future. Wow, what a prediction. The US has faced many disasters, it's easy to predict some more. We've had the revolutionary war disaster, the civil war disaster, we've had several economic disasters including the Great Depression. We've had many weather disasters like Hurricanes Katrina, etc., Mississippi flood, and earth disasters like the Mt. St. Helen's eruption or California earthquakes.

So what disaster in the future do I believe might occur? The odds of a major earthquake in San Francisco and Los Angeles are probably high enough to expect in the next few decades. A large catastrophy wcould be a tsunami hitting the West Coast. It would be devastating and the odds are larger than you'd think. There is the possibiliy that Yellowstone becomes an active volcano and is in the category of super-volcano that would leave its' mark on half the US. There is also a Midwestern fault line called the Madrid and is due to shake hard in the near future.

The weather is always an unexpected disaster. We have the memory of Hurricane Katrina to know the devastation from a hurricane. Back in the 1990's we had the Mississippi River flooding. Sometimes Tornado Alley through the Midwest can have a very active year. Long droughts could wipe out farms and families.

Even pestulance, maybe locust or grasshoppers mow down wide swaths of farms. Who knows what might happen when the new genetically modified seeds end up mixed with nature. New viruses are being found as the rainforest and other remote areas of the globe meet human activity.

There's always the possibility of a meteor or asteroid hitting the Earth. History has shown that it has happened many times before. I'm not sure the odds on getting slammed by a huge rock.

Economically, we face several problems. Oil is going to run out and will increase in price. The US trade deficit is at record highs the last few years. The Federal deficit grows every year, our country owes lots of money to many nations. Our social structure is failing as the middle class shrinks as the rich get richer.

Now the fear factor. A nuclear weapon, a dirty bomb, another syncronized terrorist event, beware, danger, the possibilites are obviously real, but the odds might be extremely rare to hit. Biological accident or weapon, a chemical accident or terrorism must be considered probable. War, war, war. War kills plenty of humans every time, so they must be considered disasters.

I could assemble a smorgasborg of catastrophies from the above list and probably be correct in several of my choices. Here's my predictions for the next two decades choosing many from the above list of disasters.

I firmly believe that oil shortages and higher prices are to be a major part of the next several decades and I don't believe the US is doing even half enough to be prepared for oil problems. We will have a war or two more in oil producing countries as part of an "oil war." Several hurricanes hit major population areas in the next two decades, let's guess Miami, FL., Mobile, AL., New Orleans, LA., again. Here's one for fun, the city of Washington DC gets hit with a category 4 hurricane in the next two decades. I think the odds of a major earthquake in California are good (probably San Francisco) within the next 40 years. Within one score of years I think we'll have a major disease sweep the country. In those twenty years we will have a major industrial accident, a chemical plant blows destroying neighborhoods. In those years a record wildfire sweeps through a major city and several droughts occur. Water becomes a commodity of demand. And I'd bet some sort of terrorist attack happens within twenty years, in fact I think two major attacks. I'd like to say that aliens will land and demand to speak to a leader, but the odds are just too long. We suffer from several economic issues as our country enters a depression. And when future people read my prophesies 19 years and 364 days from now, as they discuss my successes the sun goes nova for no reason.