Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Gen. McChristall has assured Pres. Obama that if he does not authorize a substantial rise in the number of US troops in Afghanistan within a year, then it will not be possible to defeat the insurgency there. People not trained in logic might miss the fact that he has not said that pouring in more troops WILL make that possible. Indeed, when asked that question, he carefully does not say so. So that leaves the possibility that it will never be possible to say so truthfully. That actually reflects my own opinion and that of a growing number of American people. Indeed, we should notice that in the lexicon of victory, there are many levels, some noted by the points Winning, Never Losing, Never Winning, and Losing. Indeed, the majority of Americans, and of Afghanis, seem to believe that we are stalled at Never Winning and that number seems to be rising. As it rises, we must be moving ever closer to Losing. The Cheney regime started with armed forces in deep trouble and moved them to the edge of Ruin. Based on the false belief that we could establish a democratic regime in Iraq, they have left us with the shreds of an Army and Marine Corps. With the failed effort in Afghanistan, the illusion of Winning has faded and left us only with a situation in which no one wants to be at the helm when this once proud ship sinks. The US armed forces have not had a victory since vanquishing those of the proud Empire of Grenada, an island with the area and population of Sheboygan County WI. Now Obama wants to intimidate the Islamic Republic of Iran, which he can order bombed or shelled, but dares not attack on the ground. All to resist Losing. And he can order a sanction, until someone needs their oil too much. As we shall see, I am afraid.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
One of the discouraging things about time is the circumstances in which we are supposed to have plenty in which a solution to a problem may be dealt with and those in which urgent need demands immediate attention. The model for the second is the incipient avalanche where once it starts, it cannot be stopped until it fulfills its destiny, and the destiny might be terrible. The model for the other is the time for a tree to grow and provide needed shade, and little can be done to advance it. We were told that the threat to the big banks was of the first kind, and that a collapse of the 1930s variety was the only alternative to giving the bankers and their ilk everything they claimed, and right away. In the other, the action of the Administration on unemployment, and especially of their opposition, was condemned to let it ripen in the fullness of time, no matter how many decades that would take, rather like the 100 Years’ War. By contrast, I tried to impress upon the new Senator Russell Feingold the terrible corrosive effect of joblessness, and the urgency of stringent measures to bring it under control, even if at the cost of increased debt. I tried to paint the picture of the ways in which it could destroy a family’s life and even lead to illness, divorce, homelessness, mental breakdown, or even death. I failed to move him from the position that the most urgent matter facing the US Government then was the size of the budget deficit. And all this to a politician I had always supported, and do today. But to those facing the avalanche-like collapse of their link on what they took to be the earned status of an American who had faced all the things required, there were not months and years in which to correct the destruction of their economic well-being. And today the involuntarily jobless have again the greatest need facing an inert government, and maybe losing everything they had worked for, there is no time in which to let the problem solve itself.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The noise over debt is caused by the refusal of the moneyed interests to face the bald fact that this nation, as a people, has been living beyond our means and kicking the repaymentinto the future. Some of it has been in consumer credit, some in outsize mortgages, some in bills carefully designed to be paid later, and a lot in putting off needed maintenance and repairs and chiseling on the costs of keeping our public infrastructure up to the standards we need in order to avoid crippling correction later. All of it comes as debt, to be paid off from the imagined riches we might accrue later. And all of it is treated as an attack when it is time to pay. Right now, we cannot pay out of current earnings, or at least say we can’t. So the need is to borrow the money, hopefully at a reasonable rate, and make the sacrifices necessary to pay off the debt through progressive taxation. But those whose prosperity might be lessened by paying what is owed press the fact that paying what you owe is often not pleasant, despite the fact that some of the complainers are from exactly the group whose wealth was gained by selling installment debt and lack of social responsibility. They hide the fact that failing to pay naturally shoves the cost onto those who are most in need of new social programs. These pay with losses to their jobs, to their children’ educations, and they suffer lack of health care and sometimes lose their lives to the lack of proper attention. That is where the objections to increased debt unavoidably point, and these false maintainers of fiscal rectitude look the other way “and pretend that [they] just do not see”. So much for the hypocritical talk about being unable to pay off the debt, so as to empower people to go back to borrowing from the complainers at usurious rates.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Some of the recent stories concern the building of modern high-speed railroads in US, including a stretch between Madison and Milwaukee. But when specifics are mentioned, it turns out that the greatest extent that is hoped for would bring the speed up to a level that was already obsolete over a hundred years ago. Still it is comforting to know that the goal was tempting even though this State, and this country, does not have the will nor the wherefore to consider any such enterprise. For decades, I have been advocating building such a high-speed link between the 2 cities and in recent years I realized that we could combine that with an international airport in Jefferson County serving them, all for less than no money if the airport incorporated its own industrial park. The scope of such a project was beyond the thinking of some politicians I mooted it to, who seemed to prefer that Madison remain an air-fare desert, and Milwaukee somewhat also. So the wish for the lost days of rail connection joined as pie in the sky Tommy Thompson’s nonsense of hosting the super-collider project . The French can build a high-speed RR, but not US nor UK. These countries are up to their waists in tax-reduction and dreams of imperial splendor. All genuine interest in civic advancement is dismissed as communistic. The extent of the plans is to gain back 19th Century accomplishment, and even that will fail. The cargo cults of New Guinea built what they thought were airstrips in the hope that planes would land there and deliver large quantities of consumer goods, as they saw happening elsewhere. The dream of 21st Century railroads serves the same function in US and UK. It is a wish that the tax-cutters have managed to render totally unfulfillable.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The stage is set for a confrontation over whether a special counsel will undertake a study of the methods used to torture detainees by the Cheney regime. On the one hand we have the AG, who has read the report of the Inspector General of the Justice Department concerning the violation of the standards of justice in US then. On the other hand there is the word of Pres. Obama that “we should look forward, not backward”. Mr. Cheney favors closing the book on what he has done, as may be prudent on his part, if not just. Many of those who took his word that they were safe doing as he wished apparently are fearing punishment, just as he seems to be. And this is a nation that is very deep into punishment, as we see in the case of Mr. Megrahi, who has been diagnosed as shortly to die and has dropped his appeal on new evidence so that he can go home and die among his kinfolk. The clamor for vengeance by US is very strong, and has swept people widely thought to be of humane persuasion. This need for punishment is strong among people who have been accused of rape and turn out, on the DNA evidence, to look nothing like the men who are much later shown to be the rapists. One explanation given is that they have been recruited to testify against the men accused on the grounds that if they do not convince a jury of the guilt of those particular men, then the prosecutors will drop the case and no one will be convicted. I am on the side that guilt is often wrongly assigned. But in the case of torture, I do think that the truth needs to be shown to the people. The Q of whether punishment should exceed the obloquy that they might have earned should be judged by what that truth turns out to be. That would be a time, if any, to eschew the course of vengeance, not now.
One of the difficult aspects of spending a lot of time in London is that I frequently find myself called upon to justify the actions of DC or else to join in condemnation of our government. The worst is when I am in sympathy with the basic orientation of the questioner but am conscious of what I take to be his oversimplifications. A great deal of what I hear is blanket assaults on what is taken to be flaws in the US character. Thus I often find that when the DC government has taken up demands by liberal foreign columnists to “do something” about a foreign situation and the actions of US are reflections of incidents in our history, then I try to draw the point that they cannot make that kind of a demand without taking responsibility for our doing it in a way that manifests our national history. Thus when Obama makes gestures or pronouncements in line with what he takes to be the understanding of US about what happened in the past, that must be expected of a leader in a nation which has been governed in the past by other men in accord with their understandings and a people that still thinks that way. An example concerns the statements of Obama based on US understandings of our history in Iran, where we and UK colluded in 1953 in overthrowing an elected government to install a military regime under the Shah, and other similar cases. Explaining US belief without subscribing to it can be taken as waffling. I t results in answering the kind of expressions like those of Rev. Wright last year. He had a position I understood, but not one I subscribed to, and I did not join in the general condemnation, nor did I attempt to justify it. It is even harder when I am abroad. It is also something like the position of soldiers who do not join in the official beliefs, but are in a situation where they are called upon to defend them, and do what they take to be their duty.