Friday, April 28, 2006

Energy, the Economy and Terror

Friedman's op-ed --

... energy, broadly defined, has become the most important geostrategic and geoeconomic challenge of our time — much as the Soviet Union was during the cold war — for four reasons:

First, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism: financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars, and Islamist radicals and states with our energy purchases.

Second, continued dependence on fossil fuels is going to bring on climate change so much faster in an age when millions of new consumers in India and China are driving cars and buying homes. And that's why renewable fuels and energy-efficient cars, buildings and appliances are going to be the biggest growth industry of the 21st century. The tougher the energy-efficiency standards we impose on our own companies, the more likely it is that they will dominate this new industry.

Third, because of the steady climb in oil prices, the seemingly unstoppable wave of free markets and free peoples that we thought was unleashed by the fall of the Berlin Wall is now being stymied by a counterwave of petro-authoritarian states — like Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Nigeria and Sudan — which now have more petro-dollars than ever to do the worst things for the longest time. They will poison the post-cold-war world unless we bring down the price of crude.

Fourth, we will never plant the seeds of democracy in Iraq and the wider Arab world if we don't also bring down the price of oil. These Arab oil regimes will not change unless they have to, and as long as oil prices are soaring they won't have to. Iraq will become just another Arab state that taps oil wells instead of developing its people.

I really think this country is gonna be screwed unless we get our economy focused on leading in the energy technology sector:. We can either sell energy technology to the rest of the world, or fight for access to the remaining oil reserves (along with the Chinese, Indians, etc)...

Government needs to "lead" here ... like it did for the moon-shot program of the '60s (US Companies reaped the win-fall by commercialising those technologies -- developed on the public dime -- for the next 30 years...). The short-term risk-reward view taken by business will preclude them from making real progress in this area until its too late...

There's obviously no chance of this happening with the current administration... but we better get started soon.

Hubble captures the shattering of a comet

Images from the Hubble Space Telescope showing the breakup of a short-period comet. Pretty cool stuff.

read more | digg story

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bush's faith-based Foreign Policy

Bush Says He Tried to Avoid War 'To The Max,' Explains How God Shapes His Foreign Policy:
"Bush also explained, in unusually stark terms, how his belief in God influences his foreign policy. 'I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true,' he said. 'One, I believe there's an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free. "
Why don't the approx 51% of American's who voted for the chimp realize that this is a horrible way to make policy? Not simply horrible: probably the WORST foundation you can have for leadership. Its simply baffling. Is this really the level of intellectual ability we want in a leader: "I did it because god says its the right way to do things."? Relying on dogma laid-out by a book or priest doesn't pass for reasoning and analysis and it most certainly isn't leadership. I could program a computer to derive policy from christian theology.

As for the second statement: even if you believe its true and you buy into the argument that we have an obligation to help others attain that freedom, the job of a leader is to weight the costs vs. the benefits. Again, the emperor's faith comes into the picture -- very little, if any, real analysis or experience was used in finalizing the plans for Iraq (of course I'm not even pointing out that "freeing the people of Iraq" wasn't the original goal). Since the premise is "people want to be free", well -- "they welcome us with flowers... my job here is done."
"I believe liberty is universal. I believe people want to be free. And I know that democracies do not war with each other."
This statement is so idiotic I'm not even gonna comment on it further...

Faith coupled with power is a dangerous thing... it gives us leader's capable of making statements like I've quotes. It seems a lesson our founders learned has been lost on a near majority of Americans: Faith allows you to substitute certainty for doubt and analysis... to assert universal truths in a world filled with different opinions... to cling to fallacy in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Maybe -- just maybe -- as this debacle of leadership continues, most American's will realize that we should run from a candidate that professes "strong faith" and look to the secular humanist. That candidate may not seem to have all the answers, but he's likely to analyze the issue and look at the data from a reasoned perspective.

Imagine that... A country where the leader makes decisions based on data, reasoning and analysis. That's crazy talk!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Grand Jury Gets Rove Testimony Over C.I.A. Leak - New York Times

Grand Jury Gets Rove Testimony Over C.I.A. Leak - New York Times

Rove appears before the grand jury yet again... It was the fifth time Mr. Rove has appeared before a federal grand jury in the case.
Mr. Rove's appearance suggests that Mr. Fitzgerald remains interested in learning more about why, in his initial testimony to the grand jury, in February 2004, Mr. Rove failed to disclose that he had ever discussed the issue of Valerie Wilson, the C.I.A. operative, with any reporters. Mr. Rove came forward months later to change his story, acknowledging that he had a phone conversation with Matthew Cooper of Time magazine in the summer of 2003 that eventually turned to the subject of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, the C.I.A. operative's husband. Mr. Rove said he had forgotten the call, one of hundreds he participates in each day.
So will fearless leader really fire him when he's finally indicted?

Who's willing to take odds on this being the most corrupt administration since Reagans (as measured by the number of administration officials indicted and/or found guitly of criminal charges -- Reagan, 138 officials had been convicted, indicted or had been the subject of official investigations).

It's a long shot, but don't put anything past Shrub.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Historians on Bush

The Rolling Stone had a frank article on the Bush Presidency...

How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

As my readers know, I completely agree. This presidency has been completely devoid of leadership. Although some Americans have confused standing on a pile of rubble with a bullhorn with leadership... action defines a leader: not rhetoric. From 9/11 to Katrina we've seen how this administration has been breifed on likely disasters -- its reaction was to sit on its hands and let the mystical market-economy address our problems.

Time will tell, but Bush is likely to go down as the most incompetent leader the nation has seen.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Waste in Katrina Response Is Cited

Waste in Katrina Response Is Cited:
"Nearly eight months after Hurricane Katrina triggered the nation's largest housing crisis since the Second World War, a hastily improvised $10 billion effort by the federal government has produced vast sums of waste and misspent funds, an array of government audits and outside analysts have concluded.

As the Federal Emergency Management Agency wraps up the initial phase of its temporary housing program -- ending reliance on cruise ships and hotels for people sent fleeing by the Aug. 29 storm -- the toll of false starts and missed opportunities appears likely to top $1 billion and perhaps much more, according to a series of after-action studies and Department of Homeland Security reports, including one due for release today."

No wonder this administration wants to give as much tax money back to taxpayers as they can... They can't even spend it when there's a real need.

Does anyone remember James Lee Witt -- under Clinton? He won praise from both parties for his rejuvenation of FEMA, and the agencies handling of disasters down in Florida (hurricanes).

Ah, what a different competence makes.

What a mess - how the "uniter" divides us

The Seattle Times: Another retired general amplifies calls for Rumsfeld's resignation

Another voice into the fray...
"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, said retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-05. "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork."
Batiste told CNN that he was struck by the "lack of sacrifice and commitment on the part of the American people" to the war, with the exception of families with soldiers fighting in Iraq. "I think that our executive and legislative branches of government have a responsibility to mobilize this country for war. They frankly have not done so. We're mortgaging our future, our children, $8 [billion] to $9 billion a month," he said, referring to war costs.
Again, this is one of my main points: this administration has asked our (mostly) young, poorer people to fight this war... Whether or not you agree with it is beside the point I'm making. As they fight for their lives, we at home are asked to 'go shopping' with the tax breaks this administration showers down on the "already haves".

And many American's buy this as "sound policy"... Don't they realize that all this borrowed money MUST be paid back -- with interest? Every dollar we borrow today essentially turns into $1.50 we have to spend servicing the debt in the future. That's money we WON'T have to pay for things here at home.

And who gets those American tax dollars that go to repay the debt/interest: the Chinese and other foreign governments that are propping up this administration's spending policies. It's crazy!

This administration is the most disastrous the nation has ever seen... That's not hyperbole - its a fact.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - Why Iraq was a mistake - Apr 10, 2006 - Why Iraq was a mistake - Apr 10, 2006:

"In 1971, the rock group The Who released the antiwar anthem Won't Get Fooled Again. To most in my generation, the song conveyed a sense of betrayal by the nation's leaders, who had led our country into a costly and unnecessary war in Vietnam. To those of us who were truly counterculture -- who became career members of the military during those rough times -- the song conveyed a very different message. To us, its lyrics evoked a feeling that we must never again stand by quietly while those ignorant of and casual about war lead us into another one and then mismanage the conduct of it. Never again, we thought, would our military's senior leaders remain silent as American troops were marched off to an ill-considered engagement. It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again."

What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results.

Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent. The consequence of the military's quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort.

The problem is that the administration has done such a good job of conflating Iraq with terrorism that a lot of American's still think invading Iraq was a necessary action in the war on terror.

What can you do when your government is better at propagating propaganda than the Soviets used to be?

Ignoring the fact that the war was unnecessary, one of my central issues with this administration is the way, after 9/11, NOTHING was asked of the American public... Americans were ready to pitch-in: American business could have been challenged to put America on the path to energy independence (a long path - but one with long term rewards in light of China's and India's growing energy requirements); Americans could have been asked to conserve energy, donate time and resources, etc.

The leadership vacuum in this area is profound.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Not one of us... or them... or even competent.

From our friends at NewsMax:

Some conservatives contend he [Bush] really isn't really one of them.

They point to Bush's immigration stance, mushrooming government spending and soaring deficits on his watch and his failed attempt to put White House lawyer Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court. Some complain about the growing cost and attempted "nation building" of wartime Iraq.

"A lot of conservatives have had reservations about him for a long time, but have been afraid to speak out for fear that it would help liberals and the Democrats," said Bruce Bartlett, a Treasury official in the Reagan administration. Such concerns are no longer very relevant, he said.

"I think there are growing misgivings about the conduct of the Iraq operation, and how that relates to a general incompetence his administration seems to have about doing basic things," said Bartlett, author of a scathing book titled, "Impostor: How George Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."

Recent polls suggest the Republicans are losing their long-held lead over Democrats on national security.

Its amazing its taking this long to change peoples' opinions... This guy has been a disaster and a national embarrassment since he sat there for 7 minutes (like a deer-in-the-headlights) after hearing the "nation is under attack".

(You know, if that was a democrat the conservatives would be screaming "incompetent" and "impeach, impeach!!!"

At every turn Bush has show he's not capable of governing... However, his administration knows how to do a couple of things: get people pissing down their legs in fear and waving the "we're Americans, we're great" flag.

Isn't it amazing how far those two things go in American politics?

So when is the next flight to Australia?