Thursday, February 26, 2009

So much paper, so few people to read it

The following is a position paper of The Jacksonian Party.

The United States has a problem with the House of Representatives: it cannot be bothered to have members read the bills that are drafted by their staff.

Truly a 1,500 page budget document is a lot to read in 24 hours or less: more than a Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or the Dune Trilogy save without characters while our House is filled with all sorts of characters.  And the only plot involved is to have an upper political echelon's staff write such a thing.  Thus, with the plot obvious, the characters lacking in substance, we get a tiny group putting in everything their hearts have desired in the way of spending and call it 'stimulus'.

Currently there are 435 members of the US House of Representatives, which is just over 3 pages per member.  Even a working group of ten members would knock that down to 150 pages per member.  And that working group would need to be dedicated to the task of reading and reporting the basics of each line item and summarizing them.  For most Americans that would be too much to ask, reading a novel length piece of legislation in a day.  What is lacking, then, is not commitment to a job, but the inability of even a like-minded small subset of the House to go through legislation and examine it.  When given a home mortgage contract to read, can you actually sit down and read through each and every piece of paper that is put in front of you?

No, you can't unless you are a speed reader and willing to spend an hour or so going through it.  And then you would find most of it is dull, cut and dried text that carries through on the basic outline given at the start of the document.  Congress does not do that, either, save that with this the document is a bit more than you get for a home mortgage contract and helps to run the Nation.  Even with a spouse and helpful family members, you couldn't divide that contract down to something that people would sit through your reading and affirming that each part is properly in order.  Congress is working at a different scale and each member should have time to at least get the entire overview of a document and then check out details that are of interest to them.

This problem requires a scaled solution.

It requires a larger US House of Representatives.

Consider the Maximum Allowable House with one representative for every 30,000 citizens.  That gets you to a House of nearly 10,000 members.  The current Congress plus the staff it allows itself, permanent and part time, when divided into the population of the United States comes out at just a bit higher than that.  The problem with the staff is that they don't vote, they aren't elected, and they answer to a House member.  Their independent input is limited as they do not represent YOU but the district you are in, which averages out to about 500,000 per representative.  Your chance of knowing much about your representative is only 1:500,000 unless you are a friend or family member, this person is basically anonymous to you: you cannot know all of their positions, their character, their values and if they actually understand your community where you *live*.  Your chance of having your voice or perspective heard is, essentially, nil, as is that of the local neighborhood you live in.

At this size the US Congress gets staff to put its bills together, staff to read them, staff to report on them and then they vote on what the STAFF has made.  That is government of, by and for the staff of the US House of Representatives.  The ills of this are too numerous to recount: unaccountable House members, overly complex bills, overly complex laws, huge increases in regulation put in place by those that look to get permanent jobs in the government or private industry based on such regulations and a staff that depends upon the character, ethics and morals of the US House member they work for.  Which you have none too good an idea of, because all you get are commercials and 'franked' pieces of mail churned out at the public's expense so that you can learn what a good job your representative is doing... and it is always a good job, isn't it?  Not a fair review by local citizens then printed up to give you a report card based on locality.  Of course those circulars are also done by the member's staff, so saying anything bad about your employer might just have a problem getting done.

Congress then goes on to exempt itself of the health, safety, wage rate and other labor laws it has put in place.  Indeed, many laws have exemptions for Congress, so that they are not burdened by the same thing that all other employers are burdened by.  That is all very well and good for the Senate, which needs a personal staff as each member is half the representation for a State, but the House members are in the position of being exempted employers unlike any others in their district.  And if a member chooses to ignore the impact of those laws upon others?  Well how do you start a way to unseat such a miscreant when they are paying off other sections of the population with 'earmarks' and other forms of payments to contributors, advocacy groups, lobbyists and activists?  These groups become beholden to their own welfare depending upon the House member, not upon good governance for the Nation.  That is done with the public's money being kicked back to politicians, political parties or activists actively campaigning in a partisan manner.  Activists bring in outsiders to swell their size during confrontation, so as to puff them up to look larger than they are.  Lobbyists kick money back from contracts and ensure the House members are wined, dined and junketed, for which a pittance has to be paid back for luxury accommodations by those same House members.

We have a term to put to a class that considers itself above the general population, fit to hand out public funds for personal purposes and gains, and to impoverish the Nation and not do their jobs of ensuring the Nation's safety:  Aristocrats.  While America has no King it does have an Aristocratic class that has members from the same family appear year after year after year for decades and they begin to feel 'entitled' to those seats of representation.  This gets passed on from one member of the family to the next, and would not be so bad at 1:30,000 but at 1:500,000 and *growing* that is horrific as it gives a sense of entitlement over a half-million citizens or *more*.

The purpose of the House was to be the place where the Public could have its full and chaotic voice heard in the land and be tempered by their State based opposites.  These States are now equal to or better represented by population size in the Senate than the US House:  Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Delaware and Vermont with 1 House member each and Hawaii, Idaho, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine with 2 House members each.  At 12 States that is 24% of the United States that is in that under-represented condition. 

This is a very sorry position for a representative democracy running a republic to be in: where nearly a quarter of the Nation has muted voice due to the limitations put in by Congress on its size.  Is there truly no diversity of thought, opinion and how to govern in these 12 States?  If we depend on the good ideas for governance to come up from the lowest ranks so as to be examined by the Nation, then that is not *just* the Governors of States but the Mayors of small towns and cities, too.  The way to run a diverse Nation is to have good ideas from all scales of government brought out and examined so that good ones may be passed on and poor ones sidelined.  What we have, instead, is an Aristocratic class that requires adhering to its rules of operation and TO HELL with how everyone else wants to run their lives.  These Aristocrats soon tell us to eat cake during hard times, not knowing that their dainty snacks are not available to the common man.  A Nation founded on principles of representation deserve to have all walks of life, all areas of its domain heard so that the entire Nation can know of itself and adjust to that diverse way of life it has.

The warnings from the Founding Era are clear:  a strong federal government will impoverish the States, demean the citizenry and feel itself above the Nation, not a part of it.  Many on the Anti-Federalist side worried that a House of Representatives that could set its own size would do so to the detriment of the diversity of the Nation as it was THEN.  One put forth the entirely proper federalist argument that the House proportion needs to be set by the People, not by the government so as to act as a check and balance on federal power from the People *directly*.  That very good idea was lost by those who could not conceive that a Congress would ever set a FIXED SIZE to the House.  That was contrary to all tenets of representational democracy into a federal system in a republic.  It was, indeed, a requirement that Congress morph in shape and size to fit a growing Nation so that increased diversity of population and thought could be heard throughout the land.  In 1911 Congress thought otherwise and fixed the size of the House to 435 members.

Now we have the appearance of Tea Parties as Congress spends our money on ill-thought out schemes pushed through by authoritarian means so as to not permit anyone to actually read a bill that they are voting upon.  A bill that was drafted by no member, but by their staffs.  And if we know very little about each House member, then we know *nothing* about their staff.  If you are to elect a staff to make laws for the Nation, then at least we should know who the hell they are... and VOTE ON THEM.  So that they are accountable to us, not to a representative who is barely known by any in their district.

This might slow down the Congress a bit and make it take time to read and argue over bills.

It might even delay getting a budget done... until some wiseacre says the damned thing is too large and a few slacker upstarts start to put a smaller budget together so there is less work to do.  You don't need 'fiscal hawks' but average, lazy, US Citizens to want smaller bills in Congress.  And a few dedicated members to getting *that* done could also have their voices heard... which is a damned sight more than happens now.

Cumbersome representation isn't a *bug* in representative democracy for a federal republic: it is a FEATURE.

It is only once the House started to become distant from the people in their districts did they start to realize they could ignore what was good for the district and do what was good for *them*.

Efficient legislatures are the hallmark of every authoritarian regime looking to give a surface patina one molecule thick to their regime.

This Congress has been very efficient at passing the largest spending packages *ever* that now dwarf all of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and Katrina relief for SEVEN YEARS.  And they are looking to spend lots more... it is extremely efficient.

For those who have argued that you want an efficient Congress: you have gotten your wish.

Representative democracy in a federal system to guide a republic is *supposed* to be slow, messy, constantly bickering and having members eyeing each other with suspicion over spending so that no one gets more goodies than anyone else.  That isn't happening anymore as there aren't enough eyeballs and critics inside Congress to derail legislation that is a clear monetary power grab by the government.  It is strange that those crowing for 'diversity' want it everywhere save in the House of Representatives.

The place that was supposed to be diverse.

And that, my fellow Americans, is an authoritarian agenda to push down the beliefs of the few, the Aristocrats, upon the Nation.  And like the last Tea Party, this set will now start to bring out the ills of the Aristocrats and they will move to repress that because they no longer feel beholden to the people of the Nation.  They have forgotten that America was born of a Revolution.

Aristocrats didn't do so well then.

They never do when they get the Revolution they have been clearly asking for.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What the 'by the book right' has missed

The #1 thing I have gotten tired of reading about from the Elite Right is about 'by the book conservatism'.  You know the type, like their counter-parts on the Left?  Just do this or that because someone wrote about how good it is and everything will be peachy-keen?  Doesn't matter if it is Adam Smith on the Right or Karl Marx on the Left, each and every time that I hear someone either quoting a piece of text or citing some previous thinker, or just waving their hands in the 'just do this and everything will be so much better' direction, none have addressed the central point as to *why* such things are valuable and what the *reasoning* is behind them.  For those in the 'Federalist' camp you do not start any reply by basing it on what the founding concepts of federalism are, why they are good and why they matter.  For those on the 'Progressive'/Socialist/Communist side of things, you have not bothered to actually study those systems as they have been tried and criticize them via contextual analysis and how their methodology and outlook are a poor fit with human liberty and freedom.

These are not 'pie in the sky' issues as both are represented in the reason the United States is a separate Nation and why these things were important to us to seek to become one.

If the Left has been on a march of 'Progressivism' to make government our caretaker and remove our freedoms and liberties, those on the Right have been trying to straightjacket society with a set of beliefs that have not received review as to applicability to the modern US.  What is strange is that these two concepts both finally see government as a tool to 'guide' or 'over-rule' society in many realms that are extremely personal and left up to the individual via the founding documents.  Those founding documents go far beyond the Declaration, Constitution and Federalist papers.  They include works from before our founding, so as why and how Nations work was well understood via things like de Vattel's Law of Nations and why the common law fits into that conception as seen from Blackstone's Commentaries on the English Common Law.  These are not mere historical documents, as President Wilson asserted about the Declaration of Independence, something that only applies just when it is written and never again to be used, save as a general hand-waving to make a point or two.  These documents and others, like the works of Grotius on the Laws of War and Peace and the Laws of the Sea, are not prescriptive views: they are not telling you what to do.  What these works do is use analysis and description to seek out the patterns of Nations, Laws and how Citizens act within Nations and why these things are important.  They become 'laws' in this context as the same common patterns arise again and again and again, and are thus descriptive of how mankind *works* at some basic level.

One of the most fascinating things I've done is go back to source texts and read some of these works, not in whole, certainly, but tens and hundreds of pages enough from *each* to get a good feel for what the author is doing, how they are doing it and what their overall points actually are.  Thus, when I read something like Smith's Wealth of Nations, I do not assume that he is *right* in any assertion, but seek to ask 'how does his descriptive analysis correlate to the world then and now?'  It is surprising, to me at least although I am sure this has been covered in great volumes of text and many dead trees by now, that Adam Smith got a central proposition of his viewpoint exactly, positively dead wrong: agriculture is not a static industry, but one amenable to the very forces he outlines for all of industry.

By pre-supposing a set point that is non-factual, the rest of his analysis must then be re-examined to see if there are any *other* contextual non-alignments between descriptive analysis done in his era, in which he is right, and extending past it, in which he has made some major presumptions that are not correlating with his overall analysis.  While one can come into agreement with much of his work, a major flaw on the basis of human survival with industry has profound impacts on the world, as we have seen when we ignore that gross error and put in place a trade regime that ignores it.  The US did that with Mexico and Canada and the profound impacts of forgetting that industrial means changes the basis of agriculture and can actually hurt a society was never addressed and we live with that to this very day.  Yet, by Adam Smith based analysis, it should never have happened, but it did and his understanding of agriculture, technology and the sciences must have doubt cast on them.  His overall thesis may be correct, and even extensible to agriculture, but the means and methodology will need to address the Law of Nations and the respect of Nations to each other's societies for the economic basis of producing this vital thing known as food.

More fascinating is that have grown up in a socialist household, I can then apply the exact, same tools to Socialism!  Yes, I criticize rock-solid outcomes from works on the Right and Left... and to socialism I use the very pragmatic idea that it had a set of ideas on human progress that have turned out fundamentally in error, and that socialists (of many stripes) make a compounding error in the theory and practice realm of things.  Thus it not only has an erroneous basis for human achievement and human nature (man is defined by work?  really?  everyone wants to work?  ever have a real job in your life where you never met a slacker?), but then compounded by not trying to realize that when applied things do not turn out as foretold.  If the analysis was correct, you should get the results you expected.  We now have decades of non-results and *still* have people wanting to try, yet again, with such social theories.

Doctrinaire views, those adhering to doctrine because it is doctrine without doing personal analysis to see if it actually has some basis for being more than just doctrine, has impoverished the Right and 'conservatism' for nearly 20 years.  So many laud President Reagan that so few remember that he did *not* hold doctrinaire views on many things and, instead, sought to associate good ideas with society and then indicate how the ideals of society are expressed in those good ideas.  Some of those were 'conservative', yes, but not the 'if you just do it the way that the Elites think it should be done everything will be fine' school of government.  President Reagan's economic analysis of the USSR was dead-on, and yet he rarely spoke of it, save for the effects of impoverishment of the human condition and the human spirit under a tyrannical regime.  That latter had much wider appeal than the former, and presenting an analysis based on economic understanding might have made him come off cold to some, thus the more palatable route of presentation was that of the basis of the Nation: liberty and freedom.

President Reagan could also get away with calling for tax cuts because of the promise to cut government size and reach, then call for tax hikes to ensure that the USSR was confronted across the board.  Yet, between those two, he never, ever got around to cutting the size, scope and power of the federal government: his social justification for his views were not adhered to.  He could win on the power of his personality and beliefs, but the Party that he left behind did not see any reason to adhere to any methodology to carry them out.  The 'Gingrich Revolution' failed due to the large numbers of Republicans who did not abide by a 'Contract with America' and felt that, just like President Reagan, they could break their commitment to social and societal values due to personal whimsy and wanting to be 'liked'.  Thus the Republican Party that had been a beacon for those wanting smaller, more accountable and less intrusive government lost that trust and it has yet to be regained by *any* party in the US.

This past election was so out of whack that no one running at the National level could even state a coherent way to support the actual society of the US by making the federal government smaller and more accountable.  Going by line item to 'cut programs' or trying to 'cut the Pork' are worthy goals, but to no good ends: they have no stated rationale for why these are good for society.  'Good Government' is not the same as a strong society, and a 'good strong and despotic government' can be very, very bad for society.  Actually addressing the culture of the US is now beyond the two political Parties: they each want to re-make America to suit their beliefs, not come into a common citizen dialog on what is best for the individual to support society.  Government cannot mandate 'good behavior' without becoming tyrannical in that mandate: human behavior is not a mandate from the top down, but built from the bottom up. 

No one in politics dares address this and make it the underlying theme and rationale for a political ideology because it is NOT political: it is cultural and social.  Yet these are the two themes this Nation was founded on, having a strong society and a government that acted in a minimal fashion so as to protect everyone at the level of the Nation State.  To do that government at that level cannot save *you* personally because it is not set up to deal at that scale of things, that is what State and local government are for.  The dread worry at the time of the founding was that the National government would slowly erode the power of State and local governments, take over things it was not made to do and that this would infringe on the liberty and freedom of the people of the Nation.

Many on the Left laugh at ideas of a culture to support government, but that is what they want in the end: to mandate a culture that supports their form of government, whatever that happens to be this nanosecond.  It tends to change very quickly on the Left, but the overall drive to gain more power and scope for government has not changed for decades.  By having so many on 'the other side' politically mirror such ideas in the Right or 'conservative' realm, no one bothers to notice that BOTH their arrows point in the direction of more and more powerful government.  That is 'Progressivism' on the Left and Right: punish people for succeeding, halt liberty when it is not in accord with a doctrinaire belief system and then claim it is for some larger good ('good of society' or 'for the children' show up pretty often).  While the Right or 'conservative' realm claims so much for folks keeping their own money, they have done very little to reduce the size, scope or reach of government and just using the number of federal regulations makes that apparent.  The Right is regulation crazed, to the point of wanting to stop Internet Gambling *before* winning a couple of wars.  The Left or 'liberal' persuasion seeks to impoverish the pocketbook so that all are equally poor and then defend 'rights' that corrode society so that those working in the criminal or Private War realm are equal to or greater than Citizens and get more defense in their ill actions that Citizens do in their daily affairs.

I was very and extremely reticent in casting my vote in this last election, and had no small amount of anger at the Elitist philosophy that has captured both political parties so as to distance them from the common man.  We saw glimmers of it with Gov. Palin, and her time spent as a small business owner running a fishing business in Alaska, enjoying the culture she grew up in and the ways it guided her to good political ideas points to a woman who lives out her beliefs and adheres to them in a political realm, and yet accommodates her personal beliefs to those of the people of her State so as to run tighter government.  That is an absolute inversion of the current political order, in which doctrine mandated by Elites then gains favor or disfavor based on what their doctrines are. and seek to change society to those doctrines so as to better suit them. 

Transnationalism is a squishy set of ideals on purpose: those supporting them believe in dissolving personal liberty in terms of 'social equality' in which a person is no more than the sum of their race, religion, creed or ethnic background as decided by the Elites.  Unfortunately very few of those supporting elitist ideals understand that they are not part of the Elite class and would become this thing known as 'subjects' that the Elite class then works the belief system on.  Yet it is the Elitist view that local culture must be subordinate to either National or International mandates or conform to those who 'don't like us' that drive that view.  It is an attempt to liquidate a society based upon the rights of man as an individual and put in force one that is governed by Elite groups and cliques, that then remold society to their liking.

Personally I am an old school, Law of Nations sort of guy: a Nationalist with the understanding of how and why Nations interact the way they do.  I am *not* a National Socialist and have nothing that I want from from Fascism or Nazism: they are both abhorrent to supporters of the Rights of Man as an Individual.  The Left loves to tar everyone on the Right as 'Fascist' but forget that Fascism IS National Socialism.  Which is, of course, a re-writing of history in a most Orwellian way, and trying to press that assertion into some kind of 'fact' when the actual, observable events and happenings do not fit those purported 'facts' one bit.  By following Nationalism and the Rights of Man as an Individual and recognizing that All Men are Created Equal without regard to gender, skin color or ethnic origin, one comes out with a very different view of modern day society that sees it not as 'progressive' or even progressing, but retrograde and heading towards Statist and even Transnationalist Imperial ends as practiced by both the current Left and Right.

I stand against all Empires that attempt to impose beliefs from the top down.

In Iraq we opened dialog with tribes, and asked that the people throw open their doors to a full gamut of political parties so that the widest expression of liberty in society could happen.  Which society is more free?  One with two parties in perpetual control or one with hundreds vying to describe a good path forward for the greater society?  And the people of Iraq could have voted in another DICTATOR IF THEY WANTED TO!  You cannot mandate democracy, and the people of Iraq had a clean and easy choice between electing another dictator to continue on in human misery or to try *something else*.  That is what the invasion provided by removing a dictator: giving the people of Iraq a choice for the first time in decades, and even that prior choice was not one that could be called 'free' as it fell under the British Mandate which had already set up a system rigged to be non-free.  The absolute vitriol with which the Left attacked democracy in Iraq was stunning.  That the Right dared not make a full-throated response about the Rights of Man as an Individual to create society and have a choice over government is one of the blackest marks of cowardice I have ever witnessed in America as it is a betrayal of why we formed this country.

In not doing what the Left expected, that is put a puppet regime in power, they decried NOT doing that as IMPERIALISM!

I assume they would have welcomed a puppet regime as 'democracy'?  Probably so given how twisted the political dialog has gotten.  That anyone who actually practices freedom is *attacked* and not defended by *anyone* is now par for the course.  That is not the hallmark of a free State but one shifting into authoritarian and, soon, totalitarian modes.  If the Left decries the Right as Fascist, then they forget that these are mirror entities and that the direction of increased power to the State is Fascist on *both* sides.

And the Left claims to support liberty?  Well for the Elites, yes... the rest of us will just have to be administered to by caring bureaucrats, I guess.  When the political Left can no longer even begin to put together a reason why society needs to have representation as a whole, and not as a group of voting blocs and 'identity groups', then we have a falling apart of the common society so that all minimal contributing parts of it are made out to be *exactly* equal to the majority culture.  If the goal is to destroy majority based culture then that is also the prescription for the dissolving of the Nation that is to represent that culture.  This is enforced by top-down based federal laws and mandates on race, income, and things like sexual affinity, so as to diminish or destroy the large scale culture of the Nation.  By enjoying every little minority and giving them a day or month for their history, we soon lose the common thread of our common history amidst a tangled skein of pet peeves, accusations and grudges going back centuries.  That is *not* trying to form a more perfect Union.

Notice that the Right has the exact, same, problem in trying to mandate the outcomes of society by government?  Gambling, alcohol, pornography, marriage and the determination of individuals on their personal lives is now the fodder for the political Right to try and make society conform to their political ideal of it.  Hey!  If you supported a stronger culture at HOME you wouldn't need to take a Statist page from the Left to enforce it from government... but that would require actually adhering to the ideals of the vaunted Ronald Reagan, actually dismissing those of Teddy Roosevelt and taking up the position that society at the smallest level is best able to manage itself and does not need an overly intrusive federal government to do that.  I have problems finding those on the Right who will actually say that.

I don't like this from EITHER side of politics and detest it in ALL that claim how much 'good' government can do for society and the individual.

Marriage?  I always thought that the sacrament was bestowed by God upon willing individuals and that the States could figure it out for themselves.  Silly me, that is FEDERALISM.  Can't have that on the Right.  Nope, it needs to drag religion into it, even when abiding by Westphalia means that we must go beyond religion and seek tradition and common support for such things amongst the widest possible base of society.  That means keeping government small and accountable, not by putting a damned amendment into the Constitution.  See Amendment Eighteen?  Alcohol, abolition thereof based on religious grounds?  See the only Amendment to be REPEALED?  Can the Right not learn its lesson there?  Mandating a 'good' for society now may hamper the growth of society or even shift the status quo so that illegality is bestowed upon those that get a *private* sacrament and seek *no* State recognition.  Those that want 'gay marriage' can get married any damned time they please... but if they want State support they do have to show why what they are doing is upholding the greater society and securing the liberty and freedom of everyone else, first.  Just like marriage does amongst 'straight' couples.  And if you take a look at the divorce rate, and see the problems of State interference in what is, essentially, a contract, one begins to suspect that using government to *enforce* the good of the sacrament is coming to ill ends for society.  But letting the Citizenry figure it out for themselves and removing the 'good' of supporting marriage and treating all individuals as equal would be upholding the US Constitution.

Can't have that!

Want tax breaks for a married couple?  Tell you what, lower the damned taxes for everyone so we can ALL afford to contribute more to society and to the safeguards of it.  That would mean that we would seek less from government, not more and then exempt the married from a portion of their burden.  Yes, raising children is a very important job to do: so important that I do not want government involved in it at the Federal level as they are the least able to make good law for all conditions in society in that realm.  Let the States mangle it to their heart's content, and let private firms that want to give benefits or reduce other costs for this public good do so.  The moment it becomes 'about the money' it loses value as a societal good: affix a price and the priceless is devalued.  That was done by the majority culture, not the minority wanting to cash in on the deal.  And, to this day, in any Church that is willing to marry gay couples, they may do so on private terms and if they do not seek any public benefit, then where is the harm in that?  Getting the money and politics out of this realm allows private individuals and their churches to figure it out on their own.  Let us have government that cleanly taxes the Citizenry, so we can all know just what our burden is to our common government, and take out the loopholes and their corrosive effect of making the common man expect that he should have a *break* from that burden.

Size of government?  If my concurrence with Tom Paine on Common Sense is one that I hold, as it is common sense, after all, then I never, ever, want to give the place where we put our negative liberties for our common protection to have ANY scope beyond a few things we hand it and then hold it so closely accountable that it has problems breathing.  So what is up with all the steroids, oxygen, weight sets and bleeding the American People to feed government?  Why is that what we get as a prescription from both sides of the political spectrum?  It is sort of like the Middle Ages cure for anemia: leeches!  Yes, that was their cure for everything.  Just like government is the panacea cure-all of the modern age.  Got a problem?  Let government fix it for you... so you don't have to worry your little head about anything and just let government tell you what to do and what not to do and leave you nothing to decide on your own.  Your betters will decide that for you...

Free Trade?  Well the Right wants to make us Transnational and the Left wants to impoverish us by cutting it off, so how about some nice middle ground where we REWARD democracies and PUNISH tyrannies and try to get along with the former as best we can to protect our liberties and let the folks stuck in despotic regimes figure out that the only way to make things better is to *get rid of them*?  Nope, can't be done, far too much common sense in that and holding other Nations accountable for their actions and treaties.  Lets just be *nice*, and I'm sure it will all work out so well... just as it did on 9/11.  Yes that is a broad paint-brush on the Left and Right: they deserve the same tar in my book.  The idea is that trade is held accountable to our common values which should be liberty, freedom, republics and representative democracy with a checks and balance system.  Enticing trade from China, say, that impoverishes its people, abuses its working force, pollutes the hell out of its cities and countryside, uses authoritarianism to limit the size of its population and then builds a house of cards on bad debt that underlies a minimum of 30% of their GDP is doing NONE of that.  By changing their party intent to that of National Socialism, that is to say Fascism, the people of China may have more money in their pockets, but are otherwise suppressed, put into horrific working conditions, and can be so overworked as to die from that lovely State 'guided' economy.  Meanwhile the 'fat cats' never have to worry about doing a damned thing right as the State underwrites the bad loans and those 'capitalists' get to walk away from their mistakes scot free.  Any comparison between that and the current bailout of the bank holding companies in the US and the current boards of the auto companies, private lending institutions and whoever else is bellying up to the trough is purely intentional.  The point of our trade as a Nation is to spread the values of liberty and freedom we hold, not to take up the same authoritarian ways as those we detest.

A culture based on liberty, freedom and personal achievement and accountability of government does not support either the Left or Right politically in America as they are configured today.  It sees a choice, at best, as a 'least worst' sort of deal.  Not a choice for good, but just less bad than the other.  Like having to choose between Cthulhu and Satan: just which one is *less bad* for you?  This is some form of political negative schizophrenia that never realizes that supporting a common culture as it *is* and working *with it* is its *own reward*.  Nope, they want to 'remake it' in their own Promethean images from such lovely Elite classes that can never be bothered to take time and explain just what their ideals mean and why they are meaningful.  Thus 'free trade' is shorn from the understanding that it is tied directly to the Nation, not just its economy, and that 'bright hopes' require good results before investing too much in authoritarian regimes.  Similarly the insular 'Buy American' that props up horrific governing boards that can't look beyond next month in the private sector and seeks to diminish trade and impoverish the Nation from the public side, is no good at all, either.  Our understanding that trade is part of the economy, that it must support what we do as a Nation and that it must REWARD our friends and allies is so totally askew that we now use it as carrots to give to tyrants and authoritarian governments that may not actually 'like us'.  If getting them to 'like us' means bribing them with goodies that will help them get strong enough to start killing us, then I would prefer we don't do that.  All the enticement to China over three decades has NOT changed the basic rates of poverty, literacy or made the government there one bit more accountable to its citizenry.  That is not a 'success' but a dismal failure for our Nation.

Why don't I trust the 'by the book Right'?  It is Elitist and sees more in common with the Elite on the Left than it does with the common man.  Even worse is they no longer understand or take into context the 'books' that they read and think that it is wonderful when some 20th century political hack can't even bother to see if ideas promulgated have been more clearly stated previously.

The first political party to dissolve their Elitist views, reach out to blue-collar, working class and small business America and adjusts its policies to the culture around those populations will gain something very strange in America: a true majority.  Not by 'joining factions' but by supporting a common culture and backing it in terms of personal liberty, economic freedom and government becoming accountable and smaller.  That must happen to stem the tide of authoritarianism on the Left and Right.  And if you hear more about how the two parties are such good things as they are, you will know we are not headed in a good direction.  To the Republican Party this has to deal with Theodore Roosevelt, a Progressive from the early 20th century who influenced our common government by putting in an expansive view of federal powers.  Teddy Roosevelt hated the guts of conservatives because they were *not* Progressive.  His great idea was to remake the Republican Party into a Progressive party and that sure did work on the economic side as Republicans have been unable to swear off the Hamiltonian bottle of government having strong input into the economy ever since.  Remember the President that had the Federal Reserve do the exact, wrong, thing in 1929?  He did not have a (D) by his name and had this strange organ of government do the exact wrong thing by raising interest rates and cutting cash flow into the economy just as it needed some to retain any confidence in the government by the public.  The public had gotten addicted to this, too, and when a non-R got into office he then swelled the size of government, pushed money out the door, and raised taxes... which killed the recovery and extended the Great Depression from 1938 to 1942 and only a war brought it to an end by taking the unemployed and putting them on the battlefield or to work in factories to supply the huge military machine that was necessary to win the conflict.

The Progressives mixed this strange cocktail of Hamiltonian intervention in the economy with more authoritarian government to give the elixir to such sweet folks as the Fascists in Italy and the National Socialists in Germany.  They purified that toxic brew, while we have been drinking it down not minding that as we get closer to the bottom of the barrel, the toxins are getting more and more concentrated.  Yet 'by the book' Republican Elites don't see this as awful, just going one step too far on the current path at this time... no one is yelling to turn the ideology around and start getting rid of the non-functional parts of government, lower taxes, remove regulations and let the American People decide their own destiny and hold each other accountable for their actions in the economy.  That, as it was in 1776, is now a RADICAL NOTION.

Really, what organs of government have these 'by the book' Republicans ever gotten rid of?

Any?  The corpse of Ronald Reagan is trotted out, and the moment you hear him mentioned you know you are listening to a necrophiliac, and yet the guts of his political views are still sitting in formaldehyde in a jar in some dank basement at the GOP with a 'toxic' label on it.  Strange to say that in the same article as the one I use for TR, I then point to the President who did have the guts to remove a festering, gangrenous organ from the federal government because it was toxic and putting the common man in danger.  In the area of economics he not only has the ideas that Ronald Reagan had, that was to remove unnecessary and dangerous parts of government or at least turn them over to the citizenry to control, but actually carried them out.  In one, single veto message, President Jackson describes the abuses of power that come with the federal government controlling such an organ as the National Bank, now something we call the Federal Reserve.  While the ills suffered, then, were different, the effect on the Nation and the danger that 'control' brings with it are still manifest.  He warned of foreign Nations that were hostile to us being able to use their investment to control our National direction.  Any similarities between that time and the Fannie and Freddie debt being held by Russia and China is purely intentional, I assure you.  While both of these Nations know they might go down with us... I say 'might' as authoritarian regimes able to deploy troops against their own citizenry often feel immune to certain dangers... they would give the US a hard and deep blow and casting our debt worthiness to near zero.  And if one of them starts to do that, then the other and all the other investors in federal debt will also start to run to *anything* that seems to have some backing to it.

That is what you get when you allow authoritarian Nations to invest in your economy in large measures.

Works out so well, doesn't it?

Indeed it is getting to the point where the Republican Party now mouths its espousal of the Constitution and limited government and no one trusts them as they have not carried through with that agenda, and even on welfare reform left the door open for the Left to push it back almost completely in one large spending bill that no one bothered to read.  The conservative principles of moderate, limited and accountable government have only been espoused, not carried out, and now the Republican Party wonders why no one trusts it?

Will they be the party to throw off their shackles of their Elite, reconnect with the common man and put forward an agenda that will slow this ship and then slowly turn it around to leave the field of icebergs we are in?  The last President didn't do that, and actually started the ship going faster.  This President now has it full steam ahead to 'avoid' that iceberg by racing in front of it.  Just like the Titanic.

The clarion call is not just to stop this insanity, but to start going backwards on this ill-road into the tar pits so that we can get back to limited and sound government that doesn't feel that every home default is a tragedy... one caused by federally mandated regulations.

This future of ours is on the horrific road to State control of the economy in either the National or International Socialist realm: they are both Socialist, authoritarian and no longer see the common man as citizen but ward of the State.  That is a very elitist view, this idea that government can be omni-competent.  We have seen that there are many organs of government that now go contrary to liberty and freedom, and letting people guide their own destiny.

The Dept. of Education has not changed the reading rate of the US since poor Johnny couldn't read.  Yet it gets tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars to intervene at the local level, which changes the course of every public school away from its local environs and to that of the federal government.

The Dept. of Energy has not supported a sound energy policy for the Nation.  It has not given us new technologies, techniques or capability to shift to a secure energy future.

The Dept. of Agriculture has had its system of Big Agribusiness payouts abused to the point where the people of the US now pay more than the commodity price for things like sugar.  Indeed, people get paid not to grow things on their farms.  Now people need only own the farm, put in for their cash and do nothing to make the farm solvent as the federal government will step in to 'help'.  This system was also abused to fund ill-conceived schemes and thwart Congressional oversight on the funding to regimes outside the US.

The Dept. of Health and Human Services is a vast bureaucracy for manipulating the medical system of the United States for which we are indebted to it for creating a regime of constantly increasing prices that the citizenry must pay for utilizing it.  So much so that the idea is to get the federal government to take over the entire system and give away 'free health care' or so subsidize it that prices will skyrocket as they have done in this subsidized system.  We, apparently, cannot learn that subsidies are far worse than letting the price of a good or service set its own, natural cost in a minimally regulated system.  How do I know when someone has proposed an ill-conceived notion in the health care arena?  They want to federally manage it and subsidize it.

Mind you, no one wants to talk about the ill organ of Social Security which is still on course to bankrupt the Nation and will continue that way until it does.  Listening to a 'liberal' talk about this and its great 'social good' also has them ignoring the great social ill that will be done unless the system is scrapped, the people who paid into it given an option for a lump sum distribution or to get whatever was promised them *now* in the future, but no more funds to go into it.  That now dwarfs DoD spending by quite a bit, and yet the greatest savings is not to be had at DoD but in Social Security removal from being a festering parasite on our internal organs, starve it of food, and accept its ongoing debt as a governmental problem until the thing passes out of our system.  Soon it will BE the system, entire.

Then there are the noxious sub-organs of government that seem to take on a life of their own.  EPA now does more than protect the environment, but mandates how it can be used and costs private owners of the use of their land for a nebulous 'greater good' that can now be linked to ill-science and junk science, like global warming.  Soon it will try to regulate carbon dioxide emissions and YOU will become a prime source of this 'pollutant' as every breath you breathe out contains it because you are alive.

FEMA was started to help the Nation recover from a nuclear war.  Now it is used for things like hurricanes, ice storms and tornado damage... and ill suited to respond to any of them.  Yet having a FEMA means that small towns and cities begin to feel they don't have to protect themselves and reduce spending for such things as snow removal in the north east.  So now a mild blizzard is a 'natural disaster' because small towns feel that the federal government will make up what they don't pay, locally.

BATFE once had its position to ensure tax collection on stamps for the interstate trade on alcohol and tobacco.  This was grown by adding on appendages during and after Prohibition in the strange belief that automatic weapons used by gangsters meant that the rest of the population shouldn't have them.  Mind you criminals can still get them, and the public can't, which begins a process of disarming the public against crime.  Further laws were put in place on that front and even on alcohol and tobacco there are continued raids for federal reasons even on trade that NEVER leaves the State it was produced in.  Yes, small distilleries attached to restaurants cannot sell to you WITHOUT a federal tax stamp on each and every bottle.  And they still go after Moonshiners because some people don't like paying federal taxes for out of State alcohol.  So much for the interstate commerce limitation on the federal government.  Luckily some bright fellow realized that you can't outlaw making weapons, but you can come down hard on certain types of them.  So long as it is 'legal' you are fine.  And if it isn't and you make it just for yourself and defending your home?  So sorry, not allowed.

Once upon a time, you could use whatever medications you wanted without federal approval.  The federal government mandated a food and drug purity act so you could know what it was you were buying.  That was good!  The population started a ready decline in the use of patent medicines and started to reject foods adulterated with all sorts of noxious substances.  Then the federal government worried about the 'drug problem' and wanted to restrict the citizen's access to medications.  When alcohol went under prohibition it put a turbocharged engine into organized crime, allowing it to purchase weapons out of the range of the ordinary citizen, like those fully automatic weapons mentioned previously.  Plus it allowed for organized crime to spread far faster with ill gotten gains from alcohol production and distribution than it ever would have gotten on its own.  The problem with removing prohibition is that it did not END organized crime, which now had a major foothold in the black part of the economy.  Unfortunately medications grown from plants or made from common industrial chemicals are relatively cheap to make and have an extremely high mark up in the underground economy.  We do not know where the natural level of use would be if the population understood the effects of such medications and could self-regulate on them.  We do know that when the amount of SUGAR was pointed out in breakfast cereals and the problems it caused publicized, that the public changed its eating habits and demanded healthier products.  Unfortunately that can't happen to the underground market for illegal drugs that has the DEA expanding its power to no good end.  Now if you grow your own little patch of loco weed to smoke, you are in violation of federal law as there is a 'national black market' and you are impacting the price of it by NOT buying from a pusher or distributor in organized crime.

This brings us to the Dept. of Homeland security which is *not* enforcing the laws, and is being overwhelmed by Mexican drug cartels fueled by US purchasers of black market narcotics, and these cartels and gangs then purchase automatic weapons and start causing a criminal insurgency that has spread into the southwestern US.  Here the ability of government to actually do its job and enforce the laws is, strangely, lax:  international criminals in organized crime get a free pass while those trying to defend themselves in the US get extreme scrutiny, castigation and are belittled for not trusting the federal government to protect you.  Even though it isn't protecting you.

And the Elitist 'by the book Republicans' spouting on about 'free trade' and its lovely things it will do for us?

Taking a vacation, obviously.

For all this money we pour into government, we can not even get basic protection from it at the border which is the JOB of the federal government.  Yet many Republicans have been caught with their fannies out mooning the public by ENDORSING those coming to the US illegally.  Well it went from that being their only crime to those with a huge rap sheet deciding we were an 'easy mark' to intimidate because we don't enforce our own laws.  Yes, the US is an 'easy mark' in this venue of crime, law enforcement and such.

The concept of 'easy mark' has one underlying idea to it: being a sucker, lacking wit to do the right thing, being gullible and naive.

There is a need for some party or political organization to step out of the clouds as they are no longer walking on firm ground.  When some of the rock bottom basics of defending the Nation and supporting her warfighters is not done then the way refer to these Nations is usually in the past tense.  That is where the Elitism of the sucker 'by the book' Republicans who can't place a foot down for anything is headed - right down the same fascistic path as the Democrats want.  That path is coming to no good end, and quickly.  At some point the next step in the clouds will be off the edge of a cliff and America will soon be known in the past tense.  Just like the Fascists, Nazis and Soviet Communists... and the once great British Empire, Roman Empire, Egyptian Empire and the late Bronze Age City States.  Notice that almost all of those were command structure governments?  That is where they end up.  America was meant to be different, and yet the same old books are now getting us down the same old path.

In case you missed it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Afghanistan and the essential fight

The following is a position paper of The Jacksonian Party.

Of all the things that cannot be done, Nation Building is the one that cannot be done from the outside. To have a Nation one must have a people committed to it, willing to stand up for their neighbors to live under the rule of law and be able to expect some modicum of protection from their government. When reading Sen. Lieberman's piece in The Wall Street Journal of 06 FEB 2009, I come away agreeing with much and disagreeing with some areas. While I have disagreed with Sen. Lieberman on many social issues, on military and foreign affairs I find more than majority agreement with his positions.

First and foremost is a strategic coherence on the fighting in the Afghanistan theater, as it is more than just Afghanistan a full and complete approach that includes Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan is essential. I have looked at the main supply routes now under attack by al Qaeda, Taliban, Mehsud fighters, and followers of Hekmatyar and they are choking off the critical supply routes to Afghanistan from the south. Because our supply system depends so much on shipping as the cheapest form of transport, fully 90% of all supplies for Afghanistan arrive in Pakistan and must be shipped overland through the passes through the mountains. Those routes must go through hostile provinces, now under siege and often full control of these opposition forces. Pakistan has not been ready to take up arms to finally integrate these Pashtun provinces into their country, disarm the rebels, and disband traditional war fighting bands (known as Lashkars, or personal forces beholden to a leader or organization). At this point the most powerful organization is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's terrorist organization that spreads across the Central Asian Republics that used to be held by the USSR.

Russia has been unwilling to offer supply services and, instead, wishes to send troops into Afghanistan. This would further break up command, put different Rules of Engagement in play and cause more complexity than what we now have on the ground. To simplify command the command structure must revert to the Nation that actually declared war on Afghanistan and that is the United States: it is our responsibility to see it through to its end, not NATO's. Further we need the troops that can be acclimated to the climate and who have the best capability to fight there. Finally we need a secondary route of supply for our forces so as to lessen reliance on Pakistan.

The route to do this is clear: work with Turkey, Greece, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan for a route across the Caspian using Georgia and Azerbaijan to trans-ship goods from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. This would bypass the need for Russian help and put Russia on notice that interdicting Georgia or Azerbaijan is a direct threat to US warfighting in Afghanistan. In theory this should be part of a 'hope & change' initiative by the US to offer good contracting through those Nations, help support Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan trade with the rest of the world and help to start putting the ability of Pashtun tribal areas into a role of reduced significance in our fight in Afghanistan. Doing so would also put it to Pakistan that the US is more than prepared to set up alternate and more expensive means of secure transport if they are unwilling to step into their role to actually build their Nation.

Unfortunately I do doubt if the new leadership in the Oval Office has the skill, fortitude, and capability to be assertive abroad in a war handed to them by their predecessor which was mandated by the 9/11 attacks and Congressional response.

Thus to firm up strategic coherence with limited supply lines, the troops most able to fight in such conditions, and fight extremely well, are Mountain Warfare, Alpine, Highland and other similar forces from NATO. Mountain Warfare forces are not regular, flatland forces, and have some of the most rugged and disciplined training for fighting in the most hostile climate the planet has to offer. I go over that in this article, on such troops and how they consistently out fight, out maneuver and out survive their opponents in any conditions. These are not 'Special Forces' but Specialized Forces and this is their domain of battle and now that Iraq is moving towards civil control by local authorities, it is time for a full deployment of Mountain Warfare forces into Afghanistan. During the Winter of 2007-08 Canadian Mountain Warfare forces staged the first successful winter campaign in Afghan history: the locals said it could not be done. When we look back at all the training camps identified in Pakistan we can rest assured that specialized forces known for their ability to infiltrate in hostile climates had no small part to play. When the Taliban attempted a Spring Offensive their troops were spotted, targeted, more than decimated and routed.

To that end the US should call on all NATO Allies to agree to a unified set of Rules of Engagement administered by CENTCOM and remove any and all troops not willing to be under that ROE. Additionally the US should call for all NATO and Allied specialized warfare units adapted to Mountain Warfare to come and join us in removing the al Qaeda, Taliban and other forces in Afghanistan and in interdicting their supply routes. Further all Stryker Brigades not actively needed in Iraq should now be given Afghanistan as their central mission area as these are the troops best equipped to do forms of fighting that were once only the realm of Special Forces. This redirection may actually cause a draw down of troops in Afghanistan, but the fighters put in often fight far above their 'weight class' on a 3:1 basis or better. As this fight may take up to five more years to complete, the US is now in sore need of a SECOND Mountain Division and we should spend the eighteen months necessary to train and equip such a Division.

As these forces are ones best able to adapt to climate and local problems, they are the ones that should be used and only backed up by regular forces that are also adaptable and able to change to varying local conditions of tribal concerns. This needs to be dovetailed with Mr. Lieberman's second point.

Further the US should seek the help of Mountain Warfare troops in Iraq, particularly Kurdish troops, as Kurds have ethnic heritage that stems from that region of Central Asia. Iraqi troops drawn from all ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, however, are to be the primary goal, even if Kurds will tend to lead such troops at the highest levels, the lower levels will be populated by a diverse set of ethnicities, cultures and religions. What we seek is the necessary cultural and ethnic support, along with combat support, to help Afghanistan examine how it is that close cousins can work with others. This is one of the great benefits of having done such hard work in Iraq: we can now ask for help from those we have helped and know that when we say it will be a tough fight, we mean it.

Second is increasing civilian capacity both in areas of tribal and National concerns, and in helping to stand up local government beyond the tribal level to interact with the National government. Here Provincial Government has not received much attention by the MSM or even embedded reporters, but has proven to be a key mediator between tribes in locales and in passing problems up to responsible offices to be addressed without bias towards any tribe or ethnic group within a locale. I have heard very little about this middle-tier of government from anyone in Afghanistan, and yet a good federal system of distributed powers and local authority has been a demonstrated positive good for all Nations, save for periods of internal conflict and then the National government must take on the same role as the Provincial Governments so as to mediate in good faith between Provinces and Ethnic groups.

To do this requires substantial training of government officials at that level not only on the bureaucratic side, but the accountability side. This is of primary importance as policing power administered to the good of all citizens then removes an argument for forces controlled by strongmen. For Afghanistan to self-govern, the day of Private War forces held by the local leaders in tribes must be ended and equitable policing power enforced at the Provincial level. This requires training for judges in these concepts to be carried out and administered by them. Further a means for checking and restraining judicial authority and a system of higher courts is necessary so as to remove judicial bias via an internal check and balance system within the judiciary itself. This gives citizens the right to appeal judgments they feel to be unfair and yet puts a final stop at such things at the highest National level. Continuing problems in the judiciary will be seen at that level and, with good training and mentoring, addressed over time. This does not mean that tribal level courts or other systems need be abridged, just that they need to be incorporated into the larger suite of judicial systems in the Nation.

Do note that this is not a mandated system from the outside, by the US, and must be indigenous to Afghanistan. If there is any legal tradition to the English Common Law system, however, the US and Great Britain will be in good stead to help firm up such a system as we all use the same judicial philosophy. Even absent that, ensuring that good laws that are not biased towards any one group or ethnic concern becomes a key point in demonstrating that the tribes can be respected, that local control can be exercised and that war fighting is done by the Nation, not strongmen.

The single, largest threat to civil government in Afghanistan is not ethnic rivalries, although those are ancient and need to be addressed, we, in the West, can learn profitably from our ancestors on how best to do this. Nor is it the Islamic Radicalism of the Talibe and al Qaeda sort as these arise and fall in frequency in Islam, although the death toll to each is horrific. Both of these seek a common table setting with which to become local overlords of their peoples and other peoples, and it is that source which threatens Afghanistan to its core time and again. I looked at this some time ago in Defunding the opium trade in Afghanistan, and stand by that view and it is the one of Jefferson: a people who are able to profitably farm to sustain themselves and have enough to trade and ensured income from it will prosper. The illegal nature of the crop does not change that component, but shifts it hard against local support for food and shifts it to imported food via illegal commerce to procure it. It is true that many farmers plant in fallow or rugged areas unsuitable to farming and gain meager extra income from that, from which their lives are put at risk from the criminal class seeking to gain those crops. Here the criminal class can be actual criminals, Islamic Radicals, local strongmen... the list is near infinite and yet their means of coercion and meager pay while taking the middle-man's cut is unchanging. To destroy that system, the farmer needs the tools and skills necessary to not only grow legal goods for local use, but to have an advantage of better techniques and equipment to do this.

America oversupplies her own large scale agricultural corporations, called 'Big Agriculture', while having let the small farmer become beholden to a system of paybacks and payoffs via Congressional funding in the Agriculture budget. And yet 'the war on drugs' can actually, for once, be fought by the military and administered as part of a Counter Insurgency plan: COIN to address the rural farming base of Afghanistan with useful and needful dryland techniques and water conservation that can be done locally would begin to shift the base of that rural section out from the strongman as the money to be garnered by trade of legal goods would not come with immediate threat of life that the illegal sort has. Protecting these communities until they can protect themselves is the GOAL of COIN, in case anyone has forgotten that. This requires a multi-year commitment of shifting funds from America's already overstuffed Big Agricultural sector and putting those funds, skills and tools to use in Afghanistan. The road to fighting the indigenous Taliban and other Islamic Radicals requires not only the right skills on the military front, but the right ones on the civilian front.

There will be no peace, no ending of the supply of radicals until the local farming community has a Jeffersonian attitude demonstrated to them of how good husbanding of farms, crops and livestock via insured means taught by those skilled at such farming can gain the farmer a decent, reliable profit and demonstrate that the need to work together to maintain that system is greater than any minor profit an individual would get from illegal goods. When the land holder is invested in the land and its husbanding of resources and care, the system of tribal views changes to become centered on THAT. The farmers in their tribes will then become the backbone of the tribe, and will be the ones who will need protecting BY the tribe so that the local tribe may flourish.

With a single, hard blow, the US can remove the Central Asian supply system from Afghanistan in not less than a decade and make Afghanistan a net agricultural *exporter*. By teaching dryland techniques, how to husband rain water and other water sources, how to deal with droughts... these are the finest and most well honed weapons in excising this problem and demonstrating that investing in yourself to sustain your people is not only a good thing to do, but well supported. To date the US has paid almost no attention to this, and yet the military component to bring this home is absolutely necessary to peoples who are brought up as warriors: farming must become the respected backbone of the community to support local warfighters to protect the tribe and Province. The badge of honor must shift from how many you attacked and killed to how well you defended your people so that they may flourish against those wishing to strong arm them.

There will be no peace in Afghanistan or Central Asia until this is done.

Third is expanding the Aghan Army, and that is vital so that Private War forces that threaten the Nation can be addressed and so that Afghanistan may protect herself against neighbors such as Iran and China. With that said, we cannot discount the English and American experience of local militias under Provincial control that can stand ready to serve the Nation and yet also counters threats from local sources. As I looked at above this requires a change in COIN from Nation-Building oriented to re-orientation of local populations that will see some value in local and National control over war fighting. We cannot and must not disrespect the fierce and honorable tradition of the Afghan peoples: it has protected them for centuries against Persian, British and Soviet Empires. The very local skills of warfighting need to be upheld as that is the trump card against any invader, and supporting it through local economy and having these forces on-call to defend the entire Nation must become an honorable trade in itself. Thus the current Afghan Army will transform over time: we must beef it up now, for general self-protection of the Nation, but what must be set down is a way of reformulating it over time to reflect the culture in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, as so many detractors like to point out, is *not* a modern Nation and we cannot make it become one no matter how much money and how many lives go to it. America and the West, however, did not arrive at modern civilization without going through this exact, same phase between roughly 900-1700 A.D. Modern tools and training do not an Army make: there must be the tradition an necessity of it that makes it a respected profession *beyond* a tribal virtue. Afghanistan, at this point in time, looks more like 16-17th century Central Europe than a modern Nation State. We must identify that the Christian Tradition is not present in Afghanistan and yet the Westphalian State concept has actually taken root in another Islamic Nation: Iraq.

One of the few and great goods of the British Empire was to demonstrate that religious tolerance was no weakness upon the majority and strengthened the State. In Iraq the local traditions are now those of religious tolerance, as you cannot get through the fact that not only do two major branches of Islam have root in the Nation, but Christianity of more than one form, minor Islamic Sects, Yazidi, Alevi, Judaism, and even followers of John the Baptist. There is no more modern equivalent of a Christian Westphalian Nation State concept in action in the Islamic world than in Iraq. British Westphalian rule had to deal with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there, craft a common law system, and the toleration of religions in Iraq is one of the great legacies of the British rule there. That is why Iraqi involvement, especially Kurdish involvement, is vital and necessary to long term victory and peace in Afghanistan. There will be no reduction of violence in Islamic Radicalism until a peaceful method of co-existing with multiple religious sects is found and that can only be done via a tolerant population seeing the good and end in bloodshed over religion as any legitimate means to power. Iraq is well poised to teach this at a civil level, and our help of Iraq to become stable must require us to ask them to help the United States in spreading that word of civil peace and its practices to Afghanistan.

For those looking to a long-term end to al Qaeda and similar groups: this is the only way forward that does not involve a horrific death toll. Many will die to do this, but our modern world demonstrates that this CAN BE DONE. Unless many have forgotten, the lives lost to uphold 'The Prince of Peace' demonstrates that having good intentions in a religion is NOT enough to spread peace. To do that requires a tolerant civil society that accepts religion as a personal means to enlightenment, not something mandated by the State for all peoples in the State. Religious Nations can exhibit tolerance towards other religions and not castigate or kill the members of them as those are members of civil society and of value to the entire Nation. We can but look to those pointing the way before Westphalia and directly after to examine how best to do this, and we will find thinkers like Machiavelli advocating for enlightened Princes. That does not mean *nice* Princes, but ones that will understand enlightened self-interest is in creating a safe and stable society *first*. To create a true, civil military force requires a true civil society. America can help lay the foundations, form fast friends with the peoples of Afghanistan, introduce them to Islamic enlightened rule concepts in Iraq and help *both* these Nations to secure long term civil societies for themselves.

That is what we did after WWII in Germany, Japan and Italy and should be the exact, same goal today: to help these people to civil societies and peaceful co-existence within their Nations with religious toleration and a productive class of people worthy of being defended by the Nation.

I disagree with Sen. Lieberman in the fourth goal in broad terms, but agree in many details. 'Hardening' Afghanistan is a loser's proposition as it requires time, effort and ability to be applied to the negative of defensive operations and sustainment. Many of the civil institutions need to be mightily revamped and many of the ones that we take as necessary in a modern State can't be built until the lower level society comes to some basic agreements in the Nation. Our own young Nation at the Founding had a very different set of organs and power arrangements in it than we do today: our goal must be to help Afghan society to create the organs they need in the form that best suits them and ensure that they are accountable to civil society. We did this in Iraq, ensuring that a good system of Inspectors General in the Iraqi military had the ability to root out corruption and subversive elements, and our own institutions have such organs throughout them.

Anti-corruption task forces are good, but changing the tone and tenor of civil society to move away from substantive gifts to honoring gifts, as is seen in Japan and other parts of East Asia, is a good and worthy goal. When trinkets devolve into bribes, the system becomes corrupt: those who seek honor they don't deserve will want bribes, those willing to accept the honor will take the trinket. Any goal of self-policing a society must involve the higher esteem of the honorable gift and the disdain and even disgust at the bribe. Here the value of our older allies in Japan and Korea should come to the forefront, and civil teaching of how cultures can still honor and respect, without the need for bribery have to become a necessary section of helping the Afghan society to flourish. Even in our enlightened Nation, this is no longer respected and officials now seek and take bribes, and while prosecuted for them, those seeking to excuse such activities are not castigated for corroding civil society. If we are on the downward slope of this, we can assuredly help others to see our bad example and NOT TAKE IT.

On the civil side that will give Afghan society an area in which they can be SUPERIOR to the US, and take just pride in doing that and then disdaining the corrupt American officials who only know the value of money and not the value of leading a good life. In truth much of the Left in the United States could do with this lesson, and the best way to get it is to teach the right way to do it via our friends and allies in the world. One does not need to be a mighty warrior to become a mighty,honored and respected person. Even as we forget this, we can still bring in those who know it to teach it, to get Afghanistan off to a better start. And once they do that, Afghanistan self-hardens and is sustained from the inside.

In the broader sense of regional engagement, the US will continue to have vital interests in Central Asia so long as corrupt societies create havens for Islamic Radicalism. The modern world can no longer afford an Empire of any sort, and yet another one from Central Asia will bring a death toll to the planet that is horrific beyond all recounting. India and Pakistan are well agreed that they prefer to screw each other up over Kasmir without outside interference - if we are their friends we should RESPECT that and not meddle as we have a full plate. Indeed the best way to end that conflict is by cutting out the criminal money supply from Afghanistan and seeing if the US can help in some COIN operations in the Northwest Frontier Provinces and southeast provinces in Pakistan. Active fighting to remove radicals and separatists will have no end until civil society has been given breathing space and local accommodation between these ethnic populations with the Nation of Pakistan can be performed. This does not require a full constitutional convention, but some formulation of civil organs to address the problems of the different ethnic groups in Pakistan with each other. Many feel that the agreements they made at the founding of Pakistan have not been honored, while others were more than willing to wait out a century holding pattern put in by the British Empire on provisional borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This cannot happen until the Pakistani ISI, its Intelligence Service, stops funding the damned radicals. This is something that can and must be addressed to at the Nation State level as the ISI is the source of much of the unrest in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and even into the Central Asian Republics. All Nations have need of an Intelligence Arm for the protection of their Nation: any Nation that funds one that not only puts internal but external order between Nations at risk must be asked why they are doing this. Simply put the ISI, as it currently is, must go. There will be no peace in Kasmir until the ISI's activities in funding Radical Islamic groups ceases completely. Any civil society that aims at disrupting its neighbors must be told that doing so will bring the death they are exporting to their own people: and it has already started. The nest of vipers, finding the rough and thick boots of US troops stomping them flat in Afghanistan now slither home to the warmer nest of their paymasters. At this point the ISI can only be seen in the light of destabilizing their own Nation to their own ends, and they no longer care about the blood spilled by those they fund in Pakistan.

Iran is a tough case to deal with and yet, if we work with Turkmenistan in a cross-asian route for supply, the US will then have an entire suite of friendly Nations encircling Iran. Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan will only leave Pakistan as the last great outlet for Iranian exploits and they are already facing problems from the local Balochs in the East of Iran who feel they got a 'raw deal' in both Iran and Pakistan. To this day Iran has problems with Baloch separatists and the underground independence groups have demonstrate high levels of competence and expertise in their terror attacks in Iran.

By shifting through Turkmenistan the US can slowly erode Russian influence in the region and help to stabilize that realm of Republics that would help us in getting a supply route to Afghanistan. Perhaps we could call it the 'Modern Silk Road' and open up some venues for increased civilian traffic through these routes to get better export markets for the Central Asian States. These Republics are not lacking in trade goods, but they do lack the modern transportation and means to get them to a global market. A long-term strategy of opening up a conduit for US supplies will, of necessity, start to build the infrastructure necessary to address the poverty in Central Asia due to their lack of markets. By opening up a non-authoritarian route for market goods, that is to say not going through Russia, China, Iran or Pakistan, these people will be able to start not only supplying goods to US warfighters (so we don't have to ship it all), but find other venues for their products in the empty trucks and ships going *back* to the Black Sea. Here the opening of trade venues in Georgia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Turkey will enrich the entire region as these 'exotic' goods move from luxuries to items finding their place in the global market. Indeed, America should welcome this opportunity to start laying the infrastructure for the 21st century of trade in the world: built of necessity to become the first pathways to the spread of market based economics in some of the most deprived areas of the planet in Central Asia.

Unfortunately I cannot see the current Administration doing this: it is too much hope & change to believe that America can be a demonstrable force for enlightenment and trade, even while making the necessary routes to keep our troops supplied. Such is the myopia of zero-sum Leftism in America that we cannot seize this opportunity to turn our investment in blood into something greater for all peoples in Central Asia.

Fifth is a 'surge' in political commitment to Afghanistan in America. I fully agree with the Senator here. Our political class only knows the value of money, not of lives: and then are willing to sacrifice both to schemes of home ownership, retirement systems, medical systems and such that will impoverish us all and shorten our lives if we follow those dreams to their poisoned fruit.

The United States used to know how to see opportunity in strife and reach out to do more than any other people on the planet would ever dare to do, while leaving our people free to choose their own lives, well and unwell, while garnering general support for those needful things that protected the Nation. Now we seek to protect all the citizens in detail and will be at risk of losing them in whole rank.

Soon we will have our own COIN operations in the desert South West of the US and northern Mexico.

Perhaps it is time to take the lessons of limited government, government that protects the Nation and is held accountable home to the United States.

We sure could use it right about now...

Monday, February 02, 2009

The ease of hypocrisy

A Presidential Administration that comes in on 'hope & change' as its dogma and says that it will, indeed, be more transparent in its dealings with the Nation, has a hard path to set upon as not all in the world is easy, nor fast, nor prone to work the way you think it would from the outside. This shows up in ways both major and minor, so lets take a look at some of the broken promises, misdirection, and other attempts to not abide by the word of Candidate Obama now that he is President Obama.


Renditions to be preserved (H/t: Instapundit)

Citing the LA Times we find this about renditions in the Obama Administration -

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism -- aside from Predator missile strikes -- for taking suspected terrorists off the street.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.

The European Parliament condemned renditions as "an illegal instrument used by the United States." Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a Boeing Co. subsidiary accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.

But the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration's war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.

On 07 APR 2008 this is what Human Rights Watch recommends the US government should do about renditions (note I didn't check Dissenting Justice's use of these, and there are far better before/after ones there):


The US government should:

·Repudiate the use of rendition to torture as a counterterrorism tactic and permanently discontinue the CIA's rendition program;

·Disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001, including detainees who were rendered to Jordan;

·Repudiate the use of "diplomatic assurances" against torture and ill-treatment as a justification for the transfer of a suspect to a place where he or she is at risk of such abuse;

·Make public any audio recordings or videotapes that the CIA possesses of interrogations of detainees rendered by the CIA to foreign custody;

·Provide appropriate compensation to all persons arbitrarily detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody.

And here we go back to the LA Times article:

One provision in one of Obama’s orders appears to preserve the CIA's ability to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects as long as they are not held long-term. The little-noticed provision states that the instructions to close the CIA's secret prison sites "do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis."

Despite concern about rendition, Obama's prohibition of many other counter-terrorism tools could prompt intelligence officers to resort more frequently to the "transitory" technique.

The decision to preserve the program did not draw major protests, even among human rights groups. Leaders of such organizations attribute that to a sense that nations need certain tools to combat terrorism.

Note the differences between President Obama's concept of not holding individuals 'long term' and that of HRW of ending the program completely? And what does HRW say to this? From the Times article, again:

"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "What I heard loud and clear from the president's order was that they want to design a system that doesn't result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured -- but that designing that system is going to take some time."

What did happen to the call to 'permanently discontinue the CIA's rendition program' from 2008? Is now a little rendition good? The idea was, back then, that ANY rendition program could not ensure the safety of those being rendered and, thusly, should be ended. Now a little bit pregnant is a 'good thing'.

What is even more interesting is that HRW only started to care about this post-9/11 in its document Timeline of Detainee Abuse, but raised now problems with the use of the program under President Clinton (Source: History Commons context to the HRW document above). Indeed we can draw from this that renditions under Democratic Presidents is 'good' and those under Republicans is 'bad' according to HRW, which is now willing to give up its moral stance on renditions and expose its lack of ethics in doing so.

While in the US Senate Barack Obama voted for the Rockefeller Amendment (2006-256) which would give Congressional oversight to CIA programs and list what can and cannot be done with those detained by the US in detail (Source: On the Issues).

Do note that citing the us of US Army Field Manual for interrogation and extraordinary rendition are at odds with each other: by trying to give blanket coverage by the former and then cutting holes in the blanket with the latter, and asking the CIA to use its powers to see into the future to determine if a foreign power will use torture, President Obama is, effectively, putting in place the exact, same set-up as previously existed. The concept of 'temporary' holding is at the discretion of the President, and can last for the entire term of a President. That is why we give the President as Chief of State, Head of the Armies and the Navies and Head of the US Government such powers - to use them to protect the Nation. If a President finds a treaty to be at odds with that job to protect the Nation, he is to say so and remove the US from said treaty as is his power as President. Also the US Army Field Manual are orders from the President that can be countermanded BY the President as the Head of the Armies and the Navies.

Sen. Obama now learns as President Obama that the powers of the President are NOT under Congressional thumbs, but a separate branch with different powers TO that of the Legislative. The citizens of the United States hand much power in military affairs, overseas operations and how to conduct the affairs of the US to the President, not to Congress. There are checks and balances on those powers as they also serve as a check and balance to Congressional powers - but they are in no ways equal and in no way cover the same domains of power. It is easy to criticize from the Legislative side, but that side of government does not have full purview over the powers of the President and can only address those things that happen inside the US and under treaty obligations. As noted, the President may withdraw from treaties if those laws enforcing that treaty prove an obstacle to the job of the Executive.


Disaster Relief

On Hurricane Katrina, Sen. Obama had this to say on 06 SEP 2005 (Source: Waybackmachine archive of Sen. Obama's Senate site):

Which brings me to my final point. There's been much attention in the press about the fact that those who were left behind in New Orleans were disproportionately poor and African American. I've said publicly that I do not subscribe to the notion that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was racially-based. The ineptitude was colorblind.

But what must be said is that whoever was in charge of planning and preparing for the worst case scenario appeared to assume that every American has the capacity to load up their family in an SUV, fill it up with $100 worth of gasoline, stick some bottled water in the trunk, and use a credit card to check in to a hotel on safe ground. I see no evidence of active malice, but I see a continuation of passive indifference on the part of our government towards the least of these.

And so I hope that out of this crisis we all begin to reflect - Democrat and Republican - on not only our individual responsibilities to ourselves and our families, but to our mutual responsibilities to our fellow Americans. I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the Hurricane. They were abandoned long ago - to murder and mayhem in their streets; to substandard schools; to dilapidated housing; to inadequate health care; to a pervasive sense of hopelessness.

That is the deeper shame of this past week - that it has taken a crisis like this one to awaken us to the great divide that continues to fester in our midst. That's what all Americans are truly ashamed about, and the fact that we're ashamed about it is a good sign. The fact that all of us - black, white, rich, poor, Republican, Democrat - don't like to see such a reflection of this country we love, tells me that the American people have better instincts and a broader heart than our current politics would indicate.

We had nothing before the Hurricane. Now we have even less.

I hope that we all take the time to ponder the truth of that message.

And when, as President, Barack Obama sees an ice storm hit Kentucky and a million people go without power for a week and some people perishing due to this, and FEMA doing next to nothing, what is his response?

To hold a party with $100 per portion steak for the guests (Source: Betsy's Page for the roundup). Apparently the good citizens of Kentucky were left, long ago, to be maltreated by benign neglect and President Obama just doesn't care.

FEMA was started as an organization meant to coordinate efforts after a nuclear war and was never designed to help in 'normal' emergencies. And it shows. It is the most lack-luster of agencies, leaving individuals in Florida at loose ends after multiple hurricanes for YEARS! Those people were stunned at the fast response given during Hurricane Katrina while THEY had STILL not received help promised years earlier.

It is a minor point, but note how much President Obama actually cares about a large scale 'emergency' in a State that is not photogenic, not able to play the 'race card' and not able to play the 'victim card' and that DOES have SUV's, credit cards and such and were STILL not able to respond well? Imagine what he will do for people less well off in a disaster...


Hiring Ethics at the White House

From the PRNewswire-USNewswire 12 NOV 2008, RNC document on lobbyists:

Obama: "[Lobbyists] Will Not Run My White House, And They Will Not Drown Out The Voices Of The American People When I'm President." "I won't take money from PACs, won't take money from federal registered lobbyists. (Applause.) They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At Ault Park Pavilion, Cincinnati, OH, 10/9/08)

Obama: "[Lobbyists] Won't Find A Job In My White House." "One year from now, we have the chance to tell all those corporate lobbyists that the days of them setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race - and I've won. I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am President, they won't find a job in my White House." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At A Campaign Event, Spartanburg, SC, 11/3/07)

On the campaign trail Sen. Obama felt secure in taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from those involved in lobbying firms or who were lobbyists, just so long as the money wasn't from a lobbying organization (Source: HotAir). The problematic support of a group like ACORN for President Obama, given ACORN's history, and his being a PAC-man during his early campaigns where he accepted a large proportion of his money from PACs, points to a deep involvement with lobbyists who financed his rise to power. Partisanship goes far beyond money, and accepting lobbyists working for *no money* while they still work for a lobbyist organization or have ties to one in their very recent past, indicates that Sen. Obama was more than willing to give lobbyists a greater voice at his meetings than the concerns of average Americans.

Thus it is no surprise that within days of winning the election he was already changing his direction on lobbyists, as seen at The Boston Globe on 12 NOV 2008:

Obama's transition chief laid out ethics rules - which also bar transition staff from lobbying the administration for one year if they become lobbyists later - and portrayed them as the strictest ever for a transfer of presidential power.

But independent analysts said yesterday that the move is less than the wholesale removal of lobbyists that he suggested during the campaign - and shows how difficult it will be to lessen the pervasive influence of more than 40,000 registered lobbyists.

"That is a step back and there is no other way of seeing it," said Craig Holman, who lobbies on governmental affairs for the watchdog group Public Citizen. Nonetheless, he said, Obama is still making "a very concrete effort to avoid what I consider a potentially corrupting situation."

Obama, who promised to change how business gets done in Washington, railed against lobbyists in the upper ranks of rival John McCain's campaign.

Yes, so strict for 'transferring power'!

Of course he had problems sticking to that as seen in this USA Today/ABC News article of 09 NOV 2008:

Campaign watchdog experts, such as Craig Holman of Public Citizen, say the close involvement of these big fundraisers — known as bundlers because they collect money from friends, family and business associates — could give them undue sway in the new administration. "The whole point of these bundlers bringing in so much money is that they get to exercise influence in the next administration," Holman said. Obama's pledge to clean up Washington "is encouraging," Holman said. "But this is a warning sign."

Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said transition members "were chosen based on their skills, ability and expertise."

In an interview, Peña said there is "no connection" between his fundraising and service on the transition team.

"The people who are in the transition process are people that (Obama) has great confidence in and who bring different talents and experiences to this effort," he said. "If some of them happen to also be involved in fundraising, that's simply a coincidence."

The new president will have to walk a fine line to avoid potential conflicts of interest as he fills key positions, said David Lewis, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and author of The Politics of Presidential Appointments.

"The campaign mobilized a tremendous number of donors and campaign workers and volunteers," he said. "Some of those people did it for the joy of participating in the political process, but many of those people participated … with the expectation they were going to get something."

Well so much for 'hope & change' on the transition. Going from 'no lobbyists' to 'bundlers ok' and 'lobbyists giving their own, personal cash' is just fine. One wonders if any of these 'personal' donations got reimbursed by their lobbying organizations? Of course that would be illegal... just like Mr. Hsu's work.

And when it comes time to name people, we see this from an AP article on 23 JAN 2009 (Source: HuffPo):

WASHINGTON — A former Raytheon lobbyist nominated to be deputy defense secretary despite President Barack Obama's ban on hiring lobbyists will sell his stock in the military contracting firm.

However, William J. Lynn won't be forced to step back from decisions related to his former employer, the Pentagon said Friday.

Instead, Lynn's dealings at the Defense Department will be subject to ethics reviews for one year, said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

The Obama administration's decision ended around an executive order that the president signed Jan. 20. His "revolving door" ban, part of Obama's "ethics commitments," ordered officials who had been lobbyists for up to two years prior to their hiring to recuse themselves from decisions involving their former employers.

Under the ban, former lobbyists could not "participate in any particular matter" they had been involved in as a lobbyist or "participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls."

But Lynn avoided a total recusal under the decision announced by Pentagon officials Friday.

On Thursday, the administration delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee a waiver to Obama's "ethics pledge" for federal employees, exempting Lynn from two specific sections: a two-year prohibition on employees from participating in decisions related to their former employers and a more specific section banning individuals from taking jobs in the agencies they recently lobbied.

A total ban that lasted all of three days.

Such are what pass for 'ethics' in hiring at the White House.

This does go further than just the internal workings of the White House, however, as money is shoveled into the abyss of 'bailouts' it now becomes necessary to have a good lobbyist to get the attention of the President as seen in this Pittsburgh Business Times article of 27 JAN 2009 on the financial problems of Jefferson County:

Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Carns chides his fellow commissioners for allocating $1 million to a lobbying firm in a scathing press release that questions their judgment.

Carns opposed the county’s contract with Washington-based Book Hill Partners to lobby the federal government to assist the near-bankrupt municipality. Commissioners Sheila Smoot, William Bell and Bettye Fine Collins voted for the contract on Tuesday while Carns and Bobby Humphryes were against it.

Jefferson County is saddled with more than $3 billion in sewer debt. The Commission has balked on bankruptcy and is hiring Book Hill to snag federal money to stave off defaulting on bond payments. Carns said hiring a lobbying firm at the same time the county is laying off employees is “unconscionable.”

Carns’ two-page, single spaced release said the county’s top advocates are its legislative delegation. He said Book Hill does not have the ear of President Barack Obama and the county is paying more than four times on lobbying than JP Morgan who holds more than $2 million of the county’s bond debt.

Yes, unconscionable to spend money on a lobbying firm that doesn't have the ear of the President... one wonders if it would be ok to have spent it on one that DOES have the ear of the President? Such is what happens when a 'clean house' President decides to let such things slide by. You either CAN have such ethics rules or NOT: straddling points to expediency of your ethics and moral character, which is not a good sign for anyone, but quite the norm in politics.

Then there is the whole ethical dilemma of hiring people who have broken the law. Most notably the tax laws of the US. We now have a Treasury Secretary that not only didn't pay proper taxes, he didn't record all his income, told his employer he had paid reimbursable outlays when he never paid them out and then conveniently forgot to check to make sure that he was ok on his tax situation until he was nominated. Yes, a tax cheat as the head of the US Treasury!

Now Sen. Tom Daschle (D - S. D.) has been nominated to be the head of HHS and he has also 'forgotten' to pay taxes... while he was a member of Congress. Plus he was head of the Senate Finance Committee at the time. Yes the man in charge of the committee to review House started bills on revenue... couldn't pay his taxes. Or record income as a lobbyist after he left Congress.

From John J. Pitney at the corner at NRO:

“Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter. ” Sen. Tom Daschle, Congressional Record, May 7, 1998, p. S4507.


What are those?

And competence?

Perhaps we can all get such 'loopholes' for ourselves, and not pay taxes for a few years.

[This next section turns out to be in error due to Fox News getting the story wrong. I give plaudits to President Obama for an increase in the defense budget of 8% (Source: Hot Air). This goes into the 'doing something right' column. My thanks to the President for supporting our military needs during wartime. I don't do strikethroughs, if I make a mistake I prefer people to read it 'as is', such as the case here.]



Do you remember candidate Obama's pledge to go after al Qaeda in Pakistan? You know, the place where Congress declared war (via their extra special naming set that devolves into Congress declaring war)? When was the last time that ANY PRESIDENT wanted a CUT in military spending DURING a war? Ok, possibly LBJ... still for something like going after the organization and support network of a group that attacked the country on 9/11, you would think that President Obama would want to beef up spending there to show that he was serious about what he said on the campaign trail.


From Counter-Punch's Marc Herold on 06 AUG 2008 (emphasis mine):

Candidate Obama appears to have adopted wholesale what Cordesman was proposing about two year ago with one qualification: Obama recognizes that the U.S’s traditional European NATO allies will not provide large numbers of additional fighting forces, hence Obama proposes rotating three divisions or about 10,000 U.S. troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.

If we examine candidate Obama’s most important prepared foreign policy speech to-date, that given on July 14, 2008, we find the elements of what as president he might do in Afghanistan. He forthrightly casts his interest in Afghanistan purely in terms of “making America safer”:

I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

In other words, Obama is committed to “finishing the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” translated as the fight against “Muslim extremism.” Notwithstanding that this examplifies a worst case example of fallacious sunk-cost reasoning, George W. Bush and candidate McCain would not disagree. He continues

Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That's what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that's why, as President, I will make the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win…. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, and more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights. …Make no mistake: we can’t succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people.

Resources need to be focused upon Afghanistan because it “is the war we have to win.” In July 2008, the International Herald Tribune called it “the war of necessity against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Why? Candidate Obama points to Taliban controlling parts of Afghanistan and Al Qaeda possessing an “expanding base in Pakistan.” These are alleged to be spawning grounds of “another attack on our homeland.” George W. Bush and candidate McCain would concur in being in error.

Going after al Qaeda and Taliban are the 'top priority', right? More of everything, plus change our course towards Pakistan to confront them on their support of the Talibe, al Qaeda and local terrorist kingpin going global Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. This is a 'necessary war', right?


From FoxNews on 30 JAN 2009:

The Obama administration has asked the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff to cut the Pentagon's budget request for the fiscal year 2010 by more than 10 percent -- about $55 billion -- a senior U.S. defense official tells FOX News.

Last year's defense budget was $512 billion. Service chiefs and planners will be spending the weekend "burning the midnight oil" looking at ways to cut the budget -- looking especially at weapons programs, the defense official said.

For an economy between $12-14 trillion, that amount, $512 billion, is less than 5% and hovering in the 4% range. WWII, by contrast, ate up 50% of the economy for 1942-45. And, no, an 'economic downturn' that has lost more than the size of the Pentagon budget multifold, doesn't cut it: America is at war in Afghanistan, al Qaeda has not been brought to heel nor the Taliban. Where is that commitment for the Nation to succeed in Afghanistan which will require a strong military effort to start hunting down and killing the Talibe, al Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami?

Perhaps we are going to send the FBI in to get them?

Worked so well for President Clinton, didn't it? That sending police after people using the methods of Private War that respect no Nation, no law and will be held accountable only to the Law of Nature. And President Obama wants to *cut* the DoD? What about our military obligations to our Allies?

Forgotten, apparently... this idea of protecting the Nation and prosecuting her war abroad.

[End the retracted section, a bit more at Ace's]

So that is where the Obama Administration stands on a few topics.

Do remember that no one said there would be change for the better....

UPDATED with add-on


Another Lobbyist at Labor

Byron York at the corner at NRO goes through the Labor Secretary nominee, Rep. Hilda Solis who had worked with the lobbying group American Rights at Work. Now for those of you who have missed the entire problem of the 'Big 3' in Detroit being about labor unions wanting to keep on as they have been with retirees able to vote as if actively employed, work rule regulations from UNIONS causing increased costs, and lovely health care and retirement packages that none of the 'Big 3' or the Unions can afford... well, having someone who works to empower Big Labor at the Dept. of Labor doesn't look good. Do remember that the overwhelming majority, nearly 9 out of 10 workers, are NOT in Unions. Plus Big Labor is backing the 'Employee Free Choice Act' which removes the secret ballot from voting for Union shops and only requires majority Union membership. That is something Big Labor uses to harass non-Union employees to get them to sign on to the Union: by having a list of who is in the Union and who works in a shop, that pressure can be applied by the Unions. Removal of the secret ballot is the only way for individuals to go against such pressure.

Thus we come to Rep. Solis' position for ARW:

American Rights at Work is an important part of Big Labor's push for the
Employee Free Choice Act, known more accurately as card check. A
recent account
in the lefty journal In These Times says that, "Early this year, unions plan to
present 1 million signatures in support of EFCA to Congress, and they are
calling on allies from civil rights, environment, religious and other movements
to broaden the campaign beyond labor. American Rights at Work, a labor-founded
coalition, is playing a leading role in this effort."

No one is accusing Solis of concealing her connection with the group; it was
common knowledge in the labor world, and she listed it in the paperwork she
submitted for her confirmation hearing. But she did not list it on the
disclosure forms she was required to submit to the House of
Representatives. It was an unpaid position, so there is no problem with
income. But there are questions about whether Solis, as Treasurer, played
a de facto role in the group's lobbying activity; if you're a member of
Congress, you're not supposed to simultaneously lobby Congress. (Solis has
told the Senate that she did not take part in the group's lobbying
activities.) In any event, you're required to list your affiliation on
disclosure documents, which Solis did not do. (On January 29, she filed
amended disclosure forms with the House, listing her association with the labor
group.) Some Senate Republicans don't view this as a major issue with the Solis
nomination, but they do want to know more about her specific activities for
American Rights at Work.

And considering how various Unions contributed to previous Obama campaigns and needing to work with them as part of the Democratic Machine in Chicago, having someone who took part in the financial activities of a pro-Union advocacy group nominated to be Labor Secretary smells like a pay-off. A Labor Secretary must not only represent all workers, but must also understand employment conditions at all levels of Labor, including those of small businesses. By listing affiliation and not her part in lobbying efforts, how can this be seen as anything other than a lobbyist trying to avoid being called such?

Perhaps she wasn't 'vetted'?

It is hard to believe there is no one better for the job, who can actually come clean on their lobbying activities or lack of same.

Mind you, when I screw up, I let you see it and know that I recognize I have done so.

President Obama?

He has yet to do so for his early mis-steps, blunders and reneging on campaign promises. That should leave his *supporters* angry - but to me he is just another Machine Politician from Chicago. You don't come to expect much in the way of humility, explanations or even keeping to promises unless they are pay-offs from that bunch.