Google, Haiti, and Taxachusetts

Saturday, January 23, 2010

There have been so many juicy topics to cover, it’s been difficult to keep away. Every time I’m moved to write, though, I really have something else to do or simply don’t want to devote the time to it. That said, here is, in summary, how to think about the following issues:

Google/China: Yes, if Google was #1 in China this wouldn’t have happened, but they’re not and it did. As a result, this is one of the great humanitarian corporate moves of all time. Perhaps the greatest (there’s not a lot of competition, I’m guessing). Google should follow through and close their business there. As arguably the most important corporation in the world, the move will properly shame China and the many companies that remain in that authoritarian country. Here’s a question that any one doing business there should ask: Would I want to live here?

Haiti: Nothing to do in the aftermath but help. In the long term, I’m with David Brooks and Bret Stephenson. Let’s stop giving money to countries “in need.” It does nothing, and may actively do harm. It’s difficult, because it is human nature to try to help fellow humans in need, but it’s also the right thing to do. Certainly, what the first world has been doing for decades has not worked.

Taxachusetts: I would have voted for Scott Brown too. Seriously. I would have voted for a cardboard cutout against Coakley. Although she was inept, I would have done it to send the message. I have said, many times, that if Obama and this Congress can’t get it done, then there is no hope for us. Year one has been an epic, unmitigated failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, secrecy, deficit spending, bank coddling, and worst of all, the healthcare nightmare. I blame Obama for not using his robust post-election strength to strong arm Pelosi (failure) and Reid (failure) immediately. Weak, poorly managed, pathetic. Obama, where are your balls? It’s time to lead.

And, btw, why do you need the 60 votes? Make an exceptional bill and let the GOP filibuster. Call their bluff. If they do it, and the bill dies, you hang it around their neck. Now, the bill dies, and it’s a Dem failure. Disgraceful.

(But then there would be no healthcare bill, someone wails. So fucking what? Paul Krugman can cry to his cats. This is not the most pressing issue in America. Budget restraint, financial reform, and confiscatory, punitive taxes on very wealth bankers, should be the priority. Followed by a 10% spending cut across the entire government, no exceptions.

We are going to have to suffer, period. Let us start suffering already so we have a shot at not fucking our children.)

The bottom line for me, in all this, is that I have really given up hope. I don’t believe our Congress (and the state legislatures) are capable of introducing the change (ethics, responsible spending) that is necessary.

Something very, very bad is going to happen in the next ten or twenty years. War with China, epic depression/inflation/default, or, in the best case scenario, a benevolent military coup (and a draft) that reforms the government in a way that makes it possible for America to function properly.

David Petraeus, are you out there? Rome needs you. Cross the Rubicon. Cast the die!

P.S. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, letting it stand.


Pay Attention to Pakistan

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pakistan is arguably the most important country in the fight against terrorists. It is a predominantly Muslim nation with nuclear weapons and out-of-control frontiers (including Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan).

At the moment, a political scrum has brought near chaos to the country.

The latest news is that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani came under fire in an assassination attempt on his motorcade. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Pakistan. In the last few years alone, Pervez Musharraf was nearly assassinated a number of times and former president Benazir Bhutto died at the hands of assassins.

Gilani is a member for the Bhutto’s political party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, which is led by Asif Ali Zardari (Benazir Bhutto’s husband).

This assassination attempt, which the government attributes to al-Qaeda linked militants, is likely part of the power struggle now taking place; the outcome of which will have vast and important ramifications in the “War on Terror.”

More on Pakistan later…

Musharraf Out, Chaos In

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Okay. If you’ve been reading about Pakistan you know that Gen. Pervez Musharraf resigned as president of that country. In his wake, the parties sharing political power there, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by Nawaz Sharif, and the Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Asif Ali Zardari (Benazir Bhutto’s corrupt husband), are quickly coming apart at the seams.

At issue is the restoration of some 60 judges, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who were deposed by Musharraf. Sharif wants them restored, Zardari does not (he is afraid he will be prosecuted if independent judges are on the bench). Sharif is threatening to pull out of the governing coalition. All of which is a prelude to a power struggle for the Presidency (which Zardari will almost certainly win).

Meanwhile, the Taliban is on the march in the tribal region of northwest Pakistan. From a story by Jane Perlez at the the New York Times:

In an attack claimed by the Taliban within the tribal region on Tuesday, a suicide bomber ripped into the emergency room of the district hospital in Dera Ismail Khan, a town near Waziristan, killing 25 people and injuring 30, said the inspector general of the police in the North-West Frontier Province, Malik Naveed Khan. He said there was some evidence that the suicide bomber was linked to Waziristan, the base of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud.

And in Afghanistan:

Taliban insurgents mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting, one a complex attack with multiple suicide bombers on an American military base on Monday night, and another by some 100 insurgents on French forces in a district east of the capital, killing 10 French soldiers and wounding 21 others, military officials said Tuesday.

Lastly, there are rumors going around that Musharraf will seek asylum in the United States.

What does all this mean? A dangerous and complicated world just got more dangerous and complicated. Let us hope, and work, for a president with the intellectual power to deal with such circumstances.

Bush Punked by the Iraqis

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What else would you expect? For the second time in the last week, an important Iraqi official has come out and said that they want the Americans out of the country by 2010. By almost every declared measure, it’s now time to start planning for our troops to come home (and/or to be sent to Afghanistan).

  • The Iraqi troops have stood up, so now we can stand down.
  • Bush has repeatedly declared that we are in Iraq at their pleasure.
  • The Iraqis have a constitution, a government, elections, a standing army, and a popular desire to see America leave.
  • The bottom line is that the surge has worked and we have won (we are not “winning” as McCain keeps desperately declaring. We have won! BTW, have you noticed that McCain’s campaign is down to a single plank – he was right about the surge, and therefore, he should be president?)

    The only remaining issues are the political benchmarks, which are, frankly, Iraqi problems.

    You could make the argument that Iraq will descend into chaos if we depart; on that, you’ll get no argument here. But as my mother used to say to me, “you should of thought of that before you did it.”

    The bottom line is, our troops are victorious and it’s time to leave. By all means, keep an eye on the situation, but keeping troops in Iraq until the Shia, Sunni, and Kurds all decide not to hate each other will have us there forever. There will never be a “good” time to go.

    Bush is without negotiating leverage; he has been embarrassed like the punk he so obviously is. The White House is left to sniff:

    “We don’t think that talking about specific negotiating tactics or your negotiating position in the press is the best way to negotiate a deal,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, suggesting that Dabbagh was responding to domestic pressure.

    This is what it has come down to.

    Seymour Hersh and the War in Iran

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Reading Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker is like reading a spy novel crossed with the blind items on Gawker; lots of dangerous intrigue by politicians, soldiers, and spies, some anonymous gossip, and more than a hint of something still unknown. He’s really in a class by himself with this kind of reporting.

    In his latest piece, Hersh travels in the murky areas of the intelligence community to reveal America’s covert operations in Iran and the push, largely by Cheney, to enhance those operations and, it seems, provoke a war. It’s a fascinating article, as all of his writing for the New Yorker has been, and worth reading.

    The situation in Iran is a difficult one. For all the obvious reasons, America does not need a war with Iran. With that said, Iran is clearly dangerous and they cannot be allowed to make a nuclear weapon. The Bush/Cheney approach of using Special Ops and indigenous surrogates to carry out attacks and assassinations, according to the article, has met with some resistance from the military and intelligence communities. What has worked in other parts of the Middle East and Pakistan, may not work so well in Iran. So what to do?

    Elect Obama President. The reason? He will try to negotiate a legitimate settlement of this issue. If someone actually goes to the Iranians without a belligerent stance (Bush demands that they halt enrichment work before negotiations can start), it might – might – settle the issue. And if it doesn’t? Well, then we know for sure, and the military option becomes legitimate.

    After all, just consider all the time Bush has wasted in these years while Iran has continued to enrich uranium. Economists talks about opportunity costs. The entire Bush administration has been an astronomical opportunity cost, not least in our dealings with Iran.

    Here’s Michael Schwirtz and Alan Cowell in the New York Times on the recent saber rattling.

    Bush Signs New GI Bill

    Monday, June 30, 2008

    The new GI bill became law today when Bush signed the war supplemental spending bill that contained the new education benefit for veterans. This is a big victory for the men and women who serve in our military. Happy 4th of July to all!

    For members of the armed services looking for more info about the bill, visit

    32,334: The Hidden Cost of the War on Terror

    Monday, June 23, 2008

    32,334 is the total number of soldiers that have been wounded in action in fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq through June 20. The numbers break out like this:

    Afghanistan: 2,087
    Iraq: 30,247

    Of those wounded in Afghanistan, 1,280 were seriously wounded enough not to return to action. In Iraq, that number is 13,441.

    There have been 4,620 deaths in the War on Terror. These numbers break out this way:

    Afghanistan: 517
    Iraq: 4,103

    I am always surprised when the press reports the number of deaths but leaves out the number of seriously wounded. Those who have died have made the ultimate sacrifice and their service must be noted and honored. But the men and women who have suffered serious injuries must also receive the attention and honor that they are due. Many of these men and women have lost limbs or other significant parts of their body. They have been burned and disfigured. It is important that the relatively small number of deaths in the War on Terror is given perspective by the large number of seriously wounded soldiers. The War on Terror has been a war of physical (never mind, mental) sacrifice for tens of thousands. Let’s remember that, too.

    Source: Department of Defense