Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq Study Group

Well the report finally issued by the Iraq Study Group.

I find the conclusions interesting and odd. Why an emphasis on Iran helping out so much? In truth Iran has more to gain from Iraq in chaos then a stable unified nation that could become again a rival to its dominance in the region. A stable Iraq backed up with possibly billions of dollars a year in US military aid could not possibly be in Iran's best interest. So what is?

The splintering of Iraq. Some of Iraq's major players who are allied with Iran are calling for the division of the country and if that happens the Shiites would probably get more then half of Iraq's current territory and its oil rich south. This would leave the enemies of Tehran with control of the much poorer center and west and give Iran total and unquestioned regional dominance. Its possible that after a time the south could choose to merge with Iran, making it all the stronger. So I see little interest in Iran choosing to help us out with anything and that's assuming they could even help us out at all. The Shiites themselves seem to be splintering into competing factions and it seems the government has lost control over the very factions they are supposed to rule over.

The groups conclusions about training the Iraqi forces also is quite odd considering the administration has been saying that is its main goal for quite some time. The problem is if you are training and arming people who turn their weapons on each other then whats the use? It may be far too late to assume that a much greater emphasis on this is the answer to the problems only because they seem to have lost the ability to know the loyalties of the people they are training.

Getting out may be the only answer and it really pains me to write this. An exit by our forces will mean full scale civil war and many more dead Iraqi people, but there may be no other option at this point. A civil war that will probably lead to the partition of the country down sectarian lines. This leads me to conclude that they should start to consider the radical idea of helping to partition the country now and as peacefully as possible with some sort of negotiated settlement before we pullout. This may be the only option left sadly.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Election 2006

So how many seats will the Dems pick up? Will they take back the House and/or Senate? I certainly think that this is a possibility but I would not count out Rove and his "72 hour" get out the vote effort at crunch time.

I have been reading too many predictions from Dems who are now cocky beyond all reason. I even read an article today about the Dems figuring out who will get which committee chairmanship. STOP!! Its way to early to say that the Dems will get the 15 seats needed to retake the House. Even if they do their majority will probably be very slim. The Senate requires a change of seven seats, and that's an even harder task.

Its far more reasonable to think that the Dems will get 8-12 seats in the House and 3-4 seats in the Senate. The concept of the "safe seat" has made it very very hard to see huge numbers of seats changing hands. Congress is not very good at anything but they ARE good at protecting their own jobs. This has nothing to do with party affiliations either.

Fact is a majority of Americans feel we are not going in the right direction on a wide variety of issues. The problem is we are a very divided nation, and not just a straight "red" vs "blue" but the right is split as well as the left. There are many factions in national politics at the moment and many powerful single issue interest groups with lots of cash to spend. It all adds up to one great big muddled mess, and it will get 10x worse for the 2008 election.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I have not posted in a long while. I guess of late I have been too busy or not motivated to write. I will try to rectify that in the coming weeks.

I think I will start by re-visiting one of my favorite topics and that's the season 3 opener of Battlestar Galactica. This is certainly not your "parents" BSG that's for sure. This show is grim and may be the most grim show on TV, but its also honest and one of the things I love the most is that its up to us to decide the moral flaws of its characters and there are many!

I mean this episode packed a lot of stuff that's "current" and in our own news. Suicide Bombers, Terrorism, Religious extremism, references to modern war, etc. People on the Boards are comparing it to the situation in Iraq, but I think a much closer comparison can be made for the Russians in Chechnya. What is going on parrells that far more closely then what we are experiencing in Iraq.

The show has upset some over its harshness. Certainly its far harsher now then at any time except maybe for the "rape" episode of Gina. RM certainly has guts to take this show in the direction he is moving. Its darker then DS9 ever was, and that was pretty dark at times. I said it before and I will say it again, its the best show on TV period and its portrayal of humanity at its worst is the most honest of any show on TV at this time.

Beyond that half a year has gone by now at my new job. Not much to say I guess. Maybe one day I will be able to describe a day in Bronx Housing Court here, but its very hard to describe without having seen it in person. I will say this though. There are probably few places in this country like that place, and for that I am very thankful, very very very thankful. I will leave it at that.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Minimum Wage and Estate Tax?

Minimum wage and Estate Taxes. These 2 things together in the same sentence? Seems kind of odd but in an election year attempt to buyoff the very poor and payoff the very rich the Republicans have decided to tie the two items together. The minimum wage goes up for the first time in a decade and the estate tax for about 11,000 wealthy families goes down.

Its beyond surprising that they would attempt such a naked election year ploy but there you have it. The poorest can only get a little more if the already super rich get richer. The ploy is obvious: Adding the estate tax provisions to the bill insures the Democrats will try to block it and so the Republicans in moderate districts can now say its the Democrats that don't care about poor people, not them.

As Senator Kennedy aptly stated "It's political blackmail to say the only way that minimum wage workers can get a raise is to give a tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans," "Members of Congress raised their own pay with no strings attached. Surely, common decency suggests that minimum wage workers deserve the same respect."

Disgusting....


A few things to keep in mind when comtemplating this issue:

Inflation has eroded the minimum wage's buying power to the lowest level in about 50 years. Lawmakers have won cost-of-living wage increases totaling about $35,000 for themselves over that time. During the same period the gap between the wealthiest and poorest among us has grown considerably.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Munich

The other day I finally got the chance to watch the Steven Spielberg film Munich. As I watched it I couldn't help but compare the conflict of the early 1970s to the conflict taking place now more than three decades removed from the tragedy the movie is based on.

Of course that's what Speilberg was trying to accomplish. To make us reflect upon how little has changed in the mind set of both sides in a seemingly never ending conflict. The cycle of violence was defined then, as now, by acts of revenge. Neither side seems willing or able to extract itself from the cycle. Sure they take little "time-outs" but the cycle always restarts. This time, as a backdrop to the movie, is the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by militants and the resulting attacks by the Israelis on Gaza and the arresting of Hamas legislators and government officials. I have often wondered why there are people, especially on the Arab side, who seem to almost want to keep the conflict simmering ad nasueam. All throughout Oslo there used to be a suicide bombing almost every time the two sides were close to any agreement. Now the circumstances are different but the mentality seems to remain the same.

In my own view an all out invasion of Gaza is probably not the answer and would be counterproductive. The real answer is a re-doubling of efforts to disengage Israel from the Palestinian areas. Finish the border fences, and increase security along it. Making Israel a huge gated community is probably not the best long term solution, but for now its the best answer. When the Palestinian thinking changes with regards to what peace means and Israel has a real partner to negotiate with, then the border situation can be reexamined.

Munich took place in 1972, but here we are in 2006 and it seems very little has changed.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Rove back to his old tricks

Bush and Rove are at it again. I guess they think what worked once before should work again right? Lets try to use Gay marriage as the key to victory once more. Of course in 2004 Bush's poll numbers were not tanked as they are now. Also in 2004 there were less Republican Congressmen and lobby scum in shackles. Now for the 2006 elections lets see if the Gay marriage issue can bring the zombies to the polls one more time. Forget about the wars we are fighting and currently losing, forget social security, high fuel prices, broken health care, sky high debt, global warming, lower wages, immigration.....The list of REAL issues is endless but nooooooo. To get the zombies to the polls you can't let them think about the state of the nation, so you must mention symbolic issues they can wrap their little brains around.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The absurdity of the Government is astounding!

Secure Pass....Sounds very........Secure no?

Well this little story highlights the Gov in all its usual intelligence. In this case the Gov is the State of New York.

Secure Pass is an ID card that lets attorney's and other "qualified" people go into the Courts around the State of New York without having to go through the metal detector. My ID card expired in September of 05, and needing a new one now that I am working in Court again, I went to renew it.

Up to the seventh floor of that miserable building in the Bronx called Bronx Housing Court. Ask about getting a new ID from a Court Officer. I wait in a non descript entry way for a few minutes, with not even a chair around to sit on. Out comes the Officer with my form to fill out. "Hold on", she says. "You need to give me your old ID before I can give you a new one". So I give it to her and off I go. As I left I felt something was wrong with giving it up, but could not figure out why I felt like that.

Once home I fill it out and check the "renewal" box, because this is not a first time application. It says on the back that I need two picture ID's. Not a problem I think to myself because the first time I applied I used the same two ID's that I plan on using this time. My New York State drivers license and my gym membership ID. There was no problem then, so it should be fine right?

So back into that miserable building to the seventh floor I find myself a few days later waiting again in the entry way. The Court officer comes back and tells me my application is no good. "Huh?" says I. "Well your 2nd picture ID needs to be a government or employee ID". "Well my employer has no such ID, and as for 2nd Gov ID, you TOOK MY OLD SECURE PASS A FEW DAYS AGO when you gave me my application". "They destroyed that when we gave you the application", he says dryly. One last thing to try so I explain to him that these ID's were the same ones I used last time, since this is a renewal. "Sorry, the lieutenant won't take them"

Its funny too, this is how much of the engine of Gov works. There is always somebody on a power trip, or sticking to the letter of the rules no matter how absurd they may be. That those morons destroyed the ID that I could have used only 2 days prior made me even more angry. So now I am most likely forced to spend $120 on a passport and wait 6 weeks for it to be processed.

Just wonderful! Thanks New York!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Easter Weekend! Hope you all have a great holiday..

I am sure everybody is noticing the price of gas again climbing to prices unheard of in the history of this country. Its slowly becoming worse then even 1974. That crisis was of a political nature, and an embargo caused supply to go down, prices to go up and long long lines of cars waiting to buy gas at the lucky stations that could still get supply. Now there are no lines, no supply problems of that nature and the yet the price of gas keeps going up. Every little bit of bad news of any kind out of an oil producer and the price rises. Nobody is talking much about low supplies so it leads me to believe that there is price gouging going on. Will the gov step in and take any action? Doubtful....

I am glad at this time I own no stock in Ford or even worse, GM. They bet so heavily on the SUV that it might cost GM everything. Hard to believe, but at one time GM was the most powerful American company. Now they are a shadow of their former selves. Its a shame actually, but it shows that no company is invulnerable. Microsoft should take some lessons from this affair, but to their credit they have been trying to diversify over the past few years like their entry into the console market.

I have read many articles of late about Brazil. They really have done it right with their "flex" car and truck engines that run on either ethanol or gas, your choice what you want to fill it up with. This makes any national transition much easier. For such a large and industrialized nation, they project that within a few years they will be 100% energy independent. Meaning they will not need to import even one drop of oil. Most of the fuel that goes into their cars is made from a simple substance grown in nature, Sugar. Hard to believe, but yes Brazil is probably decades ahead of us when it comes to energy.

Anyway, enough about the gas prices except to point you to a website that I am sure will get more and more popular over time. Its called Gasbuddy and the idea behind it is people report the prices of gas at local gas stations in your area to the website. Then people can go to the site and compare prices in their area to find the station with the cheapest price. Its free of course (for now)

http://www.gasbuddy.com/

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Its been a long time....

Its been a long time since I posted. I have been busy or not inspired enough to write.

Of late I learned about something shocking going in in journalistic circles. It appears that PR firms are making short videos that mimic reports by journalists. Then they release these videos, which are little more then ads for a product or service, to newsrooms across the country. A shocking number of newsrooms have taken these little PR videos and presented them to their audiences as straight news. They don't disclose that its really PR either. This is really disturbing. You can actually see the actual videos of this practice at the following link. Just look for the April 6th headline.

http://www.prwatch.org/

So much has been going on in the world too! I hope all Battlestar Galactica fans were able to catch the end of season 2. What a shocking ending! Ron Moore sure takes risks but he has created a brilliant show. I can only wonder how they will resolve the current crisis. Its too bad that we have to wait till October to find out. I watched a movie the other night on Sci Fi called SS Doomtroopers and it ranks up there as one of the all time worst movies I have ever seen. So if you want to torture yourself for 2 hours some night go and watch that movie. The British hit show Dr. Who has finally come to US TV and its actually quite good. It feels very different then the original, as this has a lot of real comedy along with the wild stories. I can see why its such a big hit there but of course you must appreciate British humor (I do)

On the political front I should be more happy but I am not. The Republican disarray has not really crystallized a democratic plan to fix things. Sure they have stated a win in Nov and they will undue some of the worst excesses of Bush's reign like making his tax cuts to the rich permanent. The problem is they do not seem to have a plan for what they want to do, and that's what they really need if they want to clean house in November. As it is they may pick up a lot of seats, but without a plan to govern it will be hard to get the numbers they need to take back both houses.

On the homefront my Dog just turned 3 and my mom turned 70. My dad will be 78 this year. I can only hope to be in the kind of shape he is in if I make it to that age (I doubt I will) He puts men 15 years younger to shame. My writing has been sporadic but I have found a good job lead in the legal field recently. With money worries out of the way maybe it will make it easier for me to do more serious writing. At least this is the plan.....

Well cya all