As nutty and detestable as he is, Iran’s Ahmadinejad may have a point — but it’s not worth much…

September 26, 2009

Holocaust deniers are either liars or nut cases or both at the same time.

That said, Iran’s President Mamoud Ahmadinejad finally came up with the right argument, to a degree – not that the Holocaust (Hitler’s murder of some 6 million Jews – mostly Jews – during World War II) did not happen, but that it is one among many such events in history and that, in fact, things just as bad are happening right now.

But of course Ahmadinejad’s credibility is gone because in the past and probably still now, depending upon his audience, he has steadfastly denied that the Holocaust ever happened. There of course is far too much evidence (the Nazis loved to record their deeds in writing and in still photos and movies – and those who liberated the camps, not to mention the survivors, can testify as to what took place).

I hate to admit it, though, but he now, for the benefit of the American audience, makes a point I have always wondered about myself. As terrible as the Holocaust was, it was not the only such event to ever happen in history and genocide goes on today in places such as Darfur in Africa. And yet Hitler’s mass murder of Jews seems to get more attention and have more consequences than any of the other events. It accounted for the creation of the modern state of Israel through the collective guilt of the western world, which in turn has accounted for unrest in the Middle East for some 60 years.

Maybe one of the most troubling aspects of the Holocaust is that it took place in a highly civilized western nation (Germany) and the civilized nations it conquered. In effect, neighbors turned upon their own, or turned a blind eye to their fates, out of fear of the police state, our of jealousy, and out of some kind of rationalization that after all these people were of the wrong religion, the one that is blamed for killing Jesus.

And isn’t that the way? Religion always seems to lurk where murder and mayhem take place around the world. Stranger still, all three of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam preach peace but somehow seem to account for so much war and terrorism. Some religious leaders will explain that away by saying that it is just bad people using religion as an excuse, but many of those bad people call themselves religious leaders.

But getting back to Ahmadinejad, in my personal opinion, fellas like him and Gadfafy Duck or whatever his name is from Libya are so irrational and mean spirited that they should be largely ignored in serious discussions and should not be given a platform in serious events.

On the other hand, they need an eye kept on them.

Nut cases and evil people that they are, their actions can have consequences– Remember Adolf Hitler.

P.s.

I have not managed to get this blog mobile yet. Will be back out on the road, so unless I can manage to get a wireless connection, it may be a day or two until I post again or respond to any comments that might come my way.

P.s. P.s.

I think President Barack Obama sent the right message to the rest of the world at the UN the other day – to paraphrase, he said that while other nations have complained that the U.S. spent too many years going it alone in world affairs, they cannot sit back and now expect the U.S. to solve all the world’s problems (except I suppose the ones we may have created, but then again we need help on those too).


What’s going on out there in Walmart land? Is it Halloween?

September 24, 2009

I know Halloween is getting closer, but when did the USA become a running freak show?

I write this after running over to Walmart on a shopping errand.

You have your poor white trash – more to do with appearance and general demeanor than income – your “non-conformist” young people, who all wear their spiked and colored or weird-cut hair, or shaved heads, and nose rings and tongue baubles or whatever you call them, and their strange attire in a conformity of its own, and women and young girls in hip huggers with rolls of fat showing (actually I did not see that this time, maybe it’s going out of style, but I often have), and all those people running around in power chairs or scooters, way over weight and sucking on cigarettes.

We just don’t seem as pretty as we once were.

I’m not one to tell people how to dress. I’m certainly no model sartorial splendor. And I don’t believe in lockstep conformity, be it in good taste (whatever that is) or bad taste (whatever that is).

But I have noticed that something has happened over the decades to our collective sense of what is acceptable attire in public, and for that matter what is acceptable behavior.

Yes, I was once young and learned profane language and used it. And I might now and then slip up and still use it, but for the most part, at least in that sense, I grew up.

I’m well aware of when I repeat myself, but I will recall my favorite memory on the subject of using curse words in public. I remember tagging along with my mom to a neighborhood grocery store – not a 7-11, a real neighborhood grocery store – and a man in the aisle uttered a curse word, looked around and saw my mom and said: “oh, sorry mam”.

That would never happen today. Foul language is used freely nearly everywhere, including the popular entertainment media.

Maybe this deterioration in dress and manners has something to do with the nearly complete lack of civility in most of our political discourse. It is not good enough to disagree. You have to insult and malign those with whom you disagree – then again some of them need it. Sarah Palin,  Rush Limburger and Glen Heck (not their real names), whoops there I go.

Then there is that strange phenomenon of the pants of young men worn real low, exposing underwear. I once heard a caller on a radio talk show who purported to have the low down, so to speak, on that. I really don’t want to go into it in my blog, but it had something to do with what goes on in prison and how new arrivals are initiated. After that explanation, I had to wonder why anyone would be caught dead wearing his pants (trousers used to be the more common word sometime before my day) in such a way.

Related to all of this somehow – when I was in high school the Beatles came on the scene. Most of us boys wanted to wear our hair long in their initial mop-top fashion. But at the time our school regulations forbade long hair. Imagine my surprise and amusement when I came back to my old high school but a few short years later as a local newspaper reporter to discover one of the teachers who was a big-time enforcer of the long hair ban wearing his hair much longer – although stylishly cut in 70s fashion – than I was ever allowed to when a student. In fashion I think the 70s was the 60s stylized and commercialized.

My father was a strong supporter of acceptable public behavior (good manners) but also personal freedom and individualism (he did not find manners and individualism as mutually-exclusive). As I recall he did not think highly of school dress codes. But I was somewhat surprised to read an editorial he wrote (he was a newspaperman) complaining of “slovenly dress of young men around town”.

There’s personal freedom, there’s minding your own business and not trying to run the lives and ways of others, there’s good manners, there’s pride in appearance, and there’s attitude, and somehow they do not always meld together in this crazy quilt world.

But it’s looking like Halloween out there more and more every day and it’s just as scary.


Troops in the field said to be short sheeted, so to speak…

September 19, 2009

I think I recall reading that during the Civil War women ripped up their petticoats and sent them to the war front to be used for bandages. That’s a generous and caring and patriotic thing to do.

Now I see on the Dr. Phil Show that a woman whose son, a Marine, was killed in Iraq, is running a program called Operation Bedding in which citizens are urged to send sheets and bedding materials to troops, along with other personal items, snacks and so on.

When I was in the Army, a practical joke was to make someone’s bunk, but fold the sheets back under the covers – short sheeting (yes, kind of silly). But apparently some of our troops are really short of sheets.

While I see nothing wrong with sending bedding, goodies or anything needed to the troops, I found it strange and sad that our troops are in short supply of bedding. I mean lord knows we spend billions in tax money to pay private contractors but we don’t have enough left over for a basic necessity of our troops (who are paid way less than contractors, even those contractors doing the same job as them).

I recall that during the Vietnam War parents were sending their sons cans of oil to clean their rifles. And I guess that a shortage of supply and supply foul-ups are fact of any war, but I also at the same time feel outraged that so many people make so much money out of war and yet our troops who lay their lives on the line often go without basic necessities (at least that is the indication).

Maybe I am not understanding the present situation and these are just some nice extras being solicited for the troops. And I certainly would not discourage the sending of anything good for our men and women in the field.

But the best support of all would be for the public to pay some attention to what is actually going on and letting our elected leaders know whether we should continue our present course in the wars. Also, if we are to continue, the public has a duty to support the effort and not make our troops suffer and depend upon volunteer contributions for their basic necessities.

Maybe I am isolated from the mainstream of society – sometimes I think so. I hardly ever hear anyone discuss our ongoing war effort, except the simplistic call to “support the troops” or “better to fight them over there than here” (or, more accurately, let our troops fight them over there). Of course most any patriotic citizen (regardless of whether they tend to have pro-war or anti-war tendencies) would (nominally) support troops who are doing the job we have sent them to do – the question is, is the mission correct? not much public discussion on that.

Maybe the answer is that we are at war and it has been decided. Well then, all effort must be put forward to win and sacrifice on the home front should be called for. Living life as usual while troops risk their lives out in the field and depend upon care packages from home seems kind of shameful to me.

Nonetheless, contributions to Operation Bedding cannot hurt, I would think. You can get the details by calling up: http://www.adamconboymemorialfund.org

P.s.

Maybe the perceived lack of concern for the troops is from the fact that these days we do not have young men (or women) yanked out of civilian life via the military draft. It is an all-volunteer professional force. We have turned our defense (and offense) over to a mercenary force, albeit one who still considers itself to be fighting for America, not just for a job. No sacrifice is called for from the citizenry.


The best defense may be not a good offense, but a strong defense…

September 18, 2009

It’s a given that at any time somewhere in the world someone or ones are plotting against the U.S. and it is in our interests not to let them succeed. On the other hand it does not seem logical that we could keep up with it all – we can’t be everywhere at once.

(Just read about the failed state of Somalia – probably a hot bed of anti-Americanism there. Should we rush into there (Blackhawk down?) And clean things up so we don’t have to “fight them over here”. I think not.)

Also, a sports axiom is that the best defense is a good offense. But while I can see the logic in that, national defense is for real; it’s not a game. I think we (the U.S.) may be in danger of over extending our offense.

In the real world of national defense (not sports) the best defense just might be a strong defense.

I’m making these comments in reference primarily to the situation in Afghanistan. What I have been reading is disturbing. One analyst opined that we are not losing, but we are not winning. On what might be a positive note he said that Al Qaeda has been essentially neutralized there, but on a not so positive note he said that it has moved into Pakistan – you know that nation that has the bomb and is supposed to be our ally but seems to somehow not be able to or even really want to rid itself of Al Qaeda.

And then there is the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is hard for me to discern the difference between them and Al Qaeda. At any rate, another disturbing thing is that I am reading that the talk is that we need to pay them off so they will be on our side. I guess paying them off (with what money???) is better than getting more of our troops killed, but it sure seems like adding insult to injury – paying off the people who have been working with the people who are trying to do away with us.

Still another disturbing thing is that I have read that Afghanistan is likely to consume the presidency of Barack Obama. He promised to do so many positive things here at home but he may have his hands tied with what President Lyndon Johnson referred to as the situation in Vietnam, a “tar baby”.

I read that Korea ended up consuming the presidency of Democrat Harry Truman – I know his seemingly intractable engagement there led to the victory of Republican Dwight Eisenhower who vowed to go to Korea and clean things up – get us out of that quagmire.

Johnson got stuck in the quagmire of Vietnam and it ruined his legacy and I think led to his own premature demise.

And while I doubt whether George W. Bush ever had a chance of being considered a great president, I do think that Iraq wound up consuming his presidency and making it impossible for him to accomplish much of anything good.

Obama was an opponent of the Iraq War, but he campaigned on continuing and even expanding the effort in Afghanistan. It is his war now and he cannot blame it on Bush or anyone else.

Unfortunately I read that he is playing some sleight of hand there that reminds me of Bush tactics. He is replacing some military support contingents with private contractors while adding combat troops, allowing him to claim that he is not significantly increasing troops.

It seems to me the evidence clearly shows that private contractors are much more expensive and not nearly as accountable as troops. And whatever happened to the army (and all military) being self sufficient.

While I haven’t read too much about glorious victories of the French Foreign Legion recently, I once read that all they needed when being dropped into some foreign outpost was a rifle and bullets. They did not have to have Pizza Hut stands installed. And by that last remark I did not mean to insult our troops. From what I read and see we have one of the most courageous, willing and able forces ever. But I want to use them wisely.

I also think that if we continue our current path in Afghanistan we may have to reinstate the military draft. I also think that we would wind up stuck getting involved in all kinds of places all over the world if we continue on that path.

Seems like we ought to consider strengthening our defense and maintain a good offense, but use it more prudently.

P.s.

In past blogs I have called for the reinstatement of the draft, primarily on the grounds that if more were subject to possible combat assignments there would be more thought before we got involved in war. But I also see the advantage of the all-volunteer force. Young people (primarily) seeking adventure and a paying job certainly have that opportunity available to them. And it would seem easier to motivate those who were motivated to begin with. On the other hand a professional military tends to always be looking for the next war because it’s there job to fight and it is harder to get promotions in peace time.


A little protectionism could go a long way toward solving economic crisis…

September 13, 2009

I’m always repeating myself, but I will say it again: capital (or business) knows no patriotism.

I’m glad that President Obama has decided to slap a hefty tariff on cheap Chinese tires that have flooded our market.

But wouldn’t you know it? U.S. tire companies don’t like that. That’s because they are the ones who manufacture those cheap tires – in China. They are the ones who closed down factories in the U.S. putting millions of workers out of work.

I was at the library yesterday and read a Wall Street Journal editorial decrying the tariff as unwise protectionism. Apparently the Journal cares not whether people have jobs in this country.

Yes, I know the old argument that protectionism is what led to or exacerbated conditions that created the Great Depression. And strangely enough Al Gore, usually identified as a lefty and no friend of business (even though he makes money or made money from hedge funds and even a mine he owns, I believe), used that anti-protectionism argument against the pretend populist Ross Perot all those years ago. You know, that supposed business guru who decried big government but made his fortune by securing contracts from big government. But anyway, apparently the Journal is in agreement with Gore on the protectionism thing.

Hey I like economical tires just as well as anyone else. But I like safe tires too. Do you want your loved ones, not to mention yourself, flying down the freeway on unsafe tires?

Protectionism would not be good if it only served to protect producers of inferior domestic products when better quality could be secured from outside our borders. But the key is to have safety and quality standards and enforce them.

Also, world trade is a fact of life and a good thing. The U.S. would not want to put up a wall against all imports, if for no other reason than it would then suffer retaliation with barriers against its exports.

But at the same time, U.S. industry cannot be expected to be able to compete with low wage and even slave labor abroad.

The key is to have reasonable protection and for our own industry in a team effort between workers and management be competitive on the domestic and world markets. Where we can’t beat the competition on price, surely we can beat it on quality.

And as far as I can see it, incentives in law that encourage American-based companies to produce products outside the U.S. borders and then import them into the domestic market should be ended.

As complex as our economic problems are, how can one argue that increased domestic employment would not almost instantly solve the major part of our economic crisis?

P.s.

Still not mobile with the blog yet and I have to go back out on the road — but thanks for any comments and stay tuned and as our California governor would say — I’ll be back!


Should we go back to the old sailing ship days in health care???

September 12, 2009

ADD 1:

Sometimes I post a blog and then think: “what I should have said is this…”

That’s the case here. What I should have said is the fact that some seem not to care if other folks can get health care reminds me of reading both fiction novels and true accounts of the old sailing ship days when hearty sailors were out to sea for years at a time. Back then if you were an able bodied seaman and you were injured you were no longer worth anything to the ship’s captain and its owners. You lost your pay and had to depend upon the pity of your fellow sailors, even for a scrap of food (a good reason to get along with your fellow employees for sure). Seems like a hard core and hard-hearted way of doing things to me. But I suppose some would prefer that method for today’s society, maybe on the grounds that too many take advantage of the generosity and compassion of others while failing to do what they can for themselves. But somehow I have to think many of the so-called tea party protesters either do or will at some point find themselves in need of help from public programs and will think nothing of signing up. And of course I know what they will say in their own rationalizations: “I paid for it.” Yes, and so do we all. You’re welcome. 

————-

I wish the health care reform issue was over. From the news reports it appears as the most contentious issue ever to face the public in my lifetime (60 years).

Nearly everyone wants excellent health care, but people just don’t agree on how it should be paid for and what their own responsibility, if any, should be outside of themselves and their family members. And most agree that the cost of health care is a problem but there seems to be no consensus on what to do to control costs.

While I am not one of those who thinks the so-called “free market” solves all problems, it is kind of hard to tell because we seldom have a “free market” in anything, due to government regulation on business, much of which is, truth be told, promoted by business to get advantage in the marketplace. It occurs to me that the black market may be the only free market (because there is no government control).

While I do not know if government-sponsored health care is always the best way to go, I kind of think it would have been better had this nation (the United States) done so a long time ago. We did not, totally, anyway. We do have Medicare and Medicaid and military insurance and so on, though, and it seems to work for those involved – yes I know, Medicare is running out of money. But I think anytime one says Medicare or Social Security has a funding problem, it is more an issue of priorities than anything else. It is no secret, for instance, that Social Security funds have been robbed over the years for all types of things other than the intended purpose.

And as in the private sector, the public sector has depended too much on borrowing as if the day would never come when it had to be paid back or when revenues dropped too far down to pay the cost of interest on all that borrowing.

Maybe what we need for health care is indeed a free market. But there would have to be government oversight. I mean what good does it do if you are asked to pay health care premiums but can have your coverage denied or dropped because of pre-exiting conditions? And how can you say there is a free market when you can’t buy private health insurance across state lines – and who put that provision in the law in the first place?

As I have stated several times before on the subject, I think President Obama would have done better to simply put forward a program in which two things would happen – health care coverage would be made available to all with consumers expected to pay the cost of premiums, and in cases where people truly could not afford coverage (and that is sometimes subjective, but there has to be a legal cutoff point) the government (yes, the taxpayers) would step in. In some sense that is what we already have, but the problem is that there are cracks people fall through or loopholes. People often have to end up liquidating their own hard-earned assets to pay for health care and/or to qualify for assistance.

And there really needs to be a law that health insurance is mandatory. Why? Because so many people without health coverage flood the emergency rooms and the law does require that they be attended to (a hospital in my town has been under fire by the government for supposedly failing to meet that obligation to the full extent to the law). To cover the cost of the uninsured, hospitals and other medical providers have to charge those who do pay at a higher rate to offeset the costs of those who don’t, and the government of course has to raise taxes to cover the cost too.

I get the impression now that health care reform or at least some type of adjustment is coming. It will be watered down from what ultra liberals want and it may be too restrictive for conservatives, but if it at least meets the goal of offering – and mandating – coverage for all, I think that would be an improvement.

A truly free market in health care coverage would have the advantage of allowing people to decide just how much they want to be covered. Do they want to pay extra for a plan that pays nearly all costs or do they want to be more economical by simply protecting themselves from catastrophic incidents? I know if I or my family members had to pay for the full cost of my own bout with cancer none of us could meet it.

And a free market where consumers decided about and had the responsibility to pay for coverage would free employers of the burden of offering health care coverage and would allow small employers to feel free to take on more employees, not having to consider that if they do they might fall within one of those proposed mandates that employers of a certain size provide coverage.

In fact, the system in which so many have or had generous coverage is a large part of what led to so much inflation in health care costs in the first place. When those who offered services – hospitals and doctors and others – knew that consumers did not directly deal with or even see the costs, they tended to inflate the bills.

And one more thing: while the president may be to the left of many, his willingness to compromise but at the same time his insistence to get something done plays just right with me. To those who feel he is ramming something down their throats (so to speak), I say elections have consequences. Your guy won last time, the other guy won this time.

P.s.

In my previous post I wondered if Obama would present a little more clarity to his proposals. I think he did. That is he presented a clear outline of what he wants. It apparently is still a work in progress, and even though congress often does not read all the details of what it votes on – who would? And to the tea party protesters: if you are sincere and if there are enough of you – and it’s not just charade orchestrated by the ditto head Rush Limburger or Glen Heck or Hannity Insanity (not their real names) blowhards — you may well have an effect. Public pressure – even outside of actual elections — also has its consequences.


Hopefully some clarity on health care, anti-socialized medicine hypocrites, and interesting stuff about banking…

September 9, 2009

A headline to an online article about President Obama’s health care speech tonight quoted him as admitting he might have left too much “ambiguity” in his proposals for the overhaul of the health care system – you think?

Hopefully he will clear that up tonight in his nationwide address, which I understand will not be covered live by FOX News – why does that not surprise me? If that is true, how can that network claim to be a credible reporter of the news? It’s a speech by the president of the United States about a vital topic. News outlets – fair and balanced? – are not supposed to decide whether to cover something based on political point of view.

I think I don’t have much time to blog today because I expect to go back out on the road (still have to get mobile with this thing) at any time.

There’s an interesting article in the Huffington Post today about how the Fed has complete mind control of the whole economic system and why that has caused the great economic gurus to have missed so much, such as the over leveraging of the whole nation’s – world’s – economy over the past decades and the coming of the current what is being called, I notice, the Great Recession.

Also I am reading a book called ” Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World”, by Liaquat Ahamed. I have not had a lot of time and have not made a lot of progress on it yet, but I already feel that I know a vast amount more about economics and banking than I ever did before and even about World War I, although I think the main thrust of the book is what led up to the Great Depression of the 30s that is usually said to have begun with the great stock market crash of 1929, but really had its beginnings a lot earlier.

One highly interesting thing I have learned from it so far is this thing about returning to the gold standard. Seems we were on it and things were quite stable – that’s good – but it was hard to expand the availability of capital when it was needed because there is only so much gold and it’s a hassle shipping bullion back and forth and across the ocean – and that was really done.

Financing World War I – a war that history seems to indicate made no sense at all , if any wars do – played a major part in ruining the economic system. And today the cost of war certainly has its effect.

At any rate, I hope a radio has been put in my truck and I will be able to catch some or all of Obama’s address on health care.

My current attitude on health care is just please make it so everyone can cover themselves in some way (with help from Uncle Sam or not), and I do believe it is a personal responsibility to do for yourself what you can. But everyone’s situation is different. It is in the best interests of society that folks are covered. A healthy society is a more productive society. We need a healthy society just as much as we need good roads. How we pay for all of that is always a good question. Even some federal interstates in the Midwest and back east are toll roads, out here in the west, not so much.

And this sticks in my craw – some people who detest the idea of government-run health care and hate (and I do mean hate) Obama, think nothing of partaking in Medicare and its related programs – which of course are all part of government-run health care, as is military health coverage. Go figure!

I mean if you detest anything socialized so much, why did you not accumulate your own fund – self insure so to speak?