Gaddafi dead; a victory for Libyan rebels, but also another Obama victory in the War on Terror, and credit to Bush too…

October 20, 2011

No one is more surprised than me (not that my opinion counts) how well this Libya adventure has turned out. I would have or did predict protracted war turning into a quagmire.

Gaddafi is dead. Caught like the rat he was, hiding in a hole (just like Saddam Hussein), and his corpse apparently messed with something like Mussolini (although no hanging upside down from a street lamp, as far as I know).

So I have to give one to our commander-in-chief, and this follows up on the excellent dispatch of Osama Bin Laden.

Also this was done under the cover of NATO (way to go!).

Of course I may seem like I am slighting the ones who actually bagged him, that is the Libyan rebels, but they have had the support of Obama and NATO in all of this — but way to go guys (but who knows if they might not turn on us some day?).

Now that the world-wide terror supporter is dead, let’s get out while the getting is good and let the Arabs fight one another or hopefully come to a peaceful resolution as to who runs what.

Obama (with the help of others) scores another victory in the war on terror.

And I reluctantly give credit to George W. Bush who sent out the message and set the tone for U.S. policy that says to terrorist leaders: “you can run but you can’t hide (forever)”.

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NAFTA (and other such programs) could mean the outsourcing of my job and yours too…

October 20, 2011

I’m an American citizen born and raised and I make my living driving a truck on interstate routes. And here I thought maybe I had the one job safe from outsourcing. Wrong. Very few jobs are.

Now before I go any further, I have not lost my job, but if things go as planned American truck drivers will lose jobs.

The reason is a little publicized, although not altogether unreported, part of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. It is a program to allow Mexican trucks into the U.S., and not just to let them deliver to spots on the border but well into the interior.

There had been a pilot program or programs previously, but then due to opposition within the United States it was shut down or at least postponed.

In retaliation, Mexico raised tariffs on various goods coming into that country.

But now it is reported the program is set to begin again.

But here is the deal, as far as I can see it:

Customers who pay for freight see this as a way to bring down freight rates and major over-the-road trucking companies would like to be able to recruit drivers right in Mexico. They would not even have to worry whether they are American citizens. Then they could pay substandard wages or at least reduce the pressure on themselves to keep wages in line with a decent standard of living under U.S. standards.

I read an editorial in the Dallas Morning News lauding the agreement. That editorial tried to make it sound as if the Mexican truck agreement would make things more efficient — goods would not have to transfer at the border and such. It also made it sound as if it was just organized labor against it.

Well I am not a Teamster and neither are most or all over-the-road truckers. But I do haul a lot of loads to and from the border. I like having my American job and do not want to give it up to those from without my country — I’m sure there are plenty of loads to haul in their own country.

Another laughable part of this whole arrangement, if it were not so serious, is that American trucks could go into Mexico. Oh sure, like I want to go into a completely lawless nation that not only has highway thieves, but corrupt law enforcement.

I talked to a Mexican truck driver once. He said that sometimes you drive down the highway in that country and the police pull you over and demand money (for no violation whatsoever). And we all know about the ongoing violence down there caused by the drug cartels — no one is safe.

Besides, I don’t want to even drive into peaceful Canada. I just want to stay right here in my own country and make a living.

Somehow I think there would still be the usual bureaucracy at the border for inspections and such. And while there may or may not be any increase in efficiency of hauling freight from a point in Mexico to within the U.S., any savings would be offset by the loss of American  jobs.

There is nothing wrong with dropping trade barriers in and of itself, but when we start outsourcing American jobs, that is another thing.

In addition, I have seen Mexican trucks on the border. They are not often in the best of shape. While supposedly these trucks will be inspected this side of the border, I am not sure the politics that allowed them to come in in the first place will not get in the way of thorough inspections.

In addition, allowing Mexican trucks to cross the border and proceed into the interior offers another way for drug cartels to smuggle their contraband into the U.S.

Our nation’s trade policies have made it so most everything is no longer made here; it is made elsewhere and shipped back in. Millions have lost their jobs that way.

Now they even want to outsource the American transportation system that brings those goods to us.

There is plenty of blame to go around; The history of NAFTA began with Republican president George H.W. Bush, and then I believe was eventually signed by Democrat Bill Clinton, carried on by Republican George W. Bush, and now Democrat Barrack Obama.

Thanks for doing what you can to keep me employed I say to all of these gentlemen and all of the legislators who had a hand in NAFTA,  but with friends like you I don‘t need enemies.

There is a current effort to delay and/or rescind the Mexican trucking program. I have contacted my congressman and U.S. senators to let them know my feelings.

But even if you are not a trucker, you can see how the powers that be care not whether you have a means to make a living or not.

P.s.

And once Mexican trucks are allowed into the interior they won’t just haul loads from a point in Mexico to a point in the U.S. and straight back. The reality of this business is that they will crisscross the nation in search of loads, just as all or most interstate trucking does.

Free trade done right would enrich the economies of both nations, creating jobs for the respective workers in those nations. This is not the way to do it.

P.s. P.s.

I have to admit that Canadian truckers have long run our roads. But Canada is more compatible with us due to its peaceful culture and rule of law and its stability, and we don’t need to add to the competition for American jobs now anyway.

P.s. P.s. P.s.

And I am not anti-Mexican. In fact I get along with Spanish speakers whom I deal with fine, especially the ones on the border. A lot of people have jobs now on both sides of the border thanks to our continued trade that pre-dated NAFTA. Why try to fix (or ruin) something that works for us in the U.S. (and Mexico).

And while I don’t think this story in the link I provide adequately covers things, it does give some points of view, not all of which I share: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/worldbusiness/first-mexican-truck-to-enter-us-in-coming-days-congressmen-say-program-puts-safety-at-risk/2011/10/19/gIQApnw3xL_story_1.html


Ron Paul could solve the deficit, but most will not buy his total program…

October 19, 2011

Even though I find the full Libertarian program impractical and not always representative of my own interests, there is a certain appeal to the ideas of Ron Paul, and sometimes I think that it is too bad he can’t break into the mainstream of presidential candidates, instead of being just a fixture at the debates (or so-called debates).

He is the only candidate that if he got his way would slash the budget and cut down on the deficit — I mean he wants to dismantle a large part of the administrative branch — that ought to save some money.

What I like best is that while he spouts off a lot of stuff that sounds conservative, unlike the mainstream conservatives that never saw a war they didn’t like (unless Obama has anything to do with it) because it makes Uncle Sam seem tough, Paul sees the current military engagements as needless and in fact unconstitutional.

And I should stop right here and note that the question of whether the president of the United States can unilaterally dispatch troops and get us involved in war has never really been resolved. Some argue that the Constitution only allows the president to ask for a declaration of war from congress and requires congress to pass such a declaration.

The case gets muddled in the reality is that there are military engagements that are short of war and the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces needs the ability to act in a timely fashion.

It also gets muddled in the fact that if congress passes things like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (that was used for Vietnam) and whatever the resolution was called for Bush’s War on Terror, then essentially it has passed a declaration of war.

(Just did some quick on-line research and I think the reality of things is that the president has wide latitude to dispatch troops, at least in an emergency, which he of course would define as such, and then congress, if nothing else, has the power of the purse over whether to fund military operations. But of course once something is done it is hard to stop — see my comment on my P.s. P.s. at the bottom.)

Most confusing of all is that since World War II we have come up with the question of: when is a war over? The old definition is when one side attains victory and the enemy is vanquished. We don’t seem to do that anymore. Wars become open ended.

But anyway, from what he says, Paul would bring our armed forces back home, not only from the current battlefields but from places such as South Korea and Germany where there is no war.

I’ve heard the argument that just because you bring troops home you do not necessarily save money because you still have to pay for them. Now if ever there was a specious argument, that is one. First it has to cost more to pay for troops and ordnance expended overseas and all that goes with it and it has to be more expensive to have troops billeted around the world. Second, if we are not fighting a war, we could reduce the size of the armed forces.

I am not for gutting the armed forces as the U.S. did between World War I and World War II or even after Vietnam. I would think we should maintain a fairly hefty troop strength made up of an experienced cadre of professional soldiers. We should be ready at all times. Nonetheless the force could be smaller.

We also have a lot of technology these days that does not involve actual ground troops, so that helps.

I am beginning to think, however, that there ought to be a compulsory military draft of all young people (not sure if women should be included), with them serving probably two years of active duty and then be on call for a number of years (this could do a lot for curbing youth unemployment).

I am fairly sure we would never fight another unnecessary and costly war if all people had to serve. The president and congress would face pressure.

I don’t mean to somehow conflate what I have written here with Paul’s platform. These are totally my thoughts and words.

I do think Paul could solve a lot of our problems, but I also think he can never get elected because hardly anyone wants to follow the austere and somewhat scary approach of libertarianism, where you have maximum freedom but you are all on your own. You have to remember although he calls for saving money, he and his ilk think that if you want police, you hire them. Want your house fire put out? you hire the fire department (done in some rural areas even today), you want medical care? better have your own bucks, lose your job? you better have quite a nest egg, and so on.

On the other hand, if you want to solve the deficit problem and quit expending money overseas (just adding to the national debt), Paul could do it — that is if he could get the American people behind him and thus get congress to go along. Won’t happen.

P.s.

Although I would think Libertarians generally take a hands-off approach to government involvement business and personal finance, at last night’s GOP debate I heard Paul say that the government bailed out the perpetrators (Wall Street) in the 2008 financial crisis instead of helping  the victims (the American people). Sometimes Paul takes a kind of populist approach, and that I think has given him a lot of mileage

P.s. P.s.

Anytime one calls for pulling out of a military involvement the war lovers say you are not supporting the troops, mixing up the need to ship supplies to troops in the field with overall policy (apples and oranges) — it is of course a rhetorical trap in which you can never not support an ongoing war, whether that war makes any sense or not, or no matter how we got into it, such as under false pretences or a mistake.


Illegal workers inconvenient to Romney at this time, Bachmam probably knows her geography better than her syntax, some GOP candidates want a Berlin Wall on U.S. southern border…

October 19, 2011

Talk about missing the most important or most revealing moment of  Tuesday night’s Republican presidential candidate debate (or free for all), while I did see it, and kind of laughed to myself at the time, I forgot about it until Chris Matthew’s Hardball show reminded me of it.

Mitt Romney inadvertently admitted that the only reason he complained to his gardening service about them hiring illegal aliens was that he was running for president and it would not look good. His actual words were something to the effect look guys I can’t have this; I’m running for president (I’m sure it’s all on Youtube –maybe I‘ll find the link, maybe not). He was defending a charge by Rick Perry that he is a hypocrite on the issue (but then again so is Rick Perry, but who cares?). Romney implied that had he not been running for president, who cares?

I guess he is like Meg Whitman, that hateful rich woman who ran for governor of California,  who was undone partly because of the story that came out that she apparently knew she had an undocumented worker as a household worker but dumped her after the person admitted her plight and she, Meg, realized what that might mean to her campaign. Just dumped her. No offer to help her gain citizenship or proper documents, nothing.

Another moment that I thought curious at the time but chalked up to sloppy speech or semantics or syntax (or the hurried-up debate format) was when Michele Bachman seemed to refer to Libya as not being on the continent of Africa. But I understood her to be just using shorthand for saying North Africa (with its deserts and mostly Arab population) as opposed to central Africa, populated largely by blacks and having more jungles and grasslands. She was criticizing President Obama for dispatching troops to Libya “and now Africa”. Although it appears that Ms. Bachman is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she probably knows her geography (I’m not at all sure that she cares).

And something else jumped out at me. Most of the candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, seemed to support building a fence along most of the U.S. Mexican border (in places where one does not already exist or even there with a stronger, taller, more fortified one).

There was talk of having a tall fence and having it manned by soldiers.

Sounds to me kind of like a Berlin Wall in reverse. Instead of shooting at workers from behind as they flee a country, we’d be shooting at workers trying to get in (I realize not everyone who comes across is a worker — some are criminals).

The specter of a large wall manned by soldiers with machine guns is not pleasant and does sound American to me.

Making it easier for people willing and able to work to become U.S. citizens or at least get work permits, and the enforcement of laws already on the books, and stepped-up policing in troubled areas seems a better and more civil way to go.

Walls are generally bad news and ultimately ineffective: The Great Wall of China (it is a nice tourist attraction, though), The Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall, to name a few.

And again, I really don’t want to see us gunning down unarmed people as the try to cross a wall into the U.S.


Ron Paul gets little respect because his politics don’t quite fit into the traditional left/right mold…

October 18, 2011

Even though he is the top money raiser in the second tier of candidates and even though he wins straw polls, Republican (really Libertarian) presidential candidate Ron Paul is not respected by the mainstream media.  A new research study shows that he only gets 2 percent of the coverage (however that is figured).

Why?

My take on it is that he does not fit neatly into or fit at all into the traditional right/left narrative of politics. He is nominally a Republican (and nearly all Republicans these days consider themselves conservative, thus right wing), but he was originally Libertarian, and I guess still is.

Libertarians scare or bother both hard-core left-wing and right-wing people. While they as a group usually seem to fall into the conservative category, they can be more liberal than the most ultra liberals in some instances. They don’t believe that government should have any business dictating people’s lifestyles — they essentially believe in gay rights and the right to use drugs. And it is my understanding that they essentially believe in open borders. While I don’t think that means they want people pouring into the U.S. to get onto welfare, they do want labor to move freely into the country.

But while Libertarians can seem pretty liberal, they scare the dickens out of anyone who thinks government should help people. Actually true Libertarians, as far as I know, don’t think government should do much more than keep records of who owns what and, I think they do believe it should provide for the common defense. But Paul and other Libertarians don’t think we have any business fighting these wars as a tool of foreign policy. I believe they would only support wars that are in our direct defense, such as if we were attacked on our own soil (okay we were attacked on 9/11, but it was a terrorist incident, not a full-scale armed invasion).

But while leftists and/or anti-war folks might like that last thing, they would not care for the following:

Libertarians don’t even believe in public police departments or fire departments. They do not favor public education and they are for sure against any kind of government-supported health care. Paul is a medical doctor and his feeling it is up to patients to pay, either directly out of their own pocket or with the help of private insurance or family members or non-governmental charity.

Libertarians also do not believe in public parks. That is a turn off right there to me.

Paul says a lot of things that seem to make sense, but even non-political people or non-political scientists use some frame of  reference when they go to vote or decide on political issues, I think, and the Libertarian view is hard to fit into the traditional American frame of reference. But that is not to say it might not catch on when people see the same old same old from the other candidates.

P.s.

I repeat what I have said many times before: the far left and the far right both actually believe in strong government, they just want it to do different things. The right wants it to protect personal wealth and to preserve a social status quo and the left wants it to redistribute wealth to the benefit of all.

The story about Paul’s lack of news coverage:

http://news.yahoo.com/ron-paul-media-blackout-confirmed-133943628.html


Romney and Perry looked as though they might go to fisticuffs — I score Romney the winner…

October 18, 2011

Just watched the Republican candidate presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nev., via my computer, and it seemed to me Mitt Romney was the clear winner. And that does not mean I agree with anything that he said, but he came across as more level headed and presidential-looking than his fellow GOP opponents.

I thought he and Rick Perry were going to get into an actual physical altercation for a while — Mitt actually put a friendly but at the same time an intimidating or maybe I should say condescending arm on Perry’s shoulder — that would have been the best time for Perry to slug him (I almost wished he had and I don’t even care for Perry one bit).  Romney mocked Perry as he deflected some pointed accusations from him, saying: “This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick, and I understand that. And you’re going to get testy…”

I don’t think Herman Cain quite lived up to his polling expectations, but he may prove to have a strong following. His 9-9-9 tax plan was attacked as actually adding taxes or raising taxes (Cain’s position is that overall it actually reduces the tax burden).

Ron Paul said meaningful and interesting things, but I guess as usual seemed lackluster. Newt Gingrich was like the old sage, but did not seem to sound like a serious candidate. Bachman just seemed irrelevant (yesterday’s news — kind of a one-hit wonder). Rick Santorum, I have no comment.

Jon Huntsman, ever the outsider, did not take part — maybe he needs to switch parties or run as an independent.

I tuned in a little late and my feed on the computer got interrupted periodically.

Maybe I will have time to read a transcript and some stories and combine those thoughts for a more thorough or meaningful analysis.

I may be misreading this, but it seems like the audience went for Romney, although Paul got some applause when he said he’d bring the troops on the Afghanistan border with Pakistan home to protect the U.S. Mexico border (actually he is for bringing all the troops home). But he did not come out in favor of a border fence. I think he said he is for making it easier for people wanting to come here to work to do so (this is where I need the transcript).

P.s.

I did go back and check a transcript, but it seems to me that I did not miss much of anything important. I don’t see that Paul outlined his budget plan but anyone who keeps up on the political news knows that he basically proposes eliminating a lot of federal departments. And he did say that he would eliminate all foreign aid.

P.s.P.s.

For a long time now I have been wondering why Rick Perry has a strange kind of stiff stance. Now it appears to me he is wearing a bullet-proof vest (maybe that was already reported on, but I just caught on).


Vietnam War protests essentially became mainstream, will Occupy Wall Street?

October 17, 2011

It occurs to me that there is some similarity between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Vietnam War protest movement of the 60s, that is beyond what I first realized:

Back then college-aged young people resented being subject the military draft to risk being killed or maimed for life in the jungles of Southeast Asia in a fight that seemed to have nothing at all to do with the defense of the United States and everything to do with basically a civil war, albeit with some outside influence, in a far off country — no one had attacked America (there was some murky incident about a couple of our ships supposedly taking some bullet hits on a foggy night — and all that was never sorted out, really — the Gulf of Tonkin incident which led to a resolution to allow the president to wage war). Worse yet, there seemed no clear plan to attain anything that might be called a victory — just send young men over there as cannon fodder (to use a term more appropriate to World War I).

There were both peaceful and not peaceful anti-war demonstrations and those bent on public insurrection mixed with those simply wanting to voice their protest as was their right in a democratic society.

While originally the protest movement was primarily made up of young people, the message over time caught on with the public in general, but it took a decade or more for the voters to pressure their representatives to say enough. They cut off the funding (war fans call that not supporting the troops, but that is semantics — it was the only way I guess to rescind the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution; I’ll have to look that up some time. I mean why couldn’t have that absurd resolution have been rescinded? What about the one or one‘s we use now?). Oh, and although I am getting off track here a little, the reason we had no declaration of war in Vietnam, as I recall, is that there was no support for an all-out land war in Asia, but we snuck into it through that resolution and through the fantasy that we were just stepping up our support for the South Vietnamese with no intention of committing large numbers of American troops.

Okay, now to Occupy Wall Street:

Young college-aged people are protesting the fact that they seem to have no future because Wall Street has ruined the economy and rigged the game so it always wins and everyone else loses. OWS is taking a lot of heat from those who support the status quo, but polls indicate the message of the inherent unfairness of the economic system in which big time financiers ruin the economy by making bad loans and using questionable business practices and then get bailed out by the taxpayers and then use that money to reward themselves with bonuses is catching on among the general public.

The right-wing Tea Party has similar gripes, but it sees OWS as wild-eyed anarchists (and there are extremists in both OWS and the Tea Party).

So I will be interested to see how long OWS’s message will take to become a mainstream one or which group, OWS or the Tea Party, will be dominant.

During Vietnam there was no equivalent to the Tea Party on the right, but we did have the mythical “silent majority” that supported the war for so long and called for law and order at home.

P.s.

The reason we don’t see large anti-war protests today is because there is no military draft. And it is strange that the right wing seems to be solidly in support of foreign wars when their man is running them and less committal when the other guy is (even though they are the same conflicts). Stranger still, the Democrats were largely the ones who got us into Vietnam and then they turned against themselves on the whole issue. More irony here: many an anti-establishment demonstrator of the 60s evaded or got by the draft and became a solid member of that same establishment.