Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roman Legions on Move

When Military moves war....

And like Roman soldiers of past era, this is all on borrowed money too. Question is Romans at least ruled for around 500 years whereas can Washington's Republic last 200 years more in future?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Benedict - Make room for a nun

That is what Maureen Dowd at NYT is demanding.

Regardless of what happens in Vatican, Maureen has indirectly lit the fire under feminists in America in confronting the political assertiveness of Bishops when they hijacked Health Care Reform Bill for abortion funding. One can very well imagine Fire Dog Lake making life for Rep. Stupak miserable by asking him why his concern for 'life' is only limited for unborn child and not about those who are already born? These Feminists can rightly demand that these Bishops and House Representatives who are demand 'morality' from Federal Government also demand 'morality' from Catholic Church. That is not going to be easy for Stupaks of this world and that is the importance of Dowd's call. Well done Maureen.

As expected, Benedict is digging his hole deeper...

START Treaty

For most of the folks in rest of the world to reduce long range nuke count from 2200+ to around 1550 each for Russia and USA does not solve the issue completely. The number of nukes to make horrific damage on Earth is so much less than 1550 and so it is bit meaningless to claim any progress there. However, President Obama is right here - you got to make the start and it is the only way eventually you are going to have 'nuke free' or 'nuke contained' world: keeping reducing the count in verifiable manner. Hence the proposed treaty between USA and Russia is good.

It seems that Putin made the calculation that giving Medvedev a victory and nice glow is not harmful. I think Russians will like that Putin is allowing Medvedev to take the credit. So on Russian side political alignments seem to be right in place. The question is Duma and if it wants to create any issues. But with Obama able to get HCR passed through the Congress, Duma and Russians are going to have some confidence that the chances of their passing of the treaty getting wasted are somewhat low.

As usual politics on the side of a vibrant and competitive Democracy like USA is not easy. As both Drezner and Rogin are speculating, chances of GOP opposing the treaty are not trivially low. As Rogin explains the core issue is whether Russia can express her opinion about 'missile defense' (obiviously an opinion not good to USA) in the 'preamble' of the Treaty or not. Obama Administration claims that it has successfully hold the line that such a language about 'missile defense' cannot be included in the treaty text as Russians demanded all along. From Administration perspective that may be a successful conclusion, but for those who are politically opposed to Obama; any inclusion in the preamble is no-no too.

It was expected that Sen. Lugar (R-IN) would be on board and support the treaty. Obama as a junior Senator had collaborated with Sen. Lugar earlier in making policies in dismantelling Cold war era nukes and disposing nuclear material in safe manner (especially from terrorists). It was mainly related to laying nuclear material in former Soviet states. I believe bond developed during that collaboration would be strong enough for Sen. Lugar to support this treaty. President Obama must have taken care to have Sen. Lugar informed and on board all during negotiations with Russia. Indeed that is what Sen. Lugar is saying now. The question is - is that sufficient to bring 8 or 9 GOP Senators on board to pass the treaty (it needs 2/3 Senate approval i.e. 67 Senate votes)? It is easy to imagine Sen. Lindsay Graham (R) may back it whereas Sen. McCain and McConnell very likely oppose it; assuming all 59 Dems on board. Chances are that couple of Dem Senators may drop out too, like Se. Liberman may not support it. At this point there is no sufficient information about what the possible 'whip count' will be. It is early since no treat text, protocols, annexes and associated documentation is submitted to Senate for ratification.

Needless to say, as President Obama signs the treat in Prague in early April, he would be embarking upon his first significant foreign policy win. Question is whether GOP wants to play the ball or not in order to realize this victory. Truth is if the treaty is passed, it is going to be quite useful to America in increasing it's leverage in international relations from China, Iran to North Korea. Passing the Treaty is good for America. However, being an arcane foreign policy issue of disarmament treaty; it will not be simple for Obama and Dems to portray that 'GOP vote against the treaty' is vote against America's national interests. On the other hand opposing GOP Senators can easily protrary passing of this treaty as putting constraints on America's ability to undertake 'missile defense' which can easily strike a chord with American public. In other words, it is easy for GOP to 'fan' public opinion in opposing this treaty than for Administration to bring GOP on defense in the court of public opinion. Best for the administration could be not to try to politicize this issue in public and work with GOP senators in background to pursue the treaty. The more Obama Administration tries to hype the glow of this treaty, more are the chances - obiviously - that GOP would oppose the treaty.

It is quite a tight rope walk which this Administration has to pull off and that will demonstrate the competence, acumen and maturity of Obama's Foreign Policy Team. Sen. Kerry as the Senate Foreign Policy Committee Chairman has an important role to play in navigating this treaty through treacherous waters of Senate opposition. We will see how well he does that.

Update - If one wants to read a stupid and foolish commentary from American Conservatives, here is one by Mr. Jamie M. Fly babbling his non-sense. The guy blames Obama that on his watch more nukes are coming in this world as if during Bush time they were not. And what is his solution to stop that? Stop Iran where no one is even sure whether they can make any nuclear weapon at or not. So as long as Obama keeps chasing 'unsure' thing and not bother to reduce 'concrete' weapons these morons on Conservative side going to think that Obama is doing fine! What a joke. And how do you stop Iran making the bomb? Would you not need Russia on board for that? How is Russia going to come on board unless you work out deals with Russia? Or just bomb Iran? Will that solve the problem even keeping aside Iraq like monster which can happen as a result of attack on Iran?

These Conservatives, they even don't know who our allies are. Ever since John McCain sprouted his laughing statement 'we all are Georgians today' these folks think Georgia is our ally. What did Georgia ever do for Americans? Why should Americans bother?

Say what but, these Conservatives provide excellent entertainment value... What a joke.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Benedict - Will you listen to Andrew?

Andrew Sullivan pulls off one of his legendary blog posts. Anyways, it was due considering the regularity at which he writes such great pieces every so often.

The historicity of the whole episode - gay men going into Catholic clergy in 1950s and 1960s, before Gay Rights were more widely accepted - is pointed by Andrew and there is a great merit in that observation. Benedict was climbing the Catholic clergy ladder at the same time, all along being complicit. As Andrew says, he specifically ignored two cases (one in Germany and another one as reported in NYT) and he presided the committee which was supposed to address this child abuse but where he did not do anything. It is as obvious as day light that Benedict needs to go. He will not go is also equally obvious; enduring the Church gruesome moments, continued decline and a pathological parade for the whole world to watch on.

Andrew also suggests that Catholic Church needs to remove celibacy requirement for clergy. German's are demanding same and there is a merit in that too. Celibacy requirement is just a historical accident started around 1000AD by one pope edict; nothing so sacrosanct in the original theology. May be Catholic Church will be better off by removing this stupid requirement. Or the other argument can be, Catholic Clergy needs celibacy in total - homo or hetro or any other kind of sexual practices are prohibited and fully enforced. For a lay person, as long as these child abuses are avoided and stopped completely; what rules Catholic Church wants to make is their business.

The question is will Pope listen to critics like Andrew? Still chances are low, but we have to keep trying.

Monday, March 22, 2010

HCR Comment - The Old Lady

Now that Nancy Pelosi will probably be on Time cover in a week or two, Americans will start realizing what this old gritty lady from Bay Area has achieved. Despite being a permanent laughing stock for Conservatives, she is the one who had the last laugh in this matter.

First it was her insistence on pursuing comprehensive health care reform instead of a mini version (as purportedly suggested by Rahm Emmanuel) despite Scott Brown victory in January 2010. Next, convincing House members to believe Senate in going for reconciliation strategy followed by 'no amendment' discipline. However, coupe the grace was the ruse of 'deem and pass' strategy which effectively fooled Republicans. They all were seething through their teeth in condemning that parliamentary maneuver. But finally when Stupak gang was on the board, she went for straight bill passing leaving GOP holding the bags. I guess it will be a while before Republicans will smart from this brutal bruising.

What she has to do going into Nov 2010 is to try holding the House for Dems and 'madame Speaker' will then complete her arc of political achievements. Nonetheless,where she has taken Liberals in the last week; she will be one of the most popular politicians on Liberal side for ages to come.

HCR Comment - John Boehner and GOP Leadership

No, it was not pleasing to listen the speech by House Minority Leader Boehner. 'Looser' that is the description which comes to mind.

First of all, he claimed that House failed because there was no 'bipartisan' deal. That is an absurd claim when Majority of the House got what they wanted and clearly Majority had not failed politically. He sounded like a guy who was really trying to splash his failure, failure of GOP, on the entire House. That did not make sense and it does not wash.

Next, he yelled that 'hell you cannot pass this legislation'. But that is exactly the House was about to do and it did it. So what is the point of yelling there that you cannot do so and so? Even rhetorically?

Further, by reminding an anecdote when he served as a House Speaker (I guess in temporary capacity since officially Denis Hastert was the Speaker before Nancy Pelosi); he badly wanted to elude his supposedly speakership after Nov 2010. It sounded like he is counting chicken before eggs hatch.

But I guess the larger failure is strategic failure of Boehner and GOP Leadership (McConnell, Steele and McCain to a certain extent). In a sense, they never visualized yesterday - the day when Dems would indeed pass the HCR. All their strategy so far has been 'reactive' in whipping the frenzy of Tea Party folks in opposing the bill. GOP thought that just by yelling louder, shouting more and being raucous on road they could stop the HCR. It is they who were actually practicing Chicago Politics. Scott Brown victory in MA Senate election kind of misguided them to believe that such 'reactionary' politics is working. (Brown won because he was a better candidate, Martha Coakly was inferior compared to him and in any case vote margin was narrow too.)

It is abduction of leadership responsibility in not having any preparation for this 'waterloo'. (And that demented Senator DeMint is going next week to file a bill to repeal HCR in Senate!) Did no GOP leader see / think about such a day when Dems would indeed pass this legislation? What do they have today? After months of 'louder campaign' they have large number of Americans believing that this is the 'tyranny of majority' and that is it. Can this 'anger / fear' sustain till Nov 2010? How long GOP wants to continue this 'politics of fear' institutionalized by Karl Rove?

Like Dems, GOP agreed that current Health System is broken. Couldn't they have said - okay this is how we want to 'save money & generate funds' and plow those funds in expanding the coverage over years in so and so manner? GOP could have argued for some kind of 'pay as you go' in expanding the coverage, but today Americans see GOP as primarily against expanding the coverage and party of 'no'.

Even though Rep. Paul Ryan's ideas are not fiscally responsible, he at least had one worked out plan but GOP could never come around that plan and never proposed that as an alternative. All this means 'party of no' label sticks to GOP and GOP Leadership thought shouting 'NO' louder is all that required.

Today it is Democrats who are criticized as arrogant. But is GOP not arrogant also in believing (and misleading their supporters) that Nov 2010 will bring them all those electoral victories? I doubt it is going to be so easy for GOP in Nov 2010 unless Dems screw up royally in remaining months (which they are always capable of). We have to understand that Dem base is energized by this political victory even though 'fringe Left' is disappointed by loss of Public Option and pro-choice policies. Beyond the Dem base, the critical constituency of Independents and Centrists would feel lot more comfortable again with Obama Democrats since this bill is primarily a Centrist policy.

Beyond the smug belief that GOP is on the verge of electoral victories in Nov 2010, another canard GOP is spreading among its supporters is they can repeal, States can repeal, HCR. But this means not to understand what Dem Leadership has done - by passing HCR in Washington DC, Dem Leadership of Obama and Pelosi have essentially absolved themselves from carrying this 'cross' of expanded coverage from themselves to grass root elected officials. Across the nation, local Democrats are going to be emboldened in defending this expanded coverage and changes sought by HCR. That fight is not going to happen anymore in Washington DC. In other words, instead of few players struggling to achieve 'top down' victory; Dems now have army of million locally empowered soldiers all across the country. Dem Leadership in Washington DC will move on leaving 'little guy' enough secured to take on all the Conservative 'repeal HCR' challenges. That is how 'change' happens from bottoms up. The job of 'igniting' this revolution from Top is done. So for GOP to assume that they can stop this 'change' in distributed local fights is to ignore the 'protracted nature' in which emancipatory laws and policies get adopted. As like GOP has folks all over country to engage in this resistance, so do Dems where their Progressive Credentials are going to get defined in terms of how well defense of HCR happens. To miss all this is the failure of GOP Leadership and Boehner's speech yesterday on the floor manifested all these failures. That was a sad and pathetic performance by an opposition leader.

HCR Comment - Tyranny of Majority?

Megan McArdle at The Atlantic is deeply upset and claims that this is 'tyranny of majority' by Democrats and she wishes Obama to be indeed a one term President. Her argument - most polls show that majority Americans oppose HCR and still it is only majority in Congress which is forcing this legislation on America.

In the aftermath of colossal losses in 2006 midterm election, President Bush only had 20+% support in all polls for his 'Iraq Surge Policy'. Most Liberals, including this humble blogger, opposed Bush's surge. Bush did not hesitate and looking back it is clear that apart from Bush's leadership on 9/11, that surge decision ranks as his most consequential and right political decision. Granted it was not about legislation but about 'commander chief's tactical decision' in running of a war. But even so, one cannot confusion 'elections have consequences' with 'some polling trend'.

All majorities in that sense are tyrannical. We all know you cannot have effective governance - governance about decisions with consequences spread over decades - based on polling numbers. Otherwise then why are there elections? Elections and majorities are there to effect the 'change' and as WSJ Editorial said 'to take ownership'. If HCR does not pan out, clearly Dems take the blame and responsibility to fix it. That 'electoral responsibility' does not have a place in 'tyranny' and Megan needs to know that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

HCR Comment - How is GOP doing?

Primarily 'anger' and 'giddiness' for the perceived electoral victories in Nov 2010; those will be the dominant emotions with this camp. There will be strong urge to raise false expectations about the repeal of HCR.

Yet, there will be few sane voices like David Frum. Frum's argument is that the bill is not different than Republican, middle of the road ideas and GOP should have collaborated with Dems to have a bi-partisan bill, especially since Obama was very eager to get GOP on board. The first part of the argument is straight forward and true. Exhibit A - the way Public Option was ditched. The only issue could be with 'mandate' part. But chances were more that mandate part would have been molded more along the lines of Conservative thinking if GOP was on board in the first place.

Next, some on Right say that Obama and Dems would not have negotiated in good faith with GOP and would not have accepted their ideas. But the way Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Baucus (D) kept running behind Sen. Grassley (R) for months last Spring, these GOP critics are not right. President Obama kept wowing Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) till quite late in the game. So Frum is right here, President Obama was quite interested for a deal with GOP on HCR. In fact as most are aware of his criticism on Left for bending too much to Right, one can clearly see President's strong intention from start to steer from middle.

But the real value of Frum's criticism is the way he does not hesistate in pointing out how Beck, Hannity and Limbough in the end are nemesis of GOP. As long as GOP leaders are not ready to understand this and not ready to stop hijacking of GOP by these loony elements, there is no hope for GOP. A GOP Senator may proclaim to deliver 'waterloo' of Obama, but as long as GOP does not dissociate from these extreme elements, it is the GOP which will have their 'waterloo' one after the other. For a starter, after HCR, Obama and Dems are going to go after Wall Street and GOP cannot afford to be sympathetic at that time to investment bankers. Hopefully GOP makes sensible choices there.

It is a tragedy for American Democracy too when it's main opposition party is beholden to a wrong, racist agenda and bigotry. We Americans loose tremendously. Hope is HCR bill pass works as a wake up call for GOP rather than just a potent hullicianating drug with illusions of 'repeals and Nov victories'.

HCR Comment - Ezra Klein

(Health Care Reform - HCR - is politically a watershed event in contemporary American Politics. So I am not under any illusion that it can be covered in one single post. I will be writing a series of small posts now that passage seems more assured.)

Ezra Klein has established himself as one of the most knowledgeable and less ideological commentator on HCR. Three things I understood from him over the year after following his blog are:

1. Innovative idea of Health Care Insurance Plan Exchange - Someone who is living in an area where companies like Ebay make living, exchanges to offer competitive insurance plans is logical and readily acceptable. For a Tech Worker, such a technology based solution is natural and affirmation of his way of life. Ezra supported this idea very strongly and helped it to get into the final bill.

2. Less utility of Public Option (PO) - While most of the Left has been adamandant about the cost reduction potential about Public Option, Ezra reasoned the limited utility of Public Option in reducing the cost. Basically this is where he successfully resisted to be an ideologue.

3. Believing in Congress - One of the chief arguments of Megan McArdlee and GOP folks has been that we cannot believe in Congress that it will stick to proposed cost controls in future. Ezra argued based on sound numbers that indeed Congress has been able to stick to such 'cut commitments' in past and sooner or later Congress will have to face the day of reckoning about the deficit and debt. That is going to happen regardless of whether HCR is passed or not. Hence, at this point we got to believe that Congress will 'walk the talk' as proposed in the bill (because if not, then practically all bets are off).

Another item is Excise Tax. Ezra has been a big supporter of this one from start, but as Sen. McCain talked about this one in his Presidential campaign against Barack Obama lot of folks were familiar with this idea. Senate Finance Committee picked up this and in the end it stayed there, albeit in much diluted form.

Now Ezra will have to turn his attention to all the follow up action, legal and political challenges, as this law of the land starts getting enforced.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Benedict Hypocrisy Continued

Looks like Pope has no shame, he is scolding Irish Clergy but leaving himself free of any responsibility for the mess he left behind. That is a way to go Pope Benedict!

All this means it will be left to the Secular institutions - Police, Media and in general Law and Order Enforcement establishment in Europe - to see how far they are going to make the change in this case.

Also it means continued discrediting of Catholic Church in Europe with no realistic possibility of any revival there. Pope must be thinking 'wasting one single papacy is not a big deal in the scheme of things'. But it is not that simple. Religions are already in a race against time as Modernity continues to spread wide and deep all over the world. Anyways, we will see what new tricks Benedict pulls out in refusing to own his responsibilities in all of this mess.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Benedict in trouble?

As German law of the land starts grinding and German & European Media finally stands for their duty to dig out more sordid details of child abuse by Catholic clergy; the question is will this course of law reach up to Pope. As things stand it may not reach up to the top. So the Vatican game plan is relatively easy - stoically or shamelessly (depending upon which side you are) - just hang on until the issue dies out or people simply accept the 'tinted Pope'. Moral bankruptcy of this Pope is definitely a sad surprise. One cannot ignore facts for blind reverence towards Papacy.

Catholic Church is shameless and thick skinned because that is how it has been in past. There have been corrupt Popes, Popes who bought their own elections, Popes who murdered many folks and Popes who might have even engaged in orgies. With this kind of history what is with 'covering of child sexual abuse'? That is just business as usual, at least that is what Benedict must be thinking.

So as Vatican continues to stall the moral responsibility in this case, as Pope continues his business as if nothing has happened; Catholic Church will continue to loose its legitimacy, any claim to moral superiority and as a result will forgo any possibility of revival of Catholicism in Europe. Such a revival is what Benedict has been wanting for a long time to come. You cannot hope more people to flock to church when head of the church is so bankrupt. The very reason for the Catholic Church - Moral Shepard to guide lay persons - goes to the dust.

Not only Europe is caught in a financial crisis, this Vatican mess is supplementing it with moral crisis as well. True to contemporary European tradition, Vatican is still trying to push things under the carpet. The only way for Vatican to get out of this mess is:
- for Benedict to resign as Pope,
- apologize for his moral failure,
- apologize for the delay of many years in realizing this failure,
- to compensate the victims,
- remove all Catholic clergy all over the world who would have perpetrated such crimes and subjecting them to respective laws of lands and
- institute strict laws in forbidding any such things to happen in future.

There cannot be any compromise in evaluating Catholic Church to this litmus test apart from judging it against above mentioned benchmark. Otherwise it is just matter of time where equivalent of 'class action lawsuit' in Europe to appear and essentially bankrupt the church; literally taking down the institute due to a compromised Pope.

(For critical coverage of this affair, Andrew Sullivan as expected is digging his hills and his blog is offering solid commentary. You would expect that from Andrew and that is what he is delivering.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Time to put Israel in Place

Next week, there will be all honeymoon for USA-Israel relations when Israeli PM and Sec. of State Clinton will make speeches and try to put forward 'grown ups in charge' picture. This is especially very likely since many in USA cannot even accept so far mild reaction from Obama Administration for the Israeli non-sense.

The right response of Obama Administration would have been what Tom Friedman said in his column. When one reads such reports further, it is obvious that Obama Administration is indeed 'projecting' a weak knelled American Government.

It is bad because unless Obama Administration puts Israel in place and demands its extremely aggressive policy with devastating consequences is rescinded; we are about to see new chaos in Middle East. Suicide bombing might have stopped today due to Israeli walls and checkpoints, but to think that no such violet reaction will come back is myopic. America's standing with rest of the world can be in dust unless America shows the spine to withstand the intransigence of Israel.

The question is not just of 'America's insult' when her VP is visiting Israel. It is the substantive question of wrong policy which Israel is following here - land grab at all cost. We cannot loose the core policy issue in all the hullabaloo about diplomacy. Israel would love to keep discussing the current diplomatic row because it lets them to get away with their aggression policy. The only way such a policy will end is more ammunition to Islamic Fundamentalism of various kinds giving rise to uncontrolled violence with catastrophic consequences. Needless to say, none of these things are going to be any helpful for America's strategic interests. Indeed it is time Obama Administration becomes tough with Israel.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Hurt Locker

A-

While participating in blog comments on Ezra Klein's blog at Washington Post last week, I rejoined Ezra's contention that Oscar is boring. I find it quite offending that Academy in a way routinely makes statements about 'progressiveness of American Society'. For example, the way Academy feels that 'time has arrived to honor a female director' and so on. Academy, in pursuit of their Marketing Hype, always invents these taboos each year and then brakes those taboos to claim the mantle of 'conscience keeper' of contemporary American society. This is all done by aristocrats of the Film Industry instead of any democratic participation of American Public. No wonder wonks like Ezra and avid followers of politics hate Oscars.

But someone wise on Ezra'a column responded that Kathryn Bigelow's movie is worth watching. Since I have no issues with who wins Oscar and whether those are deserved or not, I decided that I would watch that movie.

I watched it yesterday and I was impressed by it.

The movie is classic, accomplished and successful effort in Minimalism. The number of shots are quite limited as well as the number of characters. Again it proves what a genius writer and director can do with such minimal ingredients when it comes to master story telling. Brilliant and clean, the movie is in a sense a beautiful, yet powerful, thin sketch; rendered using as minimal strokes as necessary.

There is no grand attempt to explain the political or historical context of the war. That is a good thing. The writer and director focus on few clear goals:
- to convey the brutality & strangeness of a war (it is predictable life until suddenly out of blue a jolt comes in, does permanent damage and then the life limps back to normalcy),
- how individuals are simply trying to survive mortal threats 'now and here' with no 'space / capability' to join the larger narrative of the war and
- finally how an individual mind works as far as conducting the business of war goes.
This set of minimal objectives unfold using 6 set pieces to defuse IED, each shot and acted brilliantly. The first one kills the earlier leader of the squad followed by entry of the hero in defusing 7 connected bombs in a breathtaking web of a death trap. These are followed by a third shot at an UN building where IED is in a car followed by a prolonged and beautifully enacted shooting scene in desert. The fifth shot of removing a live bomb from a mutilated young boy's corps brings home horrors of the war whereas the the sixth scene of a suicide bomber starkly reminds what has been reported for years about the Iraq war. The final set piece does not involve an IED diffusion, but shows how the ultra risky urge of the hero to get hold of suicide bombers cost his team mate his leg.

Clearly the movie is more than a series of high wire IED cleaning scenes. The reason the hero keeps taking high risks - 'war is like a drug' for some folks. That is what the director wants to tell us; but as like for any good movie, a viewer arrives at this conclusion after thinking through the movie. That is what any art is expected to do and Kathryn succeeds here. The hero after a break at home comes back to the Iraq war theater again, he simply cannot resist it. I wish this part was little more clear than what is depicted in the movie to help viewer understand what is going on. I found that piece bit more cryptic than warranted.

All in all, now I understand why so many critics were raving about this movie so much. It is worth all the praise.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Be careful about your next vacation with your Spouse

Here is Daniel Kahneman at TED

Who is Kahneman? Guru of Behavioral Economics. Here is his Wikipedia entry.

Obama and Narrative

Looks like Frank Rich has joined Tom Friedman & Peggy Noonan to keep talking about the 'narrative deficit' of Obama as failure of his Presidency so far. Is it true? Who knows.

But for an average American, what matters is passing bills and effecting changes. As long as President Obama keeps trying that, get few wins there, American public will be that much better. It matters much less whether President Obama does that in 'professorial / intellectual style' or 'with as compelling narrative as Regan'. Because, the problem with that is, in the end these all are governance styles. Each President has to work out his ways as he sees it fits. No one knows what works and what does not. Having this 'meta-debate' is really pointless and neither going to help Americans nor this Administration.

One can rightly argue about how President Obama is failing to undertake appropriate financial regulation reforms. That is a valid policy criticism. But to point that as a consequence of 'lack of narrative'? Duh, how is that. All these smart columnists will do well if they go away from such 'meta criticism'. Let us stick to policy criticism and politics. Actually Lefty Michael Moor is doing here great job of political criticism if one wants to understand what is going on.

Ahmadinejad and 9/11

He is out with his latest remarks questioning Al-Qaida attack of 9/11. His assertion is, it was organized by American Intelligence Agencies themselves. Hillary will bother whether to retort this assertion or let it go. That is her and General Petraeus's issue to sort.

However, what I wonder is what the remnants of Al-Qaida and Taliban must be thinking that 'pinnacle of their glory' is questioned and denied by a Shiite fool. No wonder there is no love lost between Shiite Iran and Sunni Al-Qaida. In a way, this is continuation of excellent development for West.

Another reason for Ahmadinejad to spout this non-sense could be apparent success of Iraqi election. Iraqi Parliamentary elections are bound to make Iran restless, given the suppression of electoral freedom in their own country.

I guess for a long time to come West will have to live with all sorts of non-sense coming out of Tehran.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Top Gun - History?

This Washington Post article clearly details the ongoing political battle in American Air Force - why do we need Air Force when Predators and Reaper drones (unmanned surveillance & combat airplanes) can do it much cheaper and much effectively?

In reality, there is no other reason than vested interests of 'former fighter pilots'. The other reason, though the article does not talk about that, is clearly political patronage of Lockheed Martin's of the world who make these expensive toys. Political patronage is there because these fighter making companies have sprinkled various factories of components and part all over USA; some reporting that those are spread over 42 States. With many jobs associated in making 'this Top Gun' junk; Congress is quite slow in winding down fighter plane production programs.

There is no other reason than this 'military industry complex with their patrons fully entrenched in Congress' (though one of the worst of them - Rep. Murtha is gone now); why we do not see the demise of traditional Air Force even though it has become atrociously expensive way of conducting air warfare. It is expensive because of the training needed for these fighter pilots, it is expensive as a result of which it creates this 'cult' of Top Guns and in the end it is all useless with needlessly risking lives of fighter pilots.

Everyone understands war means risking life of soldiers. But whenever it is avoidable and there are more effective ways to conduct a warfare; it needs to be adopted. That is a better deal for American Tax Payers. The way current Air Force is structured, it is a 'lemon deal' for Americans. Hopefully, Sec. of Defense Robert Gates is able to succeed in his fight against these entrenched interests and is able to transform American Air Force better suited for tomorrow's warfare.