Monday, December 19, 2011

On Ron Paul, Jeb Bush and Pure Morals

 A recent WSJ piece by Jeb Bush is getting some attention for its apparent clarity in calling for a return to old-fashioned capitalism, with REAL winners and losers.It’s heady stuff, with nods to the sins of “ruinous” taxation, and even an thinly veiled recap of the past decade’s fiscal (and non-fiscal) exploits of government action in the public sphere “We see human tragedy and we demand a regulation to prevent it” (the middle east? The housing crisis?) “We see criminal fraud and we demand more laws” (the housing bubble/bust? Predatory lenders?) “We see an industry dying and we demand it be saved” (surely the auto industry…?). “Each time we demand ‘Do something…anything’”, Bush gives us to summarize this litany, tacitly setting up government meddling as the false god he is about to destroy.

This is followed by some terrific thoughts and, to be honest, a quite succinct recounting of the fundamental tenants of Transcendentalism, of naturalists like Thoreau and Emerson as well as of the founding fathers of the country. It’s an inspiring essay, and reads like something written by a wide-eyed freshman fresh off a first read of Atlas Shrugged.

The problem with this appraisal, as well as with that held by the only true conservative in the race, Ron Paul (link), is that it’s simply naïve. Who would refuse a reality in which moral clarity was, or could be allowed to be, equivalent with moral purity, and we could act based solely on what could be solved in a philosophical proof. We do not live in that world. Self reliance, free markets, unfettered independence for the individual are philosophically unassailable. But these morally pure concepts exist in a real world of (in no particular order) religious fundamentalism, poverty, totalitarian governments, and vast disparities in access to education and wealth (solely on the basis of birthright) which serve to strip the purity from what may be a very clear description of high ideals.

Let’s be clear: moral purity we should all strive for independently, but this cannot be a real platform for any type of political reform. The machine will devour it.

Jeb Bush can get away with such statements because he isn’t running for office and because he doesn’t have to kowtow to his “party’s” line. It would be very interesting if he was given the chance to develop this into a national platform as a third party candidate; if he’s actually drinking that cool-aid, he may end up looking like a great running mate for Ron Paul.

As for Republicans-In-Name-Only or Democrats…these words and the parties they demarcate no longer have any meaning. American politics has completely devolved into vacuous statements that appeal to “us vs. them” labels.

Monday, December 12, 2011

GOP Message: Out of Control

Do these ignoramuses understand that by definition, covert actions are not talked about? In speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Romney and Gingrich in particular were quick to vow covert actions against Iran and Syria—and to decry Obama’s lack thereof.

Did it ever occur to Newt Gingrich that going on Fox news and ranting about how we are behind sabotaging of Iranian missile sites works in direct contravention of the goal of such covert actions and that, rather than bolstering his global military and political acumen, should serve to paint him as treasonous, sabotaging our own country’s efforts in the process? Newt is no dummy on foreign affairs and so one can only chalk this up to pure politics with regard to what President Obama cannot reasonably defend himself: Obama cannot come out as say “actually, guys, we are doing a lot of covert shit like X and Y,” because doing so would out his own Administration’s efforts in this area and would be equally nakedly political (were he that stupid to use this in his own defense).

This is so out of control that Romney said at an Iowa debate on this past Saturday he would ask Netanyahu “what would you like me to do?” viz a viz working with the Palestinians. What other situations, Gov, would you see it fit to consult with a foreign leader before making a decision as President of the USA?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Gift for Congress

Since no one in Congress much wants to make any real cuts—such as to their salaries, benefits or terms—one thing they should be able to agree on is a nice Christmas present for themselves. I have it: Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs.

This should be mandatory reading for this Congress, the president as well, for the holiday season, as a reminder of the merits of hard work and the true meaning of the American spirit: innovation and building greatness.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Evolution Part 2

The rationale for limiting the president to one term is to remove the need to be reelected and to free up the hand of the executive branch to govern. Impeachment, of course, would still be an option if the bum needed thrown out, but politics would take on a fundamentally new tone in the executive branch: doing what is right and convincing the public it is right only secondarily, after it has been made to work.

Congressional service would be turned back to that—service—rather than a profession or job description. As originally envisioned by the fore-fathers, public service would be converted back to an act of self sacrifice to contribute to the direction of the country, rather than a permanent source of income. This will breed competition and select for individuals with business acumen, in so far as the congress will no longer be able to consider politics as a sole source of income.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Evolve or Perish: America’s Future and Permanent Political Stalemate

Is it possible that we are already, again, in the run up to the primaries for the US presidential election? Whether this current cycle has seen a more or less productive two and a half year solstice between inauguration and campaigning (or the lame duck status that comes at the end of the second term) has been and will continue to be extensively debated, with predictable finger pointing at the president or congress. Likewise one can expect the recognizable back and forth between partisan attack dogs over the next year, baiting each other into defense of the excesses of the Left or Right. It is hard to understand how this is ultimately good for the democratic process—when the histrionic din of professional politicians, wonks and journalists (of many ilk) removes any possibility for measured discussion…for the evaluation of what is really needed to insure the future of the country.

The Economist (link), among others, have identified the lack of a centrist approach by American politicians as at once a problem (for the country) and an opportunity (ostensibly for the person who claims this ground first). This may be true and is just fine. It does not, however, address the fundamental sources of the hyperpolarized political environment in the US. Witness the following symptoms: the new reality of instant information accessibility has made congressional campaigns never-ending; a complete inability of the leaders of the party not in control of the executive branch to admit that anything done by the President is right, patriotic or for the betterment of the country; reflexive linking of the Democrats to the working class and the Republicans to the white collar man, to poor and rich, respectively; the ability of cable news channels, Drudge and Politico et al to drive the agenda of the country. All these symptoms transcend the current administration and were present at least throughout the two terms of President George W. Bush and most of Bill Clinton’s time in the White House as well.

Nothing short of a complete revolution in the American political process will solve this problem. And this political revolution must be accompanied by a fundamental restructuring of the core tenants of public service. I propose the following solution: Congressional terms must be all fixed at 4 years, with a limit of 3 total terms. After this, you are out for good and can stay in politics only if you move to a different branch of government. The president should be elected to one 8 year term, with a limit of one term.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Verdict on Libya

Is it possible for the American establishment to admit success or failure in the Libyan engagement this summer? What would have been the recipe, or descriptors for either of these outcomes back in June or July?

The options seem to be:

(    One: chastened from a thrashing in Iraq, US risks only limited involvement in African dictator’s fall, further confirming its waning influence. (Republican party)
     Two: wiser following the adventures in Mesopotamia over the past decade, Obama administration engages international support for limited effort to successfully bring democracy to another member country in the Arba spring. (Democrats)

A third rail that recognizes the engagement was wise, effective AND showed American impotence in the region (viz a viz ongoing problems in Israel that the fall of Gaddafi has only made more acute) belongs to no vocal group.

Monday, March 21, 2011

No Flying and No Clue

We are now a few days into the UN-mandated institution of a no-fly zone in Libya. As has been reported by numerous outlets, this mission has already over-stepped its mandate by bombing Tripoli (by bombing anything, for that matter). The threat of wasting anything in the air would have been sufficient to minimize the likelihood of genocide and to let things play out.

But what’s done is done and now it is (rightfully) time for critics from all political hue to weigh in on the mission scope and objective(s). This blog lobbied for a no fly-zone and—explicitly—nothing more. Several outlets, including coverage I heard this afternoon on the BBC, have been stating the ‘obvious fact that a no fly zone is not an end’, it is not a policy and cannot be pursued indefinitely. Really? America pursued this for 10 unsuccessful years with Saddam Hussein when there was no ready revolution to overthrow him.

Drudge was quick to shift this morning to complete coverage of the indefensible photographing of murdered civilians in Afghanistan by American troops. The instinct to link this to the current president was too great to resist (his headline read “Obama Ghraib: Army Apology”).

And the “conservative” pundits have started lining up against Obama’s Libya policy (even though they and most of the world agrees there is no apparent policy for endgame), including a link to comparison of the countries Bush had for Iraq versus Obama for Libya in their respective coalitions of the willing. (There were more in the former.) This after lambasting the administration for a week about not jumping in headfirst (recall the advice of Sarah Palin to let Gadaffi know that “we’re going to hit you hard” and the statement of Newt Gingrich that the Army could and should institute a no fly zone in 15 minutes [never mind the contradiction of this idea by Robert Gates, a member of the Armed Forces of the USA]). It was either right to get involved in this conflict or not; nothing from the Libyan side has changed in the last 48 hours and thus lining up at this point with gutless criticism should be viewed as what it is: naked political positioning.