Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Zbig on Charlie Rose

Zbigniew Brzezinski appeared on Charlie Rose tonight for a 25-minute wide-ranging overview of world affairs.  Two threads of the discussion stood out in my mind.

First, he compared the worldview of the conservative religious leaders in Iran to the neocons in the US.  They share a simplistic, Manichean idea that global rivals are not merely evil but devoid of value or even humanity.  Thus the Great Satan is either the Moslem terrorist or the US, depending on where you are sitting.

Second, he discussed the steady increase in political awareness within the global polity as a dramatic shift with long-lasting implications.  The French Revolution was the first example of a society-wide political uprising.  Over the past 200 years, the depth and breadth of political involvement has expanded with a concomitant decrease in the ability of the West (or any foreign power) to control the world.  The new goal is to manage things as best we can, with the explicit understanding and acceptance that this will require coalition building and new partnerships, not merely force projection and intervention.  The neocons will not be happy!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

No Victory in Iraq

Sully commenting on the new meme that we have achieved "victory" in Iraq as the June 30 deadline in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for removal of foreign troops from urban areas nears. I fear he may be on point, but still hope that Obama will show the constancy of mission to keep us on the path to winding down this misguided venture.
After three years of total fiasco, there has been a competent counter-insurgency operation with 130,000 foreign troops. In that time, the critical political deals that were the criteria for the surge's alleged success were not made. Now, Maliki is bragging about throwing the Americans out, and looks as if he's slowly acquiring the trappings of a Shiite tough guy. The Sunni resistance - not integrated into the security forces - will no doubt respond. The neocons will blame Obama; and he will either have to hunker down and face betrayal of the core reason for his candidacy or get out and watch the place explode again.

Of course, I hope I'm proven wrong in this gloomy prognosis (and I was proven wrong in under-estimating the capacity of Petraeus to restore minimal order in 2007). But Iraq - like so much else - is yet another albatross bequeathed by Bush-Cheney, strangling American tax-payers and presidents for years to come.

Lobsters and Iceland??!!

As quoted by Sully...from Trevor Corson...explaining why lobster prices are dropping. This is a brilliant example of the interconnectedness of global finance and some unexpected consequesnces.
Remember how I said stocks of codfish in Canada had collapsed 20 years ago? Those cod used to be packaged and frozen by Canadian processing plants. After the cod collapse, the same Canadian plants started packaging and freezing the extra lobsters being caught in New England. They took up the slack. By an unfortunate twist of fate, those plants had their financing tied up in the Icelandic banking system, and when it collapsed last fall, the capacity of the processing plants did, too. Ever since then, the market has been flooded with excess live lobster. Lobsters that used to get turned into frozen claws and tails for mid-level chains like Red Lobster are now filling the fresh lobster tanks to overflowing. Thus the crash in price. The fact that luxury dining has declined doesn't help, but it's not the cause. The problem is simply that New England's lobsters have finally come home to roost.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Arrogance and the GOP

An excellent summation of one of the most basic problems with the Republican and neocon way of thinking, as posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic:
The religious right isn't what's wrong with the GOP. It's the pervasive, unthinking, unreflective nationalism. It's the arrogance of thrice-divorced adulterers reaching for the banner of traditional families, and it's the arrogance of men who prosecuted a poorly planned war, on weak intelligence, presuming to lecture us on national security.
The problem is arrogance born out of an unwavering belief in American exceptionalism, or perfection. I am not questioning that the American experience holds more hope than most of the alternatives that man has created on this planet. However, to claim, in the words of Liz Cheney, that "America is the best nation that ever existed in history, and clearly that exists today" strains credulity.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sanford, Ensign and the Religious Right

One aspect of the fall from grace of SC Gov Mark Sanford and NV Sen John Ensign is the longer term political impact on the GOP. Karl Rove based his political model on boosting turnout from the most religious elements of the Republican coalition. This worked to perfection in the 2004 reelection campaign, providing Bush his margin over Kerry. But the willingness of the religious wing to remain involved in party politics has always been at risk. After coming into the mainstream of the Republican party in the Reagan years, participation declined until W appeared on the scene. Now after the disappointment they felt with McCain as the standard bearer (mitigated slightly by Palin), the double whammy of Ensign and Sanford may prove fatal.

Both Sanford and Ensign built their political careers on their image as Christian politicians (they were close allies when both served in the House). And both were trying to lay the groundwork for Presidential (or at least VP) consideration in 2012. Those hopes are obviously gone, but the question remains, how will their erstwhile supporters react? Will they just move to other candidates (Huckabee???) or begin to drop out of politics? Remember, these are the ground troops that drive turnout by manning the phones and doing the gruntwork that successful parties need to succeed.

It bears watching.

Obama on the Public Option

At Tuesday's Presidential presser, Obama was asked about the threat that a public option might pose to private insurers. His response nailed some GOP talking points to the wall, and left them to hang and wither:
Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government -- which they say can't run anything -- suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical.

Now, the -- I think that there's going to be some healthy debates in Congress about the shape that this takes. I think there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers that if any public plan is simply being subsidized by taxpayers endlessly that over time they can't compete with the government just printing money, so there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to be had about how this private plan takes shape.

But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they're giving consumers the best possible deal, if they can't compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what's the best deal, that defies logic, which is why I think you've seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iran and the Bomb

From Kevork Oskanian:
What many – especially in the West – tend to forget is that the country’s nuclear programme was started in 1958 by the Shah, who thought imperial Iran wouldn’t be quite that imperial without ‘the bomb’. The Islamic Republic decided to restart the programme in the final years of the Iran-Iraq war – partly in response to lessons drawn from that war, partly, also, out of a long-held conviction that Iran – the Mellat-e Bozorg-e (Great Nation) – would have to find its place in the world. Iran’s nuclear propensities survived the Iranian revolution; and just like the Islamic Republic, they’ll most likely survive what comes next.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Welcome to my Blog

Many years ago, I published a weekly 2-page newsletter on current political and world events. Produced on the original IBM PC in the early 1980s, printed on a dot matrix printer, copied at a local shop, and mailed to a small list of subscribers (some who even paid!). It was, in most respects, a proto-blog.

Now, I re-enter the world of commentary with this blog. Who knows where it will go, or what will be of interest to me, let alone anyone who chooses to read my ramblings. But unless I write it, no one can read it. So, here goes....The Notaworry Blog is born!