Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This is Change I Can Believe In

Jim Webb is truly a phenomenal United States Senator. He has the confidence and intelligence to tackle tough public policy problems that lesser politicians (99 percent of his colleagues in the country) dare not tackle out of concern of taking a hit in popularity, upsetting interest groups and/or upsetting established media narratives.

Per the Washington Post:
"I enjoy grabbing hold of really complex issues and boiling them down in a way that they can be understood by everyone," Webb said. "I think you can be a law-and-order leader and still understand that the criminal justice system as we understand it today is broken, unfair, locking up the wrong people in many cases and not locking up the right person in many cases."
I wish him all the best in his efforts to reform our incarceration infrastructure. The fact that more than 1 percent of the U.S. population is in jail is not only immoral, a serious indictment on the failings of our society (a black man without a high school diploma has a 60 percent chance of going to prison!), culture and public policies... it is bankrupting our state and local governments.

Furthermore, Webb is one of the few public officials with the credibility and the desire to challenge drug enforcement advocates. It is no secret our "War on Drugs" has been a complete unmitigated disaster.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Another Reason why The Economist Rocks

Nothing quite like the sarcasm and wit of the editorial board of The Economist. In a leader (November 15, "O give me a home...") discussing the possibility of the Maldives looking to buy a new homeland, as the country looks likely to be a casualty of rising sea levels, the editors expand the discussion to include the U.S.:
And Barack Obama, committed to uniting America, could defuse the nation’s culture wars by purchasing an alternative homeland for those of his countrymen who want more use of the death penalty, less gun control and no gay marriage. A slice of Saudia Arabia’s empty quarter would do nicely: there’s plenty of space and the new occupants would have lots in common with the locals.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Future of the "Bolivarian Revolution"

I highly recommend watching the Frontline program "The Hugo Chavez Show" showing this week on PBS. In addition to demonstrating why government efforts to control the commanding heights of the economy are utterly doomed to inefficiency and failure -- it showcases how an elected official can effectively use modern communication methods to build his brand and craft his public image to one's core coalition.

The history of this beautiful country is incredibly tragic. Unfortunately, I believe in the next two years a new monumental chapter of sorrow is about to unfold. The precipitious drop in the price of oil has left Chavez with serious financial difficulties and the inability to continue buying off support from the poor. As his popularity decreases with the public, and former allies turn against him, I fear the methods Chavez will resort to in order to preserve power and enact the "Bolivarian Revolution."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Politics of Fear

I have noticed that individuals pushing an issue agenda keep using fear to advance their narrative in the public's consensus. While there is evidence that fear and negative campaigning does indeed work to elect candidates into office, I do not think this is an effective method to increase public recognition of a political cause or empower a larger minority to demand change. Furthermore, I think ridiculous projections and/or talking points reduce one's ability to grow their coalition and damages the efforts by many who are working to actually achieve progress on the cause.

I'm going to take two examples to illustrate my rationale: radicals in the environmental movement (this post) and the U.S. right-wing campaign against socialism (future post TBD).

Knowing that an individual has said the following statements over the years do you really think that he is an effective messenger to increase the environmental movement's coalition?
  • "the battle to feed all of humanity is over ... In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now" (1968);
  • "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980" and "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks that India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971" (1968);
  • "I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000" and "'Smog disasters' in 1973 might kill 200,000 people in New York and Los Angeles" (1969);
  • "in ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish" (1970);
  • "before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity . . . in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion" (1976);
  • "by 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth's population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people" (1969);
  • "by 1980 the United States would see its life expectancy drop to 42 because of pesticides, and by 1999 its population would drop to 22.6 million" (1969);
  • "actually, the problem in the world is that there is much too many rich people..." (1990);
  • "giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun" (1992); and
  • "we've already had too much economic growth in the United States. Economic growth in rich countries like ours is the disease, not the cure" (1990)
The answer is clearly a resounding NO!!! I was catching up on some podcasts recently and listened to a Science Friday's from August entitled "Mass Extinction Event on the Horizon?" Host Ira Flatow was interviewing the man responsible for the previous statements... Paul Ehrlich.

Now I strongly consider myself an environmentalist. I believe public policy in regards to the environment must incorporate not only the needs of humans, it must take into consider the interests of plants and animals as we do in fact SHARE this planet with them.

However, it blows my mind why anybody takes Ehrlich seriously or would give him a platform to spew his nonsense... unless they are against growing the global coalition to take public policy measures to combat climate change and pollution caused from human activities. Ehrlich had the audacity to claim:
  • "the United States is going to be 439 million people by 2050. That's roughly 300 million people more than anybody has ever given a reason for having alive in the United States at one time";
  • "I think people need to be scared (of future environmental devastation)... Fear ought to be a big incentive now if we care anything about our children or grandchildren world" (Paul, fear doesn't work if you have 0 credibility);
  • "we don't even have a population policy! In the United States we argue about immigration policy without having a population policy. It's kind of like designing an airplane that can load 100 people a minute and when you say how many should it fly and you say well don't worry about that just design a plane that will load 100 people a minute." (Seriously? First off, government doesn't belong in the bedroom!!! Beyond that, Paul has consistently ignored evidence showing that as economic material well-being goes up, birthrates go down & the role technology can and will play to produce goods consumers want far more efficiently.)
This nonsense and tactical advise does not and will not convince anybody who is not a part of the growing environmental coalition to join -- it only reduces the credibility of the movement as a whole and damages the credibility and validity of the environmental brand. For the sake of the planet, please stop giving Ehrlich anymore media opportunities to tarnish the hard fought gains the environmental movement has made with the American and global public.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why I am against the Proposed Bailout of the Big Three

Reposting my thoughts I e-mailed to a few friends the other day. The remarks in quotations are statements from a really good friend of mine.
"No other industry has been similarly crippled because external circumstances - fuel prices - don't have such a major effect on the health of any other industry."

Fuel prices are NOT the reason the American auto industry is having problems. That is an absurd argument. Why are Toyota, Honda and other foreign manufacturers still in the black? The foreign companies have achieved profitability in America mainly by setting up their factories in Southern and border states where they could avoid the UAW, and thereby introduce efficient methods of production.

"The automakers also rely heavily on loans and bonds to operate; the complete collapse of the credit market was another factor beyond their control."

Not really. Only a couple of years ago, GM was paying $5 billion per year in health benefits to retirees and current employees. The UAW was intent on saddling GM, Ford and Chrysler with absurdly high benefit liabilities knowing if all else failed government would pick up the tab.

There is a reason foreign automobile companies have easier access to credit -- they are simply run better and limit the power unions have.
Back to the principle point at hand.... why bankruptcy is the needed cure and why the bailout is a bad idea.

Bankruptcy Needed

1. Bankruptcy would help GM and Ford become more competitive by allowing them to rip up significant parts of their labor contracts with the UAW. Allowing the big three to dramatically reduce their health care liabilities to past and present workers and reduce the wages of current workers would lead to dramatic cost savings. I doubt this is possible without declaring bankruptcy.

Here is an analogy for you... United Airlines. By entering bankruptcy it was able to reduce its inflated cost structure by breaking contracts it had with the pilots union and other employee unions. It exited bankruptcy a slimmer and more efficient airline. Although it remains to be seen if UA can still survive, it is in much better shape to compete than before it entered bankruptcy.

2. Bankruptcy would force a massive reorganization. The current management would be forced out and allow the firms to reorganize and become more productive and efficient firms.

Why Bailout Bad

1. A bailout of the big three without forcing fundamental change in how these firms are managed will only result in another round of $25-$50 billions checks in the very near future. It is simply a terrible idea to simply write a check to the auto industry without demanding major, major restructuring of its labor contracts. Without that the money will simply go down a rat hole and the automakers will just be back again in a year or two asking for more money. Why should we as taxpayers subsidize a business model imposed on the big 3 by the UAW that is fundamentally not feasible?

The Democrats need the mid west for political power, and rely on the UAW and other unions to get out the vote. No way are the Dems going to get the needed massive concessions out of the UAW to allow the Big 3 to be able to compete without subsidies against foreign car companies that are profitable without massive government subsidies.

2. Government is inherently bad about picking economic winners and losers. Rewarding political patronage and enhancing electoral power is more important than creating a viable profitable business.

3. What is the objective of the bailout? To save jobs? At least with the bailout of the financial sector we have an objective of keeping banks capitalized enough where they can continue to lend money. Pretty straightforward.

We just don't have any good blueprint for what we want them to do!!!
"what matters is getting the policy right so that we don't put too many people out of work, on the one hand, or waste the government's money on the other."

I would argue that a bailout in of itself is a waste of taxpayer money. Government should not be in the business of deciding economic winners and losers -- that my friend is socialism.
Bottom line is Detroit needs to dramatically cut production, wages and health care costs.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Media's Change of Guard

I thoroughly enjoy the political e-mail conversations/debates I have with three good friends of mine growing up. Two I would consider very liberal, the other pretty conservative (of the Heritage Foundation ilk). After a conversation on whether or not O'Reilly and Hannity have any intelligence I decided to retort with a longer response on the future state of the media. The piece is unedited and very raw, yet I thought I would share it here as it may be of interest to some.


Looking at the current media environment I think partisan media will only grow. If you look at communications and media historically partisan and opinionated news sources dominated. The period between WWII and the 2000 elections, where the ethics and standards of journalism was held in the upmost esteem, was a historically anomaly. This period was possible due to the incredible profit margins the networks, print and radio outlets had as the cost of distributing information went radically down due to new technologies (broadcast and print ad revenue with a growing affluent readership).

The profit margins are gone. Technology has grown so rapidly it has enabled an entire new medium of communication that is free to deliver -- the internet. Not only is it free it is incredibly fast. Why would I pay and wait for information when I can get it free and quicker online?

Daily newspapers are simply fucked. They will never make up the ad revenue online. The transaction cost for people to search for favorite sources of information online is very minimal. People will naturally look for information that conforms to their world view as it provides greater satisfaction. For evidence not only have the daily circulation numbers crashed, the New York Times corporate debt is now rated as junk and the Christian Science Monitor dropped its daily print edition and became a weekly. If a non-profit can't make it times are really bad.

With those will go the high standards for journalism, unfortunately. Newspapers especially will be in a desperate search to preserve market share, if they survive at all. Rebranding oneself as a paper that "thinks like I do" may be their only salvation outside of some of the elite papers (WSJ, Financial Times, New York Times).

Welcome to the new era of tabloid, partisan journalism. Our only salvation is more sites like TPM and similar right-wing sites find a new audience that is willing to pay for investigative journalism.


The better question here is what does this mean for democracy? As communities grow more uniform (Santa Barbara elite liberals, suburban Orange County conservative), is the nature of bipartisanship essentially doomed? Don't blame the politicians -- blame the voting public!

My biggest concern here is that people stop thinking analytically on how to best solve problems and resort to familiar political rhetoric to feel they belong to something. A spirit of bipartisanship leads to better solutions as people are forced to negotiate out of their often narrow political convictions.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bloomberg 2012

I think there is a real possibility Mike Bloomberg will be our first Jewish POTUS in 2013. Although this sounds rather absurd at first hear me out:

1. We are on the brink of a severe recession. Opinions range from the extremely pessimistic Nouriel Roubini, who recently stated “we are literally one step away from collapse of entire financial system and even the corporate system," to Warren Buffett, who told Charley Rose this week "in my adult lifetime I don't think I've ever seen people as fearful, economically, as they are now... The economy is going to be getting worse for a while." Even Goldman Sachs came out with a report this week stating the recession will be "significantly deeper" than expected and the unemployment rate will rise to 8 percent by the end of the year (the current rate is 6.1 percent). Scary, scary stuff.

2. President Obama -- yes he is going to win -- will be facing a horrible political situation. The promised government programs he is campaigning on right now are not going to happen. We will not have the money. How much more can we borrow from foreign creditors -- especially if the current bailout does not work? Obama will probably move forward reregulating the economy, which will hinder our countries ability to grow out of the impending recession.

3. Voters in 2012 will truly be looking for change. I believe voters will blame the GOPpers for getting us into the impending severe recession and will be impatient with Obama as his public policies fail to turn around the economy. Voters will be looking for systematic change -- not just a change in parties. By self-financing his campaign as an indepedent Bloomberg will be able to brand himself as a economic expert not beholden to corporations or unions.

The base of the Democratic Party will end up taking the party and Obama too far left in the next four years, creating a nice sweet spot for Bloomberg to run as a true centrist. The American public, as much as many progressives don't want to admit this, will not vote for a FDR big government liberal -- even in the case of a severe recession. Of course voters will tilt leftward when voting for the POTUS in such a scenario. However, the American public has changed significantly since 1932. Not only is stock ownership more widespread, we have the example of the Soviet Union to demonstrate that government does a horrible job of trying to "manage" the economy.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Biden/Palin IV

Overall: Considering how low expectations were of Palin she did alright. Biden completely won the debate on policy and knowledge, yet Palin may come out ahead because she didn't completely embarrass herself -- she didn't leave the podium crying that the "elite media" was out to get her.

Ifill did an awful job moderating the debate. She asked horrible follow up questions. It seemed like she was scared of coming across as out to get Palin than she clammed up for 90 minutes.

Observations 70-120 minutes:
- Biden killed the question on how he would be different than an Obama adminstration. Great job.
- "Team of mavericks." 'God' help us all if Palin becomes POTUS.
- Palin completely bullshitted her way through education. She said absolutely nothing of substance.
- I'm glad to see Biden took on McCain's maverick status head on with 7 minutes left. This was the most important moment of the debate IMHO.

Biden/Palin III

Foreign Policy Bottom line: Biden, by essentially debating with McCain and not Palin, just destroyed the Alaskan governor in the foreign policy part of the debate. In fact, Palin looks ridiculous when talking about foreign policy. It is simply incredible just how unbelievably unprepared she is to be the VP. Unreal...

Observations (Foreign Policy)

- Biden did a great job communicating the Dem ticket's Iraq policy. Dude is en fuego 47 minutes in.
- She is obsessed with talking about Israel. Governor, you realize there is more to U.S. foreign policy than Israel? Right....?
- 20 minutes in and Palin finally gets a hit. Calling Biden out for voting for the war prior to being against it. "America craves straight talk."

Policy (Foreign Policy)
- Palin has no policy thoughts here beyond talking points (which I doubt she really understands). Thus I have little say here.
- Biden is spot on the Ahmadinejad does not control Iran -- the mullahs do. In fact,
Ahmadinejad is not even in the top 15 most powerful political figures in the country.
- Wow, that is incredible. Three weeks of funding Iraq is equal to 7 years in Afghanistan. That is incredible. The most suscinct point I have ever heard how the current POTUS completely took his eye off the ball.

Biden/Palin II

Thoughts 15 minutes through 45 minutes (Domestic Issues)
- Great job by Palin to call out Biden's stupid comment that the rich paying higher taxes is "patriotic."
- Palin must be either on speed or chugged a gallon of coffee before the debate. Not only is she speaking super fast, every time they show her legs she can't stop moving.
- "Ultimate bridge to nowhere." This line had more potential yet Biden should have slowed down his tempo before unleashing the comment.
- Biden is coming across as a 19th century populist. Granted, I've never been a fan of his big-government beliefs. However, playing this role allows Obama to seem more centrist and safe to the white U.S. electorate.
- 24 minutes in. Palin addresses her own limitations head on by saying "I've only been at this five weeks and haven't promised anything..." Effective response.
- Check out CNN vs. PBS on HD. Palin and Biden look much better on PBS. Both have a darker tone on PBS, real bizarre. Besides, CNN has too much crap going on on the screen in HD.
- Palin is settling down 30 minutes in. She looks real confident and secure talking about an issue (one of the only issues) she knows about... drill baby drill?
- However, she clearly knows little about climate change. I think this is Biden's best moment in the debate so far. Dude has a mastery of this issue and has a great response to Palin.
- Interesting Palin brought in a comment where Biden mentioned rape. That's a bit aggressive.

- Biden on taxes... "it's fairness." No Joe, a taxation system should not be about "fairness." It should be about collecting revenues as effeciently as possible with as little damage to the economy as possible.
- Palin seems to believe that man's activities is not the primary driver behind climate change. Seriously Governor? She is incredibly weak on this issue. Just wow.
- "Clean green natural gas." Really Governor? Nice eyebrow raise. Althought it is better than coal, it is hardly clean nor green.

Biden v. Palin I

Bottom line: Palin is effective so far connecting as "somebody like me" -- which is really underrated in all communication plans.

- I still don't believe Gwen Ifill didn't disclose to the McCain campaign that she was writing a book that included Obama in the title that was to be released on inauguration day next year. Full disclosure? Ifill clearly believes this applies to the people she covers.

Thoughts through 15 minutes
- Palin looks great in black.
- What's up with Biden's eyes? It looks like the make-up job stopped short of his lower eye lid. Bizarre
- Palin looks more confident than I thought she would 8 minutes in. Nice wink after responding to Biden's call out of McCain's comments that the economy remained strong.
- She is speaking way, way too damn fast. Still is still a little -- no very -- nervous.

- Does anybody really care what Biden is saying? Everybody is far more interested to see if Palin implodes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Couric Interview with Palin.

Although I plan on voting for Obama this is still painful to watch. Palin looks completely out of her league. Granted, she has electoral advantages. However, the thought of the Alaskan governor leading the most powerful nation in the world is rather frightening.

Presidential Debates in 1080

First thought on tonight's debate... just imagine how much worse Nixon would have looked in high definition in 1960.

Bottom line is Obama demonstrated to the American people that he has the fortitude to be POTUS. He passed the credibility test... and he didn't even need a teleprompter.


- Interesting that Obama calls the GOP standard bearer John while McCain calls his counterpart Senator Obama.
- Nice of McCain to start with thoughts on Ted Kennedy. Reinforces his image as being bipartisan. I'm surprised Obama didn't mention this first.
- Although I disagree with Obama on the regulation issue (I am after all a proud libertarian) he did a good job talking about the issue without going over the top as a "progressive" populist.
- 20 minutes in it looks like McCain has gotten underneath Obama's skin. I'm surprised as I expected the opposite to happen. Obama needs to watch his demeanor when McCain is speaking and not commit an Al Gore type mistake.
- 40 minutes in Obama has grown more confident and looks cool, calm and collected.
- Obama has a good issue with "Google for the government." Demonstrates he understands how technology can help improve and reform government.
- 45 minutes in and it looks like McCain is getting angry. Obama did a good job of deflecting his lack of support of the surge and McCain looks pissed off Obama called him out for his ludicrous claims he made in 2003. I'm sure McCain feels he should own this issue and is frustrated that Obama is getting the best of him.
- How many times did McCain start with "Obama doesn't understand..." At least three I think in the first hour. An effective strategy to reinforce the narrative McCain is trying to attach to his opponent.
- McCain had an effective zinger on Obama's statement meeting foreign leaders without preconditions. Obama did the best he could to mitigate the potential political campaign landmine, yet by staying on this issue McCain had the first zinger in the debate.
- 70 minutes in and it looks like McCain is getting real testy when Obama is speaking. Obama has gotten to McCain and I'm waiting for McCain to lose his temper.
- 85 minutes in... by stopping a tit-for-tat on alternative energy and allowing Lehrer to move on Obama helped to diminish the perception that he is arrogant.
- 90 minutes in McCain gets another 10 second zinger in stating he did not believe Obama was ready to lead the country.


- Obama is correct on earmarks. Don't get me wrong earmarks are a problem. However, eliminating them will hardly get our government back in the black.
- I'm glad McCain brought up nuclear power. Nuclear has to play a larger role in our energy infrastructure.
- McCain is getting religion on invading other countries?!?! Paraphrasing McCain... "We shouldn't bomb Pakistan as we need the people to be with us." No shit. So why again was invading Iraq a good idea if your so worried what other nations think of us? Is all this talk of invading Russia going to help our ties with Russia? "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" is going to help our ties with that nation?
- Hey McCain... Pakistan is still a failed state (reflection on McCain stating Obama didn't understand Pakistan was a failed state prior to Musharraf). Pakistan will never be a cohesive country. The name Pakistan combines the name of four ethnic groups to create a false sense of nationalism.
- McCain's "League of Democracies" is ludicrous. Excluding China from any new international organizations that are created is a horrible idea.
- Nice point by Obama that we need Russia and China to craft a solution on the Iran issue.
- John Bolton would be proud of McCain's perspective on North Korea.
- Obama was solid on Russia. The idea of Georgia joining NATO is simply INSANE. Are we really prepared to invade Russia if Russia steps on Georgia's toes again? Georgia does not even have clear borders!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Updates on the Race to be 44

Thoughts on a few recent developments:

1) Brent Scowcroft Stays Neutral: This one really surprised me. Scowcroft is a widely respected and admired foreign policy guru. The book he co-authored with 41, A World Transformed, is an excellent discussion of the international developments that happened during the administration of 41.

The decision by Colin Powell, and now Scowcroft, not to endorse McCain -- that is the real story, not that they are "neutral" -- demonstrates the massive disagreements that exist between the "realist" and "neoconservative" camps in the GOP. Clearly these huge nonendorsements by two heavyweights show that McCain's foreign policy would just be an extension of the current administration's policies (McCain and Cheney's recent dustup is just personal and has little to do with policy... IMO).

2) Paris Hilton's Response to McCain: Best line was "that wrinckly white haired guy." However, it was painful to watch as Hilton is simply an awful actress.

Bonus note: Absolutely hilarious that the new Madden '09 has Brett Favre on the cover as a Packer. Although EA Sports is going to get a ton of press around its product launch on August 12, I'm sure they would have picked somebody else in hindsight.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Arrogance of the New Yorker

Some random thoughts for a beautiful Sunday in Los Angeles.

1. Just imagine the media cycle if the
July 21 cover of the New Yorker was on the National Review, or Weekly Standard. Do you think the response would have been the same? Doubtful to say the least.

2. Oh the arrogance of New York liberals, thinking that this cover will help Obama's image versus reinforcing ridiculous stereotypes held by many in the country. I imagine many will cancel their subscriptions of the weekly after this debacle. So why would the outlet do it? To force Obama to the left... doubtful. Probably just complete sheer arrogance... at the cost of subscriptions and a lose of respect from media observers such as myself.

3. At least the New Yorker forced the McCain campaign to agree with the Obama camp on something. This has been a pattern of the McCain campaign, following the media cycle versus leading it.

It truly baffles me why McCain did not use the period between early February through June to define Obama in the terms that suited the GOP.
Following in the footsteps of a President with less than a 30 percent approval rating, one would think McCain would realize he would have to run a near perfect campaign to claim the Oval Office. However, instead of setting the November election on terms favorable to the GOP, McCain had a completely disorganized campaign message and team... and even took off most weekends from the campaign.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What we have hear... is a failure... to communicate

This news story I read awhile back over at the Web site of the Atlantic was just shocking -- and I am one that is not easily shocked. Apparently numerous offices in the U.S. Department of Indian Affairs were without access to the Internet for seven years... SEVEN YEARS.

I encourage the readers of this blog to check out
's post to get the full scoop. I will state however that it is practically unreal how management ever let this situation deteriorate to the point that it did. We are living and participating in a world where access to information is just critical to be efficient and productive at one's job.

Furthermore, it boggles my mind the lost opportunity cost in man hours wasted by this bureaucratic problem.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Robert Mugabe is an Evil, Evil Man

Although their are a lot of narcissistic, corrupt leaders of nations in the world Robert Mugabe is far and away the worst of this despicable lot (Ahmadinejad, Burma General Than Shwe, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, Hugo Chavez...). It really is amazing how the leadership of Africa refuses to intervene (calling out Thabo Mbeki in particular here) even though it is clear Mugabe will do anything to remain in power until his death.

Seriously, how can the political leadership of Africa watch Mugabe arrest his competitor in the runoff battle soon after he reenters the country, let his supporters beat up U.S and British diplomats in the country and have his goons threathen to burn U.S. and British diplomats alive (I do not think it was an idle threat).

Mugabe has already completely destroyed his country -- it is going to take a generation of Zimbabwians to repair the damage this maniac has already done -- what else does he have to do before Mbeki steps in? I realize he was the idol for the African liberation movement, yet does this entitle him to commit every possible crime against humanity?

Mbeki is already a complete lame duck. It is inexcusable why he can't show some leadership and do the right thing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Iranian Nuclear Threat

Although I have been an extreme skeptic of charges that Bush and/or Israel would attack Iranian nuclear facilities since rumors started flying in 2001, I am beginning to think this actually may happen.

In addition to the serious consequences such an action would have on the global economy and state of security (nicely laid out by Nouriel Roubini recently), I remember watching a panel discussion on PBS in 2002 or so where Lawrence Eagleburger (of all people) stated that if the Bush administration used military force against Iran he would be the first person to speak out against the POTUS. Furthermore, I always believed that the bellicose rhetoric from W was a diplomatic ploy to force greater concessions from the Iranian leadership (he really could not be crazy enough to add even more gasoline on the Middle East inferno... right?).

Roubini quotes Joschka Fischer, foreign foreign minister of Germany, who believes that Israel will attack Iran before the end of the Bush administration. Fischer is definitely a credible source (the Green Party in Germany should not be confused with their disorganized U.S. counterpart).

Furthermore, the Asia Times had a recent article stating a similar opinion. Now I have no idea if they used the same sources, yet apparently this possibility is moving into the realm of feasibility. If Fischer and the Asia Times are correct...

Clearly we need to do everything possible to stop Iran from having The Bomb. Considering how close Pakistan and India have been to blowing each other up... just imagine what the hell could happen if Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt also have The Bomb... outright frightening, I know, I know.

Furthermore, I do not envy the incredibly difficult position Israel lies in. In addition to a domestic political nightmare right now, you have a freakshow lunatic in Ahmadinejad threatening to blow Israel off the map. It is imperative for America to support the only real voice of democracy in the Middle East and ensure Israel continues to thrive for generations to come.
What is really missing from this debate is a conversation on what actually is happening in Iran right now. I listened to a fantastic podcast from Stratfor (do yourself a favor... subscribe to their podcast -- seriously!) this morning. Basically, there is an intense political fight currently between different factions of the conservative political hierarchy. Although I strongly disagree with almost everything the Iranian conservative movement stands for, I do believe figures like Akbar Rafsanjani and others will be reasonable on the nuclear issue if they win out in the current political struggle.

I have heard rumors in the past few years that Khamenei is nearing the end of his life, which makes the implications of the current conservative political battle even more important. However, it makes negotiations on the nuclear issue even more difficult if there is an apparent void of leadership at the top.

Bottom line is we should be waiting to see who the new Ayatollah is after the death of Khamenei before "cowboying up" and bombing Iran. If Iran gets The Bomb before then... well that is really unfortunate... yet I am not convinced we can even eradicate the Iranian intentions militarily anyways. Now, if an Ahmadinejad ally should take over as Ayatollah that is a different ballgame. Quite frankly Ahmadinejad's talk of the "hidden iman" scares the hell of me and reminds me of one General Ripper.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Google and the iphone

I am a huge fan of the iPhone. Although I have heard legitimate criticism it is prone to breakdown, I have only had one minor software problem that was fixed by my local Apple store at The Grove here in L.A.

Google reader is a fantastic tool to keep up-to-date with the blogs I enjoy following (currently at 180 and counting). The most recent update for this iPhone feature is fantastic -- I highly, highly suggest anybody who has an iPhone to add this feature to your home page: www.google.com/reader/i.

I'll have some thoughts on Iran, communication between generations and how McCain has lost control of his brand in the next few days.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Inflation in Zimbabwe

If you ever wanted a sign that Robert Mugabe is truly an evil human being and is completely destroying the former bread-basket of Africa here you go:

"During the meal, one of my mates was drinking beer — 750ml bottles of Castle Lager (fondly called bombers). He ordered a fifth one, was advised that the price, which when he ordered his first, second, third and fourth ones was 160 million per bottle, had gone up to 340 million per bottle."

This is completely ridiculous. It is almost unfathomable South African President Thabo Mbeki continues to support Mugabe. What a travesty.

Update: Mugabe just introduced a Z$500,000,000 bill.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Highway Toll Lanes for L.A.

Good op-ed in the Los Angeles times yesterday on the trial plan approved by the Metro board here in L.A. to convert carpool lanes into toll lanes. I totally support this plan.

We currently finance transportation infrastructure primarily through gasoline taxes, as cars become more fuel efficient we will be losing needed revenue for infrastructure development. So we need to raise more revenue for transportation infrastructure. I am completely against increasing the sales tax to finance transportation infrastructure (there will probably be a 1/2 cent sales tax increase proposal on the November County of L.A. ballot -- VOTE NO!). Not only are sales taxes incredibly regressive, we should be getting money for transportation projects from the users themselves.

Some of the arguments against highway toll lanes and my response:

1. Freeways should be free.
  • Freeways are not free, we pay for the lack of infrastructure with the opportunity cost of our time as we sit in traffic.
2. The lanes will be only for the rich, "Lexus Lanes"
  • This one is real bizarre. The people who will be most inclined to use the toll lanes are one's who value their time the most. Think about a plumber. Paying say $20 (at most) to save up to an hour of their day in traffic they could probably fit two more service calls into their daily routine. A service call is at least $100 each.
  • So the plumber makes $180 more each day. That is $900 a week in additional revenue that is possible with these toll lanes. That is real money to the plumber.
This proposal is a true win-win. We gain the revenue needed to develop a better transportation infrastructure and we allow entrepreneurs to improve our economy.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mohamad Mahathir Has a Blog

Wow, this is awesome. The former prime minister of Malaysia now has a blog. For those of you who don't know, this guy was (and continues to be) one of the more colorful former leaders of the world. Some of his outlandish and utterly ridiculous statements have been:
  • “Currency trading is unnecessary, unproductive and totally immoral. It should be stopped.”
  • “As if these are the good old days when people can shoot Aborigines without caring for human rights.”
  • "The Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”
  • "The Muslims have never ill-treated the Jews."
Mahathir claims he has friends that are Jewish... in the same manner as a cracker from Alabama in the 19th century would say he had black or gay friends.

His blog may be real interesting, once you hit post it is captured in a RSS feed -- even if you delete it right away. This could get real interesting. Citizens of a country deserve the public officials they elect.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On the Unipolar Moment...

I just listened to a fantastic podcast reading of a Richard Haass article in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs entitled "The Age of Nonpolarity: What Will Follow U.S. Dominance."

Highlights, or rather comments/observations I particularly found of interest:
  • Realist theory would predict an era of unipolarity would be followed by a multi-polar world. Haass makes a persuasive case we are headed towards an era of nonpolarity, or "a world dominated not by one or two or even several states but rather by dozens of actors possessing and exercising various kinds of power."
  • Potential competing global powers are too entrenched in the movement of technology, energy, goods, etc. to consider removing themselves from this structure -- their own political stability depends on access to this system.
  • Nonpolarity will increase the potential military/terrorist threats to the U.S. A global system with multiple powers (state and nonstate) is more difficult to defend against than a single enemy (Cold War).
  • Nonpolarity makes diplomacy significantly harder. Getting a broad base of stakeholders to agree on anything will be increasingly difficult.
Haass is totally on point to state free trade of goods and investment amongst countries must be expanded. My final thoughts:
  • The fact that we are leaving a unipolar world to an era where the U.S. has less power to shape the world in the image we see fit only gives greater impetimus on the importance of increasing the free trade of goods and investment.
  • As much as some regimes, such as China, are not exempliary actors for the world or their own people, it is essential that we enhance global free trade of goods and investment to ensure the current system continues to be stable. I would hate to find out what would happen if Communist Party of China (CPC) where to disintegrate, much less the governments of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others.
  • I agree with Haass that our military budget probably should be increased, yet I would go further than Haass on the military expansion concept. The wars of the future are going to be different than the wars of the past. Iraq and Afghanistan clearly have shown that. Honestly -- and granted I have no military experience or expertise -- we should explore radically increasing the number of marines and eliminating the army completely. Are we really going to ever fight a broad based land war again? Probably not. Instead of the army we need to develop a core of nationbuilders (funny how Bush was disgusted with the thought of nationbuilding as a candidate in 2000 and it has since defined his Presidency). Details and role of engagement would have to be hamered out, yet the concept should be explored.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Like... You Know?

I was having dinner with my father about a month ago and I kept catching myself using the phrase "you know." I immediately commented that this was really a horrible expression. What a ridiculous way to ask for acceptance or comment from the intended audience. This got me thinking... how prevalent is this phrased used by the public, politicians and self described "talking heads" on political/public affairs programs.

Seriously, try it some time. I have been quit surprised at how widely used this phrase really is. After reading an article in the Daily News about a week ago that the public image of the Valley from the 1950's is gone -- whites are less than 50 percent of the population now -- can we officially kill the "like" metaphors and insert the phrase "you know" as a cultural faux paux?

Hey, just a thought.