Saturday, January 30, 2010

Current Events

Yes, yet another combined-issue post. I've been pretty busy lately, trying to raise funds for a missions trip to Africa I'm taking this summer. But I thought I'd just go over a few recent issues, and give my take.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abdulmutallab too

The Obama admin caved. They're not going to hold Mohammed's trial in NYC anymore, which really shows yet another incredible lack of political backbone. But I digress. Apparently, too many people found it unpalatable for him to be tried in NYC, which for myself I see as a very proper venue. It would show that we're not afraid to face our past demons.

(And of course, any event like this can't go without its mention of the most recent big, bad, scary terror plot- this time in the form of the "Underwear Bomber". Dianne Feinstein, a senator from California, stated-
"Without getting into classified details, I believe we should view the attempted Christmas Day plot as a continuation, not an end, of plots to strike the United States by al-Qaeda and its affiliates," (!!!!) "Moreover, New York City has been a high-priority target since at least the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The trial of the most significant terrorist in custody would add to the threat."

I find it quite hilarious that people actually think this kid who couldn't even light the bomb right was actually part of al Qaeda. We're talking about the organization that managed to coordinate attacks on some of the most famous landmarks in the US, not to mention plan and execute simultaneous attacks on embassies thousands of miles apart. And this kid, who had a bomb that wouldn't even take out his own seat, is representative of their organization?! Yeah, sure.)

Anyway, back to Mohammed. A bunch of people have been protesting trying Mohammed in NYC- or anywhere on US soil. Why? Well, you never know- it just might be that American values might forever be undermined if we were to take this incredibly drastic step.

Of course, this move is not without precedent. Bush also tried al Qaeda and other terror suspects- in civilian courts. 87 terror suspects, in fact. And (just an interesting little tidbit), Bill O'Reilly (one of the most outspoken voices against trying Mohammed on US soil) vigorously defended Bush's decision to allow these trials to move forward!

Healthcare and Scott Brown

Scott Brown the Republican Liberal won Massachusets, and thereby ensured that a watered-down version of healthcare reform will get through. I say watered down because he does want socialized healthcare, but just doesn't think the current plan will adequately fix things.

I happen to agree with him on the latter point. But I also happen to think we don't need another plan. I think his idea that individual states should take care of healthcare (though he seems to only half-heartedly believe in that, at best) is a good one, not to mention Constitutional.

'Course, Obama has already decided his healthcare bill ain't doing so hot, and has switched to other issues, probably in an attempt to dispel murmurs against him in the Democratic phalanx. (I think his time could be better spent trying to get DOMA or the PATRIOT act repealed, like he promised.

Middle Eastern Issues

So we're toughening sanctions on Iran (and planning to launch missiles at them), Karzai is reaching out to the Taliban, an imam got shot by American troops in Kabul, and the Brits are doing investigations into Tony Blair's (Former Prime Minister of the UK) conduct concerning Iraq.

To start with Iran- I have to wonder what morality we're appealing to that gives us the right to impose sanctions on anyone, especially someone who is innocent. And Iran, to all appearances, is innocent. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated that they don't have nukes, have never had nukes, and have no intention of having nukes anytime in the near future.

And, lets face it, sanctions do very little except make third-world countries even worse off. Cuba, a country that has had sanctions against it for years (while we simultaneously do business with them) is no closer to getting rid of Communism now than it was ten years ago. The people are starving, but our lofty goals of ridding the world of, well not much progress. That is all sanctions do, in any case- rid the average people of food and supplies they need to survive.

Karzai, our lovely puppet-President in Afghanistan is opening peace/"moving forward" talks. At least he's trying. In fact, the Taliban (with the interesting stipulation that they must be "moderate" Taliban) is invited to said talks.

And the Brits are investigating Tony Blair, their former Prime Minister. Why? Because of Iraq, and his ardent support of it (and his friend, Bushie). I applaud the Brits for their ability to do so. I think we ought to do the same thing to Bush, but that might just be me. Of course, we lack the British capability to detach ourselves from our emotional turmoil. It might not work here.

Corporate Campaign Contributions?

As most of you probably know, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a 2001 ban (Feingold-McCain) on corporate campaign contributions. I agree. Sort of, and let me explain.

I see nothing wrong with corporations exercising the first amendment right to free speech, which includes using money as leverage in a political campaign. But I also think that voters should be informed enough to watch where their prospective elected officials are getting their money.

Hence, if prospective Senator Ronald McDonald has gotten $200,000 in campaign donations from McDonalds, it might be wise for voters to wonder if there is some sort of ulterior connection between said Ronald McDonald and McDonalds, and decide their vote accordingly.


I can't help thinking there was something else I needed to cover. Oh well. I'm going to be doing a post on the President's State of the Union sometime this week...a week after he gave the speech. But it should be up here soon. :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Competing Currencies?

An act proposed by Senator Ron Paul (R-Texas) would "legalize competing currencies."

I agree with Senator Paul on many issues, including his stance on the Federal Reserve. But this time...well, I just don't see how this would do us any good.

For one, it seems unconstitutional to me. Congress is supposed to print money, and regulate it. So Congress needs to take up their duties like they ought, buck up, and be men. Also, I think it would just create a lot more chaos than we have now. What happens if you go into Walmart, and they use Fed bills, but you use a different currency? What then? How do we determine exchange rates? That was one of the reasons the 'money clause' was put into the Constitution. States were making their own money, and it was causing tons of havoc.

I also think with this bill, we're asking for trouble because people will start counterfeiting, further inflating our money supply, and using this bill to justify it. We'll shoot ourselves in the foot with this thing, IMO. Letting people 'mint private money', yeah, we're just asking for trouble. That would cause inflation as well, I would think. With gold, there's also the problem of exchange rates. How do we set a rate? How do we know what a certain bit of gold is worth?

I think a better, more permanent solution would be for a) Congress to do their job and start printing money- US legal tender- as they ought. b) This money should be available for exchange at any bank. This exchange would work by people bringing in their Fed bills and receiving an equal amount of USLT. (An exchange rate would have to be worked out. Right at the beginning, perhaps one for one.) Alternately, we could also just start issuing USLT, and let the Fed bills work their way out of the system, but that might also cause more problems than good

So there's just my thoughts on that. Anyone else?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Go Broakley

So I couldn't decide. It seemed a decision between worse and worser. So go Senator Broakley. Let us win.

(And no, I don't live in Massachusets. I just thought saying something on the subject would be fun.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The War on Terror

I think my full views and thinking on this matter have not been explained well, so this is my attempt to correct a few misconceptions, as well as explain why I think the way I do.

Disclaimer- just because I don't want to fight two useless wars in the Middle East with the terrorists, does not automatically mean I am 'with' the terrorists. I believe there are better, more cost-effective, less bloodthirsty ways to go about reaching a solution.

I am for national defense. I just do not think that, in this case, the way we went about national defense was the most effective way, as evidenced by our failure to accomplish anything significant (besides a mountain of debt and hundreds of thousands of deaths) during the last eight years. The 'war on terror' we are fighting is unwinnable, pure and simple.

The number one reason for this is because we cannot fight terrorists as if they were a conventional enemy.

By 'conventional' I mean one with a uniformed, organized military, located and based in a central area, constituted by a country or other boundary. The terrorists are not a conventional enemy, making them a unique target for us. This is the first time we, the US, have faced an enemy of such a nature. Their power is indirect, exerted from so many different places, it's impossible to pin them all down. They have proponents all over the world, from Brooklyn to London to Kabul to Beijing.

The reasoning for the men who use the tactic of terrorism is as varied as Americans' reasoning for disliking Obama. Some reasons are as simple as the incentive of the seventy virgins myth says they will receive if they are martyred. Others are more prosaic; they have had friends and family killed by the Americans, and wish to wreak their revenge. For others is a matter of nationalism: we have repeatedly invaded their lands, occupied their countries, and they're sick of it.

These reasons are firmly believed in, no matter who the men are. Some don't fully ascribe to the doctrinal beliefs of al Qaeda or the Taliban, but the two groups seem to know what they're doing, so they go along with it. On the other hand, some of the men stuck in the Taliban and al Qaeda were forced to join. Quite regularly, men are impressed into service via threats against family members, or physical harm to themselves. Still others merely want the money and loot they might be able to pick up if they stick around.

Another reason we will never get rid of these terrorists with our current tactics is because al Qaeda and like groups hide. Their main skill set is in hiding. They are of such a temperament that they must hide, or die. And so, they hide.

Our military, on the other hand, is used to going out, proverbial banners waving, acting macho and facing an organized military of the same caliber as they. And so, they are wholly inadequate to our current conflict. But I do not blame them for these 'wars'. They are merely doing what they are supposed to: follow orders. These 'wars' are the fault of our politicians, and a bit indirectly, our fault for letting them get away with their power-grabbing ways.

Another reason I believe we cannot win, and never will is because of the innate nature of terrorism.

Terrorism is a tactic. It has been used by militaries, yes, by countries, of course, but the tactic is still just that; a tactic. You cannot fight a tactic via conventional warfare, as I explained briefly above.

One more reason, on the tack above, is that the groups that use the tactic of terrorism are resilient, adaptive, and highly tenacious.

We utterly destroyed the Taliban. Or at least, we thought we did. But within weeks after we 'destroyed' them, they were back, their resolve strengthened by their initial defeat.

In this vein, we also often hurt our own cause. bin Laden's primary argument against us is that we are imperialistic. That is also the complaint of many of the Middle Easterners, including the Taliban. And when we act in a way that fulfills his opinion of us, we give he and his cronies yet more reason (not to mention propaganda material) to dislike us. In the same way, when we destroy what we thought was a 'military' target, and it instead turns out to be a civilian target, we enrage the Middle Easterners more, and give bin Laden and his ilk that much more ammunition to throw at us.

It is a good rule of thumb for both the economy and our present circumstances- when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Another reason we will not catch these terrorist groups if we keep going the way we are is because effective intelligence cannot be gathered.

The CIA, the FBI, and the NSA have all acknowledged that their high-tech SIGINT (signals intelligence) and COMINT (communications intelligence) gathering equipment is virtually useless in the medieval-like atmosphere of Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike here, computers/internet, cell phones, or even radios are scarce. Satellite phones were in usage for a short time, but al Qaeda has ceased using them- with excellent results for them, but bad ones for us. We don't know where bin Laden is, nor where any of his top lieutenants are.

Our HUMINT (human intelligence) gathering efforts have also been sad. We get very little reliable intel from our captives or the people in the countries. Much of this is because a) the captives hate us, and b) the people hate us too. The captives have a vested interest in not telling us anything, especially if they're religiously motivated. If they hold out, Allah will reward them. More prosaically, many of them have friends and buddies in the organizations we try to get them to talk about, and they don't want to betray them. Also, for men used to the heavy-handed tactics of the Taliban, fear for retribution against their families if they talk could also figure in.

The people hate us because, quite frankly, we've ruined their countries. We've demolished their infrastructure, overthrown their governments, and become a bit tiresome. In fact, the Afghan people have begun calling us the "New Russians!"

Another reason we cannot win is because we cannot conquer the minds and hearts of the people...especially when we don't know their language.

Very few translators or Arabic-speaking individuals were sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Leading up to the invasions, private contractors (in much the same fashion as for our hired mercenaries) were found to hire Arabic-speaking individuals to be quickly trained and sent with the military. This means that very few of our people over there can communicate in any intelligent fashion with the Iraqi or Afghan people, which can cause great problems.

This is also another reason our SIGINT, COMINT, and HUMINT efforts fail so spectacularly. Simply put, we do not have enough people who can speak the language, and so we cannot understand what they are saying. For all we know, we could have missed several excellent opportunities that the Iraqi and Afghani people afforded us, but the opportunity was lost because our soldiers simply did not understand what they were saying.

Because of all these factors, I believe that the 'war on terror', and the associated 'war' in Afghanistan is wrong. Our proclaimed goal- to fight terror- is something we will never accomplish.

In any case, even if our intentions are pure (which I'm sure, for some Americans, they are), we are still going after the wrong people. Pakistan is most likely feeding funds to al Qaeda, and isn't exactly disapproving of the Taliban. Saudi Arabia is a known sponsor of terror, not to mention the fact that they've given funds to radical Islamic and secular terrorist groups in the past. Afghanistan, in comparison, is (and was) merely a medieval-minded, Islamic loony-bin, for all intents and purposes.

On the subject of Iraq

Were we justified in taking our Holy War into Iraq? In a word, no.

Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense, Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, and their friends Dick Cheney and George W. Bush used sketchy intelligence to push their case before the UN (a speech made by Powell) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Of course, using such a tactic was merely a means to an ultimate end for him- right after he heard about the 9/11 attacks, he was convinced they were the work of Iraq, without intelligence, without even preliminary reports to go on.

Basically, Powell used two major things as argument in his speech:
1. Intercepted SIGINT concerning 'modified vehicles' (which turned out to be trailers to carry weather balloons), a message concerning the deletion of certain phrases from the files of the Iraqi government (which turned out to be just purging of extraneous information concerning their former chem-weapon program; the remaining information, mainly just references to certain kinds of weaponry, was purged pending the UN inspection so as to not give the US provocation or cause to attack), and another message speaking about unmanned drone tests (of all the intel, this proved to be the most sound; a prototype of a Soviet-style UAV was found, but its range didn't extend over the Iraqi border, and it was barely holding together as it was).
2. That Saddam Hussein had used chem weapons before- which was true, but UN inspectors had found no evidence of chemical or biological weapons in their inspection, and Hussein had repeatedly said he had none.

Saddam Hussein repeatedly said he did not have WMD's, and that he had not been planning to make them- yet we still attacked him.

A better, Constitutional Solution

I don't claim to have all the answers. But I do think there were better options available to us immediately after 9/11. For starters, we could have ensured every person here with an expired visa or green card left. The 9/11 hijackers were living here on expired visas, along with millions of other prospective terrorists. Second, we could tighten up the medicare system so that illegals cannot benefit from our taxpayer money, and potentially use it for illegal activities.

Third, we need to make an effort to tighten up our border security, both from Canada, Mexico, and on our coasts. A lucrative business is run in Mexico running in drugs, illegals (including Arabs) and other contraband material. If we were to close off that outlet, it would make it much more difficult for potentially dangerous people to get in.

Lastly, invest more money in the immigration process. To get into this country legally takes forever; hence why so many people try to get in illegally. If we had taken the money we spent in the wars, we could have easily accomplished this by hiring more immigration workers and giving them the tools they need to do their job.

In Conclusion

To sum up- our reasoning and our plan for executing this 'war on terror' is fundamentally flawed. Our flawed understanding of terrorists and what terrorism truly is cripples us, because it traps us in a conflict we will never win.

We will never win it because our actions are counter-productive, our intelligence-gathering nonexistent, and our mission statement too vague. Our reasoning for going into both Afghanistan and Iraq was sketchy at best, wrong at worst.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hijacked Tea Parties

I attended the April 15th 'tea parties'. I also attended the July 4th tea party in my town. Even then, I couldn't help feeling that they had been hijacked- slowly, carefully, but quite effectively.

They have been hijacked by the Republican party.

Lest we all forget, the tea parties began because of Bush and his bailouts. They were not all about Bush; the issues were as varied as the people who attended. And it is not now just about Obama.

But it seems like that is what most of it has become now. Sarah Palin is going to be the keynote speaker at the 'Tea Party Convention'. That in itself shows that people are no longer getting the point of the tea parties- they are against the intrusions of both sides, not just Obama or the Democrat party.

So, this is just a short rant about it. ^.^ Excuse my lack of lucidity- it's rather late. :P

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The 'Healthcare' Plan

“Obama’s health care plan will be written by a committee whose head says he doesn’t understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn’t read it and whose members will be exempt from it, signed by a president who smokes, funded by a treasury chief who did not pay his taxes, overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that is broke. What could possibly go wrong?”
(Unquiet Voice)