Friday, August 18, 2006

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The first bit of good news I have heard in many years is the decision of Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the United States District Court in Detroit, in which she declared the US government policy of eavesdropping to be illegal and unconstitutional. She went on to declare, “There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution.”

This is the only person who has dared to stand up to the Executive Branch and tell the truth.

I, for one, thank her from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Drums of War

The ink is not yet dry on the cease-fire and the region is starting to worry about the next episode in the saga. Most Arabs I’ve spoken to, in the last couple of days, think that the US supported invasion of Lebanon was a preamble for the main event, in which the US attacks Iran. That it was meant to test the efficacy of the resistance fighters, as supported by Iran. Lebanon was just a pawn in the game, sacrificed early, in order to see the weapons that will be brought to bear in the real battle.

Many are preparing their families to move out of the region in anticipation of a spreading conflict. Many of them are trying to create liquidity and have stopped investing in the region. Real estate prices that climbed in double digits over the last few years are starting to show negative returns.

The house of cards upon which the region’s recovery was built is coming down. Lebanon was that card at the bottom of the house that has weakened the entire structure.

I am totally without words to express the frustration at seeing my government’s idiotic foreign policies around the world. The more I read history, the more I realize how we have made the bed we now have to sleep in. I do believe that we have reached a very dangerous point on the road. The path we are taking is going to lead to a larger Middle Eastern war that could bring in Europe, China and Russia on one or the other side. Is this what we want?

What Americans are forgetting, if they ever knew this, is that the point of ignition for the conflict is, and always was, the treatment of the Palestinians. If we really want to make a difference in the region and bring back stability we need to empower the Palestinians.

We give billions to Israel every year. If we could build schools and universities in Palestine, and give the Palestinian back his pride and dignity we could solve this issue in months. All the Palestinian wants is the right to live and work and be able to raise his family with dignity without being treated like an animal.

A new administration in Washington in two years time is not going to change things much unless our attitude changes with it. How can we do this? Perhaps Americans are getting tired of the constant war mongering exacerbated by the press in order to increase viewers and readership. I don’t see signs of this yet. People are willing to believe anything they read without doing any due diligence themselves.

The burden lies with us individually. It is our government. We can change things. I just hope we can change our course before we run aground on the dangerous shoals of Levant. We have elections coming up in a few months. Let us show our elected leaders that we won’t buy the BS we’ve been handed all along. Each one of us has to vote his conscience, not the party he’s used to. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are leading us in the wrong direction. Maybe its time for another party.

It’s our future and that of our children. We’re really messing it up. We all need to change the operating basis we’ve used for years if we really want to change conditions. If we don’t do anything, we lose. Our choice.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What are we?

Some time ago (since my last posting) I read the biography of John Adams. I was blown away by the intention and the work that went into creating the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

We were supposed to be a Republic. We are not supposed to be a democracy. We elect the best leaders and let them govern. In a deomcracy everybody has a vote. We don't operate that way, and never have. Some of our founding fathers were concerned about the survivability of our system of government. They were right. Our system has one great weakness. Our people, our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness, which is why we are loosing the battle, and the war. People vote for what lines their pockets(me), not what is best for the country at large(us).

Somewhere in the sixties with the explosion of drug-use we lost our way. Oh, we had started earlier, but we could still keep it in check. In the last half of the 20th century we became more interested in "me" rather than "us". It became fashionable to blame others, or drugs for our misdeeds. It was OK to do anything, because we had been mistreated in childhood, or abandoned or didn't have Nintendo. Soon we created a plethora of sicknesses (that can't be measured or seen) that our pharma/medical complex wanted to "cure" with drugs. If your child cried because his/her diaper was wet, mothers soon took to giving them Ritalin to keep them quiet. I heard somewhere that over 60% of our children have been given Ritalin. Schools get paid when they give Ritalin to kids. That led to more lack of responsibility on the part of individuals. Then children in schools had to be kept happy at any cost and it was not OK to scold them, lest they loose their sense of worth or some other hogwash.

Our political views have become polarized and our leaders are always looking for the soundbites for the evening news.

I was greatly saddened to realize that we had become a fascist state.

fascism |ˈfa sh ˌizəm| (also Fascism)
an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
• (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.

The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43), and the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.


fascist noun & adjective
fascistic |faˈ sh istik| adjective
ORIGIN from Italian fascismo, from fascio ‘bundle, political group,’ from Latin fascis (see fasces ).

Monday, December 13, 2004

A retrospection

Writen to the NY Times (but not published) on September 2nd, 2002.

Wake up America! Are we going to war? Is the Administration a slice short of a pie?

The resurgence of patriotism that came from the terrorist attack gave the Administration carte blanche to plot our destiny. Their inability to cope with a fabricated, yet costly, energy crisis in California caused a knee jerk reaction by a group who, having come from the oil patch, could only find a solution in an oily bag of tricks. This has culminated in the lobbying of support from our Allies and Representatives in Congress for an invasion of Iraq.

I cannot but help wonder if our leaders have thought this through adequately. Perhaps they need yet another opinion, mine. I’m not a pacifist or a liberal. I tend to vote Republican, though I prefer a somewhat more Libertarian approach. I served as a Marine helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. Today I’m an investment banker who works with alternative energy, and my children are not of draft age.

I would like to know what the cost of an Iraqi invasion would be. Including the cost of the lives lost in such an endeavor. What order of magnitude are we talking about? In the Gulf War we had 148 combat casualties. We flew 18,000 missions. We lost 63 aircraft. Are we talking about 50 billion? 500 billion? One trillion? And that was a short war, one where our allies supported us.

Any invasion of Baghdad is going to cost much more. And the real result we are trying to achieve is energy security for the US. This has nothing to do with terrorism. Were it not for the amount of oil stored under Iraqi soil, I doubt we would bother with Saddam. Our entire foreign policy in the Gulf has always been based on keeping the oil spigot open. We tolerate repressive and unbelievably corrupt regimes in the Gulf because we have a symbiotic relationship with them. The human rights abuses we turn a blind eye to, would curdle the milk of a camel. Hypocrisy for Security is not a good slogan. Yet we really will never have energy security until we reduce and eventually eliminate our need for their oil. And replacing their oil with Russia’s or Kazakhstan’s or Venezuela’s is bound to prolong the pain. More than 70% of the oil reserves of the planet are under the soil of unstable and politically explosive governments. The North Sea is running out. Our Alaskan oil is but a drop in the bucket.

The solution is obvious. We need to terminate our dependence on oil. And the Kyoto Protocol has nothing to do with this. We are not talking about Global Warming; we are talking about Security in its truest sense. Protecting our way of life. For 40 years we have known that hydrogen was the fuel of the future, but vested interests have kept us using oil. Unfortunately Hydrogen is still not ready for prime time. But we are getting closer, much closer. The bulk of our oil needs are to power automobiles and to produce electricity. Just a few years ago, the automobile manufacturers scoffed at us for suggesting such a thing as a hydrogen powered car. Today they are all scrambling to produce fuel cell vehicles, as Toyota and Honda start selling Zero Emission Vehicles in California this year. All it took was a few Japanese car manufacturers to scare Detroit into action.

On the utility front, we also have solutions. Renewable energy. Europe has taken the lead here, and many countries are working towards producing up to 20% of their electrical needs with renewable energy. We could do the same. In fact, we could beat Europe by a long shot. We have more wind, more sun, more geothermal, than Europe could hope for. We just have to get behind the idea and support it wholeheartedly.

What if we took part of the money we were going to spend on the invasion of Iraq and spent it on tax credits for renewable energy? What if we took part of this money and spent it on supporting research into new technologies in energy? What if we created a Nobel type prize and gave a million dollars every year to whoever invented the best breakthrough technology in energy?

We would spend a fraction of what they would spend on a war. We would achieve energy security in our lifetime. We could balance the budget. We would empower students and teachers instead of rock and movie stars. We could hold our head up high and cease to be hypocrites. And best of all, the oil producing countries would have to find gainful employment in order to live in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to.