Thursday, December 27, 2007

End of the Year Thoughts

If you're not familar with these post I write about the news of the world, it's very simple. I collect stories from the news or ideas I see or hear and write about them, usually a paragraph or two with links and/or questions. It's more a sample than the totality that passed my brain which I think are interesting, angering, or humorou - sometimes all three at once. They're in no particular order, priority or importance, just a pile of notes and cutout articles.

And so the end of the year thoughts?

Well, the obvious, Iraq. We're making deals with the 60- or so Sunni tribal Sheiks in el Anbar province to fight Al Qeada. And we're declaring this war a success. Ok, but the fight against Al Qeada isn't the biggest problem, which can appear to be as the violence has subsided there. Why? Because the Sunni now dominate everything with our backing and power. And we've given them money and arms to do that. They've replaced the insurgents, criminals and Al Qeada.

The news story suggested while it may be good in the short run, and only took us 4-plus years to figure it out, it may not work in the long run because we're establishing them as an autonomous government against the Shiia-lead central government. We're doing the same in the north with the Kurds too, even while we're condoning Turkey's fight with the PKK there. And we're doing it in the south and east and in Baghdad with the Shiia-lead tribes and groups to fight the insurgents and criminals.

We're establishing three almost autonomous regions with little oversight and control by a central government essential to the longer term stability of Iraq. And it doesn't answer two questions.

First, what happens when we leave with our checkbook? Or are we setting it up that we'll be there for years if not decades to maintain the balance against the competing forces? Is this what we were sold when we approved the war? Is this in the best interest of this country? And what if the next President decides a change in direction? Or will he/she really have the nerve to tell the Iraqis we're leaving? Or will he/she have to sell us the same story George did about the war on terrorism?

Second, what happens when the regions collide with the central government? Are we really building a nation or nations within a nation and hoping for the best. Are we really understanding what will happen when the reality of the issues hits the ground and they have to make the decisions and agreements about their future? Without a real leader and strong government, who will win control or will they and it descends into a civil war with the same money and arms we gave them? And our troops are in the middle of what?

Earmarks. Gotta love ole George about these. He whined all this fall about them and the democratically controlled Congress, to reduce them by half. Half of what? It's half of all those republican earmarks he didn't whine one second about and signed all the funding bills. For six Congressional sessions he did this as they rose to their greatest level in history, with his blessing.

And the Democrats almost did what they promised, cut them by 43% instead of their target 50%, back to the level in the Clinton era. And George whines? For what? He's the biggest spender in history and he complains about the spending Democrats?

And now he has asked the Office of Management and Budget to find a way to avoid actually spending the money. And he's instructed the agencies not to work on those projects in the earmarks. Huh? He's acting like a father disciplining the younger teenagers for the bad habits of the older teenagers. Go figure.

Other news? Merry Christmas to those 65 and older. The courts have ruled you can lose your company health insurance forcing you to Medicare Plan B whether you like it or not, and have problems filling the gap of coverage and costs, or hope you can get supplemental insurance. The story mentioned only about a third in this country have company sponsored health insurance and about a tenth have it after 65.

So, we can expect Medicare to increase as companies get out of this to pawn it off to the taxpayers. And if you're a young, especially republican, is that what you thought about with your tax money? Paying your grandparents healthcare? Well, you will even more as my generation gets older and over 64 to move to Medicare.

Personally I had planned to avoid Plan B with my health coverage and will now have to see what happens. But hey, it's your money I'm spending.

Chinese products. China exports a lot of products to southeast Asia, like Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, especially the rural areas and towns. And the people buying them are complaining about the bad quality of the Chinese products compared to Japanese and other nation's products. It seems we're not the only ones complaining about the quality despite the price.

Passing thought renewed, 5 Myths about Terrorism.

Pakistan. It's in the news and I wish the people of Pakistan. My thoughts? My bet is that Musharraf has his out to declare marshall law, delay the election for a year or more and keep control of the country. He wants and likes our money too much not to do this to "preserve the peace in his country." George likes him because he's a non-democratically elected leader (we love them more than elected ones) who is "America's ally in the fight against terrorism.". The Taliban likes him because he keeps the US out of their controlled terrorities in Pakistan. And the military likes him because he keeps the money rolling in (since they also own many of the major industries) to provide the weapons to control the people.

As one analysist said, "How else is there now who can rival him?"

American Apparel. A very good and interesting company, but they put an ad in the NY Times about immigration. While I agree with some of their views, they still miss the main point in the discussion about immigration, which is intentionally clouded by the immigration groups on both sides. And that is? The distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.

No one is arguing against legal immigrants, and maybe we need a better policy for more and better oversight so everyone is counted and paying. The argument is about the illegal ones. So let's keep the eye on the issue and appropriate solutions. And not the political rhetoric. Or at least when someone talks about it, ask them to clarify their definitions of the words and differences between these two.

Ok, final thought. A real touchy issue. Al-Jazeera TV in the US. They have a new english channel modelled after the BBC. They've interviewed many distinguished western leaders, including US leaders, and run objective, realistic documentaries on the issues. So why are the satelitte companies refusing to carry them and only one cable company, Comcast, refuse? And even Comcast backed out citing customer disapproval.

Why? What are we afraid of? Freedom of speech? Like we've been getting it so far about the middle East? I for one applaud their effort to bring us different views and footage about the war. I'm open to listening and seeing. Are you?

Parting jesture. After the recent flooding in western Washington, an interesting article on landslides. View the larger image too. Still want to believe that clearcuts don't harm the environment? Like this mountain will come back quickly after all the soil has been eroded?

Have a good and safe holiday, and I'll see you next year.

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