Thursday, January 10, 2008

Interesting midweek news

Ok, I punditized my view of the candidates. Not much but hey, we're all entitled to speak our mind. But reading newspapers this week some articles caught my attention at little more than the normal onslaught of news, as well as some other thoughts listening to NPR's news and talk shows and Charlie Rose's talk show.

I think there is no doubt to anyone the surge is working, but only as long as the US troops are there. We seem to forget it's not everyone against Al Qeada, but the Sunni versus Shite violence and politics. Right now we're supporting both sides with money, arms, intelligence and training to prevent each other from fighting each other while we fight Al Qaeda. What happens when we wind down our occupation and withdraw the troops?

While the Iraq war supporters can tout the surge all they want (editorial in WSJ 1/10/08 by McCain and Leiberman), it's all about a military tactic, and not a strategy, let alone the political and civilian answer. The government is still ineffective, if not corrupt - at our expense, our money - and maybe addicted to the US. The Iraqi military and police is ineffective and corrupt - billions of dollars lost and nearly 200,000 US-supplied arms unaccounted.

The infrastructure still broken with years to go, again with us writing the checks - remember they promised this would be done with oil revenues, and is routinely attacked by insurgents. The healthcare, education and commercial systems aren't. They barely exist beyond basics. And we were promised more in the runup to the war. And we can't keep blaming the Iraqis, Al Qaeda and the post-war breakdowns for the problems.

And so, if the surge is working, what is working for? And for whom? And at what expense? And who's not doing their fair share? And who's dying? If victory is determined by when we can come home, when will that be and at what cost in money and especially lives?

Ok, the news.

The public Interest Declassification Board told the President and his administration they've delayed the declassification too long and classified far too many documents that don't deserve being withheld from public access. This is new? No, but the Board warned the the sheer bulk of documents being created will be overwhelming the in the future. And the Board's report criticized his administration for not saving many electronic documents such as e-mails.

And what documents will George Bush write his memoirs with, his or the "lost" documents, or cite classified documents we can't see or won't be able to see for decades? From his memory? So, will you buy a memoir by him?

Iran's small boat "attack" on a US warship. considering what happened to the USS Cole, there should be concern, and I trust the US Navy to do the right thing. But I don't think it's worth strong verbal threats by George Bush about attacks on Iran if they do more of this. They've been doing this for some time, and it's not new to the Navy. The Soviets did it for decades, and other countries have done this to us and other nations.

And we've done it to other countries. Would the US Navy admit they've conducted secret incursions into Iranian waters to test their defense system? We've been doing this for decades too to assess the capabilities of other nations, so doing it against Iran isn't new to them. It's the simply games navies play with each other. So, let's cool down and let the Navy do their job, and not play it as political rhetoric.

Gotta love Blackwater. They know the rules but then proceed to decide they don't have to follow them. And years later we learn they've treated Iraq as their personal property. There's an article in 2005 they dropped CS gas from a helicopter and a security vehicle on a checkpoint because their people were stuck in traffic. They're immune to prosecution for anything they do, and while we curtailed their presence, they're just one of many private security firms doing similar things.

Onward. Love this one. The Justice Department can't monitor corporate fraud, so they hire consultants to do this for them. Except they use no-bid contrats to former Justice Department attorneys' firms. We're talking ten of millions of dollars to oversee settlements with corporations worth almost $4 Billion. And the problems?

First, reviews showed that the Justice Department may be and in some cases is too lenient with the settlements. Second, trusting private industry to oversee private industry opens the door to corruption that can't be monitored by the government. Third, the Justice Department doesn't oversee the contract to verify the oversight is working and the corporations are complying with the settlement.

Gee, it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Not.

Ok, that's enough for this week. My brain is fried. So, I'll leave with a thought, expressed in a photo. We should all be so innocent? Sadly, we can't, but we can smile at life, so enjoy being alive, and being in a country where free speech, so far, is a right and (generally) protected by our Constitution.

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