Farfetched Ideas and Wondering Mind

A Suggested Deal Between Israel and Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled Iran as an “existential threat to Israel” and declared that any nuclear capability in Iran is unacceptable. I suspect that Iran’s leaders see Israel’s nuclear arsenal as an “existential threat” to their nation.

So, I wonder, what about this deal: Israel gives up all of its nuclear weapons, dismantles its capability to build more, and agrees to submit to on-site international monitoring; in return, Iran abandons its uranium enrichment programs, dismantles any capacity it now has to do anything nuclear other than civilian power production, and submits to on-site international monitoring?

Can the Tone of Political Advertising be Changed?

During the recent midterm election campaigns Americans were saturated with political advertising through every conceivable medium: radio, television, mail, telephone, door hangers and knockers. By my unscientific estimate, 99% of these assaults proclaimed the incompetence of an opponent, the dysfunction of Washington, and/or ridiculed President Barack Obama.

I wonder what would happen if candidates ran on a platform that highlighted their own experience, and explained how they would enhance government competence rather than pledging to destroy it?

The increasingly toxic “I will castrate government” mode of campaigning has become the staple of political campaigns and is supported in large part by secret corporate sponsors through contributions of “dark” money. While it might stimulate the radical base of both parties, it alienates a vast majority of voters. It is no wonder that so many people stayed away from the polls.

I can only imagine the reactions of corporate leaders if an applicant for an executive position in their company said this in an interview, “I will gut this business and do combat with the professionals who have led it in the past. I will not propose anything substantive, and I will not lead or innovate. But I will be tough and ruthless in slicing and dicing this corporation.”

What does Senator McConnell Mean by “Regular Order”?

Soon to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to restore “regular order” to the work of the United States Senate. If he means adhering to an open process through which a bill is introduced, expeditiously sent to a committee for markup and then to the floor for debate and an up or down vote, that  is a good thing.

But, I think he means something else: continuing the old order of rules, procedures and customs that cement in place existing power structures, and holding fast to the principle that seniority and adherence to a rigid ideology trumps competence. The ideology will change from Democrat to Republican, but I predict the process will continue to be ineffectual. It is time for a new generation of leaders in both parties and in both houses.

 Who is Poking Whom in the Eye?

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-TN, is a man I have long respected despite differences in our political philosophies. I first met him when he was governor of Tennessee and worked on education issues with my boss, Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt. He seemed to me to be an honest politician who followed a Republican path while seeking common ground with his Democratic colleagues.

But, come on Lamar: To suggest that President Obama is out of bounds to use executive action to implement policies favored by a majority of Americans is disingenuous. Alexander stated that Obama should not act because “You don’t make a deal with someone by poking them in the eye.”

My golly, Senator! Your party has been poking the president in both eyes since 2009. Republicans have been slugging Obama in the gut and slicing away at his back for six years by blocking legislation that had majority support, delaying and often scuttling confirmation of his appointments, and putting up roadblocks to implementation of an agenda that he ran and won on in two elections. And, after obstructing him at every turn, you accused him of not fulfilling his promises to the American people.

Obama said it well last August: “There has been a cynical genius to what some of these folks have done in Washington. What they realized is, if we don’t get anything done, then people are going to get cynical about government and its possibilities of doing good for everyone. And–––since they don’t believe in government–––that is a pretty good thing (for them). And, the more cynical the people get the less they vote. And if turnout is low and people don’t vote that pretty much benefits those who benefit from the status quo.”

A prescient statement? Turnout in the 2014 midterm was 36%— nearly two-thirds of the eligible voters stayed home.



Political Patronage Trumps Military Advice

Members of Congress continually harp at the president about following the advice of uniformed leaders when making decisions about the military. They, however, do not practice what they preach. The Pentagon opposes continued use of the A-10 “Warthog”, a close-air support jet. The Air Force wants to retire the “Warthog” by 2019 because it lacks the versatility of other aircraft. This would save $4.3 billion that could be used for higher priorities.

Did Members of Congress follow the advice they gave the president and support the wisdom of the military? No. An amendment was tacked on the defense funding bill that forbids the Pentagon from allocating any funds to “divest, retire, transfer or place in storage, or prepare to divest, retire, transfer or place in storage any A-10 aircraft.” It also prohibits the Pentagon from closing any unit that flies or is associated with the A-10. Congressman Ron Barber (D-Tucson, Arizona) led the effort.

Did Barber (who was a former colleague of mine in the Arizona Department of Economic Security) take this action based on his high level of experience and expertise in military affairs? No, he is trying to protect jobs at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and, not coincidently, trying to protect his own office in a tough election. Barber’s proposal passed the House 300-114 and now goes to the Senate, where Senator John McCain (R-AZ) awaits.

McCain is among the loudest (and often the most incoherent) of those who blast away at the president about following military advice in regard to military affairs. He is also one of the biggest supporters of the A-10.


Absurdities: Gravy Train and the Poor House

The Walton family members are heirs to the Wal-Mart billions, making them the richest family in America. They hold more than 50% of the company’s stock and six of them are on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans. Together the Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined. Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest private employer and, despite their great personal wealth, the owners do not share their financial bonanza with the employees who work for them. Taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart’s low-wage employees through food stamps, Medicaid and other assistance programs. The estimated amount of the subsidy is $6.2 billion.

Is Russia America’s Number One Enemy?


Al Qaeda and Pakistan

“Why are US policy makers so focused on Russia? Russia is not the world’s real enemy. The real enemy is Al Qaeda.” These are the words of Tarik, the San Francisco cab driver who took me from my downtown hotel to a meeting at the Presidio.

He was from Pakistan and he asked, “Why cannot America see that Pakistan is not your friend? It is a willing home to Al Qaeda and a friend of radicals. The corrupt leaders of Pakistan take American money and use it for themselves and for supporting violent radicals.

“I am a Muslim. Al Qaeda is not a sincere Muslim organization. They use a false intrepretation  of the Quran as a recruiting tool, not as a guide to life. They are not faithful to Islam, but are fanatics who use terror to build their power, and Pakistan is their nest. And their chicks fly off to Africa, Yeman, Afghanistan to pursue their violent agenda. ”

The Five Supremes

Republican presidents appointed five of the nine justices on the United States Supreme Court. So, should we be surprised that all five voted to uphold the Republican National Committee’s bizarre interpretation of the Constitution?

All five expanded on their theory that free speech is a product to be purchased by the highest bidders when they voted to further remove limits on the amount of money wealthy donors can contribute to candidates and political action committees. This was the fifth case in which the Chief Justice John Roberts Court made it unconstitutional to restrict the influence of money in politics.

Escalating a Tragedy into a Scandal?

These are the words the New York Times editorial page used to describe the formation of another committee to investigate the Benghazi tragedy. There is no question–––bad things happened, horrible mistakes were made, and Americans lost their lives.

But one more fishing expedition is not going to change the facts found in previous hearings and investigations. If Congress really wants to investigate a scandal they should turn their sights on the lies and obfuscation that took us into the Iraq war at the cost of 4,489 U.S. service men and women, and another 3,000 American contractors and tens of thousands of Iraqis; and, syphoned $2.2 trillion out of the American economy.

Or better yet, they should turn their attention to the national economy, the declining American education system, the ever-accelerating dangers of climate change, the dehumanizing and unjust U.S. immigration system, and the increasing inequality gap between the rich and the poor. But there are two big problems with this idea: to tackle these issues will not serve the purpose of discrediting Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election, and Barack Obama just might get some of the credit.

Why Are So Many Journalists Perceived as Liberal?

Based on my experience in the political arena, I am not sure this popular perception is true. I would say that journalists, in general, are skeptical of power, often to the point of cynicism, and they consistently challenge the conventional wisdom spouted by politicians, political institutions and business leaders.

This casts journalists in the position of seeming to be adversaries to the powerful, but I believe they are instead ardent truth seekers whose questioning is essential to a balanced public conversation.

But, if they really are mostly liberals here is a possible reason: Journalists are smart. About 90% of those in the mainstream media have college degrees, compared to approximately 26% in the population as a whole.