Posts tagged ‘nukes’

Monday Morning

I drove my son to the airport at o’dark thirty this morning. It is about a 65 mile drive each way and we left my place at 4:20 am for a 6:30 flight to San Diego. Nothing is ever simple. It turns out that they are doing major work on the bridge that crosses the Sacramento River so we were warned of massive traffic backups. So we were seeing how close you can get to our normal turnoff (I-5) before you get caught in traffic and running alternate routes through our heads. It actually wasn’t that bad and we were able to stay the normal route with little delay, sort of. Then about 2 miles from the Airport, stop and go traffic on a real straight stretch of I-5 and sure enough some kind of spin out and major crash. All I could think of is how do they do it? It is straight, there are no on or off ramps, and they run into each other. Made it to the airport on time so no problem there, but on the return trip I noticed that we got through the construction just in time as there were major backups. Do we drive anywhere anymore that does not have some kind of delay/construction?

Okay on to news of the day. All the talk is about sanctions on North Korea that were worked out in a conference in the Philippines with all the South East Asia nations and us of course. I hope it works because the alternative is very frightening. It really is the only way to go at this time, but I have little optimism. The big assumption here is that North Korea wants more than anything else to stay in power and they will see that to do this they will be willing to give up their nuke program. The thinking is that China wants to maintain North Korea as a southern buffer to USA aligned South Korea, and China has no interest in seeing North Korea fail because there would be a massive refugee problem as North Koreans have a chance to flee their living hell.

I don’t think this logic holds because North Korea is first and foremost an abomination as a country. There is no way for the North Koreans to continue to hold power without the extreme dictatorship and threat from the wicked United States. The assumption that this mentality is rational, I believe, is flawed. Or maybe it is rational. The only way they can stay in power is to hold on to their nukes and continue to stoke the fears of invasion. If things got materially better there, would not the improved economic situation drive change that would be antithetical to the North Koreans holding power? The calculation has to be what can prevent a war until the North Korean regime collapses under its own weight hoping they don’t decide to take Southeast Asia with them. Then there is the dubious calculation that we will empower this brutal dictatorship to remain as long as there is no nuclear threat. I think North Korea sees through this one.

Paul Krugman has an interesting discussion about where Democrats should go on healthcare and I think he is dead on. If you followed my discussions before, to reduce the cost of healthcare for all of us, we have to share the costs with the widest possible pool (universal coverage) and ensure that the plans we have cover most of our needs (regulated market). Now how you get there is the issue (and not counter to what Republicans are pushing which is “choice and deregulated markets” which the CBO scores again and again as a failure). So is single payer the answer? The answer is maybe, but he points out that other countries get there by everything from Obamacare expanded to Government healthcare:

Look at the latest report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, comparing health care performance among advanced nations. America is at the bottom; the top three performers are Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands. And the thing is, these three leaders have very different systems.

 

Britain has true socialized medicine: The government provides health care directly through the National Health Service. Australia has a single-payer system, basically Medicare for All — it’s even called Medicare. But the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums.

 

And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A., rather than radical change. Further evidence for this view is how relatively well Obamacare, imperfect as it is, already works in states that try to make it work — did you know that only 5.4 percent of New Yorkers are now uninsured?

So he then argues that give the systems in place, instead of focusing on single payer, we improve Obamacare with maybe a single payer option as politically and functionally the best way forward. I have to agree. I have argued for single payer forever, but I am not ideologically wedded to it and neither are most Democrats although that is how they are painted. What we want is universal coverage and the best way forward to do that. That is the real debate and I think Krugman nailed it.

Finally, I think what is worth noting this morning is how the Trump administration is trying to open up public lands in the West to coal mining. Now aside from the argument that coal used in anything destroys the planet with its CO2 emissions and the damage done to the environment itself in the mining, the question has to be, who wants the coal when there are cheaper cleaner fuels? Also one might ask, what jobs when coal mining in general is going to more and more mechanization. But the real point here is that there is not a shortage of coal based up demand and so this is an attempt to say, if we supply it they will buy it. I think we have already seen this fail over and over again. There has to be pentup demand. So this, besides destroying the environment and contributing to the overheating of the planet will be another experiment like Kansas (tax cuts will pay for themselves) where we will see the failure of Republican ideas. As Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, You Can’t Go Home Again. Time to move on.

Healthcare and Nukes (North Korea)

On healthcare, I was thinking that this is not all bad.  The Republicans have grabbed onto an issue and show how absolutely incompetent they are, and we are actually looking at single payer again as not some socialist plot.  Now I have discussed heathcare here until you are sick, sick, sick of it.  Maybe need a doctor if you could afford one.  But one thing I want to stress.  We are a society that has been brain washed with Economism, the application of simplified Econ 101 models to complex markets that don’t meet the basic assumptions of Econ 101 models and fail badly at predicting their behavior.  You know we have been brain washed when you here people across all spectrums of politics spout market place solutions, choice, competition for everything and their analysis goes no deeper than to spout clichés.

But health insurance, and this is important, is different from health providers, and does not lend itself to market place solutions.  Let me give you an example.  The business model of a health care provider is to provide health care at a price that attracts the most costumers and sells the most services (oh, and makes people well).  The business model of a health insurer has nothing to do with any of that, it is to enroll healthy people and deny claims to maximize profits.  The other things you need to remember is that in health insurance markets, are not normal markets.  Everyone will need it, most buyers are not informed buyers (they do not have a degree in Medicine), and that thing Republicans love to put out their choice, means young or healthy people can choose plans that cover virtually nothing and pay much much less, while sick people have only one choice, expensive plans.  Health insurance does not lend itself to market place solutions, while providing health care does.

Okay, North Korea.  Thomas Friedman wrote this morning about the ever growing threat of North Korea and their nukes:

Trump did not create this problem — it’s been passed down to him from Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama — but he will have to fix it. And it has reached a point where the U.S. has only three options: awful, bad and worse. Or as Litwak describes them: “bomb, acquiesce or negotiate.”…Bombing North Korea’s nuclear and missile sites runs the risk of escalating into a second (possibly nuclear) Korean war with over a million casualties. North Korea’s nuclear facilities are “hot,” and bombing them could have untold consequences in terms of radioactivity. Alternatively, acquiescing to a breakout means this failed state could — incredibly — become a major nuclear power with a global reach. “So that just leaves negotiating,” says Litwak.

…Obama had the same three choices on Iran: bomb, acquiesce or negotiate. He did not want to bomb Iranian nuclear installations, because of the uncontrollable events bombing could unleash, and he did not want to acquiesce. So Obama negotiated what Litwak calls a “purely transactional” deal — Iran agreed to a 15-year halt on processing weapons-usable fissile material in return for significant sanctions relief, and no other behaviors were covered.

Obama’s bet? Something will happen in these 15 years that will be “transformational,” says Litwak, and provide the only true security — a change in the character of Iran’s regime.

Thomas then tells Chetto-Head that he should follow the same path.  I think we are looking at the real threat in the World right now and while negotiations are surely the preferred way to go, Kim Jung-un, the leader of North Korea is like Cheeto-Head, crazy.  In comparison, the Iranians look downright boring.  His grip on power may be slipping and control is everything.  So thinking negotiations will work or that the situation is similar, I believe is a giant misunderstanding of the North Korean Regime.

So if you want to be afraid of something, it is not Mexicans, or terrorist from the Middle East, it is North Korea that will one day surely use their nukes. And our options are quickly narrowing. Oh, and healthcare, who needs healthcare.

The Village Idiot Speaks

Five Years of my life.

Sweeping aside efforts by his aides to temper his comments, or to suggest that he was merely talking about curbing the spread of nuclear technology, especially to terrorists, Mr. Trump told a talk-show host, Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Merry Christmas America, a new nuclear arms race for Christmas.  I just have to vent here.  Maybe some of you lived through the last on, I was part of it.  My job was to deliver the end of the world to all of you.  I was a bombardier on a B-52 that carried 12 nuclear weapons.  I sat alert for a week about every three weeks waiting for someone to push the button.  I learned about nuclear weapons, some of it probably still classified.  I learned about who we would annihilate.  I learn about radiation poisoning, how to conduct a suicide mission to cause the most damage if you ran out of fuel, and on and on.  Do we really again want to go down that road?  Do we want saber-rattling with weapons that will destroy everything?  We are already destroying the plant with CO2 emissions, but I guess that was just too slow for the Donald.  I can’t wait to hear Kellyanne spin this.

This is when you know the electoral college has no useful purpose anymore.  They should have rejected this moron outright.  He is and always will be unfit for the presidency.  He is crude and he is ignorant and he will be the perfect idiot for the Russians, not to mention of kings of economic inequality, the conservative Republicans (which are all there are any more). It should be apparent that when the U.N. sanctioned Israel, it was a no duh moment as the right-wing Israelis are stealing more and more land in the name of religious superiority.  The Palestinians have rights too.  Meanwhile Trump and the Republicans are shocked, shocked, shocked I tell you, that we abstained from the censure vote instead of vetoing it. Good for President Obama.

So what is America to become.  I will tell you.  Under the rule of Trump being a bully like greed under Reagan will become a good thing.  Pushing down people who you think are lessor than you around will be okay.  We are already seeing that play out in many places like Kentucky and elsewhere as fat old white people play out their racism as common sense.  Acting out will be a good thing because, well you are white and you are entitled.  Well, I am a fat old white guy and I am going to act out.  I am going to act out against all of this nonsense before Trump and the Republicans destroy the planet.  He will never be my President as some think is the way our government should would.  The man is a danger to democracy and everything we stand for and he can go pound sand.  Merry Christmas you fucking rubes who voted for him.  To bad we will all go down the toilet with you.

Uncertainty

Republicans used to complain that one reason businesses weren’t investing their stockpiled billions was the uncertainty caused by President Obama in the market place.  It was a lame excuse as what was keeping them from investing was a lack of spending power and demand among consumers. Real wages were not growing and neither was the associated spending. But uncertainty can be a real problem and if you want real uncertainty, just wait to see what and who Donald Trump is.  He is going to raise taxes on the wealthy, or he is not (and his tax plan does not).  He is going to ban Muslims or was that just thinking out loud (suggestions).  But where you really want to be worried is in foreign affairs were his uncertainty could cause wars.

Now I could spend copious time discussing his bromance with Putin, how he thinks Japan ought to go it alone (read nuclear race in Asia), or that we can negotiate with North Korea to help them perpetuate hell on earth, but the real one you ought to think about is the Middle East.  Everyone has a solution for that one and they are all in La La Land.  As we saw in Egypt in the Arab Spring, the Middle East does not yet have the social foundations for a democratic government.  I am not a fan of that whole culture which is wedded to one religion, patriarchal social structure, and tribal affiliations whose sense of justice is retribution.   So let’s just say we go into Syria and wipe out ISIS assuming we could without massive collateral damage (nuke them till the sand glows), then what?

And that is the trillion dollar question.  Then what?  Who fills the void?  What happens next?  Did we learn anything from Baghdad?  Even when we try to fill the void with democratic institutions, and granted we did one sorry ass job of it, they still let their tribal passions overcome their rational brains.  And that is really the issue.  We have watched too many super hero movies where the good guys beat up the bad guys and then all is good.  In Syria or Iraq who fills in the void, Putin?  There are so many warring groups and disenfranchised young men ready to fill that void with more violence and revenge.  So pray tell me what is your plan after you do remove the bad guys?  Station a million troops there until hell freezes over?

We need a strategy for the long term and since George Bush got us involved in this mess, and it would seem that our strategy is to stabilize the area as best we can and hope the rest of the region will help out.  They haven’t so far but their long term viability may depend on them doing so.  Maybe that is the best we can do without spending trillions of dollars and spilling more American blood just trying to keep the two or three, or five, or ten parties apart.  As some pundits have shown us, we have tried various solutions from nation building to benign neglect and none have worked.  So be careful for what you wish for.  If we could rush in and destroy ISIS, it would be whack a mole, waiting for the next religious martyr to fill the void with his forces of righteousness.

So when the Donald offers you mindless get tough and show these people who is boss, get out your check book and kiss the economy goodbye because uncertainty will grow astronomically.

It’s Thursday and We Are Not Mentioning Donald

I see where Kim Jong Un (North Korean Nut Case) has announced that North Korea now has the hydrogen bomb.  He must have felt left out from all the hoopla over terrorism and wanted to get back in the news.  I guess the gun nuts will start pressing for legalizing the carrying of your own personal nuke because you never know when you might be at the movies and run into a North Korean carrying a hydrogen bomb.  The one good thing you can say about this, if you believe in god, see Steve, religion doesn’t cause all the problems of the world, just most of them.  Of course Kim Jong Un considers himself a god so there is that argument.

Here in California, things to come may be playing out in the California State Government.  With Republicans basically banished to Never Never Land, we are seeing what a real two-party system looks like without crazy Republicans.  What we have are progressive Democrats and moderate Democrats.  Unless you have been asleep, moderate Democrats are really Republicans without all the insanity.  They are economically conservative, but don’t want to destroy government.  Republicans with their craziness and insanity of no compromise positions have basically become some wacko splinter group.

But there is a problem here.  The Assembly boys and girls met at Torrey Pines (San Diego) and elected two moderate Demos to lead the Assembly.  As the article described these folks, “…the moderate caucus has made its mark by diluting or blocking legislation opposed by business groups.”  I used to have a neighbor, and old retired Italian gentleman who was one of the first motorcycle cops on the Golden Gate bridge.  He would always say, find out how business wants to vote on something and then vote the other way.

We like to think we need business friendly government to make sure we don’t stifle our economic system with unnecessary laws.  But business is also the staunch defender of the status quo.  They are the last ones to see that the system needs to change, because they benefit from the system as it is.  Think of it this way.  If blacksmiths controlled the legislature back in the early part of the 20th century, the automobile would have been banned.  Change is turbulent and upsets many apple carts so moderate Democrats can become part of the problem in a world where economic inequality is becoming the number one threat along with global warming. But at least they aren’t crazy.

Finally, in things not Donald, Alaska, dependent on oil from their state income is proposing a statewide income tax to plug a hole in their budget as oil revenues decrease.  The governor is also proposing to take some of the money that is paid directly from oil revenue to citizens to fund the government.  Now he is dealing with reality here.  Oil income is falling and if we are going to really go green, it will continue to fall.  But how citizens of his cold state react could be entertaining.  While they are seeing first hand the effects of global warming, we will see if the short-term pay check is more important than future disaster.  Kind of an experiment in whether we really can govern ourselves responsibly.  Can’t wait.

Were the Founders Wrong?

No, I am not talking about separation of chruch and state.  I am talking about the Enlightenment  assumption that man is a rational being who through reason and logic can rule himself with justice and freedom while throwing off the shakles of faith-based reasoning in governing ourselves.  Are we really capable of doing that?  The current evidence raises serious doubts.

This comes to mind as I watched John Oliver skewer Edward Snowden last night on his HBO comedy show.  The issues are deep and complex and he used the anecdotel for some cheap laughs that were not that funny.  First he went around Times square asking people if they knew who Edward Snowden was.  Most did not and those that did confused him with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.  He did not ask them if they voted because if they don’t, there opinions are irrelevant.  But was this a snapshot of America or just the typical Times Square tourist?  But if you assume this is a true snapshot of a cross section of America, we truly are an ignorant people who have not enabled ourselves to vote intelligently in any election.  Said another way, we are incapible of self government.

Next I read Paul Krugman talking about the reality of politics, that voters have very short memories and if the last year or so shows improvement (economically speaking) all the rest is forgotten.  He is talking about Britian where the economy was in shambles after their plunge into austerity, so now just before the election, they have reduced their austerity policies, the economy got marginally better, and the message is austerity works.  And apparently they are buying it.  Hit your self repeatedly with a hammer and then stop, and conclude you are feeling better and the hammering worked.  He concluded with this:

In fact, the evidence suggests that the politically smart thing might well be to impose a pointless depression on your country for much of your time in office, solely to leave room for a roaring recovery just before voters go to the polls. … What, then, should those of us who study economic policy and care about real-world outcomes do? The answer, surely, is that we should do our jobs: Try to get it right, and explain our answers as clearly as we can. Realistically, the political impact will usually be marginal at best. Bad things will happen to good ideas, and vice versa. So be it. Elections determine who has the power, not who has the truth.

Meanwhile, here is California the reality of a failure of rational water policy is starting to dawn.  If you have ever driven I-5 from Sacramento to LA, you have seen the short-sighted politics of water policy painted on signs along the way blamming those big bad Democrats for lack of more water.  Up to now, between the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, California has had some of the most subsidized water on the planet.  That includes groundwater where the policy is first come, first serve and take all you want, screw your neighbor.

And it has been good for Americans in the price of their fruits and vegetables.  Meanwhile in urban land, there is a push for more houses.  Just where is the water going to come from?  The reality is that even without the drought, we are outgrowing our water supply, but the politics of the rational and logical is overcome by the politics of fear of change, and the politics of money.

Over in Parkistan, the NYT warns us, they have the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world.  The country is a chaotic mess, the economy is in shambles, the culture is men-centric, and they hate the Indians.  So we are all focused on Iran while the military runs the country in Pakistan and may find a reason to gin up a war with India (another religious conflagration) except this time Pakistan has promised to use nukes.  This is rational?  But not to worry at all, because over in Iran the Israelis have give a list of things that if added to the agreement to contain their nuclear program, would make it acceptable.  It would be capitulation for the Iranians and is not in the realm of possible, but who needs rational, right?

So yes we face a lot of challenges.  I left out the Middle East in general so you would not want to stab your eyes out.  The reality is that all of these are solvable.  There are rational solutions to all these problems if we are willing to sacrifice and work together.  But the evidence is that our own selfishness (which Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations) thought would balance out in the market place) and small mindedness is turning solvable into intractable.  Should I even mention our own governments inability to move on the simple stuff like immigration, women’s equal pay, minimum wage, global warming, or anything else?  

I really think, with no evidence whatsoever, that America’s new found ignorance is really a fear response.  Alfred E. Neuman’s “What Me Worry?”  If we don’t think about it, if we assume everything will work its way out, we are exceptional, God has a plan, then all this complicated stuff will go away.  Sadly it won’t and in this day and age our tantrum toys are nuclear and the consequences of ignoring our problems, or in the case of Republicans, inventing a fantasy reality where they don’t exist, are catastrophic.  We had better get it together pretty soon or it is not going to be pretty.

Thinking About Iran

With Netanyahu rattling sabers in the UN this week about attacking Iran, and of course neocons blustering, maybe we ought to examine what we should do about Iran in a logical manner. By Iran, I am talking about their construction of a nuclear weapon. So consider:

  • Israel already has nukes, so shouldn’t Iran have parity?
  • Israel isn’t questioning Iran’s right to exist, but Iran is questioning Israel’s right to exist so is that parity?
  • Iranians as a people are more educated and westward leaning than other countries in the region. Would not a strike rally them around their dysfunctional government?
  • Would a preemptive strike on Iran cause all kinds of blow back including the interruption of oil flowing to the West?
  • What would be the impact on our troops in Afghanistan and the fragile government in Iran?
  • If Iran is left on its own, will the continued sapping of economic vitality to buy weapons slowly undermine its government?
  • Could we live with the old tactics of MAD (mutual assured destruction)? It worked before didn’t it, and back in those days we thought the Russians were as crazy as the Iranians?
  • Could a strike really take out their capability or would it just delay it and build support for radical Muslims who believe this is a jihad?
  • If Iran gets a nuke, will other countries in the area decide they need one?

Of course, Israel would attack and probably will, but our fingerprints will be all over it. So if I were President what would I do? Wish I were at a ball game watching my beloved A’s clinch the Wild Card and not have to make these kinds of decisions. Why would anybody want this job?