RJ's Corner

Were We Wrong??

From the title it is hard to determine where this post is going. We can be wrong about almost anything in this life and there seems to always be someone around to alert us of that fact. If we get something set in our minds that just isn’t true then we are the worst kind of wrong. But… that is not where this post is going. :)

2015-12-27_12-48-23.pngFinally, here is the full question,  were we wrong to separate from mother England, especially through  violence?

Looking back with hindsight it is always easy to judge the past by today’s criteria.  I will try not to do that but will use the wisdom of what came next to speculate how we might be different if we had not collectively made the decision we did.

It seems that the primary reason for our revolt against the mother country was money.  We simply didn’t like being taxed, especially since we had no say in where those taxes would come from. Of course the other primary reason was probably the arrogance of a king and the nobles who depended on him for their lifestyles.  They saw America as a source for income and not much else. When that income started dwindling they just raised taxes even more.

Was this reason enough to go to war over? Like most wars our revolution was an ongoing thing. One thing led to another. The Boston massacre might have started it but then a tit for tat scrimmages escalated it.  Initially there was little thought of becoming an independent nation. We simply wanted to keep more of our income to ourselves instead of shipping it off to people we knew little about.

Even when the war became official with our “Declaration of Independence” barely half of us agreed with that document. Raising an army to go against the toughest in the world was by no means a sure thing.  But soon the you kill us and we will kill you mentality took over.

In the overall scheme of the world we are still a relatively new country. Less than three hundred years of existence where many are ten times that old.  Most countries have little or no idea about how they came about because they seem to have been always there.

What would have happened if we had not rebelled? A likely scenario would be Canada. Yes, they are independent of their mother country but did so by peaceful means about a hundred years later than us.

On my visits to our northern neighbors I have realized a basic difference between us and them. They, for the most part are much less belligerent than we are. They spend on the military about the same percentage as the rest of the world whereas we spend almost a hundred times more.  Is part of this aggressiveness on our part associated with our founding? Is our obsession with guns and the NRA part of it too?

Canada, who for the most part have the same lineage as us took a very different track to world affairs. Would we be more like them if we had not rushed to war in 1776?  That is an idea certainly interesting to ponder…

 

Taking Personal Responsibility…

2015-11-13_09-22-23In my mind taking personal responsibility is a big part of the bedrock of what makes the U.S. a success story among the nations of the world. We encourage, some would even demand, that each of us take personal responsibility for our well being and especially for our future needs. The graphic to the right pretty well sums up the benefits and obstacles associated with personal responsibility. It starts with self control and eventually peaks with wisdom. Self control means that we make the choices necessary to provide the desired outcomes. All of us need to take personal responsibility for our actions and lives and to suffer the consequences when we don’t.

The Republicans among us are very adamant, maybe even paranoid, about personal responsibility.  They just don’t 2015-11-13_09-24-42seem to want any of our citizens to get something that they haven’t earned through personal responsibility.

  • why do most from the GOP establishment seem to encourage other nations shirk their responsibilities when it comes to defending their lands and their way of life?
  • Why do we let them insist that we, the U.S., must do almost everything in this area for them?
  • Why aren’t we letting others beyond our shores take personal responsibility?
  • Why are so many in the GOP  so against giving aid to our poorest citizens but at the same time eager to run in and taking over all the responsibility for almost all regional conflicts in the world?

Whenever there is a problem in the world, particularly the kind involving aggression, we seem to rush in telling everyone else “don’t worry we will take care of it for you”.

When it comes down to it isn’t ISIS just a group of Muslims who radically differ with the majority of that religion on how Islam is to be practiced. If I understand it right ISIS wants their version of the faith to be everything in its believers’ lives. They want every aspect of life, including government, to be controlled by their religious dogma much like it is in Iran. Wouldn’t you think that this is something that others in that religious group should be taking personal responsibility for? Why should the U.S. send our young people and spend so much of our tax dollars to do it for them? Isn’t that allowing Muslims to shirk their responsibility of controlling those within their own group?

Even the Middle East in general seems to always be one religious group battling another. Look at Iraq, or at least what there is left of it after our invasion. It seems every bomb that goes off and every killing that occurs is one religious belief fighting another.  It is Sunnis against Shiites against Kurds.  I kind of suspect that if Israel were not in the middle of all this stuff and the target of much of the anger in that part of the world, we would not be so interested in spending American human and monetary capital on the other side of the world.

I don’t know the answer to all this stuff that we keep getting ourselves into but I do know that insisting that others take personal responsibility for their circumstances is a big part of the solution.

Obama’s Neocon Critics…

It’s an incantation repeated among Obama’s neocon critics: the Iraq surge worked; things were going swimmingly until we withdrew; the same thing will happen in Afghanistan if we pull out completely.

Let’s assume it’s true, that we could keep peace and order in these countries if we kept tens of thousands of troops (or more) on the ground.

Here’s my question: Why on Earth would we do such a thing? How does it serve American interests to spend vast quantities of blood and treasure serving as a national police force for countries on the other side of the globe with no end in sight?

These are the questions that we must keep in mind as we assess Obama’s foreign policy.

It’s easy to say we should have done “something” in Syria three years ago. That “something” usually means helping supposedly moderate rebels to overthrow Assad and form a decent, democratic government. Sounds lovely. Except for the fact that everything we’ve learned since 2001 tells us that it wouldn’t have gone like that at all.

Overthrow Assad and the place will tear itself apart even more thoroughly than it already has.

Source: Putin isn’t humiliating Obama in Syria. He’s doing the U.S. a favor.

MyScans167I am very much a peacenik. I think war is absolutely the last thing we should try in tackling almost every problem.  So, when I hear the latest version of neocons wanting to race to yet another war as a solution for everything it turns my stomach.  I agree with my Quaker friends War is Not the Answer. Especially when we have no idea of what to do after we have defeated the bad guys. Most often than not they are just replaced by other bad guys who are sometimes even worse.  The answer in Syria, like it should have been in Iraq and most other middle eastern countries, is to just let it work its own way out. Don’t butt in with our great wisdom when we obviously don’t have any. There has not been a war in my lifetime that had even a remote semblence of what we thought would come out of it.

When Biden suggested that if we MUST invade Iraq we should then turn it into three different countries: Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish.  That might not have totally solved the problem but we certainly would have been better off if we had taken Joe’s advice than to rush in with our unbaked ideas of forming a democracy in that part of the world that has no conception of what a democracy is.

These new neocons seem to be ready to jump into war as a solution to everything. They never see a conflict that they don’t want to take over or a military budget that they don’t want to increase. Is this what the USA is all about now or is this just another fringe wing-nut group asserting themselves on the rest of us? I just don’t know.

Simply stated we just don’t need to be the policemen of the world. We are just not very good at it in the first place.

Being The Adult….

McConnell said that this year, Democrats objected to spending bills drafted under existing tight budget caps — known as sequestration — because they want more spending for domestic programs. Republicans are seeking more defense spending than the current caps allow….

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday  “I would expect that in the weeks ahead we’ll have more of a discussion about how Democrats and Republicans in Congress can work together to make sure that we adequately fund both our national security and economic priorities, while of course taking the necessary steps to prevent a government shutdown in an unnecessary injection of volatility into the national economy.”

Source: Congress gears up for major budget talks with White House

I’m going to put on my fiscal conservative hat here.  I don’t like to wear the “C” cap very often but  it is necessary. Fiscal conservatism used to be the job of the GOP but since they are now in the “anti-” mode someone has to be the adult and talk about our spending.   It seems that both parties want to pile on more spending year over year. One for the safety net for our citizens and one for  expanding an already over bloated war machine so that we can get even more involved in all the conflicts around the world.

Instead of constantly increasing our spending someone needs to look at what we spend our current budgets on and eliminate those items that are no longer useful.  Some one needs to be the adult here.  Let’s start with the military.  We spend more on our war machine than the rest of the world combined and we are only 5% of the world’s population.  I say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. You hear almost every day about the next “$1000 toilet seat”. I’m sure there is at least 25% of that budget that no longer serves any purpose. Why can’t we root that out and get rid of it instead of just piling on more money? One of the answers is that if someone tries to cut military cost someone else will scream “you are making our soldiers less safe!!” But someone has to be the adult and do it anyway as the vast majority that wasteful spending it has nothing to do with the safety of our soldiers.

One the domestic side I personally have seen several people who are on disability payments who when no one is watching work just as hard as the rest of us. It is just too easy to get a government payment. I know I sound like a card carrying member of the GOP here. But, I am not saying that most, or even many, are in that mode but there are sufficient numbers who do game the system that if we took a closer look could substantially reduce our safety net costs.  I”m sure there are  many other examples of where we could reign in spending if we just put our mind to it.

I have been on a fixed budget for over 15 years now. Yes, some things change for instance the ever increasing cost of healthcare. Medicare pays for 80% of my medical costs for about $100 a month and that hasn’t changed dramatically but to cover the other 20% has increased from about $100 to over $250 and for my wife over $350.  In order to pay those bills we have had to cut back other places. Why can’t the government do the same?

Ready, Fire, Aim….

2015-10-07_13-12-55Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of the United States forces in Afghanistan, told a Senate panel on Tuesday that the hospital was “mistakenly struck” as a result of a decision “within the U.S. chain of command.”

Doctors Without Borders, which has likened the bombing to a war crime, said the purpose of the investigation would not be to establish criminal liability, but rather to clarify the laws of war and the conditions under which medical teams can operate in situations of armed conflict.

Source: Doctors Without Borders Calls for Inquiry Into Kunduz Hospital Attack – The New York Times

Doctors Without Borders is one of my favorite organizations. Their donors give so much without expecting anything in return. That is very unusual in today’s world. When I heard that a U.S. military operation bombed one of their hospitals I was devastated. The statement above is endemic to my conception of military leaders.

the hospital was “mistakenly struck” as a result of a decision “within the U.S. chain of command.”  

I hope someone “within the chain of command” is taken to task for this unnecessary death especially for doctors who volunteer to take care of the least of these.  We can’t allow the military leadership to decide when it is ok to kill innocents!

It seems to me, but what do I know, that too many within the military establishment are too focused on just getting the bad guys at any cost. They just seem to be ready-fire-aim type of guys. They call it “collateral damage” when they kill innocents in the process and somehow think that makes it ok.   The articles goes on to say that if we, the self proclaimed moralists of the world, think it is ok to destroy a Doctors Without Borders’ hospital that will allow everyone including those they fight so hard against to claim it is ok for them too.  I know Mr. Bush’s reasoning that torture was ok because we might save lives was against the Genova Convention too but I hope this incident doesn’t get included in the category also.

The Good Old Days…

2015-09-17_10-04-38a world that is boiling over in violence and cut-throat theocracy makes me nostalgic for the days it was merely “simmering in resentment and tyranny

Source: How the refugee crisis is teaching us the value of Hussein, Mubarak, and Gadhafi

Don’t we all wish for the “good old days” when Saddam ruled with an iron fist and as a result kept the lid on the Middle East.  Yeah his bravado rankled many but we for the most part just ignored him. He did kill thousands of his own people to maintain control but millions have been killed in the aftermath of his takedown by the U.S. military under their commander-in-chief George W. Bush.

Civil wars have tarnished history throughout time perhaps no more so than our own war over the right to own another person. The same can be said for religious wars. We seem to be a race that “MUST” always have an enemy in one form or another. If we don’t have one we search far and wide until we find one.  I often wonder if the other civilizations in the universe are as belligerent as we are or have they learned to coexist with each other?

Yeah we took down Saddam’s regime but I kind of think that the old saying “Be careful what you wish for as you just might get it” holds true here. There are perhaps thousands of lessons about needless wars in our past and we just never seem to fathom them especially when a new opportunity presents itself.

The U.S. has by a very wide margin the biggest war machine in the world. I wonder what would happen if we spent half the amount we spend on our weapons of destruction on finding a peaceful way to just get along.

I know that I am a naive idealist but isn’t thinking against the grain how paradigm shifts happen?

About Our Defense Budgets… An Historic Perspective..

2015-03-25_14-59-11Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period. Some of this growth can be attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the baseline or regular defense budget has also increased significantly. It has grown in real terms for an unprecedented 13 straight years, and it is now $100 billion above what the nation spent on average during the Cold War. The fiscal year 2012 budget request of $553 billion is approximately the same level as Ronald Reagan’s FY 1986 budget. As a result of this “gusher” of defense spending—to quote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—Pentagon leaders have not been forced to make the hard choices between competing programs as they traditionally have. And the ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained. The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE: A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

In looking at the chart above it is obvious that two American presidents are primarily responsible for most of our outrageous military spending. I don’t think I have to tell you which ones those are. Sadly, for the most part those increases in spending were matters of choice. Yes, the Iron Curtain was up for one president but it had been up long before he came into office.  Yes, a rag-tag bunch of fanatics managed to kill three thousand of our citizens with some box cutters but in the world scheme of things  more people than that have died daily in the world from lack of food and drinking water. If we had just gone after the rogues instead of invading nations that had nothing to do with the tragedy our military expenses would never have risen to such mammoth levels.

Can we continue to spend such levels in these times of rising deficits? Aren’t the deficits causing us more harm than the enemies we are supposedly facing. Fear just seem to be the primary driver of our nation today. We have long forgotten one of our most meaningful American quotes “All we have to fear is fear itself”. We need to just get over this paranoid fear that has come to grip us so  forcefully…

Will Our Gushing Military Spending Ever End?

I know there are many of U.S. citizens who have never known a time when our military spending did not dwarf everything else in our discretionary spending budgets. We just seem to be a nation that wants to be policemen of the world. We want to put our noses into every conflict we can find.  It doesn’t matter that in places like Iraq and Afghanistan they have been having the same battles for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. We just can’t seem to find a conflict that we think we stay out of or can’t solve with our military might.

Only those of us over the age of forty have ever know a time when our military budgets haven’t dominated everything else. But in reality the vast majority of our over-blown war spending can be attributed to just two presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.  here is a little more about this. Check on the source to see the entire article.

2015-03-25_14-59-11

Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period…. The ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained. The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE:  A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

Given that historically we can and have reduced our military spending. It just takes a different point of view to make that happen. I don’t think that the GOP’s combination of inert fear of others and the bravado of getting the bad guys will go away anytime soon but historically we can almost count on that eventually happening again.  The big question as to when, is all about when  we as voters finally realize that we fear way too much and we can’t solve thousand-year old tribal battles on the other side of the world with our million dollar plus smart bombs and drones. It is very possible to drastically reduce our military spending with little or no difference to our security. It just takes more voters at the polls who realize that possibility.

Weighing Nuclear Option…

2015-03-16_09-11-08“We were ready to do it”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considered putting the country’s vast nuclear arsenal on alert to prevent outside agents from stopping the Kremlin’s forced annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Putin’s admission was aired during a prerecorded documentary called Homeward Bound, which was broadcast on a state-backed television network Sunday in the run-up to the first anniversary of Crimea’s annexation later this week.

SOURCE: Vladimir Putin Admits to Weighing Nuclear Option During Crimea Conflict | TIME.

During our 30+ years of the Cold War and the nuclear standoff with the USSR a strategy was developed by the west called MAD. It stood for “Mutually Assured Destruction”. It went something like this. If the USSR bombs us with a nuclear weapon we will send off our entire nuclear arsenal on them and that will basically ensure that both countries, and probably the rest of the world, would be totally destroyed. The USSR then said we will do the same to you.  I’m sure that was constantly on the minds of both country’s leaders during those times.

Why do we constantly fear another country, rogue or not getting a nuclear weapon? The sixty year old technology is pretty much known to all the world’s scientists now. It is just a matter of getting the materials together to build one. We need a different deterrent to stop the spread of nuclear weapons than just trade embargoes and such. We need TAD, “Totally Assured Destruction”. That is the statement signed by all, or almost all, countries that says that if you use a nuclear weapon on another country the rest of the world will do whatever it takes to insure that your country is totally destroyed. No “if”, “ands” or “buts”. Your country is toast.

Can you image a hundred war machines immediately charging into Iran for example because they used a nuclear bomb on Israel. Would they really want to use a bomb under those circumstances? Of course part of this new tactic would require that the rest of the world start carrying their share of military might and that the US trim down our totally dominate war machine.  But wouldn’t that be a win-win scenario for everyone.

Let’s enact TAD and stop all these political games of one-upmanship that goes around a country buying aluminum cylinders..  Stop the current stupidity and come out plainly with “You use a nuclear bomb and your country will cease to exist”.

Occam’s Razor is a widely known theory that in its most basic form is “Keep things simple!“. That should apply here. We have prevented possible aggression with NATO in the past. Now it is time for TAD

Enough said….

On The Backs Of The Poor….

2015-03-16_08-52-01WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans now in charge of Congress offer their budget blueprint this week with the pledge to balance the nation’s budget within a decade and rein in major programs such as food stamps and Medicare. More pressing for many Republicans, however, is easing automatic budget cuts set to slam the military.

SOURCE:GOP to offer budget blueprint with Medicare, food stamp cuts – Yahoo Finance.

It is not accident that the GOP wants to take money away from helping  the poor and give it to our already super extravagant military budgets to the tune of exactly $50 billion on each budget. But that is just the first step in the process. The overall goal as the article mentions is to eliminate Medicaid and food stamps entirely from the federal budget and turn it over to the states. Can Medicare be very far behind??

As a stop gap measure the GOP wants to just throw a given lump sum of some undetermined value to the states and then walk away.  The problem with that strategy is that all the States must balance their budget but that is rightly not a requirement for the federal budget. Sending it to the States would mean that in times of downturns helping the poor would have to take a big hit. It is not as if suddenly just working two minimum wage jobs would meet a poor family’s needs during hard times.

Will all those senior citizens who vote exclusively GOP tolerate this happening? If their purse is robbed will they look for other political approaches? I kind of think they finally will. Yes, we have to do something about balancing our federal budgets but doing it on the backs of the poor and with no pain in the military budgets is NOT the way to do it.  We, 5% of the world’s population, spend more than the rest of the world combined on our war-machine.

If we just quit trying to be the policemen of the world and pared our military budgets to be on parity with everyone else our overall budgets would quickly balance. We don’t need to be hip deep in all regional conflicts in the world.  That practice just makes too many enemies who then want to do us harm. We need to step back and tell our world neighbors to take care of their own backyards and we will do the same.

PLEASE DON’T BALANCE OUR BUDGETS ON THE BACKS OF THE POOR.

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