26 June 2005
Houston, We Have a Problem - China and Unocal
What makes China�s bid harrowing for the Bush Administration:
1. The US-Chinese trade relationship is ambiguous at best because of human rights issues and constraints on political activities; which country�s these are can be debated. Advocates and opponents come from every part of each party's conservative-liberal spectrum.
2. China is a totalitarian regime with nuclear weapons. Would protectionist actions by Bush be views as a positive contribution to the security of the US oil reserves or would free trade stances achieve the ideological and commercial objectives of this Administration?
3. China and the US have opposing military goals and alliances in Asia regarding North Korea, Taiwan, just to name two. China�s and the US�a political strategies for the Pacific Rim, South East Asia and the Indian sub-continent seem to have the same goal of excluding influence and power of the other.
4. China has only a few decades of market economy experience within its governmental institutions after a collectivist ideology of 60 years under Communist social, political and economic institutions. Some people in the US might view this bid as China's encroachment and a means of establishing itself as a major player in global markets including OPEC as a fait accompli.
5. US refining capacity does not meet the domestic demand for petroleum products because environmental protection law and regulation require public participation for obtaining an approved modernization plan. Such a plan has to be comprehensive enough in scope to attain what efficiencies technology has available, yet the NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude of residents and businesses nearest to the project are strong enough to prevent any major reconstruction of refineries. Disposing of the replaced components of a refinery presents a nightmare to hazmat officials and to environmentalists. A China-owned Unocal solution: build a new refinery from scratch in China and close down US production capacity. Tankers might find it easier to go to a Chinese harbor than to the US side of the Pacific Ocean. Although the actual number of workers is low for operating a refinery in the US, moving Unocal refining out of the US could create a huge political problem for Bush, Cheney and those who support them in Congress.
What deal might the US require for this purchase of Unocal to proceed? Chevron�s recent purchase of Unocal seems to have been ignored so far in publicity about the bid. Perhaps the Chinese have heard privately that the FCC will disallow a merger of Unocal into Chevron for anti-competitive reasons. Who would benefit from recognizing Chevron as the Unocal owner? Not the Unocal shareholders; rather, the Chevron shareholders would receive return on their investments. I foresee that some Grand Juries, lawyers and judges are going to spend the next several years learning the economics of international petroleum.
Another part of a "deal" for this deal could be an exchange of the mineral and chemical concessions China has in Sudan and elsewhere in Africa. I think the reason behind US inaction to stop the genocide in Dafur is concern that US intervention would alienate the Chinese commercial interests involved in trade negotiations with the US. Oh, it's a wicked world out there.
Remember the old Chinese curse: May your life be interesting.
Considering Those Who Offer Us What We Do Not Know
Writing a blog makes me appreciate more and more those "three dot" journalists who must have a daily column written and submitted to their editors on schedule. I venture to guess that these intrepid journalists take more risks about printable content than would, say, an investigative reporter. I imagine it is easier to apologize when the need is shown.
Someone needs to apprise our conservative pundits that our print media has been biased one way or another since independent publishing became possible. There is no such thing as balanced programming for print media.
Television is a distinctly different medium for offering information to the public. Pictures do express thousands of words, which is why I often object to pictoral content to describe something in print. Visual data seems so much more complex and abundant than printed data is. A wrong photo can overwhelm the writer's text so that the reader may concentrate on the photo's content and what it means for each reader. Any magazine in print for over a century has had varying amounts of illustrations and photographs that usually reduce the word count of an article. Life magazine's appeal was its photography and a photo's ability to bring its subject into each person's home view. The power of television comes from its ability to enter every viewer's consciousness. Thus, programming television content affects and biases the viewing audience more quickly and efficiently than any other medium. To the brain, this must be akin to vicarious, life experience data--I saw it with my own eyes--for which contrary, visual information cannot argue. Because of this phenomenon, commercial television creates programming that attracts customers for the products they sell. Commercials, not some lofty content or performance.
Thus, the only way a viewer might acquire multiple opinions about a single issue is for the television medium, not an individual broadcaster, to allow as many different views (or biased imagery) as possible.
Spreading republican governmental ideals represent the secular bias of the United States and its people. Most religions follow a similar bias by upholding their unique creeds individually as humanity's. Each religious group has the best way for worshiping and participating with Divinity's standards by which humans should live.
It should be no surprise that Americans believe and live as if having achieved the secular ideal. Externally, Americans are being judged by the manner the US frames its political, trade and military objectives. Thus, it isn't uncommon to hear that Americans are bullies and arrogant in issues not involving America, because once involved, the US forces the outcomes to meet America's goals first. For the US, the secular ideal is a fundamentalist view of the world.
Try arguing with a fundamentalist about anything. The fundamentalist cannot lose, only be deterred. Being right is an attribute of power dynamics, too. Only a greater power has legitimate authority to change, rebuff and punish the fundamentalist's truth. Ignatieff's article raises many, many issues upon which to ponder, perchance to act.
19 June 2005
I found a site http://www.vote.com sometime in 2002. I urge all who read this to visit the site. In a "yes/no" or "agree/disagree" format, one can express an opinion "vote" on just about every major news item on Fox and in USAtoday. After responding, one can see the results plus to whom the "voters" data will be sent. For instance, today vote.com wants to know it I agree or disagree with President Bush that all the Democrats stand for is obstructionism. Registering my "Disagree" opinion, I find that only 11% of the country's "voters" agree with me, or that 89% agree with the President. Then, I find at the state level (CA), the results are still 89%-yes and 11%-no. Sometimes Californians do have different results than the national data. Then, further pointing out my isolation for living in the Bay Area, my district's results show that only 29% agree with the President and 71% disagree. I can only recall seeing one or two polls in which my district results were the same as the state and national results. I'm also informed that the results of this "vote" will go to the Democratic National Committee and to President Bush. I guess not all recipients are being revealed to the "voters."
Clearly, this is a Republican-oriented web site. The way questions are framed is overly general, like the DNC's survey's, and biased to obtain "votes" that support the Republican party line. The fact that the site title and the its participants are labelled "voters" gives a false impression of an impartial ballot box or opinion poll. It's neither. So, periodically I visit the site to cast my "undoubtedly wrong" opinions. If more of us did this, perhaps Vote.com will see its flagstaff flying purple colors.
18 June 2005
When Did Honor Leave Active Duty?
Here's my letter:
"The White House and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner accuse Durbin of insulting the troops. It's past time Congress attacked the problem, not malign the messengers. Torture is not an American value. No amount of partisan political attacks will change that. As a U.S. military veteran, I believe Senator Durbin is justified in his fervor.
"If anyone should feel personally attacked by Senator Durbin's remarks or by the Amnesty International report, it should be the officers in the chain of command during whose watch these inhuman conditions occurred. I am astonished and bothered that no senior officer or civilian counterpart has resigned because it happened "on their watch." Where is honor among the military officer corps?
"Congress must investigate and act now so that torture or allegations of incarceration illegal under the Geneva Convention do not become America's reputation and face in the world."
As I recall, Rumsfeld dispatched LTG Sanchez to handle things and to clean up the conditions at Abu Ghraib. At the time, LTG Sanchez was in charge of Guantanamo�s processing and incarceration command for captured, suspected terrorists and enemy combatant's. Why did he not resign instead? Why was the animosity between Defense and State Departments lead to exclusionary processes among Cabinet Departments? The Secretary of State was a four-star general with a lot of combat command experience. General Powell�s rise in rank leapt over many others in line for an additional star, so he incurred some ill feelings among these senior generals. Nevertheless, why did President Bush appoint a bureaucrat who never served in the armed forces? How could Bush and Cheney believe that Rumsfeld could lead generals? One of Eisenhower�s assets was his lack of awe when he worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I think General Powell would have made a much better Secretary of Defense, especially after 9/11/2001, for the same reason as Ike. What Bush and Cheney wanted, however, was someone they knew would pursue the then-secret agenda for removing Saddam Hussein from power by military force. I�ll have more to say about the real agenda of this installed Administration later.
So, to bring back to point, I think Powell would have removed commanders who accepted or turned a blind eye to the terribly inhumane treatment of suspected terrorists and enemy combatant's captured in battle. The general who has had the President�s ear for some time is not American: Israeli General Ariel Sharon. Now, isn�t that a lovely thought.
12 June 2005
We may be seeing the first wave of spin-counterspin that has the potential to distract the press and Congress from the substance of deceit. The Conyers' investigation appears to be on track for laying out the outright lying, prevaricating and obfuscating the real military and economic objectives from the American people. Lying to Congress in committee testimony was rampant and now the Bush team, formerly validated by Blair's team, may see some efforts to bring sanctions on the Bush Administration. Impeachment would seem appropriate, beginning with the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of State under Bush.
But, the "it was his idea" game will most likely be the headline news in the popular media. Let's hope that those who opposed this war in the first place, such as MoveOn.org, ANSWER, People for the American Way and others, will resume the city rallies to motivate the American people to demand accountability from the Bush Team. ACT NOW!
11 June 2005
The above examples may be called 'terrorist', 'criminal', 'un-American', 'racist' at the time according to the political spin of the victors or dominant political parties. What is the difference between a riot and an uprising, a terrorist versus freedom fighter; a criminal versus a religious zealot? These are political words, not absolute, self-evident terms. Is the difference determined by the target location irrespective of human life? Is the difference determined by the personal versus larger principles? Are all the talk shows wrapped up in semantics rather than the reality of a situation or action? I think semantics establish chimeras of difference and opposition. 'Spin doctors' operate in the realm of semantics at the behest of the centers of political and governing power and one shouldn't confuse the two realms. If one does not separate spin from power base, then the power base will have almost unassailable barricades in politics.
The Bush Administration cannot define 'terrorism' that includes all of the above examples. Bush uses an unidentified fear of death in the mall. They use racism to pit American against American. They use piety to support their spurious legislation and police activities and to suppress dissent. The appeal to pious motives and righteous goals creates a much greater and pernicious public opinion among people vested in their religious beliefs--without allowing this same public to see the activities and results from the Bush Administration's subterfuge.
If the terrorist threat is predominantly internal, the Patriot Act must have been designed to address groups, ideologies and juris prudence within the United States. The class and ideological groups disenfranchised by the social revolution of the 1960's and 1970's are trying to regain their preeminent status in America. Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Carter represented populist federal activism that was anathema to the OWNERS (Old White North Eastern Republicans). Reagan and Bush the Younger use the same people within their administrations to reclaim the federal agenda from the populists and progressives.
So why do we need a Patriot Act?
10 June 2005
Every Friday, Laura Flanders' Your Call Radio (http:\\www.yourcallradio.org) hosts an assessment of the week's media coverage, what's been done well, what's tubed and other comments listeners and journalist-panelists feel are relevant. Definitely not a radio version of Meet the Press! This is done very well, as well as any broadcast can do in an hour.
What's Dean Doing?
My view is that the National Democratic Party should define specific sub-parties or caucuses by political affinity. That is, there could be a Conservative Caucus, a Progressive Caucus, a Rainbow Caucus, Black, Latino, Asian and Anglo Caucuses, a Liberal Caucus, etc. The NDP would function as a coalition of the many with greater attention to the issues of the individual caucuses. For a country the size of the US, a two-party electorate is a myth. All Democrats (or Republicans) do not agree on everything their party advocates and the candidates offered to the voters. So why not make the local groups part of one of the caucuses? For instance, conservative Democrats in New Hampshire would join with those in Arkansas and Idaho, thereby having the strength of numbers unlikely at any particular local district. Membership in the governing council of the National Democratic Party would be apportioned by caucus with parity among the members. The larger caucuses would represent more numbers, yet the positions of smaller caucuses could be heard. Ultimately, the party platform should reflect the majority view, i.e., the largest number of Democrats forming coalitions around different positions for the party to take. I think the internal process would become more visible to the public, and that's a good thing.
09 June 2005
06 June 2005
No lawyers, no politicians
Did you read the article comparing the WW II generation�those at home�who shared the burdens of supporting the troops? Imagine, Congress enacted a 94% tax rate for incomes over $200k; FDR wanted 100%. I do think there�s another book to write and it should contain reports from our generation, the children of these people who lived through the Depression and WW II. I don�t know if you�ve had the experience to take over and deal with your parents� household after they�ve passed or moved into assisted living residence. My cousin Nancy said her mom�s place was the filled with stored items. Aunt Velma wouldn�t spend money she could well afford. At 91, she didn�t want to be a burden to Nancy in her old age! My parents were cut from the same pattern.
My friend Jeffrey is moving his 95 yr. old father into a new �assisted living� residence this week. Jeff told me last night that he never knew how much stuff his father had stuffed away, e.g., plastic bags that were from before plastic was invented. Leon, the father, immigrated from Russia in the 1920�s and grew up on Hester St. So, he had both cultural change, the Depression plus the War. The women at the assisted living residence are going to eat Leon alive! And he�ll love it, too. (Picture Charlie Ruggles in his later years.)
Another friend, George, said that they found canned fruit dated back to the early 1950�s in his father-in-law�s home. Almost every one I know who has had to clear out their parents� house has remarked about how much stuff they found. Our parents were pack rats extraordinaire! They never threw things away�because you�ll never know when you�ll need to use them. Is it any wonder that our generation rebelled against such quaint ideas as �waste not, want not� during the 1950�s and �60�s?
Were they the Greatest Generation? They were extraordinary people, at times maddening and infuriating to us growing up in their households, yet they left their imprints on us in ways the next few generations will never appreciate.
04 June 2005
Accidental Incontinence at Guantanamo
Where are the news conferences by members of Congress decrying these abuses and condemning members of the Administration and military for insipid propaganda offered to ashamed and angry people in this country and around the world?
I'm going to find out what my Congressional representatives have done. I'll post what I find out.