Tag Archives: New York Times

Playing Politics with National Security

The New York Times

The New York Times (Photo credit: niallkennedy)

How is it that the New York Times is able to write elaborately detailed stories about the cyber-attacks on Iran from Stuxnet and Olympic Games, the code names for the computer viruses allegedly used to infect Iran’s nuclear enrichment program?  The NYT even is able to produce a graphic that shows the detailed business process used to produce these virus attacks.

We’ve also been treated to detailed information about drone strikes on terrorists, on the campaign for targeting specific people, and even the president’s fingerprints on the “kill list”.

The answer to the question seems both obvious and disgusting.

The information is apparently being deliberately fed to favored reporters in order to bolster the President’s ‘war on terror’ credential in national defense.  That seems to be the logical conclusion of analysts and journalists either amazed or drooling over the prospects that they would be leaked information for the next juicy story.  There seems to be very little attempt by “administration officials” to hide what they are doing.

I thought national defense and security intelligence was supposed to be secret.  Why would we tell Iran these things?  Is this some giant ‘head fake’ to persuade Iran to give up their program and cut a deal before the worms start taking aim at other stuff in the Islamic Republic?  Is this a reminder that Iran cannot procrastinate forever, that there are consequences short of air strikes, that there really isn’t that much distance between Israel and the US?

Is this a trial balloon to judge public reaction to war played by alternative means than sending in the Marines?  Because cyber-attacks are, in fact, an act of war, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said so himself recently when discussing the issue of Chinese espionage.

If the president thinks that he is going to get ‘macho man’ credit for spamming Iran with computer viruses to make their centrifuges spin out of control, or deliberating targeting the terrorists of the world to demonstrate that there is no place the hide from American justice and self-defense—he will.

Until we realize that he put at risk the very successful tactics, intel and people in America’s defense forces by leaking it to the press for partisan political purposes without regard to the collateral damage it might do.  And worse, the President risks an even more precipitous loss of public confidence as we realize his actions undermine the nation security he is sworn to uphold.


Starbucks’ Lysistrata Moment for Politicians

Starbucks Brand Mark

Lysistrata is one of eleven surviving Greek plays written by Aristophanes. Wikipedia says it was originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BC as a comic account of one woman’s extraordinary mission to end The Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata persuades the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands to force the men to negotiate peace in a battle between the sexes. The play is notable for being an early exposé of sexual politics in a male-dominated society.

Did you see the news report that the members of the new “supercommittee” in Congress designed to figure out what the next move will be after the debt deal landed with a thud on America’s kitchen table are raking in political contributions from lobbyists trying to protect their clients.   Here on Main Street that is called by various names like bribery, extortion, and influence peddling and if any of us tried that we’d get the “Go Directly to Jail” card in the monopoly game.  But in Washington they do things differently.

Is that all there is?  That was the typical reaction of most Americans after learning that all that fuss and fury produced no actual reduction in any government spending but merely promised to bend the shape of the additional spending curve slightly over the next ten years.

What#$%&*! (expletive deleted)


But today came a breath of fresh air as we woke up to smell the Starbucks coffeeCEO Howard Shultz said he was ending all his personal and corporate campaign contributions to ALL politicians in both parties until Congress and the President went back to work and produced a spending reduction plan we can believe in!  He called on other CEOs to take the same pledge and put the heat on the politicians where it counts.

Now that is a change we can believe in!



Howard is planning to give our politicians their own Lysistrata moment.  Cutting off a politician’s cash is a fate much worse that Lysistrata inflicted on her husband, and it just might be a good  way to get their attention since the looming fear of election day defeat has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind of every incumbent.

Imagine what might happen is this Starbucks initiative turns into a supersized Venti experience.  We should start by demanding the members of the super committee to pay over every penny they collect in campaign contributions since their appointments were announced to the US Treasury to help pay down the national debt.

Next we ought to extend the Lysistrata treatment to the President and demand that he stop fundraising until a credible deal gets done.

Third we should encourage as many CEOs and other organizations to sign on to Howard’s pledge by holding Lysistrata coffee hours at Starbucks, of course to offer public testimony for the TV cameras about why they too are taking the pledge to hold out.

Way to Go Howard!

Countdown to Cancun


Remember last year at this time the world was in frenzy over the upcoming Copenhagen conference on climate change.  It was a ‘save the world’ kind of thrill running up the leg of most of the delegates.  Expectations were high that the United State under new President Barack Obama would join the party and commit to a giant transfer of wealth and technology from the developed world to the developing world.

“Pay me big time or I will emit again!”

Well, Copenhagen didn’t quite work out that way thankfully.  Not for lack of trying or perhaps even the willingness of the United States and the EU to craft some compromise, but because China and other fast growing countries were unwilling to subject themselves to the same constraints they sought to impose on the developed world.  Seeing the ruse staring them in the face, the developed countries said no.

But now a year has passed and the hype is not quite the same, but the global warming crowd is again trying to create the same drama surrounding the Cancun conference.  China is playing its part:

“Senior Chinese officials said on Tuesday that next week’s climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, would succeed only if the West agreed to transfer technology to developing countries like China and to take the lead in cutting emissions.” New York Times, November 23, 2010


Only this time the world isn’t buying it.

Creating an Insurgent Recovery

Thomas Friedman wrote a very interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times recently entitled “Superbroke, Superfrugal, Superpower?” He hit on all my hot buttons about the profound consequences of America’s diminishing competitiveness in the world and why we must turn that around fast.  He talked about the role of America as the world’s sole superpower and why there is no logical replacement for us on the world stage today. He talked about the need to set priorities and make choices that live into our values.

That really is what this election year is all about isn’t it?  Setting priorities and making choices about what we want our country to be like for our children.  The economy suks and so does our attitude about how it’s going.  But this testing of our values and resolve may prove to be just what we needed to wake up to the slow slide we have been on for some time.

This is not a commentary on either the Democrats in power today or the Republicans who were and may be again.  We had grown complacent.  We bought into a globalization theme that has sapped our strategic strengths and we spent too much time apologizing for America’s successes.  We fought wars no one else would fight and we saved—or tried to save—countries that the world might have been better off without.

But something happened to us as a result of this great recession.  We woke up!  Sat up and said wait a minute, we don’t like what is happening to America.  This is not about blaming someone for the problem—it is about fixing it.

That’s where we are now and all of our politicians are rightfully running scared because we want change WE can believe in.  And that does not mean going backward either.  It means we are ready for a fresh start and are in the midst of defining what that requires and who best to lead us back to competitive advantage.  The TEA party movement is the political equivalent of an IED unleashing America’s pent up anger and frustration wreaking havoc when it goes off but causing us to play smarter defense and then take offensive action to deal with our real problems.

Thomas Jefferson would love this volatility and “little bit of rebellion” alive in America today.  He saw the ability of the people to shout “Wait a Minute” as the singular best feature of the system of checks and balances embodied in the Constitution.

If what we want as Americans is to ‘get our groove back’ economically, politically, globally we need more than income redistribution through stimulus spending we have today or the Republican alternative of redistribution of essentially shifting America’s economic engine overseas through complex financial transactions and tax manipulation that make Wall Street rich but create little value except in the “flip and churn” of transactions.

This is the Thomas Jefferson rebellion our political class on both sides of the aisles fears.  It is that we are coming to take back America seeing its promise as more than the sum of its debts. We are ready for change, but we want it our way this time.

Principles of an Insurgent Recovery

  • STOP SPENDING MONEY WE DO NOT HAVE.  Calls for additional stimulus spending are landing with a thud because the previous rounds have not produced a satisfying effect.  The uncertainty created by the impact of rising spending and deficits has business sitting on its cash and biding time instead of investing, hiring and growing the economy faster.
  • SHOW ME THE ROADMAP.  Business wants to see where the economy is going and what the government will do—and how much it will cost.  When that is known they can decide whether to invest in America or not. What everyone wants is certainty in uncertain times.  Not everything can be fixed quickly, we know.  But we want as few surprises as possible and we need to know the Government has adult supervision.
  • GET OUT OF MY WAY SO I CAN GROW MY BUSINESS. The cumulative costs of ObamaCare, higher tax rates, regulatory costs in finance, energy, environment, health, state taxes to cover deficits and the fear of looming inflation are job killers.  The best way to restore confidence is to create an economic and political foundation that encourages economic growth—that rising tide lifts all boats.

How to Get from Here to There

This is the hard part isn’t it?  And the added problem is we mistrust both parties with majorities because they tend to revert to their worst instead of looking out for our best interests. So my formula for getting our groove back includes the following:

  • VOTERS TO POLITICIANS: A POX ON BOTH PARTIES. WORK TOGETHER OR ELSE!  We should elect as many non-incumbents who seem reasonable not ideological as we can this November.  Congress needs more Main street people and fewer professional politicians.  Throw out the leadership of both parties and start over.  Elect a Republican majority in the House but with many insurgent TEA party members to give the old guard fits.  Retain Democrat control of the Senate but not 60 votes so they must compromise.  The President is entitled to propose his agenda but majority control of both houses by either party just leads to too many opportunities for bad behavior when we want checks and balances to require both parties to work together or face our wrath in 2012.
  • VOTERS POLICY ROADMAP FOR WASHINGTON: GET IT DONE OR ELSE!  Here is what we want a bipartisan effort to deliver for us by the 2012 election:

WE WANT A FAIR, FLAT TAX SYSTEM.  We want it simple, easy to understand, no loopholes, few deductions and no need for an army of accountants and lawyers. We want everyone to pay something. No alternative minimum tax, no double taxation, low capital gains tax, and corporate rates lower than competing countries.  The goal is to turn America into an investment magnet for the world to jumpstart investment, entrepreneurship and job creation.

ROLL FEDERAL SPENDING LEVELS BACK TO 2008.  Un-appropriate all unspent stimulus money using it to reduce the deficit. Stop spending money we don’t have and reset the budget base to pre-stimulus levels across the board—and we mean it!  Force a zero-based competition for available new spending and a public vote on the ranking of priorities.  Ban all earmarks.  Give the President line item veto authority or impounding authority to manage spending to revenue.  We want this done before the 2012 election.

FIX ENTITLEMENT SPENDING. Repeal ObamaCare entirely and substitute reforms aimed at introducing interstate competition into healthcare and lowering costs by the 2012 election.  Make individual healthcare premiums tax deductible just as group plan premiums to create a level playing field for coverage. Means test other entitlements so the resources are spent on those most in need and put other cost savings or reform ideas on the table by 2012 election to be decided after that election for long term reforms.

When we get these things back on track we’ll focus on our global leadership role during the 2012 election.  Listen up Congress, what part of get this done don’t you understand?

There ends the rant.  Damn, that felt good.