About Author: neoavatara


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Libya: What Is Our End Game?

I have been a proponent for some kind of intervention in Libya since the earliest days of the revolution.  I certainly would have favored arming the rebels and giving them tactical assistance.  I thought the costs of such intervention were worth it, with minimal downside.

I, like everyone else with a brain, is against ground troop involvement.

But the UN sanctioned No Fly Zone, along with the American strategy in this mission, makes utterly no sense.

Let us step back a minute and look at the entire picture.  Libya was the last of the North African countries to tip over from the domino effect of the recent revolution craze spreading through out the Middle East.  Ironically, it was one of the more violent and oppressive regimes as well.  Even so, the rapid movement of the rebels toward toppling Qaddafi was surprising to virtually everyone.

But that early success may doom them to long term failure.

The quick changes on the ground have lead Obama to largely be paralyzed by indecision.  Obama has been all over the map on this issue.  In the early days, he called for Qaddafi’s ouster.  Then, when the rebel movement stalled, he called for some kind of stalemate.  When the tide turned, Obama looked indecisive, and inaction ruled the day.  Once it looked like Qaddafi would crush the rebel forces, and possibly annihilate the civilians in Benghazi, it was the French and British that stepped in to prevent carnage.  Now the President is calling for quick withdrawal of U.S. forces from the theater.  However, even with that declaration, ambiguity remains; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has implied that U.S. involvement will be longer than expected.

Obama’s nuanced foreign policy has given us a plethora of choices, all of which have set us up for a No-Win scenario.  Because of the alliances with the Arab League and promises to other world powers that the mission would be limited to humanitarian assistance, the Allies cannot achieve their initial stated goal:  regime change with the removal of Qaddafi.  Even killing him would not be enough, because one of his sons would simply take over.  And with billions of dollars of gold and cash horded into bunkers through out Tripoli, Qaddafi has immense staying power; something the Allies don’t have.

The second stated goal, the one stated by the United Nations, is to protect civilians.  That is all well and good, and certainly a laudable goal.  But how long will we do that, and more importantly, will we be successful?  Right now, Qaddafi’s forces have stalled because of the air assault.  But Qaddafi has many weapons and forces remaining.  For us to establish some kind of stalemate in which the rebel forces would be able to protect themselves, we would have to do something Obama, the Brits and French have promised not to do:  nation build.  The rebels are in chaos, have no leader, have no military authority.  This would be a ground-up mission on the level of Afghanistan.  No one has either the will or money to do anything of the sort.

So eventually, as the United States leaves, as Obama puts it, “…in days, not weeks…”, and the Europeans get bored and sick of the costs, what will largely remain is what was found on the ground the day before the No-Fly Zone started:  Qaddafi with overwhelming forces that ultimately will crush the rebels.

So even the humanitarian goals cannot be achieved easily.

And the obvious question:  when Qaddafi marches on Benghazi the next time, what happens?

Many people are discussing the hypocrisy of intervening in Libya and ignoring other hot humanitarian crises, the ridiculousness of intervening in this civil war when others have killed many more, Obama’s lack of Congressional approval, etc.  This does not even begin to mention what America will do if NATO refuses to take charge of the mission, as they did today because of the opposition from Turkey and Germany.  These are all valid discussions to have.

But ultimately, the biggest question in Libya, or any military action, is what are the goals, and can they be met with reasonable costs?

President Obama has to be held to account.  The President should simply be asked what our goals are, and if they are achievable.  I think all of us, Democrat and Republican alike, know the answer.  And no matter how nuanced his response is, we all know that the answer comes to the same conclusion.  There is no way to achieve our goals.  So why are we there?


What Is The Real Radiation Danger?

I am no nuclear power expert, to be sure.  There are nuclear engineers to seek for expertise on the specific about nuclear reactors and possible complications from a meltdown.  The best site I have seen that briefly explains the worst case scenario as for as the reactor and possible meltdown is the M.I.T. education site, which is linked here.

I am, however, a physician; a radiologist in fact.  As a radiologist, we go through intensive training regarding the uses and risks of radiation.  So, I would call myself a relative expert on the dangers of radiation in general. And I can tell you, my colleagues and I in the radiology community have been largely disgusted by the information pouring through the media and government outlets regarding fears from exposure to radiation.

This is not to minimize the catastrophe going on in Japan.  On the contrary, there are real risks to a meltdown and core rupture.  But most of those risks are to the immediate populace, and even that risk is overstated.

How so?

The best case study regarding an incident such as this is, of course, the Chernobyl accident of April 26, 1986.  Until this Japanese event, Chernobyl was by far the largest nuclear disaster in world history, and considered a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event scale (with 7 being the worst disaster).  In Chernobyl, the power burst led to numerous explosion and rupture of the reactor vessel core.  An explosion of the graphite moderator components than sent a large plume of radioactive material directly into the air, which then dispersed through out the environment.

The radiation spread through out the Soviet states, most specifically in what is now Belarus, and even reached parts of western Europe.

But here is where the specifics get tricky.

The radiation at the reactor core at Chernobyl was immense, reaching 300 Sieverts (the metric measurement for radiation); no humans were exposed to this level, but this would cause near term death.  In the control room itself, workers experienced 0.03-0.05 Sv immediately after the explosion.  Around the site itself, and in nearby localities, radiation ranged from 0.005-0.01 Sv.

Most of the immediate radiation with high risks were secondary to short lived isotopes such as 131I.  An isotope with a ‘short life’ or short half-life means that it decays quickly into less harmful or nonharmful isotopes, and thus does not continue to cause a long term threat.

So although exposure to this type of radiation was very harmful, those that evacuated likely were exposed to only small amounts of this most highly dangerous pollutant.  Small amounts did carry into Europe.  But because of their short half-lives, the isotopes had minimal deleterious health effects.

So what was the long term effect?  Now, 25 years later, we can answer the question definitively… and the answer is that the effect was limited.

In 2006,  the United Nations Scientific Committee of the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), a group of eight UN agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization evaluated multiple studies on the effect of Chernobyl.  237 people suffered from immediate acute radiation sickness.  37 of these people ultimately died.  However, the death toll over that the last two decades from causes directly related to Chernobyl were approximately fifty…50.  These deaths were almost all from workers that were on site immediately during and in the days after the explosion.  And that takes into account that there were over 1000 workers on site during that period of time.  Thus, only about 5% of the workers that heroically tried to stop the disaster even died.  Tragic, absolutely.  But still, the effect was much less than feared.

Nine of the deaths occurred from children in the nearby town who eventually contracted thyroid cancer, out of 4,000 cases reported.  These cases likely were related to the accident.  Thyroid cancer is highly treatable, however, and thus the death rate is very low.  Even in local areas, there was no significant evidence of increased congenital malformations or fertility problems.

The report main conclusions are the following [bolded added for effect]:

Among the residents of Belaruss 09, the Russian Federation and Ukraine there had been, up to 2002, about 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident, and more cases are to be expected during the next decades. Notwithstanding problems associated with screening, many of those cancers were most likely caused by radiation exposures shortly after the accident. Apart from this increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality rates or in rates of non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure. The risk of leukaemia in the general population, one of the main concerns owing to its short latency time, does not appear to be elevated. Although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of radiation-associated effects, the great majority of the population is not likely to experience serious health consequences as a result of radiation from the Chernobyl accident. Many other health problems have been noted in the populations that are not related to radiation exposure.[76]

By and large, we have not found profound negative health impacts to the rest of the population in surrounding areas, nor have we found widespread contamination that would continue to pose a substantial threat to human health…

In Japan, the radiation levels are much lower.  On March 18, the media reported that elevated radiation readings were obtained 18 miles northwest of the Fukushima plant; 0.0017 SV, to be exact.  To put that into context, that is equivalent to about 2 years worth of normal background radiation.  In the Chernobyl accident, that same dosage was achieved approximately 500 miles away.

And to further the point:  no one documented that received those kind of doses in Chernobyl ever had any direct medical problems, even after weeks and months of exposure at that level.

One last point, mostly scientific in nature.  Much of the historical risks attributed to radiation have been obtained by studies of the nuclear fallout at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The entire concept that there is no minimal threshold of radiation that is safe emanates from those studies.  However, with large scale studies of people exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident, both in the immediate vicinity and distant exposure, these concepts are now highly disputed in the scientific community.  The biological reasoning for these old theories is highly suspect.  If the old theory was correct, we should have seen thousands of incidents of cancer and deaths; this has not borne out.

So, after careful analysis, what really strikes someone as the biggest danger from these large scale nuclear disasters?  Fear.  In the aftermath of Chernobyl, women through out Europe rushed to their doctors, fearing congenital abnormalities.  It is estimated that 100 women in Italy alone went ahead with abortions because of their fears…or twice as many as the number who actually died over two decades from direct exposure.

There are serious risks to the radiation being emitted from the Japanese nuclear plant.  Most of those risks are to those in the immediate vicinity, especially those within a 5 mile radius.  And even in that region, the biggest risk is thyroid cancer.  If you live in the immediate vicinity, say 50 miles or closer to the site, taking postassium iodide pills could help.  Otherwise, it is a complete and utter waste.

If there is a large scale explosion and core breech, that distance will magnify, but unlikely to be greater than 100 miles.  Even the fears of significant health risks to residents in Tokyo are overblown.  Thus, people in the Western Hemisphere should take a slow, deep breath, and wait to see what happens.  As of right now, there is nothing to fear from the Japanese disaster.



The M.I.A. Presidency

Have you seen our President?

Today, in a significant shift by the western powers, the United Nations successfully passed a resolution authorizing a No-Fly Zone, and allowing member nations to use ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians.

The U.N. resolution was pushed largely by the French and British, who have been the most vocal supporters of the No-Fly Zone from the beginning.  However, conspicuous from their absence has been the American contingent.  Unlike David Cameron of Britain and Nickolai Sarkozy of France, our President never committed one way or another on the NFZ.  And thus, America has been largely a spectator in the international debate on what to do with Libya.

The Obama Presidency is full of examples of a Presidency unwilling to commit.

Take even the issues that liberal held close to their heart.  Obama’s stimulus plan, the first large legislative package in his presidency, was written largely by Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats.  Obamacare is not truly named; Obama and his administration, time and again, stated that the plan discussed in the halls of Congress was NOT the President’s plan, in order to defray any criticism of the President.  And even after Republicans trounced Democrats in the midterm elections, Obama deferred to Congressional Republicans on extension of the Bush tax cuts.  And for two years, the administration has talked about deficit reduction and entitlement reform, even producing their own commission on the subject.  But when it came time to take up the banner, the President was simply absent from the debate.

When in doubt, Obama simply chooses to vote ‘Present’, as he did during his legislative career.

Liberal supporters of Obama state that this is because he is a ‘true intellectual’ who looks at all sides of the issue before deciding.  Being able to be objective about issues is an excellent trait, no doubt.  But Obama’s problem isn’t objectivity; it is lack of decisiveness.

Victor Davis Hanson of the National Review puts it in another, more eloquent, way:

President Obama has spent most of his life either in, or teaching, school — or making laws that he was not responsible for enforcing. His hope-and-change speeches were as moving in spirit as they were lacking in details.

But now Obama is chief executive, and learning, as did Prince Hamlet, that thinking out every possible side of a question can mean never acting on any of them — a sort of Shakespearean “prison” where “there is nothing either good or bad.” Worrying about pleasing everyone ensures pleasing no one. Once again such “conscience does make cowards of us all.”

Hamlets, past and present, are as admirable in theory as they are fickle — and often dangerous — in fact.

Libya is just another in that long line of failures.

In Libya, Obama had two completely reasonable choices:  one, he could have chosen not to intervene in anyway, because of lack of an U.S. national interests; or two, he could have chosen to intervene militarily, either with a no-fly zone or some other military action.  Instead, Obama chose the third option:  give every indication of supporting the rebels against Qaddafi, and then do nothing.

It is the mirror image of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous saying.  Instead of ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’, Obama’s version is ‘talk loudly, and don’t even know where the stick is.’

This has created so much angst, there are rumors now floating around that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, sick of the indecisiveness of her President, is actively looking for an ‘exit strategy’ to free her from the burdens of her current position.  Clinton understands that the vacillation that is Obama policy has hurt their credibility in the Middle East, as multiple protests against Hillary Clinton in recent weeks as she visited the region showed.

The administration’s current position on Libya is untenable and incomprehensible.  If the NFZ goes forward, it will certainly not be because of the Obama Administration, but despite them.  Traditionally, the American President is said to be leader of the free world.  Mr. Obama has largely abdicated that role to others.  In the long run, that weakens not only Obama himself, but the United States as a whole.


Qaddafi’s Road To Victory

Reality often hits Presidents squarely in the mouth.  And this reality is doing just that to Barack Obama.

After benefiting from a great deal of luck in Egypt, Obama’s luck seemed to be continuing with the continuation of the Jasmine Revolution.  As Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and other countries throughout the Arab world fell into revolt, it looked like the Nobel Laureate President may actually bring democracy to the Islamic world.

That was a wish too far.

Qaddafi, after looking quite insane (as well he may be) finally has found his footing.  Clearly his military was not ready for the initial wave of revolt as well as military defections that let the eastern part of the nation fall into rebel hands.  His military is making steady progress toward Benghazi, the rebel stronghold.  Today, they took the town of Ajdabiyah, which is en route the Rebel base.

But now, it is clear that the tide is turning.  Qaddafi has all the advantages.  He resides in Tripoli, by far the largest city.  He has large stores of food, weapons, and most importantly, money.  He can bide his time.

The rebels largely were winning territory with a wing and a prayer.  They are using old weapons, and untrained soldiers.  The rebels briefly controlled some of the oil fields, but even that is now in jeopardy.

In short…this is a battle of Qaddafi’s choosing.

It seems that Europe, led by Nicholai Sarkozy of France and David Cameron of Britain, are willing to do more to shift the balance of power.  However, they cannot do anything without Obama’s consent…something it does not seem he is willing to give at this time.  For all practical purposes, he has said he will not act without a UN resolution, which will never come, considering the opposition of Russia and China.  That means that NATO would have to take the lead…and NATO means the US.

Obama never really faced a critical moment when it came to Egypt…the Egyptian military took care of the decision for him.  However, no one is here to save us in the Libyan conflict.  It is quite possible that as time goes on, Qaddafi’s forces will build to a crushing defeat of the rebels; the same rebels that this Administration basically supported and gave tacit approval to.  If that is the case, will Obama step in?  Or will he watch our supposed allies get massacred?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has voiced her opinion.  In meetings in Europe this week with Libyan rebels, Clinton said clearly that the U.S. would not intervene without UN approval.  That is highly unlikely, with the expected vetoes from Russia and China.

There is an honest and valid question of whether we should intervene at all…and that is a reasonable discussion to have.  But the confusion from the White House is alarming.  One day, Hillary Clinton says we need UN Security Council approval, which basically implies that we are not going to do anything.  The next day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney comes out and says that we don’t need UN approval, which implies we are leaning toward intervening.  And Obama himself has been virtually silent on the issue for more than a week.

This is a decision that is a virtual coin flip. There are Pros and Cons to both sides.  But Obama has simply abdicated his role to others, and that is no good for anyone.  The only winner with Obama’s indecision is unfortunately Colonel Muammar Qaddafi…who has all the time in the world.  Qaddafi is willing to wait, because without outside intervention, victory will ultimately be his.  And the West, Obama especially, will have missed out on one of the great opportunities to spread democracy to the Arab world.




In seconds, life changed for tens of millions of Japanese.  Mother Nature, in her most wicked form.

There is little to say about the news.  You can see dozens of dozens of amazing photographs all over the web.  The videos are both awesome in their power, and frightening in their scale.  The earthquake and following tsunami have brought life to a complete and utter halt in the world’s third largest economy.  Tokyo, one of the grand cities of the world, did not suffer physical damage, but all reports are that the city and its residents are in a state of shock.

And to add insult to injury, Japan is experiencing one of the largest nuclear plant disasters in history, as it races to shut down multiple power plants before meltdown and possible complete collapse.  A bitter irony for the world’s only victim of the atomic bomb.

The death toll will surely be more than anyone can bear, as whole villages appear to have been wiped out.  This is much a repeat of the 2005 Tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people across a dozen countries.

But somehow, this seems closer to home.  Japan is one of the world’s economic superpowers.  Here is a country that was more prepared than anyone to face both earthquakes and tsunamis.   This is not Haiti, where poorly constructed buildings need little to topple over.  Over even Christchurch, New Zealand.  Japanese are the experts on building in earthquake zones.

Little did it matter.

The images we see today remind me of the grainy black-and-white images of the post-World War II Japan…desolate, defeated, devastated.  But this was no war.  This was simply nature taking its course.  War is one thing; it can often be avoided.  But here, we see that there are some things that humanity is simply not powerful enough to avoid, at any cost.

The sad reality, however, is that there are few nations in the world that are better built to handle this tragedy than the Japanese.  They rebuilt after WWII.  They have a culture that accepts sacrifice.  And their democracy and efficient government give them the tools to rebuild.

But today, and for many days to come, all of that doesn’t matter to the victims and survivors of the largest natural disaster in Japan’s history.  God Bless.



Battle: Los Angeles: Movie Review


Battle:  Los Angeles is one of those movies and geeks and nerds have dreamed about their entire lives.  What would it be like if an alien force came to earth, was openly hostile, and the war began?  How would we fight?

This is a war movie, in the truest sense.  Its closest Hollywood analogue would have to be Black Hawk Down…which says a lot about this current film.  This is not Will Smith in Independence Day, happily flying around killing bad aliens.  This is war, in it grittiest Hollywood iteration.

The aliens are far from indestructible.  Sure, they have superior weaponry and technology…but in the same vein that the U.S. military has superior weapons to the Taliban.  They can be defeated.

This is not a feel good movie, not a character developing movie…this is a war movie.  The action sequences are glorious in their detail.  The battle scenes are reminiscent of the best war movies, such as Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan.

If you like Sci-Fi and war movies, you will like this flick.  If you don’t like both…I am not sure.  And if you don’t like either, don’t bother.   The storyline is average, the dialogue can be clunky, and there is virtually no character development.  But this movie is what it is…a military movie at heart, with Marines happening to fight aliens.



Example of Liberal Civility

A liberal's idea of civility...

It seems so long ago, when the President of the United States stood up in Arizona, and gave a moving speech about how political rhetoric must be held back, and civility must reign.

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

That was a short 6 weeks ago.

This is what we have today; in an email to a Republican State Senator in Wisconsin:

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.

This does not just amount to idle talk.  Last night, after the vote in the Wisconsin Senate, liberal protesters virtually invaded the state capital.  Here is how one Republican described it:

“We tried to get out of the building after the vote, because they were rushing the chamber, and we were escorted by security through a tunnel system to another building. But, after being tipped off by a Democrat, they mobbed the exit at that building, and were literally trying to break the windows of the cars we were in as we were driving away,” Republican senator Randy Hopper tells NRO. Such tactics, he sighs, were hardly unexpected. “I got a phone call yesterday saying that we should be executed. I’ve had messages saying that they want to beat me with a billy club.”

It is amazing how ridiculous the hypocrisy of the mainstream media is.  Wisconsin is not the only example.  Numerous examples of ‘liberal civility’ can be seen in events across the country, especially in places such as Columbus, OH.  Physical altercations, breaking into government buildings, and posters comparing Republicans to Hitler are pretty common.  And that is some of the more mundane stuff.  The other videos are sometimes so vulgar, I don’t even feel comfortable posting.

Here is a Twitter thread of death threats against Gov. Walker:


Or, relatively mild oppression by union thugs, such as this in Columbus, OH:

Of course, as predicted our valiant mainstream media is no where to be found.  No hard hitting questions about the repercussions of death threats against politicians.  Not today.  Today, it is their side throwing the threats and predictions of violence, and they have deemed it acceptable.

The conservative outcry today has been, “Can you imagine what the media would have done if the Tea Party had done this?”  And the question is valid.  Nothing the Tea Party protesters did in almost two years of protests amounts to anything that the protesters in recent days on the left are doing.  The vitriol on the left, as usual, is much more heated and evil, and yet, somehow acceptable to our mainstream press.

So where is ‘Mr. Civil’ President Obama today, regarding this topic?  As usual, no where to be found.  Ironically, he and Michelle Obama were headlining a meeting on bullying at the White House today…no, I am not kidding.  Supposedly, bullying is bad; unless, of course, if you are a union thug.

I guess, the one thing we can be thankful for is that Mr. Obama went back on his word to the unions, and didn’t protest on the ground with them like he had promised.  I could almost visualize the President chanting along with the crowd with their vitriol and hatred.

Frankly, I think conservatives should just accept the double standard and move on.  We are held to a higher standard, and that is fine by me.  But we should never accept the ridiculous statements of the left that attempt to hold back our relatively reasonable voices, when the liberals in this country accept death threats and violence as their calling card.  And until the President comes out and criticizes his own allies, chastises his own side, and eloquently calls them out for their lack of civility, he will be the laughingstock that we on the Right always believed him to be.



Endgame: Wisconsin Ends Collective Bargaining

After weeks of rangling and protests, Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republican passed the legislation to virtually end collective bargaining in the state.  Halted by the quorum need to pass fiscally related bills in the Wisconsin Senate, Republicans split off the legislative language regarding collective bargaining into a stand alone bill, which did not need a quorum.  The Wisconsin Senate passed the bill this evening.

Democrats are outraged by the ‘nondemocratic’ nature of such a maneuver.  This is dripping with irony.  It was only one year ago Republicans said the same thing when Democrats in the U.S. Senate used reconciliation to pass Obamacare.  At the time, I said liberals would rue the day that they opened the door to such a legislative gambit…that day is today.

Walker can call this a victory, but politically it cost him.  He has a long time to make amends, and largely his future will be determined by economic fortunes.  Most everyone will have forgotten this by the time 2014 rolls around.  How this affects Presidential politics for 2012 is another question, and should be fascinating.


Gov. John Kasich and Ohio’s Future


Gov. John Kasich at his first State of the State Address

Gov. John Kasich today presented his first State of the State speech, which will be confronted by some of the largest protests in Ohio’s recent history.

The speech was interrupted at least one by jeering from the few protesters in the crowd…which, of course, was predictable.  But, Kasich handled it well.

“Frankly, folks, the provisions of collective bargaining reform are examples of what we wanted to do to allow people to control their costs,” Kasich said as boos rained down from protesters watching in the chamber.  He then addressed the passion of protesters gathered in and outside the state house whose chants could be heard at other points during the speech.  “I appreciate passionate people who don’t agree with us… People who feel strongly, I respect them, but they also need to respect those who don’t always agree with them, Ok?” he said to extended applause from Republicans.

The protests are largely against several of Kasich’s proposals to reign in collective bargaining rights for public sector unions.  Under the bill, unionized public workers in Ohio could negotiate wages, hours and certain work conditions, but not health care or pension benefits. The measure would do away with automatic pay raises and base future wage increases on merit. It also would ban strikes by public workers and establish penalties for those who do participate in walkouts.

The reality is, the protests are somewhat meaningless.  Republicans hold significant majorities in the House and Senate, and thus can pass whatever they want, even over Democrat opposition.  There are no potential ‘fleebaggers’ in Ohio…the writing is on the wall, and Kasich will get his bill passed.

Most pundits nationwide accept that public sector unions have garnered too much power in recent decades.  Many of those unions now prohibit real reform necessary to improve the way government works.

Unlike in Wisconsin, however, Gov. Kasich is not eliminating collective bargaining…merely restricting it.  Although this does not mean much to the unions per se, politically it is a much easier see than what Scott Walker is trying to accomplish.  Additionally, no one questions the $8 billion hole left in Ohio’s budget that Kasich must somehow close.  This is the first step in reigning in those deficits.

Kasich’s argument is strong. The facts simply cannot be argued with.  Ohio has lost 600,000 jobs in the past decade, including at least 400,000 during this recession.  One third of all college graduates from Ohio ultimately leave the state.

Ohio, like many industrial midwestern states, has grown to be uncompetitive, and far from attractive to new business.  Although now wholly because of unions, union power in these states is detrimental.  If you look at states with the fastest job growth over the past two decades, they are largely states without entrenched public and private sector unions.

Kasich’s proposals would not eliminate collective bargaining on salary, but would allow local districts flexibility in handling issues such as pensions, which have grown out of control.  The average private sector employee pays 23% of his pension costs, while the average public sector employee pays only 9%.  That takes into account that public sector employees are paid approximately $2,300 more than their private sector colleagues for the same job…amounting to about 5% more salary overall.

Kasich and Republicans will easily win Round 1.  Unlike in Wisconsin, the legislature is their hands, and the Democrats can do little to fight this battle.  Kasich, additionally, has long term ties with blue collar and union workers in the state, which should lessen the political blow.  Ultimately, it will come down to whether these reforms help Ohio narrow their budget gap, and allow the state to once again lead the nation in job growth.

But politically, round 1 goes to Gov. John Kasich.




Newsweek (?!?) Demolishes Obama Foreign Policy

In a piece from this week’s Newsweek, Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor at Harvard Business School, totally destroys the fallacy on going that the Obama Administration’s policy toward Egypt during this recent crisis was purely successful.  He writes:

This failure was not the result of bad luck. It was the predictable consequence of the Obama administration’s lack of any kind of coherent grand strategy, a deficit about which more than a few veterans of U.S. foreign policy making have long worried. The president himself is not wholly to blame. Although cosmopolitan by both birth and upbringing, Obama was an unusually parochial politician prior to his election, judging by his scant public pronouncements on foreign-policy issues.

Yet no president can be expected to be omniscient. That is what advisers are for. The real responsibility for the current strategic vacuum lies not with Obama himself, but with the National Security Council, and in particular with the man who ran it until last October: retired Gen. James L. Jones. I suspected at the time of his appointment that General Jones was a poor choice. A big, bluff Marine, he once astonished me by recommending that Turkish troops might lend the United States support in Iraq. He seemed mildly surprised when I suggested the Iraqis might resent such a reminder of centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule.

You want to see Ferguson destroy Obama’s world vision, in Egypt as well as elsewhere?  Watch his piece on Morning Joe on Monday morning [Video now embedded below].  He systematically annihilates the media argument that Obama handled this well on any level.  Ferguson, who was no fan of George W. Bush either, made the almost criminal accusation that Obama’s foreign policy could end up worse than his predecessor.

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Maybe the most insightful part of the piece is the view of foreign leaders regarding Obama’s handling of the matter.  If you read here and elsewhere, what you see is that among both allies and enemies, the universal thought around the globe is that the Obama Administration’s handling of the situation was more luck than skill, and their overall strategy was amateurish at best, and incompetent at worst.

Ferguson leaves us with a couple thoughts, that echo some of my earlier comments.  First, we are left with a military junta in Egypt, which one hopes will keep their promises of democratic reform.

Second, Ferguson shows us that Obama’s stance of today is simply not realistic.  He pulls a quote from Obama’s Cairo speech of 2009:  “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles—principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” Ferguson points out that if Obama is going to depend on the principles of slamic justice and progress, we may be in serious trouble, in Egypt and elsewhere.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the history of such revolutions is that violence does erupt, in one manner or another; so although last week was a net positive, this will be a multi-year process, and only at the end of it will we know if this was truly a success.  Obama’s ability to focus on a ‘Grand Strategy’, as Ferguson puts it, may ultimately help decide which fate is in store for us.

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