Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama on the Iraq War and the Petraeus Doctrine

Dear General Petraeus,

Did you like being the center of attention, for a while the other night, during the presidential debates?

The guys had lots to say about you in the midst of the back and forth about Iraq.

It seems to me, and tell me if I'm right, that Barack Obama is a proponent of a new kind of engagement as a backdrop to his practical policies about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Al Qaida, and the war on terror generally. That backdrop is one that is partly expressed when he speaks of being open sitting down and talking to other world leaders with preparation but without preconditions. He is saying, that in the 21st century we must explore new avenues of diplomacy. McCain accuses Obama of being naive. But it isn't naivete is it, General Petraeus? It is a recognition that the Powell doctrine* of the late 20th century has died. The Petraeus doctrine has arrived.

Both McCain and Obama seem to acknowledge your importance. But I think that they appreciate different things. McCain wants to say, "Hah, the surge worked. Military might really does work." But his understanding is hearkening back to the Powell doctrine. Obama says instead, and perhaps with more understanding than McCain of the Petraeus doctrine, "Hm.m.m, the surge cannot be a surge of might. It is instead a surge of cultural engagement." Embracing some of the new thinking from military philosophers such as John Nagl, Obama accepts that events such as those of 9/11, “conclusively demonstrated that instability anywhere can be a real threat to the American people here at home.” For the foreseeable future, political conditions abroad rather than specific military threats will pose the greatest danger to the United States.

General Petraeus, have you seen this video? It will take about eight minutes, but I think it is eloquent.

When Obama does sometimes sidestep the question of "winning" the war in Iraq, he is acknowledging that traditional military victory is secondary to the greater necessity of instituting diplomatic scaffolding that will maintain lasting stability throughout the region.

The Atlantic Monthly states,
"According to the emerging Petrae­us Doctrine, the Army (like it or not) is entering an era in which armed conflict will be protracted, ambiguous, and continuous—with the application of force becoming a lesser part of the soldier’s repertoire."

Instability creates ungoverned spaces in which violent anti-American radicals thrive. Yet if instability anywhere poses a threat, then ensuring the existence of stability everywhere—denying terrorists sanctuary in rogue or failed states—becomes a national-security imperative. Define the problem in these terms, and winning battles becomes less urgent than pacifying populations and establishing effective governance.

War in this context implies not only coercion but also social engineering. As Nagl puts it, the security challenges of the 21st century will require the U.S. military “not just to dominate land operations, but to change entire societies.”

. . . enabling the Army, he writes, “to get better at building societies that can stand on their own.” That means buying fewer tanks while spending more on language proficiency; curtailing the hours spent on marksmanship ranges while increasing those devoted to studying foreign cultures. It also implies changing the culture of the officer corps. An Army that since Vietnam has self-consciously cultivated a battle-oriented warrior ethos will instead emphasize, in Nagl’s words, “the intellectual tools necessary to foster host-nation political and economic development.”
We are living in a very different world from the one that predated the global society. Even the lessons of Vietnam don't quite apply, do they? To effectively maintain just and decent leadership in this world, we cannot afford to place all of our hopes on the gun, on the bomb, on the power of power. We must seek a new solution. That is what Barack Obama is saying when he calls for an end to the military engagement in Iraq.

Could you say that too? Would you serve him as your commander-in-chief?


Link to Obama on Iraq from Presidential debates

*The Powell Doctrine held that military force should only be used if there was a clear risk to national security; that the force used should be overwhelming; and that the operation must have strong public support and a clear exit strategy.

Iraq and other matters...OR What a tangled web

Dear President Bush,

You have been in a painful slide lately I think. As one of your faithful, if somtimes confused, supporters, it has frankly been hard to watch. I want to believe you had an honorable heart in all this mess, but often I am unsure. I am here to engage the topic of Iraq today, and as I researched and thought about this subject, I just kept coming back to you.

This picture was taken this week, as you talked to us about the latest blow to hit your presidency, the impending collapse of the financial market. You frankly looked beaten. I heard the quacking of a lame duck calling the two Ganders to waddle their way to Washington to assist in the decision that would really affect their administration more than yours.

It made me think back to the days not so long ago when you were younger, determined, and riding a wave of public support. You had comforted us after the terrible day of 9/11, you had taken a posse and sent them to Afganistan to string up the outlaw who did it, and you were ready to show that you were not only a reactive guy, but proactive as well. There would be no second 9/11 on your watch. Hussein would be the next to go. I wonder if you regret the speech below now, especially the prophetic lines that those of us who were listening did not expect to be as true as they turned out to be.

There are now few that don't hate you for this decision. Did you know that the weapons of Mass Destruction would never quite show up? Was it really all about oil? Or was it about the human rights violations against millions in Iraq? I guess we will never know. Right or wrong, you have suffered. And maybe I am naive to still hope that your intentions were good. But even corruption has been corrupted now, with the evilest standing up and calling themselves the best, so how are we on "main street" to know.

So now, we have two men with plans for what to do next. I was struck by something McCain said in the debate this past week. Obama was talking about why this war was the wrong war at the wrong time. But now that is a mute point. We are here and it is now and there is no going back. So the question is what do we do now.
See minute #2 for the quote. Watch the whole video for McCain's side of the debate on Iraq. I wish it had both sides of the debate, but this is what I found.

The fact of the matter is, we cannot "lose" in Iraq. Remember how that went with Vietnam? But how do you define "winning" when you are fighting against guerilla warfare? When the enemy army has a global pool to draw from? And when the enemy does not value the lives of its own members? In fact, the enemy blends with the civilian population one day and blows them up the next. Lets just say it gets confusing.

So, to the point. What does John McCain recommend? On his site he says he "believes it is strategically and morally essential for the United States to support the Government of Iraq to become capable of governing itself and safeguarding its people. He strongly disagrees with those who advocate withdrawing American troops before that has occurred." OK, what else...

"The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home." A democratic state that poses no threat to its neighbors? I disagree with that. Its neighbors should be at risk of catching the same disease...democracy and freedom. Those terrorists take refuge with Iraq's neighbors...But Iraq should be able to safe guard themselves, I agree.
McCain calls for 1. Support of the successful counterinsurgency strategy (see BRD's discussion of the Patreaus doctrine). 2. Push for Political reconciliation and good government, 3. Get Iraq's economy back on its feet, 4. Call for International pressure on Syria and Iran, 5. Level with the American people about what is going on in Iraq

He closes his Iraq info with this: “I know the pain war causes. I understand the frustration caused by our mistakes in this war. And I regret sincerely the additional sacrifices imposed on the brave Americans who defend us. But I also know the toll a lost war takes on an army and on our country's security. By giving General Petraeus and the men and women he has the honor to command the time and support necessary to succeed in Iraq we have before us a hard road. But it is the right road. It is necessary and just. Those who disregard the unmistakable progress we have made in the last year and the terrible consequences that would ensue were we to abandon our responsibilities in Iraq have chosen another road. It may appear to be the easier course of action, but it is a much more reckless one, and it does them no credit even if it gives them an advantage in the next election.”

I fear that I still agree with your administration, Mr. Bush, and with John McCain. I think you both sort of agree, although all this politics has addled my brain a bit. I just know that simply promising to bring troops home does not a successful strategy make. We are where we are, and we must, slowly but surely, strengthen Iraq and prepare to leave. There will be risks, there are always risks, but we must allow this butterfly, which we removed from its cocoon a bit before it was ready, to spread and strengthen its wings. And then when it can fly, we must let it.

AND THEN>>> We must decide what we will do with evil in this world, both the evil that threatens us and the evil that does not. What about the Darfurs? What about the Irans? There are probably 10 more places we could go to war at for all the same reasons that you took us to war in Iraq. So what kind of possible consequences will we allow to drive us to that point again? It is something that American's must grapple with. We must also grapple with where in the world we will spend our money, especially now. 2 Billion to Georgia to support many billions to the world in general to cut poverty in half by 2015?

"The world has changed, I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the earth". America must change with it, and we must decide who we are going to be globally... "freedom bully", nuclear enforcer, savior, uncle money bags, trouble maker, scape goat...what?

But I digress and fall into so many other topics. One last thing I want to say though, is that I am glad for what you have done in Africa. I wish more people knew about this. With all the horrible things going on in Iraq, there have been so many good things in Africa. But no one wants to report the good things...the people living better, surviving longer with AIDS, prevention of the spread of AIDS, etc. Thank you for doing this.
So enjoy your last few months in the White House, and I truly hope you can enjoy retirement on the ranch. It will be here very soon.

Your friend and critic,
CaDh 8

p.s. Oh, yeah, And Bush, I did not get to talk about that unbalanced budget, but it is one of my major gripes with you. If America had had to feel this war due to spending cuts to make war funding possible, I think the war would have been handled very differently from the beginning. But maybe that is a topic for next time...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Points, Principles, and Financial plans

So we have been hearing from the candidates of late. Partisanship politics paired with bi-partisan statements while a national game of chicken ensues. I was frankly disappointed at the "joint statement" just released, as I felt like it was mostly fluff. I thought they were going to tell us something. But it was just "Kum-by-ah". I don't think Kumbyah will get us out of this one.

Both McCain and Obama took time out of the Clinton Global Initiative to lay out some of their "real" plans.

McCain had 5 points regarding the bail out plan. He thinks these are requirements for any plan that is put in place. Washington post online provided this recap:
"As he has said before, McCain said five principles must be included: greater accountability and independent oversight; a path for taxpayers to recoup the money; transparency in decisions on which companies to help; a cap on the executive pay of those companies that take part and no earmarks in the plan for any specific businesses." and "McCain said that a second economic stimulus package should not be attached to the legislation."

Obama kept his points to 4, but the Washington post was a bit more free with their word count and line space when outlining his ideas:
"Obama's proposed additions include:
--A ban on generous payouts for "irresponsible CEOs on Wall Street." Obama warned: "There has been talk that some CEOs may refuse to cooperate with this plan if they have to forgo multimillion-dollar salaries. I cannot imagine a position more selfish and greedy at a time of national crisis. And I would like to speak directly to those CEOs right now: Do not make that mistake."
--Replacing Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's absolute authority over the bailout's execution with a bipartisan independent board. Obama noted that Paulson signaled during testimony this morning that he may be open to the broadening idea.
--An investor stake for taxpayers. "The American people should share in the upside as Wall Street recovers," Obama said, adding, "There are different ways to accomplish this."
--Assistance for people who are in danger of foreclosure. He outlined several possible ways to provide aid, including giving the government the authority to purchase mortgages directly, instead of the mortgage-backed securities that have cause the banking woes.
He also called for a stimulus package, although he added that it shouldn't be attached to the bailout bill. "

So there are some definite similarities here. Both want to limit CEO profits, independant or bipartisan oversight, and a way for the taxpayers to recover the money and/or make profits based on what happens with the bailed out companies. I think most can agree on these points. They are fairly good.
But I think there is a giant hole in the points of both men. I mean, what about this 700+ billion dollars? None of these points really directly address that part. Why are we putting that money up? What are we getting for that money? Would mortgage insurance, similar to FHA, do a better job at protecting the market while keeping companies solvant? Are there real homes backing up the 700+ billion, or just "toxic paper"? And how will this toxic paper turn to, well, for lack of a better analogy, green, acid free, recyclable paper?

And what about the whole stimulus package that both men discuss? Didn't we just try that in the fall. Sure it was great to get $1200 in the mail, but I feel like somehow now is not the time.

So I am still confused. But at least we can see that our candidates do agree on a few things. I hope that they can help out up there is Washington. I think I may have a party to celebrate that tomorrow night, if they meet their deadline, regardless of whether the debates are on or off.

You are all invited. We will be having bean soup. No time like the present to start saving money.

CaDh 8

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Barack Says: No Golden Parachutes

Dear Barack,

Thanks for the nice email you sent earlier today. I got a nice card from Michelle too! The other day Joe wrote also. I just don't know how you all have time to write these personal emails.

But I was so glad to hear what you said this about the Wall Street debacle.

  • No Golden Parachutes -- Taxpayer dollars should not be used to reward the irresponsible Wall Street executives who helmed this disaster.
  • Main Street, Not Just Wall Street -- Any bailout plan must include a payback strategy for taxpayers who are footing the bill and aid to innocent homeowners who are facing foreclosure.
  • Bipartisan Oversight -- The staggering amount of taxpayer money involved demands a bipartisan board to ensure accountability and oversight.

I have to remark, though, I wonder why, when I knew these mortgages that these banks were writing were ridiculous, didn't Congress and the Treasury Department know it and act about 4 or 5 years ago. I do want you to do something now, but earlier would have been better.

By the way, CaDh8 wrote an incredible blog about making use of our resources and such (better than Wall Street has.) You must read it.

Michelle sent me a nice video too. Have you seen it?

So a debate. And Michelle asked me to throw a party. Is she nuts? Well OK, maybe my friend T.S. Eliot would come. He's a bit of a cynic. Here's what he said the other day:

"An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry."
T. S. Eliot

So drop over on Friday after the debate. We'll have wings!


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Barack Obama and the Health Care Issue in the US

Dear Fellow Americans, Sick and Well,

My question, when I think about the issue of health care in the United States, is a simple one.

Should the richest country on earth allow it's 47 million poorest citizens to be without health insurance? The statistics on this come from Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004. That 47 million is 15.7 percent of the total population and includes, probably, most of the 12.7 percent of the population that lives in poverty.

I think that another critical question is whether or not being without health insurance is the same thing as being without health care. That distinction is subtle but important, because my concern isn't about insurance. Insurance is paperwork and, in a way, a straw man. What is important is that people can get health care when they need it and are not discriminated against when they do not have health insurance. Perhaps as we try to think through the problems related to health care in the U.S., a solution might be found outside of the insurance box.

Obama says:
  • Reduce costs for employers and businesses by having the government pay for certain high ticket health care items.

  • Build a system of health risk prevention.

  • Improve quality of care.

  • Move to a system based on information technology, computerizing record keeping.

  • Break the stranglehold of insurance and drug companies.

  • In the process of setting up a new system, get all concerned parties "around the table" to draft the program.
This is a nice video. It is both personal and filled with ideas. They are good ideas, but even Obama admits that they are not the only ideas and that other ideas will play a part in building a new health care provision network. He does promise that he will redo the system by the end of his first term in office. Hm.m.m. Have I heard that before? It is an enormous task. He'll have to work really hard to do that.

Obama says, insurance companies and drug companies should have a seat at the table but they shouldn't be able to buy every chair. Click this link to see a long but casual and informative video that ends with a little discussion on how Obama will build a coalition of groups to plan health care changes.

I guess there is another big question related to all of this. How do we pay the bill? That is the hard part of all of this. I think that many countries that have a socialized form of medical care for its citizens have faced these hard questions. I am in favor of limits to coverage. I don't think any politician likes to talk about that. There is much waste and inefficiency in the way we go about treating the sick. Certainly we have made great advances in the treatment of disease, but some of those advances are so over the top that people have to make living wills in order to avoid heroic and unnecessary treatments.

We need a systemic overhaul of our systems, health care and health care insurance. Barack Obama wants to do an overhaul.

  • Obama's goal is to expand government-provided health care and create a form of “managed competition".

  • Obama supports expanding SCHIP and Medicaid eligibility.

  • Although Obama does not support a health insurance mandate for adults, he does support a mandate for children and young adults (any one 25 or under).

  • Obama’s goal is to increase health care access, he would support a “pay-or-play” mandate.

  • All but the smallest employers would be required to provide health insurance; those who didn’t would be compelled to pay into a national fund covering these uninsured workers.

  • The mandate would likely require a minimum benefits package.
  • Overall, Obama is pushing towards more government provided health care and more regulation.


Friday, September 19, 2008

"Every patient is a doctor after his cure" and other thoughts on healthcare

Dear John, Barak, Sarah, and Joe,

Yes, it is true. I know how to reduce all of our chance of dying...well at least temporarily. Maintaining a healthy weight (which for most of us means losing a pound or two) and not smoking. And guess what, this also solves some of our health care needs, as it will decrease rates of other health problems as well. I guess this would increase costs some though, as people would need care for longer lives, but those longer lives would be lived healthier.

OK, so I know I did not just solve all of America's health care issues with that one little statement. But here is a comment that Sarah Palin made in 2008:

"Our choices often lead to heart disease, diabetes, underage drinking, drugs, violence, and abuse. Soaring health and public safety costs are sometimes unfairly passed on to others. But more importantly, by ignoring or accepting selfish choices that cause the abuse, children, families and entire communities are destroyed. Government cannot cure all ills. And don't assume more laws foisted on Alaskans are the only answer--most "bad activity" is already illegal. We have got to make wise, healthy personal choices, including choosing not to ignore child abuse. I'm counting on families, communities and faith-based groups to step up, together, to help passionately here, too."
Source: State of the State Address to the 25th Alaska Legislature Jan 15, 2008

I think that this comment captures two things. One is that our outcomes are based on the choices we make. This is true on several levels. One point is that our health on a personal level is dependant on our own choices. We choose to eat well or not, to exercise or not, to smoke or not. Are some of these choices very hard? Of course. Are there some things we are powerless to control. Yes to that too. And we must choose not to ignore the things we can change.

This goes for spending as well. Both personal and national.

Personally we must choose to prioritize health care. It is not a travesty that at times we would choose not to get medical care because of the cost. I personally have made this choice over the past year, since I have chosen a high deductible with low coverage for myself. So I only go to the doctor when I NEED to. I am not afraid to go, though, because I use the money I save on premiums to build my savings for times of need. But I know that health care must come before cable and eating out and other "wants". It is a need.

Nationally we also must consider this debate. What do we want as a nation, what does it cost, and what will we give up in order to get it. Oh yeah, and who will pay. Here is an interesting is a bit long, but talks about the limits to our budget and what we can spend on all government programs. This candidate will take your vote, I am sure, if you don't like either of the current front runners.

But the thing is, no one wants to cut spending. Everyone seems to say "Gimme Gimme". And there are lots of arguments why we should give people more in the way of health care. But I fear out attempts to 'give' some people more will eventually lead to much less for all. And when we get more from the government we become slave to them. When they control our most important needs, we become beholden to them. So I fear to give them control over my health care. They have already messed up so many things.

Well, in the interest of information, I am just going to link to John McCain's website for his planks on Health care. There was just too much to summarize here. But with his plan, designed to give power to the people and tax breaks so we can buy our own health care. The thing is, this still means there will be less money to the government, so they will have to fix their spending problem. Obama wants the government to provide more health care, so costs will go up and either taxes must match or spending must go down. Either way, we as a nation must fix our spending problem and make good choices...

But so must individuals. We must get off credit cards, give up goodies, and prioritize our spending. And guess what...if we did this we may not even need the governments help. Just think about that one. You can solve your own problems!! Be empowered.

We all know we need an affordable, sensible way for all people to get health care. And the government does need to be involved. But so do we. The government must fight corruption and help those who have no other options. Both candidates say they will do that, and even after some research I still wonder how.

And we must open our eyes to those around us. Don't expect the government to take care of YOUR neighbor when you can do it much better.

And if you don't like this plan, you may like the Dunlap-Brawls health care plan. I warn you, there are some crude spots, but nothing too over the line. (And yes, this is facetious).

Hope these thoughts add to the debate. This is a complex problem and I know I did not wade to deep, but I think the spending issue is the lead in issue to the HOW of the healthcare debate.

CaDh 8

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eliminating the Social Security Payroll Cap and Other Wonderful Ideas

Dear Robin Hood,

I thought that you would like this video clip. Maybe O'Reilly disagrees with Mr. Obama, but I say, "You go, neighbor!" Wikipedia says that you, Mr. Hood, are "an archetypal figure in English folklore, whose story originates from medieval times but who remains significant in popular culture where he is painted as a man known for robbing the rich to give to the poor and fighting against injustice and tyranny." If that is what O'Reilly means by calling Obama Robin Hood, I think I'll vote Democrat!

One of the most maddening realities of our tax system, to me, is the cap on social security taxes. If Obama swoops down and wrests that booty from the rich and super rich, I would say that a good deed has been done for sure and the men and women of Sherwood Forest will have much about which to be merry.

Heigh Ho,


Monday, September 15, 2008

The Sarah Palin Controversy or Why did John McCain Choose Sarah Palin?

Dear Tina Fey,

Sure the political pundits will kick around a lot of high sounding arguments for why John McCain might have chosen one candidate above another for his running mate for the job that puts a person in an empty office contemplating the one big question of the vice presidency, "What is it like to be one heartbeat away from the Oval office?"

By the way what is the shape of the vp's office? A parallelogram?

Tina, you and I both know that John McCain's decision to choose Sarah Palin lies in the frames of your glasses. One obscure political lackey was assigned the job of comparing current political figures to likely comedians and their abilities to do impressions. When this picture arrived on his desk, the decision was made.

"That, my fellow Americans," he said, "is the next Vice President of the United States." "Which one," said the staff? "I, I'm not sure," said McCain. "And could you get my wife a pair of those glasses?"

So that's how it happened, and for those of us who are members of the Tina Fey Fan Club, we are glad it did.


Link to SNL skit

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Republican View on Immigration

Dear John and Sarah, **

As I have gone from "adult" to "mature adult" over the past 6-7 years (for the record, I am only 29, but I am referring to the process of becoming aware of the world outside oneself/becoming involved in the community/taking on responsibilities/etc), I have begun to notice and at times become a part of the ongoing debate on immigration, both legal and illegal. Recent years have seen an increased focus on this issue, especially in my town, where there has been at least one heinous murder and several horrendous traffic accidents perpetrated by illegal immigrants. There is also a large and necessary segment of the labor population in this area composed of immigrants.

I thought that the immigrant issues were new issues, but as I researched the topic I found that America has been dealing with immigration issues since day one, including illegal immigration. I will be focusing on the last 30 years in this letter in order to better understand where we are today and why.

"Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge"

Immigrant workers have been a part of our nation's fabric for centuries now, including and especially in the later half of the 1900's. Over the course of the century numerous laws were passed regarding immigration in order to control the flow of people into this country. A quota system was set up so that we would only be allowing certain numbers of people from each country in the world to enter our borders. Also, these numbers were impacted by what employment needs we had as a nation. But, and you would know this better than I, since you were already mature when this was happening, immigrants, legal or illegal, who were willing to do hard, seasonal jobs for low wages were often welcomed and sought out by American companies. They were hired and paid under the table with a wink, and employers looked the other way. Many employers got rich from these arrangements, and we all have profited from lower food and commodity costs to boot. Even now one will hear positive comments about cheap ways to get any menial, difficult, or disgusting task done.

It was due in part to this "wink, nudge" system that in 1986 Ronald Reagan signed an immigration act giving amnesty to illegal immigrants who were here. Everyone knew they had been drawn here by the magnet of work, and that they were needed. But the system had gotten chaotic, with almost 2 million people entering the country illegally in 1986. Reagan intended to curb this swell by enacting stricter rules about hiring illegals, giving a "temporary worker" classification, and making other changes to make it possible for seasonal workers to come and go as needed. According to Theodore Hesburgh, the chairman of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, it was an attempt at "closing the back door to undocumented illegal immigration, opening the front door a little more to accommodate legal migration in the interests of the country...."

The Blame Game

Unfortunately, from what I am seeing now, this did not work. We seem to be in the same place we were at 20 years ago, and from what I understand, Bush's most recent attempt to pass an immigration reform bill was a similar move to what Reagan did in the '80s. Now, however, the word "amnesty" has been poo-poo-ed by all. But the gist was the same. And as I look at your "planks" (love that political word picture), I see a very Reagan-esque picture.

You say you want to:
1. Secure our borders first. Your plan is sketchy as to details, in that you say this could be done with physical and virtual barriers, including use of man power to patrol by land and air, but it is clear you want to stem the tide.
2. This would then be backed up by Comprehensive Immigration Initiatives. Your bullet points include: 1. Screening individuals for eligibility to work through an Electronic Employee Verification System., 2. Meet labor needs in both the high and low skilled sectors, 3. Address the undocumented aliens (your words) that are already here, 4. Eliminate the family backlog.

Now I want to stop here for a moment and just state for the record that I am someone who has over the past few years, been a hard line, "what part of illegal don't you understand?", takin' our country back kind of Republican. The whole sneaking across the border thing just did not sit well with my sense of fairness and my propensity to see things in a very black and white sense. But to tell you the truth, over the past 6 months I have become a, well, McCain Republican. You see, I got sick of hearing conservative talk radio play, what I call, the blame game.

"It is the illegal immigrants who are draining the system," "It is the illegal immigrants who don't pay taxes" "I can't get a job because the illegal immigrants took it," "Get 'them' out of my country", and on and on. I got sick of it, and regardless of all the legal issues, when we dehumanize our fellow man, that is just plain wrong. So I decided that there had to be a more sensible answer out there.

The "Others"

So I wonder what we can do next. As you said on your website "America cannot permit a permanant category of individuals that do not have recognized status--a permanant second class." These immigrants live like shadows, especially, it seems to me, the women. They are afraid to make connections, afraid to trust, afraid to demand fair treatment as employees, afraid to call for help if they need it. They are like ghosts living in the same world as the living, but not really alive. And this is wrong. No matter what the solution, this is wrong. on your website you also stated that you want to "Provide a system that is fair, humane, realistic, and ensures the rights of the individual and families will be protected."

The border is key, and you know that as it is your first plank. Without that problem solved, all other attempts at order are mute.

Should some people be deported. Oh, definitely yes. Can we afford to let people, legal or illegal, have multiple DUI charges or criminal charges simply remain on the street to offend again. No way! But we MUST be humane and orderly and fair in the process. We must do cost/benefit analyses of our processes. And we must break this ongoing cycle that continues. "De-magnetize America" is a repeated phrase on talk radio, and I agree with the concept, but how will it work practically. Living on the streets in America can be a better life than living in a hovel in some other countries. But if there is a user friendly, legal way to navigate the American system, there will be less need for people to be drawn to illegal methods of navigating it.

But it is a complicated problem, and John, Sarah, you will need not just a specific plan, but a way to change the hearts and minds of those playing the blame game while closing the gap between those who are "us" and those who are "others".

Good luck, and don't let this issue get too lost in the cracks this year. Some Republicans see it as your weak plank, but I truly think you could turn it into one of your strongest pillars.

Thanks for listening!
CaDh 8

**disclaimer: I have chosen to use the term "illegal immigrants" in this letter because I am referring to a segment of the immigrant population who have chosen to purposefully enter our country illegally. I am not talking about people who have simply had difficulties getting appropriate documentation. I am also not trying to say that all the laws on the books are right and just. But they are there. Hence, I choose to use this term.**

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama and Immigration

Dear Barack Obama,

I'd like to talk with you about immigration to see if I've got this straight, that is, what you think about the immigration issue.

In May of 2007, in the Senate, you said,
“The time to fix our broken immigration system is now… We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace… But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America… Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should.”
This is one issue where I'd like to be sure that when we go about fixing our "broken system," that we fix the right part. As a grandaughter of an immigrant, I feel like I'm just two heartbeats away from the "home country," so I'm quite glad for generous immigration policies.

I was listening to what you had to say:

I agree with you mostly. Here are some of your immigration-related ideas that I have been thinking about:

You talk about fixing the bureaucracy. That is really an area where there is a need for change. The hidden bureaucracy is where we should start. You talk about needing to speed up the process of doing background checks. I think that this is really true. In a world where computers can do a gazillion things per millisecond, it seems like we ought to be able to address this issue.

At the debate in Texas you said, "It is important that we fix the legal immigration system, because right now we've got a backlog that means years for people to apply legally. What's worse is, we keep on increasing the fees, so that if you've got a hard working immigrant family, they've got to hire a lawyer; they've got to pay thousands of dollars in fees. They just can't afford it. It's discriminatory against people who have good character, but don't have the money. We've got to fix that. We have to improve our relationship with Mexico and work with the Mexican government so that their economy is producing jobs on that side of the border. The problem is that we have had an administration that came in promising all sorts of leadership on creating a US-Mexican relationship. Bush dropped the ball. He has been so obsessed with Iraq that we have not seen the kinds of outreach and cooperative work that would ensure that the Mexican economy is working not just for the very wealthy in Mexico, but for all people."

A number of things about this statement ring really true to me. My grandfather came to this country with $11.00 in his pocket.(See Ellis Island document below.)

I sure agree that we don't want to price immigrants out of the American dream. You and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007. Included in it are provisions that prohibit the increase in naturalization fees. And (another nice feature) it requires that test for citizenship be administered uniformly nationwide, with no extraordinary or unreasonable conditions placed on applicants taking the tests. The age, education level, time in the United States, and efforts made by citizenship applicants would be taken into account when they take the tests.

I love that. It might allow for some consideration of immigrants who have served our country in the military.

Additionally, your emphasis on Mexico and a joint policy with the Mexican government is particularly important. Facts is facts, reality is reality. Mexico is our special situation. It is our border country. We share a history. And we share the economic problems driving both the legal and illegal transfer of population from Mexico to the United States. This idea is central to a great immigration policy. And here, I think, Bush has built a base to stand on. Save the distraction of the Iraq War, we may have made some headway at solving this problem.

I need to say something about fences and walls. I know you have said some things about local communities deciding for themselves what is effective in terms of physical barriers. And that's a safe position for a politician. But Robert Frost and I believe that something there is that doesn't love a wall. So rather than mending those walls we've got going down along the border, let's make a different music this next eight years.

I met this guy, Glen Weyant, while doing an article for Stimulus, the Alumni newsletter for the UT College of Social Work. Instead of building walls, he makes music by using the border fences as an instrument. Below is a rather strong expression of his views about the walls. I thought you might find it interesting. The music is created from the natural sounds electronically collected while "playing the wall."


Note to readers: Here are some other links to info.

On the Issues
Obama Position PDF

Friday, September 05, 2008

Today's Headlines and the Glass Ceiling

Note to Readers: CaDh8 is contemplating joining this blog as a regular contributing partner. This will be especially wonderful during the upcoming political campaign because we often differ on the issues. Let's hope this is the first (or second, actually) of many joint postings, and Viva la difference!---BRD

Dear Hillary,

I use your name so familiarly, yet I do not know you at all. But since, even with the Rodham spoken as a "middle name," calling you Ms. Clinton has connotations to it, we have all come to know you as Hillary. According to, Hillary can be either a male or female name, and it means "cheerful or happy". Well, I must say, even as a dyed in the wool conservative republican, you have made me happy this year.

Now, more than ever, I think of you, Hil. May I call you that? With Palin (You see she is not Sarah to me. The more mannish use of her last name seems to come more naturally.) taking the spotlight, we Republican feminists are now starting to rally around our "girl". We are dreaming of the day a woman may be leading, proving our strength, demanding our equality, earning the respect of ALL. But Palin's place on the RNC stage was not, I fear, opened to her simply by her own merit. It was you, I am sure, that opened the door. . . or broke that ceiling. You opened the minds of all to the fact that a woman IS a legitimate candidate. If you had not come so close to winning, proved in essence that a woman COULD win, we would have had a boy's club again this year, I am sure.

This morning as I drove to work I heard a piece about the 1968 Miss America competition on NPR. A major feminist protest was organized that year to coincide with that event. Protestors set up on the Atlantic city boardwalk outside of the place where it was held. No bras were actually burned there, in opposition to the wide spread myth, but they were thrown, with girdles, Playboy magazines, and cooking pots, into a barrel. Police stopped protesters from burning the items due to city regulations. And these protestors were not really determined to disturb the peace. They just wanted to shake it up a little. They wanted women to be seen as people, not sides of meat.

But the fact is, we HAVE come a long way, baby. As a woman who grew up in the 80's and 90's, sexual freedom and opportunity is all I have ever known for women, so sometimes I forget just how far and how fast we have come. I was raised in a home where I was taught that I could do anything, that I should be treated equally, and that if I was held back because of my femininity, I should FIGHT. This was modeled in my home as well, and I never had to fight. I always felt I was treated fairly.

But the reality is that we as women still have a long way to go. The "sexual freedom" movement that paralleled the "feminist" movement has led to continued exploitation of women with the sickest kind of twist. . . women willingly participate in the process. Hypo-sexuality has become hyper-sexuality and even the youngest of girls feel the pressure. Real understanding of our femininity is lacking, and many women become servants of their roles instead of making choices for themselves. I know you are Pro-choice in the political sense, which I am not. But I am an advocate of choice just the same. Women need to feel empowered in making good choices for their lives so that they do not become trapped or stuck or forced to feel the pressure to quit a job or terminate life within them. As a feminist I feel strongly about this. We need to know that there are always doors that can be opened.

But in business and politics, families and other areas, there are still so many closed doors, so many lesser opportunities. A pregnant woman in my office was actually called a "liability" to her face. We have a long way to go. Gloria Steinem says that,
"Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House."
As a limiting force, it affects the most people. . . about 50%. And it seems to have been overlooked more than other issues, like race, are. Another great quote from Gloria:
"So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects 'only' the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more 'masculine' for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no 'right' way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what."
But the thing is, I fear that we Republicans are not as far along now as we think. Oh, we have definitely moved along down the road. But the "standin' by her man" image that the RNC has been putting forward this week seems to support many of the traditionally held views about women instead of bucking them. And granted, Ms. First Lady, you played that role too. But you have now truly stepped out of it in your bid for the presidency.

So that is why I have mixed feelings now. I am happy about Palin. I like her. And honestly, due to our differences on the issues, I would probably never have voted for you, Hil. But I sort of wish you were out there, fighting for US, showing that we really are equal, breaking down conventions, and making people think twice about traditional gender roles.

Thanks Hillary. We needed you. . . we still need you. We need, and need to be, strong women who stand up for ourselves and stand up for each other.

Hope to see you out there again soon,


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Zorro! How About Those Kids!

Dear Zorro,

Yes, here are the kids. They get nervous, but they surely are cute!

Life in the wilderness of Loudon.