Showing posts with label Public Policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Public Policy. Show all posts

Monday, August 10, 2020

This is How Trump Destroys America


Making sure that old people starve to death and live in abject poverty is just one of those added features of having Trump as your president:
his executive action suspending collection of payroll taxes hands the Democrats the kind of issue that can sink a candidacy. It is nothing less than a declaration of war on Social Security and Medicare. The payroll tax funds those two vital and beloved programs. When you suspend collection of the revenue that funds those two programs, you endanger their viability. Say it with me, Democrats: Donald Trump wants to gut Medicare and Social Security.

The Center for American Progress jumped on this like a duck on a June bug. Even before Trump announced his executive order and three memorandums on Saturday, CAP was out with a memo slamming the President. CAP says that if his scheme works it "would divert hundreds of billions from Social Security and Medicare." Every Democrat should repeat that.


Trump is an impulsive, impetuous man; that we know. But on the issue of cutting Social Security and Medicare, this is not his first attempt. His 2021 and 2020 budgets each proposed deep and painful cuts in Social Security and Medicare. How deep? How painful? $2 trillion over ten years, according to the Wall Street Journal. What a coincidence: that's about how much Trump's 2017 tax cut for corporate America cost. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Trump's corporate tax cut has a price tag of $1.9 trillion.
Normally, I would not link to a Paul Begala op-ed piece, but this is the essential point that has to be made--Trump is handing the Democrats an election year issue that would destroy any other candidate in mere minutes. In the Trump era, it means we get to hear "both sides" of the issue and someone will likely blame President Obama for not already destroying Social Security when he had the chance (whatever that means).

In any other era of American politics, calling for the end of Social Security and Medicare would put you on the ash heap of history along with all the other nutjobs who ran dead last in the cranks-only primary. With Trump, you get to see what colossal stupidity looks like when the elite media takes it seriously.

Democrats should start running ads immediately. Trump plainly says he wants to end the payroll tax that funds these critical programs, and that's tantamount to making this a third world country where people die of fear and neglect. I am hoping they pick up the football and run with it. I suspect they'll just pretend to be concerned and write a sternly-worded letter that will go right into the circular filing cabinet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

President Obama Did Not Bribe Anyone to Go After Trump University




Pathetic and sad:

President Barack Obama arranged for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to receive a $15,000 donation in exchange for investigating Trump University, Donald Trump alleged in February in comments that were overlooked, likely due to the even more ridiculous and offensive remarks that he was making at the time.

Trump didn’t quite accuse Obama of handing Schneiderman an envelope with $15,000 stuffed in it. Instead, Trump said, Obama appears to have arranged a campaign contribution to Schneiderman from a law firm representing victims of Trump’s scam. (Like Trump’s usual claims, there’s no evidence to support this one.)

“The attorney general of New York meets with Barack Obama in Syracuse,” Trump said at a rally in Bentonville, Arkansas. “The following day he sues me. What they don’t say is, I believe, fifteen thousand or a lot of money was paid to the attorney general by the law firm in California that is suing me.”

While relaying his theory about Schneiderman and Obama, Trump told the crowd the judge in the case had “tremendous hostility, beyond belief ― I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine, he’s Hispanic, which is fine,” adding that he was considering asking the judge to recuse himself. (The media largely missed his comments, but Trump helpfully went to war with Judge Gonzalo Curiel again in June, and it made national news.)

Trump repeated his charge against Obama just moments later. “All of a sudden the attorney general ― his name is Eric Schneiderman, not respected in New York, doing a terrible job, probably is not electable in New York, but who knows ― and he meets with Obama, gets a campaign contribution, I think, I think it’s fifteen thousand dollars, and all of a sudden, he meets with Obama in, I believe, Syracuse, and the following day or two he brings a lawsuit against me.”

These are definitely not serious charges because they have been made by an unhinged lunatic (although I suppose Trey Gowdy already has plans to hold a hearing).  Right off the bat, Trump once gave $12,000 to Schneiderman as a campaign contribution. He doesn't even know who he's tried to pay off himself and he damned sure can't be bothered to remember anything that doesn't start with something that praises him to the rafters.

The very idea that the President of the United States has to "bribe" someone to file a lawsuit is ridiculous to say the least. The first lawsuits against Trump University were filed by people who had been ripped off almost six years ago. The President of the United States had nothing to do with what amounts to another garbage claim.

What's depressing about this is that there are Republicans who will ignore this attack and fail to see how it further degrades our political discourse. This is going to be all over Facebook in twenty different ways, none of them good. This is not an isolated incident, nor will it be the last time someone crazy comes up with flagrant bullshit to throw at the sitting president. 

All you can do is laugh at the distance between respectability and the Trump campaign. They ain't meeting any time soon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Susan G Komen? You Get Nothing


This was the best one, in my not too humble opinion. And I don't care if you finally got rid of the strange lady who destroyed your brand by bringing her opinions to work with her. You still get nothing. You get nothing forever. You will eat that nothing with humble pie until they repossess your cars and drive you into the woods so that you can pick berries and beg for corporate money.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Key Words Here Are Mentally Ill

As soon as Nrkumah Tinsley went on his rant about burning New York City to the ground, I dismissed the video as being one of two things. It was either the work of a nut or it was the work of a planted operative and it wasn't worth getting worked up. Why?

Because the Occupy movement has done a lot of things to change the narrative about wealth, poverty, and ethics in this country. It has helped us understand that one of the biggest things it has done is to expose the incompetence of our elites. That is why they are panicked in city halls all over the country. That is why the cops are angry because they're being told to solve the problem without being given a clear idea as to how to solve a problem that America hasn't had to deal with since the early 1970s, and that is, how to deal with mass protests and civil disobedience. This is why a clearly out of touch media personality like Erin Burnett can go out and, with her first few shows on CNN, look like she's been living on another planet.

Nobody gets what is going on except a very well informed and very small group of people who understand that we are living back in the Gilded Age of robber barons and confiscated wealth. Democracy doesn't work without participation; markets don't work without regulation; and capitalism does not work without someone watching what happens with the power to stop what's happening when predators start to run wild.

So, while everyone is screaming about the law, let's put things into perspective. Tinsley is a mentally ill individual, and his terroristic rant should earn him equal parts scorn and denunciation. No one needs to talk like that. He deserves to be arrested and he needs to be treated for his mental illness. But if we're going to apply this concept of the rule of law, we have to remember that what brought him and many others out to the protests was a complete and utter breakdown of the rule of law which allowed predatory capitalism to run wild throughout this country and devastate our economy. We have banks that are stealing homes, investors that are gaming the system, companies that are screwing everyone but their shareholders, politicians who are exempt from insider trading rules, and a media that can't get the story about what's happening straight.

Oh, and we have cops acting like Rent-a-Cops. Can't forget to denounce that.

The solution is to let democracy work. Only through the healthy exercise of free speech and democracy can we let the pressure out of the system and make the will of the people become the law of the land. Of all of the things that our elites are terrified and confused about, the notion that peaceably assembled citizens will gain enough influence to make a hidebound Congressman change his or her vote and make a stunned commentator change his mind and make a cop with a conscience look the other way at an eviction notice from a public place is the thing they fear the most.

Change is coming. And change means the gravy train has come to a shuddering stop for the one percent.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, July 11, 2011

Where We Were and Where We're Going


Take a look at that musty old chart above.

About 18 months ago, there were over ten million Americans collecting unemployment benefits. Since then, the numbers have dwindled almost solely because their benefits have run out. Not everyone who was collecting those benefits found a job--not in this economy, brother.

But a lot of them have dropped out of the job market. They are underemployed or near-permanently unemployed. And our government is doing almost nothing to help them.

Paul Krugman might be as right as he's ever been right here:


If you were shocked by Friday’s job report, if you thought we were doing well and were taken aback by the bad news, you haven’t been paying attention. The fact is, the United States economy has been stuck in a rut for a year and a half.
Yet a destructive passivity has overtaken our discourse. Turn on your TV and you’ll see some self-satisfied pundit declaring that nothing much can be done about the economy’s short-run problems (reminder: this “short run” is now in its fourth year), that we should focus on the long run instead.

This gets things exactly wrong. The truth is that creating jobs in a depressed economy is something government could and should be doing. Yes, there are huge political obstacles to action — notably, the fact that the House is controlled by a party that benefits from the economy’s weakness. But political gridlock should not be conflated with economic reality.
There is no "long run" when the immediate needs are jobs, jobs, jobs and better wages. The only way to get out of our debt issues as a nation (which have never been as bad as the pundits and politicians are trying to tell us they are--hello, real debt vs actual Gross Domestic Product, anyone?) is to grow the American economy. Creating a situation where more Americans are paying in rather than taking out is preferable to a system where we are cutting benefits to those who need them without offering them a chance to work. We are destroying our own middle class, bit by bit, and no one is fighting for them anymore.

If you were to put a million Americans back to work in six months, the money that they would pay back into our economy, in terms of their payroll taxes, their benefits, their personal debt reduction, and in the consumer goods they would buy because they've been living hand to mouth for so long would more than make up for any supposed deepening of our national debt. Cutting spending helps reduce our debt, but nothing gets us out of debt faster than a growing job market and a growing small business sector.

I cannot understand how it is lost on three generations of conservatives in this country that Ronald Reagan undertook a massive government spending program on defense in the early 1980s and essentially grew the country out of the doldrums. The problem with what he did was real simple--he cut taxes on the wealthy to unsustainable levels and failed to ease up on spending when Americans had ample jobs. This in turn brought in millions of immigrants to fill jobs that Americans didn't want to do anymore. What we have now is a political class that won't address the issues of Reaganomics and learn the brilliance of Clintonomics--you have to raise taxes in order to match the growth that's happening in the economy so that you don't end up with a robber baron class that ends up confiscating the wealth generated by a healthy American economy.
Do not cede the argument to the austerity brigade. This country needs to put people back to work as quickly as it can. The Republican Party is intentionally damaging our economy so that it can run in 2012 on a ticket that can win against the poor economic record of President Obama.
Should the Republicans win in 2012, these calls for austerity will end immediately and we'll go back to allowing the ruling, elite moneyed class to confiscate as much wealth as possible.

And, no. Clinton didn't raise taxes enough and no one should have let George W. Bush cut them as much as he did. These debilitating political arguments have left us with an untenable position and now we have a feckless President who squandered all of his political capital early on who isn't equipped to fight for the balance that has been missing since 1982
.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This is Why I Love Rummage Sales

Teddy Bear and Friends Magazine, a mustWhen I found this issue of Teddy Bear and Friends at a rummage sale in Maryland last year, my heart leapt for joy. I am a huge Teddy Bear collector. I have in the neighborhood of 6,000 Teddy Bears, many of which are worth at least five or six dollars apiece. Apiece!

I like rummage sales. Nothing says "oh my God, we have to sell our crap and run NOW" like a good rummage sale. I think this is a bit sad, however:

Nicaraguan mother Lorena Aguilar hawks a television set and a few clothes on the baking sidewalk outside her west Phoenix apartment block.

A few paces up the street, her undocumented Mexican neighbor Wendi Villasenor touts a kitchen table, some chairs and a few dishes as her family scrambles to get out of Arizona ahead of a looming crackdown on illegal immigrants.

"Everyone is selling up the little they have and leaving," said Villasenor, 31, who is headed for Pennsylvania. "We have no alternative. They have us cornered."

The two women are among scores of illegal immigrant families across Phoenix hauling the contents of their homes into the yard this weekend as they rush to sell up and get out before the state law takes effect on Thursday.

The law, the toughest imposed by any U.S. state to curb illegal immigration, seeks to drive more than 400,000 undocumented day laborers, landscapers, house cleaners, chambermaids and other workers out of Arizona, which borders Mexico.

I'm convinced that people who want to work hard without whining will do fine. This is a forehead-smacking moment. You don't expel law-abiding citizens who work hard, pay their taxes (yes, they do pay taxes and that's a fact), and raise nuclear families without so much as a complaint. You kick out underproductive college boys who can't hold down a job for more than three weeks because they can't give up their addiction to beer, hotties, and chicken wings.

How about passing a law that says that any man, aged 22 and older, who lives with his parents, is to be forced to join the military? I'd vote for the clown who could pass that law. Wouldn't you?

Arizona is quickly going to rue the day that this law was passed. When everyone who does the so-called "menial" tasks leaves the state, a lot of fat white boys with backwards baseball caps and fatboy shorts are going to get food poisoning eating off dirty plates in restaurants with terrible service. One minute, that hale and hearty fellow who is 80 pounds overweight will be spooning up some sauce from his plate and the next thing you know his unshaven mug will be heaving six oversized meals into a toilet that hasn't been cleaned since the Bush Administration.

I've been to Arizona, mostly as it pertains to my work as a Gentleman Bounty Hunter. If you want to know what is going to happen, think of an Outback Steakhouse running at 20% capacity, barely able to find someone to dunk the veggies in tepid rainwater. Think of hundreds and hundreds of businesses forced to operate without enough hired help. Think of Manhattan, in other words, only without the ambience and the subways and the ability to function without a car.

My friends, let me speak to you as if I were a saner, healthier version of John McCain. Arizona, you're going to be hurting in about three months. Broken-down cars will soon litter your freeways for want of basic maintenance. Sales of Pepto Bismol are going to be through the roof. Oh, yes. McCain warned everyone about this nonsense. But then, he sold his soul to the devil and now the devil is taking him for a ride on the one bus that doesn't have windows that open. It's over for him. McCain is rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi from his state, and he's being forced to actually campaign and shake hands, which for him is like eating a shit sandwich, served on a bun no one was qualified to toast.

Which reminds me--I have to dump a little investment money into whoever makes that pink bismuth stuff. Their sales are going to surge once people in Arizona start consuming thousands of pounds of rancid fast food. Shamble off to the pay toilets, you rotting carcasses. You did it to yourselves. 

Posted via email from An American Lion is on Posterous

Friday, May 7, 2010

$269,625 a Year? To Run the Trains in Chicago?

Now playing for all the kids out there who love trains..a DVD about the Chicago Metra SystemWhat, in the name of all that is decent, is going on in Chicago?

Phillip PaganoThe chief of the Chicago commuter rail system has killed himself by stepping in front of a speeding train, officials have said.

Philip Pagano was under investigation over alleged financial regularities and was on paid leave.

The board of the Metra system had been due to meet later on Friday to determine his fate.

In his pocket, police found a manual detailing procedures for handling a suicide on the railway, officials said. 

This is a tragic way for things to end up, and it's too bad Mr. Pagano had to do this. What stands out, to me at least, is this:

State prosecutors and federal officials had launched investigations into whether Mr Pagano had improperly steered public funds to his personal coffers.

Metra officials said last month that Mr Pagano had received an unauthorised $56,000 "bonus" in addition to his $269,625 salary. The agency does not award bonuses.

It's that bad in Chicago? The man who runs the Metra system makes over a quarter of a million dollars a year? In Chicago, for crying out loud? I don't begrudge a man who makes a good living, but Mr. Pagano was making a really, really good living. And, he felt the need to just give himself another $56,000 out of the clear blue sky?

What was he doing that made him decide that, while making a hair under $270,000 per year, he deserved a $56,000 bonus? Where on Earth do you do that and expect to get away with it?

This may be a one-time incident, and it may be just the sad conclusion to a man's life, but if this is what is going on in Chicago, brother, don't tell me Chicago doesn't have issues.

Posted via web from An American Lion is on Posterous

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is This Worth Worrying About Right Now?


High at the top of my list of priorities--you, know, things that NEED to get done--I would put these things:
1. Put more Americans back to work
2. Restore faith in our banking and investment industries
3. End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
4. Control government spending
5. Educate more Americans
There are many other critical things that need to be done as well. We need more savings, better information about the food we eat, better health care for uninsured Americans, and incentives for small businesses to start and then stay in business.
Do we really need to talk about this at a time when we're spending ourselves into oblivion, our infrastructure is crumbling, our Veterans are going without the help they need and while millions of Americans aren't getting enough to eat?
Vice President Joe Biden is expected to announce the change Tuesday, said the official, who is not authorized to speak on the record.
The 1972 Title IX education amendment required gender equity in sports programs at educational institutions receiving federal funds.
Universities initially faced three requirements to prove they were complying with the law: that the proportion of male and female students participating in sports at the university was proportional to the number of male and female students enrolled in the university; that the university was expanding opportunities for women students in athletics; and that the university was meeting the athletic abilities and interests of women students.
See, it's all about what George W. Bush did to ruin America:
In 2005, the administration of former President George W. Bush changed the third requirement, allowing the university to prove it was meeting the athletic interests of women by carrying out surveys of students' interest in sports. The NCAA and women's sports advocates said a low response to such surveys could be interpreted as indicating a lack of interest in sports when actually it could indicate a lack of availability of sports activities.
Under the new policy, universities will no longer be able to claim that a low response to surveys means a low interest in sports, the official said. The new rules still will allow the use of surveys, but universities will have to go further to prove they are complying.
The offiicial told CNN the new rules "restore the system to what it was before" the 2005 change. That rule "made it easier for universities to avoid complying with Title IX," the official said.
While those same universities are jacking up tuition because their state funding has been cut, they'll have to allocate resources to make certain that everyone in school registers a sound, informed opinion about the viability of the school's female water polo team. As always, this is because George W. Bush ruined America. Well, this is one thing the Obama Administration is all over. They can ignore torture, war, death, assassination and extraordinary rendition and they can ignore the fact that your privacy rights have been shredded sixty-seven different ways, but they cannot ignore the fact that college kids have no goddamned opinion about Title IX. Most college kids, by the way, don't play sports. What a shock.
This is what it's like when you have nothing going on, and life is an embarrassment of riches. You have time to devote to worrying about whether or not someone is taking the time to fill out a questionnaire about men's and women's sports. Title IX has ruined athletic programs all over the country while improving things for women. It's too bad we couldn't have found something that would improve things for women without eliminating sports for men. There are a lot of defunct teams and programs out there, thanks to Title IX, and now the Obama Administration has sent Joe Biden out there to make things even worse.
Is that a fiddle I hear in the distance while I'm roasting weenies? Is the Emperor up to his shenanigans again? Shouldn't Rome have a better fire department right now?
Posted via web from An American Lion is on Posterous
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Space Program Runs Into the New Austerity

Space exploration has had to take a backseat--and a serious overhaul in funding--because we have spent ourselves into oblivion. If you know anything at all about research and development, the innovation of space flight and space research, then you know that we are simply eating the seed corn at this point. Tomorrow's innovations won't happen simply because we are not going forward with space exploration and research. All of the technology we use to communicate right now--the satellites being just the tip of the iceberg--has been helped in some way by space research. 

That's going away now, and, with it, the possibility of capturing the imagination of the next wave of people who are going to be born in the next few years and won't have anything meaningful to inspire them, in terms of space exploration and going to places like Mars and beyond. There's a very real possibility that manned spaceflight itself might end altogether in the next few decades.

There is a new administration in Washington, trying to pick up the pieces of the debacle left by the last administration, and it is trying to come to terms with austerity and reality. Too bad there isn't anyone working in that administration who can do a better job than this man, whose tears are a little much to take:

It's Charlie Bolden's job to make people get it - to make them understand. So, how do you think he is doing? You may well have seen some of his Congressional appearances, and the speeches he's given of late.

There are those who think he's just sold the vision badly; there are others who think he's got the impossible sell.

Charlie Bolden, himself, says he was insufficiently prepared to roll out and explain the president's plan. He's made that confession on a number of occasions now and repeats it in the BBC interview with our Washington correspondent Philippa Thomas.

What do you make of his very public displays of emotion? We've seen Charlie Bolden swallow hard several times as he discusses the end of the shuttle. In our interview, the passion overwhelms him for a few moments. The tears flow:

"It is very difficult... it's really difficult. It's a programme that has gone for 30 years and it's been incredible. And you know during the programme I've unfortunately had an opportunity to watch or witness the loss of two vehicles, but most importantly 14 people. On the first crew that we lost on the Challenger, they were very, very, very, very close friends because I had trained with them. Mike Smith on the crew I had been in school with. So they were really close friends. It was a flight so close on the heels of my first flight; I had landed just 10 days prior to Challenger."
And speaking of the shuttle workers in Florida, he adds: 
"Shuttle becomes like a person to them, and so they're very attached to them and as each vehicle flies its last flight, they have a really difficult time. Unless you've been in this programme, people don't understand that; and they think we're crazy."

I urge you to remember that this is virtually the end of the space program, and we will never know what breakthroughs in science, medicine, communications, or research we will now never realize or see come to fruition. At exactly the point in our civilization when we need greener technologies and smarter use of our dwindling resources, we are killing the very thing that delivers untold riches in scientific solutions and discoveries.

Posted via web from An American Lion is on Posterous

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ethics and the Science of Cutting Costs

With the cuts that are coming at the state and local levels, can you blame them for doing this?
Faced with painful choices about who will suffer most from looming budget cuts, Alexandria officials have taken the unusual step of paying a professional ethicist to help them grapple with the moral issues involved.

Just a few of the vexing decisions his advice helped Alexandria policymakers confront in recent weeks: They took apartments being built for the mentally ill and temporarily turned them into housing for the disabled. They cut a parenting counselor for jailed minors with kids but preserved aid for belligerent preschoolers. They scaled back drug prevention but kept the methadone pills available to ease the cravings of withdrawal.

"It is very uncomfortable to admit you're going to have to say no. It's very uncomfortable to make decisions that, quite frankly, are going to make some people's lives go worse," said Michael A. Gillette, an ethicist who helped mental health officials in Alexandria write guidelines for prioritizing assistance when there's not enough money to go around. At the urging of top city officials, Gillette also pushed more than 100 other senior and mid-level managers to wrestle with the ethics of shrinking government.
It's hard to conceive of a government bureaucrat taking the necessary steps to formulate an ethical approach to reducing costs, staff and open positions. How do you maintain your ethics while acknowledging that someone who can least afford to be "downsized" is actually the only person who should be let go because of their skill set or the future needs of the department?

The government has been great about hiring veterans and the disabled, and no reasonable person could oppose that policy--those who defend us and those with great need, I have no quarrel moving them to the front of any line. Well, what if you have a perfectly healthy, single, well-educated person in your department who has all of the technical skills necessary for the future of your agency? Do you keep that person and let a disabled veteran with a family who is older or has fewer skill sets? How do you wrestle with that?

The city of Alexandria went to an ethicist. What a burden that must be for them. Many, many good people are faced with awful, no-win choices ahead.

Friday, December 5, 2008

An Army of Soldiers, Not so Much Linguists


It doesn’t make sense to train an army made up solely of linguists. I believe that military training should emphasize actual combat skills and job skills so that we have as many deployable and valuable troops as possible.


To speak and understand the language of a country takes an immersion in the language and a great deal of training; it’s unrealistic to suggest otherwise. We’re not sending our military into your country to speak to you; we’re sending them there with a specific mission, but it would be nice if we had enough people trained to serve as linguists:



It’s widely understood that if U.S. troops spoke the languages of the foreign populations they encounter in battle zones, military operations would be more effective and efficient. But creating a large pool of troops proficient in the languages they are most likely to encounter has proved enormously difficult.


A recent bipartisan report by the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on oversight and investigations concludes the military services have a long way to go to develop the language abilities needed in today’s conflicts. What’s more, the services’ efforts to improve skills are hampered by a public education system that fails to inculcate the importance of language and cultural studies in an increasingly globalized world.


“The Department of Defense and the services are trying to enhance these skills, but they’ve inherited a national problem that slows them down considerably,” said Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., chairman of the oversight subcommittee.


According to the report, “The nation, as a whole, lacks an educational infrastructure than can produce the dramatically increased numbers of highly proficient individuals needed, not only for national security, but also for economic competitiveness.”



The problem with that line of thinking is, what languages are we talking about?


Here are the top ten countries that the US exports to:



Canada … US$211.9 billion (up 31.7% from 2002)
Mexico … $120.4 billion (up 23.5%)
Japan … $55.5 billion (up 7.8%)
China … $41.9 billion (up 89.6%)
United Kingdom …$38.6 billion (up 16.3%)
Germany … $34.2 billion (up 28.6%)
South Korea … $27.8 billion (up 23%)
Netherlands … $26.5 billion (up 44.8%)
France … $22.4 billion (up 17.9%)
Taiwan … $22.1 billion (up 20.1%)



Now, how many of these countries have we been to war with? How many are we likely to go to war with? With the exception of China, and even then, is that even a serious possibility? We have desperately needed linguists in these key areas over the last ten years: Serbo-Croatian, Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, and Persian.


If you look at the most glaring need, which is probably the Arabic language, you’ll see that there isn’t really any of the necessary infrastructure in the public schools to teach Arabic. And, in the larger sense, you’ll see that there’s virtually no economic incentive to do so. We buy oil from the Middle East; we are not culturally engaged with the Middle East.


There are vast numbers of Hispanic Americans, so the services do not need Spanish linguists (in fact, there are so many native speakers, it is one area where we are in good shape). We don’t need to speak Arabic to pay too much for their oil. And they have figured out that they can simply import labor to make up for any knowledge gaps.


The article goes on to point the finger at Paul Wolfowitz, and with good reason:



The report lauded the Defense Department’s wide-ranging goals to boost foreign language skills and cultural literacy within the services and among outside educators. But it also noted that the department’s internal efforts have fallen short of expectations.


Despite a 2004 directive from then-Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to establish strategic guidance to transform language and cultural capabilities, the department still lacks a clear understanding of what its language-related operational requirements actually are in the field. Similarly, Defense does not have a process for identifying emerging requirements.


In 2005, the department issued the “Defense Language Transformation Roadmap,” which outlined four goals: achieve a foundation of language and cultural expertise within the services; create the capacity to “surge” skilled linguists and cultural experts when necessary; establish a cadre of advanced language specialists; and develop a process for tracking the career progression of language professionals.


But the roadmap did not include long-term strategic goals and funding priorities, which congressional staffers and auditors with the Government Accountability Office say are necessary.



What Wolfowitz failed to understand is that the military is not a meet-and-greet, touchy-feely operation. Linguists should be highly skilled and trained because they have a specialty. It would be impossible to make every member of the military a linguist; by the same token, those who have proficiency in language training would likely be at an economic level where they would not choose to enlist in the military.


Creating special categories of soldiers is one answer. Recruiting experienced linguists, firewalling them from exposure to classified material, and letting them interpret blindly what they’re handed allows more native speakers to come in. Retaining trained soldiers is next to impossible when you’re in the fifth year of an endless war.