Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Enquirer Edition, From Iran To New Jersey, With A Stop At The Pentagon In Between

Paul Krugman
Martin Indyk
Eugene Robinson

"Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, says that “we’re on the road to recovery.” No, we aren’t. Why are people who know better sugar-coating economic reality? The answer, I’m sorry to say, is that it’s all about evading responsibility." - Paul Krugman
"History is like a horse that gallops past your window and the true test of statesmanship is to jump from that window onto the horse.” - Shimon Peres

One of the consequences of our botched abduction of the Iranian physics teacher, who then defected back to Iran, was that a new spymaster was appointed. Lucky for us he has a reputation for relying on faulty intelligence, and his biggest recommendation for the job was being a friend of the son of the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei: "Hojjatoleslam Hossein Taeb heads the Intelligence Organisation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) which was created in mid-2009 on the orders of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to centralise the security forces clamping down on unrest that followed the disputed presidential election." Taeb was also the first cleric to head the Basij for about nine months, as he breezed up the job ladder. Nobody in the West knows that much about the guy, he's kept a low profile, sorta like an Iranian Zelig.

Up till now. He is also now in charge of nuclear security and one of the first things he has done is to plant listening devices in every office, every bathroom, and in everyone's living quarters who's an officer of the Revolutionary Guards. I guess inquiring minds want to know if anyone is leaking info to the foreign press... But a rival intelligence group raided the house of a General in the IRGC, and found the bugs. Dumbfounded as to why they were there, they searched the other apartments where the General lived, and even weirder, found bugs in every single apartment. As the security officers were leaving with their bounty, they were stopped by some guys in plainclothes, who demanded that the bugs be handed over. They refused, and the plainclothes guys pulled out some guns and started shooting, killing some innocent bystanders.

The security officers barricaded themselves inside the apartment and called for backup. The plainclothes guys also called for backup, and had them all surrounded. The security officers were made to hand over the bugs to what turned out to be detectives from the Revolutionary Guards, who were just as puzzled over the listening devices until they all found out about Taeb's special group who only report to the Grand Ayatollah. Or his son. That Taeb seems to be such a screw-up, I wonder if he didn't train sometime with Porter Goss, who single-handedly ruined what was left of the CIA, and is now working for the Congressional Ethics committee, waging war on black people in Congress. Or it may be reassuring to know that the Peter Principle works in all forms of bureaucracy. The principle is that each person within a bureaucracy rises to their highest level of incompetence...

I have yet to find anyplace that defies the Peter Principle, especially in the Pentagon. And it's good to know that Robert Gates agrees with me. Two weeks ago he announced: "... a sweeping effort to improve efficiency that, among other things, takes aim at the military’s sacrosanct corps of generals and admirals. He ordered his staff to cut at least 50 positions and made clear that he would be happier if they cut more.

Pentagon officials said the measures were aimed at more than a number. Mr. Gates said he wanted to flatten a bureaucracy that had experienced significant “brass creep,” swelling to “cumbersome and top-heavy proportions.” He complained, for example, that a request to send a dog-handling team to Afghanistan goes through no fewer than five four-star headquarters." Too bad Mr Gates won't also look at the bank accounts of the Generals to see who is living above their means... Not that I'm implicating that any General is involved in drug smuggling, selling drugs, selling arms and munitions, or skimming money off of projects funded by the Pentagon, or any similar sort of behavior, it's just that inquiring minds want to know...

Speaking of screw-ups, the New Jersey Education Commissioner was fired, as reported in TPM: "Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has fired his state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, as a result of errors and misrepresentations from Schundler in a matter costing the state $400 million in federal "Race to the Top" money. At the same time, the firing has been arranged at Schundler's request in such a manner so that Schundler -- a former leading figure of the state GOP's right wing -- will be able to collect unemployment benefits.

The key detail is that Schundler preferred to be fired, rather than submit his resignation. "I asked if they would mind writing a termination letter, instead of a resignation letter, because I do have a mortgage to pay, and I do have a daughter who's just started college," Schundler said, the Star-Ledger reports. "And I, frankly, will need the unemployment insurance benefits until I find another job. ... And they said fine. They said sure."

The incident involved was information that Schundler provided to the Governor about his presentation to federal officials during the Race To The Top contest. As a result, New Jersey lost the contest and didn't get special funding of $400 million. Pissed off at the loss: "On Wednesday, Christie held a press conference in which he strongly blamed the Obama administration for the loss of federal funding, saying that Schundler had tried to fix an error in the state's application during his presentation to federal education officials, but they would not let him. Then on Thursday, the federal Education Department released a video of the presentation itself, showing the officials pointing out the error to Schundler, who was unable to correct it."

Oops! So Governor Christie fired his butt, and now the guy is collecting unemployment. But Schundler made his bones as a right wing GOP conservative, even praised once by William F Buckley for his tough stance against the teacher's union and the welfare state, you know, things like unemployment insurance. And that he especially asked to be fired instead of handing in his resignation just so he could collect unemployment makes him a hypocrite-times-two.

If we keep rewarding the screw-ups by promoting them, letting them run state and federal offices, then do we get the crisis we deserve? Or do we reward the Sharron Angles and Ron Pauls of our political world, who will only scew things up more because they don't have the skills to think logically, or even think intuitively to solve our problems. These people are like Jerry Lewis's career, we think they are entertaining as long as they act like clowns, but ignore them once they want to be taken seriously...

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