Should the U.S. strike Syria over the use of chemical weapons?
Where Syria is located in the Middle East.
There is no good answer to this question, just various unpleasant ones. By whatever standard the Syrian question is judged by, there is no overriding reason to become involved nor is there a similarly sufficient reason not to. So, let’s look at the options:
1. Use cruise missiles and limited bombing strikes to damage and destroy the chemical weapons capability of the Assad government. This option is clean and simple, addressing the central violation of international norms cited as the reason for U.S. intervention -- using chemical weapons. However, in the context of past U.S. government statements, it appears inadequate. At the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Assad had to leave power. A limited strike is incompatible with total objectives. The Obama administration has stated that the intent is not to be a decisive part of the war. However, the U.S. cannot strike and somehow be perceived as an impartial party enforcing rules.
2. Mount a wider campaign of bombing similar to Libya in 2011 to provide a decisive boost to the rebels. The Obama administration has stated this is not its intent but in order to maintain U.S. credibility to our allies and reinforce other fronts such as denying nuclear capabilities to Iran, it may be necessary. Option #1 looks weak compared with statements and claims made by the Obama administration. Option #2 is out of step with public opinion but might be necessary to bring to an end a civil war that is embarrassing for the U.S. The downside here is that anti-American groups may seize control in Syria.
3. Do nothing. Much of the enthusiasm for intervening in Syria springs from a need to ‘do something.’ If we use military force but find little relevance to U.S. interests, it means we feel like we should get involved but we have a difficult time articulating a reason to do so. This translates into little public appetite for the intervention, especially considering the exhaustion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The cost is that we stand by the side and watch suffering continue as well as lowering our reputation in the eyes of allies and the world community. The benefit is that a continuing grind leaves all our rivals and enemies worse off, a cold-hearted calculation we are not used to making.
No good option, but a choice has to be made.
Interested in learning more about using the online Kanban method for organizing your personal and business life?
Nashville Tech Breakfast
Wednesday, July 17
Spark, Lipscomb’s Idea Center
3252 Aspen Grove Drive, Franklin
Networking: 6:45 a.m.
Program: 7 a.m.
President, IT Revolution Press
and founder of TripWire
“Why Every Business and IT Executive Needs DevOps Now: 2.6 Trillion per Year is up for Grabs”
Kim, award-winning author and thought-leader in the IT field, has spent 14 years studying high-performing IT organizations and the positive effects of DevOps, a software development method that stresses communication, collaboration and integration. He is the author of The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win and The Visible Ops Handbook. In 2007 Kim was named to ComputerWorld’s “40 Innovative IT People Under the Age of 40” list.
Yes, my title is correct: increase your personal effectiveness. In this era of tweets, instant messages, emails, iPhones and iPads, many people suspect their personal effectiveness is decreasing. No one just works out anymore. Gym rats are commonly seen reading books or talking on their phones. Couples are seen sitting at romantic restaurants checking their email. We all now live in a multitasking world.
And multitasking has a bad reputation. Research reported in the Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review and the New York Times blames multitasking for increased mistakes and loss of short-term memory. Other research states that generating “breakthrough” ideas on the job or in your personal life requires slack time or detachment from this digital noise.
Nashville based software developer LeanKit has implemented a tool that promises to improve productivity and effectiveness in personal or business life. LeanKit Kanban is an online version of the long-used Japanese Kanban (“card”) technique. The Kanban technique was originally used by Japanese automakers such as Nissan and Toyota to implement Just in Time manufacturing and improve automobile quality.
The method uses visual cards to represent each task you may have. The cards are sorted into columns, such as “ready,” “doing “and “done,” depending on where in your workflow they are located. When you create a new task, you put its card in the appropriate column, typically “ready” to start with. When you are working on the task, you move the corresponding card to the “doing” column and when it is “done” you move it to that column.
There are great benefits to visually managing your work and personal life this way. You focus on work that benefits you, your job organization and your family. Other items are kept in the background. It’s great fun to move items to the “Done” column. The Kanban approach also allows you to set limits on your work in progress. We all tend to stack up too many tasks with the consequence of not finishing the things that are really important to us. Overall, this approach will help you attain your goals faster and reduce the amount of time you spend on unrewarding tasks.
But neither the Kanban method nor a software tool like LeanKit provides a magic bullet for a more productive work life or personal life. You will have to actively manage your daily and weekly activities. You will need to decide what is important to you and your family and work environment. You will have to take the first steps, including thought and meditation, away from email and cell phones. That is not a bad thing in itself.
Sequestration is a government budget tool that attempts to provide oversight to a budget that is out of control. It is controversial as it is evidence of the inability of the president and Congress to come to an agreement over spending and taxes. Congress passes a budget resolution that lays down overall limits, and then the dozen or so appropriation bills must fall under that limit. If they do not, then sequestration’s automatic spending cuts go into effect.
Even though the President is using fear of sequestration’s effects to promote overturning the legislation, the real effect of sequestration on the economy is debatable.
The federal budget is difficult to manage due to three factors:
First, the budget is not one single document. The federal government passes its budget in a piecemeal fashion through several appropriations bills as opposed to one comprehensive piece of legislation. This dilutes the ability to manage spending since it prevents tying separate pieces of the federal budget together.
Second, only a minority of government spending is dealt with in yearly budgets. The yearly budget only applies to discretionary spending by the government, not the entitlement spending through Social Security, Medicare and interest on the national debt. Such mandatory spending accounts for 47% of the federal budget. Defense accounts for 67% of the remaining 53%, thus accounting for the lion’s share of the proposed cuts.
Third, and most importantly, our divided government allows both sides to avoid responsibility, and our current partisan atmosphere allows voters to support their party while not allowing compromise to take place.
All of this combines to illustrate how closely tied government spending is to the performance of the current economy and how fragile the current economic growth is. People don’t trust the economy or government and we are very risk-averse as a result.
So how healthy is the auto industry in the U.S.?
This year’s Detroit auto show (officially the North American International Auto Show) tells the tale of an industry that has recovered from a near-death experience and has come back stronger than ever.
The star of the show makes the case for this assertion. Need to get from 0 to 60 in less than four seconds? The 2014 Corvette Stingray is your car. The seventh generation Corvette offers 425 horsepower in a vehicle that is likely to offer mileage above 26 miles per gallon.
The Corvette has a local connection in that General Motors (GM) assembles the car in nearby Bowling Green, Ky. Recently, a reporter from the Nashville Ledger called to get my thoughts on this vehicle.
To me there are really two interesting parts of the Corvette story. First, the fact that GM has the money to launch a new sports car speaks volumes about the company's renewed health. In 2009 when GM faced death, nearly all product production (except the Volt) went on hold. Now GM has money to produce an expensive image car.
Second, GM is facing a real challenge in changing the Corvette’s image as “grandpa’s hot car." GM has a tough road ahead to interest youthful buyers in cars in general. They now see a generation that focuses on social media, car sharing and urban living where a couple’s second car is public transit. Perhaps the only hot spot with youth comes in connecting their electronics to the car via Ford’s Sync and GM’s MyLink.
What is even more interesting in watching the auto industry is the overall strength of the competitors. The Japanese and Korean makes (Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia and Subaru) have retained and strengthened their place in the market. Chrysler, once 60 days from liquidation, is now generating strong profits and is rescuing Fiat from a disastrous European market. Ford, Chrysler and GM are all making big money (reportedly $10,000 per unit) on pickups, a market in which they have a 93 percent combined market share. It is amazing what a bankruptcy can do to help a firm jettison costs and shake up the bureaucracy. I’ve never seen such a competitive market with so many competent players.
Don't miss Dr. Ingram on "Be The People" on WSMV, Channel 4, at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday. Dr. Ingram will discuss deficits and the growth of entitlement programs, as well as possible solutions.
Hosted by Dr. Carol Swain, Be the People is a new hard-hitting television series directly confronting the hot topic issues facing Americans today. Featuring one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with influential politicians, businessmen, journalists, celebrities, entertainers and nationally known political pundits.
I guess cutting out the political posturing and addressing some actual fiscal problems wasn’t among Congress’ New Year’s resolutions. And if you hadn’t noticed, the fiscal crisis points are now accelerating in 2013.
First we had the debt limit maneuvering in the summer of 2011, which lead to the Super Committee’s non-attempt to come up with bipartisan long-term solutions by the end of 2012 or face the fiscal cliff. To avert the consequences of the fiscal cliff, we got the after-midnight agreement to enhance revenues (ending the payroll tax holiday on everyone and higher income tax rates on high income earners). Now we face predetermined sequestration on March 1, the deadline for funding the rest of the fiscal year on March 27, and the Congressional self-imposed deadline to vote on a budget outline or suspend their pay by April 15.
The problem with all of this political confrontation is that it tends to draw attention away from the real national fiscal problem. By focusing on whether, and by how much, we should increase the current official debt limit, we continue to move closer to the real debt limit -- which is the point at which outsiders (international interests) stop allowing us to live beyond our means by refusing to lend to us anymore. I cannot say when that will be, but if we were a business looking for more credit with the current levels of revenues versus spending we would already be at our borrowing limit.
Being a sovereign nation with the power to tax and issue money affords us borrowing advantage, but as we have seen by the examples of other nations there is an ultimate limit and negative consequences that will begin to appear even before we approach that true limit.
The fundamental problem that we face as a nation is that our federal budget is now dominated by entitlement programs like Medicare that mandate spending at increasing rates and the unwillingness for most of us to have our own taxes raised. We praise politicians when they pass programs and projects that we benefit from, but we threaten to vote them out of office if they raise our taxes.
And in a vain effort to make both sides happy, our leaders continue to keep maneuvering, rather than solving problems, setting up one artificial deadline after another. Both our politicians and the public need to accept that when it comes to the economy, we can’t have it both ways.