October 23, 2008 archive

Four at Four

Today’s Four at Four focuses on terrorism and dealing with it.

  1. The CS Monitor examines The lasting impact of the 1983 Beirut attack twenty-five year ago today. The bombing killed 241 Americans, most of them marines, in the deadliest day for the Marines since Iwo Jima. “The bombing that left the Reagan administration’s Lebanon ambitions in tatters continues to reverberate today in shaping US diplomatic, political, and counterinsurgency policies toward Lebanon and the Middle East.”

    The blast rippled across Beirut just after dawn, throwing Khodr Hammoud out of bed and stumbling to his front door.

    Gazing across the packed houses of the Shiite-populated slums east of Beirut airport, the young Shiite resident saw a huge plume of smoke rising into the pale sky…

    “When I heard that marines had been blown up, I couldn’t believe it,” says Mr. Hammoud. “We didn’t think of [the Marines] as an enemy then like we do now.

  2. McClatchy Newspapers report Indonesia fights terrorism with power of persuasion. Indonesian government “authorities try to ‘de-radicalize’ militants, debating religion with them and re-connecting them with their families instead of relying on the high-tech weapons and harsh interrogation techniques that have characterized President Bush’s approach since 9/11.

    “Because terrorism is an ideologically motivated crime, it is not possible to stop it using mere physical operations,” said Ansyaad Mbai, the head of the Indonesian government’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinating Desk. “Based on our experience, the harder we hit them with military force, the more radical they become.”

    Mbai is critical of the Bush administration’s approach to fighting terrorism. The war in Iraq, in particular, has made the job of handling terrorism in Indonesia harder, he said: “Even the moderate Muslim leaders find it difficult to explain that the war taking place in the Middle East is not a war against Islam.”

    Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, treats terrorism as a crime, not a cause for war.

Four at Four continues with a bombing in Iraq and a missile strike in Pakistan. Plus, there is a poll to vote in.

Barack Obama spotted in Venice, California.

So, I decided to bike my four year old son, Truman, to school this morning.

We’ve just gotten one of those trail behind extensions that turns my beach cruiser into a double-bike.

Well, really, TRUMAN’S double bike.

“That’s MY double bike,” he’ll tell anyone who will listen.

I’m… apparently… little more than the hired sherpa.

Anyway, we set out to riding and not a minute into the trip… “THERE’S BARACK OBAMA!”

Sarah Palin Answers “Who Are The Elite?”

Amazing…msnbc vid is here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21…

Williams: Who is the elite?

Palin: I guess just people who think that they’re better than everyone else…anyone who thinks that they are better than anyone else, I guess that’s my definition of elitism.

Oh, and John McCain goes on to clarify that it’s also anyone living in Washingotn DC or New York City…Rudy, I think he means you.

Meltdown Message for City Folk: Get Green or Go Hungry

I just got back from an early morning harvesting trek in Harlem and Morningside Heights, bringing home a couple of pounds of ginkgo seeds, or ginkgo kernels to be more exact.

I was turned on to these little pistachio-looking treats years ago by my friend Iz, who recommends toasting and eating four or five of the innermost nutmeats a day–far better than the health food store ginkgo preparations which are made from the leaves of the gingko tree, says she. Better for what? Memory, it seems, though it’s kinda hard to tell how well they work since most years I forget to go collect some before the late autumn season is over.

Another friend, Chip, provides a different reason to lay in a stash. When his wife Kim’s mother visits the States-the family is Malaysian of Chinese origin-she can’t believe that people just leave this delicacy lying around on the lawns and sidewalks. She collects bagsful and uses them as the base for tasty soups.

One reason you may never have considered a ginkgo seed-based dish is that the soft outer part of the seed (often called the fruit although that’s not botanically correct), stanks! In fact, gentrification is making the ginkgo scarcer in Manhattan even though their dense foliage, long leaf season, longevity and general hardiness makes them a splendid street tree. But the yupwardly mobile object to the occasional autumnal whiff of gingko seeds and demand that the city cut them down and replace them with cloned male ginkgos, which don’t bear fruit, or something “nicer.”

Well, gingko seeds don’t stink half as bad as the economy these days, and I felt a little rush of righteousness as I was out harvesting. The fact is that in a depression, the reliance of US cities on food supplies from far across the country and around the world is going to become a real pinch point.

We have to start thinking more seriously about urban agriculture (and about building real human to human ties between city consumers and family farmers) as this crisis deepens.

It comes as no surprise to me that Robert Biel, whose prescient 2000 book The New Imperialism (summary review here) exposed some of the contradictions in global capitalism before they started ripping the world asunder, is ahead of the curve on this front too. The following video introduces an organized effort to create a model of permaculture, intensive agriculture, in a block of flats (projects, we call ’em here) in the South London neighborhood Brixton.

It is clear even to some bourgeois economists that any hope the capitalist system has of recovery from the growing depression we are in will require a newer, “greener” system of accumulation, different from both post-Great Depression Keynesianism and the last three decades of neo-liberal market worship. This is an early look at one first step from the side of the working class, not the think tanks of capital.

Meltdown Message for City Folk: Get Green or Go Hungry

I just got back from an early morning harvesting trek in Harlem and Morningside Heights, bringing home a couple of pounds of ginkgo seeds, or ginkgo kernels to be more exact.

I was turned on to these little pistachio-looking treats years ago by my friend Iz, who recommends toasting and eating four or five of the innermost nutmeats a day–far better than the health food store ginkgo preparations which are made from the leaves of the gingko tree, says she. Better for what? Memory, it seems, though it’s kinda hard to tell how well they work since most years I forget to go collect some before the late autumn season is over.  

Alan Greenspan’s ‘shocked disbelief’ today in Congress

In the big U.S. newspapers this afternoon are reports of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s appearance before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today.

The Washington Post reports Greenspan described the financial crisis a “once-in-a-century credit tsunami” and the Los Angeles Times adds Greenspan warns unemployment will rise.

“This crisis … has turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined … Given the financial damage to date, I cannot see how we can avoid a significant rise in layoffs and unemployment.”

According to The New York Times, Greenspan said he “made a mistake” in believing free markets could regulate themselves without government oversight.

On a similar note, the LA Times adds Greenspan “admitted that the crisis showed flaws in his strong free-market ideology”, but I don’t interpret him saying that at all.  

Rightwing Obama Love

Original article, by Margaret Kimberley, via counterpunch.com:

I’m at work, so I’ll make this one short. It’s a good article, and I suggest you read it! Here’s the summation paragraph:

When Harry and Nancy Meet Obama

Alternate title:

Will the whipped dogs bite their new master?

One of the most interesting dynamics of the upcoming Dem landslide (knock wood!) will be how the Dem leadership that has laid down, caved, capitulated, enabled, fostered, collaborated, and all but wiped Bushco’s ass will respond, now that Pavlov is about to leave the building.

Truckloads of opprobrium have been dumped on the heads of these two nefarious figures, especially upon Off The Table Nancy. Their few defenders have noted that even in the majority they have been in a somewhat a helpless situation  because of the…because of….because…. Ok, I’m stumped! Even giving them every possible benefit of the doubt I think it is undeniable that they could have at the very least done more to check the worst of the many horrors, nightmares, and War Crimes of the Bush Administration. Many have gone much farther and labeled them War Criminals in their own right for their seemingly witless lack of opposition, if not slavish devotion and outright, nearly gleeful at times, cooperation with George “The Torturer” Bush. Add in Pelosi’s let them eat cake moment of disparaging anti-war sentiment, and it is easy to see why this once stalwart Lefty Dem has become the symbol of a Congress as unpopular as any in history for both sides of the political fence. Which in this polarized political environment is quite an accomplishment!

To put it bluntly, she has sucked as Speaker of the House.


Hey, kids, what time is it?

Last Thursday, I railed about Tom Brokaw’s book Boom!, a book purporting to portray the ’60’s.  Ignoring the book’s dearth of insight on the influence of Vietnam on the culture of the decade, an unfathomable omission, I challenged Broke-jaw’s authority to interpret the history of that age based on his distance from the action at the time.  I had to say something, sometime, to someone, and thank DD, you were there.

The ’60’s have been in revision since the ’80’s, and I am tired of hearing my brothers-in-arms defined as doped-out, immoral, self-indulgent, wrongheaded, and lazy. Huh-uh, baby; we are doctors and lawyers and teachers and artists and public servants and, yes, there are sell-outs among us, too.  We took time out to make a statement, and we had an influence.  Fortunately, there are books like The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage by Todd Gitlin, president of the SDS who led the first protest of the Vietnam War in 1963, to pull the ’60’s back into a perspective that we who lived through the decade can indentify.  You may know Gitlin from the Huffington Post.

An editorial review of Gitlin’s book from Amazon:

The author was elected president of Students for a Democratic Society in 1963, and he brings an insider’s perspective to bear on the turbulent whirl of political, social, and sexual rebellion we now call “the sixties.” Gitlin does a nice job of integrating his first-person recollections with a broader history that ranges from the roots of 1960s revolt in 1950s affluence and complacency to the movement’s apocalyptic collapse in the early 1970s–a victim of its own excesses as well as governmental persecution. His lucid summary of the complex strands that intertwined to form the counterculture is essential basic reading for those who don’t know the difference between the Diggers and the Yippies. –Wendy Smith

Read the book, Tom Brokaw.

“Its a different era”

As so much of the news focuses on pro-America vs anti-America and the divisions the McCain/Palin campaign is trying to foster, I continue to be amazed at the wonderful stories that are being cataloged at the ground level of people coming together. We don’t often hear these stories in the news, but yesterday, Amar Bakshi shared one in the Washington Post with How W. Va. Democrats Came to Terms with Obama’s Rise.

At the center of the story is Waneta Acker, an 88-year-old woman who has run Democratic headquarters in Wheeling, West Virginia for the last twenty years. During that time, the small, local black community had not been involved in politics. That changed when Obama secured the nomination in June and some black people started showing up at headquarters to volunteer. But she got a preview in April:

Change suddenly arrived on April 12. That day, at the nearby Carpenters Union, supporters of Barack Obama staged a coup of sorts.

It was the Ohio County Democratic Party’s monthly meeting…

In place of the dozen or so participants Acker expected, at least 50 Barack Obama devotees showed up, clad in blue T-shirts, baseball caps, and buttons blaring: “PROGRESS.”

“Who are these people?!” Acker demanded. She didn’t know them, “And that’s unusual because I know gillions of people.”

Stranger still, they were “mostly dark, black, African American or what have you.” That’s through Acker’s eyes. In fact, less than one in three of those Obama-backers were black, though that is still a relatively large ratio in this 93 percent white town. To Acker, anyway, it looked like a flood of strange newcomers.

Open Thread


There’s no place like Thread.

Docudharma Times Thursday October 23

Sometimes Its Better To Just

Not Speak Rather Than To Keep

Digging With That Power Shovel  

Thursday’s Headlines:

The Philippines: America’s other war on terrorism

Thai PM flees angry protesters

Pakistan stares into the abyss

Is the American Dream over for Beckham?

Your finger could be on a nuclear button in the lift

Two jailed over Ivorian pollution

A Healthy Schism in South Africa

In Sadr City, a Repressed but Growing Rage

Elusive consensus on Iran

Cuban exile’s inspiring encore

Rivals Split on U.S. Power, but Ideas Defy Easy Labels



Published: October 22, 2008

WASHINGTON – John McCain has said his worldview was formed in the Hanoi Hilton, the jail where as a prisoner of war he learned to stand up to his country’s enemies and lost any youthful naïveté about what happens when America shows weakness.

Barack Obama has written that his views began to take shape in the back streets of Jakarta, where he lived as a young boy and saw the poverty, the human rights violations and the fear inspired by the American-backed Indonesian dictator Suharto.

It was there, Mr. Obama wrote in his second autobiography, that he first absorbed the “jumble of warring impulses” that make up American foreign policy, and received a street-level understanding of how foreigners react to “our tireless promotion of American-style capitalism” and to Washington’s “tolerance and occasional encouragement of tyranny, corruption and environmental degradation.”

Wealth gap creating a social time bomb

 • Race behind division in US cities, says UN report

• Beijing is most egalitarian place in the world

John Vidal, environment editor

The Guardian, Thursday October 23 2008

Growing inequality in US cities could lead to widespread social unrest and increased mortality, says a new United Nations report on the urban environment.

In a survey of 120 major cities New York was found to be the ninth most unequal in the world and Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, and Miami had similar inequality levels to those of Nairobi, Kenya and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Many were above an internationally recognised acceptable “alert” line used to warn governments.

“High levels of inequality can lead to negative social, economic and political consequences that have a destabilising effect on societies,” said the report. “[They] create social and political fractures that can develop into social unrest and insecurity.



Job Losses Accelerate, Signaling Deeper Distress

 By Neil Irwin and Michael S. Rosenwald

Washington Post Staff Writers

Thursday, October 23, 2008; Page A01

Employers are moving to aggressively cut jobs and reduce costs in the face of the nation’s economic crisis, preparing for what many fear will be a long and painful recession.

The labor market has been weak all year, with a slow drip of workers losing their jobs each month. But the deterioration of the job market is now emerging as a driver of economic distress, according to a wide range of data and anecdotal reports from corporate America.

In September, there were more mass layoffs — instances in which employers slashed 50 or more jobs at one time — than in any month since September 2001, the Labor Department said yesterday.

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