October 5, 2009 archive

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports Two deadly attacks on remote posts highlight Afghan risks.

    Insurgents carried out a bold daylight strike on two bases on the Pakistani border, killing eight Americans and four Afghan security officers in the deadliest attack for American soldiers in more than a year…

    The provincial police chief, Muhammad Qasim Jangulbagh, estimated that about 300 militants took part… The Americans fought back with helicopters, heavy guns and airstrikes, but the insurgents were persistent and the battle lasted into the afternoon…

    The LA Times adds the attacks were a “Fierce and tightly coordinated onslaught” by “insurgents”. “The Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the attack, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force blamed ‘tribal militia.'”

    Also, the LA Times reports this latest Assault points out U.S. vulnerabilities in Afghanistan. This “was precisely the kind of attack” that U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal wants to avoid by “ordering troops to withdraw from such small outposts, concentrating instead on defending population centers”.

    By coincidence, Saturday’s battle came at a time of renewed scrutiny of an attack that took place in Nuristan in July 2008 and came to be known as the Battle of Wanat. In it, a thinly manned American-Afghan outpost was nearly overrun by insurgents, and nine U.S. soldiers — about one-fifth of the American contingent there — were killed in desperate close-quarters combat.

    The Washington Post reports the Battle of Wanat is a Symbol of the U.S. military’s missteps in the Afghan war. “The rocket-propelled grenade and rifle fire was so intense that most of the soldiers spent the opening minutes of the battle lying on their stomachs, praying that the enemy would run out of ammunition.” At the end of the battle on July 13, 2008, nine U.S. soldiers were dead and 27 were wounded.

    Back in the U.S., The Hill reports President Obama’s decision on Afghanistan strategy due in ‘a matter of weeks according to Retired Gen. James L. Jones, the president’s national security advisor. “We have time on the president’s schedule,” Jones said. “He’s going to devote an enormous amount of his time to lead us do this.”

    Whatever Obama chooses, “I can assure you that the president of the United States is not playing to any political base,” Jones said.

    Of course, that is because Obama will ultimately play to the M-I-C base. Foreign Policy reports The CIA finds job security in Afghanistan.

    Popular discussions of U.S. alternatives for Afghanistan focus on three options: McChrystal’s beefed-up counterinsurgency campaign; a counterterror campaign using special operations raids and drone strikes; and abandonment…

    One thing all of these options have in common is a requirement for greater CIA participation…

    Afghanistan seems bound to provide job security for the CIA.

    Lastly, the CS Monitor wonders Is U.S. strategy in Afghanistan working? “Counter-insurgency methods” have now become the U.S. military’s “preferred method of conducting warfare in an era of global terrorism and stateless enemies.”

    Many worry that the US has tilted too far toward a trendy new type of warfare that is eroding its conventional capabilities and might lead it to commit to more expensive, open-ended conflicts 40 years after Vietnam.

    “I think the notion of using the Army to change entire societies … is highly problematic,” says Col. Gian Gentile, head of the military history program at the US Military Academy at West Point.

    “President Obama has defined the mission in Afghanistan as rooting out Al Qaeda and preventing a return of the Taliban to power”. However, “nowhere in McChrystal’s memo did the words ‘Al Qaeda’ appear. The definition of what it means to defeat Al Qaeda had expanded – from disrupting, capturing, or killing its operatives to creating conditions that wouldn’t allow their return.”

Four at Four continues with China accuses the U.S. of climate “sabotage”, Supreme Court will look at business law, and U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Republican Party of Virginia & Anti-Science Syndrome

Before you can deal with a problem or seize an opportunity, you have to acknowledge the problem and/or recognize that opportunity.  Taking a determined stance against the scientific community on what might be the greatest challenge and greatest opportunity humanity might have ever faced is not the path to solving the problem or benefiting form that opportunity.

The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) (or, perhaps, simply staff) has embraced anti-science syndrome with a fervor that should astound anyone with the slightest regard for the scientific method and for the scientific community (communities).

For the RPV, climate change seems to fall into some form of never-never land of liberal reality-bias, with efforts to deal with it simply promoted by radicals.

Sigh … for those calling for “bipartisanship”, perhaps that “bipartisanship” must be grounded on all parties having their feet firmly ground in reality …

Krugman and Michael Moore: Wrong!

Simulposted at Daily Kos

That’s right, they’re wrong! Two of the most respected voices of the Left, and and they are decidedly not right!

Let’s start with Krugman and this ridiculous statement…

   So what did we learn from this [Cheering at Chicago’s lost Olympic bid] moment? For one thing, we learned that the modern conservative movement, which dominates the modern Republican Party, has the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old.

   But more important, the episode illustrated an essential truth about the state of American politics: at this point, the guiding principle of one of our nation’s two great political parties is spite pure and simple. If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it – whether or not it’s good for America.

As amazing as it might seem for a Nobel Prize winner and an economist…he is off by a factor of ten. Ten years that is! Republicans are NOT bratty 13-year-olds.

They are bratty 3 year-olds!



The Great Reagan Robbery

A number of economic commentators have begun to agree that an enormous, generational shift of wealth in America has occurred. This vast operation, which I shall call The Great Reagan Robbery, was nothing less that a program to cap the standard of living of the majority of Americans at mid 1970s levels and transfer all future increases in national wealth to the top 1% of the population. Here is how it was executed.

1. A telegenic pitchman for corporate America, Ronald Reagan, was elected to undermine the legitimacy of government, glorify the private sector, and demonize the poor.

2. Labor union power was crippled by direct strike breaking actions (Reagan’s firing of the Air Traffic Controllers) and anti-union propaganda campaigns.

3. Taxation was made more regressive, effecting a huge transfer of wealth from the working class to high-earning professionals and investors.

4. Speculative bubbles and financial scams, like the S&L debacle, enriched well-connected investors at the expense of the taxpayers.

5. A successful class war against the poor was launched, resulting in cuts to welfare and other programs that reduced income inequality.

6. Rapid inflation in the price of amenities Americans had once taken for granted, such as safe neighborhoods, good education, and adequate health care, enriched affluent providers of housing, education, and medicine, as these became costly “luxuries” for the general population.

7. Americans who were losing economic ground were encouraged to load up on debt, further enriching the lenders and holders of capital.

8. A blanket of ideological propaganda concealed the problem of growing inequality by fostering a culture of worshiping the rich and maintaining the myth of universal access to riches.

The bottom line on The Great Reagan Robbery is that it accomplished the most massive transfer of wealth within American society in our entire history without arousing any politically significant resistance. It was a brilliantly executed class war, in which the rich decisively defeated the rest of us.

The problem the rich now face is that they succeeded too well. The momentum of the stealthy, unstoppable, robbing machine they created is continuing to push the majority of Americans into third-world debt slavery and subsistence existence, and this sharp decline will undermine the entire economy, including the fortunes of the rich.

We’re All Romans Now


There is only one reason governments’ lie. Truth leads to government by the people. Government by the people is the enemy of the form of government we have now – government by corporate/militarist conspiracy.

We see how Presidents, chosen by the people, are nothing but changed light-bulbs. Out with the old and in with the new but the product they sell remains the same. The light from the new bulb may be shiny and full of hope but the electricity which runs the Company Town called America is the same as it ever was; the atomic power of the almighty buck.


“If you choose not to get vaccinated then you pose no risk to those who are, after all they are protected, right.”

Next up.  Open any magazine.  Tally up the total pages then flip through again counting ads related to drugs.  In addition to the ad for the drug there are the legalese disclaimers of drug side effects and contra-indications specific to that drug in number two font.  When you get your flu shot you were of course presented with these disclaimers, contra-indications and or a list of ingredients in your personal shot, right?

C Street has rigged it for Ensign in the Sen. Ethics Committee, blame Sen. Mark Pryor

Crossposted at Daily Kos

    Sen. Barbara Boxer, who heads the committee, told CNN that there is a preliminary investigation of Ensign’s actions. “We will look at all aspects of this case, as we do whenever there is a case before us, and try to get to the bottom of it as quickly as we can in fairness to all,” said Boxer, D-Calif.


    John Ensign, of C Street and extramarital affair infamy, will get off scot free here, because the game is rigged. What a surprise, the Select Senate Committee on Ethics is Unethical.

    Regarding C Street and The Family, Senator Mark Pryor is up to his eyeballs in this scandal.

Who sits on the Senate Ethics Committee?


Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Mark Pryor (C-Street) (D-AR)

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Vice chair

Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Jom Risch (R-ID)

    My bet, Ensign walks away without a slap on his wrist, 2 -4 bipartisan vote in favor of corruption and sex scandals.

    More on this and a call to action below the fold

The Olympics are for The World, Not The Most Powerful

What has gotten much attention the past few days is the hypocritical Republican response to the United States losing a bid to host the Olympic Games.  What is not being discussed is why it is, in my opinion, altogether fitting and proper that Rio de Janeiro and South America won the right to host the games.  If we believe in any such thing as fairness and equality, we would concede that it is time that a country beyond our own receive some positive publicity and be able to showcase its strengths for once.  It is not as though we haven’t had our time in the sun many times before and I believe that giving this privilege to other deserving cities is worthwhile.  In instances like these, those of us who believe that world harmony involves giving every country a seat at the table can find much in the decision upon which to rejoice.  

If, however, you are so tactless as to mention this notion in conservative circles, prepare to have your patriotism questioned.  If you dare to believe that this country ought not to bill itself or carry itself as the epicenter of everything, they’ll claim you’re trying to give away our political power on a world stage out of misguided guilt.  This fact, above all others is what enrages me most about the Right.  The fear of losing something intangible and poorly understood at best is what has driven so much invective recently.  It would seem that the party of no is also the part of me first.  

Specifically regarding developing nations, we rarely see much news or attention devoted to their affairs beyond natural disasters, instances of shocking social injustice which we have long set aside, or the occasional eccentric spectacle.  We enjoy the sensationalist aspect of the man with four wives and twelve children, for example, but almost never are we informed about any good, meaningful news that occurs in a developing nation.  Those who spread, make, and shape information dispersal never feel much of a compulsion to explain or cite the style of governance and policy matters of other countries, unless, of course, it’s meant to provide some needed contrast to our own system and our own way of doing things.  To wit, issues of dire importance to Brazil frequently never make it into the American consciousness.  As a result, the view we hold of most countries besides our own is a romanticized one full of as much fiction as fact.  Frequently, it is also years out of date.  Due to our own response and to the way that substantive concerns of other nations are summarily placed at the bottom of the deck, it is hardly surprising that, with time, resentment has built.  

I feel as though I understand this attitude somewhat.  As a native Southerner, it wasn’t until I traveled North and West that I realized how much of our national discourse and national identity is formed by the large cities found up and down the East and West Coast.  One rarely sees much news or attention devoted to the South beyond natural disasters, instance of shocking social injustice supposedly long put aside, like racism, and the occasional eccentric spectacle.  Those who spread, make, and shape media rarely feel any compulsion to broadcast good news about the region.  Unless meant to provide some sort of needed contrast to the rest of the country, Southern policy decisions or viewpoints rarely find their way into substantive conversation.  As a result, the view we hold of the South is a romanticized one, likely forty to fifty years out of date, and comprised as much of fiction as it is of fact.  And again, because of this, resentment has built.

Our attitudes may be frequently thoughtless and condescending, but they are not deliberately malicious.  We don’t mean to snub other countries of the world or regions of our country, for that matter, but we get caught up in our self-importance and inadvertently leave others out in the process.  When major challenges arise, they are those of misunderstanding and ignorance first, not of destructive intent.  They could be corrected so long as we made a concerted effort to get out of our own head space and take into account that being truly fair and balanced means a little additional legwork on our part.  With as much going on in Washington, DC, or New York City, or Los Angeles, it is easy to merely frame the context and the debate based on our largest metropolitan areas.  In doing so, however, we leave out the contributions of those without the economic or political clout or population size to suck up enough of the air in the room.  If we collectively did our homework and examined areas not particularly well-examined, we might even shockingly concede that people in other countries and even in other parts of our own aren’t really that different from us after all.    

If we believe that the phrase “Citizen of the World” is more than just a smiley-faced, feel-good platitude, then it might be wise to devote more of our increasingly divided attention to other areas.  If we believe that “United Nations” is what its name says it is, we’d take care to live it in our waking existence.  In saying this, I do recognize that it would be unnatural for any country to not devote most of its focus on itself, but what I do notice when I survey the news of other countries is how predominate our presence is and how it exists, a bit uneasily at times, equally and at times with frequent dominance alongside their own native concerns.  I’m not sure the American ego will be quite so gracious if someday we are no longer Number One.  That would definitely be a humbling experience, one which I have no desire to neither prophecy nor to propagate.  Ultimately, if we were a world community, that fear among many would be irrelevant anyway.      

Docudharma Times Monday October 5

Monday’s Headlines:

States Resist Medicaid Growth

Obama’s Chinese honeymoon

Kurdistan rocked by oil revelation

Teach Gaza children about Holocaust, UN tells Hamas

Greek socialists win snap poll as voters punish conservatives

France and Germany make early moves for Europe’s foreign minister

Air India investigates mid-air brawl between pilots and cabin crew

Suicide bomb hits UN in Pakistan

Ex-Interpol man denies corruption

Somali president blasts Minn. terror recruiting

Honduran military: An institution against democracy?

Sharp rise in Chinese arrests at U.S. border

At least 261 have been arrested this year trying to cross near Tucson. Illegal Chinese immigrants can be big money for smugglers.

By Sebastian Rotella

October 5, 2009

Reporting from Nogales, Ariz. – Amid an overall drop in arrests of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S-Mexico border, an intriguing anomaly has cast a new light on human smuggling: Authorities report an almost tenfold spike in the number of Chinese people caught in the southern Arizona desert, the busiest smuggling corridor on the international line.

The Border Patrol in the Tucson sector has arrested at least 261 Chinese border-crossers this year, compared with an annual average of 32 during the last four years, officials said.

“They are the main [non-Mexicans] we catch,” said field operations supervisor Juventino Pacheco of the patrol’s international liaison unit in Nogales. “Lately we have been catching more Chinese than Central Americans.”

Unifying Dutch city falls to Muslim mayor

In Rotterdam, where cultural and social divides are apparent, the burden of bridging them now belongs to Morocco-born Ahmed Aboutaleb. How he fares could matter beyond his city’s borders.

By Henry Chu

Reporting from Rotterdam, Netherlands – The veiled women clutch their children’s hands as they scurry past the liquor store, ignoring rows of vodka bottles on their way to the Muslim butcher’s next door.

Across the street, male customers emerge from the Climax sex shop with their purchases and quickly stride away without a second glance at the Turkish kebab restaurant just opening for lunch.

The conservative and liberal, religious and secular, Dutch and foreign stand side by side here in Rotterdam, in a contrasting and at times uneasy coexistence where social and cultural middle ground can be elusive.

The Week in Editorial Cartoons – Palin Resolves Nuclear Problem

Crossposted from Daily Kos


This weekly diary takes a look at the past week’s important news stories from the perspective of our leading editorial cartoonists (including a few foreign ones) with analysis and commentary added in by me.

When evaluating a cartoon, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does a cartoon add to my existing knowledge base and help crystallize my thinking about the issue depicted?

2. Does the cartoonist have any obvious biases that distort reality?

3. Is the cartoonist reflecting prevailing public opinion or trying to shape it?

The answers will help determine the effectiveness of the cartoonist’s message.

:: ::

Hobson’s Choice

Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning

A Transition through Poetry XXIX

Art Link


Not  exactly courage

From my old life I dangled

entangled in the lives

and expectations of others

unable to break free

or maybe too afraid

to seek emancipation

fiercely clutching the shreds

of what I thought was dignity

but it was a fiction

preferred by everyone

even though I strangled

mangled emotionally

dying inside from lying without

suspended in shame

until I lost my grip

I landed on my feet.

Many don’t.

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–January 11, 2006

Ohio Food Co-op Swat Team Raid Trial This Week

UPDATE: this trial has now been postponed until after the first of the year. I will be covering it then.


John and Jackie Stower run the Manna Storehouse in LaGrange, Ohio. Last December their organic food coop and homeschool were raided by a SWAT team, who invaded their home with guns drawn, held them and their family captive for six hours, and confiscated a large amount of food. No charges were ever filed. The Buckeye Institute is helping the Stowers sue the The Lorain County General Health District, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The trial will open October 8 and 9 at 8:30 am.

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