November 9, 2009 archive

Gorbachev, Obama, & Afghanistan

The Soviet war in Afghanistan, also known as the Soviet-Afghan War, was a nine-year conflict involving Soviet forces supporting the Marxist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government against the Mujahideen resistance.

In 1989, ten years after a little more time, a lot more money, and a lot more lives lost, the USSR finally was forced to give up it’s dreams of domination of Afghanistan and withdrew… and collapsed.

Mikhail Gorbachev had a few words of caution for Barack Obama in the wake of indications that Obama is planning another escalation of 20-35,000 troops to Afghanistan

HuffPo on Sunday:

The former president of the Soviet Union spoke to CNN’s John King Sunday on State Of The Union and after talking about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev suggested that the US revisit the Kremlin’s efforts to control Afghanistan as the US plans its next move.

“I think that what’s needed is not additional forces,” said Gorbachev. “This is something that we discussed, too, years ago, and we decided not to do it. And I think our experience deserves attention.” McClatchy has reported that President Obama is leaning toward sending as many as 34,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. The Soviet Union fought for nine years in Afghanistan in a war to support Afghanistan’s then-communist government. The USSR ultimately lost the war and 13,000 of its soldiers died.

Gorbachev concluded that for the US, “withdrawal from Afghanistan should be the goal.”

Docudharma Times Monday Novenber 9

Monday’s Headlines:

Fort Hood Gunman Gave Signals Before His Rampage

Fall of the Berlin Wall: Timeline

Abortion an obstacle to health-care bill

Competing programs hamper Kentucky’s prescription drug abuse fight

Deal on Kirkuk sets stage for Iraqi elections

Saudi soldiers killed retaking border village from Huthi rebels

A bridge opened – and then the Wall fell

Love isn’t in the air as Paris hosts first ‘divorce fair’

Dalai Lama angers China with visit to disputed area

Allied forces ‘may abandon most of northern Helmand’

Zimbabwe child sexual abuse alert

Scores die in El Salvador floods

Muse in Retirement

Time to say goodbye


(Click on image for larger view)

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

I know you have talent.  What sometimes is forgotten is that being practical is a talent.  I have a paucity for that sort of talent in many situations, though it turns out that I’m a pretty darn good cook.  🙂  

Let your talent bloom.  You can share it here.  Encourage others to let it bloom inside them as well.

Won’t you share your words or art, your sounds or visions, your thoughts scientific or philosophic, the comedy or tragedy of your days, the stories of doing and making?  And be excellent to one another!

Obama will send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan

Original article, by Patrick Martin, via World Socialist Web Site:

According to US press reports Sunday, President Barack Obama has decided to send tens of thousands of additional US troops to Afghanistan in an attempt to suppress growing popular resistance to foreign occupation.

Monday Music

Cat Power, “Satisfaction”

Corporate America doing GREAT while unemployment soars

So if you’re like most people, myself included, you’ve probably been wondering how the stock market can be going up while American job losses keep rising, and the dollar keeps sinking.

In fact, it seems that there’s a full economic slow-motion meltdown underway in this country, with record numbers of people on food stamps, countless people being evicted, losing their homes, filing for bankruptcy, living in tents …..

Yet the CEO class — you know, those guys who now make half the money in the country — seem to be doing just fine, and their personal little casino known as Wall Street has been having a banner year …

Doesn’t make any sense, does it?  

Well, actually, according to this blog post I just found, it does!  

It makes a lot of sense.

I’ll try to hit the broad strokes:

Daniel Gross points out that part of the reason that the American stock markets are going up even though unemployment is rising and the real economy suffering is because multinational corporations headquartered in the U.S. are experiencing strong sales abroad:

Here’s a puzzle: The stock markets are doing very well, yet the performance of the underlying economy doesn’t seem to justify optimism. The buoyant S&P 500 has risen 53 percent since the March bottom. And while the economy expanded at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter, unemployment is high, incomes are stagnant, and consumers are shaky…

It could be that the notion the stock market is an accurate gauge of the domestic economy’s temperature is outdated.

Ya think?   I’d say that’s an understatement.   Of course, if we come up with a new, universally accepted barometer of the domestic economy, the media wouldn’t be able to tell us every day how great the “recovery” is, now would they?   They might actually have to tell us the truth.   And they sure don’t want to do that.  

And anyway, according to the trickle-down economic theory that has been in place in this country for almost 30 years now, supposedly what is good for Corporate America is good for Americans.  Right?  

Don’t American Workers Win?

The fact that companies based in America are raking in profits from sales abroad is good for American workers, right?


Gross points out that American workers don’t benefit because a lot of the goods sold abroad by American multinationals are made abroad.

We’ve all seen that one coming for a good long time.   Sure, having U.S. companies bypass worker-safety laws, environmental laws, unions, minimum-wage laws, and pretty much every other law our forefathers fought and bled and in some cases died for does give us lower-priced goods.    For a while.    But then, the bill comes due.    Suddenly nobody makes anything any more, nobody has a job anymore, and therefore nobody can afford to buy even the cheap shitty crap made overseas.

Ah, but if these corporations are doing so well, there’s a little bit of a silver lining, right?    I mean, they have to pay taxes here, don’t they?  

Don’t Multinationals Pay A Lot in Taxes?

Well, at least the multinationals are paying a good chunk of taxes into the American economy, right?

Not exactly.

The Washington Post notes:

About two-thirds of corporations operating in the United States did not pay taxes annually from 1998 to 2005, according to a new report scheduled to be made public today from the U.S. Government Accountability Office…

In 2005, about 28 percent of large corporations paid no taxes…

Wait a minute.  I had to pay taxes.  And I’m hardly rich, and I’m certainly not a corporation.   So I have to pay taxes, but “large corporations” can get away with paying none?

Dorgan and Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) requested the report out of concern that some corporations were using “transfer pricing” to reduce their tax bills. The practice allows multi-national companies to transfer goods and assets between internal divisions so they can record income in a jurisdiction with low tax rates…

[Senator] Levin said: “This report makes clear that too many corporations are using tax trickery to send their profits overseas and avoid paying their fair share in the United States.”

Indeed, as Pulitzer prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston documents, American multinationals pay much less in taxes than they should through a variety of widespread schemes, including:

Selling valuable assets of the American companies to foreign subsidiaries based in tax havens for next to nothing, so that those valuable assets can be taxed at much lower foreign rates

Pretending that costs were spent in the United States, so that the companies can count them as costs or deductions in the U.S. and pay less taxes to the American government

Booking profits as if they occurred in the subsidiary’s tax haven countries, so that taxes paid on profits are at the much lower safe haven rate

Working out sweetheart deals with certain foreign governments, so that the companies can pretend they paid more in foreign taxes than they actually did, to obtain higher U.S. tax credits than are warranted

Pretending they are headquartered in tax havens like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands or Panama, so that they can enjoy all of the benefits of actually being based in America (including the use of American law and the court system, listing on the Dow, etc.), with the tax benefits associated with having a principal address in a sunny tax haven.

And myriad other scams

As Johnston documents, the American economy is hurt by the massive underpayment of taxes by the huge multinationals.

An Essay on Narcissism

In one of my diaries, a comment was posted.  Whether it was meant to be sarcastic or not is unknown.  It did, however, bring up a point that, like other points brought up about me in the past, I feel needs to be addressed and responded to, maybe in this case needlessly.

The comment was:

I hope you’re able to deal with that burden effectively, Michael. Trying to curve corners at a resolutely square place will do weird things to one’s sense of self-righteousness. It almost obscures the sharp points of one’s own corners that refuse to curve.

I understand that, in the overall comment, it was more about DK than it was about me.  But, asking if I can deal “with the burden” was, to me, more a comment on being right…

Pique the Geek 20091108. Distillation, not Just for Beverages

Distillation is a technique of “squeezing” out the essence of a given material (or series of thoughts to one or a few abstractions) into a concentrated product.  The term is from the Latin, distillo, from the combining term de, meaning “down” and the noun stilla, a drop.  Thus, distilled water is literally a drop of water coming down something.  Taken to the extreme, distilled water literally means “a coming down drop of water that is water”.  That does not fit with the modern usage, but is illustrative.

Aristotle, with all of his faults, noted that seawater, boilt under cool sponges, would yield fresh water when the sponges were pressed.  Distillation was known in the ancient world, but not much used except for preparing “medical” remedies, most of them toxic, in a manner that I will describe to you later, in a more modern form.

Actually, the earth is a huge still, with the water cycle reproducing exactly, but on a massive scale, what goes on in an industrial or laboratory still.  Heating, evaporation, segregation of components, and condensation are all essential parts of distillation, and our planet does it well.  Without that process, the planet would not be recognizable.

Overnight Caption Contest

Sunday Train: Rescuing the Innocent Amtrak Numbers from SubsidyScope

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

A few weeks back, SubsidyScope, “launched by The Pew Charitable Trusts, aims to raise public awareness about the role of federal subsidies in the economy”, pursued its mandate into transport subsidies, coming out with a study with the headline figure of $32 subsidy per passenger for Amtrak.

Why Amtrak? Why not provide a headline figure on federal subsidy per motorist or airplane passenger? Critics of the report suggest that the answer is simple – consider, for instance, Charleston WV mayor Danny Jones:

Jones admits Amtrak relies heavily on subsidies, but so do other modes of transportation, he said.

“I think it’s just easier to see how much of it’s subsidized with Amtrak,” he said.

And there is a lot of merit in that. Further, SubsidyScope is not focusing on Government subsidy, but on Federal subsidy. Not only is it harder to analyze government subsidies to driving and flying, given how many direct and indirect subsidies there are to take into account – but many of the subsidies are at the state and local government level, so for SubsidyScope’s purposes they “don’t count”.

But its worse that that. Even accepting SubsidyScope’s twisted framing of the issue of government subsidies – the actual core part of the analysis that they themselves perform is hopelessly bad. The gory details, and then the numbers that pity forced me to rescue from the clutches of SubsidyScope, below the fold.

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