Saturday, July 31, 2010

Casual Observation

Maybe, things like this wouldn't happen if Arizona law enforcement was more worried about white murderers than they are about brown workers.
Then again, to FoxNews fanatics those prison escapees are probably heroes.

Actually, the Arizona prison system is probably the most screwed up in the nation. It's a joke. A joke with dogs trained to look for telephones. A joke with frequent prison breaks. A joke with torture chamber tiger cages. A joke where innocents die.

No Room Under the Bus

It looks like the Obama Administration didn't learn anything from that "teachable moment" of the Sherrod affair.

Now, I've never liked Charlie Rangel. He always struck me as the kind of politician who keeps a tip jar on his desk and has a night deposit slot for bribes in his office door. Still, it is rather unseemly for the President to be so quick to throw him under the bus. If, on the other hand, Obama was trying to stick it to Sen. Ben Nelson for throwing Elana Kagan and the unemployed under the bus then he missed the target by a wide mark.

Obama has an odd sense of loyalty - he is not loyal to his friends and rewards people who are not loyal to him. I just can't figure out the political utility of that.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Long War Doctrine

Officially, the Bush "Long War Doctrine" was put to sleep by the Obama Administration. Long War became authorized Pentagon policy with the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review and quietly disappeared in Obama's 2010 version. Yet the Pentagon is ignoring the President and proceeding with a long war strategy.

Basically, the Long War Doctrine envisions an 80 year struggle on various fronts in the Middle East. The logic of Long War, from a neocon perspective, is that we are at war with a fifth of the population of the world (Islam) and it will take several decades to kill them all. From a Pentagon perspective the Long War returns the professional military to the job security of the Cold War era which ended abruptly after a profitable 50-year run.

Prior military doctrine held that you identify an enemy and engage in the quickest possible effort to ensure that enemy will never again bother you. Modern strategy is not interested in "winning" a war but in milking the war for as long as possible. Hence we see the US government helping to fund the Taliban and helping to arm them. If the Taliban disappeared tomorrow we would have to invent a replacement, the Pentagon Afghan War strategy requires it.

The goals for the Afghan War are vague to the point of be amorphous. Vice-President Biden says there are no plans for nation building. Yet Gen. Petraeus' counter insurgency strategy is all about building an Afghan governmental structure. Biden thinks the US will not be in Afghanistan for another 10 years. On the ground, Petraeus is stalling security handovers and talking about "process" not "exit." That's NewSpeak for "We're not going anywhere this side of 2050."

Things are no different in Iraq where the talk from the military is of a "long-term partnership" while the President wants a total withdrawal of troops by the end of 2011. The Pentagon is planning to stay in Iraq regardless of what the politicians want and we can expect something will happen in the summer of 2011 that will kill any withdrawal effort. Then there is always Iran, Yemen, Somalia. The possibilities for endless war are endless.

The generals love this Long War idea. It gives them huge budgets, fancy new weapons, and puppet master control over the politicians and diplomats.
To the Pentagon, the Thirty Years War was
woefully short.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Afghan War Diary

The most surprising thing contained in the 92,000 classified document WikiLeaks disclosed on the Afghan War is that nothing there is surprising. There is really nothing there that we didn't already know or could have easily surmised.
There is nothing we didn't already know. The only things this War Diary does is leave no room for doubts.

This doesn't mean that the Afghan War is a failure. The Afghan War, as it is being run, fits perfectly into the Pentagon's Long War Doctrine that envisions an 80-year long series of colonial and brush fire wars for the United States raging from Beirut to the Pacific Ocean. The goal is war for its own sake - the consumption of weapons so that expensive new weapons must be built.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

California Speed Trap

In all my decades driving California freeways I've never seen the likes of this. It seems behind every bridge abutment, every patch of landscaping, there is a Highway Patrol officer with a radar gun.

There is way more than concentration than their holiday drunk driving patrols. There is way more activity than your standard end of the month quota rush.

It's not like we don't need it. Most Californians (those between the ages of 17 and 91) believe the posted speed limit is a suggested minimum below which you should never drive.
Sandra Bullock was just your average California driver.

I'd like to believe the Highway Patrol is concerned about the health and wellbeing of Californians, but I know that's not the case. Most likely is that the CHiPs have turned the entire state into a gigantic speed trap in an effort to balance the state's budget. They can't raises taxes or cut spending any deeper so the only resource left is California's bumper crop of speed demons.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Between the Lines

The more Tim Geithner praises Elizabeth Warren to the media the more likely it is that she will not run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It's a standard political rule.

Rule #32: I'm going to fuck you over so I will at least say some nice things about you first.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Shirley Sherrod Affair

The Case of Shirley Sherrod is a sign of how cowered Democrats have become by the rightwing slander machine.

A Tea Party racist, Andrew Breitbart, smeared a good, decent, innocent woman because she had spoken at an NAACP banquet and Breitbart hates the NAACP.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack displayed the knee-jerk cowardice of a whipped puppy fired Ms. Sherrod purely on the word of a known liar and without any attempt to discover the actual truth. The NAACP also reacted with knee-jerk cowardice when they condemned Ms. Sherrod even though had they been listening at their own event they would have known that Breitbart's tape was shit.

Now that the truth is getting out we are discovering that Ms. Sherrod is the only hero in this story. The NAACP, at least, has apologized. Vilsack, looking like a weasel, is saying he is "reviewing" her dismissal when he should be abjectly apologizing and begging Ms. Sherrod for forgiveness. (If I were Ms. Sherrod I'd tell Vilsack to go fuck himself but I suspect she is too much of a lady to do that.)

As for Brietbart? He stands by the story, blames someone else, and says his character assassination of Sherrod was all the fault of the NAACP for daring to criticize Tea Party racists like himself.

And what about President Obama who was the real target of Brietbart's lie? He is going to end up passing the buck, blaming Vilsack, and looking like a weakling who can be manipulated by his enemies. This administration, top to bottom, has to grow a backbone or it will continue to be whipsawed by Republican demagogues and liars.

Update: It's good to read that Vilsack manned up and apologized, asked Ms. Sherrod for forgiveness, and has offered her a better job in the department. (I was right, Ms. Sherrod is more a lady than I am a gentleman. She accepted the apology while I would have insisted on a face-to-face meeting to spit in his eye.) I hope the "teachable moment" Vilsack spoke of is that the entire Obama Administration realized that everything coming from Breitbart, Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, and the rest is unadulterated shit and the only attention that should be paid to it is to throw it back in their faces. (I'm speaking to you, Rahm Emanuel, stop being such a fucking pussy.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BP Is Criminally Insane

The psychopath is one of the most fascinating and distressing problems of human experience. For the most part, a psychopath never remains attached to anyone or anything. They live a "predatory" lifestyle. They feel little or no regret, and little or no remorse - except when they are caught. They need relationships, but see people as obstacles to overcome and be eliminated. If not, they see people in terms of how they can be used. They use people for stimulation, to build their self-esteem and they invariably value people in terms of their material value. ~ Psychopathic Personality
If you look at it clinically, British Petroleum fits the description of a psychopath. The story about BP faking photographs is just another symptom, compulsive lying. BP published a photo of their oil spill command center but the original photo didn't look busy enough so they photoshopped it. When people spotted the lie BP released "the original" photo only that the metadata seems to show that the original photo dates from 2001 and may not be of the Deepwater Horizon spill at all.

The thing that makes this all such a psychotic act is that they didn't need to lie. If they don't have a command center or if all the monitors are actually showing porn, just don't release a photo at all. No one would have missed it. But, no, they have so show they are engaged, although they are not, by faking photographs. And when they are caught lying they blame someone else (the photographer, although as Americablog points out, no professional would be that sloppy).

If British Petroleum were a person we would know what to do. We would demand it be lock in prison for multiple life terms. BP has killed repeatedly (11 at Deepwater Horizon, an additional 15 in Texas City), they only show remorse for being caught, they value people only for how they can be used for profit. If BP were an individual we would recognize it immediately as a psychopathic mass murderer. We would lock it away forever as an incurable monster.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The New Gilded Age

It's not a new observation that we seem as a country to be reliving the days of the Robber Barons when wealthy corporations and super wealthy individuals ruled the nation, when corrupt politicians were servile tools of the rich, and when all politicians were corrupt.
The 1870's to the 1900's, basically from the Grant to Teddy Roosevelt presidencies, saw a time when governments solely existed for the benefit of business. Politicians and judges were bought and sold as casually as Chippendale chairs. High unemployment was considered good for business because it lowered the price of labor and the more the unemployed suffered the cheaper wages became.

While the unemployed were bettered by suffering, the wealthy were deserving of every subsidy that could be imagined. Taxes and tariffs that burdened the wealthy were evils to be expunged from the body politic. Laws that regulated corporate activities to prevent unfair or dangerous practices were an abomination.

Which is worse, coalminers dying in the tunnels or the owner being forced to spend money to prevent those deaths? Obviously the latter. Regulations impinge on the owner's rights. As for dead miners, with high unemployment there will always be plenty of men available to take their places.

Look at the picture above. How like those Robber Barons are the bankers at Goldman Sachs requiring public tribute in the form of TARP and the AIG bailouts? Now look at the chart below.
It has been more than a century since the disparity between the rich and the rest of us has been this large. The times of great disparity have always marked great economic decline. The times of least disparity always marked the times of greatest prosperity. That is not a coincidence. Prosperity comes when most people have money to spend. When an economy is geared only to support a handful of the very richest the nation as a whole suffers.

It is fair to compare Presidents Obama and Clinton to Grover Cleveland, the only Democrat to hold the presidency during the original Gilded Age. All three were good, intelligent, and honorable men. All three were elected to redress Republican excesses. All three failed that assignment and found themselves going, perhaps unwillingly, with the tide of crony capitalism. (Also, two of the three had sex scandals in their day.)

Cleveland used the Army to crush union strikes at the behest of wealthy bosses. Clinton helped set up the current financial crisis by agreeing with Republicans to deregulate banks. Obama's Treasury Secretary believes the universe revolves around his investment banker friends and isolates himself from competing opinions.

The first Gilded Age was not a happy time for most Americans. Yes, the Rockefellers, Morgans, and other in the elite did great.
They build massive castles to their even more massive wealth. Above is Frederick William Vanderbilt's summer house. The rest of the country suffered economic disaster. The Long Depression (1873 to 1896) spanned 23 years, encompassing most of the Gilded Age.
Homelessness is not something new in America. During the Gilded Age thousands of children slept on the streets. Source: Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (1890).

Current economic policies, cutting spending to the bone to pay for tax relief for the very wealthy, promises one to two additional decades of high unemployment. Republican policies to end unemployment insurance, certain to be implemented eventually if not soon, will drive millions of small children into the streets.

Remember, this is all to the benefit of the richest of the rich who will see labor costs drop to starvation levels while their smaller taxes will be more than repaid through government largess to corporations.

Additional Reading: Wall Street's Ownership of Government (Salon, 2009)
Political Corruption in the 19th Century (NBC News)
Republicans: Don't Tax the Wealthy or Feed the Hungry (Jonathan Kantrowitz)
Republicans and the Gilded Age (David Offutt)
Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886) where one Supreme Court justice (actually just a clerk) rewrote the Constitution to declare corporations are people by misrepresenting the actual ruling of the court through a single sentence in the summary.
Supreme Court Delivers the Goods for Corporations (the Citizens United case, 2010)
The Wealthiest Americans Ever (New York Times, 2007) - spoiler: It's J.D. Rockerfeller.
Gilded Once More (Paul Krugman, 2007)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Towards a More Perfect Union

One of the first, and hardest, lessons of politics is that elections are just sparring matches. The real bloody fighting only starts after the voting has ended. A lot of presidents think that once they are sworn in they get to start governing. Presidents have a couple of months to get the people who will do the governing in place (short leashes attached) then the president has to go back out to the battlefield.

Presidents lead, they don't manage. Bill Clinton understood that, so did Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama hasn't been very good to date leading fights. He only has a couple of months to get out in front before the memes for 2010 mid-year elections are set in stone.

The Health Care Reform debate was a prime example. Republicans ran roughshod over the battlefield for months making outrageous and spurious attacks while the Democrat's leader sat in his tent trying to find some sort of compromise that everyone outside of his tent knew was impossible. That Obama emerging from his tent and mounting his steed for the very last charge was able to turn the tide of battle showed how important a Fighting President can be.

On the economy, the Republicans anti-jobs, anti-unemployed, help-the-rich strategy should be a gold-plated gift to Democrats. Yet is seems to languish unexploited except in a few local races (Harry Reid). As Reid points out, "[Obama] is a person who doesn't like confrontation. He's a peacemaker. And sometimes I think you have to be a little more forceful." (source)
Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft. ~ Teddy Roosevelt
The two biggest anchors around Obama's neck are Tim Geithner and Rahm Emanuel. Geithner I wrote about yesterday, believes the only constituency worth caring about are the very richest investment bankers. Emanuel believe so strongly in the art of the backroom deal that he thinks President Obama should never take a strong public stance lest he hinder the private deal making.

Also, Emanuel believes the Republican lie that that the American people are innately conservative so he is trying to hide any inkling of liberalism. Obama has been low profiled on extending unemployment benefits because that is a liberal position when he should be growing horse denouncing hard-hearted Republicans. What the American people want is a firm hand on the tiller and they will support a Reagan or a Clinton with equal fervor as long as they get things done.

As a consequence of Geithner and Emanuel, President Obama is developing the worst possible reputation for a president, weak. Strong words against BP were quickly silenced after Republicans attacked Obama even though the American people would have supported marching BP executives in front of a firing squad. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be emasculated if Geithner succeeds in block the best person it lead it, Elizabeth Warren, and President Obama will look like he is kowtowing to hated hedge fund managers.

This is not meant to be an attack on President Obama so much as a caution. He is far and away better than George Bush Jr. If the Bush Administration was being waterboarded while have wires attached to my testicles, the Obama Administration is a gentle slap to the face. But, I'd much rather have him turn around to slap, punch, and eye gouge Republicans then softly rebuking me for being too liberal.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Treasury Sec. Millstone

What had Tim Geithner done to help the country or President Obama?

The economic recovery program he championed was geared to helping banks. And not even all banks but just the biggest, richest banks in the country. As a result, Goldman Sachs prospers while the nation suffers from a real unemployment rate of 21%.

As for helping the President, from the beginning Geithner has been the devil's voice whispering in Obama's ear, advising him to not tax speculative excess, to use bailout money to finance the wine and caviar parties of hedge fund managers but not to invest in infrastructure projects, and now he is telling the President to keep Elizabeth Warren away from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Geithner wants one of his Wall Street buddies heading the bureau to insure that the only people protected will be the high flying investment bank speculators. If Obama listens to Geithner again they will kill the CFPB in its crib.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Gulf Monster

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should. ~ Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
I guess I'm supposed to feel good that someone had the guts to tell BP to stop and prove what they want to do (pressure test their latest experiment) won't make things worse. But after so many months of failures, after so many months of lies, empty promises, and cover ups, I'm immune to feeling good about the Gulf of Mexico disaster. I wouldn't believe them if they announced that the spill will be contained by Monday. Oh, wait, they did that last week.

They could stop the flow of oil tomorrow (Right, like that'll happen.) and it won't kill the monster. The horror that British Petroleum unleashed will continuing killing, fish and humans, for decades to come.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Truth May Set You Free
But It Is Not Very Politic

You can't handle the truth. ~ Col. Jessop, A Few Good Men
I used to think that the Bush Administration's antipathy to science was faith-based, that they didn't want a bunch of nerds telling them that Jesus did not ride dinosaurs.
Actual Sunday School lesson.

But, it appears the Obama Administration has a similar fear of science geeks. Science, you see, seeks facts whether or not they are politically convenient.

Take the Gulf Oil Spill for example. Scientists have been begging for months to get access to the region to analyze the effect of this massive oil and dispersant release on the environment. The Coast Guard and BP have blocked their every effort. BP wants to prevent a thorough study because the more facts that are known the more money it will cost them. The federal government's reasons for forcing scientific ignorance is more complicated.

The government wants to preserve the right to lie. They want to maintain the ability to spin. Scientists, with their annoying habit of digging up inconvenient truths, might start telling people things the government would rather they not know.

Has the massive use of oil dispersants turned the Gulf of Mexico into a poisonous soup? Will the Louisiana fisheries take a generation to recover? How many Americans will die prematurely due to the spill? These are questions that scientists might try to answer. Better to keep them far away until a proper political fiction can be drafted.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's an Ill Wind That Doesn't Blow Some Good

Payday Lenders Leaving Arizona
Arizona legislators are so busy with their lives as racist troglodytes they didn't have time to renew a law allowing payday lenders to charge 400% interest (APR) on two week loans. It's not like the legislators actually did anything responsible but in Arizona failure to act is a good legislative day for the people.

No Smoking Jail
Lindsey Lohan isn't sympathetic enough to be considered pathetic. In fact I look forward to the day when I won't stumble on another article on her train wreak of a life. Still, the news that Lohan will have to go a few days without smoking (certainly her least destructive addiction) is mildly amusing.

Mata Hari Lite
Often, the best thing about a story is when it ends and this is the end of the Russian spy ring story. These Russian deep cover moles were so incompetent the FBI only arrested them after years of boring surveillance watching them not actually spy anything secret. Felix Dzerzhinsky must be rolling over in his grave.
What a real fem fatale looks like.

Churches and Guns
First Louisiana, now Georgia (also Kentucky), Southern Baptists seem determined to turn their churches into free fire zones. This is bound to end in bloodshed which would be a bad thing except we are talking about white southern Baptists shooting each other.
If Jesus had a gun you can bet that the Easter story would have a very different ending.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Party Like It's 1830

Republicans in Idaho hate the word fiesta. It's too Mexican in their ears and also, apparently, an insult to Arizona which is doing all it can to expel Mexicans from their state.

Fiesta has been in the English dictionary since the 1840's. While it means feast, literally, in Spanish, in English it has the meaning of an elaborate outdoor party. With that definition it is a very useful English word with no perfect synonym.

In my never ending effort to help Republicans achieve more perfect racial purity, here are some other English words with Spanish origins they will want to protest.
  • Alligator - An anglicized form of el lagarto the Spanish term for "lizard." Florida Republicans should start referring to them as Swamp Toothy Things.
  • Burrito - Republicans should insist on ordering them as "Little Donkeys."
  • Montana - The whole state is an affront to All-American Republicans who should petition Congress to rename the state as Mountain.
  • Rodeo - All of those Idaho rodeos should start using the American phrase, round up.
  • Vanilla - What child wouldn't want some Little Pod Ice Cream.
  • Chocolate - While we are at it, this would sound yummy as Hot Water Ice Cream. Chocolate is as Mexican a word as you can get, coming from combining Mayan and Nahuatl words.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Remember Snowmageddon

Remember last February when in snowed in Washington D.C. and Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and the entire Fox News coven got all hysterical that snow in winter was absolute proof that global warming was a hoax?

Now, just five months later, a record breaking killer heatwave has encased the entire east coast. The silence from the rightwing noise machine is profound. I've searched in vain for any mention of the heat. Now that it is summer they are all pretending the climate debate doesn't exist.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Pretty Maids

It summer and I am god-awful tired of writing about war and oil, BP and economics.

It's summer, let's talk about girls. Here are six women I am endlessly fascinated by. None were the most talented or famous of their eras. I just like 'em.

Clara Bow
Big expressive eyes in an era when eyes were an actor's most valuable commodity, verve, and an excitement that sprang off the silent screen. What can I say, she had IT. I've only seen a few clips from her movies (here is a YouTube clip from the movie It!) but I can't help but love her. The gossip that she had sex with the entire 1927 USC football team was certainly phony studio publicity. Her career didn't last long into the talkie era, the microphone apparently gave her stage fright.
She danced even when her feet weren't moving. Some part of her was always in motion, if only her great, rolling eyes. It was an elemental magnetism, an animal vitality, that made her the center of attraction in any company. ~ Aldolf Zucor

Hedy Lamarr
Know now mostly for the character in Blazing Saddles ("It's not *Hedy*, it's *Hedley*."), Hedy was an odd mix. She was glamorous. She was also a genius. She invented a frequency-hopping communications system that was so ahead of its time it was not technically feasible until the 1960's but the system is still used today. And she was troubled. Jewish but married to a Nazi industrialist, Hedy disguised herself to escape to England in 1937 after which she made her way to Hollywood and fame. By the 1960's Hedy was broke, living off the grid with a painter half her age, and was arrested for shoplifting $21 of cosmetics.

Bettie Page
The ultimate pinup girl, no one has ever topped her. That raven hair, those bangs, her bright eyes, and that winning smile. It's sad that she never got her chance at acting and modeling with her clothes on. Her career ended when Estes Kefauver threatened to haul her in front of a Senate committee. Oh, and becoming a born-again Christian was also quite the buzz kill.

Janis Joplin
The least beautiful and most talented on this list. Janis was the first that I saw while she was in her prime. I could have gone with Gracie Slick but she was just a voice to me. Janis was the whole package - writer, singer, character, tragedy. You could feel every fiber of her soul when she sang including all the pain that killed her.
I don't even know where I'm gonna be twenty years from now, so I'm just gonna keep on rockin', cause if I start saving up bits and pieces of, there ain't gonna be nothing left for Janis. ~ Janis Joplin
Cyndi Lauper
I never could get into Madonna. The frenetic Cyndi was more my speed. Cyndi was sort of a rock version of Clara Bow. I was really too old to be a fan (although I liked "Girls Just Want to Have Fun") and I never learned much about her. I just felt that Cyndi was my kind of girl. In the 1920's it was IT. in the 1980's it was je ne sais quoi. An undefinable something that Cyndi has.

Katy Perry
I've heard one of Katy's songs recently. She can't sing. She really can't sing. Don't care. If Cyndi Lauper is a rock Clara Bow, then Katy is a bubblegum version of Bettie Page. Sweet and innocent while at the same time sexy beyond belief. She seems to be truly joyful, as opposed to chemically enhanced joy, a very rare thing for a celebrity. Besides, who couldn't love someone who would let themselves be slimed on television at the Kid's Choice Awards?
Did I mention I love the blue hair?

Adventures in Pith

Our elites are populated with significant numbers of people who truly believe that the biggest problem this country faces is that poor people have it a bit too good. ~ Atrois

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.
Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to drill for oil and nobody eats fish.
~ San Diego Union-Tribune letter writer

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Moving Afghan Goalposts

Far be it for me to support Michael Steele, but here is hoping his ill-chosen words on Afghanistan will lead to a much needed debate over what the hell we are doing there now. Our goals in Afghanistan have evolved faster than a fruit fly inside a nuclear containment field.
  1. Destroy al-Qaeda. The initial goal, supported by Americans across the political spectrum, was the destruction of al-Qaeda. This ended in defeat for the United States at the Battle of Tora Bora where US Gen. Tommy Franks allowed al-Qaeda leadership and many of their fighters to escape into safe haven in Pakistan.
  2. Overthrow the Taliban. The fall-back position after failing to defeat al-Qaeda was to punish their soul mates and enablers the Taliban government of Afghanistan. At this we were successful. Had we stopped there, telling the rebels now in charge that if al-Qaeda ever returned to their country we would return wreaking bloody vengeance upon all who helped them while offered aid to our new allies, the Afghan War would have gone down in history as quite the success.
  3. Nation Building. Unfortunately, the neo-cons whispering in George Bush's ear told him to convert every Muslim nation in the Middle East, one by one, into Western style democracies. The new goal became to install the perfect Muslim democracy in Afghanistan. By that we intended Afghanistan to have a strong central government with universal suffrage ruling a unified country closely allied with the United States. However, Afghanistan has a long history as a feudal society with numerous petty warlords commanding personal fiefdoms. The governmental system we tried to install was a foreign to the Afghans as Wonderland to Alice. This attempt has been an abject failure.
  4. COIN - counterinsurgency doctrine. The current approach. The failed nation building program, which looks like colonial occupation to Afghans, led to the return of the Taliban. General Petraeus is proud papa to COIN. The doctrine foresees a decades long program spending multiple billions building roads, schools, industry, and good paying jobs that the Afghan people will slowly realize is a wondrous Utopia. In essence, the US federal government will do more for Afghanistan than it would do for California. Some people have dismissed COIN as a resurrection of the old failed Vietnam War "hearts and minds" strategy but that is unfair. It is really more akin to the British Raj in India - a massive noblesse oblige approach where we teach foreigners to be just like us, only subservient.
  5. Withdrawal. President Obama's official goal, withdrawal by July 2011, is in direct competition with the Petraeus COIN program and its open-ended commitment. Petraeus reconciles this by calling withdrawal a "process" that will only begin next year. He implies the end will be many years away.
The official mission statement of the Afghan occupation (How weird is it that wars now have mission statements?) is so vague as to be meaningless. It is also one fucking long run on sentence. I suspect if the British Raj had a mission statement it would have been similar, if far better written.
We shall support friendly maharajas and engage rebels in deadly combat. We shall train and arm native troops and a native police force. We shall train natives to handle routine governmental operations. We shall bring to the natives the blessings of our civilization and they shall be eternally grateful for the peace and prosperity we bring.
Afghanistan as envisioned by Gen. David Petraeus.
(art source)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Who's in Charge?

If it isn't obvious by now, British Petroleum is the big enchilada. Local, state, and federal officials are obsequious toadies.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Price of Secrecy in Oil Spills

A major reason why I doubt the government will compel full clean up of the Gulf region impacted by the BP spill is the extraordinary levels of secrecy that the government has imposed on coverage of the spill. From the earliest moments until now activities by both BP and the federal government have been treated with levels of secrecy reserved for nuclear weapons programs.Why, it's like they are hiding something.
What's there to hide?
  • "Journalists being told they cannot go somewhere simply because they are journalists." ~ Atlantic Wire
  • What is the effect of chemical dispersants being spread with abandon? Secret.
  • Could the dispersants be poisoning the clean up workers? Secret.
One of the great lies of our times was told by Adm. Thad Allen when he said "the media will have uninhibited access anywhere we're doing operations." (Source) It was a lie because not only is BP continuing to block access, the federal government is actively engaged in the effort (as is Louisiana's Republican governor).

This limiting of information is leading people, including me, to draw their own conclusion that the Gulf oil spill is orders of magnitude worse than anything we have been told.
That last rumor has been a boon for FEMA has concentration camps conspiracy theory believers.