Tag Archives: afghanistan

Afghanistan 2014

2 May

President Obama addressed the nation yesterday from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and on the first anniversary on the elimination of Osama bin Laden, he explained that Afghani security will be Afghani-dependent beginning in 2014. Afghanistan and the United States also executed a “strategic partnership agreement” whereby the United States will work with Afghani security after 2014, but no permanent occupation will take place, and no bases will be built. 

Although the President says the “tide has turned” in the Afghan war, the country has by no means returned to any semblance of a pre-1973 stability or security. This is a country that hasn’t known peace and normalcy in almost 40 years, and it’s unlikely to know them anytime soon. 

But that’s soon going to be Afghanistan’s problem, not ours. What’s important here is that the withdrawal of American involvement will enable the Afghani government to start talking to the Taliban which, if it renounces violence, will be invited to participate in government. We may have been appalled by the Taliban government’s treatment of its citizenry – particularly its women – we went to war with them over their harboring of al Qaeda, not over their internal affairs. We weren’t so appalled by the Taliban that we did anything about their patrons in the Pakistani security service. 

And since al Qaeda was driven into Pakistan and out of Afghanistan, the mission has been muddled, at best. We helped set up the Afghani government that controls very little outside of Kabul. This is a country with a 12% literacy rate for females and 43% for males; with a $900 annual per capita GDP.  What Afghanistan needs isn’t more fighting, but investment in education, infrastructure, and to produce things that don’t involve poppies. That investment obviously can’t come from Afghanistan, which barely has a pot within which to piss, and – as in Iraq – American withdrawal risks further instability and the intervention by Afghanistan’s more malevolent neighbors.  The US should dedicate itself to make resources available to help Afghanistan educate its people and give them economic opportunity. 

But more importantly, President Obama closed with this: 

“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.”

It’s also important that we stop fighting wars in Asia and start fixing our own problems here at home. 

The Morning Grumpy

29 Jun

I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news and analysis, so each morning I’ll share several that you can read during your “morning grumpy”.

1. Elena Cala is a lot of things; assistant to Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. James Williams, former editor of Buffalo Rising, Former Teacher, Mom, and Chanteuse, but she certainly isn’t known for handling the media very well. On Monday, her ongoing Sicilian blood feud with Buffalo News education beat reporter Mary Pasciak came to  a head. You see, Elena and other BPS staff are still upset over an article Pasciak wrote in which she demonstrated that several members of the superintendent’s staff did not hold the qualifications posted for their jobs, including Cala. There have been dozens of other perceived slights during Cala’s dealing with Pasciak, but the outcome of this one was fun to watch.Click through to watch the video tutorial from Elena on how NOT to handle media members who buy ink by the barrel.

My personal dealings with Elena have always been pleasant, but during her short tenure as an employee of Dr. Williams and the BPS, she has earned a horrible reputation as the most difficult press person in the region. That’s saying a lot, as there are a lot of pompous former media pros working in these PR departments around town.

As Pasciak reported in April,

Cala, special assistant to the superintendent for community relations, is supposed to have “seven years full-time experience in public or community relations in a large institution or educational setting,” according to the posting for her position.

The only such experience listed on her resume is a stint as a public relations assistant at Westinghouse Communities of Naples Inc. in 1985.

Cala, who makes $80,000 a year, worked most recently as an editor at Buffalo Rising for four years. Prior to that, she taught at a Catholic elementary school for four years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College, where she became close friends with Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Questions remain whether it was her connections with Brown, her personal relationship with Joy McDuffie, or her efforts as editor at Buffalo Rising to drive favorable turnout during a critical school board election which got her the job, but Cala will probably not have to worry about dealing with oppositional media much longer.

2. As the seemingly pointless war in Afghanistan drags on, two stories came across my radar screen that I thought drove home the futility of the conflict and the long term human costs.

The BBC’s Ben Anderson spends 24 hours in Afghanistan’s bloody Helmand Province and shares his experience with analysts at VBS.tv.

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The utter futility of the entire conflict is palpable. Bring them home.

Meanwhile, the children of our deployed soldiers face horrible conditions in military schools and deal with the mental strain and anguish of their Fathers and Mothers fighting on the front lines half a world away for over a decade.

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The shame.

3. This just in from The Brookings Institute. Cleveland, Detroit, Youngstown and Buffalo are among 36 of the top 100 metropolitan areas whose population below the age of 45 declined during the last decade. At the opposite end of the spectrum, college towns such as Austin, Raleigh, Provo and Madison, experienced significant growth in pre-senior population. Think the Mayor or County Executive might be interested in addressing these problems or are we doomed to another couple of years of crumb hoarding at the political poker table?

4. Jon Stewart is America’s finest media critic and satirist and in this clip he very succinctly analyzes the entire strategy of Fox News. Nailed it.

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5. Actual news headlines versus Fox News headlines.

6. Every national political reporter who has an opportunity to interview Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney needs to read this article first.

7. Should You Change Your Password?

8. Enjoy 57 minutes of excellence by The Hood Internet.

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See ya tomorrow.

Afghanistan 2011

3 Jan

On June 7th of last year, the Afghanistan “War” became the longest war in the history of the United States.  As of this writing, our involvement in this conflict now exceeds the combined time we spent in a combat role in WWI, WWII and the Korean War, combined.

Why?

What is the goal?  How do we know what success looks like?  How do we know when we’ve “won”?  Lindsay Graham appeared on “Meet The Press” this past Sunday and alluded to our desire for permanent basing rights for the US Air Force and Army as preconditions to our “leaving”.

Is it about empire?  Keeping our pulse on nearly $1 Trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan including iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium?

After the surge of troops into Afghanistan, General Petraeus now alludes to a withdrawal of combat troops in 2014 and maybe longer.

Sometime in mid-December, the president will meet with his senior national security team to evaluate the war’s progress. It’s virtually certain that Obama’s year-end review will result in no change of policy, no course corrections, and a commitment to remain engaged in combat until 2014 and beyond.

That’s not because Obama’s strategy is working.

By all accounts – except the US military’s overly optimistic reports – that progress is nil. After tripling the level of American forces in a year and launching offensives in Helmand and Kandahar, the Taliban insurgency continues to grow, spreading from its southern stronghold and the areas east of Kabul into Afghanistan’s previously calm northern provinces.Kabul is surrounded to the east, south and west by Taliban-controlled areas, and the insurgents can strike the capital itself with gunmen and suicide bombers at will. The Afghan government has little or no influence over provincial and district administrations anywhere in the country, and the Afghan National Army is unable to operate except as a cosmetic accompaniment to the United States and NATO.

The government put in place by President Bush and supported by President Obama has little to no control over the vast country.  The Taliban is now in control of an estimated 40-50% of the country and they are well-funded through their role in hashish and opium production and distribution estimated to raise nearly half a billion dollars each year.

We’re fighting the war in much the same way the Red Army did, we attempt to control the urban centers while allowing insurgents and Taliban to control the rural areas where 80% of the population lives.  We’re simply not a military built for this type of warfare.

As Bob Woodward noted in his book, “Obama’s Wars”, Richard Holbrooke gave President Obama some stark advice, “The surge won’t work“.  It looks like the late Ambassador may have been right.  So, the question becomes when does this end?  How does it end?  Who has the courage to end it?

The president’s decisions are primarily based on domestic political calculations. The sweeping defeat suffered by Obama’s Democratic party at the polls in November greatly increased the power and influence of hawks in the Republican party in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives, where ultra-conservatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Buck McKeon of California will take over the foreign affairs committee and the armed services committee, respectively. Both are bitterly opposed to the July 2011 drawdown, and they’ve signalled their intention to form a political alliance with the uniformed military, including Petraeus, to quash it.

It’s time to reset the equation, look for different strategies and lay out definitive measurements for “success”.  Else, we’ll spend the next several years with Generals moving the goalposts and asking for more time.

Radicalizing a Generation

26 Oct

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, noting the 10th anniversary of the fall of Slobodan Milosevic and the 15th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, meeting with Serb President Boris Tadic, and holding a townhall meeting with Bosnian students in Sarajevo. Clinton wanted to send a message of openness and outreach, pushing Bosnia to join the EU and NATO, and further meld with Europe. The message she got in return, however, was different. Bosnian students fear for the fractured nature of their state, as the new head of Republika Srpska (the Serbian piece of Bosnia) calls his larger state “absurd,” and ethnic tensions, never eradicated, are growing again. Meanwhile, a generation is growing up in Serbia removed from the larger world, and resenting it more with each year. The impetus for the next war is sown in the treatment of the losing side in the previous. A pariah nation for over fifteen years, young Serbians know no other world than an isolated one. Mein Kampf was written in such circumstances, and in Europe, the West is (should be) working hard to avoid that fate a second time.

Not so in other parts of the world. When, as part of my paying job, I teach Counter-Insurgency Theory to the US Army as a government contractor, I like to find the youngest member of the class and ask them what they were doing on 9/11. A typical response: sitting in math class in fifth grade. Meanwhile, another eleven year old may have been starving in Kabul due to food shortages in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Or attending a madrassa in Pakistan where the only reading they were allowed to do was from the Koran. Or running AK-47 magazines to their older cousin, fighting the Northern Alliance near Mazar-i-Sharif. Whatever the history, now those two people will meet, in the Hindu Kush: the fifth grader in math class in Dallas, Texas and the Koran student from Pakistan. And while the American has been spending his time playing XBox, sneaking beers behind the high school football stadium and worrying about the senior prom, that Afghani or Pakistani eleven year old has endured nothing but war for nine years. 

Image courtesy The Boston Globe

A generation can not grow up under constant threat, or isolated from and punished by the larger world, and not become radicalized, ideologically and/or violently. The only way to do the least long term damage to a country’s people is to minimize the amount of time killing, and maximize the amount of time healing and rebuilding. Note the failure of three successive administrations to do that in Afghanistan.

Eastern Afghanistan has been the subject of American attacks since August 1998. Very soon after the ground invasion in October of 2001, the American government and military prided itself on having learned the lessons of the Soviet experience: small footprint, pinpointed attacks, small amount of collateral damage. 90% of any success we had in that war we had in the first 90 days, with the Taliban routed and Al Qaeda demoralized and ostracized as “camels” by the Afghan people. Since the Spring of 2002, however, we have steadily undone that success with each subsequent action we take to consolidate gains. Now we look at Afghanistan through an intellectual fun house mirror: success will be measured by adding additional troops, for a specific (longer) period of time, to accomplish an undetermined goal. At that point, in 2011 or 2012, prior to the American Presidential election and after a longer occupation than the Soviets implemented in the 1980’s, we will leave the same way our Russian counterparts did: after a declaration of victory, in our wake will remain an unpopular, feckless, puppet government, a radicalized generation, and the seeds for the next conflict. The mythos is complete; substitute Predators and Reapers as our Hind helicopters, and IEDs from Iran and Iraq for our Stinger missiles.

President Obama is fighting for the midterm elections, fighting to reintroduce his healthcare legislation, and fighting Republicans on income taxes, but he is not fighting the Afghan War with any regularity, public interest, or discernable strategic end state in mind. A new report on war is not positive, to put it mildly. If I may be so bold, the President has taken his eye off the ball.

Warned of the threat of Al Qaeda, and in an effort to distract from the Monica Lewinski scandal, President Clinton thought a couple cruise missiles would fix both his Afghanistan problem and political troubles. Representing an angry nation, President Bush came closest to a reasonably short and decisive end state, but frittered it away in a Wall Street Bank-esque attempt to leverage his gains. President Obama won an election on opposition to one war, but with few plans for this one, he spent his political capital elsewhere. President Obama is now down to a strategy of drones and timelines, and is relying on voter apathy for ultimate political success. Obama’s policy is as ineffectual as Clinton’s, but the constant harassment is fertilizing the seed of retaliatory violence in an already radicalized generation.

The differences between Afghanistan and Bosnia are a matter of scale, not of type. What lesson is Bosnia and Serbia reteaching? You can’t marginalize and isolate the youth of a nation for the sum of its upbringing. The consequences of President Clinton’s decisions are still echoing in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and History, that elusive author, is not done writing the story of his interventions. Serbia now has a lost generation, and we’re still dropping bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 13 years later.

Buying Central Asia

29 Jul

The Wikileaks document dump has caused consternation throughout the federal government for revealing previous “secrets.” What the documents prove as a collective, however, is not at all a secret: what a confusing place Afghanistan is, especially to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the ground actually fighting the war.

Such confusion should cause rational observers to occasionally ask the most basic of questions: how did we get to this point, and why are we still there? All too often, such discussion uses as background and perspective only the last national election and the previous month’s worth of news article and Woodward-esque books. Even the exhaustive and exhausting policy review conducted by President Obama used as a starting point the campaign slogan that Bush took his “eye off the ball” of Afghanistan, without ever asking what the ball was.

Sometimes new ideas for looking at an old problem come from the strangest places. Enter former Secretary of States Madeleine Albright and George Schultz, who recently spoke at a forum at the Commonwealth Club in California. Reagan dinosaur Schultz had the freshest ideas on the Middle East, by reflecting on a very basic truth: our goals in the Middle East and Central Asia have been met with they have coincided with the goals of the local people we have partnered with. They fail when they don’t.

Allow me a quick rehash of the last ten years. We invade Afghanistan in October of 2001, and in the space of two months, have routed the Taliban and killed a large portion of the Al Qaeda leadership, though we missed the biggest fish. In the next two years, additional leadership in Pakistan is captured, Libya gives up its chemical, biological and nuke programs, Iran starts to make nice again, and the Phillipines begin an eradication of Abu Sayyaf. Over the next several years, as we get mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, Indonesia roots out Jemaah Islamiyah after the Bali bombings, and Saudi Arabia does such a good job cleaning up Al Qaeda on its own soil that the local franchised AQ outfit changes its name to the more inclusive “Al Qaeda of the Arabian Penninsula,” reflecting the fact that it has been reduced to a single enclave in Yemen. 

Those successes are obviously in contrast to our failures with Iraq, Iran and (since 2002) Afghanistan. Schultz believes the difference is the mirroring of our goals. The Northern Alliance wanted the Taliban gone, and we helped them. Pakistan did not want to be invaded by the United States, and helped us nab KSM, etc immediately. Libya likewise saw the writing on the wall, and thought it safer to cough up its secret programs on its own. Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and the Phillipines saw a genuine internal threat, and snuffed it out (and we didn’t ask them how). 

We have since failed because it is no longer in Pakistan’s interest to avoid our wrath (that they know is not coming), Iran sees it can act without significant consequence (see: War, Lebanon, 2006), and, most importantly, forming a secular democratic government was never a goal of the Iraqi or Afghan people. With all this in mind, allow me the following revisionist history for discussion:

The failure of the Bush Presidency since 2003 was not misinvading (to coin a Bushism) Iraq, lying to the American people about WMDs, poor reconstruction planning, or taking any eyes off any balls in Afghanistan. The failure of the Bush Administration was buying into the Friedman-coined and Secretary Colin Powell-implemented Pottery Barn Policy.

The “You Break It You Bought It” philosophy has poisoned policy debate by being an unexamined assumption, a starting condition, for every military action, planned or conducted, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is ironic that Secretary Powell would have espoused it when his greatest military success in uniform, the First Gulf War (when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs), was conducted in an opposite manner by the first President Bush.

The Pottery Barn policy indicates that when you defeat a country, you are responsible for its reconstruction, reform, remaking, and rebirth. The removal of a dictator necessitates the building of a pluralistic democratic government, not only where none has ever existed, but where one may not be wanted. The Pottery Barn policy has been espoused by nation builders on the Left and American Exceptionalist democracy spreaders on the Right. It is equal opportunity failure, and has not only mired us in Iraq, but confused the far more complicated Afghanistan and limited all talk on Iran to a false dichotomy of Economic Sanctions or Bush Nation Building War #3 choices. Former Secretary Schultz noted that in the 1980’s, when Iran was plugging up shipping in the Persian Gulf and attacking Kuwaiti boats, the US Navy captured an Iranian ship, sank it, detained its sailors, and told the Iranians to knock it off, with great success. The unspoken and unacknowledged infestation of the Pottery Barn rule into all our current policy debate ensures such options are never brought to the table for consideration, much less taken. Despite Powell’s well publicized complaints that he was not listened to within the administration at the time, he appears to have had the longer lasting policy impact. Exhibit #1: Obama’s current unimaginative Afghanistan policy.

Wikileaks and The Afghanistan War Logs

26 Jul

Later tonight or tomorrow, I’ll delve into the Wikileaks story about the war in Afghanistan and what I think it means for our national foreign policy and its impact on journalism.  In the meantime, I wanted to post a link to it here and ask that you read through the mountain of information released.  It’s stunning in its breadth, depth and import.

The data need context in order for it to be valuable to most casual observers of government, military affairs and foreign policy, but the raw information is fairly easy to consume.

How to read the Afghanistan War Logs:

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Wikileaks Homepage

Guardian (UK) Wikileaks Page

New York Times Wikileaks Page

Jay Rosen of NYU’s School of Journalism on why it’s important for journalism and some meta information

Julian Assange (Wikileaks) speaks about the Afghan War Logs:

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Julian Assange at TED Conference, discussing why Wikileaks is important

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Obama’s Military Problem

23 Jun

General McChrystal, one of the country’s best military minds, has been fired for having a (at best) nonpolitical or (at worst) judgment-poor one. In his place enters demoted General Petraeus, who leaves his coveted Central Command post to pull another President’s ass out of the fire. The savior of the Bush Iraq legacy is now janitor to the Obama Afghanistan policy.

In his speech today, President Obama called for unity. But one major casualty of a long, drawn out, public airing of grievances when formulating war strategy is exactly that. At the end of the day, the military always must salute smartly to civilian leadership; it is a key strength of our country that our military always does so. McChrystal was way off base (though not a breaker of the Code of Conduct, as Obama mentioned), and needed to be sacked. But just because General McChrystal was wrong on tact and judgment does not make him wrong on facts. Obama has an Afghanistan problem, and a military problem, and today made neither better.

McChrystal’s key complaint, or revelation if you will, is that the Obama administration is fragmented, out of touch, and unsupportive. How could be anything but? Despite Obama’s complaint that the Bush administration took its eye off the ball on Afghanistan, he clearly is more consumed by Healthcare, the Economy, the BP Oil Spill, and even Immigration than the war. The meeting McChrystal was kicked out of was the monthly Afghanistan War meeting that the President attends. Obama has visited Afghanistan once since announcing his Surge. The administration is thinking about other priorities, and even on Afghanistan, does not speak with one voice. Despite a career as a lawyer and Senator, Vice President Biden fancies himself a strategic mastermind, and was publicly at odds with the military before, during, and after the Surge decision was made. His Stand-Back-and-Shoot-Missiles-At-Them approach didn’t work during the Clinton years, and makes as many terrorists as it kills now in Pakistan. Media savvy Ambassador Eikenberry publicly undermined and outmaneuvered McChrystal, who know where Holbrooke and Jim Jones are, and the Secretary of State is concentrating on other areas of the world. The War in Afghanistan is not even the number one foreign policy issue, much less a priority of the President’s. If McChrystal feels alone and abandoned, do you blame him? 

Chris Smith laid out this morning that McChrystal gave a giant middle finger to the country as a whole, and was a torturer to boot. This is as ludicrous as it is off base. As that Esquire article points out, and those in the “black” or “grey” worlds know, no one has any idea who works for which agency, once the operations begin. That McChrystal was any more involved in the spectrum from interrogations to torture is conjecture at best and libel at worst. But even if he was the Chief Water Dripper, was he not following the leadership of the civilian authority, as “Cheney’s man” (Chris’ mocking title), what we’re mad he didn’t do now? And don’t tell me that officers have to only follow “lawful orders;” the jury is still out on the legality of any of those actions (note the Obama administration’s continued use of Gitmo and rendition). And finally, if McChrystal is such a heinous Cheney torturista, why did Obama hire him in the first place? In the end, the buck stops with the Obama administration’s failed procedural and bureaucratic approach. I say it all the time, but at the end of the day. Americans do not want large or small government – they want competent government. The Bush administration screwed up the Iraq War from the start, and was killed for it. Should we not have learned something, and not make the same mistakes?

Which leads to Obama’s larger military problem. McChrystal was very popular with the troops, and while Petraeus is generally regarded as a rock star, most soldiers aren’t happy when their popular leader is let go for simply “speaking the truth” about a war they are frustrated with. If a President popular with the military were taking the action, it would go over better. Nuke dropping Truman could fire MacArthur. But the military, demographically, is not Obama’s base. As military bases closed throughout the Northeast and Midwest, Blue States lost their personal connection to the armed forces, and fewer sons and daughters joined. The military has consolidated its large posts in Texas, the Southwest, and Southeast: Red America. And while the South has always had a proud military service tradition, drafts and recruiting have previously kept the map balanced. No longer. The military will always follow orders, but when an unpopular Commander-in-Chief lowers already poor morale, it makes the administration’s already tough job only harder.

Did Obama have any choice but to fire McChrystal? Probably not. But now that we’re here, how does he get the unity of effort he desires? And will Eikenberry and Biden get private dressings down for setting up for failure the President’s general of choice?

Bad News Rundown

23 Jun

Monday was a steady stream of bad news for smart people.  I ended the day wondering what the hell happened, let’s review.

1.) General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of all US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan, essentially told the President, Congress and the American People to eat a big bag of shit.  McChrystal was a Cheney man, a noted overseer of torture and general Special Ops badass who was put in charge to kick ass and center the troops around a mission of “winning” in Afghanistan and doing it in a hurry.  He has been political trouble for Obama from jump street, but Obama has stood by him and now that we’re at a critical juncture in the counter-insurgency, McChrystal decided to essentially motherfuck everyone in the chain of command.  The Republicans will trip all over themselves to set the discussion agenda tomorrow and turn this into a test of Obama’s failed leadership or other such meme.  Good times.  Also, anyone curious as to why this General (who is evidently widely known for this sort of behavior) received a pass on it from the Defense Department beat reporters?  It took a freelancer to get the story, primarily because he wasn’t worried about losing his “sources”.   Sad state of journalism in this country…

2.) The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, reduced the First Amendment rights of American Citizens.  This was the first SCOTUS test of free speech against new national security standards (Patriot Act, etc.)

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law that makes it a crime to provide “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations, even if the help takes the form of training for peacefully resolving conflicts.

The case arose after an American human rights group, the Humanitarian Law Project, challenged the law prohibiting “material support” to terror groups, which was defined in the 2001 Patriot Act to include “expert advice or assistance.” The law project wanted to provide advice to two terrorist groups on how to peacefully resolve their disputes and work with the United Nations. The two groups — the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — have violent histories and their presence on the State Department’s official list of terrorist groups is not in dispute.

But though the law project was actually trying to reduce the violence of the two groups, the court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. on behalf of five other justices, said that did not matter and ruled the project’s efforts illegal. Even peaceful assistance to a terror group can further terrorism, the chief justice wrote, in part by lending them legitimacy and allowing them to pretend to be negotiating while plotting violence.

In a powerful dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer, also speaking for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, swept away those arguments. If providing legitimacy to a terror group was really a crime, he wrote, then it should also be a crime to independently legitimize a terror group through speech, which it is not. Never before, he said, had the court criminalized a form of speech on these kinds of grounds, noting with particular derision the notion that peaceful assistance buys negotiating time for an opponent to achieve bad ends.

3.) A federal judge overturned President Obama’s six month moratorium on deep water oil drilling.

The judge in New Orleans who struck down the moratorium earlier in the day complained there wasn’t enough justification for it.

I guess the oil needs to be lapping at the courthouse door for him to see the “evidence”.  Of course, the judge does have significant investments in deepwater drilling companies, although I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

4.) Our “financial reform bill” that will supposedly “place tough regulations” (hack,cough) on Wall Street companies is being weakened yet again by Republicans and investment bank friendly Democrats in conference committee.

Levin and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), are the principal authors of legislation to strictly limit banks’ and other financial firms’ ability to make speculative trades with their profits. The idea originated with former Fed chair and Obama economic adviser Paul Volcker, who strongly backs the Levin-Merkley proposal. But they’re fighting Wall Street and an array of Democrats negotiating the final bill, who want to include a loophole that would allow banks to invest a potentially significant share of their capital in high-risk hedge funds. Levin and others are pushing back, but their time is limited: the conference committee will discuss the Volcker rule and the banks’ new favorite loophole tomorrow.

5.) Why do you think BP caved so easily on the idea of putting together a $20BN escrow fund to compensate the victims of their oil disaster?  I think the answer is in the last two paragraphs of this story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

6.) This is what a failed democracy looks like.

The Wall Street Journal just reported that the Federal Communications Commission is holding “closed-door meetings” with industry to broker a deal on Net Neutrality — the rule that lets users determine their own Internet experience.

The meetings include a small group of industry lobbyists representing the likes of AT&T, Verizon, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and Google. They reportedly met for two-and-a-half hours on Monday morning and will convene another meeting today. The goal according to insiders is to “reach consensus” on rules of the road for the Internet.

This is what a failed democracy looks like: After years of avid public support for Net Neutrality – involving millions of people from across the political spectrum – the federal regulator quietly huddles with industry lobbyists to eliminate basic protections and serve Wall Street’s bottom line.

We need open debate and transparent policymaking, unfortunately, we live in a corporatist state dominated by lobbyist influence.  We get the results out of the system that we plan for.

To end on a positive note, Carl Sagan always makes me feel better.  The Pale Blue Dot…

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McChrystal Unplugged

23 Jun

HT Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Along the Kabul Gorge

8 Feb

While the Times doesn’t have the Paterson kitten-drowning story yet, it does have this cool piece about a mountain pass in Afghanistan. Happy Motoring!