Going from bad to worse? It seems that tragedy is turning into farce. Pakistan should do something quickly to help the US before the US loses the war (see below). Pakistan’s rational and far-sighted response may now be America’s best hope!
FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan (AP) — It is a conversation, the military surgeon says, that every U.S. Marine has with his corpsman, the buddy who is first to treat him if he is wounded by an insurgent's bomb.
The Marine says, "'If I lose my manhood, then I don't want to live through it,'" according to Navy Lt. Richard Whitehead, surgeon for 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is fighting in one of the most treacherous combat areas of Afghanistan.
"They ask us not to save them if their 'junk' gets blown off," said Whitehead, using a slang term for genitals. "Usually, we laugh. We joke with them about it. At the same time, you know that you're going to treat them anyway."
This is a world of fear, resolve and dark humor that is mostly hidden from accounts of the human cost of the war in Afghanistan. American troops who patrol on foot in bomb-laced areas know they might lose a leg, or two, if they step in the wrong place. But for young men in their prime, most unmarried and without children, the prospect of losing their sexual organs seems even worse.
Whitehead said: "It's one of the areas we can't put a tourniquet on."
Yes, a bit of dark humor would be in order to cope with the nervousness associated with such an eventuality. But there is nothing funny about young soldiers experiencing the gut wrenching and natural fear of a truncated life. After all, it is the young who always fight old men's wars. Life, for a man in his twenties may be less important than the pursuit of happiness.
As a child growing up after India's partition, Kashmir to me was always a part of India. Only in middle school did I begin to realize that it was considered "disputed territory" by much of the world, the sentiment being especially fierce in neighboring Pakistan. The map of India that we studied in school showed Indian Kashmir as a larger territory than what was actually under Indian control. Parts of it in the north and the west were in reality, within China and Pakistan. The scenic northernmost state, a popular destination for summer tourism and the backdrop of many a puerile romantic song & dance number of made-in-Bombay movies, was not a very urgent topic of discussion for the general Indian public. Kashmir for most Indians, evoked benign, pretty images of apple, apricot and walnut orchards, chinar trees, shimmering lakes, snow capped mountains, houseboats, fine pashmina shawls, lacquered papier mache ornaments and the valley's light skinned aloof inhabitants.
Later in my teen years I began to understand that Kashmir was not the placid paradise we had imagined as children. Its politics were complicated and its population sharply divided on the state's rightful status - part of India, part of Pakistan or a wholly independent/ autonomous entity. The difference of opinion fell across religious lines. Kashmiri Hindus wished to remain with India and the majority Muslim population of the state did not. Even then, things were mostly quiet and free of turmoil. There were quite a few Kashmiri students in my school. Many had ancestral homes and relatives in Kashmir and they visited there regularly during summer breaks. Those friends were all Hindus. Come to think of it, I did not know a single Kashmiri Muslim on a personal level until I was in college. There were Muslim traders and merchants who came down to major Indian cities bearing expensive and much coveted Kashmiri merchandise such as saffron, dried fruit, nuts and embroidered woollens, but they did not reside in the plains permanently and their children did not attend our schools. The first Kashmiri Muslim I came to know well was Agha Shahid Ali, a graduate student a few years ahead of me in Delhi University who later became a lecturer of English at my college as also a poet of some renown. It was Ali who first revealed to me that most Kashmiri Muslims did not identify themselves as Indians and many felt a greater emotional and cultural allegiance with Pakistan. An equal number wanted an autonomous state with a very loose federation with India for economic reasons. The Indian government spent large sums of money to subsidize the state's economy and prohibited non-Kashmiris from buying land there while also meddling in local politics. Kashmiris became increasingly suspicious of the central government's motives and the rift with India widened both politically and culturally.
Despite tensions and uncertainties, Kashmir never experienced the sectarian violence that had racked the eastern and western wings of India around partition time. Even when India and Pakistan fought several wars over their disagreement surrounding the region, Kashmir itself remained relatively free of communal strife for many decades after India's independence. The uneasy calm ended in the late 1980s and early '90s when the Kashmir valley became a battle ground for armed insurgents trained in Pakistan and the Indian military forces. The conflict caused a communal rift among long time residents and resulted in a mass exodus (some say expulsion) of Kashmiri Hindus from their homes. Those tensions remain to this day laced with bitterness on both sides.
I had never visited Kashmir when I lived in India. By the time the political upheaval unfolded in the 1990s, I had already left and had been living abroad for a decade. Kashmir's troubles and deteriorating political situation were not something I paid close attention to until the Kargil War erupted in 1999. It became clear then that Kashmir had become an intractable problem for India. I am still not sure how I feel about the situation. What can India gain by holding on to a territory whose residents do not want to be a part of India? Can India protect regions like Ladakh and Jammu in the vicinity which identify firmly with the rest of India? What would happen if India does decide to vacate the valley and stops spending money to placate the population and maintain the large presence of its armed forces? Would Kashmir valley remain "independent" or will some other country like China or Pakistan march in and establish control even closer to other Indian states? How does one balance the interests of Kashmiris and the rest of India? Is peace ever possible when the citizenry perceives the government as an "occupying force?" Most confusing of all, will Kashmiri Hindus be permitted go back to the homes they abandoned out of fear and panic? And even if it was possible, would they ever want to return to a place that had cut all ties to India?
I visited Kashmir last month for the first time. The experience was charming and depressing at the same time. A beautiful but somewhat sad place, the political and emotional tensions there are palpable even though the awful and frequent violence has abated. The native population of Kashmir is now almost 100% Muslim, the Kashmiri Pandits having departed from the valley. The tourists are mostly non-Muslim Indians (foreign tourism in the politically unstable region has evaporated) as are the members of the very large contingent of Indian armed forces whose presence is ubiquitous and certainly unnerving for local Kashmiris.
I will not describe here the impressions of Kashmir that were gleaned from what I saw and heard. I discussed that a bit in a comments thread over at 3 Quarks Daily. Instead please see below the fold, some of the photos we took during our trip and click to enlarge the images.
(For how Kashmiris themselves feel, see a Muslim man's perspective here and the plight of the Hindu refugees here.)
The remembrance would have been uncomplicated and even calming if we could just recall and mourn the horrific events of the tragic Tuesday exactly ten years ago. But as we well know, the aftermath of the terror that struck at the heart of our collective psyche did not stop at righteous anger, sorrow, reflection, or a thoughtful response to the mindless violence that was wreaked upon thousands of innocent citizens, their families and the entire nation.
September 11, 2001 began as a quiet normal day for me in faraway Texas. My husband left for work earlier than usual, around 7:45 that morning. I sat with a cup of tea at the breakfast table reading the newspaper. Around 8am, my husband called from his car asking me to turn the TV on. He did not say why. I switched on the TV to CNN and saw a tall tower burning and smoking. Within a couple of minutes, I saw a second explosion "behind" the same tower but did not realize that it was a new explosion in a "different" tower which was obscured from view by the first structure. I don't recall whether I even saw the plane flying into the second tower when I was watching the scene in real time. Later of course, during numerous replays, I noticed the plane... again and again.
Soon afterwards, friends began calling. My aunt called from Florida and my sister from New Delhi. Everyone was shaken and stunned. Around mid-morning, I got an agitated call from my daughter in Connecticut. She asked me not to go out of the house and if I did, not to wear Indian clothing. She also suggested that her father should shave off his beard. Later in the afternoon a friend who worked at the local high school phoned me and said that all Muslim students had been taken out of the school early that day by their parents. Even in my confusion, anger and befuddlement I realized that we had the option to respond to the horror of that day with responsible and controlled measures or with misguided fury and/or manipulative power play. We know now which path our elected leaders chose and we are still paying the price.
P.S. I did go out to run some errands on September 11, 2001. Despite my daughter's warning I went out in Salwar-Kameez although trousers and t-shirts are usually my garments of choice on such occasions. And, my husband never considered shaving his professorial beard. I don't think we were being particularly brave or making a defiant point. It just felt so silly to succumb to fear and paranoia about something that is a natural part of how we look and behave.
Those who are nostalgic for the unfulfilled promises of the good ole days of Bush-Cheney, must be salivating over the candidacy of Texas governor Rick "Goodhair" Perry. While George W.Bush and Perry have some outwardly common traits and backgrounds - faux cowboy swagger, multi-term governors of Texas, death penalty enthusiasts, tendency to shoot from the mouth about things they don't know, darlings of the right wing etc., the two are not very similar human beings. Also their early enablers, sponsors and handlers belong to somewhat different classes of power-brokers although Bush later became a puppet in the hands of the same kind of people who made Perry. While the far right loved Bush, he did not rise from their ranks. He was an outsider who played their game most of the time but did not always consult them to write his playbook during his early years as a politician. Perry on the other hand, is a local boy and a carefully cultivated product of the far right fundamentalist Christian camp of Texas politics. He is far more insidious, ignorant, corrupt and indebted to his benefactors than Bush was during his pre-White House years. In fact, Perry's mean hearted antics as governor, makes Bush's tenure in Texas look like a fairly decent and compassionate period.
Here are two articles that describe Perry's revival tent preacher style politics and the troubling secrecy with which he has operated during his long stint as the governor of Texas.
Talk about a perfect-storm, composite candidate. Combine Elmer Gantry’s nose for converts, Ronald Reagan’s folksy confidence and Sarah Palin’s disdain for the elites — and that dog hunts.
Perry doesn’t just believe, he evangelizes. He summons prayer meetings. He reads scripture while callers are on hold. Not incidentally, he’s a successful governor. Perhaps most important, he’s a wall-scaling fundraiser whose instincts make him a force of nature in the political landscape...
If we are descended of some blend of apes, then we can’t have been created in God’s image. If we establish Earth’s age at 4.5 billion years, then we contradict the biblical view that God created the world just 6,500 years ago. And finally, if we say that climate change is partly the result of man’s actions, then God can’t be the One who punishes man’s sins with floods, droughts, earthquakes and hurricanes. If He wants the climate to change, then He will so ordain, and we’ll pray more.
Perry knows he has to make clear that God is his wingman. And this conviction seems not only to be sincere, but also to be relatively noncontroversial in the GOP’s church — and perhaps beyond. He understands that his base cares more that the president is clear on his ranking in the planetary order than whether he can schmooze with European leaders or, heaven forbid, the media. And this is why Perry could easily steal the nomination from Romney.
When then-Gov. George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, his office released a treasure trove of information relating to his years as Texas’ chief executive.
Some 3,125 pages detailing Bush’s appointments during 1995-1998 allowed news organizations to remark on the exact number of lobbyists and campaign donors with whom he met. The records showed which state lawmakers Bush conferred with – and on what subject – and detailed how much time he spent reviewing capital punishment cases prior to executions. The records showed when he arrived at the office, when he took time off for the gym and when he went home. In short, the documents provided a portrait of the leadership style of a candidate for president of the United States.
Now, as Gov. Rick Perryembarks on a presidential campaign, it is unlikely the public will access records that provide many revealing details about his decade-long tenure as governor. While Perry extols open government – most recently challenging Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to “open the books” of the nation’s central bank – he has adopted policies that shroud his own office in a purposeful opaqueness that confounds prying reporters – or any member of the public questioning his policies.
He has been governor longer than anyone in Texas history, but there is a lot the public does not know about Rick Perry. Where does he go each day, and with whom does he talk? What is discussed when he meets with top state agency executives? How does he evaluate a clemency request from a death row inmate? Or an application for a grant from his Emerging Technology Fund? What opinions are expressed to him through email and how does he respond?
Missed legal deadlines
Those are just some of the questions left largely unanswered by Perry’s decisions to bar the public from viewing details of his travel, his daily schedule and most of his emails.
Over the past decade, the Perry administration has withheld information in response to some 100 open-records requests, instead seeking review by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. In two cases in the past year, Perry’s office acknowledged it failed to meet legal deadlines for responding to the requests, or otherwise delayed in violation of well-established procedures outlined in the Texas Public Information Act.
Most of the withheld documents involved contracts, bidding and oversight of programs in which state money flows to entrepreneurs, privately held companies and universities from Perry’s two economic development funds, the Emerging Technology Fund and the Texas Enterprise Fund. In some cases, the requests involve entities headed by Perry campaign donors and political appointees. Perry also chose to withhold information when third parties complained they would release proprietary information or violate trade secrets.
I don't know which quality bodes more ill if a man like Perry were to become the president of America. Perhaps his college transcript was an early and accurate indicator of the danger that an ignoramus Perry leadership spells for the nation.
I'm thinking of taking a train into NYC on Sunday, 9/11/2011. I won't get anywhere near Ground Zero to see the commemorative ceremonies, and certainly not be able to approach the Memorial. I was there over a year ago. The site was cleaned up and looked like one of those old movie sets for filming a story about building the Great Pyramid with ramps descending into a cavernous foundation.
Imagine Cecil B. DeMille's stage directors placing heavy blocks to be moved up and down the ramp. Hundreds of extras are dispersed around the set. Scaffolding, ropes, cranes, shovels, wheel barrows, and hammers are specs of stage props in a huge open air theatre.
I'm hoping to see, for the first time, a materialization from the ashes of obliterated people and structures. I would really like to see a rejuvenation of pride and confidence in New Yorkers and in everyone. I'm still wondering if I'll feel that way. I think that's the real reason I want to go to Ground Zero - why I want to place myself midst the others who will make the pilgrimage and pay their respects.
I was there when the Twin Towers were going up. I followed news stories of the progress, and interesting copy on the engineering and construction of these monoliths. Critics went up one side and down the other of the edifices and the architechs. To hell with the critics, I loved the Twin Towers from the beginning. I don't know how many times I was at Windows on the World having a drink or something to eat. The view of the East River was my favorite. You could see the FDR Drive, the jigsaw puzzle of Federal, City, and State buildings, the BMW bridges (Oh, yeah!), and the reflected sunset from the West, courtesy of the people of New Jersey.
Today, as then, my favorite view of Manhattan is from Queens, driving on the highway leading to the Queens-Midtown tunnel. It was breath taking for me, and for anyone I took on a visit to New York City. I am not being sentimental when I say that, for me, I grieve when I see that monstrous vacuum in the skyline at the southern tip of Manhattan. If I didn't have to attend to driving, I would pull over and sit and look, as I would at the graveside of a friend or family. There is a big hole in the sky, and it will never be the same.
By sheer accident, three of my family members who worked at the WTC survived the horror: My cousin received a last minute change in assignment from his supervisor; My son-in-law was late for a Path train from New Jersey into lower Manhattan; my daughter's father-in-law had a scheduled off-site meeting. I and my family were lucky and we are very grateful.
Three-thousand human beings perished; family and friends by the tens of thousands were grieving; our country, and most of the world, were in shock. Now, we have many hundreds of responders who survived the first horror, but were harmed in the process of rescue, recovery, and demolition. Their families are now added to the list of collateral damage from the original devastation
I hope I can take that train into Grand Central Terminal on Sunday morning, 9/11. I think I will regret it if I don't. A Resurrection is meant for all of us.
This political cartoon by Clay Jones is one of the best I've seen. And "No," it is not an old cartoon.
"Meet Clay Jones
"Clay Jones was often sent to the principal's office as a child for making fun of his classmates. He discovered at a young age that he had a knack for poking fun at the flaws of others, and he decided later to make it a career. He went from drawing simple Crayola caricatures of his friends to full-sized comic books by the time he was in high school."
Barack Obama reminds me of Woodrow Wilson after WWI. Wilson and Obama are interesting contrasts. Wilson had a great deal to do with getting the League of Nations off the ground. The League was never really effective, but it paved the way for the United Nations. Wilson was unable to get the US Congress to ratify America's membership in the League. Why? Because he was totally unwilling to compromise with the opposition.
Obama, on the other hand, seemed totally unwilling to take the reins in his own hands and act decisively - perhaps acting unilaterally to raise the debt ceiling under the 14th Amendment. Bill Clinton advised as such. Raise the debt ceiling and let the courts catch up with him later, if they can.
Wilson was inflexible because he considered a charter and organization for peace to be a moral imperative and an inviolable principle. Obama was inflexible in wanting compromise and compelling Congress (and both parties) to take responsibility for the state of the Nation's economy. It was his honor bound duty to change the ugly stripes of the dysfunctional tiger.
The 1919 Treaty of Versailles, with the help of an enabling League of Nations, led directly to WWII and the continuation of a 130 year war that started in 1870 (Franco-Prussian) and ended in 1999 with the final disposition of the Baltic States. It rolled over Wilson as if he were not there.
The political system in Congress is rolling over Obama. It will make a political irrelevancy of the highly principled Obama just as it did to the highly principled Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson. Obama doesn't have to disown his principles. He just has to add a few, like taking names, kicking ass, taking no prisoners, and shooting the ones he has.
Wouldn't it be interesting if Obama could integrate his ideals with the master politician of a Bill Clinton and the tough as nails, Bad-ass of a Rohm Emmanuel? Well, we don't have a Lyndon Johnson any more, but we have the next best thing. Hillary Clinton. Trouble is, I do not think she is up for another shot at it.
Paul Weiner has some interesting thoughts on Barack Obama's state of mind. Read more HERE.
Having just gotten back from Across the Pond, and been visiting there, albeit in non-hotspots, while rampaging hordes managed to destroy the fragile sense of peace that hovers over the United Kingdom, it seems almost mandatory that I proffer an opinion regarding what brought them to this bind.
For a people who like to utter "That's brilliant" to just about anything they agree and assent to, it's quite evident that this recent train of incidents has left them shocked, angered and ashamed that such should still occur in this day and age.
Britain is no stranger to blackened smouldering ruins destroyed by internecine warfare, just not too many in recent years. With a social safety net and welfare system that is arguably one of the best in the world, there ought to be little that might persuade the average Brit to turn from law-abiding subject of HRM Queen Elizabeth II into rioter and looter. Yet that is precisely what happened last week. The rioters smashed into stores large and small, indulging in petty thievery and arson, while the police watched on in deliberate (or was it unwilling?) inaction.
The root cause was ostensibly the shooting of a gentleman(?) named Mark Duggan, which evoked cries of 'police brutality', and turned into an opportunity for mobs to form, well guided by the cell phones and social networks, if we are to go by the talking heads of TV and politicians ascribing blame for the lovely coordination of the attacks.
I had only free copies of the Daily Mail to read: dreck, like the US' National Enquirer, but smarter and wittier.The articles were all about 'National Shame' , "Millionaire's daughter part of rioters' mob, sob-stories by unemployed moms "I lost my apartment in one of the fires"), what I got to see in this paper was the conservative attitude towards the rioters. Article after article pushed the viewpoint that it was time for the Nanny State to feed the rioters some bitter medicine, taking away privileges ('Evict them from the tax-payer funded homes that they now enjoy', 'Dismiss those with government jobs', etc.) Other voices, mostly on TV, pleaded for a more lenient approach, advocating soul-searching. "We must address the malaise that pervades our culture, not make things worse by punishing those already alienated by the disconnect between what they see the haves enjoy in comparison with them, the have-nots."
While the Land of Milk and Honey has brought plenty to its people, it has failed to give them the sense of purpose that would deter such acts of random violence. Spectacles and grand pomp like Will and Kate's wedding cast an aura and extend the national sense of pride for only so long. While no one would wish for a calamity like the tsunami and nuclear disaster that visited Japan recently, it forced a land of Lotus-Eaters to seriously reconsider and retool their attitudes toward life, waking the dormant spirit of national unity and cooperation in face of tragedy.
For Britain, with her aging holy cows, and a new disspirited younger generation, one wonders if the worst is yet to come, or whether these recent events will have served as an effective wake-up call.
Howevr, the truth never gets in the way of agenda-pushing. Vide this paragraph by Jennifer Rubin, who happily pounced on the shootings as evidence of jihadism in her Washington Post op-ed:
"This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists. I spoke to Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute, who has been critical of proposed cuts in defense and of President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan. “There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on how we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run and, compared with what it once was, it’s become a rump organization. But as the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of al-Qaeda allies still operating. No doubt cutting the head off a snake is important; the problem is, we’re dealing with global nest of snakes.”
Once proven wrong, however spectacularly, she came up with this soggy offering:
"That the suspect here is a blond Norwegian does not support the proposition that we can rest easy with regard to the panoply of threats we face or that homeland security, intelligence and traditional military can be pruned back. To the contrary, the world remains very dangerous because very bad people will do horrendous things. There are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West.
And so it continues, all over the media. From the recent rushes to judgment in several highly publicized cases, one would think that they would have learned lessons about jumping to conclusions. Whatever happened to journalistic integrity and fair shakes?
Christians Concerned After Minorities Ministry ‘Devolved’
"Pakistan has abolished its Federal Ministry for Religious Minorities as part of a larger plan of government decentralization approved by the Parliament of Pakistan in February. The move against this specific ministry had been delayed at the urging of the Minister for Minority Affairs Shabhaz Bhatti before his assassination on March 2.
"A source in the Pakistan government said the decision to proceed with the ministry’s closing was like killing Bhatti “a second time.” According to the plan, the responsibilities of the ministry will be devolved from the federal level to the provincial level. But this source worried that in practical terms that may mean "removing from the agenda of the central government issues related to minority rights.""
Rolling Stone magazine recently had a four page article describing in some detail the craziness ("batshit," Matt Taibbi said), hypocrisy, ignorance, religious zealotry and ruthlessness of the newest GOP presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Not much is new there for those who have followed the antics of Bachmann, another sweetheart of the Tea Party wing of the Republican party.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and, as you consider the career and future presidential prospects of an incredible American phenomenon named Michele Bachmann, do one more thing. Don't laugh.
It may be the hardest thing you ever do, for Michele Bachmann is almost certainly the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics. Fans of obscure 1970s television may remember a short-lived children's show called Far Out Space Nuts, in which a pair of dimwitted NASA repairmen, one of whom is played by Bob (Gilligan) Denver, accidentally send themselves into space by pressing "launch" instead of "lunch" inside a capsule they were fixing at Cape Canaveral. This plot device roughly approximates the political and cultural mechanism that is sending Michele Bachmann hurtling in the direction of the Oval Office.
Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose her to become both an IRS attorney who would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government. She kicked off her unofficial presidential campaign in New Hampshire, by mistakenly declaring it the birthplace of the American Revolution. "It's your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world!" she gushed. "You are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard."
I said lunch, not launch! But don't laugh. Don't do it. And don't look her in the eyes; don't let her smile at you. Michele Bachmann, when she turns her head toward the cameras and brandishes her pearls and her ageless, unblemished neckline and her perfect suburban orthodontics in an attempt to reassure the unbeliever of her non-threateningness, is one of the scariest sights in the entire American cultural tableau. She's trying to look like June Cleaver, but she actually looks like the T2 skeleton posing for a passport photo. You will want to laugh, but don't, because the secret of Bachmann's success is that every time you laugh at her, she gets stronger.
And there is more. The colorful language notwithstanding, Taibbi's facts on Bachmann are mostly accurate. But the most important part of the cautionary diatribe comes at the end of the article when he warns that given the sentiments of a large part of the electorate, a Bachmann presidency is not unthinkable in the current political climate.
It could happen. Michele Bachmann has found the flaw in the American Death Star. She is a television camera's dream, a threat to do or say something insane at any time, the ultimate reality-show protagonist. She has brilliantly piloted a media system that is incapable of averting its eyes from a story, riding that attention to an easy conquest of an overeducated cultural elite from both parties that is far too full of itself to understand the price of its contemptuous laughter. All of those people out there aren't voting for Michele Bachmann. They're voting against us. And to them, it turns out, we suck enough to make anyone a contender.
The Dunning-Kruger effect has been evoked in reference to Sara Palin who has been making a fool of herself before half the nation, while at the same time dazzling the other half with her charm and down-to-earthliness since her debut on the national political theater in 2008. Taibbi rightly points out that Bachmann is a more earnest, determined and likely-to-succeed version of the Palin phenomenon.
Here's the difference between Bachmann and Palin: While Palin is clearly bored by the dreary, laborious aspects of campaigning and seems far more interested in gobbling up the ancillary benefits of reality-show celebrity, Bachmann is ruthlessly goal-oriented, a relentless worker who has the attention span to stay on message at all times. With a little imagination, you can even see a clear path for her to the nomination.
Palin may be intellectually lazy and no longer interested in being president or vice president. But her searing ambitions and love of the limelight have not dimmed. She may not wish to be the queen but I doubt that she is ready to relinquish her perceived role as the kingmaker. I don't think Palin is going to fade into the sunset just because another right wing Tea Party glam girl is the rising star, at least not before she demonstrates her adroitness with a sharp elbow. For example, Bachmann announced her presidential plans on Monday in her home state of Iowa. Coincidentally or not, Palin lands in Iowa on Tuesday ostensibly to promote her film biography. The fact that she may be there for more than a cinematic interlude is apparent from this report. Just as Palin had headed for New Hampshire on the same day as Mitt Romney (the front runner in NH) announced his candidacy there, she is following Bachmann to Iowa where the latter has just emerged as the winner of a straw poll of Iowa caucus goers and is tied with Romney among GOP voters. Get ready for Republican roller derby!
After the latest tawdry tale from our nation's capital where yet another male politician has been caught indulging in an unwholesome pastime (cyber-flashing, in this case), some are wondering whether all too often men + power equals recklessness. Not many powerful women have been embroiled in sexual scandals or exercised such poor judgment in their personal behavior as the now very long list of offending male politicians from both parties. Women are not necessarily more sexually pure than men; they just know when not to throw caution to the wind. Also, they enter politics for different reasons than most men do.
Less interestingly, I got into a long discussion on Facebook based on two articles on Anthony Weiner, one by Juan Cole and the other by Glenn Greenwald. Since I haven't taken the permission to post the other comments, I am reproducing only my side here. It is easy to fathom the actual line of backing and forthing that went on. I am separating the comments by ***, each a response to something someone else said in the thread.
Here are a few stories recently in the news that illustrate the priorities of our politicians and government agencies when it comes to spending public money.
A United Airlines flight from Washington DC to Ghana made a mid-air U-Turn because of a fist fight between two irritated and uncivil passengers. The disturbance was deemed "serious" enough for the plane to require a F-16 fighter jet escort. Before landing, the plane jettisoned $50,000 worth of fuel in order to reduce the weight of the aircraft to a landing-worthy level. We do not know how much it costs to send up an F-16 into the air.
A suicidal man drowned in San Francisco Bay over the Memorial Day weekend while police and firefighters who were summoned there stood by and watched. Fire officials claimed that recent budget cuts prevented them from attempting a "water rescue."
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey who prides himself for being a fiscally responsible politician and has suggested wide ranging pay cuts and reduction in benefits for school teachers and state employees, flew in a state helicopter to his son's baseball game. The brand new helicopter is meant to be used for medical and Homeland Security related emergencies. It costs $2,500 per hour to fly the helicopter.
WASHINGTON—State Department diplomat Nelson Milstrand, who appeared on CNN last week and offered an informed, thoughtful analysis implying that Israel could perhaps exercise more restraint toward Palestinian moderates in disputed territories, was asked to resign Tuesday. “The United States deeply regrets any harm Mr. Milstrand’s careful, even-tempered, and factually accurate remarks may have caused our democratic partner in the Middle East,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an unequivocal condemnation of the veteran foreign-service officer’s perfectly reasonable statements. “U.S. policy toward Israel continues to be one of unconditional support and fawning sycophancy.” Milstrand, 63, will reportedly appear at an AIPAC conference to offer a full apology as soon as his trial concludes and his divorce is finalized.
Granted, this is from the Onion. But it encapsulates accurately the cowardliness of US politicians in handling the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations. Although American presidents, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have made attempts to be even handed on the matter, they have done so with caution making sure that their re-election chances were not jeopardized by honesty or fairness. President Obama, emboldened perhaps by his success in eliminating Osama bin Laden, went out on a limb and called on both Israelis and Palestinians to take a serious look at creating a Palestinian state with mutually acceptable borders before his election for a second term. Whether this is a courageous move or a foohardy gamble, we will find out in a year and a half.
Even though Obama's views are almost identical to what Bush had proposed in 2008 and what Clinton had hinted at, it is being interpreted by Israel's hard line American supporters as throwing Israel under the bus and sympathetic towards Hamas. The distortions and lies come hardly as a surprise to Americans who have watched the same old theater for decades. The irony is that most Americans do want to see a Palestinian state and an end to Israeli-Palestinian hostilities. So it was especially disgusting to watch our elected representatives behave like trained circus seals who rose up and repeatedly applauded right wing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent speech to Congress. Netanyahu had no intention to come across as a negotiator for peace. His objective was incendiary and misleading demagoguery and he succeded in that with usual aplomb. The reason that this tired old rhetoric will once again not receive the scrutiny of ordinary American voters is that the never ending mid-east mess is not very high up on their priority list, despite general support for an independent Palestinian state and peace between the warring populations, as reflected in numerious polls. But our elected officials of both parties are scared to death of the AIPAC and the rapture-friendly conservative Christians and they know that they will not pay a political price for ignoring the sentiment of the majority and pandering to the reactionaries. That is why a fiercely partisan but small group of Israel supporters repeatedly get away with putting a kibosh on all serious peace negotiations. Let us see if despite Obama's steely resolve and success in getting Osama bin Laden and the Republican Mediscare, whether the right wing will be able to sink him in 2012 by wrapping the albatross of Israel-Palestine around his neck.
Here are some reactions to Obama and Netanyahu's speeches:
From the Washington post, here and here, from the BBC and from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz (this is from the reliably left wing Gideon Levy). Note the reference to the standing ovations to Netanyahu's speech.
Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post has some adult thoughts on the killing of Osama bin Laden.
It seems nearly heretical to say so, but the termination of Osama bin Laden feels oddly anti-climactic.
Now what? And how to explain the sense that nothing has changed? The boogeyman may be dead, but the boogey is still at large in the world.
How, also, to explain my own discomfort as others have expressed jubilation? ’Twas a mystery....
Whereupon the strangest thing happened. People began congregating outside the White House and cheering, celebrating the death of bin Laden. Young people, mostly, chanted “USA” and waved the flag. I wanted very much to share their joy and to feel, ah yes, solidarity in this magnificent moment, but the sentiment escaped me. Curiosity was the most I could summon. How curious that people would cheer another’s death.
Not since Dorothy landed her house on the Wicked Witch of the East have so many munchkins been so happy. My 20-something son explained ever so patiently that OBL was his generation’s Hitler and that of course he was happy. Why wasn’t I?
I don’t know. To me, the execution of bin Laden was more punctuation than poetry — a period at the end of a Faulknerian sentence. That is, too long and rather late-ish. To the 9/11 generation, if we may call it that, OBL wasn’t only the mastermind of a dastardly act; he was evil incarnate and the world wouldn’t be safe until he was eliminated.
Would that justice were so neat and evil so conveniently disposed of....
Inarguably, Osama bin Laden needed to leave this earth — and perhaps it is just that he did so by the wit, sleuth and sure aim of our bravest men. Even so, discomfort is a necessary companion to any violence we commit, even in the service of good. There is nothing to celebrate in any man’s death, and I wish this had been the sentiment telegraphed to the rest of the world rather than the loutish hoorahs of late-night revelers.
Bin Laden was an icon and a figurehead. But he was not the sole proprietor of evil. For all of human time, it seems, there will be another one willing to fill his shoes and eager to find expression in others’ suffering. Evil, after all, is a vagabond, ever on the prowl for a crack in the door.
Not to be one of those Debbie Downers who puts things in unwelcome perspective, but shouldn’t we be slightly less delighted to kill? Triumphalism might play better on the day when we no longer have to kill each other.
I think it is plausible that GHQ (General Head Quarters..the Pakistani army high command) really did NOT know where Bin Laden was hiding. But GHQ has failed to act against (or even to regard as potentially suspicious) the “good jihadis”, both within the ISI and outside it. Because of that, the ordinary Pakistani police and the average local security officer does not have to be a jihadist to fail to take note of jihadists in his area. All that is needed is that some sympathizers within the intelligence community set up such a compound and let it be known that it houses “good jihadis” and has been checked out. NO ONE else will want to look into it. Everyone knows which way their bread is buttered. As a practical matter, the “war on terror” is never going to get too far while there are good terrorists being protected, while there are sympathizers in power and while the vast psyops apparatus of GHQ is spreading disinformation that demonizes the US, Jews, Hindus ,CIA…everyone but the jihadists.
The reorientation of Pakistan away from Jihadist fantasies would be a huge task even if the army was fully on board. Its a nearly impossible job in the current scenario. Anyone can be a good jihadi today and a bad jihadi tomorrow and since no one can tell the difference too well, everyone stays out of the way. For GHQ to drop the notion of fighting their real and imaginary war with India using “good taliban” and “good jihadists” is not a side issue. It is the main issue. Unfortunately, some of the auguries are not good.
On the other hand, it may well be that this is the best GHQ can do for now. Maybe their psyops apparatus is as much outside their control as their former jihadi soldiers. Either way, its going to be a long hot summer.
Death of a Madman: What Obama does next will help define the legacy of Osama Bin Laden. (Norman Costa)
By Christopher Hitchens Posted Monday, May 2, 2011, at 10:30 AM ET
"There are several pleasant little towns like Abbottabad in Pakistan, strung out along the roads that lead toward the mountains from Rawalpindi (the garrison town of Pakistani's military brass and, until 2003, a safe-house for Khalid Sheik Muhammed). Muzaffarabad, Abbottabad … cool in summer and winter, with majestic views and discreet amenities. The colonial British—like Maj. James Abbott, who gave his name to this one— called them "hill stations," designed for the rest and recreation of commissioned officers. The charming idea, like the location itself, survives among the Pakistani officer corps. If you tell me that you are staying in a rather nice walled compound in Abbottabad, I can tell you in return that you are the honored guest of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid. It's the sheer blatancy of it that catches the breath."
Justice is an interesting word. It serves as the front man for a number
of different and sometimes incompatible concepts: revenge, retribution,
restoration, fate, fairness, equality. In everyday use it often boils
down to a sense of cosmic righteousness, a position that takes the
universe (or a god) to be a fair and neutral arbiter, an automatic karma
balancer, or, at a minimum, a provider of fate.
Since justice has so many meanings, it's not always clear what someone is
trying to express when they use the word. Making matters worse, even when
parties agree on the definition, they often disagree on the act necessary
to make it so. It's almost universally agreed, at least in the U.S.,
that justice in the case of murder has a heavy shade of retribution about
it, yet capital punishment remains contentious.
Other basic questions abound. Does justice necessarily demand only moral
actions in its name? Some of the conceptualizations seem to explicitly
disregard the morality of the action that brings about a course of
justice. Revenge has a long history with the entire spectrum moral
behavior, while restoration seems to have a specifically moral nature
about it. Let us not even dive into the disagreements of what is or is
not moral behavior. And it might be argued the other way
around, that what is moral is, by its nature, just. Of course, that doesn't rule out
those acts which are amoral or immoral.
It turns out that justice is a tricky word, its use often leading us to
believe we are dishing out universal truths while instead merely
expressing the particular dynamic of justice that fits our feelings best
in the moment. Therefore, I don't put too much emphasis on the cries that
justice has been done in the killing of Osama bin Laden. We are still in the
early hours and days after his death, and the immediate reaction is
understandable, particular from those personally affected by 9/11. His
death has all the feelings of personal revenge: we, the U.S., have been
furiously pursuing (haven't we?) bin Laden for a decade, using every means
at our disposal to find, capture or kill, and to close the book on the man
who planned the largest terrorist attack in recent American history.
But if there are several dozen things America loves, they are war, torture, genocide, chattel slavery, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, assassination, poverty, institutionalized bribery, remote-controlled flying death robots and somewhere down the list, between prison labor and lagoons of toxic pig shit, there is almost certainly a special place in our national heart for freedom.
And so it is that the United States is fighting to free the Libyan people from the Libyan people by killing the Libyan people. The situation is fairly straightforward, after all - Libya faces a humanitarian crisis, and the only way to address a humanitarian crisis is to bomb it with hundreds of cruise missiles. I'm told that the Red Cross still delivers bottled water and medical supplies by duct-taping them to the nose cone of an outgoing Tomahawk.
That's just an excerpt; click over to read the whole thing.