Saturday, July 25, 2009

Roosting Chickens

Or roasting chickens, whatever. From Bill Moyers:
MARCIA ANGELL: And I would say, on the politics first, that it is something of a Waterloo. In the sense that if he doesn't get it right he's going to be President for three more years. And the chickens will come home to roost.


MARCIA ANGELL: So-- well, it can-- the failure can show up before he's out the door. And then he's got a real problem. He was right in his press conference, when he talked about cost as the central issue. And he said, if we don't control cost, not only will the health system continue to disintegrate, but it'll drag the whole economy down with it.

What he has essentially advocated is throwing more money into the current system. He's treating the symptom and he's not treating the underlying cause of our problem. Our problem is that we spend two and a half times as much per person on health care as other advanced countries, the average of other advanced countries. And we don't get our money's worth. So, now he says, okay, this is a terribly inefficient, wasteful system. Let's throw some money into it.
But let's face facts here, with Obama, this is not a bug, it's a feature. The same 'solution' was applied to the financial crisis, which was mainly caused by the regulatory breakdown of the financial system. His solution was the same as in health care, throw more money into the current system. Ditto Afghanistan. There has been no rethinking of any of the sucking wounds that are draining the country. He is incapable of it.
(h/t corrente)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Apocolypse Now

Al Martin relates an account told by a friend about his visit to Detroit:
My friend told me that you go down the street and you see this barbed wire fence and right across the street is the border of a very wealthy area. You see all of the private security that the wealthy people have hired and the searchlights that are monitoring activity in the neighborhood. It’s similar to South America where you see the barrio or favela come right up next to a wealthy neighborhood. As foreclosures mount and government resources diminish, these Urban Wasteland Zones (UMZs) are expanding. Now these companies also hire themselves out to provide security for the remaining wealthy areas, so they have their own security patrols going up and down the street. In some cases it’s only one street that separates where the barbed wire fence stands and what they call “no man’s land” near the wealthy area.

This is evidently going on in cities all across the United States, just on a smaller and less organized scale. Now as foreclosures mount, this will become more prevalent in other cities. Detroit then is a template of what America’s future cities will look like.
Detroit is probably the most advanced of our cities on the road to ruin, but I expect that California cities, especially valley towns, will soon be catching up. The Governator has convinced the Dems that this is the wave of the future, why not try to catch it?
(h/t cryptogon)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pulp facts

EconoSpeak has another post on the ongoing environmental destruction of Australia. We had commented on an earlier post about the fires that were raging at the time there, and the total lack of reporting on the reasons for the fires.

The technique for destroying their environment is simple, and profitable for the companies involved, not to mention the politicians on their payroll:
In Tasmania and large areas of mainland Australia the process goes something like this: First the native forests, including ancient stands of World Heritage value, are bulldozed to the ground. A tiny minority of the logs are used for furniture making, boat building and suchlike. Ninety percent of the logs that are harvested, however, are used for the conversion to woochip to make paper pulp for the commercial benefit of large transnational corporations [2]. The rest of the considerable biomass, as can be seen in the above image [3], is piled up and burnt using napalm dropped from helicopters. In this process hundreds of years of forest mulch is also incinerated and the top soil turns into baked brick. Local residents often choke on the thick plumes of smoke that emit from these gigantic industrial fires.

Monoculture bluegum trees are planted to replace the biodiverse forest. The industrial fire prevents the regeneration of unwanted (non-commercial) rainforest species. In turn, repeated industrial applications of 1080 poison kill off wildlife that may pose a threat to these small newly-planted monoculture saplings used to replace native flora.

Over the following 20 year life span of the industrial plantation there may be repeated aerial sprayings of cypermethrin and/or other toxic insecticides; and this occurs despite the placement of these industrial plantations in major water catchments and within and around rural communities across the state. Cursory and unreliable testing is done in major arterial streams where chemicals will be the most diluted. It is no coincidence then, that that the Australian state with by far the most intensive 'forestry' regime has the highest human cancer rate in the nation. Toxicological studies in Tasmanian devils, the platypus and other native mammals, unsurprisingly, reveals the presence of POPs including organo-chlorines, PCBs, furans and dioxins. [4]
The only remaining question is whether global capitalism will be able to save itself long enough to finish destroying the planet. Obama, Geithner and Bernanke will undoubtedly give it their best shot.


Blog Simple would like to second Glenn Greenwald's question of why 'senior administration officials' chose to remain anonymous while briefing reporters about the six month delays in how to close Gitmo and how to try 'enemy combatants'. He also questions why the media agreed to the anonymity, but by now we should all know that our guardians in the press are never as happy as when they have information that they can withhold from us, the general public.

Being part of the 'in crowd' is something reporters like Jake Tapper (ABC), Peter Finn (WaPo) and David Johnston (NYT) require in order to separate themselves from unruly bloggers like Greenwald, who persists in asking difficult questions. Their organizations are also proud and willing to suppress information upon requests by the government, it's really part of their purpose to deliver only the 'news that's fit to print'.

But why, in this case, did the administration choose to use not just anonymous officials, but senior officials to announce nothing but a delay? They do, of course, get the benefit of paragraphs like this from the NYT:
Still, the missed deadlines seemed to underscore the gravity and complexity of the legal, political and policy problems confronting the administration as it tries to put into place new interrogation rules and figure out what to do with the detainees.
Grave and complex, mama mia, what seriousity our officials and reporters bring to their jobs. Look how important this all is, according to ABC:
The Guantanamo Executive Order called for a complete review of the detainees. For the past 6 months, once a week, a 65-person task-force -- made up of representatives from agencies like the FBI, Pentagon, the CIA, and attorneys from the Justice Department -- met on a secure floor within a secure facility to discuss the review.
A secure floor within a secure facility! Wow! What could be more secure than that? They'd have to go into a secure room on the secure floor. Then they might activate the cone of silence. And what does he mean by "like the FBI, Pentagon, the CIA...", does that mean perhaps another agency is involved, so double secure and secret that no one can say its name in public?

So I guess I've answered the question, the administration's demand for anonymity is the best way to get unthinking stenography from the press. It makes everyone involved happy. I had actually hoped that there might have been some change with the new administration in these matters. I was wrong.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Afghanistan gets two more FUs

Paul Rogers is, as usual, well worth reading as he sums up the current state of the excellent adventure in Afghanistan, and discusses how the current course of the war was decided in the now hazy aftermath of 9/11. His conclusion:
The United States and its Nato allies are now mired in Afghanistan, with little idea of how to achieve their aims. Their predicament goes far beyond the immediate circumstances of a particular summer of violence.

Indeed, it is best compared with events of the 1940s and 1950s. In 1947, Indian independence and partition marked the beginning of the end of several centuries of the colonial era; this was followed by the humiliation of the French military at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 and the British (and French) fiasco at Suez in November 1956 - only two of many more prolonged setbacks. Yet these colonial powers were then unable fully to recognise that the imperial age was ending (see "Afghanistan's Vietnam portent", 17 April 2008).

The world is now in a similar period. It is, put bluntly, no longer possible for western states to occupy countries in the middle east and southwest Asia. It is a lesson that should have been learnt by 2001: but the terrible impact of 9/11, coupled with a throwback regime in the White House - aided by its appallingly misguided British ally - meant that it was not. Eight years on, the consequences are being suffered by young British and American soldiers and (it is too often forgotten) by many thousands of Afghans.

Perhaps the lesson can now, at last, be learned. Barack Obama may be the figure to acknowledge the real nature of an epic historical shift. If he does, then his presidency may in just this one respect prove notable. If he cannot, there is a real chance that it could end in bitter failure.
Unfortunately, there is no sign that Obama, or SecDef Gates, or anyone else in the administrations has learned any lessons. Unquestioning belief in the power of bombs, no matter what the cost, makes any thought of leaving heretical.

Gates sent out conflicting signals, stating that progress 'should be made' within 2 FUs (1 FU = 6 months), while calling for more troops in the military. Gates failed to specify how one would know that there was progress. Or why, if there was progress we should need new troops, since the time it takes to integrate new forces is long.

Finally, Pakistan's operations in Swat and South Waziristan have succeeded in deflating the AfPak war in the media. Look for that to change shortly, Pakistan's still walking along the knife blade.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Thursday, July 09, 2009


This Haaretz article is disturbing, to say the least. Netanyahu has always appeared to me to be a dishonest conniving SOB, but that in no way distinguishes him from most Israeli politicians, or politicians in general. He is certainly intelligent, and seemed to have that bloody-mindedness that would keep him able to distinguish his extremist rhetoric from the true state of things.

The article could certainly be somewhat trumped up by his opponents to make him look like he was losing it. If that was it's design, it certainly succeeded:
Netanyahu appears to be suffering from confusion and paranoia. He is convinced that the media are after him, that his aides are leaking information against him and that the American administration wants him out of office. Two months after his visit to Washington, he is still finding it difficult to communication normally with the White House. To appreciate the depth of his paranoia, it is enough to hear how he refers to Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, Obama's senior aides: as "self-hating Jews."
"He thought that his speech at Bar-Ilan would become mandatory reading at schools in the United States, and when he realized that Obama gave no such order, he went back to being frustrated," one of his associates said.
It seems that even his most essential ministers are deserting the ship:
Behind closed doors, Netanyahu's coalition partners - including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman - have also expressed shock at his behavior. One senior minister told an aide that he is finding it very difficult to work with the premier. "He drives us mad," the minister said. "Every minute things change, and I am constantly busy doing maintenance on Netanyahu."
We need to recall that Bibi has his fingers on nuclear trigger, and could also push for an attack on Iran. His days may be numbered.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My, my

Friday, July 03, 2009

Oh, Moon of Alabama

The great b of Moon of Alabama is hanging up his keyboard.

Shit, show me the way to the next whisky bar.

I'm going to have to clean up my blogroll one of these days.