Posted: August 19, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, The Media SUCKS | Tags: Afghani art, Afghanistan, Lawrence O'Donnell, Timothy Kudo, Vietnam
Afghani artist Mohammad Salim Attaie
I’m really struggling to write a post this morning. I’ve been having a powerful sense of deja vu as the Afghanistan withdrawal and the media reaction to it have played out. I had a similar helpless, despairing feeling when I realized George W. Bush was going to push us into a war in Iraq that would very likely mire us in another Vietnam-type conflict and the mainstream media was going to help him.
I didn’t think we should have gone into Afghanistan, and now Bush wanted to start a completely unnecessary war in Iraq, based on obvious lies and exaggerations. Naturally, big media was thrilled and pushed hard for the war–particularly at The New York Times. Now I’m watching helplessly as the NYT and other outlets gleefully tear down Joe Biden and in the process possibly help Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022.
I don’t know if anyone here has been watching Lawrence O’Donnell this week on MSNBC, but I agree with his take on what’s happening in Afghanistan. On Tuesday night he talked about how people who weren’t even born yet when we withdrew from Vietnam are claiming that the Afghanistan situation is even worse. That’s insane. As O’Donnell said, “Everything about Vietnam was much worse than what has happened in Afghanistan.” It’s not even close.
“Here’s the link to O’Donnell’s commentary. I hope you’ll watch it if you didn’t see it already. He also argues that the Pentagon and military have no idea how to conduct a withdrawal after losing a war, and it would likely be chaotic no matter what we did to prepare. Also see this interview with marine captain Timothy Kudo, who served in Afghanistan.
Kudo wrote an op-ed for The New York Times that was published on Monday: I Was a Marine in Afghanistan. We Sacrificed Lives for a Lie. You really need to read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:
I see a report that the American Embassy will destroy its American flags to deny the Taliban a propaganda victory. I think of the star-spangled banner that flew over my old patrol base, called Habib, Arabic for “beloved.” Five men died under that flag, for what?
Moheb Sadiq, Impressionist painting of Afghani landscape
The hawks still circle and screech. The voices from the past 20 years who prodded us forward into battle return to the evening news to sell us on staying. “It’s not too late,” the former generals, secretaries and ambassadors say. “More troops can hold the line. Victory is just around the corner.”
But the speed of the Taliban’s advance makes clear that this outcome was always inevitable. The enemy had no reason to negotiate and no reputation for restraint. The only question before President Biden was how many American troops should die before it happened. But if leaving now was the right decision for America, it is a catastrophe for the Afghan people whom we have betrayed.
The Afghans are forced back into living under religious tyranny, an existence made all the more painful by their brief experience with freedom. Now they see the light from the far end of a dark tunnel. The school doors will close for girls, and the boys will return to their religious studies. For them, the arc of the moral universe will bend backward and break.
It’s my old unit, First Battalion, Eighth Marines, that is sent in to secure the airport in Kabul. I am jealous. I would give anything to return right now, to give what last full measure remains.
Yes, what is happening is unbearably tragic, but is it Joe Biden’s fault as the media “analysts” keep telling us? How can Biden, after 6 months in office, suddenly be responsible for 20 years of failures? It just makes no sense.
Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: The Media Is Helping Hawks Win the War Over Biden’s Withdrawal. This piece is critical of Biden’s Afghanistan policy, but even more critical of those who fought to extend the war for two decades and now want it to continue.
Biden’s failure of moral courage and contingency planning is this moment’s lesser scandal. The bigger one is the war that he is ending, which recent events have certified as an unmitigated disaster. Yet you might not know this from the many ostensibly objective news reports that have cast Biden’s troop withdrawal as the source of our nation’s “humiliation.”
‘Kochi’ by Afghani artist Azim Rawofi
The first 20 years of America’s occupation of Afghanistan cost, by one estimate, 241,000 lives (including 2,448 U.S. troops and 71,000 civilians) and more than $2 trillion. The Taliban’s swift triumph has made it clear just how little all those deaths and dollars bought. Anyone paying attention already knew that the U.S. had engineered a kleptocracy in Kabul. But Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee the country with $169 million in tow, even as his government was on the cusp of reaching a cease-fire agreement with the Taliban, made our client state’s depravity newly conspicuous.
Critical observers understood that the Afghan army was a paper tiger whose true ranks were far thinner than advertised and whose loyalty to the government was rooted less in patriotism than a mercenary’s interest in gainful employment. But the fact that America had invested $80 billion into training an army that was so incapable of independent action that it could not feed itself in the absence of U.S. air support — and so disenchanted with its own government that it would forfeit its capital with little fight — was not readily apparent until now.
Those who fought to extend America’s war in Afghanistan have every incentive to divert our attention from these revelations. They would like the public to miss the forest for the trees — by mistaking Biden’s tactical errors for strategic ones. The primary lesson of the past week could be that the U.S. war in Afghanistan was a catastrophe and that those who misled the public about the Afghan army’s strength deserve little input on future policy, no matter how many stars they have on their uniforms or diplomas they have on their walls. Alternatively, if news coverage focuses exhaustively on the shortcomings of Biden’s withdrawal, while largely ignoring what our client state’s abrupt collapse tells us about our two-decade-long occupation, then the lesson of Kabul’s fall could be quite favorable for Beltway hawks: Presidents shouldn’t end wars in defiance of the military brass unless they wish to become unpopular.
Artist Mohibullah Attaie (Moheb Sadiq)
Unfortunately, we are currently hurtling toward that latter outcome. In recent days, much of the mainstream media has comported itself as the Pentagon’s Pravda. Reporters have indignantly asked the White House how it could say that America doesn’t have a vital national security interest in maintaining a military presence near Tajikistan. NBC’s Richard Engel has devoted his Twitter feed to scolding Biden for suggesting that America’s nation-building project in Afghanistan was always hopeless, and that the Kabul government was “basically a failed state.” CNN’s Jim Sciutto lamented on Twitter Wednesday, “Too many times, I’ve witnessed the US military attempt to dutifully carry out difficult & dangerous missions left to them by the miscalculations of civilian leaders.” This sentiment is disconcerting in the abstract, since it seems to suggest that civilian control of the military may be unwise. But it’s even stranger in context. As we learned just two years ago, American military leaders in Kabul systematically lied to the public about how well the war against the Taliban was going, so as to insulate their preferred foreign policy from democratic contestation.
For more context and the critique of Biden, read the whole thing at New York Magazine.
This piece is by Jed Legum, Tesnim Zekeria, and Rebecca Crosby at Popular Information: Where are the anti-war voices?
Yesterday’s newsletter detailed how the media is largely overlooking voices that supported Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Instead media reports are almost exclusively highlighting criticism of the withdrawal — often from people complicit in two decades of failed policy in Afghanistan.
We have reason to believe that this is not an accident. On Wednesday, Popular Information spoke to a veteran communications professional who has been trying to place prominent voices supportive of the withdrawal on television and in print. The source said that it has been next to impossible:
“I’ve been in political media for over two decades, and I have never experienced something like this before. Not only can I not get people booked on shows, but I can’t even get TV bookers who frequently book my guests to give me a call back…
I’ve fed sources to reporters, who end up not quoting the sources, but do quote multiple voices who are critical of the president and/or put the withdrawal in a negative light.
I turn on TV and watch CNN and, frankly, a lot of MSNBC shows, and they’re presenting it as if there’s not a voice out there willing to defend the president and his decision to withdraw. But I offered those very shows those voices, and the shows purposely decided to shut them out.
In so many ways this feels like Iraq and 2003 all over again. The media has coalesced around a narrative, and any threat to that narrative needs to be shut out.”
Who is on TV? As Media Matters has documented, there are plenty of former Bush administration officials criticizing the withdrawal.
Is it really about execution?
Much of the criticism of Biden’s decision to withdraw has focused on the administration’s “execution.” The critics claim the withdrawal was poorly planned, chaotic, and unnecessarily put Americans — and their Afghan allies — in danger.
Some of these claims may be true. It’s hard to know, for example, how many people have been left behind since evacuations are ongoing. But, with a few exceptions, the criticisms of Biden’s execution are being made by people who opposed withdrawal altogether.
Click the link to read the rest.
An Afghan “war rug” at the College of New Jersey Art Gallery
I’m honestly depressed and disheartened by what is happening in the Afghanistan coverage. That’s about all I can say about it for now. Here are some other stories to check out today:
Politico: Several Hill office buildings evacuated amid ‘active bomb threat investigation’
AP: Gulf Coast’s beloved ‘Redneck Riviera’ now a virus hotspot.
The Washington Post: An Alabama doctor watched patients reject the coronavirus vaccine. Now he’s refusing to treat them.
Salon via Raw Story: The lambda variant is ominous for what it says about the future trajectory of the pandemic
Steve Inskeep at NPR: A Mission To Give Afghans Democracy Became A Bid To Repair America’s Own.
USA Today: These 16 Republicans voted against speeding up visas for Afghans fleeing the Taliban.
Defense One: Trump’s Pledge to Exit Afghanistan Was a Ruse, His Final SecDef Says.
What else is happening? As always, this is an open thread.
Posted: April 24, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: 1918 flu pandemic, anti-vaccine movement, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, India, long haul Covid-19, the flu, transmission of Covid-19, vaccines, Vietnam
By Suzanne Valadon
Things have been looking up for the U.S. now than we have a responsible, knowledgeable president with competent advisers. But we we’re still in danger as long as the worldwide pandemic rages in other countries. Right now India isin the spotlight. We also need to deal with the anti-vaxxers and the Trumpists who refuse to accept vaccines. We’re also still learning about the long-term effects of Covid-19 as well as how the disease is transmitted.
How bad is this pandemic? Maybe worse than the 2018 flu, reports The New York Times: How Covid Upended a Century of Patterns in U.S. Deaths.
A surge in deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic created the largest gap between the actual and expected death rate in 2020 — what epidemiologists call “excess deaths,” or deaths above normal.
Aside from fatalities directly attributed to Covid-19, some excess deaths last year were most likely undercounts of the virus or misdiagnoses, or indirectly related to the pandemic otherwise. Preliminary federal data show that overdose deaths have also surged during the pandemic.
A New York Times analysis of U.S. death patterns for the past century shows how much 2020 deviated from the norm….
Since the 1918 pandemic, the country’s death rate has fallen steadily. But last year, the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted that trend, in spite of a century of improvements in medicine and public health.
Marcel Dyf Jeune Fille Avec Chaton The Kitten
In the first half of the 20th century, deaths were mainly dominated by infectious diseases. As medical advancements increased life expectancy, death rates also started to smooth out in the 1950s, and the mortality rate in recent decades — driven largely by chronic diseases — had continued to decline.
In 2020, however, the United States saw the largest single-year surge in the death rate since federal statistics became available. The rate increased 16 percent from 2019, even more than the 12 percent jump during the 1918 flu pandemic….
Combined with deaths in the first few months of this year, Covid-19 has now claimed more than half a million lives in the United States. The total number of Covid-19 deaths so far is on track to surpass the toll of the 1918 pandemic, which killed an estimated 675,000 nationwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of the deaths last year can be directly attributed to Covid-19, which overtook other leading causes of death — like chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries, such as car accidents and overdose deaths — to become the third biggest killer, after heart disease and cancer.
Read the rest at the NYT.
What about the today’s flu viruses? The New York Times: The Flu Vanished During Covid. What Will Its Return Look Like?
There have been fewer influenza cases in the United States this flu season than in any on record. About 2,000 cases have been recorded since late September, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In recent years, the average number of cases over the same period was about 206,000.
As measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus were implemented around the country in March 2020, influenza quickly disappeared, and it still has not returned. The latest flu season, which normally would have run until next month, essentially never happened.
After fears that a “twindemic” could batter the country, the absence of the flu was a much needed reprieve that eased the burden on an overwhelmed health care system. But the lack of exposure to the flu could also make the population more susceptible to the virus when it returns — and experts say its return is certain….
Experts are less certain about what will happen when the flu does return. In the coming months — as millions of people return to public transit, restaurants, schools and offices — influenza outbreaks could be more widespread than normal, they say, or could occur at unusual times of the year. But it’s also possible that the virus that returns is less dangerous, having not had the opportunity to evolve while it was on hiatus.
“We don’t really have a clue,” said Richard Webby, a virologist at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. “We’re in uncharted territory. We haven’t had an influenza season this low, I think as long as we’ve been measuring it. So what the potential implications are is a bit unclear.”
Motoko Kamada; Japan – Warm Lifting
One more from The New York Times: Patients With Long Covid Face Lingering Worrisome Health Risks, Study Finds.
The health effects of Covid-19 not only can stretch for months but appear to increase the risk of death and chronic medical conditions, even in people who were never sick enough to be hospitalized, a large new study finds.
In the study, published Thursday in the journal Nature, researchers looked at medical records of more than 73,000 people across the United States whose coronavirus infections did not require hospitalization. Between one and six months after becoming infected, those patients had a significantly greater risk of death — 60 percent higher — than people who had not been infected with the virus.
The research, based on records of patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system, also found that nonhospitalized Covid survivors had a 20 percent greater chance of needing outpatient medical care over those six months than people who had not contracted the coronavirus.
The Covid survivors experienced a vast array of long-term medical problems that they had never had before — not just lung issues from the respiratory effects of the virus, but symptoms that could affect virtually any organ system or part of the body, from neurological to cardiovascular to gastrointestinal. They were also at greater risk of mental health problems, including anxiety and sleep disorders.
Click the link to read more about the study results.
We’re still learning about how the coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. CNBC: MIT researchers say you’re no safer from Covid indoors at 6 feet or 60 feet in new study challenging social distancing policies.
The risk of being exposed to Covid-19 indoors is as great at 60 feet as it is at 6 feet — even when wearing a mask, according to a new study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who challenge social distancing guidelines adopted across the world.
MIT professors Martin Z. Bazant, who teaches chemical engineering and applied mathematics, and John W.M. Bush, who teaches applied mathematics, developed a method of calculating exposure risk to Covid-19 in an indoor setting that factors in a variety of issues that could affect transmission, including the amount of time spent inside, air filtration and circulation, immunization, variant strains, mask use, and even respiratory activity such as breathing, eating, speaking or singing.
Bazant and Bush question long-held Covid-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization in a peer-reviewed study published earlier this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America.
“We argue there really isn’t much of a benefit to the 6-foot rule, especially when people are wearing masks,” Bazant said in an interview. “It really has no physical basis because the air a person is breathing while wearing a mask tends to rise and comes down elsewhere in the room so you’re more exposed to the average background than you are to a person at a distance.”
Early Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, 1893-4, by Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)
The important variable the CDC and the WHO have overlooked is the amount of time spent indoors, Bazant said. The longer someone is inside with an infected person, the greater the chance of transmission, he said.
Opening windows or installing new fans to keep the air moving could also be just as effective or more effective than spending large amounts of money on a new filtration system, he said.
Bazant also says that guidelines enforcing indoor occupancy caps are flawed. He said 20 people gathered inside for 1 minute is probably fine, but not over the course of several hours, he said.
“What our analysis continues to show is that many spaces that have been shut down in fact don’t need to be. Often times the space is large enough, the ventilation is good enough, the amount of time people spend together is such that those spaces can be safely operated even at full capacity and the scientific support for reduced capacity in those spaces is really not very good,” Bazant said. “I think if you run the numbers, even right now for many types of spaces you’d find that there is not a need for occupancy restrictions.”
I mentioned the disastrous situation in India. The Guardian: India’s daily Covid death toll hits new record amid oxygen shortages.
India’s daily coronavirus death toll passed a new record Saturday as the government battled to get oxygen supplies to hospitals overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of new daily cases.
Queues of Covid-19 patients and their fearful relatives are building up outside hospitals in major cities across India, the new world pandemic hotspot, which has reported nearly a million new cases in three days.
Another 2,624 deaths, a new daily record, were reported in 24 hours, taking the official toll to nearly 190,000 since the pandemic started.
More than 340,000 new cases were also reported, taking India’s total to 16.5 million, second only to the United States.
But many experts are predicting the current wave will not peak for at least three weeks and that the real death and case numbers are much higher.
More from CNN: No respite in India as country sets Covid-19 infection record for third straight day.
India reported 346,786 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday — the third day in a row the country has set a world record for infections during the coronavirus pandemic, according to government and scientific tallies.
The related death toll for the previous 24 hours hit 2,624 — also a daily record for India — for 189,544 total fatalities.
The sky-rocketing Covid-19 infections are devastating India’s communities and hospitals. Everything is in short supply — intensive care unit beds, medicine, oxygen and ventilators. Bodies are piling up in morgues and crematoriums.
Indira Baldano, naive art Индира Балдано живопись
Twenty critically ill patients died at a Delhi hospital Friday night after its supply of oxygen was delayed by seven hours, according to Dr. DK Baluja, medical director at the Jaipur Golden Hospital.
“That happened last night. Everything we had was exhausted. The oxygen was not supplied on time. It was supposed to come in at 5 p.m. but it came around midnight. People who were critically ill needed oxygen,” said Baluja.
The hospital is currently scrambling to arrange more oxygen but has not received a fresh supply all Saturday morning. “We have only 15-20 minutes of oxygen left now. It may take hours to get another tanker,” Baluja told CNN.
Delhi hospitals have been facing a severe oxygen shortage as the number of Covid-19 cases have soared in the national capital in the past two weeks….
Delhi recorded 24,331 new cases Friday, including 348 deaths, according to the Covid-19 health bulletin issued by the Delhi government.
Countrywide, India has now recorded more than 16.6 million cases since the start of the pandemic, a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health reveals.
In contrast, Vietnam successfully limited the spread of the virus. The Verge: Vietnam defied the experts and sealed its border to keep Covid-19 out. It worked.
As the pandemic took hold last year, travel restrictions quickly proliferated — they were the second-most-common policy governments adopted to combat Covid-19. According to one review, never in recorded history has global travel been curbed in “such an extreme manner”: a reduction of approximately 65 percent in the first half of 2020. More than a year later, as countries experiment with vaccine passports, travel bubbles, and a new round of measures to keep virus variants at bay, a maze of confusing, ever-changing restrictions remains firmly in place.
But few countries have gone as far as Vietnam, a one-party communist state with a GDP per capita of $2,700. The Haiphong checkpoints timed for Tet were the equivalent of closing off Los Angeles to Americans ahead of Thanksgiving — within a country that was already nearly hermetically sealed. Last March, the government canceled all inbound commercial flights for months on end, making it almost impossible to fly in, even for Vietnamese residents.
Today, flights are limited to select groups, like businesspeople or experts, from a few low-risk countries. Everybody who enters needs special government permission and must complete up to 21 days of state-monitored quarantine with PCR tests. (Positive cases are immediately isolated in hospitals, regardless of disease severity.)
This strict approach to travel, global health experts say, is directly connected to Vietnam’s seeming defeat of Covid-19. Thirty-five people have reportedly died in total, and a little more than 2,700 have been infected with the virus during three small waves that have all been quickly quashed. Even on the worst days of the pandemic, the country of 97 million has never recorded more than 110 new cases — a tiny fraction of the 68,000 daily case high in the United Kingdom, which has a population one-third smaller than Vietnam, or the record 300,000-plus cases per day only the US and India managed to tally.
Paula Modersohn-Becker (German, 1876 – 1907) Cat held by a child
Finally, The Daily Beast addresses the crazy anti-vaxxer situation: The Anti-Vaxxer Hunt for Dead People Is Getting Even Weirder.
Starting in mid-January, several social media channels and websites emerged as hubs for stories, generated by admins and users pulling together snippets from across the internet and crafting them into cohesive narratives and brief posts, linking reported deaths to COVID vaccinations. Several of these platforms have grown notably, and become more formalized, in recent weeks. Unsurprisingly, given the robust safety profile of the vaccines in use in the United States, they rarely detail how a vaccination supposedly caused a given death.
Posted: May 21, 2015 Filed under: 2016 elections, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Iraq War, ISIS, Islamic State, strange sounds in the sky, Vietnam, voter attitudes vs politicians' beliefs
How could I have slept until 10AM? I can’t believe it. I’ve been waking up really early ever since the time change, which was ages ago. This will be a quickie post, because I have to get ready to go somewhere this afternoon.
Before I get to the latest political news, I wanted to share this weird story I came across a few days ago in The Daily Mail. Please let me know if you think it’s for real or some kind of bizarre mass hypnosis.
What IS this strange sound from the sky? Noise heard across the globe for nearly a DECADE – but nobody has an explanation.
A mysterious noise from the sky is continuing to baffle people all over the world – as well as giving those who hear it sleepless nights.
Sounding like a trumpet or a collective from a brass section of an orchestra, a selection of videos shot from the Canada to Ukraine, via the U.S., Germany and Belarus show strange goings on above us.
And the eerie sounds have been continuously heard at all different times and locations for almost a decade.
The first video posted on YouTube recording the unusual, unearthly sounds, was in 2008 when a user recorded the strange sounds in the sky from Homel, in Belarus.
That same year another anonymous user shared the ‘ear-deafening’ sounds that they insisted ‘were not a hoax,’ from a quiet neighbourhood believed to be in the U.S.
Kimberly Wookey from Terrace, British Columbia in Canada first captured the alien sound in June 2013, and since then she has managed to capture several recordings of the noise with her most recent being on May 7 this year.
There are several examples of recordings of the strange sounds at the Daily Mail link. I looked on YouTube, and dozens of these recordings have been posted. Of course the end-timers are going to think these are trumpets from heaven sounding the last days. Someone in New Jersey thinks it’s a UFO.
Is this going to be another crop-circles-type mystery/hoax? Anyway, I love strange stuff like this, so I thought I’d share and see what you think.
We haven’t been talking about foreign news much lately, but things are not going well in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). I’m sure you’ve heard that ISIS has taken over the Iraqi city of Ramadi. ABC reports: Fall of Ramadi: 30 Car Bombs, 10 as Big as Oklahoma City Blast, US Official Says.
The State Department is sharing new details about the deadly fighting in Ramadi, Iraq, last Sunday, saying the city fell into ISIS hands after the militant group set off 30 suicide car bombs in the city center, 10 of which each were comparable in power to the Oklahoma City truck bomb of 1995.
The explosions took out “entire city blocks,” said a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters at the State Department Wednesday on condition that he not be named. The vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs, were able to gain access to the city center after an armored bulldozer plowed through T-wall barricades lining the city’s critical government buildings, the official said, adding that the same bulldozer was later used as a power VBIED, itself.
Soon after the bombs went off, the Iraqis deployed a reinforcing column into the city center, but they were forced to retreat after coming under heavy enemy fire, the official said. That retreat led to a larger exodus of Iraqi security forces and the civilian populations, leaving the streets looking “barren,” according to this official.
ABC also has video at the link. A little more:
The State Department and the Pentagon insist the fall of Ramadi does not closely resemble that of Mosul in 2014, when, after only a week of fighting, Islamic State forces were able to take over the entire city as ISF forces abandoned the posts, equipment and even their uniforms.
The State Department official argued that Ramadi has been fiercely contested for 18 months, as both sides controlled equal parts of the city. It wasn’t until the critical government center fell this weekend that ISIS was able to lay claim to the entire provincial capital.
But the official admitted that, in this case, the Iraqi forces did leave some U.S.-made weapons behind. The official suggested that if the enemy attempts to commandeer any of the bigger weapons, they would be killed in airstrikes.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius disagrees. He calls the fall of Ramadi a “tragic replay” of the “Mosul debacle.”
The capture of Ramadi last weekend by Islamic State fighters is a significant setback for U.S. strategy in Iraq and shows that, nearly a year after the extremists overran Mosul, the United States still doesn’t have a viable plan for protecting the country’s Sunni areas.
The collapse of the Iraqi army in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, was in some ways a replay of the Mosul debacle in June 2014. The Shiite-dominated Iraqi military, though trained and retrained by the United States, appeared to lack the leadership or will to fight off a relatively small but ferocious onslaught of Sunni insurgents.
The Ramadi defeat exposed the sectarian tensions that underlie this war. Among the urgent questions: Are Shiite regular army troops ready to fight and die to protect Sunnis, or will their lines collapse in Sunni areas, as happened in Mosul and now Ramadi? If the tougher Iranian-backed Shiite militias are sent instead to do the job, will the Sunni population see them as a Shiite occupation army — setting the stage for a generation of sectarian revenge killing?
Gee, do you think maybe Bush and Cheney might have made a mistake when they attacked Iraq based on questionable intelligence?
Charles Pierce sees a replay of much tragic events in the more distant past:
The Fall Of Ramadi And The Vietnam Syndrome: In which we relive that which we ought not to have done in the first place.
It goes back to the “Bloody Shirt” campaigns in the decades after the Civil War. However, at least in those campaigns, the people waving the bloody shirt were doing so at people who actively had committed treason against the government of the United States and were attempting (with too much success) to win at the polls what they’d lost on the battlefield. More recent uses of the techniques sadly have been designed to cover the ass of bellicose mistakes, and worse, all over the world. Which means the “bloody shirt” begins to slide toward the Dolchstosslegendeof post-WWI Germany. And that never is a good thing.
In our current situation, we are seeing the beginnings of the kind of rhetoric that poisoned our politics for decades after the collapse of South Vietnam. In fact, there was a lot of that going around in 2006, when it became plain that the Iraq invasion had been sold on moonshine by a cabal of geopolitical fantasts and Dick Cheney….
The only way for the people who shook their moneymakers for the war in 2002 to justify their continued place in our politics is to use ISIL to replace the aluminum tubes and hope that enough people don’t notice what a grotesque fast shuffle this is. That will clear the way for the candidates on the Republican side — Rubio, Graham, Jeb (!), and, most recently, Chris Christie — who want to revive the old neocon hoo-rah while distancing themselves from its savage consequences. It looks very much like “Who lost Iraq?” may replace the disastrous decisions of the Avignon Presidency in this campaign, and that a good chunk of the Republican field will be perfectly happy to allow that to happen. For all the talk of the president’s fecklessness from the chickenhawk choir, what those candidates are about right now is the worst kind of cowardice.
Jesus. When will it ever end?
Talking Points Memo discusses a recent survey of voter attitudes.
Study: Lawmakers Assume Voters Are Way More Conservative Than They Are.
Researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan dug up some surprising results after posing the question: How much do lawmakers really know about their voters’ political views?
“Pick an American state legislator at random, and chances are that he or she will have massive misperceptions about district views on big-ticket issues, typically missing the mark by 15 percentage points,” David Broockman and Christopher Skovron wrote in a study for the Scholarly Strategy Network originally published in 2013.
To investigate the question, the duo surveyed thousands of state legislators and compared their perceptions of voters to people’s actual views, derived from a large body of public opinion data.
Their conclusion: “legislators usually believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are.”
On three issues — universal healthcare, same-sex marriage, and welfare — lawmakers’ assumptions about what their constituents believed were “15-20 percent more conservative, on average,” than the actual base of public support for such issues.
Most striking, both liberal and conservative lawmakers assume their voters are much further to the right than they actually are.
I’m not surprised, but it’s good to see intuition backed by empirical research.
More news, links only:
David Wiegel at Bloomberg Politics: Rand Paul Launches His ‘Filibuster’ Against Patriot Act Renewal.
Politico: Rand Paul calls it a night after 10 1/2 hours. It’s not clear whether his speech on the PATRIOT Act had any real effect on Mitch McConnell’s plans.
Michael Schmidt at the NYT: A Closer Look at Hillary Clinton’s Emails on Benghazi. Also, First Batch of Hillary Clinton Emails Captures Concerns Over Libya.
Des Moines Register: Huckabee decides to skip Iowa Straw Poll.
Bloomberg Politics: Iowa Republicans Are Worried About Jeb Bush’s Viability.
CNN: Jeb Bush rails against ‘intellectual arrogance’ in climate change debate.
The Hill: Obama: Climate change deniers endangering national security.
The WaPo: Fox News rules will limit the field in first GOP presidential debate.
Posted: January 8, 2013 Filed under: Barack Obama, Central Intelligence Agency, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, morning reads, Politics as Usual, U.S. Economy, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics | Tags: $1 trillion platinum coin, Chuck Hagel, cyanide, DebraLee Hovey, drones, Gabby Giffords, Jack Lew, Joan Walsh, John Boehner, John Brennan, Jonathan Chait, Josh Marshall, JP Morgan Chase, Lindsey Graham, Newtown CT, rendition, Torture, Urooj Khan homicide, Vietnam
I’m back with more reads!!
Before I get started with the political news, here a very strange story from Chicago: Urooj Khan Homicide: Chicago Lottery Winner’s Death Re-Classified After Cyanide Poison Discovery
With no signs of trauma and nothing to raise suspicions, the sudden death of a Chicago man just as he was about to collect nearly $425,000 in lottery winnings was initially ruled a result of natural causes.
Nearly six months later, authorities have a mystery on their hands after medical examiners, responding to a relative’s pleas, did an expanded screening and determined that Urooj Khan, 46, died shortly after ingesting a lethal dose of cyanide. The finding has triggered a homicide investigation, the Chicago Police Department said Monday….
In June, Khan, who owned a number of dry cleaners, stopped in at a 7-Eleven near his home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the city’s North Side and bought a ticket for an instant lottery game.
Ashur Oshana, the convenience store clerk, told The Associated Press on Monday that Khan said he had sworn off gambling after returning from the hajj, a Muslim pilgrimage, in Saudi Arabia. Khan said he wanted to lead a better life, Oshana said, but Khan bought the tickets that day and scratched off the winner in the store.
“Right away he grabbed my hand,” Oshana said. “He kissed my hand and kissed my head and gave me $100. He was really happy.”
Not long afterwards, Kahn was dead. Now police will likely exhume his body and try to find out who killed him.
I’m sure you heard that Hillary Clinton went back to work yesterday, and her coworkers gave her a gag gift–a football helmet.
Cheers, a standing ovation and a gag gift of protective headgear greeted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she returned to work on Monday after a month-long absence caused first by a stomach virus, then a fall and a concussion and finally a brief hospitalization for a blood clot.
A crowd of about 75 State Department officials greeted Clinton with a standing ovation as she walked in to the first senior staff meeting she has convened since early December, according to those present. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, noting that life in Washington is often a “contact sport, sometimes even in your own home” then presented Clinton with a gift — a regulation white Riddell football helmet emblazoned with the State Department seal, officials said.
She was also given a blue football jersey with “Clinton” and the number 112 — the record-breaking number of countries she has visited since becoming secretary of state — printed on the back. Aides said Clinton was delighted with the gifts but did not try either of them on and the meeting turned to matters of national security and diplomacy.
“She loved it. She thought it was cool. But then being Hillary Clinton, she wanted to get right to business,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Did you hear about GOP Connecticut State Rep. DebraLee Hovey, who attacked Gabby Giffords for visiting Newtown? From the Hartford Courant:
In content and syntax, state Rep. DebraLee Hovey embarrassed herself, the General Assembly and the state.
Ms. Hovey, a Republican who represents Newtown and Monroe, blasted the visit to Newtown on Friday by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a Democrat, who met privately with local officials and families of victims of the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Gabby Gifford stay out of my towns!!” Ms. Hovey posted on Facebook over the weekend (misspelling the former Arizona congresswoman’s last name). In the comments thread, Rep. Hovey seemed to complain that she wasn’t invited (she was at a meeting in Florida at the time) and claimed the visit was political: “There was pure political motives [sic].”
How do these loony-tunes get elected? Hovey later offered a pathetic non-apologetic “apology.”
The remarks I made regarding Congresswoman Gifford’s visit were insensitive and if I offended anyone I truly apologize … My comments were meant to be protective of the privacy of the families and our community as we work to move on, and were in no way intended as an insult to Congresswoman Giffords personally. Our community has struggled greatly through this tragedy, and we are all very sensitive to the potential for this event to be exploited for political purposes. This is what I wish to avoid.
What a moronic asshole.
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Posted: March 15, 2012 Filed under: morning reads, psychology, U.S. Politics, War on Women, Women's Rights | Tags: Afghanistan, alcohol, Andrew Breitbart, drugs, Global Financial Crisis, Goldman Sachs, IRAQ, mass murder, military draft, morality, PTSD, rape, rumors, Suicide, toxicology, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Vietnam, volunteer army
Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote a very thoughtful post about the upside-down “morality” that has taken over the Republican Party since the Reagan years. The basis for the post was the op-ed in the NYT yesterday by former executive Greg Smith: Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.
I thought it was rather courageous of Smith to go public with his moral concerns about the Goldman “culture.” But quite a few writers are mocking him for it. For example, Sara Ball put up a post at Vanity Fair called Why I Am Leaving Pinkberry. She bills it as “parody,” but what’s her point. I don’t even think her piece qualifies as satire. Here’s a bit of it:
TODAY is my last day at the Turtle Bay-area branch of Pinkberry—you know, the one on 54th Street between 2nd and 3rd? After almost 13 months with this company—at first as a summer job while at U.S.C., then in apprenticeships at New York’s Columbus Circle and Bleecker St. branches—I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its personnel, and its flavor inventory. And I can honestly say today that I am really sick of frozen yogurt.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interest of our customers continue to be sidelined in the way we, the firm, think about making money. Day in and day out, we are so worried about the line building up, we don’t even ask people how they’re doing anymore. You can forget about spelling their name correctly on the order label. And these customer-service problems will only get worse if this unseasonably warm weather keeps up. Sometimes, in the back room, I’ve heard my colleagues call our patrons “polar bears”—since they get hungrier and sadder as the sky gets sunnier, their yogurt melting out from underneath them.
It isn’t even slightly funny. Goldman Sachs played a huge role in global financial crisis and is almost single=handedly responsible for the ongoing nightmare in Greece. Here’s another parody that makes a bit more sense in light of the evil that Goldman has perpetrated: Why I Am Leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader.
Matt Taibbi, at least, thinks the Smith piece is important enough to take seriously.
The resignation will have an effect on Goldman’s business. The firm’s share price opened this morning at 124.52; it’s down to 120.72 as of this writing (it dropped two percent while I was writing this blog), and it will probably dive further. Why? Because you can stack all the exposés on Goldman you want by degenerates like me and the McClatchy group, and you can even have a Senate subcommittee call for your executives to be tried for perjury, but that doesn’t necessarily move the Street.
But when one of the firm’s own partners is saying out loud that his company liked to “rip the eyeballs out” of “muppets” like you, then you start to wonder if maybe this firm is the best choice for managing your money. Hence we see headlines this morning like this item from Forbes.com: “Greg Smith Quits, Should Clients Fire Goldman Sachs?”
Of course Goldman immediately set out to smear their former partner, Greg Smith, with the help of the Wall Street Journal, as Taibbi notes. I wouldn’t be surprised if those “parodies” were part of Goldman’s smear tactics.
As I suspected, the soldier who recently committed mass murder in Afghanistan had previously suffered traumatic brain injury. He may also have PTSD, as do many veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq (and Vietnam).
The U.S. Army staff sergeant who allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians in a dead-of-night spasm of shooting, stabbing and fire-setting is reported to have suffered a traumatic brain injury during a deployment to Iraq in 2010….
Research on traumatic brain injury has established a clear link between brain trauma and irritable, aggressive behavior that can be explosive, often without apparent warning or provocation. Sometimes, brain injury magnifies a victim’s longstanding tendency toward irritability, depression or hostility. Some brain traumas bring personality changes in their wake, causing even laid-back types to become irascible and impatient.
For many patients, particularly those who have sustained injury to their brain’s prefrontal cortex, the mechanisms that allow most of us to put the “brakes” on aggressive or inappropriate impulses do not function as well.
The injury happened in 2010, and yet he was deployed to another combat zone! Why? Because the military doesn’t want a draft army. Because then they’d have to deal with the kinds of protests that happened during the Vietnam nightmare. They want a “professional” army, and since they can’t find as much cannon fodder as they’d like, they send the same people back again and again into combat. It’s a perfect recipe for creating psychological disorders that, if not addresed, may lead people to act out violently. Read more at Danger Room, here and here. Joseph Cannon also has published a useful comment from one of his readers on this subject.
There’s another enlightening article at Reuters: Lawmakers press Pentagon on massacre suspect’s brain injury
The Army staff sergeant accused in Sunday’s shooting served three deployments to Iraq before he was sent to Afghanistan last year. The soldier, whose name has not been disclosed publicly, was treated for a traumatic brain injury suffered in a vehicle rollover in 2010 in Iraq, according to a U.S. official.
Representative Bill Pascrell, founder of a U.S. congressional task force on brain injuries, wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting details of the accused soldier’s injury, diagnosis, and when and how he was returned to combat duty.
“I am trying to find out basically whether there was a premature ‘OK’ on this guy,” Pascrell, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview.
“This is not to excuse any heinous acts; we are all sickened by it. But dammit, we all have an obligation to prevent these things,” Pascrell said. “If this soldier fell through the cracks, does that mean that others have?
Good questions! And very good reasons to get our troops out of Afghanistan ASAP. This country will be paying for these wars for a generation. Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, like Vietnam veterans before them, will act out their psychological problems back here through suicide, murder, child abuse, spouse abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction. I’d love to go down to Congress and explain that these are human beings, not cannon fodder. End these endless wars!! Drug addiction and substance abuse is becoming a big problem in the states, if you are addicted or know someone who needs help, please visit this article about group therapy rehab.
I’ve been meaning to mention another post by Joseph Cannon. I suppose everyone has read it by now, but I haven’t seen any discussion of it at Sky Dancing. In a post about several topics, Cannon linked to an article speculating on the surprising death of Andrew Breitbart.
The Fix wonders why the corporate media has so zealously avoided asking the obvious questions about Breitbart’s death. What drugs was he using? I began to suspect something fishy as soon as I heard that the family was emphasizing that the death was from “natural causes.” Later Breitbart’s father-in-law, actor Orson Bean said it was assumed to be a heart attack. But how many 43-year-old men die from heart attacks? After the autopsy, no cause of death was announced, pending toxicology tests. If Breitbart had a heart attack, why didn’t they report damage to the heart? Or maybe they want to learn whether a drug caused a heart attack. Anyway, go read the article. It’s very interesting. When someone suffers from drug addiction the best way to help them is to take them to a rehab center, learn more about rehab programs on https://www.discoverynj.org/programs/therapy-programs/family-counseling/.
Apparently Breitbart suffered from ADHD and probably was taking Adderall, an amphetamine (speed). He had confessed to heavy drinking and cocaine use in college, and he was reportedly still a heavy drinker who often seemed to to lose control. I for one will be very interested to learn the results of those toxicology tests.
Here’s a heartbreaking report of a young victim of the international war on women: Moroccan girl commits suicide after being forced to marry her rapist.
A 16-year-old Moroccan girl has committed suicide after a judge ordered her to marry her rapist, according to Moroccan media reports.
Last year Amina’s parents filed charges against their daughter’s rapist, a man 10 years older than her but it was only recently that a judge in the northern city of Tangier decided that instead of punishing him, the two must be married.
The court’s decision to forcibly marry Amina to her rapist was supposed to “resolve” the damage of sexual violation against her, but it led to more suffering in the unwelcoming home of her rapist/husband’s family.
Traumatized by the painful experience of rape, Amina decided to end her life by consuming rat poison in the house of her husband’s family, according to the Moroccan daily al-Massae.
Horrifying, isn’t it? But it’s really not that far away from the advice of Opus-Dei-style theocrat Rick Santorum to rape victims who become pregnant:
SANTORUM: Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice. I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or doesn’t, it will always be her child. And she will always know that. And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you. As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life. We have horrible things happen. I can’t think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.
I know this hasn’t been a very cheerful post, so I’ll end on a positive note. Via Raw Story, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint with the IRS against Grover Norquist.
Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate whether Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and its president Grover Norquist violated federal law by filing a tax return that left out more than half the political activity ATR conducted in 2010. ATR disclosed more than $4.2 million in independent expenditures to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), but asserted on its 2010 tax return that it spent only $1.85 million on political activities.
“Grover Norquist’s numbers just don’t add up,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Americans for Tax Reform spent millions of dollars in 2010 trying to defeat candidates who disagreed with its agenda, then left most of that spending off its own tax return. Perhaps Mr. Norquist should sign a pledge that he won’t lie to the IRS about his group’s political activity.”
Tax-exempt organizations such as ATR are required to report on their annual tax returns the amount they spent on political activities. This information helps the IRS determine whether a tax-exempt organization is complying with its tax-exempt status and provides at least some transparency for groups involved in politics. Reporting inaccurate information can result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution.
I don’t know if anything will come of it, but it’s sure worth a try. Those are my reading suggestions for today. What do you recommend?