Saturday, December 26, 2009

A visit to Murphys, California



At "Grounds" restaurant, Ted, Jess and Susan



Cathie and Pete



Jackie and Ted



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obama Praises Copenhagen Agreement



A simple statement follows President Obama's appearance at the U.N. Climate Summit in Copenhagen. Already termed a "flop" and "failure" by many, the simple fact that 193 nations came together to address an issue (anthropogenic climate change) that, at least until the recent U.S. Administration change, had been largely regarded as "open to scientific debate", is remarkable.

Anyone who expected universal agreements and binding treaties from this single conference fails to understand the scope of the problem. This is just a first note in a long and difficult process.

But Bolivia's Evo Morales, who must be credited for illuminating the plight of indigenous peoples, rightly expressed moral indignation, labeling U.S. behavior "criminal", when Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. "pledge to contribute" to a $100 Billion international fund over the next decade to help developing nations cope with climate change. This, while we are devoting several trillions of dollars to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Related to this, a story on NPR yesterday spoke of the logistic nightmare of supporting the 30,000-troop build-up in Afghanistan. Much of the supplies will travel thousands of miles overland, by train and by truck, from the Baltic Sea to our troops in Afghanistan. Another report places the cost of delivering one gallon of gas to Helmand Province in Afghanistan at $400! Our tactical foreign policy decisions simply exacerbate the very problem we claim to be addressing.

Clearly, we still have a long way to go in realigning our priorities.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"Lighten Up"

That's the advice from Jeff. (Thanks.)

He's right. I'll try. Actually, there is considerable cause for optimism. I am encouraged by the Obama Administration's engagement in climate talks, the return to multilateralism, the EPA officially recognizing CO2 emissions as a health threat, efforts to address the perpetual crisis in health care, renewed nuclear arms reduction negotiations, signals that the economy may be recovering and imminent job growth in new alternative-energy and more. This all stands in stark contrast to the stone wall these issues faced during the Bush years.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Gullible Squared

(Letter to the Editors)
Within days of President Obama announcing a 30,000-troop increase in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Gates testified before Congress that the force could grow "in the range of about 10%." The administration is also responding to Republican pressure to back off any time constraints on this “surge”.

For nearly seven years, our focus was The War in Iraq. For that period of time, it was obvious that our leadership did not regard al Qaeda as the primary threat to America. Now – though it has been seriously weakened – al Qaeda, like the phoenix, has suddenly re-emerged, ready to strike our Homeland and that of our allies. And worse, we have apparently just discovered the Taliban has designs to take over the world!

Dwindling public support (not “victory”) is forcing us to extract ourselves from Iraq, yet a cleverly-crafted marketing campaign has resurrected the ominous threat in Afghanistan. It’s all designed to keep the war industry mobilized, and profits flowing.

Can we not see the absurdity of these lies? We are being manipulated. Pure and simple.

It’s time to raise our collective voices and resist the American war machine and the dishonest motivations of our leaders.

Tim Campion
Santa Rosa, CA

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Congressman Kucinich says it much more eloquently than I

Vietnam Vet, Scholar Andrew Bacevich on Obama War Plan: “The President Has Drawn the Wrong Lessons From His Understanding of the History of War”

Republicans: Military-Industrial Mouthpiece

Since President Obama's address, I've had the opportunity to hear a half-dozen members of the "Republican Leadership" offer their critique of the President's speech. You have to admit, they speak with one voice. And it is a voice best described as that of the military-industrial complex.

To a person they criticize the setting of a date when the U.S. would begin a withdrawal from Afghanistan. And, of course, they are critical that only 30,000 troops are being committed. (No mention of all the supporting forces this will entail.)

In defense of America's freedom, they say, there is simply no price too great. If we don't defeat al Qaeda, it will again strike The Homeland and our Allies. Victory over al Qaeda must be the nation's highest priority.

Is it necessary to remind Americans that for eight years the Republican Leadership led this nation in pursuit of its "highest priority" - and that appeared to be War With Iraq? They allowed al Qaeda to slip across the border into Pakistan, and Osama bin Laden to fade into the shadows. It was a conscious choice. From this, it must be clear al Qaeda is not the threat it has been portrayed to be.

In recent decades, we've seen the military-industrial complex's increasingly brazen efforts to maintain its raison d'être, fabricating bogeymen where there are none. The motivations have been so clear that, ultimately, we must question to what degree it is complicit in engineering the "War on Terror".

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Health care debate?

We could send one U.S. soldier to Afghanistan, or provide health insurance to roughly 80 American families. This is just one "opportunity cost" of our occupation of Afghanistan. (How many neighborhoods would that represent in your town?)

Imagine how many Afghans this would feed, clothe, house and educate!

Is it any wonder we are now financially - and morally bankrupt?

(The government estimates the cost of one U.S. troop in Afghanistan as $1 Million per year. Basic health care insurance is estimated at $12,000 per family.)

(Another) sad day for America

President Obama's "Way Forward" speech at West Point was the most empty rhetoric I've yet heard from our Commander-in-Chief.

His performance was utterly unconvincing. Unconvincing in its attempt to dispel the parallels with Vietnam, in portraying this as yet another campaign waged by a "coalition of the willing", painting the threat to our national security in vague broad brush strokes (employing the always-effective "mushroom cloud" imagery for good measure), expressing the naive belief that we have the resources and power to control the outcome in this region and once again displaying the unique American arrogance of presuming to dictate the fate of other nations. He presented his "solution" as if talking about a board game strategy. (Perhaps the cadets could easily relate to this.) It was pure pandering.

Everyone is talking about the various "audiences" Obama was trying to address. What the fuck is this, entertainment? Is it simply an American spectator sport? (The answer frightens me.)

The Administration of George W. Bush torpedoed this nation. Increasingly, the Obama Administration's attempt at damage control appears incompetent.

Tonight, I'm disgusted with my country and wondering "where can I go?" One consolation, however slight, is that for the past three years I have paid no Income Tax - I have avoided contributing directly to the war effort. Indeed, until we have extracted ourselves from these foreign exploits, there is little motivation to get back into the marketplace and start contributing.

Maybe I'll just join the fundamentalists in praying for Armageddon. May it arrive soon, be swift and painless. (Hmmm. Would "fire and brimstone" solve the Global Warming crisis, or only exacerbate it?)

How can the leader of an occupying nation receive the Nobel Peace Prize?

Are we living in some alternative "Looking Glass Universe"? As President Obama announces his surge of American troops in Afghanistan, raising their numbers to over 100,000 (with matching contingents of contractors and support personnel), should the Nobel Committee not balk at awarding the Peace Prize to our President? (I have written them to ask how they can in good conscience, justify such an honor.)

The down-trodden Conservatives are squealing with excitement as Obama is finally becoming a "War President" (though not "The War President" - nobody can take that distinction from George W.!)

As is necessary in times of war, the mainstream media is dutifully toeing the line, welcoming all the usual Administration spokespeople, speech writers and military consultants to explain (for the benefit of us slow-to-understand Americans) why this is the appropriate strategy.

Yet again we witness the "marketing of war and occupation" and it's enough to make one ill. Tomorrow the anti-war activists will be on the streets - trying to take back our country. (Sorry "Teabaggers", you're barking up the wrong tree.)

Were it not so tragic, the hypocrisy would be laughable. Americans threaten revolution if the government restricts their Second Amendment rights. Yet, we invade Iraq and Afghanistan, where those who resist our occupation are labeled terrorists and extremists.

What the hell are we doing, interfering in the internal affairs of these countries? Eight years ago, we (intentionally?) botched the attempt to apprehend a band of terrorists in Tora Bora, and now America owns two ravaged nations.

This is the ultimate irony: with over 40% of our treasure now invested in the military-industrial complex, America - a self-proclaimed "free nation" - is held hostage by its own "defense" economy. And we don't even recognize it.

Silly people. They actually want you to have your gun. For that matter, lots of them. It's what we do best. It's American as apple pie.

Endless war is what we do.