Sweating in the ghetto with the wetbacks and the poor
The rats have joined the babies who are sleeping on the floor
Now wouldn't it be a riot if they really blew their tops?
But they got too much already and besides we got the cops
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.-- Phil Ochs
The problem becomes, of course, being able to tell the difference between the two, good news and bad news. Or, becoming aware that they exist in the face of cultural degradation and silliness. This is a day of universally WTF important stories that we are missing because of the Charlie Sheen phenomonon. We've got years of reruns of 2.5 Idiots and there's always Hot Shots and Navy Seals. Stop worrying about Charlie, oh great media machine and pay attention to the things that are going to get the rest of us killed. Oh Tempora, Oh Mores! as that great Italian defense attorney Cicero said in about 64 BCE. Of course, he was talking about viciousness and corruption; we need to add stupidity, greed and the inability to connect the dots. Caesar, Pompey, Cicero, Cato, Crassus, Brutus -- they could all connect the dots. Our politicians and our leaders - not so much.
First of all, there's the latest debacle in Afghanistan. Now, the Afghans are big on blood feuds, revenge killing, pederasty and goats. So, the accidental killing of a bunch of kids herding goats and getting firewood is not just a tragedy, it's symptomatic of everything that's wrong with this war...
Look, it's a low tech place, and kids play while they're doing choirs. See the helicopter and run around -- and, some door gunners think, "Oh shit, Taliban..." and ratatattat. We've ruined the lives of Afghan families, which will piss off extended families and result in payment of blood money and probably American blood. Shoot my neighbor's kid from the sky while he's doing the equivalent of raking leaves, and I might be predisposed to not want to help you do anything but get the fuck out of my country...Inshallah! If we're worried about Psyops, well, this kind of shit that happens entirely too often is why we can expect no real results from Psyops. It a low tech place, in tough terrain, with a warlike populace who are pretty good at not going along with strangers. It's noble of Petraeus to go and apologize but to the Afghans invovled, he's just another outsider. It's his fault...they may understand that. They won't get accidents happen; collateral damage is inevitable.
I'm all for orderly withdrawals, since the alternative is a fighting retreat, but it needs to happen now...not in two or three or ten years.
The German magazine Der Spiegel reported on its Web site that the suspect was carrying a large amount of ammunition when arrested. The police said they could not confirm that report.A man whose office is near the site of the shooting, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his business, said witnesses told him that before opening fire the gunman shouted “God is great” in Arabic. --NY Times
Then, there's the murder of two Airmen on their way to Afghanistan as they're getting on a bus at Frankfurt's international airport. The Politzei haven't identified the guy yet,but it appears that the guy works there. The Times points out that there have been no major terrorist attacks in Germany but states that they've been on alert for a while expecting some. The media claims that the guy is a Kosovar who was born in Germany...citizenship in Germany not being easily available to non-Germans. There are about a million Turks, Armenians, and every other type of non-German living in and born in Germany legally who have no citizenship rights. Supposedly the guy got into an argument with the GIs...ok, I can see that. What I don't see is why or how the guy had a gun...Germany has really stringent gun control laws. This non-citizen would not have come close to getting a pistol permit. Hell, he'd have had trouble getting a permit for a sword...I wandered all over that country, and never felt nervous. I stayed away from the docks and red light zones, and saw no evidence of street crime. I recall being on "Courtesy Patrol" -- an oddball Army thing where some NCOs or Officers would put on their Class A or B uniforms and go someplace that soldiers might go and get drunk and in trouble, so they could exert a calming influence at best and at worst haul the bastards back to the barracks. Normal vehicle was a jeep with radio, driver and two NCOs. When I did it, I told the senior guy to man the phone/radio, and we took a five ton truck so if there were drunks, we'd have room to carry them. Anyway, this particular adventure was at a major Beer Festival in Wurzburg, my favorite city in, oh, the universe. We were standing around over by the main Politzei area, and some belligerent German drunks were dragged into the shed that the cops were using. A huge cop came out, smiled at us, and shut the door, standing against it and bracing his back against the door. Bodies proceeded to slam against walls for a few minutes -- I am not exaggerating to say the walls seemed to bulge. Next, the cop opens the doors and helps drag the drunks, now docile, out and away...I also was involved as a witness and as a translator a couple of times when the Kriminal Polizei were involved. Guns were drawn, and people were very cooperative. Whole Miranda thing not an issue over there. So, while I'm not naive enough to think that there were no guns in the hands of thugs when I was there, I am pretty sure that this indicates that they've lost the bubble on arms trafficking there. Expect more. Why exactly are we flying people into Frankfurt to move them on to Ramstein AFB before flying them to Afghanistan anyway? The piece mentions that we've downsized a lot in Europe, that there are now only 50000 total Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guardsmen there. I guess my thought is "Why are there any beyond essential liaison with our allies?" And, if our allies really want us there, why aren't they paying for it? I know that there are overcrowding issues at some US installations, but unmothballing a few and putting soldiers there would make more sense than not. And, create jobs here, by the way. Turning the Yakima Firing Range into an Afghanistan style joint readiness training center would work great...it looks like Afghanistan, and has basically the same sort of weather...hellish.
Then, there's Dr Doom and his merry Gang of Tricksters. Nouriel Roubini sent me this today... Download Gmail - Fwd RGE's Wednesday Note - Fallout From the MENA Days of Rage - March 2, 2011 - firstname.lastname@example.org The good doctor and his think tank are pretty expensive to subscribe to, but I do get some of his newsletters, and his team sent one today that was just marvelous to behold. Here's a bit...MENA is Roubiniese for Middle East-North Africa, by the way.
As RGE Chairman Nouriel Roubini examined in a recent piece, the economic costs of MENA unrest extend far beyond the region, with rising commodity prices the most significant linking factor. A further increase in oil prices would pose a significant downside risk to global growth. We expect demand destruction for fuel products to occur at lower oil prices than in 2008, as U.S. and EU consumers are more stretched. Fuel importers will suffer from higher prices, and global central bankers will face a more difficult job in setting policy. Countries like Turkey and South Korea with extensive goods and services exports to MENA countries could face two challenges from the region’s disruption: a stall in their projects with the countries and a deterioration of external balances from an increase in oil prices.
Beyond food and fuel security risks, the waves of unrest are washing up on the European continent in the form of increased numbers of migrants to southern EU nations. Already, Italy has reported an increase in Tunisians in Lampedusa, and some of the 100,000 Libyans flooding into Tunisia and Egypt may well try to make their way north. An increase in illegal migrants and refugees could stress the broader EU, which is still suffering from high unemployment rates and fiscal austerity...
Here's my problem. Austerity has been proven to not work, to drive down GDP and to screw things up in general. Yet, we have an entire Republican party devoted to saying "we're broke...: Well, not really. What we have is a revenue problem -- we need higher taxes at the state, county, municipal and federal levels. And, the immediate return to the Clinton Tax Rates for the richest makes sense, but we actually need a lot more. As the Wisconsin debacle has shown, we've got issues with reality; nobody likes to pay taxes and have government waste; however, we kinda like things like schools, libraries, roads, sewers and bridges. It takes money to build those things...I suppose we could anticpate our inevitable downfall and institute an annual corvee but that would be incredibly stupid. Expect the Tea Party to immediately endorse it...
Now, Robert Rubin has pointed out repeatedly, that the concentration of wealth at the top end does a disservice to the top end. The Koch Brothers probably think that their ideology makes sense and we're just dealing with hiccups, but not distributing money from the people who have money to do the things that need to be done in society while trying to take it from those who do not have so much money is pretty damn stupid. Now, I'm not rich enough to squirrel away a lot of my money in municipal bonds or state bonds. These are generally tax free, if you can afford to buy them. Earnings from Munis or State bonds are not tax free if part of a mutual fund. Hedge fund managers and portfolio managers love these things for salting away excess wealth -- no risk and the lack of tax makes them more attractive.So trust funds, pension funds, insurance agencies, low risk mutual funds and so on love them. They're considered almost as safe as T-Bills and you get better returns.
So when Doctor Roubini and his band of gypsies tell the Wall Street Journal that Municipals will probably drop about $100 Billion in defaults this year, that's hardly a good thing. It appears, from the Journal's piece that they regard this as being good news that at some level we've got disaster fatigue. The loss of a $100 billion worth of wealth will shaft investors, but will do a number on any municipality or state that happens to have to default. Or, appears threatened. Interest rates will shoot through the roof; when Texas state bonds are accorded junk bond status along with California and a few other places, what the hell, over? Pensions will go under, investors will go crazy, and some one will come up with the great idea of bailing out Hedge Funds...we can't let a trillion dollar industry go south, can we? Think of the children!
And, of course, the hits keep on coming. The Dems cave on this two week funding thing, everybody with any credibility tells the House Republicans and the Tea Party and the General Public that their economic plans are based on bad math, lousy economics and general ideological paralysis of the insane. And, we continue to go merrily down the road...
To Reverend Phelps and his church. Frankly, I tend to almost always side with the Bill of Rights. Free speech should be protected at almost all costs. But, the Founders would be dumbfounded by no constraints. They tolerated a lot, because they had faith that society would punish those who went too far. Hamilton died because he said things that he'd probably said before, possibly to Burr, but this time to someone who published them. The same reasoning that brought us Citizens United and the best Congress the rich can buy has now found in favor of the Westboro "Fag-Hating, Jesus-loving" Baptist Church.
“Westboro’s funeral picketing is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible,” Chief Justice Roberts concluded. “But Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials.”
I spent my life dedicated to the cause of free speech among others. This one bothers me...a lot. The only reason that these damn things have not degenerated into blood, mud, fire and riot is that we're far too disciplined in the military and veterans communities, and far too tolerant on the left. Idealism doesn't get in the way of Clarence Thomas or Scalia. I interpret this to mean that cross-burning, which is hate speech by definition, is probably protected speech. Yea! More fun ahead...
Meanwhile, Charlie Sheen has been spotted walking down the Vegas Strip with a gun, a speedo and a feather sticking out of his ass. Oh, half the men in the US have HPV. Which, since the virus is largely assoicated with women, means that a higher percentage of women have it. Which means that maybe we should be vaccinating everybody for it, since the virus itself is not so bad, but the cancers are. Or, maybe we should just skip it. Quick -- shoot Tiger Blood Charlie with a tranquilizer gun using the Siberian White Tiger dose and test him for it!