Daily Archive: 03/12/2012

Mar 12 2012

Afghan Massacre: Not So Lone Gunman

The claim by the US government that the latest massacre of Afghan civilians by a “lone gunman” may have some credibility gaps. The current version is:

An American soldier walked off his base in a remote southern Afghan village shortly before dawn Sunday and opened fire on civilians inside their homes, killing at least 16, including nine children, Afghan officials said. [..]

Officials shed no light on the motive or state of mind of the staff sergeant who was taken into custody shortly after the alleged massacre.

“It appears he walked off post and later returned and turned himself in,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Williams, a military spokesman.

U.S. military officials stressed that the shooting was carried out by a lone, rogue soldier, differentiating it from past instances of civilians killed accidentally during military operations.

Witnesses told Reuters that they observed a group of laughing, drunk American soldiers in the village around 2 AM:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 11 (Reuters) – Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.

One Afghan father who said his children were killed in the shooting spree accused soldiers of later burning the bodies.

Witnesses told Reuters they saw a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district at around 2 am, enter homes and open fire. [..]

Haji Samad said 11 of his relatives were killed in one house, including his children. Pictures showed blood-splattered walls where the children were killed.

“They (Americans) poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them,” a weeping Samad told Reuters at the scene.

“I saw that all 11 of my relatives were killed, including my children and grandchildren,” said Samad, who had left the home a day earlier.

Neighbours said they awoke to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, whom they described as laughing and drunk.

“They were all drunk and shooting all over the place,” said neighbour Agha Lala, who visited one of the homes where the incident took place. “Their bodies were riddled with bullets.”

The BBC has a similar account:

   Most villagers expressed scepticism that this was simply the work of a soldier who had lost control. One woman described how she was woken at 02:00 by the sound of helicopters. Others spoke of seeing computerised equipment in the area.

   Whatever the true chronology of events, this incident is being seen as yet another black mark in the catalogue of deadly Nato operations.

   “I saw one person come to our home, I told my son: ‘You have to be quiet and calm because maybe this is a night raid’,” said one woman.

   An hour after gunfire erupted, she went to her brother’s home and saw that corpses from his family had been set ablaze. She screamed for help.

Lambert Strether writing at naked capitalism asks:

What do we know now that we didn’t know in 2011, 2010, or 2009? And remind me who was President in 2011, 2010, and 2009? Was it that same guy who courageously opposed “dumb wars” back in 2008?

Of course, the military is rejecting these accounts and sticking with their story. The whole issue will be “handled” by the military in the same way they “handled” the 2006 Haitha massacre in Iraq, six years from now everyone involved, including those who covered up the real story, will walk off free and without any serious penalty. Not exactly the way to “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people.

Mar 12 2012

Iran, Israel and “The Bomb”

President Obama assured influential leaders attending American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last week that the Unites States has Israel’s back fighting efforts made  to delegitimize the state. But how will America be positioned against Iran’s potential nuclear threat to Israel? The Up with Chris Hayes panel Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal), contributing writer at Newsweek; Jeremy Ben-Ami (@jeremybenami), founder & president of J Street; Leila Hilal, Middle East analyst at the New America Foundation; and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder & president of The Israel Project discuss the contentious relationship between Israel and Iran.

The discussion that took place on Up with Chris went a long way to dispelling some myths about Iran’s nuclear energy program and the rhetoric of its alleged quest for a nuclear weapon. Chris Hayes pointed out early that “the big contest” was over whether President Obama would say “nuclear Iran” or “the capability for a nuclear weapon” in his speech to AIPAC, he went with the later. That did not stop the panelists continued false equation with a “nuclear Iran” and an Iran with a nuclear weapon. There is gaping difference between the two. “Capability” has become the code word for “the bomb”. The reality is that capability can also mean peaceful uses for nuclear energy that includes electricity and medical research.

No one, not even Hayes, mentioned that the ruling Ayatollahs have condemned nuclear weapons, as well as, chemical/biological weapons, based on religious and moral grounds. Nor did anyone mention that Iran has signed the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has not nor has Israel ever allowed inspection of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA and no one has dared demand it.

It was, however, good that Rula Jebreal the misstatements by Jennifer Mizrahi, founder of The Israel Project about Iran’s cooperation with inspections. Middle East analyst Leila Hilal and Mr. Hayes joined Ms. Jebeal had to correct her hyperbolic statements that the Iranians are “different” and not “rational actors” and stop her racist generalization of the Iranians. Ms. Hilal rightfully noted that there is conflation of Islamists saying that Hamas and the Iranians, because they’re Muslims, are going to act to attack Israel. In fact, it’s not Hamas or Iran but the Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Resistance that has been calling for Israel’s destruction and, however lightly, it was mentioned that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become isolated from the ruling Ayatollahs and increasingly unpopular with Iranians.

It was Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder & president of J Street who made the best observation that the premise of Iran dropping an atomic bomb on Israel, then be wiped out itself, is ridiculous on its face. Yet, here we are with the President of the United States saying that while he wants diplomacy to work but still saying that he has “Israel’s back” and talking about “nuclear capabilty” while Benjamin Netanyahu continues to threaten bombing Iran and right wing US politicians demand it.

The discussion held by Chis Hayes was a step in the right direction to dispel myths and blatant lies and put the facts and reality on the table. The conversation still has a long way to go.

Mar 12 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: What Greece Means

So Greece has officially defaulted on its debt to private lenders. It was an “orderly” default, negotiated rather than simply announced, which I guess is a good thing. Still, the story is far from over. Even with this debt relief, Greece – like other European nations forced to impose austerity in a depressed economy – seems doomed to many more years of suffering.

And that’s a tale that needs telling. For the past two years, the Greek story has, as one recent paper on economic policy put it, been “interpreted as a parable of the risks of fiscal profligacy.” Not a day goes by without some politician or pundit intoning, with the air of a man conveying great wisdom, that we must slash government spending right away or find ourselves turning into Greece, Greece I tell you.

Robert Reich: The Precarious Jobs Recovery

February’s  227,000 net new jobs – the third month in a row of job gains well in excess of 200,000 – is good news for President Obama and bad news for Mitt Romney.

Jobs are coming back fast enough to blunt Republican attacks against Obama on the economy and to rob Romney of the issue he’d prefer to be talking about in his primary battle against social conservatives in the GOP.

But jobs aren’t coming back fast enough to significantly reduce the nation’s backlog of 10 million jobs. That backlog consists of 5.3 million lost during the recession and another 4.7 million that needed to have been added just to keep up with the growth of the working-age population since the recession began.

Lawrence Davidson: America Gets Stupid, Again, on Iran

It is estimated that up to a million people died as a function of George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, which Bush later said was based on “faulty intelligence,” the ex-president’s way of passing the blame. The reality was that Bush insisted that accurate intelligence he was getting from traditional sources was false and that lies he was being told by other parties were true.

Now, there is Iran. Over and again the intelligence community has told the powers that be that Iran is not engaged in a nuclear weapons program. And over and again the men and women in Congress and the White House have insisted that these traditional sources of information are wrong and that the stories that are coming from other sources (in this case the Israeli government and its special interest agents in Washington) know better.

As in 2003, so it is in 2012. The politicians appear to be out for blood. One wonders how many dead and maimed bodies will satisfy them? Perhaps it will be a million dead Iranians.

Glenn Greenwald: Dennis Kucinich and ‘Wackiness’

Last week, Rep. Dennis Kucinich was defeated in a Democratic primary by Rep. Marcy Kaptur after re-districting pitted the two long-term incumbents against each other. Kucinich’s fate was basically sealed when the new district contained far more of Kaptur’s district than his. His 18-year stint in the House will come to an end when the next Congress is installed at the beginning of 2013.

Establishment Democrats have long viewed Dennis Kucinich with a mixture of scorn, mockery and condescension. True to form, the establishment liberal journal American Prospect gave Kucinich a little kick on the way out, comparing his political views to the 1960s musical “Hair” (the Ohio loser talked about “Harmony and understanding”!), deriding him as “a favorite among lefty college kids and Birkenstock-wearers around the country,” and pronouncing him “among the wackiest members of Congress.” Yes, I said The American Prospect, not The Weekly Standard.

The Prospect article also praises as “great” a snide, derisive Washington Post piece which purports to “highlight some of the particularly bizarre facts about” Kucinich. Among those is the fact that “he introduced impeachment articles against former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Cheney for their roles in the Iraq war” and “proposed a Cabinet-level agency devoted to peace.” What a weirdo and a loser. Even more predictably, a team of four interns at The New Republic – the magazine that spent years crusading for the attack on Iraq, smearing Israel critics as anti-Semites, and defining its editorial mission as re-making the Democratic Party in the image of Joe Lieberman – denounced the anti-war Kucinich as “ludicrous,” citing most of the same accusations as the Prospect and the Post. […]

Masahiro Matsumura: After the Earthquake: Changing Japan

One year on, Japanese people are having to adapt to survive and thrive in a country prone to devastating natural disasters

On the first anniversary of the huge earthquake that hit Japan’s northeastern Pacific coast, its people are still coming to terms with their grief and trying to work out what the disaster meant for the nation.

Although 3/11, as it’s become known, was a bolt from the blue, the country – located in one of the world’s largest and most active volcanic zones – had long expected a great earthquake and tsunami to occur sooner or later. It was well prepared for the type of disaster that would happen once every 100 years, but not for a far greater one-in-a-1000-years one. No wonder the catastrophe overwhelmed Japan’s well-laid plans for protecting people, buildings and infrastructure.

Fail-safe measures to cope with a super-disaster are practically beyond the nation’s wealth: the worst-case scenario is sequential or even simultaneous occurrence in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, the central Pacific coast and the southwestern Pacific coast.

Alongside national and local government efforts to improve disaster preparations, individuals now have to consider the topographic, geological and social features of their homes and workplaces, and have less choice over where to live than in the past.

Dr. Megan Evans : A Doctor Speaks: “Horrific” Arizona Law Would Allow Doctors to Practice Bad Medicine Without Accountability

Imagine carrying a baby to term.  You’ve waited nine long months for this moment.  You’ve planned for her arrival, you’ve had the baby shower, and you’ve gone to all your prenatal appointments. All along you are told that you are progressing normally and your baby is healthy. Your delivery day comes and, at delivery, your doctor tells you your baby has a devastating abnormality.  A cardiac defect or a severe structural abnormality or chromosomal abnormality… something that was likely already detected early in your pregnancy.

You then discover your doctor withheld this information from you for fear you would seek an abortion.  What a nightmare.

Unfortunately, the Arizona legislation is working to make this nightmare a reality. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that would prohibit any medical malpractice lawsuits against physicians who chose to withhold valuable information regarding their patient’s pregnancy that could lead her and her family to seek termination.  Much to my chagrin, this type of legislation is already law in Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah, Idaho, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, and is being discussed in Kansas.

Mar 12 2012

On This Day In History March 12

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 12 is the 71st day of the year (72nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 294 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947, in a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, President Harry S. Truman asks for U.S. assistance for Greece and Turkey to forestall communist domination of the two nations. Historians have often cited Truman’s address, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the official declaration of the Cold War.

In February 1947, the British government informed the United States that it could no longer furnish the economic and military assistance it had been providing to Greece and Turkey since the end of World War II. The Truman administration believed that both nations were threatened by communism and it jumped at the chance to take a tough stance against the Soviet Union. In Greece, leftist forces had been battling the Greek royal government since the end of World War II. In Turkey, the Soviets were demanding some manner of control over the Dardanelles, territory from which Turkey was able to dominate the strategic waterway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

Truman stated the Doctrine would be “the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Truman reasoned, because these “totalitarian regimes” coerced “free peoples,” they represented a threat to international peace and the national security of the United States. Truman made the plea amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). He argued that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they urgently needed, they would inevitably fall to communism with grave consequences throughout the region.

The policy won the support of Republicans who controlled Congress and involved sending $400 million in American money, but no military forces, to the region. The effect was to end the Communist threat, and in 1952 both countries joined NATO, a military alliance that guaranteed their protection.

The Doctrine was informally extended to become the basis of American Cold War policy throughout Europe and around the world. It shifted American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union from détente (friendship) to, as George F. Kennan phrased it, a policy of containment of Soviet expansion. Historians often use its announcement to mark the starting date of the Cold War.

Long-term policy and metaphor

The Truman Doctrine underpinned American Cold War policy in Europe and around the world. The doctrine endured because it addressed a broader cultural insecurity regarding modern life in a globalized world. It dealt with Washington’s concern over communism’s domino effect, it enabled a media-sensitive presentation of the doctrine that won bipartisan support, and it mobilized American economic power to modernize and stabilize unstable regions without direct military intervention. It brought nation-building activities and modernization programs to the forefront of foreign policy.

The Truman Doctrine became a metaphor for emergency aid to keep a nation from communist influence. Truman used disease imagery not only to communicate a sense of impending disaster in the spread of communism but also to create a “rhetorical vision” of containing it by extending a protective shield around non-communist countries throughout the world. It echoed the “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine_Speech quarantine the aggressor]” policy Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to impose to contain German and Japanese expansion in 1937. The medical metaphor extended beyond the immediate aims of the Truman Doctrine in that the imagery combined with fire and flood imagery evocative of disaster provided the United States with an easy transition to direct military confrontation in later years with communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. By presenting ideological differences in life or death terms, Truman was able to garner support for this communism-containing policy.

Mar 12 2012

Pique the Geek 20120311: More on Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is back in the news since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources indicated that it was likely that disposal of those fluids after the actual fracturing operation was likely the cause of seismic activity in the Youngstown area, the largest of which was a magnitude 4.0 on 20111231.  It turns out that it us usually not the fracturing activity itself that caused the seismic, but rather deep well injection for disposal of the spent fluids after use.

This not the only potential problem with this procedure, however.  I have written about the process before, but am returning to give a more in depth treatment of it.  I was first drawn to the subject when earthquakes occurred in Guy, Arkansas last year.  The Guy area is not known for seismic activity, but sure enough after deep well injection of the spent fluids began so did the earthquakes.

Before we look at the potential problems with this process, we should look into why it is done and some historical background.  It turns out that the process is over a century old.