Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rethinking Afghanistan

A documentary from Brave New Films tries to point out again and again and again the stupidity of occupying Afghanistan if the objective is to combat terrorism (h/t Steve Hynd at Newshoggers).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

RIP Public Option

The Associated Press is reporting that the Obama administration is getting ready to bid the public option bye bye. While I think the public option in the form the Obama administration was pushing it was to little, too late, Obama himself viewed the option differently. Barak Obama had this to say about the public option:
one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest.

But that is so one month ago!

The AP reporter provides the justification for the U turn:
Such a concession probably would enrage Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers.

So that's all right then. No health care reform, but our President will be victorious. Yay!


Ian Welsh at Open Left explains the "problem" with the public option and how it could be "cured." It is so succinct I am lifting it wholesale:
To put it really simply, if you don't need a profit, and if you are only as efficient as your competitors, you will drive them out of business if you are not constrained in some fashion from doing so (capital is the usual fashion, since non profits have trouble raising it. In the health care context, arranging it so the public option takes on more unhealthy people is the more likely way to do it.)

Since a real public option properly created to not be constrained from doing so WILL drive private insurers out of business, it will not be allowed to happen. It may be called a "public option", but it won't actually be allowed to operate as a public option should. A public option which won't destroy the insurers in time, is also a public option which can't drive down prices effectively.

All else is shadow play.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

That was then, this is now (health care edition)

You have to admit though, he sounds so sincere (h/t Cannonfire).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

After Baitullah

While Baitullah Mehsud's death will provide a breathing space to the Pakistani establishment, it is a minor victory given the extent of the challenges facing the government in this region. Jason Burke of the Guardian details some of the deep rooted structural problems for which the TTP is simply a part of the response. He notes the marginalization of the FATA population which will continue to give rise to many more Baitullahs:
The Pashtun tribes of the FATA have the lowest levels of literacy, economic development and infrastructural development of anywhere in Pakistan. They are not considered full citizens. Pushed to the margins, they are, in one sense, trying to fight their way into the centre of national political and economic life.
... this marginalisation is reflected within the society of the North-West frontier too. The militants are often men who would normally be consigned to the edges of a tribe in terms of status, wealth and power. Mangal Bagh, a major militant leader in the Khyber Agency, is a former truck driver. Mullah Fazlullah, who masterminded the recent Taliban take over of Swat, worked as a labourer on Pakistan's only ski lift. In Bajaur and Mohmand agencies, the pattern is repeated with senior militants including mechanics, small shopkeepers, itinerant religious teachers.
Under different circumstance such marginalization would lead to spontaneous uprisings which would quickly be quelled by authorities. But now, Burke points out, there is an ideological and logistical support which provides the uprisings with staying power. This support is from what Burke calls the Deobandi complex.
There is religious homogeneity: the conservative southwest Asian Deobandi strand of Sunni Islam that has established itself with its system of mosques and free schools across the region. There is ethnic homogeneity: the Pashtuns. There is a commercial sector of big businessmen involved in smuggling, transport, timber, drugs and a range of legitimate businesses. There is political representation: parties such as Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islami. There is diplomacy with connections to the Gulf and elsewhere in the Islamic world. There are significant flows of cash in and out, often through remittances from overseas workers. There is a broadly accepted culture: the conservative, rural, religiously-infused values of the Pashun hill tribes. And there is a military: the various Taliban groups.
Musharraf's government allowed these marginalized people to feel power. Not just in FATA but throughout the NWFP and even (through the Lal Majid) in the heart of the capital. The memory of power does not fade easily. This is not something that will disappear anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Prince of Darkness

Jeremy Scahill is reporting that Eric Prince the founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater has been accused of murder of individuals cooperating with a federal probe into its activities. (As opposed to the slaughter of innocent Iraqi civilians which is of course not hat big a deal)
A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."
Don't forget, this guy was, effectively, acting in the name of the American people in Iraq.


Here is a followup interview of Jeremy Scahill on Countdown:

Scahill points out that investigation into Blackwaters gun smuggling operation was blocked by the government. One of the results of the gun-running operation was the delivery of US weapons to the PKK which many in Turkey still point to as proof that the US is out to destabilize Turkey. Scahill finishes with "We can talk about Blackwater until we are blue in the face but who deployed Blackwater? Who hired Blackwater? Who, unfortunately President Obama, continues to pay Blackwater millions of dollars from the Federal payroll?" As Olbermann said "The mind reels."