Late Night Logic: YouTube Pub Rock Round-Up

by matttbastard

In which matttbastard pays homage to the somewhat overlooked (at least on these post-colonial shores) mid-’70s UK Pub Rock scene.

Eddie and the Hot Rods – Beginning Of The End

(more after the fold)
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Give It Up. Please.

by matttbastard

 

iraq_troops03-14-2006b.jpg

Not this malarkey again:

The U.S. may be able to reduce combat forces in Iraq by next spring if Iraq’s own security forces continue to grow and improve, a senior American commander said Friday

[…]

“I think if everything goes the way it’s going now, there’s a potential that by the spring we will be able to reduce forces, and Iraq security forces could take over,” Odierno said. “It could happen sooner than that. I don’t know.”

He also cautioned that, because the insurgents in Iraq have proven so resilient and adaptive, making any prediction is risky. “There’s so many things that could happen between now and then,” he said, referring to next spring.

Holy fuck, could he get any more non-committal? I pity his wife, children and stockbroker.

Michael Stickings:

The warriors and warmongers — the wagers of this war in Baghdad and Washington — want to have it all ways, to leave open all options, to keep waging war but to keep talking about pulling out. And this isn’t flexibility, which could be a virtue, but the absence of a genuine plan to wage a war that has already been lost, which is a vice that keeps on killing.

It is time — long past time — for the ifs and coulds to give way to a definitive conclusion to this war. As long as it keeps on being waged, the only potential is for still more failure.

Maha provides some background on the many, many Pentagon non-announcements pertaining to the reduction of combat forces that have been made throughout the occupation.

via Memeorandum.

UpdateCernig:

The Iraqi security forces are militia-infested (a direct consequence of Coalition Provisional Authority decisions), under-equipped and under-armed (a direct consequence of U.S. determination to keep Iraq a Satrapy) and rife with desertion (a direct consequence of the first two). The chances of them standing up so U.S. forces can stand down are no higher now than they were two years ago when this cycle of pony-gives-and-pony-takes-away first began. The cycle, now, is so regular you could set your Friedman Unit clock by it.

If Iraqi security forces were going to be at all able to do what the U.S. military says they might, do you really think they’d be doing deals with insurgent groups who have attacked U.S. troops to fight Al Qaeda instead?

Update 06.24: And on cue, Gen. Petraeus comes to take away the pony:

The top U.S. commander in Iraq yesterday backed off comments by his second-in-command that American troops could start pulling out of Iraq by next spring.

“I’m not making any predictions,” Gen. David Petraeus said yesterday, as roadside bombings claimed the lives of seven more U.S. troops, including four killed by a single blast outside Baghdad.

[…]

“It depends an awful lot on different factors out there – obviously how we’re doing in the security sector, how the Iraqis are doing, how much has been accomplished in a variety of different areas, and that’s what will determine what we take back,” Petraeus said.

Is it just me, or does ‘Operation Arrowhead Ripper’ sound like the title of a gay leatherporn flick?

Death From Above

by matttbastard

NATO invokes a variation of the wifebeater defence after alliance air strikes in Afghanistan kill 25 civilians:

NATO commanders are adamant that the militants — not foreign forces — deserve most of the blame for the toll among civilians, and said the overnight bloodshed in southern Helmand province was just such a case.

[…]

Lt. Col. Mike Smith, a NATO spokesman, expressed concern about Afghan police reports that civilians also died in the airstrike. But he said insurgents chose the time and place for their attack, so “the risk to civilians was probably deliberate.”

“It is this irresponsible action that may have led to casualties,” he said.

The airstrike killed 20 militants, but it also wiped out two civilian families totaling 25 people, including nine women, three babies and a mullah, provincial Police Chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal told The Associated Press.

“NATO was targeting the areas where the (insurgent) fire was coming from … and two compounds were completely destroyed, and the families living in those compounds were killed,” he said.

Military commanders said their forces have to be free to respond to attacks.

“If someone is firing at our troops they have the right to defend themselves and have the right to fire at a position which is firing at them,” said another NATO spokesman, Maj. John Thomas. “If the enemy has put themselves in an area where they are firing from among civilians, this is when we sometimes have casualties.”

[…]

If confirmed, the casualties in Gereshk would bring the number of civilians killed in NATO or U.S.-led military operations this year to 177, according to an AP tally of figures provided by Afghan officials and witnesses.

You know, it didn’t wash when US and Israeli military officials used this crassly disingenuous line of initial misdirection in Iraq and Lebanon, respectively, and it doesn’t wash when NATO tries to pull the same shit in Afghanistan. More from RFE/RL:

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer argues that civilian deaths caused by NATO combat activities are accidental and, therefore, in a different moral category than civilian deaths intentionally caused by Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

[…]

De Hoop Scheffer said after those talks that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are trying to increase civilian casualties in Afghanistan in a bid to undermine support for foreign troops in the country — as well as support for Karzai’s government.

“They are, of course, trying to [ensure] that we are losing the hearts and minds of the Afghan people,” de Hoop Scheffer said. “We are still supported by a large majority [of Afghans]; I find that out every time I get there. But, of course, [the insurgents] are waging this indirect war against us by exploiting civilians — by using them as human shields.

With all due respect to the Secretary General, this is a steaming pile of self-justifying imperialist offal. Fuck this ‘accidental’ noise; the ongoing indiscriminate slaughter on the part of Western occupation forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel that has resulted in so many innocent lives lost is, as Lenin pointed out last year (by way of a Michael Schwartz article on the US air war in Iraq ), SOP:

[T]ake one story from Baiji [Iraq], in which a pilotless drone ‘detected’ three men which the US claims was planting a bomb by the roadside – the plane tracked the men to what is neutrally described as a ‘building’, which they strafed with 100 cannon rounds before dropping a bomb which – predictably – destroyed the building and damaged six others around it. The building turned out to be a house. Three women and three boys aged younger than ten were killed in their nightclothes and blankets. There was no report of whether a bomb was in fact discovered by the roadside, but the ‘coalition’ press information centre said: “We continue to see terrorists and insurgents using civilians in an attempt to shield themselves.”

Aside from the callousness of this statement, Schwartz notes that it “did assert U.S. policy: If suspected guerrillas use any building as a refuge, a full-scale attack on that structure is justified, even if the insurgents attempt to use civilians to ‘shield themselves.’ These are, in other words, essential U.S. rules of engagement. The attack should be “precise” only in the sense that planes and/or helicopter gunships should seek as best they can to avoid demolishing surrounding structures. Put another way, it is more important to stop the insurgents than protect the innocent.”

Judging by the number of civilian casualties piling up in Afghanistan this year as a result of NATO counterinsurgency operations, stopping the Taliban also outweighs the lives of civilians.

And don’t think the ones we’re supposedly ‘liberating’ aren’t aware of this.

One in Four

by matttbastard

Lowest poll numbers since Nixon; take that, Jimmy Carter.

Related: Ian Welsh points out that Congressional Democrats also face a dissatisfied electorate, with only 25% of Americans stating they approve of Congress’ performance thus far. Even more troubling, only 27% of rank and file Democrats are happy with their supposed partisan brethren. Welsh believes the Congressional leadership should take heed of the numbers and reconsider the virtues of reflexive ‘moderation’:

If Pelosi insists on not doing a majority of a majority rule, and I understand that she had principled objections, then what will happen is only bills that the Blue Dogs can get behind, will pass. And since the blue dogs are pretty damn conservative, that means a pile of bills that are going to piss off the base.

Pander to conservatives, which is what the current “majority of the House” rule means, and liberals and progressives won’t be happy.

And liberals and progressives are the majority of the base.

Pelosi and Reid can play their “bipartisanship” games all they want, they can be as “responsible” as they want, but they are pissing off the majority of their own party’s supporters.

Demonstrative Tenure

by matttbastard

Hilzoy and Von take turns flaying Ann Althouse’s latest example of trollalicious unhinged incoherency, a purportedly ‘satirical’ armchair psychoanalysis of a recent Hillary Clinton campaign vid. Both ObWingians get their licks in. But (IMO, no offense to Hil and Von) the best rhetorical shanking is in the comments to Von’s post, where Carlton Wu cuts to the bare bone of Althouse’s tired (and all too familiar) routine with eviscerating brevity*:

1)Ann smears poo on her head, says “I love smearing poo on my head!”
2)Blogosphere collectively shakes head, says “So sad, Ann is crazy.”
3)Ann furiously wipes poo off of her head, and says “Ha Ha! *You* are teh sad! I fooled you into thinking I am crazy!”
4)B.C. “Yes, we’re sorry, we apologize for taking you seriously. Our bad.”

On a semi-related note, OMGWTFBBQ?! Celine-fucking-Dion?!!1 Fleetwood Mac seems positively revolutionary by comparison.

The only US presidential candidate whose dubious taste in music trumps Clinton’s has to be progressive windmill chaser Dennis Kucinich.

Sweet Caroline‘? Awesome. ‘Coming to America‘? Not so much.

Update: Hil, you’re only getting half the view. (NSFW – pheer teh evul vag, werkplace philterz!)

Update 06.21: Reasonable conservative Jon Swift with the ultimate Althouse FAQ (if he’s not already on your blogroll, well, your blogroll is woefully incomplete).

*Not to take away from Jill’s seminal ‘peeing on floor’ analogy. Feel free to hash out any ‘urine vs. feces’ conflict in comments.

Not His Shtick

by matttbastard

Stephen Harper has a prescription for China:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned China Friday to remain on good behaviour because the coming Olympics will put the nation under massive scrutiny.

“I think when you open your country to the world that way and ask every television camera in the world to come in, I would think it would be in your own self-interest to make that image as positive as it can be,” he told reporters at the end of the meeting of the G8 group of industrialized countries.

[…]

“My view is that as that country grows in importance, it will face increasing pressure,” he said.

“It will face increasing pressure from the world community on issues of democratic development and human rights, on issues like climate change and environmental protection, and on issues of corporate social responsibility, in particular the responsibility of Chinese enterprises and commercial activities in the Third World.”

Physician, heal thyself:

Leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries, and Stephen Harper in particular, endured a blast Friday from anti-poverty activists and rock stars who said they have let down Africa by failing to back up their promises for increased aid.

The criticism came after leaders of the group of eight industrialized countries agreed to recommit themselves to doubling aid, but failed to agree on a specific timetable for how they would pay for it.

Mr. Harper was singled out for special criticism by Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2, for hampering the effort.

“I said some years ago that the world needs more Canada and I meant it and I was looking for leadership,” he said. “I can’t believe that this Canada has become a laggard.”

[…]

Mr. Geldof noted last week that the anti-poverty group DATA, with which he is deeply involved, has reported that Canada has earmarked only $160-million in aid to Africa for 2007, when an increase of $623-million would be needed for Canada to stay on track to meet its commitment to double aid.

“A man called Stephen Harper came to Heiligendamm; Canada stayed at home,” Mr. Geldof said.

NDP leader Jack Layton also assailed Harper in a party press release, accusing the PM of “turning Canada into an international embarrassment”:

“Mr. Harper calls himself a ‘bridge-builder,’” said NDP Leader Jack Layton. “Yet, on climate change, on development aid for Africa, and on the rising nuclear threat, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are burning their bridges with the rest of the world on every critical G8 issue.”

So much for needing more Canada; judging by the near universal embrace by Western powers of the willfully indifferent neo-liberalism espoused by Harper and the Conservatives, it would seem that there are too many nations taking our example. No matter the amount pledged (and actually delivered), most Western aid to developing nations is paternalistic, ineffective and, in many instances, counterproductive. Why? It’s the trade imbalance, stupid:

Two years after Gleneagles, a year after St Petersburg, it is striking how little the discourse around Africa has changed. G8 leaders, NGO activists and African leaders all seem to agree that aid is pivotal to Africa’s turnaround. Germany’s chancellor and host of the G8, Angela Merkel, has joined the club – promising that this time the G8 will redeem its pledge to double aid to Africa by 2010.

This approach rests on a studied evasion about why so much aid to Africa in the past has failed to deliver transformation. It thus seems more concerned to salve consciences than to bring real change. It also ignores the lively debate that is raging behind the scenes and in public forums about whether aid is really effective as an instrument of development.

A thirty-year veteran of the World Bank, Phyllis R Pomerantz contributes one valuable view to this argument (see Aid Effectiveness in Africa: Developing Trust between Donors and Governments [Lexington Books, 2004]). Pomerantz attributes much of aid’s ineffectiveness in Africa to donors’ failure to pay attention to culture. Monologue and one-way impositions, donor paternalism, and insensitivity undermine the trust, mutual respect and understanding that should, in Pomerantz’s view, underpin aid relationships.

Pomerantz would like to see donors pay more attention to African traditions and conditions. She is aiming for trusting relationships that underpin shared purpose, commitment, reliability, transparency, and familiarity.

Such a vision – which is echoed from a different direction by Michael Edwards in his openDemocracy article on the reinvention of “development” – seems very far from the cold calculations of summit talks where the paternalism of the discourse about aid is reinforced by hypocrisy over a second potential route to African development: trade. Here, the contradiction between the rhetoric of free and equitable trade and the reality of subsidies and preferential agreements is all too established. As the United Nations human-development report of 2005 says: “The world’s richest countries spent just over one billion dollars for the year 2005 on aid for agriculture in poor countries, and just under one billion dollars each day of that year for various subsidies of agricultural overproduction at home.”

Every day that rich countries continue to block African food exports or flood African markets with subsidised imports, they emaciate African producers and further reduce the continent’s capacity to trade its way to wealth and prosperity.

This G8 summit holds out the prospect of more hand-wringing about rich-country subsidies, but probably very little action. It is far easier to make aid promises (whether fulfilled or not) and then claw them back with an unjust trade regime; it’s called give and take.

Fairness: it’s not the G8’s–or Stephen Harper’s–shtick.