Sunday, June 13, 2010

Last Call

If this wasn't so deliciously perfect in its timing, I'd be crying right now.
The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war. 
And just when America starts to begin to really question why we're in Afghanistan, we magically get a story that the place is sitting on a trillion in mineral reserves that gosh, we just have to help them develop.

We will never leave Afghanistan, just like we will never leave Iraq.

World Cupdate

And I thought that while yesterday's USA/England match was terrible, it didn't prepare me for the other Group C matchup today between Algeria and Slovenia: one of the outright sloppiest international games I've ever seen.  Slovenia won 1-0 scoring in the 79th minute because the Algerian keeper got bored and fell asleep, along with the entire crowd.  Slovenia is now leading in Group C.  That sums up everything you need to know about that chunk of the bracket and the bottom line is not a one of those four teams deserves any points in the standings.

In Group D action, Ghana's Asamoah Gyan scored on a brilliant penalty shot in the 84th minute to ice the Serbs 1-0, giving an African nation its first win so far in this first African World Cup.  The Serbs were just outplayed as they blew their stack and Aleksandr Lukovic got red carded at 74, although it was a close match up until the last 30 when the Serbs started racking up the silly penalties.

But Germany has the match of the Cup so far and showed total domination of the Socceroos as they blitzkreiged the Aussies 4-0.  You can make all the German precision machine references you want to here, but they're all valid.  Four different German players scored,  and the match was essentially over after the second goal at minute 26.  To compound the Down Under Blunder, the ref nailed Aussie forward Tim Cahill with a totally craptastic and undeserved red card for a late tackle.  Everything that could have gone wrong for the Aussies went wrong and Zee Germans just dismantled them.  They will go far if they play like that all tourney, especially Thomas Muller.

The Big Squeeze

C&L's Susie Madrak argues that with Orange Julius coming around to lifting the liability cap on oil companies like BP, the stage is now set for BP to file bankruptcy, walk away, and get billions of taxpayer dollars as we're stuck with the bill.
Today on "This Week" with Jake Tapper, John Boehner and Steny Hoyer both agreed that BP's liability cap should be raised.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Here's what I think it means: Two corporatist lackeys want the ceremonial Kabuki dance of raising the liability cap because it will play well with voters -- but will actually make BP happy because it sets the stage for their eventual bankruptcy (or that of whichever subsidiary they'll designate as the liable party), and they'll get to walk away and stick us with the entire bill. BP will be happy, the politicians who take oil company money will be happy, and Wall Street will be happy.

Everyone will be happy -- except the people and creatures whose lives were destroyed by their criminal negligence. Whee!
It's possible that this was the plan all along:  sell off BP's holdings and wells to other oil companies who take over and leave the taxpayer with all the liability.  Not like that hasn't been done before.

We'll see.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Steve Benen looks at Obama's appeal to Congress for $50 billion in direct aid to local governments to save firefighters, cops, and teachers' jobs and asks:
In what universe do Democrats think they'll be better off politically with "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters"?
In the right-wing talk radio universe where multi-millionaire personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh declare that teachers, police and firefighters are characterized first and foremost by their status as being unionized government employees, not by their value to society as a whole, and are therefore now The Enemy.

Only in America is risking your life to protect people or to teach children a job so unimportant and reviled that we would actively seek to cut them.  The next step of course is to declare that crime has increased, fire casualties and damages have gone up, and schools are getting worse...and then blame the government for all three and start demanding more cuts for these "lazy union slobs".

Clinton Felt Your Pain, Obama Is Aware Of It And Is Taking Steps

The President plans to address the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday night after leaving for the Gulf coast tomorrow to try to nip this whole idiotic "the President isn't doing enough to stop the spill" garbage.
Obama's televised statement will come the night before he is scheduled to meet with top BP officials.

A White House official told CNN that Obama would push BP to create a BP-funded escrow account that will pay for damage claims from the worsening oil spill.

"The president will make clear that he expects, and that if necessary will exercise his full legal authority to ensure, that BP sets aside the funds required to pay individuals and businesses damaged by this massive spill," the White House official said on condition of anonymity.

In addition, the official said, the plan would call for the money set aside by BP to be "paid out under fair, efficient, and transparent procedures administered by an independent third-party panel established just for this purpose."
Gonna have to be a hell of an escrow account.  More than likely BP's going to be on the hook for tens of billions.  But that's Obama's style:  low-key, pragmatic, and results-oriented.

The larger problem of course is that the same people who spent the last 18 months screaming that government is too involved in the free markets, that the government over-regulates industries like energy, that we need smaller government with less oversight, that we need to reduce spending on programs by eliminating government watchdogs and allowing industies to police themselves, and that government interference in the marketplace is a dangerous assumption of power by the state are the first people in line attacking Obama for not doing enough to stop this oil disaster.

From wanting to militarize BP's cleanup operation in the Gulf to actually literally nuking the damn oil geyser, these are the same folks complaining Obama isn't angry enough, isn't involved enough, isn't talking enough, isn't doing enough, and has yet to reveal his secret DARPA program where he gets bitten by a radioactive shark and develops aquatic superpowers to plug the damn hole.

The fact is there's no easy answers to a lot of the problems we're facing right now:  the economy, the two wars we're in, unemployment, that damn oil geyser, and a host of other deadly real we're facing together.  The problem is being compounded by those who don't have any solutions, but have plenty of blame to pass around...and it's amazing how all that blame always lands on the same pair of shoulders at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue no matter what.

There are problems that Obama is responsible for fixing, yes, but not responsible for creating.  There's difference.  The American people are aware of that difference, even if the President's knee-jerk detractors aren't.


In his column this morning at the NY Times Bob Herbert says what is needed to be said about our war in Afghanistan, now the longest war America has ever fought:  it's time to go.  Obama's surge has failed completely.
What’s happening in Afghanistan is not only tragic, it’s embarrassing. The American troops will fight, but the Afghan troops who are supposed to be their allies are a lost cause. The government of President Hamid Karzai is breathtakingly corrupt and incompetent — and widely unpopular to boot. And now, as The Times’s Dexter Filkins is reporting, the erratic Mr. Karzai seems to be giving up hope that the U.S. can prevail in the war and is making nice with the Taliban.

There is no overall game plan, no real strategy or coherent goals, to guide the fighting of U.S. forces. It’s just a mind-numbing, soul-chilling, body-destroying slog, month after month, year after pointless year. The 18-year-olds fighting (and, increasingly, dying) in Afghanistan now were just 9 or 10 when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked in 2001.

Americans have zoned out on this war. They don’t even want to think about it. They don’t want their taxes raised to pay for it, even as they say in poll after poll that they are worried about budget deficits. The vast majority do not want their sons or daughters anywhere near Afghanistan.

Why in the world should the small percentage of the population that has volunteered for military service shoulder the entire burden of this hapless, endless effort? The truth is that top American officials do not believe the war can be won but do not know how to end it. So we get gibberish about empowering the unempowerable Afghan forces and rebuilding a hopelessly corrupt and incompetent civil society.

Our government leaders keep mouthing platitudes about objectives that are not achievable, which is a form of deception that should be unacceptable in a free society. 
And America will have to have a long discussion with itself about "who lost the war" just like Vietnam.  Republican war hawks will blame Obama as the President who lost Afghanistan and will attack him as such in 2012.  Democratic war hawks will say he inherited a war from Bush that was made impossible by the invasion of Iraq.  Both will be wrong.

The reality is there was never a way to win, and the war never should have been fought.  More resources, more troops, more bombs, more guns, more drones, more money will not win this war, because the war is lost.  It's past time for us to go home.  If the point of Obama's surge in Afghanistan was to prove to the American people that our war in Afghanistan is not winnable, then in that he has succeeded.

July 2011 cannot come fast enough.  Bring them home.
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