Thursday, April 29, 2010

#221 Mark Morford Un-Foodied but Tasty

Since I picked on him peckishly a couple of weeks ago over at Mosteller Musings, let me give this SFGate guy a soupcon of time on this more topical/polemical wing of the family bloggerage. Though wildly off-menu in his food-nannyism about the "toxic zoo" at left (MM #48-50), Mark Morford doth rant often and well about other issues of more consequence, and closer to my heart ... in the non-cardio sense.

An opportunity for him to do so was afforded last week by the explosive reaction to that same anti-KFC-Double-Down article I attacked. The respondents to Morford's original column were overwhelmingly in support, of course, except for a "few oxygen-deprived souls" who only weakly (out of fan-loyalty, I must suppose) suggested to him that the Colonel's sandwich just wasn't all that bad, and that there were "far worse things out there" to get his animus animated about. No, no, says he to those few: you've missed the more important,"larger picture" (told you so). And here he admits to his true target(s) all along:

... all the pollution, animal abuse, INDUSTRIAL FARMING, chemicals, synthetic, antibiotics, hormones and just plain insidiousness of a company [losing syntax in mid-rant] concocting something this greasy and disgusting in the modern age. (full article here)
But while he's at it, okay, Why not admit rhetorically that there are indeed "those things that are worse for you than KFC's fistful of karmic hate"--and get some of them off his chest? So the remainder of "37 Things Worse Than a KFC Meatwich" does just that.

But first, a moment with Industrial Farming. If, Mr. Morford, saving the lives of millions of CALORIE-deprived souls around the world is of any consequence, then scientific agri-business must continue going about its business for years and years to come. Cute little organic "victory" gardens in everybody's utopian backyard--which even so canny a food-pundit as Michael Pollan seems to get misty-eyed about--just ain't gonna feed the SIX BILLION people, and counting, on Planet Earth. Thanks to "industrialization," the developed countries, including mainly us, have indeed been able SHARE our surplus groceries with the rest of the world. Moreover, our friendly neighborhood supermarket offers the most inflation-resistant, bargain-priced product you can buy in these hard economic times, or any other time for that matter. So very, very fortunately--think about it--it's THE product we can't live without.

However, here is a buffet of Morford's top seven, a tasty mix the sublime and the ridiculous, which I've seasoned with a sampling (in quotes) of his pungent prose:

1. Tea Parties. A recent rally featuring Sarah "Queen of Duh" Palin reminded him of the Lollipop Guild serenading Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz"-- "that bizarre acid-trip of a scene ... the moment just before a very stoned Dorothy skips away to hook up with her crazy gay pals and traipse through a giant Pink Floyd album, the moment when those three adult dwarves stumble out of the Munchkinland horde wearing little kid outfits, and sing their little surly song, replete with surly, out-of-sync leg spasms." Nicely done.

2. Floating garbage. Referring to that recently reported and news-piced "giant, rancid, thousand -mile swath of plastic collected over a period of years in a huge swirling vortex and choking off sea-life as far as the eye can weep." No bun needed.

3. Military spending. No argument from me, of course, about that vomit-inducing 53% of our annual tax bill. "We have the largest, most bloated war machine in the world. We SELL more guns, tanks, jets, and warheads to more dictators, regimes, and drug cartels than anyone on the planet. Are your local schools crumbling? Public hospitals failing? Entire state dumber than Glenn Beck's fact-checker? Blame the military ..."

4. Miley Cyrus. The ridiculous.

5. The Catholic Church. Worthy of quoting his full, sardonic treatment: "Sure, sure, the Double Down will enrage your colon, toxify your blood, disfigure your heart, greasify your skin, shrivel your genitalia, and dumb you down to the level of slug shoelace. But that's nothing compared to 2,000 years of abuse, lies, oppression, lack of sunshine and dead leathery skin that accompanies handing over your soul to the sinister clan of old men who run the Vatican. As for the Pope, well, it would appear the "holiest" man in the Christian empire cares more about PR than child rape. You know, just like Jesus wanted." More from me about all of that in a later post.

6. "Jersey Shore." For him it's the TV version of the Double Down, I guess. Why has Morford risked his gastro-intestinal health by watching even a moment of it?--one might ask. I suppose it's meant to be , like Miley Cyrus, another example of America's Double-Down-and-out sense of TASTE.

7. Republicanism. No argument here either. For me, the once proud party of Lincoln has become a weird religious cult of cold-eyed shamans leading a bunch of wild-eyed Kool-Aiders. For Mark Morford, the party "has devolved into a shrill, shrieking puddle of Glenn Beck's crocodile tears, Rush Limbaugh racists and surly white men who hate the fact that you might [in future?] have decent access to health care, can marry someone you love, and don't hate [as the Republicans do at present?] everything and everyone not inbred near a Texas football stadium." (The guy's rhetorical outrage doth betimes befuddle the plot of his sentences.)

8-37. Here he fudges. Morford put out a call on his FaceBook fan-page for suggestions to finish out his 37 "non-food items deemed far worse for you than a KFC Double Down." Check 'em out. They too range from the important to the inane--from Ann Coulter to a dioxin enema, from the Bible to unprotected bestiality (?!). Fun readage.

Okay, Mark Morford, time's up. I guess I'm a fan, too, because ... De gustibus non est disputandum. And you can Double-Down on that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

#220 IrAfPak--"Death to America"

Ah, Kandahar ... land of the pomegranate and the palm- and/or ballistic-grenade (see DM #154-156 for a fulsome rhapsode on that strange fruit's metaphorical and combatical implications) ... you EXPLODE upon the headlines once again--this time in the CIVILIAN MURDER department, apropos of last several posts. We just can't get enough of "takin' pot-shots at the Gooks."

Here's Monday's AP/HuffPost lead:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan--Afghans burned tires and chanted "Death to America" after U.S. TROOPS FIRED ON A CIVILIAN BUS near Kandahar, killing four people and wounding more than a dozen. Afghanistan's president [Hamid Karzai] accused NATO of violating its commitment to safeguard civilian lives. (full report here)
Ah, Kandahar ... of once-lovely place and vowelicious name, you threaten us with irony-overdose. Yes, you are the land of luscious pomegranate and lush-full opium-poppy, but also the fertile spawning-ground of the Taliban, and its major stronghold. You are also the birthplace of "democratically elected" Hamid Karzai, a former/major Talib himself, and will be once again, easily, if things don't go his way. For the execrable Mr. Karzai, as for all his Sunni-Pashtun brothers, Taliban or not, it's simply a matter of power-politics. Party affiliation, no more no less.

Hence the intractable, ultimately irresolvable problem--and why we must get the hell out--put in simple terms and Haiku-form for ease of memorization :

... because they're "one of us." The Americans, on the other hand, are the murderous foreigners, no matter the "collateral" justification. It was the non-overcome-able problem in Vietnam, and so it is in Pashtunwaliland. The awful fact is that NO AMOUNT of internecine slaughter-of-the-innocents by the Taliban will ever counter-balance the HATRED these people have for us infidel invaders--hatred, in microcosm, that can translate to a father (a Karzai-gov't employee who got off scot-free) stomping his daughter to death for fraternizing with a British soldier (DM #127 and ad nauseum).

All the innocent bloodshed is reflexively blamed on "America." Listen to this Afghani implicitly absolving the militants of any responsibility:

"The Americans are CONSTANTLY KILLING OUR CIVILIANS and the government is not demanding an explanation," protester Mohammed Razaq said. "We demand justice from the Karzai government and the punishment of those soldiers responsible."
Or this one:

"These FOREIGNERS have their enemies [someone/somehow or other], but killing Afghans is not the answer," said Abdul Hadi ... "Better yet, I would like to see them LEAVE Afghanistan," he added.
So might it just be possible that the following contains a grain of truth?--

The attack ... DEALT A FRESH BLOW to U.S. and NATO efforts TO WIN POPULAR SUPPORT [???!!!] for a coming offensive to drive the insurgents from the biggest city in the south. (AP 4-12-10)
The City of Pomegranates, Kandahar the Beautiful.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

#219 Another "Fatal Vision" UPDATE--Video

Well, Karzai is still threatening to turn the color of his coat, and now yesterday exploding in the media is more damning evidence of "collateral murder"--WikiLeaks' headline--in our occupied territories. I'll admit to sensationalizing a bit when I anchored a post last week with a classic photo of the My Lai Massacre, but, really, so little has changed. And this video just come to light from 2007 Iraq proves it.

Reuters had been trying to get the scoop on on why two of their Iraqi journalists (arrows) among a totally non-combatant group of men were inexplicably killed in an attack by an American gunship. And, wow, did they finally get a scoop. It's fuzzy here, but quite clear in the full video, photographed and narrated by the killers themselves--"Light 'em all up. Come on, fire"--that we still can't resist "taking potshots at the Gooks" four decades after Vietnam. "Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards," says one hero after the fact.

(See three versions of the WikiLeaks video/audio here, along with commentaries.)

All these guys in the picture are strafed and eventually killed. A wounded Saeed Chmagh tries to crawl away to safety but is sky-stalked and re-strafed. That's gut-wrenching enough, but here's the heart-breaker: an "innocent" van pulls up ... adult jumps out ... looks up at gunship ... proceeds anyway to rescue one of the wounded ... both strafed and killed ... gunner asks permission to open fire on van ... permission granted ... van strafed.

Moments after the attack was over, ground troops report to the gunship that there are TWO CHILDREN in the bullet-riddled van, now lying severely wounded by the helicopter's 30 mm cannon fire. Still on video and audio, one of the crewmen responsible for just killing their father responds:

Well, it's their fault bringing their kids to a battle.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

#218 IrAfPak: Obamas Fatal Vision IV--the Kids Again

But first, an I-told-you-so, news-flash update: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai Threatens To Switch Sides"--scream the headlines today. If his political situation doesn't improve, he and his minions may do what comes naturally, and turn their coats. Nothing new. Scroll down and take another look (#216) at those stolid guerrillas of a hundred years ago, turning on their British allies.

Karzai was once a staunch Talib, after all. And like them, a hard core Sunni-Muslim-Sharia-Pashtunwali-Tribal Pashtun. The Taliban may be a little stricter in their practice of of Sharia Law--cutting off heads instead of hands, and blowing up Buddhas--but they throw no fewer stones at an adulterous woman to get the deadly job done. They represent NOT some invading army--as I'm sure vast numbers of naive Americans believe--but an indigenous political movement borne out of reaction to foreign encroachment, and dedicated, in their militant-insurgent incarnation, to driving the Big-Boy Imperialists out. That's us, no matter how much we try to propagandize otherwise. We kill kids just like the Taliban do.

But let it be said, as ad nauseum I have: the adults aren't worth it in the first place. Not nice people. (I won't repeat it again, but for a refresher-in-microcosm revisit the father-murders-daughter story, DM #176) Our Vietnamese allies had at least entered the nineteenth-century in terms of cultural progress and (almost) social justice. These folk are no more than benighted barbarians emergent from some worm-hole-in-time connected to the fourteenth. Like the rest of the Middle East. Setting aside 9-11, if they weren't connected tangentially to the Great Oil Debacle that IS the Middle East, we would look at the AfPak-Pashtun people, if at all, with little more than scorn or pity.

However, the sins of the fathers must not be visited upon the children. Keep in mind a statistic that I will repeat: WE KILL TWICE AS MANY CIVILIANS as the "enemy" does. Their devious suiciders just can't top infantry operations and air strikes (incl. robo-planes) for killing innocent people. The child pictured above was caught in the latter. There is simply NO WAY to avoid it if the Bush/Cheney approach is followed by President Obama, and it seems to be. A military "solution" will NEVER "gain the loyalty of the people," much less "bring the insurgents to the negotiating table" (last post). How breathtakingly absurd is that direct quote?

If innocent "collaterals" are not killed or wounded willy-nilly from the sky, they're simply gunned-down deliberately. In a New York Times article ignored by other mainstream media, Obama's "man-on-the-ground" General Stanley McChrystal admits as much:

We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.
Great P.R. The article as redacted by HuffPost (here) continues:

According to the military's own figures, American and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but as McChrystal noted, NONE OF THE VICTIMS PROVED TO BE A DANGER TO THE THE TROOPS. [Called in Vietnam: "taking potshots at the Gooks"]

Despite new rules put in place by McChrystal, aimed at REDUCING [not eliminating] THE KILLING OF INNOCENTS, such shootings have not dropped off. Although fewer than deaths from air-strikes or Special Forces operations, their continuance ... "has led to GROWING RESENTMENT among Afghans fearful of Western troops and angry at what they see as the impunity with which the troops operate--a friction that has TURNED VILLAGES FIRMLY AGAINST THE OCCUPATION."

So ... "Who ya gonna call?" The Taliban, of course. They're "one of us," after all, might reason the Afghan villager who has just lost a little daughter in an air-strike, or heard of Mohammed Yonus, a local teacher whose chest was ripped open by shots fired from a passing military convoy as his two sons sat in the bullet-riddled car (NYT). And the Taliban's WAR CRIMES, he might further think to himself, are no worse than the Americans'.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

#217 IrAfPak: Obama's Fatal Vision III--Troops and People

I know ... this is My Lai. But the parallels between Vietnam and IrAfPak get stronger every day, and that's no easy thing, considering that they were well-nigh INDISPUTABLE from the beginning! It's baffling, frankly, why Obama has stepped full-booted into this quagmire, and taken now a majority of Congress and the American people (by a slim margin lately) mucking along behind him. After all, Wasn't he a scholar/teacher (who should know better) before he became a politician?--oops ... I just answered my own question. Besides, I forgot that every U.S. President since WWII but Jimmy Carter has gotten foreign blood on their hands. It gets in their blood somehow, and they've killed foreigners so well, and in so many lovely countries.

This is why it's axiomatic, I guess, that "The United States of America does not quit, once it starts on something [like its very favorite] ... We will prevail." Or so saith President Johnson--oops again ... Obama--to his contract-killers at Bagram. More to arrive soon. And BE killed ... it's only fair. From the same AP report (here) cited in last post:

In total, 57 U.S. troops were killed here during the first two months of 2010, compared with 28 in January and February of last year, an increase of more than 100 percent, according to Pentagon figures ... at least 20 American service members have been killed so far in March, an average of about 0.8 per day [eight-tenths of a human-being on the general's clipboard--love it], compared to 13, or 0.4 per day a year ago [not counting the winged and wounded, maimed, and mangled, due to the spike in roadside sniper-attacks and IEDs].
That's the good news; here's the bad:

U.S. officials have warned that casualties are likely to RISE EVEN FURTHER as the Pentagon completes its deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and sets its sights on the Taliban's [read: those "other" Pashtuns] home base of Kandahar province, where a major operation is expected [or maybe not?] in the coming months.

"WE MUST STEEL OURSELVES, no matter how successful we are on any given day, FOR HARDER DAYS YET TO COME" [who is this retro-jingoist?] Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing last month.
The rhetoric is bone-chillingly THE SAME that we heard forty-odd years ago about Vietnam. Listen to this language:

... the Taliban [Viet-Cong] continue to plant bombs [we do it by air] at night and intimidate the locals, and the hardest part of the operation is yet to come: building an effective local government that can WIN OVER THE LOYALTY [insert "hearts and minds" here, in the Viet-speak of LBJ/McNamara] OF THE PEOPLE.
But there's "light at the end of the tunnel"--

The goal of both operations is to put enough PRESSURE on the Taliban [who live and die for it] to FORCE THEM TO THE NEGOTIATING TABLE [how about in Paris?] to work out a POLITICAL SETTLEMENT to end the war ... "Until they [the opposition, but Afghans just the same] transition to that mode, then we will have fighters ready to take shots at us and plant IEDs (improvised explosive devices), said Lt. Col. Calvert Worth Jr., commanding officer of the 1st battalion, 6th Marines Regiment in central Marjah.
Translation: they're winning. As insurgents always will. Point is ... no matter the outcome, EVERY DAY IS A DEFEAT in an unjust war. Eight-tenths of an American soldier per day are eight too many tenths. And might even prove fatal. Meanwhile, innocent civilians are dying by the whole numbers. (more)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

#216 IrAfPak: Obama's Fatal Vision II--Troops and Tribes

But "The United States of America does not quit, once it starts on something ... " said the President. Neither do these redoubtable fellows pictured at right, Pashtuns ready to turnabout and give a good sniping to their British ALLIES (against the Russians once again) ... ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO. (See DM #197--love this painting. They are as staunch and immovable as the ancient boulder next to them.) The watchwords have forever been "keep the foreign bastards the hell outta here" (in Pashto), no matter who, and with whomever business is being done at the time. So it goes, still, in this Graveyard of Empires.

And yet we stay. For the "Afghan" people? No such thing, not even geographically. The Pashtuns themselves spill over into the implacable borderlands of AfPak and beyond. Occupying other areas are such ethnic groups as the Uzbeks and Tajiks (and more) with their own sub-multiplicity of tribes, and centuries-old tribal laws and traditions. The Pashtuns have simply outnumbered them historically within the artificial, surveyor-tape boundaries of what we now call Afghanistan. What has kept peace amongst them is their bedrock hatred of outsiders--unless trader-types just passing through on the ancient Silk/Opium Road. Nevertheless, the President would have his troops believe that

If this REGION slides backwards ... if the Taliban retakes this COUNTRY , the al-Qaida can operate with impunity; then more American lives will be at stake; the AFGHAN PEOPLE will lose their opportunity for PROGRESS AND PROSPERITY; and the world will be significantly less secure. As long as I'm your commander in chief, I'm not going to let that happen. (AP story again)
After several moments of stunned silence, the assembled troops burst into a mixture of jeers, razzberries, and hearty guffaws, while some were seen putting sidearms to their heads and clicking away furiously. Or running for the exits. It's April 1 ... but don't I wish.

As reported, the other pressing reason for Obama's visit was to drag President Karzai to the woodshed and give him a few retributive licks for the CORRUPTION and FRAUD (like in elections) blighting his puppet government. In the true tradition of Vietnam. Well, "Prosperity is just fine with us, Mista Obama, but progress?" To dysquote the string-puller. The woodshed dialogue might have continued thus:

Listen, when you leave, and if we're still standing, fuhgeddabout this democracy shit [a Pashto word] you've imposed on us. We'll always be governed by our ancient, pre-Islamic "Pashtunwali," the tribal code-of-life, now merged with Sharia law and adopted by even the non-Pashtuns under our control. What's a little fraud, to preserve these sacred principles? Besides, they're your rules, not ours. One more thing: stay away from our women, or we'll kill them.
And so for all this, the war escalates and the death-toll rises. "The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan has roughly doubled in the first three months of 2010, compared to same period last year," according to Pentagon figures, and we can expect a further increases in the dead and wounded--a very high rate for the latter because of IED's and the SNIPING that the Pashtuns, no matter whose side they're on at the time, have had so many years to perfect--a natural result 30,000 more troops yet to come. (AP story here)

So it follows--guess what--that the militants, to make a point, might just want to kill and maim as many more of the new guys as they can! No kidding, this is how one Pentagon spokesman tries euphemistically to describe the coming mayhem: "a reaction by an enemy to a new force presence." The soon-to-be-dead Americans have a space already assigned on his clipboard. (more)