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Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

I can hardly believe it, but it’s Thanksgiving next week, Widdershins! I hope you’re all going to take some time to relax. Two viruses – the pandemic and the Republican virus of vaccine and mask resistance – have cast a pall over holiday gatherings this year. The pandemic is the one affecting Thanksgiving for me. I am thankful that my family is all vaxxed, AND, that I am seeing my aunt and uncle from Baltimore for the first time since the Rona reared its ugly head. We’ll still need to get negative PCR tests before we can go inside my brother’s house for Turkey and Tofurkey Day (my sister-in-law is vegetarian), but it’s worth it to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Despite the wretched Rittenhouse verdict, we had a lot to be thankful for this week. President Biden signed the BIF and Speaker Pelosi got the Build Back Better bill signed in the House. Now, the bill goes to the Senate, but thanks to the reconciliation process, only Democrats need to vote for it. Despite Manchinema saying they’ll wait for the CBO report to say how they vote, the report is coming soon, and I don’t think they’ll make a lot of trouble after what happened in New Jersey and Virginia. Oh, and remember how McConnell insisted a couple of months ago that he would absolutely, totally, NOT vote yes on raising the debt ceiling on December 15? Looks like he and Chuck are talking about it now. Something tells me Chuck will get what he wants.

I hope you all will indulge me as I take a minute to marvel at what the Democrats have accomplished so far. The Party has had full control of the federal government only since February 3, 2021, when Schumer and McConnell agreed on power-sharing in the Senate. Given that metric, it’s been nine and a half months.

We have been so traumatized and terrified by the hostile maladministration of Rethugs that we are not used to any good news coming from government sources. I believe this trauma, in combination with our blatantly fascist media, are what’s preventing us from appreciating the revolutionary nature of this time in our political history. There has not been a truly significant investment in the 99% since the Affordable Care Act – and even that was weak sauce compared to what’s being passed now. I can only compare the current furious activity to the New Deal, without the racism of that legislation. And Democrats are doing it all with a majority of 1 vote – the revolutionary, first Black and Asian woman Vice President Kamala Harris. (PRESIDENT Kamala Harris for a few hours this week! Incredible!)

I have often said that the job of President of the United States is the hardest job in the world. 350 million souls, so many of them suffering due to social and economic inequality; and the rest of the world, looking to Biden for leadership, aid and partnership – with a few countries trying to destroy him and America from the inside. Imagine coming into that job after almost 27 years of Rethug destruction, plus a global pandemic that has been botched almost beyond repair, with a forever war to end in Afghanistan and an ongoing attempted coup added in for good measure!

Leaders talented enough to take on this job successfully need two traits in combination. One is, the ability to communicate a shared purpose that people can believe in; and the other is the ability to build the right team to drive it forward.

I think Pelosi and Schumer have been able to wrangle the Democrats into passing these historic bills not just because they too are very talented leaders (they certainly are!), but also because Biden has convinced Congressional Dems that his purpose is the right one. (This doesn’t count the Squad, of course, but they’re DINOs.) His purpose to me is quite simple: let’s join the 21st century so China and Russia don’t destroy us. He’s looking ahead strategically and seeing how many of our people are mired in poverty, illness and incarceration without access to the Internet, child care, education and healthcare. This state of the Union makes us less competitive on the world stage, holding us back from making progress on difficult problems like climate change and clean energy. Every initiative Biden has put forward has been consistent with this purpose; whether it’s the American Rescue Plan, which included an increased Child Tax Credit that has already cut child poverty by 50%; or the BIF, which includes billions for clean water and renewable energy; or the Build Back Better Act, which in its current form regulates the cost of child care, provides four weeks of paid parental and sick leave for all American workers, provides free universal pre-K for all 3 and 4-year-olds, and boosts Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, as well as containing $500 billion to address climate change. Women’s rights are far from forgotten – the latest annual budget proposal drops the Hyde Amendment for the first time since 1976, as well as the less-known Weldon Amendment that works in tandem with it, and includes historic amounts of funding for Title X and access to abortion. And let’s not forget the executive orders he’s signed to mandate vaccines in workplaces through OSHA, and block the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For more details, this poster on Twitter always has receipts.

Biden’s ability to build a stellar team is on display all day, every day. From our marvelous VP Kamala Harris, who (despite getting the Hillary treatment from the media) is succeeding on multiple fronts, to his diverse and talented Cabinet, Chief of Staff and Press Secretary, all of his team are on point, on message and doing what needs to be done.

There is plenty of bad that’s going on in this world, but today, I’m thankful for what the Democrats have done for the American people. And today and every day, I’m thankful for all of you Widdershins who have kept me going through good times and bad, for lo, these many years.

Happy Thanksgiving all! Open thread as always.

Happy Weekend Widdershins!

What a week of the media blaming Joe Biden for the 20+ year old mess of Afghanistan. Trump was right about the media, if for the wrong reasons: they really are the enemy of the people. They got mad at Michelle Wolf because she said it to their very faces. So much appalling hackery going on.

I spent most of the week on Fire Island with some friends. While there I discovered the English-Albanian pop singer Dua Lipa. I knew her name (there is a remix of one of her hits that features the one and only Madonna), but never heard her music. One song of hers I discovered this week is called “Love Again.” A super duper catchy, fun and kind of sad song. What struck me as it began playing was that Lipa and her co-writers/producers were sampling the Imperial March from “Star Wars.” Composed, of course, by John Williams. It was a striking and bold choice! Once I dug in, however, I learned that Lipa was not sampling the Imperial March. She was sampling the 1932 song “My Woman” written by Bing Crosby, Max Wartell, and Irving Wallman. According to reports when her co-writers played the sample for her Lipa also thought they were playing John Williams. Because, well, you’ll hear below that it does sound exactly like the Imperial March. This brings me to my point that while John Williams is an absolute titan of film scores – primarily known for his collaborations with Steven Spielberg – John Williams is also an incorrigible thief. Since I primarily listen to classical music I recognize countless Williams moments in the music written before him. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring dominates “Star Wars.” The “Schindler’s List” theme is lifted directly from Mahler’s Eighth Symphony. And the “Harry Potter” theme is, in fact, nearly identical to the theme from “Schindler’s List.” Prokofiev and Wagner are also frequently heard in Williams’ music. And I know many composers are often “inspired” by those that came before them. But John Williams takes the “inspiration” to shocking heights of plagiarism. And he never seems to share the credit. Dare I say, John Williams is a major fraud.

Discuss! This is an open thread!

It’s Memorial Day, Widdershins, and my thoughts are turning to those who have fought, suffered, and died for our country’s many military endeavors. The last “good” one, by most lights, was World War Two. Since then we have intervened in many a country’s affairs, including Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others we don’t even “officially” acknowledge. None of these interventions have gone well for us, and I expect that the current efforts against ISIS will be similarly ineffective. Let’s face it – non-state actors, nuclear and chemical weapons have made traditional war obsolete. But our society, globally speaking, is too addicted to war and violence to think of any other way to run things. And I think there’s only one way to change the way things are, and have been for thousands of years.

It’s the only thing we haven’t tried…putting more women in charge. And who better to start this trend, than Hillary Clinton?

But but but, Hillary voted for the WAR! I hear the “progressives” moan. Oh yes, she voted for the AUMF…but if she were President, does anyone think she would have invaded Iraq after 9/11? Would she really have believed an intelligence agent nicknamed “Curve Ball” and a pathetic story about yellowcake uranium? Are people so blinded by that vote that they think she is as bloodthirsty as Bush? Or even, as bloodthirsty as Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has made death by drones infamous?

The wars men wage are, basically, over resources and religious fanaticism; sometimes both. I would argue that one causes the other, or at least influences it. The vicious cycle of neo-conservative, Project for the New American Century “American Exceptionalism” will continue until we change our modus operandi. And to change the way we work, we need to change the way we think. It has been proven that women think differently and lead differently, and I think we need that difference in order to break that cycle.

The opposite behaviors that stem from the different wiring of men and women can be seen in the way they lead. One style of leadership is not better than, or more correct than the other – they are just different. Although their styles differ, they are complementary and valuable at work. The table below shows the leadership styles generally attributed to men and women.

Leadership Table

I truly believe the world is out of balance. We need women to join male leaders in equal partnership, to become a powerful force for peace. What else is all this really about? The stunning impact of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In;” the ever-increasing pressure on corporations and governments to have at least 30% female representation on boards and in governing bodies; the UN’s “He for She” movement…it’s about global, transformational change. And believe me when I say, as a woman who has read hundreds of articles on this topic, the need for women leaders is a wave saturating the collective consciousness of powerful nations and corporations everywhere.

The Bible says, “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares…neither shall they learn war any more.” I hope we live to see it happen, with the help of our sisters and brothers everywhere…starting with Hillary Clinton as President in 2016.

This is an open thread.

angry-mob

The rabble being busy rousing

Good afternoon Widdershins, and I hope everyone had a great weekend.  It was indeed enjoyable to see a number of you stop by during the weekend and post a few thoughts and it was especially great to see Beata come by!

Let’s take a look once again at the situation with Sgt.  Bowe Bergdahl, what’s going on with him, his family and what is being said and written.  Now I will freely admit I did not watch any of the Sunday game, uh talk shows.  To me they’ve gotten to be nothing more than the same old politicians, “experts” in something and others who are running their mouths just to hear themselves speak.    Here’s some things we do know:

He is still currently at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and has declined to speak to his family at this time.  He is supposed to be eventually transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio Tx. 

Doctors treating Sgt. Bergdahl at a U.S. military hospital in Germany are moving slowly because of the controversy, which is complicating what would in any case be an arduous recovery. Sgt. Bergdahl has said that he was tortured during his captivity and thrown into a cage after a failed escape attempt, the U.S. official said.

Military officials have not asked him anything yet about his disappearance and captivity due to the fact that if he were to answer that yes he left his post and then got captured, or even willingly went looking for Taliban fighters, it “would compel the military to bring in legal experts to advise him about his rights, military officials said.”.

Still, that hasn’t stopped some (on the right naturally) from offering their advice on what to do:

“We know what he did,” former Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Fox News in urging the Defense Department to act swiftly to punish the soldier. “You can’t wait to try a case until you know absolutely everything about everything.”

I’m not a laywer, didn’t play one on the teevee, nor have I recently stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but that last sentence doesn’t seem to be offering sage advice, and as I saw in his Wiki entry, I do not see that Mr. Mukasey was ever in the Judge Advocate Corps or been involved in a trial where the accused is subject to the U.C.M.J.

We also know what Bergdahl’s team leader thinks of him:

“He’s a deserter, in every sense of the word,” said Evan Buetow, Bergdahl’s former Army team leader, angered to see him heralded as a hero. “That’s exactly the opposite of what he is.”

In Afghanistan there were several components to what Bergdahl’s unit was supposed to be doing:

Their mission was to stop the Taliban. Beyond fighting, that meant patrolling villages, gathering intelligence, winning the confidence of locals, training the Afghan National Police. Bergdahl preferred the humanitarian aspect of the job, passing out food and medical supplies.

“He enjoyed helping the locals way more than he enjoyed doing all the … actual combat side of a deployment,” said platoon medic Josh Cornelison, 25, of Sacramento, California. “He wasn’t so fond of that at all.”

Okay, to me that’s fair enough:  he liked the humanitarian side of things.

Now at this point we still don’t know if Bergdahl intended to become a deserter, whether he did indeed possibly walk off and get captured or what.  He has told medical officials that he tried to escape and his Taliban captors locked him in a cage for weeks at a time in total darkness.

Still this hasn’t stopped people from going bat-shit crazy over the fact that he was released as part of trade for 5 Taliban members.  The Republican (and some Democratic) members of Congress are furious that they weren’t given their thirty day notice that some of the men from Gitmo were going to be released in this exchange.  And a member of the President’s NSC staff reminded them that he had also executed a signing statement when he signed the Defense Authorization bill.

But what has become truly despicable in my opinion are the calls and threats both to Bergdahl’s hometown in Idaho and to his parents.

For five years now, Hailey and Ketchum, its neighbor 11 miles to the north, have kept vigil for native son Bowe Bergdahl, the American sergeant who one week ago was released from Taliban captivity. Parties literally erupted on Main Street, where yellow ribbons dot almost every sign and lamppost.

But soon the backlash began, mostly from citizens and politicians living outside this small county (population 22,000), a largely liberal outpost in traditionally conservative Idaho. Bowe wasn’t worth trading five high-ranking Taliban for because he may have deliberately walked off his post in Afghanistan, the voices cried. Bowe didn’t deserve a celebration. Shame on Hailey.

The small Western town went from sheer jubilation to shock. A party for Bergdahl — scheduled for June 28 and featuring an appearance by Carole King, one of many celebrities who have homes in and around fabled Sun Valley near Ketchum — was promptly canceled due to safety concerns.

Shopkeepers whose photos were disseminated by the media masses that flocked here last week received nasty calls and e-mails. The Chamber of Commerce got so many negative rants it decided to forward all calls to voice mail. Residents who had once gladly expressed their joy over a hometown son’s return went silent.

Sue Martin, has been a local mainstay in the campaign to bring Bergdahl home. Her shop, along with many others here, sports posters reading “Welcome Home Bowe” and “Our Prayers Have Been Answered.”

But Martin herself isn’t answering the door. The store was closed during a recent visit, with a note referring reporters to Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen.

But the worst to me are courageous keyboard cowboys who are threatening the parents of this young man.  The threats are apparently serious enough that the F.B.I. has been brought in to the case.

The first of the death threats sent to Bob Bergdahl at his home near Hailey, Idaho, was received on Wednesday, the same day the city canceled a planned rally celebrating the release of his son, Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said.

“There were four specific emails with death threats given to the FBI and they are looking into it,” Gunter told Reuters in an interview.

The threats came as Hailey, a tourist community of some 8,000 people in the mountains of central Idaho, was buffeted by hundreds of vitriolic phone calls and emails.

The celebratory spirit that infused Hailey a week ago with news of Bergdahl’s release turned to apprehension as an onslaught of angry messages were directed at city officials, businesses and friends of the Bergdahls over a hometown rally to mark his freedom planned for June 28.

As many as 15,000 supporters and protesters were expected to descend on Hailey for an event that would have overwhelmed the resources and infrastructure of the remote mountain town and potentially risked public safety and property, city officials have said.

Some of the comments I’ve read mentioned Bob Bergdahl’s tweet to the Taliban or something which you can see here:

https://twitter.com/slone/status/473451566934917120/photo  (well, looks like it’s been taken down now)

Read the rest of this entry »

question mark

*It* being negotiating for and obtaining the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  Naturally the gut reaction (and mine) is of course it was worth it to obtain the release of an American citizen and soldier being held against his will.  After all, we do still have an office with the Dept. of Defense for Prisoners of War and Missing Personnel and Lordy knows we all still see the POW/MIA flag flying everywhere.  So, I have to say that yes it was a good thing to get back one of our soldiers even having to release 5 detainees from Guantanamo.  Much has been written about how terrible a swap this was and that there is every likelihood that these 5 members of the Taliban may go back to fighting.  Fighting whom I wonder because we’re going to have our troops out of Afghanistan soon.  Further, the five have to reside in Qatar for a year and while we may not have “chipped” them like we do our pets here, uh I have a feeling that keeping an eye on them is not going to be difficult for the U.S.

We are told the reason for trying to get Sgt Bergdahl out now was due to concern over his health and mental status.  SecDef Hagel said that from information they obtained that Bergdahl’s health was “deteriorating” and that was partly the reason for not notifying Congress of the possible release of some of the detainess at Gitmo.

U.S. officials had intelligence suggesting Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s safety and health were in jeopardy, justifying a prisoner swap without the required congressional notification, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday.

“We believed that the information we had, the intelligence we had, was such that Sgt. Bergdahl’s safety and health were in jeopardy,” Mr. Hagel said. “In particular his health was deteriorating. It was our judgment that if we could find an opening and move very quickly, we needed to get him out of there, essentially to save his life,” he added.

“The first focus is on his health and getting the medical attention he needs,” Mr. Hagel said.

Now the Congress Critters, including Dianne Feinstein and the Repubs got their feathers ruffled when they were not notified of the transfer from Gitmo, citing Obama’s signing of the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) which required the President to give Congress 30 days notice of any transfers.  Saxby Chambliss R-Ga, (and soon to leave) said:

“The law says they are to give us 30 days’ notice. If the President thought that was unconstitutional or an invalid law, than he shouldn’t have signed the bill,” said Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “He knew very well that he was required by law to give us 30 days’ notice and he didn’t do it.”

But not so fast said Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution.  He said that the law “put the administration ‘in a position to move detainees out of Guantanamo as long as it is willing to be politically accountable for the problems they create and as long as they don’t bring them to the United States.’.”  To which a spokeswoman for the National Security Council replied that that was exactly what happened.

That is exactly what happened, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden argued Tuesday in a statement.

“Given the credible reports regarding the risk of grave harm to Sergeant Bergdahl and the rapidly unfolding events surrounding his recovery, it was lawful for the administration to proceed with the transfer notwithstanding the notice requirement” in the NDAA, Hayden said in a statement.

Further concerning the 30 day notification period, Hayden provided a legal statement saying “the Constitution requires Obama as President and commander in chief to protect the lives of Americans abroad and protect U.S. soldiers, responsibilities that in this case conflicted with the 30-day notification period for Congress.”

Then Hayden quoted from Obama’s “signing statement” (GASP!) when he signed the NDAA:

“The executive branch must have the flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers,” Hayden quoted from Obama’s signing statement.

Now we all know who was the king of the signing statements:

George W. Bush used signing statements to challenge about 1,200 provisions of 172 laws he signed — twice as many as all his predecessors combined, Evans said.

I, of course, find it extremely amusing that Obama, using one of Dubya’s old tricks, cited his own signing statement as the basis for not giving the Congress a 30 day notice on the detainees.

Much as also been written about the fact that Bergdahl may have deserted his post, had spoken against the war ( a right he has btw) and that several other soldiers lost their lives searching for him.  For now, let’s leave that to another post.  After all with mb being gone to her villa in the south of France for vacay, Prolix, chat and I will be doing many posts during the next week or so. I’m tempted to provide air sickness bags for my future posts ;)   Let’s say that I’ll take a look at the deserter and other questions in my Monday the 9th post. For now, let’s let Sgt Bergdahl heal at the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany and after at the military hospital in San Antonio.  There will be time to look into these other questions later.

This is an open thread.


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