One of her stories was about going out to a village with an American officer and his men. They found that the village had turned against them and would not talk to them. Then on the way back they were attacked and seemed barely to get out of it alive. It sounded to me like the surrounding countryside was full of such dangerous villages, and that the previously safe village had turned deadly strikes me as a bad sign. The officeer admits that he controls perhaps 18 sq. kilometers of the 300 sq. km. for which he is responsible; the rest is in Taliban hands and there are many villages to which he cannot go. Logan points out that the datum is astonishing. I would have said depressing.
According to this Dari Persian newspaper, hundreds of people demonstrated on Saturday in Mehtarlam, Laghman province, over a US-led raid on Masmood village in Alishang district, Laghman Province, that allegedly killed innocent, civilian villagers. The demonstrators chanted anti-American slogans.
NATO initially announced that it had killed 30 insurgents and that no civilians had been in the area.
Afghans all across the country are suspicious of the US military presence and have been demonstrating against it in recent weeks. The threat of some Christian crazies in the US to burn the Quran explains some of the failure to win hearts and minds.
I’ve been noticing the same thing. Even if the new LA Times poll showing the Democratic candidates, Boxer for Senate and Brown for governor, pulling way out ahead is as inaccurate as the rightwing blogosphere maintains, there is other evidence of them now enjoying a lead beyond the margin of error. Easely pays a lot of attention to who has high negatives, and it is clear that the public just does not like some of the Republican candidates very much.
I’ve also noticed that television news has made a big deal about generic Republican versus Democratic polls. I cannot say such polls are completely useless, but they should be approached with great caution. Americans have the same low opinion of Congress as an institution that Mark Twain had.
But it turns out that voters usually like their representatives just fine, thank you, and believe that they are exceptions to the rule.
The president’s party usually loses some seats in the midterm, but the Democrats increasingly look set to keep a majority in the Senate. The Republicans would have to take 10 seats, and that outcome looks increasingly implausible, especially with Christine “Blood on the Altar” O’Donnell having won the primary in Delaware.
It is, of course, strange that Americans should be contemplating returning to power in the House the party that ran the country off a cliff during the first 8 years of the new millennium. But it isn’t all “Americans” who are voting. In most midterms, the voter turnout is relatively low, about 37%. The poor don’t typically vote, and neither do people under 30 (they came out for Obama in ’08, but that was likely a fluke). Also, ethnic minorities don’t vote in as high numbers as middle class and upper class whites. The voters will be well-heeled people who already had health coverage and who mind that it was extended to workers, students and the poor in a way that might cause them to have to bear some of the burden. They will include the ones who would be affected if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.
So a midterm election is an election in which rich cranky old white people predominate as voters. Thus, it really is remarkable, and sad for the Republicans, that even with such a favorable electorate (i.e. a shrunken and weird one), they likely can’t take the Senate back. And without the Senate, they won’t be able to get up to much mischief. Every theatrical bill they pass in the House will be quietly buried in committee, and in the unlikely event it came to a vote and passed, it would simply be vetoed; and the veto would stick.
Since there are only two parties in the US, and one has gone bonkers, every election is now a game of Russian roulette for the American republic. But this time, at least, the chamber that has come up looks to be empty.
This week’s award for bad environmental reporting goes to John Spear of the Toronto Star for his article on the cost of wind power in Ontario “when we don’t need it.”
Spear manages to write the entire article as though the only comparison between wind power and other energy should be about the conventional pricing, and he continually assumes that green energy is an unneeded add-on. He complains about government essentially subsidizing the start-up costs of wind turbines by paying a relatively high price per kilowatt hour, and brings up the question of over-production of power and the inability of wind to meet high demand on particularly hot, still days as this past August.
Spear either has no sense of irony or has never read a book on pollution or climate change, or just doesn’t get it. I couldn’t tell you.
He doesn’t want to factor into the cost of the hydrocarbons the lost lives caused by pollution (and consequent losses to the economy), the effects on health and consequent costs of medical care, and the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change on Canada as more and more carbon is dumped into the atmosphere– even just things like insufficient lumber availability from transformed forests affected by more frequent forest fires and fewer hardwood trees.
Is the 12 cents a kilowatt hour for wind that Spear complains about really such a bad bargain when it produces none of those bad effects? Is it really the case that hydrocarbons are such a steal when they do?
I constantly come across this bad arithmetic (it is not even calculus, just adding and subtracting) in business reporting on alternative energy, and am frankly getting more and more crotchety about it.
So Spear’s article should have been about why Ontario is still depending so heavily on the hydrocarbon power generation that “we don’t need” and which is actively harming us, not why the pollution-free wind turbines are a government boondoggle. (Maybe he has a point about how the provincial or municipal energy contracts are being let, I don’t know; but if that is the main problem then it isn’t about wind, is it?)
More in wind news:
World’s largest wind farm opens off UK coast, which is really an article about how minimal and backward Britain’s green energy efforts have been (the new facility would only provide enough power for 200,000 homes), given its enormous wind potential.
The Palestinians demanded the freeze on new settlement-building in summer of 2009 as a prerequisite to face to face talks. When Israel finally made that concession, it exempted edifices on which work had already begun, ensuring that the ‘moratorium’ was a small gesture indeed.
Having now gotten the Palestinians to a negotiation table, such that it would be difficult politically for them just to storm out of such talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu wishes to start back up the active colonization of Palestinian territory (a matter the negotiations are supposed to resolve.) From a Palestinian point of view, Abbas would be giving a fig leaf to people who are stealing from him, by legitimizing the Netanyahu government through talks. Meanwhile, Palestine would be disappearing.
Abbas is pushing back, saying Israel must choose between taking Palestinian lands and peace. Reuters has video:
The USG Open Source Center translates an article from al-Quds al-’Arabi on President Mahmoud Abbas
‘Palestinian Source on President Abbas’s Threat to Resign If Negotiations Failed
Report bu Ashraf al-Hur, from Gaza: “Palestinian Source: President Abbas Hinted Anew that He Would Submit His Resignation If the Negotiations Failed and the Official Institutions Had Not Discussed the Alternative”
Al-Quds al-Arabi Online
Friday, September 24, 2010
Document Type: OSC Translated Text …
A senior Palestinian Authority (PA) official has told Al-Quds al-Arabi that President Mahmud Abbas has hinted anew to the possibility of submitting his resignation if the negotiations were to fail. However, the source says that despite this, the PLO and Fatah institutions have not begun to search for an alternative. The source reveals that the plan for conducting the negotiations in the upcoming stage does not depend on the existence of a negotiations delegation, but it depends on holding bilateral meetings between Abu-Mazin and Binyamin Netanyahu.
The senior source, who asked not to be named, points out that President Abbas said at the last meetings of the (Fatah) Central Committee, which discussed the negotiations dossier and their failure if they were launched, “I have a decision which I will announce at the right time.”
The official stresses that it was understood by all members that the president had reiterated the intention to resign his post.
President Abbas had said that he would resign his post, and he would not be a candidate for the presidency again in any future elections; this was because of his dissatisfaction with the peace process.
With regard to the alternatives to be adopted by the PLO and the PA in case President Abbas carries out his threat and submits his resignation as president of the PA, the Palestinian official says that the Central Committee will then convene and select a new president from its members, after that the (PLO) Executive Committee will convene to ratify the selection, and then this will be followed by a meeting of the Central Council to ratify the appointment in its final form.’
If the peace talks collapse and Abbas resigns, there is no vice president to take his place and he is already serving beyond the perimeters of the Palestinian Authority Constitution. Such a set of failures would tarnish the Obama administration and could provoke months of demonstrations by disappointed and suffering Palestinians.
The question raised by the CSM’s Dan Murphy a couple of days ago, as to whether the elections have finished off the democratic ideal in Afghanistan and given a large opening to the Taliban, becomes more salient with every passing day.
The practical implications of O’Donnell’s nonsense should not be lost sight of. Her anti-scientific way of thinking harms education in the biological sciences, and in turn harms the prospects of American leadership in biotechnology.
Biotechnology and pharmaceuticals not only have the potential of saving millions of lives and improving tens of millions of lives, but they are becoming a significant contributor to US economic growth. The sector has grown at a time when the rest of the economy is in crisis, and it will be key to global prominence in the rest of this century. If South Korea or France outstrip the US in this area, their citizens will grow wealthy and even more of ours will fall into poverty than already have.
I checked the Delaware Development Office web site, and was unsurprised to find that it touts biotech as a significant engine of the state’s economy, and is expected to grow as such.
O’Donnell and her like would, if sent to Washington, destroy that potential faster than you could sequence a gene. A dedication to ignorance and a demonization of science are a one-way ticket to being a poor, backward country of illiterate yahoos. In other words, candidates like O’Donnell are not just quirky potential senators. They are shapers of our future in their own image.