Monday, October 26, 2009

So, Afghanistan

Lets have a little refresher, of which I was too young to know of and definitely didn't learn growing up.

In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and part of its overall Cold War strategy, the United States responded by arming and otherwise supporting the Afghan mujahideen, which had taken up arms against the Soviet occupiers. U.S. support began during the Carter administration, but increased substantially during the Reagan administration.

Following the removal of the Soviet forces, the U.S. and its allies lost interest in Afghanistan and did little to help rebuild the war-ravaged country or influence events there.

After years of infighting, a village mullah organized a new armed movement with the backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban. By 1996, with backing from the Pakistani ISI and Military of Pakistan, as well as al-Qaeda, the Taliban had largely defeated the militias and controlled most of the country. Since 2001, with US-NATO intervention, the Taliban were ousted from power and a new Afghan government was formed. Many of the former mujahideen gradually were incorporated into the new Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

Now lets not forget that Osama bin laden was a member of the CIA trained and funded mujahideen and 1988, bin Laden had split from his associates and started al-Qaeda.

Sooooo we find ourselves still in Afghanistan. We have two choices in front of us now. Counter Terrorism or Counter Insurgency if I may take some coined terms. We are beyond just leaving the people of Afghanistan, and we must come to the realization that we will be there for a much longer time then I fear our population has the stomach for.

If we go the counter terrorism route, one in which we are just there to clear out the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, let me offer this analogy. They will be the criminals and drug dealers in a local area of town, and we are the city cops (not much of a stretch for an analogy, but whatever.) Once the cops go in and do a sweep, without continued presence of support from the community the crime and the drugs will just ooze back in.

Now of the counter insurgency way. This way must have the support of the population behind it. That population must have trust in its government. Much like gangs, the people look to who will protect them the most. And we MUST get the afghan people to trust in their government to keep them safe and not the Taliban or others. Now for us to work well in Afghanistan we must have a government there chosen by the people, to ensure that the people will be behind our efforts in securing their safety and our protection domestic and foreign. In a country as mountainous and tribally controlled as Afghanistan, support of the people is a MUST.

Both of these choices require time, money and troops. So I'm going the troops route. We are a volunteer military and our pool of candidates is growing, not in the number of available heroes but in our waist sizes. One way to offset that is the automation of our power, which we are working on.

Next, troop allocations. The current climate in the "news" media is that we must commit troops now! Do it now! Our troops are dying while you sit and twiddle your thumbs! What is so wrong with working on a fully comprehensive plan on the future of our affairs in that region. We have Afghanistan to worry about, a nuclear Pakistan under attack by al-qaeda and the like, Iraq is still being attacked from within, and a possible nuclear Iran to contend with. What is so wrong with not just dropping some 40k of our troops without a proper course of action.

Where are we to get these troops immediately? Pull them from our bases in from the surrounding areas? We are removing troops from Iraq and expect to be fully out of there by the end of next year. What in the hell is so wrong with giving our soldiers time to come home and be with family and relax before us armchair quarterbacks send them back into the tray.

I heard the other day on the radio paraphrased cause my memory is bad at times "I hope we can just sustain long enough in Afghanistan until we can get a better president who can make the grown up decisions."

Time to digress more because I'm already starting it. Why is it that we demand military courses of action told to us on national television? Why is it that we demand to know pending troop activities and asset allocations broadcast on the public airs? Is it really that hard to think that someone over seas with a satellite and sit and watch everything that we say in the "news" media and not use that against us? "HEY! We are sending 10k troops into your town in a week, so go ahead and get ready for us, set up your traps and IED's,"

... Anyways. In the end we are there for a while and will probably end up in other countries because we are down that path now. It is all for our solidarity in finance, resources and protection. But remember this, one can destroy the body but you cannot destroy the spirit. No matter where we go, how much money we invest and countries we help... the religious and philosophical views that align against us will never go away.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

American Exceptionalism?

What does this term, American Exceptionalism, mean to you and I?

As quoted from wikipedia "Exceptionalism is the perception that a country, society, institution, movement, or time period is 'exceptional' (i.e., unusual or extraordinary) in some way and thus does not conform to normal rules or general principles"

I would like to look at it this way, what is our standing in the world? And by standing, I want to look at the quantifiable data. So lets establish a few categories that we can compare our nation to the rest of the world. And I refuse to just take the viewpoint of "We are America, We are the best in everything, Excelsior!, Exceptionalism defined"

All from This data set will be long so I wont type anything after it. Just look at our rankings in the world and know that we MUST do better. We are leading in the wrong ways! Our number ones shouldn't be plastic surgery and obesity and crime, it should be in education and others areas!


Education spending (% of GDP) - 5.7% [39th of 132] Cuba with 18.7%
Literacy > Adults at high literacy level - 19% [9th of 17] Sweden with 35.5%
Literacy > Total population - 99% [20th of 160]
Mathematical literacy - 493 [18th of 27] Japan #1
Reading literacy - 504 [15th of 27] Finland #1
Scientific literacy - 499 [14th of 27] South Korea #1
Student attitude > Dislike of school - 35% [5th of 17]
Student attitude > Find school boring - 61% [2nd of 17]


Abortions - 1,210,880 [2nd of 19]
Breast cancer incidence - 21.2 per 100,000 females [17th of 26]
Death from Cancer - 321.9 deaths/100,000 [9th of 16]
Heart disease deaths - 106.5 per 100,000 people [13th of 26]
Life expectancy at birth > Male - 75.29 years [48th of 226]
Life expectancy at birth > Total - 78.14 years [46th of 225]
Maternal mortality - 8 per 100,000 [121st of 136]
Obesity - 30.6% [1st of 29]
Physicians > per 1,000 people - 2.3 per 1,000 people [31st of 148]
Plastic surgery procedures - 90,992 [1st of 34]
Spending > Per person - 4,271 [1st of 133]
Suicide rate > Females - 4.4 per 100,000 people [40th of 80]
Suicide rate > Males - 19.8 per 100,000 people [30th of 80]
Teen birth rate - 64 [1st of 40]
Teenage pregnancy - 494,357 births [1st of 26]


Assault victims - 1.2% [11th of 20]
Car thefts - 1,246,096 [1st of 46]
Drug offences - 560.1 per 100,000 people [4th of 46]
Executions - 42 executions [7th of 22]
Gun violence > homicides with firearms - 39.5604 [7th of 32]
Murders - 16,204 [5nd of 49]
Murders with firearms - 9,369 [1st of 36]]
Police - 941,139 [1st of 47]
Prisoners - 2,019,234 prisoners [1st of 168]
Prisoners > Per capita - 715 per 100,000 people [1st of 164]
Rapes - 95,136 [1st of 50]
Robberies - 420,637 [2nd of 47]
Total crimes - 11,877,218 [1st of 50]
Illicit drugs
world's largest consumer of cocaine, Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and marijuana; major consumer of ecstasy and Mexican methamphetamine; minor consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine; money-laundering center


Debt > External - $12,250,000,000,000.00 [1st of 136]
Economic freedom - 3.2 [7th of 156]
Economic importance - 197.9 [1st of 25]
Exports - $1,148,000,000,000.00 [3rd of 189]
GDP - $13,201,820,000,000.00 [1st of 203]
GDP > PPP - $11,628,083,000,000.00[1st of 163]
GDP > Real growth rate - 2% [167th of 198]
GDP per capita in 1973 - $16,607.00 [2nd of 52]
Gross National Income - $9,780,000,000,000.00 [1st of 172]
Income distribution > Richest 10% - 30.5% [54th of 114]
Population below poverty line - 12% [41st of 46]
Public debt - 60.8 % of GDP [26th of 121]
Technological achievement - 0.73 [2nd of 68]
Tourist arrivals - 47,752,000 [2nd of 152


Car production - 5,016,310 [3rd of 49]
Electrolux CO2 emissions - 377,678 metric tons [1st of 25]
Heavy truck production - 258,257 [4th of 36]
Iron ore > Mining - 54 [7th of 14]
Light commercial vehicle production - 7,000,350 [1st of 42]
Manufactures exports > % exports - 81.54 % [22nd of 156]
Manufactures imports > % imports - 71.83 % [44th of 155]
Manufacturing, annual % growth - 5.21 % [64th of 156]
Manufacturing, current US$ - 1,545,400,000,000 $ [1st of 167]
Motor vehicle production - 12,274,900 [2nd of 35]
Ores and metals exports > - 2.7% [54th of 154]
Patent applications, nonresidents - 171,935 [1st of 96]
Patent applications, residents - 185,008 [2nd of 97]


Components > Corporate income tax - 6.7% [20th of 28]
Components > Goods and service tax - 17.6% [30th of 30]
Components > Personal income tax - 37.7% [5th of 30]
Components > Property tax - 10.1% [3rd of 18]
Contribution by middle 40% - 28.4% [13th of 14]
Contribution by poorest 30% - 6.3% [9th of 14]
Contribution by richest 30% - 65.3% [3rd of 14]
Customs > % of tax revenue - 1.82 % [48th of 82]
Highest tax rate, corporate> % - 35 % [9th of 108]
Highest tax rate, individual >, income greater than - 326,450 [1st of 93]
Highest tax rate, individual rate > % - 35 % [27th of 102]
Tax revenue > % of GDP - 11.2 % [65th of 98]
Taxes on income, profits > % of revenue - 55.26 % [2nd of 98]
Total tax rate > % of profit - 46 % [87th of 171]
Total tax wedge > Single worker - 30% [21st of 29]
Total tax wedge > Single-income family - 19.4% [21st of 29]
Total taxation as % of GDP - 29.6 % of GDP [17th of 18]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To Start Out: Question Authority

Lets open up my first posting by saying this: Think for yourself, Question Authority

Tools Third Eye (Live) starts out with this from Timothy Leary

"Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening,
terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in
this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities, the political, the
religious, the educational authorities who attempted to comfort us by
giving us order, rules, regulations, informing, forming in our minds their
view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and
learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness;
chaotic, confused, vulnerability..."

Think for yourself. Question authority.

Not saying I'm a fan of Timothy Leary, but I am a sucker for a Tool song.

The idea is to listen to what the authority figures or organizations are telling you and discern their motives, not just to utterly rebel against them, overthrow or outright ignore them. A little skepticism can be good, but just blindly believing someone without working out the outcomes and possibilities can lead to being forced into your choices unintended consequences.

Group think and the 'sheeple' mentality is rampant in all forms of media.

Question the news anchors you hear on the t.v. Don't take what someone says on a radio talk show for their word without citing sources or verifying facts. You have to be your own independent investigator at times. EVERYTHING will have some sort of spin in it to skew its presentation to match ones own viewpoints. When you are looking for someone that affirms your beliefs you will take what is written as the truth no matter how many mental loops they had to jump through to get to the point you wanted to read or what assumptions or shortcuts you had to take to agree with it.

Be well informed! Don't just limit yourself to one viewpoint, the more you know.. the better the conclusion you can make, or the course of action you can take. Healthy debates can yield healthy results.

Strive to be better and think for yourselves because not everyone has your best interests at hand no matter how smooth/boisterous the voice or how large their market share is. If you follow blindly without questioning, you could just be destroying yourself for someones profits responsibility to their shareholders.