Sure About That? Scherer Edition

Michael Scherer at the Swampland discusses Robert Gibbs (Obama’s Communications Director) and thinks he is playing the age card.  He cites two examples.

Scherer on the first:

Some weeks back, Barack Obama’s communications chief Robert Gibbs joked without any prompting that John McCain might have “misplaced the keys” to his houses. Hardy Har Har.

The second (my emphasis):

This morning on MSNBC, Gibbs returned to the make-fun-of-the-elderly joke well. “Just yesterday, John McCain said we shouldn’t fix blame. He took a breath and then fixed blame. He said the fundamentals of our economy are strong, and he flip-flopped. He opposed the bail-out of AIG, and then he supported it. This guy zig-zags. Look, if he’s driving a car, get off the sidewalk.” (Video here.)

Hardy Har Har. Back in the 2004 presidential election, one in four voters was 60 years old or older. I am sure they find these sort of jokes from Obama’s top message man hilarious. Just hilarious.

Now the first one recall referred to the fact that John McCain couldn’t remember how many houses he owned.  And that attack was leveled at him for being a really rich dude who had no clue about everyday stuff.  But the age think was inevitably part of that one–and may have been signalled in this ad.  So on the first, I would say it’s more ambiguous than Scherer is making it out to be (i.e. Gibbs could have just been hitting the rich dude theme), but I think Scherer may have something on that one.  May.  Or at the least if he didn’t intend it, he should have thought that the losing the keys could be heard in a negative demeaning light.

But the second example…I gotta call BS on that one.  “The guy zig-zags” means that he keeps changing his opinions/views every five seconds (hence the earlier reference to flip-flopping) and that charge has validity. In fact a whole lot of evidence behind it.  Why jump to the conclusion that he meant anything other than the guy changes his mind every other day and that if that were analogized as driving a car it would be zig-zagging.  And if you were in the way of said zig-zagging you would get mowed down, which to play the analogy back means that you don’t want to vote for this guy because his positions are erratic and will get “driven over” politically as a result if he gets “behind the wheel” of government.  i.e. If he’s in the “driver’s seat” of the executive.  [Can I find any more cliches relative to this analogy?  Commenters feel free to add some…we can make it into a contest of sorts.]

Why does the zig-zagging have to be a shot at old people and a subtle signalling of stereotypes about older folks as bad drivers?   This is as dumb in my mind as trying to argue for racism in those old Celebrity McCain ads.

On another note, I find highly amusing the (fairly youthful) Scherer projecting what all old people think.  Who’s stereotyping now homeboy?  Maybe some segment of elders in US society would have interpreted Gibbs in exactly the manner I did–i.e. Gibbs was just referring to McCain’s all over the place campaign and not his age).  Or someone could argue that Gibbs didn’t intend his comment to be a shot at elders in society–but he could later be informed that his words could be interpreted to evoke ageist stereotypes, in which case he could (possibly legitimately) say something like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.  Thanks for the info.  I’ll try to remember to watch my words next time” kinda thing.  Since when did all old folks become super sensitive all of a sudden?

The thing I don’t get in all this PC huffpuffing during the election has been this assumption that all of these surrogates (and sometimes the candidates themselves) are totally 100% consicous of all possible interpretations, particularly the most negative to their words, and intrinsically intended the worst possible interpretation.  In my mind there have been cases where such an intention was operative (committed by all three campaigns, including Hillary’s primary run), but the extrapolation from individual cases to all cases just makes for people looking less than with it.

Edit I: And no, by with it, I don’t mean an age thing–either for elders (implying losing it) or ageist against younger folk (not mature enough).  I just mean individual persons analysis which appears really off base.

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Published in: on September 30, 2008 at 10:48 am  Comments (2)  
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Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Ant. Princeps gloriosissime, Michael Archangele, esto memor nostri: hic et ubique semper precare pro nobis Filium Dei.

V. In conspectu angelorum psallam tibi, Deus meus.
R. Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum, et confitebor nomini tuo.

[Translation–my own, free]

Ant: (O) Michael the Archangel, Most Glorious Prince, now and always pray for us to the Son of God.

V:  In the sight of the angels, I will sing psalms to you My God.

R:  In your holy Temple will I adore and praise your name.

[Excerpt taken from traditional hymn to Michael.  Text here.]

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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hyper-reality conservative us style

I post this McCain ad to graphically represent what people mean by decontextualization.  It’s a in weird way what the French post-structuralists call simulcra (see the wiki on Baudrillard on hyperreality.  It’s in a sense as real (though being in a sense parasitic) as the original.  On the other hand of course, you see how easily such a process can be corrupted.  But once it gets free-floating it’s tough to reign the momentum back in.

Watch in particular how the video is cut to make it look like Obama is agreeing with McCain.  Never mind as others have pointed out that what is so wrong with agreeing with your opponent and not appearing an angry ahole like McCain did, but that Obama was using the I Agrees to look congenial at the same time he was slicing and dicing McCain.  Let it never be said, conservatives don’t get postmodernism (creating your own reality, relativist strains thereof I mean).

Transcript of the entire debate here.

First use of “I agree” (my italics) [p3 of transcript]:

OBAMA: Well, I think Senator McCain’s absolutely right that we need more responsibility, but we need it not just when there’s a crisis. I mean, we’ve had years in which the reigning economic ideology has been what’s good for Wall Street, but not what’s good for Main Street.

The obvious implication of Obama’s words being that McCain is a glory-crisis hog who only shows up when the media glare is onto something (cf “We Are All Georgians NOW!!!!”—edit: No We Ain’t Brother).   So the agreement on Obama’s part is actually to call McCain essentially a (literally) Johnny Come Lately blowhard. [Not in those words but that’s the basic gist].

Second of the “I Agree” Statements [p4 tr.]:

OBAMA: Well, Senator McCain is absolutely right that the earmarks process has been abused, which is why I suspended any requests for my home state, whether it was for senior centers or what have you, until we cleaned it up…

But let’s be clear: Earmarks account for $18 billion in last year’s budget. Senator McCain is proposing — and this is a fundamental difference between us — $300 billion in tax cuts to some of the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the country, $300 billion.

Now, $18 billion is important; $300 billion is really important.

In other words, this chart (h/t Sullivan).  The projected deficit pre-bailout in 2009 is estimated to be 500 billion.  Earmarks total count for 18 billion.  And we already know McCain won’t cut a bunch of them.  What WaPo calls McCain’s Fantasy War on Earmarks.

And last but not least my favorite [p4 tr.]:

Now, John mentioned the fact that business taxes on paper are high in this country, and he’s absolutely right. Here’s the problem: There are so many loopholes that have been written into the tax code, oftentimes with support of Senator McCain, that we actually see our businesses pay effectively one of the lowest tax rates in the world.

This last one is the most egregious insofar as Obama’s point was to say I agree with him that in theory what he said is right, however in practice, he’s completely wrong.  The issue is the corporate tax rate which I heard Gingrich spouting off about on ThisWeek this morning.  Speaking of Stephanopolous, you can read his take down of Carly Fiorina here via Yglesias on this subject of tax rates vs. tax loophole. And how on paper the US can have high tax rate but in practice pay out less than countries in Europe cited by Gingrich and Crew.

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 6:04 pm  Comments (4)  
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Maher + Rock=Wet ur Pants

“Like my father used to say, you can’t beat a white man, you have to knock ’em out.”  [Later…was McCain still standing?].

Also check out the New Rules from last night.

Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)  
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debate live thread

[All times Pacific Standard]

8:05 McCain’s preening-hood was on display at the beginning, but he did manage to modulate it (slightly).  McCain had some moments where he looked relaxed and in command of his facts/talking points.  But the repeated shots at Obama was not pretty.  What is clear to me over the psychodrama that is his campaign especially in the last 48 hours or so, is that for all this “Obama is the Messiah” talk (he’s an image, a dream, gives a good speech), it’s all driven clearly by the fact that Obama gets under McCain’s skin.  McCain can’t handle not being the media darling.  Jilted lover with the media.  (Que sera, sera I say).  Obama just thinks McCain is a honorable old fool.  He has the decency and good sense not to get personal as McCain wants to do.  Not flattering.

McCain’s viewpoint is very limited to the 20th century.  His crieria of who is ready to lead is totally predicated on his insider-carpetbagger-aristocrat background.  Obama certainly isn’t that, so he doesn’t pass the test (whereas Hillary would by McCain’s standards).

I don’t know ultimately how Obama will turn out as president (if and when).  But I do know that I supported him from the get go (way back like 20 months ago now) because I’ve always sensed he had a different insight than all the others.  Even the ones I like (like Biden).  That intuition I find borne out again tonight.  I’m willing to take that chance, not because I know for sure Obama is the greatest being ever or something but because the way of operating that the Boomers have done has served its time and is now over.  They can help in the new order. Lend a hand if Bob Dylan were singing about it (or get outta the way).  But whatever, the same can not do.  While I still have some serious policy disagreements with Obama (check the thread), I didn’t see anything to dissuade me tonight.  I saw Obama give what I think was his strongest debate performance by far to date.

8:00 One correction. I said that McCain was only interested domestically in tax & spending cuts. Forgot Nuclear Power. (Yippee!!!–isn’t that what the Iranians say they are building their reactors for? Oh nevermind).

7:38 The ending was pretty flat from both of them as I said earlier. But overall I have to give it to Obama. Especially during that middle portion. McCain showed that the only domestic agenda he cares about is spending and the only foreign policy is Iraq and Russia/Georgia.

Obama looked sharp and in control. McCain settled in towards the end I think but at the beginning was really jittery.

7:37 McCain gets the last line and it’s actually a pretty decent one: He knows how to heal wounds of war, deal with enemies, work with friends.

7:36 McCain came back to Reform, Peace, Prosperity. Haven’t heard that slogan (only one of 15 or so he’s had so far this campaign) for awhile. I think that was given the McCain Campaign, four iterations ago.

7:35 McCain says that the veterans know he will take care of them. Except that he voted against the last bill (and the Webb GI Bill).

7:34 But little mini-comeback by referring to global vision versus the tunnel vision-“all chips in” on Iraq that is Bush-McCain.

7:33 I don’t like Fear the Chinese Dragon lines here from BO. Almost as dumb as McCain’s League of Democracies/Fear the Autocracies. The balloon is going on both of them.

7:31 BS on McCain Alert. If we lose in Iraq, al-Qaeda will have a base there. Not uh when the Sunni Tribesmen, Shia gov’t/Army, and/or Kurds kill them dude.

7:29 Neither of them are very strong on the “Are We Safer Question?”. Did Obama just support Star Wars (er Missile Defense)? Haven’t heard that before. Ugh.

7:27 McCain taking credit for Homeland Security? You can have it. If Biden were here, he would blow his top on McCain’s suggestion that they have done most of the recommendations.

7:22 Thumbs down to Obama for Georgia/Ukraine NATO entrance. Apparently it was all Russian aggression now in the CW (Larison is probably head in hands now). No Georgian aggression.

7:21 McCain’s story about Abkhazia where he saw a poster Putin for President just undermined his whole argument about how it was Georgian territory. Apparently they thought it wasn’t Georgian territory.

7:13 McCain’s attempt at a joke/dig at Obama for a seal just bombed out. McCain doesn’t get the difference between preparation and precondition. A precondition is say “Unless you stop all nuclear activity you will not get to talk with us.” Preparation is we put the issues we will discuss on the table. I was five seconds ahead of him as on a few others.

7:11 He is going back to Axis of Evil. Iraq had no WMDs. North Korea gets the message that if you don’t have a nuke you get overthrown (minus a security agreement) and BOOM–Builds one. And Iran…..same thing?

7:08 oh shit. he just flipped Kissinger wanting to talk with Iran on McCain after McCain just cited Kissinger & Nixon go to China. BAM!

7:06 zing. Obama hits McCain on how you need China and Russia (which my esteemed colleague would admit are not democracies).

7:05 League of Democracies. If I had liquor nearby, that would be a triple shot. On to Iran….

6:54. McCain just mispronounced the name of the new President of Pakistan. And now we are going to have THE SAME SURGE in Afghanistan as in Iraq. W-T-F? Who are the Awakening in this version? The Shia?

6:53. Obama’s strong on Afghanistan in his answer (though I still harbor question his policy). McCain is answering about the 80s. He just said we couldn’t leave Afghanistan like we did after the Soviet War. Except that is exactly what happened when we went into Iraq. McCain has got nothing on Afghanistan.

6:46: Obama’s got a very good answer on the troop funding. Obama is the only one to see strategy as a beyond one country tunnel vision. Strategy as Overall Strategy.

6:41. What is up with McCain bringing up the no-hearings on Afghanistan. Really he is so petulant. Obama just needs to keep it cool. McCain just said Obama doesn’t know the difference between a tactic and a strategy. Hello pot, kettle here.

6:39: Allright. Onto foreign policy. McCain’s answer on Iraq just made no sense. The lesson from Iraq was we can’t have a failed strategy that we will cause us almost to lose. Except that the STRATEGY is elections, the push for national reconciliation, creation of strong central government, NOT THE SURGE. Sorry Johnny. The Surge did not change the STRATEGY. The Surge is a tactic pinned to the Strategy which exists only to serve the goal (unified democratic Iraq).

6:35: Obama is getting to the issue of values. This is smart imo. McCain only has his value as less government/less spending. I don’t know it plays in this economy. Republican economic deregulation orthodoxy–like none of this fallout just happened.

6:30 [PST]: I wasn’t expecting it go about budget hawk wonkery. Kinda weird and has essentially nothing with the Bailout.

6:27 [PST]: Good question from Lehrer. What can they not do post-bailout? Obama is dodging a bit. He says he is still going forward with health care, energy, education, infrastructure. I think he actually is right–i.e. those things have to be done–but where is the cash? Do we just bust the budget because you know the Republicans get the levers of power again, they will f it up again. And the Democrats always have to come in (a la Clinton) and have their agenda screwed via Republican monetary malfeasance.

6:21 [PST]: McCain is giving the US has the 2nd highest corporate tax rate we need to be more like Ireland. Except that it’s on the books as the 2nd highest, there are so many loopholes, that the payout is much lower. Obama just makes the same point.

6:20 [PST]: WTF is with McCain’s monomania against earmarks? Seriously. Seriously dude. Now you wanna pick this fight?

6:19 [PST]: Obama is quick to make sure he doesn’t get the tax raiser/big spender librual.

6:17 [PST]: oooh. interesting. Obama has got his numbers and is calling McCain out on tax cuts for the rich. He’s doesn’t want McCain to grab populist ground. Pretty shrewd.

6:14 [PST]: McCain has got his talking points ready. Spending, responsibility, increased gov’t (nice Great Society shot there). I don’t know how this plays. God he just said earmarks are a gateway drug (like pot?)–DRUG WAR on EARMARKS? The Bears in Montana? WTF? How does this have anything to do with the financial crisis?

Coates on Palin

I’ve been thinking a lot about this nomination and rewatching the videos of Palin’s interview. Honestly, it’s all made me tremendously sad. There are lot of us lefties who are guffawing right now and are happy to see Palin seemingly stumbling drunkenly from occasional interview to occasional interview. I may have been one of them. But I’m out of that group now.

The Palin pick was the most crassest, most bigoted decision that I’ve seen in national electoral politics, in my–admittedly short–lifetime. There can be no doubt that they picked Palin strictly as a stick to drum up the victimhood narrative–small town, hunters, big families and most importantly, women. Had Barack Obama picked Hillary Clinton, there simply is no way they would have picked Sarah Palin. To the McCain camp, Palin isn’t important as a politician, or even as a person. Her moose-hunting, her sprawling fam, her hockey momdom, her impending grandmother status are a symbol of some vague, possibly endangered American thing, one last chance to yell from the rafters “We wuz robbed.”

Read the full post here.

The video is tough to watch.  It’s not that she is dumb per se; it’s just that she hasn’t ever be interested in national or foreign policy.  And why would she?  She has no reason to have been.  She runs a state socialist archipelago way out in the boonies.  She’s essentially a mayor of a decent sized city (approximate pop. of Alaska 670,000 total). Which is no shot at her.  I’m sure she knows her backyard well and how to deal with it.  But there is no way you can watch these interviews and say she is ready to be VP.

I’ve always thought the fire should be directed at McCain for the pure cynicism and egocentricism of the pick.  He’s destroying her career for a one week media mini-surge.  Not to mention what it has done to her family/personal life.  If the McCain folk had clearly done their homework and interviewed/vetted her properly, this would have been patently obvious (i.e. she’s not up to snuff).  They would not have been through the circus of hiding her from interviews–and seeing the Couric one it’s pretty clear why they are doing so…yikes–and getting called out as sexists.

Here is just a snippet of the interview (on Russia).  Like I said, it’s rough.  And I’m with Coates (contra say the Andrew Sullivan’s and Daily Kos’ of the world who seem to be getting some glee from all this)–this is just sad and painful to watch.

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 9:30 am  Comments (3)  
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McCain’s Stunt Redux

This is what I believe Sarah Silvermann calls being a douche noozle (h/t dkos):

KATIE COURIC: And, Bob, I understand that John McCain actually floated an alternative plan. What can you tell us about that?

BOB ORR We’re told at the White House Senator McCain offered an alternative plan that would include fewer regulations and more corporate tax breaks for businesses, kind of a private solution. But we’re also told those ideas angered and surprised Democrats like banking chairman Chris Dodd who now says he thinks the White House summit was more of a political stunt for McCain.

So lemme get this straight.  For days Chris Dodd & Crew are busting their sacks to get something done, McCain comes in and rides the hard-core House Republican anti-bailout economic shock doctrine and helps blow the thing up (for now–we’ll see about tomorrow). He runs his whole bipartisan/fix Washington shtick until you know actual bipartisan/quasi-working is going on in Washington which would kill his political chances, so he helps undermine it.  Seriously?  Country first my white arse.  A little John McCan’t on this one it would seem.  Jebus God Almighty.

To quote that great rap line–“Move b–ch get out the way.”

Update I:  At least Daniel hasn’t fallen for this crap.

Update II:  If you didn’t see Colbert last night.  He was en fugeo.

Update III: Oh yeah, he still claims as of tonight he won’t debate.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t actual suspend his campaign.

Update IVAmbinder reports differently.  He puts it on Boehner and sees McCain more as simply walking into a blown up situation.  Though of course even if that is the case,  the reason McCain was at the White House in the first place was (as Dodd correctly pointed out) a political show orchestrated by his campaign with the executive.  But still leaves this question from Ambinder:

After all, if not to get these recalcitrant Republicans on board, why did McCain go to Washington in the first place?

McCain doesn’t have that kinda pull with House Republicans.  With the base ones. that is  McCain again is forced with the basic problem of his campaign:  he needs the base to win but the base’s view are rejected by the vast majority of the country.  [Plus he doesn’t have total trust from the base from his years of not being totally 100% down the line on all their issues].  How can he simultaneously embrace his right-wing base and yet make it look like he’s different and such moves broadly appeal beyond the confines of the Republican base?  At a time when that brand (Republican party, esp. base Republican) is at its lowest point.

In this instance how that shakes out is that McCain has to behind the scenes play ball with the House guys (anti-bailout) and then try to sell that as Maverick/Sticking it to Washington as Usual to appeal to the middle.  Except the middle wants a deal (and a debate for that matter).  Generally that circle is squared in the McCain Camp by obfuscation, grandstanding, smoke & mirrors, and deflection of attention in another direction.

If George Bush really thought McCain was the guy to come in and make the House Republicans vote for this bill, Bush is a whole lot dumber than I think he is (and that’s saying something).

Update VThis seems like the third way on this one.  The House Republicans and McCain had an arrangement worked out.  So McCain doesn’t have to bring it up at the meeting, but he clearly isn’t surprised by it either (and supports the basic move).  Looks like, iow, McCain (as I had hunched) came to Washington to vote against the compromise plan because that would have ended any shot of his campaign for all intensive purposes.  Minus some major Obama unforced error/gaffe that is.

McCain will use this as a way to both push through a hard-right deregulationist agenda–he is after all at heart a “deregulator”–and then to position this publicly as him being Mavericky, bucking the Washington Consensus.  [Kinda undercuts his bipartisan thing but whatever].  Fighting for the people (in actuality really rich people but hey what’s that to an uninformed public).

I’m not someone who overestimates the degree to which majority of voters don’t pay attention at more than a surface level, so I can appreciate the cynicism of the thing.  But to be fair, if the electorate had any common sense/intelligence obviously he wouldn’t be able to pull such a move off.  That he can is a testament to the poor state of our media/body politic.

I’m still not convinced it will really push him to victory, but I think it helps makes the election closer than it should probably be otherwise.

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Theo-Politics of Witchcraft

This video is getting some circulation now.  The Pastor in the video is a man by the name of Thomas Muthee.  He has an interesting record to say the least.  Read about it here from CSMonitor. Muthee believes very strongly in the existence of demonic spirits and fighting against them.  He prays over Palin that the evil of witchcraft be driven.

Steven Benen at Political Animal has some thoughts/questions on the matter.

He writes:

Just to clarify, the pastor’s interest in witches and witch hunts is not metaphorical — he means it literally.

To muddy the waters for a second, while I obviously know what Steve means here, his understanding/use of metaphorical is less helpful not more.  Northrop Frye understood that the metaphorical is the literal meaning of the Bible.  In other words, metaphor is concrete.  Benen is using language (according to Frye’s schema) in its third paradigmatic form: representational (think modern, scientific language/discourse).  Truth is what can be precisely represented, really described.  Therefore in this pattern, metaphorical means something more like symbolic or abstract.  When applied to say demons/evil it would be something like Ricoeur’s Symbolism of Evil or Wink’s The Powers.    (more…)

Update on Reynaldo

Update to this post.

So I’ve had the trap out for two nights (the humane one–see the link).  It consists of a toilet paper tube with food on the end perched on the ledge of the counter with a bucket underneath.  I’ve even placed a rag in the bucket so it softens the fall.

But no takers so far.  No sign also though of any return visits.  So either he saw the trap got spooked and wa like “F this, I’m outta here.”  Which would work for all parties involved I think.  Or he’s playing mind games with me.  Laying low for a few nights, until I think he’s gone, I take the trap away and SHAZAM he’s back.

Thinking of the latter possibility got me reminiscing about my favorite cartoon as a boy:

Update I:  Speaking of Danger Mice (Mouses?) also gives me an excuse to link to one of my favorite albums.  [Explict Lyric Warning]:

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Not Good, Really Not Good: Pakistan Edition (Breaking)

From Time:

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Pakistani troops fired at American reconnaissance helicopters patrolling the Afghan-Pakistan border Thursday, heightening tensions as U.S. steps up cross-border operations in a region known as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

The Pakistani army has put a message that their troops have orders not to fire.

Here is the PM (from the US allied PPP):

“We will not tolerate any act against our sovereignty and integrity in the name of the war against terrorism,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told journalists Wednesday. “We are fighting extremism and terror not for any another country, but our own country. This is our own war.”

That could be interpreted as simply grandstanding and a wink-wink deal behind closed doors where the Pakistani leadership has signed off on US/NATO incursions (if only aerial) into their land.  But it again makes clear that Pakistan is only interested in this fight insofar as it involves al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban attacking their country.  They have no real care or interest in Taliban roaming across the NWFP into Afghanistan and launching attacks against either the Afghan Army/Police or NATO.  That simply doesn’t matter to Pakistan.  Pakistan wants the Taliban or a Taliban-like (Pashtun dominated) government in Afghanistan.  Always has, always will.

The Pakistanis also know that increased US pressure in the tribal regions, pushes the insurgency/terrorism against them.  If NATO/US gets better at preventing cross-border raids from Pakistan into Afghanistan (i.e. West), that energy-violence has nowhere to go but back into the heartland of Pakistan (i.e. East).

It’s the foreign policy equivalent of the financial meltdown.

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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