Random Notes from Old Mexico

o Taking a car, even a ’74 Volksy pop-top, across the U.S. border far into Mexico requires an import permit which is paid for at the border by posting a bond on a credit card. The windshield sticker which serves as evidence of the bond is good for six months and must be removed by Mexican customs before its expiration. It doesn’t take too long, and the lady that handled it was efficient. Presto, you’re driving in a foreign country with a different culture. That means narrow roads with no shoulders where the multitude of roadside crosses and shrines say: Pay attention.
o The first problem came soon. We got temporarily lost in the entry city. There were no signs. If you don’t know the way you shouldn’t be there! Next came the lengthy and repeated road repairs, requiring extensive travel over rutted dirt paths behind creeping semi-trucks. There seem to be two kinds of roads in Mexico (toll roads excepted), those being rebuilt and those that should be! I exaggerate. I later found that the vibration from the rough trail had loosened and removed the (tightened, I had checked it) thumbscrew that holds my starboard air filter together, with the possible ingestion of dust into the engine. Oh joy.

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Mr. Obama, tear down this war!

Mr. Obama, tear down this war! You have promised change and the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) is the worst legacy of the Bush administration. You should denounce it.
Unfortunately, unlike other undeclared pseudo-wars like the Cold War, the war on poverty and the war on drugs, this “war” includes real violence on real people.
Using the “GWOT” as justification, the worst crimes in US history have been committed. These include war against nations which never threatened the US, imprisonment and torture of not only foreigners in large numbers but also US citizens (e.g. Jose Padilla) and unconstitutional domestic surveillance. If these crimes are to stop then their justification must be removed.
There ought to be no problem terminating the “GWOT.” A strategy based on military force has been thoroughly discredited, and it wasn’t even liked by the people who initiated it, but they continued to use it because it was useful against US citizens, to keep them frightened and unified in favor of the government which was busy committing aforesaid crimes.

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Operation Enduring Failure

Asia is not going to be civilized after the methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old. –Rudyard Kipling
It’s been seven years since the initiation of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, what’s going on? Well, it’s certainly enduring. The Taliban government has been overthrown and replaced, but it’s not going well, nobody’s yet declared “mission accomplished” and apparently Afghanistan has become even more important to the US.
President-elect Obama, during his visit to Afghanistan, said that United States needs to focus on Afghanistan in its battle against terrorism.

    “The Afghan government needs to do more. But we have to understand that the situation is precarious and urgent here in Afghanistan. And I believe this has to be our central focus, the central front, on our battle against terrorism.”

“Precarious and urgent” — the enemy is at the gates, according to Obama, in the “battle against terrorism.” Obama has obviously drunk the endless “war on terorism” Kool-Aid. When one starts with wrong assumptions one’ll never be successful. It’d be Bush redux. Okay, more on that in the next piece, now back to Afghanistan.
A draft report by American intelligence agencies has concluded that Afghanistan, that graveyard of empires, is in a “downward spiral” and casts serious doubt on the ability of the Afghan government to stem the rise in the Taliban’s influence there, according to American officials familiar with the document.
And the International Herald Tribune agrees:

    This has been the deadliest year for NATO forces and Afghan forces in Afghanistan since the invasion in late 2001, as Taliban insurgents have attacked persistently, in particular with ambushes and roadside bombs. The offensive has severely curtailed efforts by NATO and the government to expand their control from towns into the countryside.
    As the summer fighting dragged on, it became clear that 19,000 foreign troops deployed in the southern provinces, alongside thousands more Afghan soldiers and police officers, were in a stalemate with the insurgents, as one senior NATO commander put it.

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Neglected Veterans Day

It’s Neglected Veterans Day, and our vets need help.
from a Pentagon press release:

    NEW YORK, Nov. 9, 2008 – The United States will remember the servicemembers who have made incredible sacrifices on the nation’s behalf, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during the “A Salute to Our Troops” dinner sponsored by United Service Organizations and Microsoft here last night.
    “I promise you we will never, ever forget,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said told the 25 wounded warriors, their guests and corporate representatives. “You are our inspiration, and we care for you, and we will always care for you.”

It never changes. A few decide that war will be profitable and the poor souls that have to fight it and suffer from it make “incredible sacrifices on the nation’s behalf. . .we will always care for you.” And now the injured are “wounded warriors.”
I met a older veteran down in Mexico last year that was still suffering from the Vietnam war (Agent Orange) and was mighty upset about how the US government had neglected him and others with his affliction. (Probably if I had called him a “wounded warrior” he would have slugged me, with good reason.) He’s been neglected. And now here we go again.
According to a recent fact sheet published by the White House, “President Bush Has Provided Unprecedented Support for Our Veterans — Dramatically Increased Funding To Support And Care For Those Who Have Served Our Nation.” According to this fact sheet, the US has increased funding for veterans’ medical care by more than 115 percent since 2001.
Catch that: “more than 115 percent since 2001.” If you look at the chart on the fact sheet you’ll see that the increase is actually 105% (from $20b to $41b), not 115%. The spending on veterans’ medical care has slightly more than doubled since 2001. The reality is that George Bush is AWOL again — this time as Commander-in-Chief. It’s hard for some people to change.

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