Monthly Archives: October 2014

Afghanistan, still

One of the five nonfiction finalists for the National Book Awards is No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal. There’s a good summary of the book in a review in the New York Review of Books by Rory Stewart. It convinced me of two things: 1) I haven’t got the endurance to read the book, and 2) the situation we will leave behind in Afghanistan is even worse than I thought.

As we look at the current situation in Syria and Iraq with respect to ISIS, I think the issue is not how best to counter ISIS, but instead to recognize that the US is not capable of doing so. Our overwhelming military  strength is simply irrelevant to the problem.

On elections

For those who don’t go in for straight party voting, a friend told me about This is a non-partisan web site that is a good source of facts about candidates. It’s non-partisan but is a source of such info as candidate bios, votes, positions, ratings, speeches, and (most interesting) funding.

For New Jersey voters, a good source of info on public issues is New Jersey Policy Perspectives.  Here’s what they say about themselves:

We started New Jersey Policy Perspective in 1997 because of the need for credible research and analysis on important issues facing New Jersey. Reasoned, effective public policy requires more than bumper sticker slogans, 30-second commercials and TV news sound bites. It takes an informed, engaged public. Information is crucial so people can help to shape the debates we must have about this state’s future.

This site has a liberal bent and is headed by Gordon Macinnes


Andrew Bacevich has used the term Whac-A-Mole to describe the US effort over the last 20 years to mold the Middle East to our liking. I think it’s particularly apt.

If you’re unfamiliar with this arcade game, here is a description from Wikipedia

A typical Whac-A-Mole machine consists of a large, waist-level cabinet with five holes in its top and a large, soft, black mallet. Each hole contains a single plastic mole and the machinery necessary to move it up and down. Once the game starts, the moles will begin to pop up from their holes at random. The object of the game is to force the individual moles back into their holes by hitting them directly on the head with the mallet, thereby adding to the player’s score. The quicker this is done the higher the final score will be.

My sympathy for President Obama who has to deal with the problem while under constant criticism from Republican fools like McCain.

A Miscellany

In the Oct 23 issue of the NY Review of Books (they’re ahead of the rest of us) Paul Krugman reviews Martin Wolf’s book “The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned—and Have Still to Learn—from the Financial Crisis.”  Wolf is the chief economic commentator for the Financial Times. It’s worth reading and fortunately is one of the articles the journal gives free access to.

Another interesting article by Jonathan Chait ln New York Magazine, asks why the deficit scolds who have effectively dominated political discourse for years are silent on the significant reduction in the deficit in recent years. Chait is worth following, as is, of course his co-writer in that magazine. Frank Rich.

Finally, Krugman, in Rolling Stone, tells us why he considers Obama to have been a successful President.


The Middle East

William Pfaff, in his most recent column, looks at President Obama’s intervention against ISIS and reaches the following conclusion.

I have previously written that Islam itself is in a deep crisis, and America’s vainglorious and incompetent military interventions deeply contributed to this crisis. Now the crisis is at fever pitch. It was folly for a Congress obsessed with partisan politics, and irresponsible figures in the press and foreign policy community, to have demanded that the president take us into this war. He will suffer most dramatically, but American citizens will suffer, too, and the battered people of the Middle East most of all.