Monday, April 1, 2013

Binocular Snapshot for 04/01/2013

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An Afghan teenager killed an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan by stabbing him in the neck while he played with a group of local children, officials said Monday.

The killing comes as the monthly U.S. death toll rose sharply in March to 14 with the start of the spring fighting season when the Taliban and other insurgents take advantage of improved weather to step up attacks, Army Sgt. Michael Cable, 26, was guarding Afghan and U.S. officials meeting in a province near the border with Pakistan when the stabbing occurred

At least 14 U.S. soldiers died in March, compared with four in the previous two months, according to an Associated Press tally.


This imperial turn has proven not just quixotic but deeply damaging to American standing, in the Middle East and globally. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama seemed to understand this when he pledged not just to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq but to end what he called the "mindset" that led America into the strategic mistake of invading Iraq in the first place.

But, as president, Obama has pursued the same kinds of policies as his predecessors, extending the damage they did to America's strategic position.

Among other self-damaging policies, Obama has, like his predecessors, bought into the proposition that an Israel with nearly absolute freedom of military initiative bolsters U.S. supremacy in the Middle East.

David Stockman, who served as Ronald Reagan’s budget director from 1981 to 1985, leveled some harsh criticism at his former boss as well as at President George W. Bush in an op-ed he penned about the state of the economy for The New York Times titled “Sundown in America.”

“The destruction of fiscal rectitude under Ronald Reagan—one reason I resigned as his budget chief in 1985—was the greatest of his many dramatic acts, it created a template for the Republicans’ utter abandonment of the balanced-budget policies of Calvin Coolidge and allowed George W. Bush to dive into the deep end, bankrupting the nation through two misbegotten and unfinanced wars, a giant expansion of Medicare and a tax-cutting spree for the wealthy that turned K Street lobbyists into the de facto office of national tax policy. In effect, the G.O.P. embraced Keynesianism—for the wealthy.”

The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy will account for nearly half of the debt the U.S. will owe by 2019, according to a February analysis from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities.

With drought season off to a bad start, scientists forecast another bleak year
The 2013 drought season is already off to a worse start than in 2012 or 2011 - a trend that scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say is a good indicator, based on historical records, that the entire year will be drier than last year, even if spring and summer rainfall and temperatures remain the same. If rainfall decreases and temperatures rise, as climatologists are predicting will happen this year, the drought could be even more severe.

Drought conditions in more than half of the United States have slipped into a pattern that climatologists say is uncomfortably similar to the most severe droughts in recent U.S. history, including the 1930s Dust Bowl and the widespread 1950s drought, the outlooks for rainfall and temperature are similarly bleak.

"Here in Texas, we're worried about experiencing similar impacts on our agricultural industry that we had in 2011," said John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas State climatologist. "The fact that we're starting off with water levels and reservoirs lower than they've been in decades just makes matters worse."