Friday, March 21, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Wake Me When Winter Ends

1.  It’s Spring!
I don’t know that I’d necessarily say that it’s warm, but Spring officially started yesterday, and this morning I needed neither my face mask nor my balaklava s on the ride to the train station.  Moreover, it’s probably going to be forty degrees by the time I get into the City.
I’m prepared to call that progress.

2.  New Scarlet Witch Designs.
In lieu of showing another tepid episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, the studio took a Victory Lap this week in advance of the new Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier.  I haven’t seen any full reviews, but the feedback on Twitter from the movie’s overseas premier was exceptionally good, and it therefore seems like Marvel/Disney has every reason to expect another monster hit.
Anyway, the most interesting thing to come out of the show, Building a Universe, was the release of the studio’s preliminary design work on the Scarlet Witch.
Preliminary designs for the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.
Personally, I was hoping that they’d drop Carol Danvers into the Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I suppose that the Scarlet Witch is also an interesting character, and I’ll admit that I’m a little curious to see how they justify the inclusion of earthly magic into a universe that has been overwhelmingly technological up to now.
Marvel’s not the only one taking a Victory Lap this week.  Russian dick--er, President--Vladmir Putin announced just this morning that with Crimea now safely returned to the bossom of Russian soveriegnty, he no longer feels the need to further punish the US or Western Europe for their untoward agression in matters relating to his Empire’s internal politics.  
Or, to put it another way, he’d like to remind all you hippy peacenicks and/or hawkish interveners that he owns all of the oil and natural gas that fires Western Europe.  If you’re nice, he’ll keep selling it--at only a slight markup.  But if you piss him off, well…  
I mean, it gets cold in Europe if you don’t have fuel to heat your home, right?
4.  Hannah really wants to see Divergent.
She’s probably not the only one, right?  
My question is: should I let her?  I don’t mind some action and/or violence, but I’d rather not have to explain why Shailene Woodley let some boy touch her nauthy places, and I don’t know what to expect from this movie.  
Has anyone read the book?  Reviews I’ve read indicate that the move has “some sensuality”.  Does that mean there’s some kissing, or should I prepare myself for an awkward conversation?
5.  Who knew what in Pakistan and when did they know it?
I spent several hours this week trying to decide whether or not to discuss the NY Times article that came out this week implicating the primary Pakistani intelligence service (the ISI) in both the hiding of Osama Bin Laden and the ongoing efforts of the Taliban to kill American soldiers and retake Afghanistan.  I’m still not sure that I have any business discussing it, but I will say that it’s shit like this that makes me scratch my head and wonder what the Hell we’re doing over there.
If you missed the article, I’ll bottom line it for you: the ISI has been using the Taliban to control Afghanistan for longer than Americans have been involved in that country.  They run the organization like a client-state army despite the fact that their control over the Taliban isn’t very good and that harboring radicals within Pakistan during the course of the war against the US has done a lot to destabilize Pakistan domestically.  Yes, they knew where Bin Laden was the whole time; they actually had a desk within the ISI building specifically dedicated to handling him and his network.  
And--this isn’t in the article, but in retrospect it seems obvious--the US intelligence services must have had at least some inkling about all of this at the time because they conducted the raid to kill Bin Laden without warning the Pakistanis ahead of time.  That was a serious breach of a would-be ally’s sovereignty from which there has since been substantial fallout.  Clearly, you would only do something like that only if there was absolutely no other choice.
I’m reminded of the maxim that you can’t solve strategic problems with tactical solutions.  I was even thinking about trying to explain that concept in terms of the national emissions debate, i.e. natural gas fracking versus coal-fired power plant emissions.  But that stuff is complicated in its own right, and I have at most another thirty-five minutes before this train gets into Harlem 125th Street.
Instead of all that, let me put it to you like this: I will support further involvement in Afghanistan when someone can articulate a strategy for that war that ends with a postive outcome on the ground for legitimate US interests.  It’s clear that we don’t have that now, and until we do, it’s hard to make the case that we’re doing anything over there besides kowtowing to various domestic political agendas in this country in a way that gives the illusion of “peace with honor” without actually offering anything substantive.  
Frankly, that is not good enough.
I supported the invasion strongly in 2001, but for all the tactical success that the Army and Marines saw on the ground, it now looks like there was never a clear, realistic strategy for success.  I could be wrong; I do not pretend to be an expert.  I’m just a guy who knows what he reads in the papers.  But I’m the guy you have to convince if you want voters to support further involvement, and I don’t think I’m an unreasonable audience.  Likewise, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to want to understand where my tax dollars are going and/or how my friends are spending their lives.
‘nuff said.  Anybody else got a thought on this one?

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