Author Archives: cleek

Humans Are Bad At Risk Assessment

On May 19, one teacher, who was not vaccinated against the coronavirus, began feeling fatigued and had some nasal congestion. She dismissed it as allergies and powered through. While she was usually masked, she made an exception for story time so she could read to the class.

By the time she learned she was positive for the coronavirus two days later, half her class of 24 had been infected — nearly all of them in the two rows closest to her desk — and the outbreak had spread to other classes, siblings and parents, including some who were fully vaccinated.

Sad Sad Sad

RIP Charlie Watts.

Here are the Stones in late September 1989, Syracuse NY. A bunch of us from my dorm floor made the trip from Rochester to Syracuse to see this. We were as far away from that stage as the arena would allow.

There's an album called Steel Wheels Live, recorded a few weeks later on this tour, that is really great (hat-tip M-Lo).

The Ides of August

Two decades ago, young people in Kandahar were telling me how the proxy militias American forces had armed and provided with U.S. fatigues were shaking them down at checkpoints. By 2007, delegations of elders would visit me — the only American whose door was open and who spoke Pashtu so there would be no intermediaries to distort or report their words. Over candied almonds and glasses of green tea, they would get to some version of this: “The Taliban hit us on this cheek, and the government hits us on that cheek.” The old man serving as the group’s spokesman would physically smack himself in the face.

I and too many other people to count spent years of our lives trying to convince U.S. decision-makers that Afghans could not be expected to take risks on behalf of a government that was as hostile to their interests as the Taliban were. Note: it took me a while, and plenty of my own mistakes, to come to that realization. But I did.

For two decades, American leadership on the ground and in Washington proved unable to take in this simple message. I finally stopped trying to get it across when, in 2011, an interagency process reached the decision that the U.S. would not address corruption in Afghanistan. It was now explicit policy to ignore one of the two factors that would determine the fate of all our efforts. That’s when I knew today was inevitable.

The War Press

Neo-con hawks and their ratings-chasing media ghouls always assert that military intervention is the correct response to foreign policy disputes. And they leave it to everyone else to try to talk them down. They beg the question. They never bother to justify what they demand, they only snidely, sneeringly assert the inevitability of their position.

Happened when this disaster started, happened every time anyone suggested reducing our footprint in Afghanistan, is happening right now as they throw their tantrum and blame everyone but themselves for this 20 year fiasco. Happened in Vietnam. Happened in Iraq (wait till someone finally gets us out of that mess and it's more complicated than calling an Uber to go home).

Maybe it's time we stop letting them control the discussion?