DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Afghanistan: Is Peace At Hand?

Conn Hallinan
Friday November 02, 2018 - 11:17:00 AM

The news that the Americans recently held face-to-face talks with the Taliban suggests that longest war in US history may have reached a turning point, although the road to such a peace is long, rocky and plagued with as many improvised explosive devices as the highway from Kandahar to Kabul.

That the 17-year old war has reached a tipping point seems clear. The Taliban now controls more territory than they have since the American invasion in 2001. Causalities among Afghan forces are at an all time high, while recruitment is rapidly drying up. In spite of last year’s mini-surge of US troops and airpower by the Trump administration, the situation on the ground is worse now than in was in 2017. If any one statement sums up the hopelessness—and cluelessness—of the whole endeavor, it was former Secretary of State’s challenge to the Taliban: “You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.”

Of course, like any successful insurgency, the Taliban never intended to “win a battlefield victory,” only not to lose, thus forcing a stalemate that would eventually exhaust their opponents. Clearly the lessons of the Vietnam War are not part of the standard curriculum at Foggy Bottom.

Why things have gone from bad to worse for the US/NATO occupation and the Kabul government has less to do with the war itself than a sea change in strategy by the Taliban, a course shift that Washington has either missed or ignored. According to Ashley Jackson of the Overseas Development Institute, the Taliban shifted gears in 2015, instituting a program of winning hearts and minds. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: You Don't Have to be Mentally Ill to be Delusional

Jack Bragen
Friday November 02, 2018 - 11:08:00 AM

Because I have suffered severe psychosis numerous times, and with mild psychosis for all my adult life, by necessity, I am familiar with processes by which I can overcome more than half of my delusional thoughts. It involves questioning my own thinking as to whether it is accurate. It also involves the realization that thoughts are merely thoughts--they are a representation, but they should not be accepted as "reality," at least until proven by means of the five physical senses, or by means of checking out the thoughts with other reliable sources. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: What We Are Fighting For

Bob Burnett
Friday November 02, 2018 - 11:01:00 AM

If you are reading this, it's very likely that you are going to vote. The purpose of this column is not to convince you to vote but rather to urge you to convince every eligible voter you know to cast their vote. This is a crucial election. Let's consider what Democrats are fighting for and why it's so important that we turn out every eligible voter we can reach. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday November 02, 2018 - 11:13:00 AM

Candidates Unleashed

There is a wealth of work experience among the ten candidates running for Berkeley Council seats in the November 6 election but several stand out as examples of our changing lifestyles. In addition to "a small business owner" and an "attorney," our candidates include an "elder nutrition manager," a "sustainable policy analyst," a "green transportation designer," and Aidan Hill who lists his occupation as "Berkeley Dog Walker."

Trump's "America First" to Planet Earth: "Drop Dead"

Donald Trump has announced he's a "nationalist," not a "globalist." Why worry about the planet, when your focus is on America uber Alles? This raises the obvious question: "What planet does Trump think he lives on?" -more-

Pittsburgh synagogue massacre

Jagjit Singh
Friday November 02, 2018 - 11:34:00 AM

While much of the country is reacting in horror to the massacre of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue there is virtually no international outrage over the daily killing of Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has announced it is implementing a “zero tolerance” policy toward peaceful protesters in Gaza, who have been staging weekly Friday protests since March 30. Since then, Israeli forces have killed at least 170 Palestinians, including more than 30 children, and injured at least 18,000. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem representative HAGAI EL-AD addressed the United Nations: “The Gaza Strip, with a population of nearly 2 million, has essentially become an open-air prison. Its inmates have been staging protests for the past six months, after suffering for more than a decade under an Israeli-imposed blockade that has led to economic collapse, soaring unemployment rates, polluted drinking water, dwindling power supplies and, ultimately, to deep despair”.While we shed tears for our Jewish brothers and sisters who died we should save a few tears for the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians with the assistance of $billions of support from the US. Humanity should always triumph political and religious ideology. -more-

New: Hilary Hahn Plays Bach at Davies Hall

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday November 07, 2018 - 09:29:00 PM

The fiendishly difficult Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach have always been a part of Hilary Hahn’s musical life. Ms. Hahn began her musical studies with her first teacher, Klara Berkovich, and at age 10 was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to study with Jascha Brodsky, who devoted a part of each lesson to solo Bach. At age 17, Hilary Hahn recorded her first CD, entitled Hilary Hahn Plays Bach, which featured her performances of Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Partita No. 1 in B minor, and Partita No. 2 in D minor. Now, at age 38, Hilary Hahn revisited exactly these same works in a recital at Davies Hall, Sunday, November 4, under the aegis of San Francisco Symphony’s Great Performer Series. Hilary Hahn performs on an 1864 copy by Vuillaume of the Guarneri “Il Cannone” played by Paganini. -more-