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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Image of me in my Mayor Pete for President t-shirt

“Mayor Pete” Buttigieg for President in 2020

Say it with me: “Boot Edge Edge
About a month ago I saw this young guy get interviewed.  The interviewer said the guy was the Mayor of some place in Indiana (okay, it was South Bend, but all I heard was blah, blah hicks-ville, Indiana).  He is in his second term and got re-elected with over 80% of the vote!  He is a graduate of Harvard and an Oxford Rhodes Scholar.  He speaks seven languages and learned one of them just so he could read a book in the author’s native tongue.  He is a former Naval intelligence officer and served in Afghanistan (for seven months) while on leave without pay from his mayoral duties.
So, I listened to him speak…  And, I decided.
Prior to this, my three favorites for the Democratic nomination were (in order): Warren, Harris and Saunders.  (Yes, I am a Progressive / Liberal Democrat!)  To be honest, I think all have their weaknesses, but I believe any of them could defeat Trump.  The rest of the field, I’m not so sure of (including Biden), I don’t know anything about or I don’t really care for.  Anyway, I went online and bought a t-shirt – not realizing Mayor Pete hadn’t declared yet and was still in “just” the exploratory phase.
My daughter came over that evening and we were discussing who we each were favoring.  I said: “Mayor Pete, but I can’t pronounce his last name.”  She said: “Do you really think he can get elected?”  I replied: “Sure.  Why not?”  Her reply: “He’s opening gay…”  WHAT???
She asked how I could support him knowing this and pointedly adding that putting up a candidate who could defeat Trump was the most important thing the Democrats could do and she didn’t think the country was ready to elect an openly gay man.  I said I agreed, but I didn’t think the country was ready to elect an African-American in 2008 or re-elect him in 2012 and look how those elections turned out.
Does being straight or gay matter when you are running for ANY political office?  From an electability standpoint, of course it does.  But should it?  If I don’t believe faith (Kennedy), infidelity (Bill Clinton and probably a host of others), race (Obama) or gender (Hilary Clinton) matter, why should sexual orientation?  Is being “straight” critical to Presidential job performance?
When asked about whether gays should serve in the military, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater replied (I’m paraphrasing):  “I don’t care if someone is straight.  I just want to know if they can shoot straight.”  We KNOW President Trump is not very bright (he doesn’t read and has no curiosity), is a liar, is a cowardly draft dodger, is a tax cheat, is a terrible businessman, he appears to be a Russian puppet and he seems to only be interested in making money off of his term in office.  On balance, Mayor Pete is intelligent, well spoken, well read, a patriot and more than competent in his current office over the last two terms, so no, being openly gay does NOT matter to me.
I hope American will listen to what “Mayor Pete” has to say…  Then you can make up your mind and vote you heart.
Is America ready for an openly gay President?  To be honest, I don’t know…  But, I AM!
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On This Day In:
2018 Disruptive Definition
2017 A History Of Small Insights
2016 Be Uncommon
2015 Ooops!
2014 What Price Freedom?
2013 Remembering Val
2012 Good-bye, Val
Survival Value
2011 Traitors In Our Midst
Life Ain’t Easy

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An Interview With God”  (2018)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the “religious” movie which ran in theaters for three days last year and which is currently appearing on Netflix:  “An Interview With God” starring David Strathairn as God and Brenton Thwaites as a religious reporter / journalist Paul Asher who works at a non-sectarian newspaper.  The other main characters are:  Yael Grobglas as Paul’s estranged wife: Sarah Asher, Charlbi Dean as Sarah’s sister (Paul’s sister-in-law): Grace, and Hill Harper as Paul’s boss: Gary.  Paul is suffering a crisis in faith after having spent an extended period in Afghanistan covering the war while embedded with combat troops.  Paul is contacted and agrees to three half-hour interviews with someone who represents himself to be God.  The “GOD”.  The interview sessions are to be conducted over three days and at locations specified by God.
The movie was sponsored by a conservative Christian who also paid to have the movie released nation-wide in a limited number of theaters – hence the limited three day run.  Now, I did not know anything about the sponsor until after I’d seen the film and was doing research prior to writing this review.  I gather both factors (limited release and sponsorship) contributed to the fact there were very few reviews of the film by “mainstream” film reviewers.  I saw the movie preview last year, but never got to see the film in the cinema.  When I saw it was running on Netflix, I thought I’d give it a look-see because I like spiritual films as long as they don’t try to beat me over the head with religion.  This movie is definitively Judeo-Christian biased, but it is surprisingly more philosophical than “religious”.  That is, it raises philosophical issues about God and the real world, but it doesn’t really try to convert you Christianity (which surprised me a little).
Of the cast, Strathairn is relatively well known actor (Best Actor Oscar nomination for his Edward Murrow role in “Good Night, and Good Luck“.  I have also seen and enjoyed his performances in numerous other roles in films and on TV.  Thwaites is an Orlando Bloom look-alike, whom I gather is coming up through the Hollywood ranks as a heart-throb.  I know Harper from his TV role in the series: “The Good Doctor” – and I like him in that series.  The two females are (were) unknown to me.  I felt all five actors gave very creditable performances in their respective roles.
It is difficult to say too much about the movie because to do so would be to give away plot twists and the movie has only recently come onto Netflix so it would be unfair to spoil the movie given its very limited release.  I will say it is a movie you have to both watch and listen to.  The few reviews I have seen seemed (to me) to miss a number of points which explained / clarified other portions of the movie.  Basically, they said: “What was this or that about?”  My response: “Did you watch the movie?”
So, is this a great movie?  No, but it is thought provoking.  Is it well written, acted, shot?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  Is it a religious experience in and of itself?  Give me a break…  It’s just a movie.  Do I intend to watch it again?  Yes, as a matter of fact I do intend to and I’ve already spoken to two family members about it (recommending it to them).
Final recommendation:  Strong recommendation.  I like Strathairn’s acting and he’s good in this role.  I like thought provoking movies and this is one of those (for me anyway).  I tend to enjoy movies about faith and humanity and this deals with both.  At only about ninety minutes, this movie was actually a better investment in faith than attending Mass today.  As sacrilegious as that may sound, I can (in my own defense) only offer a poem excerpt:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
From the poem: “Light Shining Out of Darkness“, by William Cowper
You can find the entire poem here.
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On This Day In:
2018 History Will Judge Harshly
Father Time, Perhaps?
2017 Odds Are
2016 Prayer, Too
2015 History, n.
2014 See It Sometime
2013 Precious Friend
2012 It Couldn’t Be Done
Feeling Surrounded?
2011 Surprise!

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Bodyguard”  (2018)  —  TV series review  (BBC and NetFlix)
This review is for the BBC series from last year which was made available world-wide (or at least here in the U.S.) via NetFlix.  The series stars “Game of Thrones” actor (oldest Stark son) Richard Madden as Sergeant David Budd, an Afghanistan war veteran and Protection Command (PCO) bodyguard, Keeley Hawes as The Right Honorable Julia Montague, the Home Secretary, Conservative MP for Thames West (the “subject” person being protected), and, Gina McKee as Commander Anne Sampson, Head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command.  Of course there was a raft of others, but I remembered (finally) McKee as the crippled wife / friend seen in “Notting Hill” (my review of that here).  McKee didn’t get a mention in that review / post, so I’m kinda making up for it with a mention in this post.
Like most BBC series (a “series” on the BBC means one year of shows), this series is relatively short – only six episodes, but each is roughly an hour long.  This means the series is suitable for a single day of binge viewing.  Or, alternatively, you can easily break it up into two viewings – which is what I did.
Because the show is relatively current, I won’t get into a lot of detail as it will ruin the viewing for you.  All I will say is that it is a tense, well acted police drama with a smattering of politics (police, domestic (U.K.) and international) thrown in, as well as some discreetly shown sexual content (male nudity) and action / violence lightly sprinkled in.  The first twenty minutes throws you in the deep end (tension wise) and it’s a roller coaster from there to the end.
Final recommendation:  highly to very highly recommended.  If you’re dying to see Madden’s bum or hear him repeatedly calling his superior female officers (and PC subject) “Mum”, this is your ticket.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope there will be additional years (series) to follow.  There has been no announcement as of this date (to my knowledge), but I understand the show was so popular the producers / writers have said if there is a second series, it will run through four.  If this happens, I hope they don’t run the main topic of each year across the break(s).  Please keep the story arc within each single season.  Then if the BBC or NetFlix cancel the remaining years, we viewers won’t be left in the lurch with an incomplete arc.  (Not that anyone ever listens to me…)
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On This Day In:
2018 And 40+ Years Later?
2017 He Is Alone
2016 Compensation
2015 Charlie Redux
2014 The Crux
2013 Erosion And Rechannelling
Alliance, n.
2012 How Many Thought… (One I Know Of)
Choices And Decisions
2011 Speed Spoils
Simply Intended
2010 A Second 4 Hour Jog

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Global climate change is one of the causes for the current drought in California and across much of the mid-west and southwestern United States.  Despite what #IncompetentDonald says, that’s just the unfortunate truth.  The thing about science AND reality is they don’t care whether you believe in them or not OR what political party you support.
On visiting the California Camp (Butte County) fire area and viewing the town of Paradise which was destroyed by the recent fire, #PresidentIdiot said we can deal with forest fires the way they do in Finland by raking the underbrush.  If only we had better land management.  Setting aside the fact this is a lie – the Finn’s don’t manage their forests by raking brush and that their President never told Trump they did, as #PresidentTrumpIsALiar claims, let’s take a look at what this “proposal” might cost (this is just a scribbling on the napkin guesstimate):
First I Google’d how many acres of forest land there are in California (Federal land only):   19,000,000 acres
Next I Google’d how long it takes to clear 1 acre of land of leaves – (in a level garden, using a blower and machine lawn-mowers / cutters):  3 men x 3 hours = 9 man-hours per acre.  This includes bagging and taking the leaves to the dump.  This was a private sector estimate at $40 per hour per person and with supervisory overhead (profit margin), a minimum of $500 bid for the job.  Please, note the bids I found are for back yards and gardens.  The quotes are not for brush, hills, mountains and dense forests which may either have no roads or be too steep / rugged to have road access.  In other words, you’ll have to hike there just to use that rake of yours.
That’s a rough $9.5 BILLION dollars ($500 x 19,000,000 acres)!!!  But, of course, we all KNOW that the private sector is MUCH more efficient than the government, so we can assume this is an accurate estimate and a lower cost than if the job were done by Federal workers.
So, how many workers is that?
19,000,000 acres * 9 man-hours per acre = 171,000,000 man-hours
171,000,000 man-hours / 2,000 man-hours per year of work = 85,500 man-years of raking.  (The good news is you don’t need a high school diploma to use a rake.)  Talk about full employment and a Civilian Conservation Corps!!!!
The most level management organization in the world is (wait for it…) the Catholic Church which has ONLY four levels between the parish priest and the Pope (Monsignor (parish), Bishop (diocese), Cardinal (region), Pope (Church) ).  If we adopt the standard rule of seven for supervisor efficiency (except at the bottom of the table) we are left with also hiring 1 supervisor per 36 rakers (2,375 supervisors), 1 manager per 7 supervisors (340 mngrs),  1 senior manager per 7 managers (49 senior mngrs), 1 executive per 7 senior mngrs (7 execs), and 1 “Head of Raking for California”.   Yes, I know that’s 5 levels not 4 (like the Church), but the numbers are the numbers and we don’t have God to routinely make miracles for us.
So, that’s an extra 2,772 folks who will be on staff but not raking.  Now, obviously, these folks are going to make a lot more than the $40 the private sector was going to charge for a “raker”, but let’s assume it’s ONLY $50 / hour.  The cost of this management will be:  $277,200,000.
So, President Trump’s “idea / proposal” to rake the underbrush to prevent future fires will need to hire / use about 88 THOUSAND people and cost  somewhere around $9.8 BILLION per year.  And that’s ONLY for Federal land in California.  And, let’s not get into who’s going to drive the trucks moving the undergrowth to the dump and / or where we’re going to find landfills large enough to hold all of the compost.  Oh, don’t forget the cost of the rakes and the plastic bags to hold the undergrowth during transport.  It boggles the mind…
This is the kind of ridiculous suggestion you get from a man who is so stupid he believes he is smarter than “his” generals (we are still in the Middle East and Afghanistan), “his” economists (we still have no tax relief for the middle class), “his” political advisors (Republicans just lost the House in the mid-terms), and “his” intelligence services (Russian had nothing to do with #DumbDonald getting elected), let alone “who knew healthcare was so complicated” (we still have no Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act).  Basically, this is what happens when you elect an incompetent con-man / grifter to be President.
And, no, I don’t seriously believe any company in the private sector is going to pay someone $40 / hour to rake / blow leaves.  I do believe that is what they will charge you, though.  Okay, enough scribbling…
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On This Day In:
2017 Federal Deficit, National Debt And Tax Cuts For The 1%
2016 Picky, Picky, Picky
2015 Another Limitation On Religion
2014 Enduring
2013 Tell Me More…
2012 Passing…
2011 Fake It ‘Til You Make It

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If something is presented as an accepted truth, alternative ways of thinking do not even come up for consideration.
   —  Ellen Langer
[To start off, #IncompetentDonald hasn’t made America great again.  He wouldn’t know where to start or how to go about doing it even if he really wanted to make it happen.  So, to now claim  he’s “done” it (made America great again), and now wants to be re-elected to keep it that way, is even more laughable.  (Yes, we haven’t even had the mid-terms and #DonTheCon is already running for re-election.)  It reminds me of “W” standing in front of his “Mission Accomplished” banner at the start of the Iraq war (1 May 2003).  We are still there (in Iraq and Afghanistan) over 15 years later…  If you are not in the 1% which the Republican tax cut greatly benefited, ask yourself: “Will I be better off without healthcare and with reduced Social Security and Medicare coverage?”  That is surely where we are headed if Republicans retain control of both Houses of Congress.  John McCain is gone.  Obamacare will go down if there is another Republican controlled vote to kill it.  The tax cut has already worsened the federal debt AND deficit, and despite their claims they will protect Social Security, Republicans are already targeting “entitlements” (SSA and Medicare benefits) in their rhetoric.   How long will it be before they are reducing benefits in their legislation?  America, it is long past time to wake up and smell the coffee.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2017 Old Style Ear Candy
2016 Next Tuesday
2015 Wanna Trade?
2014 Brothers And Friends
2013 So Suddenly
2012 At The Center
2011 Live Long And Thinner
Got Health?
2010 SF Giants – 2010 World Series Champions!!!
52 – 54 – 56 – 58
2009 Diet Update
Pictures from Chicago Trip…

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Today I have reviews for two movies I’ve just watched (initial viewings) over the weekend and a third which is a re-watch.
Beauty And The Beast (2014) — movie review (La Belle et la Bête)
No, this is not the Disney remake which came out earlier this year of the now classic Disney animated film (from 1991).  I’ve not seen that version yet, but I hope to when it comes out on DVD.  This is the 2014 Belgium / French / German version (a romantic / fantasy) of the fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.  The film stars Vincent Cassel as the Beast / Prince and Léa Seydoux as Belle.  I must admit to never having read the original fairy tale, so I can’t speak to how closely it follows the original.  With three young children growing up in the 1990’s, I have, of course seen the Disney animated musical multiple times.
This version is live action with special effects.  The “live action” is strangely European.  I’m not sure (quite) how to put my finger on it, but it is unmistakably NOT an American film.  That is not good or bad.  It just is.  The special effects were okay, but reminded me of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” movie from 2013.  (I believe that movie was titled: “Jack the Giant Slayer“.)  In other words: adequate, obviously computer generated, but okay.  The problems I had with the movie came down to this: worse than the predictability, too many parts made no sense or were never explained.  They just kind of happened.  This detracted from the overall theme of the movie: that true love is magical and can be redeeming in itself.
Having said this, I found the movie pleasantly enjoyable.  Not great, but enjoyable.  It’s not terribly frightening and can be viewed by the whole family – well, maybe not very small children.  I give it a moderate to strong recommendation.
War Machine (2017)  —  movie review
Brad Pitt stars as General Glen McMahon, a character based on General Stanley McChrystal.  McMahon is portrayed as an accomplished general with degrees from West Point and Yale brought in by the Obama Administration to bring a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan because he is an “expert” on counter-insurgency.  Pitt’s portrayal is one of a focused, disciplined, but rather buffoonish military leader who “seems” to be caught in a situation he can’t lead his troops out of.  In a terrific casting, Ben Kingsley plays President Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan.  “Caught” in a similar situation (one of figurehead leadership), Karzai only seeks to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
Are the portrayals of the fictionalized characters accurate to the real people?  I can’t say because I have never met them and have not read enough about them to form a solid opinion.  Do they “appear” to be realistic portrayals?  Yes, they do.  So, is the movie a satire and / or a dark comedy or is it a realistic depiction of what happened?  My gut feeling is this movie is FAR more realistic than we want to believe.  Absent the horror of combat (injuries and death) and collateral civilian casualties, when viewed externally, most of war can easily appear as satire and dark comedy.
So, is this a good movie?  Yes!  You (or I) may not like what it says about our politics or our wars, but I believe it is an accurate window into the crisis situation we place our combat troops in when we send them into (and leave them in) places where / when they cannot engage and destroy the enemy because they can’t tell the enemies from the friendlies.  Collateral damage becomes almost a certainty.
I highly recommend this movie!  If all you see is the dark comedy or the even darker portrayal of our military and civilian leadership, that’s fine.  If it is, re-watch the film and ask yourself: “What if it’s true and this is what it was (is) really like in Afghanistan?”  What does it mean to you?
Captain America:  Civil War  (2016)  —  movie review
I have reviewed this movie before (here) and watched it a couple of more times since.  Every time I watch it I see something a little different(ly) and I enjoy it even more.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not great drama and the physical effects of the combat scenes are completely ridiculous, but it’s a comic book movie and if it’s not “JUST” the way you would imagine it from the comics, it’s pretty darn close.
I highly recommend this movie (again).  I would add one side comment.  I watched this movie on TV with commercial breaks and found it MUCH less enjoyable.  Some movies can stand the interruptions, some can’t.  I found this to be one that did not hold up well with the frequent breaks.  Again, just my opinion.  So, watch it on a movie channel or get the DVD.
Apologies for such a long post.  Thanks for hanging in there with me (and finishing it).
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On This Day In:
2016 Patronage
2015 For Blogs, Too!
2014 Righteous Anger
2013 An Irish Blessing
2012 But Is It Worth It?
2011 Let Us Start

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“We are at a period where our enemies respect us, but they don’t fear us,” McChrystal told his audience at the 2014 Maneuver Conference Wednesday.  McChrystal is the former commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
“The specter of American power is no longer enough to get somebody just not to do something.”
“When I joined this organization – an elite collection of forces — I thought I was joining an unbeatable team,” he said.
“In 2004, JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) was extremely well resourced and highly efficient, McChrystal said.  “What we did, we could do better than anyone had ever done it before,” he said.  “When we went on operations, we had good results, but we were losing the war.”
Al Qaeda, on the other hand, focused on being adaptable, McChrystal said.
“Al Qaeda in Iraq became a very resilient, flexible organization, and they were adaptable … and when you pitted adaptable against efficient, surprisingly to us, adaptability won.”
  —   Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal (Ret.)
Speaking of his five years in Joint Special Operations Command.
[Found on one of the blogs / websites I follow:  http://www.military.com/
The specific posting was at: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/09/11/armys-combat-leaders-prepare-for-new-war.html?ESRC=dod.nl
If the above quote is true, not only has the military learned little in the last ten years of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. Army (in specific) hasn’t been talking much to the U.S. Marines – one of their mottos being: “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.”  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2013 Disappeared
2012 Fuller
Life On The Range
More Classics
2011 Stoned Again?
2010 Insubordination… And That’s Why I Love Her!
Losing – Week One

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