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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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The above is a little video clip I found on YouTube.  Below are the lyrics, and after them, some notes I’ve included explaining some of the terms in the song…
Merry Christmas From Afghanistan” – Sung by “Fisher
Merry Christmas from Afghanistan,
Oh man, it’s that time of year,
And the birth of Jesus
Doesn’t seem to please
The terrorists
Down here;
I’d like to take a moment
For you folks at home
To make it clear;
Merry Christmas from
The Eastern Hemisphere.
Merry Christmas from Afghanistan,
Way back in the USA,
You’ve got mistletoe
And falling snow,
We’ve got sandstorms and grenades
But what the hell,
It’s just as well
We celebrate it
Anyway,
Merry Christmas from
5,000 miles away.
And I remember
Many Decembers,
Sitting ’round that tree,
And now I’m in some outer cordon
Sitting ’round an IED,
I’ve traded yams and roasted ham
For a chicken noodle MRE,
Merry Christmas from
Out here in the middle east.
Merry Christmas from Afghanistan,
From our AO to yours,
I’ll be watching illegal DVDs
And defecating out of doors,
Put my pedal to the metal man,
I’ll settle for that medal
Of honor when I win the war,
Single-handedly
From a armored drivers door.
And Yuletide salutations
From our vacation
In the sand,
From this E-3 Lance Coolie
And up the whole chain of command
Between Al Qaeda,
Al Jazeera,
Mujahadeen,
And the Taliban,
It’s a very merry Christmas in Afghanistan.
From south Montana,
To northwest Indiana,
To the shores of North Caroline,
From NYC to LA’s beaches
And down the Mason-Dixon Line,
It’s that season
Where we’re freezing,
But all in all,
We’re doing fine,
So merry Christmas from Afghanistan tonight.
It’s that season
That we’re freezing,
But all in all,
We’re doing fine,
So Merry Christmas
Down the Final Protection Line!
Notes:
AO – Area of Operation
E-3 Lance Coolie – Enlisted Rank 3, Lance Corporal; the lowest enlisted Non-Commissioned Officer rank, someone given all of the menial “leadership” tasks
Final Protection Line – an assigned line of concentrated fire when there is the possibility of being overrun by an enemy force.  Overlapping lines create maximum effective killing zones for defense.
IED – Improvised Explosive Device
Medal of Honor – the Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military award given to a service person who demonstrates courage above and beyond the call of duty in a combat situation.  Unfortunately, it is normally awarded posthumously.
MRE – Meal (Ready to Eat)
Outer Cordon – the far outer barrier of a secured area which may be marked by tape (civilian) or by concertina wire (military); in olden days, a moat or ditch around the outer wall of a castle.
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Today there was breaking news:  The final convoy of American troops has left Iraq, crossing the Kuwaiti border and ending the war.
This was a war which need never have happened, but the war was not the fault of the brave soldiers, sailors and airmen who risked all and sacrificed much to do what the leaders of their country asked of them.  I, for one, honor your sacrifice, bravery, and patriotism.  I will continue to pray for you (the lost, the injured and the returning) and your families. Thank you.
I also pray the Iraqi people can now create their own peace – and in that peace, find a freedom they would never have enjoyed under Saddam.
Welcome home to all of our brave military…!!!
Hopefully, your brothers-and-sisters-in-arms still serving in Afghanistan can join us soon.
God bless you all.
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The Republican Party, which had presided over America’s rise to manufacturing preeminence, has acquiesced in the deindustrialization of the nation to gratify transnational corporations whose oligarchs are the party financiers.  U.S. corporations are shutting factories here, opening them in China, “outsourcing” back-office work to India, importing Asians to take white-collar jobs from Americans, and hiring illegal aliens for their service jobs.  The Republican Party has signed off on economic treason.
  —  Patrick J. Buchanan
From his book: “Where The Right Went Wrong
[While I agree with Pat that the Republican party has committed the equivalent of economic treason, I must disagree with the statement Republicans “presided over America’s rise to manufacturing preeminence“.
America rose to manufacturing preeminence during and because of World War II while FDR was President and the Democrats controlled both houses in Congress.  The economy stalled under Eisenhower and was revived by the Kennedy / Johnson period.  We started to falter at the end of Johnson and began our descent under Nixon, mostly because of the gas crisis (72-73) and the long term effects of government spending from Vietnam (Johnson and Nixon).  Both Reagan and Bush (the first) had recessions and it was Clinton’s Administration which brought growth.  Reagan, a “true” conservative, proposed there was no damage to the economy by going into debt (mostly to increase government spending on big ticket military purchases “star-wars” and new aircraft carriers) and then signed off on the largest tax increases in history (actually mostly closing business loopholes) to reduce the debt he had sponsored – although he was NEVER able to come up with a balanced budget let alone get Congress to pass one.  Bush II practically drove the whole planet into bankruptcy and global depression with a combination of deregulation and unpaid for wars.  Granted not all of the deregulation was actually passed into law during “W’s” administration.  His administration merely encouraged the abuses inherent in an unregulated market.
No, Pat.  Sorry.  The Republican Party has not presided over an America’s rise to manufacturing preeminence since the Civil War, and again, the manufacturing increase was because a war effort stimulated the economy and government spending – not because Republican political or economic theories are correct.
It just so happens I DO believe in small government which stays out of the way of the people and in capitalism.  But government must be big enough to defend us from modern day threats: foreign and domestic, terrorist and corporate.  At the moment, the U.S. has more to fear from multinational and “too big to fail” domestic corporations than it does from 200 to 500 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It used to be said the two biggest threats to democracy are an overly efficient tax system and an overly efficient military.  It seems we should now recognize the BIGGEST threat to democracy is an unregulated capitalist economy.  And on this, at least, we can agree – the Republican Party are economic traitors!   —  KMAB]
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Short version: Read the book.  It’s interesting and well written.  I believe Woodward will end up being considered one of the great historical journalist / authors of the last 40 years (and probably then next 10 or so, too).  The book highlights the reasons for our eventual political and military failure in Afghanistan.  It is inevitable…
Long version: Today I completed Bob Woodward’s latest book: “Obama’s Wars“.  The book is an insiders look at the Obama Administration, the US Military and the on-going prosecution (mishandling) of the war in Afghanistan.  By insider, I mean it is quite obvious Woodward is being fed information by a host of characters to get their view of history in his story.
The book makes several things clear – the “war” in Afghanistan is un-winnable by any normal use of the term “win”.  The current Karzai government is corrupt and not supported by the Afghan people.  The fall is inevitable.  The only question is how much money and how many lives will we waste before we wake up, smell the coffee and get out?
The best we can hope for is to kill a bunch of Al Qaeda, avoid a complete government breakdown in Pakistan (and consequent loss of up to 100 nuclear weapons to terrorists) and not completely bankrupt the United States.
Every account of every review of the situation says we can’t “possibly” stem the tide in Afghanistan unless we commit far more troops than we currently have for far longer than we can possibly afford.
The author is clearly trying to kill a political run for the presidency by General Petraeus (a potential Republican nominee) in 2012 by making him out to be a fairly self-centered and self-serving man.  He (the General) clearly states (repeatedly) that this war will take generations, yet repeatedly asks for troops while promising to be able to move us closer to victory (with numbers far less than he knows can achieve this).  A “victory” he knows will not come in anyone’s lifetime.  General Petraeus is a student of history and knows full well a Democracy cannot sustain a prolonged active conflict – either politically or economically.
The same is true for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is also made out as a scapegoat (one of many) in this tragedy of failure in leadership.  Gates is made to appear to be regretful the US abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan after the end of the Cold War and the continuation of US involvement in this region is his way of somehow assuaging his conscience.  How this will happen or why he feels the need is not fully explained, but he promises the Afghans we will never leave the area!!
The military leadership, the Pentagon, the CIA and the other “war fighting” agencies in the government do not fare well in this book.  They are apparently only efficient at getting their way in the press.  They can’t “honestly” assess a situation and provide options.  In fact, they are insubordinate and plot to refuse to provide any realistic options to the plan they feel will provide some continuation of the war effort – not victory, just continuation.
Those in the military (active and retired) who try to argue against the single option are systematically marginalized and / or derided.
The White House staff does not escape the broad brush of criticism by the author.  General Jones is used to characterize them (WH Staff) as “water-bugs” and they certainly come across that way in the narration.
The only person who survives the ridicule is President Obama, who is portrayed as thoughtful, caring, conscientious and (at times) forceful.  The author appears to be making the case that President Obama cannot simply withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.  He must allow the military sufficient rope to hang itself so he can later justify a decision (an already made decision) to withdraw from Afghanistan.  It appears this decision will come shortly after the Dec 2010 review.  (Just after the Congressional elections – what a coincidence!)
The bottom line for this book – and war – is that President Bush did exactly what he campaigned against – nation building.  He tried to topple a government he didn’t like (Taliban) and then install one he did (Karzai).  When there was initial success: the Taliban were driven from power, Bush installed a corrupt leader who would never be able to unite and lead his country independently.  Bush then lost interest and went on to illegally attack another country (Iraq) to do the same thing.  Now Karzai will fall in Afghanistan and despite the present appearance of progress in Iraq, it will also collapse before the political situation in that area stabilizes.  And no amount of propping up by the US military will make a damned bit of difference…
The remainder of this blog is my personal opinion and not really part of the book review…
Bush failed miserably in both efforts at nation building – although he was clearly a success in initially overthrowing both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.
Bush has left President Obama to clean up his (Bush’s) utter failures and, unfortunately, President Obama has followed bad advice and is choosing to slowly extract us from both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I personally do NOT believe leaving 30,000 to 50,000 troops (and a similar number of contractors) in Iraq is “withdrawing“.  I want every single post closed and every last soldier brought home.  I feel the same way about Afghanistan!!  Out NOW!!
As un-liberal, un-Democratic and un-Christian as this sounds, we do not need to be there to kill people over there – lots and lots of people.  Yes, many innocents will also be hurt and killed, but the bottom line is their leaders don’t care about them (the average person).  Their leaders only care about themselves.  If we have to blow up a few thousand innocent civilians to get to their leaders, so be it.  It won’t take many “examples” before the rest of the world realizes we are serious and mean business – and don’t mess with us.
The flip side to this is we should also stop propping up the governments of other countries and we should bring all of our soldiers home – from Europe, Asia and Africa.  If a foreign government nationalizes some part of an American company – tough!  You should have kept your capital here where it was safe or you should have invested it in such a way the government didn’t feel they had to seize your assets.  Other than American citizens overseas, we have NO national interests in other countries!!  Read George Washington’s farewell address…  Avoid foreign entanglements!
Self-governing is difficult enough for Americans here in the United States.  Let’s leave other governments to their own people for a change.
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Last night Hil was watching Larry King interview Bob Woodward about his new book: “Obama’s Wars“.  Even though I don’t normally watch “puff-piece” quasi-journalistic interviews, I sat down, because I’ve read several of Woodward’s books.
The most interesting (damning) thing I heard during the hour was the claim that President Obama attended a meeting with his Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs expecting to get several options for Afghanistan and was only given one.  The President stated having only one option was unacceptable and Secretary Gates replied (something to the effect): “Yeah, we owe you one there.”
The option provided – to increase troops – was ultimately adopted.
What I have to ask is – why was Gates not asked immediately for his resignation and the head of the Joint Chiefs given one week to formally (and personally) present at least two additional options?
Basically, we are talking about insubordination by the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs.
They knew what was requested and they appear to have chosen NOT to perform their duties.  There is nothing at all wrong with disagreeing with policy, but when you are in command and you honestly feel you cannot fulfill or comply with the orders you have been given, the only honorable course of action is for you tender your resignation.
In the United States of America, the elected government (the President) is the superior command authority of the military.  The Joint Chiefs willful attempt to corner the President in the decision making process of an active conflict is the grossest form of misconduct and they should be ashamed of themselves.
If this story is true, this book will be a future case study at the military academies (and at civilian universities) as to how senior officers can fail in their service to a democratic society.
Needless to say, it staggers me to think of this group of men who have “dedicated” their lives to the service of their country can so fundamentally misunderstand the nature and role of the military in the history of the United States.
I put this on a par with the insubordination shown Lincoln (by McClellan) during the Civil War and MacArthur’s actions towards Truman during the Korean Conflict.
My mind has drifted back to this topic several times today…
When I got home from work, I went into the bedroom to change and there was a bag on my pillow.  Inside was a present…  A book!
Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s War“, with a note from my Hil saying,
Dear Kev,
Thought you would like spending time reading this book.  So I got if for you.
Love Always,
Hil”
Small, frequent acts of personal thoughtfulness and kindness… towards me (and others).  That’s why I love her!
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Well, the start of another year!
I went to see the movie Avatar over the X-mas weekend.  It was a very entertaining action movie, but it was NOT earth (or life) changing.  I’m sure it’ll make loads of money, but I doubt it will end up being the mega-hit that Titanic was.
I just finished the book: “The Fourth Star” (2009©) written by Greg Jaffe and David Cloud over the X-mas weekend.  It’s about the lives and careers of four of the generals who’ve led the Army in the last decade.  The book tells how they came up through the ranks and some of the experiences which prepared them for the challenges they faced in the middle-east.  The book never glorifies war, but I found it to be incredibly self-serving.  It is an obvious attempt to get their side of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts out into public domain before the political hacks from the Bush Administration can get their stories out.
I don’t doubt that all four men are genuine patriots – as they define the term – I’m just not sure I define it the same way.  Their primary goal seems to be to make the Army the best that it can be and to protect it, as much as possible from both the politicians (who would misuse it) and from itself.  The confusion I have is I feel their primary duty is to protect the Constitution – from all enemies “foreign and domestic” – and not just to protect the country by protecting the Army.  I don’t know what these generals could have done to prevent the Iraq war or to prevent the mismanagement in Afghanistan, but I find it unbelievable to imagine they could not see the folly in both.
Further, I think their efforts to promote the Patreus surge in Afghanistan will harm the US military for decades and may cripple the Obama Administration.  The classic warning to all generals is that they always prepare their army to fight the last war.  The coincidence that a surge has temporarily worked in Iraq for a year, has now led them to convince President Obama that a similar strategy will work in Afghanistan.
I do not feel it will – further, I believe history will show the surge had a marginally short benefit in Iraq.
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This past week was a doozy for travel.  I flew out to Chicago for two days of work related training and then Hil and I drove Rebecca down to UCLA so she can start school this week.
National health care is going poorly.  The war in Afghanistan is getting worse – no end in sight.  And, (on a personal note,) the cost of college education is frightening.  To top it off, my home PC is slowly dying.  I just lost a hard drive.
On the way home from the airport on Thursday, I passed the “grave” site/memorial to the fallen soldiers near the Lafayette BART station.  5,166 deaths!!  I almost started to cry.
Today I purchased a cable to move photos from my phone to the PC.  I’ll be trying it out soon.
Travel is a funny thing…  This year I’ve driven to Seattle, WA and back.  Crater Lake, OR and back.  Phoenix, AZ and back.  And now, UCLA and back.  Add in the flights to and from Chicago (with a stop-over in Seattle to and from) and I’ve probably travelled 11 or 12  thousand miles this year.  Two hundred years ago, it would have taken someone years to travel that far.
Finally, the Niners won today!!!  2 wins, 0 losses!!  …and both wins are within our division!
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