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I conceive a knowledge of books is the basis upon which other knowledge is to be built.
    ―    George Washington
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On This Day In:
2020 Nurturing Trees And Plants
2019 Seeking Needs
2018 Not Sure Anyway…
All Clear Nuclear And Burn
2017 Forms Of Conservation
2016 Oh, So Lacking
2015 e pluribus unum
2014 Nothing So Far Removed
2013 Positions
2012 Two Errors
2011 Long Live The King!

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It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
    —    George Washington
[Or, in the case of #45, not a “bad one”, but an bold-faced lie.    —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2018 How Much I Will Miss The Trump Administration
2017 We Need To Continue Experimenting
2016 Consistently
2015 We Must Dissent
2014 Now What?
2013 Judgement
2012 Stuck In My Mind
Life’s Hope
2011 Just Getting Up
Directions Please

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The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights & previleges, if by decency & propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.
   —    George Washington
Letter to Joshua Holmes, 2 December 1783
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On This Day In:
2016 Given The Choice
Why Is He Wearing Red?
2015 Within The System
2014 None But…
2013 Obviously Longer
2012 A Childhood Poem
Who Are You Callin’ Leather-Faced?
2011 In No Particular Order
The Need For Proof

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I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.
   ―    George Washington
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On This Day In:
2014 Unfolding
2013 Again
2012 Needs
Damned
2011 Potter & Prejudice
Blink, Blink

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The turning points of lives are not the great moments.  The real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.
  ―  George Washington
[Sometimes, but not always.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2014 True, Vibrant And Open
2013 Remembering, Yet Again
2012 Something Of Value
2011 Sleep All Day

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Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.  I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their [not our?] religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.
     —    George Washington,
First President of the United States in a letter to Letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792
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On This Day In:
2013 Is Not
2012 Loosely Translated
2011 Your Opinions Are Not My Facts

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In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.
   —    George Washington
[Can a Mormon grow up to be President of the United States?   —    KMAB]
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Yesterday, I developed a bad sore throat.  I made it through the work day, but it was getting progressively worse.  I woke up around 2:30am with difficulty breathing, unable to swallow, and what felt like sandpaper at the back  of my throat and a walnut under each of my jaws.  This morning I went to the doctor’s office and was told it’s viral not bacterial, so all I can do is continue to gargle and hang in there (lots of fluids and rest) for a few days and it’ll go away.
So today I completed “Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers“, written by Brooke Allen (2006©).  The book is about the religious beliefs of six of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States of America (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams).  If you’ll pardon the pun, the book has been a revelation to me!!
I had always assumed our Founding Fathers were highly religious (Protestant) Christians.  It seems this is mostly (but not entirely) untrue.  For example, Washington was an occasional church attendee, but he never participated in communion.  In fact, when communion was about to begin, he would stand and leave the service.  When confronted about this behaviour, he admitted he never considered it to be distracting to others attending the service.  Although he continued to occasionally attend services, he never attended another service where communion was to be offered.  The rest, although raised in Christian faith, appear to be mostly Deists.  The exception being Hamilton, who seems to have re-discovered Christianity late in life – but not early enough to have had it significantly affect his politics.
In any case, all were stridently against the mixture of Church and State, and so it seems strange to me to think the Religious Right in today’s America hold up the Founding Fathers as the guides in returning the United States to our religious and political roots.  It seems they (the Religious Right) either don’t read (or refuse to understand / believe) the history of our country.  Well, what else is new?
After presenting a chapter on each of the six Founding Fathers, the book concludes with two chapters describing the world which produces the Founding Fathers and some of the turmoil and issues since 1787.  Both chapters are excellent overviews of the religious / political worlds before and after our Constitution and are worth the price of the book themselves.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in American History, Politics or the specific issue of the separation of Church and State.  Rest assured you will see numerous quotes from this book over the next few months…
And lest I forget to mention, this is one of the two books I purchased with the gift certificate my daughter Rebecca gave me for my birthday.  Thanks Bec, this book has brought me hours of enjoyable reading and reflective thought!!
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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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