Wednesday, June 29, 2011


By the end of the year, 10,000 American soldiers will be brought home from Afghanistan and 90,000 will remain until at least 2012 and possibly until 2014. President Obama is trying to have it both ways and he cannot. His generals tell him not to withdraw troops quickly because we could lose gains we have made on the ground. Politically, the American people, by a majority of 57%, want it over now and all the troops brought home. He is running for re-election so he is trying to split the baby down the middle and billions will be spent and lives lost in the meantime and, at the end of the day, Afghanistan will still be a broken country unable to control its own fate.

The generals tell Obama to leave as many troops as possible for two more fighting seasons. They point to progress in driving the Taliban out of southern Afghanistan, killing their leaders, and restoring some normalcy to the area. The problem is the Taliban are native to Afghanistan. They wont go away. As long as they can retreat into Pakistan, they live to fight another day. They are being encouraged to join the political process, but there is no indication they will. Even more troubling is Pakistan doesn't want them to negotiate. The last time it was revealed some Taliban leaders were engaging in secret peace talks, the Pakistani intelligence service arrested a number of them. The message was clear. Pakistan sees the Taliban as their surrogate in the fight to keep India from gaining influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan is not interested in peace if India gains because of it. The real war has always been in Pakistan not Afghanistan and American troops don't effect that equation in any real way.

What the generals also fail to mention, is the corruption of the Karzai government negates any military gains on the ground. There is no government to turn over control of the nation to and without popular support, military gains are meaningless. Karzai's's brother is still a major drug dealer in southern Afghanistan. Karzai's's relatives looted Afghanistan's central bank. Just this week it was announced the head regulator of the bank had fled to the United States for asylum out of fear for his life because his investigation showed higher ups in the Karzai administration were involved in hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus loans. He had to get out of dodge or be killed by the people in charge. The same people we will say will run the country after we leave. Karzai stole the last presidential election and is so despised, many opponents of the Taliban joined with them driven to an alliance by the criminal enterprise which is the Afghan government. No matter what our troops accomplish, they have to hand the nation to Karzai and he can't hold it together. (The parallels to Viet Nam are striking here.) Without a solid central government, supported by the people, the military gains are all an illusion which will disappear the moment we leave whenever that is accomplished.

Politically, the President may get away with kicking this problem down the road for the time being. Some of his Republican opponents cover themselves in hypocrisy as they attack him for not bringing the troops home sooner. These are the same members of Congress who had no trouble abandoning the Afghan effort so George Bush could invade Iraq. These are the same feckless wonders that refused to raise taxes to pay for two wars and supported the increase in troops in Iraq. Now these chicken hawks have become deficit hawks squealing about cost as a reason to end our involvement in Afghanistan. (By the way, this is the same Iraq currently engaged in talks with Iran increasing Iran's influence in the area as the U.S. withdraws and Afghanistan and Pakistan are also meeting with Iran and talking about future alliances. We go to war with Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran wins. Well done, President Bush.) With the Republicans in disarray about Afghanistan and Libya, the will find it difficult to use either as on issue against Obama in 2012. However, the lack of political courage on the President's part is not attractive.

It is time to bring the troops home. The generals are wrong. The military gains they sight are fool's gold. With little popular support, the Karzai government cannot take advantage of the Taliban's defeats. Pakistan doesn't want peace and certainly doesn't want to see a strong democracy in Afghanistan. A democratic Afghanistan would naturally gravitate toward alliances with the strongest economic power in the region...India. Pakistan has nothing to offer the people of Afghanistan. India can offer economic aid, trade, and an improved life. Pakistan knows this and they will advise the Taliban to wait us out. The extra years, and extra loss of blood and treasure, will be wasted in the end. With the death of Osama Bin Laden, it is time to declare victory and come home. Unfortunately, President Obama is unwilling to take this step for ear of being attacked by the Pentagon and the likes of John McCain during an election year.

If pressed, I wonder how President Obama would answer Cindy Sheehan's iconic question? What cause are American men and women dying for in Afghanistan? Do you think he would have an answer?

The Wayback Machine...(An Homage to Mr. Peabody)

Eight of them stood on stage in the hope of being their party's nominee for president. For more than an hour they attacked President Obama's failures, especially his inability to re-kindle a vibrant economy and add jobs to a bleak employment scene. The punditocracy fell in love with Rep. Michele Bachman and made note of the fact no one on the stage offered counterproposals to the Obama strategy. The analysis was self-serving, in the case of Bachman (remember the corporate media need a horserace with controversy to make money), and wrong in their summary of the candidates positions.

Every person on the stage that night in New Hampshire proposed to "roll back", "eliminate", "end", "repeal", and otherwise stop government regulation of everything. It was a consistent mantra from the extreme regressive side, (Bachman, Paul, Gingrich, Santorum, Cain) to the less regressive side, (Romney and Pawlenty). The root of all problems in this nation is government regulation according to the future standard bearers of this major political party. (A recent survey criticized American students for their lack of knowledge of American history. Given what occurred on that stage, America's students have an overabundance of role models to choose among.)

We turn on the "Wayback Machine" to see what we can discover. In the 1930's, President Roosevelt established a series of firewalls between Wall Street and Main Street. He created the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Comptroller of the Currency and the Glass-Steagle Act separating commercial banking from the speculative operations we have become so familiar with. From 1940 on, regressives slowly chipped away at all of this regulation culminating in the repeal of Glass-Steagle in 1999. The result allowed banks to take depositors savings and speculate and gamble with them. The SEC had been neutered by the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington. The Fed was run by a Republican appointee, Alan Greenspan, who loved the anarchist Ayn Rand and did not have a problem with the Bush Administration cutting trillions in taxes while spending billions on military adventure. He hated regulation and he left Goldman Sachs, Lehman Bros., J.P. Morgan et. al. to their own devices. You know how this all turns out.

President Bush pushed a $750 billion bailout of Wall Street (with no oversight as to how the money was spent so these same banks didn't have to lend it to main street). President Obama passed an $800 billion stimulus package, which was too small; but which put the banks all back on their feet. We are reaping the whirlwind of the rolling back of federal regulations and we continue to suffer for years to come.

The Wayback Machine is working to perfection and now we can watch President Reagan de-regulating the savings and loan industry. Ah, I remember how that worked out. Taxpayers spent over $500 million to bail them out too. (Do you remember the Bush involvement in Silverado Savings and Loan?)

It is impossible to find a single example of de-regulation where the average gum-chewing consumer has benefitted. The opposite is usually the case. President Clinton de-regulated radio and television in 1996. Over 50,000 jobs were lost. The regressive onslaught of talk radio would never have happened without de-regulation. Limbaugh, Hannity, the Weiner would all be local radio hosts none of whom would be number one in almost any major market. Their competition was eliminated not defeated. California de-regulated energy. The resulting rolling blackouts, loss of billions of dollars and electricity bills ranging from $200-$1000 a month were common and we are still paying the highest rates for electricity in the nation many years later. Lack of regulation has made our food less safe and allowed drug companies to test and monitor drugs which killed people who used them. There is no reason to beat a dead horse, you probably could come up with numerous other examples including how well P.G.& E. was regulated concerning its thousands of miles of gas pipelines.

Capitalism is a simple system. The capitalist wants to invest his or her money and receive a profit in return. Anything which reduces that profit is anathema. Therefore, true free market capitalists long for the Gilded Age. It was the time around 1890-1910, when the federal government was weak, corporate America ruled, the gap between the rich and poor was enormous, the middle class small, no income tax existed and regulations were a communist or socialist plot. The capitalist class opposed unions, minimum wages, collective bargaining and anything which raised their labor costs. They fought any attempt to make the workplace safe and made sure they could dump a cocktail of toxic sludge into any available river or stream. The U. S. Chamber of Commerce, the most evil organization in America today, fought against child labor laws and laws expanding job opportunities. They and their cronies were not called robber barons for nothing. More recently they waged an epic battle to prevent regulators from making autos safer, food safer, drugs safer and to protect the status quo as much as possible.

The true capitalist pines for a product that requires no employees and returns pure profit. Regulations are obstacles to overcome or subvert. Look at how the Bush administration put representatives, of the very industries being regulated, in charge of the regulatory agencies. Watch as the chamber and its allies attempt to weaken regulations governing the financial services industry. Corporate America will always fight any attempt to force it to pay better wages, under safer conditions, without ruining the land. (Have you seen what mountain-top coal mining does to an area?) After the gathering in New Hampshire, it appears they have won at least half the battle. What I don't understand is why Americans would go along with such dreams.

The middle class of this nation exists as a result of actions taken by the government over the last 100 years. Whether it was the right to organize workers, demand better wages, have access to higher education, use an interstate transit system which dramatically reduced the cost of moving product to market or research funded by government grants, the end result was the rise of a robust and solid middle class. Today, as the gap between the rich and poor widens and the middle class shrinks, and there is a direct relation to the weakening and elimination of regulations and laws that forced the capitalists to share more of their profit with average Americans. Yet, those 8 people on that stage in New Hampshire think they can be elected president by asking working Americans to cut their own throats, and past experience says they might be right.

I don't claim to understand how middle class Americans can vote for a party whose most recent leader reminded his supporters how he represents,"...the haves and the have-mores." How do you vote against you own enlightened self-interest? The 8 people on that stage believe you will do precisely that and have to hope you do not have access to a Wayback Machine so you can see what this country was like and will be again if they have their way.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


It is not lost on me; my rising to anyone's defense, particularly a Democratic progressive, on a sex-related issue could be the kiss of death. It is like Bernie Madoff recommending a financial advisor. Still, I could not let the firestorm over the actions of Congressman Anthony Weiner pass without comment. The reaction to Weiner is disproportionate and reflects a disquiet or fear that is pervasive in our culture.

According to published reports, Congressman Weiner sent pictures of himself to women online in various stages of undress and arousal. We also know he flirted and engaged in sexually themed text messages. We know most of this activity took place while he was single, but some after he recently married. The women involved were all adults. It is safe to assume some of them sent Weiner pictures and engaged in sexy repartee with him in return. Weiner never physically met any of these women. These were all virtual exchanges.

The Republicans have naturally called on Weiner to resign as have most Democrats including the President. The Republicans are just hypocrites. The Democrats are craven. They are mad at Weiner for stepping all over their attacks on Republicans for the disastrous Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it. Weiner has taken them off message and for this he must go. The same Democrats who defended Bill Clinton, whose transgressions were real not virtual, are screaming for Weiner's scalp. It is not a chapter for profiles in courage.

Weiner should not resign. He should finish out his term and stand for re-election. If his constituents are disgusted with him, they can then turn him out. There is a bigger picture here which is much more interesting. For 2 weeks, there has been a media frenzy. (thus the Democrats anger at Weiner) You couldn't turn on the news without hearing about this scandal. Ask yourself what go more coverage, Weiner or the massacres happening in Syria right now? What dominated the news cycle...Weiner's sexting and tons of Weiner jokes or the fact millions of Americans are out of work, losing their homes and the economy might double dip, China is near war over the South China Sea, the nation faces possible default if the debt ceiling is not raised and speculators have driven the price of oil into the stratosphere? Now ask yourselves why this is happening?

Weiner did nothing illegal and if you want to pick nits about him being married during this activity, isn't that between him and his wife? I seem to remember a series of stories from the L.A, Times about Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was accused by at least 6 women of grabbing them, pinching them, touching their genitals and overall predatory school-boy, locker room behavior. His wife countered the stories did not show what a good father and husband he was and came to his defense. Many of you voted for him. Weiner's actions pale in comparison, yet the Times was attacked for publishing the stories...for trying to influence an election. for printing salacious rumors and innuendo and the media coverage was brief and didn't even make it to the tabloids. The calls for him not to run were few and far between. Why?

I don’t know how congressional Republicans look at themselves in the mirror. Recently, Newt Gingrich stood on a stage in New Hampshire running for President. This is a man who dumped his first wife while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. He dumped his second wife while having an affair with wife number 3 all while leading the attempt to impeach President Clinton for immoral actions. Really? Weiner's behavior is worse than that? Sen. John Ensign of Nevada had an affair with a member of his staff, bought off her husband, broke federal law and did not resign nor did the Republican leadership call for him to do so in any forceful way. He stepped down only because the Senate Ethics Committee was about to refer his case to the Justice Department. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana has been re-elected despite paying for high priced hookers and despite being poster boy for hypocrite of 2008. He is anti gay marriage, pro birth, regressive evangelical Christian who wears his family values on his sleeve, wants new laws to make divorce more difficult and yet broke the law and engaged in prostitution, actions which were barely mentioned in the media and on the campaign trail. It is not a cliché to say the list is endless.

We live in a culture where everything has been sexualized and we are not comfortable with the freedom associated with this evolution. Catholic University just announced it is returning to single sex dorms because the coed dorms led to too much "hooking up". Their next step will be chastity belts. In some ways, the more open and tolerant we are, the more Puritan some people become. Someone has to stand up and say that the emperor has no clothes and acknowledge something is amiss in our society and it scares the hell out of us.

I can tell you for a fact, millions of Americans go online every night and pretend to be someone else, or assume different personalities and engage in every fantasy, fetish, and fabrication known to man. There is an illusion of anonymity, which creates the sense you can say or do anything because no one will ever find out and it’s all virtual or make believe anyway. You will never meet the person at the other end. Ironically, Weiner wasn't acting anonymously. The women he engaged asked to follow him via his Twitter account. He was more transparent than 90% of all other denizens of the cyber world.

Before he was married, Weiner doesn't have anything to apologize for and since he was married, he and his wife have to figure this whole issue out between them. One piece of advice to him and everyone: If what you are doing online you wouldn't do with someone looking over your shoulder, it has the potential to come back and bite you in the butt.

Weiner says he is taking a leave of absence for "treatment". What on earth is he going to get treatment about? He isn't a serial philanderer like Tiger Woods. He didn't do anything illegal. He showed terrible judgment and he lied about what he had done. He was embarrassed when his activities were discovered. So, is this the new standard now? Anyone who makes these mistakes must resign? Would there be anyone left in Washington or any marriages or relationships left to defend under this new code of ethics?

Maybe this is all a symptom of a fear gripping some Americans. Sex is everywhere. Traditional cultural milestones are going the way of the dodo. Marriage is losing popularity and if people choose to get married, divorce is seen as a convenient way out. People are choosing virtual fantasy and sex over the real thing. The Internet is this black hole of temptation and opportunity where people can put on any identity, be a physical Adonis or Venus, engage in any experiment, communicate anonymously without any attendant commitment or attachment. We seem to be so frightened of what we know is going intimidated by the freedom this represents in millions of homes every day, we think righteous indignation and outrage will somehow bring it under control before the next generation succumbs.

Could it be Weiner is the collective symbol of our own hearts of darkness? (There, but for the grace of God go I.) Perhaps if the powers that be come down hard on the Weiners of the world, the genie can be put back in the bottle. Maybe we wonder what would happen if our darker selves and our less-than-angelic behavior were to surface? Is attacking Weiner the equivalent of a cry to "Stop us before we do this again?"

Funny isn't it? That's what the Puritans thought when they burned witches, banned books, pinned on scarlet letters and tried to control people's private thoughts and deeds. How did that work out?

Monday, June 13, 2011


Answer: The elites in Washington and the lame-stream media tried to shove their views down the throats of average, God-fearing Americans in order to destroy the right of the citizenry to do whatever they want with their own personal property.

QUESTION: What did Sarah Palin say when asked to explain the Civil War?

Answer: Yes, we did have other leaks and yes, we can't find any records we ever tested the pipes, but it isn't like anyone thought the problem was dangerous.

QUESTION: How did PG&E react to news they had gas pipe leaks in the area near San Bruno and they didn’t tell anyone?

Answer: We demanded longer sentences, refused to build more facilities, provided sub-standard medical and mental health care, and built a system resembling a Soviet gulag...picky, picky, picky.

QUESTION: How did California officials respond to the Supreme Court saying the prison system violates the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment?

Answer: Paul Ryan is a Democratic party stealth weapon designed to insure the re-election of President Obama by making it look like Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it and throw the elderly to the wolves.

QUESTION: What did the chair of the Republican National Committee say after the GOP lost a special congressional election in upstate New York in a district which has always voted Republican?

Answer: You need a good pair of garden sheers.

QUESTION: What did Hillary Clinton say to Rep. Anthony Weiner's wife when asked for advice about his sexting activities?

Answer: W.W.J.D.

QUESTION: How did the Archbishop of San Francisco respond to voters putting a proposition on the ballot outlawing circumcision?

Answer: It's going very well. I'm here because it's so difficult to deal with the constant demand for autographs and pictures from my devoted fans and followers.

QUESTION: What did Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi say from his underground bunker about how the war is progressing?

Answer: I am a man of humble beginnings, an army brat, who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and I am the perfect person to identify with the struggles and difficulties facing average Americans in this terrible economy (plus my third wife loves bling).

QUESTION: What is Newt Gingrich's new campaign pitch after it was revealed he had a $500,000 tab at Tiffany’s?

Answer: Yes, they are last in health care spending, second to last in education spending, execute more people than any other state, are anti-choice, bring guns to church and don't want Martin Luther King or Caesar Chavez in their history books, but the business community loves them and we could learn a lot from them here in California.

QUESTION: What is the sound of Gavin Newsom selling out by praising the way Texas treats its corporations?

Answer: We brought it on ourselves. Yes, we were greedy, rapacious and didn't care about the consequences. Yes, we played both sides so we made money even if the economy tanked. Yes, we were all too big to fail, and yes, our largest shareholder is now the American taxpayer...Your point is?

QUESTION: What did a spokesman for GMAC say when asked about reports the company is engaging in bait and switch and other illegal tactics to kick Americans out of their homes and have taxpayers pay them to foreclose?